Chapter 35

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As I make my way down the hall, my heart begins to thump. This is it, this might be my only chance to become friends with Lizzie without having to force myself on her. I have to plan it well. I have to make the most of it.

Before I have time to even think of what I might say to Lizzie, I am outside. The music is quieter here but the screaming annoys me even more-so. Just like the party I went to with Nick, people are crowding around the pool and splashing each other in the water. There are cliques lounging on the chairs and around the bar that is set up on a deck. All of the guests are younger than those at Nick's friend's party, which makes it that much rowdier.

I look around nervously, wishing I had Hazel with me to do the talking. How am I supposed to do this? Morrison hasn't trained me to make friends with her, he expects me to know that part. But I'm not exactly the bubbly, likeable person I know Lizzie is.

I spot her standing on the edge of the pool surrounded by four or so guys, sipping from a coconut cup, laughing and being the stereotypical hostess. One of them – whom I presume is her boyfriend and Hazel's brother – has his arm around her waist.

She doesn't know me at all. I will look insane if I waltz up to her and ask her to be my friend. Not to mention incredibly sad.

Think, Knight, I order myself, pretending to look at the drinks stacked up at the bar as I sidle closer to her clique. The whole tipsy act isn't going to work for me, not only because I lost it when we entered the house but also because Lizzie will probably just kick me out if I make a scene like that. I'm going to have to get in her good books.

Then it hits me. I turn to her group and politely intrude.

"Excuse me, Lizzie?" I ask and all of them turn to me. A couple of the guys smile welcomingly – and a little sleazily at that.

"Yeah, what's up?" she ask in a cheery tone. I can tell she's already had a few drinks. Her balance is a little wonky.

"Um, I just got here with my friend Hazel, we–"

"Hazel's here?" she says excitedly, snatching my hand and dragging me away from the group of guys. "Thank God, I really need to talk to her. Uh, who are you by the way?"

"I'm Jess. I'm a friend of Hazel's."

"Nice to meet you Jess. So what were you going to say?"

"It's your brother," I say somberly, thinking it best to get straight to the point. "I think he and his buddies are doing drugs out on the front lawn."

Lizzie turns to me and glares. "You're joking."

"Nope. They even offered me some. Hazel said I should warn you."

I see her eyes harden and a growl comes out of her mouth. "I am so going to kill him. If Dad finds out he will murder me."

Resisting the urge to laugh at the irony in her words, I follow her through the rowdy crowd to the hallway. The house is even louder and teeming with wasted people than it was before. As we pass two bulky guys in letterman's jackets, one of them taps Lizzie on the ass as she passes.

Lizzie whirls.

"Did I say you could come to my party, Tyler?"

I wonder whether the news about her brother has angered her so much that she's actually sobering up.

The taller of the two raises his hands in mock surrender. "Chill out, Liz, it's just a little fun."

"Well you can have your 'fun' in someone else's house, so if you wouldn't mind taking your friend–" She sneers at the other guy, who looks a little green in the face, "–and get the fuck out of my house."

Damn. Lizzie is more like her father than I thought.

"Come on," Tyler says softly, pushing off the wall and pressing himself against her. "Maybe you just need some space to chill, we could take this upstairs and get away from–"

And the guy pukes. I would laugh – and so would Lizzie, I bet – had he not puked all over my jeans. I jump back and he collapses on the floor in his own vomit.

"Oh my God," Lizzie moans. "Jess, are you okay?"

"Sort of ..."

"Hey, what about–"

"Save it Tyler," she snaps at the tall guy, takes me by the elbow and drags me to the staircase. We climb the stairs and pass couples grotesquely making out, sleeping on the floor or bopping to the distant music. I try to ignore the disgusting feeling of some guys puke seeping through my clothes and focus on the interior of the house. In paying attention now I don't have to come back again for a reconnaissance mission to memorize the layout.

So far, the second floor consists mainly of bedrooms – almost all of which are occupied by people moaning and rolling on top of each other. I notice that only one of them has a coded lock. Not necessarily abnormal for a house this size. Only, I know this house isn't housing normal people.

Lizzie scowls and mutters something about how much she regrets having a party as we come to the bedroom at the end of the hall. Thankfully, it's unoccupied.

"I'm so sorry about Jason," she says as she crosses to the cupboard. Her room is simple, colored with light pastels like lime green and baby pink. It's such a virgin bedroom, overlooking the pool and the party. There is a photo board decked out with images of Lizzie and her girlfriends posing for the camera. She has a keyboard in the corner of the room and I mentally note how much she loves playing the piano. What else does she love to do? I think, knowing it will help my chances of connecting with her if we have something in common. Swimming, piano, horses ...

I shut the door behind me and – checking that the curtains are drawn – I strip out of my jeans.

"Those guys are such dicks," she continues. "I don't know why they're even here. In fact, I don't know why I'm even having this party."

I try to act supportive. "Don't you have these parties all the time?"

She turns to me with her eyebrows raised. "Do you seriously think my parents would let me have rages like this ever, let alone all the time? They're away on their anniversary holiday in Las Vegas." At the mention of Vegas, I freeze. Garcia's company is in Vegas but Morrison said he rarely visits. Is it a cover or is he really doing business there? "I begged them to take me so I could get away from here for a couple of days. Naturally, they refused. So I threw a party to get back at them. It was a stupid idea. I'll get grounded if I don't fix the damage and cleaning up will be a bitch. At least we have security though–" She indicates out the window at the pool down below. I peer out and notice men in black suits guarding the perimeter. I thought they were just dressed fancy for the party. I count five that I can see. Shit. Garcia's not even here and there's security. How am I going to get anything done?

Then I remember the sole reason Morrison hired me in the first place: I blend in.


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