“Are you okay, Rach? You had a rough night last night.” Candice spoke slowly and carefully, making sure not to say anything that would set me off again.

My head shook quickly back and forth and I wrapped my arms around her, squeezing her as tight as my shaky body would allow. She had no idea how thankful I was for her and her timing.

“Those guys didn’t hurt you too bad, did they, Rach? They didn’t—they didn’t . . .”

“No. Candice. No. Blake—”

“I know, Rach. Blake took such good care of you last night, he was so sweet to you.”

No! A sob broke free and the tears poured down my cheeks as I tried to tell her how wrong she was. “No. Blake—my car—he . . . he did something and I—I thought I was going crazy!”

“It’s okay, sweetie. He took me to pick up your Jeep from Starbucks a few hours ago. It’s in the parking lot.”


“Aww, Rach. I’m sorry I wasn’t here for you last night. I’m so sorry. I can’t believe that happened to you. I’m so thankful Blake was there for you.”

A bone-deep shudder rocked my body and I tried to pull back from her; she wasn’t understanding! “You’re not listening! Blake’s the one who attacked me!”

“Rachel! Why the hell would you say something like that?!”


“Because he did! Before you came back!”

She pushed away from my bed and faced me with a cold glare. “How dare you accuse my family of something like that! I know you had a rough night, Rachel, and I’m sorry! But you can’t just pin it on Blake. I can’t—” She huffed loudly. “I can’t believe you would do something like this. Why do you hate him so much? If you don’t want to date him, then fine, but don’t blame him for something like that. God, I feel like I don’t even know you.”

My phone rang from my desk, and she stormed across the room to go to answer it.

“Hello? Hey, Blake, yeah, she’s finally awake . . . She’s okay, still shaken up from it . . . No, you’re so sweet, but I’ll take care of her today . . . Yeah, I’m sure . . . Okay, love you too. Here she is.”

My head was shaking a no when Candice tried to hand me the phone, and she eventually just shoved it into my palm. I just stood there staring at the front of it in horror. Candice huffed and forced my hand so the phone was pressed to my ear and went to sit back at her desk.


“Took care of you,” he said, cutting me off. “I have a witness.”

“No,” I whispered, and glanced up at Candice.

“Who’s going to believe anything you say, Rachel? My own cousin and your best friend saw me taking care of you after you’d been attacked. She saw me hold you after you fainted. She watched me vow I would never let anyone touch you again as you slept. And trust me when I say, Rachel, I will never let anyone else touch what is mine. And you. Are. Mine.”

Who was this man? Where was the Blake I’d grown up with? My heartbeat felt like it stuttered and I sat there in silence as I thought through every different outcome of telling people about what had happened last night.

When I didn’t say anything for a while, Blake spoke again. “Did you just realize that I’d come out the hero no matter what?”

“Stay away from me,” I said shakily, and took a deep breath in as I tried to put some strength behind my words as I repeated them: “Stay away from me, Blake.”

I hit the end button and let my phone fall to my bed before pressing my fist to my mouth to muffle my new sobs.

Candice snatched my phone from me and walked back to her desk. When she was seated she turned her glare on me. “You’re probably just having a freak-out because Blake was the one to take care of you after your traumatic experience.”

“You’re supposed to be my best friend! Why won’t you listen to me?”

“Because even though I love you and I hate what happened to you, you’re being a bitch by accusing Blake!”

I jerked back on the bed. Oh my God. How did she not understand any of this? I wanted to scream at her to listen to me. But I knew Blake was right; no one would believe me. Especially Candice. He was perfect in her eyes. He was perfect in everyone’s eyes. And what proof did I have? None. Nothing but horrific memories.

“Have you told Blake we’re moving into an apartment here this summer?”

“No . . .” She drew the word out and tilted her head to the side. “Why?”

“I don’t want him to know, Candice. I don’t want to see him, I don’t want to talk to him. I don’t—I just don’t want anything to do with him.”

“You’re being ridiculous,” she whispered.

“Please, just don’t! If you won’t believe me, then please just do this for me.”

She shook her head quickly and straightened her back. After a few deep breaths she opened her eyes again. “I know this is all just because you’re going through a lot. I think we should spend a minute apart. Take a Xanax, lie down, and rest. I’ll go pick up some Chinese food and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Then, after you’ve had time to relax, we’ll talk about what really happened to you, okay?” Before I could respond, she grabbed her purse and practically ran out of the room.

I SPENT THE morning and early afternoon writing to my parents at Starbucks, and though it usually left me feeling closer to them, connected somehow, today just wasn’t cutting it. It could’ve had something to do with the fact that I was pulled over by an APD officer for going thirty-nine in a thirty-five, or that Starbucks got my order way wrong. Honestly, how is an iced vanilla latte confused for an iced coffee with caramel? Or it could’ve had something to do with the sporty silver Lexus convertible that had pulled up next to my car and had me in a near panic attack in the middle of the café since I had a big chair next to a window with a perfect view of the parking lot. Didn’t matter that it was a woman with dark hair driving it. I’d already started my minor freak-out. There was no stopping it. Any one of those things could have made it so I didn’t enjoy writing to them, but I was in a funk now, regardless.

I shut my eyes and listened to the remainder of “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain in my car before preparing to get out. My dad used to sing that to my mom when they thought I wasn’t looking. He’d pull her close in the kitchen and dance with her slowly as he softly sang each word in her ear. My dad was sweet like that, and I remember thinking I wanted a guy just like him. A rugged-looking softy who would take the time to dance with his wife for no reason at all. He looked at her like she was the world. And I’d vowed to never settle for less. But after Daniel and Blake, I was considering becoming a nun, or a crazy cat lady like our new neighbor Mrs. Adams. Either sounded pretty perfect to me.

As soon as Edwin’s voice and the saxophone drifted off, I turned my car off, and opened my door. A short shriek burst from my chest and I tried to slam my door shut, but I already had one leg out and ended up just causing more pain and damage than I would’ve if I’d left the door alone. I pushed it back open, avoiding the motorcycle that had almost had a collision with my door, and rubbed my leg. That shit hurt.

The roar of the motorcycle stopped, and the rider whipped off his sunglasses. “Are you trying to get your door taken off?”

My heart had stopped the minute I’d looked into his piercing gray eyes, but anger quickly took over everything. “Do you always swing into parking spaces when someone is opening their door?” I rubbed my leg once more and stumbled awkwardly out of my car. I realized he hadn’t answered me, and after shutting my door and locking the car, I turned to face him, a frown tugging at my lips when I saw him smirking. “I’m fine, if you’re wondering.”

He sat up straight on his Harley and took a deep breath in. “I’m sorry I made you hurt yourself. I’m Kash, by the way.”

“Cash . . . like money? Or Johnny?”

“Um, I guess we can go with Johnny, but with a K.”

“Kash with a K. Got it. That’s a, uh . . . very interesting name. Fits the image, I guess.”

His head jerked back. “I’m sorry, what?”

I took a few steps toward the apartments before turning to look at him, my hand waving over his frame, which was now hunched back over his bike. I wondered who he was here to see. “You know, the whole ‘bad boy’ thing you’ve got going on there. Tattoos, lip ring, Harley. Makes sense you’d have a nickname and try to make it, I don’t know, awesome or something by having it start with a K. Have a nice day; try not to almost take any more car doors off, Kash with a K.”

Kash huffed a short laugh and his brow creased; he opened his mouth to speak but I turned and found my way to my apartment before he could say anything else. I was in a pissy mood, and I really didn’t want to deal with someone like him. Didn’t matter if my heart had skipped a few beats and butterflies had taken up residence in my stomach when I first saw him. I’d had issues with two perfectly normal-looking guys; a bad boy was definitely not in my future. Guys, in general, weren’t in my future.

“Candi, I’m home,” I called, and walked through the living room to my room to kick off my shoes and toss my purse and cell on the bed.

“Ohmigod!” she screeched as she followed me into my room. “You have got to see the guys who just moved in across the hall from us!”

“No thanks,” I mumbled.

“Seriously, Rach, these guys are hot with a capital hot. Mason and Logan, they’re cousins. You’ve got to meet them.”

“Like I said—” I turned and stopped short when I saw her. “Candice, please tell me you haven’t met them yet.”

“Of course I have!”

“Were you wearing that?”

She rolled her eyes and turned to check herself out in my full-length mirror. “Duh, I had to show them the goods that will be living next to them!”

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