Page 48 of Corrupted

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A knock comes on the door and I nearly jump from my skin. “Who could that be?” I ask.

Cason frowns. “I have no idea. I don’t usually have visitors on Christmas Eve, or...ever.”

I grip the sofa to stop myself from leaping. “Why don’t you get it?”

He dips his head, and examines my face. I’m sure I must look like the village idiot with the way I’m smiling.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes, go,” I say and shoo him away.

“I’ll get rid of whomever it is, and then you can try to convince Santa you’ve been nice instead of naughty,” he says, his voice full of warmth and playfulness. My heart twirls in my chest.

I follow behind him as he heads to the door. He swings it open, and when he finds Peyton standing there, suitcases and shopping bags in her hands, his head rears back.

“Peyton, my God...” He reaches for her, pulls her inside for a hug. A second later he has her by the shoulders, and is holding her at arm’s length. “Wait. Is everything okay? Are you okay?”

She laughs and whacks him with her bags, and I hug myself as I watch the beautiful exchange. “Of course I’m okay, big brother. Stop worrying about me all the time.”

He looks past her shoulder for a second. “What...what are you doing here?”

“If you let me in, I’ll tell you.”

“Right.” He pulls her in and kicks the door shut behind her. “What’s going on?”

“You weren’t coming back to New York, so I thought I’d come spend Christmas with you instead.”

The muscles in his back ripple as his shoulders tense. “You want to spend Christmas together?” he asks, and I don’t miss the hitch in his voice. Happiness wells up inside me. This is what he never knew he needed and I’m thrilled that I could do it for him, and that he’s not angry about it.

She drops all her bags to the floor. “Of course I do, you big oaf.”

“Oaf?” he asks and relaxes.

I chuckle and Cason turns. He takes one look at me and his expression changes, softens, as realization dawns. “You—you did this, didn’t you?”

My eyes fill with tears at the warmth in his gaze, the love I see shining there. “I thought it would be really nice for you two to create new memories. There are some presents I put under the tree for you both.”

“This? This is what you’ve been up to? All the sneaking around and secret phone calls?”

My eyes widen. “You knew?”

“Yeah, I notice when you’re not here, Londyn.”

I grin. “Oh.” A frown turns down his lips. “Wait

, what did you think I was doing?”

He scrubs his face and my heart sinks as he averts his gaze. He still doesn’t trust me? After these last two weeks, I thought we’d moved past so much. Then again, he did share ideas with me, and vice versa. If he thought I was doing something disloyal behind his back, he would have called me out on it, right? Yeah, he would have, and maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he does trust me, and old insecurities are just seeping back in.

“I didn’t know,” he says. “I guess I just never thought...this.” He points to Peyton.

I smile. “Merry Christmas, Cason.” I reach for my coat, about to put it on.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he asks.

“I want to give you two private time together.”

“What if I don’t want you to leave?”

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