Staring at the two pictures of Leo made me depressed. I woke up Monday morning with a splitting headache and a gurgling stomach. I didn't think I was coming down with anything, but I just felt crappy. I peeked out my white shades in the bedroom to decide what to wear. The sun was out, it looked warm, but leaves had begun to litter the ground. I opted for jeans and boots and a plain black t-shirt.
I grabbed my backpack and camera and went downstairs. Dad was missing, but mom was sitting at the table sipping her coffee and reading from her phone. She looked up when I stomped down, her eyebrows pinched in worry.
"What's wrong, Carley?" She stood up and came to me.
"My head is throbbing and my stomach hurts and it's a terrible day," I said in one whiney huff.
"Oh, babe. Come sit." She ushered me to the island and had me sit on a stood. She went into the fridge and pulled out the carton of orange juice. After she poured it in a tall glass, she pushed it across the table to me.
"Thanks," I muttered.
"Do you want food? Cereal? Oatmeal? Eggs? What?"
My stomach was hungry, but it was also swirly. I didn't want to get sick at school, but I was definitely hungry. "Do we have any poptarts or like a bar?"
She thought hard then perked up. "Yes!" She ran to the cabinet above the fridge and pulled out an unopened box of nutrigrain bars. They were a mix of strawberry and apple cinnamon. Without asking, she pulled out a strawberry and passed it to me.
"Thanks," I said, unwrapping it and taking a bite.
"I'm going to put two more in your bag for the day. If you don't want lunch food or just want a mid morning snack, okay?"
I finished the bar and downed the orange juice, feeling the instant sugar perk me up. Mom gave me some Advil which I happily took and by the time I walked out the front door to catch the bus, I was actually feeling a bit better. My headache had subsided and my stomach was no longer gurgling.
"Woah, what's with the funeral wear?" Jessa asked as I linked up with her on the street as we headed toward the stop.
I glanced down at my outfit, moderately offended. "I have a black shirt on! It's not funeral wear."
"Kidding, Carls." She nodded up toward Jason and Mike who were sitting on the bench at the bus stop. "Apparently, Cami and Mike had sex on Saturday after the football game."
My eyes widened. "No way. Cami wouldn't do that."
"Like hell she wouldn't!" Jessa yelped. "She's the one that told me!"
"If it's true, Mike is going to be bragging like crazy."
As I anticipated, Mike droned on and on about how many times he and Cami hooked up over the weekend. According to him, after he got home, his mom freaked out on him, which checked out with what I remembered from Saturday night and all the chaos. She kicked him out so he walked to Cami's which was about two miles away, a bit far fetched, but I guessed it was believable.
Anyway, Mike wouldn't shut up about sleeping with Cami and by the time the bus pulled into the school parking lot, my headache greeted me with a hard knock on my head. Jessa must've picked up on my mood because she was mostly quiet as we walked to our lockers.
"Everything okay?" she asked as we stopped at mine.
"Yeah, just feel crappy today." I rubbed my temple, trying to calm the throbbing.
"Oh shit," she said, training her eyes to my locker door.
"What?" I froze. A heavy prescene settled behind me and I instantly knew who it was. What did he want? Oh god. Jessa was going to have so many questions and turn this into such a big thing. Sure enough, I glanced over my shoulder and there Leo was, leaning against the locker next to mine, facing me with his arms crossed over his chest.
"Can we help you?" Jessa asked, trying to act like this was normal when in fact, it wasn't.
He looked from Jessa to me, though we didn't make eye contact because I was trying my hardest to not look at him. Instead, I was noticing how many black lines were on the tiled floor. It was a futile attempt because after a moment of silence, I looked up and was caught.
"I need to talk to you," he said in a low voice. "Are you free after school?"
"Yes," I said in an instant before I even had a thought. Then I realized I wasn't free. It was Monday which meant I had to check in with Lauren for the school paper. "Wait, no. I have school paper today."
"For how long?" he asked pushing off the lockers and squaring his shoulders to mine. He was much taller than me and it was blantantly clear that he towered over me. His muscles were apparent in his tight black short sleeved v-neck. He came off scary, but I wasn't scared.
"It depends. She usually just tells me what she needs and I go take a picture of it. Maybe an hour."
"Meet me right after school here." It wasn't an offer or a question. It was just a command, do this and do it at this time or else. There was an unspoken threat in the tone of his voice that brought goosebumps up and down my arms.
I nodded in response.
He leaned forward and for just a moment I thought he was going to kiss me right here in the middle of the hallway where anyone could see. But instead he whispered, "don't be scared."
"I'm not," I whispered back.
He straightened up and left me standing alone. Someone tapped my shoulder and I spun around. I had forgotten Jessa was standing there, too. Her face was animated as different emotions flickered. I'd never seen her in such shock.
"Don't turn this into a thing," I begged, grabbing her arms.
"How can I not?" she gasped, her wide eyes getting even bigger. She looked cartoonish as she grasped for words.
"Seriously, Jessa. Please, don't say anything. I don't even know what he wants to talk about."
"Clearly, he wants to talk about getting into your pants."
"Fine, fine. I won't say anything, but holy shit. The vibe between you two is insane. I feel hot just standing on the outside." She waved her hand pretending to fan herself as she leaned against the locker. Just in time, the bell rang above us.
"I'll see you at lunch," I told her. "And no saying a word."
"Right, right." She waved me on and spun on her heel, marching toward her locker.
The day went by fast and I was magically cured from whatever cold I was beginning to get. I dedicated that to the strawberry bars. True to her word, Jessa hadn't said a thing to anyone about my meet up with Leo, though people at the lunch table knew something was up. She kept leaning toward me and whispering all the things I should do to him in my ear. It was obscene.
Finally when I was sitting in my last class, waiting for the bell to ring so I could go see what Leo wanted, my nerves started to skyrocket. My swirly stomach had rejoined me for the end of the day and scenarios started to play over and over. Was he going to yell at me again? Kiss me? Kill me? I had no idea.
The bell rang and I leapt from my uncomfortable chair. I grabbed all of my things and darted to my locker. Sure enough, Jessa was already there waiting. She held out her hand which had a breath mint in it and a pack of gum.
"Take this first and keep the gum, in case you get food."
"We're not going anywhere. He just wants to talk." She was blowing this way up, as per usual.
"This is a new experience for you. You may just experience your first kiss."
My stomach ached with regret. She didn't know that Leo and I had already kissed and it had been a crazy explosion. I couldn't tell her now because she'd be hurt and if it happens again then I just pretend like it was the first time. No big deal. She wouldn't realize the difference.
"Well," I said, "wish me luck!"
She leaned forward and hugged me hard, then pushed me in the direction of the front doors. "Take pictures!" she said as I left the hallway. Take pictures. Yeah, right. I'd been caught by him enough times to make me into stalker number one and I wasn't going to make it worse.
The buses had already left and the parking lot was beginning to thin out. I sat down on the stone wall and waited but glancing in either direction left me feeling stood up. Leo was no where to be found and five minutes already passed. Was this a revenge joke?
What do you need photos of for the week? I texted Lauren. There was no reason for me to wait around on leo if he wasn't going to show.
Field management and parking lots.
Oh what fun. These were going to be great pictures I had to take. To add to my anger with Leo, I now had an assignment that would have the enjoyment of taking a picture of the ground.
My face was hot and I immediately felt stupid for falling for Leo's trick. Why would he want to talk to me again when he made his point perfectly clear from last time? His charm sucked me in and then spit me out.
I gathered my things and stood up. Behind me coming up the hill from the practice fields was Leo, sweaty and alone. My stomach dropped and any anger I had for being stood up vanished. I was breathless as I waited for him to meet me at the top of the hill, anticipating something I had no idea would happen.
"Where were you?" I asked, crossing my arms over my chest.
"Come with me." He reached for my hand but I pulled back.
"I have to take pictures for the paper. I can't now." I wanted to stand my ground.
"Then I'll come with you," he said, smirking at me as if there was no way I was getting out of the situation. I took out my camera, realizing that I didn't have the school one so these pictures would be mostly useless anyway.
I spun and walked to the parking lot, looking at the pavement for any cracks or signs of wear. I figured that was the angle she was going for with her article. Leo followed along, not saying a word. I snapped a picture of the edge of the senior parking lot where the curb had broken and piece of black pavement were scattered around. It looked recent.
"So this is what you like to do?" he asked.
"This is more for the paper," I said. "I like picking my own shots."
"Of me," he said, but not in a negative way.
"Sure. Of people in general. I like candids," I told him, realizing that was the first time I told anyone other than my parents what I like to photograph. It was weird how easy it was to talk to Leo. Things seemed to slip out without me realizing it.
"Show me," he said.
"Show you what?" I asked back, turning away from the broken parking lot and facing him.
"A picture you like. One you're proud of."
"I don't have any on me," I told him, which was true. I didn't keep the pictures on me because once you transported them, they could get damaged. Plus, there was no reason. I had my albums at my house and my favorite green memory card in the top drawer of my desk.
"Bring one where?" His short sentences were leaving me trying to fill in the blanks. When he was with his friends he seemed so charismatic and yet now he barely said two words. I didn't understand him. The more I spoke to him, the more I realized how much I didn't know.
"To me. I want to see your favorite picture."
"Why?" I asked without thinking.
"I just do," he said back.
"Well that's not a good enough reason."
He took my hand, sending shockwaves down my body. He pulled me down to sit with him on the broken curb. I put down my camera and layed it across my lap and faced him. "You take these pictures and they show you things, right?" he asked.
"Sure. I feel like I see deeper when I catch someone when they think noone is looking."
"Right." He nodded, his eyebrows knit together and tongue trailing over his lips. "You saw me. And now I want to see you."
"By looking at my favorite picture..." I said, finally understanding what he was talking about. He's an unfinished puzzle begging to be pieced together. But why did he want to see me? What did he already see in me that made me want to know more?
"Why?" I asked, trying not to sound too insecure.
"I don't know," he said, shrugging and inching a bit closer to me. He put his hand on my thigh and I wanted to squeal. He was so close he intoxicated me. The musty scent of cherry and smoke. The light green eyes that made me see more. "Something tells me you can handle it."
"Handle what?" I asked back, my stomach twisting the closer he sat next to me. I wanted to reach out and touch him, prove to myself that he was real. But I knew that he was dangerous. More than just the persona he wanted people to see. There was always some truth to rumors. And the things said about him were downright wrong.
"Take a mental picture," he said, sitting back and staring at me.
"Why?" I asked, cocking my head to the side. What game was he playing at?
"Because I don't want you to forget this moment."
Before I could come up with a retort or something quirky to say back, he kissed me. His hand slid up my neck to the base of my head and held me in place. My hands felt lifelessly to my sides as I let him command control and sweep me away.
Instantly my eyes shut and I relished the moment. As he said, I paused to remember the moment. The moment that I felt like Leo cared and the moment that I felt like I might get to know this guy. I didn't understand what he saw or why he picked me to invest time in but I didn't care. Something about leo and the things he had said in the last couple days made me think there was more to him.
His other hand slid around my back and pushed me closer to him. My black tee slid up and left my lower back bare, the skin of his hand against me. His fingers rubbed up and down my back and left trails of heat in their wake.
Our first kiss was intense and fast and felt like it might be the one and only. But this was different. his tongue pushed into my mouth, but not with need, with exploration. It felt like he was taking mental pictures, too.
He was magnetic and I was the missing piece. I couldn't separate from him. I was glued to his body as he pressed against eachother. His hard body wrapped with mine, the tough pavement below digging into the back of my thighs, the only thing rooting me to earth.
I didn't know how much time had passed, but he pulled back. His hand stayed on the back of my neck and our foreheads pressed against each other. I didn't want to open my eyes because I didn't want to moment to be over. The unknown was waiting and I refused to give in.
"Look at me," he said. My eyes sprang open and met his. "Click," he whispered.
I fell in love with Leo Daniels faster than you could say Leo Daniels. September 2016, I remember when it happened like it was yesterday. He was the seventeen-year-old, unattainable, lacrosse player who was way out of my league, but one day in the hall, he saw me.
I was fascinated with him, wanting to know why he pushed people away and why he acted so distant at certain times. He was strange and mysterious— and before long, he was mine.
Then we changed. Leo had a life that was foreign to me. In the town of Ridgebury, I was sheltered and accepted, and my family surrounded me with love. But Leo’s life was toxic. And his poison burned into me.
What was I supposed to do? Leave him to avoid what was sure to be a terrible ending, or stay by his side? I deserved better, but so did he. If I stayed, would we lose everything? What was the price of our love?
© Taylor Lavati 2017
What Readers Have to Say...
"An absolutely heart wrenching read that shows us that at times no matter how much we hope, darkness will find its way to win. "
-Blogger's From Down Under for A Reliant Love
"So this book is the ultimate love story. I like how two ordinary people who is so different and still so alike in so many ways can overcome everything together."
-Angelica Berglund for For The Love of Hockey
"I never thought I would read a "zombie book", much less love one. The Last Legacy really surprised me. Even with the whole people-eating-people thing, it was a fantastic book"
-Melannie S for The Last Legacy
"I could not wait to start book two. If this book was as good as book one, then I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. It wasn't as good as book one...it was better. "
-Keely Retchloff for Finding Sam
"The powers, the love, the excitement, the drama kept me so enthralled. If you are looking for a GREAT series about true love and mythology, look no further... I wish I could rate 10 stars! Definitely recommend this whole series to all my book loving friends!"
-The Book Blog for A Curse Books Trilogy
"For the Love of Ash" by Taylor Lavati was a rare 5-star read for me. I honestly find many typical romances rather dull and predictable. This was not the case at all here; there was nothing average about the romance, overall storyline, and the long list of supporting characters."
-Summer's Book Blog for For The Love of Ash
"Wingless isn't what I would normally pick up and read, but thought I'd try it out and I am so glad I did. The characters and "worlds" she creates are done so well that you can actually picture them and feel like you are there right along with the characters."
-JLH for Wingless
For The Love of Hockey | January 2016
The Price of Love | 2017