By: Penelope Douglas

I assumed that’s why the horsemen were here now, called back from college for the weekend to inspire the team or do whatever they had to do to pump them up and get them on track before the season started.

And as much as teachers like Fitzpatrick frowned on their hazing, it had certainly helped make the team a unit in their time here. Why not see if it would work again?

“Everyone sit down! You boys move on,” he told the horsemen.

Dropping my head, elation filled my body as my stomach floated up to my chest. I let my eyes fall closed, my head feeling light and high.

Yeah, this is what had been missing.

Opening my eyes again, I saw a pair of long legs in dark washed jeans walk past my desk, next to the window, and stop.

I kept my eyes down, afraid my face would give away what was happening in my chest. He was probably just scanning the room anyway, seeing if we had any other players in here.

“Anyone else?” one of the other guys asked.

But he didn’t answer his friend. He just kept standing over me. What was he doing?

Keeping my chin down, I tipped my eyes up, seeing his fingers, slightly curled, at his sides. I made out the vein over the top of his strong hand, and the whole room seemed to suddenly grow so quiet that dread filled my stomach and my breathing stopped.

What was he doing just standing there?

I slowly raised my eyes and instantly tensed, seeing golden hazel ones staring straight down at me.

I shifted my gaze side to side, wondering if I’d missed something. Why was he looking at me?

Michael looked down, his vicious red mask—a replica of the deformed and scarred Army of Two masks from the video game—making my knees weak.

I’d always been scared of him. The thrilling kind of scared that got me turned on.

I tightened the muscles in my thighs, feeling the throb between my legs, in the space that only felt empty when he was close but not close enough.

I liked it. I liked being scared.

Everyone sat silently behind me, and I watched him cock his head just a little as he regarded me. What was he thinking?

“She’s only sixteen,” Mr. Fitzpatrick spoke up.

Michael held my eyes for another second and then turned his head, looking at Mr. Fitzpatrick.

I was only sixteen—until next month, anyway—which meant they couldn’t take me with them. The basketball players’ ages didn’t matter, but any girls that joined them had to be eighteen, leaving school grounds of their own free will.

Not that they were going to take me anyway. Mr. Fitzpatrick was mistaken.

The teacher glared, and even though I couldn’t see Michael’s eyes, turned away from me as he was, I deduced that it unnerved Mr. Fitzpatrick, because his stare faltered. He dropped his eyes, blinking and backing down.

Michael turned his head back, looking at me once more as a drop of sweat glided down my back.

And then he walked out of the room, followed by Kai, who I knew wore the silver mask, the door swinging closed behind them.

What the hell was that about?

Whispers broke out across the room, and I could see Claudia’s head turned toward me out of the corner of my eye. I glanced at her, seeing her eyebrows raised in question, but I just ignored her, turning back to my paper. I had no idea why he was looking at me. I hadn’t seen him since he’d been home from college briefly in the summertime, and he’d ignored me then, as usual.

“Alright, everyone!” Mr. Fitzpatrick barked. “Back to work. Now!”

The excited chatter lowered back to whispering, and everyone slowly got back to work. The music, which had faded into a distant hum, cut off, and for the first time since I entered the room, I let go of the smile I’d been holding back.

Tonight would be chaos. Devil’s Night wasn’t just hazing. It was special. Not only would they grab players from all of the rooms, take them to an undisclosed location, rough them up a bit, and get them drunk, but later...the horsemen would wreak havoc and turn the whole town into their playground.

Last year, with them gone, it had been boring, but everyone knew that it was on tonight. Starting right now in the parking lot as all the guys and a few girls loaded up in the cars, no doubt.

I picked up my pencil, my breathing turning shallow as I bobbed my right knee up and down.

I wanted to go.

The heat in my chest was already starting to dissipate, and my head, which had just felt like it was higher than the trees a minute ago, was slowly descending and returning to the ground.

In another minute I’d feel the same way I had before he walked in the room: base, cold, and trivial.

After class, I’d go home, check on my mom, change clothes, and then head over to the Crist’s to hang out, a routine that started shortly after my father had passed away. Sometimes I’d stay for dinner, and sometimes I’d go back home to eat with my mom if she was up for it.

Then I’d go to bed, trying not to worry about how one brother tried to wear me down more every day while denying what woke up inside of me whenever the other one was close.

Laughter and howls drifted in from outside the windows, and I faltered, stopping my knee from bobbing.

Fuck it.

I reached under my desk, grabbing my Pre-Calc textbook, and leaned over, handing it to Claudia with my bag and whispering, “Take this home with you. I’ll pick it up this weekend.”