Trashed, p.19
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       Trashed, p.19

         Part #2 of Stripped series by Jasinda Wilder
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I frown. “God, Adam, that’s fucked up. ”

  “That’s what I said. She wasn’t even upset. I was like, ‘Fuck you, we’re done. That’s messed up. ’ She just shrugged and said it was fine, like whatever, no big deal. It was all over the tabloid, though. There was a photographer outside her house. He’d seen me at LAX and followed me to Emma’s place. Caught the whole thing on film. ”

  “So when that ended—”

  He takes a swallow of beer and nods. “Yeah, after that, I swore off women. I was done. ” His eyes go to me, sharp and hot. “Until I met you. ”

  “How am I different?”

  “I don’t know, you’ve got this sense of…you are who you are and that’s it. A little insecure sometimes, maybe, but you’re not like everyone else. You’re tall, and you’ve got curves, and you’re so fucking sexy but I don’t think you even really know it. ” He rests a hand on my knee, glances at me. “So what happened that you’re back in Michigan?”

  I groan and lean my head against the back of the couch. “A lot of things. ” I roll my head to look at him. “You want the long version or the short version?”

  “Yes. ”

  I laugh. “Okay. Fine. I hated modeling. They stuffed me into clothes I didn’t always fit in, and I had to get changed in front of other people. Behind a screen usually, but never totally in private. And then I just stood there posing for hours and hours. Never got lunch breaks. Never had time to eat. There was barely time to breathe. The agency had me scheduled all day every day, on one thing or another. I mean, it was great in that I had a lot of work, which was cool. I was in demand. But I hated it. And I hated New York. So loud, so busy. All the time, morning and night, it never ended. So fast-paced, so chaotic. So big. Everyone’s rude and in a hurry. No one matters. No one gives a shit. ” I look away, out the window. “And then there was this photographer. He was a big deal, a total legend in the modeling world. On one shoot, he had his eyes on me. Even when he was shooting other models, he’d glance at me. Watch me. He kept touching me, my hair, my clothes. Looking at me like…I don’t even know. Just leering. So creepy. So then I get a break and go outside, and he follows me. He fucking propositioned me, like ‘I can make your career, baby, all you gotta do is go home with me. ’ Tried to make me touch him.

  “That was the day I talked to Ruthie and she told me you’d visited her. I just couldn’t deal with anything else. So then, as if that wasn’t bad enough, this photographer got the director of my agency to book me for an exclusive swimsuit shoot in Florida. I had to do it, or else. So I did it. And I hated it. I hate wearing bathing suits. I just…I hate the way I look, the way I feel, and these were bikinis. It was awful. All the other models doing the shoot were actual swimsuit models. Skinny and petite and big-busted and beautiful. I stood out like a sore thumb.

  “And again, this nasty-ass photographer shot me last, so it was just him and me and the crew. He finally got all his shots and then he dismissed the crew—so he could get me alone. He propositioned me again, but this time it wasn’t implied, like before. The first time it was ‘you help me, I’ll help you. ’ Obvious, but not overt. That day on the beach, though, he straight up told me he would make me famous and successful or whatever if I sucked his cock. Outright told me I’d never get anywhere if I didn’t. Because of the way I look. ”

  I have to pause and gather myself. Anger bubbles up inside me even now, along with shame and embarrassment. “He told me…he said he had a big apartment and a big cock, and I could have both. That I shouldn’t refuse him, because it’s not like I’d ever get anyone better than him. He said it like it was obvious, because I’m…big. ” The last word comes out as a whisper.

  “Jesus, what an asshole. ”

  I try to shrug and can’t quite muster it. “Yeah, I slapped him, and then shoved him away from me. Flew back to New York. Then the manager from the agency met me at the airport with all my bags and sent me home. Like, don’t even bother coming back, you’re done. So here I am. ”

  He’s kneeling on the floor in front of me, his hands on my face. “You’re not big, Des. You’re beautiful. You’re perfect. You’re amazing and you’re sexy and—”

  “Shut up, Adam. You’re sweet, but I know who I am, and I’m fine with it. Even after New York, I’m okay with how I look. Maybe even more so, because of everything that happened. I mean, before the stupid fucking bikini shoot, the agency owner and manager told me I had to lose weight. They said that even though I’m a plus size model, to do a bikini shoot I had to lose weight. I had to look a certain way. So I did it, and I hated it. ” I can’t look at him. “It all made me so angry. Fucking Sidney telling me to lose weight. Ludovic telling me I’d never be able to get anyone better than him. The looks from the other models, like ‘what is she doing here?’ It just made me even more…shut down, I guess. I hated it, but I survived it, and I learned from it. I’m better for it. I won’t change who I am. I will not be made to feel like I’m less valuable or attractive than anyone else just because I’m taller or weigh more, or because I’m shaped a certain way. I can’t look any other way than I do. No matter how I diet or work out, I’ll never get any skinnier. And, if I try, if I just stop eating like I did in New York, I’ll not only be miserable, but unhealthy, too. And honestly, I don’t want to look any other way. I like how I look. I’m learning to be comfortable in my own skin. ”

  Page 54

 

  To his credit, he doesn’t try to convince me of my worth, both to him and to me. Instead, he latches onto something else. “And the way you’re built, regardless of what I think about it, does that have anything to do with why you’re so reluctant to believe I’m genuinely interested in you?”

  It’s hard to swallow, suddenly. I don’t want to look at him, but he’s there, his hands are on my cheeks, his thumbs at my chin and touching the corners of my mouth. I have to look into his eyes, and it’s so hard, because he just sees so much. “Yeah. Partly. Not entirely. ”

  “Then what is it?”

  “Because you’re you! You’re Adam Trenton. You’re famous, and you look like a fucking god! You can have anyone you want. You dated one of the most famous actresses in the world. And even if you got hurt by her, it just…it seems like you’d feel—like going from someone as gorgeous as her to—to me, is…is downgrading. Like going from a Ferrari to a ten-year-old F-150. ” I talk over his impending protest. “Not just because of the difference in the way we look, but because she’s from your world. She’s famous. She’s glamorous and rich and ‘grew up with brothers’ and she’s…somebody. ”

  “And you’re…” he prompts.

  “And I’m not. ”

  He frowns, and his eyes hunt mine. He ignores the obvious and goes for the harder question. “‘Grew up with brothers,’ you said. Why is that important?”

  Shit. I pull away, grab my beer from the coffee table and drain it, take the second one Adam brought a few minutes ago. Drink from that.

  “Des? What does that mean?”

  I shrug, a tiny lift of one shoulder. “I don’t have a family, that’s all. ”

  “Des. ” It’s a scold.

  I can’t avoid the question any more. “I grew up in the foster system. My mom was a crack addict. She OD’d when I was three and I went into the system. Bounced from foster home to foster home my entire life. ” I let out a breath. “Some of the homes I got placed in were okay, and some…weren’t. ”

  “What’s that mean?” Adam asks.

  I shrug. “It’s not important anymore. ”

  He scrutinizes me. “Something tells me it is. ”

  I glance at him, hating how perceptive he is. “The bad ones were just…rough. Alcoholic foster fathers, shit like that. There are so many kids in the system that it’s impossible to place them all, especially because there just aren’t enough families willing to foster. The ones that are, especially in the area surrounding Detroit…it’s just extra income for them, most of the time. So
it’s just rough. You learn early on to be independent, to not trust anyone. You get moved around a lot, you learn to not get close to anyone. ” I shrug again, hoping he’ll let it go at that.

  “And?” he prompts.

  Of course he can’t.

  I close my eyes slowly, open them, and take a drink. “I was molested by one of my foster fathers. ” I can’t look at him when I say it, and I hate the sharp inhalation, the boil of concern and anger and—yes—pity—I see in his eyes when I do finally glance his way. “It went on for a year before I got the courage to tell anyone. He got arrested. Turned out I wasn’t the only one. But he was so good at manipulating, threatening, making sure you knew no one would believe you if you did tell. He scared me. But eventually I just…couldn’t take it anymore. So I told a teacher at school. I was terrified I was going to get in trouble…for not telling sooner, for letting him, even though I kept telling him no, begging him to leave me alone. But the teacher…Mrs. Erwin. She believed me. And the first thing she did was hug me, and tell me she would make sure he never hurt me again. And he didn’t. ” A look I can’t parse crosses Adam’s features. “What?” I ask. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

  “Jesus, Des. ” He shakes his head, wipes his face with both palms. “No wonder it’s hard for you to trust me. ”

  “Yeah. ” I blink hard, emotion running rampant through me. “You know, I’ve never told anyone that. Not even Ruth. I mean, she grew up a foster kid too, which is why we’re so close, because we both get it, and I think she guesses at what happened, why I’m closed off. I mean, how do you get past that? How do you…how do you deal?”

  “How did you deal?”

  I laugh, and have to sniffle. Not that I’m crying, no way. Not worth crying over, not anymore. “That’s just it, Adam. I mean, don’t you get it? I haven’t. Not really. ”

  “But you seemed to trust me, on Mackinac Island. For a while, at least. I mean, you let me take you to that dinner, and that night, we…we had an amazing time. I thought we did, at least. ”

  I shake my head softly. “Adam, I did too. That night…it was incredible. I mean, it was scary as shit, the whole dinner party thing. All the celebrities and the paparazzi. That was scary, and I wasn’t ready for it. But everything after, being with you…” I look at him, let him see into my eyes. “That was honestly amazing. Best night of my life, in so many ways. ”

  He grabs my hand, tangles our fingers together. “Me too. ”

  I hear something in his voice. “But?”

  He doesn’t answer right away. “But you shut down, later that morning. I could have stayed, I could have figured out a way to have more time with you—but you just shut it down. ”

  “Because I was scared!”

  “Of what?” He seems genuinely puzzled.

  “Everything! Look at it from my point of view, Adam. I’m a trash girl, an orphan, and I’m just minding my own business and along comes this hot, sexy, rich, famous actor, and he’s all into me. It’s too good be to true. It’s got to be too good to be true. Shit like that doesn’t happen to me. ”

  “But you went with it. ”

  “Yeah, of course I did. I liked feeling desired. It really felt like you liked me, like you wanted me. And I—I liked that. ” I swallow hard, keep my gaze shifting, moving, away from his. “And when you had to go, I just had to…let you go. I couldn’t handle it if you acted like you wanted more, and then just ditched me for the next shiny new thing. I don’t know. It was a special night for me, and I just wanted to have something special, just for me. ”

  Page 55

  “It was special for me too, Des—” he starts.

  “No,” I say, feeling the truth lodged in my throat, and knowing it’s a bomb, knowing it’s going to explode and going to cause pain. “You don’t get it. ”

  “I do, Des. I really do. It was surreal, and I can see where you’re coming from, how you’d think it’s too good to be true. But I’m just a guy, at the end of the day. ”

  I blink away tears. “No, Adam. You really don’t get it. You can’t. ”

  He goes still, quiet. He suspects something deeper now. “Then what, Des?” His eyes narrow, and rove down my body, assessing. “We didn’t—I mean, you’re not—”

  My eyes widen, realizing what he thinks. “No! God, no. I’m not pregnant. Jesus, I’d have told you that. ”

  “Then what?”

  I breathe deep, let it out. Make my eyes go to his. “That night, Adam…” God, it’s so hard to make the words come out. “You were my first. ”

  His eyes close, blink, and he runs his palm over his face, massaging his temples. He leans forward, elbows on his knees. “Tell me you’re joking. ”

  I shake my head, but words won’t come out. I have to clear my throat of the ache, the tears I’m suppressing. “No one ever made me feel the way you did. There was one guy before you, we made out and he wanted to cop a feel, and I just couldn’t. The panic attack, that first day we met? That’s what it was about. If guys got close to me, tried to touch me, I would freak. Couldn’t breathe. Froze up. I just couldn’t let men get close to me, physically or emotionally. Any male that’s ever been in my life has, at best, been indifferent, just treating me as one more foster kid going through the system. At worst, they were Frank Platte, sexually molesting me.

  “And then I met you. And you saw me. Like I meant something. Like I was worth looking at, worth talking to. ” It’s harder and harder not to cry, because Adam isn’t moving, looking at me, or responding. “You had this way of…making me feel comfortable. Of not being afraid. And I was sick of being scared of men. I was sick of being a virgin. And you made me feel good. ”

  “I took your virginity. ” His voice is pained. “Jesus fucking Christ, Des! Why didn’t you fucking tell me?”

  “Because you’d treat me differently. You’d have wanted to make it a big deal. ” It’s hard to talk, hard to even whisper. Looking at him is totally out of the question.

  “It is a big deal, Des! It’s like, the biggest deal. You were a virgin? And I fucked you like—”

  Anger blazes through me and I find my voice. “Don’t…you…dare. ” I shoot to my feet and stand over him. He peers up at me with conflicted, hurt, and angry eyes. “Don’t you fucking dare make it less for me than it was. It was exactly what I wanted. It was more than that. ”

  “Did I hurt you?”

  I shake my head and lift a shoulder. “Not any more than it would have anyway. ”

  “So it did hurt. ”

  “Adam. Jesus. With everything that happened before, how good you made me feel, both before and after, that part was like…not even worth thinking about. ” I pace away. “This is why I didn’t tell you then, and why I didn’t want to have this conversation. It was my decision to make, and I did so eyes wide open. ”

  He lurches to his feet, drains his half-full beer in three long swallows, and then sets it down on the table far too gently. “I need a few minutes. I need to think. ” He’s out the door, scrubbing a palm over his head.

  The door slams, and I’m alone. The only sound is the ticking of a clock somewhere in the apartment.

  Chapter 13

  My head, heart, and body are at war. At the moment, my head is winning.

  Des had been a virgin.

  It all made sense. Her hesitation. Her panic attack. How incredibly responsive she was, how shy in some ways. And then, how hungry, how voracious for more. Even the way she shut down the next morning made sense.

  But she hadn’t told me. She knew how I’d react, and she’d intentionally not told me. It hurt. It made me angry. That’s not something you keep from a guy. It just isn’t. I feel justified in being pissed off, but the logical part of me also understands where she’s coming from.

  Only, logic doesn’t mean shit in the face of pain.

  I find myself outside, stalking angrily down the sidewalk. And I realize if I walk too far, I
ll get lost. Which, at the very least, will just piss off Oliver. So I make myself stop, turn around, and walk back toward my building more slowly. I turn it over in my head, trying to think it through rather than just reacting.

  And then I see Des on the sidewalk ahead of me, walking away from my building.

  I catch up to her, grab her by the arms and stand in front of her, stopping her forward progress. “Des, where the hell are you going?”

  She jumps and gasps in surprise, then jerks free, shoves me backward. “Get off me, Adam. ” I’m confused, now. Which one of us is supposed to be pissed off?

  I growl in irritation and jog past her again, stopping in front of her. “Des, hold on. Just talk to me. Where are you going?”

  “You left. ” She says this like it explains everything, and then starts walking past me once more.

  I don’t know how to stop her, how to make her listen, how to make her understand. So I do something desperate. I stop her with my body, grab her hand as she starts to shove me out of the way, and then I capture her other hand and tug both behind her back, grab her wrists in one of my hands and pinion her arms behind her back. And I press my body against hers and force her to walk backward until her spine is up against the wall of the building.

  “Let me go, goddammit!” she snarls.

  I take her ponytail in my fist and tug her head back, chin up, and I slant my mouth over hers. Her body thrashes, fighting me. I’ve got her wrists captured in my fist, and I’m holding her gently but firmly. Her knee lifts and pushes against me, and I let her, but don’t allow her to move me. I kiss her, deep, hard, and sweet. And for all the fighting she’s doing, her mouth responds to mine. Her body fights, but her lips move, part, and her tongue slips out and touches mine, and I’m tasting her, putting all my conflict into the kiss.

  When I know she’s not going to fight the kiss, I release her hair and cup the side of her face, my palm to her cheek, my thumb against her temple.

  Page 56

  “Goddammit, Adam. Let me go. ” She breaks the kiss, speaks the words with her lips to my ear.

  “No. ”

  “You left. ”

  “I said I needed a minute. How does that translate into leaving?”

  “I told you the truth and you—”

  “Needed thirty fucking seconds to process it, Des. Jesus. ” I’ve still got her hands in mine, but she’s not fighting it now.

  “And?”

  “And I get it. If you’d told me, I would’ve…I don’t even know. Gone slower. More gently. Made it special. Made it the best night of your life. Something you’d never forget. ”

  “It already was. ” She leans her forehead against my cheekbone. “It already is that. ”

  “Come back, Des. Let’s talk about it upstairs, okay?”

  She nods, and I let one hand go, keeping the other gripped in mine. I don’t exactly drag her back upstairs, but it’s clear she’s hesitant, maybe a little afraid. Once we’re in my apartment, I stop with my back to the door. Des keeps going a few steps into the no-man’s land between kitchen and living room, and then realizes I’m not beside her anymore.

 
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