“I’m glad you told me,” she says, no judgment in her eyes, just complete understanding. I’m about to kiss her, but I remember that she’s aroused, her eyes glazed for something more than just a peck on the cheek.
She holds onto my belt loop with two fingers, silently tugging me towards her body. I don’t even think she realizes that she’s doing it.
Right as I fish out the keys and unlock the doors, she lets out a sharp breath and scuttles behind my back.
“Hide me,” she whispers, gripping the hem of my shirt and using my body as a shield.
“What?” I frown and scan the dark parking deck.
“Is that Lily Calloway?” a guy says, not even twenty feet from us. He just opened his Jeep door and climbed out, a couple spaces to the right of Lily’s vehicle. He walks towards us, and I spot a Penn soccer sticker on his gas cap.
The guy looks vaguely familiar. He has tan skin, more Spaniard than Italian, and his trim build matches soccer players. But I can’t place him. Not yet. He’s swimming in a fog.
Lily reveals herself now that she’s been sighted. “Hi…”
“Do you remember me?” he asks, his eyes briefly flickering to me and then back to Lil. I know, just by the way that he’s looking at her, that they had sex.
If I was tense before, I’m wired now, my muscles tightening into taut strands. I’m used to being the one who knocks on Lily’s door in the morning and escorts her one-night stand out of our apartment. I’d even grab the poor guy a cup of coffee. But he’s not a face that I remember being charitable to. I don’t think he ever stepped foot in our old apartment.
“Yeah,” Lily says, reaching for my hand. She holds it tightly, and I do her one better. I wrap my arm around her shoulders. She relaxes only a little, and the guy—well, he acts oblivious to my claim over her. Do I really need to wave a giant flag that says BOYFRIEND in his f**king face?
He nods. “I was just thinking about you the other day.” His eyes rake her body. Is he serious? I’m standing right here. I glare so hard that my eyes start to burn.
“Lo,” Lily says, “this is Mason Nix. Remember that frat party we went to our freshman year?” We went to a lot of parties when we were eighteen. I feel like I’ve shelved this memory so far back that it’s going to take an hour to find.
“Right,” I say vaguely, still drilling holes into Mason. He meets my gaze but looks completely unaffected by my warning. What’s this guy’s deal?
“Anyway, it’s funny that I’m running into you, Lily. I was going to call you yesterday—”
“You have her number?” I question.
“Yeah,” he says, his lips rising. “And I have yours. Loren Hale, right? She gave me your number too, said something about how she always loses track of her phone.”
She must have been drunk. Lil doesn’t usually give out her number or mine. She said it “promotes stalking”—which clearly seems to be the case.
My blood ices over, and my hand on Lily’s shoulder suddenly feels like a weight. So he has her number, and mine. He has the ability to text us, but he hardly seems vindictive towards me, definitely not enough to threaten Lily.
He licks his lips and nods to her. “So, I was thinking you’d want to hookup later.” What? “Maybe tomorrow, around eight. Same frat house, same place. If you want to be f**ked hard, I’m your guy.”
Lily balks. “I…”
“No,” I sneer. “She’s my girlfriend, you a**hole.”
Mason lets out a short laugh. “That’s funny.” He looks back at Lily, waiting for her response.
Am I invisible? Am I not speaking clearly? I don’t f**king get it?! I step in front of Lily, letting go of her hand. “She’s my girlfriend. You’re never going to f**k her.”
“I already did,” he retorts.
My jaw locks, and I clench my fingers into a fist.
“So what do you say, Lily? If I’m not enough for you, I can call up some of my buddies. I know you like that.”
The memory hits me all at once—the one I tried to suppress. And I have the sudden urge to vomit until I pass out. I can’t even talk about it. I can’t mention what happened or else I think I may explode. I may beat him until he can’t stand on two legs. And it’s not his fault for what happened. Not really. It’s mine for not stopping Lily.
For not holding her in my arms and telling her that I truly loved her. That I would be enough, and I’d quit drinking so she’d quit f**king other guys. That’s all I had to do. Choose her before alcohol. And I picked wrong for so many years.
He tries to step towards her, and I put a hand on his chest, pushing him back. Things have changed. “She’s with me. She’s not going to f**k you. If you can’t understand that, then go read a damn book to understand the English language.”
“And she was your girlfriend two years ago. That didn’t stop her before. In fact, you waved her towards me.”
I want to strangle my past drunken neck. Our fake relationship is coming back to haunt me. “That was different. She’s not seeing anyone else but me now. So f**k off.”
Mason lets out another laugh. “There’s no way that girl is only with you.” He knows. He knows she has a problem. And I wonder if he sent those texts. He was thinking about her recently, didn’t he say that?
“Were you really thinking about Lily the other day, or were you just blowing smoke?”
He smiles as though I’ve given him permission to pursue her. Over my dead f**king corpse. “I mentioned her to my friends a couple weeks ago. We were talking about the girls at Penn who give the best head. Everyone agreed she was the best cocksucker on campus.”
And I can’t help it.
I deck him. Right in the face.
It didn’t feel good. My knuckles are on fire, and Mason touches his split lip, shocked.
Lily comes up behind me and starts tugging my arm, trying to lead me to our car.
I follow her, walking backwards so he doesn’t break my sharp gaze.
And then he says, “I knew it.”
I stop. My face falls because the look he wears—it’s full of detest, but it’s the kind of hate that’s been there for a while, accumulated throughout the years. He should be pissed about that punch to the jaw, not something so deep-seated.
“You were the one who slashed our tires because we f**ked your girlfriend.” We. I cringe, never ever wanting to hear that again. We. Not I. Not me. Multiple guys.
And I may have popped a tire or two. I was drunk. I was eighteen. And I was pissed and resentful, more at myself than at anyone else. But I took it out on this guy. And I buried the memory.
“Have you been texting me?” I glare.
Mason grits his teeth.
Lily tries to drag me off again, but I stay my course.
“Have you?!” I shout. What I did—that was two years ago. But there are some things that no guy can let go. This is probably one of them.
“Bye, Lily,” Mason says, his eyes only planted on me. “We’ll hookup soon, yeah? And maybe I won’t tell anyone else what a good little slut you are.”
I shake off Lily, and I go crazy. I grab him by the face, pinching his cheeks together with one furious hand, and I shove his back over the hood of Lil’s car.
He struggles to stand up from my hold, but I pin him down, my kneecap pressing into his dick.
“You touch her, you even think about her, and I’ll have you in the ground before you can say thank you, Loren Hale. You go to the media, the press, and I will ruin you, starting with your soccer career. You don’t even know who I am, you motherfucker.”
He spits in my face, and I throw him off the car and onto the cement.
I think he’s about to come back and tackle me, but he staggers to his feet.
I don’t give him the last word. Lily physically pushes me into the passenger seat, knowing that I’m too crazed to drive right now. And she rolls up the window while Mason begins yelling again. We can’t hear him in the car, but he smacks our hood with two fists as we pull out.
And then we drive off, his middle finger in the rearview mirror.
My hands shake, and my heart pumps a mile a minute.
Lily says nothing. She stares faraway at the road, the silence blanketing the car. I need a drink. I need a goddamn drink right now. I run my hand through my hair, and then I glance back at her, checking her state of mind…and body.
Her eyes glass, but her knees are locked together, and her leg bounces. Fuck. I forgot. We’re on our way home to have sex. I lean back, hitting the headrest with an exasperated sigh. Everything is just so far out of my control.
When we’re stuck in traffic, bumper to bumper, Lily finally breaks the quiet. “You slashed their tires?”
I rub my mouth. “I may have…” It was a long time ago. We just entered college. There were more guys for her to fuck. She was gone almost every night, and I worried about whether or not she’d wake up crying. Whether I’d find her bruised and disposed of. It was horrible.
She nods to herself, letting this sink in. “What if he wasn’t the guy texting us?” she asks. “You just made him angrier.”
“Yeah…I see that.” I didn’t think running into her one-night stands would be this hard. I also didn’t think they’d ask to sleep with her while I was present. That sucked.
Lily breathes heavily.
“Hey,” I say, leaning towards her. I slide my hand on her leg. “It’s okay. We’re going to be fine.”
She nods, trying to believe it as much as me. If I don’t find this guy soon, I’ll lose my mind. I think I’m about there.
She turns on the radio, and we listen to music all the way home, our breath slowing together. Sometime later, we finally reach the house and pull into the garage. Lily snaps off her belt and turns to me.
“I don’t need to have sex anymore. I’m okay now.” Her words sound practiced, like she’s been reciting them in her head for the past hour.
“I don’t believe you,” I tell her.
Her face pales. “No, really Lo, I’m fine.”
My eyes fall to her legs, her thighs pressed tightly together. “So if we’re not hav**g s*x anymore, what are you going to go do?”
She shrugs, her shoulders tense and locked. She’s so f**king aroused. Just admit it, Lily. “Maybe…take a shower.”
Her eyes widen. “No-no,” she stammers. “No, just shower.”
I lean forward and finger the button on her jeans.
“What…what are you doing?” she asks. Her chest collapses with a heady breath, something that has my need building.
“For what?” she asks in a small voice.
I unzip her, and I watch her eyes plant on my hand as it descends down her pants and underneath her panties. She grabs my wrist as I slip my fingers inside of her. And she contracts around them, wet and eager and so ready.
“You’re not aroused?” I ask again.