❝ buried beneath it all ❞

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I can't let myself regret,
Such selfishness.
My pain and all the trouble caused
No matter how long
I believe that there's hope,
Buried beneath it all

"Let the Flames Begin" -Paramore

Even though I had been expecting it, Ashton's response still surprised me.

I wasn't sure if it was because I had been waiting for him to deny it despite the obvious facts or if there was still a part of me that believe the Elite were above this.

I had had weeks to accept that someone in the group had unhealthy homicidal tendencies, but I still hadn't. I mean, yeah, the Elite were rich, and mysterious, and they kept way too many secrets for comfort, but they were still teenagers. And last time I checked, teenagers didn't spend their time trying to decide what they wanted to use to make the life bleed out of someone wasn't successful in seducing one of their friends.

Matchmaking was normal enough- murder wasn't.

"You shouldn't have told her," Ashton told Jacen. His disapproving tone pulled me from my thoughts.

"Me?" Jacen asked. "You nodded."

"You told her about Olivia," Ashton replied. He was talking like I wasn't even here!

They probably think I'm in shock.

"Stop, Ashton. He can tell me what he wants." I glanced at Jacen. "Even though I don't believe most of it," I added, effectively wiping the annoyingly smug smirk from his face.

"Hey," Jacen said. "It was true."

I raised an eyebrow. "This time."

He rolled his eyes. "We've been over this, Elena."

"I don't have to believe you," I replied. "But, stop distracting me." I resisted the urge to curse when I realized I hadn't asked more about the fact that I might die if I couldn't get Ashton to fall in love with me.

How the hell was I gonna manage that, anyway?

Might as well start planning your funeral, Lena.

"I'm not trying to," Jacen said. "You're doing it all by yourself."

I shook my head, not wanting to get distracted again and opened my mouth to ask about the game.

Except, I didn't get the chance to, because Nathan Sinclair had the worst timing ever.

"Hey. Vane- Is everything okay?" He cut himself off when he noticed our expressions.

Ashton glanced up. "Everything's fine."

"Mhmm," Nathan said, not convinced. "You look like you want to give him a black eye."

And that surprised Nathan? All Ashton and Jacen did when they were around each other was fight- at least, that was all I had seen them do.

"It shouldn't surprise you, Nate," Jacen told him. "You know Ashton's always been terribly jealous of me."

Ashton turned to look at him. "Why would I be jealous of you?"

Nathan let out something like a cross between a sigh of exasperation and a snort. "Come on, Elena. Vanessa wants to talk to you." I stood up and followed Nathan out of the cafeteria, leaving Ashton and Jacen behind to argue, though they caught up with us a moment later.

"Thanks for leaving me with him," Jacen grumbled. "He looked ready to kill me."

Ashton simply rolled his eyes.

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