Be with Me: A Novel (Wait for You), Page 3J. Lynn
I was panting by the time I reached the door leading to my suite. It blew my mind how my body went from being the Terminator to Sponge Bob in such a short period of time.
Sighing, I swiped the card and stepped into the living room of the suite. I wanted nothing more than to climb into bed, shove my head under the pillow, and pretend today never happened.
But that would be asking for too much.
I blew out a breath when I saw the hot pink scarf dangling from the doorknob to the bedroom. Closing my eyes, I groaned.
Pink scarves were code word for enter at your own risk. In other words, my roommate was getting some sweet, sweet lovin’. Or they were inside quietly fighting, and if they were quietly fighting, they would soon be loudly fighting.
At least I still had access to the bathroom.
I hobbled over to the worn brown couch and plopped down with the grace of a pregnant mountain ram, dropping my purse beside me. Kicking my bum leg up on the coffee table, I stretched out, hoping to relieve the dull ache in my knee.
A thump on the other side of the wall caused me to jump. I glanced over my shoulder, frowning at the wall. No more than a second later, a muffled moan raised the hairs on the back of my neck.
It didn’t sound like a happy moan on the verge of the big O kind of moan. Not that I knew what that sounded like. The few times I had sex ultimately ended with me cursing every romance book out there that led me to believe I’d be sailing through the clouds. But it didn’t sound right.
Keeping my leg on the table, I stretched up, straining to hear what was going on in the room. Debbie Lamb, my roomie, was a junior and seemed like a really sweet girl. She hadn’t crucified me for ruining what would’ve most likely been a semester not sharing a room until I showed up, and she was really smart and quiet.
But her boyfriend was a different story.
A few seconds passed, and I heard a very distinctive male grunt. Cheeks burning, I whipped around so fast I almost gave myself whiplash. Grabbing a pillow, I shoved it over my face.
They were most definitely having sex.
And I was sitting out here listening to them like a creeper.
“Oh God.” My voice was muffled. “Why am I in college?”
A dull pain flared in my knee as a reminder.
Slowly, I lowered the pillow. The door across from me, leading to the other bedroom that shared the suite, remained closed. I hadn’t seen our suitemates, not once, since I started school. I was partially convinced that they were invisible or were llamas or under the witness relocation program, forced to hide in their rooms. I knew they weren’t dead because I heard them sometimes while I was in the living room. They always quieted when they heard me moving around in the suite.
Propping the tan pillow against my chest, I reached into my purse and pulled out my cell phone. I briefly considered texting Sadi, but I hadn’t spoken to her since I left the dance studio in July. I hadn’t spoken to any of my friends since then.
Most of them were in New York City. Sadi was starting at the Joffrey School of Ballet, the same school I had a full scholarship to attend. They were living my life—my dream. But the scholarship hadn’t been canceled. The instructors had placed it on hold, promising me a spot next fall if my injury was healed.
I dropped my phone back in my purse and then leaned back, holding the pillow close. Dr. Morgan, the specialist at WVU who’d done my surgery, believed I had a ninety percent chance of healing completely, as long as I didn’t suffer another injury. Most people would think those were good odds, but that ten percent scared the crap out of me, and I refused to even consider it.
Forty-some minutes passed before the bedroom door opened, and Debbie stepped into the suite, running a hand through her shoulder-length brown hair, smoothing the ends down. She saw me, and her face flushed red.
Debbie cringed. “Oh! You haven’t been out here too long?”
“No. Just a couple of minutes . . .” I trailed off, taking a closer look at Debbie while she straightened the hem of her floral blouse. Her eyes were red and puffy. They’d been fighting. Again. They must’ve made up, but they fought so much I wondered how they had any time for anything other than arguing and makeup sex.
Erik appeared, his fingers flying over the screen of his cell. His short, dark hair stuck straight up. He was good-looking, I’d give him that, but I didn’t understand his appeal. At all. He was big in the frat that Jase belonged to, was somewhat of a local basketball star during his high school years, but he had the personality of a cornered hyena.
Sliding his phone into his jeans pocket, he smiled at me, but it was a nervous smile, one that made me antsy.
“Are you okay?” I asked her.
“Of course she is,” Erik answered, laughing.
I stared at her pointedly, ignoring him, but she nodded quickly. “Yeah, I’m perfect. We’re going to get something to eat before we head to the party. You want to come?”
My mouth opened, but then Erik also answered for me. “She looks like her knee is bothering her, so she probably wants to stay here.”
I snapped my mouth shut.
Debbie looked uncomfortable as Erik started to usher her toward the door. “You coming to the party?”
I hadn’t really been invited, but I knew if I showed up, no one would say anything—no one except Jase, and I didn’t want to see him. I shrugged. “I’m not sure yet.”
She lingered. “Okay, well—”
“Babe, come on, I’m fucking hungry.” Erik grabbed her arm, causing the flesh under his fingers to indent. “It’s getting late.”
A low burn started in my stomach as I looked at that grip. How many times had Jeremy grabbed me like that? Too many to count. Seeing that made me feel nauseated. Made me want to think about things best left forgotten.
Debbie’s wobbly smile faltered. “Text me if you want . . . or need anything.”
Erik grumbled something under his breath, and then they were gone. And I was sitting there, with my leg propped up on the coffee table, staring at the door, but my thoughts had skipped back a couple of years.
“You know I’m fucking hungry,” Jeremy said, leaning over and grabbing my upper arm. He squeezed until I cried out. The car suddenly felt entirely too small. There wasn’t enough air. “What were you doing that took so long? Talking on the phone?”
“No!” I knew to remain still, to not pull away, because that only made him madder. “I was only talking to Cam.”
He relaxed, his fingers loosening their hold. “He’s home?”
I shook my head. “I was talking to him—”
“On the phone?” In a second, his features turned from cute to monstrous. I winced as his fingers dug in through my sweater. “I thought you weren’t on the phone?”
I shook myself out of the memory, happy to discover that all I felt was the residual anger. For the longest time, I would get sick to my stomach even thinking about him, but those days had long since passed.
Jeremy had been an abuser, but I was no longer a victim.
I was over what he’d done to me. Over. Over. Over.
Pulling my gaze away from the door, I squeezed the pillow until my arms ached. I didn’t have proof that Erik was hurting Debbie, more like a sixth sense about it, and I knew that most bruises wouldn’t be visible. Not if Erik was smart, like Jeremy had been.
I spent the rest of the evening eating out of the vending machine from down the hall and thumbing through my history text before crashing early. As I lay there, floating in the la-la land of almost sleep, I felt pretty damn lame. Here I was, a few months shy from turning nineteen, it was a Saturday night, and I was almost asleep before ten.
Lame didn’t even cover it.
Rolling onto my side, facing the wall, I drifted off to sleep wondering if Jase’s rejection would’ve hurt so badly if I hadn’t ruined my leg.
The ding from my cell phone sounded far away when it woke me some time later. I blinked my eyes open, confused. Gr
een light from the clock on the nightstand flashed a quarter after one in the morning. The ding came again.
Smacking around until I reached my cell, I picked it up and squinted at the message. I read it once. Thought I was still dreaming. Read it twice. Thought I forgot how to read. Then I sat up, blinking the sleep from my eyes. The dark room came into focus enough for me to see that the bed on the other side of the room was empty. I looked down at the phone again.
I need to talk to u
It was from Jase.
The second text read I’m outside, and my heart sped up.
Jase was here.
I had to be dreaming.
At least that was how it felt as I found my flip-flops, slipped them on, and then grabbed my key card. For a brief moment I considered ignoring his text, but my body seemed to have a mind of its own.
I was definitely going to want to karate-chop myself in the morning for this.
As I left my suite, I began to fear that this was some kind of joke because how did Jase know which dorm I was in? Even if he knew it was in West Woods, there were six buildings that made up the complex. I doubted he’d asked Cam.
My stomach dipped and twisted into complicated little knots as I walked down the stairs, clutching the railing. Darkness seeped in from the windows on the landing. Maybe I was really dreaming and this would become a nightmare. The railing would turn into a snake—God, I hated snakes—total Beetlejuice style.
Cringing, I pulled my hand away from the smooth metal of the railing and limped my way to the first floor. The lobby was silent with the exception of the soft hum and whirl of a dryer located in laundry services.
As I stepped into the night, tiny bumps spread over my flesh. I wished I’d had the foresight to grab a cardigan. There was a surprising chill to the night air.
I stopped on the porch, clutching the key card until it left little indents in my hand as I scanned the walkway and trees lining the path. All the benches were empty. There was no one out here. Besides the chirps of crickets, the only sound was distant laughter and faint music, punctuated every so many seconds with a happy shout.
My heart turned over heavily as I stepped off the porch, pushing my hair out of my face with my free hand. This was a joke. Or maybe he meant to text someone else and was waiting outside of her dorm. My skin prickled at the thought of him texting any other girl at one in the morning, which was stupid.
I shuffled several feet down the walkway, peering between the trees and thick hedges. The hollows of my cheeks started to burn as I stopped in the middle of the pathway. I shifted my weight from my aching leg to the other. What was I doing out here? I didn’t even bring my phone with me. It had to be a mistake or a joke or a—
A thick shadow broke free from under the trees, moving between the hedges. The form was tall and solid and as it stepped into the pillar of light cast from the lamppost, my mouth dropped open. It was Jase, but what was he doing back there? As he turned toward me, his hands left the zipper area of his jeans. Oh my God.
“Jase?” I hissed, hurrying the rest of the way toward him.
His chin lifted at the sound of my voice. “There you are.” He said it like he’d been waiting forever and a day for me. One side of his lips kicked up. “You’re here.”
There was a flutter in my chest at the sight of his half smile. Recalling what he had said to me earlier helped me ignore the dumbass butterfly in my chest. “Were you just peeing?”
The half grin spread. “I had to use the bathroom.”
“In a bush?”
“Someone needed to water it.”
My lips twitched as I stared up at him. The unruly mop of hair fell across his forehead, brushing the edges of his eyes. The old, vintage style T-shirt he wore stretched across his broad shoulders and chest. As he lifted his hand to push his hair back, he revealed a slice of skin between his low-hanging jeans and his shirt. Rock-hard abs peeked out.
I averted my gaze because that was the last thing I needed to be staring at. “You’re drunk.”
“Ah . . .” He swayed to the left like there was some kind of invisible gravitational pull I was unaware of. “I wouldn’t go as far as to say I am drunk. Maybe a little buzzing.”
I arched a brow as he wavered to the right. That’s when I noticed the little pink box on the bench. “Is that yours?”
He followed my gaze and then grinned. “Shit. I forgot about it. Brought you a present.”
My brows shot up as he leaned over, nearly falling on his face before catching himself at the last moment, and picked up the box. “What is it?”
He handed it over. “Something as yummy as me.”
I snorted out a very attractive laugh as I looked down. Through the clear plastic top I could make out a huge, oversized cupcake. I glanced at Jase.
One shoulder went up in a shrug. “Cupcakes are good. Thought I’d be good and share with you.”
“Thank you.” I pried open the box and dipped my pinkie in the icing. Tasting it, I nearly moaned at the sweet richness.
Jase swallowed as he looked away. “I think I’ll sit down. You should too . . . you know, because of your leg.”
Like I somehow forgot that.
Jase watched me as I eased down, finding my knee stiffer than normal. “Is your leg bothering you?”
I opened my mouth, but he rushed on. “I didn’t even think about that. You probably shouldn’t be on your leg so much and—”
“I’m okay.” I took a quick bite of the cupcake. It was like a sugary orgasm in my mouth. “Want some?”
I broke the cupcake in half and handed him his half. Within five seconds, he’d devoured it. I finished mine off pretty quickly and after tossing the box in a nearby trash can, I took a deep breath. “You didn’t come here just to give me a cupcake, right?”
“What . . . what are you doing here, Jase?”
He didn’t answer immediately, but when his gray gaze settled on me, his eyes were surprisingly sharp. “I want to talk to you.”
“That much I got, but I think you said everything you wanted to say already, and you showing up here is the last thing I expected.” I felt like a bitch for throwing it out there like that, but it was true. And he sort of deserved it. I was no one’s doormat.
Jase looked away as his shoulders tensed, then he came forward and sat down beside me. The smell of alcohol was faint as he looked at me. Without saying a word, he reached over and plucked up my free hand. My eyes widened as he lifted my hand, turned it over, and placed a kiss against my palm.
Yep. He was drunk.
And my skin tingled from where his lips had met, like an electrical jolt. Speechless, I watched him lower my hand back to my lap.
“I’m a jackass,” he said.
I blinked slowly.
“I shouldn’t have said the shit that I said to you earlier. It wasn’t right and I was lying.” He took a deep breath, shifting his gaze to the empty bench across from us. “I wasn’t drunk that night. I was far from it.”
My heart had begun pounding from the moment he kissed my hand and went up a degree as he spoke, and my voice was barely above a whisper. “I know.”
“And I really didn’t think you’d assume it meant anything because you had a crush on me or whatever.” One side of his lips tipped up again, but he had been right on that aspect. The kiss had meant everything to me. “I just . . . I shouldn’t have kissed you that night—touched you. Not because it was gross or any of that shit, but because you’re Cam’s little sister. You’re untouchable.”
As I stared at him, the butterfly moved from my chest to my stomach. Was that Jase’s problem? He felt bad because Cam was his friend. Seriously? Part of me wanted to smack him upside the head. The other part of me wanted to crawl into his lap, because if that was his big hang-up, we could work with that. Couldn’t we? Or did it matter?
But I just sat there, staring at him like I had all those times
he’d come to visit Cam. If I started giggling, I was going to punch myself in the face.
“The moment . . . it had gotten away from me that night, Tess. You . . . you are a beautiful girl. Always have been and, goddamnit, that hasn’t changed.”
He thought I was beautiful—wait. The moment had gotten away from him? Torn between being elated and insulted, I shook my head.
“Anyway, I just wanted to say I’m sorry.” He glanced over at me, half of his face shadowed. “And if you think I’m the biggest jackass out there, I completely understand.”
What he had said earlier still stung like I’d kicked a nest full of hornets, but what he was saying now soothed a little of the burn. “I don’t think that.”
Jase stilled for a moment and then he twisted toward me, his head cocking to the side again. Our eyes locked, and I found that I couldn’t look away. “You’re still so . . . sweet.”
Sweet? I resisted the urge to spit on the ground. Of course Jase thought I was sweet and nice and as innocent and cuddly as an old, raggedy teddy bear. Not exactly how I wanted him to see me.
He broke eye contact first, and the air leaked out of my lungs. Wetting my lips, I ran the edge of my key card over the soft flannel of my jammie bottoms. “So you decided to come over in the middle of the night to tell me this?”
“It’s not exactly the middle of the night,” he said, smiling slightly. “More like early late night.”
My brows rose. “That doesn’t make much sense.”
“If you drank half of an eighteen-pack, it just might.”
I pursed my lips, remembering he was more than just a little buzzed. “Why didn’t you just wait until, I don’t know, you were sober and the sun was out to have this conversation?”
“I couldn’t wait,” he said without a moment of hesitation, so quickly that there was no doubting how important it was to him. “And the party sucked.”