A shiver shot down my body, making my shoulders twitch.
The last thing I wanted to do was knock on the dickhead’s door, but there’s no telling what bullshit I’d wake up to if I took Madman home with me. Jared would probably accuse me of trying to steal his pet.
Madman had been collateral damage in Jared’s and my fallout. As much as I loved the dog, it just seemed like he should be with Jared. A few things had been like that after he came back from that summer away. One of our favorite hangouts was a fish pond at Eagle Point Park. When Jared and I stopped being friends, he stopped going there.
I got the pond. He got the dog.
“Jared? Ms. Trent?” I called while ringing the doorbell. The rain pounded to the ground, giving a flood-feel to our street. The howling wind forced the rain sideways, which soaked my shoes and calves, even under the awning.
I doubted anyone could hear someone scream in this ruckus, so I pounded on the door and rang the bell two more times. The house remained dark and silent. “Well, Madman. You may be coming home with me.” The little guy yelped again, clearly unhappy being outside.
Before I walked away, I gripped the door handle and turned. To my surprise, the door opened.
Not locked? Weird.
Madman darted inside, pushing the door completely open like he was running from a fire. His claws against the hard wood floors echoed down the hall. He’d gone to the kitchen, probably to his food dish.
I took a hesitant step into the foyer. “Hello?” The house was nearly pitch black except for the streetlights that cast a dull glow through the windows. “Ms. Trent? Jared?” I looked around and felt a chill shoot down my arms.
Something’s not right.
The house seemed almost dead. No ticking clocks, no hum of a fish tank. I wasn’t even sure if they had fish, but an occupied house makes some kind of noise, even in the middle of the night.
Madman barked, and I took a step towards the kitchen, but I stopped when I heard a crackle under my shoe. Taking a closer look, my eyes having adjusted to the dark, I noticed broken glass or…maybe it was pottery, on the floor. I surveyed the area and took in more disarray that I hadn’t noticed when I’d entered.
Chairs were overturned, a lamp was broken, and couch cushions lay about the living room. Even the framed pictures of Jared on the wall by the stairs were shattered and hanging by a corner.
Jared?! My heart pounded in my ears. What had happened here?
Madman continued to bark, more persistently this time. I ran down the hall and into the kitchen. The dog sat looking out of the open backdoor, whining and wagging his tail.
As I looked through the door, I could see Jared sitting on the top step leading down to the backyard. I let out a breath.
His back was to me, and he was drenched. Water poured down his bare back, and the hair on his head stuck to his scalp.
“Jared?” I called out, stepping up to the doorframe.
He turned his head enough to see me out of the corner of his eye, which was almost completely covered by his soaked hair. Without acknowledging me otherwise, he turned back around and lifted a liquor bottle to his lips.
Jack Daniels. Straight.
My first thought was to leave. He was safe. The dog was safe. Whatever he was doing wasn’t my business.
But my feet wouldn’t move. The house had been vandalized, and Jared was drinking alone.
“Jared?” I stepped outside, thankful for the covering over the backdoor as well. “The dog was barking outside. I rang the doorbell. Didn’t you hear it?” I guess I felt a need to explain my presence in his house.
When he didn’t answer, I walked down the stairs to face him. Rain cascaded down my face, drenching my hair and clothes. My muscles tensed with the urgency to get back inside, but, for some reason, I stayed put.
Jared’s head was level, but his eyes were downcast. His arms rested on his knees, and the half-empty bottle was secured in his left hand where he swung it back and forth between his fingers.
“Jared? Would you answer me?” I yelled. “The house is trashed.”
None of my business. Just leave.
Jared licked his lips, and the raindrops on his face looked like tears. I watched him as he raised his eyes lazily and blinked away the water.
“The dog ran away,” he mumbled, matter-of-factly. His voice was calm.
Stunned by such a cryptic reply, I almost laughed. “So you threw a temper tantrum? Does your mom know you did that to the house?”
His brow narrowed as he looked me dead in the eyes. “What do you care? I’m nothing, right? A loser? My parents hate me. Weren’t those your words?”
For a moment, I closed my eyes, feeling guilty all over again. “Jared, I should never have said those things. No matter what you’ve—”
“Don’t apologize,” he interrupted. Swaying as he stood up, he adopted his usual sadistic tone. “Groveling makes you look pathetic.”
“I’m not groveling!” I snapped as I followed him into the house. “I can just admit when I f**ked up.”
I stood inside the doorway while he put his bottle on the kitchen table and grabbed a dish towel off the counter. Walking over to Madman, who was huddled underneath a chair, he wrapped the cloth around the dog and slowly dried him off. He continued to ignore me, but I couldn’t leave until I’d said what I needed to say.
“I’m sorry if I hurt you, and it won’t happen again.” There, I’d said it. No need for me to be here anymore.
But I didn’t stop there. My gaze fell on the not-yet-empty bottle of Jack, and I was worried. His mom was a recovering alcoholic, and hard liquor could be dangerous in large quantities. By the looks of the house, he was not in control of his faculties.