Authors: Sara Fawkes
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A handsome boy was lying in bed behind me, but the condescending leer on his face made me want to run away.
Too bad he was my boyfriend.
“Why are you getting all dressed up? It’s barely eight o’clock.”
I ignored him and hooked the bra behind my back, picking up my clothes from the floor before ducking into the bathroom. I wanted to lock the door, but Macon hated that. I didn’t want him to get mad or break down the door, not tonight. I should have been out the door half an hour ago but I had to clean up after sex with him—he liked it dirty and rough. Nothing a washcloth and some foundation couldn’t fix, but the memory was an oily stain on my mind.
I played with my blond hair, contemplating what quick style would work for going out, then grabbed a hair tie and put it back into a ponytail. As I looked through my makeup, the door slid open and Macon squeezed into the small bathroom behind me. I braced myself against the sink when his hands grabbed my hips, his flaccid groin thrusting against my backside. One hand crept up to my neck, pulling me back against him and squeezing enough to restrict the blood flow. “What’s your rush, Lacey?” he murmured in my ear.
“I promised Ashley I’d drive tonight.”
The hand around my throat squeezed harder, and I started to tremble as my airway was blocked. Macon thought playing rough like this was somehow sexy—that women liked a man who took control—but I had a feeling he just got off on my fear.
I swallowed, or at least tried to around the tight grip on my windpipe. “Ashley needs a designated driver,” I rasped, putting my hand on his in what I hoped he’d see as an appeasing gesture. “I don’t want her to get hurt.”
My evident altruism finally won a smile from him. “You’re a good girl,” he said, letting go of my neck and patting my cheek. “You promise to think on what we talked about?”
Angry words at his condescending manner rose like bile but all I felt was relief when he stepped away. I nodded silently, not trusting myself to speak. Coughing would only make him angry, so I held my breath until he closed the bathroom door behind him. Only then did I sit down on the toilet, trying to take slow breaths through my bruised throat.
At times like this, I had to tell myself over and over that being with him was better than being at home, but it no longer felt like the truth. The way he acted sometimes sickened me, made me afraid, but I stayed silent. At least with him I had some measure of respect, and people didn’t bother me.
My makeup was mostly done, but I put an extra layer on my neck in case the skin showed signs of bruising. I’d grown very adept at hiding the bruises and scratches; he’d certainly given me more than enough practice. Macon was lying on the couch as I hunted around for my shoes. Outside, someone honked, and peeking out the blinds I saw Ashley’s car.
. She wasn’t going to be happy having to pick me up.
“Looking for these?”
Macon held up my heels with one hand, and I forced myself not to snatch them from him. Trying to put them on while walking, I opened the door and was barely through the entryway when hands grabbed me and pulled me back inside. Slamming me back against the wall beside the door, Macon lowered his head and kissed me brutally. He was all tongue and teeth, his hands grabbing my breasts and twisting painfully.
“Should I tell her to leave without you?”
I shook my head, trying to keep the sudden panic off my face. “I’m her DD, remember? I’d feel terrible if she got hurt driving home.”
The darkening of his gorgeous blue eyes made me tense in preparation for his answer, but he finally let me go. “I’ll see you later, then,” he said, the words more a dark promise than a farewell.
My legs were shaking as I got into the small car. Ashley had the music blaring, a sure sign that she was pissed, but she gave me a cheerful smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “Looks like the boy toy can’t keep his hands off you.”
“Yeah. Look, Ashley, I’m sorry I didn’t get to your house. Macon wouldn’t let me leave and ripped my other top when he—”
“Meh. Bored now.”
I knew Ashley was a fair-weather friend, the kind you went clubbing with but didn’t talk to much besides that, but her casual brush-off of my problems hurt. I’d been there for her when her last boyfriend beat her enough to draw blood, but she couldn’t be bothered to do the same for me. She started chatting about one of her other friends who’d gotten pregnant without knowing who the daddy was, and I kept my mouth shut, letting her ramble and pretending interest.
“Ready for a night of fun?”
I shrugged, not caring either way. Lately, bar-hopping and clubbing had ceased being fun and turned into an excuse to get out of whichever house I was staying in at the time. I didn’t answer and Ashley didn’t seem to care, continuing to prattle on as we headed toward the bar.
* * *
I couldn’t remember ever being sober at this bar before, which was probably on account of how lame it was without the haze of alcohol.
Ashley had worked up a buzz right out the gate, hitting on a few of the older gentlemen and getting shots for both of us. She’d taken four, including the two bought for me, saying I was the designated driver for the night. One of the men, a forty-something with a gold band on his left hand, had tried to pull me down onto his lap. I’d deftly maneuvered my way out of it, laughing and patting his cheek while giving him an easy view down my shirt. That had seemed to be enough for him and thankfully he’d let me go.
The hotel bar was packed, even for a Saturday night. Summer had hit, and people had come back from college or to take advantage of the area’s beaches. The romantic prospects were much more abundant, but I couldn’t make myself care. The thought of any more relationships didn’t interest me in the slightest.
“Ooh, who’s that delicious piece of ass over there?”
I looked over at Ashley, who was fiddling with her beer bottle label, and then followed her gaze across the room. I zeroed in on the blond boy at the table. “Is that Trent Maverick?”
I’d forgotten that Ashley had gone to a different high school than me. It was easy to forget our age difference. At twenty-two, the brunette was three years older than me, but with her petite frame she looked fresh out of high school. “I went to high school with him,” I said over the band’s music.
“Did he play any sports?”
He hadn’t been on my radar in school. I shrugged. “Probably.”
“I’d fuck him in a heartbeat.”
The crude way she said it made me wince. Ashley’s brain-to-mouth filter was always MIA, but grew worse when she was drunk. She’d gotten us into trouble more than once by saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. The girl had been constantly moving since we’d arrived at the bar, and I felt like a babysitter trying to keep her out of trouble.
A predatory smile crossed Ashley’s lips. “Oh yeah, he’s so mine.”
I fought the urge to roll my eyes. I was too tired to argue or play games tonight. I hadn’t had anything to drink, and just wanted to find somewhere to lie down. I needed sleep; my two jobs had me running ragged lately, but Ashley had insisted I come with her tonight.
Ashley grabbed my arm, tugging me around the dance floor toward the occupied table. I went along willingly enough, but wasn’t in the mood to do anything more than sit.
“Quit being such a spoilsport, just take the other one.”
I hadn’t seen the other boy from across the room, but as I drew closer I realized Trent may not have been who Ashley was talking about. Whereas the blond boy I knew was leaning forward, eagerly watching two girls dancing nearby, the dark-haired boy beside him was lounging back in his seat. The tabletop was filled with beer bottles, but it was impossible to tell who had drunk what.
“Hi,” Ashley said loudly, still managing to sound sultry even when nearly yelling. “Is this seat taken?”
Trent looked at her and he seemed to appreciate what he saw, but Ashley only had eyes for the boy beside him. She did what I called her power pose, arching her back to better display her assets. The dark-haired boy ignored her, however, his gaze instead moving to me. Something sparked in his eyes, and I felt goose bumps break out over my skin.
Butterflies fluttered in my belly. Suddenly nervous, I looked away on the dance floor, hoping he would stop staring. My own reaction bothered me; I didn’t like how the other boy made me feel. Ashley slanted me a dark look but kept her smile in place to keep up appearances. Without waiting for an answer, she took the seat next to her target. She had no qualms moving in for the kill and leaving me to fend for myself. Reining in my annoyance, I pulled up a chair across the table beside the familiar blond boy who finally seemed to notice me.
“Didn’t I go to high school with you?”
I nodded mutely. Trent was staring at me, a slightly confused look on his face as he tried to place me, then he snapped his fingers. “You’re Lacey, right? What happened to you? I know you didn’t graduate with us.”
“I dropped out before Christmas.”
I kept waiting for him to recall me, my body tense and waiting for his reaction, but he just cocked his head to one side. “You dropped out in the middle of senior year?”
“It wasn’t the greatest decision in the world,” I hedged, uncomfortable at being called out. Even two years later, the decision still haunted me. So close, and I’d just given up.
“Well, it’s cool to see you again.”
I blinked several times as he turned his attention toward Ashley. His words seemed sincere enough, and I looked away, surprised by how that fact shocked me. Our school had been small, but apparently, he really didn’t remember much about me except my name. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise.
Across from me, Ashley was trying to entice the other boy into dancing, with no luck. I could feel his eyes on me but I didn’t look back at him, hoping he would eventually ignore me. I didn’t miss Ashley’s glare, however. She didn’t seem to like the fact that I’d managed to attract the attention of both guys, and as usual it was all my fault.
Abandoning the dark-haired boy, she pasted a big smile on her face and held her hand out to Trent. “Wanna dance?” It was obvious she was trying to steal him away from me, make me jealous maybe, but I didn’t care and Trent didn’t seem to mind. He jumped up, eager to get close to the perky brunette, and followed her out on the dance floor.
Once they left, silence reigned at the table. I felt rude ignoring the other boy, but for some reason he made me jittery. The band continued to loudly butcher Johnny Cash, and conversation throughout the room only added to the raucous din.
“Are the bands always this bad?”
I bit my lip at his question. He had a deep voice that sent shivers through me, and I didn’t like my reaction to him. “Only if we’re lucky.” I glanced at him and then looked away again. He was leaning toward me, obviously interested. I’d tried to ignore him, not wanting to rile Ashley, but he really was handsome. There was a ruggedness about him that was totally unlike Macon’s pretty-boy good looks, and I could feel my attraction building. That only made ignoring him more imperative, but I hated being rude. “At least this time the singer isn’t completely tone deaf. The keyboardist can’t keep the tempo to save his life, though.”