Page 12

Author: Cora Carmack

“And Rusty is a douche! And the wind in my hair smells like whoosh!”

Cade laughed, “Don’t you mean sounds?”

“What sounds?”

“Nevermind,” He chuckled.

I saw my apartment come into view.

“Aw, crap. I forgot my purse.”

“I’ve got it, babe.”

“You do? You’re the best!”

I gave him a loud, smacking kiss. I’d been aiming for his cheek, but I think it landed somewhere on his neck.

About that time, I heard Jeremy shout, “Hey! Mr. T! What’s up?”

“There’s a wrestler here?” I asked.

“Nah, it’s Mr. Taylor.”

I squeaked, let go of Cade’s shoulder, and leaned back to look for him. In doing so, I threw off Cade’s balance, and the both of us toppled to the ground, him on top of me.

I groaned.

“Shiiiit. Cade weighs a lot. Way more than I thought!” I moaned/sang.

I felt adrift, my world rocking like I was out at sea.

Cade said, “Hey Mr. Taylor.”

“Hello Cade. You all right?”

“Sure thing.” He pushed himself up onto his knees, and then stood. When he tried to pick me up too, I got a good look at Garrick staring down at me. His hair was all sexy and his grin so gorgeous.

It wasn’t fair that he looked so good.

I groaned and covered my eyes.

“Why does the world hate me?”

They both laughed, but it wasn’t funny. SERIOUSLY. Why does the world hate me?

“Come on, babe.” Cade tried to pull me up, but my body felt dead.

“I don’t think I can stand,” I told him. “I feel like a wet noodle.”

“Do you now?” Cade’s amused face looked away from me, and my eyes drifted shut. “Do you mind, Mr. Taylor?

The next thing I knew I was in the air and I was flying. I leaned to my left, and there was the side of Garrick’s face. It was such a pretty side of a face. My arm was around his shoulder, and together, he and Cade were carrying me. Garrick took hold of me completely while Cade crouched and dug through my purse for my keys.

I laid my head against Garrick’s chest.

“You smell so good. Why do you always smell so good?”

Cade laughed, “Oookay. And that’s our cue to let the professor go.”

I let go of Garrick, and Cade’s arm wrapped around my middle.

“Sorry, Mr. Taylor.”

“It’s not a big deal.”

“Listen, she’d be horrified if she knew you saw her like this. I swear she’s not normally like this. She’s just been really stressed lately for some reason.”

“It’s fine, Cade. I promise. Goodnight, Bliss.”

I perked up and snatched the sleeve of his shirt. “No, stay.”

Rusty popped up then, his accordion still in hand. “Yeah, Garrick, stay. Bliss Baby has vodka.”

Garrick smirked at me. “I think Bliss Baby has had enough. And thank you for the offer, but there are still some lines I shouldn’t cross.” His eyes met mine, and I knew he wasn’t just talking about the party. That sobered me up a little, not much, but enough to know that I was making a fool of myself.

“You guys be careful. Have fun.”

Then he walked away, and Cade helped me inside and on to my couch.

The guys went about raiding my fridge, and Kelsey sat by me on the couch, and laid across my lap.

“So, your lover was looking pretty great tonight.”

“Kelsey! Shut up!”

“What? No one heard me.”

I looked around. She was right. The guys were stealing chips out of my pantry. Lindsay and Victoria were pouring vodka into glasses of orange juice. When I was sure no one was paying attention, I looked back at Kelsey.

“He always looks good. I don’t know how much longer I can handle this. One day I’m going to spontaneously sexually combust and jump him in the middle of class.”

She laughed, “As interesting as that would be…. you know it’s a terrible idea. Besides… you’ve already had him. Apparently he was good enough to make you want him again, but it’s not like he’s a mystery you’re dying to puzzle out. You just need a distraction.”

I nodded half-heartedly, even though I was pretty sure nothing could distract me from wanting Garrick. And what Kelsey didn’t know was that he was still a mystery to me. And God, did I want to play Nancy Drew.

Kelsey’s eyes gleamed, and she pushed herself up and off of my lap.

“Do you know what game I’ve never played?” She asked the entire room. “Spin the bottle!”

Victoria looked skeptical. “You’ve never played Spin the Bottle? Seriously?’

Kelsey shrugged, then turned to peer at me over her shoulder, and winked. “What can I say?” She continued. “I was a late bloomer. By the time these ladies came in,” she gestured to her ginormous boobs, “People had stopped needing a game as an excuse to make out.”

Cade raised an eyebrow at her. “And we need an excuse now?”

She hopped off the couch, and settled Indian style on the ground, grabbing a half-full water bottle off the coffee table. “Of course not. But it’s the game that’s exciting.”

She grabbed my arm and tugged. I landed on the floor in a heap, laughing hysterically.

“See?” Kelsey said. “Bliss is already having fun. Vic, bring the vodka! We’ll make this a little more interesting. This is adult Spin the Bottle. Which means none of that peck on the lips stuff. I wanna see tongue.”

“I swear, Kelsey, you’re more of a perv than most guys I know. “ Lindsay said.

“Thank you! Now, I’m not unreasonable. You can choose to do a peck instead…. but you have to do a shot as penalty.”

Most of the boys looked relieved. Rusty looked disappointed.

“There are far more girls here than guys,” Lindsay pointed out.

Victoria grinned, “Perhaps we should go find Garrick and make him join us.”

I blanched, “No! Absolutely not.”

“God, Bliss, you’re such a prude.”

Kelsey sent me a knowing smile. And I definitely needed that distraction. I reached forward and set the bottle spinning.

It landed on Rusty, and I didn’t even give him a chance to opt out of the kiss. I leaned across the circle, grabbed his collar and pulled him toward me. I was drunk enough that the kiss was a little sloppy, but we were all drunk, so what did it matter? I kissed him for several seconds longer before pushing him back down and sliding back to my seat.

Rusty whistled, “Damn girl. If I weren’t 110% gay, I would ask you out right now.”

I threw my head back and laughed. It felt good to let go.

Rusty went next, and poor Jeremy was the next victim. He grabbed the bottle of vodka and said, “No offense, Rusty, but you’re just not my type.” He smiled, took a big gulp, and then planted a lightning fast peck on Rusty’s lips.

We oooh’ed like middle schoolers.

A knock sounded on the door, and Kelsey hopped up and skipped down the hall. She returned with ten more people from our department.

“You don’t mind, do you?” She asked me. It was just like Kelsey to invite first and get permission later. I shook my head anyway, way past caring.

“Excellent, take your seats ladies and gentlemen. It’s time for some debauchery.”

And there was really no other term for it. In a matter of minutes, I’d seen so many friends making out with friends, regardless of whether they liked each other or drove each other crazy or thought of each other as siblings. For one night we put everything aside and let a bottle of Aquafina determine our lives.

The next time the bottle landed on me, the spinner was a girl. The guys all booed us when we both chose the penalty shot. But they cheered at our peck anyway. Laughing, I spun the bottle again and it landed on Cade.

Cade had that cute boy-next-door look, right down to the boyish grin he fixed on me now. I shrugged and crawled toward him. Kneeling before him, I put my hands on his shoulders and leaned in.

The kiss was just like any other kiss at first… and then suddenly it wasn’t. Cade’s hand cradled my head and his other pulled me in at the waist. His lips moved against mine feverishly, desperately, like the world was about to end and this was his last chance at happiness.

The kiss was just hard enough to make warmth uncurl in my stomach, but gentle enough that I felt like I was being worshipped. For a moment, I forgot where I was and who I was with and I just basked in the heat, in the pleasure.

Then someone whistled, and piece-by-piece the world came back to me. I opened my eyes to stare at my friend, who had kissed me like he wanted to be anything but.

I returned to my side of the circle, ignoring my friends’ commentary on the kiss. Dazed and way beyond confused, I retreated into myself through the next few turns.

I could feel eyes on me. Cade’s for sure, probably Kelsey’s, too. But my mind was focused on holding it together, because I was one crack away from disintegrating.

We were drunk. It probably didn’t mean anything. And I was so messed up over Garrick, that I was desperate for contact with anyone. That was it.

It didn’t mean anything.

We’re still friends. Cade and I will always be friends.

I stayed for a few more minutes, until my head was spinning too much for me to ignore. I was feeling a bit sick to my stomach.

I stood and excused myself, telling everyone to stay as long as they’d like. I told them where to find extra blankets and pillows if they wanted to stay and crash, and then I retreated into my bedroom, crawling under the covers, and dropping the forced smile.

I told myself things would be better in the morning.

Chapter Thirteen

When morning came, Kelsey was passed out beside me in bed, and there were five people in my living room and one in my bathtub. I smiled at that for half a second before my hangover not-so-gently reminded me how much I hated the world.

I brushed my teeth and splashed my face with water before returning to my room. I heard my front door open and close quietly, and I peeked my head out of the curtain to see who it was.

Cade had returned with enough greasy breakfast to feed us all.

I took a deep breath and entered the room.

“You are a life-saver!” I whispered.

He looked up, smiling, and handed me a massive bacon, egg, and cheese burrito.

“How are you feeling?”

I frowned. “Like I got hit by a bus. A really heavy one, full of sumo wrestlers.”

I hopped up on the counter, and regretted it for another ten seconds as my head spun. He took a seat on the barstool below me.

The burrito was perfect. Thick, fluffy tortilla, hot eggs, delicious salsa.

“I am in love with this burrito. I would marry it if I didn’t want to eat it so badly.”

“The tragedy of true love,” Cade whispered.

I sort of smiled and he sort of smiled, and for the first time in years, I felt awkward with Cade. I looked away and focused on the people littered around my living room.

“How was everything after I went to bed?”

“More of the same. If he wasn’t already, Jeremy’s most definitely head over heels for Kelsey. Victoria left half a pack of cigarette butts on the ground outside. And Rusty was atrociously sick in your bathroom.”

I wrinkled my nose.

“Don’t worry. It’s all cleaned up. I knew you’d have a heart attack if you woke up to that.”

I swallowed and a weight settled deep in my stomach.

“You’re too good to me, Cade.”

He just shrugged. He’d always been too good to me.

“Listen,” I started. “About last night…”

He scratched at the back of his head, and his mouth pulled up in a half-hearted smile.