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Hazed The Hazed Series Book One (Chapter One)

Prologue

I always dreamed of getting out, packing up and moving away where nobody knew me from Adam. I dreamed of the day I would have something to share. Other kids made life look so easy, so fun. I sat gawking at them like an outsider, a freak, occasionally one of them would ask about my social life as a joke.

During my last week of high school, I watched the in-crowd file in, hung-over from their weekend. This time I didn’t look at them in longing. I laughed, thinking to myself, here comes the group that piqued in high school. And I was right; most of them are still in our hometown. Some are pregnant; some are married, and some are drunk.

More importantly, none of them experienced Hayze Clark. The angry tornado that ripped through my life, destroying every plan I made for myself. I never intended to fall in love my first semester of college, but now I look back on it I wonder if I ever loved him. Maybe I was hoping he could save me, and in return, he would be saved. Is this pain a result from the real thing or is it a representation of simply wanting what I couldn’t have?

I was running from my past and he caught me, promising to make it better. Once I stopped running, I realized that my past had caught up with me and was shoving me back into place. It was like I was pushing against a freight train. I knew nothing would change and now history was repeating itself. The swirling anxiety deep within should’ve been my first clue, but my hopeful, optimistic view of him cost me and I lost a part of me I will never get back.

Some days I want to yell and scream. I wonder how I could’ve been so stupid, so naïve? But on those days I remind myself that even the devil once disguised himself as an angel. I promise myself I’ll be that girl again. After all, history doesn’t repeat itself a third time.

CHAPTER ONE

I don’t belong here that much is obvious. The steady thump in my ears accelerated as I took in the last slap in the face to my upbringing.

The adjacent porch advertised beer. A rusted truck harnessed with an improvised tow bounced from the lot with a car.

The entire scene playing before my face is the very one I spent my Sunday mornings hearing of. They crammed hatred into my ears like a scolding, hot branding iron.

Don’t fall into that lifestyle. It’s the devil’s trap.

Now I sit in my car, crumpled newspaper ads in my hand, staring at the bar, and anticipating my ticket to hell upon arrival. My father’s voice rings through my head. I can almost feel his hard glare, and the stern shake of his head as I glanced at the newspaper, then back at the building.

“Am I sure?” I asked aloud, almost hoping someone would answer as they always did.

But I know the answer to that. I’m more than sure. This job will allow me the freedom I so desperately crave. One short weekend stands in the way of my first semester in college.

I killed my car, and my thighs peel from the leather seat as I climbed out. East Texas is baking again. The thermometer in my red, hand-me-down, Volkswagen reads over one hundred degrees.

The grim bar sits in front of me with promises of money and freedom. Tugging on the hem of my shorts, I stood on the porch, inspecting the new angle. I fussed with my auburn hair, raking my fingers through the chipped ends before I opened the heavy wooden door.

The inside is bright, and not what I expected. Signs decorated the dark walls. The black marble bar top is shiny and clean, and chairs are stacked neatly on the tables. It’s so…quiet. I’ve never seen the inside of a bar in the day, so I took my time looking it over.

Well, if I’m honest, I’ve never seen the inside of a bar, period. Unless you count movies, but that’s how it is where I’m from. My hometown hosts less than a thousand people, allowing each of them to access to personal information. Being the daughter of a preacher, I’m under a watchful eye.

Members of the community spilled into my dad’s church every Sunday morning; they were either living by the bible or making sure you were. But all of that is about to change. I moved an hour away to Nacogdoches into a dorm on campus, and this job is the missing piece. Aside from holidays, I now have absolutely no reason to go back to that place—my own personal hell.

“Taylor Thompson?”

I turned to see a dumpy gentleman holding a clipboard. The lighting casts a glare on his bald head, his cheeks sag into a deep scowl. His handkerchief wiped down his face, removing the beads of sweat from his shiny forehead.

“That’s me.”

“Let’s interview in my office,” he said, turning from me.

“Randy! Miller tap needs to be refilled!” A deep voice boomed from the kitchen.

I follow him into the cramped, unruly office behind the kitchen. He took a seat in a chair, motioning for me to take the other. He lifted a cup from the desk and pulled my application out from underneath. With a brush of the paper, he pulled glasses on and skimmed over the details.

Clicking his tongue, he said, “I read over your application. All I need is to confirm your availability.”

He tossed the paper on the cluttered desk and leaned back, folding his arms on his stomach, using the plump article as an armrest. His head tilted down, and he peered at me above his glasses.

“Afternoons during the week and free all weekend,” I said, sounding more like a robot than a peppy college student. He murmurs something inaudible as he presses his pen to the paper.

“Can you start tomorrow?” He asked, writing the information on my application.

“Yeah!”

His face is neutral, not showing any sign of happiness, so I contained mine. He probably has dozens of students come and go, moving from job to job. But none of them are like me. Their parents are probably thrilled to hear the news of their employment whereas my dad would disown me.

He rose and stuck out his hand. “Driver’s license and social,” he said.

With authority in his bored voice, I yanked the cards from my wallet and placed them in his hand with a grin. He walked to the dated copying machine, and it roared to life when his thumb mashes the light green button; each copy is a stark protest.

“What’s the best number to reach you?”

He clicked the pen to his chest and scribbled the numbers down as I called them out to him. He sat and rolled over to the dusty filing cabinet. After rummaging around, he tossed me a black shirt. I held it at arm’s length to inspect it.

“Here’s the shirt you will need to wear every night. See you tomorrow,” he dismissed me. I thanked him again and left with a grin on my face.

I walked through the kitchen with a new purpose. I followed the path that I was led. When I reached the bar, it’s no longer empty. My legs seize movement as I watched the stranger as he hustled around the bar.

I took a step to introduce myself to my new colleague, but I stopped and watched him. He shoved a box on the floor and stood with his back to me, polishing glasses. As if he senses me, he stopped and turned.

My eyes lingered up his hard chest to find an amused face. I know my face heated, but I can’t look away. I racked my brain thinking of something to say, anything at all. I look creepy standing here, watching him.

His dark brown hair is spiked, but not the gelled spike the boys at my school did. This is what I assume is straight out of the bed, sex hair. His intense eyes captured mine; I stood still, like an animal trapped in headlights. His high cheeks elevated at the end of his confident smile. He wore a white shirt, tattoos bellowing from his right sleeve. The light stubble lining his jaw was the perfect touch.

“You got the job?” He asked.

His face lights with a quick smile, his dimples peek at me. I immediately recognize that voice from before.

“I did,” I said, afraid to elaborate anymore. The last thing I want to do is say the wrong thing and embarrass myself. Well, even more than I already have.

“Awesome. I’m Hayze, the bartender. Are you going to ETU?”

He wipes his hands on his jeans. His amber eyes hold mine, out of habit I shift uncomfortably. I notice a scar above his left eye and the tattoos on his wrist as he offers his hand.

“I’m Taylor. Starting my first semester.”

He walks from the bar and comes to my side. Bending down, he hands me a shirt, and I look at him, confused.

“You dropped this,” he said.

“Oh, right, I was about to grab it… On my way out,” I said. I grab the shirt from his hand and back away from him with a wave.

“See ya around, Taylor.”

He smiles, showing off a row of perfect teeth. I walk off, exhaling when I reach the door. I always thought my high school boyfriend was the most handsome guy I would ever see, but I was wrong. Dead wrong. Hayze seemed… nice, but I know I should stay away from him. He’s precisely what the rebellious side of me thrives ongoing after, and that scares the shit out of me.

I walk from the bar, shielding the blinding sun from my eyes. My red Jetta lights with excitement as I press the clicker. I slide in and point my car toward my dorm.

I find a parking space and pull in a while checking my time. Nine minutes, and that’s with all the traffic lights that plague this college town.

I grab my shirt and hug it to my chest while climbing from my car. The crowd is thick in the lobby; I shove through a group equipped with suitcases and weeping parents as I walk to my dorm. Lea, my roommate, is lying on the bed when I enter. She snaps her head up and props on her elbows. Her baggy sleeves slide down her arm, revealing bright artwork displayed on her forearms.

I ran into her after freshman orientation. With my map shoved in my face, I slipped into her and spilled my coke down her shirt. Fast forward a week, and I can still feel anxiety bubbling in my stomach as I saw her for the first time. She wore a white tank, exposing her right arm that’s covered in a sleeve tattoo. Her jagged blonde bob has streaks of faded blue highlights. The sunlight caught her nose ring as she turned and smiled, I could almost hear my dad yelling for me to run, screaming in the opposing direction. Instead, I stuck my hand out and introduced myself. I was drawn like a light to her no-nonsense, fuck off attitude.

I learned over coffee that her roommate filed for a transfer. We hit it off and bunked together. She’s a returning sophomore, and so far it’s working in my favor. I would be lost without her showing me around.

Our small room is divided in the middle. My side holds a lavender comforter neatly tucked on my bed and a shag rug to the side. The few decorations I have are strategically placed without clutter. Lea’s side is utter chaos. Her bed is never made, and her blankets are tossed across it along with clothes, dirty and clean. Posters hang above her bed, and her desk is where clothes come to die.

“Any luck with the job search?” She smiles, her deep-set dimples appear.

“Yes! I got a job at my first interview!”

“Awesome, which bar?” She asked, flipping her straight out the box, blonde bob to the side.

“Mystic Tavern, have you been to that one?”

I pull the strap of my purse from my shoulder and lay it on my desk. She snorts, and I turn to see her watching me, amused.

“Oh yeah, many times. I have a… friend that works there. We went to high school together.”

“Who is it?” I pull my brows together and sit on my bed.

“Hayze, he’s the bartender.”

She stands and walks to her desk. With a flick of her arm, clothes scattered on the floor. Once she’s satisfied, she dumps the contents of her makeup bag on the dusty surface.

My eyes widen. “Oh.”

I considered telling her about my encounter with him, but after that, I decided against it. I pull my bottom lip in my teeth, anxiously chewing. I hope he didn’t notice how weird I was being, and even more, I hope Lea doesn’t find out. The last thing I want is to have high-school happen all over again.

She laughs once. “Yup, that’s the friend. Good luck.”

I ignore her, but the sinking feeling in my gut tells me she means more than the job.

“Oh, your brother dropped that off!”

She points to a box on my side of the cramped dorm. I grab the heavy box and throw it on my bed. It’s labeled as mine, but I can’t place it.

I frown, “Which brother?”

“There’s more than one?” She asked, wagging her eyebrows.

“Scott,” she muses when she sees I’m serious.

“I have two brothers. Scott and Sean, they’re twins.”

I shuffle through the cluttered box he dropped off. It consists of pictures and decorations I left home. When I spot a homecoming picture, I close it and shove it under the twin-sized bed.

“Are they sportin’ the bible belt, too?” She laughs as she dramatically lines her eyes with makeup.

“Sean is, he’s my dad made over. Scott’s your best bet. But don’t come crying to me when he cheats.” I shove my finger in her direction.

“Noted.”

Her face twists in deep thought as she peers at me through the mirror hanging on the wall.

“Hey, do you have a fake ID?” She asked and places her right hand on her hip, the other hand points at me through the mirror.

“Uh… What do you think?”

“You’re gettin’ one. Here, check this out.” She tosses me an ID. I catch it and hold it up to inspect it.

“Looks so real,” I said, impressed. The picture is Lea, but the information, name included, is someone else.

“So will yours. So, school starts on Monday, what are we doing this weekend?” She asked. I handed the ID back to her, and she tucks it safely in her wallet.

“I start work tomorrow,” I said, and her face falls into a frown.

“I’ll fill you in on everything you missed.”

With a stroke of gloss, she pops her lips and throws the container in her bag.

“Gee thanks,” I said and rolled my eyes.

She laughs then disappears into the hallway. Voices flood the hall as students pass my door while I’m left bored and fending for myself on my first Friday night in the dorm. I didn’t leave my childhood home for this, next weekend I’m going out.

****

The next day arrived at the bar by three. I was a little ambitious today; I spent extra time and curled my hair. After a coat of mascara and flirty, pink gloss, I left my car and walked into the bar. Randy, the manager, sits at the bar top, reading. The bar is dim, and I scan the room, finding no one else in sight. I nudge a chair to get his attention. His head snaps up with a soft smile.

“You’ll be with Shea tonight. She’s in the back,” he said. He quickly loses interests in me and sets his eyes to the book in front of him.

“She doesn’t know where the back is.” Hayze walks up and motions for me. “C’mon Taylor. Lazy fucker,” he whispers and shakes his head.

He shows me to the back; the walls are a dirty yellow, and the gray tiles are slick from the water. A small, industrial kitchen is to my left, but Hayze leads me further. A tall girl, with wavy blonde hair, is pouring ice into the bin when we walk up. I look up to her impressed. She stands at least six foot tall. She stops, wipes her hand on her dark apron and offers her hand.

“I’m Shea. You must be Taylor,” she said. Her bright green eyes shine as she speaks. Her smile is contagious. I can see her becoming a close friend.

“That’s me. Thanks, Hayze,” I said as he leaves me with Shea. He nods his head then disappears to the front.

“Finally, another girl in this place, I’m training you tonight!” She places the cover over the ice bin and walks to the front.

“First things first, the menu,” she said. She brings it over her mouth, peaking at me over the top. “Luckily, we don’t sell a lot of food. Just alcohol, and of course, that’s easy to memorize.”

“Of course,” I said, trying to sound convincing.

No one I’ve met, aside from Lea, knows the extent of my innocence. The only time I ever had a drink was when I visited my Nana alone. She swore the wine was right for her blood and insisted I had a drink with her. Of course, she could’ve stopped at one glass and not finished the bottle. But I had fun with her. We shared moments that no one else in my family had with her. She always sent me off, making me promise not to tell my dad.

Shea hands me a paper copy. I fold it into a perfect square and tuck it into my back pocket as she moves from the seat. She skips to the bar, stopping in front of two guys I don’t recognize. The taller one has long, black hair. The guy to his right is shorter, stockier with a buzzed head.

“Eric! Jace! This is Taylor, our new waitress.” I shake their hands. Eric the tall one smiles and welcomes me, while Jace waves from a distance.

“Well, that’s everyone,” she said, looking around the bar and shrugging. “Besides the cook, but you won’t see him ever.”

“Really?”

“Yep, we’re only open Thursday through Sunday.”

“Doors open in thirty,” Hayze said.

He walks through the bar holding plates of food. Shea’s twig of an arm loops through mine, dragging me to the table.

“And this is what we do until doors open. Eat some. You can thank me later when your nerves are shot, but your stomach is full.”

“Jesus, Shea, you’re gonna run her off before she starts,” Hayze said.

His brown eyes find mine. A brief smile plays on his lips. My head dips and breaks our contact. I pop a chip in my mouth as my eyes dance across the bar.

“I’ll be fine,” I assure them.

“Do you go to ETU?” Shea asked.

“My first semester. You?”

I scoop a chip in the queso, checking the time. The doors open any minute, and my stomach is in knots.

“I’m a junior. I guess it’s show time.”

We each grab a plate. Shea shows me where to dump dirty dishes. I follow her around like a lost puppy, mimicking her moves. Randy unlocks the large wooden doors and dims the lights as music blares over the speakers.

“You’re just going to shadow me this weekend. Don’t get overwhelmed. Everything will be second nature to you in no time.”

She smiles, her bright eyes watch me, nodding her head until I agree with her.

A group of rowdy patrons walks in. Their collars are popped, hats are backward—as I study them closer I realize they’re wearing the same outfit, with different colors. The second group of guys joins them. They drag a table across the floor until it connects with the first, while they shout over each other, retelling the night before. With a side grin, Shea flicks her wrists, pointing to them and I follow her to the table.

“There’s our girl,” one of them shouts. He stands, and his arms circle Shea.

“This is Taylor. She’s our new waitress. Be nice to her.”

“Taylor, I’m Corey. You should come to the house this weekend, back to school party.” The shortest of the squad offers his hand to me. He laughs as he stumbles and slurs. His eyebrows wag at me. His eyes droop with intoxication.

“The house?”

“They’re in a fraternity,” Shea explains, rolling her eyes. She takes a step back and motions for me to do the same.

“So, whatcha said?”

“Uh, maybe,” I said.

I reach for the drink tray on the table, but he grabs my arm. Scowling, I jerk away from his hold, but it doesn’t faze him. He kicks his grin up a notch and steps closer.

“Maybe? You can do better than that.”

Something about the grin of a drunken man turns me off. The way they regard women as if they are already a done deal. I’ve never understood the attraction. My blood boils, and I almost tell him off, but Shea comes to my rescue.

“Corey, she said maybe—” Shea starts.

“Fuck with her again, and you’re out of here,” Hayze said, cutting her off.

His arms are folded against his chest; he looks slightly amused. As if he knows the guy won’t push him. With wide eyes, I turn and storm to the back. Shea catches up with me.

“Sorry, he’s drunk. He shouldn’t even be in here. He won’t repeat anything. Hayze doesn’t let drunk douchebags mess with us.”

“You’re right, sorry. Let’s get back out there.”

“You have nothing to be sorry about.” She bumps her shoulder into me until I grin.

“This is probably the last place I should’ve applied. I have absolutely no experience with this kind of thing,” I said, motioning around the bar.

“Hey, don’t talk like that! It’s your first night, and you’re doing great! It’ll get better and don’t worry about experience. This is college. You’ll leave here having experienced everything,” she laughs.

“Gee, is that supposed to make me feel better?”

She slings her thin arm around my neck and tows me into the bar. The loudest table stands and shoves their chairs under the tables. The contact sounds like nails on a chalkboard.

A couple of girls walk in; the shorter one tugs her shirt down and leans over the bar. Hayze walks over, leans against the bar with his elbows propped on the counter. His face is smooth as he speaks to her, he winks and walks off.

“I’m gagging,” Shea tells me.

“Does he fall for that?” I nod in their direction.

“Correction, do they fall for that?”

With my nose scrunched, I asked, “What do you mean?’

“He’s just bored, and well, I think they hope they’re the one. That they will be the one to change him, or at least, that’s what I think. Or maybe it’s the bad boy thing he has going for him. I can understand it I guess…We made out once. It was nothing. I have a boyfriend now, but I do understand the attraction.”

I look back at the pair. The girl is smiling as she rubs his arm. “So, what does he do? Just like date them ‘til he’s tired of them?”

She laughs while dragging me to a table. “No, he doesn’t date them. I’m pretty sure he’s tired of them before the night’s over.”

“And you are friends with this guy?”

“He’s a good guy. You know… If you don’t do that…” She points to the bar. I turn to see him lean over, with an amused grin, as the girl slips a folded napkin into his pocket.

“He’s not going to call her,” Shea said.

“So, why do they even bother?”

“My point exactly! C’mon, let’s greet that table.”

I shoot her a quizzical look, and she shrugs. “Hey, I was intoxicated, and it was one time!”

With the worst behind me, the night runs smoothly. The regulars are helpful and promise I’ll catch on quickly. When my shift ends, I walk with Shea to my car past one in the morning. She’s still perky as she invites me out. I politely decline and slump to my vehicle in exhaustion.

The bar door opens again, Hayze steps out and walks to a car parked in the back. The girl from before is leaning against the car. Arms crossed at her chest. I slam my car in gear to escape the scene I don’t want to witness. With brows raised, Hayze waves once as I peel out of the lot.

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