CHAPTER FIVE: EMPTY

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My phone rang for what felt like a full minute before I managed to answer the call, my eyes still heavy with sleep

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My phone rang for what felt like a full minute before I managed to answer the call, my eyes still heavy with sleep. "Hello?"

"How did it go?" Jared's voice came through.

"What?"

"How did it go with Hunter? Did you ask him anything about last night?"

I took a moment to process his words, and shame replaced the grogginess inside of me. "Oh." Having to blink a couple of times to adjust my eyes to the darkened room, I sat up. "I didn't ask him."

"You didn't ask him?" he asked, and he sounded way more frustrated than I would've expected. "You were convincing me about something being off with the guy, and the minute you have actual alone time with him you decide to let it pass?"

"I got distracted, okay?" I retorted, but I knew I was guilty as charged. Jared was right, and I couldn't make up any possible excuse on the matter. Being with him made me forget everything—the fact that he was overly weird included. "It's easier said than done."

"You're the one who doesn't trust him, so." He sighed, his tone less annoyed when he said, "Anyway, that's half of the reason why I called. Unlike you, I did get to work."

I swung my legs over the edge of my bed and noticed my nap hadn't been longer than an hour. It was seven now. "You got into the files?" I stood up a bit too fast and felt the blood flowing heavily down from my head, making me dizzy. The room swayed for a moment, but Jared's words and the overwhelming tone they carried wiped away all traces of sleep from my mind.

"Yes, and I wasn't really expecting to find anything...but when I got to the student applications and files, I realized that maybe you were right."

My stomach tightened. "Why?"

He didn't answer.

"Jared," I growled.

"Hunter's file is empty, Liv."

"Empty? What do you mean empty?" A pot clattered downstairs. I assumed it had to be my father's doing—she had never been the handiest when it came to holding things properly. Countless mugs, plates, and glasses broken later, Dad had resolved in setting ground rules for the kitchen. Mom did the cooking and Dad was in charge of moving things around. The smell of barbecue sauce floating around the house confirmed the thought, followed by Dad's throaty laugh.

My stomach rumbled in protest, but I was more worried about the growing need lodged in the pit of my stomach, the one that craved someone to tell me I wasn't losing my mind.

"I mean empty as in empty. Nada. It literally just has his name and that's it. No parents' names, not even his guardian's name. No birth certificate, no backgrounds, permissions, standard medical reports, possible allergies, no nothing. Not even his ID!"

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