Authors: Kaitlyn Hoyt
“You’re really going to make us force you to come?” Colton asks. I keep my eyes glued to the wall on the opposite side of their room and avoid their gazes. Liam just stands in the doorway, shaking his head at me. Seeing movement out of the corner of my eye, I put on the most innocent expression that I can muster. Colton walks toward me, so I move behind Bragden. When he gets closer, I push a shield of magic out, separating the two of us. Colton’s smile widens as he looks over my shoulder. I turn to see what he is looking at when I feel an arm wrap around my waist and pull me toward the door.
“Shoot. That’s not fair,” I say as Liam pulls me out of the room. “Guys, I hate shopping.” My voice comes out whiney, but I don’t care. “Liam, let me go,” I demand as he pulls me closer to the front door.
They’re laughing at my feeble attempt to get away. When we make it out of the front door, I stop struggling, and Liam unwraps his arm from my waist. He shouldn’t trust that I’ll just listen to them. I walk a couple more steps before I turn around and try to run back into the house. I make it past Liam before Colton is able to stop me.
“I don’t think so,” he whispers to me as he guides me toward the vehicle.
“It was worth a try,” I mumble as I get into the car. David is sitting in the driver’s seat, waiting for everyone to get in. I follow Liam into the car and sit between him and Colton. When Colton closes the door, David starts the car, and we’re off.
Sitting in a parking spot at the mall, I watch Ryanne as she tries to push as many thoughts as possible back into that ‘mental box’ of hers.
David turns around and looks at Liam and me. “I can’t believe she tried to make a run for it. I’ve never met a girl who didn’t like to shop before.”
“She’s not like most girls, David.”
Emma unbuckles and turns around in her seat. “Wait ‘til she finds out I’m taking her to Victoria’s Secret,” she says with an evil grin. “Teach her to use her magic on me.” She scoffs and looks down at her.
Ryanne sits up. “Ok, I’m as good as I’m going to get. Let’s get this over with.” Emma jumps up and opens her car door. I get out and help Ryanne step out of the car. She grimaces at the mall. I laugh as we start walking toward the door. Liam grabs her wrist and pulls her along.
Standing just inside the doorway of the first store, Ryanne stumbles back into Liam. He steadies her as she closes her eyes, taking deep breaths. David and Liam both look concerned. We knew it would be difficult to be in such a public place like this, but I don’t think any of us realized how difficult it would be for her. She slowly opens her eyes. “I’m good.”
“Are you sure?” Liam looks down at her.
She arches her neck and looks up at him and says, “No, but I’m not going to get any better, so let’s make this quick.” Emma turns around and starts walking away. David takes one last look at Ryanne before following her. Liam keeps a hold of her wrist and slowly starts to walk. I stand slightly behind her just in case she is to fall.
After taking a couple of steps, she picks up her speed. She doesn’t seem to be hurting anymore, so I’m assuming the voices aren’t too loud. Emma stops and waits for the rest of us to catch up. “Where to first?” she asks. Ryanne just crosses her arms and scans the mall. A small smile forms on her face, so I look in that direction and watch an elderly couple walking hand in hand into the small bookstore. When Emma realizes that Ryanne isn’t paying attention, she grabs her arm and starts pulling her toward a store. Ryanne turns around, sighs loudly, and lets Emma drag her.
An hour later, David, Liam, and I are standing outside a store, waiting while the girls shop. “She doesn’t seem to be hurting too much,” David says. “She obviously doesn’t like to be here, but she’s not complaining anymore.”
“She’s been blushing the whole time we’ve been here. She’s definitely not enjoying herself.” At that, Emma walks out carrying a bag, still dragging Ryanne behind her.
“She is the worst person to shop with. She won’t look at anything.”
“Everything in there was pink. Do I look like I wear pink?” She crosses her arms and then looks behind her, her blush darkening. I look past her and see a group of guys staring in our direction. Anger pulsates through me. They must have seen it on my face because they start walking away.
I move so I am standing behind her and scoot her between Liam and I. “Focus on me, Ryanne. Ignore everyone else.”
She looks up toward me and I see the weariness in her expression. “I’ve been trying, but it feels like everyone is screaming at me.” She closes her eyes and another look of concentration mars her pretty face.
I look up toward David and Emma, “We need to hurry up.”
“Well, if she wouldn’t make this so difficult, we could leave a lot quicker.” Ryanne opens her eyes, and Emma starts pulling her toward another store. I laugh when I see the store Emma is walking toward. Ryanne looks up and stops dead in her tracks and starts shaking her head.
“Oh no. I don’t think so.” She starts to turn around, but Emma continues walking. Emma leans forward and puts all her weight into pulling Ryanne along. We stop and stand out of the way of the traffic and watch as Ryanne struggles against the determined Emma.
“I don’t see this going well,” Liam says with a laugh as Ryanne and Emma disappear into the store.
“Nope, not at all.” A couple minutes later, Ryanne storms out of the store and grabs my arm, pulling me in the opposite direction, mumbling something about a stubborn girl and stupid pink stuff. I look behind me and see David and Liam laughing at me. I face forward right as Ryanne pulls me into Hot Topic.
She lets go of my arm and grabs a couple of random t-shirts. It looks like a couple Harry Potter, the Big Bang Theory, Mario Kart, and some comic book characters are in her stack of shirts. She walks over to me and hands them to me. “Here, can we go now?” A sales attendant who heard her, motions for us to follow him. I’m paying for the shirts when Emma walks into the store carrying a pink striped bag.
With an exaggerated groan, she says, “More t-shirts? For goodness sakes girl.”
“I told you I wasn’t going to wear anything pink and that I have no reason to dress up, so yes. More t-shirts.” She sticks her tongue out at Emma. The man checking us out laughs at Ryanne’s response to her and gives me
look. I smile at him and grab the bag with Ryanne’s clothes. These girls are crazy, but there’s nothing we would change about them. With the Hot Topic bag in one hand and Ryanne’s fingers interlocked between mine in the other, we walk out of the store.
Emma turns to Ryanne. “Since I knew your size, I took the liberty of picking out some things for you. You’re just going to have to deal with what I bought you from Victoria’s Secret, since you refused to pick anything out yourself. Don’t worry, there’s nothing pink.” Emma emphasizes the word pink. Then, she rolls her eyes and runs up to walk beside David. Ryanne continues walking but glares at the back of Emma’s head the rest of the time.
Standing inside Dick’s Sporting Goods, David, Liam, and Colton are looking for some clothes while Emma and I look for some extra work-out outfits. They remain close enough that they can keep an eye on us. “Colton’s going to have a permanent scowl on his face if he keeps that up.”
“Why is he scowling?” I glance across the store and do see that he has an upset expression on his face. Emma rolls her eyes for the millionth time today and ignores my question.
“Are you done?” She looks down at the clothes in my hand. I didn’t look for much, but I nod anyway. I just want to leave the mall and go back to the house. David and Colton stop talking the closer we get to them.
They’re hot. I wonder if they’re with those guys.
I look around for who’s thinking that and find a sales attendant watching us.
“You guys done?” David asks us as Emma walks over to him, and he wraps an arm around her.
One down. That leaves the small one. A little on the short side but curvy. I can deal with that.
I cough in an attempt to hide my embarrassment. I can feel a blush rising again with each step he takes closer to us. Colton looks at me strangely as I look around for something to become suddenly interested in.
“Can I help you guys find anything?” the sales attendant asks when he stops in front of us. He looks around at all the guys but stops at me.
Looks better up close. Hello.
I stare at the ground, waiting for him to leave.
Colton looks between me and the guy, before stepping forward and placing an arm around my shoulder and pulling me closer to him. “We’re fine. Thanks.” His words are polite, but his tone isn’t. I watch his thoughts play out as realization hits him.
I knew she’d be taken. Time to go.
Well, if you need anything, don’t be afraid to ask.” He walks away, but keeps glancing over his shoulder at us. Colton doesn’t move his arm until the guy is out of his sight.
“Can we leave soon? Please? I’m tired of hearing all these guys’ thoughts and all the girls thinking I’m a lesbian because I’m surrounded by hot guys.” They all laugh at the comment but agree that it’s time to leave.
As we’re heading out, David spots a music store and asks if I’m ok to go in. One last stop is fine. Colton and Liam walk over to the rock section to flip through the CD’s while David and Emma walk over to the movies. I walk to the back to look at the posters. I flip through a couple of boy bands, before I stop and look at a poster of the Beatles. I’m looking at that poster when I hear his thoughts again.
Ahh, there she is.
I turn around and see the man entering the store. He’s been following us all day. I’m sure it’s him. Every time I turned around, I found him close by, appearing busy. When the image of him removing my clothes pops up in my mind, I gasp, turn around, and walk up to Colton. “Put your arm around me,” I demand.
He listens without questioning me. He steps up behind me, creating a cage around me and the aisle of CDs in front of me. I pretend to be interested in the music selection in front of me. He continues to flip through the CDs, before he leans over and whispers in my ear. His breath against my skin gives me goose bumps.
“Not that I’m complaining, but what’s this about?” When I see an image of myself lying in the man’s bed, I turn around and bury my face in Colton’s shoulder. His arm tightens around my waist, and I hear him tell Liam, “I think it’s time to go. Go get David and Emma.” He starts walking toward the exit, not releasing me from his hold. We get to the car and wait for the others to show up. I collapse in the seat, relieved that some of the weight from the thoughts is gone.
Emma closes her door, and David starts the car and pulls out before anyone questions me. “So what was that about, Ryanne?” She asks me. I lift my head from my lap and look at her.
“There was a man in there that kept following us. I’d spotted him a couple times today. His thoughts were…well let’s just say they weren’t PG rated, and it was starting to creep me out.” Leaning forward again, I drop my head back onto my lap. My head is pounding. That was too much. There were too many people around…too many thoughts infiltrated my mind at once. It was too hard to control. I handled it pretty well all things considered, but my body is starting to react to my efforts. I close my eyes and try to tune out all the sounds around me.
I must have fallen asleep because when I open my eyes again, I see the high beams of the ceiling in the living room.
“No, I already checked. She’s fine. Her body is just tired from blocking everyone’s thoughts all day. It takes a lot of energy to push all those thoughts into the back of her mind, so she can’t hear them anymore,” Logan says. I sit up and look around. Everyone is sitting in the kitchen.
I walk into the room and sit down beside Liam. “I told you I didn’t like shopping,” I say when everyone stares at me. Emma and David laugh at my response, but Liam and Colton don’t react at all.
Logan walks over to me, places a hand on my shoulder, and closes his eyes. I can tell that he is checking to make sure that I am not experiencing any other side effects. “I’m fine, Logan.” He heals my headache; a headache I wasn’t aware I had until it was gone.
When he removes his hands, he looks angry. “That…that...” I know he saw what that man was thinking about me.
“Logan, don’t. Please.” Colton and Liam look at Logan, wanting to ask what is going on. I shake my head and silently plead with him. I know that if the guys find out what that man was thinking, they will overreact.
“Why didn’t you say anything earlier?” he asks me. I glance around the room and see everyone watching us.
“Logan, please stop.”
“You of all people know that some people will act on their thoughts, especially thoughts like that.” Colton’s jaw tightens. He starts clenching and unclenching his fists.
“Look, why don’t we go and train?” I look over at Liam and smile, silently thanking him for the subject change. He winks at me. Colton jumps up from the table and leaves the room before anyone can say anything.
“Training sounds like a great idea,” says David.
I grab a sword and walk to the backyard. I am hoping that Bragden will spar with me today. I need to release some of this anger, and I know that he will fight me back. Sitting on the hardened grass, I try not to let my mind wander too much. I need to remain focused. I am stretching out my muscles when everyone walks out of the house. Since I’m alone, I don’t have to suppress the groan that comes out when I see Ryanne smiling up at Liam, laughing at something he said. Her work-out outfits are way too tight for my liking. The fact that everyone can see her dressed like that…I want to push her behind my back and yell at anyone who tries to look at her.
Everyone walks over to where I am sitting and creates a circle, stretching. Ryanne is the most flexible one out of all of us. She sits down and reaches for her foot, resting her head on her knee. She then does the same on the other leg. She moves back a little and does the splits before moving forward, basically laying flat on the ground, stretching her legs and back.