Addicted for Now / Page 7

Page 7


“No, love, not tonight.”

I try to let the words sink in again, but they hurt and my chest tightens in return. It feels like rejection even though it shouldn’t. “Maybe I should sleep on the couch,” I say softly. “Until I get used to you being back.” Until I can stop thinking about you inside of me.

“I can handle you, Lil. I won’t let you break your vows.”

My vows. The four personal rules I set for myself, unlike the blacklist that my therapist set for me.

No porn.

No masturb**ion.

Less compulsivity during sex.

And never, ever cheat on Loren Hale.

How can four simple tasks feel so out of my control? Especially the third one. I hear what he’s saying, I do. But somewhere between his lips and my ears, everything distorts and my insecurities win out.

“I can be very persuasive,” I mutter.

His lips rise. “I think I’ll survive.”

“You’re a guy,” I remind him—as if this changes everything.

He full-on grins. “That, I’m aware of.”

My anxiety peaks, unable to even relish in his sexy smile. “But if I’m on the couch, I won’t be tempted. And…and when I’m in bed with you, I know I’ll try to have sex with you, even when I know I shouldn’t.”

“Lily—”

“And I don’t want to be weak and begging, but it’s inevitable, right? You’re like my crack.”

“Lil—”

“That’s me: the pathetic, horny girl who jumps her boyfriend and keeps on doing it when he says no.” I gasp. “Oh my God. I’m like a rapist. I’ll try to rape you every night.”

He touches my cheeks and I flinch back instantly.

“Whoa! When did you get over here?” My heart pounds so hard that it beats like a drum in my ears.

He doesn’t move away, his hands cup my face tenderly, his eyes full of raw concern.

“Did you get a superpower in rehab?” I ask in a small voice, already knowing the truth. I freaked out to a new degree, not even noticing him climb off the bed.

“Yeah,” he whispers, so close to me now. “Just not the one you think.” He brushes off an escaped tear with his thumb. “You’re sick.”

I inhale a strained breath. The words from his lips are soul-crushing, even though they’re true. I try and jerk away but his hand slides down the back of my neck. The other one on my shoulder keeps me rooted here.

“I’m sick too,” he says, “and there will be times where we’re weak. Where we beg for the things we can’t have. But you can’t be scared of that, Lil. You can’t live your life sleeping on a couch because of it. You just have to believe that you’ll be strong enough in the end. Even if the middle is all f**ked up.”

No distortion of his words this time. I understand him. I close the distance between us and bury my head into his chest.

He holds onto me and kisses the top of my head. “And you’re not a rapist.” I can sense him smiling. “You’re my girlfriend who can’t control her compulsions.”

“I like that better,” I mumble. We stay still for a little while, and I let him rub the back of my head until my pulse eases to a temperate rhythm. Why does something so small, like sleeping in a bed, have to be such a challenge?

I detach from his warm body and climb into bed, slipping beneath the soft sheets.

He watches me as I build a pillow barricade between my side and his. I’m sure I’ll destroy it later. I look up when I finish. “Stop smiling,” I tell him.

“No cuddling?”

“Not tonight.”

“That’s my line.”

I sit halfway up as he stores his journal in the nightstand drawer. “You learned a lot in rehab, huh?” A part of me thinks I missed out on a secret to beating addiction. Lo seems to know more than me or at least his confidence level towers over mine. But I couldn’t go to rehab. Not without outing my secret to my family, and anyway, group therapy doesn’t sound like the right avenue for me.

Now that we’re home, Lo decided not to attend AA meetings. Even Ryke said he shouldn’t go to them. I don’t understand why that is. And Lo doesn’t share much about his recovery, but he did say that he’s still going to see his therapist regularly—one that lives in New York. Some days I have to pinch myself to believe that he went to rehab only an hour from Princeton. I’m glad I didn’t know. I probably would have found a way to see him when I wasn’t supposed to.

“I learned enough there,” he tells me, sliding his legs under the covers. “And I plan to teach you everything I know.”

I smile. That sounds nice. I lie back down as he leans over and yanks the cord to the lamp, blanketing the room in darkness.

There’s something invigorating about the dead of night. How, right before you go to sleep, your mind springs awake. My thoughts flood all at once. Between the threatening texts and my barely passing grades in Princeton, I’m overflowing with anxiety. Not to mention that with Lo back, his problems seem to become mine. He’s broke, jobless, and has quit college. His relationship with his father was already complicated, now I don’t even know if he’ll have one at all.

I have more problems than I can solve in one night. I shut my eyes, willing on sleep. But it stays locked away. Great, I’ve conquered getting into bed but now I can’t even sleep.

I roll onto my side and pull down the top pillow in my pillow-barricade. It’s enough to see Lo’s face. He turns a fraction, and with my eyes adjusted to the dark, I can see him pretty clearly. “Did you learn a trick to fall asleep?” I whisper.

“Don’t think about anything.”

“That’s impossible.”

“Then try picturing a fuzzy television.”

“Do you not remember The Ring? If I try that then a girl is going to crawl out of the imaginary TV and slaughter my subconscious.”

I expect him to laugh but his voice turns serious. “How did you fall asleep when I wasn’t here?”

I go quiet. It varied nightly. Some were spent crying myself to sleep, others I masturbated until I passed out. When I gave up self-love, it took me hours to doze off the proper way, and in the end I resigned to fantasies to distract me into a light slumber.

“Normally,” I end up saying, even if the word reminds me of Connor and Rose’s argument earlier. “It just takes me awhile. I’ll try the fuzzy television trick. Maybe it won’t be so scary.”

We roll away from each other again, and I close my eyes. I can’t picture the TV long enough to stop my thoughts. I remember how easily it is to fall asleep after some self-love. It’s the best natural sleeping pill in the world.

My hand rests on my stomach, and I lower my fingers until I touch the hem of my pajama shorts. The impulse bites me and writhes in my belly. I hear that little voice telling me it’ll be okay. That I can do it this once and Lo won’t even know. I’ll stealthily slip my fingers into my panties and just rub my cl*t until everything feels better. I’ll cli**x and then fall asleep.

The steps prepared for me are just so easy to follow. My fingers slide beneath my cotton shorts and onto the top of my underwear. I flick my fingers up and down outside of them, trying to gain the courage to go further…or stop. But I somehow always remain in purgatory, fighting for one side or the other.

This is wrong. I know this is wrong.

“Lo,” I say very softly, thinking maybe he’ll still be asleep. Maybe it’s fate.

“Lil, you say something?” he whispers back.

I don’t move my hand. Hell, I don’t even blink. Words tumble in my head like a Bingo machine and I can’t seem to connect them together to form sentences.

I must hesitate too long because he flips on the lights, and my eyes shut quickly. I freeze, hoping he won’t notice anything under the covers. He can’t see my hand in my shorts after all. As soon as he goes back to sleep, I’ll stop myself from going further. I’ll make this right. I just don’t want him to think that I didn’t conquer anything while he was away. I was strong, dammit. I stopped looking at porn. I stopped with the self-love, and I never once cheated on him. But he’ll only see this. And I can’t fix the immediate assumptions. That I’m no better than I was when he left.

Silence bleeds into my head, and I almost think I’ve succeeded. And then cold air prickles my skin, the blanket leaving my body. Oh shit.

My eyes shoot open. Lo has invaded my territory, knocking over the pillow-barricade and gripping my covers. His eyes target my lower-half, where my hand disappears into my shorts. This is so not good.

{ 5 }

LOREN HALE

Here’s the thing about Lily Calloway. She’s obsessed with masturbating. Not the I-love-to-get-off-before-I-sleep or jerk-one-out-in-the-shower kind of self-pleasure. She f**ks to come, and if that means f**king herself every minute of the day then she gets it done.

Regrettably, I even facilitated her habit. I thought that every video I bought her was one less dick she would ride. One less risk of disease and guilt. I was so stupid.

I grip her wrist tightly. When she told me that she stopped masturbating for a full month, it was difficult to believe. I’ve watched her hide in a bedroom for hours on end just to please herself. Quitting seems like the biggest accomplishment she’s ever had. Now, I’m not so sure it’s true, even if Rose vouched for her progress.

I slowly shift the hem of her pajama shorts. My shoulders drop in relief. Her palm rests above her panties. Maybe Rose was right. Maybe she did stop masturbating, but obviously it’s harder for Lily when I’m here.

I’m her drug, her means to a high. But I see the life she’ll lead if I’m gone—really gone and never coming back. She’ll return to strangers, to sex with random men. She may even venture into the dangerous side of her addiction—chat rooms and anonymous sex. I can’t let her go down that road.

I retrieve her hand and lace her fingers with mine, not gently. My hand squeezes hers like she’s dangling off a cliff. She might as well be.

“I didn’t do anything,” she defends.

“You were going to, Lil.” I don’t know if this is true, but it’s a fear that rattles my heart as much as hers.

She sucks in a breath. “This is too hard,” she says. “I feel like I can’t escape my addiction. If I’m with you, I want to have sex with you. If I’m alone, I want to f**k me. Nowhere is safe.”

Christ.

My hands slide to her wrists, and I pull her into my arms. Our embrace isn’t soft. I’m not a teddy bear that girls can clutch. I’m sharp and hard, the thing that braces a girl to the bed, the one who grips her strongly and whispers with a husky, edged voice. I’m as rough on the outside as I am black on the inside.

Holding Lily usually solves our problems, but she fights me this time. Ramming her tiny fists into my hard chest, trying to push me away. “Are you not hearing me?” she says, shoving my bicep. “I can’t sleep next to you.”


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