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Our Secret Moments: Chapter 1

CAT - THE MANIFESTATION CHAMBER

“DO you have to breathe so loud?”

Sometimes, when I get into ridiculous movie-worthy moments, usually at the hands of my best friends and college roommates, I have to close my eyes, take a deep breath and think WWTSD? What would Taylor Swift do?

Most answers are something witty and adorable, but that’s just not me. I can’t write a record-breaking song about it and have reporters ask me a million questions about my love life. I can’t re-record my albums because I don’t have any albums that someone would have stolen in the first place.

Nope.

I’m just stuck inside of a closet with a six-foot-something football player with gorgeous brown eyes and wavy brown hair who is actively invading my personal space.

Okay. I see how it looks like my problems aren’t a big deal, but if you went through half the shit I have in the last week, you’d think this was rock bottom.

I’ve spent the whole day feeling sick to my stomach over a grade I’m going to get in the morning, curled up in my bedroom with my emotional support blanket. That was before two of my best friends dragged it off me, exposing me to the cold harsh truths of reality and shoved a mini dress in my face.

I pull the blindfold from around my neck, twisting the silk in my hands as some sort of coping mechanism. The smooth texture between my palms is the only thing encouraging me to take deep breaths.

Thursday night parties the day before a morning of classes should be illegal. But I’ve grown accustomed to the college lifestyle and participating is way better than avoiding it.

It’s my second year out of four years at Drayton Hills, a prestigious college in Eastern Colorado, and I have yet to be a part of the stupid college ritual that happens at every one of Jason Bassey’s parties.

Until tonight.

“Do you have to be so close to me?” I groan, pushing at his chest, since he apparently didn’t hear my polite question as to why he was breathing so hard.

The small shove does nothing for the proximity between us and it only makes me stumble backwards. He clasps his hand around my elbow, a knowing look on his face as he steadies me. I need a brighter light in here.

Or a fan.

Or both.

It’s getting stuffy and all I can smell is the rich, deep, woody scent of his cologne.

“There isn’t much space in here, Catherine, in case you haven’t noticed.” He says my name as if it’s hard to pronounce, or as if the word is hard to get out of his mouth.

I’d take him seriously if he wasn’t trying to hide his grin like a goof. He’s had this unique ability to make everything that comes out of his mouth either sound sarcastic, or just straight up ridiculous.

“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you,” I say, jabbing a finger into his chest. He catches my finger, his warm hand clasping around mine before dropping it to the space between us. I stare up at him, narrowing my eyes as he continues smiling down at me as if this is the best thing to ever happen to him.

I’m not exactly short by any means. I’m five-six, which I think is a pretty normal height for a nineteen-year-old.

Connor Bailey is just fucking huge.

A chuckle escapes his mouth, the sound deep and throaty as he tilts his head back a little before pinning me with those doe eyes that usually have girls dropping their panties for him. “Oh, don’t act like it was all me. Jason’s not an idiot. You’ve been giving me the ‘fuck me’ eyes All. Night. Long.”

He stretches out the last few words, proving to me once again that he is still the annoyingly gorgeous idiot he always is. Still, I stand my ground. “No, I haven’t.”

“Yes, you have.”

“No, I haven’t,” I say again with finality. He tilts his head to the side curiously, flashing me an innocent look. “And you would know that if you–”

“Oh, Connor,” he moans. Innocent my ass. “Give it to me! Just like that! Yeah, baby!”

Despite the music coming from the multiple speakers around the basement of Jason’s house, Connor knows exactly how to project his voice as he continues to moan loudly, telling everyone on the other side of the door just how good he is at fucking me, how his dick is filling me so good that I won’t be able to walk in the morning.

Everyone on the other side of the door is laughing, turning the music down to listen in on whatever is happening in here.

I pin my arms across my chest as he continues thrusting his hips into the door, pretending he’s giving it to me really good, his hands cupped around his mouth as he continues groaning.

He is the most ridiculous person I’ve ever met in my life.

I don’t think he realises that no one else can see him other than me. Regardless, he’s putting on an Oscar-worthy performance. He stops for a split second, turning to me, that signature Bailey grin hanging on his mouth, that stupid dimple on his left cheek.

I cock my head to the side. “Are you done?”

“Not quite yet. I was just getting to the good stuff,” he says.

“There’s more?” I gasp, sarcastically. His eyes light up as he leans against the closed door of the closet. “Here I was, thinking that saying you’ve got a golden dick was the cherry on top. But if you knew me at all, you’d know I’d never say anything like that.”

“Trust me, Cat. Forming words would be the last thing you could do if I had my way with you,” he whispers.

The air between us fizzles, the shots I had before leaving my dorm churning in my stomach with the leftover pizza I ate.

Connor is not an intimidating person.

Not to me anyway. But when he leans down, his breath hot in my face, those whiskey eyes staring directly in mine, you could say he’s a little intimidating.

He’s toying with me, obviously. But with the heat, the words coming out of his mouth and his proximity, my body doesn’t know that and everything — and I mean, everything — starts to ache accordingly.

Think with your brain, not your tits.

Think with your brain, not your tits.

“Are you done?” I ask again, needing some sort of response to his blatantly obvious remark and attempt at flirting. My voice is breathy and strangled, unlike my usual poised self. He finally takes a step back, allowing me to breathe, but all I can smell is him.

All I can feel is him.

Jason Bassey’s parties are famous for two things. One, somebody usually ends up pregnant by the end of the night and two, his magical Manifestation Chamber. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds. There’s an empty utility closet at the end of the hall of Jason’s parents house, where he notoriously throws parties every week for the students at Drayton.

Trust me when I say that this closet is not special. It’s barely two feet wide, but when you’re stuck in here between a six-foot-three football player and some shelves, I might as well be trying to fit through the small doors at Brandy Melville.

In short, Jason’s Manifestation Chamber was originally a fragment of his own imagination that nobody believed for a while. He has the strongest intuition in the entire school. According to his friends, he’s also had a perfect Gaydar since he was in middle school, so everyone started to believe him when he said he knows that two people will fall in love by the end of the semester, or by the end of the school year.

He gets two of his minions to blindfold said participants and shove them into his chamber. You’d think he’d try to decorate it with dream catchers, incense and crystals, but it’s just as sterile as the cafeteria floors on a Friday night.

The crazy thing is, it has worked.

Every. Single. Time.

The couples that come out of here are rocky for the first few weeks, but then they bounce back and most of them are still thriving to this day. My best friend, Nora, believes it’s some sort of voodoo shit that Jason is pulling, but I can’t see what reasons he would have to do that, or if that is even possible.

I always thought it was interesting how he had such an eye for those things, how he managed to see two people that were destined to find each other and put them in the right place at the right time. It’s beyond me how he manages to do it, but it’s an art I appreciate, no matter how cynical I am about love.

Now, stuck in here with Connor Bailey, I can dub it as completely insane because there is no way in this universe that I could ever fall for him. The only energy between Connor and I is purely platonic, sickly sweet annoyance.

I might have had a crush on him growing up, but that was years ago and the crush has yet to reemerge. Since then, he has constantly been testing that friend boundary, making me want to shove the word friend right up his–

“Oh, come on, don’t act like you haven’t been dreaming about this since we were kids,” he drawls, glancing down at me again.

“By this, you mean being stuck in a closet with you while you pretend that we’re having sex?” I ask and he nods, clarifying his stupidity. “That sounds so wrong, for so many reasons.”

“Okay, then,” he draws out, looking around the tiny room and then back to me. “What else are we supposed to do? They clearly put us in here for a reason.”

“It’s a stupid party ritual that doesn’t mean anything. We were both at the party for different reasons and we ended up here. It was a pure coincidence,” I retort. His eyes narrow, the usual brightness in them dimming as he pins me with a defiant stare, the heat between our bodies crackling like cinder rocks.

His lips curl up into a mischievous smile, the slight glint in his eyes lighting an uncomfortable fire in my lower stomach. He leans down, tugging a curl that has fallen in front of my face, trying his hardest to get under my skin.

I take in a sharp breath.

It’s just the Manifestation Chamber.

“Are you telling me that you don’t believe in fate, Catherine Fables?”

“I stopped believing in fate a long time ago,” I mutter. I stopped believing in anything remotely romantic five years ago to be exact. Still, it was only just over a year ago that I ended a relationship with my high-school sweetheart, realising I was better off emotionally on my own. I was an awful girlfriend and Evan didn’t deserve that. Everyone said that three months after the breakup is when things get better, and they were right. I’m still in my healing era and I’m loving it. “Besides, it’s not fate if someone clearly had a hand in it.”

“You sure know a lot for someone who doesn’t believe in it,” he sings.

“And you sure know how to make very believable moans,” I concede. His face turns puzzled, his cheeks turning the cutest shade of pink. “Unless, that’s what you think pleasuring a woman sounds like. Then I apologise to you and whatever poor soul you’ve dated.”

“I– That’s not– Obviously, I was–” His hands are flailing as he takes a deep breath, desperately trying to regain control of the conversation.

“Exactly,” I say, cutting off his rambling. I turn back to the locked door, hearing the faint whispers coming from the other side.  “Can you just do something to get us out of here?”

“What do you think all the moaning was for?” I pin him with a look. The look. “Okay, fine. What do you suggest?”

“I don’t know,” I groan. He shreds whatever distance was between us as he steps closer to me, causing my back to slam against the door. I peer up at him, his chest invading my face as he takes in a few deep breaths. My voice sounds unsure as I say, “If something doesn’t happen, they’re going to forget about us and then we’ll be stuck in here. It only locks from the outside.”

“Are you claustrophobic, Catherine?” His voice feels like lava, running through every vessel in my body, right to where it should not be pulsing. For him of all people.

“No,” I breathe. His eyes squint as if he’s trying to figure me out and his hand drops onto the door above me, caging me into the already tight space. His head drops to the side of my face where my heart beats rapidly. I somehow muster up the strength to add, “I just don’t want to be stuck here with you.”

“Why? Scared you’ll give in?”

“Give in to what?”

The door flies open, and I almost fall right on my ass. The sudden change in temperature knocks the wind out of me, but Connor’s hand reaches out, slipping around my waist as he hoists me back up.

I fall into his chest, my hands pressing onto his broad shoulders as he holds me close to him for a second before I take a shaky step back. Still, he does nothing to put any space between us and instead leans down, pushing my hair over my shoulder as if it’s his fucking job.

“Careful, sweetheart, if you trip over yourself again, I’d think you’re trying to do it just for me to catch you,” he murmurs, his mouth hot against my neck. He pulls away from me, shoving his hands into his pockets as he nods at me and whichever one of my friends behind me. “Have a good night, ladies.”

And then he’s gone.

“Have a good night,” I mutter angrily, smoothing out my dress as I turn around to face a wide-eyed and slightly flushed Elle. Out of the three of us, Eleanor can handle her drinks the worst. I bet she’s only had a few shots and she’s already swaying slightly as her face glows. “Thanks for saving me.”

She beams, hooking her arm into mine as we walk up the stairs of the basement, instantly being greeted by sweaty bodies and loud music blaring in our around us. “Seemed like you needed saving. Jason was having too much fun with it, but when the moaning stopped, something didn’t feel right.”

You could say that again.

That’s not exactly how I would describe whatever just happened in there.

Connor makes me feel uneasy, like he’s able to look right through me. We’ve known each other our whole lives since he’s Nora’s twin, but since we started high school, I’ve tried my best to keep my distance, knowing what boys his age are like. But this campus is only so big, and I have to see him more often than I’d like.

“Do you wanna go stand by the pool? I need some fresh air,” I say to her, looking down at her as she snuggles her face into my arm, her brown curly hair tickling my arms.

“Maybe we should just go home,” Elle says through a yawn. “Nor’s got that afterparty with the rest of the theatre class and I’m beat already. I need a warm bath and to watch New Girl episodes until my eyes can’t stay open anymore.”

I laugh at her very accurate reading of what we both need. Elle likes to party the least. She loves a good night in as much as Nora and I do. But I’ve grown up with attending fancy events with my dad in the public eye as the mayor, so I’m used to staying up longer than necessary.

After today’s closet fiasco, and the fear of tomorrow being the worst day of my life, I’m ready to distract myself and pretend it doesn’t exist until the morning.

“That sounds perfect, Elle-Belle.” She looks up at me, her nose scrunching at the nickname as we grab our jackets from the other closet.

Once we’ve shrugged on our coats, ready to step into the early September breeze, the chill I can feel run down my spine isn’t from the slightly cold air. It’s the same sort of chill I got when Connor’s breath was on my neck, when his hand slid around my waist as if it belonged there.

He’s not even here and I can still feel him everywhere.

He’s started to unravel me already and I hate it.


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