Keeping Her Warm(4)

By: Alexa Riley

“Fuck you, Ren,” Jannie shouts at him. Tension builds in my stomach. I want no part of whatever this is that is going on. My eyes are still on Ren; he’s just smiling. His smile seems nice, but his eyes still hold a hardness to them. I try to shift a little away from him, but he moves in closer to me. He towers over me like everyone does. I’m barely five foot two. His dark eyes keep on staring at me.

Every girl in school has a crush on Ren and I’m wondering why all of a sudden his attention is on me. It makes me feel uneasy. I shut my locker and pick up my backpack off the ground. I don’t say anything to him as I turn and head toward my class. He follows me. I know we have the next class together; he falls into step next to me.

“Not even a hi?” he asks. I glance over at him. “I know you can talk. Heard you talk to the teachers before. I don’t think the cat really has your tongue.” He licks his lips. I give him a half-smile. Not because I want to but in hopes that will get him to leave me alone and I can go back to being invisible.

I slip into class and head for my usual seat in the back of the room. Ren follows me, but Ben is in the seat next to mine like always. He’s just as quiet as I am. I take my seat next to Ben. Ren stares down at Ben, not saying a word, but Ben gets up and moves. I bite the inside of my cheek. I want to say something to Ren. He’s a freaking cocky jerk and I don’t like that he keeps trying to get close to me.

I pull my book out of my backpack and fish out my glasses, then slide them on and shove my face into a book, trying to block him out until class starts. I remind myself I only have a few more months left of high school and I won’t have to deal with any of this anymore.

If I can make it that long.



I pull up to the old house that’s seen better days. The outside is clean, but the house needs some work. I see Erica from the bank and her black Mercedes parked in the driveway. I park behind her, throwing my cruiser into park and stepping out. She hops out of her car, too.

“Cole,” she purrs. I have to fight rolling my eyes. My mother has ingrained manners into me.

“Ms. Steele.” I nod at her as I shut my car door.

“I was hoping it would be you that came.” She walks toward me, her heels clicking on the concrete driveway.

I glance down at her shoes thinking they aren’t practical. A storm is coming and there is already a thin layer of ice on the roads.

“What seems to be the problem?” I ask, cutting straight to the point. It’s fucking cold out and I got a pile of paperwork on my desk that I need to get to. Plus, it might be a long night if the storm rolls in early and people don’t keep their asses off the roads.

“Someone keeps breaking in.” She motions toward the back. I nod, heading for the back door. She follows me as I walk to where she pointed.

“Wait here. They could be inside now,” I tell her. She stops following me, an O shape forming on her lips.

“I don’t think he really did anything besides break the lock.”

“You went inside?” She raises her chin at me. I just shake my head and push in the backdoor. I keep my hand on my gun as I move through the house. Most of it is in disarray. Holes in walls and furniture looking like it’s seen better days, but I notice the kitchen is spotless. Cleaner than it should be for having been foreclosed on.

I make my way down the hall, pushing open doors as I go. The rooms all look the same. When I get to the last door I push it open and freeze for a moment.

The room is spotless, and it’s clear it’s a girl’s room. The walls are painted a soft purple, the bed made with flower-covered blankets. I open drawers and see clothes all put away, folded and in their place. There isn’t a speck of dust anywhere. Someone has been living in here. That much is clear. I clench my fist when I think about it being a young girl who is all alone in this home with no running water or heat.

The note from earlier flutters through my mind, about stealing the bread and peanut butter. I stride out of the room and move to the kitchen. I open the fridge. The light doesn’t come on—the power is clearly out—but I can still see the loaf of bread and jar of peanut butter sitting inside. I curse and slam the fridge door closed.

“We’re going to board the place up today. No one will be able to get inside.” I look over to see Erica standing in the doorway.

My heart does a funny jump in my chest. Whoever this is will be locked out of the house with nowhere to go, but I can’t tell Erica or the bank they can’t lock up their own property. That means I need to find out who is staying here, and fast. If it is some young girl, she could get trapped outside in the storm tonight. Freeze to fucking death.