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9-Settling

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It was easier to convince myself that what had happened with Zach was purely accidental. We'd gotten caught up in our emotions and that had made us act the way we did. On the drive back home, that is what I repeatedly convinced myself of. It was all due to the circumstances we were in and nothing more. I couldn't allow myself to even think about any other reason to explain why I had acted the way I did. I didn't understand why I had felt the urgent need to be held by him, to have his arms around me, holding me tight. Those lips... I shook the thought out of my mind as the gates opened to the vast estate of the Price Mansion. A chill washed over me; this place represented a point in my life where I had honestly felt that nothing would be right ever again, and now returning to it, the feeling too came back with a vengeance.

A hand on my arm made me jump and with a pounding heart, I turned to see Zach looking at me worriedly. Concern was written across his features and I felt horrible for being so thoughtless. He'd just gotten what possibly could be the most heartbreaking news of his life and here I was lost in my own world.

"Are you okay?" he asked softly and I nodded, giving him a weak smile.

"Just a little tired. I'll be fine once I get some sleep."

Silence surrounded us once again as the car finally stopped outside the house. The numerous members of the help quickly surrounded the car. Like a well-oiled machine they quickly began taking out the luggage and carrying it to the house. Zach got out and opened my door for me, the civility between us clearly surprising the people who'd watched us ignore one another the past few weeks. A roaring fire was lit in the fireplace as we entered the house; it was a welcome sight for sure. I hadn't realized it before but my body had literally frozen, not only because of the cold but also because of the encounter back at Nick's.

I winced as soon as I thought of the name. I didn't want to remember any of it, at least not tonight. My head was starting to hurt from all the drama that had unfolded. I'd think about it tomorrow and then maybe I wouldn't hate my sister so much.

Zach didn't join me by the fire and I couldn't blame him. If I were in his place, I would want to be alone too. As I heard the sound of his door shutting close, I sat down on the carpeted floor, leaning against the couch, and closed my eyes, feeling myself succumbing to the warmth as a comfort settled over my body. Before I knew it I was pulled into the dreamy unconsciousness of a well-deserved and peaceful sleep.

There was light, blinding white light on my face as I turned away from it. I tried to move but it felt like my body was trapped by a huge weight over my legs and halfway up my torso. I groaned as I tried to push off whatever was on me, probably a warm blanket or something. What I didn't expect to hear was someone groaning just as loudly as I had, only the person didn't sound as girly as I had. My eyes flew open as I let out a low shriek. I wasn't on the couch where I had fallen asleep; instead I was in a bed. A really warm, comfortable and large bed which I knew wasn't mine. The room I was in had walls coloured maroon and a warm, rich mahogany brown. My eyes struggled for a while to come to terms with the brightness coming from the wall-sized window where the curtains had been pulled to a side. After they'd become accustomed to the light, I forcefully brought my eyes to the figure lying next to me on the bed.

My heart crashed loudly in my chest as I took in Zach's sleeping form, his chest rising heavily as he breathed. An adorable frown was on his face and his hair fell messily onto his forehead. The blanket only covered him from the waist down so I was able to see his toned muscles in the wife-beater he had on. My mouth hung slightly open at the sight of his arms, the tanned golden skin contrasting with the subtly bulging veins. I barely stopped myself from running my hands all over him, realizing instead the position we were in. His arm was draped around me and our legs were tangled; he leant against me heavily and I blushed at the proximity. I also realized that he'd taken off my coat and the sweater I had on so that I was just in a thin and figure-clinging t-shirt. I tried to move his arm so that I could get out but his hold only tightened around me protectively.

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