Beautiful disaster, p.4
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       Beautiful Disaster, p.4

         Part #1 of Beautiful series by Jamie McGuire
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  “Eh…don’t worry about it,” Travis said in a casual tone.

  “What?” she asked, leaning back to look in his eyes.

  “Every time!” America said. She looked at the woman. “How are you surprised by this? He’s Travis Fucking Maddox! He is famous for this very thing, and every time they’re surprised!” she said, turning to Shepley. He put his arm around her, gesturing for her to calm down.

  The girl narrowed her eyes at Travis and then grabbed her purse and stormed out, slamming the door behind her.

  Travis walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge as if nothing had happened.

  America shook her head and walked down the hall. Shepley followed her, angling his body to compensate for the weight of her suitcase as he trailed behind.

  I collapsed against the recliner and sighed, wondering if I was crazy for agreeing to come. I didn’t realize Shepley’s apartment was a revolving door for clueless bimbos.

  Travis stood behind the breakfast bar, crossed his arms over his chest, and smiled. “What’s wrong, Pidge? Hard day?”

  “No, I’m thoroughly disgusted.”

  “With me?” He was smiling. I should have known that he expected the conversation. It only made me less inclined to hold back.

  “Yes, you. How can you just use someone like that and treat them that way?”

  “How did I treat her? She offered her number, I declined.”

  My mouth fell open at his lack of remorse. “You’ll have sex with her, but you won’t take her number?”

  Travis leaned on the counter with his elbows. “Why would I want her number if I’m not going to call her?”

  “Why would you sleep with her if you’re not going to call her?”

  “I don’t promise anyone anything, Pidge. She didn’t stipulate a relationship before she spread eagle on my couch.”

  I stared at the couch with revulsion. “She’s someone’s daughter, Travis. What if, down the line, someone treats your daughter like that?”

  “My daughter better not drop her panties for some jackass she just met, let’s put it that way.”

  I crossed my arms, angry that he made sense. “So, besides admitting that you’re a jackass, you’re saying that because she slept with you, she deserved to be tossed out like a stray cat?”

  “I’m saying that I was honest with her. She’s an adult, it was consensual … she was a little too eager about it, if you want to know the truth. You act like I committed a crime.”

  “She didn’t seem as clear about your intentions, Travis.”

  “Women usually justify their actions with whatever they make up in their heads. She didn’t tell me upfront that she expected a relationship any more than I told her I expected sex with no strings. How is it any different?”

  “You’re a pig.”

  Travis shrugged. “I’ve been called worse.”

  I stared at the couch, the cushions still askew and bunched up from its recent use. I recoiled at the thought of how many women had given themselves away against the fabric. Itchy fabric at that.

  “I guess I’m sleeping on the recliner,” I grumbled.

  “Why?”

  I glared at him, furious over his confused expression. “I’m not sleeping on that thing! God knows what I’d be lying in!”

  He lifted my luggage off the floor. “You’re not sleeping on the couch or the recliner. You’re sleeping in my bed.”

  “Which is more unsanitary than the couch, I’m sure.”

  “There’s never been anyone in my bed but me.”

  I rolled my eyes. “Give me a break!”

  “I’m absolutely serious. I bag ’em on the couch. I don’t let them in my room.”

  “Then why am I allowed in your bed?”

  One corner of his mouth pulled up into an impish grin. “Are you planning on having sex with me tonight?”

  “No!”

  “That’s why. Now get your cranky ass up, take your hot shower, and then we can study some Bio.”

  I glared at him for a moment and then grudgingly did as he commanded. I stood under the shower entirely too long, letting the water wash away my aggravation. Massaging the shampoo through my hair, I sighed at how wonderful it was to shower in a noncommunal bathroom again—no flip-flops, no toiletry bag, just the relaxing blend of water and steam.

  The door opened, and I jumped. “Mare?”

  “No, it’s me,” Travis said.

  I automatically wrapped my arms over the parts I didn’t want him to see. “What are you doing in here? Get out!”

  “You forgot a towel, and I brought your clothes, and your toothbrush, and some weird face cream I found in your bag.”

  “You went through my stuff?” I shrieked. He didn’t answer. Instead, I heard the faucet turn on and the sound of his toothbrush against his teeth.

  I peeked out of the plastic curtain, holding it against my chest. “Get out, Travis.”

  He looked up at me, his lips covered in suds from his toothpaste. “I can’t go to bed without brushing my teeth.”

  “If you come within two feet of this curtain, I will poke out your eyes while you sleep.”

  “I won’t peek, Pidge,” he chuckled.

  I waited under the water with my arms wrapped tightly across my chest. He spit, gurgled, and spit again, and then the door closed. I rinsed the soap from my skin, dried as quickly as possible, and then pulled my T-shirt and shorts on, slipping on my glasses and raking a comb through my hair. The night moisturizer Travis had brought caught my eye, and I couldn’t help but smile. He was thoughtful and almost nice when he wanted to be.

  Travis opened the door again. “C’mon, Pidge! I’m gettin’ old, here!”

  I threw my comb at him and he ducked, shutting the door and laughing to himself all the way to his room. I brushed my teeth and then shuffled down the hall, passing Shepley’s bedroom on the way.

  “Night, Abby,” America called from the darkness.

  “Night, Mare.”

  I hesitated before landing two soft knocks on Travis’s door.

  “Come in, Pidge. You don’t have to knock.”

  He pulled the door open and I walked in, seeing his black iron-rod bed parallel to the line of windows on the far side of the room. The walls were bare except for a lone sombrero above his headboard. I half expected his room to be covered in posters of barely clothed women, but I didn’t even see an advertisement for a beer brand. His bed was black, his carpet gray; everything else in the room was white. It looked as if he’d just moved in.

  “Nice PJs,” Travis said, noting my yellow-and-navy plaid shorts and gray Eastern T. He sat on his bed and patted the pillow beside him. “Well, come on. I’m not going to bite you.”

  “I’m not afraid of you,” I said, walking over to the bed and dropping my Biology book beside him. “Do you have a pen?”

  He nodded to his night table. “Top drawer.”

  I reached across the bed and pulled open the drawer, finding three pens, a pencil, a tube of K-Y Jelly, and a clear, glass bowl overflowing with packages of different brands of condoms. Revolted, I grabbed a pen and shoved the drawer shut.

  “What?” he asked, turning a page of my book.

  “Did you rob the health clinic?”

  “No. Why?”

  I pulled the cap off the pen, unable to keep the sickened expression from my face. “Your lifetime supply of condoms.”

  “Better safe than sorry, right?”

  I rolled my eyes. Travis returned to the pages, a wry smile breaking across his lips. He read the notes to me, highlighting the main points while he asked me questions and patiently explained what I didn’t comprehend.

  After an hour, I pulled off my glasses and rubbed my eyes. “I’m beat. I can’t memorize one more macromolecule.”

  Travis smiled, closing my book. “All right.”

  I paused, unsure of our sleeping arrangements. Travis left the room and walked down the hall, mumbling something into Shepley’s room before turning o
n the shower. I turned back the covers and then pulled them up to my neck, listening to the high-pitched whine of the water running through the pipes.

  Ten minutes later, the water shut off, and the floors creaked under Travis’s steps. He strolled across the room with a towel wrapped around his hips. He had tattoos on opposite sides of his chest, and black tribal art covering each of his bulging shoulders. On his right arm, the black lines and symbols spanned from his shoulder to his wrist; on the left, the tattoos stopped at his elbow, with one single line of script on the underside of his forearm. I intentionally kept my back to him while he stood in front of his dresser and dropped his towel to slip on a pair of boxers.

  After flipping off the light, he crawled into the bed beside me.

  “You’re sleeping here, too?” I asked, turning to look at him. The full moon outside the windows cast shadows across his face. “Well, yeah. This is my bed.”

  “I know, but I …” I paused. My only other options were the couch or the recliner.

  Travis grinned and shook his head. “Don’t you trust me by now? I’ll be on my best behavior, I swear,” he said, holding up fingers that I was sure the Boy Scouts of America had never considered using.

  I didn’t argue, I simply turned away and rested my head on the pillow, tucking the covers behind me to create a clear barrier between his body and mine.

  “Goodnight, Pigeon,” he whispered into my ear. I could feel his minty breath on my cheek, giving rise to goose bumps on every inch of my flesh. Thank God it was dark enough that he couldn’t see my embarrassing reaction or the flush of my cheeks that followed.

  · · ·

  It seemed like I had just closed my eyes when I heard the alarm. I reached over to turn it off, but wrenched back my hand in horror when I felt warm skin beneath my fingers. I tried to recall where I was. When the answer hit, it mortified me that Travis might have thought I’d done it on purpose.

  “Travis? Your alarm,” I whispered. He still didn’t move. “Travis!” I said, nudging him. When he still didn’t stir, I reached across him, fumbling in the dim light until I felt the top of the clock. Unsure of how to turn it off, I smacked the top of it until I hit the snooze button, and then fell against my pillow with a huff.

  Travis chuckled.

  “You were awake?”

  “I promised I’d behave. I didn’t say anything about letting you lay on me.”

  “I didn’t lie on you,” I protested. “I couldn’t reach the clock. That has to be the most annoying alarm I’ve ever heard. It sounds like a dying animal.”

  He reached over and flipped a button. “You want breakfast?”

  I glared at him, and then shook my head. “I’m not hungry.”

  “Well, I am. Why don’t you ride with me down the street to the café?”

  “I don’t think I can handle your lack of driving skills this early in the morning,” I said. I swung my feet over the side of the bed and shoved them into my slippers, shuffling to the door.

  “Where are you going?” he asked.

  “To get dressed and go to class. Do you need an itinerary while I’m here?”

  Travis stretched, and then walked over to me, still in his boxers. “Are you always so temperamental, or will that taper off once you believe I’m not just creating some elaborate scheme to get in your pants?” His hands cupped my shoulders and I felt his thumbs caress my skin in unison.

  “I’m not temperamental.”

  He leaned in close and whispered in my ear. “I don’t want to sleep with you, Pidge. I like you too much.”

  He walked past me to the bathroom, and I stood, stunned. Kara’s words replayed in my mind. Travis Maddox slept with every one; I couldn’t help but feel deficient in some way knowing he had no desire to even try to sleep with me.

  The door opened again, and America walked through. “Wakey, wakey, eggs ’n’ bakey!” she smiled, yawning.

  “You’re turning into your mother, Mare,” I grumbled, rifling through my suitcase.

  “Oooh …did someone miss some sleep last night?”

  “He barely breathed in my direction,” I said acerbically.

  A knowing smile brightened America’s face. “Oh.”

  “Oh, what?”

  “Nothing,” she said, returning to Shepley’s room.

  Travis was in the kitchen, humming a random tune while scrambling eggs. “You sure you don’t want some?” he asked.

  “I’m sure. Thanks, though.”

  Shepley and America walked in, and Shepley pulled two plates from the cabinet, holding them out as Travis shoveled a pile of steaming eggs onto each one. Shepley sat the plates on the bar, and he and America sat together, satisfying the appetite they more than likely worked up the night before.

  “Don’t look at me like that, Shep. I’m sorry, I just don’t want to go,” America said.

  “Baby, the House has a date party twice a year,” Shepley spoke as he chewed. “It’s a month away. You’ll have plenty of time to find a dress and do all that girl stuff.”

  “I would, Shep …that’s really sweet …but I’m not gonna know anyone there.”

  “A lot of the girls that come don’t know a lot of people there,” he said, surprised at the rejection.

  She slumped in her chair. “The sorority bitches get invited to those things. They’ll all know each other…it’ll be weird.”

  “C’mon, Mare. Don’t make me go alone.”

  “Well…maybe you could find someone to take Abby?” she said, looking at me, and then at Travis.

  Travis raised an eyebrow, and Shepley shook his head. “Trav doesn’t go to the date parties. It’s something you take your girlfriend to … and Travis doesn’t … you know.”

  America shrugged. “We could set her up with someone.”

  I narrowed my eyes at her. “I can hear you, you know.”

  America used the face she knew I couldn’t say no to. “Please, Abby? We’ll find you a nice guy that’s funny and witty, and you know I’ll make sure he’s hot. I promise you’ll have a good time! And who knows? Maybe you’ll hit it off.”

  Travis threw the pan in the sink. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t take her.”

  I rolled my eyes. “Don’t do me any favors, Travis.”

  “That’s not what I meant, Pidge. Date parties are for the guys with girlfriends, and it’s common knowledge that I don’t do the girlfriend thing. But I won’t have to worry about you expecting an engagement ring afterward.”

  America jutted her lip out. “Pretty please, Abby?”

  “Don’t look at me like that!” I complained. “Travis doesn’t want to go, I don’t want to go … we won’t be much fun.”

  Travis crossed his arms and leaned against the sink. “I didn’t say I didn’t want to go. I think it’d be fun if the four of us went,” he shrugged.

  Everyone’s eyes focused on me, and I recoiled. “Why don’t we hang out here?”

  America pouted and Shepley leaned forward. “Because I have to go, Abby. I’m a freshman. I have to make sure everything’s moving smoothly, everyone has a beer in their hand, things like that.”

  Travis walked across the kitchen and wrapped his arm around my shoulders, pulling me to his side. “C’mon, Pidge. Will you go with me?”

  I looked at America, then at Shepley, and finally to Travis. “Yes,” I sighed.

  America squealed and hugged me, and then I felt Shepley’s hand on my back. “Thanks, Abby,” Shepley said.

  Chapter Three

  CHEAP SHOT

  Finch took another drag. The smoke flowed from his nose in two thick streams. I angled my face toward the sun as he regaled me with the recent weekend of dancing, booze and a very persistent new friend.

  “If he’s stalking you, then why do you let him buy you drinks?” I laughed.

  “It’s simple, Abby. I’m broke.”

  I laughed again, and Finch jabbed his elbow into my side when he caught sight of Travis walking toward us.

  “Hey, Tr
avis,” Finch lilted, winking at me.

  “Finch,” Travis said with a nod. He dangled his keys. “I’m headed home, Pidge. You need a ride?”

  “I was just going in,” I said, grinning up at him through my sunglasses.

  “You’re not staying with me tonight?” he asked. His face was a combination of surprise and disappointment.

  “No, I am. I just had to grab a few things that I forgot.”

  “Like what?”

  “Well, my razor for one. What do you care?”

  “It’s about time you shaved your legs. They’ve been tearing the hell outta mine,” he said with an impish grin.

  Finch’s eyes bulged as he gave me a quick once-over, and I made a face at Travis. “That’s how rumors get started!” I looked at Finch and shook my head. “I’m sleeping in his bed…just sleeping.”

  “Right,” Finch said with a smug smile.

  I smacked Finch’s arm before yanking the door open and climbing the stairs. By the time I reached the second floor, Travis was beside me.

  “Oh, don’t be mad. I was just kidding.”

  “Everyone already assumes we’re having sex. You’re making it worse.”

  “Who cares what they think?”

  “I do, Travis! I do!” I pushed open my door, shoved random items in a small tote, and then stormed out with Travis trailing behind. He chuckled as he took the bag from my hand, and I glared at him. “It’s not funny. Do you want the whole school to think I’m one of your sluts?”

  Travis frowned. “No one thinks that. And if they do, they better hope I don’t hear about it.”

  He held the door open for me, and after walking through, I stopped abruptly in front of him.

  ‘Whoa!” he said, slamming into me.

  I flipped around. “Oh my God! People probably think we’re together and you’re shamelessly continuing your … lifestyle. I must look pathetic!” I said, coming to the realization as I spoke. “I don’t think I should stay with you anymore. We should just stay away from each other in general for a while.”

  I took my bag from him and he snatched it back.

  “No one thinks we’re together, Pidge. You don’t have to quit talking to me to prove a point.”

  We engaged in a tug of war with the tote, and when he refused to let go, I growled loudly in frustration. “Have you ever had a girl—that’s a friend—stay with you? Have you ever given girls rides to and from school? Have you eaten lunch with them every day? No one knows what to think about us, even when we tell them!”

 
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