Home > Backdraft (The Secret Life of Trystan Scott #2)

Backdraft (The Secret Life of Trystan Scott #2)
Author: H.M. Ward



There was nothing but sorrow and music keeping Trystan glued together. Mari was everything to him. He couldn’t think about the void in his life or how it would be without her. Trystan’s fingers slid along the neck of the guitar as he strummed, playing the song that brought him solace. When his world cracked apart the song always rose to the front of his mind.

The weight within him felt like it was too much to bear, crushing his bones while he still breathed. Nothing changed. Life continued down the same hellish path, beating him in every way possible. Maybe it’d be different if he gave up, but he wouldn’t. That was Trystan’s problem—he didn’t stay down. It was like that with his father. It didn’t matter how many times his father’s hand flew, he got back up. It was the same with his life. It didn’t matter how many bad hands he was dealt, he always got back up.

A numb tingling filled his body again as he played softly. There was no peace. No refuge. He was alone. There’d always been an ember of hope burning within him, but when Mari said she didn’t like him, it felt like someone ripped his lungs out. The ember died, shriveling within his chest, leaving a dull ache in its place. Mari’s words left him mute, unable to respond. It was the one time he didn’t get up again. He couldn’t.

Trystan sat silently on the stool, softly playing the guitar in his lap, and felt the familiar sense of loss fill him. When his voice finally came, he sang without realizing it. Barely whispering, Trystan’s mouth formed the words that spilled from his heart. The lament, the song—Mari’s song—it helped purge him. It gave him a false sense of control, which was something Trystan desperately needed.

In the moments when Trystan was weakest, it was like there was nothing else—no air touching his skin or filling his lungs. There was no stool, no music stand. He was just a voice, a heartbeat, and a breath of song. That was why he failed to hear the door, failed to hear her footfalls inching closer and closer.

By the time Mari was standing in front of him it was too late. She saw him. She heard him. She knew who he was and what he’d been hiding. Her slender fingers touched her lips as she said, “You’re Day Jones.”

Trystan’s guitar slipped from his lap and slid to his side as he stood. Shock and fear twisted his stomach into a knot. His throat was too tight to speak. Instead of attempting an explanation, he stared at her with his pulse pounding in his ears. Mari stood there, looking at him with her jaw dangling open. She stared into his eyes, unblinking, waiting for him to speak.

A thousand thoughts flew through Trystan’s mind, but he asked, “Why’d you come back?”

The shock melted off of Mari’s face. She stood a few paces away from him. Uncertainty filled her eyes. It was like she’d never seen him before, like she never noticed the guy fighting so hard to survive that he’d do anything.

Her pink lips pressed together. The scent of strawberries filled his head as he remembered kissing those lips not so long ago. Mari’s eyes darted away from his. She made a few false starts, before saying, “I was going to tell you something, but I think you might have something to tell me instead.”

Trystan stared, his body tense. The grip on the neck of his guitar tightened, but he didn’t put it down. The faint golden light doused Mari softly, highlighting the gentle curves of her face. He couldn’t stop looking at her.

Taking a deep breath, he replied, “There’s nothing to tell.”

Mari stepped forward with an incredulous look on her face, “Are you seriously going to deny it?”

“No, there’s just nothing to tell.” Trystan’s heart felt like it was going to explode.

The fame that Day Jones achieved wasn’t something he wanted. He knew what would happen if he revealed himself—reporters would start digging into his personal life. It would expose everything his father had done to him. The thought made him sick. Trystan saw the offers and the endless requests to reveal his identity, but he couldn’t. Now, it was everything he could do to keep it a secret. He considered deleting the page, but he thought that might give him away. If someone was watching when he did it, they could track him down. The risk was too great, so he left it there and watched the comments and likes swiftly grow to staggering numbers.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked softly. Mari’s big brown eyes lowered like she was afraid he wouldn’t tell her.

Trystan sat back down on the stool and pulled the guitar onto his lap. He looked down at the instrument, his dark hair falling into his eyes. “There are some things that are too hard to tell—you know what I mean?” He glanced up at her to see her nod and step closer. Trystan lowered his gaze to the strings and slowly began strumming again. He waited a moment before asking, “Is the door closed?” His voice was so soft he could barely hear it.

“Yes,” she breathed, watching him closely.

Trystan nodded and started the song again. He didn’t plan to sing, but as he played, the words poured through him and he couldn’t stop. This was what he wanted, he wanted her to know. He wanted her to believe him. Trystan forced himself to look her in the eye as he sang and felt the bottom of his stomach lurch into a free-fall that didn’t seem to end. Mari’s big brown eyes locked with his as he sang. She breathed slowly, her slender fingers still pressed to her lips.

Suddenly, the song didn’t seem melancholy anymore. It was Mari’s song and Mari was here. The corners of Trystan’s mouth pulled up slightly, giving him a ghost of smile. His voice and the music flowed together, mingling and conveying the things locked inside of his heart.

Mari watched him. She didn’t move. Her beautiful body remained still, standing in front of him, her lips slightly parted. He took in every inch of her, every soft curve, and every twisting brown curl as she watched him sing. When Trystan played the last note he looked down at his hands. The music faded until the only sound he could hear was his breath.

Mari’s body was tense, her slender arms rigid as her hands fell to her sides. She flexed her fingers one by one like she was nervous. Her voice was soft, curious, “Who is she?”

Trystan glanced up at her. He pressed his lips together and closed his eyes. He shook his head, indicating that he couldn’t answer. The pit of his stomach lifted as his throat tightened. Trystan could feel the words in his mouth, the confession his lips that he wanted to bare, but he couldn’t force it out. She had to see it for herself.

When Trystan looked up, Mari smiled down at him sadly. She sucked in a quick breath and it was like flipping a switch. Something changed, but he didn’t know what.

“I won’t tell, you know.” Mari said. “I didn’t mean to walk in on you.” She stepped toward him, closing the gap between them and rested her hand on his shoulder. Even though it was only a moment, only a small touch, Trystan nearly jumped out of his seat. Her touch set his skin on fire. It made him want to touch her in return, but he couldn’t. She didn’t want him. She didn’t like him that way.

Heart pounding in his chest, he tried to sound like his old self, but his voice was still too timid. Nodding, Trystan said, “Thank you. I don’t want anyone to know. I thought I was alone...” His voice trailed off. Mari released his shoulder and moved to the couch. Sitting across from him, she remained on the edge of her cushion like she might jump up at any moment. Her hands were clutched in her lap, gripping her pointer finger like she was wringing it out.

“You were alone. I didn’t hear anything until I stood by the door.” She forced that smile again, the one that said her insides were being ripped apart, but he didn’t understand why.

Glancing at her, Trystan stood and walked the guitar back to its place in the corner. He wished she would talk to him. He’d do anything to get that look off her face and make her laugh. Instead, he asked, “What’d you want to tell me?”

Mari stiffened, “What?” She startled, like there was a loud crack next to her ear.

Trystan watched her for a moment. Something wasn’t right, but he didn’t know what. His emotions were so out of whack. Maybe he was reading her wrong? Brow pinched, he said, “You said you were looking for me, to tell me something.”

Trystan put the music stand away and stuffed the sheet music he was working on back into his pocket. When he was finished he walked to the couch and looked down at her. God, she was beautiful. Her skin was pale and perfect. The way her mouth curved made him want to kiss her. Trystan scolded himself. He had to stop acting like this around her. For whatever reason, she came back. He wouldn’t chase her off again. Having her as a friend was better than not having her at all. That thought made his gut twist. There was no way he could deal with losing Mari.

“I was.” She blinked up at him a few times like she’d forgotten something important. “I decided to take Tucker’s pass. It wasn’t upstairs and neither were you. I assumed you took it.”

Trystan reached into his pocket and pulled out the pink paper. His eyes never left Mari’s as he reached out and handed it to her. When her fingers brushed his hand, he wished he could pull her into his arms. Instead, he tried to capture some of his old swagger and hide just how much she affected him.

Trystan’s lips pulled into a soft smile as she reached out, but Trystan didn’t release the paper. She glanced up at him. “I thought you didn’t want it,” he breathed, stepping closer to her.

“I changed my mind,” she whispered, tugging the pass, but he didn’t let go.

“Your mind is usually a difficult thing to change.” He grinned, looking down at her perfect face.

She smiled, “Not when there’s a good reason for it.”

“And what reason is that?”

Her brown gaze drifted over his face before returning to his eyes. She tilted her head to the side and her dark hair fell over her shoulder. “A sad song, being sung alone in the basement.”

The way she said it gave him hope. Something inside of him came to life and told him to hold on tight. The way her lips wrapped around the words, the way she said them softly, glancing away for a moment like it was something she shouldn’t admit, made it difficult to breathe and wiped the smug expression off his lips.

Trystan tilted his chin up, still watching Mari. Carefully, he asked, “You think you’ll figure out who the girl in the song is, if you hang around me long enough?”

“I know I will,” she said with a soft voice that was exceedingly confident. It made the corners of his lips curve up. “You wear your heart on your sleeve when no one is looking, but I’m always looking. I’ll see it, even if no one else does. I’ll figure it out.” Her words sounded like, I want to figure it out. I want to know who brought you to your knees.

Her fingers were still touching his, each of them clutching the pass. As they spoke, their faces became closer and closer. Trystan could feel her breath on his lips. Every inch of his body was tingling. He wanted to say something great, reach out and take her face between his hands, and press his lips to hers. The way she was looking at him, the way her mouth was so close to his, made him think that she might be thinking the same thing, but he couldn’t believe that any more. Before she stormed off, he would have thought she liked his attention, but now—he didn’t know anymore.

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