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I walked past the raging bonfire and toward the water.

I sat down on the end of the small pier and dangled my legs over the edge. I tore the cap off the bottle and tossed it into the water. I held up the bottom of the bottle and chugged a few mouthfuls of the amber liquid. It tasted like pure gasoline mixed with pine-cleaner, burning my throat and stomach on its way down. I took a breath and kept on drinking, swallowing one horrible tasting mouthful after another. I didn’t stop until I felt the hazy warmth begin to spread through me.

I wiped my mouth with my wrist and looked out onto the water.

I may not have known who I was in the past, but I knew who I didn’t want to be, and who I didn’t want to be was someone weak.

I’d fallen for it. His words. His body.

I’d fallen for him.

I may have set out to be a whore, but I sure as shit wasn’t going to allow myself to be treated like one.

He may have been the notorious Brantley King to everyone back in that house and everyone in that town, but to me, he just became the asshole. The asshole who just minutes before had broken my fucking heart.

Things were so much easier when I hated him.

“This seat taken?” A deep voice asked. I shrugged. Bear sat down next to me and lit a cigarette. “Something bothering you, pretty girl?”

“Nope,” I lied.

“I may not know shit about shit, but I can tell you that when a girl goes running from a party with only a bottle of whiskey for company, something is most definitely bothering her. In my experience, that something usually has a cock attached to it.” Bear exhaled the smoke.

“Well, you’re not completely wrong,” I admitted. Turning up the bottle again, the liquid no longer burned when I swallowed.

“Easy, girl,” Bear said, grabbing the bottle from me. He took a swig. “What’s going on between you and King, anyway? You his now? Cause he sure looks at you like you are. And seeing as he didn’t kill you and all, I’m thinking what he feels for you might be pretty fucking serious.”

I shook my head. “Right now, he’s in his studio, belonging to a brunette with fake tits.” My eyes welled up with tears, but I refused to cry at my own stupidity.

“Ah, I see,” Bear said, passing me back the bottle. “The kid doesn’t appreciate what’s right in front of him.”

“He’s not exactly a kid, Bear. Actually, I’m pretty sure he’s older than you, and it’s not that he doesn’t see what’s in front of him. It’s that he just doesn’t give a shit.” I was more than tipsy, working my way to more than drunk. My words grew bolder in my mouth before I spat them out. Any filter I ever had was completely gone. “What do you see when you look at me?”

Bear looked out on the water and scratched his beard. “I see a very, very fucking beautiful girl who shouldn’t be hanging out with the likes of anyone up in that house. Or anyone sitting next to her, for that matter. We’re bad seeds, little girl. You’re a good seed. I can tell. Shit, anyone within a hundred miles of here can tell. You don’t belong here. That much is obvious.”

“I don’t belong anywhere,” I admitted. A fog started to settle over the water, emerging from the trees on the other side of the bay, traveling toward, and brushing my ankles as it spread under the pier.

“Sure you do. First, you have to figure out where that someplace is. Then, you just have to want to belong there.”

I’m not sure if Bear knew my entire story, but what he said was way too simplified of an answer, especially in my case.

I laughed. “Oh yeah? Well, I’m leaving here tonight, and I have nowhere to go. I don’t want to live on the streets again, but that’s where I’m going to be. It takes a lot more than wanting to belong somewhere, or not belong, or whatever,” I said, my words slurring together.

“I remember talking to you that first night. Do you remember what I told you about coming back to the clubhouse with me?” Bear asked.

“Yes.”

“I should’ve never sent you up to King. I should have dragged you away right then and there and made you mine that night before King had his way with you.”

“King has never had his way with me,” I slurred. “His way or the highway, maybe.”

“No shit? Well that changes everything, baby,” Bear said. His smile reached all the way to his eyes which were shockingly bright and beautiful. I was pretty sure his beard hid even more of his good looks, and a very drunk part of me wanted to pull on it to see if it would come off.

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