Beautiful disaster, p.17
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       Beautiful Disaster, p.17
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         Part #1 of Beautiful series by Jamie McGuire

  He pulled back, breathless. “Call Parker. Tell him you don’t wanna see him anymore. Tell him you’re with me.”

  I closed my eyes. “I can’t be with you, Travis.”

  “Why the hell not?” he said, letting go.

  I shook my head, afraid of his reaction to the truth.

  He laughed once. “Unbelievable. The one girl I want, and she doesn’t want me.”

  I swallowed, knowing I would have to get closer to the truth than I had in months. “When America and I moved out here, it was with the understanding that my life was going to turn out a certain way. Or that it wouldn’t turn out a certain way. The fighting, the gambling, the drinking … it’s what I left behind. When I’m around you … it’s all right there for me in an irresistible, tattooed package. I didn’t move hundreds of miles away to live it all over again.”

  He pulled my chin up so that I would face him. “I know you deserve better than me. You think I don’t know that? But if there was any woman made for me … it’s you. I’ll do whatever I have to do, Pidge. Do you hear me? I’ll do anything.”

  I turned away from his grip, ashamed that I couldn’t tell him the truth. I was the one that wasn’t good enough. I would be the one to ruin everything, to ruin him. He would hate me one day, and I couldn’t see the look in his eye when he came to that conclusion.

  He held the door shut with his hand. “I’ll stop fighting the second I graduate. I won’t drink a single drop again. I’ll give you the happy ever after, Pigeon. If you just believe in me, I can do it.”

  “I don’t want you to change.”

  “Then tell me what to do. Tell me and I’ll do it,” he pleaded.

  Any thoughts of being with Parker were long gone, and I knew it was because of my feelings for Travis. I thought about the different paths my life would take from that moment—trusting Travis with a leap of faith and risking the unknown, or pushing him away and knowing exactly where I would end up, which included a life without him—either decision terrified me.

  “Can I borrow your phone?” I asked.

  Travis pulled his brows together, confused. “Sure,” he said, pulling his phone from his pocket, handing it to me.

  I dialed, and then closed my eyes as it rang in my ear.

  “Travis? What the hell? Do you know what time it is?” Parker answered. His voice was deep and raspy, and I instantly felt my heart vibrating in my chest. It hadn’t occurred to me that he would know I had called from Travis’s phone.

  My next words somehow found their way to my trembling lips. “I’m sorry for calling you so early, but this couldn’t wait. I … can’t go to dinner with you on Wednesday.”

  “It’s almost four in the morning, Abby. What’s going on?”

  “I can’t see you at all, actually.”

  “Abs …”

  “I’m … pretty sure I’m in love with Travis,” I said, bracing for his reaction.

  After a few moments of shocked silence, he hung up in my ear.

  My eyes still focused on the pavement, I handed Travis his phone and then reluctantly peered up at his expression. A combination of confusion, shock, and adoration scrolled across his face.

  “He hung up,” I grimaced.

  He scanned my face with careful hope in his eyes. “You love me?”

  “It’s the tattoos,” I shrugged.

  A wide smile stretched across his face, making his dimple sink into his cheek. “Come home with me,” he said, enveloping me in his arms.

  My eyebrows shot up. “You said all that to get me in bed? I must have made quite an impression.”

  “The only thing I’m thinking about right now is holding you in my arms all night.”

  “Let’s go,” I said.

  Despite the excessive speed and the shortcuts, the ride to the apartment seemed endless. When we finally arrived, Travis carried me up the stairs. I giggled against his lips as he fumbled to unlock the door. When he set me on my feet and closed the door behind us, he let out a long, relieved sigh.

  “It hasn’t seemed like home since you left,” he said, kissing my lips.

  Toto scampered down the hall and wagged his tiny tail, pawing at my legs. I cooed at him as I lifted him off the floor.

  Shepley’s bed squeaked, and then his feet stomped across the floor. His door flew open as he squinted from the light. “Fuck no, Trav, you’re not pulling this shit! You’re in love with Ab …”—his eyes focused and he recognized his mistake—“…by. Hey, Abby.”

  “Hey, Shep,” I said, setting Toto on the floor.

  Travis pulled me past his still-shocked cousin and kicked the door shut behind us, pulling me into his arms and kissing me without a second thought, as if we had done it a million times before. I pulled his shirt over his head, and he slipped my jacket off my shoulders. I stopped kissing him long enough to remove my sweater and tank top and then crashed into him again. We undressed each other, and within seconds he lowered me to his mattress. I reached above my head to pull open the drawer and plunged my hand inside, searching for anything that crackled.

  “Shit,” he said, panting and frustrated. “I got rid of them.”

  “What? All of them?” I breathed.

  “I thought you didn’t … if I wasn’t with you, I wasn’t going to need them.”

  “You’re kidding me!” I said, letting my head fall against the headboard.

  His forehead fell against my chest. “Consider yourself the opposite of a foregone conclusion.”

  I smiled and kissed him. “You’ve never been with anyone without one?”

  He shook his head. “Never.” I looked around for a moment, lost in thought. He laughed once at my expression. “What are you doing?

  “Ssh, I’m counting.” Travis watched me for a moment and then leaned down to kiss my neck. “I can’t concentrate while you’re doing tha …” I sighed, “the twenty-fifth and two days … ,” I breathed.

  Travis chuckled. “What the hell are you talkin’ about?”

  “We’re good,” I said, sliding down so I was directly beneath him.

  He pressed his chest against mine, and kissed me tenderly. “Are you sure?”

  I let my hands glide from his shoulders to his backside and pulled him against me. He closed his eyes, and let out a long, deep groan.

  “Oh my God, Abby,” he breathed. He rocked into me again, another hum emanating from his throat. “Holy shit, you feel amazing.”

  “Is it different?”

  He looked into my eyes. “It’s different with you, anyway, but,” he took in a deep breath and tensed again, closing his eyes for a moment, “I’m never going to be the same after this.”

  His lips searched every inch of my neck, and when he found his way to my mouth, I sunk my fingertips into the muscles of his shoulders, losing myself in the intensity of the kiss.

  Travis brought my hands above my head and intertwined his fingers with mine, squeezing my hands with each thrust. His movements became a bit rougher, and I dug my nails into his hands, my insides tensing with incredible force.

  I cried out, biting my lip and clenching my eyes shut.

  “Abby,” he whispered, sounding conflicted, “I need a … I need to … ,”

  “Don’t stop,” I begged.

  He rocked into me again, groaning so loudly that I covered his mouth. After a few labored breaths, he looked into my eyes and then kissed me over and over. His hands cupped each side of my face and then he kissed me again, slower, more tender. He touched his lips to mine, and then my cheeks, my forehead, my nose, and then finally returned to my lips.

  I smiled and sighed, exhaustion setting in. Travis pulled me next to him, situating the covers over us. I rested my cheek against his chest, and he kissed my forehead once more, locking his fingers together behind me.

  “Don’t leave this time, okay? I wanna wake up just like this in the morning.”

  I kissed his chest, feeling guilty that he had to ask. “I’m not going anywhere.”

  Chapte
r Eleven

  JEALOUSY

  I awoke on my stomach, naked and tangled in Travis Maddox’s sheets. I kept my eyes closed, feeling his fingers caressing my arm and back.

  He exhaled with a deep, contented sigh, speaking in a hushed voice. “I love you, Abby. I’m going to make you happy, I swear it.”

  The bed concaved as he shifted, and then his lips were on my back in slow, small kisses. I remained still, and just as he had made his way up to the skin just below my ear, he left me to walk across the room. His footsteps leisurely plodded down the hall, and the pipes whined with the water pressure of the shower.

  I opened my eyes and sat up, stretching. Every muscle in my body ached, muscles that I never knew I had. I held the sheet to my chest, looking out the window, watching the yellow and red leaves spiral from their branches to the ground.

  His cell phone vibrated somewhere on the floor, and after clumsily searching the crumpled clothes on the floor, I found it in his jeans pocket. The display was lit with only a number, no name.

  “Hello?”

  “Is uh … is Travis there?” a woman asked.

  “He’s in the shower, can I take a message?”

  “Of course he is. Tell him that Megan called, would ya?”

  Travis walked in, tightening his towel around his water-splotched waist, and smiled as I held out his phone.

  “It’s for you,” I said.

  He kissed me before looking at the display, and then shook his head. “Yeah? It was my girlfriend. What do you need, Megan?” He listened for a moment and then smiled, “Well, Pigeon’s special, what can I say?” After a long pause, he rolled his eyes. I could only imagine what she was saying. “Don’t be a bitch, Megan. Listen, you can’t call my phone anymore … Well, love’ll do that to ya,” he said, looking at me with a soft expression. “Yes, with Abby. I mean it, Meg, no more phone calls … Later.”

  He tossed his phone on the bed, and then sat beside me. “She was a little pissy. Did she say anything to you?”

  “No, she just asked for you.”

  “I erased the few numbers I had on my phone, but I guess that doesn’t stop them from calling me. If they don’t figure it out on their own, I’ll set them straight.”

  He watched me expectantly, and I couldn’t help but smile. I had never seen this side of him. “I trust you, you know.”

  He pressed his lips to mine. “I wouldn’t blame you if you expected me to earn it.”

  “I’ve got to get in the shower. I’ve already missed one class.”

  “See? I’m a good influence already.”

  I stood up, and he tugged on the sheet. “Megan said there’s a Halloween party this weekend at the Red Door. I went with her last year, it was pretty fun.”

  “I’m sure it was,” I said, raising an eyebrow.

  “I just mean a lot of people come out. They have a pool tournament and cheap drinks … wanna go?”

  “I’m not really … I don’t do the dress-up thing. I never have.”

  “I don’t, either. I just go,” he shrugged.

  “Are we still going bowling tonight?” I asked, wondering if the invitation was just to get some alone time with me that he no longer needed.

  “Well, hell yeah! I’m gonna kick your ass, too!”

  I narrowed my eyes at him. “Not this time you’re not. I have a new superpower.”

  He laughed. “And what’s that? Harsh language?”

  I leaned over to kiss his neck once, and then ran my tongue up to his ear, kissing his earlobe. He froze in place.

  “Distraction,” I breathed into his ear.

  He grabbed my arms and flipped me onto my back. “You’re going to miss another class.”

  After finally talking him into leaving the apartment long enough to attend history class, we raced to campus and slid into our seats just before Professor Chaney began. Travis turned his red baseball cap backwards to plant a kiss on my lips, in full view of everyone in the classroom.

  On our way to the cafeteria, he took my hand in his, intertwining our fingers as we walked. He seemed so proud to be holding my hand, announcing to the world that we were finally together. Finch noticed, looking at our hands and then to me with a ridiculous grin. He wasn’t the only one; our simple display of affection generated stares and murmuring of everyone we passed.

  At the door of the cafeteria, Travis blew out his last puff of smoke, looking to me when I hesitated. America and Shepley were already inside, and Finch had lit another cigarette, leaving me to go in with Travis alone. I was certain the gossip had soared to a new level since Travis had kissed me in full view of everyone in our history class, and I dreaded walking out onto the stage the cafeteria presented.

  “What, Pigeon?” he said, tugging on my hand.

  “Everyone is watching us.”

  He pulled my hand to his mouth and kissed my fingers. “They’ll get over it. It’s just the initial shock. Remember when we first started hanging out? Their curiosity died down after a while and they got used to seeing us together. C’mon,” he said, pulling me through the door.

  One of the reasons I had chosen Eastern U was its modest population, but the exaggerated interest in scandal that came with it was at times exhausting. It was a running joke; everyone was aware of how ridiculous the rumor mill was, and yet they all shamelessly participated in it.

  We sat down in our usual spots with our food. America smiled at me with a knowing expression. She chatted as if everything was normal, but the football players at the other end of the table were staring at me like I was on fire.

  Travis tapped my apple with his fork. “You gonna eat that, Pidge?”

  “No, you can have it, baby.”

  Heat consumed my ears when America’s head jerked to look at me.

  “It just came out,” I said, shaking my head. I peeked up at Travis, whose expression was a mixture of amusement and adoration.

  We had exchanged the term a few times that morning, and it hadn’t occurred to me that it was new to everyone else until it tumbled from my mouth.

  “You two have just reached the level of annoyingly cute,” America grinned.

  Shepley tapped my shoulder. “You staying over tonight?” he asked, his words garbled amid the bread in his mouth. “I promise I won’t come out of my room cussing at you.”

  “You were defending my honor, Shep. You’re forgiven,” I said.

  Travis took a bite of the apple and chewed, looking happy as I’d ever seen him. The peace in his eyes had returned, and even as the dozens of people watched our every move, everything felt … right.

  I thought of all the times I had insisted being with Travis was the wrong decision and how much time I had wasted fighting my feelings for him. Looking across the table at his soft brown eyes and the dimple dancing in his cheek as he chewed, I couldn’t remember what I was so worried about.

  “He looks awful happy. Did you finally give it up, Abby?” Chris said, elbowing his teammates.

  “You’re not very smart, are ya, Jenks?” Shepley said, frowning.

  The blood instantly rose to my cheeks, and I looked to Travis who had murder in his eyes. My embarrassment took a back seat to Travis’s anger, and I shook my head dismissively. “Just ignore him.”

  After another tense moment, his shoulders relaxed a bit, and he nodded once, taking a deep breath. After a few seconds, he winked at me.

  I reached my hand across the table, sliding my fingers into his. “You meant what you said last night, didn’t you?”

  He began to speak, but Chris’s laughter filled the cafeteria. “Holy God! Travis Maddox is whipped?”

  “Did you mean it when you said you didn’t want me to change?” he asked, squeezing my hand.

  I looked down at Chris laughing to his teammates and then turned to Travis. “Absolutely. Teach that asshole some manners.”

  A mischievous grin spread across his face, and he walked down to the end of the table where Chris sat. Silence spread across the room, and Chris swa
llowed back his laughter.

  “Hey, I was just givin’ you a hard time, Travis,” he said, looking up at him.

  “Apologize to Pidge,” Travis said, glowering down at him.

  Chris looked down at me with a nervous grin. “I … I was just kidding, Abby. I’m sorry.”

  I glared at him as he looked up to Travis for approval. When Travis walked away, Chris snickered and then whispered something to Brazil. My heart began to pound when I saw Travis stop in his tracks and ball his hands into fists at his side.

  Brazil shook his head and huffed in an exasperated sigh. “Just remember when you wake up, Chris … that you bring it on yourself.”

  Travis lifted Finch’s tray off the table and swung it into Chris’s face, knocking him off his chair. Chris tried to scramble under the table, but Travis pulled him out by his legs and then began to whale on him.

  Chris curled into a ball, and then Travis kicked him in the back. Chris arched and turned, holding his hands out, allowing Travis to land several punches to his face. The blood began to flow, and Travis stood up, winded.

  “If you even look at her, you piece of shit, I’ll break your fuckin’ jaw!” Travis yelled. I winced when he kicked Chris in the leg one last time.

  The women working in the cafeteria scampered out, shocked at the bloody mess on the floor.

  “Sorry,” Travis said, wiping Chris’s blood from his cheek.

  Some of the students stood up to get a better look; others remained seated, watching with mild amusement. The football team simply stared at Chris’s limp body on the floor, shaking their heads.

  Travis turned, and Shepley stood, grabbing both my arm and America’s hand, and pulled us out the door behind his cousin. We walked the short distance to Morgan Hall, and America and I sat on the front steps, watching Travis pace back and forth.

  “You okay, Trav?” Shepley asked.

  “Just … give me a minute,” he said, putting his hands low on his hips as he walked.

  Shepley shoved his hands into his pockets. “I’m surprised you stopped.”

 
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