Jared’s backyard, as well as mine, was encased by fences on the sides and tall hedges on the back. When I made it to the fence at the other side of his house, I poked my hand through the dense brush of leaves. I tried to push the branches aside as much as possible but still the needle-like sprigs scraped and stung my legs as I shimmied my way through. The party was going hard, and there were tons of people here.
What I was going to do needed to happen fast.
Taking several glances in all directions to make sure I had arrived unnoticed, I jogged up the side of Jared’s house to the circuit breaker. I’d spent enough time at his house as a kid to be able to find it in the dark. I slid the bolt cutter out of my thin sleeve and clamped both handles down with all of my strength on the padlock securing the panel. As soon as I’d shoved the old padlock into my pocket, I opened the panel door and began flipping switches.
I tried not to register what was happening around the house, the sudden loss of music and light, and the cacophony of What the f**k? coming from everywhere. I finished flipping switches, took the new padlock out of my sweater, and secured it to the closed panel.
Jared wasn’t stupid. Once he realized that no other houses lost electricity, he’d be out here checking the circuit breaker. So I got out of there. Fast.
Running with jello-like legs and sliding back through behind the hedge, I started panting instantly. A drop of sweat glided down my back, and I realized that I wanted to laugh, scream, and throw up all at the same time. I wasn’t certain which law I’d just broken, but I was sure I’d get into some kind of trouble if anyone found out. My legs pumped with liquid heat, making my knees feeble.
The anxiety of being caught drove my tense muscles back through my side of the brush and into the garage. I couldn’t help the ear-to-ear smile on my face. I was scared of being caught, but the feeling of giving him a metaphorical kick in the ass made my toes curl.
And after all of that, I wasn’t tired anymore. Just f**king awesome.
I made sure the doors were locked, out of habit, and ran up the stairs, two steps at a time. I closed the door to my room and, keeping the lights off, went to the French doors and peered outside in hopes of seeing the party disperse. I scanned the front and back yards, and, thankfully, saw a few people heading to their cars. I grimaced as I thought that maybe putting drunken people on the road wasn’t the smartest idea.
I saw more and more people heading to their cars and some starting to walk down the street to their homes. The only way Jared could get the electricity back on was by cutting the lock or calling the electric company.
As I glanced around, from the front to the back, my eyes quickly reverted to the one light I did see. Jared was standing at his bedroom window with a flashlight in one hand and both hands on either side of the window frame above his head.
And he was staring at me.
My pulse sped up again, and a scorching heat washed over my body. My sheer, black curtains were drawn, but I was positive he could see me. His head was bowed in my direction, and he was still…too still.
Throwing off my hoodie and climbing into bed, I resolved to deny anything if he came to my door. Or maybe I shouldn’t, I thought. It wasn’t like he could do a damn thing about it, anyway. Maybe I wanted him to know.
I lay there for about two minutes resisting the urge to investigate what was going on outside. It wasn’t hard to figure out that the party was dispersing, though, as the sound of engines fading away filled the neighborhood. Thrill surged through my body, giving me energy enough to want to hop out of bed and start dancing.
I’m awesome. I’m awesome. I sang to myself.
But I froze mid-song and damn near choked on a breath at the sound of a door slamming shut through the house.
“What the…” Tremors shook my legs down to my bones. Was that the vibrations or me shaking?
Scrambling out of the covers, I grabbed my baseball bat from under the bed and ran out of the room. I had no intention of going downstairs, even though that’s where I’d stupidly left the pistol. I just needed to peek over the railing to see if I’d actually heard someone entering my house.
My body instantly reacted at the sight of shirtless Jared rounding the corner into the foyer and flying up the stairs. He was definitely pissed and primed for murder with the way he charged up the staircase, taking two at a time. I darted back into my room, letting out a little yelp as I tried to run for the French doors and escape. I had no idea what Jared’s plan was or if I should be afraid, but I was. He’d just broken into my house and that freaked me out.
“Oh no, you don’t!” Jared burst through my bedroom door, and the doorknob slammed against the wall, probably denting it.
There was no way I’d make it out the door on time. I spun around to face him, raising the bat. Jared yanked it out of my hands before I even got primed for a swing.
“Get out! Are you crazy?” I started to veer around him, trying to get back to my bedroom door, but he cut me off. I was surprised he wasn’t strangling me, judging by the look on his face. Lava was about to come out his nose, I was sure.
“You cut the electricity to my house.” His nostrils flared as he got an inch from my face and stared me down.
“Prove it.” A tap dance was happening in my chest. No, more like the Paso Doble.
He cocked his head to the side, lips curling dangerously.
“How’d you get in here? I’ll call the police!” Again, I thought. Not that it did me any good when I called earlier about the noise. Maybe they’d show up if I was murdered?