None of my business. Just leave.

Jared licked his lips, and the raindrops on his face looked like tears. I watched him as he raised his eyes lazily and blinked away the water.

“The dog ran away,” he mumbled, matter-of-factly. His voice was calm.

Stunned by such a cryptic reply, I almost laughed. “So you threw a temper tantrum? Does your mom know you did that to the house?”

His brow narrowed as he looked me dead in the eyes. “What do you care? I’m nothing, right? A loser? My parents hate me. Weren’t those your words?”

For a moment, I closed my eyes, feeling guilty all over again. “Jared, I should never have said those things. No matter what you’ve—”

“Don’t apologize,” he interrupted. Swaying as he stood up, he adopted his usual sadistic tone. “Groveling makes you look pathetic.”


“I’m not groveling!” I snapped as I followed him into the house. “I can just admit when I f**ked up.”

I stood inside the doorway while he put his bottle on the kitchen table and grabbed a dish towel off the counter. Walking over to Madman, who was huddled underneath a chair, he wrapped the cloth around the dog and slowly dried him off. He continued to ignore me, but I couldn’t leave until I’d said what I needed to say.

“I’m sorry if I hurt you, and it won’t happen again.” There, I’d said it. No need for me to be here anymore.


But I didn’t stop there. My gaze fell on the not-yet-empty bottle of Jack, and I was worried. His mom was a recovering alcoholic, and hard liquor could be dangerous in large quantities. By the looks of the house, he was not in control of his faculties.

Snatching the bottle off the table, I walked to the sink and started dumping its contents down the drain. “And I’m not letting you hurt yourself, either.”

“Son of a bitch!” Jared heaved at my back, and I shook the bottle nervously when I heard his quick footsteps behind me.

Jared snatched at the container, which was still a few sips from being empty, but I spun around to face him, keeping hold.

“This is none of your business. Just leave,” he growled. His breath fell on my face, smelling of whiskey and rain, and his wild eyes made my arms go weak. I almost released the bottle, overwhelmed by the force he used to get it away. As he yanked, my whole body jerked.

Well, this is new.

The Jared I’d gotten used to walked around calm and collected, but this Jared was desperate and reckless. I should be scared, but, for some reason, I was intoxicated with the face off.

I wanted this confrontation with Jared. I hungered for it.

We both breathed hard as we tried to get the bottle away from each other, but no one was giving up. His arms flexed with the struggle, and I felt the bottle start to slip out of my fingers. I knew I was going to lose.

“Stop it!” I cried. Was the f**king bottle that important?!

Get a grip, jerk! He’d obviously lost control, and I needed to snap him out of this.

I let the bottle go and slapped him across the face. His head twisted to the side with the impact, and my hand stung. I’d never hit Jared. Not even when we were kids and playing around.

Stunned and furious, Jared dropped the bottle to the floor, forgotten, and turned his vicious eyes on me. I gasped when he hoisted me off of my feet by my waist and slammed me down on the hard edge of the sink. Before I knew it, he had locked my wrists in a hold behind my back and positioned his body between my legs. He pulled me to him, roughly, and I was trapped. My chest rose and fell quickly, desperate for air.

Oh, God. “Let me go!” I screamed.

My body was constricted between his arms in back of me and his torso in front. His grip was tight, enough to keep me still but not enough to hurt. I tried to twist and wiggle my way free, but he only jerked me harder against him and tightened his hold.

“Jared, let me go.” I tried to make my voice sound forceful, but with the struggle, my strength had dwindled.

His eyes met mine, our faces less than an inch away from each other. Several moments passed as he held me, trying to stare me down.

But it didn’t work.

Once my gaze met his, it was impossible to look away. His eyes were like the cover of a book—giving you hints but not the whole story. And I wanted to know the story. If I searched his eyes long and hard enough, maybe what I craved would seep out.

Damn it!

Even with the liquor on his breath, he smelled incredible. Like some kind of bodywash that I wanted to wrap myself up in forever. My thighs were cold where his wet pants rubbed, but the rest of me was on fire. Heat spilled from the pores on my neck, and a drop of sweat glided between my br**sts where my chest touched his. Dizziness fogged my head with the pressure he was putting between my legs.

Our breathing matched up, and his expression was no longer angry.

He spoke shakily, almost sadly. “You f**ked me up today.”

I assumed he was talking about the monologue. “Good,” I bit out.

He jerked me again. “You wanted to hurt me? Did you get off on it? It felt good, didn’t it?”

Was he talking about me or him?

I tried to keep my face even, but my body tingled everywhere. His scent was all around me as he leaned in. Our bodies were melting together, our lips were so close. When I felt him harden between my legs, I squeezed my eyes shut, too afraid of why I wasn’t struggling anymore.

Taking a deep breath, I opened my eyes and stared boldly at him, my pulse throbbing in my ears.

He’s nothing to me. Nothing.

“No, I didn’t get off on it,” I answered calmly. “I feel nothing. You are nothing to me.”

He flinched. “Don’t say that.”

The heat from his mouth wafted around me as I leaned in. “Nothing,” I repeated, barely a whisper. “Now, get off—“

His mouth crashed down on mine, drowning out my protest.

His lips devoured me, hard and fast, like I was being eaten alive. His tongue dived into my mouth, and I let it, needing to feel all of him. The pulsing sensation in my core quickened, and I wrapped my legs around his waist before I closed my eyes, savoring the release.

I tried to think, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to. All the years that we’d been apart filled this one moment.

He released my arms, threading one hand roughly through my hair and the other gripping my ass. Pulling my h*ps harder against his, he assaulted my mouth like he was starving. He sucked on my bottom lip and then turned his attention to my jaw and neck in hot, frenzied kisses. A legion of butterflies took flight in my stomach, and I moaned with the pleasure.

And I kissed him back.

Oh, my God! I was kissing him back!

“Jared,” I gasped out. He should stop. We should stop. But I forgot why.

I was lost.

I tightened my legs around his waist and grasped his wet hair, holding him to me, while he sucked on my neck. His left hand ran down my thigh, and I brought his lips back up to mine again, needing more. Pressure was building as he pressed our centers together. He groaned, and I didn’t want him to stop. Ever.

When he bent his head to nibble under my ear, images of him and K.C. in the hall yesterday flashed through my mind.

This is what she felt.

Everything came flooding back. My eyes popped open as realization dawned.

He hurt me.

He hated me.

“Jared, stop.” My tone was meant to be stronger, but it only sounded desperate. He ignored me as he kissed and lightly bit my shoulder, while his hand moved underneath my shirt.

“Jared! I said ‘stop!’” Putting my hands on his chest, I pushed him away. He stumbled back a few steps, breathing hard and eyeing me like an animal.

Too far.

Jumping off the sink ledge, I nearly ran out of the kitchen and the house. It felt like steam coming off my skin as the cool rain hit my arms and legs outside. My heart was nearly beating out of my chest as I made it to my front porch.

What are you doing?! I screamed to myself.

A hollow ache settled in my stomach, and a horrible void filled my arms where he’d just been. I’d let him kiss me. And feel me.

And I’d done the same to him.

I tried to catch my breath. How could I have let that happen? It was like I hadn’t even been in control! I knew what we were doing was crazy, but the feel of him made me forget everything. Even now, my body still craved him, and I hated that. Shame burned my skin where he’d touched me.

Jared always calculated his moves. Did he plan this? This was lower than I thought he’d ever go. He was probably in there laughing at me right now, knowing that he’d gotten my pride.

A thousand questions filled my head, but I pushed them away. No. One thing was certain: Jared couldn’t be trusted. He hadn’t even begun to make amends, and I was nauseous with humiliation.

That wouldn’t happen again.

Chapter 20

I rushed from one class to another the next day. My heart was in my throat—knowing that at any minute I could run into Jared—so I kept my eyes focused straight ahead. Literally.

All through French class it had been almost impossible to keep my mind off last night. His hands, his lips, his…

Nope. Not going there.

I had liked it. That much I was willing to admit. But why did he kiss me if not to prove that he could? And why the hell did I let him?!

I’d decided to treat it as a drunken move on his part, and an emotional breakdown on mine.

As I headed to lunch, I hurriedly stuffed my crap into my locker and jetted around the corner to the cafeteria, trying to keep my eyes from wandering.

“Oomph.” The air was knocked out of my lungs, and I stumbled to the ground.

What the…?

I winced with the ache in my ass from the collapse to the cold tile floor, and I tried to blink away the disturbance to my equilibrium. Something had knocked me off my feet.

Looking up, I sucked in a breath and felt a warm fluttering to my belly at the sight of Jared hovering over me.

Shit. I must’ve crashed right into him. And here I was, trying to avoid him like the plague. So much for best laid plans.

I couldn’t get over how just the presence of him undid me. I gawked stupidly, unable to tear my eyes away from how awesomely his t-shirt hung below his narrow waist or how sexy his rich, dark hair was styled today.

Seeing me flat on my bum, he should’ve given me a smug smile or scowl. I flushed with embarrassment, knowing how stupid I must’ve looked.

But I got nothing from him. Nothing bad, anyway.

He reached out to me, and I looked at him wide-eyed, wondering what the hell he was doing.

Was he…helping me up?

He held his smooth, long-fingered hand, palm up, to me, and my toes curled with the gesture.

Wow. Maybe the kiss wasn’t such a bad thing. Maybe he’d start behaving himself now.

And then he quirked an eyebrow at me, as if annoyed that he was waiting.

I scowled at his same old haughty attitude.

Oh, no. Don’t do me any favors, buddy!

Pushing myself roughly off the ground, I dusted off my pants and stalked past him, around the corner.

While my body definitely reacted positively to him, my brain practiced a zero tolerance policy…from now on.

Ben and I met up Friday night after the game. I wanted to keep our date, even though I had spent the better part of the last two days trying not to think of someone else. There was nothing between Jared and I. There was no reason to call off a date with a not-yet-boyfriend just because I kissed another guy, even if I did feel a little guilty about it.

Ben was easy. And I needed easy. I deserved it. I just needed to get my body under control.

Fucking hormones.

“So I’ve been meaning to ask you something.” Ben seemed amused but timid as we finished our pizza.

“Let me see.” I put my index finger to my lips. “Yes, I do all of my own stunts, and no, I don’t normally eat that much,” I joked and took a sip of my Coke.

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