That’s why Gabby was hiding under Logan’s bed. They were also why she couldn’t leave. The pictures weren’t of Gabby. Lord knew she would never let that happen. She relished her modesty. Besides, if someone had taken nude pictures of her without her consent, she’d be doing more than sneaking into their bedroom to recover the photos. She’d be holding the perpetrator out of his window by his privates and taking a selfie.
There were a lot of other things Gabby could have been doing right now, but, despite staring up at a dusty box spring, she didn’t think her evening was going poorly. Much to her relief, her cramped quarters in Logan’s bedroom were not from another one of God’s random requests. Since braving nature’s wrath to save Emma from a sociopathic thief, the big guy had been leaving her alone. No epic quests. No dangerous liaisons. No beatings or broken bones. No concussions or PTSD-worthy events. No psychopaths or murderers wishing to end her life. No evil and no miracles.
Her world had become wonderfully normal. Well, as normal as things could be for Gabby. She had started her sophomore year at Safety Harbor High, once again becoming one of the invisible masses. Just the way she liked it. And the town had made great headway rebuilding from the devastation left by Hurricane Alexander, so things were starting to get back to normal.
But, not everything was going as planned.
Hamilton didn’t returned home from vacation until right before school started and Gabby hadn’t had an opportunity to tell him of her new found feelings for him. To make matters worse, the reconstruction of the school would take months, maybe longer, forcing the city to plop down a bunch of temporary trailers in the middle of the student parking lot. With fewer chairs than students, Principal Granger had to rotate their schedules where some of her classmates went to school Monday through Thursday while others, Tuesday through Friday. The extra day off each week was nice, but she and Hamilton were on opposite schedules and had no time to bump into each other in the halls or even see each other in class.
It didn’t even feel like they were going to the same school.
Sure, at the end of summer, during her recovery, they texted and video chatted about her secret jaunts during Hurricane Alexander, but she wanted more. She wanted to feel the tightness of his hug and look into his light brown eyes. She wanted to figure out a way to pry her feelings out of her heart and tell him everything.
Well, most days.
There was also a part of her that wanted to make believe her sudden feelings for him never happened, the part that kept her vulnerability buried deep within her. That version of Gabby considered her heart more tissue than feeling, more muscle than emotion. It was safer that way.
This was all new to her. One minute, she wanted to jump Hamilton’s bones. The next, she wanted to ask him about the various cultures that cherished purity. She was on a rollercoaster of new love with no lap bars or seat belts. She didn’t know how long it would last or how many dips were in her future. Worst of all, she hadn’t figured out how to get off the damn thing.
But, if she were being honest with herself, she wasn’t completely convinced she wanted to. This strange new world of fluttering stomachs, arid mouths, and pleasurably invasive images of her potential future with Hamilton made her feel like a normal teen with no history of near-death defying, mystery-solving sleuthing at God’s behest. It bathed every day in a hopeful light. It was invigorating. Frustrating. Scary. And exciting.
This love situation, whether the puppy version or the real one, was not an easy thing for Gabby to deal with, but she was beginning to enjoy the struggle.
Logan, on the other hand, had no interest in love. He liked to hang out at the corner of lust and persuasion and, as a muscular linebacker on the high school football team, most girls in school found him attractive. He was kind of a jerk, but popular. From Gabby’s experiences, that combination only seemed to work in high school.
And maybe politics.
Scott never brought up Logan’s name in conversation, nor did he accumulate nearly as many accolades. Scott’s athletic star continued to rise as his quarterback skills made him the focus of every major college in the southeast, but, instead of talking about his college aspirations, or irritating, egocentric teammates like Logan, the only person Scott seemed to talk about lately was Melanie. It wasn’t surprising. Turned out they started dating at the end of the summer, before the hurricane hit, and, over the following months, had fallen deeply into one of the versions of love Gabby had been trying to identify.
She was happy for him. Melanie seemed like a nice girl. A sincere girl. Which, if people knew, would make them hate her even more. She was wealthy and drop-dead gorgeous, but Melanie didn’t care about either of those things. She just wanted to be close to Scott and part of Gabby’s extended group of friends they called The Gang. While her mansion was being repaired from the extensive hurricane and non-hurricane related damage, Melanie’s father, the mayor, and her mother stayed in a luxury rental just outside of the city limits.
Melanie didn’t join them. She lived with Scott’s family, sharing a room with his younger sister, Cathy. Scott slept in his own room on the opposite side of the house, with his parents’ bedroom smack dab in the middle. It was the only way they’d let her stay there. The Summers were part of the dying “sex after marriage” crowd. The mere idea of waiting to engage in sex made Scott a victim of unrelenting ridicule by his teammates, but he didn’t care. As he told Gabby, he’d already won. He had Melanie. She was worth the wait.
Logan, on the other hand, was the impatient type. He wasn’t interested in quality, but quantity and, with his looks, usually got what he wanted.
His modus operandi was the same with each mark. He’d start chatting up a girl at school. He’d seduce them and make them feel as if they were the most important person in the world. They’d start texting. He’d ask about their feelings, their family, their dreams—anything to get them talking. And he’d listen. Or act like it.
Eventually, his texts got more suggestive. Leading. Sexual. The girls, often flattered by his advances, would play along. After all, what was the harm? He was hot. He made them feel sexy and cared about. So they’d text back, talking about a lot of things they’d never really do in person. It was fun. A game. Harmless.
That was when he’d start asking. Nicely, at first, but then eliciting a bit of guilt. He’d tell them how beautiful they were and how he just wanted to cherish them. All of them. And the best way he could do that was if they’d send him pictures. The naked kind.
Most girls played along. They’d pose and act slutty like their favorite pop stars, snapping suggestive selfies. And then they’d press send.
It’s what a freshman named Abigail told Gabby. She found she wasn’t the only one who had fallen prey to Logan’s charm. Except, unlike her classmates, Abigail never sent the pictures. She took them. And she’d wanted to send them. She wanted someone as hot as Logan to think she was beautiful, to tell her she looked sexy.
But she couldn’t.
Logan didn’t like that. He’d never had a girl with whom he’d invested so much time choose to keep her birthday suit to herself, and he wasn’t about to let Abigail be the first. When he found a girl he thought would play along, he expected her to do as he wished.
She deleted the photos almost as quickly as she took them, but Abigail knew that wouldn’t be enough. They could always be recovered from her phone unless she replaced the SIM card. That was what she was going to do right after school, but her phone was stolen from her purse during lunch, immediately after Logan came by to engage in what seemed to be an innocent conversation.
She knew he’d eventually figure out her phone password. It wasn’t that hard. It was 56426. L-O-G-A-N. Something else she hadn’t yet changed.
That was when she cornered Gabby in the lunchroom. Abigail knew her momentary weakness, her pathetic insecurity that led her to take the pictures in the first place, would never go away. Perverts like Logan would ogle her and share those pictures like he did the others. After that, no matter where she went or what she did, her pictures would be out there, forever.
It was Abigail’s eyes that moved Gabby first. Before a word was uttered from her mouth, she had already decided to help her, no matter the request.
Picking the lock to the side door of Logan’s gray vinyl-sided house wasn’t hard. It wasn’t even interesting. Maneuvering through his family’s overstuffed garage without pulling down the large sculpture of randomly tossed crap proved daunting, but it was good practice. Gabby hadn’t needed to be stealthy in a while.
The dark room was infused with the scent of old paper and musty clothes, like a combination between the town library and an abandoned thrift store. Surrounded by boxes of hidden items once cherished, Gabby paused, making sure there wasn’t another way into the house.
Entering illegally through the garage and into the kitchen was not her first choice. The kitchen was a high-traffic area and one of the places people tended to congregate for conversation or a meal. But, Gabby didn’t have much of a choice. All the other entrances were highly visible, from either the residents or the neighbors. The side garage door sat below a burned-out light and behind a large, city-issued plastic garbage can. It was her only shot.
To increase her odds of success, Gabby waited to enter the house until after eight-thirty. For most families, dinner would be over by then and the constant slushing of a stacked dishwasher would offer her additional cover when she snuck inside.
As time slipped to the bottom of the hour, she had to make her move. Light spilling through the bottom of the door told Gabby the kitchen might still be in use, but she saw no moving shadows blocking the light.
She clenched her jaw. It was now or never.
Circumstances had given her no more than thirty minutes to sneak into Logan’s room before he got home from football practice. Having no idea where to find Abigail’s phone, she needed to move quickly before her options evaporated and Logan added her naked pictures to a folder of his digital trophies.
As she cracked open the door and looked into the bright room, the refrigerator door creaked as it shut, closing with a thud, revealing an older man with a pervasive belly holding a can of beer. The rotund drinker, whom Gabby assumed to be Logan’s father, passed a few feet in front of her and disappeared into one of the rooms facing the street.
Gabby waited, listening for any other movement.
From the adjacent room, she heard a fffthht of the beer can being popped open and the cheers of a sporting event from an unmuted television. Logan’s father groaned as he sat in what sounded like a leather chair, followed quickly by the tumble of a recliner ottoman being popped open. The ramblings of ex-players on television commenting on the game filled the first floor, effectively hiding the sound of anyone else, including Gabby.
Abigail said Logan’s bedroom was on the second floor in the back of the house, looking over their screened-in pool. Moving through the kitchen and up the stairs turned out to be easier than Gabby thought. Locating Logan’s room, even easier.
Once inside, she had just begun to search through his dressers when she heard two sets of footsteps plopping up the carpeted staircase. Stuck, Gabby looked for a place to hide. His closet was stuffed as sloppily as their garage and nothing else was big enough to hide her.
Except the bed.
She slid underneath, face up, and turned to see the door open and two sets of feet, one with dirty tennis shoes, the other with fashionable heels, spin into the room.
“Logan,” the female voice said. “Your parents are home. Is it okay if I’m up here?”
“It’s okay, Missy. They’re at the other end of the house. They won’t hear us.”
“Are you sure?”
Gabby heard his bedroom door being locked, and Logan’s large shirt dropped onto the floor next to her face.
Above her, the bed creaked as the weight of two people strained the springs.
Tomorrow – Chapter Two
This novel follows up almost immediately after the events which unfolded in Kneel & Prey and Lost & Found. If you haven’t read the first novel, download it for free. I hope you’ve enjoyed this free sample and let me know what you think in the comments.