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Crushed

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

 

© 2015 Marie Cole. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

 

Cover design: Marie Cole

Chapter 1

 

Claire

My alarm clock sounded and with a groan I rolled over. I was having an amazing dream that I was locked in a jail cell with Zac Efron. It ended too soon. I rolled out of bed, scrubbed the sleep off, got dressed and rushed to my early morning class. Lots of people didn’t like having early morning classes but I found it to be a relief to have my afternoons free to do other things, like hang out with my sorority sisters, study, practice with the cheer squad and people watch. I have a gift and part of making it work is people watching. I’ve been doing it for as long as I remember. This might sound strange but I can see auras. People are encapsulated in colors and upon first look there is just one color but when you stare at someone for a long time you see there are other colors that surround them.

 

As I stared at the professor teaching my English class I could see that his aura is mostly orange. He enjoyed teaching and when I stared to look closer I noticed that his aura also has hues of red and chocolate. The red means that the person is a perfectionist and brown radiates from people who are comfortable in their own skin. There were not many brown auras in high school but it was appearing much more in college.

I shifted in my seat as the rest of the class went by without much incident. As soon as the professor dismissed the class I stood and went to the dining hall to get some breakfast. I sat down with my coffee, bagel, and fruit and opened my lit textbook to start on the reading assignment for the day after tomorrow. My friend, Merit, came and sat down across from me, still dressed in her black band T-shirt and gray sweatpants that served as her pajamas, no doubt.

“Hey, chick, how was class? Riveting?” She peeled a banana and took a hardy bite, her gorgeous hazel eyes stared at me. I smiled softly and shrugged my shoulders, eyes looking up from my textbook.

“As riveting as Early European Literature can be at 8:30 in the morning. What are you doing up? It’s not noon yet.”

“Har har.” She stuck her tongue out at me and I giggled. “The librarian called and said that the book I’ve been waiting for has returned. So I rushed my ass over there to grab it and then came here for breakfast. I’m going back to bed as soon as I’m done stuffing this banana in my face.” And to emphasize her point she took another large bite.

“Are you going to…” My eyes shifted around the room and my heart stuttered for a moment when I saw him. He was tall, so very colossal. He looked like he could break down one of those large thick castle doors with one broad shoulder and not feel a thing. His shaggy blonde hair was begging to be gripped in my fingers and I found myself licking my lips as I stared at his. Suddenly there was a hand obstructing my view and I blinked and lost visual contact. I looked at Merit who was glancing around to see what I saw and then stared at me, a huge grin on her lips.

“He made you speechless and didn’t even have to say anything to you. I never thought I’d see the day.” I stuttered and stammered as I tried to get words out to prove her wrong but it wasn’t working. He was so beautiful, the image of him still burned on my mind even as I stared at Merit. There was a warm feeling between my legs too which I couldn’t identify but it felt good and I wanted to feel it some more. I looked back to Merit and felt my cheeks warm. She was grinning wider.

“Stop it, okay? He’s probably already got a girlfriend or fifty. I’m not into guys like that.” I ripped off a piece of bagel and chewed it slowly after popping it into my mouth, trying hard to keep my eyes focused on Merit.

“Well, that’s not what your face says.” She reached across the table and pinched my cheeks, still grinning. I swatted her hand away and smiled back.

“Fine…he’s a delicious looking guy, I can admit that. But there are lots of good looking guys here who would most likely give me the time of day.”

“You never know until you try, Ms. Cupid. You’re so busy setting everyone else up that you haven’t taken time to set yourself up.” She looked over her shoulder and I followed her gaze as it settled on the hottie who was now sitting by himself eating a large serving of everything they offered in the dining hall. He had two trays full of food and a notebook in front of him. I found myself smiling as I watched him draw with a pencil, his large hand moved so gracefully, it was riveting.

She looked back at me and I met her gaze, pretending I hadn’t been ogling him again, her eyebrows were raised, waiting for me to say something, “If I run into him again I’ll consider it fate and I’ll talk to him. But for right now I have to go. I have class in ten minutes.” I smiled as I stood and walked away with my tray in hand.

Ten minutes into my history class Neil Begley, a guy I’d known since middle school, came strolling in. The professor made a smart remark about tardiness but, as always, it rolled off Neil, he absorbed nothing that would crush his self esteem in anyway. He was a winner through and through. There was nothing that Neil Begley sucked at. That included getting girls. Since I’ve met him I’d been trying to hook him up with a girl, hoping he’d settle down and at least give love a go. But he’d always been uninterested in anything outside of the bedroom.

I hid a smile as he gave me his panty-dropping wink accompanied by a grin as he passed by me and sat down behind me. He always smelled great, I’d give the boy that. I felt him tap me on the shoulder and then the hair on the back of neck raised as his warm breath caressed my sensitive skin, “Claire, got an extra pen?” I hid my shivers and leaned down, grabbing a blue Bic. I sat back up and held it against the top of my shoulder and a second later I felt it slowly sliding backwards as he pulled it toward himself.

I smiled to myself. I’m glad that I’m immune to the wiles of guys like Neil. Not that he’d ever tried to get into my jeans. We’d been acquaintances for several years, we hang in the same social circles. He’s in the top male fraternity, I’m in the top female fraternity. Last year we went together to a few mixers but he always ended up going home with another, less modest, girl. It never bothered me either. That was Neil, a playboy. The girls were unable to resist his charming, boy-next-door good looks.

As I stood up to leave Neil pressed the Bic into my hand, “Thanks, Claire. See you tomorrow.” I looked over my shoulder at him and smiled.

“Sure will.” I winked at him, slipped my things into my large tote bag and walked out of class, swaying my hips purposely. A few years ago I was in a fashion show and afterwards he commented on my sway. To this day I always make sure I show it off as I walk around him.

I was still smiling as I made my way across the grass on my way back to my dorm. I slowed, my heart started pounding and my smile dropped as I spotted the mystery hottie under a tree directly in my line of sight. I whispered to myself, “Okay, Fate…” I inhaled deeply to get my wits about me, straightened my blouse and looked down to take a look. I unbuttoned the top button and smiled to myself, my white lace bra peeking out just a little.

I approached him as casually as I could muster and I prayed to the Gods that he couldn’t hear my heart beating like a speeding train. As I stopped in front of him he was still looking down at his book. “Hey, mind if I join you?”

He didn’t look up from his book as he gruffly replied, “No, I don’t mind.” I cleared my throat softly and sat down next to him. I was very thankful that I’d decided to take a shower that morning, I probably smelled like a girl, at least.

“So you’re new? I haven’t seen you around before, unless you’ve been hiding.” I smiled as I crossed my legs Indian-style, putting my hands on my thighs.

He finally looked at me and my heart skipped a few beats, his ice blue eyes were even more incredible up close. “Not exactly hiding, but yeah I’m new. …You aren’t scared of me?” His dark brows raised in surprise.

“No!” I laughed nervously, “Why would I be scared of you?” I wondered if he knew in that moment how hot I thought he was. Did he know I was so nervous that I could feel dampness under my arms and hoped like hell that I hadn’t forgotten to put my deodorant on earlier?

“You are the first person to talk to me since I got here.” His beautiful azure eyes looked over my face and, oh my god, did he just gaze at my lips? I licked them and smiled sweetly.

“I’m sure I won’t be the only one. Are you finding your way around okay?” I took the opportunity to check him out up close, my eyes dropped to his hands, they were huge. I felt myself shiver and more of that wonderful warmness traveled between my legs again.

 

“Yeah, the map they gave me is pretty good.” He leaned toward me, his shoulder grazed my left breast and I felt my nipple harden. I gasped and held my breath as he dug in his back jean pocket. He pulled out a well folded but wrinkled map that had highlights on a quarter of the buildings on campus and held it out to me. I took it, glanced at it briefly, noting the buildings he’d colored bright yellow, and then handed it back.

“Glad they’ve taken care of you.” He took the map back, refolded it and stuffed it back into his back pocket. I was still smiling like an idiot. “I’m Claire.” I held out my hand awkwardly and he gently took it and gave it a couple of shakes, his grip just a little too tight but it still managed to electrify me.

“I’m Will. So who is your godly parent?” He pulled his hand away as I laughed.

“Wow, blunt, aren’t you? My father is Eros.” He narrowed his eyes and then his eyebrows lifted as recognition kicked in.

“Cupid?”

 

I smiled and nodded. “Yeah, that’s him.”

“Cool…so are you really kick ass at archery?” I chuckled again and tilted my head to the side slightly as I gazed into his eyes. I could see his aura flickering around him. Blues, orange and yellow.

“You know, I’ve never tried. I do more traditional girl activities.”

“How will you defend yourself?” He drew his brows down, obviously very concerned about my safety, that was a good thing, wasn’t it?

I looked up as I briefly contemplated, “Good question. I should work some self defense into my electives. How will you defend yourself?” I threw his question back at him with a grin.

“My body. I can hold my own.” I felt my cheeks blush as my eyes dropped and took in the body he had mentioned. Even under his long sleeved shirt I could tell he was ripped. His biceps bulged without effort. I cleared my throat softly and nodded.

“I bet you can.”

There was humor in his voice as he spoke, his voice deep, shaking my nerves and sending more sparks between my thighs, “Like what you see?”

I looked up to his face and felt my own getting more heated by the second. “Sorry. I was trying to envision who your ideal partner would be.” His eyebrows perked up at that and he leaned forward a little, forearm on his raised knee.

“Who did you see?”

 

I shook my head gently and shrugged my shoulders. “No one yet. The matchmaking thing is the trait I got from my dear old dad. Are you interested in finding love?” It was a stupid question I could see purple in his aura, he was definitely interested in finding love, he was very receptive to the idea. It warmed me some more.

 

His eyes moved over my face slowly. “Yeah, sure. Do you have a boyfriend?”

I stammered, the second time today and exhaled softly. “Um, no. I’m pretty busy with homework, classes, my sorority duties and cheerleading. Are you going to rush?” I quickly tried to change the subject, I wasn’t ready for the man that was Will. I needed to buy some time before I threw myself at him. I didn’t want him to laugh in my face and slap his knee like I was a huge joke.

“I don’t think so. Large groups of people and me don’t get along very well.” Hmm, a shut in? He looked down as if he’d just made a huge confession to me. I smiled softly and gently nudged his shoulder with mine, which was a huge mistake, sparks flew and drifted through my body, if I kept doing this I was going to orgasm right in front of him.

“I love it. It feels like a large family. The fraternities and sororities are always partying and hanging out together. It’s a lot of fun.” I shifted and put a little more distance between us. “But it’s not for everyone.” I smiled and stood up. “I’ve gotta get going. It was nice to meet you, Will. I hope I’ll run into you again soon.” I smiled at him and almost melted when he returned it.

“I hope so too, Claire.” The way he said my name was going to be forever burned in my brain.

Chapter 2

Neil

She smells so fucking good.

 

I stared at Claire two seats in front of me. She was twirling her long honey-blonde hair around her slender finger and for some reason I was picturing myself under her desk with my face between her legs. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat as my boner pressed against my pants and looked down at my empty notebook page. I was going to get the first B of my life if I didn’t stop staring at the untouchable Claire and focus on the lectures.

I sighed and glanced next to me. A girl whose name I didn’t remember was silently undressing me with her eyes. I smiled at her and gave her a wink. She wasn’t going to melt my heart but she’d be a great distraction for a few minutes in the back stairwell before my next class.

It was great to be me. Captain of the football team, full ride because of my athletic abilities, great looking, and all the girls wanted me. I wasn’t going to fail out of college, I was a good student, never had a B in my life. Why was I letting that blonde-haired woman distract me now?

I knew I was awesome but she’s just too pure. And I was pretty sure she’s never even thought of a guy naked, much less fucked one. Luckily for me, she didn’t seem interested in anything aside from harmless, very mild flirting so it had been easy enough to keep my paws off her. There were plenty of girls around who did want me.

Speaking of other girls, I slipped the girl next to me a note just before the professor dismissed class. I got out of my seat and stretched, showing the girl a peek of my washboard abs as my plain white t-shirt lifted up. I grinned at her when she gasped.

Someone cleared their throat in front of me and I turned my gaze to see Claire. I slowly put down my arms and smiled at her. She didn’t swoon, she never did. “What’s up, Claire-bear?” It was one of my many nicknames for her. She pretended to hate them but deep down I knew she loved them.

She was clutching her books tightly to her ample chest, “I think you have my pen, sir?” I snickered. She always called me sir, deep down I loved it. I slipped the pen into the front pocket of my jeans and then relaxed my hands at my sides.

“If you want it, come get it.” I waggled my brows, teasing her. Her eyes sparkled with amusement as reached into my pocket with two dainty little fingers and withdrew the pen.

“You are such a flirt. I’ll see you at the game tonight, yeah?” I nodded as she smiled and turned away. Her long hair sent the smell of peaches in my direction. I was mentally drooling. I was getting desperate to have a bite. I picked up my books and shit and headed out of the classroom. Time to distract myself and pretend the brunette waiting for me was someone else.

The football game came and went, we kicked their ass, of course. I played the best game of my life and I’m pretty sure it was because whenever I looked over at the cheerleaders Claire was staring at me and smiling. Like she was cheering just for me, just like she’d done many times in my dreams. I had taken all my sexual frustration and put it into the game, and it had worked for me.

After hitting the showers and getting cleaned up the guys all went to the frat house to get ready for the raging party that always took place after a winning game. The cheerleaders would be there, not that I cared really, except for that one, whose name I won’t fucking mention because, Jesus! I didn’t care.

As I entered I was accosted by Justice, her hand on my chest pushing me against the wall roughly. She knew how I liked it. I grinned down at her beautiful, flawless face. She was the daughter of Aphrodite and had some kind of special thing about her, if she looked at you and wanted you, you were going to want her. And she was looking at me that way right now.

“Don’t have to buy you a drink first?” I grinned at her. She didn’t grin back, her hands were already scaling my body and dipping to my jeans.

“One of these days you’re going to come begging me for my love.” I flipped us around so she was against the wall. I closed my eyes and rested my forehead against the wall near her head. I don’t know why the girl gave the milk away for free. She wasn’t going to catch any guys that way. She was too easy. Not that I cared, the brunette from earlier was too quiet when I was giving it to her and my dick was swelling, letting me know he was ready for more action.

“I’ll beg you now if you want me to.” I murmured, knowing she’d love hearing that. Her teeth grazed my neck which sent shivers through my body. She was good at her craft. I grabbed her hands and disappeared upstairs into a room with her.

After some awesome reverse cowgirl action I came back downstairs and headed for the keg. Every blonde head I saw made me think of Claire. This shit was getting old fast. It was time to numb myself with alcohol because clearly banging her out of my system wasn’t working.

I was halfway through my fifth cup when the girl of my dreams, and nightmares, approached me. “Hello, sir!” She grabbed my free hand and pulled me away from my precious keg, I looked at it dreamily over my shoulder as I was pulled towards the mesh of bodies dancing in the living room.

I still held my red solo cup in my hand and took a sip. I felt the bass pounding through my body and my eyes dropped to Claire’s ass. Fuck me. Who knew jeans could be so fucking sexy? My eyes stopped bugging just in time. She turned to me and started dancing. My eyes dropped to her chest, my dream girl was wearing a black tank top with a white bra, the white bra is what really captured my attention. Why did she have to rub the pureness in my face like that?

I watched, moving along with her, as her breasts teased me, screaming at me that they’d never be felt by my hands. It was not nice, not one bit. Fuck it. My free hand grabbed onto her hip, pulling her in against me so she could undulate against me and while she was in a good mood and I had the excuse of too much alcohol I moved my hand up her side and swiped my thumb over the bottom of her beautifully round breast.

She laughed and pushed my hand back down to her hip. I growled at her. She pressed her chest against me and my breath caught in my throat. Heaven, I was in heaven. “Why is Justice giving me the stink eye?!” She yelled into my ear. I felt her pulling away so I put my hand on her back and held her close and nibbled on her earlobe. I felt her body shiver in my arms and I growled again, I wanted her. Bad. This was no good at all.

“She wants to have another go at me. I’ll see you later, Claire.” I pushed her away firmly and walked away. My jeans were getting tight and my heart was pounding louder than the music. I found Justice and grabbed her hand roughly, pulling her towards the stairs again. I was going to get Claire out of my mind, even if it took all fucking night.

Chapter 3

Claire

I watched Neil go up the stairs with Justice in tow and for a split second I was jealous. I wondered what it would be like once it finally happened. I found Merit by the speakers and grabbed her arm when I closed the distance between us. “Hey girl! I didn’t think you’d show.”

She grinned, “Are you kidding? I love loud, crowded frat parties.” She was being sarcastic, of course. “I just need a boy to make out with and I thought I could surely get one here. Is there a sign-up sheet somewhere?” I laughed at her and rolled my eyes.

“You’re terrible. Come on, lets get something to drink.” I pulled her through the throng of people to the kitchen. I reached for a cup at the same moment that a large warm hand did. I looked up and nearly wet my panties. It was him. He looked so out of place, at least a head above everyone else here.

Merit elbowed me in the ribs and I started and glanced between them. “Will! This is my friend, Merit!” He leaned down, bringing his gorgeous face next to mine. His smell surrounded my senses, he smelled like leather, nutmeg and soap.

I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply as he yelled back into my ear. “What did you say?!”

My eyes opened wide at the volume and I turned my lips to his ear, “I said ‘This is my friend, Merit!’”

He stood up and nodded to me and then to her, flashing her his beautiful smile. Oh geez, he was trying to kill me. I grabbed the front of his shirt, thanks alcohol for making me brave, and asked him to dance with us. He nodded again. I smiled, filled three cups and then drug them both out onto the dance floor. It was a Will sandwich with Merit wiggling against his left leg and me wiggling against his right. He stood behind us and didn’t seem to know what to do. I grinned at Merit who grinned back at me.

I grabbed Will’s hand and put it on Merit’s hip and then I danced my way to his backside. I put my free hand on his stomach and took a drink to calm my nerves and keep myself from fainting. His tight perfect ass was right there in front of me. As I pressed myself against him my breasts pressed against his lower back. He seemed to be into the song and when Bob Marley’s Is This Love blasted from the speakers, I came back around to the front of him. He smiled at both of us and pulled us in close to his killer body.

I looked to Merit and she was smiling at me and then at Will, I knew she saw what I saw, he was a total babe and not a total douche bag like the rest of the still single college guys seemed to be. He wasn’t trying to feel us up, he wasn’t waggling his brows like a dog with a bone – he was just enjoying the music and the company. When the chorus came on I turned to Merit and touched her nose and serenaded her. Luckily the music was loud enough to drown out my horrible singing. I was feeling a little tipsy though so I wouldn’t have cared either way.

The next morning I woke up with a bit of a headache. I was so smashed last night that I didn’t even remember coming home. I stretched out and winced at the soreness in my feet. Damn high heels. They looked good but were so painful. It would be worth it if Will noticed my long legs. I smiled to myself and rolled out of bed. My feet stepped on something lumpy and large on my floor and I squealed. I looked down and saw Will on my floor and my heart melted. He was still sleeping soundly despite my big feet squishing his chest. He must have taken me home last night after I drank half the keg. I took the opportunity to stare at him. His black hair was messy in a sleep-mused way. His hands were resting on top of his large chest, which moved up and down deeply and rhythmically.

Merit peeked her head up from the other side of my bed and I let out another squeal, hand on my chest. “Oh my gosh, Merit! What are you doing here?” I whispered loudly so I wouldn’t wake up Will.

“Me and your lover boy brought you back, mostly him, I just showed him where you lived and got us in here.” She was still grinning at me like I was drunk dancing on a bar.

I sighed softly and rubbed my pulsing forehead, “I appreciate that. I guess I had a little too much to drink, huh?”

She chuckled, “That’s an understatement. Do you want me to leave you two alone?” I glanced at Will still sleeping on my floor and shook my head.

“As much as I would love that I don’t want to freak him out. Let’s leave a note and go get breakfast for him.” Merit shrugged her slender shoulders as she went to the bathroom. After we both freshened up and I set a note on the bathroom sink, we left.

 

When we came back he was gone, he’d written his own note: Ladies, Thanks for the fun night. Hope I didn’t snore as loud as Claire. Hope to do it again soon. – W

Chapter 4

Neil

I was sweaty from hitting it hard on the field, still trying to get my aggression out. My teammates thought I was pissed at something because they knew I was still banging any girl on two legs that showed interest, especially Justice who, for reasons I didn’t care to know, was very interested in me lately. I had a feeling she wanted something more than a casual relationship but she knew I didn’t do that. I’d told her that since the beginning, before I felt the pull of her magical eyes.

I was ready to get a shower and was headed for the locker room with the rest of the jocks but the angel was standing against the wall, dressed in a pair of white jeans and a baby blue button down shirt. Those jeans hugged her legs tight and I swallowed hard thinking about how nice it would be to sink my teeth into those white creamy thighs. I put my charming smile on as I got closer, hoping she didn’t notice me undressing her with my eyes.

She didn’t seem to notice. She smiled at me as sweet as ever. “Hey Neil, I know you just finished with practice I was wondering if we could talk…I need some help with something and I couldn’t think of another guy I could ask…” She looked nervous, it was cute as hell.

I stepped closer, unable to help myself, I put my hand on the wall beside her head, and crowded her. I was close enough to smell her sweet scent but I wanted closer. I leaned down until my lips brushed her earlobe, “What kind of help do you need, Claire?” I felt her shudder and my pants started to tighten. She was so sweet and innocent. I loved that I could make her react with just a few whispers in her ear. She laughed nervously and pushed me back, I let her. I wasn’t one to force myself on a girl. I had never needed to.

“I just need to ask you some questions. Can you meet me for lunch?” Her cheeks were flushed, I wanted to rip her shirt off and make her blush more. I squeezed my hands tightly at my sides and smiled at her.

“Sure, Claire. I’ll meet you at the café in twenty.” I winked at her and then left her standing there staring after me. I’m pretty sure she was checking out my ass. It made me smile.

 

 

I sat down across from Claire, setting my lunch in front of me. I took in her tense body and hid my grin. Whatever she wanted it was about sex, no doubt about it. I started to unwrap my sandwich as I waited for her to speak first. She cleared her throat and my eyes went to her face, her plump lips curling into a soft smile.

“So… there is this guy that I like, and lets just say that this guy was you, how would you want a girl to approach you?” I had just taken a bite of my sandwich and wish I hadn’t. Claire was dating now? This was news.

“Like for sex?” I grinned as she coughed on her iced tea. She wasn’t ready for dating. She was still a wee baby girl.

“No…not for sex. More for like…a date?”

I kept quiet for a minute, finishing what was in my mouth before going on. My mortal mother taught me well. “Well, I don’t know what kind of guy you’re going after, the tool should man up and ask you out himself but,… if a girl wanted to get my attention she could do a number of things. She could ask me for help with something.” I winked at her and she blushed.

She sighed softly and sipped her iced tea. “Alright, I get it. Never mind. I’ll figure that out by myself.” She smiled sweetly in my direction and my eyes narrowed a little, becoming suspicious. “In your experience is it better if the girl takes control or if she lets you do whatever you want to her?”

If she thought that question was going to shock me she was going to be disappointed. If she thought that question was going to cause a stir in my pants, she would’ve been dead on. I shrugged and sat back, my hands slid under the table to re-adjust. “I’m not sure either is better. Having sex is a give and take, love.”

“The best sex of your life, were you in control or was she?” She pressed her lips together and held her breath as she waited for my answer.

“I was.” I laughed remembering a particularly hot romp in the girl’s locker room senior year.

“Its hard to be better than Neil Begley.” She rolled her eyes as she said it, joking.

“Damn straight,” I said, the seriousness was there.

We finished our lunch, we laughed a lot. I had missed the time I used to spend with Claire at the high school lunch table. When we finally had to part ways I hesitated and as I watched her walk away my mouth grew dry and I couldn’t wait for the next time she would come asking for advice.

Chapter 5

Claire

 

Determined to get Will to say yes I put on my most flattering outfit, the skinny jeans hugged my curves and the white three quarter sleeve v-neck would give Will just a peek at my goods. I popped my lip glossed lips and headed out to find Will, I was sure he’d be in the dining hall, he was a big guy and liked to eat.

I entered the dining hall and looked around for him. I can do this, I can do this. What if he hates the color white? What if another girl has already asked him out? What if he asked out another girl?? I shook the thoughts out of my head as I spotted him and forced my boots to walk towards him. I sat across from him at his table, his nose was buried in a book and he had earbuds in his ears. I smiled and gently pushed his book down. He looked like he was going to rip me a new one, his eyebrows tightly knit together but when he saw it was me they fell back and he smiled. I pressed my knees together, his smile was so dreamy. He could melt glaciers with it.

 

“Claire. To what do I owe the pleasure?” His ice blue eyes dipped to the v of my v-neck and I mentally high-fived myself. My man trap was working so far.

“I was going to go see a movie tonight but Merit bailed on me last minute. I was wondering if you wanted to come with me.” My feet under the table were pointed at each other as I anxiously awaited his response.

“Sure. Meet me at my dorm?” I nodded my agreement and let my finger slip slowly from the crack of his book. His ice blue eyes were focused on my finger and I inwardly high-fived myself again. Unless he thought I was being weird. We would find out soon enough.

“The movie starts at eight so I’ll meet you outside around seven forty-five.” I stood up, winked at him and then walked away, trying not to go too quickly. I glanced back to see if he was watching and he surely was. And licking his lips, that was surely a positive.

I met him at his dorm and we walked to the movie theater on campus. They were showing the 80’s classic E.T. Will watched the big screen as if he’d never seen anything so interesting. His attention was solely on the movie despite my attempts to distract him by digging into the popcorn bowl that was on his lap. His aura didn’t change from the orange he’d settled into.

When the movie ended we walked back to his dorm, each of us not touching the other. I kept looking at him as we walked, hoping against hope that he’d made a move and that his aura would show something, anything other than the blue which spoke to how relaxed he was. He didn’t look my way or reach out to touch me. As I stepped closer to him I watched as he stepped away, keeping the distance between us. We made small talk about the movie on the way and when we arrived I had it in my mind that he wasn’t interested.

“Do you want to come in and kiss or something?” His deep voice and innocent puppy-dog eyes didn’t seem to go together, I was sure I’d imagined him saying it. I stared at him dumbly for a few long seconds before nodding my head. His aura was still blue.

“Oh yeah…sure…” I smiled and stepped into the dorm when he held the door open for me. We both had popcorn breath so that was a positive, right? At least we didn’t eat garlic, that always makes your breath smell bad. Oh my gosh…my first kiss. My first ever kiss and I was going to have it with Will.

When we got to his room he unlocked the door and stepped in before me. I looked around after stepping in and saw lots of books on his side of the double room. He clicked off his computer screen quickly as he walked around, trying to tidy up a little. I grinned to myself. He’d been looking at first date tips on his computer before we went out, how adorable.

I sat down on the bed after he pulled the comforter over it and nodded to the other side of the room which was very tidy but had a clear music loving vibe with artist posters and rows and rows of CDs. “Who is your roommate?”

“Tse.” He said gruffly as he sat down next to me. I leaned towards him, my arm warming against his warm, firm arm. His scent was so nice and flooded my insides. He looked down at me and a slow smile crept over his lips. “Do you know him?”

I nodded slowly, “We are on the debate team together. He’s very good. I didn’t know he was so into music, though.” My eyes left his as I looked towards Tse’s side of the room. I felt Will’s warm large finger on my cheek and he turned my face back to his. I held my breath and closed my eyes, waiting for his lips to touch mine. My hands were in my lap and one second passed then two and I opened my eyes to find him staring at me. My eyes widened. Did I have something on my face? I started to pull away and his large arm wrapped around my back and pulled me against his large chest as he pressed his lips to mine. Flickers of electricity traveled from our mouths straight to the spot between my legs. Before I my eyes closed I saw sparks of purple shooting from him.

I moaned softly as his kisses intensified, his grip around my back grew tighter and it felt like he was trying to consume me, to make me one with his body and while I was all for that I was freaking out a little. I whimpered and pushed at his chest to get his lips to leave mine. “Will!” He followed my lips and crushed them again. His other arm went around me and held me tight, it was getting hard to breathe. In a way it was super hot and in another way it was super scary. Was I going to die kissing this man? Was my first kiss going to be lethal? No way. I pushed at his chest again and when he didn’t relent I bit his tongue. He moaned and gripped my hair. Shit! He was turned on by that.

I felt my hands weaken on his chest and he pulled back, laying me on his bed before reaching down for his pants, undoing them quickly. I gasped for air and put my hands up. “Will! Please, stop! I’m not ready for that!” He either didn’t hear me or didn’t care. His large body was over mine again, his lips pressed to mine. I felt his fingers on my jeans and he was popping the button quicker than I could’ve undone it. I whimpered again and reached for his hand, pulling it up. He was moaning against my lips and as much as I wanted to enjoy any part of this, I couldn’t. He was going to rape me and steal my virginity!

His hand went to my breast and squeezed it through my shirt. He growled against my lips and then ripped at my shirt, the buttons popping off one by one. He was a man possessed. What happened to the sweet innocent puppy dog that I’d fallen for? Surely this was not one of the tips on the website he’d been looking at.

I pulled his head down so his lips moved to my neck and while he was pre-occupied I bit his ear hard. He hissed and pulled back, panting as hard as I was. “Claire! That hurt.” He was pouting, actually pouting at me. And I wanted to laugh but I didn’t; I was still trying to catch my breath.

“No shit! Will, you need to stop.” He went back to kissing my neck, moaning and rubbing himself against my jeans.

“I can’t,” He groaned against my neck. “I want you so badly, I can’t control myself. I don’t want to rush you but if I don’t get inside you I’m going to die.” I pushed at his chest to try to get him off me but he was too heavy.

“Will! You’ll have to die because you aren’t going to take my virginity!!” I wasn’t going to give up, I couldn’t. When he leaned to the side and one of my legs was free I was kicking at his stomach, trying to use my strong thighs to push him off. Will groaned and pushed my leg back down, pinning it.

He murmured against my hair, “Claire, please… I love you.” I stilled underneath him, did he just say?… “I love you, Claire.” Holy shit, he did. What the hell is wrong with him?? I started struggling again, I had to get him off me, I had to put distance between us.

The door opened and Tse walked in, when he saw Will over me he turned back around. “HELP!” I yelled as I turned my face to the side and reached out towards Tse. Tse paused and looked at us, wide eyed. He wasn’t sure what to do, I could see it in his face that he had a big decision to make. His roommate was bare assed trying to seduce a woman in his bed, did he help or walk away? Thank god Tse bolted forward and pulled at Will’s large arm.

 

“Hey man! Get off her!” Will pushed Tse back with a growl. Tse’s back hit the wall with a loud thud. Will got up and pulled his pants up and approached Tse as he redid his buttons. I pulled my shirt together to try to cover myself and hopped off the bed. I looked between the guys, unsure what to do next.

“What the hell is your problem, man? I’m just trying to make love to my woman.”

 

Tse snorted. “She didn’t want to be made love to, Will. You need to go take a cold shower, dude.” Tse stayed where he was and was very carefully avoiding looking at me.

Will turned around and looked at me, now that his skin wasn’t touching mine he seemed to be a bit more sane. His eyes roamed my body and he ran a hand through his hair. “Fuck! Claire, I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me. You should go. Now.” He didn’t have to tell me twice. I grabbed what was left of my clothes and high tailed it out of there, not looking back.

Chapter 6

Neil

I heard her before I saw her. There was a female sitting on the steps in the back stairwell. I considered how best to comfort the damsel in distress when I recognized the blonde hair and the legs that went on for miles. Fuck. Why would she be crying? I’d known Claire for years and I’d never seen her cry.

I sat down next to her and wrapped my arm around her shoulders, “I thought Saturday was the best day of the week.” I smiled at her just in case she looked up, she didn’t. She stilled and stopped sobbing next to me, as if hoping that maybe I was a figment of her imagination. That made me smile wider. She was so damned cute. I bumped my shoulder against hers gently, which sent tiny sparks through my body. “You can’t just cover your face until I go away, what’s going on?” I looked her over and noticed a trickle of blood going down both her knees.

She sniffled softly and lifted her face from her hands. Her right cheek had some blood on it from her scraped up hand. She glanced at me quickly before looking down at her knees. She pulled her skirt down to cover her knees. “Nothing, I just… I just scraped my hand and my knees…” I knew her long enough to know she wasn’t one to cry over a little scrape. I also knew she probably wasn’t going to open up and tell me what the crying was really all about. I wanted to hold her and comfort her so I scooped her up into my arms, she felt weightless and made a tiny noise of surprise. Her body fit snugly against my chest as if she belonged there.

“So you were on your way home, scraped your knee and couldn’t take the pain so you sat down and cried? That doesn’t sound right…” I looked at her face, her nose was a little pink from the crying. She wouldn’t meet my gaze.

“I’m PMSing.” I busted a laugh. She wasn’t about to scare me off by mentioning the mysterious girl thing. She wrapped her arms around my neck and I snapped my eyes forward, it the most sober touching she’d ever given me and I’d be damned if it didn’t send jolts through me and right to my dick, which was quickly waking up.

I snuck a glance at her, she was batting her long lashes at me. “Uh-huh.” I wasn’t going to press the issue at hand but she had to know I didn’t believe her PMS story. She sighed and looked at my chest, I flexed it. I was very proud of my muscles, I worked hard in the gym to get them. I hoped she was enjoying them. I shook my head a little to clear my thoughts.

 

“I’m having boy problems.” She looked so sad and defeated.

“Did the bowsie turn you down?” I frowned at her, if that idiot turned down Claire he was a fucking idiot. She snapped her head in my direction at my strange terminology. I laughed at her, “Bowsie…it’s a good for nothing…sorry for my Irish slang.” Her beautiful sapphire eyes looked over my face and I found myself smiling in spite of myself.

She puckered her lips as she tried out the new term. It was all I had in me to keep walking and not shove her against the nearest wall. She needed comfort, not a lay. “The bowsie…didn’t turn me down he just…” She stopped, took a breath and changed the subject, “Where were you headed before I derailed you?” I was carrying her across campus towards the medical center and I saw the building up ahead.

“I was just going back to my room to change so I could go out for a run. Nothing that can’t wait.” I opened the door and walked inside with her. I set her down on the waiting room chair and then checked her in. I sat down beside her as we waited for her name to be called. She was staring at her hand which was still bleeding pretty badly.

“Are you dating anyone?” She looked up at me and I tried to stay in my seat. Claire had been trying to set me up with girls since middle school. I always told her I didn’t need help in the girl department but she never seemed to listen. I might have been interested had she ever decided she was ready to date…but then she was now, wasn’t she? She wanted to attract some wanker’s attention.

“Yes, I take girls out sometimes.” I smiled a little as I watched her. I was going to take Claire out. Why should I have to sit back and wait for the bowsie boy to fuck up? I’d throw my hat into the ring, no competition and I’d finally get to bang Claire out of my system. She sat back and lifted her eyes to mine.

“Oh? Who?” I answered her, throwing a couple names out and then a few more. I did go on dates, I just didn’t do serious relationships, there was a difference.

“And you’re not serious with any of them? Or want to be serious with any of them?” She was still staring at me. Fuck. It was time to lay it out there, not that I was going to hide anything, I never did. The ladies always knew what they were getting into with me.

“Being serious in college seems,” I chose my word carefully, “…silly.” Her eyes widened a little as I shrugged my shoulders but her slender shoulders shrugged right back.

“Practice for when you find the right woman?” I gazed straight into her eyes, I didn’t want her to miss my response.

“We’re children of the gods. No one’s plan is to settle down and be ordinary. So why act like it?” She dropped her gaze to her hands again. I wasn’t really sure why she would talk about such things other than the fact that her father is who he is. The only reason to do anything in this life was to be the best. Love made you weak.

“Maybe someone’s plan is to settle down and be ordinary… if they could.” She looked so vulnerable I couldn’t help but lean towards her and brush her cheek with my thumb. I felt this weird need to protect her and keep her safe.

“Definitely not your plan. You’re far from ordinary, love.” I heard my voice soften. She looked at me and rolled her eyes, causing the tightness in my pants to ease.

“I’m not going to swoon over you like all the other girls, Neil.” God the way she said my name made my pants tighten, again. I laughed off her rejection of my charms.

“Gotta try anyway.” I gave her the smile that did make the girls swoon but it never seemed to work on her.

“No you don’t. You can have, and probably have had, any other girl on campus that you want.” Almost, I thought. I hadn’t had Claire.

"I don't –have- anyone. I date women, we enjoy each other's company. There's nothing about it worthy of contempt. It is natural to connect with people while we can." I flashed her another Neil-special.

“You ‘enjoy each other’s company,’ that’s all?” She gave me a knowing look, alluding to sex. I chuckled.

“Depends on the woman and our relationship, but there’s nothing wrong with that either.” She looked back to her hands again.

“I’m no one to judge your lifestyle. I just wondered if you’d found someone to love yet, that’s all.”

“No, I haven’t.” I shook my head slowly. And I didn’t think I ever would. Love was stupid and it crippled you.

“If you don’t love anything there is nothing to fight for, …or something.” She smiled softly and shrugged again.

“I’ll go have a look and see where the nurse is.” As I walked towards the nurses station I clenched my jaw tightly. This plan was never going to work. Claire wasn’t going to let me fuck her unless she thought I was in love with her. And I was not the kind of guy to deceive a woman that way.

 

Claire’s voice stopped me, “…Neil?”

I turned around and pasted my smile back on, “Yeah?” I noticed her clenching her fists tightly as she stood up and quickly approached me. I didn’t have time to think or react before her hands were on my cheeks, her luscious chest imprinting itself against me, her lips were pressed against mine. I kissed her back properly and nuzzled her nose with mine when she pulled away a few seconds later. “I was coming right back,” I said with a soft, gravelly voice.

She took another step back, putting distance between us. It was a good thing, I was seconds away from kissing her again. She gently scratched at the back of her head and shrugged her shoulders, “Sorry.”

“You should never be sorry for a kiss.” I stepped in closer and put a hand on her hip. “I’ll be back. Don’t go anywhere.” I turned away before I did something inappropriate.

The nurse bandaged Claire up while I was in the bathroom wiping Claire’s blood from my cheek. My lips still felt heated from hers. There was something about her that made me want more, so much more. She came out from the exam room and I stood up and met her halfway. “Thanks,” she said softly, “for bringing me here and keeping me company. I hope you h-have a good run.”

 

I stepped closer to her and gently brushed a stray lock of her hair off her shoulder. “Going to kiss and run then?”

Her pink tongue came out to lick her lips and I restrained a groan. I wanted to do that. “What else should I do? I really jumped the gun, didn’t I? The first kiss should be a goodbye kiss…like after dinner or something?” I smiled, so she was asking me out. I wasn’t one to pass by an opportunity.

“Dinner tonight then. I’ll pick you up at seven.” I brushed her cheek with my thumb, it was as soft as it looked and walked away.

“Wh…wait, what?” She was flabbergasted, still dazed from our kiss, no doubt. I winked at her over my shoulder.

“Can’t wait.” As I pushed open the door of the exit I heard her call out to me.

“It’s not a date!!”

Chapter 7

Claire

I exhaled nervously as I slipped my arms into my black cardigan sweater. Neil would be here any minute and I was not doing a great job at holding myself together. I know I told him that it wasn’t a date but in truth… I was starting to think it was. Kind of.

 

I had to test my theory, I had to see if Neil reacted the same way Will did. I had already kissed Neil and he let me go so there was something different between him and Will. I had a theory that the either the purple aura is toxic to me or Will was just magically inclined to not hear the word no. After I let Neil kiss me and saw how he reacted I was going to test it on another guy, a purple aura guy. I’d make sure it would be in public just in case it got too intense again. I tucked my mace into my black purse along with the vanilla flavored lip gloss I’d popped onto my lips a minute ago.

There was a knock on the door fifteen minutes before the set time. I opened the door and gripped the doorknob tightly, ready to shut the door in Will’s handsome face. He shifted from one large foot to the other nervously. I noted his aura, the gray and turquoise. He was feeling guilty.

“Claire…I wanted to apologize for the other night. I honestly don’t know what happened, it was…” He paused and looked down at his feet and then held a red rose out towards me. His blue eyes met mine, “I’m so very sorry.”

I took the rose and smiled softly. He had melted my heart again with just this little gesture. “I accept your apology.” His eyes roamed my red dress and black tights slowly.

“You look very lovely tonight. Are you going out?” I think I detected a little hurt in his eyes.

“I am going out with … a guy, yeah.” I wasn’t one to lie, I didn’t see the point. “I need some time to figure out how I feel about the other night…some time to see if there can be another date between us.” He exhaled loudly and nodded, eyes dropping to the floor.

“Yeah… I get that.” His eyes lifted and I felt myself freeze. “I do hope I get another chance, Claire, I like you…a lot.”

 

I nodded and smiled softly. “I’ll let you know when I figure it out, Will.” I looked at his aura, the purple still very clearly there. I wanted to hug him but I resisted. I couldn’t risk Neil coming to my room and seeing me in another man’s arms. It would not have been a great start to our date, I mean our non-date. Or maybe jealousy would’ve be good for him. “You should go, my guy friend will be here soon.” My eyes left his gaze to look down the hallway and Neil was strolling towards us confidently with a picnic basket over his left arm. Will followed my gaze and grunted softly seeing the quarterback headed this way.

“Alright, Claire. Be careful. Even I have heard about his reputation.” His large hand patted the doorframe and then he left me standing in my doorway. I turned, gathered my purse, set down the rose and then left my room, meeting Neil in the hallway.

He tsked me softly, “Was that the bowsie? Good to see him seeking you out.” I rolled my eyes and then tried to bite back my smile as his held out a rose for me as well. I could get used to the wooing thing. I held the rose to my nose and took a sniff of the delicate fragrance. “Ready?”

“Thank you. I’m ready. Where are we going?” I wasn’t going to let him know how much I was enjoying the attention. He looked good in a button down gray shirt and black jeans.

 

“Out by the lake to sit and talk over dinner.” He flashed me his smile and I found myself wondering if that’s all he had planned. Was he taking me out to the lake for the privacy? Did he take all the girls there? I looked at his aura, still no purple. I fell in step with him as we walked towards the lake. This was for science, nothing more. Neil was Neil. He was used to entertaining girls. Oh God. What if he wanted something else in exchange for the dinner? Was I ready for that? No…but kissing wouldn’t hurt, right? Well it might if he couldn’t control himself like Will. Hopefully the lack of purple would also mean a lack of wanting to rip my clothes off. “You look very nice, love. Very casual.” He was making fun of me for dressing up. What did he expect? Sweat pants and a T-shirt?

I huffed softly, “Its not a crime to want to look nice.”

“I am not disagreeing. Maybe next time I’ll take you somewhere fancy where a cocktail dress will be required.” I found myself shivering, little sparks moving through my body as his eyes tried undressing me. I cleared my throat and lifted my chin.

“Who said there was going to be a next time? Maybe I’ll find you terrible company.” I was looking straight ahead but heard him chuckle beside me.

“But you’re too nice to cut me down like that, yeah?” He put his hand on my hip from behind and steered me towards a little opening by the water. There was a large blanket already spread on the ground and a little electric lantern in the middle for extra light when the sun set. It was very romantic. Damn him. Whatever comeback I’d had for him was lost at the sight before me.

“Wow…” I watched his backside as he set the picnic basket down beside the lantern. Did he know I meant wow to his ass in those jeans? It should be illegal for a man to be so delicious looking in clothes. I looked away before he caught me eye-banging him.

“I manage.” He grinned at me as he sat down and started prepping for eating. His attention was on pulling out the parts of the meal. As much as I didn’t want to, my attention was on his body. He wasn’t extraordinarily handsome like Will. If he was in a lineup the girls wouldn’t pick him first or second. His parts fit together, he wasn’t too thin or too bulky but he was ripped. I sat down on the blanket before I started drooling over his biceps which bulged in his shirt when he leaned over to place a bread bowl on a plate opposite him.

My eyes turned to the lake and I started to babble, as I tended to do when I was uncomfortable, “I walk around the lake every day. There are lots of turtles in there…and you’d never know it unless you took the time to look for them.” His green eyes looked at me and he was grinning. His hands were busy pouring soup into the bread bowls.

“You do like to keep busy, don’t you? Are you a turtle fan specifically or have you just noticed them here?”

I forced myself to look back to the lake again and shrugged my shoulders. “I guess a turtle fan specifically. I think they’re cute.” I couldn’t help but look at him again, wondering what he thought of my girly confession.

“I can see that.” He nodded. He popped the cork on the bottle he’d brought for us and reached out long to catch the cork when it fell back down. He winked at me as he held out a glass of bubbly liquid. I sipped it and puckered my lips. It was grape juice… so I guess he wasn’t trying to get me drunk to seduce me, that was a good sign.

We both started to eat the soup. It was so hardy and creamy. I moaned softly and pointed into the bread bowl with my spoon. “This is delicious. Where do you get it?”

“I made it myself.” I couldn’t hide my surprise, my eyes widened and he smirked at me.

“Wow. So do you do this picnic date a lot? The ladies must love it.” I tried to sound casual as I continued to eat but thinking of him giving this same treatment to other girls was making my stomach twist in knots. Which was crazy. Neil and I were friends, he was too much of a player to be anything more. I pushed those feelings aside and put another spoonful of the soup to my lips.

“Never. I usually do something more but this isn’t a date.” He winked at me and I tried to hide my blush by ducking my head, gazing at the lake briefly. Something more? What on Earth could be more than this? Alcohol instead of sparkling grape juice? A four course meal?

“Of course. So who was the last girl you took on a date?” I watched as he picked at his bread bowl and tried not to imagine his fingers tweaking my nipples.

“The brunette in our English class, Sasha.” Wow, I didn’t know those two had even been on speaking terms. I knew that she flirted with him but I didn’t know they’d been semi-serious. Or did Neil even really do semi-serious? Back to the mission, I had to find out about me. Enough thinking about Neil and trying to get into his head. I tried to throw him off by chatting with him casually. Neil was funny and charming. That’s probably why all the girls liked him, the muscles didn’t hurt either, I’m sure.

As the sun started to set behind the trees I glanced over at him and took in his handsomely average features. Mission: I had to see if him kissing me would lead to his undoing. “So who is the best kisser on campus?”

“Maybe you.” His flirting was like second nature to him. I was sure I could’ve been any girl sitting there and he would’ve said the same thing.

“How could I be the best at something I’ve only done twice?” I tilted my head, my ear touching my shoulder.

“Being Cupid’s daughter probably doesn’t hurt.”

 

I looked back to the lake and smiled softly. “I didn’t see you weak in the knees after our brief kiss, it couldn’t have been the best.” I was fishing and flirting back, I couldn’t help myself.

I felt his hand on my shoulder and I bit my lip softly. “Maybe I just have strong knees.” I laughed at him and felt his hand move slowly to my lower back.

“You have an answer for everything. If any other girl were here I’m sure you’d tell them they were the best. Am I wrong?” I glanced at him and he wore a serious expression.

“Yes, you’re wrong. I might not be looking to settle down but I don’t lie, especially to women.” I felt his thumb gently rubbing my spine, sending shivers to my core.

I grinned at him, trying to lighten the mood, wanting him to smile at me again. “Sounds like something a liar might say.” I shivered a little, as the chill in the air became more pronounced.

“Are you cold?” His eyes were roaming my body again and stopped on my chest. I looked down and noticed my hardened nipples. I laughed softly and crossed my arms over my chest to hide the friendly nips.

“Obviously. We can go if you’re ready…” I wasn’t ready to go yet, I still needed to test my theory.

He cleared the blanket and then stood up, I stood up too. He must have been ready to go. He picked up the blanket and put it around my shoulders. He held it tight in the front as his eyes looked over my face. I felt the wetness gather between my thighs and closed my eyes. What was wrong with me? I opened them again and his lips were coming towards mine. I closed my eyes again and let him kiss me. He was a great kisser, he took his time, not too pushy, not too needy.

I moaned softly and pulled away so I could look in his eyes. “Neil…” He met my gaze, his eyes seemed to smolder in the low lighting.

“Yes, Claire?” His voice was gruff, his hands rested gently on my hips. He wasn’t going to hold me there and force himself on me. His kissing me didn’t make him want to attack me. Maybe we hadn’t kissed enough. I pressed my lips to his and kissed him hotly, wanting his body pressed against mine. I felt fire between our lips, moving into my body. I was hot suddenly, I wanted him to make me hotter.

I pulled away and his lips trailed down to my neck. My eyes refused to open, my body wanting to savor the feelings he was sending through my blood. “Neil…wait…” This was the true test… would he wait? Could he contain himself?

He pressed one more kiss to my neck before pulling back, his jaw clenched tightly as he looked over my face, his thumb stroking my jawbone lightly. “Anything you want, love.” And that was when I knew, I wanted him badly. I was going to join the Neil fan club. I needed to give it away before it was taken from me and to a guy who wasn’t going to make a big deal out of it.

Chapter 8

 

Neil

Fuck, she was killing me. She was the best kisser I’d ever encountered. She made my blood burn. Every inch of me wanted to touch her, be inside her. It was all I had in me to keep from throwing her on the ground and burying myself inside her.

My cock pressed hard against the front of my jeans, trying to escape and find wet, tight warmth. Her voice, soft and breathy, cut through my thoughts. “I want you…” I felt a groan escape from me. Surely I’d imagined that.

“Say it again, love.” I kissed her neck once more, my hands running through her silky blonde locks.

 

“I want you, Neil. Please take me.” She exhaled softly and then laid herself down on the ground in front of me. Like a beautiful offering. My father would have been proud of such an offering. And I was not strong enough to turn it down. I climbed over her smoothly, my hips between her supple thighs.

My left hand traveled up the back of her thigh, “Anything you want, love,” I grabbed a hold of her black tights and drug them down slowly exposing her white milky flesh. I was not going to rush this. Who knew if this opportunity was going to come again?

She lifted her hips, her hands in my hair. “Hurry, please.” I wasn’t going to deny her. I couldn’t. I grabbed her panties and tights and pulled them the rest of the way off, flinging them off somewhere behind me. I unzipped my jeans, my dick jumping with the excitement of being released. I grabbed a condom from my back pocket, ripped it open and pushed it on before settling between her thighs.

I pushed forward until my tip touched her warmth. She was wet and ready. I looked down at her sweet beautiful face, her hands were on my shoulders and she nodded. “Yes…please…” I kissed her neck as I pushed forward, breaking through her barrier. I wanted to hear her moan as I filled her and I did. It was the most fucking perfect sound I’d ever heard. I froze for a minute, letting her get used to my dick inside her. She was so tight, so wet, so perfect.

Her legs wrapped around my waist, “More…please…” I would give her more, more than she could have dreamed she’d wanted. I varied my thrusts, making myself last, making her pleasure immense. I lasted as long as I could but kissing her, fucking her, it was too much and soon I shuddered and released.

She pushed on my chest and I rolled us so that she was on top of me. She leaned forward and my dick slipped out of her. I grabbed the condom and put it in the grass for the moment and then grabbed her hips, turned her so she was laying on my chest and pushed her back onto my still hard cock. “You didn’t…” I didn’t want to say the word, I’d never been so lost in the sex that I hadn’t gotten the girl off first.

She wasn’t going anywhere until we were even. My fingers found her warm slick button and I fondled her there, circling it, driving her higher. I could tell by her thrusting hips that she liked that spot. I kissed her neck as she moaned and moved against my finger. When she came and squeezed my dick hard I groaned loudly. Her hands were in my hair, pulling it hard. It was the hottest bloody thing ever. I held her to me and teased her through the entire orgasm, I wanted her coming back for more. I hadn’t had enough yet, I wasn’t sure I ever would.

“That orgasm…” She gasped softly as her breath started to slow, “I want more.” I chuckled. Mission accomplished.

“As many as you can stand, love.” I pressed my lips to her delicious neck, my finger still teasing her and her hips started to rock on me. I groaned and nipped her neck. She was driving me fucking crazy. I wanted to pump myself into her. She sat up and put her hands on my knees as I lifted them up to support her.

“Quit calling me love, I might get the wrong idea…” I didn’t reply, I didn’t want her to get the wrong idea either. My mind went blank. I groaned as I felt my balls tighten in her exploring hands. I grabbed the skirt of her dress and lifted it so I could see her round ass as she bounced on my cock. The sight was so distracting that I didn’t notice until it was too late that Claire’s thumb had found my taint. She pressed on it, how the girl knew what to do with that I had no idea but it was a new feeling for me, a fucking awesome feeling. I had forgotten all about letting her take the lead on my cock. I held her hips tighter and drove myself into her making her scream.

“Oooh, yes!” She grabbed my right hand and pulled it towards her clit. I rubbed it and held her other thigh tight as I continued to pump myself into her deep and hard. “Please, so close, so close.” I felt her tighten hard around my cock and I groaned. She shuddered and yelled out, “NEIL! Fuuuuccckkk!” Her finger left my new special spot and I moaned loudly myself as the best fucking orgasm I’d ever had spilled out of me and into her.

She fell back onto my chest, panting, trying to catch her breath with me. “Is it always like that?” She asked softly.

 

Fucking amazing? I laughed softly and pressed a kiss to her neck. “No, I haven’t experienced anything like that.”

She gasped as she pulled herself off my cock. I groaned, already missing her tight warmth. She lay next to me, her hand on my stomach, her cheek resting on her arm. “Sounds like maybe that was the best sex you’ve ever had.” She was teasing me. And I fucking loved it.

I nodded, keeping my face serious, because my answer was. “Definitely the best.” I let that sink in for a minute and when she started to fidget I gave her my best smile. She smiled back. “Maybe we can do that again sometime.” I pressed a kiss to her forehead and then got up. I didn’t need her thinking she was as special as that orgasm had me feeling she was.

The next several nights I’d seen Claire, we’d gone bowling, watched movies in her room, played tennis. Each night was something different, always lots of fun. And each night she’d invite me into her room. We’d make out, she’d stop us and then she’d beg me to take her. I always obliged. How could I resist the feeling of being deep inside her? I had to change my game, she was getting too close.

Chapter 9

Claire

Neil hadn’t been in English class that morning so I went to his room afterwards. I knocked on his door and looked down at my feet as I waited for him to answer. I was pretty sure there wasn’t a practice so I was hopeful that he’d be in there. Maybe he just needed to catch up on his sleep, I had been keeping him up late for the past several nights. I smiled to myself as the door opened.

It was opened wide and he pulled it towards his side when he saw that it was me. It was too late though, I’d already seen Justice naked with fresh-fucked hair in his bed. My eyes met his and I forced myself to smile. We hadn’t committed to being exclusive, I just assumed we were, and that was my mistake. I didn’t realize until that moment that I’d let myself get close to him.

“Hey, sorry to bother you, I just thought you might want the notes for class.” I held out my notebook. He ran his hand through his hair and flashed me his killer smile.

“Thanks, Claire. You’re a good friend.” My heart jumped and felt like it was shriveling in my chest. He reached out and grabbed the notebook. He held it at his side while he winked at me. “I’ll drop your notes off later after I’ve had a chance to copy them.”

“Oh, sure.” I smiled and feigned cheeriness I wasn’t feeling. “Anytime. I’ll see you later.” I gave him a small wave of my hand and then turned, walking back down the hall to the exit. I couldn’t believe I was such an idiot. I wondered if this is how all of Neil’s conquests felt. I felt used. I didn’t like it, not one bit.

I was almost to my dorm when I felt a hard tug on the back of my hair. I winced and turned around, ready for confrontation. When I saw that it was a scowling Justice my face softened. She was the head of the cheerleading squad, surely she’d just seen me and wanted to talk to me about cheerleading business.

“Justice, he-” I was cut off by her biting words.

“Stay the fuck away from him, Claire. He’s mine. I’ve been trying to win him over and have spent more time than any of the other sluts in his bed. That isn’t going to change now.” I shook my head, frowning at her. She was crazy! How did she even know that I’d been seeing him? Maybe she didn’t. I decided I’d call her bluff.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was just bringing him English notes. We have that class together.”

She rolled her eyes, hands on her hips. “Oh please. Cut the shit, Claire. Garrett saw you and Neil fucking in the woods. He even got some of that shit on video. He’s a good friend and warned me that you were trying to steal my man.”

 

I shook my head again, hands up. “I swear, I didn’t know he was yours.”

“And you won’t make that mistake again.” Before I knew what was happening her fist met my right eye. A jolt of pain registered in my brain as my feet shuffled back from the impact. That bitch punched me! Over a boy! Did I just flash back to the elementary school playground? My mind blanked when another punch came to my stomach, I doubled over and was gasping for breath. Another blow came to my back and I barely noticed the murmurs of the crowd that had gathered around us as I fell onto the ground. I curled onto my side and put my hands on my head to protect myself as the kicks kept coming. Finally it had stopped but I didn’t raise my head until I felt strong arms pick me up.

Through one good eye I saw Will’s handsome face. He looked like he wanted to kill someone, luckily that someone wasn’t me. I hid my face against his chest and felt his warm hand in my hair. His deep voice rumbled in his chest as he spoke softly so only I could hear, “Its okay, Clair, I got you. No one will hurt you now.” He stopped in front of my dorm room door but wouldn’t put me down when I wiggled to get my key. “Where is it?” he asked.

“In my pocket.” I said softly as I leaned back and dug it out. I held it up and looked up to him. He cursed softly when he looked at my face.

“That bitch did a number on you. It’s already swelling. Do you want me to take you to the nurse?” I shook my head softly. He sighed heavily and took the key from my hand. He opened my door and once we were inside my room he put me onto my bed gently,as if I were a fragile kitten. I had to remind myself he was probably still under some sort of love spell. I didn’t want the kindness to end but I had to be honest with the guy.

“Will… I don’t… I’ve decided I don’t want to do the dating thing…” I watched his face as it fell slightly, “So if you want to go, I understand.” He frowned at me.

“I’m disappointed but I’ll settle for being your friend if you’ll let me. It’s better than nothing at all.” I searched his face with my one good eye. He seemed to be telling the truth. I nodded.

“Okay. Friends. No kissing, though.” I smiled softly as he shrugged his shoulders.

“Well, okay. If you change your mind I’d better be the first to know.” He looked around my room, my dirty clothes basket was spilling out, I needed to do laundry soon. My cheerleading uniform was draped over my chair for practice that was supposed to be later today. I wouldn’t be showing up today, Justice had seen to that. “Can I get you anything, Claire? Some water from your fridge? Tylenol? A phone so you can order a hit on that girl who beat the crap out of you? What the hell did you do to her anyway?”

A long sigh escaped me. “Remember that guy that I went out with the other night? Apparently they’re together, I didn’t know.” A growl ripped from his throat.

“I’ll kill him!” His brows furrowed and his handsome face now looked very fierce and slightly scary.

“Will, you can’t kill him.” I groaned as I tried to sit up and he came to my side and put gentle hands on my shoulders, pushing me back down onto the bed.

“Fine, I won’t kill him as long as you stay in your bed and rest. I’ll come bring you some stuff. Just… stay put.” He put my key into his pocket and left without another word. I stared at the door for a few minutes as my brain went into overdrive again. Seeing Neil was out of the question. I didn’t want another run in with Justice. I tested my theory on him. I just needed to find another man to test it on. Once my face was healed I’d go looking for another non-purple aura man and kiss him.

I’d spent the next two weeks avoiding Neil at all costs. He’d tried to return my notebook but I refused to answer the door. So he slid it under my door. I got my English class notes by attending the same class in a different time slot.

 

Today was my first day back in the cheerleading squad. We had a game. Justice kept her distance because she was too busy cheering and we were in front of the school officials. Neil winked at me as he passed through our shaking pom-poms and whenever he scored a touch down he’d point in my general direction, but he could’ve been pointing at the fans or the whole squad. I didn’t let myself think too much into it. Will was in the bleachers with Merit. I could still see his purple and yellow aura. I smiled and waved to both of them.

After winning the game the mixer commenced as usual at the footballer’s frat house. I stayed close to Merit and Will but eventually Neil and I crossed paths. His hand cupped my elbow and gently pulled me in close to him. I held my breath, not yet prepared to fight off his advances. His lips brushed my ear, causing me to shiver, “Hey Claire, where have you been hiding?”

I pretended to be impartial and smiled, pushing him away as I shrugged my shoulders with a playful smile. Justice wrapped her arm around his neck loosely from behind as she came up. Her eyes spit daggers at me and I smiled and waved at them both. I stepped back and bumped into Will’s solid chest. I tilted my head way back to look at him and smiled as he curled an arm around my waist. He glared at Neil and pulled me away, back towards Merit who was bouncing to “Pumped Up Kicks” that was just finishing up through the speakers.

The cheerleaders’ pep song started and I groaned inwardly. If a cheerleader heard this song they had to drop what they were doing and dance it was ritual, expected. I squeezed Will’s large hand as I twisted out of his grip and clapped my way towards the middle of the floor where the rest of cheerleaders were gathering. I pasted a smile on and danced. When the number ended I felt hard bony hands on my back. I fell forward, catching myself on my hands and knees. The crowd “oohed” and pushed in closer, forming a circle around us.

I’d had enough of this shit. I stood up and turned around, brushing off my knees. Justice was walking away from me as if she didn’t just push me to the ground and something in me snapped. I was ready for a fight! “Don’t walk away from me, you whore!”

She stopped and whipped around on her heel. “What did you call me?” I felt an arm hook around my waist and then I was pushed behind Neil’s back.

“Fight’s over.” He was staring at Justice when he said it but I wasn’t done yet.

“A whore! Like your mother!” I glared at Justice from behind Neil’s shoulder, I tried to get around him but his arms wouldn’t allow it. He was bitch-blocking me.

Justice flipped her blonde hair over her shoulder, unaffected by my words. “Not unlike your father, little half-blood. What did your father give you with his indiscretion but a prison sentence?” Her lips curled into a little smile. “Don’t hide behind your cherry popper, Claire.” My name fell off her tongue like acid. I pushed hard against Neil’s arms and got free. I was running towards her, fist pulled back and just a split second before my fist connected with her turned up nose I was yanked back again. She had the gull to stand there, arms crossed, like she was completely unthreatened. The bitch.

I was slung over Neil’s shoulder as he walked quickly through the crowd, pulling me away. I beat on his back with my fists. “Put me down, dammit!!”

“Come on, Claire, you’re better than that.” He said softly.

“You just don’t want me to punch your girlfriend in her goddamn nose! Let me go!” I wasn’t going to go down without a fight.

When we were outside, and away from prying eyes and ears, he put me down hard onto the ground. I winced from the pain radiating in my ass.

“She’s not my girlfriend. You know that.” He all but growled it at me. I couldn’t help but chuckle.

“You should clue her in then. She’s out for my blood because some asshole videotaped us by the lake.” His head dropped, he stared at his feet and roughly ran his hands through his hair. I was momentarily wishing my hands were in his hair instead. Just for a split second, it passed quickly.

“I heard about the fight, I already talked to her. Do you want me to kick her ass?” He looked at me and smirked, his hands falling from his neck down to his sides.

“I don’t care what you do with Justice’s ass.” I growled softly and looked away from him and his friggin’ smile.

He crouched down in front of me and reached out, taking some of my hair in his fingers. “Claire. What can I do? I specifically told her that she’s not my girlfriend and to make things right with you.”

He wasn’t going to suck me in…again! I stood up and started walking away from him. He followed. “You did all you can do, I guess. I’ll just have to deal with it from here.”

His arm caught me around my waist again and pulled me back against his chest. Weakness invaded my senses and I froze as his lips moved to my ear. “Please, Claire. I’ll do whatever I can to help fix this.” His breath tickled the side of my neck and I shivered slightly. I inhaled and pushed out of his grasp once again.

“You’re just going to cause more rumors. And despite the fact that you told Justice you aren’t together she obviously still thinks you are. Just go. Thanks for the… good times, but we’re done with that. I’m cutting the strings. You’re all hers or whoevers. So just go and don’t touch me … and don’t talk to me.” There. I’d said it. Despite the incredible sex and the fun I had with him I needed to move on and find another purple-less dude.

“She needs to know that she can’t act like that. I’m going to stop seeing her.” He didn’t follow me, he stayed where he was for the time being. I turned and nodded to him, crossing my arms over my chest defensively.

“Getting another fun buddy should fix things for me.” I watched his face, trying to gauge his feelings.

“So you’re going to start sleeping with another guy?” He sounded slightly crushed by the idea. I raised my eyebrows in surprise.

“So what if I am? I told you, Neil, we’re done.” He pulled at his hair again and took a step towards me, to which I countered with a step back. He stopped.

“What if I don’t want a new fun buddy?” He smiled, “What if I want to spend more time with you, huh?” He winked at me. I inwardly groaned and fought the urge to strip off my dress. I smiled right back at him, maybe he didn’t respond well to anger. Maybe I needed to soften the blow.

“That won’t work, Neil. Justice will still come after me for supposedly stealing you.”

His smile dropped. “I won’t let her.”

I sighed, that hadn’t worked either. I wanted to yell at him. Maybe that would work. “Neil… I’m flattered that you enjoyed pillaging me but…”

“You enjoyed it too. We work well together and I enjoy the time we spend together, Claire-bear, sex or not. Justice shouldn’t get in the way of that. Whatever’s going on with her is her own problem.”

I raised my voice, we were going in circles with this conversation. “She’s making it my problem! The answer is still no, Neil!” His expressions closed off to me and he nodded. Without another word he left me and went back to the party.

Chapter 10

Neil

How could she fucking blow me off like that? I was practically throwing myself at her feet and she still kicked me to the curb. The music from the party was pumping through my blue button down shirt. Maybe she was just shook up from her run-in with Justice. I was still amazed that Justice had the lioness in her to fight for me. It would have been flattering if we had a relationship, but we didn’t. Nothing at all outside the bedroom anyway.

My feet took me towards her and I grabbed her arm and pulled her towards an empty bedroom. Once inside I closed the door forcefully and pushed her back towards the middle of the room, away from me. I didn’t want her touching me right now.

 

“What the fuck is going on, Justice? I told you to leave her alone.” She smiled and a chuckle left her throat.

“Neil, come on, it was a harmless little push. Probably even an accident, I can’t remember.”

 

“Cut the shit, Justice. You pushed her on purpose.”

“Fine. I pushed her on purpose.” She flipped her hair over her shoulder as she studied me, “What did she say to you? You look utterly defeated. She’s not good enough for you, you know.”

I went to the bed and sat down, hands in my hair. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I think I do.” She sat down behind me, her knees straddling my hips from behind and her hands moved through my hair, comforting me. “I won’t touch your precious Cupid-wannabe but I want something in return.” Of course she did, there was nothing for free in this world. Everything came with a price.

“What do you want?” I barely heard my own voice but she must have heard me loud and clear.

“I want you to date me. I want you to take me places, do things together.” My jaw was starting to hurt from clenching it so tightly.

“Justice, I don’t want to date you.” I couldn’t lie to her, it wouldn’t be fair.

“You might not want to now but you will after you get to know me. That’s the deal. You take me out three times a week and I’ll leave Claire alone.” What did I have to lose, really? It was a small price to pay to keep Justice’s claws out of Claire.

“How long?” I glanced over my shoulder, she looked quite smug.

“Six months.”

 

I guffawed loudly. “Justice, that’s ridiculous.” Would she even still be interested me in six months? Or six weeks after the hunt of me was over? I wasn’t sure but I sure as hell didn’t want to take that chance.

“Fine. Three months but you can’t take any other girls out. Sleep with them, I don’t care but I don’t want to hear about you spending gross amounts of quality time with any other girl. I like you, Neil, and I want the chance to see if you like me too.” I glanced at her again. She was serious. I stared at the hardwood floor beneath my feet as I mulled it over in my brain.

Three months of Justice, just dates. Can’t spend time with any other girl but her. It would get Justice off Claire’s back and hopefully get rid of Justice’s ridiculous crush on me. I was already pissed with her so it wouldn’t be hard to be a shitty boyfriend…semi-boyfriend. She didn’t stipulate that we had to have sex, maybe I could work around that. I’d figure something out. “Okay. Three months, just dates and you leave Claire alone forever.” We shook on it and then had sex, it didn’t even feel as half as good as it had with Claire.

 

 

It had been three weeks and Claire had barely said two words to me. I stared at the back of her blonde head in English class. She’d made sure she came in late enough to squeeze into a seat that was not in front or behind me directly. I couldn’t ask her for pens anymore, the excuse to touch her was gone. And as much as I hated to admit it to myself, it was torture.

As far as dating Justice was going, well, she got what she wanted. She pretended everything was golden, I didn’t pretend. If I was bored, which I often was because all she wanted to talk about was cheerleading and football and gossip, I didn’t try to hide my wandering eyes. A few times I seduced a waitress during our dinners. Last night Justice had caught me and joined in. I was so drunk I didn’t realize what I’d done until this morning. I’d fucked Justice even though I’d vowed not to.

Class let out and I watched Claire run out the door like the building was on fire. I grabbed my notebook, which was void of notes again, and headed out the door. I went to my dorm, dropped my shit off and went out for my run. I had to fight myself to keep running when I saw Claire’s hand on another dude’s chest. Was she dating again? I felt my jaw clench and cursed myself. It wasn’t my fucking business. I couldn’t have her, at least not until Justice was taken care of.

In the shower after my run I closed my eyes and jerked off to the only thing I had of Claire, the memories of how fucking good she felt around my dick. My memories paled in comparison to the real thing but there was nothing I could do about that … yet.

We had a game that evening, nothing extraordinary. I was kicking ass and taking names. My team was on fire, blocking superbly so I could run my ass down to the field goal and score touchdown after touchdown. At halftime the cheerleaders came out on the field and entertained the rowdy crowd. I watched as I rehydrated. The girls in their short skirts were mesmerizing. Especially Claire. Justice and another girl lifted Claire up and then dropped her down and popped her back up for a jump. Justice turned early and Claire fell half on the other girl and half on the ground. I crushed my paper cup and started running on the field. I froze when I saw that same guy from earlier already at Claire’s side. He picked her up and escorted her off the field. I stalked towards Justice and grabbed her arm, pulling her away from the crowd.

“What the fuck was that?!” Justice’s eyes flashed and she smiled a hateful smile at me.

“Oh, now you care about what I have to say?” She put her hand on my chest and pushed me back into the shadows. I glanced around, no one could see us. She sank to her knees and tried pulling down my uniform pants. My traitorous dick was standing to attention with anticipation of her warm mouth. I put my head back against the wall and tried to push through the sex smog in my brain.

“Justice…” I opened my mouth to protest but I couldn’t get the rest of the words out as soon as I was deep in her mouth. My hand was in her hair, gripping it tight. In my mind I pictured Claire sucking my dick, as long as they were closed I could pretend it was her. It felt so fucking good.

She moaned and my dick vibrated, it pulsed in her mouth. I wasn’t going to last long. I looked down and saw the blonde hair. I closed my eyes tight, groaned and shuddered and blasted my seed down her throat. “Fuck, Claire! That’s so fucking good.” I heard my dick pop out of her mouth and looked down. Justice was not happy. I opened my mouth to say something but my head was knocked to the right with a forceful slap.

“This isn’t working, Neil. You better figure out how to make it work or you’re going to regret it.” I rubbed my cheek as I watched her sashay away from me. What the fuck just happened? Was she going to hurt Claire now that I fucked up? One of my teammates came running towards me and I tucked my shit back into my pants before he saw. I stepped out of the shadows and shook my head, I needed to get my head back in the game.

I pushed all thoughts out until the game was over. After I showered and changed I headed to the Frat for the post-game mixer. I grabbed my red solo cup and leaned against the wall, waiting for a Claire sighting, I needed to see her. I needed to talk to her. I needed to be inside her.

Chapter 11

Claire

I didn’t really want to be at the mixer but Damien insisted. He said I couldn’t let Justice win. He was right. The nurse said I’d only sprained my ankle, I was lucky. I was feeling pretty good after the Percocet she’d given me. Damien and I had been seeing each other for the past couple of weeks. I was ready to test my theory again. Damien had no purple in his aura. But he’d been sweet and seemed interested. I wasn’t sure what he was doing hanging around me. He didn’t have the reputation that Neil did but he was certainly no virgin. He had tried kissing me many times but I had kept him at bay so far.

I grabbed Damien’s hand and pulled him towards the nearest free wall space. Once my back was against the wall I pulled him down and kissed him. My lips flamed up and I pressed against him with a roll of my hips. He moaned against my lips and put a hand in my hair. I gently pushed against his chest but he didn’t pull back. Dammit! It was happening again…I didn’t understand what was going on. He didn’t have any purple in his aura. He shouldn’t be acting like this. My theory was gone down shit’s creek and I was going to be screwed soon too unless I figured out how to get him to stop sucking my face.

I kissed him a little more to pacify him but it only seemed to intensify things. I pushed him away a bit harder, but he wouldn’t let up. His hands were gripping my breasts and he forced my legs open with his knee. He got between my legs and rubbed himself against my jeans. Thank god I wasn’t wearing a skirt. I pinched his stomach hard, trying to snap him out of it. Didn’t work. I pulled his head down so he was kissing my neck and winced when he sucked on my neck, marking me. “Gah… Damien, stop!” My hands went to his shoulders and I tried to push him away once more.

I looked up just as Neil pulled Damien off me and punched him squarely in the nose. My mouth was gaping open but I didn’t care as I crossed my arms over my raw nipples. I watched as the two started to beat each other in the middle of the party. After my few long seconds of surprise I kicked into action and grabbed Neil’s arm which was pulled back, ready to land another punch to Damien’s already swelling face. “Neil, stop! That’s enough!” Neil’s chest was heaving, his nose crooked and bloodied, Damien had managed to get in at least one punch.

He dropped Damien’s shirt, Damien fell to the floor and he turned to me, his green eyes dark and searching my face. “Are you okay?” His voice was husky, concern clear.

I blinked at him, surprised, confused. “I…I’m fine. Thank you but… I should take him to the nurse…” I glanced at Damien, curled up on the floor. Will touched my shoulder and I swear I heard Neil growl.

"I'll take him, Claire. You don't need to baby this dude. He probably couldn't help himself, you know. –I- know." Will heaved Damien up and slowly walked him out of the party.

Neil wrapped his hand around my elbow and gently pushed me towards the side. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

I tried to shake his hand free from my elbow. “I’m fine. Where’s Justice?” I looked around for her but didn’t see her anywhere.

“I don’t give a fuck about Justice. Claire, come with me to the Frat Formal.” I felt like he’d struck me and my knees weakened. It wasn’t a question really, did I have to respond?

“Neil, nothing has changed, I am not looking to be your fun buddy.” He shook his head and stepped towards me. I stepped back and he kept going until my back was against the wall. He leaned down and whispered against my neck, making me shiver. My heart was still racing from the action-packed evening.

“I’m not looking for you to be my fun buddy. Please come with me to the formal?” I kept my hands to myself. He was too damn tempting. I needed him to go away.

“Bring flowers.” I sucked in a breath and ducked under his cagey arms and limped away with a confidence I was far from feeling. I didn’t get far before his hand grabbed my wrist and pulled me towards his chest.

I stopped myself from falling against him. “Can I sleep over tonight? My roommate has claimed the room tonight.”

“Isn’t that convenient? No, you’re going to try funny business.” He shook his head, his serious face still up front.

“No, I promise. If there is any funny business you can kick me in my bollocks. I love them very much so I swear to you I am not going to try any funny business.” I couldn’t say no to him. I sighed softly and turned, limping towards my dorm.

As promised he tried no funny business, he even slept with his clothes on. The evening flew by in his company, I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed our companionship until I almost peed my pants laughing at his exaggerated impression of Justice.

I forgot how it felt to be with him. It was so easy. It felt so right. If only he didn’t have the other five hundred women, and Justice. Mostly Justice. I should enjoy his company, maybe friendship would be enough. If Justice would allow it.

Chapter 12

Neil

I pulled at the neck of my tux shirt, they sure as hell made these things stuffy, but I looked damn good, the lady glances I’d received as I’d walked towards Claire’s dorm was proof of that.

I let out a rush of air, trying to clear my nerves. And shook my head at the absurdity of being nervous, she was just a girl. She was sweet, caring, gorgeous. I really hoped that tonight would be filled with more than just vertical dancing.

I knocked on her door and held the slim crystal vase filled with pink carnations in front of me. She opened the door and it was as if she’d punched me right in the gut. I was finding it hard to breathe as my eyes slid down her body. Her breasts glittered like raindrops in the sun, I wanted to grab them but at the same time I wanted to protect them. Her hair was up exposing her neck, making my damn mouth water. The slit on the left side of her gown was begging me to rip it and make it longer so I could spread her legs and plunge into her.

She smiled at me, her face flawless and enhanced only slightly with makeup. Her lips were shining like her dress and looked so juicy. I cleared my throat to get myself out of the daze and held out the vase. “Stunning.” I said softly as she took it, sniffed the flowers briefly and then set them on her nightstand which afforded me an awesome look at her ass. I looked away to try to get the image out of my mind but it was burned there and my pants were getting crowded with my quickly filling erection.

“They are!” I looked back to her to see her looking me over, my chest puffed just a bit, proud of how dapper I looked. “Oh…and so are you.” She flashed me a smile as sweet as apple pie.

I returned her smile with one of my own and held out my arm. “Ready?” She slipped her hand into the crook of my elbow after grabbing her little silver purse that matched her little silver shoes.

“Who did you take to frat formal last year?” I wrapped my arm around her waist and pulled her into my side as we walked, it wasn’t far but it was getting chilly and she didn’t bring anything to cover herself with.

“Justice.” I snuck a glance at her. She didn’t seem upset by my answer.

“Did she stay with you the whole night?” She looked up at me, her face so damn beautiful and innocent. I laughed at her question because it took me by surprise.

“Not even most of the night.”

“Did you mind?” She was still watching me.

I shrugged a little. “Not really. It’s how she is. She likes to change partners a lot.”

“Like you.”

 

“Like me.” I didn’t hesitate. I did like to change partners and once Claire was out of my system I’d move on the next girl. And I would do whatever it took to keep her interested until I figured it out so long as it kept her safe. “It worked out at the time but things are different this time.”

She raised an eyebrow, it was so adorable. “Different? Different how?”

I smiled at her as we walked up the steps of the frat, the music already loud. I leaned down, making sure my lips grazed her ear at least once. “I’m starting to see the appeal in romance and mushy stuff.” I felt her shiver at my side and loosened my grip just a little as the formal, already in session, washed over us.

 

It was a winter wonderland theme with glittering disco balls, iced beaded strings, and plush white carpet underfoot. I didn’t wait more than a few seconds before I slid my hand down her arm and clasped hands with her. I pulled her towards the dance floor and spun her around. I’d been brushing up on some moves and I was ready to use them. She looked surprised as I spun her back into my body and wrapped my other arm around her, my chin on her neck as we swayed to the beat. Then I spun her back out, pulled her in and dipped her back. When I pulled her back up she was laughing.

She pulled me close as the next song started and yelled in my ear to be heard above the music. “I didn’t take you for a dancer!”

“I will continue to surprise you.” I pulled her in close, settling into the slow steps as Michael Buble’ filled the large room, and looked down into her stunning sapphire eyes. She smiled at me and stepped in closer, pressing her chest against mine, her chin resting on my shoulder as we swayed. I pressed a soft kiss to her forehead and continued to dance with her until Michael’s voice disappeared.

She pulled back and grabbed my hand leading us to the refreshments. “I’m starving!” She filled two plates and I filled two cups. We made our way to an empty table and sat down. She was people watching and I joined her as I grazed on the food and drink in front of me. The women here were dressed to the nines, the guys in their tuxes. I looked at the couples, most of them had been set up by Claire in high school and were still going strong. I smiled to myself and leaned down, “You set up almost everyone, huh?” It was impressive, her gift.

She nodded at me and smiled modestly. She was uncomfortable with the subject. I watched as she finished her spiked punch and shook her cup at me while giving me a pouty face. I laughed, grabbed her cup and refilled it. While at the table I overheard conversation between two of my fellow football team members.

 

“Justice is looking fucking hot tonight. I can’t believe Neil fucked that up.”

The second one scoffed. “She’s a slut, dude. She’d give it to anyone and everyone…and mostly has. She slept with you right after giving Begley head in the dorm a few months ago.”

I heard the first guy suck his teeth. “So what, dude? She’s good at what she does and there are no strings with her.”

Second guy chuckled, “Well I’d rather have a girl who would give it to me and only me. I don’t like to share.”

I turned to them and slapped them both on the shoulders, firmly but not violently. “Justice will do whatever you ask of her so long as its not staying away from her.” I nodded to Tim, the guy who’d spoken second, “And if you don’t want a casual fling there are plenty of other girls on campus who’d love to be a baller’s girl. Maybe Claire could hook you up. She has a gift.” I looked to Evan, the other guy, “And I didn’t fuck anything up with Justice. She was being too needy so we took some time off. If you want a piece of that eye candy, that’s all you, buddy. Enjoy the dance, guys, I gotta get back to my date.” I grabbed two cups of punch off the table and headed back to Claire. She was still people watching but stopped to smile at me as I approached.

“Thanks.” She took her cup and drank it quickly. “Do you think someone spiked it?”

I laughed and shrugged my shoulders, “Probably.”

She nodded, hiccuped softly and finished hers. “Mo…More please?” She flashed me a sweet grin and I pushed my cup towards her.

“Sure you want to drink that fast, Claire?” She turned her eyes to the dance floor and her eyes caught on Justice. I let out a little humorless chuckle and nodded. She was pissed about Justice being here. Did she think I cared or was it something else? I ran my thumb over the back of Claire’s neck gently, caressing her.

She paused drinking her third cupful to look at me. She gave me a soft smile but the moment was interrupted by a guy who filled out a tux quite nicely but he was a bit on the dull side personality wise. He asked Claire to dance and Claire looked at me. I nodded and shrugged my shoulders. She wasn’t mine exclusively she could dance with whomever she wanted. It didn’t take the sting away though that I had hoped she’d only want to dance with me. I didn’t watch her, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to prevent myself from getting up and walking over to beat the shit out of the guy she was dancing with if I saw his hands move to places they weren’t supposed to be.

The night pressed on and Claire had spent an enormous amount of time dancing with other guys. Several lovely ladies came to ask me to dance but I declined, I only wanted to touch one girl tonight and she had a full dance card. I was talking strategy with Tim when Claire came back, another empty cup in her hand. She was leaning her chin on my shoulder, her speech a little slurred. “What are you doing over here, party poopers?”

A little laugh busted out and I touched her cheek gently. “Just talking. I’m keeping my dance card open for my beautiful date.”

 

“It would be a shame to waste such talent by sitting here all night. I’m stealing him away, Timmy.” Her hand was on my chest and dipped under the table. I all but jumped when she squeezed my thigh. Claire wanted me and I responded immediately.

“The talent isn’t going anywhere.” I held her arm to my chest. I felt my erection pulse as her breath caressed my ear.

“All the girls here want to see you shake it.” I heard myself moan and my hand gripped her arm tighter, keeping her from running off.

“Want to dance with me then?” My voice had become suddenly gravely.

“No, I don’t want to dance with you.” I growled softly as her hand moved from my thigh to my dick. The minx was teasing me. I felt my dick pulse under her touch. She leaned over me a little more and pressed her lips to mine. “Maybe we should go practice dancing somewhere more private? I don’t want to start rumors that you and I are a thing. I wouldn’t want your reputation ruined.” I loosened my grip on her arm as her hand pulled away and stood up with her, after readjusting myself.

“Lead the way, love.” I glanced at Tim and nodded at him. He was slack jawed and probably extremely jealous that I had women fondling me in public, drunk or not. And Claire was definitely inebriated.

Just before we reached the exit Justice stepped in front of us, blocking the way. She crossed her arms over her bright purple sequined chest and took both of us in with her jealousy fogged eyes. “Aren’t you two cute?”

“Aren’t we?” I said flippantly and wrapped my arm around Claire’s waist and tried to pull Claire away before Justice could ruin the fuckfest that was going to happen when I got Claire back to my room.

 

Justice grabbed onto Claire’s wrist and looked into her eyes. “Claire, it’s a special night, I think Neil needs something extra special to remember this night, don’t you?” Claire nodded and giggled. Well, shit. What the hell was happening? Justice and Claire wrapped arms around each other’s waists and led the way out of the dance. Justice copped a feel of Claire’s ass as they walked down the stairs. I followed, unsure of what was going to happen. Maybe this was a joke. I hoped to hell not. Two girls? This was going to be fucking delicious.

 

I followed behind them like a dog following a T-bone steak. I watched as they groped each other until we got to Justice’s dorm. She opened the door and left it open for us to go in. She set the mood and spread blankets and pillows over the bare spot on the floor. I stepped in after Claire and she took my hand. She looked at me, her eyes dark. I smiled at her as I took in her beautiful face. When she turned her head Justice’s lips were on hers. I watched as they melted into the kiss. It was the hottest thing I’d ever seen, the boner in my pants was evidence enough.

 

Claire’s hand left mine and went to Justice’s face which kissed her for a few long minutes before Justice started going lower. On her knees she gripped Claire’s dress and lifted it to her waist. She grabbed Claire’s thighs and pushed them apart. Claire reached out for something to hold onto as I moved behind her. I let her lean on me as I held her dress up so Justice could eat her out. I watched as Justice’s tongue first found Claire’s clit. It lapped slowly at first. She was tasting what I hadn’t yet had an opportunity to and I was jealous. Within seconds Justice was flicking Claire’s nub relentlessly, Claire was rubbing against me, her arms behind her and around my neck. I didn’t want to be holding her like this, I wanted her clothes off, I wanted to see her ivory flesh. She turned her head towards me and I leaned in, kissing her passionately. The familiar heat spread through me as my left hand reached up to caress her breast through the dress. Her hands went into my hair at the base of my neck and pulled, it felt so fucking good and the noises from below Claire were barely noticed as I lost myself in her. A few minutes of hot kissing and Claire was shaking as she pulled her lips from mine. I missed their sweetness immediately. She came hard, her knees giving out. I tried to hold her up but she was like a sinking rock. My dick twitched at the sounds of Justice moaning through Claire’s moans and the juicy, slick fingers sliding in and out.

 

“Neil…” Claire gasped, “I need you…inside me…” Justice pulled back as I picked Claire up in my arms. I took her to the bed and laid her down on it. Justice made quick work with Claire’s dress and undergarments. When she was naked Justice flicked Claire’s nipples with her tongue, making Claire squirm and moan and spread her supple thighs. I got a peek at her juicy center and hurried with my pants.

I grabbed onto Claire’s hips and slid inside easily. It was heaven and despite having Justice there I was focused on Claire. I watched her face, ravaged her body and made her come all night long. Justice was a good filler, she enhanced Claire’s orgasms which enhanced mine but she didn’t seem to want me and for some reason it didn’t bother me.

Chapter 13

Claire

I woke up in a strange room, my hand on Justice Petroni’s naked breast, my ass pressed back against Neil’s flaccid dick. I held my breath and slowly got up, creeping out of the bed so I didn’t wake either of them. I rubbed the pounding my head when I was upright and fought back a groan. What the hell happened last night?

I got dressed as quickly as my head would allow, grabbed my purse and went back to my dorm room. When I was safely in my room I yanked off my dress and went to the bathroom to assess, to try to piece together what the hell had happened. There was lipstick smeared on my face, my neck, my nipples and lower. I turned on the shower and scrubbed off the filth. I had a threesome with Justice and Neil.

Why would he let me do that? Were those two just playing me? Were they using me? No wonder he was being so damn sweet and out of character. He was in on humiliating me, Justice’s ultimate revenge on me. She forced me to have sex with her. Who knew what diseases that bitch was carrying around in her body. The water did nothing to cover the sounds of my sobs as I let the water run over my body.

There was a knock on my door as I pulled my socks over my cold feet. I opened the door and Merit stood there, her smile falling as she saw my tear-swollen face. “Claire, what happened?” She came in, shut the door behind her and hugged me tightly. It was going to hurt to say it out loud but it needed to be said, maybe it would soften the pain.

“Neil… he and Justice… I got drunk at the formal and they took advantage of me. I blacked out, I don’t even remember what happened but I woke up this morning with both of them naked on either side of me… I just thought…I hoped…” I shook my head and buried my face against her slender shoulder. She held me as I shook, she rubbed my back tenderly. “I’m so stupid.”

“What an asshole… don’t worry, Claire. We’ll find you a good guy.” I inhaled shakily and sniffled, lifting my head.

“I can’t seem to find a guy who can kiss me without losing control of himself. Will couldn’t and Damien couldn’t…”

“But Neil could. Why do you think that is?”

I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders. “Maybe he’s incapable of love so it doesn’t affect him.”

She walked us to my bed and then gently pushed me back so I’d sit next to her as she took a seat. “Well… that makes sense, I guess. And Justice, when you kissed her?…Right…” She was studying my face and caught the horror in my eyes. “You don’t remember.”

I sighed and rubbed the dull aches that were still churning in my brain. “It is what it is. The curse of me. I’m destined to be an old maid.” Merit snorted beside me.

“Girl, please. The only thing that’s different between now and a year ago is that you saw a boy who you wanted… Will, might I remind you. Just try to forget about Neil and Will and Damien and your love spell theory. Go back to focusing on you and that gift of yours. You give so many others love and we all love you back for it. You have friends for life not just warm bodies in your bed which is all that Neil and Justice have.”

I nodded absently. She was right, I guess. I didn’t need to find a guy. I was fine before I went on this quest. I’d lose Neil as a friend but I had many other friends. The ache and emptiness I felt at the thought of letting him go would go away eventually, I was sure of it. I pat her on the knee as I stood up, determined to put it behind me and move on. “You’re wise, Merit. Thanks for being such a great friend.” When she stood up I hugged her tight. “I gotta get ready to go to cheer practice. We’re learning a new routine today.” She hugged me back and then took her exit.

I was a few minutes late to practice but it didn’t seem to matter, Neil and Justice both arrived ten minutes after me, both looked like they’d just rolled out of bed; probably the same one. I buried my hatred for Justice deep and put on my best cheer smile. Neil had waved at me but I didn’t wave back. He couldn’t seriously think I’d be okay with what happened last night, could he?

We started in on the new cheer while the football players went through their plays. Halfway through practice time Justice called a break so they could mingle with the football players and get hydrated. I made sure I was at least four bodies away from Neil the whole time. If he tried to get closer I’d excuse myself and get farther away. I grabbed another cheerleader, Leah, she was pretty close to me and chatted with her about homecoming. After she’d finished telling me about her great time I looked up and saw Neil smiling down at me. “Hey.” Leah grinned and wandered off. I stood up at the exact time he sat down.

“Oh hey, I was just going to the bathroom.” I pasted on my cheer smile. “I’ll see you later.” I made myself scarce and came back out and went to Chuck, Neil’s arch enemy. They had always been at each other’s throats, I think Neil felt like Chuck was a runner up to him. One time Chuck won at beer pong and Neil was pissed. He called for a rematch and three games later he’d declared he was the best, having effectively crushed Chuck.

 

“Hey, Chuck. You looked great out there.” I wrapped my hand gently around his bicep and batted my lashes at him. I saw him eyeing my chest and then my long exposed legs. He smiled and wrapped his arm around my back.

“Thanks, Claire. I thought you looked great over there. I get distracted every time you kick your leg up,” he said.

 

I smiled sweetly at him. “I guess I don’t have to tell you how flexible I am.”

He chuckled and I felt his hand move down to my ass. “No, you don’t.” He slipped his hand under my skirt and I felt his finger brush my panties. I gasped, and slapped him across his cheek, my eyes wide at his audacity. I heard him shout at me as I walked away. “Come on, Claire. Don’t pretend like you didn’t like it…” He laughed and high fived another teammate.

I rolled my eyes and went back to the side of the field, break time was over. We ran through the cheer a couple of times and in the middle of the third run-through we all stopped to watch as Neil hit Chuck hard in the middle of his body from the back. Once Chuck was facedown in the dirt Neil stepped on Chuck’s hand in an effort to get the ball to the field goal. Chuck cried out in agony, holding his hand to his chest as he rolled over onto his back. A couple of his fingers were hanging lifelessly and I looked away.

Chuck was sent to the nurse and practice resumed. We had the routine down by the time the coach blew the whistle, signifying the end of practice. I went to the bleachers and grabbed my water, chugging it down, still dehydrated from my night of drinking. When I lowered the bottle Neil was standing in front of me again. “So…. You’re mad.” He was smiling. I wanted to smack it from his face.

“I am.” I tried to keep emotion from my face. I pulled on my sweatshirt and pulled my ponytail from the collar, letting it swish behind me.

“Why?” He was watching me. I tried to pretend like I wasn’t watching him and his clueless expression.

“I was drunk. You and your girlfriend Justice took advantage of me. That’s why.” I shifted and cocked my hip out, watching him blatantly. His smile faded.

“First of all, Justice is not my girlfriend and second of all, I didn’t pour the alcohol down your throat, you got drunk on your own. You pulled me along after Justice asked if you wanted to participate with her.”

“Were you drunk?” I hoped like hell he’d say yes, maybe it was just a misunderstanding as to how he could let her do that to me. Let her manipulate me with her love powers and have her way with me.

He shook his head and my heart sunk. "No? Okay so, you, not being drunk, went along with whatever your drunken date wanted to do, you didn't stop me thinking, 'Eh, maybe Claire wouldn't be so cool with having a threesome with her enemy, I should probably stop her at all costs, because that would be the –decent- thing to do?' Of course not because that would be thinking about somebody else for a change." I kept my tone even, I didn't want to draw unwanted attention to us.

“I warned you when you started drinking that you might be going too fast. After that I assumed you were a fully capable adult that could make her own decisions, to include getting stupid drunk. If you were concerned with having someone baby you, you probably should’ve let me know that at the start of the date. I generally treat people like fully capable equals.” Oh hell no, he didn’t just try to turn this around on me. I didn’t do anything wrong, I was letting loose and having some innocent fun. I didn’t strap a sign to my chest that said ‘Gang Bang, please!’

I shook my head, “If I wanted to have someone take advantage of me I would’ve gone to the dance with any of the other guys that have been asking me for weeks. I thought you were different, Neil. Clearly I was wrong. You were just using me to get your kicks off with Justice. Did you and Justice laugh about it this morning behind my back?”

He frowned at me and held up his hands to stop me. “You’re off the mark with this one, Claire. You made a decision. Be an adult and take responsibility for it.” I smiled at him, he was incredible trying to blame me for this. I was intoxicated, yes, by my own hands, but dammit, he could’ve and should’ve stopped me if his intent wasn’t to hurt me. How could he not know that this would be the ultimate in breaking my trust?

"If the situation had been reversed I wouldn't have gone off with you and that ass grabbing creep Chuck. I would've looked out for you." I shook my head and held up my hand. "Whatever, Neil, it doesn't matter. I told you once and I'll tell you again, leave me alone. I'm serious. Have wonderful kinky sex with Justice and leave –me- out of it." I grabbed my shit and quickly ran away, not bothering to look back. I didn't want him to see my tears.

Chapter 14

Neil

 

FUCK! I watched as she ran away from me and felt the anger rising up in my chest. I slammed my fists down onto the bleachers below me. I was panting loudly as I stared at the dent I’d made in them and then I made like hell for Justice’s room.

Claire didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. She needed to get that stick out of her pretty little ass and quit blaming everyone else in the world for her problems. If Claire wanted me to go fuck Justice, then that’s exactly what I’d do.

I knocked on Justice’s door loudly and she answered the door in a towel, its edges barely met over her large breasts. I stalked inside, pushed her back into her room, my arms went around her waist. I pulled her against me and captured her lips. She moaned against my lips and moved her hands into my hair. I stepped on her towel as I moved her back to her bed. She smiled, “Come to beg me now, Neil?”

I kissed from her neck down to her breasts as I quickly pulled down my pants. I nodded, “Yes, I’ll beg you if that’s what you want. You win.” I left her body for only a minute as I got up and grabbed a condom from her bedside table. I ripped the paper open and slid it onto my already hard dick. I brought my mouth back to her nipples, biting gently and then flicking them with my tongue. I reached between Justice’s legs and ran my finger up her wet center. I wasted no time in burying myself deep into her. I supported myself on my hands as I thrust all my anger and hurt deep into her. My release came quick and after I was done I pulled back. Justice didn’t mind being used. She didn’t expect anything from me. I pulled the condom off and cleaned up in the bathroom. I dressed and kissed Justice’s cheek before walking out of her room.

I was lost in my head as I rushed out of the dorm. Something still didn’t feel right. I felt like someone was sitting on my chest. Maybe I needed to run it off. My conscious self came back when I heard a female voice. “Neil! Geez…” I looked down and saw Merit, Claire’s friend. We had nearly collided. She eyed the hallway behind me as I set my charms on her. I had nothing to hide.

“Hey, Merit. Sorry.” I tried to sidestep her but she blocked me.

“…I thought you and Claire were dating.”

“Nope, just took her to homecoming but now she’s back to normal.” I tried to sidestep again but she didn’t want to let me go. I stopped, if she wanted to do this, we could discuss her friend. Even though it was none of her bloody business.

"You mean –you're- back to normal?" She was trying to be delicate but it wasn't working. She was grating on me and I felt my anger rising again.

 

“No, I mean she is. I told her I see the appeal of romance and I thought she was seeing the appeal of enjoying life but then she went off on me so that’s that.”

“Enjoying life means having a threesome?”

“Sometimes,” I growled, “You don’t know as much about her as you think, Merit.”

“I know that she thinks you and Justice set her up and I think you have that all turned around. You’re projecting. And if you don’t know what that means you need to take Psyc101 with Dr. Anderson.”

I gave an obnoxious fake laugh to fray her nerves. “Because Merit’s the smartest girl in school and understands everything about everything.” She should be as aggravated as she was making me. “Maybe you want to try a threesome and you can’t so you’re jealous. How’s that for projecting?”

She scoffed at me and rolled her eyes. “Oh please, is that the best you could come up with? I’m not impressed.”

 

"Of course you're not. You're Miss Perfect." I fired back, my temper still flaring. "Flat, boring, predictable Miss Perfect. That's why you can't imagine someone doing something just for themselves and because they want to. Claire did something that's not what you want so she couldn't possibly have -wanted- to."

 

“You arrogant ass. She told me she didn’t want to.”

 

“That is not what she told me, at least at the time. If she doesn’t talk to me or decides something then regrets it… I can’t do anything about any of that.” I shrugged my shoulders and stuck my hands into my front jean pockets.

 

“So that’s it then? You’ve given up?” She crossed her arms over her chest and looked at me like she was ready for a surrender. I sure as bloody hell wasn’t about to give her one. If Claire wanted to talk to me, she could. I wasn’t going to talk through her friend like a fucking middle schooler.

 

“She got pissed, blamed me for everything, and tossed me aside. What’s there to do?”

 

She shrugged and looked at me with fire in her hazel eyes. “Fuck Justice, apparently.” And back to Justice. If I wanted to fuck Justice that was my own prerogative. Claire didn’t like the threesome with Justice and was going to act like I forced it on her.

 

“Which I’ve noticed is totally under my control in this conversation, just not Claire’s. Pick a standard, Merit.”

 

“Whatever she said to you was said because she’s hurt. Come down off your high horse and try to see things from her perspective—for once.” A gruff sound extended from my chest. Claire didn’t come down from her high horse to see my perspective, why should I do the same for her?

 

I shook my head and crossed my arms over my chest, “Don’t come at me like an attack dog then tell me I need to be all emotional. You did this one wrong..” I pointed my finger at her with a thrust into the air before turning to walk off. She didn’t stop me.

 

“Do you care about her or not?!” She practically yelled it at my back, her frustration with me evident, but I was beyond caring. My anger still shadowing all my other feelings. Another snarky laugh came from my throat as I yelled back to her, not even bothering to turn my head.

 

“Way to find out, Merit.”

 

“I’ll take that as a no!” She mumbled something under her breath as I turned into the stairwell and made my way to my dorm. Fuck Claire and her childish attitude. I gave the one-woman thing a try and it hadn’t worked out. I stopped midway down the stairs and put a hand to my achy chest. What the fuck was that? I rubbed it a couple of times and the feeling went away. Thinking of her was giving me chest pains. I’d better stop fucking thinking about her.

 

A couple of girls were coming up the stairs and if their clothes and slightly sweaty appearance were any indication they’d just come back from a workout. I smiled at them as they approached and they giggled. Time to see if the threesome, which was fucking awesome with Claire and Justice, would be just as good without them in the leading roles.

Chapter 15

Claire

 

The next week went by in a blur. I didn’t go out of my way to avoid Neil, I just acted like he didn’t exist. It was actually pretty easy considering he never looked at me or try to initiate any kind of conversation.

 

I was in the library with earbuds in, listening to classical, as I studied for my English midterm. I was in the zone when I felt a strong hand on my shoulder. I jumped and pulled the earbuds out as I looked up. My eyes met with Will’s. I smiled and whispered. “Hey.” I couldn’t help but notice his aura was a blank white.

 

“Hey, sorry to bother you. I just wanted to see how you were doing.” He put his bag down next to his leg as he sat down across from me at the table. “I heard about the blow up with the quarterback.”

 

I felt my shoulders slump slightly, my hand twirling my ponytail. “That’s so sweet of you… I’m okay, really. It sucked to be used that way but I’m determined to move on.”

 

He lifted a beautiful dark brow and half-smiled. My stomach flipped. “Oh? So you’re ready to give me another chance?” I laughed softly and looked around to make sure no one was listening before looking back to him.

 

“Well, maybe… I’m just not ready for the physical stuff.”

 

He nodded quickly. “Sure, the whole date rape kind of thing, I understand the hesitation,” he said. I nodded in return.

 

“I’m wondering if its even worth it,” I said.

 

“Well, lets find out together.” He slowly reached out and grabbed my elbow. He leaned closer and let his warm fingers slide up my arm. His hand clasped mine, stilling the twirling. He brought it down and pulled it toward the middle of the table. He clasped his fingers with mine and stared at me. It was kind of hot.

“Are you sure?” He nodded twice.

 

“Very sure. Will you walk with me around the lake later? I want to show you something.”

 

I smiled softly and nodded. “Sure.” Maybe this would work out. Maybe we could just fool around without kissing… the scientific part of my brain was swirling around again.

 

Later that evening, we walked down to the lake and held hands. He told me about his classes, his favorite books, his dreams for the future. Which, unlike Neil, included being normal. He wanted to settle down if he could. Maybe stay at the University and teach other half-bloods like us. I hadn’t decided on my major yet but I was debating going into philosophy or library sciences. I was pretty much stuck here and I didn’t want to be a janitor or a lunch lady. I could be in school for years and years. A super senior.

 

“So what did you want to show me?” I asked with a raised eyebrow, squeezing his large hand gently. He let out a little laugh and nodded to the lake. He pointed with his other hand to something sticking out of the water that looked like a small rounded stick pointing out. I gasped and looked at him, taking him in. “You brought me here to see the turtles?” His expression looked pained, as if I’d hurt him.

 

“Damn, so you’ve seen them before?” I tried to hold back a laugh but it bubbled up as a giggle.

 

“Of course I have. They’re my favorite thing on campus.” He looked away shyly and smiled. I was waiting for him to dig his toe in the dirt but it never happened.

 

“They’re mine too,” he said. I smiled at him brightly and squeezed his hand gently.

 

“I wish I could kiss you…,” I murmured. He looked at me, no smile on his lips, his eyes dark.

 

“I wish you could too…” He squeezed my hand back briefly before letting go. He sat down on the grass and wrapped his strong arms around his legs, his hands clasped in front of his knees loosely.

 

I sat down next to him and sighed softly, eyes on the lake. I wondered what he was thinking. I wondered if he was regretting this decision yet. I wondered why he was so interested in me. He could have any girl on campus, surely. I glanced at him, his attention was on the lake too. “Why are we even doing this? We can’t work out in the long run. We couldn’t even get married, you’d have to kiss the bride.” He chuckled, eyes still focused on the water.

 

“Perhaps by the time you’re ready to marry me you won’t want to fight me off anymore.” I turned back to the lake. Maybe he was right. This no kissing thing was only temporary until I wanted to take it to the next level with Will and maybe it would be sooner rather than later. I wasn’t a virgin anymore. Neil was off doing…who knows what with whatever female would give it to him. I ran my fingers through my hair to try to distract myself and hurt myself a little for even thinking about Neil. I was done with him. He didn’t care about me. It sucked but facts were facts.

 

I nudged his arm with my shoulder as I looked up to him. “Perhaps.” I smiled softly. My lower lip trembled softly as he reached out and ran his rough knuckles over my cheek. I dropped my gaze to his arm and bit my lower lip to keep it from giving me away. He laughed softly.

“You’re so sweet, Claire.” I dared a glance at his eyes and my lips searched for his, getting closer and closer. A twig snapping behind us made me jump back. I pushed some hair over my shoulder as I looked to see what the commotion was. It was Justice and Neil. They had their arms around each other but Neil’s grip on Justice slowly dropped as he realized what was going on between Will and me.

 

I cleared my throat and looked away and I heard Justice laugh. “Look, baby, its your cast off. And hers. How cute are they. Don’t worry, Claire, I won’t steal the meat head from you. He’s too big for my taste.” Will made a grumbling noise in his chest and I put my hand on it, looking at his face. I shook my head and spoke softly for only his ears, “She’s not worth it. She’s just trying to get under our skin. It’s what she does. Just ignore her, she’ll go away.”

 

He nodded curtly, looking very unhappy about it and turned his attention back to the lake. His jaw twitched as he clenched it, his hands were clasped tightly in front of his knees. I put my hand on his back and rubbed from the middle to the top and back down in slow comforting circles as we watched the turtles and waited for those two to go about their business.

 

They went where ever they were going and not another word was hurled between us. I was comforting Will partly to soothe myself. He was still with Justice and I’d seen them together alot since we parted ways. It wasn’t really my business, I’d told him in no uncertain terms we were through, but it still stung every time I saw them together.

 

“When is your last midterm?” Will interrupted my thoughts.

 

“Hmm, Thursday morning. …Why?” I watched him as he turned his head towards me and grinned, shrugging innocently.

 

“No reason,” he said. I chuckled.

 

“I don’t believe that for a second,” I said.

 

“Good. You should always trust your gut.” My smile faltered the slightest bit. My gut was telling me I should get up and run after Neil. My gut was telling me that despite how nice Will was turning out to be, Neil was who I wanted. My gut was wrong. It wasn’t the first time. My gut had told me that Neil was ready to be committed to me, to try something new. It had been wrong on that count. It was probably wrong again. My gut couldn’t be trusted when it came to the opposite sex, especially Neil.

Chapter 16

Neil

 

Another football game won, another mixer attended. It killed me a little inside to see Claire dancing all night with that tall oaf she called her boyfriend. At least I expected that’s what she was calling him. I’d seen them together every bloody time I ran into her, which was quite a bit, to my dismay.

 

I had midterms over the next two days and needed to buckle down to study so I gave Justice the cold shoulder and didn’t answer any of the knocks that came on the door. I opened my English notebook and stared at the mostly blank pages. Fuck me. I’d forgotten all about my lack of notes. I rubbed a hand over my already tired eyes and groaned. Who the hell could I ask for notes that would be worth copying? Sure as hell not Claire, I wasn’t going to ask her for a damn thing. I was still very sore about how selfish and self righteous she’d been about the event after the formal. The only reason it’d been a big deal was because she’d made it one.

 

I pulled out the syllabus and my eyes scanned the reading we’d covered up to this point. I was behind on the past four weeks of readings. I silently counted the amount of pages and cursed. 134 pages of assigned readings. At a page a minute, roughly, that would be almost two hours of reading. Doable? Yes, if I hadn’t loaned my damn textbook to that brunette last week. She’d seen it in my room when she was…visiting, and told me she’d lost hers.

 

There was no way I was going to get a good grade on this midterm unless I actually read the passages. I grabbed my hoodie, slipped it on and made my way to the brunette’s dorm. I knocked on the door and waited, and waited, and waited. There was no answer and I couldn’t hear anyone on the other side of the door. The dorms were quiet because it was midterm time and most people were studying. The library, maybe she was there. I grumbled to myself about loaning my shite out to girls all the way there.

 

I walked inside and shivered, it was getting damn cold outside. I scoured the first, second and third floors and saw no signs of her. I would try another girl in the class and see if she would let me borrow her book, or even co-study. I could definitely use a study partner of the female kind. My mind was all out of whack. I pushed the button for the elevator and looked around as I waited. The elevator dinged and I stepped forward and crashed into someone. It was my damn fault for not looking. I grabbed the book that had fallen at my feet, it was the book I needed! I smiled at the book and stood up straight and my smile fell. It was her. Claire. Bloody spectacular. I held the book out to her and waited for her to take it. I felt my jaw clench. I was not going to speak to her.

 

“Thanks. You should watch where you’re walking.” She offered me a little smile but I ignored it.

 

“Yeah. I’ll work on that.” I grumbled as I stepped into the elevator and moved to the back corner. She watched me long enough that the doors closed before she stepped out. She pushed the button for the main floor and then for the third floor.

 

“Are you done studying already?” Small talk, really? My eyes fell to her legs which were just covered in sheer black tights. She must have been cold walking across campus with no pants on. My eyes kept roaming up to the short little gray wool skirt.

 

I forced my eyes on her face and shrugged. “I’m just that bloody good.”

 

She studied my expression for a moment, and then shrugged herself. “Must be a relief.”

 

“It is.” The elevator door opened and I moved forward, careful not to touch her on my way out of the very confined space. My damn dick was aching just from smelling her. I had to get far away from her so I would no longer be tempted grab her and slam her against the wall and take her right there.

 

I glanced over my shoulder as the doors were closing and I wish I hadn’t. She looked sad or disappointed that I was walking away from her. It took all I had not to turn around. But nothing had changed between us. As much as I might want her she didn’t want what I offered her. She’d give me her love but it had conditions. I had to be someone I wasn’t. I didn’t need improving. If I was being honest with myself she didn’t need improving either. We just weren’t good together. If only my stupid dick would get in line with my head.

 

I sat on a bench just outside the library in the cold, the darkness of the evening lit by a few street lamps dispersed six feet apart or so, and put my head in my hands. Think, Neil, think. Focus. I inhaled deeply and then let it out slowly. I stood up, shoving my hands in my pockets and my feet were just about to take me back to my dorm when I spotted that dense fella heading my way. He was on the phone with someone and I pulled my phone out and pretended to be on it as well. There was something fishy about this guy. Or maybe I was just bitter that he was with the girl I wanted. Either way I walked casually in his direction and once I got closer I bent down and pretended to tie my shoelace. He was speaking in a different language. Unlucky for him it was Greek.

 

“…I am working on it as quickly as I can. …Do not worry, you will get what you want. …Okay. Talk later.” He hung up as he passed by and stuffed his phone in his front pocket. I wondered if he’d noticed me or not. I had purposely bent down in the dark patch. Maybe it was a call about a class project. I sighed softly and started walking again. I still didn’t have any dirt on the douche, but I was certain there was dirt to find. Eventually I’d find it.

Chapter 17

 

Claire

 

I grabbed my test booklet and walked to the front of the class. I smiled as I put the paper in the tray sitting on the professor’s desk. My last midterm! As I left the building I felt the stress of intense studying leave my body. I grinned as I walked, pencils in my hand. I didn’t have to think about anything, I completed midterms week and that was something to celebrate.

 

I was contemplating a party or a pizza night with Merit when I saw Will leaning against the front wall of my dorm, he had a backpack slung over his gray hooded shoulder and a gorgeous smile on his face.

 

“I’ve been waiting for you. Are you done with your midterms?”

 

I held my hands up to celebrate the joyous words. “Yes! I’m done with my midterms! Woo hoo!” I stopped in front of him and took in the rest of his appearance, starting with his long loose workout pants and ending with his the flickering yellow aura that screamed energy. “Going for a run?”

 

He laughed softly, the sound sending pings of electricity between my thighs. “No.” He pushed himself off the wall and came around behind me. When his chest brushed my shoulder I had to fight back a groan. It was going to be torture being around him and not being able to kiss him. Life was so not fair. But I’d known that for as long as I could remember.

 

He tied a black silk scarf around my eyes and whispered into my ear. “I have a surprise for you.” I felt the goosebumps break out on my arms. I wondered what the surprise could be. Maybe he was going to bring me to the lake for a romantic stroll, that would be very relaxing. Or maybe he had read my earlier thoughts and wanted to watch a movie and binge on pizza. I was wondering how many pizzas he could eat by himself when his strong hands guided me forward. I could tell we went into my dorm and I assumed he was leading me to my room since he knew where that was.

 

Once we stopped moving I reached for the blindfold but he grabbed my hands and tsked me. “You’ll ruin the surprise. Where is your key?” His hands slowly moved down my arms. My nipples puckered as his thumbs grazed the sides of my breasts. He was slowly frisking me, his large warm hands were starting fires throughout my body.

 

“M-my back pocket.” I bit my lower lip as I felt his hands move from my hips around to my ass. He gave it a soft squeeze that made me clench my thighs together before grabbing the key. I heard the door unlock and then he was leading me again into the room.

 

I heard a thud and then him moving around my room. I was tempted to take off the blindfold or at least peek but I wanted him to be able to trust me. Trust was important in relationships. Trust was the reason I had to break things off with Neil. Dammit, he was invading my thoughts again.

 

Will took my pencils from my hands and I heard them tumble over the surface of my desk. He replaced them with something soft, definitely small, and clothing. “Go change into that and then come back out.” He turned me around and removed my blindfold. I smiled and did as I was told.

 

After freshening up a bit I slipped into the black string bikini he’d put into my hands. I wasn’t sure if he thought we were going swimming or if this was just a ruse to get me to be as close to naked as possible. I opened the door to my bedroom and gasped. The room was transformed. There were candles everywhere, a soft pink silk sheet over my bedspread, and the room smelled light of lavender. The best eye candy in the room was Will himself who had removed his shirt, his abdomen cut into six little sections and so smooth it begged to be licked. His muscles were huge, well defined and I felt my mouth water. He was the definition of strong. I squeezed my thighs together again.

 

“This is…wow.”

 

He motioned to the bed, “Please, come lay down. I want to help you destress.” He waggled his eyebrows. I would’ve thought he was trying to seduce me save for the grin on his lips. I complied, making my way over to the bed. I started to sit and lay back but he stopped me, his finger circling in the air. “On your stomach, please.”

 

“Okay…” I paused for a second and then turned, laying belly down on the silk sheet. I rested my head on my hands and waited. A tiny tingle of something played on my brain and I glanced back to him, checking his aura. It was oddly blank. I squeezed my eyes shut and looked again. Nope, still nothing. That never happened. God, I must be more tired than I thought. I put my head down and moments later I felt his strong hands on my shoulders, squeezing the tension away. He must have had oil on his hands because they were slick and the smell of lavender was very strong.

 

I moaned as his hands worked their way down my back. “That feels so goo..Ah!…” I called out as he hit a super tense spot on my lower back. He paused and then rubbed it, trying to work out the tension.

 

He whispered again, his breath on the back of my neck sent sexual shivers between my legs. “Feeling better yet, Claire?”

 

“Yes!” I whispered back, the stress of finals was gone but the sexual stress was just starting to build between us. His hands continued to rub my back, slow and steady and soon, despite the sexual tension in the air, what with the relaxing lavender scent, the warm hands soothing my back and the soft lighting, I fell asleep.

 

While I was napping I dreamt of being on a warm beach, I’d never been to one, my toes in the sand. The sun had warmed the sand, making it hot. It felt good to have my toes buried in deep and as soon as I thought it was too hot to take a wave would come and wash over my feet. I watched the waves a few times and then a strong arm wrapped around my waist and pulled me back against an equally strong torso. I closed my eyes, his face was blacked out due to the bright sun directly behind him. He nibbled my ear, kissed down my neck while his hands held me to him and stroked my hair. Then he whispered to me, “Time to wake up, Claire-bear. Time to wake up, love…” It was Neil’s voice and I woke up with a start. My head kicked up so suddenly that I knocked into Will’s chin, which hurt really bad, let me tell you. It was like someone had hit me on the back of my head with a large rock.

 

He cursed and rubbed his chin slowly. “I’m not sure who that was worse for me, or you.”

 

I rolled over and put my hand on the back of my head, wincing. "Me...I was surprised -and- your chin is much sharper than my head. Comparatively." I closed my eyes against the dull ache for a moment before looking at him, his hand still on his chin but he was smiling at me. I couldn't help but smile back. "Why are you smiling at me?"

 

“You’re just… so beautiful, Claire. So pure. A person just gets the feeling that you’ve never done a single terrible thing in your whole life.” With the exception of thinking of another guy while you were giving me a wonderful back massage, maybe. I winced again, trying to push my thoughts down. Now was not the time to be thinking about that nameless man again.

 

I held out my arms, hoping he would close the distance between us. He did, without hesitation. I hugged him and he rubbed his nose against my neck. “No one is perfect, Will. Neither am I.” He chuckled against my shoulder and then kissed it softly.

 

“Don’t let our parents hear you say that. They are perfect.” He said the last bit loudly for emphasis, in case they were listening. He looked down at me, looking over my entire face, feature by feature. “I think you got more than half of the perfect your father gave to you.”

 

My heart was melting, I wasn’t sure I believed what he was saying but I sure as heck wanted to! I wrapped my arms around his neck pulled him down to my lips. Almost. I turned my head at the last second, remembering what would happen if I let anyone aside from the devil kiss me. “Let me destress you now…” I pushed on his shoulders until he was on his back. I got to my knees quickly, he would enjoy this for sure. I’d heard the other girls talking for years about how much guys loved doing this one thing. I reached for his pants but he put his hands over mine.

 

“Claire, please… you don’t have to do that.” I looked at him. My gut felt like it had been kicked in. He was rejecting me. Just a few minutes ago he told me I was perfect and now he disagreed with my actions? I tried not to let the emotions show on my face and either I did a good job or he wasn’t paying attention because he smiled and pulled me back up so I was laying on his chest. I put my cheek there and just rested.

 

The rest of the night was pretty uneventful. We ordered delivery, watched movies and fell asleep. The whole time all I could think was that it was much more fun with Neil. And how I wished he were sitting next to me instead. It wasn’t fair to Will and it wasn’t fair to me. I had to talk to him, and I vowed to do just that…tomorrow.

Chapter 18

Neil

 

I was coming up on my fifth mile when I spotted the wanker coming out of Claire’s dorm. He was on his bloody phone again. I couldn’t help but wonder who he was talking to. There was still something that didn’t seem right about him. Something was off.

 

My thoughts came back to Claire and I wondered what they’d done last night. Did he kiss her? Did she enjoy it? Did she moan and roll her hips against his like she’d done to mine? Did he make her arch her back and lose her mind with multiple orgasms?

 

I ran harder. I didn't need to be thinking about that shit. It'd been two weeks since I'd slept with a girl and it was getting downright depressing. I had no desire anymore. The more I tried, the more frustrated I became. It didn't help that every night I woke up with soiled boxers and -her- name on my lips. She was haunting my dreams. It was fucked up.

 

How could I get closer to Will without becoming his friend? As far as I could tell the guy was a loner. He was the kind of guy that you stayed away from. He had danger written all over him. No doubt he was a loose cannon just waiting to be set off.

 

I couldn’t follow him around all day, that would be bloody creepy. We had not one class together so that was out. I stopped at the seventh mile and smiled to myself. His room. Maybe there was something in his dorm that would give me a clue as to what he was about. The only problem was, how did I get in there? He had a roommate. Tse. He was the guy who did the music at all the parties. I smiled wider.

 

I was going to throw a party. Tonight.

 

That afternoon after I’d already spread the word I went to find Tse. He wasn’t hard to find, like most people he was a man of habit. He was sitting on one of the many grassy hills, large noise canceling headphones on his ears. He was bobbing his head gently, his long black ponytail swayed softly in the wind. The dude was Native American so the long hair worked for him. He was people watching as he listened to his tunes so I walked in front of him and waved.

 

He pulled off his headphones and offered me a nod. “Sup?”

 

“Nothing really. I’m throwing a party tonight in the woods and I was hoping you would be the one to DJ for me. Everyone knows you’re the go-to guy for that sort of thing.”

 

“Sure thing man, you know my rate?” I nodded and pulled a couple of hundreds from my back pocket and slipped it to Tse.

 

“Can I help you set up or something?” Tse looked at me as if I had another head slowly popping out of my shoulder. I laughed and shrugged. “Just trying to be nice. I’m not hitting on you or anything.” He snorted and a small smile crept onto his lips.

 

“Sure, man. Come by my room around six. You know where it is?” I nodded.

 

“Yep. See you then.” I smiled to myself as I walked away. Operation: Spy on Giant was well under way. The pieces were falling into place. I would figure out what that sneaky freak was up to before long. Hopefully before the night was over.

 

*************

 

It was six on the dot, Tse opened the door almost immediately after I’d knocked. His folding set up ready to go. I also noted a crate with some vinyl records and a couple of bottles of water near the door.

 

I nodded to the crate. “Is that what you want me to grab?” He nodded back, his ponytail falling over his shoulder as he bent down to retrieve it.

 

“Think you can handle it, QB?” He grinned and I laughed.

 

“I can manage. Are you going to carry that table – music – thing all by yourself?” I took the crate from him as I nodded to the eight foot electronic table.

 

He shrugged. “It’s not really that heavy, just bulky.” He picked it up and it seemed he wasn’t bullshitting me. If I were in his shoes I wouldn’t trust some jock with my precious music shit either. I held the door open for him with my foot and reached down to grab the crate. I very stealthily unlocked my phone and sent myself a text message. I looked out the door and he was halfway down the hall already, people pressing themselves against the wall to get out of the way of his musical table.

 

“Hey man, I gotta make a call, I’ll be right behind you!” I called down the hall and he paused and nodded to me briefly before heading away from me, towards the front exit.

 

I let the door close and looked around. It was clear whose side was whose. Tse’s side was covered with musical posters, CDs, more vinyl records, a guitar sat beside his bed. The other side was very clean and sparse. Aside from the school supplies necessary to go to class there was nothing extra. No family photos. No posters. Nothing to identify that Will had any interests at all. It was a little creepy and just reinforced my suspicions of him. I quickly went to his bedside table and opened the drawer.

 

I frowned. There was a nudie magazine but… it only featured men and… bondage. This was not right. What was he doing with Claire if he was gay? I had nothing against gays. More women for me. And I had nothing against bondage, if the girl was into that sort of thing, I guess.

 

I pulled out the magazine and started flipping through it quickly, maybe it was a cover. Maybe there was information inside of it. I mean who the hell would browse through this unless they were into dudes? I cringed and tried not to imprint the pictures on my bloody brain. I hope she appreciated all the trouble I was going through for her. I would be permanently scarred from these pictures.

 

Nothing. I shoved the magazine back into the drawer and huffed. That was a waste. I got down on my knees and checked under the bed. Nothing. I got up and went to the desk and opened those drawers. Just office supplies. Very neat and tidy.

 

I sat down in Will’s chair and growled. I know he’s up to something. I slammed my fists down on his desk and I felt something flitter to the floor, brushing my leg on the way. I pushed the chair back and got down on all fours. I grabbed the paper that had fallen and turned it over. It was blank. I turned it over the other way. Still blank. I crumpled the paper in frustration.

 

It must have been caught in the desk somehow. I crawled out from under the desk and stuffed the paper into my pocket and put the chair back where I found it. I looked around to make sure everything was mint. It was. He wouldn’t be able to tell I’d been snooping. I grabbed the crate with the records and quickly left, jogging until I reached the edge of the woods where I spotted the back of Tse’s table as he disappeared between the trees.

Chapter 19

Claire

 

My phone buzzed with news of Neil’s party in the woods. Part of me was curious to see who showed and who he showed up with. Another part of me was annoyed that he’d sent me the invitation at all. I thought I’d made it crystal clear how I felt about him. Maybe he saw me mentally undressing him when we bumped into each other at the library.

 

He had looked so good in my mind. I shivered involuntarily as those dirty thoughts of him being sweaty and deep inside me rolled through my mind’s eye. I deleted the text message and then started one of my own. While most of the limited student body was going to be dancing in the woods I could experiment with Will.

 

He had stopped me yesterday from going down on him but I had figured he was probably just embarrassed. I’d heard my neighbor next door going at it with her boyfriend and he’d probably heard the same thing.

 

Claire: Most everyone will be at the party tonight. R U going?

 

I sighed softly as I looked around my room, mentally making a list of things I needed to do. I heard my phone ping when I added my fifth item.

 

Will: Only if U R. Did you want to go?

 

Claire: Not really. I was thinking maybe we could b alone. It will b very quiet on campus.

 

Will: :-D Where u now? Where did u want 2 b alone? The library? The fountain?

 

I blushed as the thoughts of me going down on Will in either of those places raced through my mind.

 

Claire: I was thinking ur place this time. Will ur roommie b there?

 

Will: No. He’s DJing at the party.

 

Claire: Ur place then? 2nite?

 

Will: Sure. Don’t eat. I’ll get us something.

 

Claire: K. Sounds good. :-) C u tonight.

 

I grabbed my laundry and headed towards the campus laundry facility. Instead of having laundry in each building we just had one big laundromat. As I opened two washers to shove my clothes in I looked around and groaned softly. Neil was here. He was sitting in front of the dryers and was fiddling with his phone. If I stayed away from him he probably wouldn’t even know I was there.

 

I slid my card through the reader, poured in the soap and then quietly shut the lids. I heard his voice and looked up to see him standing next to me, his hand on the washer next to mine, his hot body leaning towards it.

 

“Claire-bear. It looks like you might need another washer.” He reached across me, his bicep brushing my breast. My nipple puckered at that light, seemingly innocent touch. I sucked in a breath and exhaled quickly as I saw his hand picking up my panties.

 

I snatched my panties from him and stuffed them back into the basket. “I do but they’re all full. It’ll have to wait.” I could feel the blush on my face.

 

He leaned back, giving me back my personal space, a smirk on his face. “Did you run out?”

 

“That… is none of your business.” I was gritting my teeth. He made me so angry sometimes. Why was he talking to me like we were old chums? I was still very hurt by his indiscretion with Justice. Most of the time I could protect myself, I’d been doing it for years by focusing on other people. But that night he should’ve protected me. It was the right thing to do, especially if he had cared about me. But he didn’t, not outside of the bedroom. He wasn’t capable of those feelings.

 

“Testy. I do hope you’re coming to my party. You need to relax a little.” He kept his hands to himself and I was grateful for that. But I watched as his eyes took in my body.

 

“I’m not. I’m going to be hanging out with Will… at his place. But he will probably relax me just fine. Thanks for your concern.” He snorted and I frowned at him. Did he think I was joking? Making it up? I turned to him and put my hand on my hip. “What on Earth do you think is funny?”

 

“You thinking Will is going to relax you. He’s not into people like you.” My heart felt a pang. People like me? Good girls? He thought I wasn’t good enough for Will. He probably thought I was not good enough for him either. He rubbed his eyes with the fingers of one hand and then pinched his nose. “Claire, I didn’t mean it like that.” I searched his aura. Turquoise and bright green. The bright green was always there. He was trying to protect someone. Me or Will or himself? I wasn’t sure.

I shook my head and stopped him before he could say more. “Whatever. Did you want something?” He stared at me for a minute, I saw the turquoise shimmer and then fade, a dark cherry red came into his aura. He was getting angry. Good. I tried to hold back my own smug smile.

 

“Not a damn thing. Just thought maybe you’d want to know that your lover boy is into dudes.” I stared at him, gawking. He had some nerve. He was so angry he’d throw around false accusations like that. Did he think I’d dump Will because he told me a lie about him?

 

“That’s ridiculous. Neil, if you’re trying to win me back you’re not doing a good job. In fact you’re doing a real shitty job.” He snorted again and I clenched my fists at my sides.

 

“If I were trying to win you back, love, I’d already have you.” He was still angry with me but his words were probably true, I didn’t need to search his aura to see that. The fact that he didn’t want to win me back stung. I grabbed the rest of my dirty laundry and turned away. He grabbed my arm. “I just don’t want you to get hurt.” The turquoise flicker was back and I narrowed my eyes, searching his face again.

 

“I didn’t know you cared so much.” I turned my nose up a little. He didn’t care when I wasn’t there when he woke up after homecoming. I wasn’t sure he was capable of caring the way I needed him to. I saw him flinch and I thought it was probably for the best that he continued to keep his distance.

 

“Harsh. I’ve cared about you for a long time. That doesn’t go away just because you don’t like to play the way I do.” He smiled softly, knowing the remark would bite at me.

 

I yanked my arm from his grasp, dropped my laundry basket in front of one of the washers I’d occupied and rushed into the bathroom. Neil was just trying to hurt me. And it was working. He was clearly still in the mindset that I was ridiculous for not letting being intimate with someone be as casual as he allowed it to be. It wasn’t casual. I didn’t want to give that part of myself to everyone and anyone. Why did he think I waited so long?

 

I waited in the bathroom until I knew my cycle was done. When I came out Neil was gone.

 

****************

 

I knocked on Will’s door and looked down at my green chiffon dress and smoothed out a couple of wrinkles. I heard the door open and I looked up, smiling. Will was there, tall, masculine, and wearing only black lounge pants low on his waist. I absently licked my lips as my gaze roamed from his large pecs to his chiseled abs and to the muscular V that led to the nether parts that I had yet to see. His thumb went under my chin and brought my attention back to his face, which was smiling softly. His ice blue eyes were crinkled a little at the corners. He hadn’t shaved and his hair was mussed. He looked good enough to friggin’ eat.

 

“Hi.” I blinked innocently, putting my hands behind my back to keep them from yanking his pants down.

 

“Hi.” He smoothed his thumb over my jaw and then stepped back so I could come in. “Sorry I didn’t dress up. I haven’t been feeling very well.” My heart sank just a little as I turned to look at him as he closed the door behind me.

 

“Oh no… can I get you anything? Should I go?” He shrugged his wide shoulders and shoved his hands into the pockets of his pants as I stepped further into the room.

 

“That’s up to you. I’d hate to get you sick too. But if you wanted to stay and watch a movie I’d love the company.” I nodded slowly and looked him over again as I weighed those options. I could stay and cuddle with Will, potentially get sick. Or I could leave and … and what? Go to Neil’s stupid party? The choice was a no brainer.

 

“What do you want to watch?” I smiled brightly. He returned the smile, though not fully and went to lay down on his bed. He put one hand on his stomach and the other behind his propped head.

 

“Whatever you want, babe. I’ll probably be asleep as soon as you warm me up.” I shrugged my shoulders softly and turned to look at what the boys had to offer. Action movies mostly. I pulled out a couple and held them up when I turned back to him.

 

“Aliens or Terminator?” He pointed to the one on the left. “Terminator it is!” I popped the movie in and got comfortable spreading myself over him after I took off my shoes. I could hear his heartbeat under my head. It was beating slow and steady. I put my hand on his chest and slowly moved it down towards his waist band. His heart continued to beat slow and steady. Hmm. I dipped my fingers underneath his band and he grabbed my hand, pulling it up to his lips. He kissed my fingers and put my hand back on his chest. He pat my hand a couple times, his attention focused on the tv, as he tried to placate me.

 

“I don’t feel good, Claire. I’m not in the mood right now.” I nodded my agreement but inside I was so confused. Neil was getting into my head. He was ruining this relationship, which is exactly what he wanted. I was not going to let him hurt me. I raised my head and quickly pressed my lips to his. He moaned against my lips and his hands went into my hair, gripping it tight and holding me close.

 

I moaned in return and tried to pull away but we were stuck in the same situation as before. This time I was ready though. I let myself get pulled into it, at least I tried. I tried to let go. I tried to get lost in him. Something still felt off, something felt wrong.

His tongue assaulted mine and then his teeth nibbled on my lower lip. He groaned once more against my lips and then he flipped me over on the mattress and pushed my dress up. I pushed up onto my hands and knees and tried to escape him but his hand was strong on my waist, holding me down. His other hand was absent briefly but came back and ripped my panties off. They fell onto the bed beneath us. I heard myself whimper.

 

“Will?” I looked over my shoulder and saw a man possessed. He was not the calm, unresponsive man he was a few minutes ago. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to gather my thoughts in the brief seconds I had. All I could think was that this was my fault. I had kissed him. I opened my eyes, panting hard, anticipating what might be coming. Time was up. He rammed into my virgin asshole and a scream escaped from my lips.

 

I barely heard his own scream above my own. The pain must’ve been bad for him too. He pulled back and muttered a curse before running to the bathroom. Tears had sprung in my eyes and fell free when I moved off the bed. I sucked in a breath with each movement as I headed for the exit. This was a nightmare. As my hand touched the doorknob I felt strong arms around my waist.

 

“Claire, I’m so sorry.” He pressed his lips to my cheek and I felt shivers fall through me, shivers of fear. Shivers of disgust. Shivers of hopelessness. This is how it was going to be forever. I could never kiss a man again. Unless he was like Neil, love resistant.

 

I tried to keep the shivers out of my voice, “I know. I shouldn’t have kissed you.” He kissed my neck softly.

 

“Please don’t go…are you alright?” I nodded, my body feeling numb compared to my ass which was on fire. Served me right for kissing him, for tempting him. For playing with fire I got burned.

 

“I’ll be okay, I just need to rest, I think.”

 

“So rest here with me.”

 

I shook my head and reached back putting my hand on his cheek. “I don’t know how its going to feel later. I just want to soak in a bath, pop some pills and go to bed.”

 

“Sorry…” he whispered. I believed he was.

 

“I hope you feel better, Will. Sorry for tempting us both. I’ll text you later.” He hesitantly let me go. I felt the burn from my stupidity all the way across campus.

Chapter 20

Neil

 

Despite the fact that I was sober and didn’t end up rolling around in the grass with a couple of girls, I had a great time at my party. Even though I’d invited Claire, she didn’t show. I hadn’t really expected her to come but it still bugged me a little.

 

I helped Tse break down after the party and carried his crate back to his dorm. Will was sleeping and Claire was nowhere in sight. I couldn’t help but feel relief. If I’d seen her sleeping in his arms, covering up in surprise at being caught with him naked in his bed, I think I would’ve killed him…at the very least I would’ve hurt him very badly.

 

I didn’t get up at my usual time so I had to sneak my daily run in right before lunch. And that’s when I saw him, Will. He had a huge bouquet of flowers in one hand and a comically large box of chocolates under his other arm. I wondered what the hell he’d done to warrant not only flowers but chocolates. He was breaking out the big guns. Perhaps they were for another girl. My curiosity got the best of me and I followed him, from a safe distance, of course, I didn’t want him to know I was following him.

He was headed for Claire’s dorm but then again all the girls lived there. I let him get the lead and then went into the dorm behind him but across the dorm and then up so that I could walk by without seeming suspicious.

 

I could see him at her door as I stepped through the stairwell into the hallway. He was speaking low and his eyebrows were drawn together, his shoulders hunched. He was definitely apologizing, begging. He held out the gifts and I saw her shake her hands. She wasn’t going to accept his gifts. What the hell had he done? I had to find out, I walked casually down the hallway, keeping my earbuds in, making look as if I couldn’t hear them. But I could.

 

“What do you want me to do?” He asked, his voice gruff, strained.

 

"I just need some time to figure out what I want to do. What happened was...scary and -very- hurtful. Flowers and chocolates aren't going to fix the issues that we have." Her voice was soft and sounded almost normal. She was going to cry. I had to stop myself from running down there to bash that idiot's face in. He wasn't allowed to make her cry.

 

“I just miss you, Claire. I don’t feel whole unless you’re with me.”

 

“Its the kissing,” I passed by them and his voice dropped lower. “Will.” The flowers and chocolates made a thump mixed with crackling leaves sound as he dropped them to the ground. I turned my head and saw him wrap his arms around her and kiss her. Her hands were on his shoulders trying to push him off. What the hell did he think he was doing? I was about to turn around when Will pulled back, his jaw clenched so tight I thought for sure it was going to pop.

 

“See. I. Can. Control. Myself.” I could tell he was using every single ounce of willpower not to throw her against the nearest surface. I turned back around and scratched at my forehead to try to calm the burning in my chest which I assumed was anger.

 

“…Can you? Kiss me again.” I heard the disbelief in her voice and then the moan as his lips must’ve pressed against hers. I walked away quickly before I let my imagination put them together in her bed.

 

I waited outside the dorm, pacing. My anger rose with each passing minute that I was down there by myself. Fifteen minutes passed until Will pushed opened the doors. He didn’t even look at me until I was standing in front of him. He tried to step around me but I put my hand on his chest and pushed. He was a good foot taller than me and built like a train but I didn’t give a fuck at that moment.

 

“What the hell, dude?” He stopped and looked me over, a small smile coming to his lips. He was sizing me up and had deemed me an unworthy opponent. That was his first mistake. Actually his second. His first mistake was fucking with Claire.

 

“What can I do for you, Pretty Boy?” He folded his arms over his chest and I clenched my jaw in anger.

 

“You need to stay the hell away from Claire. I don’t know what’s going on in that simple little mind of yours but I know its something dark.”

 

“I am in love with her. Back off and stay out of our business.” My fists curled at my sides and my voice dropped low.

 

“What is she allergic to? Who was her first celebrity crush? What are her dreams? Hopes? Aspirations? Do you know any of those things?” I gave him a split second to respond and then continued, “No. You don’t because you’re not in love with her. You just want to fuck her. Just like every other dude with a dick between his legs on this campus. Stay the fuck away from her.”

 

“You know what? I’ve had enough of your filthy mouth.” I saw his fist pull back and ducked as he swung at my face. I bent over and rammed my head into his stomach, hoping like hell that it was enough to knock the air out of his lungs. I heard him grunt but it wasn’t enough. I felt his fists pounding on my back, each curled fist like a hammer, I heard some cracking. I pushed him away and I quickly fell back to reassess, the pain in my back was searing each time I drew in a breath.

 

The bastard was still smiling at me. I lunged for him again, I saw his fist coming but it was too late. The world turned black.

Chapter 21

Claire

 

I threw the flowers into the trashcan with an angry huff. How could he think that I wanted to be alone with him, be intimate again with him after he’d done what he did last night. It gave me shivers just thinking about it. I had to distance myself from him. I wasn’t ready to be alone with him and kissing him gave me the creeps.

 

I didn’t sleep well at all last night, I was tossing and turning and every time I closed my eyes I was reliving the feeling of being violated. He violated me. I needed some girl time. Desperately.

 

Claire: Hey girl, u awake?

 

Merit: Now I am. What’s up?

 

Claire: I need some girl time.

 

Merit: What happened? Did u go 2 Neil’s party?

 

Claire: No. Did u go?

 

Merit: Yeah. It wasn’t totally lame. And every time I saw Neil he wasn’t sucking face. It was kind of amazing actually.

 

My stupid heart was fluttering at the thought of Neil being less girl-centric.

 

Claire: Good 4 him. Maybe he’ll let me set him up soon.

 

Merit: So tell me what happened last night!!!

 

Claire: I was with Will… and it did not end well. I kissed him.

 

Merit: OMG. Did he attack U again?

 

Claire: Yes… but… the wrong end.

 

I stared at my phone waiting for those three little dots to appear. I bit my lower lip worriedly and glanced around my room. My butt was still hurting. I needed to go out to get some pain killers at the very least. I grabbed my student card and shoved it into my back jean pocket. My phone chirped. I responded as I walked out my door.

 

Merit: Ouch? I’m not even sure what 2 say, I’m shocked!

 

Claire: Yes, ouch. I don’t recommend it. I’m headed 2 the Union 4 some meds. Meet me there?

 

Merit: Sure. C U soon.

 

I put my phone into my other pocket and sighed. The temperature was dropping little by little every morning. I zipped up my hoodie and froze in my tracks as I spotted Neil on the ground, a little crowd of people around him all buzzing about what they should do.

 

My feet moved into action and I ran to his side. I pointed a girl and ordered her to go press the Blue Emergency button and then I told everyone else to back off. Neil’s face was already turning black and blue around his left eye and cheek. A trickle of blood was coming out of his mouth. I wiped it gently and ran my hand over his hair gently. “Neil? Neil can you hear me?” He didn’t respond.

 

The blue strobe light above the light was circling around and around and it wasn’t long before a security officer found us. “What happened here?” The girl answered because I couldn’t. I hadn’t seen anything.

 

“A big dude punched him out and then walked away. No one wanted to stop him because he looked menacing.”

 

“What did he look like? What color hair?”

 

“Blonde.” My eyes widened and looked between Neil, the officer and the girl. Will did this? Why were they even fighting? The security officer spoke into his walkie talkie and another few minutes passed before an ambulance came to pick Neil up off the sidewalk.

 

I felt tears sting my eyes, I felt so helpless. I hated Neil for what he did to me but I still cared about him. I knew I always would, no matter what he did to me. I wiped at my eyes as I backed away from the bed on wheels. I made a mental note to go check on him later if he was on campus and then my eyes met Justice’s. She looked just as distraught over Neil’s unconscious state. My feet went into motion again and I headed towards Will’s dorm. He had some explaining to do.

 

I knocked on Will’s door and shifted impatiently from foot to foot. The door opened and without looking I unloaded.

 

“What in the hell is your pro-” My fire died down when I realized it was Will’s roommate, Tse, that I was yelling at. I felt my cheeks blush, showing my embarrassment. “Sorry, Tse… is Will here?”

 

Tse nodded and stepped back, he had a hat on. “Yeah. He’s taking a shower, he’ll be out in a few. Make yourself at home.”

 

My voice softened quite a bit as I sat down on Will’s bed. “Thanks Tse.”

 

He nodded again, “See ya,” and then he was gone, the door closing behind him. I looked around, the bathroom door was closed and I could hear the shower running. Did I stay where I was and wait for him to come out all drippy and in a towel or did I rush in there and give him a piece of my mind when he was most vulnerable?

 

I stood up, heart pounding, and went into the bathroom. I was about to pull back the curtain when I heard him moaning. I froze and slowed my breathing so he wouldn’t hear me. I tiptoed to the edge of the curtain and peeked in. He was hunched over, his large hand was wrapped around his equally large dick and he was stroking himself. I couldn’t tear my eyes away, he was a beautiful specimen of man. His cock filled his hand so perfectly, the water made it glisten. When his release came his huge body shuddered and a name spilled from his lips. Not mine. Not even female. I gasped and he turned, spraying his seed on the curtain and my hand. I gasped again and disappeared from his view. I grabbed toilet paper and wiped at my knuckles. Ew. I was still wiping when he pulled back the shower curtain. I stared at him and he stared at me.

 

It was a stare down to see who was going to do or say something first. It was going to be me. I threw the toilet paper in the trash and walked quickly towards the door leading back to his bedroom. Before my hand touched the handle I felt his warm wet hand on my shoulder, pulling me back. I screamed and turned around, my fist was flying. He wasn’t expecting such expert ninja moves from me and left himself open and my fist connected with his jaw, his head turned to the side.

 

My vision blurred from the pain of actually hitting someone and I shook out my fist and then cradled it to my chest. He let me go in his surprise and I ran like hell out of the bathroom. He was hot on my tail and grabbed me again before I got to the door. “Claire! Get back here!”

 

I screamed again and tried to kick him but before I could get my balance my feet were off the ground. He had his hands around my waist and was pulling me up. I kicked him with the heels of my tennis shoes but it was no use. He was breathing rapidly in my ear and I felt goosebumps break out across my arms. “Please don’t hurt me…” I begged, I had nothing else in me.

 

He snorted and then put me down, I tried to bolt but his large arm was around my throat and slowly, painfully slowly I felt my airway closing. I wondered if this was what happened to Neil and why it was happening to me. And then darkness enveloped me.

Chapter 22

Neil

 

“…Neil….Neil can you hear me?….” Her sweet voice filled my darkness. I was waiting for the light, waiting for the path to light itself so I could go that way. But there was nothing, just darkness. When I heard her voice I felt myself move towards it. The pain came back, the searing pain in my head cut through her voice and the other voices that were slowly coming back to my conscious. It hurt, it was overwhelming. But I had to see her. I had to find her.

 

I opened my eyes just as I was being wheeled towards the ambulance. I saw her blonde hair blowing in the light breeze as she walked away. She looked like she was on a mission, her shoulders squared, her pace quick. I assumed it was her, I couldn’t be sure as I didn’t see her face. I was probably hallucinating.

 

At the school infirmary they asked me all kinds of questions ranging from my lingering symptoms to information I should be able to recall, such as my name. I recalled all of it. Everything. The school security force was out searching for Will after I told them what happened. They wouldn’t let me leave my bed even though I was adamant that I was fine. I didn’t need them to baby me, I needed to get the hell out of here and go to Claire. My jaw clenched as I thought of her and Will together. My stomach rolled and I swallowed hard to keep my breakfast down.

 

The nurse insisted that I be under supervision for at least the next few hours while they waited for blood tests to come back and monitored my vitals. I groaned and lay back. I was about to close my eyes to rest when the door to my room opened. Merit, panting from running, was staring at me.

 

“Oh thank Zeus! Where the hell is Claire?” She looked around my room as I sat up, my fingers clenched the sides of my bed as fear gripped me.

 

“What the hell do you mean ‘Where the hell is Claire?’” I felt my nostrils flare and my insides squeeze as all the possibilities ran through my mind. I noticed how pale she was as she shook her head and stepped into the room, closing the door behind her.

 

“She was supposed to meet me at the Union and she never showed. I texted and texted and called and her phone was turned off. I went by the dorm and saw fresh blood on the pavement and rushed here, hoping she fell and was here but…she’s not…”

 

“I saw her heading for the boys’ dorm before they closed the doors on the ambulance.” Merit turned for the door and was a few steps away from leaving me alone in the room. “Merit! Please! If something did happen to her and Will was responsible you’re not going to be able to fix it by yourself.”

 

“Well I can’t just sit here and do nothing!” She was panicked, she needed to calm down.

 

I leveled my voice, pretending I was the eye of the storm, quietly calm. “You can’t run in there guns blazing either. Take some breaths and think. What is your plan?”

 

She threw her hands up, exasperated. “To make sure Claire is okay!”

 

I smiled a little, I couldn’t help it. Women were adorable when they were all worked up, it was one of the many things I admired about them. “And if she isn’t? What then?”

 

“I’ll cross that damn bridge when I get to it!” The nurse walked in just then, froze and then started to step back out.

 

I yelled to stop her, “Can I go?!”

 

She stepped back in and nodded. “The doctor signed the discharge paperwork so you’re free to go, Mr. Begley. But you need to rest and come back if you experience any worrisome symptoms. Like a headache that won’t go away, dizziness, mental confusion…” I nodded and unstrapped myself, sitting up. I didn’t have time for her babbling.

 

I grabbed my clothes and quickly put them back on. I grabbed Merit by her arm and pulled her out of the room, taking the papers the nurse was shoving at me as I headed for the exit.

 

“Neil, you can’t come with me either. The nurse just said you need rest!”

 

I let go of her arm and looked over her wardrobe. She had a belt. I could use that. I looked her in the eye, “I can handle it. Let’s go find our girl.”

 

**************************

 

Merit knocked on Will’s door. I sighed and put my hand on the doorframe as I waited, pretending that I was impatient to cover the fact that it hurt overtime I took in a breath. She knocked again and there was still no answer. I balled my fist and felt the wood rattle under my force as it met the door. I clenched my jaw in frustration and walked to the other side of the hallway, pulling out my phone. I texted Tse.

 

Neil: Hey man. Urgent. Can u come 2 ur room?

 

Tse: What’s up? I’m in the middle of something.

 

Neil: If u don’t come back right now I’m going 2 kick in ur door and all ur stuff will b exposed 2 whoever walks by. GET HERE NOW

 

I shoved my phone into my back pocket and looked up and down the hall. I’d give him five minutes and then the damn door was going down. Merit was looking at me expectantly and I raised my eyebrows.

 

“What’s the plan now?”

 

I shrugged my shoulders as casually as I could muster. My bloody ribs were screaming. “I warned Tse that I was going to bust in his door if he didn’t come open it, like ten seconds ago.” I pushed off the wall, ignoring the pain, time was up, I didn’t have the patience right now. I pulled my foot back and kicked at the door just under the door handle where I figured it would be the weakest. I got in one good kick and then Tse was yelling as he ran towards us.

 

“I’m here, dammit!!” He pushed me out of the way and unlocked the door, letting us in.

 

I rushed in with Merit in tow and looked around. There was no evidence that either of them were in there. They must’ve gone out. There were wet footprints, giant ones so they must’ve belonged to the ogre, that went from the bathroom to the door. A damp towel was discarded carelessly on his bed. I went back to the desk and shuffled through the few papers that were there. I slammed my fist on his desk and let out a string of Irish curses.

 

Tse looked between us, still trying to catch his breath. “What’s going on?” His brow furrowed in concern.

 

“Claire is missing.” Merit said softly, calmly, she’d gotten her shit together as I was losing mine.

 

“Shit…” Tse muttered. “Is there anything I can do to help? She was here when I left like two hours ago. She looked like she was ready to murder Will… maybe she’s hiding his body?” He was trying to lighten the mood but it certainly wasn’t making me feel like laughing. It made me feel like punching him in the face.

 

“If only there was a way we could trace his phone. Then maybe, if it was on, we could figure out where they were.”

 

Tse sat down at his desk and started typing on his computer. “It’s going to take me a minute but I can do that.”

 

"Music -and- computers? Really?" I made my way over to his desk and stood behind him as I watched him navigate through shit I couldn't even begin to comprehend.

 

“They go pretty well together, actually. And you can only create for so long and then you need a break.” I watched in awe as the screen blinked and flickered, lines and lines of gibberish appeared and he typed back more gibberish and then some numbers appeared. He pointed to the screen. “These are the GPS coordinates on his phone.”

 

I pulled out my phone and typed it into my mapping app and let the machine do the work for me. They were outside of campus boundaries. Claire was at risk. More curses left my throat. “Fuck!” I ran my hand violently through my hair and bent over as the burning moved between my ribs. I stood back up and looked at Merit. “They’re off campus.” I shook my head trying to concentrate. Why would they go there? Maybe it was a date. Maybe I was over reacting. Maybe it wasn’t. I couldn’t take that chance.

 

“Where?” Merit tried to get a view of the screen.

 

“Fucked if I know! Two hours north of here. Tse I’ll text you, we’ll need coordinates again to see where he’s going.”

 

Merit gasped behind me. “How are we going to get her? We don’t have a car.” I grabbed her wrist and pulled her with me.

“Then we better get a fucking move on and figure it out!”

 

Lucky for me I had lots of friends. It wasn’t hard to find a car to borrow. Once I was behind the wheel I peeled off campus like a bat out of hell. I had to go get the girl and ignore the searing pain in my body.

Chapter 23

Claire

 

I inhaled deeply as I suddenly regained consciousness. I opened my eyes and a scream ripped from my throat as I stared into the face of the immortal who had made me hide my entire nineteen years. Psyche’s marbled eyes stared into mine and I tried to pull away but my hands were tied behind the statue’s back. I pulled at my feet but they were tied together and to the statue’s feet. From a distance it probably looked like I was embracing it.

 

I looked around, trying to see anything aside from the cold stone in front of me. I heard a soft murmuring of voices behind me. I felt myself rocking and turned my head to the side, hiding my lips against my arm to keep the vomit in. The fear in my body was trying to come out. I was in a small boat with a large statue and I heard a laugh behind me. Goosebumps broke out on my arms as I realized it was Justice. What the hell was she doing here? I pulled at the ropes, testing their strength. They were not the largest of ropes but from my position I was not going to be unable to untie them.

The sun was setting in the distance and very soon it would be dark. I felt the boat wobble and then move backwards.

 

“Sorry, Claire.” Will’s voice sliced through my fear.

 

“I’m not.” Justice laughed again from behind me. I couldn’t see them but they were close.

 

“You don’t have to do this. Either of you. I won’t bother you, Justice. If this is about Neil…” Her snort cut through my response.

 

“This is not about Neil. This is about your Daddy and his wife’s vengeance. I only toyed around with Neil to torture you.”

 

Will sighed, “Yeah, that wasn’t the nicest thing to do.”

 

She laughed as she spoke, “I know, but it was so fun. And if I’m going to have to kill her anyway I may as well have some fun before it goes all dark and lethal.”

 

I felt my body shivering, there was nothing I could do to control it. “I don’t understand why you would do her bidding.”

 

“She has people we love, Claire. This is the only way she’ll give them back. We have no choice.” Will didn’t seem as happy as Justice did about the situation, but he was still going along with it.

 

“You do have a choice. Are you sure she'll give them back to you? Are you even sure she has them at all?? She's manipulative."

 

“Just like you, Claire. Manipulating people into falling in love.” Justice’s voice was spitting daggers. “If she’s lying to us she’ll get her dues.”

 

I was grasping at straws but it was all I had, I started moving my wrists and ankles, trying to loosen the knots, fray the ropes, anything I could as I tried to distract them further. “She’s immortal! What chance do you have against her?”

 

Justice sighed softly, “I’m bored, Will. Any last words for your almost lover?” There was the sound, it was so loud to my ears, of a match striking against the box. And then the whoosh as the lighter fluid inside my small boat caught fire. I screamed and was jolted backwards as the boat sailed across the water. I started to pull harder, my wrists and ankles red and raw where the rope was scraping my skin off. I could not hear anything aside from the crackling fire that was getting closer and closer to my body. I could not see anything aside from the flames against the black sky and the statue’s blank eyes.

 

The boat cracked beneath me and just as the flames were licking at my clothes I sank, the cold water a temporary relief.

Chapter 24

Neil

 

When the match hit the boat, I leapt into action, Merit’s belt in hand, ignoring for the moment the angry orange flames floating away. I jumped on Will’s back and pulled the belt tight around his thick neck. He reached up and behind him trying to pull me off of him. I pulled tighter on the belt. I felt nails cutting the flesh in my back but ignored it it was nothing compared to the other pain I was suffering from the damage he’d done earlier. I had to take down the beast. The beast who let the whore burn Claire into flames.

 

After a long minute he fell to his knees and then collapsed all the way. I held the grip a little longer than necessary to make sure he wouldn’t get up again and then I got up and turned around. Merit was standing over Justice’s limp body, a large jutted bloodied rock in her hands. She dropped it to the ground as she stared at Justice. I didn’t have time to watch, I needed to get to Claire.

 

I jumped into the water and then swam quickly to the boat. I wasn’t sure what I was going to find but I hoped like hell that Claire wasn’t dead. She couldn’t be dead. I wasn’t ready to let her go.

 

I dove down into the dark, freezing water and looked for her. I dove three times until I finally spotted something silvery. I clung to the hope that it was her and not just a fish. I reached out and it was her. My heart was aching with relief. My hands traced over her arms until I found the knots holding her to the god awful statue. I undid the knot and her hands fell free. I tried to pull her off but her feet were still stuck. I was running out of air. My lungs felt on fire. I pulled at the other knots until she was free. I grabbed her under her arms and brought her to the surface. I breathed in the sweet crisp air and swam to shore. Merit met us halfway and helped pull Claire to shore. She listened for her breath, felt for a pulse and then started CPR.

 

My body was involuntarily convulsing, trying to warm itself up. I stared at Claire’s pale face, her blue lips. I willed her to wake up. And then it struck me that she had woken me up. She had helped me out of the void, maybe I could do the same for her. I came close and held her head still between my legs. I couldn’t even feel her skin beneath mine because I was so numb from the cold.

 

“Claire…Claire-bear, come back to us…come back to me…” I stroked her hair as I stared down at her lifeless face. Suddenly her eyes opened and she coughed and then turned her face to the side and sputtered, water spilling onto the ground. I’d never felt such relief. This feeling was miles above what I felt after winning a football game, a tennis match, a bar brawl.

 

I wanted so badly to grab her and hold her body against mine. I wanted to feel every part of her pressing against every part of me. But I couldn’t. I moved back from her and stood up slowly. “Merit, we need to get someplace warm…” Hypothermia was a definite risk given how damn cold that water had been.

 

Merit hugged Claire as she sat up and then pulled her arm. She grabbed Claire’s arm and wrapped it over her shoulder so she could support her as we walked back to the car. Once inside I popped the trunk to search for anything that might help us until we got where we were going.

 

I snatched up two emergency blankets and stripped down. Merit’s cheeks colored and if I’d had the energy I would’ve teased her but I didn’t. “Strip down, Claire. You need to get out of those wet clothes.” I saw her shiver and she turned her beautiful blue eyes to me.

 

I pulled one of the blankets tightly around me. I got into the backseat and closed my eyes so I wouldn’t be caught staring as Claire stripped her clothes off.

 

She sat in the back next to me, a blanket around her too. I opened my eyes when I felt the car hum under my body and glanced over to look at Claire. She was still blue in her lips. I moved closer, closing the distance between us and put my arm around her, pulling her into me. She tried to resist but I whispered softly against her hair. “We need to keep each other warm until we get to the hospital, Claire.”

 

She was still tense in my arms and I couldn’t blame her. Her boyfriend and my chronic lover tried to kill her. I couldn’t blame her for not wanting to be close to me, the guy who she said should’ve protected her. And she was right. I didn’t protect her. I got to her too late. I failed her. I hated failing, losing. It harrowed me like almost nothing else.

 

When we were back to normal again I would make sure I protected her from harm. Her father’s wife was obviously not going to play fair. She wanted Claire dead.

Chapter 25

Neil

 

We both went to the infirmary and were both discharged by the next afternoon. I insisted that she be treated first and she was gone before I had a chance to see her again.

 

I had English with her today and I was hoping that I’d get the chance to talk to her. I grabbed up my books and opened the door. I almost stepped on an envelope that was propped against the doorframe. I bent down to retrieve it and turned it over in my hand before opening it. There was a thick bronze chain with a dull Irish penny on it dated 1976, my mother’s birth year. I felt a sting at my eyes and blinked several times while I clutched the necklace in one hand and pulled out the note with the other.

 

Neil,

I will forever be indebted to you for what you did. I know this doesn’t even begin to compare to what you did for me but it was the best thing I could think of.

-Claire

 

I closed my eyes and thought about the first time I’d met Claire. We’d been thirteen, hormones had just been awakening. I thought she was pretty when she went walking beside me and this guy Trevor. He had asked me about where I came from and I pulled out the lucky Irish penny my mother had given me on her death bed. It was the only thing I’d had of her. The penny fell to the ground. Before I had a chance to chase after it she’d grabbed it and held it out to me on her open palm. She’d smiled at me, her hair was stringy but her smile was inviting and warm. My mother used to smile at me like that, like she was always genuinely happy to see me.

 

“I think you dropped this?” Her eyes fell to the penny and then raised to mine. “The bird is very pretty.”

 

“Thanks,” I’d said, “My mom gave it to me.” I snatched the coin from her fingers and shoved it deep into my pants pocket. She tilted her head at me as she took in my accent.

 

“You’re Scottish?”

 

I scoffed at her, Americans had no sense of geography. “Irish.” I was drawn into her eyes and my body was starting to respond to her. I nodded to some girl who was staring at her back. “Its not nice to gawk, you should probably get a move on.” Trevor chuckled and Claire’s cheeks went flush with color. I’d felt like an ass for embarrassing her but I wasn’t going to let that show.

 

“Welcome to Aquanis,” she’d said softly before turning away. I watched her walk away wishing she were wearing pants so I could see what shape her bottom actually was. Trevor nudged me with his elbow and I looked at his shit-eating grin.

 

“Someone has a crush on the elusive Claire Hughes.” I scoffed and did what all boys do when faced with the realization that they aren’t as smooth as they’d like to think. I lied.

 

“Her boobs aren’t big enough. I like a full rack on my ladies.” Trevor laughed again and wrapped his arm around my neck, pulling me towards home room.

 

“We are going to be good friends, I can tell already. Wait til you meet Kelly, she’s totally stacked.” And she was. And I lost my virginity to her a few weeks after that.

 

I re-read the note and slipped the chain into my pocket. I’d lost my lucky penny last year when I’d gone backpacking in Europe for the summer. I had no idea that I’d told anyone about losing it, much less Claire. This was one of the reasons why I’d never let anyone hurt her ever again, myself included.

 

I was the last one into class again and had no choice but to take the seat across the room from Claire. I glanced at her all class long but she never once looked my way. Was it proper to thank someone for a thank you gift? I was sure that it was. I stood up quickly when the professor dismissed us. I tried to head off Claire but she was out the door before I could stop her.

 

The girl in front of me turned around and told me to quit pushing her and I felt my shoulders fall. “Sorry,” I mumbled. I’d just wanted to get to her, to thank her for the gift. I hadn’t been thinking about anything else and didn’t until I was able to catch up with her outside. I was panting softly as I stepped in front of her, blocking her path and making her stop. Her blue eyes looked at mine and I felt my heart race faster.

 

“Hey. I just wanted to thank you for the gift. I-That was-”

 

She shook her head and shrugged her shoulders softly, cutting me off. “Cheesy, I know. I’m sorry. I just wasn’t sure what to get for someone who saved my life. Merit got a homemade coupon book for free chores. Do you want to swap?” The thought of a coupon book redeemable for services from Claire was making blood rush to the place below the belt that I was trying to keep in check. I shook the thought of her dusting my room in a french maid costume out of my head.

 

“Uh, no. No, it was very thoughtful. So, thank you.” She smiled softly and nodded, evidently satisfied that I’d accepted her gift.

 

“The least I could do, really.” She glanced behind me and I turned to see Merit a few feet away, waiting for Claire. She waved to me and I nodded to her and then turned back to Claire.

 

“I’ll uh-” She nodded, waved her hand in a semi-circle at my chest and stepped around me to join her friend.

 

“Yeah. See you later, Neil.”

 

I rubbed the back of my neck as I watched her walk away. Merit smiled sadly at me. Her pity made me boil. It was obvious to everyone how I felt about Claire. Obvious to everyone but her. I had to keep telling myself that it was better this way. I wouldn’t bring her anything but pain when we had to part ways after college was over. I was done hurting her but my life suddenly felt very empty at the realization that in a few years Claire would no longer be in it.

Chapter 26

Claire

 

Merit pulled me in close to her as we walked towards the dorms. “Girl, he’s got it bad for you. I can see it.”

 

I rolled my eyes and smiled. “Neil? No, he’s probably just lost without Justice.” My smile faltered, “I can’t believe they’re both dead.”

 

She hugged me tighter to her, “I can’t believe they actually tried to…,” her voice faded as she killed the thought from coming out, “I can’t imagine being here without you.” I nodded in acknowledgement as we walked together.

“And I’m sure Neil is feeling the same about Justice. They’ve been sleeping together for years. You can’t sleep with someone and not feel something for them, can you?”

 

She shrugged. “We all knew Justice had her ways of making a guy sleep with her. We’re lucky that the council decided to cover it up or Neil and I would be in jail.”

 

“Are you going to their vigils tonight?”

 

She scoffed, “Heck no! They deserved what they had coming.”

 

I frowned at her, “Merit… Psyche threatened them. Imagine what you would do if she’d kidnapped me and told you you’d only be able to save me if you killed someone else. That would be a hard choice.” She was quiet for a few minutes and then sighed softly.

 

“Do you want me to go?”

 

I hugged her softly with the arm that was around her waist. “It doesn’t matter to me. I just wish you wouldn’t bad mouth them. It was a terrible situation for everyone.”

 

She sighed again and reluctantly nodded. “Fine. You’re right. …Good job changing the subject, by the way.” I let a little chuckle escape, releasing some of the tension.

 

“You’re terrible. Just because he saved my life doesn’t change anything. He’s still Neil Begley. He is still the star quarterback, still every girl on campus’s dream. He will still be leaving just like everyone else in a few years. He should find a girl that will leave with him. And even if what you say is true, and he has feelings for me, I’m not going to be able to leave. He deserves something that will last forever.” I didn’t add it but I didn’t want to be hurt again. I didn’t want to give him my heart, I knew what he’d do with it. He’d crush it, just like he had before.

 

She shook her head and sighed. “I still think you’re selling him short. But I’ll let it go and take it easy on you…for now.”

 

“Thanks so much.” I chuckled again and bumped my hip with hers, parting us as we arrived to the dining hall.

Chapter 27

Neil

 

“Good morning!” The professor sure was in a chipper mood this morning. I sunk down into my seat a little, I was not feeling quite so chipper. I’d been tossing and turning most of the morning after waking up from my nightmare, going to Cassandra’s funeral after watching her drown, kissing her cold dead lips. The vigil for Justice and Will was packed and part of me felt bitter that they were being touted as victims. In the end darkness had lost so I was trying hard to let it go. “Today we’ll be discussing the guidelines for the last assignment of the semester.” He was rubbing in our faces that there was going to a two month break in a couple of weeks. I knew Claire would stay here and the thought of leaving her alone here was niggling at me. “The author who will star in all your assignments is none other than the extraordinary playwright and poet, Mr. William Shakespeare.” I looked around the room. Everyone was rapt with attention, no one was cheering though. I found it amazing that Shakespeare’s works had lasted so long and still captured such a wide audience. I hoped that for myself, to be remembered, to be revered.

 

“I’ve divided you into groups already and you will have to write a collaborative paper in which you will write the modern play – television. You will write three scenes in screenwriting format and then you will act out one of them. You can do a classical version or a modern twist, it’s up to you. In the past students have done live performances mostly but some have shown us their scene using the AV equipment. If you need such equipment you’ll need to let me know in advance.” The professor spent the rest of the class time going over how to properly write a screenplay. Just before it was time to leave he read out the groups. I sat up straighter when he’d said my name after Claire’s. He dismissed the class and I stood up slowly, watching Claire as she raced to the professor.

 

“I would much rather do ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ or ‘MacBeth’, is it possible I could switch with someone?” She was batting her beautiful eyelashes at the professor but as I saw him sigh heavily I knew he wasn’t going to give into her.

 

“I’m sorry, Miss Hughes, sometimes in life we have to work with others we may not get along with. I still expect a superior product.” Her shoulders slumped slightly and she nodded slowly. She stepped back and headed for the door. I caught up with her and spoke low as I brushed my shoulder against hers. I felt the sparks and I was pretty sure she did too judging by the jolt of her body and the blush on her cheeks.

 

“At least you tried, but it seems you’re stuck with me.” I inhaled her scent while I was still close enough to do so. I winced as I watched her step to the side, putting distance between us.

 

“Yes, it seems I am. When do you want to get together and do this?” She stepped to the side of the hallway to let others pass by us. I stopped with her, pressing my shoulder into the wall. She was trying her best to be cordial but it stung just a little that she didn’t want to spend time with me. I was dying to spend time with her. I should probably buy the professor a thank you bottle of whiskey.

 

“My days are pretty packed but my evenings are free if yours are.”

 

Her wide blue eyes searched mine and she nodded, breaking eye contact. “Sure. I’ll meet you in the library tonight so we can get started.” She didn’t give me a chance to respond. She walked in the opposite direction of where I needed to go. I let her.

 

*******************************

 

I wasn’t sure what time she wanted to meet at the library so I went there after dinner, freshly showered. As I shaved I realized I was getting dolled up for Claire and forewent the after-shave. I’d thrown on a black button down shirt and some jeans. I sat down at an empty table in a secluded corner of the library and I texted her after I’d let my backpack fall to the ground at my feet.

 

Neil: I’m here and ready 2 work when u r.

 

Claire: I’m here 2. Where r u?

 

Neil: Could b more fun if I don’t tell u.

 

I smirked as I thought about her walking around the library, craning her pretty little neck looking for me.

 

Claire: Or not.

 

I chuckled. She was feisty tonight. I informed her of how to find me and hadn’t completely wiped the smirk from my face when she approached and sat down across from me.

 

“What the hell is so funny, Begley?” She pulled out her notebook and her laptop, glancing at me between tasks.

 

I shook my head. “Oh, nothing. Why are you so angry tonight?”

 

“Because I’m here with you.” That wiped the smirk right off my face. Ouch. I sat up and frowned at her.

 

“Brutal, Claire.” I watched her face but it was steeled with anger.

 

She shook her head as she glanced at me. “Lets just get this over with.”

 

I sat back and frowned at her words, my hands covering my copy of Romeo and Juliet. “Fine. What scenes should we do? I was thinking Act 1 Scene 1 between Romeo and Benvolio, Act 1 Scene 5 when they meet and the death scene.” She was writing down what I’d said and nodded, not looking at me as she shifted her gaze to the computer.

 

“That’s fine. Do you want to do classical dialogue or try to modernize it?”

 

I thought about it and looked over the paper in front of me outlining what the professor wanted for the assignment. “He would like it more if we modernized it.”

 

She sighed and nodded, “More work. You’re right.”

 

She rubbed her forehead with an open palm and then opened her copy of Romeo and Juliet. She put her finger on the first scene and read it over. “So where should the setting be?”

 

“A dorm room.”

 

She nodded and typed the setting into the proper format on the screen and while she did I kept talking. “So we’ll rename Benvolio to Ben and Romeo can be Roman. So we start with Ben entering the dorm room that they share and he can say something like, ‘Hey, cuz, what’s up?’ And then Roman will reply, ‘What are you doing here, its late.’ and he’ll respond, ‘No, its early, like 9am dude.’” I waited, letting her catch that. She nodded as I spoke and she typed.

 

As we went through that scene my heart stuttered. Romeo was mourning the loss of a girl, a beautiful girl, a girl he loved, a girl who didn’t love him back. A girl who wouldn’t give him the time of day. I suddenly felt what Romeo did and after I read Romeo’s line I blurted my thoughts out to Claire, “So are you seeing anyone or…?” Her fingers stopped typing on the keyboard and she looked at me as if I had just sprouted another head.

“…I don’t see how that’s relevant to anything.” She was still frozen, watching me like a wolf, waiting to see what I would do. I shrugged my shoulders and flipped the page corners of the book upwards so it made a soft swooshing noise, trying to act casual.

“I was just curious. Your last two relationships didn’t work out so well I was just wondering when you were planning on getting back on the horse.” She looked at her screen and started typing again. She apparently wasn’t in the mood to answer my question. I put my hand on her wrist and squeezed softly. “Claire, come on. We’ve been friends for years. Just talk to me.” She pulled her hand away as if I’d scorched her.

“I don’t want to talk to you about my love life. I don’t want to be your friend anymore, Neil. I can’t. Lets just do this project, get an A, and move on with our lives.” I sat back slowly in my chair. She had no idea, probably, how beautiful she was when she was fighting back anger. It was all I had in me not to grab ahold of her so she could unleash it on me through her lips. I nodded slowly, it was all I could do.

Chapter 28

Claire

 

He was staring at me, undressing me with his eyes and it was making me extremely uncomfortable. Didn’t he know that when he looked at me like that I almost forgot about what had happened between us and what couldn’t happen again between us again? I cleared my throat and got back to business, hoping it would snap him out of his bedroom gaze.

 

“So, the next scene… what should the setting be?” I dared a glance and luckily he was looking at his book. He cleared his throat as he leaned over the text and ran a hand through his hair.

 

“A party?” His steel blue eyes met mine. “What do you think?”

 

I glanced at my copy of the play and shook my head. “I think its too close to the actual. Maybe we could make it at a game. Romeo is an opposing football player and Juliet is the cheerleader who stares at the quarterback on the opposing team.” I glanced at him and he was studying me, as if he didn’t know I was capable of being creative. I raised my eyebrows when he stared too long. “Well, what do you think?”

 

He scratched at the back of his neck and leaned back. “Yeah, that sounds great. Are we decided yet which scene we are going to act out ourselves?” A scene where I dressed a man, a scene where I was a cheerleader kissing Neil or a scene where I’m supposed to be dead and Neil kissed me… these were not tough choices. I was going to avoid kissing him.

 

“The first scene. I’ll be Benvolio and you will be Romeo.” He grinned at me and I tried to ignore how my body was reacting to it. I frowned at him. “What?”

 

"Afraid to kiss me, Ms. Hughes? You -know- I don't bite." I felt my cheeks color at the thought of him biting me. I pushed the thought away, it was his aim to tease me. I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction.

 

"And you -know- I just want to spare us both heartache." Our relationship would end with college, it was a dead-end-street.

 

“So you think I want to kiss you?”

 

“I know you want to kiss me. Its written all over your body.” I motioned to his spectacular body with my pen.

 

He chuckled. “You’re not wrong. Why don’t we do the football game scene?”

I scoffed at him, “I’m not going to concede to doing that scene just to prove to you that I’m not afraid to kiss you. The first scene will be the best one to film.”

 

“I disagree.” I glared at him, he looked so relaxed, so sure of himself sitting across from me. I jolted when I felt his shoe touch mine and he laughed at me…again. “Relax, Claire. Jeez. If you want to do the first scene, that’s fine.”

 

I did relax, letting out a sigh, but tried not to let my relief show beyond that, raising my chin. I looked back to the computer, “Good.” I glanced at him and he was still smiling at me, rather annoyingly. I needed to set him up with someone. Someone like me but a girl who could actually leave campus once college was over. It was my turn to smile, I had a plan. Finally. His eyebrows raised as he watched the play of emotions run across my face. “What’s wrong, love?” Oh how I loved throwing his pet name back at him.

 

He studied me for a moment longer and then chuckled, “Nothing, love. You just looked a little devious for a moment, as if you might be up to something.”

 

“Hmm, that doesn’t sound like me.”

 

He chuckled again, “Ah, I’ve known you, Claire-bear, it does sound exactly like you.” He looked at the time on his phone and then started to pack up his books.

 

“Where are you going?” I stayed in my seat, watching him rise, tucking his books under his arm.

 

“Going to miss me?” He smirked but didn’t wait for me to respond. “I have evening gym time. Mandatory. Have a good night, love.” I pressed my teeth together hard, irritated by the L word. I nodded and started to pack my things up as well.

 

“You too.” I didn’t dare another glance at him and didn’t stand up until I heard the distant ding of the elevator.

Chapter 29

Neil

 

After practice I checked my phone and I was greeted by a lovely gem.

 

Claire: Neil, complete the script 4 the death scene. I’ll complete 4 the football game. We need 2 meet up soon 2 film the scene. When r u free?

 

I decided the best time would be as soon as possible. The sooner we got together the more time I would get with her. Because if there was one thing I knew it was that I was planning on making lots of mistakes. I would remember the script for the rest of my life for as many times as I’d make us both say the lines.

 

Neil: Tomorrow night after the game?

 

Claire: K. Meet u at ur room an hour after.

 

The game was easily won, I was at my best, as always. After showering and putting on new clothes I pulled out my copy of Shakespeare, waiting for Claire to show up. I looked around my room, trying to find the best angles for the shot. I pulled out the laptop and set it in the corner opposite the bed and then frowned as I noted the moon shining through the window behind the bed. It was going to be hard to shoot a morning scene at night. As I pulled out my phone to text Claire there was a loud knock. I went to the door, phone in hand, and opened it. Claire nodded to me, her I-mean-business face back on. “Hey, I was just about to text you.”

She put two stapled copies several pages thick onto my bed after pushing past me into my room. “Oh? Why? Trying to get me to do the kissing scene again?”

 

I grinned, amused by her attitude. “No, actually. I realized that the morning scene with Ben and Roman won’t work when it’s pitch black outside the window.” I pointed and she followed. She sighed loudly.

 

“Dammit. Tomorrow morning then.” She didn’t even ask me, she just got up and went for the door.

I stepped in front of her, putting my hand on the door so she couldn’t open it. “Woah, woah. You’re here we may as well do something productive.” I stepped in closer to her, I couldn’t help it. It was like my body was magnetically attracted to hers.

 

She lifted her chin, her tongue moistened her lips, as if she thought I was going to kiss her. I wanted to, but I didn’t want to put her guard up. I was pretty sure she was testing me. “What did you have in mind?” Her voice was low, sexually charged. I felt my pants growing slightly tighter in response.

 

“We should run lines, practice a little.”

 

I saw her brows furrow in confusion and then they went up in surprise, “Really?”

 

I nodded, “Yeah. Makes sense, doesn’t it?”

 

She nodded too, looking a little dazed still, “Yeah…it does…”

 

I grinned at her. She looked like a deer in headlights, completely caught off guard by the fact that I wasn’t suggesting we neck, though that was an appealing thought. I grabbed a script off my bed and sat across the room from her. I didn’t need to scare her off with a wandering misguided hand on her knee.

 

I cleared my throat, glancing up at her, she was still staring at me. “Are you going to practice? If not then you should go, I’ve got work to do.”

 

She frowned and then rolled her beautiful eyes and then grabbed the script and held it up so she could read from it. She cleared her throat, “Hey cuz, what’s up?” I opened my mouth to say my line but a laugh came out instead.

 

Her expressive eyebrows raised in question and between chuckles I spoke, “I’m sorry I just… I can’t imagine you as a dude…I mean could you imagine me being Juliet?” She huffed and then stared at the script.

 

“So maybe Roman’s cousin is a girl. Bonnie.” I re-read the script as well and shrugged.

 

“I suppose so. It would probably be weird that she was busting in on her cousin, though.”

 

“Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe she’s just doing what her aunt asked of her, to keep tabs on her lovesick son.”

 

“Let’s give it a try anyway.” She nodded and gave me a look. I realized it was my line, “What are you doing here, its late?”

 

She paused and shook her head. “We should be practicing using the room like we’ll use it during filming in the morning.”

 

“Alright. Get off my bed then.” I got up and came closer. She quickly jumped up, clearly not trusting me, or herself, while both of us were on my bed. She ran through the first line again, acting it out this go around.

 

“Roman, its like 9am.” She grabbed a pair of jeans from my drawer and threw them at my face. I let them fall, caught up in the emotional despair Roman was feeling.

 

“Sorry, I must’ve been up all night licking my wounds. Did my dad come by here?”

 

She nodded, crossing her arms over her lovely chest. I tried not to stare, Roman wouldn’t do that to his cousin. “Yeah, what the hell has gotten into you?”

 

“I got dumped.” I grabbed the jeans and let them fall slowly to the floor.

 

“Dumped?” Her eyebrows shot up, surprised.

 

“Dumped.”

 

“She dumped you?”

 

“Yes, I love her but she didn’t love me.”

 

“Well that sucks, Roman. Love is awesome when its working, but when its over it can really suck.” She looked down at her feet and then her script, I wondered if she was speaking from personal experience.

 

“What sucks is that love is supposed to be blind, but it can still make you a punk when it comes to a girl. So, where should we eat?” I got up out of bed and then looked around at the imaginary blood that was supposed to be on the floor. “Oh shit! What the hell happened here? No, never mind, don’t tell me. I’ve got the gist. The fight was about hate but really about love. Fucking love! Sweet hate! Love that comes out of nowhere! Love is heavy and light, bright and dark, hot and cold, sick and healthy, asleep and awake—it’s everything except what its supposed to be! I love my girl that way but she doesn’t love me back.” Claire covered her face with her hands and her shoulders shook. “Are you laughing at me?”

 

She looked up at me and shook her head, “No, Roman, I’m crying.”

 

I frowned, “Why are you crying?”

 

“Because you are so emo.”

 

“Well, this is what love does to you. Knock that crying off or I’m going to be even more emo. You know, love is like pollution from a hot girl’s sighs. And when that fog lifts you see the fire burning in her eyes. And if you piss love off you end up drowning yourself in a bottle. What else is love, Bonnie? It’s a secret madness, it sneaks up on you and tastes sweet until it chokes you! Bye, Bonnie.” I make my way towards the door, pausing when I hear her reply.

 

“Wait a second! Let me come with you. You can’t leave after dropping that on me.”

 

“I’m not even really here. I’m somewhere else.”

 

“Seriously. Who were you dating?”

 

“Seriously. Why the hell does it matter now?”

 

“Seriously. Quit being an ass and tell me.”

 

I narrowed my eyes at her. “If I were dying would you tell me I seriously needed to go to the lawyer’s office and make out my last testament? No, it would only make me feel worse to know I was about to die. Seriously, Bonnie, I am in love with a woman. That’s all you need to know.”

 

She rolled her eyes, “I already knew it was a woman.”

 

I scoffed, “Then you were right. What else do you want to know? She was beautiful.”

 

“Of course she was beautiful, why the hell else would you have fallen for her so fast?”

 

“She didn’t fall for me. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. She’s smart and a virgin. She doesn’t care about my compliments. She won’t flirt back with me or even acknowledge that I’m flirting at all.” I felt that tightening in my chest again, this girl Roman is pining for was very much like the Claire I knew. I paused briefly and then continued, “It wouldn’t work out for us in the future..”

 

“She doesn’t want to marry and have kids?”

 

“Nope. Never. Its a shame that she won’t pass her sweet tits to the next generation. She’s sworn off dating, and marriage. And that’s made me depressed beyond belief. But it feels good to tell someone.”

 

“Roman, you have to let it go.”

 

“Pft. Let it go? Please, tell me how to do that.” I said sarcastically.

 

“Find another girl. There are plenty of hot girls out there.”

 

“It’ll only remind me of what I lost. I’m like a blind man wishing for his eyesight back. She was very easy on the eyes. Find me a woman who is incredibly hot, like an eleven. But you won’t be able to because she doesn’t exist. You can’t help me, Bonnie. See ya later.” I turn to leave again and she steps behind me.

 

“I’ll find you that girl, it won’t be hard. I’ll find her for you even if its the last thing I do. You’ll forget about that girl. You’ll see.”

Chapter 30

Claire

 

He turned slowly and looked in my eyes. I could feel the heat behind his gaze, as if in slow motion I saw his hands coming towards me. The papers fell to the floor and as soon as they hit everything was in hyper speed. His hands were in my hair, forcefully pulling me towards his body, his soft but powerful lips were on mine, teasing me, taunting me, begging me to respond. I was frozen for a minute and then I held him too, no longer able to resist. Who could resist when they were being kissed like this? He turned us around and slammed me against the door. I groaned, the powerfulness an instant aphrodisiac, my sex moistening for what I knew was coming, what my body so desperately wanted.

 

One of his hands moved down my body, feeling every curve, dip, divot; leaving in its wake a fire on my flesh that moved through my body and went right between my thighs. As he hooked his hands behind my knees to carry me to the bed my head started to clear. What the hell was I doing? Why would I torture myself again? I didn’t want to be hurt again, rejected, tossed aside when something better came along.

 

As I fell back onto the bed and his gorgeous body fell over mine, his chest pressing against mine as we kissed, I put my hands between us and pushed him back. He growled as he lifted himself up onto his hand, the noise itself soaked my panties. He was panting softly from the tamed passion and I could feel how ready he was as he pressed himself against my jeans as his gaze switched from my face to my heaving chest and back. “Why am I stopping?”

 

“Because if you actually like me then you’ll prove it to me…by not treating me like every other girl on campus.” I pushed him back further until I folded my legs underneath me as I sat up fully
and brushed my hands over my hair to try to flatten it.

 

He let out a deep breath, still sitting back on his feet. “You were into it too.” Neil noted but he did seem to manage to keep control of himself, even after kissing her, which was a good thing and still so very surprising.

 

“Yes, of course I was. You’re hot and you know what you’re doing and I’m not dead.”

 

“So… what are you looking for, then?” He just didn’t seem to get it. So I was going to have to be blunt, spell it out. And then something else came out of my mouth.

 

“Um… monogamy? Sweet talking? An interest in me aside from my body? A chance at love before you leave here?” I pressed my lips together and swallowed hard as I looked at him.

 

“I am interested in you for more than your body.” He offered, glossing over the monogamy request. “I do love you.” Neil blurted out, surprising me.

 

I stared at him, eyes wide as I studied him, looking for any clue that he was lying just to get into my pants. Perhaps if I stared at him long enough he’d laugh and brush it off or tell me he was kidding. But he didn’t. He kept staring at me with those sexy predatory eyes.

 

“So,…so…so then you want me to be your girlfriend?” I was still very much in shock. Neil Begley, committing to someone other than himself?

 

After a moment of staring at me, he nodded reluctantly, looking almost pained. “I’m not sure how monogamous and no sex would work out but I can try.”

 

I smiled and pushed myself up onto my knees, hands on my hips. “So ask me then, Neil.”

 

He groaned, still as if he were deeply in pain, but then cleared his throat and looked me right in the eye after taking my hand. “Claire, will you be my girlfriend?”

 

I smiled, still partially wondering if this was a dream, and closed the distance between us, wrapping my arms around his neck for a hug, “Yes!” He squeezed me hard as I kissed his cheek and then pulled away.

 

“Alright, see you tomorrow morning for the shoot.” He was sitting back on his heels, his erection staring at me.

 

I swallowed hard and stood up, I let my fingertips graze his erection as I passed by. “If I find out that you’re doing this just so you will get an A or to attract another girl, you’ll regret it.”

I almost squealed when he got up and pulled my back against his chest. He bent his knees enough to tease me with his erection, kiss my neck roughly and whisper gruffly into my ear, “That is the one time you get to tease me, Claire. The next time I’m going to fuck you.”

 

I gasped at his dirty words, pried his hands off me and made my way towards the door, “That’s what you think,” I spoke with more courage than I felt. I even had the balls to smile at him over my shoulder and took a mental picture of him with a raging hard on that I could enjoy later.

Chapter 31

Neil

 

We shot the video, and submitted it along with the rest of our project the following week. It was all I could do to continue to keep my hands off my damn girlfriend. Who the hell would’ve thought that I would ever call Claire Hughes my girlfriend. Sure as shit not me.

 

I went to the Union to get my mail and returned to my dorm. I sat down at my desk and opened the letter that I knew was from my father. I opened it and stared at the contents. There was a small key and a note that said, “It’s time.”

 

I swallowed hard and shoved two frustrated hands through my hair. He was summoning me now? Now, when things were finally looking up for me with Claire? Could I leave her? I felt anger take over as I stood up and vaguely felt my fist burn as it went through the desk. I looked down and let out a grunt as I pulled my fist out from the wood. It was bleeding and splinted, but I didn’t care. I thought I had more time.

 

I went to the bathroom and cleaned my wound, wrapping a towel around it. I went back into my bedroom and paced. Claire was not going to accept this. She was going to be devastated and I was going to be the cause of it. Even if I could ask her to go with me I knew she’d say no. She had a life here, friends. And after what happened at the lake I wasn’t sure she’d trust me not to take her somewhere she’d be safe from harm if it was off campus. Just last week I’d asked her to be my girlfriend and now I had to leave her for only God knew how long. Maybe forever.

 

No, it wouldn’t be forever. I would come back for her. I knew I only had a few hours before they came for me. I sat down at my desk and started to write on a blank sheet of paper I’d set next to the hole.

 

Claire,

 

I never felt as scared of losing something in my life as when I saw you fall into the water at the lake. It was reflecting on that moment that I knew, for sure, that I loved you. I vowed that if you lived through it I would do whatever I could in my power to keep you safe, forever. I didn’t ever want you to feel another ounce of pain.

 

I have a feeling that this letter, my absence, is going to bring you pain. And for that, I’m sorry. I promise, I will come back for you or I will die trying.

 

My father has summoned me to Tir Na Nog. This comes at an incredibly shitty time but if I defy him I will be giving up everything I’ve been working for my entire life and I would have nothing to offer you. He would come find me anyway and make my life hell for disobeying his direction.

 

This is not goodbye.

 

I love you.

Neil

 

I read and reread the letter several times, folded it and stuffed it into my back pocket. It was a crazy rush to pack all of my things. My roommate came back and helped and just as we were taping the last box shut the man I’d grown up calling my Uncle appeared in the doorway.

 

“It’s time.” He repeated the words from the letter and I nodded.

 

“Yeah, I know.” I looked around one last time, my gaze on my bed. I wished at that moment that I could take things with me to the Otherworld. The last time I was with Claire we were watching a movie on my bed. Just this morning I tried to inhale the last of her scent from my pillow, but it remained embedded there. I could only take my memories with me. It would have to be enough to get me through.

 

I shook hands with my roommate, and then left campus. The letter to Claire was still in my back pocket, hidden and forgotten.

Chapter 32

Claire

 

Finally I was free for the rest of the winter! My last test was under my belt and I was ready to celebrate with some cuddling and another movie with Neil. Last night had been incredible but I regretted when I had to cut the evening short to wake up early for finals and was snuggled up in my bed without him.

 

I was all smiles when I knocked on his door. I waited, my hands behind my back, for him to answer. My smile dropped a little when his roommate answered the door. “Hey, is Neil here?” The roommate shifted uncomfortably in the doorway.

 

“Uh… no.”

 

I smiled and shrugged. I felt my a slight ache in my stomach. “Okay, I’ll just come by later.”

 

The roommate scratched his head. “Um…he left.”

 

I felt the bottom of my stomach drop out, my smile dropping completely. “He what?” I stood on my toes and tried to look around him. What I saw made my gut clench hard. “Where is his stuff?” His side of the room was completely void of his things. The linens stripped from his bed and balled up in the corner.

 

“Some movers came and picked up the boxes, I helped him pack this morning.” I blinked at him and nodded, feeling more than a little disappointed.

 

“Did he leave anything?” I pressed my lips together, hoping that he had left something for me to let me know when or if he’d be back. It didn’t make sense that he would just pick up and leave. If he’d had plans to leave today he would’ve told me last night. The roommate shook his head and other questions emerged. “Did he seem like he was under duress?” The roommate looked at me blankly. I tried not to scream at him for being an idiot. “Was there anyone with like a gun or something? Did he seemed forced into doing it?”

 

He shrugged. “His Uncle was here and told him that it was time. He said he’d see me around so he’s probably just going on vacation.” I nodded but I didn’t believe that for a second. I thanked him, wished him a good winter break and then left. I blinked back my tears as I realized that I might never see Neil again.

 

He’d left without a word. He probably knew he was leaving today and that was why he’d agreed to be in a relationship. I was so confused about what was up and what was down. I didn’t feel like I knew anything anymore. I walked blindly back to my dorm. I must have passed Merit on the way because she was there, behind me when I unlocked my door and stumbled into my bedroom.

 

“Hey, Claire, what’s wrong?” I felt her arm around my shoulders, her other hand grasping my forearm which I’d curled around my stomach. I felt sick. Heartsick, probably.

 

“He’s gone. He just left.” Merit frowned, and then when she realized who the he was she guided me to my bed, pushing me to sit down. She sat down beside me and pulled me into her, hugging me. The comfort made me feel safe enough to unleash the tears that had been building in my eyes.

 

“Claire, that doesn’t make any sense. Do you think he’s in trouble? Do you think it’s another way to hurt you?” I shook my head. Neil was a lot of things but he wasn’t one to be susceptible to bullying. If someone had been threatening him he would’ve taken care of it. That’s the kind of guy he was.

 

“He packed his stuff this morning and left. Without a goodbye. Maybe the celibacy was too much for him to handle. Was that too cruel?” I sobbed against her collarbone, my head was swimming with what-ifs, self doubt, accusations, conflict.

 

“Claire, please. You’re being a little crazy. A guy can go without sex for a long time. He may not want to but he can do it. And if that’s why he left then he’s a total ass face anyway. And he’s not worth these tears. He probably just had to go home for winter break. He’ll be back.” She smoothed my hair back with a gentle hand. I closed my eyes and accepted it, letting it soothe me.

 

“What if he doesn’t?” I whispered, almost afraid that if I mentioned the words that they would come true.

 

“Neil Begley asked you to be his girlfriend. He told you he loves you. He’ll be back. He’s probably going to text you or call you soon. He knew when your last final was, right?”

 

I nodded and sat up, exhaling slowly, trying to calm my crazies. I wiped at the tears on my cheeks. “You’re right. I’m overreacting.” I forced a smile and then excused myself to the bathroom. After splashing my face with cold water I came back out and smiled at Merit. “So I was going to have a night in with Neil but maybe a night out would be better.”

 

She grinned at me. “Awesome. Are we going to the theater?”

 

I shook my head, my hands on my hips. “Nope, skinny dipping at the lake!”

 

Merit forced a smile. “Sounds…great…”

 

I grinned, “It will be. I’m going to throw my first party. Make sure you bring a towel.” If I couldn’t think about Neil without crying I would try my best to make time fly without him. I had plans to distract myself. Winter break wouldn’t feel so long if I was having innocent fun and doing stupid college kid things. This wouldn’t be so hard. I could do it.

Chapter 33

A YEAR AND A DAY LATER

 

Claire

 

I exhaled softly as I shut the door on the supply closet at the local shelter. I came every night and volunteered to clean the litter boxes, refresh food and water and play with the animals who were being housed here temporarily. I had always felt a connection with animals and loved that if you treated them with respect they would treat you the same. The trouble came when you were thoughtless, ignorant or the like.

 

I said goodnight to the kitties before flipping off the light switch. I locked up the outer shelter door and pulled my coat tighter around me. This winter was going to be a harsh one, it was already twenty degrees colder than it normally was this time in December. I shoved the keys and my hands back into my coat pockets and made my way back to the dorm.

 

I’d been lucky in the last year to have the opportunity to move into the sorority house. After Neil didn’t return for the Spring semester I was devastated. It hurt too much to be in any room where he’d been too. As time passed I was hoping that everything was alright. When spring turned to summer and summer turned to fall I was still broken, still empty without him. But I filled my time with school, sports, clubs, volunteering, and, of course, matchmaking. Every moment of my time was accounted for.

 

There was a new guy on campus this year named Kurt. I was enjoying showing him around and watching him and Merit pretend they didn’t like each other. I saw a love match in their future but I refused to get involved and besides, it was too entertaining. They would eventually figure it out on their own. I smiled as I thought about them and navigated my way through the dimly lit sidewalks of campus.

 

I’d finished my last final of the Fall semester that afternoon and most of the students had left, migrating like birds to the south, for some warmth. As always I wished I could join them. And always I quickly got over it. That wasn’t my life. My life was here and always would be. I’d signed up for classes during the mini break and still had my volunteering hours to work with.

 

I went up to my room in the Sorority house, which was a beautiful 10 bedroom colonial style house. Two girls slept in a room but my roommate had left last night and wouldn’t be back until the spring semester started. I exhaled my relief at being alone in the room, kicked off my shoes, and grabbed my stuff so I could shower.

 

As I was closing my eyes I felt a warm wind blow on my face. For some reason I smiled and then I fell asleep.

Chapter 34

Neil

 

Finally I’d made it back. I had finished my warrior training in record time. I’d basically kicked ass and took names. I was Nuada’s son and as such I had excelled. The hardest part of the training had been the lack of Claire. So much time had passed that her face was starting to get fuzzy in my memories of her.

 

I inhaled the crisp air, letting it fill my lungs completely and slowly exhaled, my warm breath mixing with the cold air to make a cloud of steam that drifted behind me as I walked. I wasn’t sure exactly where she’d be but I was certain I’d find her sooner or later, the campus wasn’t that big.

 

I was about to venture into the dining hall when out came Merit, nearly plowing into me. She gasped when she saw me. I smiled at her and offered her a nod. “Hey, Merit. How have you been?”

 

She looked me up and down and then shrugged, crossing her arms over her chest. “I’ve been fine. How about yourself?”

 

I shrugged, shoved my hands into the front pockets of my pants. “I didn’t lose an arm or anything so I would say I’ve been good.” She didn’t get the joke, didn’t even crack a smile…my old man lost his arm, I guess its an inside joke kind of thing. I watched as her face remained neutral.

 

“That’s good. See ya.” She tried to move past me but I sidestepped, blocking her way.

 

“Do you know where I can find Claire?” At this point her eyebrows drew together. Ah, bloody hell.

 

"I do but I'll be damned if I tell you where she is. You left her here without so much as a goodbye and now suddenly you're back?!" She uncrossed her arms so she could stick her finger into my chest. It stung a little. "You stay the hell away from her! You've done enough!" I opened my mouth to defend myself but she continued right on, yelling at me, so I shut my mouth, letting her have her moment. It wasn't going to deter me. "She's got a boyfriend now, a -real- one and you're not going to screw that up for her! Go back to wherever the hell it was you went and don't come back!!!" I felt my mind jumble and the ache in my chest was back. A boyfriend? I was gone a year and she already has another boyfriend? I guess I thought that it took her so long to find her first boyfriend that it would take her equally long to find a second.

 

I guess I just figured that she would wait for me, or be too broken to find someone. Maybe it was a ruse. Maybe she wasn’t happy. How could another bloke possibly be better for her than me? The hurt and confusion must have been showing on my face because Merit smirked at me and lifted her perfect nose into the air. “Don’t fuck this up for her, Neil.” And with that she walked away, and I let her because I didn’t want her to see the battling emotions on my face. When she was gone I stomped to the college community board and punched it. The wood was no match for my fist and when I extracted it, there was a fist sized hole staring back at me. It didn’t make me feel any better.

 

I enrolled myself in a winter semester class so that they would give me housing and then I sat outside of the girl’s dormitory, waiting and watching. I felt like a stalker, hell I was a stalker, but I had to see her. To make sure for myself that she was still alive and that she looked happy.

 

There weren’t many girls going in and out of the dorm and I probably would have missed spotting Claire if she weren’t walking with the tallest guy I’d ever bloody seen. They walked together, close but not touching. Claire was bundled up in her coat but the large guy looked as if he were strolling on the beaches of Mexico, his coat undone and floating behind him when the wind blew past. I justified following them because I needed to make sure she wasn’t in any danger. This was a big dude. Maybe he had just latched onto her, maybe this wasn’t the boyfriend Merit was talking about.

 

I ducked behind a tree when her laughter floated back to me. I felt my fists and jaw clench as I glared at the giant who was entertaining the woman I wanted. But then I mentally shook myself, I wasn’t the jealous type. I was just upset that he hadn’t offered to help her get warmer. Images of the two of them kissing flooded my mind and I growled. That’s not what I meant. I meant him offering his jacket or something.

 

I followed them from a distance until they reached the animal shelter. I couldn’t very well go in there without giving away my stalker tendencies so I waited outside a little longer. I cursed and looked down at my boots when I could no longer feel my toes. I should be in Tir Na Nog with Claire right now. Not holed up in the snow like a rabbit. I sighed and then straightened as the big guy came out alone.

 

I could’ve confronted him right then but I was ready to go inside, my bollocks were freezing. And I didn’t want Claire to have to see the red on the snow if I had to kick his ass because I’d deemed him unworthy. I gave him a healthy lead and then followed behind. My thoughts turned to him and her kissing and flirting inside the shelter. My jaw was aching by the time the big guy went into the boy’s dorm. I smiled to myself. Maybe we were neighbors. He wouldn’t be too hard to miss, anyway. I went to my room and took a long hot shower to warm up before falling back on my bed for a nap.

Chapter 35

Claire

 

I dropped my keys on the bedside table after returning home from the animal shelter and grabbed my shower stuff. I was going out tonight and I was super excited to be hanging out tonight with Merit and Kurt. The university was having a Mexican themed night at the dining hall for those of us who didn’t leave. I loved theme nights and recently I’d been thinking that I would try to get an in on that sort of thing so that when I stayed on at the university I could have some say on what the theme nights would be. It would be like being on the dance committee in high school, which I, of course, was.

 

I quickly showered, dressed in a baby blue sweater and black corduroys, slapped on some makeup and headed out of the sorority house, shoving my hands into my coat as I went. I was running a little late. I grinned when I reached the dining hall. Through the glass doors I saw the brightly colored streamers hanging from the ceilings inside. They spared no cost, it seemed. There were Mexican blankets covering every table, maracas tucked into glass containers for centerpieces and a lot of students were already having a seat, sombreros on their heads.

 

As I opened the door the sound of a mariachi band caused me to smile more. Even when they were singing about something sad it sounded cheery to me. I looked around to see if I could spot Kurt and Merit, though mostly Kurt because he was a hard guy to miss. They saw me first and started waving at me, they were already in line to get a tray of Mexican fare. I nodded to let them know I saw them. As I approached I noticed Merit smacking Kurt’s hand away from her ass. I grinned. Something was definitely going on between them.

 

I smiled at them both and waggled my eyebrows. “What’s going on you two?”

 

Merit rolled her eyes and shook her head, pointing over her shoulder at Kurt who was looking very innocent. “This guy can’t seem to understand that when a girl says no she means no.”

 

I looked at Kurt and he shrugged, “If I have to play dumb to get you to kiss me again, I will.”

 

I gasped and put my hand to my mouth, “Again? Merit… you kissed Kurt?”

 

She frowned at Kurt and then looked at me, shrugging it off. “He told me he couldn’t swim. I didn’t believe him so I pushed him into the water at the end of the dock. I gave him mouth to mouth to resuscitate him, that’s all. He thinks I’m into him and…” she turned to look at him, “he’s wrong.” She made sure she said it nice and slow. I grinned and grabbed my tray as we entered the serving area.

 

I shrugged my shoulders this time. “I think he’s onto something. When we took CPR in high school you said you’d never do that.”

“Ugh! I was talking about doing that on a dummy! Though I guess, technically, you’re right. I did do it to a dummy.” She spoke while grabbing a burrito plate.

 

“Hey!” Kurt chuckled, the sound deep and rumbly, as he grabbed two burrito plates and put them on his tray.

 

Merit smiled, “I call ‘em like I see ‘em.”

 

I grabbed a taco plate and a bottle of water and handed over my dining card as we reached the end of the line.

 

We took a seat away from the mariachi band and started to dig in. When I looked up I noticed that Merit was looking around, avoiding my direct gaze. I narrowed my gaze at her and waited for a few minutes to see if it was a fluke. Apparently it wasn’t.

 

“Merit, what’s eating you?”

 

Merit coughed as Kurt mumbled, “I wish I was.”

 

After taking a large gulp of her water she answered. “Well.. I um…man! This burrito is the bomb!” I raised my eyebrows, unimpressed as Merit tried pitifully to change the subject.

 

“Uh-huh. What else? I know there’s something. You can’t even look at me!” To try to prove me wrong Merit glanced at me, held my gaze for a split second and then shifted her eyes to something behind me.

 

She sighed and put her burrito down. “Alright, fine. I saw Neil earlier.” The cheese I had scooped up with my fork shook causing a mess on my lap but I couldn’t look. I was not sure I’d heard her correctly. She stared at me, and Kurt glanced between us, not sure what was going on.

 

“Who is Neil?” My fork was still mid-poised towards my lips. She did… She’d said Neil.

 

I set my fork down slowly and calmly, as calmly as I could muster, spoke to Kurt. “He is…was… is my ex.”

 

Merit chewed slowly and looked at me as she spoke to Kurt. “And he left this time last year without a word to anyone about where he was going or when he’d be back.”

 

Kurt made a gruff noise. “What an asshole. You deserve better, Claire.”

 

I nodded, suddenly feeling numb. Numbness was something I hadn’t felt for awhile but I knew that feeling. I was trying to protect myself. It was my mind’s way of trying to protect my heart from aching inside my chest. Not really to prevent it from aching, because it was, just to prevent me from feeling it. “Did he ask about me?”

 

“Well, yeah. But…” She glanced at Kurt and then back at me. “I kind of yelled at him and told him to go back where he came from.”

 

My eyes widened and I felt something burning bubbling up in my throat but I pushed it back down. If Neil could be deterred by Merit’s simple threat then Kurt was right, Neil wasn’t good enough for me.

 

I nodded and started to pick at my taco, to pretend like I was eating it. “I see. Well, it’s done. And it’s probably for the best that he left.”

 

Kurt got up out of his chair and moved around to sit beside me. He put his large arm around my shoulders and pulled me against his equally large and rock hard chest. “He’s the dummy if he didn’t know what a great girl you are.” I closed my eyes and tried to pretend that he was Neil but they smelled very different and it wasn’t the same. The fantasy I wanted to happen wasn’t happening. Before I could move back to tell him I was alright I felt his body move away from mine and there was some growling.

 

My eyes popped open and I saw Neil’s back turn towards me as he hauled Kurt out of his chair. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”

 

Kurt growled gruffly in return, “I’m comforting…” He didn’t finish his sentence because Neil’s fist clocked Kurt right in his jaw after pulling his shirt far enough down for his fist to reach its target. I gasped and stood up quickly, grabbing Neil by his arms, trying to pull him back.

 

Kurt seemed rather unaffected by the punch but he certainly looked angry. “Let me guess… you’re the asshole, Neil.” Kurt spit his name like it left a putrid taste in his mouth.

 

Neil tried to shrug me off but I held on tight. “Neil, lets go.” My words seemed to make his muscles tense and then release. He turned away, glaring daggers at Kurt until his head was facing the exit. He didn’t say anything until we were outside and then he was practically yelling.

 

“He was groping Merit’s ass, Claire! He’s not good enough for you!” It took me a minute to follow what he was getting at but when I did I frowned at him.

 

“It’s not your call to say who is and isn’t good enough for me. You gave up that right when you left.” His anger was still there but it was fading slowly.

 

He looked down at the ground, guiltily, “I had no choice in that, Claire. If I could’ve stayed here with you I would have.”

 

“A goodbye would’ve been nice.” His head snapped up and he opened his mouth to interrupt so I hurried along, I’d been waiting for what seemed like forever to confront him, “You had time to say goodbye to your roommate, but not enough time to say goodbye to me. I mean… its fine. We were together for all of like two weeks.”

 

He grabbed my shoulders and lowered himself to my level so that he could look me in the eyes, “I gave you a letter. I slipped it under your door. I…” He closed his eyes tightly and turned his head to the side, cursing under his breath. “For fuck’s sake, Claire, I forgot to give you the letter!” He let go of my shoulders and immediately I felt the loss of it. I reached out to pull him back to me but checked myself. He wasn’t mine. “I don’t deserve you either.”

 

I was about to open my mouth to contradict him but he continued on, his hands pulling at the roots of his blonde hair. “You thought I’d just run off, you must have been worried… hurt, angry…” He looked up to me and shook his head. “That wasn’t right. I’m a right asshole for doing that to you. I’m going to make it up to you.” He looked away and cursed again, “I don’t even deserve to look at you. But I will.” And with that he turned on his heel and stalked away. All I could do was blink at his outburst and his retreat.

Chapter 36

Neil

 

Bloody hell! She’d gone a whole year thinking that I’d run off to God knows where. I couldn’t help but wonder if she’d been with anyone since me. If the tables had been turned I would’ve slept with every girl on campus at least twice. I loosened my fists when I realized they were clenched at my sides. How could I have been so daft? I may have lost the girl because I’d forgotten to give her a little piece of paper that I’d poured my heart onto.

 

Whatever I was going to do to win her back was going to be good. It had to be. I’d royally fucked up. When I got to my room I slammed the door and fell backwards onto my bed in a growl.

 

I had time to think. Lots of time to think. If I’d have known how much I’d fucked up I’d have had a whole year to think. Most of the year I’d spent apart from her I’d been thinking about being inside her, kissing her, making her laugh…I put my arm over my eyes and tried to block out the churning thoughts. It wasn’t helping anything. I needed a plan. And then I needed to act. First thing was first I needed to get Kurt away from Claire. He was… okay, so he wasn’t worse than I’d been, but I was a changed man now. And I would never do that to her.

 

I had my plan in my pocket and the next morning it was time to execute it. I pulled on my coat and headed to the sorority house, which I’d learned was where she was staying, and waited outside until I saw her. She was bundled up against the cold air, a couple of books against her chest. I met her at the sidewalk and smiled, hoping it would soften her towards me. Apparently it didn’t, she scowled at me.

 

“Good morning.”

 

“It would be better if you smiled at me, love.” She still didn’t. “What can I do for you this morning?” I walked beside her and motioned to her books, “Can I carry those for you?”

 

She looked down at her books and then back to my face, puzzled. “My books? Why do you want to carry my books?” She narrowed her eyes, obviously suspicious.

 

I chuckled, “I just want to be helpful, the bloke who carries the girls books. So…can I?” She shook her head slowly, still looking at me as if I had three heads. “Alright then. Would you like to chat or just walk?”

 

“Walk.” I nodded and walked with her, per her request. She stopped once we reached her classroom and turned to look at me. Her lips pursed and it was all I had not to press mine to them.

 

“This is weird, okay? Don’t like…make a habit of this. I don’t need you walking me to class.”

 

“I just want to protect you. And I’m trying to show you that I’ll protect you like this if you give me another go.”

 

“Really? You’re going to smother me like this until you finish school and go on your way? That sounds like fun.”

 

“That’s just it, Claire. I’m not going to leave you here. I-” She didn’t let me finish.

 

“You already did. I need to get to class, Neil.” And she turned and walked in the classroom, not giving me a backward glance. I sighed and walked down the hall, deflected but not yet defeated.

Chapter 37

Claire

 

After my weird run-in with Neil I was half expecting him to be outside the classroom when I stepped out an hour later. Luckily he wasn’t. I rushed across campus to the library to meet Kurt for the study session for his art history class.

 

It wasn’t until I reached behind Kurt’s chair after I’d dropped my pencil that I realized that Neil was there, watching us. He didn’t hide the fact either. He had big balls. As if it was his business.

 

I sighed and turned back around. Kurt noticed my sigh and looked around. His eyes fell on Neil, the only other person around and looked back to me.

 

“Want me to get rid of him?”

 

I flipped in his text book to find the chapter we needed to look at next. “Nope. He thinks we’re dating.”

 

“Me and you?” Kurt grinned after I nodded and moved his seat closer to mine. I didn’t move away, even when he put his arm over my shoulder. I turned my head after hearing the sound of plastic crunching. Neil was behind us, what used to be a cellphone on the table in front of him. I rolled my eyes and turned back around. Kurt leaned into me and whispered against my hair.

 

“He is definitely still taking possession of you. Why don’t you put him out of his misery?”

 

“Because he left me without a word. He can suffer for a little while just like I did.”

 

He chuckled and brushed some of my hair back softly, “Do you want to go out for real?” I couldn’t help it, I laughed at the ridiculous question. “Come on now. You’re hurting my feelings. Why not?”

“Because you have the hots for my friend. I’m not looking for more heartache. Besides I have a terrible track record with guys.”

 

“Doesn’t look that way to me. He likes you, you like him. He left you, but he came back.” Kurt shrugged his huge shoulders.

 

I shook my head, “He’s leaving again. I don’t want to feel that pain again when the time comes. I’ll just keep my distance.”

 

Kurt abruptly grabbed his things and stood up, making lots of noise. He scowled down at me. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me about that guy before. Keeping it from me is just like lying. We’re done.” I stared at him shocked, and while his back was to Neil he winked at me and then whispered, “You’ll thank me later. I claim best man at the wedding.”

 

I sighed and grabbed my things, leaving him standing there before he could pretend to stomp away. I was the one who was actually angry at his scheming. I heard footsteps behind me and was almost to the elevator when a warm hand grabbed my elbow. I knew by the reaction to my lady parts that it was Neil. I stopped and whipped around. He wasn’t phased in the least. “Hey, you okay?”

 

I considered lying to him but I just couldn’t do it. It was time to clear up the misunderstanding he’d let fester the other night. “Fine. He pretended to break up with me.”

 

“Why the hell would he do that?”

 

“Because we were never together.” I watched as Neil’s jaw clenched. He was fighting something back, probably anger.

 

He nodded curtly. “I see. Well that’s good news for me. Unless you have feelings for him. Do you?”

 

“No. I gotta go.” I left him standing there, letting what I’d said sink into his attractive skull. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it for the next two years without getting laid. He brought out the sexual beast in me and I hated it.

 

I knocked on Merit’s door and went right to her desk when she opened the door for me to come in. “Am I crazy for not forgiving him, living in the now, going with the flow?”

 

She shut the door behind me and got comfy on her bed. “Only you can answer that Claire. It’s your heart and your feelings.”

 

I groaned and rubbed my throbbing forehead. “So not helpful.”

 

She chuckled softly, “Sorry. So tell me what happened. Why all these wonderings?”

 

“He has been stalking me today. He crushed his cellphone when Kurt pretended to put the moves on me.” I sat up straight and looked at her, “He asked to carry my books.”

 

Merit laughed out loud and then tried to cover it with her hands. “I’m sorry I just… wow… I never would have thought the great and powerful Neil Begley would be stalking a girl and asking to carry her books.”

 

I grumbled as I looked at the floor, “It’s probably just because no girl has ever said no to him before.”

 

“Maybe.” I shot Merit daggers and she laughed again. “Come on, Claire. What do you want from me? Do you want me to tell you to forgive him?”

 

“I don’t know!” I whimpered and slumped over her desk.

 

Merit let out a sigh. “Claire, what is your head telling you?”

 

“To stay the hell away from him. He’s going to hurt me again.”

 

“And what is your body telling you?”

 

“That it misses him. It misses the way only he could make me feel.”

 

"So fuck him and get it out of your system and then reassess. Or you can finally go on your rebound date and fuck -him-."

 

I looked at her and shook my head. “This is the best advice you have?”

 

She nodded and shrugged.

 

I sighed sadly. “Dammit.”

Chapter 38

Neil

 

I had decided to stop stalking Claire for a little while anyway, after she slammed me with the info that she hadn’t been messing around since I’d left. But I guess I was jumping to conclusions, she’d never actually said that.

 

After a long jog and hot shower, I lounged in my room, listening to music. I was still trying to figure out the right thing to do with Claire to win her back. As I was stewing I heard a knock on my door.

 

“Go away,” I growled, I didn’t need any old lovers coming around. If I answered the door and they threw themselves at me it wouldn’t look good at all. Word could easily get around to Claire that something had happened even if it hadn’t. There was another soft knock. I ignored it this time and closed my eyes willing whoever it was to go away.

 

The fourth knock was too much and I got up and stormed to the door, ready to give whoever it was a piece of my mind. But when I opened the door and saw Claire standing there those thoughts passed. I couldn’t help but smile, I grabbed onto the door above my head and let my body lean to one side. I wished I hadn’t put on a shirt yet. “Hey.”

 

She swallowed hard, standing still as a statue in the doorway. I was going to ask her what was wrong when was suddenly wrapped around me, her hands in my hair, her lips against mine, her breasts pressed against my chest. I groaned loudly and gently put my hands on her, walking us both backwards. Once she was clear of the door I pushed it shut, never breaking our kiss. I was afraid that if I made one wrong move she’d bolt out the door.

 

Her hands moved down the front of my shirt and I felt it tighten before I heard the thin fabric rip open. My dick twitched. So fucking hot. My hands explored her shapely back, her round ass. When the backs of my knees touched the end of my bed I moved one of my hands to the back of her head and then I turned us suddenly so that she was beneath me on the bed. I broke the kiss to discard my shirt. And while we were apart she peeled off her own shirt and tossed it aside. I opened my mouth to say something but she stopped me by pulling me down and kissing me again. I didn’t protest, how could I? I’d missed her so bloody much.

 

I tore my lips away from hers so I could taste the rest of her. I kissed her neck, her collarbone, and made my way down to her exquisite breasts which looked larger than I’d remembered. I pulled her offending bra down, and as I took the first taste of her pink nipple she squirmed beneath me, her hands tight in my hair, her legs wrapping around my waist. Her hot center was undulating against mine, but I pushed it aside as I tortured her, teased her, marked her with my tongue as mine. Only mine.

 

After torturing her right nipple I kissed my way to the other and did the same. When I was done I had only a second to pull back and admire the taut buds before she grabbed my head and pulled me back up to her mouth. She groaned and writhed against me, and as she kissed away my senses my dick took over. I reached down between us with one hand and undid my jeans and then pushed her long black skirt up, my hands not taking the time to enjoy her skin. I didn’t want to stop so I yanked her panties off. She gasped and then moaned as my fingers teased her clit and then sunk inside her, making sure she was ready. She fucking was. My soaked fingers pushed my jeans down my thighs as I continued to kiss her.

 

I grabbed my dick in my hand and plunged into her, a cry escaping from her as she arched her back beneath me. I kept myself deep as I wrapped my arm around her and then flipped us, she was on top now. Her long blonde hair smelled like a rose garden as it fell around my face. I pushed her hair to one side of her head and then grabbed onto her hips which were already rising and falling on my cock. “You’re so beautiful….” I wanted to close my eyes to soak in the incredible tight heat surrounding me but I didn’t want to ever forget the way she looked on top of me. Her breasts bounced as she rode me. Her delicate hands were on my chest, as she stared into my eyes, her mouth open slightly so her delicious moans could escape. Her face was flushed because of how much I filled her.

 

I tried to focus on all these little things so I could last awhile for her but when she leaned forward over me and started sliding on my cock fast I gritted my teeth. I was going to lose it, it felt so fucking good. I reached over her thigh and tickled her clit, going as fast as she was fucking me. It wasn’t long before her hips were hiccuping as she came around my cock. My other hand was on her lower back, not letting her escape as I continued to flick her clit. When she came undone and squeezed my cock I released my seed inside her too.

 

She grabbed my wrist and pulled my hand away from her. I smiled against the top of her head, her cheek was buried against my chest. After a moment of both of us basking in the silent afterglow of incredible sex she kissed her way up my chest, making me pulse inside her. She kissed my lips tenderly, slowly. If she was hoping that I wouldn’t notice when I left her heat she was wrong. I groaned and wrapped my arms around her, not ready to let her go yet.

 

She pushed herself away from my chest, forcing me to release her. “Thanks, Neil. I gotta go.” I blinked at her, watching as she climbed off the bed and grabbed one of my shirts from my dresser.

 

“You what? You have to go where, love? It’s almost ten.”

 

She shrugged softly after slipping into my shirt. “I have to go back to the Sorority, we have a curfew. See you later, maybe.”

 

Maybe? What the fuck? I scrambled off the bed and followed her to the door, my modesty not in the room with us. “Claire, wait….” I grabbed the door, taking it from her grasp. She slipped out before I could stop her. I walked out into the hallway and watched her jog away. My jaw was slack and a few seconds later I was reminded that my ass was bare.

 

Kurt came walking up from behind me and scoffed. “Dude, put some pants on.” I turned my attention back down the hall to where Claire used to be and then went back into my room. Bloody hell. What had just happened? Did she just use me? Was she capable of something like that? Or maybe this was the beginning of her forgiving me. I wasn’t going to complain, not yet.

Chapter 39

Claire

 

When I was safely in my room I lay back on my bed and turned on my music. I had just slept with Neil for the first time in a year. Part of me was hoping that the feelings wouldn’t be there. Part of me was hoping that the memories I had of us getting hot and heavy were false. But they weren’t. He was every bit as good as I remembered.

 

Now I had to figure out what I was going to do with these feelings. Was I going to pay them mind and try to date Neil again even though we had no future and he was going to break my heart when he left? Or was I going to ignore them, ignore him and hope that he just went on his merry way with some other girl.

 

Some other girl. Maybe if I stayed away I could try to set him up with another girl. Or maybe he needed a rebound to get over me. Maybe we were both just dwelling in the past. Did I want to see him with another girl? No, definitely not. But here I was, faced with this decision.

 

I made up my mind and the next day after lunch I went about setting up my plan of action. I ran into Bevin, literally. We both spilled our books on the floor. It was at that moment, when I was picking them up, that Neil came up behind me. I looked at Bevin, watched as her eyes widened and her aura turned a hot pink. She wanted Neil. I stood up and looked at Neil who was looking his usual charming self. Neil nodded at Bevin, giving her no more than a brief glance before looking down at me. “Can we talk?”

 

I shook my head, “No, sorry. I’ve gotta run.”

 

Neil frowned at me and Bevin still stood beside us, watching. “Claire, that’s a bloody lie. I watched you just walk in here.”

 

“I forgot that I had something to do. I was just turning around when I nearly knocked Bevin over.” I looked at Bevin and offered her a smile. “Sorry about that, by the way.”

 

She shrugged her slender shoulders as Neil put his arm around mine, pulling me in close to his side. I tried to shrug him off but he held tight. So I put my head back to whisper into his ear.

“It won’t work between us, Neil. It just won’t. You deserve a life outside of here.” I saw his jaw clench and I continued, “I want you to be happy, please let me set you up.” He let me go and nodded to Bevin.

 

“Nice seeing you, Bevin. I should go.” I watched as Neil retreated, his hands ran through his dirty blonde hair as he walked through the exit doors.

 

“Bye…” Bevin said softly beside me. We looked at each other at the same moment and I smiled.

 

“I’m trying to work on him. I think you two would be perfect together.” Her face lit up with a blush.

 

“Really?”

 

I nodded, “Yeah, he just needs a little time to get over his last girlfriend.”

 

“You mean you? I dunno Claire, I don’t think I could hold a candle to you.”

 

I frowned at her. “That’s crazy, girl. You are every bit as good as I am. Have some confidence. Neil and I don’t have a future but he could have a future with you. I just have to make him see that, somehow.”

 

Later that night he tried me again at dinner, he grabbed my arm as I reached out to open the door and pulled me into the bushes beside the dining hall. I found myself in his arms, staring at his coat-covered chest. I slowly looked up into his eyes which were hot with desire. I swallowed loudly and tried to push away but he didn’t let me get away this time.

 

“Tell me what the hell is going on.” I had to lean back to look at him which forced me to press my bottom half against his. It felt like he already had a semi.

 

“You’re holding me hostage in the bushes. If I scream I’m pretty sure someone will hear me.”

“Be careful, love, or I’ll make you scream, but not from terror.” His smile lit up his face, but his eyes were still clouded, as he teased me.

 

“I don’t doubt you could do…that. But I don’t think that would be appropriate seeing how I’m going to set you up with Bevin.”

 

His jaw tightened as did his hands on my arms. “I don’t want to be set up with, Bevin. I want to be set up with you.”

 

I winced, “I don’t think you do.”

He frowned, “What the hell do you know about what I do or do not want?”

“Well, I have a sense about these things. You and Bevin belong together…which makes sense. She can leave campus, you’re both going to graduate at the same…”

 

He cut me off with a kiss and then pulled back, “I’m not going to graduate, Claire. I’m leaving here, for good.”

 

I was stunned and then my eyes started to water. I nodded and looked down, “I see.”

 

“No, dammit,” He grabbed my chin and pulled it up so he could get a good look at me. “I don’t think you do. I’m leaving to go back to Tir-Na-Nog and I want you to come with me.”

 

“Well, that’s nice and all, Neil, but you know that I can’t do that.”

 

“The hell you can’t! You’ll be safe there. Safe with my people.”

 

“Safe like I was here? With my people??”

 

He frowned and shook me gently, “Claire, I wouldn’t let anyone hurt you. We’d be married, you’d be my queen, I-”

I yanked away from him, tears in my eyes, anger in my voice, “That’s enough! I don’t want to hear your false promises, Neil. I can’t go with you.”

 

He reached out and pushed a bit of my hair back, “You already admitted you aren’t safe here either. Why not go away with me so we can be happy? At least if you’re in trouble there or, god forbid you die, you’ll have spent time with me. Happy with me.”

 

I blinked back the tears, listening to him but not really believing I was truly conscious. He wanted me to run away with him? Elope and get married? “I need to think about it.” I left him there in the bushes as I went back to my room. That was the second meal today that had been spoiled by him.

Chapter 40

Neil

 

It had been two weeks. Two bloody weeks since I told her I wanted to take her with me. I had tried to be patient. I left her alone. If I saw her in passing on campus I’d smile and offer a small wave. Every night I dreamt of her and every day I seemed to cross paths with her.

 

Tomorrow night I was going away. Tomorrow night I’d be in Tir-Na-Nog and I hoped like hell that she was with me. I needed my answer tonight. I wasn’t going to be able to sleep tonight without knowing if I’d convinced her to come with me. But I wasn’t going to leave it to chance either.

 

The box had arrived this morning and it was safely tucked into my pants. Tse had finally come back from his vacation at the beach and had agreed to help me with my plan. I also spoke with the director at the animal shelter and she had been busily working all week to train a few of her boarders.

 

I straightened my tie as I looked over my gray suit in the mirror.

 

I texted Merit from Kurt’s phone, we’d actually become friends over the past couple of weeks, and told her it was time. I left my dorm and walked to the middle school campus. Tse was there, waiting for me, and nodded that he was ready. I stood on the steps and exhaled slowly.

 

Ten minutes felt like hours but finally I saw her approaching with Merit, a blindfold on her eyes, her hands out, feeling for things that weren’t there. I grinned. Tse started the music, “Never Stop” by Safetysuit. I wish I’d written the song but it summed up almost perfectly how I felt about her. Halfway through the song I nodded to Merit and she took off the blindfold, revealing me on the steps of the middle school.

“This is where we first met. You were wearing that bloody ugly school skirt uniform. But it didn’t really matter what you were wearing I thought you were the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. You radiate kindness, Claire. You are a true friend. It will kill me if you don’t come with me. I don’t ever want to be apart from you again. You are my soulmate, my once-in-a-lifetime woman. My Queen. What will it take for you to say yes?”

 

I came closer, walking slowly down the stairs. She stood still, wide eyes staring at me. “Affection?” A cat went running to her, and rubbed against her leg. Claire picked her up and the cat rubbed her cheek, purring. Claire smiled, the animals already tugging at her heart. She put the cat down and it galloped away.

 

“Protection?” A bulldog mix pulled a shield to her feet, leaving it there.

 

“Riches?” A miniature poodle dropped an organza sack at her feet, inside was an emerald necklace which she pulled out and stared at while I continued.

 

“Respect?” The black and white mopey mutt came forward, a tiara on its head. She sat down and looked at Claire. Claire leaned down and took the tiara and the dog trotted away.

 

I closed the distance between us and handed her a knife. “Trust?” I kneeled down in front of her, pointing the knife at my throat.

“Commitment? This is my heart which I give to you crowned with my love…” I pulled a small black box from my pants, opened it and presented the Claddagh ring to her after speaking the traditional expression. “Claire Hughes, will you marry me?” I stared up into her eyes, which were overflowing with tears.

 

The knife at my throat shook and then clattered to the pavement. She pounced on me, her arms around my neck, as we fell to the ground. “Yes!”

 

I laughed as I wrapped my arms around her and held her to my chest. “Thank God. I was going to keep coming back until you said yes. I can’t live without you. Never again.”

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—-PREVIEW—-

I ran downstairs when I heard Kent’s old car as it rolled up outside my house and the loud creak that followed after the engine cut off. I exhaled slowly as I heard his knock on our front door, trying to calm myself before I saw him. I didn’t want him to think I was stressing over tonight. My big night. I was pretty sure he had something planned for my birthday but I had no idea what it might be.

I opened the door and smiled as my eyes took in his dark t-shirt and jeans, his typical attire. Kent smiled too as he took in my clothes: a black square cut top, a knee length black punk skirt, and black fishnet stockings that disappeared into my well-worn Doc Martens.

The skirt was different from my normal attire as was the makeup, with a smokey eye and pink lip gloss. My hair was up in a large bun, and carefully selected strands of my hair hung in wisps around my face. He gave me a quick hug and then leaned back.

“I heard your door open from a mile away,” I laughed as I closed the door behind me. “What is the big plan this year? A secret pool party? All you can eat ice cream?”

For a moment he looked dumb struck. “Big plan? Am I forgetting something? I was just coming by to pick you up for some all night video gaming.” He slowly scratched his head. “Oh. Oh, damn,” he said softly, his face falling, his eyes full of regret, “I forgot your birthday…”

I rolled my eyes and hit him playfully on his scrawny arm. “You did not. Quit messing around. Where are you taking me?”

He was silent for a moment as his eyes shifted to the ground. He actually had a look of shame on his face. “I uh, well, let’s get in the car and we’ll go do something.”

Shit, did he really forget my birthday? My face fell at the same moment my heart gave a huge squeeze, but I tried to get myself back together before he noticed. The thought that Kent had forgotten my birthday was devastating. He was my best friend and we’d been celebrating this date for years.

“No, we don’t have to go anywhere. A night of gaming is exactly what I wanted.” I smiled, successfully covering my fear that he’d forgotten my birthday.

“I… I,” Kent chewed on his bottom lip as he moved towards the car. When we got closer we both climbed inside. Either he was extremely disappointed in himself or he was a great actor. “I, uh…got a new game. It’s two players and it’s an open world.” The door creaked loudly as he shut it. The car vibrated beneath us as he started down the road.

“So I actually get to play this time? I don’t have to just watch you crush the levels of Zelda? Even better.” I smiled at him and then leaned forward so I could change the radio to my favorite Top 40 station.

“Yes, you get to play this time. I promise. Even if I get a single player game next time, I’ll share.” He looked at me and grinned but it didn’t make me believe him.

“I know you’ll mean to share, but you’ll get carried away and I won’t get to play. You can’t fool me. I’ll just sit on your computer and internet chat with hot guys like always.”

I always hoped he’d say something about me and hot guys, admit some sort of jealousy, but it never worked. But it didn’t stop me from trying.

I glanced around and casually tried to motion over my shoulder as we passed the road that went to his house. Inside my heart was pounding. Where was he taking me? For some reason there was still a little hope in my heart. “You missed your turn…”

Again there was a pause before he shrugged his shoulders. “I know I missed it. I don’t have any Mountain Dew or candy at home. We need some Little Debbies for this all nighter!”

I narrowed my gaze, wondering if he was telling the truth, even as my heart was dancing in my chest. Where ever we were going we’d be there soon and I needed to chill out before then. I turned the music up a little when Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta” came on.

“Cool,” I said before drumming my hands on my lap.

I was singing along, concentrating on the crazy lyrics when Kent pulled into the parking lot of the swankiest Italian restaurant in town. I stopped singing mid-lyric to look at him, my heart doing that thing again.

“Um, I don’t think we’re going to find Dew or candy or Little Debbies here.”

“No, but we’re going to find a reservation for two at 6:00pm.” He pulled into a parking spot. “Happy Birthday, Elly.” That goofy smile that I loved finally showed on his face as he inched his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

I turned and stared at the restaurant, hiding my face from him just in case he caught sight of the tears that were gathering in my eyes. He hadn’t forgotten after all. And it wasn’t a crappy gift. “Kent, this is too much.”

“I bagged groceries all summer so I could bring you to this place. All I heard was how much you wanted to go but how expensive it was. Dinner is on me tonight.”

This was too much. Why would he take me some place like this unless… I wiped my sweating palms on my skirt.

“It’s not too late to change your mind. This is awesome but—”

But this was like a real date. This was like somewhere you’d take a girlfriend, not a girl friend. Was tonight going to be the night? Was he going to tell me how he felt about me on my birthday? That would be so romantic. Inside my gut was wrenching with fear, anticipation, anxiety. Everything was swirling around in my head.

“Nope. Don’t wanna hear another word, Elly. We’re going. But this doesn’t mean you get out of gaming tonight. We’re still going to play after we have our fill of expensive food.”

I quickly dabbed at the tears in my eyes with my hand and then turned to him, “You are such a bastard for trying to trick me, you know.” I smiled, trying to keep it light. Trying not to let it show how grateful I was that he was doing this for me.

“I’d never forget your birthday, Elly.” He took an extra moment to look at me as he smiled, and I wondered if he was going to kiss me. Hoping, maybe. But soon he pushed his car door open and got out. My heart fluttered in my chest.

“C’mon before they give our seats away!”

I got out quickly and walked with him inside. I couldn’t believe I was finally on a quasi-date with Kent. He had never done anything even remotely close to this before. The past birthdays had been very friendly in nature. Dinner at Bella Noches was like, a total step up from friendly. I kept my fingers crossed and a smile on my lips that tonight was going to be everything I’d been dreaming of for the past four years.

“I have to figure out how I’m going to top this,” I said.

“Never gonna happen. This is going to be the most epic birthday you’ll ever have!” Kent laughed as he opened the door for me.

I hoped it would. Maybe he was finally going to make his move and kiss me! I thanked him for holding the door and waited for him to lead the way.

He moved towards the hostess podium and lightly drummed his fingers on the edge of it.

“Two for Lyle at six.”

The hostess looked at his fingers and then at her reservation sheet.

“Of course, right this way.”

She looked at me, finally, and I noticed a little smile on her lips. My cheeks flamed. Did she think it was funny that he was here with me? Or that we were on a date at all? Or that I was on a date at all?

She didn’t say anything else as she grabbed the cloth wrapped silverware and leather padded menus and walked away towards our table. We both moved to go after her at the same time and halted. I grinned and then went, leaving Kent in the back in case he wanted to make his escape. Probably after he saw the look the waitress gave me he was going to change his mind. I’d be embarrassed to be with me too. I realized that was silly though, because this wasn’t a date…it was a friendship dinner.

Kent took his seat across from me as the hostess handed us our menus. I was only partially relieved that he hadn’t run.

“Your waiter will be right with you.” She turned around quickly, her long red curls would’ve whipped someone in the face if they’d been standing too close. The image caused me to giggle.

It was loud in the dining room, and crowded. I looked around and noted that we were sorely out of place. Despite the gesture maybe this was a mistake after all. We fit in his car, in his room, in my room. We fit anywhere there were a lack of other people. But this place, like most places, was not for people like us. Nerds. Outcasts. Socially awkward individuals.

Kent leaned in and spoke loudly, “This place is large and there are lots of people.”

I looked around and nodded, confirming his observation as I opened my menu. “Thanks, Captain Obvious. We don’t have to stay if it’s too much…” I let him have an opportunity to call it off one last time.

He frowned at me.

“Hell no, Elly. We’re doing this cause like I said, this is your birthday. Pick whatever you want, but the Mountain Dew later is on you,” he chuckled but I knew he thought this place was way too expensive. I could see the sweat starting to pop out on his brow.

I mulled over the menu. The baked ziti sounded good. The chicken parmesan was probably heaven on a plate. I glanced up and met Kent’s eyes. I felt my cheeks start to color and I looked back at the menu. Cheap and healthy, cheap and healthy. I didn’t want him to think I was a complete fat ass. I frowned at the words staring back at me. What the hell was wrong with me? Kent knew I loved to eat. A lot.

I was mad at myself for being such a girl, but at the same time I didn’t want to ruin the evening. As soon as I found the least expensive thing I set down my menu. I’d have the soup. I sat back and watched him, wondering what he was thinking about as he looked over the menu. He was probably having sticker shock and wondering if he was going to have enough to pay for dinner. Luckily my mom had given me my birthday money already and I could pitch in if he needed some help.

I looked away when I realized that I was staring at him like a lovesick puppy. If he wasn’t going to make a move then I didn’t want him to catch on to my inner thoughts. Having him as a friend was better than not having him at all. I didn’t want to scare him away. I definitely didn’t want to lose him.

He put his menu down as the waiter arrived. Kent nodded to me to order. “Go ahead and tell him.”

I opened my menu as if I’d forgotten, but mostly so I wouldn’t have to look at Kent when I said, “The minestrone soup and a water, please.” I smiled sweetly and held the menu up for the him to take, keeping eye contact with the waiter until he turned to Kent to take his order.

Kent had disappointment on his face but he didn’t say anything. “I’ll have the chicken parmesan with a sweet tea to drink, please.” He gave his menu to the waiter and when the he departed his gaze turned back to me. “All that stuff on the menu and what you wanted was soup?”

I looked down at my napkin, unrolling it to place it in my lap. I shrugged my shoulders slightly and did what every girl did on a date, I lied, “I’m not very hungry.” In truth I was starving and I hoped to God that it was loud enough around us that Kent hadn’t already heard my traitorous stomach growl.

“Fine, but you know you’re eating some of mine. I’m not bringing you here to not try something nice!” A little smile moved along his lips as the waiter dropped off their drinks and then retreated again.

It was almost too loud to carry on a decent conversation, especially with a large group of people right next to us. Kent was about to speak just as the large group beside us started laughing.

I smiled at the annoyance evident on his face. I knew just the thing to cheer him up. I leaned forward and pulled out my wallet from the back pocket of my skirt, the silver chain attached to a belt loop helped make sure it wouldn’t be stolen and I thought it looked rather cool. I pulled out a paper football and held it up in victory before putting my wallet back. I put my finger on the top and my other fingers curled, ready to flick it when he had his hands in position. Kent laughed as he held his fingers up like a field goal. He stuck his tongue out at me as I took aim and flicked it.

My aim was terrible and he didn’t move to block the little pointy paper triangle. It sailed past his head and hit one of the guys in the large crowd beside us. The guy turned his head to see what hit him and shook his head. At least he didn’t appear to be angry. Kent tried not to laugh.

I mouthed “Sorry,” to the man and waited until he turned around to cover my mouth and giggle. Then I put my hands up in the air, speaking loudly to be heard over the crowd. “Well, I’m all out of ideas and that was my only football.”

We didn’t have to come up with anything because the waiter brought our food out at that moment.

“Sweet! I’m hungry.” Kent announced as he looked down at his food. The steam was still spiraling off the crunchy bread-coated chicken that was covered with blood-red marinara sauce. My stomach growled loudly and I turned my attention back to my soup.

I smiled the discomfort away and shifted in my seat slightly. I thanked the waiter for refilling my water and then dug into my soup with the provided spoon. We ate in silence except for the cacophony of people all around us enjoying each other’s company.

When he only had a couple of bites left and my soup bowl was empty I looked from him to his plate. “How is it?”

Kent had a forkful ready to go towards his mouth but held it out to me at my question. “Amazing,” I just barely heard his voice over the crowd.

I felt my cheeks burning as I pictured him saying that I was amazing, not the food. I reached out, grabbed the fork and took a bite. I chewed slowly and nodded my agreement before returning his fork to him. “I’m glad its lived up to its expectations for you.” I smiled and suddenly jumped when I heard the outburst of employees who had a bowl in hand and were singing happy birthday as they marched across the restaurant. I leaned forward and spoke loudly to be heard over the even louder voices, “You aren’t going to do that to me, are you?”

Kent took his fork back and turned his head when the employees where singing for someone else. He turned back to me and gave me an innocent look. “Me? Would I ever do something like..” but those employees made a b-line for our table as they set a bowl of vanilla ice cream smothered in chocolate sauce right in front of me. Complete with a little candle that was flickering rapidly from all the movement.

My cheeks burned red now, and I tried to blend in with the seat behind me as I slunk back but I smiled, glancing around the room and at the staff. I avoided looking at Kent until they were gone and then I shook my head at him. “I’m going to kill you.”

Kent laughed as he pushed the bowl towards me. “Happy birthday, now eat your ice cream so we can get the hell out of here with all these people.”

I ate it slowly and decided to tease him as payback for my embarrassment. “So when you grow up you’re going to celebrate birthdays at your house where there are no other people…is that right?”

“Yes!” He said as he laughed. “It’s the large crowds. I don’t like dealing with people day to day. I just want to play video games and have fun. Maybe design them or just be a game tester.”

“But a hermit, for sure.” I nodded twice, and was inadvertently being very sexual with my spoon, sucking on it inappropriately.

I knew something was wrong when Kent blinked and his cheeks turned pink like mine had when I imagined kissing him. He was staring at the spoon and my mouth.

I popped the spoon out of my mouth, my blush matching his when I realized just what I was doing. I was pretty sure he thought it was gross coming from me anyway. “Sorry.”

He blinked again. “…It’s fine. Are you enjoying it?” He finished off his sweet tea.

I grinned, the heat slowly leaving my cheeks, “Yeah.” The conversation was still too tame. I was going to need to liven it up if I was going to get back at Kent. “So when you get a girlfriend, how would you two like, get in the mood? I’m just trying to picture you in a relationship in my mind.” I waved my spoon around in a little circle and then stared into it with slightly narrowed eyes.

Kent frowned and shook his head. “Elly, come on. You done with that ice cream yet?”

I shook my head as I looked at my bowl, there was still a huge scoop left. “Nope.” I looked at him with a victorious smile. “So …really, would she try to make out with you while you’re playing video games?”

His eyes shifted back and forth from the people around us and back to me. “While I’m playing video games? No. Whatever she chooses to do can’t block my view. There are other things though.” His cheeks were blushing brightly as he flagged a random waitress down to ask for more tea.

I waited for the waitress to leave before continuing. “I just need to know what I need to tell your future girlfriend if she asks me how to get your attention during the late night gaming sessions. You know I like to be prepared.”

“Getting naked will always draw my attention away from a game,” he started to say something else but he didn’t get the thought out of his mouth.

I watched him and waited, holding a piece of cake on my fork until he continued. “But? And?” I raised my eyebrows questioningly.

“If she touches places then I’m not going to worry about a video game. Or if she wants to have a joint shower or something… I dunno, Elly. Can we… not talk about this around so many people?”

I didn’t know why it upset me so much. But it did. I put my spoon down and then set my napkin on the table. “Sure. You get the check and I’ll be right back.” I had to get out of there before I started to cry.

I stood up and made sure I didn’t pass directly by him in case he tried to stop me. Once safely in the bathroom stall I balled up some toilet paper and held it to my mouth to stifle the sob that escaped.

It was so obvious that he wasn’t going to try anything. So obvious that when he envisioned girls doing things to him it wasn’t me he was picturing. I was so stupid to think that he was into me that way. He wouldn’t ever see me as anything other than his fat friend, Elly. I cried for a few more minutes and then pep-talked myself into freshening up and getting back out there. Sitting in a stall and crying wasn’t going to fix anything or change the fact that he wasn’t into me that way.

I blew out a breath just before I sat down and assessed him, “Ready to go?”

He was very hard to read sometimes, but this wasn’t one of them. He was confused by my sudden departure. He blinked at me. “Yeah I…guess. Is everything alright?” He asked as he stood from his chair. “Did I say something wrong, Elly?”

I stood up too and looked away, shaking my head, avoiding eye contact because if I looked at him directly in the eye he might see how puffy my eyes were. “Nope. I’m fine. Let’s go.” I led the way again, quickly exiting the restaurant. I stopped beside the car, waiting for him to unlock it, my arms across my chest defensively.

I held my breath as he came towards me. He leaned against the car beside me and spoke up. “Alright, something is eating you. Talk to me, Elly.”

I called on my inner bitch and somehow managed to get the strength to roll my eyes. “Just open the car so we can go, please.”

“This is your birthday, Elly. You’re pissed off about something and I want you to tell me what it is.” He was being defiant as far as opening the door.

My inner bitch wanted to be defiant too. “Yes, it’s my birthday and I don’t want to talk about it. So open the door. The birthday girl wishes it.”

Kent sighed as he pulled his keys out and unlocked the door for me.

 

 


Crushed

Claire's matchmaking days are on hold when the new guy comes to campus. There is something elusive about him. He is quiet, gorgeous and strong. She can see herself in his arms for the rest of her life. If anyone can keep her safe it's him. But how can she capture his attention? With her head held high, Claire goes to the only person who knows everything about hooking up to ask for advice. Neil's shock at Claire's preposition doesn't show but inside he is quivering with excitement. Finally, he will get to taste her. Not only that, but he will finally be able to move on from his tiny obsession with her. But when one night turns out to be not enough to satisfy him, he finds himself struggling to figure out why. Before he can figure it out Neil discovers a horrifying secret. To keep her safe he must make the ultimate sacrifice and do the one thing he swore he would never do.

  • ISBN: 9781311969651
  • Author: Marie Cole
  • Published: 2015-10-08 13:50:20
  • Words: 56229
Crushed Crushed