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Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Young adult or teen  ➡  Social Issues  ➡  Romance

White Lines (Hooked #1)

p.

Also by Bella Madison

Hooked

White Lines

WHITE LINES

Copyright © 2016 by Bella Madison

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof

may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever

without the express written permission of the publisher

except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Also published as Hooked.

WARNING

Strong language, graphic sex scenes, drug use. 

If these subjects make you uncomfortable please do not read any further. 

Suggested reading level 18+

LITTLE WHITE LINES

It’s no big deal

Everybody tries

Just take a deep breath

and close your eyes

[
__]

Inhale as fast as you can

You’re about to be Superman

It’s the weekend

Let’s have a good time

You’re among friends

and she won’t mind

It’s just a little blow

and she ain’t even got to know

[
__]

Well I like your style

The first one’s on me

If you want to feel strong

I got what you need

[
__]

To chase little white lines

into the night

While we’re still young

Lets all get high

Won’t listen to those

on the other side

Don’t want us to live

Preaching how we’ll die

but they don’t know the power inside

these little white lines

[
__]

A social user turned to everyday

by the time she walked out

I was in a constant haze

She said I can’t bare to see

The man you’ve turned out to be

[
__]

So I stole from mama

and I robbed from dad

and my dealer friend

took everything I had

[
__]

And when the money was gone

he said sorry you’re on your own

Rock bottom and lost

yeah I got no shame

Cause if you can’t pay the cost

you can’t play in this game

[
__]

Where we chase little white lines

You took me away from the love that we had

and a sweet yesterday

numb to this world

No longer made of steel

This fog in my mind

won’t let me see what’s real

[
__]

They didn’t tell me

‘bout the devil inside

These little white lines

[
__]

Damn white lines

[
__]

The sweat poured out

My body shook

and deep in my soul

I took a good look

[
__]

said this is not who I am

It’s hard to be Superman

So we sat in circles

and told of our hells

[
__]

The money we’d blown

ERS and jails

and when it didn’t hurt to cry

They said it’s time to say goodbye

[
__]

Take it step by step

you’ll know what to do

Cuz when you find you’re alone

You’ll face your moment of truth

and I’ll chase Little White Lines

down this interstate

I’ll win back her love

No matter what it takes

[
__]

Had to come through hell

to know who I am

Now heaven awaits

Down in Brimingham

[
__]

As I roll down I-65

Chasing little white lines

as I roll down I-65

Chasing little white lines

[
__]

It’s no big deal

Everybody tries

[
__]

I’ll win back her love

No matter what it takes

Had to come through hell

to know who I am

Now heaven awaits

Down in Brimingham

As I roll down I-65

Chasing little white lines

as I roll down I-65

Chasing little white wines

It’s no big deal

Everybody tries

Table of Contents

INTRO

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Intro[
**]

 

I can hear the music from almost a block away as I walk the street to his house. My feet are killing me from the journey, but I’m itching. I need a fix. Something. Anything.

I roll my eyes as I ascend the driveway, passing his big white Escalade truck. Brand new rims. He thinks he’s the shit.

I know he’s the shit.

I remember the first time I met him. Back before I was a junkie. It was my first summer out of high school, and I was fucking invincible. We were still too young to drink in Cali, so me and bunch of my friends drove down to Mexico and laid out for a couple of weeks, just getting shitfaced at the bars all night long, and sleeping in lawn chairs out on the beach during the day.

He had come along with my friend, Sam and her older brother, Randy. Sam had told me that he was Randy’s age, and they partied together all the time. But I didn’t care who he was or why he came, I just knew that he was sexy. And he had bomb ass weed. We would sneak off from the group together—me, him, Randy, and Sam—and roll up the windows in the car and get high as a kite before hitting the beach with everyone else.

And did I mention he was fucking sexy?

We always had this weird chemistry before we even knew eachother’s name. It seemed like I would always look across a room and see him staring at me, and when we hit the bars at night he was always pushing up on me, touching me in ways we both knew were inappropriate.

He was a typical L.A. bad boy: beanies and bucket hats, diamond studs in his ears, tattoos down his arms and on his neck. And normally I hated that shit, but with him it made my fucking legs quiver. He was a wet dream. I secretly loved it when he would come up to me all slow, trying to turn me on just by looking at me the right way with those crystal blue eyes, running his game. I would ignore him for the most part, run my smart ass mouth off, but my panties were always soaked when he walked away. Damn him.

We started hanging out once we got back from Mexico. Sam told me that he was always asking Randy about “your sister’s friend,” and sometimes when I was over at their house hanging out Randy would disappear to make a phone call, and the next thing I knew Lex was at the front door.

Oh yeah, his name is Lex.

The four of us would shoot pool in the basement and Randy would buy us beer because he was twenty-one, and me and Sam would drink ourselves into giggles and the boys would just laugh at us. 

But that was five years ago. Boy, how shit has changed since then.

The first time I did coke was at Lex’s house. He had called me and asked me to meet him in town because he was starving. I was kinda hungry myself and wasn’t doing shit anyway so I said alright. We had been hanging out for almost three years at that point, and he had kind of tried to step into the brotherly role, being my buddy and having a bit of a protective edge over me, but if we ever went to a party together and got wasted he was always whispering in my ear and confessing how much I turned him on sometimes. We usually just ignored it the next day though.

We were sitting inside Wendy’s when he said the words for the first time.

“I got my hands on some coke.”

Of course I fucking flipped out because at that time in my life the idea of something like coke scared the shit out of me. I bitched him out when he told me he had tried it once or twice with some of his boys and he admitted that he’d actually liked it. But then he told me he really wanted[_ me_] to try it, if I wanted to. He promised he would babysit me my first time through, that no one else would be there, and I could only do a little. But I was fucking petrified.

“Lex…you know if I was gonna do some shit like coke, I would only do it with you. You know that. But I’m fucking terrified. I’m too scared of that shit. Weed is different. God, we can go get stoned right now, but coke…I don’t think I can do it.”

When we had gone back to his house after eating I got curious about the coke again.

Goddammit.

I asked him a million questions in depth about what it was like, and he made it sound harmless. Could I be anymore stupid than to think cocaine was harmless? But I trusted him. I trusted him because he made me feel safe and he promised he would take care of me and not tell a soul if I wanted to do it. And something inside of me wanted to do it.

So I did it. And I loved it. And now here I am.

I curl a fist and beat his front door with it. No sense in knocking quietly with music blaring like that, and he’s probably strung out anyway. It could take an hour for him to hear me at the door.

He opens it slowly, peering out through the crack. His eyes are red and barely open, and he licks his lips slowly. “Sup?”

“I need my shit.” I’m almost shaking now, and it isn’t even cold out.

He just shakes his head, and walks back into the house, leaving the door standing open. “Come the fuck on!” he calls over his shoulder, and I step inside quickly, pushing the door shut, turning the lock.

I follow him to the living room. Seated—the usual suspects. Each in a progressing stage of intoxication. Some passed out. Some taking their first hit. It doesn’t even phase me anymore. I come to get my shit, and I leave.

Unless he’s alone. If he’s alone, I stay. Sometimes for hours. Sometimes for days.

He materializes out of the backroom, the stash room, “the treasure chest” they call it affectionately. He pushes the brown paper bag to my chest with no expression on his face, but as he turns away I grab him by the jaw and snatch his face back to mine, aggressively pressing my mouth to his, tongue sliding past his lips as I slip the roll of bills into his jacket pocket.

He grabs my waist, “I haven’t seen you for days,” nose to nose with me when he says it, breath hot on my face. I can barely hear him above that fucking music. Eminem, or some shit like that.

It’s a love/hate thing now, me and him. We get strung out on each other, just like we get strung out on the drugs. We shoot up and fuck. Smoke and fuck. Snort and fuck. Drink and fuck. Sometimes we just fuck. And sometimes we just get wasted. Sometimes we don’t see each other for days or weeks even, except when I come to get my shit. But I always come back, and he’s always waiting.

No matter what it is, we’re in it together. We hate each other because we can’t quit each other, and we can’t quit the drugs. I love him because he’s got the shit, and he loves me because I need the shit.

But he hates me for keeping him tied to the business, and I hate him for getting me hooked.

1

“Fuck that! Tony isn’t an all-star, why the fuck does he want powder?” Lex bangs his hand against the steering wheel, his face flushing with anger at the recipient of his threats.

“No, he only moves trees,” he continues fiercely into the cell phone. “Yeah, from here to fucking Mexico, why do you think he’s a hideout all the time? I know he’s just trying to sell that shit out from under me…I don’t give a [_fuck _]who his brother is, Tony isn’t gonna black-ball me for nose candy when that motherfucker banks on reefer up and down the West Coast. It’s hard enough for me to get business in L.A., I don’t need him trying to run me out of shop!”

He always does this, making business calls in the car. And it fucking pisses me off. I don’t know why he can’t just talk to me. As soon as his ass hits the seat, he’s on that cell phone. The “business phone.” The one that always rings. And he always answers.

He has two others. An iPhone he uses to stay connected with his runners during the day and a Blackberry he uses for data entry after every sale he makes, all of which is dumped into an Excel spreadsheet on his computer and then purged from his hard drive onto an unlabeled disk. It’s a single piece of worn plastic that can make him thousands of dollars when he decides to slip out of the business. Selling your numbers, they call it.

I’m sitting in the passenger’s seat, knees up to my chest, arms crossed, looking out the window. I gaze at the houses as we pass them by, trying to imagine what kind of people live there. Do they have a normal life, a 9 to 5 job, or are they are in some fucked up mess like me? Sometimes I get carried away with thinking about how other people live, but right now I’m just trying to tune out his “business call.” He’s a fucking pusher, and I just have to get over that. This is my life, for now.

I start to itch a little, and I squirm in my seat. “Hey…” I lean over to him, but he’s still talking a hundred miles an hour. He doesn’t look at me, just holds a finger up to me, and I wanna break it off. Business always comes first for him, but fuck that right now. I hate it when he ignores me.

I push on his leg, “Hey,” and he snaps his head over to me, not stopping his conversation, widening his eyes at me in an irritated manner. He clenches the fist that was previously holding up the finger, shaking it at me and gritting his teeth menacingly before turning his focus back to the road.

I sit back for a second, frustrated, and needing some kind of buzz, just to hold me over until we got back to his house. We’re on our way to make a transaction at Ray’s house, a hand-to-hand. I had been with Lex when he got the call, so of course I had to come with him.

He never leaves me at the house alone. He said it’s because he doesn’t want me as a liability, taking too much shit and kicking the bucket right there in his fucking living room while he was gone. But I think he wanted to protect me. If anyone was going to come by the house ready to throw down over a bogus deal or some mishandled business, he didn’t want me to take the bullet for him.

But I would have.

I reach over to run my index finger up his chiseled jawline from chin to ear, laying my head back against the seat, just watching him, trailing my finger down his neck, over the black “L.A.” tattooed on the skin there. With his messy dark hair, sexy blue eyes, and lean, muscular body, he’s like a walking fantasy. Rugged, strong, and tough. Everything about him teases my senses—his looks, his raspy baritone voice, his clean, earthy scent. He licks his lips before turning his eyes to me, pulling the phone down from his mouth.

“What do you want?” His whisper is tight in his throat, but his blue eyes are soft.

“Do you have any weed?”

He shifts his gaze to the glove box, nodding toward it in a silent gesture, and then goes back to business on the phone.

I open the glove box of his truck and see the familiar pack of cigarettes laying there. The wolf in sheep’s clothing. I grab the box with shaking fingers and open the top, sliding out the slender stick, carefully hollowed and re-stuffed with weed. The easiest way to hide it. I grin at his clever trick.

Sometimes it kills me to know that he’s so intelligent and he just wastes it. But then again, look at me. I reach over into the cup holder for the lighter, cracking the window halfway, and I light up, taking a long drag and holding it for a few seconds before releasing the smoke.

Buzzin’.

We pull up to Ray’s house and he parks on the street. He leans over and presses his open lips right beneath my ear and I feel the tip of his tongue touch my skin as he sucks lightly before pulling away, leaving a small wet spot on my neck. 

“Give me five minutes,” he says.

But I know it won’t take that long.

He strolls across Ray’s yard quickly, and I’m anxious in my seat. A little baked but still anxious because Ray doesn’t live in the best neighborhood. None of Lex’s customers do. As much as I like spending time with him, I hate making trips like this all day.

I’ve asked him time and again about getting just one more bag boy so he can basically run his operation from the house. But he doesn’t have enough business surpluses right now to pay anyone else, what with Tony getting into that shit down in Mexico and almost swiping every pothead out from under half the dealers in L.A.

At least there’s still the regular coke deals to fall back on for a while. Plus, in a business of deception, finding trustworthy employees is a challenge, and he says he prefers making a certain percentage of his deals himself, to get his face out there and build up a trust with the buyers. “It’s PR, baby,” he always says with that charming, cheeky grin.

I’m lost in my thoughts until I get a glimpse of someone in the side mirror of Lex’s truck. A young girl, probably my age or younger, dressed in a wife beater and cut off shorts, walking fast up the sidewalk. Sinking back in my seat a little as she approaches the truck, I curse myself for leaving the fucking window halfway down while Lex is inside Ray’s with the keys.

“Hey!” She’s strung out, hair a mess, purple and red around the eyes. A junkie. She’s gotta be on some bad shit. I freeze. “You’re Lex’s girl, right?”

I swallow hard. In the drug business, you’re not always sure if the answer to a question like that will get you killed or commended. I narrow my eyes at her a bit.

“Where is he? I’ve been comin’ by the house and he’s never home.” Her speech is slurred, and she’s leaning in closer through the window. I can smell alcohol and filth on her. Mostly filth.

“He’s handling business. Who are you?”

HEY! Not today, Alice! Nobody wants your business around here!” I hear Lex shout across the yard suddenly, and he’s hurrying back to the truck. She meets him in his path and tries to grab at him a little, but he pushes her off. “Not today, bitch. Go back to Mikey’s. I’m not even playing with you. Get outta here.” He climbs back in the truck, putting the key in the ignition fast and rolling my window up. “Fuck, you okay?”

I just nod and he tosses the paper sack into the floorboard on my side. Inside could be twenty, fifty, a thousand dollars. I put my feet down to hold it steady.

“Don’t leave my windows down when there’s idiots running around on the streets all lit up like fucking Christmas. What the fuck were you thinking?” He raises the back of his hand to me but then just clenches it with a growl, hitting the steering wheel.

I flinch, but I know he would never hit me. His lectures and empty physical threats are just his way of showing dominance.

“Who was that?” I finally ask him, my voice flat as we drive away.

“Just a fucking coke whore, Leala. Stop sweatin’ me.” He adjusts himself through his shorts.

“Oh, so you sell to [_whores _]now?”

“Come off that shit, alright? I’ve never touched that pussy with a pinkie finger, so shut the fuck up. Don’t give me the run down.”

And I know he’s telling the truth. I’ve never known him to fuck another girl besides me. He looks. He looks even when he knows I’m watching him, but I couldn’t give two fucks because I know that dick is mine. I’m his girl.

I remember the first time he ever said it to me. We were at a bender about three years ago, both of us just addicts with baby habits, trying to get high. It was right before he became a Big Man and we were across town in some fucked up apartments. I think the guy’s name was Felix, but I don’t even remember.

The music was so loud I could feel the bass thumping against my back as Lex pressed me against the hallway wall. His warm hands were all over my hips and down my thighs, his crotch pushed against mine, grinding against me to the beat of the music, indistinguishable to anyone but the two of us. He was nose to nose with me, but he wouldn’t kiss me, and every time I tried to close the space between us he would pull back just slightly with that cocky grin before bringing his face back to mine.

“You know you’re my girl, right?” His breath fanned my face, mouth almost touching my cheek, and I just took my bottom lip between my teeth, smiling a bit, giggling and high. He laughed. That deep, lazy laugh that I love. And then he finally let me kiss him.

As soon as we kissed my brain lit on fire and the warmth spread throughout my entire body. After that I was addicted. I couldn’t bare not to be with him and I could barely breathe when he was around. His kisses were my salvation, and my torment. I lived for them and I would die with the memory of them on my lips. I dedicated my life to being with him from that moment on, because I knew that if I lost him I would lose myself. He was the half that made me whole.

So we kissed and made out in the dark hallway and stumbled our way to the bathroom and locked the door, not even bothering to turn the lights on. He tugged my shorts down and moved my panties aside and I slipped him out over the waistband of his sweatpants. And we fucked for the first time in all those years we’d known each other, quick and quiet against the wall, my leg around his waist.

And then we got high again. That was the end for us. We were hooked after that.

Soon he became a drugpin in L.A., the real deal. He made the jump from addict to pusher smoothly, from a fake thug kid to something that resembled the real thing. He walked with a no-bullshit swagger. And I was his girl. He never says he loves me and I never ask him to, but after being so close for five years, now I think it’s just understood.

I’m not even always around. I spend a lot of time at my apartment, back and forth on the idea of trying to get clean. I want to so bad, but it’s tough, mostly because he’s my supplier—my provider. He doesn’t just give me drugs, he would give me anything I needed if I just asked. But I try not to. I’m addicted to him enough as it is, I don’t need to become completely dependent on him.

But something inside always tells me that it’s already come to that.

We drive back from Ray’s to Lex’s house mostly in silence. For once he’s not on the phone, but of course he has nothing to say to me.

His phone rings. The other _]phone. The one phone that is actually traceable, attached to his name, and intended for phone calls that have nothing to do with deals and purchases. I peek at the name on the outer screen: [_Damon.

I look up into his face and see him peer down at the phone lying in the center console. His expression doesn’t change.

“You should talk to him, you know.” My voice is soft, but I know he won’t, no matter what I say.

He reaches down to silence the ringer on the phone, ignoring the call, and I sigh.

“Lex, it’s your fucking—”

“I don’t wanna hear it, alright?” he cuts me off dryly. I know better than to rag him about it, but I press on. I’m sick of his shit for today.

“He’s your fucking brother, Lex! Jesus Christ.”

“What the fuck am I supposed to say to him?”

“Just [_talk _]to him at least. He’s your brother.”

He sighs, shaking his head. “You don’t fucking get it.”

But I do. I get it completely. Damon is Lex’s little brother. He was all of ten years old when Lex left his parent’s house and promised he’d come back, and of course now Damon still doesn’t understand why his big brother, his hero, hasn’t come back for him, and it’s been five years.

He doesn’t call often. In fact their parents eventually told Damon they would ground him if they found out he had gotten in touch with Lex after hearing about him being this big drug dealer. But there’s always that one occasional phone call and Lex knows that Damon snuck away long enough to just call on a whim, even at fifteen years old now, thinking his big brother might answer the phone and come back home.

“It’s…it’s just been too long.” His voice has a tone of finality in it, and I know not to speak another word about it. His family is a soft spot with him. So is mine.

The truth is neither of us came from fucked up families. I think that’s what makes our story even more tragic. We’re just two kids who had everything they wanted, but still felt like they needed more. And now, all we have is each other.

And the drugs.

2

The next morning, I awake slowly to the sound of sniffing and I know he’s getting high, right next to me in bed. I groan a little as I roll around, naked and twisted in the soft sheets of his queen-sized bed. I look up at him slowly, my eyes traveling up his slim torso and taking in all the patterns and texts of his tattoos. They’re like a canvas of his experiences, his story is etched in lines and shading, and you can read it on his arms, his legs, his shoulders, and his stomach. 

He’s still sniffling, running the back of his hand under his nose, pinching it between his middle finger and thumb. He sniffs again, sighing a little when it all goes down. His head is back against the headboard, eyes closed, and I look down into his lap to see the mirror, razor, and short straw. One lonely bump looks up at me. Pure and white, just waiting. The kind of white that sears into your retinas and makes you temporarily blind. I want it so bad, but I’m not ready. Not yet.

I look up into his face again and he’s staring down at me through half-open lids, eyes bloodshot. He’s lit already. I sigh as he reaches to slowly stroke my hair, pushing it off my face and tucking a few messy strands behind my ear. The powder line just sits in his lap, waiting…

Fuck, I’m ready now.

I moan softly, raising myself onto my elbows and leaning over his lap. He gathers my hair and holds it back off my face as I lean down and take the straw, sniffing quickly, hating myself inside. I roll onto my back and pinch my nose, squeezing my eyes shut, sniffing again and once more until I’m breathing clear.

He moves the mirror to the nightstand and shifts back down under the sheets, pulling me tight to his body. He loves to get spun and lay in bed with me. It’s kind of a sick scene. He particularly likes to fuck after we do coke and I figure it won’t be long before he’s pushing up against me, moaning, and touching me.

I feel his hand brush my thigh under the sheets, just as I suspected. He doesn’t waste much time, licking at my neck, sucking on my skin. I can tell where this is going, and fast. His fingers slide from my knee to my hip, reaching between my legs as I moan softly against his shoulder.

“Tell me what you want me to do to you,” he murmurs, his soft breath tickling my ear, his fingers leaving goose bumps in their wake. “I wanna hear you say it.”

My mind stops in its tracks, slightly bewildered at his suggestion.

“What?” I respond nervously, just to make sure I heard him correctly. My voice echos in my head from all the coke pulsing through my veins.

“Tell me…what you want me…to do…to you,” he repeats, punctuating each pause with a hard nibble at my neck.

That nervous feeling rises up in me again, realizing that I did hear him correctly. I’m used to [_him _]taking control, him putting his hands where he wants them, him bending me over and fucking me ‘til I can’t see straight, him telling me what to do. And I fucking love that. I’ve never been one to take over, or even really talk during sex, and now he wants [_me _]to direct the whole thing? God, what the fuck am I supposed to say? How am I supposed to make it sound sexy? What if I sound stupid? What if he laughs at me? What if—

“Leala.”

His deep voice interrupts my thoughts and jerks me back to the situation at hand. His mouth is pressed right against my lips, waiting. Waiting for me to tell him what to do. I suck in a breath and close my eyes, tensing my body, and I feel his arms tighten around my waist, almost forcefully.

“Tell me,” he orders again and his voice has a finality to it that sets my body on fire.

“I-I don’t know what to say. I like everything you do, I just—”

“Tell me where to put my hands,” he interrupts harshly. “Where do you want my hands, Leala?”

I can feel his eyes crawling all over my face and it’s hard to keep my legs from shaking. I try to gently guide him towards the wetness between my thighs, but he stops me, keeping his grip firmly planted on my hips.

“No,” he says, looking at me intently. “You have to [_tell _]me.”

God, I want his fingers all over my body, particularly on the sensitive spot that’s growing more and more damp with his every word. He cocks an eyebrow at me, a smirk creeping across his face, and I sigh, realizing that he’s still gonna make me talk.

“What is it? Something you want?” he asks teasingly, rubbing the pads of his thumbs over my hips. His smile fades and he bites his bottom lip, but his expression is still one of amusement as he scans my face with his eyes. It doesn’t help that those eyes are crystal blue, a shade that shouldn’t exist on the human body, a shade I immediately crave, a shade that makes my heart beat a little bit faster. I want to steal it, paint it, throw it into every room I ever decorate. It’s the most perfect blue I’ve ever seen. 

“You want me to play with that pussy?” he mutters against my lips, allowing me to move his fingers to the top of my thighs, but stopping right there. “You better tell me then.”

I groan in response but I want him so fucking bad right now that I’m really not beginning to care about sounding stupid. I want his fingers working me, sliding over my clit, gliding in and out of me, fucking me. My heart skips a beat and I take in another deep breath, letting it out slowly and shakily before my mouth finally opens.

“Lex, please,” I whisper as his finger traces a circle around my navel, stalling until he hears me say what I want, keeping those blue eyes fixed on me the whole time. “God, touch my pussy. Put your fingers inside me right now.” The last words comes out barely above a whisper, the heat rising to my face and pinkening my cheeks as I say it.

“See how fucking hot this makes you? You telling me what to do to you,” he says as he slowly probes one slender finger into my entrance, working it in and out a few times before adding a second. I whimper and buck my hips against his hand, my pulse quickening and my skin starting to tingle from the drugs. He makes me horny, but the drugs make me anxious, and I’m reaching for him, stroking him quick and swift in my hand, trying to keep things moving.

His mouth moves passionately over mine, urging my lips apart. He kisses me like he’s giving me every kiss he wishes he could have given me in the past, and every kiss he’ll wish he could give me in the future. It’s a kiss to level mountains and shake stars from the sky. It’s a kiss to make angels faint and demons weep…a passionate, demanding, soul-searing kiss that nearly knocks the earth off its axis. 

Or at least that’s how I feel about it. Until you’ve got your system full of cocaine, you don’t know what kissing is. It goes on from phase to phase, and you never get tired. You’re on fourth speed all the time, and the engine purrs like a kitten, a big white kitten with the stars in its whiskers.

“You like that?” he says, pulling away to whisper it against my lips. “You like how my fingers feel inside you?” 

I shiver and my knees nearly give out as his thumb finds my clit, pressing lightly against it and then rubbing in a painfully slow circle, his teeth nipping along my collarbone as his breath comes out in warm sighs against my neck. We’re both breathing hard now, pulses racing and eyes dilating from the stimulant in our blood, our bodies humming with satisfaction paired with lust as we touch each other. My skin is hot and prickly, like ants are crawling all over me. Not biting me, just the sensation that something is constantly racing across my skin.

We both get turned on faster than we usually do as our sex drives kick in, right on time with the buzz of getting high. It seems like within seconds his penis is thick and solid, precum already leaking, and my pussy is drenching his fingers as he works me.

“God, you’re so fucking wet,” he whispers against my neck.

I can feel his dick pressing against me, his fingers still sliding in and out. My eyes are closed together tightly, the pleasure jolting through my veins like white-hot sparks and I’m so ready for him to fuck me, so ready for his dick to work me like I know he can.

I reach to wrap my hands around the back of his neck, tugging his head towards my face until my lips are level with his. He looks at me slightly amused, his mouth upturned into half a smirk, and the words leave my mouth before I even have time to think about them.

“I want you to fuck me. I want to feel that big dick inside of my pussy, pounding me until I can’t walk straight.” My voice comes out hot against his lips, panting in anticipation of what he’s about to do to me.

His eyes go wide, shocked at my blunt candor considering he was practically forcing me to tell him what to do minutes earlier. He lets out a low moan, gripping the base of his dick with one hand and bracing me with the other around my waist. I instantly feel the velvety tip rubbing against my entrance and he slides it in just a little, teasing me with the head, knowing damn well how badly I want him to just pound the hell out of me.

“You want my dick? You want it deep in that pussy? Tell me again,” he orders, continuing to rub the tip around my entrance, gently probing. Teasing, teasing, teasing…

“I said I want you to fuck me,” I grit out. I’m horny and tweaking, clenching my jaw, dragging my fingers along his arms, making restless fists with my hands and then spreading them wide on his chest. I’m anxious. I just want to feel him inside of me, I want the friction and the stretch and every sensation that he gives me. 

God, he’s like a fucking drug. And I can never get enough.

Suddenly, he lifts up, pulling the covers off with him. He positions my body so that I’m on all fours and completely exposed to him, my heart pounding so hard that I’m sure it’s going to break through my ribcage.

“You ready for this?” he asks, rubbing his dick along my pussy lips and I hum my approval, arching my back. He pushes in from behind, long and slow in one stroke. He slides in quickly and easily in one fluid motion, the length of him filling me to the brim. I swear to God he’s in my stomach.

“Fuck,” he pants, holding my hips in place so he can savor it for a moment. He begins to thrust slowly and I squirm from the deepness of his penetration, struggling to adjust to his size. “Where do you think you’re going?” he asks, gripping my hips more firmly as I try to ease the pressure. “Oh no, you’re gettin’ all of me.”

He thrusts hard and I yelp, listening to him chuckle behind me. I pant and grit through the next few thrusts but the pain is fleeting and in a moment I’m grinding my hips back against him. I start rocking slowly, but I build up quick as the feeling takes over me, melting into euphoria mixed with adrenaline, and I can’t…

I just can’t get enough.

“You like that?” he asks cockily and I moan in response, shivering as he hits that spot deep inside me. “You like the way I fuck you?”

His hand leaves my hip and I hear the slap before I really feel it. He does it again and I moan, a thrill shooting through my veins.

“You like the way I work that pussy?”

He’s moving faster now, and I’m moaning deep with each pounding thrust.

“I asked you if you liked it.”

Smack!

“Yes! I love it!” I cry, dropping down and pressing my face against the pillow, arching my back to feel his balls slap against my clit. The force of his hips drive him deeper and deeper inside me, touching all the places that drive me crazy.

“I bet you do.” Smack! “This pussy belongs to me,” he breathes as his fingers dig into my hips, his nails biting my flesh. “Do you understand me? You’re mine.”

He’s pounding out a rhythm that is so frantic and needy that I can do nothing but take it. Each plunge rips a guttural moan from my throat, my breath coming in short pants, trying to hang on to my fucking sanity. We’re both grunting and groaning, tweaking and…

Damn, sex is never better than when we’re on coke.

“Say my name,” he growls, bringing me back against his dick harshly, his words nearly inaudible, the pleasure of him slamming into me over and over again drowning out all of my other senses. His dick feels so fucking good, the sheer friction nearly enough to send me over the edge into a mind-blowing orgasm.

I don’t say his name right away because the fire is building in my stomach and my mind is on nothing but his cock. His fingers wrap in my hair and he pulls my head back forcefully, his lips right next to my ear.

“I said, say my fucking name.

He slams back into me until I’m moaning his name, [_screaming _]his name, and he moves deeper and deeper, hitting that spot inside me that could only barely be reached. He plunges as far as he can go, grunting and cursing and gripping my waist brutally. We’re sweaty and sticky from the sex and the drugs, our body temperatures high, our pulses racing. I almost feel like I could have a heart attack, and I can sense my heartbeat practically pounding through my chest.

He knows what I want—what I need—to get there. He still somehow manages to fuck the shit out of me while bringing one hand underneath my body, his finger quickly finding my clit and rubbing furiously. I twist my head to look back at him and he stares at me with bloodshot eyes, pupils dilated, jaw locked tight, grinding his teeth.

“Don’t you dare cum until I say you can.”

His voice is strained and throaty and he’s the sexiest fucking thing I’ve ever seen. But it’s too late. He sends my body into violent tremors, his name tearing from deep within my throat, the orgasm blazing through me like fire. It hits me like a bus and I cum violently, without warning, arching my back and releasing my head. I feel lightheaded and dizzy, completely swept away in an instant, and my body goes nearly limp.

I feel him start to twitch inside of me and his pace briefly quickens, his movements erratic and unpredictable as he chases his own orgasm. His breath pants against my skin, his hands gripping my ass.

“Leala…tell…me…” he grits out and I know what he wants, I know my words will send him over the edge. and I don’t deny him.

I pull my bottom lip between my teeth before moaning against the pillow, “I want you to cum in my pussy, baby.”

His pace becomes frantic and with one last thrust, hard enough to rattle my teeth, I feel him spill inside me and my body tingles at the warm sensation. He collapses against my back, his heart pounding against my spine. Expletives erupt from his mouth and his dick twitches violently, his breath ragged and deep as his movements finally stop. He crashes hard, pulling off of me and collapsing onto the mattress.

I try to catch my breath. Am I dead? I can barely breathe. My body still hums from the drugs but I feel completely used up, my brain slowly turning in my head. I feel like I’m tumbling head over feet as the room spins around me.

I open my eyes and see Lex’s face right in front of mine, cheek pressed into the pillow, mouth agape, eyes looking at me with concern. The crystal blueness of his gaze makes me feel like I’m being pulled into a lake of frozen emotions. He touches my face slowly, still gasping for air himself, and my skin is prickly underneath his fingers, my senses still heightened from the high I’m riding.

“You alright?” he whispers.

I can tell his buzz has almost worn off. I just swallow hard, and nod. It was almost too much. It’s [_always _]almost too much. But as much as it kills me, I want more. I want more of him, just like I want more of the drugs. Because once…once just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Once is never enough.

3

“Well, well, well. Mary Jane, Snow White, and the seven addicts. How appropriate,” I scoff as I shuffle out of the bedroom late that afternoon. Entering the living room, I see the couches filled with the usual suspects, the coffee table littered with blades and straws, rolling papers and plastic baggies.

Lex, Remy, Kyle, Fabian, Bruce, Tyson, and Seth. Every last one of them hopped up and blazed out of their minds. This is when I don’t like to stay at the house. I refuse to stay. I snatch my paper bag off of the table and drop the cash in his lap before I head straight for the door.

“You leaving?” It’s Lex calling out to me, head straight back and sunken into the couch. His eyes cut over sideways, following me to the door.

“No reason to stay here,” I shrug, irritated. Sometimes he just fucking [_aggravates _]me. One minute we’re in bed together and the next he’s totally oblivious to me, like I’m just another junkie coming through his house.

“You can come suck my dick.” It’s Bruce this time, and all of the guys giggle. I throw a glance at Lex, but he’s too busy laughing to even notice. Everyone gets the fucking ganoobies about immature shit like that, and I can’t take it.

“Maybe if you could get it up,” I say matter-of-factly and a chorus of OOOHHHHH fills the room. Of course they’re still giggling like twelve-year-old girls.

I just walk out the door. I almost make it down the street when my cell phone rings.

“What?”

“Why’d you leave like that?” His voice is soft, but I can still hear all of the guys chuckling in the background. I just sigh.

“Cause I don’t wanna sit around in the middle of a fucking tug-circle with you and six other burnouts. Not really on the agenda for today. And you know I have to go to work soon.”

“Well fuck you then,” he responds teasingly. “Are you at least going to Remy’s tonight?”

“You know I don’t like going to Remy’s, Lex. It’s a fucking filthy whore house.”

“What is your problem? You know you’ll be good as long as you roll with me. Nobody’s gonna fuck with you.” He’s raising his voice at me now. He always gets mad when I don’t wanna go party with him. I know parties are where he builds up clientele, networking and sizing up competitors, setting up deals. “Tell me you’re gonna come tonight.”

I sigh, pressing my palm to my forehead before letting it fall back at my side, my body slumping in defeat. I can’t say no to him sometimes. “I’m gonna come tonight.”

Yeah, you are.”

I hear the smile in his voice and I roll my eyes. With Lex, if it’s not about drugs, it’s about sex. But I know that’s just a front. He talks a big game, but he doesn’t like sleeping alone, whether he’ll admit it or not. I know him better than that. He always wants me to stay.

“I’ll see you tonight.” And I hang up before he can respond.

I start wiping down the tables about twenty minutes before we’re scheduled to close. I’m a little anxious to get out of here, even though I’m not looking forward to Remy’s party tonight. I can say I hate my job, but it’s not too bad. I could think of worse things to do than waiting tables, and the people who come in are usually friendly, a lot of locals and regulars because it’s such a small restaurant. It also pays the few bills that I have, and keeps me from going coke broke.

I work during the weekends while Lex is hustling, mostly to keep my mind occupied so I don’t go into fits worrying about him running the streets. And because I need the money, but I already explained that. Friday nights I close the restaurant though, which makes me even more restless to get out of here. Closing nights are always the longest.

The front door opens with the chime of the bells right as I glance at the clock on the wall. Ten minutes. Are these people serious?

“We’re closing up…” My sentence fades as I turn over my shoulder and see Tony with some of his boys. Great.

“Sign outside says you don’t close for ten minutes, baby. So how bout some service?”

They pull two tables together, shuffling the chairs, making a mess of what I had just straightened up. Fucking assholes.

Tony sits at the head of the table, slumping down in his chair, knees spread wide. “How’s Lex? Hangin’ in there since almost all of his dope business is gone?” He sneers up at me, and I roll my eyes, biting the inside of my cheek.

“Tony, don’t come in here and start talking about personal stuff,” I say, lowering my voice. “This is my job.”

“Oh, I thought your job was turnin’ tricks. You know, to help your man out, gettin’ him a little paper on the side.” He eyes me up and down, raising a hand to stroke the back of my leg. I cringe as he touches me and I hear a few distant snickers from his boys at the table.

“Lex has plenty of money.” I toss the words as I turn to leave, slapping his hand away, but he reaches out to grab the back of my shirt, fisting it in his hand.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, baby…where you runnin’ off to? Have a seat, stay a while.” He pulls up a chair and gestures down to it with his hollow dark eyes. His gaze is empty and frozen and it seems to reach down into my soul, right through my very being, destroying all traces of hope. And I know I don’t have a choice. One false move and I’m fucked. Not only for me, but for Lex too.

I sit, turning my body away from him, but he grabs the leg of my chair, pulling it a little closer. He slowly runs a hand up my thigh as he grinds his words out against my ear, his breath hot on my neck.

“See, that’s not what I heard. I heard he’s allll bent outta shape from me swiping half of his customers. There’s even talk about him tryin’ to pay me back for it, tryin’ to keep me high and dry out of the coke game. But you know what’s gonna happen if he tries to fuck with me and my business, right?” He reaches up to hold my chin with his fingers, but I jerk my head away. He snaps, “I’m gonna fucking [_kill _]his ass. [_That’s _]what’s gonna happen!” He slaps the table with an open palm and I flinch.

He inches in close to me again, and I sink back away from him, curling farther into myself as he speaks. But he reaches for the seat of my chair, right between my legs, sliding it even closer, his thumb reaching up and brushing me against the crotch of my shorts…slowly, deliberately. I feel disgusting as he touches me, ashamed that he has so much control. But I know deep in my gut that I can’t stop him. Tony isn’t the kinda guy that anyone should fuck with, especially not me.

“You don’t wanna see your little boyfriend dead in the gutter, now do you, baby?”

My stomach turns when he uses the affectionate term, his nose pressed against my cheek, but I know he’s saying it merely to harass me.

“You’re fucking sick.” I grimace as I spit the words in his face.

He rips his hand from between my legs and snatches my face around to his, holding me by the jaw, his fingers pushing my cheeks against my teeth, bruising the flesh.

“What the fuck did you say to me, bitch? Do you wanna find your little cocksucking boyfriend in the ditch with his throat cut? Huh!? Tell me, you fucking slut!

He grips my face harder, although I don’t see how that’s humanly possible, and I let out a small whimper as I slowly shake my head, swallowing hard, holding my breath.

He grabs me at my upper arm, smirking when I gasp a little. He’s still holding my face as he pulls it close to his, the bill of his hat pressing into my forehead. His breath is hot on my face, the smell of cigarettes and beer filling my nostrils as he whispers tight in his throat.

“Then you just fucking tell him Tony came by with a few words of warning for his pussy ass,” he hisses, making sure I hear every word, his dark eyes locked with mine. “Tell that motherfucker to stay [_out _]of my coke deals.”

4

“So High” by Wiz Khalifa is playing loud in the house when I walk in the door. How fucking appropriate.

I’m so tired from work, but I smile when our eyes meet across Remy’s crowded living room, and he throws his head a little in a come here gesture. I stroll up to him slowly and he softens his eyes at me, licking his lips a little.

“I was wondering if you were gonna show.”

“I, uh…just had some people come in late at work. Had to stay.” I don’t want to get into the details of Tony’s visit with him, not now.

He smiles down at me and I run my hands inside the front pocket of his hooded pullover to tug him closer, affectionately rubbing my nose to his cheek. But my face instantly goes straight when I feel the syringes against my fingers. I count them in my hands—1, 2, 3, 4—and I look up at him, swallowing hard.

“You’re gonna take four spikes tonight?”

“They’re for both of us.”

“You know I don’t like to mainline.”

And it’s true. I’d only shot up one time ever, and I hated it. It scares me, and I feel like a [_real _]junkie when I do it. I guess smoking and taking it in the nose doesn’t seem that hardcore to me anymore, but when I need it directly in my veins…I don’t know, it’s almost like a slap in the face. I never wanted to be clean more than I did the moment I’d first shot up.

“I know, I just didn’t wanna fuck with powder tonight.” He shrugs like it’s no big deal.

“So just ‘fuck me’ then, huh?” I pull my hands out of his hoodie when I say it.

“Look, if you wanna be straight tonight, fine. I brought the guns, if you don’t wanna shoot ‘em then whatever. Good luck getting high tonight with all these stingy motherfuckers around though. You’re only gonna get a hit if you suck a dick in this place.”

And I know he’s right. “Fine…fine.”

He smirks at me a little. “Don’t worry. I’ll hold your hand, little girl.”

“Fuck you.”

He pulls me into the bathroom and closes the door. It’s the smallest fucking bathroom I’ve ever been in. I pull myself up onto the counter next to the sink, hugging one knee to my chest. And I wait. My heart is already racing.

He pulls the spikes out of his hoodie and sets them on the counter before pulling the fabric over his head in one swift motion, revealing a thin white t-shirt underneath. He picks up one syringe and uncaps it, cutting his eyes over to me with a smirk before lowering his voice a bit.

“Wanna get high?”

And I laugh a little, rolling my eyes. I take the syringe with a trembling hand as he passes it to me, hating myself more and more every second. I feel his strong grip smooth up my arm before closing above my elbow like a tourniquet.

“Oww, you’re hurting me.”

He loosens his grip on my arm when I say it, and I pump my hand slowly, open-close, open-close, waiting for a vein to surface, some part of me hoping that I can’t find one.

“There he is…” His voice is soft as he watches the vein appear under my skin and poke up a little. “Give him what he wants…”

I take a deep breath and exhale, my hand shaking as I point the needle towards my arm. I pop the skin, backtracking a little to make sure I’m in before I nod to him, the signal to let go. I take the plunge as his hands fall away from my arm and I close my eyes, removing the needle and leaning back against the mirror.

I take a few deep breaths as my head falls to the side, my eyes still closed. I feel his lips on my neck, his breath hot against my ear.

“That’s my girl…”

He shoots up while my high kicks in, not even needing assistance to get a vein, and he comes to stand between my knees when he finishes, smoothing his hands up my thighs. He places his grip to my ribcage and leans me forward. My wrists rest on his shoulders and my cheek falls to the top of his head, the weight of me slumped over him, breathing heavy as I wait for the stimulant to hit my system.

I start to get warm and my skin tingles a bit. A moan bubbles up in my throat as his lips press to my shoulder and his hands rub slow circles on my thighs. Coke always makes us horny. When my pulse is high and my body is humming, I want him to touch me so badly that I’ll all but beg him. And when he does, I just want more.

I feel my pulse quicken and my body flush warm. I grab Lex’s face and press my mouth against his, our tongues slipping lazily against each other as his large hands grope my breasts through my shirt. When we kiss it’s like the world falls away. It’s slow and soft, comforting in ways that words would never be. His lips are chapped and my skin is tingling but I don’t care because all I can focus on is the warmth that’s quickly spreading through my body.

All I can focus on is him. On the soft moan he makes, on the intoxicating feeling of diving head first into an erupting volcano and most of all, the way he tastes like cotton candy and midnights under turning galaxies. The kiss is long and his mouth is hot and my heart feel like it’s exploding.

His hands slide down, gripping me under my knees and pulling my hips to the edge of the counter. My mouth is still furious on his, my hands running underneath his t-shirt to smooth over his hot skin. One of his hands grips the back of my head while the other flicks open the button of my shorts and slides the zipper down. 

God, why does coke make me so fucking horny?

His fingers slip inside my shorts to press against me, probing me softly, but my brain is swelling in my skull. The sensation of him touching me is too much, and I’m lost in it…

I can’t get out..I can’t escape…I’m losing control.

I push back on his shoulders, eyes wide in fear, panting. “Stop…Lex. Stop!

I’m scratching at my legs. They’re on fire and I pull them into my chest and lean back against the mirror. My brain is spinning.

I’ve been in this bathroom for hours. I can’t get out.

I curl tighter into myself and he’s reaching for me, but his hands burn, his hands are on fire and he can’t touch me.

He can’t touch me…

“Stop!” I’m losing control, this is taking over me.

Fire. Hot. Burning.

I’m sweating, and he can’t fucking touch me.

I can’t get out…I can’t get out…I’m going to die in here…

I’m pulling on my clothes and curling tighter into myself, and my thoughts are trapped in a hall of mirrors. I hear Lex’s voice somewhere in the distance as I close my eyes, and oh my God, I’m dying.

I’m going to die…

“Hey! Hey, stay with me, Leala. You’re having a bad trip, okay? Dammit, look at me!”

I feel his hands grip my upper arms, shaking me suddenly. I squeeze my eyes tight and turn my face from him in panic. But I’m trapped. I’m trapped here forever.

“You’re gonna be fine. In just a minute everything will be over. Stay with me.”

I’m panting and squirming, trapped. It’s so hot.

Trapped. Forever.

Loud pounding on the door echoes in my head and I push my forehead against my knees, curling tight into my body. 

“Hold on a fucking minute!” I hear Lex’s voice, quick and panicked, and I’m panting in anxiety.

It’s so fucking hot in here…I’ve been in here too long…

He shuffles with the syringes, finally shoving them into his pocket and he snatches his hoodie from the bathroom floor, pulling it over his head desperately, a low and hushed string of curses falling from his lips. “This is just fucking great…” And there’s the pounding on the door again, like gun shots. It makes me tremble. “I SAID GIVE ME A FUCKING MINUTE!”

Everything is so loud.

I feel his arms around me as he lifts me off the counter. “We’re going outside, okay? We’re going outside and you’re gonna be fine in just a minute.” I’m squirming a bit in his strong arms but he holds me tight. “Just trust me, okay?”

I put my face in his shoulder, panting against the thick fabric there, fisting it in my hands at his chest, pushing against him in anxiety. He brushes past the guy in the hallway who was banging incessantly on the door.

“Bout fuckin’ time,” the guy mumbles and Lex turns abruptly to face him, knocking my back against the hallway wall. I grunt against his shoulder.

“Hey, fuck you, you piece of shit. I’ll beat your fucking ass. Yeah that’s right, run into the bathroom. Motherfucker.” He scolds the guy until he disappears into the bathroom before turning and hurrying faster down the hall when he hears me whine into his shoulder.

He carries me out the front door and out to the street where he parked his truck, shifting my weight in his arms to let the tailgate down, and then slowly sitting me down. I immediately pull my knees to my chest, but it’s not as hot anymore, and my mind is clearing gradually.

He takes my face in his hands. “You alright? Stay with me, okay? Look at me…” And he slowly pushes my hair back off of my face, which is still a little sweaty from my episode in the bathroom. “That was a pretty fucked up trip, huh?”

I still can’t speak and my eyes are only half open, but I drop my heels off the end of the tailgate and swing my legs a little, steadily coming down.

“You wanna go home?” he asks softly.

I finally find my voice. “But we just got here, right?” And he laughs at my slight lack of time orientation.

“I don’t give a fuck. It’s crowded in there, and I know you don’t like being here. That’s probably why you tripped in the bathroom like that, from anxiety and shit.”

I just shrug. “I know you need to run deals tonight. That’s why you come to this shooting gallery in the first place.”

He cocks his head sideways at me. “Now what kinda fucked up guy would I be, making you stay here?”

And I just smile at him. This is the side of him that I love. This is the Lex who holds me in bed, and lets me wash his back in the shower, and sticks up for me when people fuck with me. He wants to take care of me, and sometimes I let him. He’s been taking care of me for years. He likes to feel like I need him in every way, not just because he supplies for my habit. It’s hard to imagine what he would do if I got clean and didn’t need him anymore.

But for some reason I think there’s something about him that I’ll always need. Addict or not.

5

I’m not much on party holidays. The idea of going out and getting hammered for the sheer fact that it’s a certain day of the year and everyone [_else _]is getting trashed, was always slightly foreign to me.

Until I started living in Lex’s world, where partying is practically a sport and in our city, Labor Day Weekend is like the fucking Super Bowl. If it were up to me, I would be snuggled safely in his bedroom, getting some much needed stress relief, but he had other plans.

“Leala, fuck, I need to get wasted,” he had said, running a hand over his face, his tired eyes pleading with me, and I couldn’t deny him anything.

But right about now, as the techno dance music blares from the speakers and I’m being crushed by the drunken horde, I really wish I might have considered it. The place is packed to capacity and I’m waiting for him to make his way back to me from the bar. I briefly wonder if I should have let him go by himself because three solid hours of mixed drinks, jello shooters, and beer have clearly started taking their toll. And while I find him adorable when he’s drunk, I wouldn’t find it adorable if his drunk ass wiped out on his way to get me another beer because I’m “not drinking enough.” Ugh.

I spot him in the crowd, two beer bottles in his hands, his messy dark hair covered in a blue ball cap. His hair’s always reminded me of fallen leaves, browned and sleek with the first rain of autumn, almost black in the shadows. I lick my lips, watching him maneuver the best he can through the mass of bodies, stopping once to talk to some guy he knows. He throws his head back, laughing before waving the best he can with two bottles in his hands, and he moves towards me again.

He spots me, a slow goofy grin pulling at his lips. I feel my stomach flip. He never ceases to turn me on and the urge only gets stronger when he sidles up to me, grinning hazily as he hands me my beer. I take it from him and he dips his head, his lips sliding dryly along my neck. He sucks softly, his tongue reaching out to dot my warm skin.

“Stop it,” I giggle, tugging back when he sucks a little too hard.

He chuckles down at me, leaning in to kiss me sloppily, his tongue sliding against mine. I touch his cheek to slow the kiss down, holding his mouth on mine so I can feel every place where our lips touch and every place where they pull away. I savor the air we share in the second afterwards and the slip of his nose across mine. 

Then he smiles.

My God, it’s so beautiful when this boy smiles. Butterflies seem to escape from the pit of his stomach and the sun somehow topples down from the sky and makes a home right there on his lips. He has the kind of smile that makes you feel happy to be alive and just that little bit more human. It’s a smile that makes the world stop around you. A smile that brings back a million memories in a split second.

I was warned about the drugs people sell on the streets, and the ones they could slip into my drink, and the ones that might become appealing to my eyes. However, they never prepared me for the one that comes with a smile.

HEY, LEX!” a loud, obnoxious voice suddenly yells from behind us and I look over my shoulder to see Fabian on the terrace, leaning drunkenly over the side.

HEY, MOTHERFUCKER!” Lex yells back, raising his arms to cup his hands around his mouth, attempting to help carry his voice but all he really succeeds in doing is spilling some of his beer over his shoulder. He scowls drunkenly, turning around to survey the puddle behind him. “Goddammit,” he mutters before turning back, but Fabian’s already gone.

He just looks at me and shrugs, tilting his head back and swigging the rest of his beer, his tanned skin stretching tight over the long column of his neck, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallows. 

Fuck, is it hot in here?

“Hey Lex,” I say and he pulls the Heineken bottle from his lips, tipping his head down towards me. He swallows again, looking at me intently, licking at his full bottom lip, and I know he isn’t trying to purposely turn me on, but it’s still fucking sexy. “How much longer do you wanna stay?”

His brow furrows. “You wanna leave already?” He looks slightly disappointed but I’m sure what I have in mind he’ll like much more than hanging out in some crowded bar. I know he has deals and shit to run tonight, but whatever. This is more important.

I look up at him from under my eyelashes, trailing a finger down the middle of his chest. He watches glassily as I tap at his belt buckle.

“You wanna fuck me, baby?” he slurs, grinning knowingly, his eyes meeting mine.

I almost blush at his candor. “Lex!” I squeal softly, looking around to see if anyone heard him but no one is even paying attention to us. The music is as loud as thunder and the neon lights flash like police sirens.

“What?” he asks, tugging my body closer to his. “You want something from me, all you gotta do is ask.” He dips his head, nuzzling my neck. “You know that.”

I bite my lip, pressing my hip against his crotch and I feel his hum of approval vibrate against my skin. His hands move to settle on my hips and that’s when he realizes he’s still holding his beer. He frowns as he brings the bottle to his lips, chugging what’s left and I stare at him, watching his mouth suck the brown liquid from the bottle, his head bobbing slightly as he swallows.

Damn, how do I get turned on just from [_looking _]at him?

He brings the now empty Heineken from his mouth as he sets it on the table behind me, pulling my hips more firmly against his. I can feel him stirring beneath his jeans and I [_want _]him. God, I want him so bad. My belly is coiling at the thought of what he’s gonna do to me when we get back to his house.

“Come on, lets get outta here,” I say, nipping his bottom lip.

“Why wait?”

I look up at him, confused. What? He’s certainly not suggesting—

“We can do it right here.”

Here?” I whisper heatedly, looking around at the drunken crowd. “Lex, no!”

He pouts. “Come on,” he says softly, pressing his crotch harder into my hip, letting me feel him. “We can just slip into the bathroom…” He dips his head, kissing up the column of my neck and my head lolls to the side, “And take care of this right now…‘cause you need it, don’t you?”

I gasp at the lowness of his voice, the suggestion and the pure heat in his words slicking my panties and causing my fingers to curl around his biceps. He knows me too fucking well.

“Lex,” I sigh as his hands settle on my ass, his hips softly grinding into me. He nuzzles my neck with delicate kisses, so faint they’re like whispers. I urge myself to push away, but I can’t, my limp body beginning to tremble uncontrollably. “I don’t have sex in public bathrooms. I’m not that girl.”

He pulls back, looking down at me, his eyes dancing mischievously. “You wanna pretend to be?”

My mouth falls open and I can’t help but laugh at his naughtiness. Drinking always turns him into a kinky bastard and I usually enjoy his antics, but I’m also usually behind closed doors. This is different. This is slightly dangerous. This is seriously turning me on.

Lex,” I protest softly but he’s already pulling back from me, taking my hand and tugging me through the crowd.

I bite my lip as I follow, gripping him tightly so we don’t get separated. I’m slightly confused as we go around the left side of the bar and I realize he’s taking me to the men’s room, because the women’s is located on the right.

“Lex!” I exclaim louder as we walk down the hallway, pausing as he pushes the door open, peeking inside. “I can’t go in the fucking men’s room!”

“The women’s always has a line,” he says simply, opening the door all the way and starting to tug me inside. But then he stops. “Unless you want more of an audience.” He smirks at me and I feel my cheeks grow hot, shaking my head as he pulls me inside.

The bathroom is empty, thankfully. I take in the sinks and the line of urinals along the wall, a group of stalls lining the other. I’m about to tell him what a horrible idea this is but his hands are suddenly grabbing my face and his lips are crushing against mine. Stars explode behind my eyes. The kiss is so frantic it’s almost painful, but it’s perfect, and breathtaking. He pulls back and tugs my bottom lip with his teeth, rubbing my nose with his before going back in.

He tastes so fucking good, his natural sweetness mixing with the bitterness of the alcohol, giving me a heady intoxicated feeling. He stumbles backward and I follow, straining to keep my lips on his. He grins against my mouth as he backs into a stall, tugging me inside after him and locking the door.

He’s pressing my back against the door now, kissing me slow and deliberate, breathing into my mouth. It’s not innocent, like a tease. but hot, fiery, passionate, and demanding. I want to pull away before I lose myself in it all but I can’t seem to. I rest my hands on his lower back and he’s leaning into me, one hand bracing against the stall door, the other hand holding my face.

I look at him wide eyed for a second as he grinds into me, one of his legs sliding between mine, his thigh pressing snugly against my center. His lips ravage my neck and I whimper softly, smoothing my hands over his broad shoulders and down his muscular arms. He drags his mouth down the low neckline of my shirt and I gasp, because he’s suddenly lifting my legs off the floor and crushing his body against mine.

Fuck,” I can’t help but whimper. My face is in his neck and I’m gripping his shoulders tight.

“You wanna fuck? Is that what you said?” He’s teasing me, and he laughs a bit, but my legs quiver when he says the word [_fuck _]right against my ear.

“That’s not what I said.” I choke out the words, my hands moving up and scooping into his hair. I scoff when his cap gets in the way, tipping it backwards off his head and he chuckles at my impatience. He’s grinding against me, his dick hard underneath the denim of his jeans and I want him right fucking now. I don’t care where we are or who hears us. I need him inside me. Now.

“You gonna let me do it, Leala?” he asks, his voice low and gravely, his lips brushing my neck as he speaks. “You gonna let me put it in you?”

I moan low at his words, my fingernails digging into his back. His hands are moving from my hips, one arm supporting me while his other snakes between my legs and up my skirt. He strokes me over my panties and we both moan softly, his forehead falling to my shoulder.

“You’re so fucking wet.” He brings his face to mine, kissing me before smirking down at me, still working me with those damn fingers, those amazing, deliciously torturous. and talented fingers of his. “This turns you on, doesn’t it? Thinking about getting this dick right here in the bathroom.” He chuckles, that low throaty sound that has me pressing my hips into his hand, begging for it.

His fingers slip under my panties, stroking my slick folds before dipping in. I fist his jacket in my hands and let my head fall back against the stall door.

“Lex,” I pant breathlessly as he nibbles at my neck. His fingers press into me and curve, stroking me softly. I feel my legs tremble. “Please…”

“Please what?” he mutters against my skin, his fingers working in and out slowly, watching my face twist in pleasure. “Tell me what you want.” His thumb presses hard against my clit. “Tell me what you need.”

I let out a quiet sob, biting my lip as he curves his fingers again, pressing into that spot that makes my entire fucking body tremble. I’m pawing at his shoulders, whining and moaning, one of my legs wrapping around his waist.

One of my hands wander down, trying desperately to undo his belt and get this over with, whimpering in frustration. He smiles at me, his hand leaving me to help. I whine into his shoulder, my hips moving restlessly.

“Aw, you need it, don’t you?” he teases as I hear his zipper go down and his pants fall to his ankles. “You need this big dick inside you, workin’ your shit, stretching you out?”

“God, you’re so dirty,” I moan against him, my arms wrapping around his shoulders as he tugs my panties down.

“And you love it,” he says, smiling as he slips them into his jacket pocket.

“You’re such a cocky bastard.” I giggle, but it turns into another gasp as I feel him pressing intimately against me.

“Yeah, but you love this cock, don’t you?”

My only response is to whimper as he slides the tip against my entrance. Then I bite my lip as he teases my clit with the smoothness of the head. He slips back down to slightly press into me, slipping the tip in before pulling back out and moving to tease my nub again.

“Lex!” I groan, my head falling back against the door with a thump as he pierces me again, penetrating a little deeper this time before pulling out and pressing against my clit.

“What’s wrong?” he questions innocently, his eyes hazy. He’s such a fucking tease when he’s wasted.

“Doooo iiiit,” I whine, my legs tightening around his waist, trying to pull him closer.

He chuckles softly. “Do what?” he asks, his lips smoothing along my collarbone, dipping his dick in just a little farther this time before pulling out again. “You know I like it when you tell me what to do.”

“Fuck, Lex!” I practically sob, my head thrashing. “Jesus Christ, just fuck me already!”

He laughs and shoves his entire length into me without another word. He holds it deep inside me, stretching me out completely, letting me feel every single inch of him. I’m gasping and panting and he pulls his face back, breathing against my lips, his nose nuzzling mine.

“That’s what you want, isn’t it?” he whispers lowly and his voice is sex. Sex with a California accent. And I [_need _]it. I’m fucking ravenous for it.

“Come on,” I reply, licking my lips, bringing my arms over my head to grip the top of the stall door. “You’re talking an awful lot. I think its time you fucked me.”

His eyes suddenly bore into mine and his hands roughly grip my hips. He firmly plants his feet as he leans in and nips my bottom lip.

“You better hold the fuck on, little girl.”

He doesn’t even give me a chance to respond before he pulls out and surges back in, hard enough to rattle my teeth. I groan low in my chest as he sets a pounding rhythm, dragging out slow before slamming back in, our bodies smacking together with enough force to bruise.

I’m moaning and whining, knuckles turning white as I grip the stall door hard, using it for leverage. I push my hips back against his, my body begging for release.

“Is this what you wanted?” he grunts out between thrusts. “Me fucking you rough and raw against this stall door?”

“Yes,” I whimper, gasping when he hits that spot inside me that makes me shake.

“There it is.” He grins as his hips speed and he’s driving into it, hitting it hard and deep and I’m crying out with each thrust, not caring who can hear.

“Oh, Lex,” I moan, bringing my arms down to wrap around his shoulders, my body rolling into his the best I can. “Oh God.” My legs are tightening around his waist as my body coils and coils, my muscles straining and pulling, and I’m chasing it, chasing that feeling, chasing that high. When he shifts his hands beneath me, trying to get a better grip to hold me up, he hits me so deep I’m sure I can feel it in my stomach.

He’s talking soft in my ear, coaching me, and my head is swimming and I can’t say a fucking word, just breathe into his neck as he works me faster and faster. I dig my fingertips into his back and bite his shoulder to keep from screaming, and he feels me tighten around him.

“Mmhm…just like that…” He knows he’s got me right there as I’m grabbing fistfuls of his shirt and hugging his body so tight to mine. “Let it go.”

And my body shakes as I burst and release all of the breath in my lungs with a huge sigh and the weight of me goes limp against him. I cry out, my body clamping down on him, my fingers digging into his shoulders as I moan his name over and over again.

“Damn,” he mutters, his face burying in my neck and I can feel his breath coming out in short pants against my skin. “Fuck, I’m gonna cum.”

His words send a shiver down my spine the same way it does every time he says it. I let my head fall back, concentrating on the feeling of him sliding in and out, over and over, soaking up every inch of him.

And he follows me, a guttural groan pulling from his throat. He slams into me hard enough to break my hips and I feel him spill into me. All my muscles finally relax and he slumps against me, his hands moving to support himself the best he can against the door. He whines softly, his face burying in my neck. I dig my hands into his hair, weakly massaging his scalp as I try to stop trembling.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” he breathes as he pulls back to look me in the face and we both burst into laughter.

He allows my legs to slide down. I wobble as I try to stand, my body weak from my orgasm, and he reaches down to pull up his pants and retrieve his hat. He sets it jauntily on his head and grins at me goofily, whether it’s from the alcohol or post coital giddiness I’m not sure.

“Thanks,” he says, pecking my cheek as I shimmy my skirt down to a more appropriate length. “You’re one dirty bitch.” He chuckles playfully and I smack him.

“Can I have my underwear back please?”

He shakes his head at me. “Nope,” he replies, smiling and unlocking the door before slipping past me.

“No?!” I shriek, following him, and he just grins, that stupid little drunk grin. He wiggles his eyebrows at me.

“Come have a drink with me and I’ll think about it.”

“Lex!” I exclaim for the hundredth fucking time tonight, but a gasp escapes my throat before I can say anything else. A guy suddenly steps into the bathroom, looking at the two of us bewildered.

“Sorry, man,” Lex half-apologizes, grabbing my hand and tugging me out of the bathroom.

“Lex!” I whisper again heatedly as he tugs me after him. But before I can say another word he’s turning around, pressing me hard against the wall and kissing me fiercely. It nearly knocks the wind from my lungs and I’m reminded of that kiss in Felix’s apartment, the music so loud I can feel the bass thumping against my back.

“Leala,” he says lowly, after he’s left me breathless and panting and wanting more. I cling to each word that falls from his lips like a spider to a web. “We’re gonna go back in there and have one more drink, and then I’m gonna take you back to my place…” He cups my cheek, brushing his thumb along my bottom lip, “And we’re gonna get high and I’m gonna fuck you until you can’t move.” 

My eyes are wide as he steps back from me. He smiles, and there it is again, that aching pressure in my chest. Love, or a heart attack. Kind of the same thing. He re-situates his hat on his head and licks his lips, causing me to shiver.

“So come have a drink with me.” He turns toward the bar and I’m quick on his heels. One drink. For a night full of drugs and bone crushing, muscle spasming, throat splitting sex…

I can handle that.

6

With Monday comes the hustle. He usually takes the weekends slow, making calls and letting some of his runners handle deals, only making a few hand-to-hand meets himself. But Monday is always hectic.

I’m sitting on the couch while he finishes up his cereal in the kitchen. “Tonight is supposed to be a good night,” he speaks between bites, looking into the living room at me.

“You getting a delivery?” My eyes focus down at the task in front of me, breaking up a marijuana bud onto a paper plate. Lex always likes for me to roll his joints. He says I can roll tighter because I have smaller fingers, but sometimes I just feel like he’s being lazy and doesn’t wanna do it himself. Of course that’s not too terribly shocking.

“Nope. Turf war. Upped the price and squeezed the supply. Gotta go the other route.” He sighs, taking another bite, chewing slowly.

“I thought you got the shit delivered now?” I question him, eyes snapping up to meet his, narrowing a little.

“Depends on the connection, you know that.” He waves off my words with his hand before tipping the bowl toward his face to swallow the dregs of milk in the bottom and then placing it in the sink.

I keep rolling his joint and he draws the back of his hand across his mouth, stepping around the kitchen bar and into the living room before continuing.

“I’ve got two good ones running right now, playing the supply and demand game. You know, all that shit you learn in high school economics.” He grins, taking a seat next to me. “But it’s like I just told you, shit’s bad with the one guy, so I gotta get it from the other. Business is business. That’s why it’s called the game.”

He reaches for the joint, smelling it quickly and licking his lips before fishing into his pocket for his lighter.

“Damn, that’s good shit, baby.” He presses a chaste kiss to my cheek and I roll my eyes a bit, sinking back against the back of the couch.

“You know I hate it when you go uptown to pick up your shit…” I loll my head sideways at him, eyes focusing on him with intent. “Just to get two ounces from some bitch who works for the street boss. Out there with enough blow to get you locked up for at least five years…fuck.” I sigh, shaking my head before looking away from him.

He groans, throwing an arm around me as he takes a long drag, turning his head away from me to exhale, wisps of silver grey smoke curling and dancing their way through the thick, hazy air. He turns back to me, lowering his voice as he speaks right against my ear.

“Chill out with that shit, Leala. I’ve been doing this long enough, I know what I’m doing. Besides, like I said, tonight is supposed to be a good night. Hey…look at me…”

He slips his arm from around my shoulders to turn my face to his, holding my chin in his fingers. He takes a slow pull, but doesn’t inhale, just holds the smoke in his mouth and it rolls out in small wisps from between his lips as he pulls my mouth to his. I inhale, taking the hit from his lips and holding it in, releasing my head back to exhale toward the ceiling as he smirks at me. Shot-gunning, it’s called, and I love when he does it to me.

I grin at him, grabbing his face and pushing my mouth to his, sliding my tongue deep past his lips. He kisses me. Soft and slow and he tastes like November, like hot chocolate on stormy nights and weed and crisp autumn air. His hand rests below my ear, his thumb caressing my cheek as our breaths mingle. He moans softly and bites my bottom lip before pulling away.

“I got some of the purest shit you can get off the street coming in,” he says. “Almost twenty-five.”

My eyes go wide at his words. “Shut the fuck up.” I’m almost giddy, sitting up at attention on the couch. This could be so good for business. Pure cocaine is impossible to get on the street. Most of it comes in at about 80 or 90 percent pure on the kilo, but it’s cut at least twice by the time it gets into the hands of street dealers like Lex, turning out four kilos at around 20 percent purity.

Sometimes it gets cut three times and you’re selling around 11 percent, but you can’t get rid of that shit unless you sell in a “dumb market”—college kids or users who are so desperate they just don’t care. Lex doesn’t fuck with that stuff because he wants to uphold his reputation for having the [_good _]shit. That’s how you keep business rolling smoothly.

Really, there’s no sense in selling pure cocaine, a human body can’t handle it. Most users are so used to diluted product that pure coke would be too potent to even enjoy. You’re not gaining any profit, and you’re just killing your customers. But 25 percent…that’s good shit. That’s right on the money.

He smirks. “I know. I’ve been running about twenty, twenty-two in a good batch. That’s about the best you can get around here. But this shit is supposed to be legit. Got the call last night.”

He takes one more drag before passing me the joint. He doesn’t smoke too much before he goes out for the day, just enough to calm his nerves. He knows he still has to be straight enough to handle his business.

“Twenty-five…” I trail off, still not believing my ears. “So are you gonna stock up?” I ask before taking a hit. That’s the way you have to play situations like this. If a bad batch of coke comes out to one of your connections, they’re usually up front about it. And if it’s running around 20 or a little under, Lex just buys a little to stay in the good graces of his supplier and bides his time until better shit comes in. Then he goes for a big purchase.

“Yeah, I might get ten ounces.”

Ten ounces may not be much in the grand scheme, but it is for Lex. He usually only runs two ounces at a time, maybe a little more, dealing in smaller amounts just to keep his own ass out of the hot seat. He’s dealt with guys who run kilos at a time, and they just end up fucked—getting their house broken into, or getting so caught up in their high-roller lifestyle that they crash and burn right from the start.

My jaw drops to my chest. “That’s eight thousand fucking dollars! Probably more than that if it’s as good as you say! Can you afford that?”

He scoffs at me, furrowing his brow, raising his voice. “Of course I can! And you know I turn that shit over for more than triple profit. Besides, this guy is cool, he lets me go in half up front and pay out later.”

I sigh, leaning forward to snub the end of the joint before sitting back and folding my arms across my chest. “Sounds like a bunch of unnecessary bullshit if you get busted. Twice as much shit in your pockets when they take you in and you still owe the guy half. Do you know how much time you get for ten ounces, Lex?”

He groans, pushing on his knees to peel himself off of the couch with a huffed sigh. “God, would you stop being such a whiney bitch? I can’t deal with this shit right now. I’ve gotta run something on the streets today, I fucked around all weekend.” And he disappears into the backroom to get his shit ready for the day.

His phone vibrates on the table. Not his business phone, that motherfucker is always in his pocket. His [_other _]phone. I glance over my shoulder and then lean over the coffee table to peek at the screen when I see that the door is shut behind him down the hall.

Damon.

I sigh, loud. It kills me every time he calls. I can’t imagine how it makes Lex feel. I look over my shoulder down the hall again. Fuck it.[_ _]I pick up the phone.

“H-hello?” My voice is quiet, almost a whisper. Why the fuck did I answer the phone? I don’t even know what to say to this kid.

“Um…is Alex there?” His voice is deep, but cracks in mid-sentence. I know he has to be fucking terrified, poor thing.

“He’s…he’s busy right now. This is Damon, right?” My voice is still low and hushed. Lex is gonna fucking kill me.

“Yeah. Who is this?” He’s talking quietly too now. I feel like such a sneak my chest starts to get tight. I need to make this quick. Whatever we’re going to say, it needs to be said now.

“This is Leala…I don’t know if you remember me. I think the last time I saw you—”

“Yeah, I remember you. You’re like Alex’s girlfriend, right?”

I’m glad he cut me off. The urgency in his voice makes me know that he needs this conversation to be just as quick as I do.

“Yeah. Listen…I know you call Lex a lot, and he doesn’t answer, it’s just that—”

“How is he? I mean, he’s okay, right?”

And my heart breaks. It absolutely breaks for this kid. He’s not angry, he doesn’t want to know why Lex doesn’t answer the phone, he just wants to know if he’s okay.

“Y-yeah…he’s…he’s fine. Look, I don’t know—”

“Cause I worry about him, you know. My parents don’t talk about him, ever, and I always ask. It’s just like…he died. That’s what it’s like at our house, and I just need to know that he’s okay. Cause he’s still my brother, you know, even if my parents try to pretend like he doesn’t exist.”

I sigh, running a hand over my face. “I know. I know, okay? And he knows, it’s just…it’s been a long time. He doesn’t want to get you into trouble, and I think he just feels bad. But listen, I can’t stay on here for long, alright?”

“Well, just…tell him I called.”

I hear the door open down the hall and my heart jumps into my throat. “Okay…okay.” I immediately close the phone when I see Lex’s form hovering over me.

“What the fuck are you doing?”

I freeze, phone in my hand. I don’t even look up into his eyes. I can tell what look is there just by the tone in his voice. I swallow hard.

“Who the fuck was that?!” He snatches the cell from my hands and I slowly bring my gaze up to his as he scrolls through his phone menu to see the last received call. I’m trembling inside. I know I made a huge, huge mistake.

I bolt up from the couch as his eyes go wide and he lunges for me, throwing the phone to the ground. But I’m not quick enough. He falls onto the couch and I scramble down out of his grasp, but he grabs me at my ankles and hauls me back underneath him, flipping me over by the shoulders and pinning me down hard.

“You fucking bitch!” He spits the words in my face, and I struggle against him, pushing on his shoulders, but he’s too damn strong.

He quickly maneuvers all of his weight on top of me, his knees sunken into the couch on either side of my hips, ankles hooked over my thighs, holding my legs still. I feel his fingers digging into my upper arms as he pushes all of his weight down into me. I know he’s bruising my flesh to the bone.

I yelp when he shakes me, fingers digging harder into my arms. “I can’t fucking believe you would do some shit like that! What the fuck were you thinking? You think it’s okay to just do whatever the fuck you want? Huh!? Fucking answer me!”

His crystal blue eyes are wild and maniacal, brow furrowed and teeth clenched. His face is red with anger and exertion from holding me down, but I finally give in, laying limp under him. I want to cry, just to make him feel like a real asshole, but I can’t even muster up any tears because I know what I did was beyond fucked up. I crossed the line.

“Holy fucking God, I can’t believe you!” He tears up off of the couch, pulling me up just a little by my arms and slamming me back down into the cushions just for good measure. He hovers back over my body, raising a hand overhead and I wince and turn my head, waiting for the blow. This time I think he’s actually going to hit me and I almost think I deserve it. But I just wait, and nothing.

He growls and turns abruptly to the wall, punching straight through it with his fist, making a clean deep hole and I jump at the thudding sound of the strike.

Silence.

He’s frozen, one hand stuck inside beneath the thick drywall, chest heaving in frustration and rage. I’m scared to move. He slides his other hand up the wall, palm flat and fingers spread wide, and I jump again when he slaps against it, grunting low in his chest.

His shoulders finally relax and his head falls forward, his forehead resting gently against the wall, his back still expanding and falling with his heavy breaths.

I slowly pull myself from the couch and approach him silently from behind, reaching out a hand cautiously and running it across his lower back and around to hold him at his waist. My other hand creeps slowly up his side and over his shoulder, down his tattooed arm to gently help ease his hand out of the wall. His fist is still clenched, blood on his swollen knuckles.

I press a kiss to the nape of his neck and rest my cheek there, his skin still warm and flushed with rage.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” I whisper the words and I feel him nod under my cheek, but in an instant he whirls around, grabbing my face and pushing my back hard against the wall where he had just been standing.

I wince as he grips my cheeks, shooting pain up into my skull as his fingertips align with the bruises Tony had given me from squeezing my face in the same fashion just the other night, the pressure of his hand deepening and darkening the purple that I know will eventually surface.

His jaw is tight and his nostrils flare slightly with his breaths as the heel of his hand rests against my throat, applying the slightest pressure. My breath hitches in my throat, but his eyes are soft now. I know he’s no longer raging.

“If you ever…fucking [_ever _]pull some shit like that again…I’ll fucking kill you. Don’t fuck around with me, not when it comes to my family. You’re my girl, and I would never hurt you, but I swear to fucking God above I’ll kill your ass,” he whispers tight in his throat, and I nod the best I can under his grip.

With a sigh he releases my face and his head falls into my neck. I reach down to take his injured hand in mine, holding it gently against my stomach as I clutch the back of his head and press a kiss beneath his ear.

“I’m sorry.”

He pulls away from me and looks into my face and then down at his hand as I hold it gently, his fingers in my palm. He makes a loose fist, closing and opening his fingers slowly. He winces, gritting his teeth and squeezing his eyes shut as he turns his head to the side at the painful sensation.

“Does it hurt?” I push up the fabric of his long-sleeved T-shirt and rub his forearm slowly as he continues to make fists with his hand, trying to return it to functionality.

“Yeah it fucking hurts,” he scoffs, finally pulling it away from my grasp and shaking it loosely in the air. “It’ll be fine. I gotta go.”

And I know I should leave. Probably for a while after what took place just moments ago.

7

It’s late. Later than he usually goes out on a pickup. And now he curses himself the entire way there for forgetting how long a walk it was when he decided he could put it off for another hour this afternoon.

He always walks to pickups, just if for no other reason than to stay low-profile. Kinda hard to stay low-profile in an Escalade truck with twenty-two inch rims on it. So he walks.

At least the weather is nice tonight. Crisp air, not too warm, not too cool. The fall season has just started to appear and while the L.A. days are still a bit warm, the nights are just right.

Tonight will be a good night, he keeps telling himself over and over as he walks the thirteen blocks to the corner for the meet. He wonders what kind of girl he’ll get sent tonight. Of course they all want to be working when “that cute white boy” comes to pick up his shit, but he’s more into looking and not touching.

Too bad for him the exchange has to happen with physical contact. Something natural to a passerby—a hug, a handshake, copping a feel. But usually the delivery girls are the ones copping a feel. Coke groupies, doing anything and everything to get a free hit on a line. Working in the houses, a whole street almost completely abandoned.

At least that’s the front they put on, but it’s all a cover up for bulk narcotics distribution.

Lex’s been at the corner for at least five minutes now. He starts to get nervous, fidgety, looking over his shoulder. It’s fucking dark outside and he’s on the corner in a goddamned bad part of town.

“Hey baby.”

He hears the voice behind him, soft and feminine, and he suddenly turn. She’s grinning at him like fucking Christmas morning in her high heels and short-shorts, her tank top barely covering her navel, cleavage pushed up almost under her chin. He rolls his eyes discreetly as she slowly approaches him. These girls get off on this shit, and he just wants to score his stash and get outta this part of town before midnight.

“What are you doing out on the streets this late?” he asks the question precisely, awaiting the answer that will insure that she’s the girl he’s supposed to meet up with.

“Just needed to cool off. I’m hot.”

Bingo. She’s the one. She grabs his wrists and he sighs, turning his head away from her as she takes his arms around her body, sliding his hands into her back pockets. She’s forward. She would probably try to kiss on him if he’d let her. But he won’t.

He feels them there, the four baggies in her back pockets, an ounce in each, and he gauges the weight against his hands. She grinds her hips into his, moaning softly, and he sighs again, annoyed, unaffected by her advances as he palms the baggies, sliding them slowly and discreetly from her pockets into his own. Four ounces down, six to go. There’s no telling where else this girl has baggies hidden, but he’s getting impatient with her.

“C’mon, baby.” She reaches down to touch him through his jeans and he jumps back from her.

“Cut that shit out,” he warns, but she just giggles at him.

She hooks her thumbs into the belt loops of her shorts, tapping her front pockets with her fingertips and he rolls his eyes. He steps toward her, turning his head again as he pushes his fingers into her pockets. She runs her hands up his chest and over his shoulders, her tongue sneaking out to wet his neck and he jerks his head back quickly.

“Fucking stop!” he orders as he works four more baggies out and slips them into his pockets.

“Two more,” she whispers, holding up a finger, wagging it at him before using it to pull down on the neckline of her tank top. Of course that’s where it fucking is.

“Son of a bitch,” he mutters under his breath and she grins at him, biting her lip. “You get off on this shit, don’t you?” He cocks his head to the side at her, narrowing his eyes a little.

“You want your shit or not? What, you’re not man enough? Little pussy baby boy can’t touch no tits but his mama’s?” She sticks her chest out a little when she says it and he laughs, running his tongue along the inside of his cheek.

“Listen…” He steps closer to her, speaking slowly. “I’ve got a pair of tits waiting on me back at my house, and they don’t belong to my mother. So if you think that I walk my ass down here, halfway across town, just to feel you girls up ‘cause I can’t get pussy anywhere else, you’re sadly mistaken.”

He snakes his hand down between her breasts while she’s still taken back from his words, grabbing the bags of coke out of her bra and pushing them into his pocket, quickly replacing them with a roll of bills.

“That’s half upfront, I’ll pay the rest later. Have a good night.” He grins, grinding out his parting words in a sarcastic manner, turning quickly in the opposite direction and leaving her there stunned on the corner.

He strides quickly back down the street, figuring the faster he walks, the quicker these thirteen blocks will be under his feet and he’ll be back at home, safe and sound with his shit. But after about eight blocks, the last thing he expected was for an LAPD car to roll up beside him.

“Fuck,” he curses under his breath, hanging his head and watching his feet shuffle quickly over the concrete. He clutches the six baggies of coke in his hoodie pocket, feeling the other four bump softly against his thighs inside the pockets of his jeans. Ten ounces on him. That’s five years in jail minimum, no questions. His chest tightens slightly.

The cop rolls down his window, creeping down the street next to him.

“Well, Mr. Taylor. Fancy seeing you walking down these streets at this time of night.”

Lex sighs and purses his lips, finally glancing over into the window of the cop car, and he recognizes the man immediately. David Starke. The same cop who has tried to arrest him twice, pulling him over for random traffic violations and searching his car, always coming up disappointed when he couldn’t pin Lex for a single thing. Cops aren’t stupid, they know who deals drugs in this town, but nailing them down is another story.

“Just enjoying the night, Officer.” He grins, turning his attention back to the path he’s walking, head straight forward and nodding a bit to the rhythm of his steps.

“Where you headed, son?” Officer Starke asks out the window.

Lex smiles a bit, pulling his bottom lip in between his teeth, deciding whether or not he should be a real asshole right now, just because. He knows this cop can’t do anything to him, he’s just walking down the street.

“Home…gonna have a few beers…probably fuck my girlfriend.” He smirks, turning his head to meet the eyes of the man. “Oh, and I’m not your son.”

“No, you sure aren’t. I don’t know which one of us is more thankful for that.”

Lex tosses his head back in laughter at the man’s statement.

“But that’s quite a smart little mouth you’ve got on you, boy.”

Lex grins again, that cocky asshole grin, peering in the open window of the car, never stopping his stride. “You wanna know more about my mouth, you should ask your daughter. And tell her I said hi, too.” He laughs at his own joke, but the officer isn’t amused.

“I’m tellin’ you, Taylor. You better behave yourself,” he warns.

Lex drags one hand from the front pouch of his hoodie, cupping his crotch and turning his hips toward the car. “Behave this, Officer,” he muses, raising his eyebrows with a smile, and the car speeds off down the street as Lex flips the bird in a parting gesture.

8

I had been gone for five days after the fight before I showed up at his place again. He cuts his eyes over at me with a smirk from his recliner as I sink down into the couch with a loud sigh.

“What?” I question his glance curtly, and he snickers a bit, turning back to watch some random movie that’s playing on TV.

“Nothin’. I’m just surprised you’re showing your face around here after that fucked up shit you pulled the other day.” He keeps his focus on the television, reaching up to scratch the back of his neck.

“Look, I fucking apologized, okay? It’s over, it happened. Neither of us can do anything about it now.” My eyes burn into him as I speak, but he still doesn’t look at me. He just watches that damn TV, chewing on his lips absentmindedly.

“Still…it was fucked up. I should be fucking livid at you right now.” His voice is flat, and I don’t know if he’s really hearing me, his mind seemingly occupied with the movie.

“Well, are you?”

He smirks, turning his head slowly, tongue playing along the inside of his mouth. “Maybe.”

“Fuck you.” I push myself up off the couch, rolling my eyes as I brush past him into the kitchen. But he reaches out for my wrist, pulling me to a stop.

“No, you were a fucking bitch. I never thought you’d do something fucked up like that. That’s like…[_betrayal _]or something,” he spits the words condescendingly.

I snatch my wrist from his hand but he grabs the belt loops of my jeans, tugging me forward until my knees drop between his on the seat of the recliner, my weight falling forward. I put my hands out quickly, bracing myself against the back of the chair on either side of his shoulders, and the chair rocks slightly with the force of our movement.

“Well I’m sorry! What, you want me to make it up to you?” I cock my head at him, whining out the last words, mocking his seemingly hurt disposition.

“Yeah.” He licks his full lips, narrowing his eyes at me.

“How?” I twist up my face at my inquiry, because part of me already knows what he’ll say. At least I think I do.

“Well, I mean, you should probably just blow me or something.”

Okay, that wasn’t what I was expecting.

“Fuck you! That’s not a fucking apology. You’re such a dick.” I push back on the chair, pulling myself hard onto my feet but his hands grip my sides, holding me strong, chuckling as I struggle.

“I’m being fucking serious! You [_owe _]me.”

“You’re such an asshole.” I finally stop fighting him, glaring down at him, seething, but he just smiles at me. He knows I’ll give in.

“And you fucking love me. C’mon…” He lowers his voice, eyes softening at me as a grin plays on his mouth.

I sigh loud, throwing my head back with a groan. “I fucking [_hate _]you,” I grind out the words, but my tone isn’t convincing. He pushes down on my hips and my knees bend, hitting the floor between his feet and he grins down at me, leaning forward to bring his face close to mine.

“Bullshit. You’re doing too much talking down there,” he says, touching his nose to mine before sitting back in the chair, letting his hands fall down beside his thighs.

I glare at him for a long second, raising an eyebrow and pursing my lips. He just nods down at his lap, gesturing quickly with his eyes, raising an eyebrow back at me in a silent challenge.

I narrow my own eyes at him, slowly shaking my head before I sigh reluctantly and slide my hands up his thighs. He smirks and slides down in the chair victoriously, spreading his knees wider.

I tuck my fingers into the waistband of his sweatpants and he lifts his hips while I slip them down his legs and drop them at his feet. I press my torso between his thighs and I can feel him, long and thick against my ribs, as I push his t-shirt up under his arms. My fingers drag slowly down his tattooed body and over his sides, kissing and licking the soft skin of his belly right above his boxers, eliciting a moan low in his chest.

I grip his thighs, fisting the material of his boxers as I tug them down his hips slowly, tortuously, exposing the flesh beneath his navel inch by inch. I stop just before the elastic waistband at the base of his hardening cock, trapping him down beneath the soft cotton material.

He releases his head back, groaning loud in protest, but I smile against his skin. I suck slowly on his V-line, licking down into the crease where his thigh meets his hip, and I can feel his dick twitch against my breasts as I bump him gently between the legs with my body. He sighs and pushes his hips up impatiently and a soft laugh escapes from my lips.

“C’mon, Leala.” He’s almost whimpering, his voice tight and breathy in his throat.  

I lift my eyes to his and his head is pushed to the side, back arching a bit in the chair, wiggling anxiously. His nostrils are flared as if he’s soaking in the scent of my arousal. I laugh again, returning my focus to his lap, instinctively biting at my lower lip as I see him outlined perfectly against the thin material, begging for release.

I quickly glance up at him once more before lowering my face between his legs, reaching the tip of my tongue out to run it slowly up the length of him, right over his boxers. I hear him curse as his knees fall farther open in reaction.

“Fuck!”

I graze him lightly, very lightly, with my teeth for that remark. He curses again but doesn’t make any attempt to take control. I finally slip him out gently as I push his boxers to his ankles and his head falls back when I take him in my hand. I hold him steady at the base, giving him a light squeeze, smiling as I watch him tug his bottom lip between his teeth.

I lick my own lips before sliding my tongue along the ridge underneath the head of his shaft, looking him in the eye as I do it, the hunger in his gaze intense. His breathing is getting shallow as I get him harder and wetter. He lifts his hips, hoping I’ll take him in my mouth, but I only smile, and lick again and again. The sweet torture nears a fever pitch, and I only continue long, slow, wet licks.

His mouth falls open, eyes rolling back slowly. “Please, Leala…” His hand reaches out, touching my shoulder and I feel his long fingers wrapping around the back of my neck, threading up into my hair to palm the back of my head, pulling me gently toward him in suggestion.

I finally consent, opening my mouth and sliding down the length of him, pressing up on the under side of his thickness with my tongue until he hits the back of my throat. I hear him groan from deep in his gut, his thighs tensing under my palms.

“Shit, baby.” His eyes flutter open, revealing that shade of electric blue. Striking yet soft. Not the electric shock that paralyzes you or crawls under your muscles, but the kind that makes your blood dance. “Suck it like you’re sorry,” he grits through his teeth and he’s the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen. “Suck it like you mean it.”

So I suck hard as I pull off, working my tongue around him the best I can. I feel him fist my hair in his hand, grunting out expletives as I slide back down again, faster this time, but I pull back with the same slow pace, licking lazily around the head.

He’s panting now as I work him at a steady pace. Fast down, slow pulling back, much like he would do if he were fucking me, pulling out slow and slamming back into me forcefully. I feel his other hand in my hair and his breaths are quicker now, moans and sighs falling from his lips as I bob up and down the length of him at increasing speed, fucking him with my mouth.

He tastes good. So good. I like giving him this pleasure. But more, I like that he allows me to see the extremity of his reaction, no holds barred. So I love him, learn him, taste him. And when he tugs at my hair to pull me off him, I resist.

I move one of my hands up to his stomach and feel it contracting under my fingers, his cock twitching against my tongue as his orgasm builds and builds. I slow down suddenly just before he cums, grazing my teeth gently against his overly sensitive flesh, and he screams out, unable to hold it in.

“Yes! Damn it, yes!”

I laugh softly as I pull off, not letting him get his release just yet. I suck at my mouth a little, enjoying the way he tastes before I press my lips back to the smooth head of him, feeling it pulse against my lips. I open my mouth around his dick again, dipping down quickly until he hits the back of my throat with a grunt.

I fall back into a rhythm once more, bringing him back to the edge, delighting in the way his hands curl into my hair. His fingertips press into my scalp gently, pushing and pulling me, guiding me as I pleasure him.

“Fuck, I’m gonna cum,” he breathes out the words.

I give him a few more hard sucks and I feel him spill into my mouth, warm and thick down the back of my throat, and I don’t fight it. I suck gently at him, working him slowly through his release, swallowing as I finally pull off and draw the back of my hand across my lips, my breathing slightly labored.

He’s sunken back into the chair now, head to the side, eyes half open with a lazy grin spread across his lips. I can’t help but smile at him, kissing his inner thigh lightly before standing to my feet and crossing the room to sit back on the couch.

He leans forward slowly, grabbing the waistbands of his boxers and sweatpants together before sliding them back over his thighs, lifting his ass as he pulls them over his hips. He reaches down to adjust himself between his legs as he sits back upright in his chair and gazes at me across the room with a grin.

“What?” I give him a pointed look, pulling my legs up underneath me.

He chuckles a bit. “I wasn’t even mad when you got here. You sure did get on those knees fast though.”

I groan loud, getting up quickly to leave. Fuck this. He’s such an asshole sometimes. But he’s out of his chair too fast, bringing his palm down hard against the door from behind me, preventing me from getting it open.

“Lex, stop!” I turn the handle, snatching at it violently, but the door doesn’t budge. He laughs. “Stop! Let me leave right now. You’re a fucking piece of shit, you know that! A cocksucking bastard, you fucking asshole! Let me go!”

He lets me struggle for a while with the door, calling him every name under the sun before he picks me up over his shoulder and carts me back into his bedroom.

“Lex! Godammit!”

He lays me down on the bed and I start to get up, but he lays flush on top of me, pinning me down with his weight. I fight against him, but he’s smirking down at me. I can feel the only result of my thrashing about underneath him, his dick against my thigh, getting harder and harder with the friction between our bodies.

I finally lose the fight and still my body, huffing out a frustrated sigh and turning my head to the side. He laughs softly at my antics, running a hand down the side of my face. 

“Are you done now?” he asks. 

I glare up at him from the corner of my eye, scowling, but he just grins at me. My eyes fall shut as he kisses my neck slowly, nuzzling me gently with his nose, moaning softly in my ear. I hate him because he can tell I’m trying to resist him, but he knows just what to do to me to make me hot for him in a matter of seconds.

“C’mon. I’m not even mad anymore. And you were gone for almost a week. You didn’t even miss me a little? You didn’t think this is right where we’d end up when you walked through the door?” he whispers against my neck, but I just exhale noisily, pushing on his shoulders.

I snap my gaze up to his as he lays over me. “So you were waiting for me to come back so you could get some pussy? This is all about sex?”

He rolls his eyes at my questions and my lecturing tone. “Shut up, you know it’s not.” He kisses my neck again, his lips right against my ear as he breathes out the words. “But right now, it is…so just enjoy it.”

I feel a smile playing against my lips and I pull them in between my teeth, trying not to break my defense, because then he’ll know he’s won. He always fucking wins me over.

I push back on him until he’s looking into my eyes. “You’re such a cocky asshole,” I say when I can finally keep a straight face.

He just smirks, bringing his face down to touch his nose to mine.

“I know. Just let me make it up to you. Let me apologize…”

9

“Hey…what happened to your face?” He looks into the living room at me from the kitchen where he’s attempting to cook eggs the next morning. Keyword: attempting. I swear to fucking God he could burn water. His tone is sort of light and nonchalant as he questions me, but my stomach ties itself in knots.

“Uh…what? What do you mean?” I touch my face lightly and play dumb, but I know there are remnants of Tony’s assault at work the other night. I guess they finally showed up, so kindly aided by Lex when he flipped his fucking lid.

“You have a bruise…on your face. I didn’t know you could just randomly get bruises on your face and not know about it.” He laughs, but it fades quickly. “That wasn’t from our fight, was it? I didn’t mean to grab you that hard. Are you okay?”

His voice is quiet and guilty and, fuck. I feel really bad now but I still don’t want to tell him what happened.

“Don’t worry about it, they were already there,” I say it quickly and quietly, hoping to just brush over the subject.

He freezes when I say it, and leans back, peering over the kitchen bar and into the living room at me again. Shit. I was going to tell him that Tony came into work, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to mention the fact that he put his hands on me…[_all _]over me.

“How did they fucking get there?”

I sigh nervously. 

Think up something…

Maybe I should just blame it on him. God, that’s so fucked up. I can’t.

“Leala,” he encourages my response, voice wavering a bit.

This is going to be bad. The second the words come out of my mouth, he’s gonna hit the fucking ceiling. Damn, why can’t he have better control over his temper? I don’t want to start this shit again, he just got over the last fight we had. But when I hesitate longer, pretending I can’t hear him, he snaps.

“Leala!”

I jump when he bellows out my name, and I swallow hard. 

Here goes nothing…

“Tony came into work last week.”

His eyes go wide. “What did that motherfucker want?” He cocks up his eyebrow, a mix of disgust and surprise reading on his face.

I cast my eyes down, picking at the hole in the knee of my jeans, pulling at a stray thread, but I feel his eyes boring holes into me. “Just came by to fuck with me, I guess. Him and a bunch of his boys. You know how they get.”

I jump suddenly as I hear a pan crash into the sink and he storms out of the kitchen. “No, I [_don’t _]know how they get, so why don’t you just fucking tell me?” He looks at me condescendingly across the room, crossing his arms over his chest. “Go on, tell me. He fucking [_touched _]you? Is that how you got that bruise? [_Both _]of those bruises!?” He adds the second part when he looks to the other side of my face.

“He just…grabbed my face. I was being a bitch.” My tone is a bit defensive, but I know I shouldn’t be making light of the situation. I just hate to see Lex so riled up over it.

“Why don’t you stop playing this game and tell me what he fucking did to you?! Cause if he laid a [_hand _]on you—”

“Well I think it’s pretty obvious that he touched me, Lex!” I sneer sarcastically, narrowing my eyes at him.

Shit. There it fucking is.

“Don’t get smart with me! Why do you always try to start a fucking fight? This isn’t about me and you throwing down, this is about Tony and his bitch ass putting his hands on you!” He exhales noisily, pent up frustration crawling all over him as he runs a hand over his dark hair and tries to calm himself, but his voice trembles with fury. “But he fucking [_touched _]you…he put his motherfucking hands…” he trails off, biting his lips before pushing out a laugh in disbelief. He lowers his voice, rage engulfing him again. “I swear to God—”

“We were arguing Lex, okay?! He was being a fucking creep like he always is!” I cut him off. I really want this conversation to be over.

“So he grabbed your face? Did he do anything else?” He cocks his head to the side,  arms still crossed over his chest, lips pursed in anger.

“Jesus Christ.” I roll my eyes, breathing out the words in exasperation. Sometimes he gets so fucking protective.

“Where else did he fucking touch you?!” he snaps, bending his arms up and fisting his hands, clenching them so tight that they shake.

“He grabbed my arm.” I pull my legs up onto the couch nervously, casting my eyes around and lowering my voice a bit. “And he, like, touched my leg…”

He gazes at me through narrowed eyes, taking in my behavior. “You’re lying to me. I know when you lie. I can fucking tell you’re lying, Leala!”

I finally give in, sitting forward on the couch, throwing my hands up and raising my voice with my confession. “He grabbed my chair, okay? Between my legs, and he was…fuck…his thumb just…” I sink back into the couch with a sigh, unable to find the words. I’m ashamed. I feel disgusting.

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!?” he wails, he fucking [_screeches _]at the top of his lungs and it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. There’s no doubt in my mind that he knows exactly what I mean, even if I couldn’t say the words.

He storms into the bedroom, emerging just seconds later. I see him checking the round of his gun, making sure it’s loaded, shoving it into the waistband of his jeans as he crosses the room quickly, headed toward the front door.

“Lex! What the fuck are you doing!?!” I jump up from the couch and bound across the room in a panic. I’ve never seen him get this hostile so quickly. Part of me is flattered knowing that he’s so quick to throw down for me, but then again I don’t need him just running around shooting people.

“I’m killing that motherfucker.” He reaches for the door handle, but I grab his arm at the elbow, pushing his back against the closed door.

“Would you fucking stop? He just came in to scare me and to talk some shit about you!” I push on his chest when I say it.

“Talk shit about me?” he screams out, twisting his face in disbelief, gesturing towards himself with his hands.

“Of course he was, what the fuck do you think Tony wants with me? He has nothing to say to me, I barely know the dude. Calm the fuck down!” I storm back across the room and throw my weight onto the couch, seething, but he’s right behind me, finger pointed into my face. His face is cloaked with rage, fire behind his icy blue eyes, hand shaking in my face, the other clenched at his side.

“No! That’s [_fucked _]up! Why does he have to fuck with you? If Tony has beef with me, he can come knock on my fucking door!” His hand flies out toward the door in a maniacal gesture as he screams, “And that is completely aside from the fact that he laid his fucking hands on you, which will make me kill a motherfucker faster than you know!”

He clenches his fists, body leaning forward as he curls in, rage consuming his entire body. I’ve never seen him like this.

“You better not be fucking around with him anymore and I mean it,” he continues. “If he gives you shit again, you fucking call me, and I’ll handle the shit. I don’t want you talking to Tony. Shit like that pisses me off. God-fucking-dammit!!” He pushes his forehead into his palms, squeezing his eyes shut tight in frustration.

I hesitate for a moment, casting my eyes down. “Oh shut the fuck up already. You don’t have to treat me like a baby, Jesus Christ,” I mumble.

He drops his hands to his sides with a scoff and laughs, shaking his head slowly, running a hand over his hair. “Yeah…okay…you [_think _]that shit. And Tony is gonna keep fucking with you and then you’ll see. But I’ll tell you what, he’s gonna be at Fabian’s party tonight, and I’ll take care of that motherfucker there.”

I snap my gaze up to his. “Fabian is having a party tonight?”

“Yep. And you’re not going.” He says it matter-of-factly, raising his eyebrows at me.

WHY!? That’s bullshit. You can’t tell me what to do!” I shriek, narrowing my eyes at him.

“You’re not going, Leala. I don’t want you around Tony, period,” he says, crossing his arms over his lean chest, and I scowl up at him from the couch.

“Well if you won’t let me go then I’m staying here and waiting for you to get back!” I retort, raising my eyebrows and pursing my lips. I’m gonna get my fucking way. I hate when he bosses me around.

“No, you’re not staying here by yourself.” He shakes his head at me.

“Then it sounds like I’m going with you.” I grin up at him.

He sighs, rolling his eyes back as his tongue plays along the inside of his cheek. It’s a win-win for me this time.

“Fine…what the fuck ever. I’m gonna take care of that motherfucker and come right back home, and you can just stay here and wait for me I guess.”

“What are you gonna do to him? You can’t just go off and kill him!” I scoff and he just shrugs.

“We’re gonna talk…and if I don’t like what he has to say…whatever happens, happens. Either way, you won’t be there to worry about it. If I come home…I come home,” he replies simply, and I’m astounded at the lightness in his voice. It fucking pisses me off when he just throws shit in my face about something bad happening to him. Like he thinks I don’t care.

“Don’t say that shit. Don’t even fucking do that to me,” I mutter, pushing myself up from the couch to brush past him, but he grabs my arm, pulling me flush against him.

“Listen to me. I’m gonna take care of it. And I’m gonna come back to you. Trust me,” he speaks softly, searching my face.

And I just have to believe him. I have to know he’s telling the truth.

10

He can hear screaming laughter and music from four doors down as he approaches the motel room, taking a pull on his joint and sniffing a little after he exhales. He quickly knocks, tapping his heel nervously against the floor until the door bursts open and he’s greeted by Fabian. A young brunette hangs on his arm, giggling.

“What the fuck, Lex! It’s about fucking time your bitch ass showed up!” Fabian throws a skinny arm around his shoulders enthusiastically and pulls him inside.

“Is Tony here?” Lex asks quietly, looking around the room over the crowd, squinting to make out faces in the smoky haze, the air clouded from drugs and cigarettes. Various scenes in the room reveal beer bongs, shots of alcohol being thrown back, lap dances and every example of drug intake that someone can fathom.

“Fuck no, that bitch left like an hour ago,” Fabian slurs, plucking the joint from Lex’s fingers greedily to take a hit. He pulls tighter on Lex’s shoulders, his elbow slipping up around his neck as he turns him toward the couch. “Ladies, this is Lex.”

Lex turns his head abruptly from his search for Tony to see the couch in the hotel room littered with four scantily clad girls, all eyeing him hungrily. He swallows hard. They part like the fucking Red Sea, leaving an empty space in the middle of the couch, and Fabian shoves him down amidst the girls with a drunken chuckle.

“Dont be shy now! You ladies be nice to him.”

Lex sighs and starts to get up as soon as he bounces down into the cushions, but he’s immediately seized by his shoulders by one of the girls and pulled back down as she swings a leg over both of his.

His eyes go wide in surprise because she’s being so forward, and he turns his face quickly as she starts to kiss his mouth. Her lips lock onto his neck instead. She sucks at his skin fiercely and he pushes back on her shoulders because he needs a bruise on his neck just like he needs a hole in his head. He knows he’ll be in big trouble over some shit like that.

She looks into his face with smoldering green eyes and he’s a little swept away in all of this but he makes sure to keep his hands to himself, maybe he’ll feel a little less guilty. She has a pretty face, but she’s not really his type. But with tits like hers, she’s any guy’s “type.”

She grips his shoulders and grinds her hips down hard into his lap to the beat of the loud music in the smoky hotel room, and he hears Fabian and Tyson cheering him on from across the room. He flips them the bird behind her back and doesn’t take his half-closed eyes off her body as she rolls into him. But he’s suddenly ripped from his trance when he feels another hand slide across his chest and the redhead sitting next to him is unexpectedly in on the action, licking slowly at his neck and biting on his ear.

“Damn, y’all are serious in here.” He fidgets a bit under all of the attention he’s receiving, but he’s silenced as the girl attending to his neck suddenly pushes back on his forehead, releasing his head backward and displaying the full expanse of his throat for her consumption. She goes to work at licking his skin once more as the girl on his lap continues to work her shit out on him.

Lex keeps his hands fisted at his sides, but he feels a hand creeping down on him slowly, and he pulls his head up off the couch.

“Hey! Watch the hands!” he warns and the girl on his lap bites her lip at him, drawing her hand away from his crotch with a pout.

He releases his head back again for a moment, closing his eyes and trying to forget whose hands are on him as the girl slides farther up on his lap and pushes her chest against his, drowning him in her scent.

“Lex!” he hears Bruce shout from across the room, and he opens his eyes, lifting his head and glancing around for him, but he is distracted when he feels a hand slipping into his pocket. He looks down to see one of the girls trying to swipe an eightball from him, and he laughs softly, grabbing her wrist.

“Sorry, workin’ my dick won’t get you any free shit. Nice try though.” He throws her hand away roughly, pushing her off of his lap and standing up quickly to cross the room.

On his way to see what the fuck Bruce wants, Tyson pulls him over to take a vodka shot and have a hit on the water bong.

“You are [_so _]getting fucked up tonight! Bad decisions will be made, bro,” Tyson shouts over the music and Lex just shakes his head, continuing to stumble around the room in search of Bruce.

“Hey, bitch! Get your ass over here!” Bruce calls out from the set of couches across the room from the ones where he was previously seated. Coke paraphernalia litters the glass-topped coffee table situated in front of Lex as he sinks down onto the cushions next to him.

“Hit that shit.” Fabian extends his arm across from the other side of Bruce, passing Lex a rolled up hundred-dollar bill.

Lex leans forward over the table, plugging one side of his nose as he takes two quick lines before falling back against the couch with a sigh, closing his eyes as the rush of alcohol, weed, and blow all hit his system. As he opens his eyes slowly, he notices the curves of a busty blonde standing before him, a leg on either side of his knees. His eyebrows raise as she sinks down onto his lap, pressing her breasts together with the inside of her arms, smirking as she watches his tongue come out to instinctively wet his bottom lip.

Lex leans over to Bruce, shouting over the music. “There’s a lot of pussy in here that wants dick in it tonight!”

“Dude, Leala is gonna fucking kill you!” Bruce yells in response.

Lex rolls his eyes as he sits back up straight and drinks in the form of the girl sitting on his lap, giving him fuck-me-eyes with her bottom lip between her teeth. He grins at her when he feels his body begin to tingle and the stiumlant course through his veins.

11

He enters the bedroom slowly and quietly, trying not to wake me, stumbling a little in the dark over a pair of his sweatpants that he left on the floor. He smiles to himself when he sees my naked shoulders and back peeking out from under the covers in the dim light. He loves when I sleep naked.

But his smile fades quickly and he instantly feels like dirt as he stands in the doorway and thinks of where he’s been all night, not to mention what he’s been doing. Guilt shrouds him as he looks upon me lying in his bed waiting for him. Just [_waiting _]for him to come home.

It’s never been a spoken agreement, but he knows I would never go to a party like that without him. And I wouldn’t even [_think _]about touching another guy. I would be right there, just like I am right now. Waiting. Waiting for him.

Creeping slowly across the floor, still trying to remain silent, he crosses the room and leans over the side of the bed, crawling on top of the covers just to lay beside me for a moment. I stir with a soft moan, rubbing my eyes as I turn my head toward him. I lift up slowly to look at the illuminated numbers on the clock, and groan as my face sinks back into the pillow and I close my eyes.

“It’s four in the morning,” I whine softly and he runs a hand down my face as he kisses my mouth in a silent apology for what he did tonight, because it’s eating away at him more and more by the second and I know absolutely nothing about it.

I stroke the back of his head slowly, but as I bring my face to his neck my senses are overwhelmed by the lingering evidence of what took place tonight at the hotel party. My fucking stomach flips. I pull back suddenly and look into his face, suddenly wide awake.

“You smell like a ten cent whore.”

He says nothing, just casts his eyes down.

“Lex?” I question him softly, cautiously, giving him the opportunity to set my mind right before it ventures too far, into some place I’m too afraid for it to go.

He couldn’t have…he would never…

He swallows hard. “Leala, nothing happened.” His eyes meet with mine and he reaches to touch my face but I roll away from him, sitting up in bed suddenly, tucking the sheets under my arms to shield my body from him. I feel sick.

“Lex.” I can’t think of anything else to say.

He sits up slowly, reaching for me, but I turn away from him, wrapping myself tighter in his sheets, shaking my head, rage swelling inside of me. I’m humiliated, fucking [_offended _]that he would sleep with another girl and come home to get in bed with me.

“Leala, listen to me…nothing happened. I swear. I didn’t even touch her.” He sighs, reaching for me again but I tear up out of the bed, pulling the comforter off and draping it around my naked form.

Who, Lex? Didn’t touch who?!” I raise my voice, my words trembling from my chest as rage and hurt floods me. He sighs and releases his head in frustration.

“Just some girl at the party. Fabian and the guys were fucking around with me, pushing girls on me. They were all over the place, crawling on anybody just trying to get a hit on a line. You know how it is.” He pulls himself up from the bed slowly, keeping his voice soft. For once he’s the one trying to prevent the fight.

“No, I know how you _]are! At least I thought I did! I can’t fucking believe you.” I grip the comforter around my body as I lean down and snatch my clothes from the floor and start to dress myself quickly. I can’t stay here with him. I’m disgusted. More than anything, I’m hurt. So hurt because I’m supposed to be his [_girl.

His defense creeps up as he watches me and realizes that I’m going to leave.

“I didn’t do anything! I swear to fucking God above me! I didn’t touch the girl! I would never do that to you! You fucking know I wouldn’t!”

His voice is almost…desperate? He rounds the bed toward me, but I push past him, shoving him hard. I don’t even want to listen to him. But something inside of me suddenly snaps. I whirl around abruptly in the doorway and narrow my eyes at him.

“Is that why you wouldn’t let me go with you tonight? Huh!?”

“You know I was trying to keep you away from Tony! Don’t turn this shit around on me! I was protecting you!” he scoffs.

“Was Tony even fucking there, Lex?” I spit the words at him contemptuously, knowing that he wouldn’t have stayed at a party until four in the morning if he got in a fight with Tony. No, he had to have stayed because of that bitch. Whoever she is. I fucking hate her.

He hesitates, and then I don’t even let him respond because I fucking know the answer already. My emotions boil over.

“You are a fucking piece of [_shit! _]I fucking hate you! I can’t believe you would do some shit like that!” I storm out of the bedroom.

“Leala, wait! Wait goddammit!” he shouts, chasing me down the hall.

Just as I reach the front door he grabs my upper arms from behind and I spin around, shoving him hard in blind fury before I can process my actions. He steps back toward me and it’s a crime of fucking passion as my palm cracks across his face. I’ve never hit him that hard before, but I’m so fucking hurt, playing a scene over and over in my mind of him fucking a coke whore, despite the fact that he swears he didn’t.

His face snaps back to mine and he grabs the wrist of my hand that assaulted him. I must be fucking crazy, but I bring my other hand across his opposite cheek just as hard as the first one. He seizes my other wrist and pushes me back against the door, holding my hands up against my shoulders.

STOP!” He shoves me harder, even though my back is already against the door.

I clench my jaw, my chest heaving as I pant with exertion from fighting him. But I’m also breathing just to force my tears back. Why am I getting so emotional? Why is my fucking heart breaking?

He hangs his head, catching his breath a bit before slowly raising his eyes to mine.

“I didn’t do anything,” he croaks out the words pleadingly. His eyes search mine but I just shake my head, lip trembling and tears welling up, threatening to spill over my bottom lids. He sighs, touching his nose to my cheek. “Please, Leala.”

I almost believe him. God, I want to believe him. He’s always been straight with me. He’s never lied. I swallow hard, blinking my tears back, trying to strengthen my wavering voice.

“I wanna go home.”

“Tell me you know I didn’t do anything.” He pulls his head back to look into my face. God, I know he didn’t. He’s never looked at me with this much sincerity. “Tell me…tell me and I’ll let you go.”

I sigh. “I know Lex, okay? I know.”

But he doesn’t look convinced. Reluctantly, he drops my wrists with a sigh, defeat plaguing his features. He knows just how to look at me and rip my insides out. I just shake my head without a word, turning to leave, and slamming the door behind me.

12

I know he didn’t do it. I knew it last night, lying in my bed for hours not being able to sleep after I left his house. His eyes…the way they looked at me so pleadingly. “Please, Leala”…the way he breathed it against my face.

I know he didn’t do it.

He even called me twice after I left, which he never does. But of course I didn’t answer. Call me a bitch, but I was still hurt. He smelled like another woman. That killed me. I’ve never been so completely taken over with emotion because of him. I’m usually so numb, unless we’re fighting or fucking. And that’s all we usually do.

I want revenge. I want it badly, just because. I’m a female, we do shit like that.

I call Kyle. Out of all of Lex’s boys, he’s the one I trust to maybe keep his mouth shut. Then again, maybe I [_want _]Lex to find out what I’m doing. Maybe he’ll get a little jealous. It wouldn’t kill him to think for a second that maybe I’m not as tied down as he thinks I am, cause that’s sure as hell what I thought about him last night.

“What up?”

I sigh when he answers right before his voicemail catches the call.

“Hey, I got a question,” I reply nervously. Fuck, I probably shoulda talked myself up a little more before I just went off and called him about some shit like this.

“Alright…”

“Who’s a good hookup around town? Besides Lex.” I grind out the last part and bite my lip awaiting his reaction.

He scoffs a bit in response. “What the fuck, Leala?”

I know he has no idea what I mean by any of this, but I don’t want to explain it to him. I just want answers.

“Shut up, just tell me. I need some good shit.” I’m short with him, pushing him through his inquiries impatiently.

“Yeah, but what about Lex?”

Goddammit. Why does he have to pull the loyalty card?

“What about him?” I deadpan.

“Are you okay?”“

“Kyle, just do this for me, alright?” I sigh. The more questions he asks, the more I question myself. But I don’t want to back down. Not this time.

He hesitates for a moment, but finally gives in. Thank fucking God. “Okay. There’s this guy named Trent, he’s got a pretty legit product. I don’t know why the fuck you wanna swap dealers though, you know that shit is dangerous.”

“Yeah, yeah, I didn’t call for a lecture. I know the guy you’re talking about. He runs over on the Magnolia Park side of town, right?” I question quickly. Now we’re getting down to business.

“Yeah, over in that alley behind the 7-Eleven on Magnolia right before the 170.”

“Yeah, I know exactly where you’re talking about. You and the boys are going out tonight, right?” The last thing I need is for Lex to be sitting at home with nothing to do and decide he wants to come looking for me.

“We ain’t got shit to do. We’ll prolly get baked and ride around town. You gonna sneak off while we’re gone? While the cat’s away, the mice will play…” His voice is teasing, and I huff out a perturbed sigh. All of those boys think Lex has me under his fucking thumb.

“Fuck you. I can do what I want. Lex doesn’t own me. He made it clear last night that he can do whatever he wants. So why can’t I?”

“You know nothing happened with him and that girl, right? Nothing. I was there.”

I wince at his words, guilt consuming me for only a moment before I put my guard back up. “I don’t care. Stop trying to talk me out of this.”

“That’s fucked up, Leala. You know Lex is gonna be pissed.”

I hesitate for a moment, then offer him the only suggestion I can think of.

“Well, then don’t fucking tell him.”

13

“Hey, bitch! Don’t get ashes in my back seat, you fucking pussy licker!” Lex shouts to Tyson from the driver’s seat of his truck, chuckling as he eyes him in the rearview mirror. The boys giggle from the backseat, blazed out of their minds, passing the blunt back and forth.

“Fuck you! I’ll put this blunt out on your fucking seat if I want, and you can suck my dick,” Tyson yells back through his chuckles, reaching over to the window with the blunt to ash it.

“Lick my sack, douchebag. Just like you lick a cunt!” hr retorts.

“Lex, you’re the only one in this truck who has a girl, so I think that makes [_you _]the pussy licker!” Bruce chimes in, taking the blunt from Tyson, and all the boys snicker, leaning on each other and tapping fists.

“Yeah I’m the only one who has a girl cause you guys are a bunch of fucking homos! I don’t lick snatch, assholes,” Lex grumbles, checking his phone discreetly for missed calls. He’s been waiting for me to call all night.

“Hey Lex…where is Leala, man?” Seth asks from the passenger’s seat. Kyle peers inquisitively at Lex from the back seat, holding his tongue, waiting for his response.

He just sighs. “I don’t know. She’s mad at me cause [_you _]motherfuckers pushed those coke whores on me last night at the party! Fuck every single one of you queers!” he chides, looking around at all of the boys in his truck, pointing his finger in accusation.

“So what’s she doing tonight?” Seth inquires further, prying at the subject and Lex scoffs a bit, casting him a sideways glance.

“I don’t fucking know, why don’t you call her if you’re so concerned?” He shakes his head.

“You don’t know where she is?” Kyle asks, and that’s enough for him. He doesn’t know why everyone seems so damn concerned about me tonight, and it starts to make him a little nervous.

“No, why? Why is everybody trippin’ the fuck out about it?” His eyes widen in confusion, looking around with questioning glances, baffled by everyone’s behavior.

“I’m just saying…” Kyle mumbles, trailing off.

What? You got some shit to tell me, Kyle?” he asks, narrowing his eyes a bit.

Kyle fidgets, looking around before pursing his lips nervously.

“Why are you fucking twitching, you weird ass motherfucker? Do you know some shit that I should know or not?” Lex raises his voice as the situation settles into his bones. Something is going on, and everyone seems to know except him.

“I’m just saying—”

“Where the fuck is she, Kyle?” he explodes, palm slapping against the steering wheel, finally overcome with frustration at Kyle’s reluctance to just tell him what the fuck is going on.

“Shit, Lex. I wasn’t supposed to say anything!” he shouts, pushing roughly against the back of the passenger’s seat in frustration.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Lex whips his truck into the next parking lot that he sees, throws it into park, and flips around in his seat, narrowing his eyes at Kyle. “Well you better start talking, bitch! And I mean now!”

Kyle sighs as all eyes in the truck fall onto him. He lowers his gaze, color rising in his cheeks as he mumbles regretfully, “She called me up today and asked me for another connection. She’s meeting Trent over on Magnolia.”

Lex swallows hard, pushing down the rage rising inside of him as his voice trembles. “You better be fucking lying to me.”

“No. That’s the honest to God truth. She told me not to tell you.”

Almost before he can finish, Lex puts the truck back into driving gear and peels out of the parking lot, tearing back onto the road quickly. He grips the steering wheel tight, clenching his jaw as his eyes dart around anxiously before fixing on a stop for the Metro that will take the boys back into town. He pulls over immediately, throwing everyone’s weight forward as he slams on the brakes.

“Get the fuck out.” He’s still facing straight ahead when he says it quickly and quietly.

“What?! That’s fucked up!” Kyle shouts from the backseat.

“Shut up. Get out. Everybody,” he replies dryly, his posture becoming more and more tense as he envisions what’s going to take place just moments from now when he gets across town. “Get the fuck out!!” he finally growls when no one moves on his initial command, and suddenly there’s a panicked shuffle of doors opening and shutting and bodies sliding quickly across the seats until their feet hit the sidewalk.

Before Lex pulls back out onto the road, tires screaming as he races to confront the situation Kyle had just informed him about, Seth leans into the open passenger’s window, hesitating as he takes in Lex’s face, stone cold in rage. He knows how hostile Lex gets over situations that involve me, especially if other men are mentioned.

He swallows hard and sighs worriedly. “Lex, don’t do anything fucking stupid.”
p.

Lex races back across town, running every yellow light, never staying under the speed limit, not even caring about the drugs in his car or the fact that his gun is under his seat, either of which could land him in jail. He doesn’t think about the laws, even though he knows he’s breaking them. He’s not even mad about Trent. Whipping his ass hasn’t even crossed his mind.

No, he’s furious…

At me.

Me, the one who almost fucking cried on him just last night at the mere suspicion of him being with another girl. Where the fuck do I get off turning right around and doing some shit like this? To him, this isn’t just going after another guy. This is getting my business elsewhere. This is me trying to show him that I don’t need him.

But as he gets closer and closer, anger isn’t the emotion eating away at his insides…

No, it’s fear. He doesn’t trust anyone but himself, not when it comes to drugs, and especially not when it comes to me.

He can see it in his mind: me taking some bad shit from another dealer, tripping out in an alley somewhere with no one around who gives a fuck. Laying there ‘til morning before I wake up…

Or don’t wake up.

Shit.

He presses the gas pedal harder.

14

I step behind the small corner store and into the narrow alley slowly, cautiously. It’s fucking filthy back here. Large dumpsters full of black plastic bags stand pushed up against the outside of each building, creating a maze of sorts as I weave in and out of them in the darkness, only a single streetlight illuminating my path.

Trent’s standing there under it, head down, beanie pulled tight over his hair, his entire form a shadow underneath the angle of the streetlight. I quicken my steps to approach him. As much as I have a point to prove, I still want to get this over with quickly.

But as I stop in front of him he keeps his head down, not moving a muscle, not meeting my gaze, his features shadowed by the light beaming directly down over him. I fidget a little in discomfort. I’m uncomfortable in my own skin right now because this just isn’t like me. But it’s sort of thrilling in a sick way, the whole thing. Coming here behind Lex’s back, but telling one of his boys. Waving that shit right there under his nose.

That dull surge of guilt creeps up again. I’ve been forcing it down all night because I’ve convinced myself that he deserves this.

He deserves this shit.

I wait for Trent to notice me standing before him. I clear my throat and anxiously tap my foot, and after a tense minute he snaps his head up to fix his gaze on me. I nearly jump out of my skin, gasping loudly when his eyes meet mine.

His eyes are crystal blue. The blue that freezes you in place, that captivates you for even the slightest of moments. One gaze and I’m chilled to the bone.

Holy…

“Weren’t expecting to see me[_ _]here, huh?”

The voice is all too familiar.

“What are you doing here?” I gasp, my gaze darting all around confusedly. What the fuck is going on?

“I should ask you the same fucking thing!” he growls, fire igniting behind those eyes.

“What the fuck are you doing here, Lex?! Where’s Trent?” I’m still looking around frantically. How did he manage to pull one over on me like this?

“I fucking killed him. Drug his body off down the alley. Someone will probably find him the next time they take trash to the dumpster,” he sneers, and I slowly turn my face back to his, my eyes searching him.

“You’re lying,” I say it matter-of-factly as I eye him, but a hint of inquiry paints my tone. At least I [_hope _]he’s lying…

“Of course I’m fucking lying! I paid his ass off and sent him home,” he snaps. “But what the fuck, Leala?! You don’t get your shit from anyone but me. How can you be so fucking stupid…” He trails, but I bite at his statement, answering immediately.

“You don’t fucking [_own _]me, okay? I don’t need you! I can survive without you!”

He scoffs. “So that’s it then? You’re done with me? Five fucking years, I turn around and you’re done after some shit like last night?! You don’t make any fucking sense!” He shakes his head, turning to walk away from me.

“I’ve never made a fucking [_promise _]to you!” I yell once his back is to me, and he freezes. He whirls around, rage painting his face as he presses my shoulders until my back thuds against the brick of the wall, his face inches from mine. 

“But I’m yours _]and you’re [_mine, and goddammit that’s the way it’s always been! You want a fucking ring now or some shit? Fuck!”

I wait a beat before answering slowly, deliberately, “I don’t want a goddamn thing from you.”

He releases my shoulders, hands falling to his sides as he steps back, eyeing me curiously. “What the fuck does that mean?”

I groan softly. “It means I don’t know how much more of this bullshit I can take, Lex! We’re fast approaching the pinnacle of…” I sigh, struggling to even find a word in the fucking English language to describe this goddamn mess we’re in. “Fucked-up-ness, if there is such a thing.”

“Yeah, pull that scholar shit on me, Leala,” he mutters sarcastically, turning away again.

I raise my voice to him. “Well I’m not using it anywhere else! Not after I fucking drained my college fund for some grass and blow!”

He spins around abruptly, firing his words at me with intent. “Don’t pin that shit on [_me! _]I didn’t shove that shit up your fucking nose! I don’t remember holding a fucking gun to your head!”

“No, you hold it to my heart.” I say it almost flatly, without hesitation and his face melds from one of anger to one of interest. I sigh, gathering my thoughts and lowering my voice before I continue. “I can’t say no to you, Lex. And I’m never gonna get clean if I can’t say no. Maybe if I have to get my shit somewhere else I won’t want it anymore. I’m sick and fucking tired of this shit.”

He slides his jaw sideways, tongue playing inside of his mouth in contemplation, clicking against his teeth before he blinks once and shakes his head, letting my words roll right off of him.

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. What’s your fucking obsession with getting clean now? You watch some shit on Oprah or something?” He tosses the words around easily and frustration swims inside of me.

“Fuck you! I’ve wanted to get clean for a long fucking time. I keep telling you that shit, you just never fucking listen to a single word I say unless we’re fighting or I’m screaming your name in bed. I can’t do this anymore! I don’t wanna be dead on the streets or rotting in fucking prison.”

“Okay, fuck!” he shouts, trying to shut me up, brow furrowing as he throws his hands up. “So you’re done with the drugs, but what about me?” His hands hit his thighs as he drops his lanky arms in frustration.

“What about you?” I scoff, twisting my face in disbelief. Of course he’s always playing the victim.

“I’m your fucking dealer! You don’t need me for shit now, right?” He steps close to me, my back still against the wall, but despite his close proximity, he doesn’t lower his voice. “I mean, you’re sneaking off getting drugs behind my back. Who knows what else you’re getting on the side.”

“Surely you didn’t just fucking say that,” I answer, pushing on his chest.

He closes the space between us again, eyes locked with mine. “Yeah…I fucking did.”

My hands are still pressed to his chest, but I’m not pushing against him anymore. “And you think that’s all you are to me?! My fucking dealer?” I narrow my eyes at him.

“I don’t see why I shouldn’t think that now. I mean, you’re mad at me, right? This is about revenge and shit? And you just threw that shit in my face about not making any promises to me! How do I know you don’t just go off and get some dick behind my back? Isn’t that how the game is played?” he growls, hands braced against the wall and he pushes his body against mine roughly, forcing out my breath from deep in my chest. I groan a bit as my elbows hit against the rough brick wall behind me when his weight presses against me.

I swallow hard. “I don’t play games.” My eyes meet his again. “Not with you.”

“Well you better not.” He pushes against me roughly another time, hips holding mine against the wall, pinning me there. “Cause I don’t care where you get drugs, but you’re not getting [_dick _]anywhere else. This pussy is mine,” he barks authoritatively, his voice still loud and harsh in my face, his eyes hard and cold staring into mine.

But he pauses for a moment, panting slowly as I look back at him with a questioning gaze. This isn’t just anger building inside of him. He’s insecure. He’s staking his claim on me. I can read him like a book, and his eyes soften under my intense stare before he puts his nose to my cheek, his breath warm on my face and I’m suddenly twenty again, back in that old apartment at Felix’s party, pressed against the hallway wall.

“Tell me it’s mine, Leala,” he whispers, pleads, his voice almost shaking, and I know this isn’t a fight about me calling up Trent for drugs. Not anymore.

I feel his long thick lashes brush my cheek as he blinks slowly. I sigh, taking his face in my hands and pulling it back to mine as I slowly hook one leg over his hip, the material of my skirt bunching around my hips. 

“It’s yours, Lex.”

His eyes harden again and he crushes my mouth with his, kissing me hard, almost painfully, bruising my lips with his own. I whimper at the urgency of his mouth, the speed of his tongue against mine. Frantic. Desperate.

He rips his mouth away suddenly, pressing his forehead to my own. “God, I’m just so fucking mad at you. What were you thinking, getting your shit from someone else?” He grabs my shoulders, shaking me slightly. “You know my shit is the only shit you like.” He smirks, one hand leaving my shoulder to trail down over my body before sliding up my thigh, my leg still hooked around his waist. His fingers disappear beneath my skirt as he whispers harshly against my ear, “Just like my [_dick _]is the only dick you like, isn’t it?”

And before I can answer I feel two of his fingers delve into my center impatiently. I gasp, whining a bit as he works me roughly right away, unapologetically fucking me with his hand. He grits his teeth, snarling as he locks his eyes with mine.

“Tell me you only want my dick.”

I just groan in response, twisting up my face, fisting the fabric of his shirt, clutching it at his shoulders to steady myself as his fingers continue moving in and out vigorously.

“Say ‘Lex, I only want your dick in my pussy.’ Say it,” he growls against my ear and I bite my lip almost until it bleeds.

“A little insecure?” My voice is strangled in my throat, but I grin at him lazily as he pulls back to look at me. His blue eyes sweep over me like a cold midwinter breeze. I can see myself in them, my shallow frame in his frozen irises that feel like ice and glass. Sharp enough to scar.

Say it,” he commands, nostrils flaring, jaw clenched. I release my head with a suppressed moan when I feel his fingers pull out suddenly. I had previously been so caught up in the feeling of them inside of me that I had failed to even notice him working to undo his pants with his other hand.

I suddenly gasp when I feel him guide the head of his cock to rest against my entrance, rubbing against it teasingly. 

“I feel how wet you are, I know that’s not for anybody else. That shit is for me.”

“Lex…”

“Say it,” he cuts me off dryly and I slowly lower my eyes to his, panting. I start to open my mouth, but when I don’t respond right away he thrusts into me with a grunt, pounding deep into me so hard I’m surprised my eyes don’t explode out of their sockets.

“Shit!” I release my head again, hitting it so hard against the concrete I’m sure it splits my skull. He chuckles softly.

“You know nobody else can fuck that pussy like I can? You only want it from me, huh?” He slams into me twice more, knocking my breath out with each crash of our hips. “Tell me you want it,” he pants against my cheek, holding himself deep inside of me, gripping my hips brutally and God, how in the fuck does he expect me to speak right now?

“Lex.” I try to breathe enough to answer him but he doesn’t give me any time, pulling out and drilling me hard and deep again, over and over, fucking the shit out of me, grinding my lower back into the hard cold brick of the wall. Fuck, I know that shit is gonna bruise.

I let my weight slump over him in defeat, wrapping my arms around his shoulders and just holding on for dear life. I feel like he might fuck me to death, right here in this dirty alley. But what a way to go.

“I don’t hear you, Leala. Tell me you fucking want it.” He stops again, pulling my other leg up around his waist, pressing even deeper into me and I groan loud and long, the sound muffled in his shoulder. There is silence in the alley except for our panting breaths. A siren wails in the distance, and I finally lift my head out of his shoulder.

“I want it,” I sigh weakly, and he instantly resumes his work on me, our bodies slapping together fiercely, relentlessly.

“You only…want this shit…from me?” he grunts between thrusts, pushing deeper and deeper, faster and faster, and the sensations of pleasure swallow me quickly, washing over me in wave after dull wave, building and building.

“Yes…God, yes…Shit!” I shriek, body writhing against his, clutching him, grabbing at him as he drives into me mercilessly, pulling at my orgasm, drawing it slowly from the depths of my body, my fingers and toes, deep in my core, luring it out bit by bit.

I curl and curl around his body, my insides sucking at his throbbing dick as it plows into me over and over, my legs tightening around his waist, arms squeezing around his shoulders until I’m shaking with fatigue, waiting and waiting for my release until it hits me all at once. It forces a strained sob from deep in my chest before knocking the breath from my lungs.

I feel him lose it just seconds behind me, almost instantaneously, plunging into me twice more, maybe three times, and shooting thick and hot inside of me until he has nothing left. His weight falls forward against me, trapping me against the wall, breathing so hard, [_both _]of us breathing hard. Jesus, you’d think we were having simultaneous heart attacks.

“Don’t…ever…” he trails, unable to catch his breath enough to make a complete thought. But I just answer back immediately, already knowing what he wants to say.

“I won’t, Lex. I won’t.”

15

[* *]

I’ve been slowly nodding off during The Avengers, which makes sense because even though it’s only a little after 9 PM, I’ve had to work all day, busting my ass and waiting tables at the restaurant. I still insisted on having this movie night though, just to keep some some sort of [_normalcy _]in me and Lex’s relationship, especially after all the shit that went down a couple days ago.

I’m sitting up in bed next to him, leaning on his shoulder a bit, but my eyes keep fluttering shut. He kinda jumps during an action scene and I jerk my head up off his shoulder, gasping a little. He looks over at me, laughing softly.

I feel his hand rest on my thigh, his palm smooth and wide, his skin radiating heat through the denim covering my legs, and I take my bottom lip in between my teeth, smiling a bit. It’s rare that the two of us can watch a movie without him ending up on top of me. Or underneath me. Or behind me.

I bend my knee up a little so that his hand falls to my inner thigh, sliding down, his fingers almost reaching right where I want them to be. And then the lamp beside the bed flickers.

Flicker.

Flicker.

Flicker.

Darkness. The TV, the lamp, the ceiling fan, the A/C…all off.

I freeze for a moment, Lex’s hand still on my leg. It’s dark. Not even the kind of dark where you can still make out figures in the room. No, it’s darker than that. I feel like I’m blind.

“Shit.”

I hear his voice beside me suddenly and I jump, forgetting how close he was sitting.

“God, it’s dark.” I’m whispering just because I’m intimidated by the stillness of the room. When you’re in pitch blackness, all you can do is sit tight until your eyes get used to the dark.

“Nah, it’s cool.”

But as soon as he says it, the front door wiggles a bit, clicking, and of course I fucking [_lose _]it. I know that when the pressure changes in the hallway it makes the door jiggle. It’s been that way ever since I moved in, but in the dark it freaks me the fuck out.

I whine a little, putting my face in his neck, clutching his arm. “Did you hear that?”

But he just laughs. “Shut up, it was just the door. Go find a light.”

“Lex, it’s really dark. I’m kinda scared.” I laugh at myself when I say it because normally the dark doesn’t bother me, but I slowly roll out of my bed in search of a flashlight. I blindly feel my way to the kitchen, knowing my apartment layout well enough to not run into any walls. I reach into the cabinet under the sink, feeling for the large metal handle of the Maglite that I know is hiding somewhere.

I finally feel my fingers around it, pulling it from the cabinet and pushing the soft rubber button, illuminating the kitchen with a beam of light.

“Just looked out the window and it seems like everybody is ‘lights out’ around here…hey, you found it.” Lex emerges from the bedroom and I shine the light in his eyes playfully, making him throw a hand up to shield himself, squinting a little. “Stop that shit,” he says, rushing to grab me around the waist roughly with a chuckle.

“Do you think it’s the whole building or should you check the breaker box?”

“I like how you said, ‘should [_you _]check the box’…not really giving me a option.”

I giggle. “Well, you’re the guy, you know about that shit.”

“I’m not a fucking electrician, Leala.”

I pout a bit and he groans.

Fine. I’ll look.”

I point the flashlight in the direction of the utility room where the washer and dryer are. He follows the path, opening the door to the small room and feeling along the wall for the box. I bring the light into the room to assist his vision and he flips the lid open, staring blankly at the wires and switches inside. I squeeze behind him to shine the flashlight directly over his shoulder, my hips pinned between his ass and the washing machine.

He finally laughs, looking at me over his shoulder. “I have no fucking clue what I’m looking at.” And we both laugh. “Hey, it’s a little tight in here, huh?” he teases, pushing back at me with his butt, gently shoving me back into the washing machine, and I groan a little.

“Lex, stop!” And he does it again, just to spite me. “Stop, damn it!” But I’m laughing and wrestling with him and these are the little moments I love. Just me and him, goofing off, acting stupid. No drugs, no fights, just us.

I finally reach around between his legs and he doubles over, lifting a knee to protect his goods, and when he leans forward a bit, I quickly escape.

“You bitch!” he yells as he chases me back through the kitchen and into the living room, flashlight beam playing on the wall as I run away from him, squealing a little. I fall onto the couch and pull my knees up to my chest in defense and he reaches out, grabbing at me, teeth gritted but a smile playing on his lips. He suddenly snatches the flashlight from my hand, pressing the button before quickly tossing it aside.

Darkness[_. _]Complete fucking darkness. You think dark is just one color, but it’s not. There’re five or six kinds of black. Some silky, some woolly. Some just empty. Some like fingers. And it doesn’t stay still, it moves and changes from one kind of black to another. Saying something is pitch black is like saying something is green. What kind of green? Green like a grasshopper? Green like a cucumber, lettuce, or green like the sky is just before it breaks loose to storm? Well, black is the same way. May as well be a rainbow.

I feel his hands slip off of me and my eyes dart around the room, opening wide, hoping I might inherit night vision because I can’t see shit now. I know he’s still in the room but I’m not sure where, and if I know Lex like I think I do, I know he’s planning an attack, just to scare the shit out of me.

“Hey…”

I hear his voice, low and quiet, but I’m not completely sure which direction it came from. I wait, eyes still wide. I’m looking around but I can’t see a fucking thing, and I laugh a little thinking about what I must look like right now.

“Come here…”

His voice is a bit louder now and I stand up slowly off the couch, stepping cautiously out into the room. We both snicker at all of the tense silence and I follow the direction of the sound, my senses heightened from my loss of sight.

“Over here…”

And I’m walking quicker now, hoping to close the space between the two of us before he moves, because that’s something he would do. He likes to tease.

“Where are you?” I reach out blindly for him and my hands suddenly bump his chest, now shirtless underneath my fingertips. “Are you just running around taking your clothes off or what?”

He laughs. My hands feel their way down his torso to the waistband of his jeans and I only know his face is lingering close to mine because I can feel his breath warm across my cheek. I jump a little when his hands grab my ass because I couldn’t even see him sneaking them around my body.

“It’s so weird when I can’t see you,” I whisper.

“I think it’s hot.” He says it right against my lips and I kiss his mouth hungrily, lots of lip and even more tongue. I slowly pull away, his full bottom lip between my teeth, and he groans when my hands suddenly leave his body, blindly grabbing for me. I slip away and quickly cross the room, removing my t-shirt and bra along the way.

This could be a fun game.

“Lex?” I whisper into the darkness and I hear rustling across the room where the two of us were just standing, and I know he’s moving around just to find me. I can’t hear his footsteps in the carpet but I can hear him breathing, just barely, his jeans rustling as his legs pass one another in stride.

I giggle a little in anticipation, my back against the wall, just waiting. Hearing his hands thump against the wall close to me, I moan a little, teasing him, just giving him enough sound to follow.

I suddenly feel his strong hand grasp my waist, still clad in my jeans, and it travels up and up. I hear him groan low in his throat when that same hand brushes against the bare flesh of my belly and up to my breasts. 

“Damn, girl.” 

And I know he wasn’t expecting me to be half naked.

He stands in front of me now, hips pressed into mine and I can tell that he’s starting to get hard as he takes my breasts in his hands, rolling his thumbs over my nipples, pinching them to make them stand on end. I’m still pissed because I can’t see a damn thing and I usually love to watch his face as he plays with my body, but it’s almost better when I can’t see him because everything is unexpected.

A moan slides out over my lips as I feel his mouth on me suddenly, his lips closed on one of my nipples, tongue sneaking out to circle the peak slow and lazy while his hand massages the other. I grab at his face, pulling it up and his mouth crashes against mine, his hands groping my breasts, pushing me harder against the wall.

I groan and his hips buck against me, his rigid dick pleading for me through his jeans. “Let’s fuck,” I breathe out the words boldly, begging against his mouth, but he suddenly pulls away, leaving me frustrated. “Lex, I’m tired of this game now!” I call out into the room and I hear him chuckling softly.

It’s been a while since the power went out and it’s starting to get hot in my apartment, which irritates me slightly, but mostly I’m just pissed because I want a good hard fuck and he wants to play naked hide and seek. Or whatever this is.

“You better come find me then…” His voice is playful and it pisses me off. He’s [_loving _]this, getting me all hot and bothered and then disappearing. He’s such a fucking tease anyway, but tonight beats anything he’s ever pulled. I suddenly wonder where that stupid flashlight is.

“Where are you, Lex?” I step away from the wall a bit, our voices wrapping around each other’s, entwining, and then tugging free, in the pitch black.

“I dunno but wherever I am, I’m buck ass naked.”

I almost groan when he says it. I know what that body looks like and even in the dark I can see it in my mind. I flood hot between my thighs in anticipation of just getting my hands on him.

“Are you hard?” But I already know that he is, I just want to get a little pleasure out of this tease-talk that he’s started. I step further out into the room, reaching down to unbutton my jeans, tugging the zipper down slow.

He moans a little before answering, “I’m rock solid for you.” And I feel my cheeks flush, not sure if it’s from the absence of A/C or from the burning deep in my stomach, aching with want for him.

My voice wavers a bit. “Where are you?”

“Over here…” But his voice is somewhere else, and I stop suddenly. He’s really got me going now. “You better come find me. You won’t be able to walk tomorrow when I’m done with you…”

My breath hitches in my throat. It’s so fucking [_hot _]in my apartment now. I’m sure it’s been almost twenty minutes since the electricity shut off, and there’s no way in hell I can cool off now, being so turned on like this.

I moan a little in frustration, tugging my jeans down my hips and stepping out of them when they pool at my feet, walking further into the room, straining my ears for any indication to where he might be.

“Sure is taking you a long time to find me, baby. I’m getting kinda lonely, playing with my dick and shit.” He laughs a little when he says it and I try to picture him in my mind, fingers tight around his shaft, licking his lips as he strokes it slow and steady, just waiting for me. God

“Stop teasing me!” I’m panting a little now as I pace in the room, pussy soaked and aching, screaming at me to hurry and find him so he can fuck me just the way I like it.

“Oh, this isn’t teasing. Teasing would be sliding this big dick inside you…fucking you good and hard…and pulling out right before you cum. And just leaving you there in the dark…all hot and bothered…not even letting you get off…”

His voice is moving as he talks and I know he’s circling in the room, keeping me guessing, making me wait. I try to follow his voice, but every time I get near, he’s somewhere else. I fucking [_hate _]him right now. But I secretly love it because I know we’ll both be so turned on that by the time I touch him, he’ll take me right then and there, wherever I’m standing.

“Shit, Lex.” I’m starting to sweat, my skin barely starting to feel damp, and I run a hand down my neck, swallowing hard.

“Are you naked?” he asks.

I pause for a moment and quickly hook my thumbs into the waistband of my underwear, pushing them down to the floor. “I am now.”

“Good.” He laughs softly. “Damn, I can picture you in my mind. You wanna fuck me, don’t you?”

“You know I do.”

“Tell me you want to. I wanna hear you say it.”

I pause for a moment, trying to catch my breath, still trying to follow his voice, my hands sweating and trembling slightly, seeking him out. If I could just get my hands on him…

“Say it.”

His voice has escaped me again, and I sigh loud, moaning in frustration, my palm slapping into the wall where I ended up in my desperate search for him. “Goddammit, Lex!”

He chuckles softly. “Say it. Say you wanna fuck me.”

“I wanna fuck you,” I answer him immediately, choking out the words.

“How bad?” His voice is low and thick. He’s teasing the shit out of me, on purpose. Making me tell him what I want again.

I groan low in my chest, aching so badly between my thighs that I almost want to reach down and touch myself.

“Shit, Lex, I can’t wait much longer. I [_need _]it. I want you to fuck me all night, pound my pussy until I fucking beg you to stop, and you better give me everything you’ve got. I better not walk right for days.”

I hear him groan at my response.

“Get on the couch.”

And that’s all he says.

I almost sprint across the room, my knees shaking with expectancy, my breathing already a bit labored, still sweating from the heat in my apartment. I sink down into the scratchy fabric and wait, my heart thumping out of my chest. I’m sure he can probably hear it across the room.

“Where are you?” My tone is impatient, my voice thick with irritation, and as soon as I say the words I feel his hands sink into the back of the couch on either side of my shoulders, and I gasp.

“Right here…” 

I feel his breath across my face as he whispers it and I swallow hard. His knees suddenly sink into the cushions on either side of my thighs and my hand rushes out to grip his dick eagerly, both of us moaning in unison. He’s so thick and hard in my palm and I moan again, just imagining how he’s going to feel inside of me. Slamming into me over and over, pounding me into a frenzied state until I’m pleading and begging him to stop because I can’t take anymore.

He sits back onto his knees, running his hands under my ass to lift my hips, setting me against his thighs, and I wait. I wait and tremble because I can’t see a fucking thing and I’m expecting him to touch me or taste me any second now. I want this. I want it bad.

But he stops. I squirm, shifting my hips in his hands, whining a bit.

“I wish I could see you right now…all spread out for me like this.” He chuckles down at me, suddenly gripping both my wrists in one of his large hands, holding them over my head against the arm of the couch. He lets his other hand skim lasciviously down my body and a low growl rumbles from my chest as my hips press into his, my body begging for what my mouth won’t.

He pants as the skin of my thigh caresses his length, his mouth opening against my neck, and he sucks hard on my pulse point, causing me to squirm.

“Are you gonna be a good girl?” he asks condescendingly, reaching between me to rub the tip of his dick against my slit enticingly. His fingers dig into my wrists as he presses the tip of his cock against my dripping entrance, before sliding up to tease my clit again.

A whimper tears from my throat as he rubs the smooth head against my throbbing nub and I let one of my legs wrap around his waist, trying to pull him closer. He’s chuckling at me again, rubbing against me tortuously, and I struggle against him, trying to get my hands free.

“Now, now,” he drawls, his lips brushing mine as he speaks. He’s such an asshole. It pisses me off, sets me on fire, and makes me want him so much that it hurts.

“Goddammit, Lex,” I spit, letting my head thump back against the arm of couch. “Just fucking do it.”

“Do what?” he asks innocently. How he can make his voice so innocent when he’s got me pinned on this fucking couch, I’ll never know.

“Fuck me, you asshole,” I growl.

“That’s not very nice,” he chides gently and I whine, letting my head fall to the side in frustration. My pussy is throbbing, the muscles in my stomach cramping from want and he’s so close. He’s so fucking close to being inside me and I know, I know how good it can be. I want him so bad that tears are pricking my eyes.

“You know you can’t stay mad at me,” he says and I can feel him grinning, his tongue tracing lazy circles along my chest and over the top of my breasts.

And this sets a new fire in me. Anger, volatile and potent, bursts in my chest and I’m struggling against him again, gritting my teeth and cursing him. I catch him by surprise and I almost get my hands free but he’s too quick, slamming my pinned wrists into the arm of the couch painfully.

“Shit, Lex, that hurts!” I yell, thrashing underneath him, and he growls at me.

“Well if you would stop fighting me and shut the fuck up!” he argues and I let out a frustrated groan, body writhing beneath him, his dick still pulsing between my legs but not inside.

“Don’t you talk to me that wa—”

My words melt into a yelp as he shoves his entire length into me at once, my back arching off of couch, pleasure ripping through me. My eyes close and I moan as he drags back out before slamming forcefully back in again.

“That shut you up, huh?” he chuckles, his hips gyrating as he thrusts and all I can do is lay back and take it, my legs trembling with pleasure.

“You’re such a dick,” I grit out but it’s punctuated by a moan when he slams into me just right, hitting that spot only he can find.

“Yeah, you’re lucky I didn’t shove it in your mouth,” he responds, his head dropping to my shoulder as I fight to get my hands free.

“Please, Lex,” I pant into his ear, my tongue snaking out to lick around the shell. “Please let me touch you…”

He hums in pleasure, his hand finally releasing mine and moving to brace himself over me. My hands are everywhere all at once, wrapping around his waist to grab his ass, feeling him pound into me, sliding around, my nails skittering over the bumps and grooves of his abdomen. I smooth my palms around his back, my hand slicking over his damp skin, feeling his muscles slide over one another.

He fucks me hard and deep, and I swear he’s going to split me in half, but I like it. I fucking [_love _]it. I groan loud, gritting my teeth, and I’m sure my back will be burnt tomorrow from the friction of the fabric underneath me. He’s pushing my shoulders against the arm of the couch, my back rubbing rough against the cushions.

And I scream, one arm gripping the edge of the sofa, the other palm pressed overhead against the couch arm for leverage as he pounds into me again.

“Is this what you wanted?” He grinds out the words from deep in his gut, his breathing labored as he works me relentlessly, his dick throbbing inside me, the skin of my bare ass slapping against his thighs. And I moan loud, almost screaming again.

“Yes!”

“You fucking love this, don’t you? You’d let me work your shit all night, huh? ‘Til you couldn’t even feel it anymore?”

He’s pumping faster now, gripping my hips so hard I know the evidence will be clear in the morning, but I don’t even care. I can’t even speak, I just nod and moan as he plunges into me, rubbing my back raw against the couch cushions without mercy.

It’s taking over me fast as he fucks me harder and harder, shoving deep into me, hitting my spot as I start to cum, but he doesn’t let up. I scream as he unexpectedly takes a hand between my legs and rolls his thumb aggressively over my clit.

“Lex,” I moan as his hips reach a frantic pace, letting my head hang back as he pounds into me over and over. “Mmm, just like that,” I pant, just letting myself feel him slide in and out of my body, reveling in the pleasure coursing through my veins.

God, I think this feeling is better than any drug I’ve ever tried.

“Like that?” he asks, his voice tight in his chest, his hips grinding against mine, fucking me in the pitch black dark of the room.

“Yes,” I pant, my body writhing beneath him. “Yes!” I yell, my head falling back again, trying to pull air into my lungs

“Thought so,” he chuckles but it turns into a moan when my nails scrape down his back.

“Please…” I beg, my muscles spasming, so close to locking down around him.

He growls, one hand sliding down our bodies, fingers nestling in my folds and pinching my clit. My back arches off the couch as my pussy clamps down around him repeatedly, and I’m screaming his name so loud that it hurts my throat. I feel myself releasing violently all over his dick, my body writhing on the couch, hands clutching his forearms as he grips my hips tighter and slams into me with everything he has, the skin of my back now tender and throbbing.

“Fuck, Leala, I’m gonna cum,” he groans, his hips crashing into mine and it’s almost too much, my body weak and sensitive from my own orgasm. He grits his teeth and I bring my other leg around his waist, forcing him deeper, working my way to the edge.

He throws his head back and he’s grunting from deep in his gut as he finally explodes inside of me, sending a second dull wave of pleasure over my body. His thumb continues to work my clit until my pussy sucks him dry and he collapses over me, his legs trembling from working me so brutally.

My body pulses, throbbing from head to toe as he lays against me, our chests pressed together and slick with sweat. I feel it gathering in the dip of his lower back as I reach my fingers there, my hands trembling against his skin.

He still hasn’t moved, hasn’t spoken a word, and the air is thick with silence and stillness again, only interrupted by the patterns of our breathing as we both come down from our high.

He finally lifts his head and puts his face into my neck, kissing me, letting his tongue sneak out to taste the salt on my skin, but I still can’t move much. My lips find his in the dark and I kiss him quickly, still breathing into his mouth a bit, and I’m lost in it, completely and utterly lost in the tenderness with which he’s touching my face. It amazes me how he can fuck the shit out of me one minute and be completely loving and gentle the next. He’s the only one that can have me ready to rip his face off, then ready to fuck him, then ready to marry him all within a moment. Only him.

All of a sudden, the lights come on without warning. We both squint our eyes, laughing, and he squeezes me around my waist as I look around the room to see our clothes strewn about.

And that damn flashlight is on the floor, right by the couch.

16

“Hey! Hey, get up!” He’s shaking me harshly a couple days later, pulling me from a deep sleep, and I am [_not _]happy about it. My eyes open slowly and he’s standing next to the bed, leaning over me, fully dressed. “Get up!”

“What the fuck is your problem?” I groan and roll over, dragging the covers over me, but he snatches them back, exposing my naked form.

“You need to go. I have business to handle and I’m not leaving you here alone while I’m gone. Get up!” He trudges into the living room and I hear him rooting around through his things.

“Why can’t I just go with you?” I moan and roll around in his bed a bit. I love his bed.

“Because I said so. Get the fuck up and go home. I have business to handle,” he shouts from the living room and I roll my eyes.

“I don’t wanna go home.” I sit up slowly, rubbing my eyes and he stomps back into the bedroom, pulling the hood of his sweatshirt over his messy hair.

“Are you serious right now? I have to meet Tony in thirty minutes and if I’m late, I’m gonna be dead, and on my headstone I’m gonna get them to put, ‘The bitch wouldn’t get out my bed.’ Now get the fuck up!”

“I wanna go with you.” I narrow my eyes at him and he scoffs, shaking his head.

“Fuck no, you’re not going with me to see Tony.”

“Why?”

“Because I could fucking die today, and I don’t want you to witness that,” he says it very matter-of-factly, and then I realize he’s being serious.

Seriously?

He sighs, pushing his palm to his forehead, scratching at his hairline, his short nails running through his dark, unruly hair. “Bruce called me this morning and said Tony has been fronting dealers all over the area for powder, you know, trying to get deeper into the shit. Not like he doesn’t have enough bank from that weed down in Mexico. Anyway, he went to collect and he got some bathtub shit from a guy out in Ojai, and the motherfucker told Tony that the shit came from me.”

My chest tightens. This is what Tony was warning me about.

Tell that motherfucker to stay out of my coke deals…

He continues despite the fact that I’m becoming lost in my thoughts. “How fucked up is that? How is my shit gonna run all the way to Ojai? And Tony knows everything I run is pure! So anyway, he’s been running his mouth all over town about how I set him up ‘cause I knew he was trying to get his hands on some blow. Well, I called that motherfucker and told him how shit was, and he got fucking worked up about it—”

“So why are you going to see him if he’s mad enough to kill you?” I cut him off, and he hesitates, biting at his bottom lip.

“He said if I didn’t find him, he would find me.”

And in the drug business, that’s a statement that you don’t take lightly. I’m silent for a moment. This can’t be happening. “Fuck that. I’m going.”

“You’re not going.”

But I immediately spring up out of the bed and start pulling my clothes on.

“You’re not fucking going!”

I pull my shoes on quickly and head out the front door before he can stop me, but he’s right behind me, slamming the door on his way out of the house, and I keep walking to the passenger’s side of his truck. I jerk on the handle. “Unlock the fucking door.”

“You better just keep your ass walking right down that street and go home. I’ll call you as soon as I get back, but I can’t have you fucking around while I’m handling business.”

“You’re not handling business, you’re trying to get yourself killed.”

“Oh, so you wanna die too, now? You’re a fucking piece of work—”

“Open the goddamned door!” I scream at him across the hood of the truck, and he glares at me for a long moment, jaw clenched, fighting the urge to do it, but he finally surrenders with a sigh, clicking the ‘unlock’ push-button on his keys before we both open our doors, climbing into our respective seats.

“I can’t fucking believe you,” he mumbles as he slams his door and slips the key into the ignition, shaking his head.

“Just drive.”

We cruise down the 110 and cut over on Slauson into Windsor Hills. And I’m fucking terrified. Lex never runs business down on this side of L.A., but I know that Tony has loyalties here, which is probably why he set up the meet in this part of town. If shit got out of hand, neither Lex or myself would ever be found, and Tony’s tracks would be completely covered.

I glance over at Lex, and his jaw is locked, hands gripping the steering wheel with white knuckles, but his blue eyes are soft. His eyes are always soft. I pull my knees to my chest and sink into my seat as we approach the intersection and he pulls into the empty parking lot.

“Oh no, don’t get scared now. You [_had _]to come with me, remember?”

I exhale loudly as he turns the truck off. My insides are trembling, and I jump when his hand touches my face. I’m fucking petrified.

“You need to stay in the truck, okay?” And his voice is soft. Almost too soft, which frightens me even more. I never have to worry about Lex very much when he’s wild and aggressive. But when he’s calm and quiet, I know he’s really trying to get to me on a deeper level. He knows I’m scared, and I think he’s really scared, too.

“Leala…hey, look at me.”

I don’t want to look at him because I’m afraid to see the look in his eyes. If he has fear in his eyes, I’ll lose it. I’ll completely fucking lose it, because I’m so used to him being a hardass and standing up for me and always getting his way and never being afraid.

“Hey, look at me. Leala…”

I panic inside when he says my name, it’s like when your parents call you by your first and middle name when you’re in trouble. But I know it’s [_him _]that’s in trouble, not me.

He turns my face gently with his fingertips. “You need to stay here, okay? You need to stay in the truck and lay down in the backseat.”

And tears sting my eyes because he’s speaking slow and soft, looking at me with intent, and I know he’s afraid. I shake my head slowly and he can tell I’m on the brink of crying.

“Don’t do this…don’t fucking do this to me, okay? You have to stay here ‘cause you can get me into a lot of trouble. You [_have _]to do this for me. You have to stay here, and I’m gonna walk right across the street over between those two buildings, and I’ll be back, but you have to stay here. And if anything happens…you have to go. You have to go, okay? Do not get out of this truck. I don’t care what you see and I don’t care what you hear.”

I squeeze my eyes shut tight and feel wetness slip down my cheeks, because when he says, “I don’t care what you hear” I know he’s talking about gunshots, and it suddenly hits me. He could die. He could get killed right now while I’m here in this truck waiting for him to come back. This could be the last time I see him.

He sighs and takes my face in his hands. “Don’t do this to me. Don’t sit here and wail like I’m not coming back. I’m coming back, okay? Come here…”

And he presses his mouth to mine gently. I clutch his shoulders and fist his t-shirt into my hands, holding him close to me over the center console of the truck. God, I don’t want him to go.

“You’re my girl, right? Right?” He smiles a little, and I nod against his cheek, but he pulls back to look into my face. “Say it.”

I grip his shirt tighter, drawing him back to me, and kiss his mouth again. I say the words as I pull back, “I’m your girl.”

He nods at me, smoothing a hand over my messy blonde hair. “Get in the backseat.”

“I wanna watch you til I can’t see you anymore.”

And he sighs, but he knows I’m scared and he’s gonna have to let me do things my way. “Okay.” He pulls the keys from the ignition and stares at them in his open palm before extending them to me without a word. I take them in trembling fingers, gripping them tight, and he opens the door and slides out of his seat.

When his sneakers hit the concrete he turns back into the truck, leaning over the seat as he reaches underneath, removing his gun. I swallow hard as he checks the round before tucking it into the waistband of his jeans, pulling his t-shirt over it to conceal it. He gives me a long solemn look before closing the door.

I watch him walk around the front of the truck and he doesn’t get ten steps away from the vehicle before I panic.

He can’t go.

I fucking spaz. I open my passenger’s side door and slide out of my seat and as soon as he hears the door click he’s running back to the truck. No sooner do I get the door shut then he’s right there when I turn around, palm on my throat and fingers clamped around my jaw, slamming me hard against the closed door.

“What the [_fuck _]are you doing?! I told you to wait in the truck!”

“I’m coming with you.”

“Are you fucking insane?”

“Tony won’t kill you if I’m with you.”

“What the fuck gives you that idea?”

“You think Tony is gonna let me witness a murder?!”

“No, but there will be a fucking double murder in Windsor Hills today if you don’t get back in this fucking truck right now.” He pushes me harder against the door when he says it, and I wince a little.

“At least we’ll both be dead then,” I spit the words in his face. But I mean it. I don’t know what I would do if he didn’t come back.

“You are one crazy bitch, you know that? You think you know how this dealer shit works, but you fucking don’t! You can’t protect me! You just have to trust that I’m gonna come back, okay? Okay!?” He tightens his grip on my jaw, shaking me a bit. I can tell he’s freaking out about all of this. It’s like a fucking nightmare.

“Okay.” I wriggle in his grasp and he lets me go.

“Get in the fucking truck.” He stands there until I crawl into the backseat and lay down. I peer over the seat and out the back window as he scurries across the street into an alley between two buildings. I’m glad it’s the middle of the day. I wouldn’t be caught dead over here at night. Or I guess I should say if I [_were _]caught here at night, I would probably be dead.

God, I wish I had a fucking watch. He’s gone for five, seven, thirty minutes. It feels like hours ticking by…

Fuck this.

I stare at the door handle, waiting, deciding, and I finally pull it toward me, slowly until it clicks. I crawl out of the seat and shut the door.

What the fuck am I doing?

But I have to go find him. He has to come back to me.

Tony gets a glimpse of me as soon as I creep up between the old buildings, and his gaze narrow at me. His eyes are so dark and deep, like a bottomless well. They’re dragging me in, those eyes of his. Scars cover his skin like a hundred silvery pink snakes. It’s a brutal reminder to me and anyone who sees them that he is [_not _]the guy to fuck with.

Judging by the look on Tony’s face, Lex looks over his shoulder curiously, his eyes widening when he sees me. But as soon as he turns back around, he comes face to face with the barrel of Tony’s 9 millimeter gun.

No!” I gasp and I feel Lex’s hand reaching behind him to push me against the wall of the building, holding me there.

“What’s this bitch doing here, Lex?” Tony says the words through clenched teeth and Lex swallows hard as his body goes cold.

“I told her to wait in the truck.”

“Well apparently she doesn’t know how to take orders. Why did you even bring that rotten cunt with you on a business meeting? First you fuck me over with bad drugs, then you bring a [_whore _]with you to our meeting. I don’t think you have your head on straight, Big Man. Maybe I should just blow it off.”

“Fuck you, Tony, you know that shit from Ojai wasn’t Lex’s!” I squeak the words out from against the wall, trying to escape his hold. Sometimes love can blind you more than a gunshot.

“Would you shut the fuck up?” Lex screams over his shoulder, his voice strained and maniacal, struggling to push me back, but I step around him. And Tony points the gun at me

“I don’t think I was talking to you, you fucking coke whore,” he seethes.

In an instant Lex is in front of me, gun drawn and pointed straight back at Tony, jaw clenched, brows knitted, fire in his eyes. He lowers his voice. “No, you weren’t. You were talking to me, motherfucker. So now what?”

Tony scoffs a little, almost a laugh, cocking his head to the side. “Oh, it’s like that, huh?”

“Yeah, it’s just like that, bitch.”

It’s a standoff. Neither moves. Neither blinks. Silence. I don’t even think anyone is breathing.

Tony glares at Lex for a long second, fuming, and pulls his hand to the side, firing a shot down the alley between the buildings. I scream as Lex pushes me harder against the wall behind him, body still covering me. A gunshot is the loudest sound in the universe, especially if you think the bullet is coming at you.

Tony hesitates, then steps forward, pushing the barrel of the gun to Lex’s neck, the metal now hot from the propulsion of the bullet. Lex sucks in his breath through his teeth. A strangled noise escapes his throat as the metal burns his skin, singeing his flesh, marking him permanently. I squeak out a whimper, and his hand grips me strong behind his back.

Tony’s nose to nose with him, gun to his neck, Lex’s gun pushed against Tony’s chest. Either one could be dead in an instant.

“Tell me that white from Ojai wasn’t yours. TELL ME!” Tony spits the words in his face, pulling the hammer back on the pistol with a click, and Lex holds his breath.

His voice is straining in his throat. “You fucking know it wasn’t mine. I don’t run shit to Ojai, and all my blow is quality. Don’t act like you don’t know me and my business.”

“Fine. But if I get [_one _]more shotty deal and it even [_smells _]like you had something to do with it, you’re dead. You and your cunt bitch.”

We both watch Tony stalk off into the bleak surroundings, the only splash of color coming from the lurid graffiti and the sidewalks littered with injection paraphernalia. As soon as he’s out of earshot, Lex snaps his head around to me, spitting out his words through gritted teeth.

“I should fucking kill you with my bare hands for that shit.”

He grips my shoulders hard, shaking me, but I’m crying, silent tears slipping down my face. He exhales, slumping as the tension leaves his body and he places his hands on my ribcage. I can feel them trembling against my sides as he puts his face in my neck. I clutch the back of his head, tears falling faster down my cheeks but I still try not to make a sound.

“If you [_ever _]pull some shit like that again…” 

His words trail off as I run my fingertips slowly over his face, my hands trembling and tears still in my eyes. I’m not even listening to him, I’m just glad he’s alive. 

He rests his forehead against mine and sighs. “Let’s get the fuck outta here.”

17

“Fuck, I need to get stoned after some shit like that.” His voice is shaky as I follow him into the house once we return after that fucked up run-in with Tony. He immediately slinks into the back room to retrieve a blunt he rolled for the night before to smoke with the boys. As he sits down in his recliner with a deep sigh I lean down over him.

“Come here, let me see your neck.” I touch his jaw gently, trying to turn his face, but he jerks it away in aggravation.

“No! Stop. I’m fine,” he grunts, tucking his head to hide his wound from me. The last thing he wants to feel like after a stand-off in and alley with his gun pushed to some guy’s chest is a little pussy who needs a band-aid.

“Lex, just let me see it.” I straddle his lap, craning my neck to peek under his jaw and get a glimpse of his singed flesh, my face screwing up at the sight of it. There’s a deep burn, right above the black “L.A.” tattooed on his skin.

“It’s just a fucking burn, okay? Get off me! Damn,” he groans and pushes back against me. But I grab his face gently in my hands.

“Stop trying to be a fucking hardass. It looks bad, Lex.” I struggle with him. Damn, he’s so stubborn. “Stop!” I bark loudly and he sighs in defeat, relaxing under my touch. “Here, just let me look…” I tilt his head back gently, turning it to the side and he groans deep in his chest, twisting up his face in pain as his blistered skin stretches across the scald. “Does it hurt?”

He swallows hard, sighing. “Yeah.” He winces as I run a finger over the skin, burned smooth from the hot metal of the gun and a shiver runs down my body as I flashback to just an hour ago. I shake the scene from my head as I gently kiss his neck, over his jaw and up his cheek. He sighs and smiles a little as I nuzzle his nose but he groans impatiently. “I need to get high, Leala. We can play doctor later, okay?”

He pushes back on me gently, lifting himself from the chair and crossing the room to sit on the couch. I collapse into his chair with a sigh, still not sure that my mind has completely wrapped around the events of this afternoon. He fires up the blunt, and the sweet smell pours slowly through the living room as he smokes, passing it to me occasionally.

We smoke the whole thing in silence. Well, [_he _]smokes most of it, and I’m waiting for him to just pass out on the couch at any moment having smoked himself to sleep. But he just sits there, head back, eyes half-open staring at the ceiling, mouth agape.

“What would you have done if I had, you know…gotten whacked today?” he finally speaks.

“What?”

“You know…like, if shit got rough with me and Tony.” He peers at me out of the corner of his eyes.

“You mean, if you got shot?” I ask uneasily, not really sure why he’s venturing into this hypothetical situation. 

He grins lazily. “Yeah, like if he popped my ass.” He giggles a little, but I tense up inside. Shit like that just isn’t funny to me and I don’t know why he doesn’t get that.

“Don’t say some fucked up shit like that,” I mutter, but he keeps giggling, higher than a kite.

His chuckles slow to a stop. “No really, like…what would you have done?” He lifts his head a little to look at me curiously. Some residual smoke hangs in the air, shifting like ghosts in the breeze.

“I woulda [_flipped _]probably,” I confess slowly with my eyes focused down, shifting uncomfortably. “Like…I don’t even know.”

His face softens when I finally meet his eyes with mine, and I hope he can see the worry there, the fear, the absolute relief that he’s still here in front of me alive.

“That’s why I had to go with you,” I continue. “I don’t know what I woulda done if you didn’t come back.”

He’s silent for a moment. “Come here,” he beckons me softly, a grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. I hesitate to get up from my chair, smirking a bit, and he laughs. “Come here, girl.”

I cross the room to sink down into the couch next to him, and he throws his arm around my shoulders, pulling me into his side. I curl my legs up onto the couch, head on his shoulder, and I sigh deep and relieved, resting against him for a moment.

He takes his free hand across his body, hooking it under my knee to pull me across his lap until I’m straddling his legs. He drinks in my body through half-open eyes, his lids heavy from toking. He grins at me lazily and I can’t fight down my giggles. Weed makes him so lazy. It’s a nice change of pace from the coke, which makes him like a fucking rabbit.

He slides down on the couch until his ass is barely on the cushions and I have to scoot up on his lap to keep from falling through his widely-spread knees. He moans a little when I sit up on him, my lap directly over his dick, thick in his sweatpants but not hard, because, well…weed doesn’t do that to him. He smokes to relax, and trust me, we’ve been there and done that enough times. He [_stays _]relaxed.

I push the hood back off of his head and kiss his forehead right at his hairline, my fingers scratching gently at his scalp, and another moan escapes from deep in his chest. His tongue snakes out, spreading wide and warm across my neck, licking and sucking at my throat, the sensations heightened by the THC in my blood. God, how does every single touch feel better when we’re on drugs?

I push my hands up under his hoodie and he lifts his arms as I take the thick fabric over his head gently, giggling a little when his white T-shirt comes halfway up his body and gets stuck under his arms. I toss the sweatshirt to the floor and he smoothes down his shirt, a small strip of skin still peeking out because his sweatpants are so low on his hips.

My fingers play on the sensitive skin right above the waistband of gray cotton and I bite my lip as the muscles in his abdomen contract, quivering a bit. I can feel his dick beginning to stiffen underneath me, but I know that because he’s so toasted getting him up is going to be a slow process, if it even happens.

He smoothes his hands up my thighs and bites at his bottom lip, tipping his head back against the couch. “You wanna?” And I know exactly what he’s asking for.

“Lex, you never wanna fuck when you’re stoned,” I say it knowing that it’s not that he not wants _]to, he just usually [_can’t.

He grips my hips with his large hands, his long fingers almost reaching the middle of my back. “I just wanna make you feel good.” And he’s giving me that lazy grin again. He blinks his glassy eyes slowly, his lids heavy and red at the lashline from the drugs, and I flood between my thighs as his tongue runs along the inside of his mouth.

He leans forward on the couch, holding my lower back as he leans over me, pressing his chest to mine and I wrap my arms around his torso, clutching him under his shoulder blades. His tongue runs out along my neck again and I dip my head to kiss his mouth, slow and lazy and with lots of tongue.

God, that tongue…

I grind my hips down onto his lap slowly but I know better than to start this shit with him because one of us, or both of us, are going to end up very unsatisfied. It always happens that way when he gets blazed. But he’s insistent today.

“Come on.”

And before I can object he’s pushing me onto my feet and dragging me into his bedroom.

He slips out of his sneakers and flops down onto the bed, rolling over flat onto his back and stretching his arms overhead, legs spread just slightly. I grin at him as I slide off my shoes and socks, crawling up slowly over the foot of the bed, stopping to tug his socks off of his feet before running my hands up from his shins to his thighs. He moans a little and shifts his hips and I see his dick pressing up against his sweats, but not in a way that’s suggesting he’s gonna get me off anytime soon.

I pull myself up onto his thighs and smile down at him as I run my hands up his torso, bunching his T-shirt up at his chest, leaning down to kiss that delicate skin between his bellybutton and the top of his sweats. With my lips still on his skin, I peer up into his eyes, grinning a bit and sneaking my tongue out as he watches me under heavy eyelids. I feel his hips twitch again and his dick is pressing harder against my leg, but I know it’s still not enough. This could take all fucking afternoon.

I slide up onto his body, stretching forward to lay my chest flat against his and he rolls me over onto my back. I fumble with the button and zipper of my jeans and he tugs them down my hips anxiously, chuckling a little as I kick them off my feet onto the floor.

He bends my knees up and presses them open, sinking his weight down against me, and I rock against his hips a little, creating some friction that will hopefully get him going. He reaches around over his head to pull off his shirt and I smooth my hands up his torso from his hips to his chest, fingers splaying across the tattoos printed onto his skin. His lips cover mine as he tugs at my shirt and I lift my arms, breaking the kiss to allow him to draw the fabric off over my head.

We’re both panting now and I feel him half-hard between my legs, pressing against my center, my panties soaked with desire for him, but I hope it doesn’t go to waste.

“Can you get it up for me, baby?” I finally breathe the words against his lips as he unsnaps my bra and I slip my arms out, tossing it to the floor. He nods and presses harder into me. Maybe mimicking the motions of fucking will get him in the right mind frame.

I reach into his sweats impatiently and he’s naked underneath and God he knows I love that shit. It’s like a fucking surprise. He’s thick and heavy in my hand, and I feel him stiffen a little when I pump him slowly up and down, and he’s almost there…just a little more and it’ll be good enough so we can get on with this.

I pull my hand out and tug his sweatpantss down over his hips and ass, and he wiggles out of them while I pull my panties off. He settles back down against me and I feel him reach down between our bodies, propping himself on one elbow so he can roll on his side a little. I watch him wrap those long slender fingers around his dick, working it slow, trying to get it all the way up.

I kiss and lick at his neck, being careful around the tender skin of his fresh wound, moaning into his ear a bit to encourage him, hoping silently that he gets it up because holy fuck do I want it inside of me now more than ever.

He grits his teeth, panting a little, his strokes quicker. “Shit…come on.” And I’m breathing in his ear, running my fingertips up and down over the bumps and grooves of his lean torso.

“Come on, Lex. Get it up for me.” I reach down to stroke his inner thigh slowly, running my tongue along the outside of his ear, and he’s grunting, frustrated.

“Fuck, just…just give me a minute, okay?”

And he’s working his shit out, but I finally stop him. “Just put it in me baby, come on.” And I roll onto my back, pulling my knees up and open and he guides the head to my slit, soaked and throbbing from watching him stroke himself, wishing his hand were my pussy. He thrusts into me swiftly, but it’s just not the same as it usually is. But I’m so horny I could give a fuck less.

I grip his shoulders as he starts a quick rhythm, but even though he’s still thick and solid, he’s just not as hard as he usually is, and the friction isn’t getting me off. I sigh, frustrated, and grip his shoulders tighter.

“Come on Lex, fuck me like you want it,” I whisper, hoping that him picking up his pace might solve my pleasure problem, but I can tell he’s just not into it.

Fuck. I knew this was gonna happen.

“Lex…Lex. Stop.” I push on his shoulders and he slows his hips to a pause. “If you can’t, we don’t have to…”

And he sighs, hanging his head. “Damn, baby. How the fuck do you think this makes me feel right now? I just…I can’t get there. You know how it is when I smoke. Shit.” He pulls out of me and lays beside me, turning me onto my side to face him. “I wanna watch you cum so bad. I wanna make you say my name. Tell me what you want.” And he’s pressing into me again, still half-hard against my thigh, his hand creeping between my legs.

Well, I wanted you to fuck me…

Of course I wouldn’t say that shit right now. I know that’ll start a fight quicker than I can get the words out.

I sigh softly when I feel the pad of his thumb brush against my clit, and I instinctively draw my leg across his hip, opening myself up to him more, pressing my forehead against his.

“You want that?” he breathes against my lips as he rolls his thumb across my clit, pressing harder, sliding his index finger back against my slit. “You want these fingers in your pussy?”

And I nod slightly, mouth agape, and he presses into me with a second finger.

“I want you to cum for me,” he whispers. “I want you dripping on the sheets.”

He probes me with his fingers and I close my eyes as pleasure waves wash over me, and God, his mouth is so dirty. I love when he talks dirty to me with that mouth. I just wanna [_fuck _]it.

I reach down and seize his wrist with my hand, fingers digging in slightly, and I lower my eyes at him. He grins slowly. “That’s not what you want now? You change your mind?”

But I can’t speak.

I just want that mouth…

His fingers pull out of me and he wraps his arms around me, bringing his face so close to mine his lips barely touch mine as he whispers, “Well what do you want then? You want these lips on that pussy? You want me to lick that little snatch?”

He licks his lips after he says it and that simple action paired with those words almost sends me into an orgasm right there. He brings his open mouth to mine, pushing his tongue past my teeth slowly, lapping at the inside of my mouth with his tongue, sucking on my lips as he pulls away.

Yes, that’s exactly what I want.

I nod slowly, and he smirks, blinking, eyes still bloodshot, lids still heavy with intoxication.

“Well you better come sit on my face then.”

I hold my breath when he says it. He rolls onto his back, taking me over with him.

“You better come sit on my face so I can eat that pussy up just like you want me to.”

I bite my lip and my stomach quivers a little as I sit up on him, pushing against his chest for leverage. He tucks his hands behind my knees and pulls me up while he wiggles his body down the bed underneath me.

His face stubble tickles my skin as he kisses my inner thighs and he hooks his arms around behind my legs, gripping my hips with his strong hands. I lean my weight forward above his head against the mattress onto straight arms and he slowly pulls me down, pressing my aching center to his mouth, coating his lips with my fluids.

I moan loud as soon as his lips touch mine, and he’s kissing me, just like he kissed my mouth, sucking on my pussy lips slowly, his tongue lapping at my slit. He snakes his fingers inside my legs to open me up wider and his tongue ventures inside, smooth and wide against my soaked folds.

He makes long strokes with his tongue, letting the tip flick gently over my clit, making me jump slightly and gasp. He smiles against me when I do it, laughing a little, and his breath is warm and tickles against my skin. He hums quietly against me, “Baby, this pussy tastes so good.”

I moan softly and look down at his face to see him looking up at me, those crystal blue eyes almost hidden under his heavy lids, the rest of his face covered by my body. He sneaks a wink at me before he goes back in with his tongue, licking a little quicker this time, and he closes his lips against my wet heat, sucking slightly, making a soft smacking sound when he pulls away.

“Oh my God,” I groan in appreciation, panting heavily.

He turns his attention to my clit, flattening his tongue against it and then pressing hard with just the tip, making slow circles around it. I gasp his name, fisting the sheets in my hands as he closes his mouth around the sensitive nub, sucking lightly.

I rock my hips against him when I feel one hand slip away from my hip and his fingers, God, those fingers, are pushing inside of me again, his tongue still busy on my clit. I reach up and grab the headboard with one hand, throwing my head back as his fingers fuck me faster and he licks at my clit with that warm, wet tongue, sensation swarming my body and pulling me under.

Lex. Oh fuck.” I sit up completely, grabbing the headboard with my other hand and squeezing until my knuckles are white, my mouth agape and my breathing labored.

He works at a torturous pace. His fingers are fast and deep but his tongue is slow and teasing, bringing me to the edge and letting me fall back over and over, and it builds and builds. Every muscle in my body tenses as he brings me to the edge one last time, one hand holding my hip strongly. He curves his fingers deep inside of me and closes his lips around my clit.

That’s all it takes, and I surge over the edge as my orgasm wracks my body and I shut my eyes tight, calling out his name, and God’s name, cursing and panting as I ride the wave over and over until I’m spent.

I fall down against the mattress onto my hands again and my arms can barely hold me long enough for him to inch back up under my body before I collapse against his chest. He grins, pushing a few damp strands of hair back from my forehead.

“Girl, if you tell anybody I did that…” he trails and I laugh softly. He slides out from under me, quickly leaving the bed.

“Where are you going?” I call after him, turning onto my back.

He reappears in the doorway before too long, approaching the bed again with swift strides, grinning as he flicks the small baggie in his fingers. “I let you sit on my face, now you get to blow me.”

He winks, flashing the bit of coke in front of my eyes as he stands beside the bed. I giggle as I start to push myself up into a sitting position, but he puts a hand on my chest, laying me back down.

“Nope, this one’s on you,” he grins.

Heat flushes my body and I bite my lip to suppress a moan. He hasn’t done this in forever. I don’t know why it makes me so hot but I’m tingling in anticipation as he pulls me over parallel to the edge of the bed and empties the contents of the tiny baggie onto my stomach right below my navel. Just enough powder for two small lines.

Light glints off of the razor blade as he waves it teasingly before using it to gently cut the pile into two lines, pushing it flatly across my skin, making goosebumps rise on my whole fucking body. I hold my breath, peering down to watch, stomach tightening just a bit.

“Don’t cut me,” I sigh and he grins up at me, wetting his bottom lip with the tip of his tongue and I’m stifling another moan. God, how does he know how to get me so hot?

He pulls the blade away for a moment and he leans his weight onto his free hand, bringing his face close to mine, licking those sexy fucking lips again.

“Come on, Leala…you know I wouldn’t hurt you,” he whispers, mouth hovering over mine at a teasing distance, lips almost touching mine as he speaks.

He pulls back right as I reach my lips up for his and I sink my head back into the pillow, groaning in frustration as he chuckles softly, the wetness between my thighs taunting me. He knows exactly what he’s doing to me.

He tosses the blade onto the nightstand and picks up the short straw between his fingers, placing his other hand on my stomach just beneath my breasts to steady himself as he leans over me. He takes the lines quickly, goosebumps rising in the wake of the straw running teasingly over my skin. He exhales a satisfied sigh before grinning at me, biting at his bottom lip, a flash of mischief in his eyes.

Now the [_real _]fun starts.

18

I sigh nervously when I hear the knock at my door. She had called me earlier that morning and said she wanted to talk. I didn’t miss a stitch of the disappointment in her voice when she heard Lex in the background, groaning and mumbling into my neck, me trying to push down a sigh of pleasure as he disappeared beneath the covers to distract me from the phone call. I finally had to roll out of bed in order to keep my mind completely coherent. I can’t bullshit around with her. She knows the real me. The me that existed in some alternate universe before I got swept up into this clusterfuck of a life.

She’s my sister after all. She should know me better than anyone.

Of course I fucking panicked and left Lex’s house without so much as a kiss goodbye when she said she was coming to my apartment. I had to get home and clean, try to disguise the fact that my life has been almost completely in shambles for the last five years. I need her to think that I’m fine on my own, that leaving home for this wasn’t the biggest mistake that I’ve ever made.

But maybe I’m trying to convince myself just as much as her.

I open the door after a second impatient knock. She’s always been the one with the tight temper out of the two of us. In fact, we’re pretty much complete opposites and I see that this still hasn’t changed a bit when I look into her face. God, it’s been so long.

“Hi.” She looks a little shocked. I’m not sure what she was expecting.

“Hey.” My response is more like a hoarse whisper, all of the strength in my voice suddenly sucked into a vortex of harsh reality staring me in the face.

She brushes past me and into the living room, surveying the small space immediately, thoroughly, and I sigh. What a greeting.

“Up to snuff?” I deadpan, and she throws me a look over her shoulder before sinking down into the overstuffed chair next to my couch. I sit on the couch slowly, cautiously, not throwing my weight around like I usually would, crossing my legs properly and trying to sit up straighter than normal. I inhale deeply before blowing it out.

I stare into her face. We’ve never looked very much alike, but I can see just enough of my face in hers to make my stomach turn. She’s my sister, I can never deny that. Her dark brown hair falls around her round face in long curls, contrasting harshly against her pastel skin, whitish but glowing and radiant, pinker at the cheeks, healthy and alive beneath her dark blue eyes. My complete and utter opposite. People never mistook us for sisters, me with my dirty blonde hair, board straight and reaching just below my shoulders, wide bangs sweeping across my forehead above my bright green eyes, green like a crayola crayon, surrounded by tanned skin stretched tight over my harsh bone structure. But we have the same nose and eyes, and sometimes when she smiles just right, I see myself right there in her face.

“You look terrible.” She’s never been one to beat around the bush. My posture slumps a bit.

“Well, it’s kinda hard to look your best when you feel your worst,” I mutter, my face expressionless. This is [_not _]going to be a great conversation.

“Seriously, Leala. You look like you haven’t slept in days. And I’ve never seen you this thin before.” She looks me over, shaking her head and I tense under her gaze. As the younger sister, I always sought her approval growing up, and I physically have to force down my feelings of failure as I sit before her. I don’t know what she is now. A stranger, mostly. It’s as if she has become a part of a different world, one that doesn’t include me anymore.

“Oh cocaine…it’s a blessing and a curse,” I muse sarcastically, trying desperately to drown the negative energy in the room, rolling my eyes a bit. She scoffs at me, twisting her face in disgust.

“You know, I’m glad your life is such a big joke to you now.” She laughs in disbelief. 

“What the hell, Aimee, how can you expect me to take myself seriously? I mean really.”

“How can you expect anyone [_else _]to, then?” She raises an eyebrows at me smartly, awaiting my response.

My tongue plays along the inside of my mouth as I contemplate, trying to think up something smartass to say to her, but I finally just give up with a sigh of defeat. “I guess I don’t.”

“That’s sad…you were always so gifted.” She sighs, her gaze floating off somewhere over my shoulder as she sits back in her chair a bit, crossing her arms.

I narrow my eyes at her, spitting out my words harshly. “No, I was a fucking people-pleaser! There’s a big difference!”

She snaps her head back directly to mine when I say it, waiting a beat before responding coolly. “So are you happy now? Is that what this is about…making you happy? You know, you were never selfish, but I can’t imagine you doing this for anyone else but yourself.”

“Maybe this [_was _]about me. So what?” My voice is taut, my eyes fixed on hers harshly.

“Well I hope you’re fucking happy. I’m sorry lifestyles of the rich and famous, and having everything you wanted, and being everything to everyone wasn’t enough for you! I guess if you’re happy it doesn’t matter how many people are heartbroken then, right? Because while you’re running around on the streets all happy and shit, Mom and Dad are still miserable and mourning the loss of their daughter, even after five years.”

“Well I guess you can just take the crown as the favorite now. I know it’s what you always wanted,” I say it curtly, maybe just to hurt her. I know she’s hurting me, and I’m not even sure if she’s trying to.

She retorts immediately, dryly, without a second thought. “No, I always wanted to be [_proud _]of you. And now, I’m just fucking disappointed.”

Damn. I pause a moment to pull the proverbial dagger from my heart.

“Forgive me for not living up to your expectations,” I reply softly, lowering my eyes a bit.

She doesn’t miss a beat. “More like completely losing every shred of dignity and self-respect you ever had.”

Fuck. This isn’t going to be a drawn-out battle. She’s punching for the KO.

“What the fuck do you know about it?” A defensive tone rises in my voice.

“Well I know you run around on the streets, hole up in a house bought solely with drug money, and you’re with Lex now. I’m sure that’s a relationship that’s really just soul-filling, isn’t it?” she gushes, her words dripping in sarcasm, and I snap.

“You don’t know shit about him!” I lean forward, almost rushing at her. It’s one thing to sit here and belittle me, but she doesn’t have to bring Lex into this.

“I know he’s a loser headed nowhere fast. His family is ashamed of him. And he fucked your life three ways from Sunday, Leala. That’s all I really need to know to form a pretty accurate opinion of him, I’m sure.”

I’m silent for a moment, taking in what she said, trying to bottle my rage. Even though I know Lex isn’t perfect, I’m still so goddamn defensive when it comes to him.

“This isn’t his fault. [_I _]chose this,” I grind the words out, clenching my fists. I don’t feel the need to explain my actions to her. I don’t clarify, I don’t doubt, I don’t worry. I don’t tell her everything, not anymore, but I tell her more than anyone else, by far. I tell her as much as I can.

“Well, he sure isn’t helping you get out of it anytime soon, is he? You’re digging your own grave, and he’s letting you borrow his shovel.” She can see my emotions crawling all over me as she spits her insults in my face, almost smiling sinisterly.

“You don’t know him!” I finally explode, gripping the edge of the sofa to keep from lunging across the room.

“I don’t have to and I sure as hell don’t want _]to. Why would I want to have anything to do with a man who’s ruining my sister’s life? Hell, he’s not even a [_man, a real man would never do this to you,” she scoffs, disgust blanketing her face.

“How many times do I have to say it, Aimee?! You don’t know anything about Lex or my relationship with him!”

“Relationship!? You call it a relationship?” She pushes out a laugh in disbelief, flipping her dark hair over her shoulder before her face hardens again. “How many times have you shared needles with him, Leala? How many times have you had unprotected sex with him? How many times has he gotten you stuck in the middle of a big fucking mess that had [_nothing _]to do with you? He’s bad news! If he cared about you, he would leave you alone.”

I pause, letting her words sink in. It would be a much less bitter pill to swallow if I couldn’t hear the truth in them. “I could never leave him…you just don’t get it,” I finally answer painfully.

“No, I don’t. And I’m not sure you really do either.” She tosses her words away, pushing herself up quickly from the chair and pacing toward the door.

“So that’s it? You came to give me a lecture and hit the road?” I rise from my own seat, following her.

She turns to me in the doorway, hand on the knob. “I came thinking I could talk some sense into you, but you’re too far gone. This didn’t do either of us a bit of good.”

“I’m not gone! You don’t even know me anymore.” I furrow my brow.

“No I don’t, I think that’s the saddest part of all,” she replies flatly, jerking the door open and stepping outside.

“I want to get clean…I do.”

She stops when she hears the words, strangled in my throat. She turns to face me, arms crosses defiantly, lips pursed.

I sigh, leaning against the door jamb. “Aimee, I really do.”

“I don’t see how you can expect me to believe that.” She shakes her head, eyebrows raising in skepticism.

“Because you’re my sister _]and you’re supposed to love your family no matter what,” I groan, pleading. I need her to tell me something, [_anything _]to make up my mind for me. I have to get clean. [_Give me a reason, my eyes tell her.

“And that same obligation doesn’t fall onto [_your _]pretty little shoulders?” she sneers. “You know Mom and Dad would pay for rehab if you’d just go. They’d put you in there tonight.” She nods for emphasis, and my stomach burns and knots at the mention of my parents. I don’t need them bailing me out of this mess.

“I know…I just…I have to think about it.” I pause, but I really don’t have to think. I don’t [_want _]to think. My posture straightens and I look at her with a sudden confidence. “I can do it on my own, you know.”

“No, ‘cause if you were gonna do that, you would’ve done it. You’re not stupid, Leala. Something, or someone, is holding you back.” She says it so matter-of-factly. How can she possibly still know me so well after all of these years we’ve spent apart?

But I know instantly who she’s referring to…

And I also know she’s right.

19

I push the front door open without even knocking. I’m angry and confused and just upset at everything that took place during the talk with my sister. Lex jumps as the door slams behind me and I pace into the living room hoping to find him alone so we can talk, but of course the guys are here. Of-fucking-course.

“Goddamn,” he mutters, knitting his brow in surprise at my apparently hostile mood.

“I need to talk to you,” I demand, not trying to veil my emotions. I just want to get a few things off of my chest.

“Well, I’m kinda busy,” he answers back matter-of-factly, a bit of challenge in his voice. I cross my arms and purse my lips when the other guys snicker. I don’t know why he feels like such a badass when he pretends to have me under his thumb in front of his buddies.

“Don’t give me your fucking lip. I need to talk to you and I don’t mean later.”

The volume in the room reduces, all eyes on me as I stand before him in defiance, feet firmly planted, my features exuding aggression. I’m not about to let him put me in my place.

“I’ll give you my fucking lip, and you’ll take it. Now I fucking told you I’m—”

“You’ll give me your lip, huh? How about your tongue, just like the other night when I was sitting on your fucking face?” I almost sing out the words. There, that’s the way to show him who runs the damn show.

His eyes go wide but as he opens his mouth to retaliate roaring laughter takes over the room, and he swallows his words as his cheeks flush and he twists his face in defeat and humiliation.

“Yo, Lex! Your girl just called you out, man!” Remy shrieks through his chuckles, doubling over.

Laughter surges louder and I grin at Lex despite the fact that his head is down, nodding slowly. God, I know he has to be so fucking pissed.

“Holy fucking shit! That was the funniest shit I’ve ever heard!” Tyson can barely breathe out the words in the midst of the hilarity. He pauses, reaching out to put a hand on Lex’s shoulder before he continues. “Yo, you suck that clit, Lex?”

“Shut the fuck up!” he shouts, his voice high and manic as he pushes Tyson’s hand away, standing up from the couch quickly. “It’s better than sucking dick like you fucking homos!” He reaches out for my arm, growling against my cheek, “Get in the fucking kitchen.”

He drags me quickly from the room but the boys’ hysterical laughter hasn’t ceased a bit. “Lex, I bet you licked that snatch real fucking good!” Remy calls out behind him as Tyson moans loud in a high-pitched girly tone, “[_Oh Lex! _]Oh, lick it, baby! Shit yeah, just like that!”

“Fuck you!” he calls into the living room before pushing me back against the counter and releasing my arm. “Why the fuck did you go and say some shit like that?” he asks quietly.

I sigh, rolling my eyes at him. “Get over it. I need to talk to you.”

He clenches his fists at his sides, narrowing his eyes at he grinds out his response. “I fucking told you about going around flying off at the mouth—”

“God-fucking-dammit, Lex, you ate me out, who gives a fuck!” I cut him off with a sigh. “You are such a baby!”

He leans back against the counter, crossing his arms over his chest. “What do you wanna talk about?”

My gaze drops to the floor. “I saw Aimee today.”

Why?” he grunts, completely stunned. He knows I see my family just as much as he does, which is never.

“I don’t even fucking know. You know that was her on the phone this morning…she just, shit, I don’t know. Came by to check on me I guess.” I sigh, shaking my head with a shrug.

“Five years later? That’s fucking bullshit. I don’t know why you even talk to them,” he argues

“Cause they’re my family,” I respond, a little taken back by the defensiveness in my tone. Lex notices it too, and pauses, eyeing me.

“Yeah, but what do they do for you? Your sister came up in there just talking shit about you, trying to run you down. That’s not fucking family. You don’t need them.”

I breathe for a moment before I respond, taking in what he’s saying…his tone…what he’s inferring. And I pause longer, letting my thoughts take me over.

I mean, everyone needs family. He’s getting so damn defensive, like having a relationship with my family would take me away from him. And what Aimee said wasn’t even completely false, that’s the worst part. My relationship with Lex isn’t healthy, and if course I want more from him. But shit, I know he can’t give it to me. I probably can’t even give [_him _]more, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want it.

And I am _]reckless with him. We do a bunch of stupid shit and get into a big fucking mess. We fight and we fuck. We can’t even talk without arguing. It’s like yelling is the only way we open up to each other. We can’t talk about our feelings, because we don’t feel anything. We only feel something if we’re high. I want to [_feel _]something from him, that’s why I stick around. Maybe one time, maybe just [_once, I’ll get that feeling.

Shit, that’s how it is with the drugs. Chasing that first high. He’s a fucking drug. And me…I want to be clean. I’m tired of waiting.

“How do you feel about trying to get clean with me?” I don’t even recognize my voice when I ask it of him. Mostly because I wasn’t expecting the words to even come out of my mouth. But there they were.

“You’re kidding right?” He knits his brow, shifting uncomfortably.

Before I can stop myself I’m closing the space between us, taking his hands in mine, locking our fingers. He looks down at our hands, and then back at my face, more confused than I’ve ever seen him. And I realize, goddammit, I don’t even think we’ve ever held hands before.

“We could do it together. I’ll help you, Lex,” I say it softly, looking at him with sincerity, but he’s looking at me like I’m a stranger.

He shakes his head in uncertainty, dropping my hands. “Leala, I can’t just do that. You know how involved I am. In the business, in everything. It’s gonna be impossible right now.”

“It wouldn’t matter if you wanted it bad enough,” I answer flatly, sighing in frustration.

“Well I guess I don’t then,” he quips, shrugging.

“Lex,” I sigh

“No! Fucking drop it,” he snaps and I jump. “I’m [_not _]going to rehab, I’m [_not _]getting clean. I’m not ready. I’m fine. Things are [_fine _]just the way they are,” he rambles, shaking his head, running a hand over the back of his neck, pacing as his emotions crawl all over him. This conversation is freaking him out.

“You almost got shot yesterday,” I reason with him, placing my hands on his waist, turning him to look at me.

“Yeah, but I’m still here. And I’m fine. Get over it,” he commands, taking my shoulders into his large hands.

I wait a beat before responding, slowly, finality in my voice. “I want to get clean, Lex. I’m [_going _]to. With you or without you.”

He sighs, releasing his head before looking into my eyes again. “Look…I’m not gonna stop you. But I’m not all for it. I want you to be safe. You’re gonna get fucking sick, and you’re gonna be miserable. I don’t want you to be stupid about this.”

“Then [_help _]me,” I plead, my hands gripping him tighter. “Help me through it.”

He looks away, huffing out a frustrated sigh, but I can hear the wheels turning in his brain. Fear, insecurity, change. Questions swimming in his mind.

“Lex…I [_need _]you.”

And that’s all it takes. He blinks once slowly, clearing his mental slate before meeting my eyes with his and giving me a small nod. “Alright.”

20

You know, I’m a pretty stubborn person. But maybe I’m just not cut out for this.

After two days I’m still waking up feeling like I’m sick, constantly sweaty and flushed with fever despite all of the Tylenol I’m feeding myself. My body wrenches with aches and pains all over. My throat is raw from vomiting and my stomach is relentlessly knotted in cramps. Not to mention the itch…God, the fucking itch…all over me. My skin burns and itches and I know it’s just in my head, but if I sit around idle for too long I’ll start fucking clawing at myself.

Jesus fucking Christ.

Have you ever done a full day of hard manual labor and gotten muscle pains so bad that you couldn’t sleep? Imagine that all over your back, shoulders, and neck in combination with a splitting headache. I can’t believe I did this shit by choice. What a fucking moron I must be. This is the absolute worst feeling ever.

Then at the same time I’m shivering like I’m cold but I’m actually hot and sweaty. Though if I try to cool off, my muscles tense up and start to hurt more from the chilling breeze of the air conditioner or a cold shower. Sometimes I just lay in a bathtub full of room temperature water, floating like a goddamn fetus in the womb. Then I start to wonder how differently I would do shit if I could just be born again…

If only it were that easy.

I don’t feel nausea but my stomach hurts. It fucking kills me, and throwing up is no relief. You’d think eating would help but that kinda makes me feel worse. I can hardly sleep and when I do manage to doze off the fucking nightmares are so vivid I wake up screaming my damn head off. And of course the next day it starts all over again with the splitting headache like a hangover.

Maybe Lex was right…

No. I’m quitting. I’m [_going _]to quit.

When I decide to stop using, my body automatically wants more cocaine. At this point it’s possible I’ll do anything for a dose of the Big C. I want it so badly, I would kill for it. I would murder, lie, steal, cheat, all for that little white bump. I hate shooting up, but I’d make tracks in my arm that a fucking locomotive could run down if I could just get high. Just one more time.

Lex comes by every day. In the mornings before he goes out for the day and then at night. He’s even put out more runners so he can drop in every few hours. I’ve never really seen this side of him before. I mean, he always has those…I call them soft moments…and I know he doesn’t have a [_hard _]heart, but he can be so cold sometimes. I wish I could appreciate him more during all of this, but I’m in such a haze I honestly never really know when he’s there and when he’s not. Sometimes when he’s gone I just think he’s in the next room still. I guess in my mind I like to imagine him never leaving.

He comes to talk to me, even if I don’t respond much, and he lets me tell him how I’m feeling on those rare occasions when I can find the words, and I beg him, I fucking [_beg _]him for drugs but he keeps talking about something else like he doesn’t hear me. He wants to take me home with him, but hell if I could ever [_think _]about getting clean in that house, so he just stays with me. He takes care of me.

He doesn’t get too close most of the time because I think it really scares him when I’m sprawled on the bathroom floor with my cheek pressed against the tile, bawling my eyes out. But he sits outside the door, peeking through the crack at me.

“Lex,” I sob and sob and he stiffens uncomfortably, pushing the door open gently with his hand and sliding into the bathroom to sit next to me on the floor, legs crossed.

I curl around his body on my side, forming my shape around his legs the best I can, just wanting something to hold on to, and he rests his hand on my hip gently. I just cry. I cry and tremble and pant and he just keeps his hand on me, trying to comfort me.

He sucks in a breath and stiffens when I begin to crawl into his lap. Dammit, I just need something to hold on to. I need him. I clutch his shirt and my shoulders shake and no sound comes out but he can feel the wetness on my face as I press my nose into his neck.

His arms hang at his sides and he pants for a minute, scared. Scared to touch me. But I finally feel his large hands skim up my back, holding me clumsily against him, trying to comfort me though he really doesn’t know how. He breathes out a shaky sigh. “Shit, Leala…I don’t really know what to do…”

But I don’t answer back, because what he’s doing is just fine. Right now, it’s all I need.

21

After a week I’m still miserable, and now I’m scared because I don’t think I’m getting better. I cry all the time, and Lex just sits outside the door. I think he knows he can’t really help me anymore.

He really thought he could those first few days, washing my face with a cool rag and holding my hair while I wretched into the toilet, feeding me when I wanted to eat and holding me when I wanted to sleep but was too afraid because of the nightmares. I needed him. But I think now he knows it’s time to let me go. This is bigger than both of us.

He lays me in the bed, holding my head until it hits the pillow, and I reach up for his shirt, twisting it in my trembling hands, tears welling in my eyes. “I can’t do this anymore.”

He shakes his head slow and pulls the covers over my body, watching the sheets raise and fall as I lay there breathing, panting, but I need him to hear me out.

“Lex, it hurts. It’s bad and it’s not getting better.”

“You just need to give it more time. It’ll get better.” He pries my hands from his clothes adamantly and tucks me in fully, his warm hand pushing my hair back from my forehead.

“No, I’m fucking miserable. Please…” I thrash about a bit under the covers, wiggling free from them and sitting up a bit.

He huffs out a frustrated sigh. “Please what?”

“You can’t help me anymore, Lex. You can’t fix me.” My palms hit against the comforter in frustration. I furrow my brow at him, my voice pleading, begging him for something that I’m too afraid to just ask for. I know what he’ll say if I ask him to take me. If I ask him to let me go.

“I’ve been taking care of you for a fucking week! You act like that shit’s not good enough. I’m doing all I can, Leala! Damn!” His warm tone finally leaves his voice as he becomes offended and rather impatient with me. He wants to feel like he can take care of me, he really does. He doesn’t want me to need anyone else.

“You’re not a fucking doctor! I should be in detox, shit, something. We’re being fucking stupid about this.” I groan, panting as I roll over putting my back to him and I feel a surge of fever hit my body again.

“I don’t even know how to act when you fucking get like this,” he mutters, swiping a hand out in a frustrated gesture.

“Get like what?” I snap, violently twisting my body back to face him, pain shooting down my arms and legs, but I push past it. “Trying to talk some [_sense _]into you? Being emotional? This isn’t just some way I get, this is fucking reality. I can’t do this. I need help.”

“Yeah, you said that shit already,” he replies flatly, eyes dead and full of hurt.

“Take me to rehab. Lex, please.” I reach for his shirt again, finally just coming right out with it, the words barely croaking from my throat as the fucking tears well up yet again. Right now I’m really just tired of crying more than anything else, frustrated with myself for being such a damn emotional wreck. He doesn’t respond.

“Lex…” I start, my voice low and insistent. He has to know how important this is…

“Stop it.”

I tense a bit as he scolds me curtly, coldly. I let go of his shirt dejectedly and he sighs, hanging his head in frustration and regret for being so harsh with me, but I can tell that all of this is wearing him down.

“Listen, I’m not turning you over to a bunch of fucking quacks. I’ll sit right here and we’ll do this the hard way, but we’ll make it.”

Despite the fact that this is exactly the response I was expecting, it still hurts. It reaches right down inside of me and stirs my fucking insides up, turning me into a mixed up mess of hurt and anger and frustration. And dammit, why can’t he just understand that this is what needs to be done?

“I can’t do this by myself. I fucking can’t.”

Shit, I’m crying again.

He folds the covers back with a sigh and slips between the sheets, taking me against his chest. “I’m here,” he says it softly and I know he wants to be the man in this situation and take care of me but he’s being an idiot.

And I’m still crying, begging. “Please…please…” But he just shakes his head. Then I say it. God, I know it gets him every time, but it’s the only way he’ll listen. “I need you to do this for me.”

He winces at my words, but he knows that’s it. That’s fucking it. It’s time. He holds me tight until I give in to sleep.

The next morning we barely speak a word as he packs me up in his truck, and drives me to the clinic.

22

“And this is your room…”

She pushes the door open and I give her a polite smile as I brush past her. Ava, her nametag says. She had given me a tour of the facility and sat boredly in the corner of the front office while I filled out pages and pages of paperwork. But she seems nice enough.

I walk around slowly, taking everything in, my legs still wobbly and weak, my mind still a bit foggy having come straight here from the social detox center which is an affiliate of the rehab facility. Two weeks in fucking detox. That’s pretty average for a long-term cocaine addict. But it was two of the longest weeks of my life. It feels like it’s been two years. God, I’m so exhausted.

Ava continues standing in the doorway and I give her another nervous smile before dropping my small bag onto the bed which is pushed up against the wall, my other suitcases already stored neatly underneath. I guess my parents had them sent over.

I sit slowly, nervously, on the edge of the bed. Scooting back a bit, I feel the mattress is a bit lumpy beneath me. I shift a little. 

So this is what a college dorm room must’ve been like…

Not that I would know.

Maybe someday. If things go well…

“Umm, you have a roommate,” Ava’s voice in the doorway shakes me from my thoughts. “Cara…she’s obviously not here right now.”

Upon her gesture, I glance over at the bed opposite mine. Same drab off-white blanket as the one I’m sitting on. One lonely pillow draped in a baby blue pillow case is poised atop the neatly-made bed, a plush stuffed animal resting below it. I nod slowly.

“So I guess I’ll just let you get settled. Don’t hesitate to come find me if you need anything. And dinner starts at six.”

“Thanks,” I reply flatly, wringing my hands and when I glance up to the doorway she’s already gone.

I push out a deep sigh, tipping back onto the bed exhaustedly, laying sideways across it, my head almost touching the wall as my legs dangle off the other side. My eyes trail slowly down my arm, the burn in my stomach intensifying at the sight of the scars in the crook of my elbow, reminders of the life I’m supposed to leave behind now.

My gaze wanders further to the wristbands perched just atop my hand, boasting my name and patient status from my visit to the detox center, a small bruise decorating the thin skin on the back of my hand where my IV had been administered. The past and the present, spelled out right there in such close proximity on my body. But I know the journey will be much longer than that space between my elbow and wrist.

Yes, that was only the beginning.

I don’t know how long I lay here, staring up blankly, watching the ceiling fan spin slowly in the center of the room. My mother always told me that was how I used to fall asleep as a baby, watching the ceiling fan, being hypnotized by its motion, tricked right into a deep slumber. My eyes dart away from it suddenly at the thought.

“Hi!” a cheerful voice greets me and I snap my head up unexpectedly. “You must be Leala!” She bounds into the room. God, how can she be so fucking chipper? I sit up slowly, faking a smile and I wonder if she can tell. “I’m Cara!”

I take her extended hand into mine weakly. “Hey.”

“How long have you been here?” She turns abruptly and frolics over to her bed, throwing herself down upon it with a bounce, pushing up on her elbows to look at me expectantly.

I look around the room clueless for a clock or something when I realize I don’t even know what fucking time it is, but I finally just sigh dejectedly.

“I don’t know.” My voice is thick from lack of use. I’ve barely spoken any full sentences since I arrived, still slightly overwhelmed by it all.

She just giggles a little. “I’ve been waiting for new roommate. My old one just moved over to Sober Living. It’s just not the same being in this room all by myself.”

“How long have you been here?” I pull my legs up onto the bed, crossing them, crossing my arms over my chest. I don’t mean for my body language to be so shielding but I’m still a bit unsure of everything around me.

“Two months.”

I lift my brows in surprise. “Wow. Well, I’m fresh off the truck from detox.”

“Ohh, your best days are still yet to come then.” She laughs and I sense the sarcasm in her statement. I smile a little.

“It’s cool here, right? I mean…you like it okay?” I ask nervously, stumbling over my words a bit.

“Yeah, it’s a good place. You kinda go on autopilot after a while. There’s plenty of stuff to keep you busy, and everyone is nice. I mean, we all have our days, you know? You’ll wanna run away screaming eventually, especially during the first month. But just…stick it out. I can honestly say I’m glad I did.”

I nod at her response, sliding my legs back out slowly and scooting off the edge of the bed until my feet touch the ground. I turn back toward the bed and bend down, reaching for a suitcase to begin unpacking when I hear her voice again.

“So what are you here for…if you don’t mind me asking?”

My hand freezes in its path and I stand up straight again, looking at the floor for a moment. I twist my mouth as my head searches for the words, a way to explain myself, but then I realize that it’s a simple answer.

“Coke.”

I lift my gaze to hers and stand for a moment on edge, expecting some sort of response, shock or pity, but her eyes are just looking at mine with understanding, and damn that’s better than any reply I was expecting.

“What about you?” I ask quietly.

She reaches over to her nightstand for a book. “Alcohol,” she replies just as quickly as I did, as if that’s the standard way to answer. Just get it out on the table quickly, just say it and be done with it. It’s almost comforting.

I nod slowly, bending down again as I grab the handle of one of the suitcases under my bed and tug it out slowly. It takes about three good pulls to get it out, just because I’m still so weak, but I want to get settled and feel like I belong here as soon as I can. I think it’ll make my stay easier. At least I hope it will.

I survey the room and see that two short dressers are pushed together side by side against the wall, one covered with small figurines and picture frames that I assume are Cara’s, the other barren on top.

“Can I use these?” I gesture to the dresser drawers and she looks up from her book.

“Oh yeah, that side is all yours.” She waves my words away easily with her hand and dives back into her reading.

I start to arrange my clothes into the drawers slowly, hands and arms still trembling and weak, and I can feel her watching me, but I try not to let it bother me. I’m a stranger here; she’s just sizing me up. It’s human nature.

Once all of my things are unpacked from both small suitcases I slide them back under the bed and peer over my shoulder at my dresser again, giving it a once-over, wishing I had at least one picture or something to put on top to make it not look so lonely. To make it not painfully resemble how I’m feeling.

Empty…bare…abandoned.

I turn back to my bed with a sigh and draw the zipper open on my small bag that I brought from the detox center, some toiletries and a few articles of clothing in it. I sigh when I see the navy blue of his sweatshirt peeking out from underneath some T-shirts and a pair of my jeans. His sweatshirt. I had taken it from his house that morning he finally gave in and brought me here, telling him I was cold in the October chill, but really just silently wanting a piece of him to cling to on days like this.

I take the fabric between my fingers, using my free hand to press the other items down into the bag as I gently tug it free from beneath them. I press the soft material to my face and inhale deeply, blinking back hot tears as his scent invades my senses. It smells like weed and cigarettes and like the damp forest after a rainy day. It smells heavenly, like fresh-scented pine and honey. His aroma is like a drug to me, and I can’t get enough of it. Holy fucking God I miss him.

I pull it carefully over my head, letting it envelop me, letting [_him _]envelop me. Hugging my arms around my body for a moment, I tuck my chin to my chest and close my eyes, trying to picture his face, his body…his eyes…his hands, that lazy smile, his laugh…his arms around me…shit.

I feel a tear slip down my cheek and I wipe at my face hastily, embarrassed, thankful that my back is to Cara because I don’t need her thinking her new roommate is a sad sack of homesick or something. I quickly busy myself with unpacking again, pushing the thought of Lex from my mind, but still allowing the softness of his sweatshirt and the occasional wave of his smell comfort me.

I’m here, it whispers. But I know he’s not. He’s not here. I have to be strong enough to do this without him.

23

Lex hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with everything going on lately. He hasn’t mentioned the withdrawal or rehab to any of the boys. And he has especially left out the fact that it was the very reason why he had been sneaking off during business days and putting runners on for full shifts when normally he tries to handle the majority of his deals himself.

No, he hasn’t mentioned any of this, or the fact that he’s been picking up two cases of beer a week on average for his consumption and smoking himself to sleep every night. Sometimes the best way to not think about something is to think of other things. Or think of nothing at all.

But that day…God, that day had changed everything for him. Pulling up in front of the clinic, and then just…driving away. Having to deal with the guilt of just leaving. Feeling like he had abandoned the one person who would never do that to him. Everything is different now in his mind.

He’s on his sixth beer, his daily average as of late, when he hears a knock at the door. He swings his long legs off of the couch with a grunt and paces heavily to the entryway, turning the deadbolt and reaching for the handle.

“Sup, Lex?” It’s Seth, and by his posture and the weak tremble in his voice alone, Lex can tell that he’s not there by choice. He figures the boys finally smartened up and came to the conclusion that something is definitely wrong with him and he needs a good talking-to, drew straws and Seth was the winner. Or loser, perhaps.

Lex responds with a grunt and an indistinguishable mutter and retreats back to the couch. He reaches for his beer on the coffee table in front of him as he takes a seat again, the other five empty bottles standing in a line like soldiers, saluting their drunken general. He eyes them menacingly before taking a long sip from his current bottle, eyes fixed on the TV.

“So, uh…what’s up, man?” Seth speaks slowly, carefully, as he crosses the room, eyeing him and the fleet of empty bottles decorating his table. Lex drinks, but not like this.

Lex leans forward, supporting his elbows on his knees and pauses before answering, licking his lips and narrowing his eyes, but not turning them from the screen, seemingly engrossed in the most current episode of The Walking Dead. He feels just like one of those zombies right now. Soulless. He’s takes another drag of his joint and the smoke is a deep, dark grey color. Intoxicating. Choking. He can feel it pull his very life away.

“What do you mean?” he finally responds.

Seth sighs. “Well, you’ve kinda been M.I.A. lately, bro. Me and the guys just wanna make sure your shit’s all in line, you know…make sure your head’s on straight.”

“I’m fine,” he insists flatly, rolling his eyes and Seth gives him a pointed look which he quickly returns.

Seth sinks down into the recliner, cowering a bit under his intense gaze, and he sighs in relief when Lex turns back to the TV. He musters his courage again.

“Dude, you’re laying up in your house getting drunk in the middle of the fucking week. And you’ve been cutting out on us all day during business shit, being a lazy fuck— “

“Do you wanna get your fucking mouth smacked, Seth?” Lex growls, snapping his gaze back over to him.

“I’m just saying, if you don’t have your shit together, you need to get it together,” Seth lectures half-heartedly, not out of lack of concern, but mostly because no one tells Lex how shit is.

Lex rolls his eyes and takes another drink as Seth continues.

“This is business we’re running here, man. You better not be dickin’ around on us. Your head isn’t the only one on the chopping block.”

“Okay, I get it! Fuck!” Lex snaps, furrowing his brow and waving his hand to dismiss Seth’s words as he leans back against the couch in a slouched position.

Seth hesitates for a moment. “Lex, you know if something is going on you need to say something. We’re bros, you know that. If some fucked up shit is going down—”

“I don’t wanna fucking talk about it, okay Dr. Phil? Shit.” Lex downs the rest of his beer.

“So something [_is _]going on?” Seth pries cautiously, and Lex groans loud as he sits up and slams the bottle down onto the glass-top table. Seth winces, expecting the thin sheet of glass to shatter from the force of the blow but it doesn’t. Lex’s words cut harshly into the room.

“Would you cut that shit out? Stop your psychobabble bullshit before I whip your fucking ass, and I mean that shit.”

Awkward silence fills the space between them and Seth shifts uncomfortably as he attempts to change the subject. “So, what’s Leala up to?”

Lex sighs, scowling as he shakes his head and reaches up to scratch the back of his neck in an effort to mask his discomfort. “I told you I don’t wanna fucking talk about it.”

“Oh, you got drama with your girl? That bitch giving you trouble?” he quips with a grin which soon disappears as it becomes obvious that Lex isn’t amused.

“Shut your fucking mouth. You don’t know shit,” he mutters, shifting uncomfortably and being careful not to let his eyes meet Seth’s, afraid that he’ll be able to read his anxiety like a book.

“You guys get in a fight again or some shit?” Seth chuckles, not noticing Lex’s tense posture at the initial mention of the subject.

He snaps. “Do you not know the meaning of the fucking words shut _]and [_up? Goddamn!”

Seth freezes, eyes wide and confusion painting his face. He studies Lex’s anxious behavior, watching him as he exhales noisily and hangs his head, holding it in his hands between his knees, worry eating him up inside and crawling all over him.

“Dude…what’s got you so fucked up, man?” he asks quietly, putting his guard up for another one of Lex’s explosive replies, but he waits, and nothing happens.

Lex finally sits back up a little and props his elbows on his knees, biting at his lips as he stares blankly at the TV. Seth is suddenly ripped from his thoughts as Lex speaks lowly, not turning his focus from straight forward, lost in some sort of haze.

“Leala’s in rehab.”

Seth sucks in a breath, his eyes widening. “What!? Are you fucking—”

“Yeah, I’m serious. She tried to get clean at her place and it just got bad,” Lex cuts him off, his voice low and solemn as he drops his focus to the floor again.

“One less customer…” Seth mutters in a non-committal tone, shrugging a bit as he sinks back against the chair with a sigh.

“How can you say some shit like that?” Lex growls, and Seth’s hazel eyes widen as he begins to see the first signs of emotion in Lex’s face since he walked in the door.

“Woah. Shit, Lex. I didn’t know it was like that. I mean, it’s not a big deal, right? Damn, I know she’s your girl, but I mean it’s nothing serious, right? You just fuck her,” he offers, trying to make less of Lex’s reaction, but his voice becomes weary when there is no change in Lex’s posture or expression. “Right?”

But he still doesn’t reply.

“Lex…that’s all it is man, right?”

Lex shifts his eyes back to the TV but doesn’t really look at it, just gives a blank stare before responding flatly. “She’s my girl, Seth. You know that.”

“Yeah but shit, you’re laying up in this house like someone died,” he argues in confusion and Lex hangs his head again. A wave of uncertainty rises in Seth as he continues worriedly, drawing what he hopes will be a false conclusion. “You’re not…you’re not thinking about getting clean, are you? Not because of her? C’mon, don’t tell me you’re thinking about getting clean, man.”

“Of course I’m fucking not. It’s just…damn Seth, you weren’t there. Shit got bad, it got really fucking bad. I had to take her there and just…[_leave _]her.” He shakes his head in frustration, running a hand over his head as he sits back with a sigh.

“Dude, why are you stressing about this shit? Damn man, you sound like you’re fucking in love with this girl or something.” Seth laughs nervously.

Lex’s eyes go wide. “What? No!” He twists his face up in shock, but immediately looks away from Seth’s prying gaze, his voice trailing as he continues. “No! Hell no.” He brings his eyes to Seth’s again with faked confidence, shrugging and shaking his head nonchalantly, trying to let that four-letter word roll off his back.

Love.

“Seriously, she’s just Leala, you know. She’s just a fucking girl.”

“A girl who sat on your face,” Seth chuckles, trying to lighten the mood and prevent another outburst, which unfortunately doesn’t work out accordingly as Lex snaps again.

“I told you not to mention that shit ever again!”

“Well, you better not be in love with her,” Seth replies cautiously. “‘Cause the last thing any of us needs it you running around with your head all fucked up over a girl and some shit like rehab. That kinda shit fucks with business, Lex. And business comes first.”

“I fucking know, okay? Don’t preach some ‘bros over hoes’ shit to me.” He huffs an irritated sigh.

“Well that’s exactly what I’m talking about,” Seth answers matter-of-factly.

Lex waits a beat before responding weakly. “I know.”

24

Mexico, Five Years Ago...

The sun was burning so hot on my face I was just about to be forced into turning over. I had laid out on the beach in Cali every single day of the summer thus far, but something about the Mexico sun…damn, it’s hot. I felt warm and drained, though I’d hardly done a thing to begin the day.

That was the beauty of summer though. Hot and cloudless, lazy hazy days, bonfires by the beach, sandwiches, iced tea, loud music, warm water. Your hair gets lighter and your skin gets darker. Your nights turn into mornings. Life just gets better. Summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen to quiet people. For those few months, you’re not required to be who everyone thinks you are, and that cut-grass smell in the air and the chance to dive into the deep end of a pool gives you a courage you don’t have the rest of the year. You can be grateful and easy, with no eyes on you, and no past. Summer just opens the door and lets you out.

I readjusted my sunglasses with a groan, wiping at the bridge of my nose where sweat had collected between my skin and the smooth plastic of my shades, and just as I began to turn over onto my stomach, I felt a shadow over me. I sighed automatically just from the relief of the warm rays being blocked, and I peered over my sunglasses to see Sam standing above me with a huge grin plastered on her face.

“What?” I giggled, puzzled as to what could have her so excited. We had just gotten to Mexico yesterday and I still remember the day vividly. In front of us, the ocean stretched for eternity. Around us, Spanish music floated through the air. In our drying clothes and still-damp hair, we ate junk food and talked. At some point we finished and went for a long walk in the sand. We picked up shells, laughed, and smoked cigarettes. Before I knew it, the sun was going down and we went back to the van. We lay side by side, stretched out on the blanket. When the sun dropped completely below the horizon, we let the moon illuminate us.

“Randy just got here…with a boy.” Her brows wiggled with the last word. She was shorter than me by a foot, with large hazel eyes that matched her curly hair.  

“Your brother is gay?” I gasped in fake shock with a grin and she just rolled her eyes.

“No, you freak! He brought a friiiiiend.” The way she shimmied at me when she said the word, grinding it out for emphasis, I knew what she was inferring.

“Dammit Sam,” I sighed. I felt a sweat bead trickle down from my brow and disappear into my hairline  “The last thing I need is Randy trying to set—”

“He’s hot,” she cut me off matter-of-factly. Very matter-of-factly.

I sucked in a breath, my insides fluttering a bit involuntarily. but I was trying not to let it show. I covered it up with a bored sigh, rolling onto my stomach. “Then why don’t you go after him?”

“Brother’s friends are strictly off the market…but not for youuuuu.”

There she was with that shimmy and emphasizing words again. Ugh.

“Sam,” I groaned.

“Listen, you’ve been moping. We just got here two days ago, and I know you’re all beat up over Tyler and trying to hide it, but you’re not doing a very good job. And yes I’m calling your ass out on it, but dammit Leala it’s ‘cause I love you. I don’t want you to be miserable on this [_whole _]trip! Have some fun. “

I groaned again and rolled onto my side, pushing my shades up onto my head to look her in the eyes.

“Okay, first, I’m not beat up over Tyler. Second, I am _]having fun. [_This…this is fun,” I gestured to myself in my current state. If everyone could just live near the ocean, I think we’d all be happier. It’s hard to be down about anything knee deep in the sand.

“You can lay out in Cali when we get home. C’mon, get up. The guys are heading over to the bar,” she encouraged impatiently, her green eyes shining with flecks of brown and gold. The color I loved. The color of the earth. 

“It’s two in the afternoon,” I said with another sigh as I flopped back onto my stomach, glancing at the time on my cell.

“So! They just got here. Come keep them company with me.”

I didn’t respond. I just closed my eyes and willed her to go away. But of course she didn’t.

“Pleeeease, Leala.”

Shit, her whining was always so pathetic.

I huffed out a defeated sigh. Meeting a new boy…what could it hurt?

“Fine…fine.”

I can’t say that I hadn’t been watching him. God, I’d been watching him all night. Tucked away in the far corner of the bar, leaning up against the wall. Just watching as he sat at a table with the other guys, downing beer after beer, laughing.

And I watched him…the way he tipped his back when he laughed, the way his full lips pursed at the opening of his bottle, the way his throat slid up and down when he swallowed…

Jesus.

He’d been looking, too. It’s not like I was a stalker or something but I’d caught him looking at me more than a few times. We knew we were here with the same group, we’d just conveniently been dancing around each other all night, never getting up the guts to face one another. Maybe because there was that weird attraction, that energy that buzzed between us when our eyes met. It made my stomach flip and warmth rise in my cheeks and down between my legs. God.

I turned my attention to the dance floor, watching groups and couples grind and rub on each other, cold drinks tipping and spilling down people’s fronts and backs and onto the floor with the swaying of bodies and drunken arms in the air. Ah, summertime. It was a song. It was a season. I wondered if that season would ever live inside of me. And I wanted to be out there. Maybe if I did he would come up behind me, press his front to my back, and—

“Hey.”

[_Shit! _]He came out of nowhere. I jumped and gasped at the sound of his voice and he grinned that crooked grin from the bar stool next to me, beer in hand.

I wanted to seem cool, older, more mature, like he didn’t phase me. I wanted him to chase me. Shit, I wasn’t in high school anymore, and I didn’t wanna play games like I still was either. I thought I was such a hardass.

“Hey.” But there I was, giggling and blushing like the eighteen-year-old that I really was. [_Dammit. _]I glanced over at the table he’d abandoned to see the other guys still laughing and clinking bottles, stealing a few glances now and then and I figured they’d all seen him come over to me. I wondered what he’d said to them before he got up. Had he been talking about me? “You left your little buddies high and dry over there.”

He chuckled as he glanced over to them, and one of them raised his bottle with a smirk and he turned to smile at me. God, his smile could light up a room. The way his lips lifted upward. The way his one dimple crinkled. The way his teeth were perfectly aligned. The warm glow his happiness gave. His smile was like a ray of sunshine, and I wouldn’t mind being sunburnt.

“Nah, they’ll live,” he replied.

“I feel kinda bad for ‘em. Bros over hoes, right?” I asked coyly with a knowing smile. After that little exchange between him and the guys I knew he’d come over here just for me, and it wasn’t a secret.

He leaned in close to me and I held my breath and fought the urge to just turn my head and kiss him. God, just kiss him hard and good and blame it on the alcohol. I could practically taste the salt on his lips, imagining each kiss like a summer wave breaking on an empty beach.

“Sometimes,” he said it quietly, his voice deep and throaty against my ear, and I blushed as I chewed on my bottom lip. “So, you’re Randy’s-sister’s-friend?” he asked as he sat back a bit, chuckling after he had stumbled across his words.

“You make it sound so complicated,” I joked in an exasperated tone, flirting with him a little, and I grinned as I stirred my mixed drink, eyes fixed down upon it. Anything to keep me from staring at him.

“I’m just trying to get my connections right,” he said lowly as he leaned in to me again, flirting back, and I wiggled a little on my bar stool to conceal the shiver that ran through my body.

“Well then, yeah, I guess that sounds about right.” I finally met his intense blue eyes for a brief moment with a warm smile and he licked his lips, eyelids sagging with lust. Or maybe it was the alcohol. “So I guess that would make you Sam’s-brother’s-friend?” I offered nervously when he didn’t speak, intimidated by his gaze. His eyes were the blue of a water so deep that you were afraid to jump in, but you were still tempted to.

“Yeah…that sounds about right,” he slowly echoed my previous response playfully, tongue running along the inside of his mouth. Jesus. I would normally slap a guy for looking at me the way he was looking at me, all predatory and whatnot, but something in me really didn’t want him to stop. He seemed…dangerous, but safe. I felt like I could do or say anything with him and he would keep my secrets, but at the same time I was almost too intimidated by him to even speak in the first place.

So I didn’t. I just sighed and turned my eyes back to my drink, wrapping my hand closest to him around the cup, other hand stirring it absentmindedly with the black short straw. And then I saw it out of the corner of my eye. His tattooed hand, the backs of his fingers brushing against the top of [my _]hand, that hand that was around my cup, and I squeezed harder around the glass to keep it steady. I could feel him watching me, gauging my reaction, and I tried not to flinch but my mouth turned up in a grin when I felt his breath across my neck as he laughed. He _laughed at my attempt to keep a straight face.

I turned my face to his and he was there, right there so close I could smell the beer on his breath and my cheeks flushed as he licked his lips. Damn, it was too much. I had to get away before I did something really stupid with a complete fucking stranger. I hated to leave him hanging, but this was part of my personal self-preservation. I knew if I gave in to him this soon it would all be downhill.

So I gave him a small smile and slipped off of my bar stool, making my way toward the crowd on the dance floor.

“Hey Randy’s-sister’s-friend!” he called out after me just before I reached the mob of sweaty, swaying people and I smiled so big I was glad my back was to him because I would’ve really embarrassed myself otherwise.

I turned slowly, lowering my eyes at him a bit coyly, a smirk tugging at my mouth when I saw him looking at me with that same hungry gaze, a small smile playing across his lips.

“I’m Alex,” he shouted across the space between us, voice barely loud enough to hear over the music. He grinned and licked his lips as he awaited my response and I almost wanted to just step back over to him and talk some more. But I knew our next meeting would be twice as rewarding if I could just keep him hanging on, just a little bit…

“Leala,” I answered simply, and turned again, disappearing into the crowd.

25

I’ve been in rehab for three weeks. Plus the two weeks at detox. Five weeks without him. God, I never imagined I could do it.

Oh, and six weeks without the drugs too. But for some reason that thought is second after Lex.

I finally don’t feel weak physically and I enjoy walking around outside in the crisp November air, leaves crunching under my feet from the trees on the grounds outside of the center. I can feel my body changing. Just small things, like my jeans not hanging so embarrassingly loose on my hips, and my bones not feeling like they dig into the mattress when I try to sleep at night. I’m feeling healthy and things are starting to become a little less fuzzy in my head.

There’s an uncommon array of people in here with me, and I’ve become friends with all of them. You recognize the possibility of your own demise in the lives of these other people. You’re doing the same thing they are, but you can’t see it in yourself. However, you start seeing all of these tragedies and potential miracles in other people. It’s a real eye—and heart—opening situation.

But it’s still a battle. God, it’s a battle every hour of the day.

After a couple of visits with my counselor and spilling my guts about Lex, I was given a dual diagnosis for chemicals and co-dependency, which pretty much sums up to me not being allowed visitation for the first phase of treatment. Thirty fucking days. I have permission for phone calls but I usually call his personal phone because I know he won’t answer, especially if he doesn’t recognize the number, and I just listen to his voicemail before hanging up. I think talking to him would be too hard because I would want to see him even more, but I know I can’t. Not yet.

But as soon as I get released for my first visitation, my stomach is trembling as I dial the number from the community phone at the clinic. I don’t even call my fucking parents, or my sister, because he…God, [_he _]is the only person I want to see.

It rings twice. “Hello?” The tone in his voice tells me that he doesn’t recognize the number. I smile when I hear his voice, I almost laugh. I almost cry. I feel everything all at once. Fuck, I’ve missed him.

“Hey Lex.” My voice almost breaks just saying his name.

“What are you doing calling my business phone?” 

I can instantly hear the smile in his voice, and I laugh a little, a wave of warmth washing over me, calming me. “It’s good to hear from you, too,” I quip sarcastically and he laughs. That laugh that I love.

“Fuck, how long has it been?”

“Thirty damn days,” I drag out each word and I hear him sigh.

“I miss you,” he breathes and a lump forms in my throat. “I’ve been calling your phone.”

I laugh at his frustrated tone. “I don’t have it you idiot.”

“Oh shit, I didn’t even think about that.” He groans, and I laugh again. “You doing okay in there?” he asks quietly.

“Yeah…yeah, I’m good,” I answer confidently, and I know he’s smiling when he replies.

“Good. That’s real good.”

I hesitate. “So, listen, I’m past the first phase of treatment, you know, and I’m allowed to have visitors now, so I was thinking maybe if you wanna—”

“Can I come tomorrow?” he offers anxiously before I can even finish, and I grin like it’s Christmas morning.

He wants to see me…

“Yeah, tomorrow would be great.”

26

“Shit, shit, shit…” Lex mumbles, stumbling over his feet as he tries to pull on his new sneakers, glancing at his watch again. Visitation starts at 6:30 and it’s 6:42. He had wanted to be on time because he knows he only has an hour to visit. And now not only is he late, but—

“Yo, Lex!” Fabian comes through the front door without even knocking and he lets out a long irritated groan.

“What the fuck do you want? Make it quick,” he replies as the door shuts, tightening the laces on his shoes, but not tying them.

“Where you headed, man?” Fabian eyes him curiously.

“Uh, nowhere. I just got shit to take care of, you know…errands and shit,” he mutters, stumbling a bit on his words. The last thing he wants to do is tell Fabian where he’s [_really _]going.

“Well, I got a deposit. And I need some more shit.”

“Fuck, I don’t have anything bagged off the scales right now. I’ve been running a little behind.”

“What the fuck, Lex? You need to get your shit together. I need some more shit, I still gotta make a few stops before we call it a night. Go get it from the back.”

“Man, I have shit to take care of.”

“Whats more important than getting this money, Lex? You’ve been slacking lately, and all of us are bustin’ our asses to keep you complaint-free from customers. You should be happy to send my ass back out there with more shit while you lay up on yours in the meantime.”

“Okay, fine! I’ll fucking get it.” Lex trudges to the back room with Fabian on his heels. He groans and checks his watch as he stands over the table littered with white and green, shifting through the baggies surrounding his electronic scale, quickly moving and sorting things.

Fabian nudges him with his elbow, grinning. “Why are you all draped up? You got a hot date or something? New pussy now that your girl is—”

“You can shut your fucking mouth before you even say what I [_think _]you’re about to say,” Lex cuts him off dryly, his face stony with rage as he turns abruptly to face him, his chest swelling as if he’s ready to fight. And Fabian stops dead, swallowing the lump in his throat and stuttering a bit.

“Sorry, man. I just thought that—”

“Well, you thought fucking wrong,” Lex barks before turning his focus back to weighing and measuring, trying to end the conversation, mostly to get this business over with so he can try and make it to visitation, but also because he doesn’t want to mix talk of business and personal shit with the boys. To them, nothing is more important to business, and it’s all about loyalty. But lately Lex doesn’t know what’s important to him, and it’s fucking him up because he’s having to run around like he lives a double life or something. The boys don’t understand his feelings, and hell, he’s not even sure if [_he _]does anymore.

“Are you okay, man?” Fabian narrows his eyes at him curiously.

“I’d be better if you’d shut your damn mouth,” he answers flatly, quickly bagging the coke, stealing a glance down at his watch again with a sigh.

He jumps when his phone rings, the business phone, and he cringes when he sees the number on the screen. Of all the times, why now? He knows he can’t answer, not with Fabian in the house, but it’s the business phone. He always takes the calls.

He eyes Fabian nervously. What kinda fucked up loyalty test is this?

“What the hell, Lex?” I mutter under my breath as I listen to his phone ring and ring before his voicemail catches the call. It’s already 7:00 and he swore he would be here right when visitation started.

Addicts can’t be trusted…

The words ring in my ears, driven into my brain over and over from group sessions and I try to force them out, try to convince myself that Lex is different, but he’s not proving that point right now. Not when I’ve been waiting for him for thirty minutes and he won’t even answer his damn phone to tell me he’s coming.

I don’t want to be mad at him. I really don’t. But it hurts so much because I haven’t seen him in two months. Two fucking months.

If roles were reversed I would be busting at the seams to see him. I figured he would be a little more excited to see me. But now I don’t even know if he’s coming. And as I sit and pick a piece of lint from my thin sweater I feel stupid for taking so long to get ready this afternoon, my hands practically trembling for the past hour just in anticipation of seeing him walk through the door, hugging him, just [_feeling _]everything that I feel at the mere sight of him.

7:15.

I sigh dejectedly and head back down the hallway toward my room.

What a fucking waste.

 

“God, please let me in, just let me see her. Please,” he mutters under his breath as he whips his truck quickly into the parking lot and tries to jerk his keys from the ignition almost before he can get his truck into park.

He swings the door opened and closed and jogs up to the front door of the enclosed porch area of the house. He stares at the call box for a puzzled second before pushing the button to ring the front desk, glancing down at his watch and cursing under his breath before hugging his arms around his body as the cold wind cuts through his thermal shirt.

“What’s the patient’s name?”

He shrinks back a bit in surprise when the female voice comes loud through the speaker on the call box. “Leala Kearsten,” he stutters, shaking a bit from the cold.

“And your name, sir?”

“Alex…I’m here for visitation.”

“Visitation is about to close, sir.”

He groans loud at her response. Is today just the day for everyone to point out his fuck-ups or something?

“I know. I just…I need to see her. Please. Even if it’s just a minute or something,” he pleads, pushing down his pride simply because he knows he fucked up royally.

She pauses and he’s sure that she’ll say no, but he sighs with relief when he hears, “I’ll send someone out.”

He waits for maybe a minute outside the door, but it feels like an hour before he sees the tall uniformed man approaching him. The lock on the gate clicks when the guy swipes his security card through the device on the back of the call box, and he passes with a small nod to him when he allows him entrance.

Lex closes the space to the front door hurriedly but waits for a nod of permission from the security man before opening the heavy wooden door and entering the front office of the center. The woman behind the desk greets him with a smile and he rubs his hands down his arms a few times to get the chill off of him before he grins back at her nervously.

“Hi. I’m sorry it’s so late. I just…can I please see her?” He almost doesn’t recognize the desperate tone in his own voice.

The woman sighs as she jots down a note onto a paper laying on the desk, and he peers at it quickly, noticing his name scrawled in familiar handwriting. My handwriting.

She crosses the room and peeks through an open doorway into an adjoining room which looks much like a waiting room of a doctor’s office. “Jason, we have a visitation,” she says quietly and a second uniformed man appears in the doorway.

“Visitation is over,” he replies dryly, eyeing Lex in an unfriendly manner. Lex notices and stiffens his posture, pulling his hands from his pockets before crossing his arms over his chest and returning the man’s cold glare.

“Give them five minutes,” the woman sighs, and the man, Jason, nods reluctantly and gestures for Lex to follow him.

“Thanks,” Lex mutters as he passes the woman, and she smiles in return when she sees the sincerity in his eyes.

“Leala, someone is here.” Jason is in the doorway of my room suddenly, and my heart jumps into my throat at his words.

“Here? It’s 7:30,” I reply dumbfounded as I glance at the clock on the wall. Visitation is over.

He sighs. “Darcy is giving you five minutes. C’mon.”

I almost leap from the bed when he beckons me with his hand to follow him. I’m on his heels as we pace down the hall quickly to the small room reserved for visitors. And he’s here. God, he’s really here. Sitting uncomfortably in the small leather chair, eyes down on the floor, but he stands up quickly when he sees us enter the room.

I step around Jason and into the room, glancing back at him with a nod, and he disappears but I know he’s not far away, probably just around the corner. I turn to face Lex after a long second and I suck in a shaky breath before exhaling noisily, nervously wringing my hands as my insides tremble.

“Hey…” he finally says quietly, shifting his weight, and I can barely bring myself to look into his eyes for too long, scared I’ll burst into tears and throw myself at him or something ridiculous. Because really, right now, that’s exactly what I want to do.

“Where have you been, Lex?” I know he can hear the hurt that’s laced in my voice because I see him shrink back when I say it.

“I got tied up,” he mutters in a non-committal tone, eyes going down to the floor, and hurt builds inside of me. I’m not even mad which is unusual because normally something like this could send us into a screaming match in record time. No, I’m just hurt. Hurt deep down in my gut because he said he would be here.

“With what?” I scoff, and when he doesn’t reply, that’s all the answer I need. I sigh, straining to push down my emotions, feeling the tears rise up but damn I don’t want to cry. I don’t want to cry the very first time he sees me in weeks. I’m supposed to be stronger now. But he still makes me so fucking weak. “You know, you should’ve just stayed home. It’s been almost two months since I’ve seen you and you see those sorry assholes everyday. I can’t believe you.”

“Shit, Leala. I wanted to come. I was on my way out the door when Fabian came to the house. I was coming. He just…I got held up,” he pleads, dropping his hands to his sides in defeat and the space between us is killing me. I start itching, aching to touch him. But I can’t, not now.

“You didn’t tell him you had somewhere to go?”

“I did. He wouldn’t leave.”

“You must not have made him think it was that important then,” I answer flatly, swallowing the lump in my throat and he sighs again for what seems to be the hundredth time.

“Leala, don’t do this…come on. I haven’t seen you in so long,” he begs, taking those two small steps to stand toe to toe with me, reaching for my elbow, but I rip it away.

“Which is why I thought you’d be here,” I growl, stepping back from him and he swallows hard, searching my face, his eyes wide and doe-like and God, I’m gonna cry. I can feel it.

“Leala…please.” He’s persistent, stepping toward me again, but when I step back I feel my back against the wall and I gasp a little. His hands hold my waist gently and my entire body tenses before flushing warm. I feel the hot tears as my head tips back just barely and I sigh at the feeling of his hands on me for the first time in so long.

He looks at me intently, his voice soft as he asks, “I’m coming back tomorrow, is that okay? Can I come back tomorrow?”

“If you will,” I answer, my hands reaching to push up his long sleeves from his wrists to his elbows and we both sigh as my fingertips brush back down against his forearms. “Don’t promise me shit, Lex. You’ve always kept your word. I don’t know why you picked now all of a sudden to start fucking around with me.”

I shake my head in disbelief, breaking his gaze as I look off over his shoulder and I keep pushing down those tears that have been lingering ever since I stepped into the room. He grips my waist tighter as he moves his head to meet my eyes again, looking at me with sincerity. “Leala…” he starts, but Jason steps back into the doorway.

“Time’s up,” his voice fills the room and Lex steps back from me quickly and I almost whine as my body goes cold when he takes his hands off of me.

He looks back at me, searching, wanting something. Something that we both want but we can’t have. Not now. It’s not right.

God, he just…he needs to go.

I look down at the floor, dismissing his request silently and the tears are there, so fucking close, but they have to stay away, at least until he’s gone.

“Bye, Lex,” I say it quickly, quietly, and he reaches down, taking my hand in his for just a moment, squeezing it before he leaves the room without saying a word. I clench my eyes shut tight until I feel my fingers slip from his and I know he’s gone. Who knows if he’ll be back.

And I let the tears come.

27

Visitation is in the afternoon on the weekends, and the next day I let out a huge sigh of relief when there he is at 11:30 just like he promised, wearing a smile when Jason leads me into the room. He stands up to greet me, and damn he looks good. Even better than I remember, because it was definitely the last thing on my mind when he finally showed up last night. I mean, he looks the same as he always did, but he’s so [_different _]at the same time.

Maybe because it’s been so long, or maybe I just see him differently now. But that same energy is buzzing between us. Or maybe it’s just me. Shit, I hope he still feels it too though. Maybe it’s excitement. No, no I know that can’t be it. But whatever it is, it’s there, it’s in my fingers and toes and it makes my stomach flip up into my throat. God, I’ve missed him.

His eyes look tired but his smile lights up his face when I step toward him. He looks over my shoulder uneasily at Jason still standing in the doorway behind me, and when I turn to give him a glance he disappears down the hall.

I turn back to Lex and he grins at me nervously, awkwardly shifting his weight as his gaze drops to the floor for a moment, his voice low.

“I’m sorry about last night.” 

My shoulders slump with my sigh, and his eyes meet mine again and he gives me a weak smile as he gestures to the small table in the room boasting his gifts of apology. 

“I brought you lunch.” 

And I just grin at him.

His smile brightens with mine and we both laugh a little as he finally takes me into his arms. He holds me strong and tight and I instantly relax into him. I let him hold me and I never want him to let me go. God, this is what I needed. I still fucking [_need _]him, he still makes me feel weak, and it scares me a little. After all this time, this is the part of the addiction that I haven’t let go of. I’m hooked on him more than any drug we’ve ever tried.

He holds me out at arms length for a moment, grinning as he takes me in slowly. “Damn, you look so fucking good. Seriously, you look really _]good. And rested. You don’t look tired at all.” He hugs me back against his body and I bury my face in his chest, holding him so tight, just wanting to [_be him, wanting to be inside of him, under his skin.

“Damn, this is what I’ve been waiting for,” I breathe against his shoulder. I feel him relax as he sighs into my neck and chills rush over my skin and I grip him tighter. God, how is it possible to need somebody so fucking much?

“So, how have you been? How are things here?” he asks as he releases me and we take a seat side by side, still grinning our asses off at each other. I’m fucking giddy just to be around him again. I feel like myself again. He’s the one person I can just…be myself with. I forgot how much that means until I got here with all of these strangers, people who don’t know me from anyone else, people who want me to change. Not just get clean, but change. But with him, I never feel like I have to change, or hide parts of me, or play up other parts of who I am. He just…takes me. Accepts me. Sometimes I forget how much I need that.

“I’m good! Things are fine. We’re like, on a schedule and I thought I wouldn’t like it, but it’s kinda cool. It kinda keeps my mind from wandering, you know,” I ramble, unwrapping my burger like a kid on Christmas morning, tearing into the paper almost desperately.

He laughs at my eagerness, but plays on my words as he raises an eyebrow at me and lowers his voice, leaning in to me with a smirk until his chin is almost on my shoulder. “Well…where does it wander?”

“Lex.” There’s a warning tone in my voice, but I can’t help but giggle, my face pinkening a bit and he chuckles, sliding his hand across my back in a comforting gesture as he sits up straight again. I’m hopeful. In this moment, I’m [_hopeful _]as we grin at each other that things will be this way from now on. No more fights, just little grins and jokes. Maybe he’s come to realize that things can change now, that things are changing and it’s okay. Maybe he [_wants _]to change.

“I’m just fucking with you. How’s the food?”

But you would think he’d be able to tell by the way I’m wolfing it down, as if I’m starved. It’s like elementary school when you’re on a school lunch program but then your teacher orders pizza for the class. [_Real _]food. God, it’s like I can’t take big enough bites. I want my mouth completely full.

“It’s good, so damn good.” I can barely breathe out the words as I eat ravenously, trying not to talk with my mouth full, but eating like I’m afraid someone is going to take this away from me or something.

“Damn, girl, they don’t feed you in here?” His eyes widen at me a bit as he watches me.

I pause for a moment, almost having trouble swallowing the large bites I’m taking, and when he laughs I pout at him a bit. “You know this shit is my favorite!” 

And he just grins. “Yeah, you know I always give you the good shit,” he quips, shoving a french fry in his mouth and I tense up. I know he didn’t mean it like I heard it, but it strikes a fucking nerve in me. My sunny disposition drops instantly, my posture slumping, my face noticeably falling, and I know he can tell now as he reaches out to put his large hand on my shoulder.

“Come on, Leala, I didn’t mean that…”

But instead of being understanding, I snap for some reason. The one thing I thought he wouldn’t even have the guts to mention, much less [_joke _]about…God, I feel sick to my stomach. 

“Tell me why you don’t wanna get clean, Lex.” I set my jaw and drop my focus to the table. I hate to do this to him, but it’s eating me up inside.

He groans, rubbing that same hand across his face as he lets his head fall back. “Don’t do this shit to me.”

I turn to him almost pleadingly. “Just tell me, what do you have to lose?” I don’t want to fight with him. Maybe we can just talk things out. Maybe he’ll hear me out for once.

“A lot,” he answers matter-of-factly, sitting back and crossing his arms over his chest defensively.

I scoff. “Oh yeah? Some money? Power? Friends? Maybe your truck and your house, your expensive lifestyle? Fuck, Lex…that can all be gone in an instant. Think of what you’ll lose if you don’t get clean.”

“What? Why don’t you just tell me,” he offers obstinately, rolling his eyes as rage seeps out from every pore in my body. Not rage. Maybe hurt is a better term. I’m hurt that he still doesn’t give a shit about being clean, while I’ve been in here busting my ass.

“Your health, your family, your chance to be happy.”

“I [_am _]fucking happy!” he growls, cutting me off. But I snap back at him instantly, pushing my chair back from him, maybe to keep myself from doing something stupid like hitting him.

“No, you [_think _]you are. It’s fake, Lex. Don’t you fucking get it? Your emotions aren’t real. You can’t feel shit, not the way you should.” He rolls his eyes again, but I continue, knowing my next words will get to him. “I couldn’t either…”

He snaps, just as expected, pointing a finger in my face, his hand trembling with contained rage. “Don’t do this. Don’t play the fucking blame game.”

I pause and stare at him menacingly, but with sincerity. I set my jaw tight but I’m trembling on the inside, just moments from crying because it’s so damn frustrating that things have to be this way. They don’t [_have _]to be, but they still fucking are. I’m different, I’m trying to be, I really am. But he’s not, and [_we _]aren’t, and it [_kills _]me. Why he won’t just fucking hear me out I’ll never understand.

“Think about it. Everything you have right now from being an addict can all be put onto a table in front of you, and it can all be taken away. What do you have when it’s gone, Lex? What do you fucking have?”

“I’m not listening to any more of this shit.” He pushes himself up from his chair and starts to cross the room, but I call after him quickly.

“You’re scared, Lex. Admit it.”

And he turns abruptly at my words, blue eyes staring at me so intently I feel like they could almost suck the life from me.

“No, I’m not scared of nothing,” he grinds out the words slowly, and there’s an extended moment of tense silence, both of us looking each other deep in the eyes, challenging each other. This is what we do best…we fight. But I’m beyond that right now. I know this is no way for us to exist, I’ve learned that. It can’t be this way forever, or we’ll never make it. I can’t fucking take it anymore. He has to change. Something has to change.

I finally sigh. “Being scared doesn’t make you weak, being too proud to ask for help does.”

He scoffs, twisting up his face in disgust. “Glad to know all that therapy is doing you good. You sound like a certified quack now. You were just like me, remember? Don’t act like you’re too good, like you don’t know who I am or where I’m coming from.”

His words hurt, but they ring true. It’s hard to think but I used to be just like him. I thought I was fine. I mean I knew I had a problem with the drugs, but I always thought I could get through it, that it wasn’t in control of me, that I was the one in control. Everything was always fine. I was always fine. And I know he’s hopeless for now until something in him snaps like it did in me. There’s no telling him until he just figures it out for himself. I [_hope _]he figures it out, before it’s too late.

I sigh, defeated. “It was good to see you, Lex.”

He shakes his head, my words of dismissal piercing him, visibly deflating him as he slumps and sighs, nodding. “Yeah, real fucking great to see ya,” he mutters sarcastically, and turns to leave.

And just like that, it’s over.

I storm down the hall to my room and tear through the door, pacing over to the bed and I throw my pillow over against the wall, revealing the navy blue sweatshirt wadded up beneath it, hiding there for my comfort when I sleep at night. I furiously stuff it into a ball between my hands and cross the room, pulling open my bottom dresser drawer and shoving it into the back beneath my other clothes.

I want to forget it. I want to forget him. I thought this would be easier if I could see him again but I’m starting to wonder if doing this [_with _]him is harder than doing it [_without _]him.

28

After my fight with Lex, sitting in therapy with Sophia, my counselor, I’m just over it. I’m over all of this shit. Nothing is going to change. Sure, I’ll get clean, but I’ll get out of here and it’ll be the same shit all over again. We were supposed to do this together. He was supposed to give a shit. Now it’s just…it’s fucked. It’s all so fucked up.

She peers at her notes inside the folder in her lap. “So tell me more about this…Lex.”

And that statement does not make matters any fucking better right now.

I exhale audibly at his name on her lips, not wanting to talk about him, especially after this afternoon. It’s bad enough that he’s the only thing I think about, but lately I feel like he’s all I talk about too. Isn’t this whole process supposed to be about me?

I pull my knees up to my chest in a gesture to protect myself, to shield myself. “Aren’t we supposed to talk about drugs and getting sober and shit…sorry…stuff?”

“Well, I know you saw him today, and I know he’s been an issue for you since you’ve been here. I just wanna check on things. I mean, he [_is _]your dealer,” she argues and I release my feet back down to the floor with a defeated sigh.

“Yeah…he’s…my dealer,” I offer simply. I’m guilt-stricken at the thought of reducing our relationship to a single term, but she could never begin to understand what he really is to me. He’s my drug of choice, and I don’t think there’s a rehab for it.

“Forgive me, but I can’t seem to understand how you can have such deep-seated issues with a man who is merely your drug dealer,” she states matter-of-factly, and I know she’s calling my bluff, so I put my guard up. I come out ready to fight, that’s what I’ve learned to do. I shift my jaw to the side, tongue running along the inside of my mouth before clicking against my teeth as I stare at her coldly.

“Its complicated.” I raise my eyebrows in a challenge and purse my lips. She purses her own lips, nodding in acceptance at my refusal to just give her a fucking break, and I know she’s frustrated as hell with me, but this is her job. She’s determined to get this out of me, even if we have to sit here all night until I break. 

“Tell me more…”

“He’s tall…thin…blue eyes…” I muse lightly, but my tone intentionally reeks of disinterest. I trail off, my focus turning elsewhere in the room, and I turn my eyes back to her when she huffs out a perturbed sigh. I don’t mean to be this way, but it’s just so fucking hard for me to talk about it still, even after spending over a month trying to tell her about my feelings. The words just aren’t there. I don’t know if they ever will be.

“You know that’s not what I’m asking you.” She gives me a pointed look and shakes her head at me, seeing right past my smartass bullshit. Whenever you check yourself into rehab, they don’t focus on the fact that you’re an addict. They go much deeper, you know? I mean, they go way deep. They crack you open and then spill you out and examine all the things that are on the table.

I sigh. “I don’t know what else to tell you,” I answer shortly with a shrug.

She leans forward on her desk, eyes soft and sympathetic, and I’m still not used to that look yet. Just that look of understanding, caring. It breaks me down, wrenching my insides every time, painfully trying to twist my heart into spilling itself like water being wrung from a bathcloth.

“You’re a smart girl, Leala. I know. I’ve read your excerpts from your writing classes. That’s where my concern is. I think you understand all of this a lot better than you’re leading on.”

I groan. I have to admit that I’ve become quite the writer since I got to this place. I always used to write, just for fun, but here it’s a release. It’s a way to get emotions out without talking. I’m not much of a talker, I tend to stumble and never know just what to say. But give me some paper and I’ll write you a hell of a story.

“Look this is just…its hard. It’s hard being away from him.”

“Just tell me what he is to you,” she pleads, still giving me that look, and there’s a moment of silence, and I know it’s coming. I tense up inside, but what is the fucking sense in hiding from it? The sooner I get this out, maybe the better things will be. Maybe this is where healing has to begin. Just face it, head on.

“He’s…my weakness…my addiction. The drugs, they could go away and I’m fine. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m an addict and I know it, and coming off of the drugs was tough, but I’m not fine without him.”

“Is he fine without you?” she asks, almost relieved, her brown eyes peering at me suspiciously.

I wait a beat before replying weakly, my voice threatening to break. “I don’t know.” 

Part of me selfishly hopes that he isn’t, but a bigger part of me fearfully [_knows _]that he isn’t.

29

Lex slams the door behind him as he enters his house, still distraught and fuming from a long fucking day, not to mention the fight this afternoon. How could he be so fucking stupid to think that things wouldn’t be different now? He had assumed that things would change, but today just proved it without a shadow of a doubt. Things will never be the same.

He paces the living room a few times, fists clenched, his breath coming in pants, replaying the words over in his head.

“What have you got to lose?”

He stops suddenly and looks around him, really taking in everything that he has acquired. But one fact remains looming over his head: his entire existence has been bought. He has nothing that isn’t worth some amount in dollars and cents. Except…

“Except her,” he mutters under his breath, his words barely audible and his insides trembling at the thought. The one thing he has that he thought nothing could take away from him, he will lose his own damn self because he doesn’t want to give up a bunch of shit that would all be gone with one good robbery anyway. What’s more important?

As he looks around, the walls seem to be closing in on him and it’s all too much. He storms down the hallway into the backroom and begins gathering things in his arms, mumbling under his breath all the while.

“Everything you have can be taken away.”

If he didn’t know himself better he’d think he was going insane as he carries armload after armload of drugs and paraphernalia from the back room and lines it all up on the coffee table in the middle of the living room, muttering under his breath, talking to himself, sweating and shaking. Mental breakdown.

But the words won’t stop ringing in his head.

“Everything you have can be taken away.”

He sits on the couch in front of the coffee table once he has situated everything, panting as he leans forward, elbows in his knees which are bouncing in anticipation, hands clenched anxiously, chewing on his lips as his eyes flit over the table, back and forth, taking in everything. This is what his fucking existence has come to, his livelihood laid out before him.

This is his life.

This is reality.

This is what he’s come to know.

This is what has built him.

This is what will destroy him.

“What do you have when it’s gone, Lex? What do you fucking have?”

He takes a deep breath…exhales slowly…

And he snaps.

He grabs the edge of the coffee table and with a growl he stands to his feet and flips it in one swift motion, the sound of breaking glass echoing through the house as his things scatter about the room.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE WHEN IT’S GONE, LEX? WHAT DO YOU FUCKING HAVE?” he screams as he stomps through the living room, flipping his furniture on end, demolishing any order that may have existed in their arrangement. With a grunt he pulls his flat screen TV off of the wall, bought with merely one week’s drug money, and sends it crashing to the floor in disgust.

He tears down the hallway to his bedroom, kicking the door open, and he paces to the bed, ripping the sheets off and throwing them across the room as it surrounds him. The [_feelings _]surround him. Every touch, every kiss, right here in this room, in this house, there in that bed. [_Those _]are the things no one can take away. And he knows he’ll lose them all because of all this other shit that he just can’t give up.

He hates himself. He’s said it before, but he knows it right now as he storms over to his closet and begins ripping his clothes off of his hangers, tossing them about the room haphazardly, grunting and crying out in frustration, frustration with himself and with everything that he’s been feeling and pushing down. He’s been pushing it and pushing it and thinking it will just go away, but it’s all suddenly come up in a tidal wave and pulled him under. He’s the one who fucked it all up, not only ruining his life but someone else’s. He’s lost, so lost and alone. Alone with all of these things that his money has bought him, but he has nothing else. For once in his life, he finally just wants something else.

He tears pictures and posters off of his walls, destroying anything that catches his eye, because all of it means nothing. It means nothing now when he’s all alone.

He catches a glimpse of himself in the bathroom mirror, red-faced and scowling, pale skin stretched tight over his too-skinny frame with dark shadows around his eyes and he hates himself more and more. He picks up a shoe lying near by on the floor and whips it into the bathroom with a curse under his breath, shattering the mirror with one blow and he [_feels _]it. He feels the tears coming up and he pushes it down, blinking them back as he storms back into the living room, punching a clean hole into the hallway wall on his way.

Panting, he sinks back down into the couch, the one which he didn’t turn over, and holds his head in his hands, blinking furiously and clenching his teeth but he can’t stop it. He can’t stop it and he soon feels the wetness coursing down his cheeks and he moves his hands to cover his face with a groan as he lets his sobs overtake his body, crying, letting it all out, everything that he’s pushed back for the past forever. Every little thing has chased him down and attacked him in this moment, and all he wants deep down is for someone to hold him and tell him everything is going to be okay.

And that’s the one thing he knows he’ll lose if he doesn’t change his ways. Through his tear-blurred vision he spots it out of the corner of his eye, lying there on the floor, and he wipes his face quickly, coughing and groaning, clearing his throat as he tries to collect himself as he reaches down to the floor to retrieve it. He flips the thin plastic over and over in his hand in contemplation as he continues to sniff and wipe his face onto the sleeve of his shirt. He finally pulls his cell from his pocket, scrolling through his contacts before connecting the call.

He clears his throat when he hears the answer on the line. His voice trembles just like his hand as he holds the thin disk and delivers the news that could help him break away from all of this once and for all.

“Hey, it’s Lex…yeah, I’m ready to talk about that sale you’re interested in.”

30

I blame myself for Lex not coming back. I mean, how could I be so stupid? Isn’t it obvious enough that he doesn’t want to get clean yet, and then there I go pushing him. Being the fucking stubborn ass that I am. I guess I thought that maybe, just maybe he needed that one push. That one more reason to do it. If he didn’t want to do it for himself, maybe he would do it for me.

But I know he has to do it for himself.

When he didn’t come back for a week I wasn’t shocked, but I honestly didn’t expect to be sitting here almost two months later and not have seen him again. Sitting here almost two months later and not have even [_talked _]to him. I don’t even know what the fuck he’s been doing all this time. The halls and community rooms are draped in green and red, and the last time I saw him the orange paper pumpkins had just been stripped down days before. Halloween to Christmas.

Christmas. God, it’s really fucking Christmas day and I’m almost done here. I get released in…shit, in three days. That thought alone gives me a surge of energy to get out of bed when I feel the sun on my face coming in through the small window.

I swing my legs over the side of the bed excitedly but my smile soon fades when I look down to see my form draped in that blue sweatshirt. I had pulled it out last night for the first time in what I now deem as a moment of weakness, after two months of it haunting me from the back of my dresser drawer. I finally just broke down. I missed him too much last night when I had laid in bed, tossing and turning, memories of Christmases past eating me up inside. We never did anything really big to celebrate, the two of us, but it was a time when both of us truly enjoyed being together. It was supposed to be a time of family, but us, all we had was each other, and we always felt like that was enough. And last night when I was alone, I just wanted him with me.

I know that I’m my own worst influence when it comes to him because I can’t fucking say no. I still want him, I still need him. I don’t know how he does it, but he just makes everything else go away. I never have to have the right answer, I never have to do the “right” thing, all that shit I struggled with my entire young life, and I’m starting to struggle with again. But with him I just do what feels good, and face the consequences later.

But I know things can’t be that way anymore. I have to start using my head again.

With a sigh, I rip the fabric over my head and toss it onto the bed as I begin to ready myself for the day. My parents and sister are coming to visit because of the holidays. The past two months with Lex not being around have really given me a chance to work on my relationship with them, and it’s a very bittersweet feeling to almost have my family back now. It’s great to have them around again, to almost feel like I belong, but I’m beginning to wonder where Lex is going to fit in to all of this. [_If _]he even wants to fit anymore. Can he even fit anymore?

I’ve never really cared about Lex’s situation. I guess that’s what got me into this whole mess because if I had cared about anything that he was involved in, I would’ve run from him the very first chance I got. But it’s never been about his circumstances—what he has, what he doesn’t have, what his job is, if he has a car, if he has money. When I look at him I never see any of that shit. It always just been about him. Me and him. It was never about me getting sucked into his world, I wanted him to [_be _]my world, and whatever else came with that just came. Oh, it came alright. And now I see that I paid the price more than enough times.

But only now do I see that, only now does his “situation” matter, and it scares me. Does he still fit into my life? What’s going to happen when our worlds collide again? These are the things that still keep me up at night, especially now that I’m so close to being out of this place and back to reality. Now that I have to think about my future. I wonder if he can truly have a place in that now, now that so much has changed, now that I’ve changed. And I wonder if he has.

I feel like a terrible person, but now when I’m sitting with my sister and my parents, I miss Lex more than ever. I miss us, me and him, our little “family.” And I know that’s so fucked up to say, but it was so much easier when it was just the two of us in our own little world.

When I say we didn’t come from fucked up families, I should also clarify that appearances aren’t everything. And while we may have been completely satisfied in the materialistic sense, and we were in fact normal and loved by our parents on some level, we were still always looking for something else. And when we found that something in each other…well, that’s enough to make you never want to lose someone, no matter what the cost.

“I think that shirt might’ve needed a little ironing.” My mother tugs at the hem of my button-down blouse, pulling it down a bit so that the little wrinkles smooth out with the tension in the fabric, but it just releases back to normal and she frowns. And I hope she sees me roll my eyes because she’s being so fucking overbearing.

I know my dad sees it. “Camille, just let it go,” he sighs and I give him a weak smile.

That’s always been my dad, the protector. Well, protector of my feelings, at least. My mother runs the fucking show, always has, and my dad has always been on my side behind the scenes, the quiet kind of support because, well, he does have to live with her. He has his opinions but he keeps them to himself and to me, just to save his own skin. Agrees with my mother to her face, just to keep things running smoothly, then goes behind her back and does whatever he can to make sure I’m still happy and feeling okay, because he can’t stand to see me upset or feeling like I need something. The kinda guy who would slip me a twenty when I walked out the door after my mother had just been bitching that I had spent up all of my money. Good ole’ dad.

I know he was more heartbroken than anyone when I left home and shacked up with Lex and got into the drugs, because he felt like maybe if he could’ve done something, given me more, I wouldn’t have left. He wanted me to be a daddy’s girl, wanted to make sure I knew that no one could take care of me like he could, and I still knew that, even when I left, but I was eighteen and stubborn as hell and tired of feeling like a child. I didn’t want anything else from either of my parents. I wanted freedom, so I thought doing what I wanted for a change was the answer, and everyone else be damned. I hope he knows he couldn’t have done or said anything to stop me. Maybe I’ll tell him someday.

“I’m just saying, Paul, it looks sloppy,” she argues to him.

And she wonders why I fucking left home.You think you’re indebted to your parents because they gave you everything you have. But they didn’t give me what fucking mattered. They[_ owe_] me. They owe me for not asking why their daughter isn’t home. Why she looks distant and sad. Why she has barricaded herself in a fucking apartment with her boyfriend. They have failed me.

“Um, hi, I’m right here in the room,” I retort sarcastically and wave a hand in front of her face as she stands before me, shaking my head at her, and my dad and sister chuckle.

“I think it looks fine.”

I grin at my dad when I feel his hand on my shoulder and my mother just sighs.

“So, anyway. Are you ready to get out of here?” Aimee asks excitedly, tearing me away from our parents’ concerns and I give her a grin that speaks volumes of relief.

“Um, do bears shit in the woods?” I reply with a laugh, my eyes dancing with excitement and she laughs along with me and we’re suddenly in middle school again, giggling underneath a tent of blankets and my heart is happy.

“Leala…” My mother’s voice is painted with a tone of warning but my dad interjects.

“Are you gonna come live at home, kiddo?”

I turn my eyes to him and open by mouth to respond, but—

“Of course she is,” my mother offers, and I shoot her a look of disbelief.

“I [_actually _]wanted to move into another apartment,” I correct her adamantly. “Not my old one, of course, maybe move closer to downtown, out of North Hollywood. I was thinking like Hancock Park maybe, just to get into a better part of town. It’s a nice area.”

“I think you need to live at home, just to be around people who support you until you’re ready to be on your own again,” she insists. She always has to be fucking right.

I scoff. “I am ready to be on my own, I’ve been stuck in here for months.”

She sighs in defeat, but won’t back down. I know where I got my stubbornness from, without a shadow of a doubt. “All I’m saying is you need to be in a positive environment…”

“Away from Lex you mean. Just say it,” I cut her off harshly.

“Leala,” my dad sighs.

“Can we just [_not _]talk about him?” Aimee offers finally, and there is a moment of tense silence.

As if on cue, Jason appears in the doorway. And I wouldn’t believe who was standing next to him if someone promised me a million dollars that he would be here.

What the hell is going on?

“Oh God,” I hear Aimee breathe, her words barely audible, but I say it for her not a moment later, just as shocked as anyone.

“Oh God…” I can’t tear my eyes away from him. He looks bad. Really fucking bad.

I sigh reluctantly, my face almost twisted in a painful expression as I finally eye my parents and sister cautiously, all of whom are seething at Lex, and I turn to see his focus dropped to the floor, and I almost can’t blame him.

“Excuse me.” I push myself up from my seat and I don’t say another word, I just grab his wrist and drag him down the hall to my room. “Why are you here?” I whisper harshly once we are through the door and part of me wants to grab him and shake him in frustration, but a bigger part of me wants him to hold me. This is all so sudden. I just…I can’t believe he’s here. I don’t think it’s hit me yet.

He sighs pathetically, face pained, and I can tell just from his tone that these past two months haven’t been wine and roses for him. “It’s Christmas,” he pleads.

“Lex,” I sigh in disbelief, shaking my head.

“Jesus fucking Christ, Leala. Do you not want me here?” he asks, the hurt in his voice so pronounced even though I know he doesn’t mean for it to be there. His emotion is just so raw he can’t hide it no matter how good he has always been at veiling his true feelings. Eventually everyone has their breaking point and it scares me to think that these past two months have led him to his.

“My family is here!” I scoff, slinging my hand out toward the door in an empty gesture

He scowls and his posture stiffens just like it always did when we were about to fight. “Well, if you’ll fucking remember back to before all of this shit, I don’t have a family,” he growls and I shrink back. All this time and we still can’t keep from fighting when we’re around each other.

“Yes you do, Lex.” I groan and he pauses for a moment before his face falls and his posture slumps again. His eyes focus on the floor as he shifts his weight uncomfortably, shoving his hands deep into his pockets.

“Shit, maybe I just wanted to see you, okay? Fuck,” he mutters lowly, and his voice is so sad and desperate and his eyes are empty as they meet mine again and he’s just defeated, exhausted. “It’s been two fucking months.”

That look in his eyes steals the air from my lungs and my heart aches because I know he has to be so, so lonely. Just like I’ve felt some nights, missing him so much I cry myself to sleep more than I’d be willing to admit. Lonely enough to just show up here, to swallow his pride and just come see me on a whim. God, he looks so broken. I hear it in his voice and when he hangs his head again I step closer to him, putting my hands on his waist and I soften my voice.

“Okay…okay. I’m sorry.”

He looks back into my eyes and I feel closer to him than I ever have despite the fact that we’ve been away from each other for all this time. How is that possible? I guess my heart has just been yearning, longing for him for so long that now when he’s here, right in front of me, I’m completely full inside, that void is filled. And I wonder if he feels the same way.

“Hey, that’s mine.” His voice breaks my thoughts and I follow his eyes over my shoulder and smile when I catch a glimpse of his sweatshirt on my bed before turning my gaze back onto him.

“Yeah, I, uh…sleep in it. Only sometimes though,” I confess softly, blushing a little and he smiles warmly at me, a look of relief washing over his features. I feel his body relax as he sighs away the tension and we’re back to just me and him again.

“Well what if I want it back?” he teases, pulling his hands from his pockets and placing them gently on my hips, tugging me toward him more and I feel warmth radiate between us, both of us still too nervous and unsure to press our bodies together fully.

“Don’t be an ass.” I giggle and push against him playfully and he smiles at me. That smile that I love. That smile that can make time stand still, like it’s the first time he’s seen sun after a decade of winters. God, I missed this.

“I, uh…I got you this.” One hand leaves my hip and plunges into his pocket again, fishing out something small and concealed in his palm before he opens his fingers and presents it. A Christmas ornament. A small purple and blue butterfly attached to a gold string.

“Aww, it’s cute,” I almost squeal in adoration as I take it from his hand giddily, cradling it gently in my own as if it were real.

“Shut up,” he mutters and rolls his eyes with a sigh, his cheeks pinkening at my reaction, but he can’t mask the grin that spreads across his lips.

“No, really. I like it.” I study the ornament, turning it over in my hands, beaming with excitement.

“It just made me think of you,” he says softly and I look up into his eyes adoringly, but he shifts quickly noticing the jolt of raw emotion that strikes between us. “You know, ‘cause of your tattoo and shit,” he grumbles, tapping against my right hip with his finger, where indeed a small butterfly tattoo is hidden beneath my jeans. His posture stiffens a little and I can’t help but smirk, amused at how flustered he is. “And just…I know this whole thing is all kinda about…transformation and shit,” he stutters, clearing his throat and hardening his voice as he adds the last part.

I giggle, knowing he always has to come across like such a hardass, even though he can’t deny that if anyone knows he’s a big softie on the inside, it’s me. “Thanks, Lex. Well, now I feel bad I didn’t get you anything.”

“Nah, it’s cool.”

“No, you need something.”

“I can take my sweatshirt back,” he grins, and I swat his chest playfully.

“You’re not getting it back. Get over it,” I answer defiantly and he chuckles as I glance around the room quickly, thinking. “Wait. Here…” I offer suddenly, crossing the room excitedly to the table beside my bed, laying down the gift he brought as I take the thin paper cut-out between my fingers before extending it out to him. “It’s supposed to go on our community tree, but no one will know.”

“An angel?” He takes it from me, letting it rest flatly against his hand, barely large enough to cover the expanse of his palm.

“Yeah, everyone made one, but you can have mine. You might need someone to watch over you once in a while.” I grin warmly at him.

“Is that supposed to be you or some shit?” He smiles as he turns it over in his hands, noticing the yellow coloring of her hair and the green dots for her eyes.

“Shut up,” I mutter, my cheeks flushing a bit.

He holds it up next to my face, seeming to study it before he smirks playfully. “Well, I mean, it does kinda look like you.”

“Shut up, okay? It’s just a stupid paper ornament!” I insist, exasperated, but I can’t hide my giddy grin at the thought of our innocent gift exchange.

“I’m just fucking with you,” he chuckles as he reaches into his back pocket before replying sincerely. “Thank you though.” He opens his wallet and gently places the paper angel inside, returning it to his pocket.

“Merry Christmas, Lex.” I shrug, smiling shyly.

“Merry Christmas, baby.” He sighs and I melt when he says it. God, he’s really here.

I reach for him but I’m nervous, and so is he as our arms reach out in the same path. We chuckle awkwardly as we try to reposition ourselves a few times until we finally pull each other close, my arms around his broad shoulders and his around my waist. It’s a friendly hug, a firm embrace, but as I start to slightly pull back from him, his arms tighten around me, one hand slipping up around my ribcage while the other slides down around my hips, fully encircling me, and I hear him—God, I hear _]him—and I feel him breathe me in so deep as he tilts his face into my neck, letting out a shaky sigh. I feel bad, but I can’t help but stiffen a little because he’s never ever done this before. Never held me so close like he doesn’t want to let go, and I just…ugh, my heart just [_breaks.

I clutch him. I wrap my arms back around his shoulders so tight, squeezing my eyes shut to keep my tears at bay as my fingertips dig into his back. I nuzzle his neck, trembling inside and panting as I try not to cry despite the fact that I’ve never ever felt this much emotion with him, wrapped in his arms, feeling his chest expand as he breathes me in, and what if…

What if he needs me just as much as I need him? What if that’s why he’s here? Is that this feeling swimming around us? Because this is more than a friendly hug of gratitude for some stupid Christmas ornaments. No, this is…it’s a moment. A moment of something. Weakness? Need? Want? Maybe it’s all of that. But whatever it is, it steals my breath and makes my heart pound, and as much as I’ve tried to convince myself since I’ve been here that what we have isn’t special and worth fighting for, I just don’t know if I could ever feel this way with anyone else. I [_know _]I couldn’t.

My arms slide from around his shoulders and rest curled in between us as I take his face in my hands, lifting it from my neck, but he doesn’t let me go. He grips me tight and presses his forehead to mine, eyes closed, and I just hold his face as wetness steals down my cheeks against my will. And I don’t want him to think I’m weak and sensitive but he could never understand what it would mean to me for him to need me the same way that I need him.

He finally pulls his face back and opens his eyes, smiling weakly when my tear-filled eyes stare back into this own and he sighs again, shaking his head at me. And I still don’t know what it is about this moment, but it’s absolutely perfect, and I want to tell him. I want to tell him so many things right now, looking into his eyes, because when he looks at me like that…so lost and uncertain yet whole and completed at the same time…when he looks at me like that, I think he needs to hear me tell him. Tell him that I’m here and tell him that no matter who else he thinks he’s lost, his parents, his brother, his friends, that he hasn’t lost me. That I’m his and I always will be.

I sniffle a little as he brings one warm hand up to wipe my face, the other still holding me tight. I slip my arms back around his shoulders and rest my forehead against his again, whispering his name, breathing his breaths, brushing his nose affectionately with mine, relishing the comfort of being close to him if only for this moment. Because who knows what we’ll have after this is gone, once I’m out of here. I’m scared to think that this could be one of our last moments together until he changes his life, because I know we can’t go back to the way things were. This is when all of that “situation” stuff starts to matter. I can’t get sucked back into his world. I’ve come too far. I have to protect myself now.

“Leala.”

We jump apart at the sound of my sister’s voice.

“Will you come back in here?”

“Can you just give me a minute?” I sigh, pushing my hair behind my ear nervously.

“No, not with him.” Her words bite into the room, her eyes staring at me coldly before turning to Lex. “What are you doing here, Lex?”

“Stop,” I scold her before he can respond, but she continues, eyes fixing on me again.

“Leala, don’t tell me you called him to come here today.”

“No, she didn’t.” It’s Lex who interjects this time, and she scoffs at him.

“Exactly. She didn’t call because she doesn’t [_want _]you here. She doesn’t need you anymore, Lex.”

“Shut up, Aimee!” I shout, tears welling in my eyes, and I know this is going to be a bitter battle. Not just today but maybe forever.

“Don’t you think you’ve done enough?” She narrows her eyes at him scathingly.

He turns to her, steeling himself. “You know, you’re not the only one who misses her. You’re not the only one who doesn’t have her anymore.”

“No, we haven’t had her for a long time. Because of you,” she retorts, and he sets his jaw, eyes blazing with rage.

“I miss her too. She’s all I fucking have!” he shouts, and I’m crying now, hanging my head as the tears slip down silently. This is a fucking nightmare.

“Yeah I’m sure you miss her. Miss her business…miss her making your life a little easier by doing anything and everything you ask…maybe miss a little sex now and then. Well, those days are over.”

“Aimee, stop it!” I wail as I hug my arms around my body, and Lex turns to put a hand on my back to comfort me, but then she says it.

“And maybe you would have your own family if you weren’t such a complete fuck up.”

Silence.

He freezes, breath stealing from his lungs at her words because she has no idea, no fucking [_idea _]why he doesn’t have a family anymore, why he left. My head snaps up to hers, tears stopping for a moment as my wide eyes meet her own in complete shock. The trepidation in her face tells me that she knows she made a mistake, but the words have already been said.

He doesn’t utter another word, simply storms out of the room in fury.

“Lex! Don’t!” I reach for him, grabbing at his arm but he rips it out of my grasp, gone in a flash, and my tears take over me once again. He can’t fucking leave.

I move quickly to follow him out of the room, but Aimee steps in front of me, seizing my shoulders and shaking me in frustration.

“Stop it, Leala! Stop being ridiculous,” she growls in my face, but I can’t even respond, my body wrenching with sobs as I rip away from her and rush down the hall, hoping to catch him.

He’s almost to the gate when I catch up to him outside, the freezing air shocking my lungs and making me shiver almost instantly as I realize I ran outside without a jacket. I feel cold, but I don’t mind it. And if I wrapped up against the cold, I wouldn’t feel other things, like the bright tingle of the sun, or best of all the silky feeling of the wind on my skin. It’s worth being cold for that.

“Lex, stop! Lex!” I shout, my voice stinging in my frozen throat and he finally stops, spinning around abruptly and I almost run smack into him. He runs a hand through his hair, breathing a shaky sigh and I see the tears brimming in his eyes.

“I…I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore.” His arms fall to his sides in defeat.

“Lex.” I reach out for him, but he steps back, shaking his head.

“No. It’s too hard. This…us…I don’t know how this is going to work, Leala.” The words are shaky and strangled in his throat and I’m shocked to my core as I see that he’s really about to cry.

I can’t breathe. He can’t be saying what I think he’s saying. No, everything has to be okay. We [_have _]to be okay.

“What do you mean how it’s going to work? It’s us Lex, just me and you, forget about everything else,” I beg, fisting the front of his shirt, and his hands smooth up my arms, warm against my cold skin before finally gripping my upper arms.

“Everything else? Like the fact that you’re clean, and I’m not, and your family hates me. Leala, that’s the important shit. We…we live in two completely different worlds now. I just…I don’t know,” he struggles, gripping my arms tighter and I just want to fucking break down.

I want to sob, but I can’t because I’m so confused and I don’t know where any of this is coming from. Did he come here to tell me this? He couldn’t have. I thought that when I saw the hurt and loneliness in his eyes that he was crying out to me. I thought he [_needed _]me. Why would he come here to end this? I know the fight with Aimee was rough, but doesn’t he know? Doesn’t he know that I don’t care about any of that, about anything but him? Because I love him. I love him and I need him in my life, and I don’t care what worlds we come from, I never did, I just know that when we’re together everything else goes away.

I know I have to tell him. I have to tell him how I feel because he’ll stay if I do. I know those three words will make him stay.

“You know I don’t care about that shit, Lex. I never have. It’s just you…[_you’re _]what I want. I don’t want your world. Please…please don’t do this. I need you. Lex, I—”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything, Leala. I just…I can’t keep doing this. I can’t keep hurting you,” he cuts me off, stepping away once again because the longer I talk, the more I say, it will surely melt his resolve. And we look at each other for a long second and I want to tell him. I [_need _]to tell him.

But he turns away. He turns his back and walks away, leaving me standing there, hurting me more than ever, even though he said he didn’t want to.

And I should’ve told him.

31

Three days later, there’s a knock at Lex’s door. He’s in the stash room counting a roll of bills, so Remy answers, eyes widening a little as he looks into the boy’s face, shocked at his youthful appearance. He looks no older than sixteen but junkies are getting younger and younger these days.

“I-I’m looking for Lex,” the boy stutters, his voice confirming his youth.

“Yo, Lex. You got a customer, man,” Remy shouts over his shoulder and then stands clear of the doorway so the teenager can pass by him, entering the house.

Lex ambles slowly out of the back room, his gaze fixed down on his hands and the stack of cash, slipping the bills loosely between his fingers as he counts them.

“Sup? What do you need? I got some green, but I mostly run white around here, so if that’s what you’re interested in…” he trails off as he looks up. He stares for a long second at the boy and it doesn’t hit him at first. Until he realizes that the steel blue eyes he’s looking into are a younger version of his own.

Damon.

“Hey…” Damon shuffles his feet nervously, plunging his hands into his pockets.

“Holy fucking shit,” Lex whispers, releasing the breath that he didn’t realize he was holding, almost dropping all of the cash in his hand, completely forgetting how much he just counted. They stare at each other, completely astounded.

Damon finally speaks up. “Um, I’m sorry I just showed up…I don’t even know—”

“You need to go home. Fuck, I need to take you home right now,” Lex cuts him off in a panic and paces across the room to retrieve the keys to his truck.

“No. Please! Don’t,” Damon shouts, begging, and Lex freezes, turning slowly to face him again, peering at him questioningly.

“Where do your parents think you are right now?”

“They’re your parents too.”

“Woah! Wait a minute! Parents? You’re Lex’s brother?! Holy fucking shit, dude. Come sit down, take a hit man. Relax! This is fucking awesome!” Bruce suddenly throws an arm around Damon and attempts to pull him down onto the couch but Lex grabs Bruce by the shirt, pushing him against the wall.

“Don’t even fucking think about that shit!” he growls before releasing him and looking over at Remy, and then back at Bruce. “You fucks get outta my house. Both of you.” He looks back and forth between the two and waits for them to leave. “Now!” he snaps when neither moves and they both jump a little before scurrying out the front door, shutting it behind them. Lex takes in the moment of tense silence before turning back to Damon.

“Um…here, you can sit down, I guess,” he stutters, fumbling nervously to clear the coffee table of the drug paraphernalia strewn about as Damon takes a seat on the couch.

“So this is what you do now?” he asks softly, eyeing Lex and then looking back down to the table. He reaches to touch the electronic scale curiously and Lex slaps his hand away before grabbing it, guilt rising up in him.

“Look kid, don’t lecture me, okay? This is life, this happens to people everyday. I’m making it on my own and I don’t ask Mom and Dad for a damn thing,” he answers before turning to carry the armload of items to the back room. “So why are you here? You want money? What’s going on?” he asks as he enters the room again, standing beside the arm of the couch and peering down at Damon with an intimidating gaze. He takes him in slowly, his lean, lanky form dressed in worn jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, cheeks still a bit flushed from the cold outside, dark curls fuzzing just a bit around his boyish face. And it appears as if someone had cloned a teenage Lex and put him on the couch, right down to the look of uncertainty in his big blue eyes.

“You’re my brother.” His soft voice shakes a bit as he responds.

Lex sighs, running a hand over his head as he paces the room nervously before sitting down across from Damon on the wooden edge of the coffee table. “Yeah, but I mean…shit, I haven’t seen you since you were ten years old, and you all of a sudden just show up today.”

Damon takes a good long look at Lex now that he is finally sitting close enough so that he can really take him in, and Lex stares back into his brother’s eyes with the same searching glance. Five years really is a long time, and Lex can’t believe how much his little brother has grown up. He almost looks [_just _]like him.

“I told Mom and Dad I was going to town. Hopped on the bus and made it out here. I had to kinda ask around for exactly where to find you.”

Lex’s eyes go wide. “You’ve been running around on the streets asking people where I live?! That’s just fucking great.” He stands up abruptly and paces into the middle of the room, shaking his head.

“I just needed to come see you,” Damon pleads and Lex scoffs, turning to face him and holding his arms wide, presenting himself.

“Well, here I am. Have a nice long look, and while you’re at it have a peek outside, ‘cause Mom and Dad will never let you out of the house again after this little stunt,” he muses matter-of-factly before dropping his arms to his sides to finalize his statement.

Damon sighs, hanging his head a bit as he responds quietly, “They won’t tell me about you. I feel like you died.”

“Well that’s not too terribly shocking,” Lex grumbles, rolling his eyes but he sighs when he sees Damon’s disappointed demeanor. “Look, I’m sorry if this wasn’t what you were expecting. But there’s nothing I can do about it.”

“You could come home,” Damon offers weakly and Lex groans in aggravation.

“No, kid, I can’t just do shit like that. I have to get out of this business and get myself clean and—”

“So why don’t you?”

Lex opens his mouth to respond angrily, but he stops when Damon’s cell phone rings, and from the nervous look on his face he can tell who is calling.

Lex sighs, giving his brother a look of sympathy before answering flatly. “It’s getting late. I better get you home. Come on.”

“Why won’t you come home, Alex? Mom misses you. She’s sad,” Damon finally musters up the courage to speak after ten minutes of silence in the truck.

“She’s been sad for a long time, kid. And I’m twenty-five years old, I don’t need to live at home anymore,” he replies simply, glancing in his side mirror absently before changing lanes.

“Well you could at least come by and visit more.”

“I just don’t wanna be in that house. I know you don’t get that, but—”

“Then tell me. Explain it. Tell me something. Anything,” Damon demands in frustration, banging against his thighs with clenched fists and Lex huffs a perturbed sigh and shakes his head.

“You just…you wouldn’t understand,” he answers weakly.

“Why not?” Damon questions and Lex snaps at the mix of the guilt building inside of him and the anger that comes with the memories of living in that house with his parents.

Because, okay?” He hits the steering wheel with an open palm and Damon jumps. “What do you fucking know about it? Nothing. You’re the baby, the perfect kid, the loved kid. You could never fucking understand it.”

“Understand what?” Damon growls back, his temper almost equaling Lex’s, and there is a pause as Lex looks over at him in astonishment.

“Nothing. Just leave it alone, okay? We’re almost there,” he finally mutters, turning his eyes back to the road and Damon sighs with a pout, crossing his arms over his chest.

And they continue in silence.

“Alright kid, don’t be pulling anymore shit on me like this,” Lex grumbles once he finally pulls into the driveway of his childhood home. Well, his house, as he sees it, because while in the sense of material things he had everything he wanted, it definitely never felt like a [_home _]to him. He puts his truck in park and there is a moment of tense silence before Damon looks over at him.

“Thanks for bringing me home.”

Again, that word, home. He’s sure that it feels like a home to Damon, but he’s also sure from Damon’s reaction in their conversation just moments prior that the details of his own childhood haven’t been spilled, in order to prevent tainting the image of their perfect family. Damon really has no idea why Lex left home, and while that’s frustrating, maybe it’s for the better.

“Take it easy, okay? And at least call or something before you just show up at my door again.”

Damon nods as he opens the passenger’s side door and slides across the smooth leather of the seat until his feet hit the ground. He gives Lex a sustained look before shutting the door with a sigh and ascending the remainder of the driveway, head down and hands in his pockets as he crosses the yard to the front door.

Lex takes a moment and studies the house through his open window. Perfect from the outside, just like their family had appeared. But every family has their dark secrets and he suddenly can’t stop the memories flooding his mind of a time that should have been so much simpler.

The opening of the front door rips him from his thoughts and he slouches in his seat a bit, resting his elbow on the inside of his door and raising a hand against his forehead to shield his face as he peeks through his fingers. But he relaxes when he hears the warm familiar voice call out across the yard.

“Oh my God, honey. Are you okay?”

He smiles weakly as he sees his mom bustle out of the front door, crossing the yard quickly to grab Damon up in her arms, stroking his hair protectively.

“I’m fine, Mom,” Damon grumbles and her face suddenly goes white as her focus shifts over his shoulder and onto Lex’s truck in the driveway.

“Alex? Is…is that you?” she calls across the yard, craning her neck and squinting to make out what she can see of his face, which is now much thinner than it was the last time she laid eyes on him, her baby boy.

He sighs as he drops his hand from his face reluctantly, opens his driver’s side door and slides out of the seat. He didn’t want to do this. He was just supposed to drop Damon off and hit the ground running. But he can’t turn his back on his mom, not after everything they went through.

“Yeah…it’s me, Mom,” he laughs as she approaches him quickly with disbelief in her eyes. She instantly takes him into her arms, no questions asked. He sighs and leans into her a bit, not feeling this relaxed since…well, there’s only one other person who makes him feel like this.

He can’t stop the memories from coming, swarming in his head as his mother holds him in her arms. When he was a child he had been ashamed, too confused and young to tell his mother what was happening to him on an almost daily basis, so he had lived most of his young life in fear and longed for the quiet moments when she would hold him and make him feel like he was loved. And for a moment now he feels the very same way.

“Look at you! You’re skinny as a rail. Are you eating? Are you okay?” she rambles worriedly as she holds him out at arms length and he chuckles a bit, hanging his head because he knows he must look terrible compared to the last time she saw him.

“I’m fine, alright? Just brought this kid home when he showed up on my doorstep.” He smiles warmly at her and nudges Damon playfully, but his smile soon fades when he hear another all too familiar voice call across the yard.

“Alex, what in the hell did you do with my son?”

Lex sighs and rolls his eyes at his father. “He’s my fucking brother, Erik. What, you think I kidnapped him or some shit?”

“Well with all the other illegal shit you do there’s no telling,” he answers, coming to stand threateningly close. His blue eyes are intense, and unlike Lex’s and Damon’s, they’re cold, like ice. They’re the palest watery blue, like the eyes of a ghost.

“Fuck you, man. You don’t know me. You never fucking did,” Lex snaps, stepping away from him.

“Hey, don’t you take that tone with me! And you watch your damn mouth,” his father growls, pointing a finger in his face menacingly.

“He showed up at my place, I brought him home. That’s it,” Lex answers defiantly, gesturing to Damon. “Why would I do anything to my own damn brother?”

“No…no, you’re no brother to him. Just like you’re no son to us.”

“Erik, please,” his mother pleads, tightening her grip on Damon protectively, but Lex holds up a hand to her.

“It okay, Mom, he’s right. I’ve [_never _]been a son to him.”

His father scoffs. “No, you haven’t. I don’t know what kind of sick relationship you and your mother have, but you’ve never treated me like a son should treat his dad.”

“Oh yeah, you were father of the fucking year,” Lex muses sarcastically before stating matter-of-factly, “Dads don’t treat sons the way you fucking treated me.”

“Alex…” his mom starts, but his father cuts her off directly.

“Colleen, please! Jesus fucking Christ!” he growls.

“Just stop it, both of you. Alex, why don’t you just stay for dinner, baby,” she says, putting a hand on his arm affectionately and he sighs, wanting to stay for her, but knowing he can’t. He can’t get her hopes up of him coming back around, because no matter how much he would want to do it for her, he’s not ready to face down all of the demons of his past that linger in the memories of living in this house.

“Absolutely not. I won’t have a stranger in our home,” his father insists with finality in his voice and Lex narrows his eyes at him. Taking years and years of this same verbal combat was enough for him, but now in front of his own mom and brother? No, he won’t stand for it anymore.

Lex waits a beat before responding without turning his cold stare from his father’s eyes. “Mom, just take Damon inside, okay?” he says calmly, with that sort of unnerving controlled rage. Yes, something definitely must be said or done.

“You have something to say to me?” his father scoffs at him once his mother and Damon have finally disappeared into the house.

“I thought after enough years you would finally have something to say to me. Maybe the apology that you owe me?” Lex eyes him threateningly.

“I don’t owe you anything,” his father hisses snidely and Lex snaps.

“You owe me the fucking world. You owe me ten years of my fucking life that you ruined. Ten years that I couldn’t sleep at night. Ten years that me and Mom had to fend for ourselves because you were a sorry ass excuse for a father and husband. Not to mention years of shit after Damon was born. Pretty much everyday I spent in that fucking house, living a nightmare. So yeah, you owe me about twenty years back,” Lex replies angrily, clenching his fists at his sides and his father laughs when he sees the rage swimming in his eyes.

“Oh, are you gonna hit me, Alex? Huh? Haul off and clock your old man real good now that you think you’re man enough to stand up to me? You wanna give it a go? You remember what happened the last time you did that shit.”

“Yeah, I remember. I remember I made that mistake once and almost paid for it with my fucking life. And I also remember I promised myself a long time ago that I’d never end up like you. I can only hope Damon doesn’t either.”

“I just hope he doesn’t end up like you.”

Lex pushes out a disbelieving laugh at his father’s response before nodding slowly, biting at the inside of his cheek in contemplation. He narrows his eyes, responding sternly and with intent.

“Does it make you nervous, Erik? Does it make you wonder why Damon left home? Surely he’s not miserable, surely you don’t treat him the way you treated me for years and years. Huh?” He waits a beat before continuing, smiling sinisterly as he sees that he’s rendered his father speechless. “No? I didn’t think so. I know Mom doesn’t have to make him wear pants and long sleeves to school to cover up bruises. No, because you love him, right? Do you love him too much, Erik? I know I left home because you almost killed my ass, but what about Damon? Are you smothering him? Is that why he ran off? Loving him enough to make up for how much you hated me? Does it help you sleep at night you son of a—”

Lex hears the crack of skin on skin before he feels the throb in his cheek that makes his eyes water and the warm wetness inching down from his nose that he recognizes immediately as his own blood. He draws the back of his hand across his upper lip and nods slightly when he sees the crimson red liquid, suddenly replaying childhood scenarios in his head like a movie reel of slap after slap of his father’s hands, rendering blood and tears for so many years of his life.

Usually no man hits Lex without getting the shit kicked out of them, but he takes this paternal assault without so much as a flinch, because that’s what he’s always done with his father. That’s what he’s learned to do. Just be a man and take it. He knows what happened the last time he fought back.

He laughs low and sadistic, his voice gruff and barely above a whisper as he eyes his father with disgust. “I guess some things just never change.”

Without another word he climbs back into his truck and tears out of the driveway and onto the street, suddenly remembering the last time he left this house without so much as a glance in the rearview mirror, his mother standing in the driveway crying, but today she’s not there, and [_he’s _]the one crying. Crying in frustration and confusion because perhaps he thought that maybe, just [_maybe _]after these years had passed, his father would have something in his heart for him besides hate.

Finally pulling into his driveway, Lex breathes a shaky sigh and wipes at his tearstained face as he turns off his truck, and another wave of emotions hits him as he suddenly doesn’t want to go inside his house. He’s so tired of being alone even when there are people bustling in and out every single day. He still feels so, so alone, especially now with all this talk of house and home and family. Family is supposed to love you unconditionally, but Lex wouldn’t know unconditional love if his life depended on it. And right now he feels like his life [_does _]depend on it.

The closest thing he’s ever had to love is gone. He pushed it away, and now he needs _]it, he needs it so much when he’s all alone and dealing with so many nightmares chasing him down. This isn’t his home anymore, not when he’s alone. Home is where your heart is and his heart is in rehab. His heart is moving on, and his real heart, it’s [_shattered. He’s empty. Empty and alone and that’s the way he’s going to stay if he doesn’t change his life, but now his life just has no fucking meaning anymore.

He sniffles and wipes at his nose as he reaches into his back pocket for his wallet, pulling out the tiny paper angel between his shaking fingers, and he chokes down a sob as he remembers that moment. That moment when he felt so alive and loved and content and he had hope for once. And now it’s gone. It’s gone because he ruined it, he threw it away, the only thing he had left that made him want to brave this terrible world and keep pushing even when life gets so, so hard.

A tear hits the paper, causing the ink to bleed, to bleed like his fucking heart is bleeding as fear rises in him but he knows he needs to do it. He needs to do something, anything, to make this terrible pain go away because he just can’t bear it, and he [_needs _]it. He needs that angel.

Because only an angel could save him from what he wants to do tonight.

32

I knock excitedly on his door. I know it’s kinda early in the morning, and I shouldn’t be coming back to the house—[_this _]house of all places—so soon after I’ve been released. God, I’ve only been out for one day and I know this is a mistake but I just want to see him already.

I knock again. I wait and wait and he doesn’t answer the door. His truck is in the driveway. Maybe one of the boys came to pick him up. But it’s a little early for him to be out on a run already. I’ve been trying to call all morning and he hasn’t answered his phone and normally I would just leave him the fuck alone but something inside that I can’t shake is telling me that I [_need _]to come see him.

I try to call his phone one more time. Nothing.

I knock once more, my heel tapping against the concrete walkway impatiently. I know after the fight just a few days ago he probably doesn’t want to see me, but I need to talk to him to make sure he’s okay because I don’t think he is. I know him well enough to know that something’s wrong. I have to see him.

If he would just answer the fucking door.

After a few minutes I turn the knob, expecting it to be locked, and my eyes widen a little in surprise when I feel that it isn’t. Lex [_always _]locks the door. I start to get a little nervous.

I push the door open slowly. No lights are on in the house and there is an eerie silence despite the fact that the TV is playing in the living room. Walking Dead reruns.

“Lex,” I call out softly, cautiously, as I push the door closed and lock it. I step slowly through the house, surveying the room carefully, thoroughly, half-expecting to see him passed out asleep on the couch or something. But he’s nowhere in sight.

“Lex!” I call a little louder, peering down the hall toward his bedroom. The door is standing wide open. Paranoia takes over me and I find myself stepping faster down the hall, more desperate in my search for him. An unnerving feeling consumes me.

“Lex, are you in here?”

Maybe he’s in the shower…

But I don’t hear the shower running as I step into the bedroom. The door to his adjoining bathroom is open just barely, soft light escaping through the crack in the door. I push it open and the sight before me immediately sends me to my knees with my hands over my mouth as I choke out a sob in terror. I’m paralyzed, literally pulled down to the floor like a fucking iron flake to a magnet.

No, no, this can’t be happening.

He’s not moving.

Sitting on the floor, long legs sprawled haphazardly before him, his head is back against the bathtub, eyes closed. His face is drenched in blood from the nose down, spreading deep red across his lips and down his chin and neck, soaking into the neckband of his gray T-shirt. The small square mirror he uses to snort lines is broken into three pieces on the floor, his razor and straw sitting close by. He must of dropped it.

Two blood-stained syringes rest empty at his feet, his arm boasting a track fit for an Olympic runner and there’s blood on his fingers and vomit in the bathtub. It’s a fucking scene straight out of CSI. You only see shit like this on movies and TV.

Overdose.

The word snaps me back into the present suddenly, my dread-stricken mind previously trapped in some other realm of the universe. Am I dreaming? Is this some fucked up nightmare?

“Lex!!” I scream out his name through my sobs, crawling across the floor toward his limp form. I fist his shirt in my hands while I climb onto his lap, shaking him violently as I feel the fear rising in me. A sanity-consuming fear.

Fear like I’ve never felt before.

Author’s Note

Thank you so much for reading [_White Lines! _]If you enjoyed this book, please take a few moments to write a review of it, preferably on Goodreads or Amazon. I would love to hear your feedback (good or bad) so I can know how to improve the rest of the series. This is the first part of The Addictive Trilogy. If you’re interested in recieving the second and third book (FREE) in exchange for a review, please e-mail me at [email protected] I’d be happy to send you a copy of the book in the format of your choice: Mobi, Epub, or PDF. Also, make sure to sign up for my mailing list in order to recieve updates about new releases: bellamadison.pagedemo.co

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Also by Bella Madison

Hooked

White Lines

About the Author

Bella Madison wrote her first novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. Though she’ll forever be a New York City girl at heart, she now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. If she’s not working on her latest juicy story, you can find her cooking, watching reality television, or picking up another hobby she doesn’t need—in other words, procrastinating like a boss.


White Lines (Hooked #1)

It's a love/hate thing now, the two of them. They get strung out on each other, just like they get strung out on the drugs. Sometimes they don't see each other for days or weeks, but she always comes back. And he's always waiting.  He loves her because she needs it, and she loves him because he has it.  But he hates her for keeping him tied to the business, and she hates him for getting her hooked.

  • ISBN: 9781370721412
  • Author: Bella Madison
  • Published: 2017-01-08 02:35:34
  • Words: 66607
White Lines (Hooked #1) White Lines (Hooked #1)