The Body Finder (The Body Finder 1) - Page 41

Violet took a swallow of the Kool-Aid-like wine cooler. She couldn’t imagine why she’d thought she wanted to stay home by herself tonight. Chelsea had been right; the party had been exactly what she’d needed.

As the night went on, Violet immersed herself in the music and the laughter, letting the noise become a riotous screen that made it impossible for her to think of anything beyond the present. She couldn’t find the time to feel sorry for herself in this raucous, self-indulgent environment of kids with too much alcohol and no parental supervision.

She watched beer games in the kitchen, a fight in the front yard—which wasn’t really a fight at all, more like an overblown shoving match—and she saw two people puking before the night was over. One was Todd Stinnett, a boy from her second-period class, who had chugged one too many beers at the Quarters table. The other was a freshman girl, Mackenzie Sherwin, who wandered outside to throw up in the bushes. Unfortunately for Mackenzie, she didn’t get her hair out of the way in time and ended up walking around for the rest of the night with the matted strands dangling around her face.

A group of stoners thought the poor girl was hilarious and made puking noises at her every time she stumbled past them.

By the time Grady finally caught up with Violet, it was nearly midnight, and when he got close to her she wasn’t even sure how he was still standing upright. He was completely wasted.

“Where’ve ya been? I’ve been lookin’ everywhere for you.” His words were a slurred mess, and he wrapped an arm heavily around her shoulders. Violet wondered if it wasn’t so much a gesture of affection as it was a means of maintaining his precarious balance.

But she was worried about him, even though she played innocent, pretending that she hadn’t been avoiding him all night. “I’ve been around,” she answered with a straight face. “Besides, it looks like you had plenty of fun without me.” She tried to move out from beneath the weight of his arm. He was leaning on her so hard that it felt like he was trying to push her down to the ground.

Her sudden shift made him lose his shaky balance, and he ended up hanging on even tighter, putting most of his unstable weight on her. “Don’t go,” he pleaded, his hot breath thick with the pungent smell of stale beer and tequila.

The combination was foul.

On the other side of the room she saw Chelsea talking with a group of girls. She flashed Violet a questioning look with her eyes. Violet just rolled her own in response and then looked back at Grady. She wanted to get away from him and go back to her friends, but she didn’t want to leave him alone in his condition. He was a mess. And he was her friend.

“I think we should get you home,” she finally offered. She hadn’t had anything to drink since that sip of wine cooler earlier in the night, so she knew she was fine to drive him. “Give me your keys.”

He closed one eye as if it were easier to focus that way as he reached into his pocket and pulled out his keys. He stared at her as he jiggled them in front of her face. “I can drive….” His mouth made his words sound like mush.

Violet reached out and snatched them from his hand. His reflexes were way too slow to stop her, and when he finally tried, he was about five seconds too late. The sudden movement nearly made him fall over, almost taking Violet with him.

Violet struggled to keep them both upright. “Come on, Grady. I owe you one anyway.”

He gave her his one-eyed squint again. “What d’ya mean?”

She didn’t bother explaining that he’d bailed her out the other day by taking her to the cemetery when she’d needed to go to Brooke Johnson’s grave. In fact, she didn’t say anything to Grady, and he didn’t ask again or argue about driving himself. He seemed to give up as he leaned on Violet and she led him out of the house. She lifted the keys up as they passed Chelsea, silently letting her know where she was going.

The air had cooled as the night had gone on and the brisk snap to it seemed to have a mildly sobering effect on Grady…which at this point was a vast improvement. His car was farther down the road than Chelsea’s was, thanks to Chelsea’s small car and her creative definition of “parked,” which to her consisted of lodging it, cockeyed and nose first, into a gap between two other parked cars.

The tall cedar and fir trees towering overhead all but blocked most of the light cast by the nearly full moon, creating ghostly shadows that fell across them as they walked, or in Grady’s case, stumbled, toward his car. But by the time they reached it, he was walking mostly on his own accord again…he was no longer swaggering from side to side.

Violet helped him around to the passenger-side door and held it open for him.

But Grady wasn’t ready to go just yet.

“Thanks a lot, Violet. I really appreciate this.” Even his words sounded a little less sloppy now.

“It’s no problem. I was getting a little bored anyway.” And then when he gave her a look that said he didn’t believe her, she added, “Seriously. I’m kind of tired too.” She made an effort to sound convincing.

He straightened up from where he’d been leaning against the doorjamb and took a step closer to her. He was standing over her now, and she suddenly felt somewhat trapped between him and the open car door…stuck between a rock and a hard place.

“We could hang out here for a while.” He slid his arm around her waist.

She wasn’t sure how she should react; even though she knew what he was trying to do, she had no doubt that she did not want him doing it. But she was frozen to the spot where she stood.

Tags: Kimberly Derting The Body Finder
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