Naked Guy steps in close behind me, which makes me way too nervous. It’s paranoia, that’s all. This guy couldn’t hurt a flea. He acts like he’s tough shit, but he’s not. Mel’s chased him out of here so many times. And every single time the dude ran away screaming like a girl. But this time, he doesn’t run. I tense as I feel his breath on my neck. “Which video would that be, Avery? There were so many.”

My body tenses and I clutch the pan like it’s rope and I’m in a freefall. He’s lying. There’s no way he knows there is more than one clip. But then his phone is shoved under my nose and I see one of the other videos. Video-me is nak*d and breathing hard, ready to move the camera much lower.

Jutting my hand out, I try to grab the phone, but he doesn’t let me. He holds it up high, just out of reach. The sponge goes flying and I’m left there, horrified, as my voice fills my ears. He cranks up the volume so I can listen to myself come.

I should call Sean.

I should kill Naked Guy and bury him under Amber’s bed.

I need that phone. He can’t have those videos.

I lunge at him again, and swing the pan at his head. Naked Guy shrieks in an octave way too high for a guy his size, “Whoa! You can’t beat the shit out of me for being a paying customer. Miss Black wouldn’t like that, would she?” His words don’t register until I’ve taken two more swings. Both attempted whacks were wild and not thought out. He jumps out of the way and the pan connects with the counter, sending the remnants of the horribly loud DONG up my arm, which makes me madder.

“You bought me?” I hiss at him and crouch lower, holding the pan like a tennis racket.

Naked Guy looks less smug than a few moments ago. He nods, slightly. “Of course, but I was told you wouldn’t care. Why are you freaking out?”

“Who said I wouldn’t care?”

“Miss Black! She said you were a professional. I’m going to tell her that you’re a raving psychobitch. You can’t jerk off with me one night and then hit me with a f**king frying pan the next! What’s wrong with you?”

“Why’d you upload that video?”

“Yeah, right. Like I’d do something like that? The videos are enough for me. When Black said you worked for her, I couldn’t believe it. I told her that you act like a f**king nun, and of course I’d like to nail you. The sexting was a necessary evil, babe. I thought if you saw me, you’d walk out. So when you assumed I was someone else, I went with it. I mean, why not?”

Working my jaw, I bounce on the balls of my feet. I want to hit him so hard that his teeth fall out. “How’d the video get online?”

“How do you think?” he squeaks. “Amber. She saw it and thought we were having a thing. She might be a whore, but she’s jealous.” He laughs. “It’s funny that you two room together. Do you guys do it when—”

“OHMYGODSHUTUP!” All the words run together as I piece together what happened. The pan lowers slightly and Naked Guy reads me wrong. I’m trying to figure out what the hell is going on, but he thinks it’s an invitation for more. His hand touches my arm and the pan flies up and bangs into his wrist. “Do. Not. Touch. Me.” I growl the words at him and he steps back cradling his arm.

“You didn’t have to hit me!”

“How did you afford me? You’re a leech.” And this is the part that scares me. Naked Guy is broke. He bums stuff off his friends and lovers. He borrows money from Amber all the time, and helps himself to our food. He’d be wearing her clothes if they fit him.

He shrugs as his eyes dart to the side, following the movement of the frying pan as I tuck it under my arm. “I’m not totally broke, and I wanted to give you the chance to let it sink in before next weekend. I was being nice, Avery. But this Saturday, I won’t be.”

“What?” My voice barely comes out.

“I booked you, babe.” He presses his finger to the tip of my nose and grins. “I told Miss Black that I wanted the kinkiest girl she has. Imagine my surprise when she showed me your picture. So, get ready for some serious f**king.” He leans in and adds, “Because there are a few things that Amber won’t do, and I’m so glad to hear that you’ll do anything for the right price.”

As he speaks, every muscle in my body tenses. My brain is telling my arm to swing the pan into his skull, even as I’m shaking. I don’t know if it’s fury, disgust, or betrayal, but I do it—I swing. The arm holding the pan flies up from my side and before Naked Guy can blink it connects with his shoulder. He’s too tall. I missed.

His eyes narrow into thin slits after he bites back a scream. Advancing quickly, he rips the pan out of my hand and tosses it onto Amber’s bed before taking my wrist and bending it behind my back. I fall to my knees as tears form in my eyes. Naked Guy pulls my arm in a direction that it doesn’t want to go. I open my mouth to scream, but he covers it with his big hand. Leaning in close to my ear, he whispers, “You’re going to pay for that.” Yanking my arm hard, Naked Guy pushes me forward, releasing my arm as I let out a yelp and fall into the rug.

CHAPTER 8

When he turns around, something changes. I’m still doubled over, breathing hard, when I glance up and see Amber standing in front of Mel.

“Where the f**k is Ferro?” Mel says, rushing into the room. I tried to tell her I was back, but she wasn’t in her room. Then the stench hit me and I forgot to text her. A knife appears in Mel’s hand and she lunges at Naked Guy. “Get your filthy ass outa here right now!”

Naked Guy laughs at first, like she’s kidding, and then turns on his heel and runs. He’s out the door before Mel can stab him.

While Mel chases him down the hall, Amber walks over to help me off the floor. Placing her hand under my arm, she lifts me up onto my bed. “Are you okay?” I nod, not wanting to speak. My arm is aching and my head feels like it’s going to split open.

How much did she hear? I want to bury my face in my pillows and cry. Or scream. How did he find Black? My mind is thinking in fragmented pieces. Nothing is stringing together. A high pitched shriek echoes from the quad below. I press my fingers to my temples and ask, “Did she stab him?” I hope not. That’ll totally mess up everything she’s been trying to fix.

Amber moves to the window and looks out. “No, Mel has him pinned to the ground, face-first, and is making him eat dirt.” She laughs lightly. “You should come see.” I walk over and look at the spectacle below. Mel has his face to the ground and is force-feeding him the lawn. The crowd watching is getting bigger, but Mel knows not to stay long enough for a teacher to walk over. She pushes up fast, kicks him in the side, and hurls a clump of grass at his head. Amber doesn’t look at me. Instead she stares out the window at her boyfriend. “I didn’t know he was like that, with you. I mean, I knew he slept around, but—”

“We didn’t have sex,” I blurt out. “I thought he was someone else or I wouldn’t have sent him those messages. They were for this other guy.” I take a deep breath and push my hair out of my face.

Amber doesn’t lift her eyes from the window sill. “I’m sorry. I was the one who put the video online. I won’t post any of the others.” I nod, and don’t look at her. For some reason, I’m not mad. I’m not really sure why. “So, it was a wrong number?” She sounds hopeful, like after what she just saw could be explained away.

“No, he knew it was me, Amber. And he would have broken my arm if you didn’t walk in right then.”

She nods, like she knows. “He has a temper.”

Mel walks into the room and swats the dirt off her hands. There’s a thin sheen of sweat on her face. “Where the f**k is Ferro? I thought you were with him and that’s why I didn’t need to be keeping an eye out for you. I’m gonna rip that boy a new—”

“Mel, stop. He dropped me off so I could grab my things. I told him to leave me.”

“And he listened?” She plants her hands on her h*ps and gives me a how-dumb-is-he look.

“Who’s Ferro?” Amber asks.

Mel lies, “Her cousin, Miss Nosey. And why did that piece of white trash have this?” Mel holds up a key. “He said you gave it to him.”

Amber has a worried look in her eyes, but hides it quickly. “I did. It’s my room, I can do what I want.”

“No, you can’t Dumber Than Dirt. Don’t hand out keys or I’ll take your ass and toss it out the window. Do we have an understanding?” Mel looks like she’s ready to grab Amber right this second. When my roommate doesn’t answer, Mel steps toward her.

The smug smile falls off of Amber’s face and her hands dart up, palms out. “Fine! Don’t touch me! I won’t give out any more keys.”

“Who else has a key?” I ask, concerned. Amber’s an idiot, but I didn’t realize part of her calling card included handing out copies of keys to our room.

Amber laughs nervously and shrugs her shoulders. “Your boyfriend.”

Mel’s caramel eyes cut to the side and meet mine before I ask, “Marty?”

Amber laughs, “Not the g*y guy. The other one. He came by here looking for you a few times, wanting to celebrate something, but you weren’t around. He gave me the bottle of champagne and left. I told him that you’re working a lot and never around. He was trying to surprise you with a gourmet dinner and wine that cost more than my car,” she shrugs, “so I gave him a key and told him that he could try to catch you late on a Thursday. It’s the only day you’re around anymore.”

“Awh, fuck. Amber, how stupid are you?” Mel sounds pissed.

I just stand there and wonder if Amber is really trying to kill me or if she’s that stupid. “So, you don’t know his name? Or you won’t tell me?”

“I don’t remember. He told me, but I thought you only had one boyfriend! I was trying to help.”

Glancing over at Mel, I ask, “Do you think it’s Henry Thomas?”

She nods. When her gaze flicks back over to Amber, she asks, “Is there somewhere else you can stay?”

“You can’t throw me out of my room!” Amber stands and pokes Mel in the chest.

One of Mel’s dark eyebrows lifts as fairy-like laughter flutters out of her mouth, which sounds totally wrong. She swats at Ambers finger and growls, “It appears that you’re too stupid to be here and since we’re knee-deep in a real life horror movie, complete with psycho stalkers, I thought you might want to opt out before someone kills you.”

Amber blinks her big eyes too many times. “What? That guy was a stalker?”

I nod and rub the heels of my hands over my eyes.

Sean chooses that moment to show up. His knuckles wrap the door and he pushes it open, peering inside. “What’s wrong?”

Mel goes crazy on his ass for leaving me alone, while Amber tries to tell me something that I can’t hear.

Sean finally holds up his hand, and yells, “Enough! Avery, get your things. We’re leaving.”

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