Chapter Eight: Mood Swings

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I quietly followed Duke and Aiden around the corner of the school to walk down a short set of steps that led into a basement. The floor inside was concrete, with a large vented drain in the middle of the room. Six washing machines and an industrial looking sink lined the left wall, and on the right were six dryers.

Having closed up his umbrella, Aiden walked past me to sit on one of the dryers as Duke sauntered over to the sink, his clothes making a wet plop sound with each step he took. Keeping his back to us, Duke kicked off his white loafers and bent down to move them beneath the sink. Then, he sat on a stool next to the sink.

"So, Miss Ridley," Aiden began slyly, stealing my attention. "Class has yet to start, and you've already skipped out on your scholarly obligations. Why is that?"

My scholarly obligations? I snorted, ignoring the apprehension that his question elicited.

Apart from bringing it up, I had no way of knowing if he and Duke knew about the Nero incident. If they were aware of what happened, they were doing a great job of keeping it to themselves. Especially Aiden. I didn't know him at all, but I had a feeling that if he knew what had transpired, he'd never let me live it down.

"Aiden, don't start." Duke chided, peeling off his soaked socks. "Our only concern is giving Miss Ridley a quick tour of campus. Nothing more."

Aiden opened his mouth, but snapped it shut when the door creaked open. Our heads turned toward the sound, and my heart lurched violently into my breastbone.

His white button-down shirt was soggy, hanging open to reveal damp, pale flesh. His ashy lavender hair was dripping wet, clinging to his forehead and ears, perfectly framing his pensive face. He seemed to be lost in thought, his eyes focused on his feet as he made his way to the sink.

I wanted to run, hide, before he knew I was there. But I couldn't move-- his presence held me in place. Instead, I turned away, hoping it would be enough to avoid his noticing me.

It wasn't.

"Miss Ridley," Nero's voice was much colder than it had been before. It felt hollow, almost pained, and it made me rigid. "What are you doing here?"

"Dean Lachlan had an emergency," Duke explained, his tone light. "He asked us to conduct the tour for her."

"I see," Nero mumbled.

Stupidly, I dared to take a look over my shoulder at him. His amethyst eyes met mine with ferocity, staying on me long enough to turn my cheeks a heated crimson. Then, he turned his attention to the sink, and I turned away to hang my head in shame.

He was pissed, and rightly so. Not only did I violate his privacy, but I also got him in trouble with the Dean. I thought about apologizing, this time for his being reprimanded by Dean Lachlan, but immediately dismissed it, thinking it would be pointless.

Things fell silent after that, uncomfortably silent. After a beat, Aiden stood and held his hand out for me.

"The rain has finally let up," he smiled. "We should wait outside, give them some privacy."

I took his hand, grateful that he wasn't trying to be cute or mischievous, and got to my feet. Before we could go, Nero pulled off his shirt to wring it out above the sink, speaking without looking up.

"Miss Ridley give me privacy? Ha! Good one."

I froze, my eyes shooting up to him in disbelief. He didn't look away from the sink, however, but instead kicked off his shoes to nudge them back next to Duke's.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Aiden asked beside me. He and Duke wore matching expressions of confusion, glancing from me to Nero.

"Hmm, good question." Nero began, finally turning to face us. "Miss Ridley, you want to elaborate, or shall I?"

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