Chapter Four: Dauntless

A/N: Just a warning: this chapter contains sexual situations of dubious consent. It's nothing M-rated (yet), but it may be seen as a bit...disturbing, to some.

"Hey, you came." Callie smiled as she opened the door, and Declan could tell that the party was already in full swing. The music was pumping and people were laughing and chatting, but he had to admit, his gaze was focused on Callie…and damn, she looked hot. He wasn't normally the sort of guy who checked out girls – that was normally right up Gabriel's alley, and admittedly, he gave Callie a lazy once-over – but when said girl was dressed up as a ho…

Callie's normally wavy blonde hair was curled into corkscrew ringlets, her smile bright red thanks to her crimson lipstick. Her eyes were rimmed with black eyeliner and that wasn't even getting started on her costume – a black and red corset and patent leather shorts that clung almost desperately to her curvy hourglass figure.

"Wow. You look…you look great."

Gabriel dug an arm into Declan's ribs. "He means you look hot."

"Thanks." Callie laughed, examining the vests and heavy jewellery – including a dollar sign necklace in Gabriel's case. She swung the door open wider and they stepped inside, glancing around, a bit overwhelmed by the underdressed people inside. Callie was right, most of them were in their early twenties – Declan only recognised a few from school. Aidan was laughing over by the sound system, an arm draped around Eve's waist.

"I'll be back in a sec, I just need to grab Blake a beer." Callie offered Declan and Gabriel an apologetic glance, before clicking into the kitchen, scabbing a Heineken from the ice-filled sink, and walking over to where Blake was chatting animatedly to his friends. She tapped him on the shoulder. "Beer."

"Thanks, sweetheart," Blake replied, grinning as he took the cold beer from Callie. She was uncomfortably aware of his eyes on her breasts and she folded her arms, shivering for reasons that had nothing to do with nonexistent cold.

"I'm going to go and, uh, sort the music out," Callie murmured, determined to find any excuse to escape her stepbrother, but Blake reached out and grabbed her wrist. She flinched at the contact, small as it was.

"Music's fine. Hey, I haven't introduced you to my friend Mickey. We went to the same Academy and he moved to Morleigh too. Isn't that crazy?"

"So, this is the stepsister." Mickey, a burly sandy-haired young man, immediately went about sizing Callie up. She didn't like the sleazy way he looked at her any more than she liked her stepbrother's eyes on her chest.

"Sure is." Blake smirked and ruffled Callie's hair, making her scowl and pat her carefully curled hair back into place. He noticed Mickey's gaze on his stepsister and put on a tone of brotherly warning. "Hey, eyes off the prize, she's only seventeen."

Mickey shrugged. "She could pass for older."

"C'mon, man." Blake laughed, but there was a dangerous gleam in his eyes that made Callie shift her feet. She so didn't want to see him going into overprotective and possessive mode, not tonight. It was a party, his 21st. Sure, she didn't want to be there, but she'd find ways to have fun. "You really gonna hit on my stepsister?"

Mickey shook his head a little, like he was trying to get it out of his system. "Sorry. Must have had a bit too much."

"It's cool." Blake slapped his friend good-naturedly on the shoulder, and Callie was relieved to note that the tension was gone from her stepbrother's posture. "What else are parties for?"

"I'm going to grab another drink," Callie said quickly, before quickly escaping her stepbrother's proximity. She breathed a sigh of relief and fished out an icy-cold raspberry cruiser, leaning against the bench.

"Everything okay?" Declan approached Callie with a slightly worried expression. Seeing her on her own with a drink in her hand indicated that she wasn't having a great time. She smiled a little and sculled some more of her cruiser, before placing the empty bottle on the bench and pushing herself forward.

"I'm fine. Did you wanna dance?"

"Uh…" Declan wasn't normally the sort who danced. Actually, when he and Gabriel did it, dancing normally consisted of them with their hands in their pockets bobbing their heads in time to the beat, with maybe a hand gesture here and there. "Alright."

Callie tugged him out towards the thumping pulse of the music, right near the sound system. She draped her arms around his neck, grinning, and he hesitantly put his hands on her tiny little waist. He swayed from side to side, not really sure what to do, but Callie laughed and poked him in the chest.

"Come on, you have to actually dance."

"I don't know how," Declan admitted, a bit embarrassed. Why had he agreed to dance? He glanced around the room, looking for Gabriel to bail him out, but his friend was over the room chatting up a bored-looking Eve. When Declan's gaze reached Blake, it was like the guy could sense Declan's eyes on him. He turned, and when he saw the two of them dancing, his expression grew cold.

"Like this." Callie put his hands on her hips and swayed against him, somewhat provocatively. Declan wasn't sure whether he was meant to be so nervous, but for some reason, he was. Maybe it had something to do with Blake stalking over to them and grabbing Callie by the arm, dragging her away from Declan.

"Back off." Blake turned his icy gaze upon Declan, who immediately held up his hands. He didn't want to get into any trouble with this guy, especially considering Blake was easily over six feet tall and built like one of the Caprus quarterbacks.

"It was her idea."

"Callie, help me get some more ice out of the laundry." Blake's tone was curt as he turned to face his mutinous stepsister. "The stuff in the sink has pretty much all melted."

Callie heaved a sigh, but couldn't see a way of refusing Blake without causing a scene. She trailed after him into the laundry, but as she passed the sink she saw the ice was just fine – which she had known it would be. This wasn't about the ice at all. Blake slammed the door shut behind them as Callie rubbed her arms, shivering.

"What was all that about?" he demanded.

"We were just dancing, Blake," Callie replied irritably, leaning against the wall, distancing herself as much as possible. The alcohol in her system had caused her to become bold. "Is that a crime now?"

"You were all over him," Blake replied disdainfully, walking over to her. He took slow steps, advancing on her like a deadly predator might advance upon its cornered, helpless prey. "I didn't expect that because you dressed up like a slut, meant you would act like one, too. But if you're getting into it, maybe you could dance for me."

Callie's temper flared at the smug smile on his face and she slapped him across the face, immediately knowing it was a big mistake. Blake gripped her wrist and twisted until she grimaced, pushing her back against the wall. He was so close now that she could feel his hot breath on her neck.

"You shouldn't be mean to the birthday boy, Callie." He laughed, pinning her wrists either side of her head against the wall. "But that's okay, coz you know I like it when you get feisty. It's hot."

Callie knew he was going to kiss her before he did. So when Blake pressed his lips eagerly to hers, she remained still, a stone statue. After a moment, he pulled back with a frown, and she felt a surge of vicious triumph run through her. He hated it when she didn't react. Blake was always seeking some kind of fight, a bit of resistance, but Callie wasn't willing to provide it tonight. He could find his entertainment elsewhere.

"How much have you had?" Blake asked, quirking an eyebrow. "Or are you just deciding to play the ragdoll with me?"

She felt it then, the alien presence nudging at her, the fierce heat and the want that she knew weren't hers. She tried to deny it, tried to fight it off – but Blake just smiled, and for some reason, Callie found herself lusting for this, for him. She didn't understand why, but she was ashamed and guilty that some part of her was screaming yes while the rest of her was crying out in horror at the wrongness of it all.

"You're mine." Blake traced a finger down her cheek, his other arm snaking around her waist to draw her close against him. "I look after you, I protect you. I love you."

Liar liar liar, she thought, before he jammed his lips into hers again, and she thought maybe there was a grain of truth there after all. Callie slid her arms around his neck and he ran his hand up her back, fisting it in her blonde hair as he kissed across her jaw, down the column of her neck.

"You look so hot tonight," Blake said huskily. He pressed her against the wall, his eyes darkened with lust as he untied her corset, as she slapped his hands away and started undoing it herself even as the tears streamed down her cheeks. He ran his hands roughly up her body, hungrily kissing across her collarbone as her small fingers pressed against his muscled back. He kissed her lips again, feeling the wetness of her tears on his cheeks.

"Get the fuck away from my girlfriend, Winton, or I swear I'll smash your face in!"

Blake immediately drew away from Callie with a heavy sigh. The desire in her vanished like a snap of fingers and she panicked, recoiling. He looked amused as he watched her hurriedly tying up her corset and smoothing out her blonde hair.

"You enjoyed it," he informed her, as if she didn't know that, as if it didn't haunt her to know that in her seemingly dazed state she would have gone as far as he wanted her to. Yet now, she felt sickened at the thought of it, and she wondered how she was so fucked up. You couldn't want to screw a person one minute and then want to vomit about it the next.

"What have you done to make me feel like this?" Callie asked hoarsely. As if he could possibly know the answer. As if every time she felt this inner conflict, he could have put some weird drug in her drink…only drugs didn't work and wear off that fast. Yet he smirked and she felt nausea swirling in the pit of her stomach, either from drink or him, she didn't know.

"One day, you'll find out." Blake kissed the top of her head in a brotherly fashion, something that made her shiver considering his previous actions. "I'll be back. I have to go and deal with these idiots from your school."

Why did you invite them then? "Okay."

Callie watched him go, before performing her usual calming trick of tugging her knees tightly to her chest, closing her eyes and counting to ten. When she cracked her eyes open she always hoped she would see her mum there, or even Alastair. But her mum was dead, and Alastair was far away in England. So she had been left alone with Blake. Callie wondered why of all the punishments this world could have given her, she had gained the sickest.

Aidan was seething as Finn restrained him from diving at Gabriel and tackling him to the ground. He'd come back from chatting with his mates to find that moron with an arm draped casually around Eve's shoulders. She had jumped guiltily away from Gabriel, climbing to her feet and going to stand beside Aidan like the loyal girlfriend she was. Although there hadn't really been anything happening, Aidan knew how much of a flirt Gabriel was. He might not have been all over Eve then, but it would only have been a matter of time.

"Where's your mate Declan?" Aidan demanded, laughing mirthlessly as Finn pinned his arms behind his back to stop him attacking a smug-looking Gabriel. "Trying to get into Callie's pants? Seems to be the new trend, maybe you should give it a go."

"She's not my type," Gabriel replied with a grin. "Your girlfriend is, though."

"You little…" Aidan surged against Finn, who had to call over another of his mates just to stop Aidan from going at Gabriel. Declan hurried over, wondering wryly what sort of trouble his best friend had caused this time. He wasn't the only one – Blake walked over with a terse frown across his face. His hair was slightly rumpled, like he'd been making out with one of the girls.

"What's going on?" he demanded, practically exuding authority.

"He is trying to make a move on my girlfriend!" Aidan snapped, jabbing an accusing finger in Gabriel's direction. It seemed like the blonde boy didn't seem to take anything seriously, as he continued to smirk.

"If I wanted to get into your girlfriend's pants, Carter, I'd be there already."

Callie crossed over to Eve, her arms folded protectively over her chest. The auburn-haired girl was watching the two boys with a resigned expression. Looking more closely, Callie could make out a dark shadow across Eve's face. She frowned and reached out to gently touch her friend's cheek.

"What's that?"

Eve flinched and recoiled. "Nothing. Don't worry."

Callie knew it wasn't nothing. That was a bruise, deep purple in colour. She'd recognise bruises anywhere, having had her fair share in life. She also thought she had a disturbing suspicion about what had caused the bruise. She took Eve by the wrist and led her away from the bickering boys.

"Eve…did someone hit you?"

"What? No." Eve was all too quick to respond, and she didn't meet Callie's gaze – all the warning signs were there. Callie was tentative, because although she thought Aidan might have taken his frustration out on his girlfriend, she didn't want to be wrong and offend Eve – especially since Eve was already denying that anything had happened.

"Blake, I think we should call it a night." Callie turned abruptly to face her step-brother. She didn't like having to rely on him for anything, but it was his 21st and therefore his decision when he wanted to call it quits. Blake sighed heavily and raked a hand through his dark hair, but his eyes never left Callie.

"That might be a good idea." Blake glared between Aidan, who was still fuming, and Gabriel, who appeared smug. "I don't want to have to call the cops because these two start brawling. Alright, you heard. Wrap it up."

"I'll walk you to your car," Callie said abruptly to Eve, having no wish to be left alone with Blake anytime soon. The auburn-haired girl threw Callie a questioning look, which the blonde girl avoided by nudging her way through the throng of people and opening the front door. She watched in silence as Eve grabbed her coat, heels clicking as she trailed down the driveway. Lights flashed, brightening the darkness, as Eve unlocked her car.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Callie watched Eve with concern. She knew what it was like to want to keep secrets, and she supposed she couldn't really expect her friend to share when she would never reveal her own. Her question elicited a heavy shrug as Eve slid into the driver's seat. "Well, if you ever feel like talking, I'm here."

"You're here?" Eve looked up sharply from fishing her keys out of her handbag. Something a bit like annoyance flashed across her features. "You just got here. Thanks, Callie, but we hardly even know each other. I'm not going to spill my guts."

Callie stepped back and folded her arms, closing herself off. "Alright. Well. I hope Aidan's not too mad at you."

"He'll get over it," Eve muttered, before she slammed her car door shut and started up the engine. Callie glanced around, watching the rest of the party guests climb into their cars, chattering and joking amongst themselves. The lights back in the house were dim, and Callie hugged herself tighter, shivering. She knew what awaited her when she went back inside.

So she peeled off her high heels and she sprinted barefoot down the street. Where she was going, she didn't know – but as much as she wished otherwise, she would eventually have to go back. The notion was one that filled her with dread.

Eve wondered if there was ever a shortage of parties around Morleigh. Apparently, the Caprus Cougars winning against the Morleigh Mountains was cause for some kind of huge celebration – or so Aidan assured her. But of course he'd think that, he played for the Cougars. Most of the seniors and some of the juniors were headed down to one of the local beaches, Pletner Bay, for a bonfire and some drinks. The thought of egos running rampant made Eve cringe.

She'd protested that she had to study for an upcoming Biology test – and while that was somewhat true, in actual fact she was meeting up with Gabriel for another coaching session while Aidan wasn't around to chastise her. She'd seen how he behaved at Blake's party, and going anywhere with him was getting somewhat embarrassing. She envied people with normal relationships, with boyfriends who they weren't just dating because of unfulfilled promises.

"Nice." Gabriel eyed Eve as she entered the swimming complex, but she snapped her fingers, immediately trying to make him focus. She couldn't risk him flirting with her, not when Aidan already wanted to punch his face in.

"Enough flirting, Winton, okay? I don't want to watch my boyfriend beat you up."

Gabriel scoffed. "Whatever. Like he could."

Eve rolled her eyes. All boys she knew tried to be so macho, as if they could all save the world if they tried. She didn't think Gabriel could save his own ass if Aidan tried to beat him up, much less the entirety of Morleigh. Concern sudden clouded Gabriel's face, and Eve instinctively raised a hand to cover the bruise on her cheek. Had Callie said something? Damn that girl, why couldn't she mind her own business? Yet there were things about Callie that Eve suspected, but kept to herself. They were all entitled to their secrets.

"What's that on your face? Is that a bruise?" Gabriel moved closer, invading Eve's space even as she tried to back away. He drew her hand away from her face and his eyes darkened upon seeing the mark on her cheek. "Did he do this to you? Is that why you're all freaked out about him beating me up?"

"Enough with the questions!" Eve snapped, hoping that her hostility would deter him. She envied Gabriel, too. He was so carefree, he did whatever and whoever he wanted. Eve had Jackson to worry about, she had more issues than she could count on one hand. She'd give anything to be as blissfully ignorant as Gabriel, as she had been before Aidan.

"Sorry," Gabriel grumbled, but he continued to watch her intently. "I'm just worried about you."

Eve couldn't help but burst out laughing. Gabriel, worried about someone that wasn't himself? Whatever Aidan's mysterious power was, somehow him saving Jackson seemed more likely than Gabriel caring about her. She folded her arms over her chest, examining him with critical eyes.

"Yeah, right."

"It's true," Gabriel insisted, looking a little stung at her harsh words. "You might think I'm just a sleaze…"

"Which you are," Eve interjected, showing him no mercy. She didn't owe Gabriel anything. For that matter she didn't owe Aidan anything either, yet he had still chosen her, the girlfriend who covered his power, kept it secret and made his excuses for him.

"Okay, maybe I am. But there's more to me than that, Eve. A guy should never hit a girl, everyone knows that."

"Sometimes there are exceptions to the rule," Eve whispered, so softly she wasn't sure if Gabriel had even heard her. She averted her eyes, wriggling her toes on the damp concrete surrounding the swimming pool. She was cold enough already without the feel of the water on her skin, yet somehow, when she was in the pool doing laps, she always felt better. All Eve wanted was for the bruise to fade so that the questions could stop.

Gabriel shook his head in disbelief. "What are you saying, Eve? Are you defending him? He's your boyfriend, he shouldn't hit you. If he cares about you he would never…"

"You don't know the things Aidan's done for me!" Eve yelled before she could help herself, unfolding her arms, hands balling into fists. She was very aware that she'd practically confessed to Aidan hitting her, but somehow, she didn't care anymore. All she cared about was that Gabriel was showing concern and he shouldn't. She didn't need his pity, or anyone else's.

Callie had never been to a beach party before – but she liked it. Technically, this was all because the Caprus Cougars had won their match, but in reality everyone just wanted a chance to let loose before study and tests became more intense. She wriggled her toes in the sand and watched the sun colour the horizon in shades of blue, purple, pink and red.

For reason, she found herself easily irritable and very snappy these past few days. Okay, so normally she was a person who it didn't take much to piss off, but this was even more so than usual. Every little thing people did, especially Blake, tended to annoy her. Blake seemed to be different over the past few days too, in ways that Callie didn't like at all.

Callie raked back her blonde hair and her eyes automatically scanned the beach for Declan. She'd deliberately worn her nicest bikini – a little blue thing that really didn't leave much to the imagination – in the hope that she'd see him.

"Callie!" Sure enough, Declan had spotted her. She plastered on her biggest grin and walked over to him, examining the plastic cup in his hand. Alcohol, or an innocent fruit punch? She was leaning towards the former. These celebrations didn't ever seem to be squeaky-clean. "You came."

"Of course I did." She grinned, swiping the punch from his hand and taking a sip. "Did you think I wasn't game enough? I haven't ever been to one of these things."

Declan glanced around at the other teenagers. A few guys – probably Aidan and the rest of his gang – had started up a bonfire a little further down the beach. The sun had dipped below the horizon and the sky was starting to darken. He turned back to face Callie. Admittedly, he'd been checking her out from where he'd been sitting over with Zach – and it was only because of Zach's persistence that he'd actually gone over to talk to her. He was generally pretty shy around girls he liked.

"You've got even less clothes on than at your step-brother's party," Declan joked, but he immediately realised it had been the wrong thing to say when Callie's expression contorted and her eyes flashed with anger. "Shit, that sounded…I'm sorry…"

"Sounded like I'm a slut?" Callie replied coolly, folding her arms over her chest. "That's pretty much what most of Caprus Academy thinks of me anyway, why would it bother me?"

Declan mentally chastised himself. God, that had sounded so stupid. Why had he even said that? He had attempted to crack a joke and it had completely backfired. Now he stood the chance of screwing up anything he might have potentially started with Callie. She picked up her sarong and draped it around her, and Declan caught her by the arm.

"Callie, wait. I'm really sorry. I don't think of you like that at all."

She wrenched away from him, tugging her arm from his grasp. Was it his imagination, or was there a flash of something like fear in her blue eyes, just momentarily? Then the hard anger was back and she stepped away.

"Just leave me alone."

Callie stalked up the beach, wondering why she was suddenly so angry. People had said way worse things to her and she hadn't reacted as strongly. Was it because it had been Declan to say it? She wasn't exactly sure. With a heavy sigh, she raked a hand through her windswept blonde hair and glanced around the darkening beach. Eve wasn't there, so she didn't really have anyone to talk to, as Kiara had made it pretty clear she didn't want to be best buddies.

"You seem lonely."

She whirled around at the all too familiar voice, heart hammering in her chest. It was Blake, wearing black boardies and red thongs. She examined him quizzically, wondering why he was even here. What did he care about the Caprus Cougars winning? Where had he found out about the beach party? Or maybe he was making sure that she wasn't hooking up with anyone.


His eyes raked over her and Callie swallowed, seeing the lust there, more pronounced than usual. Blake slid his arms around her waist and pulled her close against him, ignoring her attempts to shift away from him in discomfort. Callie glanced around, knowing that this close to the beach, people could see them.

"We're in a public place. Let me go."

"Then we'll go somewhere private," Blake drawled, sliding a hand up her back and making her shiver, "You look so damn hot, Callie. You should wear that bikini more often."

She felt it again, creeping up on her like a sickness, the lust that she surely didn't feel, infecting her. She had never been able to understand it, and so she could never push it away. How could she have some sudden desire for him, right when it was convenient for him, and hate him the rest of the time? Was it consensual if you didn't want it before and after, only to want it during the time itself?

"I…I don't want this…" Callie struggled to get the words out when the rest of her was disagreeing with them so strongly. Blake's hand slid further up, toying with the ties of her bikini. She wished she would freeze up, but instead she found herself pressing against him. She was fighting a battle between two emotions and it was killing her.

"Sure you do," Blake replied cheerily, tugging her towards the carpark. Although he was leading her towards his Chevy Impala, there was a Jeep parked two spaces down. Callie suddenly couldn't breathe, thinking of being fourteen, thinking of another Jeep. She started to scream. Blake clamped a hand over her mouth, confusion coming over his face as he observed the sheer panic in Callie's eyes.

"Don't scream, okay? Just calm down."

But she couldn't be calm. The lust had been expelled now, fading away as quickly as it had come. Callie was sobbing, her frame shaking as Blake pressed her against his car, pinning her with his body. She didn't want this. She repeated the mantra in her head, fiercely convincing herself, in case the desire came back. But as Blake started to undo her bikini top, his hands all over her curvy body, she was less and less convinced that the lust was even hers.