Forcing my hand from my mouth, I exhaled shakily and shook my head. “Not as bad as I’d imagined. Doesn’t change the fact that they are ugly and easily the grossest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“But now you can say you’ve faced one of your fears.”

“The biggest.”

“See?” He let go of me and started walking again in the direction we’d come from. “You up for a drink?”

I realized I was still shaking so I nodded my head and followed him. “Just one though.”

We walked for well over half an hour while Blake tried to re-create my shriek at seeing the bats and I accused him of doing that with every girl so he’d have an excuse to put his arms around her. The air between us was much more relaxed this time as he asked about my life after he’d joined the air force. I told him all about the end of middle school and high school but never once mentioned my parents. I wasn’t sure if he knew about them or not, but there was no point in bringing up that hurt. Besides, if he had known, he hadn’t even come back for the funeral. Just as we were passing the school, Blake slid his hand down my arm and intertwined our fingers.

“Rachel, why did you finally agree to go out with me?”

When I looked up, I was surprised at his somber expression. I would have expected something a little more taunting. “Do you want me to answer that honestly?”

“I’d appreciate it. I’ve asked you out for . . . shit. I don’t know, nine months now? No matter what I said, your answer was always no. Until last night.”

“Well . . .” I looked down at the sidewalk passing beneath our feet.

“You can tell me, it’s fine. You never were one to hide your feelings. And your hate for me lately has been a little more than apparent. I’m already expecting the worst.”


“I don’t hate you. I just don’t exactly like you . . . anymore.” I squinted up at him and nudged his side with the arm he still had a firm grip on.

He gave a little grunt with a forced smile.

“Um, Candice is always bugging me for turning you down. She said she would stop if I agreed to one date with you.” I know, I know, I could have made something up that wasn’t so harsh. But I didn’t. If I hadn’t looked back down, I probably would have missed the pause in his step.

“Figures.” We walked for a few more minutes before he paused and turned to me. “I’m not going to make you go out with me.”

“You aren’t. I said I’d go.”

He raised an eyebrow, making it disappear under his shaggy hair. “You also told me earlier today that we weren’t going anymore. I’m just letting you know I’ll stop. All of it. Asking you all the time, what I did today. And I’ll talk to Candice.”


“No, Rach, I should have stopped a long time ago. I’m sorry you felt pressured into it last night. I want you to want to go on a date with me. I don’t want you to go just so she’ll drop it or because you want me to quit asking. Which I will.” I couldn’t tell if he looked more embarrassed or hurt.

Is it ridiculous that I want to comfort him? “I want to go.”

“No, you don’t.”

Okay, still somewhat true. “I didn’t . . . before.” Ugh, who am I kidding. He knows I’m lying anyway. “Look, I don’t know what you want me to say. You can’t exactly blame me for not wanting to go out with you.” He looked as if I’d slapped him. I hurried on before I could chicken out on the rest. “I mean, come on, Blake, you were rumored to be screwing all these students, coworkers, and faculty. And not once did you try to shut down those rumors. Add to that, the Blake I grew up with is completely gone; now you’re usually kind of a douche. Why would I want to go out with someone like that?”

“Rumors are going to spread no matter what I do. The more I try to stop them, the guiltier I look. Trust me. As for you thinking I’m a douche . . .” His voice trailed off and he ran a hand through his hair. “Try seeing it from my side. The only girl I’ve wanted for years now and can’t get out of my head no matter what I do repeatedly blows me off like I’m nothing.”

Did he say years?

Letting go of my hand, he turned away from me and ran a hand agitatedly through his hair. “Come on, I’ll walk you back to your dorm.”

“What about drinks?”

“I’m not going to make you do this, Rachel.”

“Blake, why can’t you just be like this all the time? If how you were growing up, last night, and the last hour was how you always were . . . I probably wouldn’t have ever turned you down.”

He huffed a sad laugh. “Yeah, well . . . obviously I’ve already fucked that up.”

I watched him begin walking in the direction of the dorms and squeezed my eyes shut as I called after him, “You know, you kinda traumatized me tonight. I feel like you owe me a beer.” Peeking through my eyelashes, I saw him stop but not turn around. “And maybe dinner on Friday night?”

When Blake turned to face me, his smile was wide and breathtaking.



DRINKS WITH BLAKE had actually been more fun than I would have thought, and we’d ended up spending Thursday afternoon and evening together as well. He seemed to slip back into the Blake that Candice and I had spent years following around. On Friday, when I stepped into the athletic center, I was met with three red roses and a heart-stopping grin. He’d said that regardless of his reasoning on Wednesday afternoon, he was counting the bats and bar on Wednesday, and movies on the couch in my dorm room on Thursday, as dates. So Friday night would be our third and deserved three roses.

I’m not gonna lie, I totally did the aww, you’re so sweet girly thing as I took the roses from him and kissed his cheek in front of the circle of girls he was doing pretty well at fully ignoring. When Candice dragged me out of the center not even an hour later to go get a pedicure and have me start getting ready for the date, she pressed me for every single detail of my time with Blake thus far. She was really rooting for this whole actually-being-related thing.

He was sweet, attentive, and completely down-to-earth. But I was glad he was still giving me my space. Even being alone in the dorm room with me for three movies, he never once tried to pull me into his arms and had yet to try to kiss me. Which Candice was taking as a bad sign. I rolled my eyes at that assumption. Now that Blake was finally getting his dates, he was letting me take this at the speed I wanted, and I couldn’t have been more thankful.

But then Friday night was just . . . odd.

Blake picked me up in his silver Lexus convertible and took me to the Oasis, a restaurant sitting on the lake with the most amazing view as the sun set, which it began to do just after we’d arrived. I honestly don’t think I’d ever seen anything more beautiful, and just as I began to tell Blake that, our waiter arrived to take our drink order. Without a word, Blake handed him both menus and placed our order for our food and drinks. I hadn’t even looked at the menu yet. The food was just as he said it would be, to die for. But from the way he continued to treat me I was expecting him to cut my meat and feed me himself by the time our food got there.

Conversation was at a standstill until we were back in his car.

“Want to go for drinks again?” he asked suddenly, halfway back to campus.

Obviously he had missed how awkward the last hour had been. “Two margaritas are more than enough for me. I’m good.”

His laugh boomed throughout the small car as his hand fell onto my upper thigh and gave a little squeeze. “Okay, no drinks. Anything else you want to do?”

“Um . . .”

“Do you like horses?”

“Horses?” That wasn’t something I’d been expecting. “Of course I like horses.”

“So how about we go for a carriage ride down Sixth Street before I take you home? Sound good?”

“I don’t know.”

“Rachel, did I do something? I feel like we’ve gone back a few steps.”

“No, I’m sorry . . . I’m just tired. I’ve felt off all day. Is it okay if you take me back?”

“Of course there’s always tomorrow!”

I stifled a groan and smashed myself as close to the side of the car as possible. The entire way back he kept his hand on my thigh and continued to rub his thumb back and forth. In an effort to not smack it away, I crossed my arms under my chest and resorted to burning imaginary holes in his hand with my eyes. After we got to campus he walked me all the way to my room before trapping me against the door frame and leaning in. I turned my head away at the last minute but that didn’t seem to faze him. Grabbing my hips and pressing his body closer to mine, he started kissing a line down my neck, and I swear he smelled my hair before groaning. I tried not to gag.

“Blake, please? Can we not do this?”

He pulled back and his blue eyes flared. “Fine.” The way he looked at me from under his eyelashes caused a chill to run down my spine. And not a good one. “I’ll see you later.” Without another word he pushed off me, turned, and stalked down the hallway.

“RACH, WAKE UP and tell. Me. Everything!”

Cracking my eyes open the next morning, I looked at a too-perky Candice and groaned. “Where were you when I got back last night?”

“With Jeff.” She dismissed his name with a wave of her hand. “Now, tell me about your date!”

“Wow, Jeff too, huh? Nice, Candi.”

“Don’t stall!”

Pulling myself up so I was resting on my elbows, I didn’t even feel like sugarcoating the prior night. “It was awful.”

Her eyes went wide. “What do you mean? What’d you do?”

Bitch. “Why is it that I had to do something?”

“Um, let’s see.” She started counting on her fingers. “One, you didn’t want to go out with him in the first place. Two, unlike Wednesday and Thursday, Blake didn’t text me after to tell me about your time together. Three, you didn’t want to go out with him in the first place.”

Most Popular