Since TOXIC is officially at the editor’s, I wanted to celebrate and thank all of you for your beyond awesome support. So here’s an entire chapter that I would love to share with you. I thought since the boys get so much attention during the Tuesday Teasers I’d focus on someone a little more, well, toxic—Chloe.
*(Skyla accepts a ride from Chloe rather than Gage.)
Shut Up and Drive
Chloe glides her hand over the wheel with an erotic display of affection.
The night lights up in an electrical blaze as a storm begins to rage overhead. I haven’t seen this kind of climactic action in weeks. I’m not sure if this is a natural phenomenon or perhaps Chloe and Gage have harnessed the power to dictate the weather much like Marshall and Demetri. After all, who knows what cash and prizes they were awarded once they shipped Logan and me off to the fluid factory? This snazzy new sedan Chloe seems to have scored recently might have been just the incentive she was looking for to lure me over to the stone of sacrifice. I’d like to think I was worth more than a mid-sized luxury vehicle that doesn’t even have the modern day boast of hybrid slapped on its rear fender. I’d like to think I was worth more than the sum total of scrap metal on earth to Gage but then I would have never pegged him for a set up to begin with. I would have bet my life on the fact I could trust Gage Oliver, and in a way I did.
“Come on Skyla—entertain me.” Chloe stares out the windshield in a daze as the rain surges its aggressive assault over Paragon. “Why don’t you dish about how you can’t believe Gage put a spear through your gut.”
I glance out the passenger window as we pass the familiar streets en route to the Landon asylum for lunatics and killers alike—me included since I’m riding in a car with Chloe who I might very much like to kill again.
Driving in a car with Chloe.
Honestly? I’ve abandoned any morsel of good sense I might have had. But in my defense, I was forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. Besides, I need to get home a.s.a.p. to begin my dream date with Logan.
“By the way,” I start, “I’m totally unaffected. You and Gage can live happily ever after for all I care.” The lie jags from my mouth thick and unnatural like talking though a mouthful of peanut butter. “And, technically speaking, it was you who speared me.” Literally.
“You’re always so black and white,” she snarks.
“I’m being sarcastic Chloe. Maybe you’re the one who can’t see past the analogy in the room.”
“I can look past a lot of things thanks to this Noster eyeball your Sector friend was kind enough to gift me. Why do you think he gave me such a spectacular specimen?”
“Because he was trying to please me.” Marshall would do anything in the world I asked as long as he were able. “Again, you can’t see past the deeper meaning of things.”
“And, again, Skyla—you can’t see past yourself.” She pulls in high on the driveway right behind Tad’s free ride from Althorpe, the establishment at which he is a modern day indentured servant. “But then,” she says, shaking her head, “for some bizarre reason, Dudley, too seems beyond smitten with you.” She mock shoots herself in the temple. “Fill me in on the powers of your persuasion. Do tell—I mean we’re practically sisters now that we’re living together. And one day, I might even become your sister-in-law just to piss you off.”
“What about Gage?” I’m stunned to hear she’d choose a Landon over an Oliver, especially the shady Oliver in question.
Chloe presses into her seat for a moment. Her face flashes with surprise as though she had just caught herself off guard.
Chloe Bishop is a fully devout follower in the church of all things Gage. How she could possible forget the first commandment—to worship ad nauseam and commit herself to full throttle obsessive behavior is beyond me.
“What’s the matter Chloe?” I revel in the taunt. “Gage still locking you out physically? You running a little short on cash to buy his affections? That is how you got Brielle to befriend me, right? A thousand cool crisp bills?”
Her dark hair coils around her face, her sharp features gleam with pride under the glimmer of the porch light.
“You know…” I tilt my head into the vibrating window as I feel the rain drum through my temples like a cheap replica of Marshall’s special brand of oscillating love. “I thought all I felt for you was hatred, but to be honest, you’re not worth the energy.”
“The feeling’s mutual.” She’s quick to add.
“In fact, I feel nothing but pity. You spend all of your energy destroying others so you can steal the good things from their lives and claim them as your own. You played so well into Demetri’s plan of killing my father—Ethan, bringing me to Paragon. Why have a well-placed boyfriend at all? Why the big ruse of the diary? Why put him on your shit list in the back of your diary and not Logan? Why have Gage by my side twenty-four seven whispering his profession of love to me, outfitting me with tokens of his affection? Touching me like he meant it. What were you so afraid of? Was it Logan and me you were trying to keep apart all along? The Counts did that without your foolish aid. I really don’t get you Chloe. I don’t get your stupid games or why the hell you’ve invited yourself to live at my house and date my stepbrother. Why are you so richly invested in taking me down? Obviously I missed something because nothing about you makes any sense.”
“You killed me.”
“Only after a long list of grievances you imparted on me and my family—killing my father toping off the list,” I fire back. “I’m onto you Chloe. I know for a fact there is a bigger picture brewing. I will find out whatever the hell has you so riled up against me. And even though I haven’t a clue what you have planned next on your make-Skyla-miserable to-do list, I can tell you with confidence that you will not prosper. You will never take me down. I will not lie under your feet, not now, not ever. I will win. I’ll have love and happiness and the very last word on any lame-ass decision the Faction Council tries to make after the war. You, and the rest of the Counts, will be beneath Celestra. I will stamp out your wickedness once and for all.”
“Are you done?” She flips her hair, bored with the conversation.
“Not by a long shot. When I’m done, you will wish you never knew me—that you ran in the opposite direction once you heard the whisper of my name.” I pause and take her in. “All you’re good for is manufacturing drama, and manipulating people. I guess that’s the sort of thing Gage is into. I wish you a very unhappy life together.”
I open the door and Chloe snatches me back by the wrist.
“I will have a very happy life, Skyla. For the record, I never once paid Gage for his time or affections.” Her chest heaves into her words. “I paid him for yours.”
I kick the door wide open and run like hell inside the house.