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Rules of a Rebel and a Shy Girl, Page 14

Jessica Sorensen


  I jerk back, gasping for air. “H-holy s-shit.”

  “Please don’t panic,” he begs without missing a beat. “It’s just a kiss. Nothing has to change if you don’t want it to.”

  I struggle to get my erratic breathing under control.

  He knows me too well. How does he do that? How does he read me when he can’t even see my face through the darkness? How can he be so perfect?

  Perfect.

  You’re fucking perfect, he said.

  No, Beck, I’m not.

  And we can’t be perfect together.

  Because I’m not perfect. And when you realize that, you’ll leave me, and I’ll be broken like my mom.

  “I have to go.” I stumble to my feet, tugging the hem of the dress down over my butt.

  He springs to his feet and reaches for my arm. “Wait. Can we talk about this?”

  “I can’t talk right now.” Not about this. Not when he’s this close. Not with the vivid memory of the perfect kiss still branded onto my lips and the way my body felt as he was grinding against me.

  Holy shit, I think I just had my first orgasm … with Beck.

  Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit.

  I don’t look at him as I take off across the field toward his house.

  “Goddammit, will you please just stop panicking.” He matches my strides. “You can’t run off yet. It’ll fuck up our friendship, and I need us to at least be friends.”

  At least be friends? As opposed to what? A couple? And then what? We just date until he discovers how much I’m like my mom then dumps my sorry ass? Then I’ll go back to my trashy life, feeling like shit and turning into a bitter woman who can’t thrive without a man?

  No, I can’t turn into that.

  My pulse speeds up as I continue to clumsily jog toward the house, only slowing down when I reach the fence to his backyard. I catch my breath then, daring a glance at him.

  Worry fills his eyes as he approaches me with caution, which makes me worry I broke him.

  What have I done?

  “Please don’t run,” he pleads, stopping beside me. “I know you. And if you run off before we figure this out, you’ll stress out about it all weekend and come up with all sorts of crazy ideas in that pretty little head of yours. And then I’ll have to worry about you worrying, and we both know how much I hate worrying.” He rolls his eyes and heaves a dramatic sigh. “It’s so exhausting and time-consuming.” I don’t know whether he’s joking for my benefit or for his.

  Not wanting to worry him anymore, I try to offer him a reassuring smile, but the look only makes him frown.

  “I won’t spend the weekend worrying,” I say quickly. “I know we were just being silly or drunk or … something.” Honestly, I don’t know what we were being. That’s part of the problem. The unknown hovers over my head like a storm cloud threatening to rain down.

  Starting to panic again, I reach for the fence to hoist myself over it. “I have to go. Luna said I could crash at her place tonight, and I have to get up really early to go back home and check on things.” Liar. All you have to check on is an empty apartment.

  He stares at me, his expression unreadable. “Okay … But promise me you’ll call me tomorrow.” He extends his arm toward me with his pinkie hitched. “Pinkie swear you will.”

  I link my pinkie with his, hoping he can’t tell how badly I’m shaking. “I promise.”

  Without saying anything else, I jerk my hand away and drag my drunk ass over the fence. Then I run inside to find Luna and get the hell out of here. Well, that’s what I convince myself.

  Really, I’m running away from something I’m not sure can be outrun.

  Chapter Fourteen

  Beck

  I try not to take it personally as I watch Willow run away from me like I’m the carrier of some deadly disease. But I do a fucking lot. It’s my own damn fault for kissing her. I knew how she’d react, yet my drunken mind rationalized that the timing was right.

  I’m starting to wonder if the timing will ever be right.

  Huffing a frustrated breath, I haul my ass over the fence and dive into my backyard. I consider heading to the beer pong table to play a game or two to distract myself, but I’m no longer in a partying mood. A first for me.

  Willow got under my skin in the best fucking way possible. I can still taste her cherry lip gloss, smell her perfume, feel her hips as she was grinding against me, feel her firm ass as I pressed her closer. I’ve wanted to kiss her for so long, and now that I have, I want more.

  So much more.

  More than she might be willing to give.

  I push my way through the throng of people, making my way up to the back porch. I don’t know where I’m going, what I’m doing, or what I’m going to do when I get there, but since all of my thoughts are centered on Willow, I have a feeling I might chase her down like a needy guy and scare her off even more.

  Thankfully, Ari cuts me off at the back door and saves me from doing something stupid. He has a cup in his hand and the sleeves of his shirt rolled up.

  “Why do you look pissed off?”

  “Do I?” I play dumb, my thoughts wandering back to the field, to the kiss.

  God, she tasted good. Really, really fucking good. And the way she shivered as I traced my hands over her body, tangled my fingers through her long brown hair, ran my palms up her thighs all the way to the bottom of her dress, the way she let out a moan as she came apart …. I think, during all those years of dirty dreams, my imagination might have failed me, because that kiss was better than my wildest fantasies. Hands down, the best kiss ever, and I’ve done my fair share of kissing and then some.

  What I didn’t realize until tonight, is that there’s a different level of kissing I hadn’t even tapped into. Good kissing, bad kissing, and perfect kissing.

  Yeah, I know I sound like a fucking sap, but I’m too far gone to give a shit.

  Ari squints at me through his glasses. “Does this have anything to do with Willow running out of the house like it was on fire?”

  My jaw tightens as my wounded ego stings. “Perhaps.”

  “You didn’t …” He narrows his eyes. “You fucking kissed her, didn’t you?”

  “So what if I did?” I reply defensively, not liking how pissed off he looks.

  “Fuck, I thought you said you weren’t going to try that shit again. Last time, everything was so awkward between you two, and it made things complicated between everyone.”

  “I didn’t try that shit again. I did it again,” I state pointlessly. “And me and Willow kissing has nothing to do with you or Luna or Wynter. This is between me and her.”

  He rolls his eyes. “You’re an idiot if you believe that because, in the end, Wynter and Luna are going to side with Willow, which means Grey is, too. That leaves me siding with you, and that just fucking sucks.”

  “No one’s siding with anyone,” I assure him. “I’ll fix this.”

  “Please do,” he says then takes a long sip of his drink. “I don’t want everyone fighting.”

  I shake my head, annoyed he’s turning my kiss with Willow into a group issue. “I’m going up to my room. You can crash in one of the guestrooms if you need to.”

  I don’t wait for him to respond before walking into my house. I plan on going to my room so I can alleviate some of the sexual tension jumbled inside me, but I end up getting suckered into playing a game of quarters on my way there. By the time I finally drag my drunk ass upstairs, Willow has consumed my every thought, and I’m so worked up I can barely think straight.

  I wrestle to get my phone out of my pocket as I stumble into my bedroom. I don’t bother turning on the light—I probably couldn’t find the light switch if I tried—and flop down on my bed. It takes me a few tries before I manage to open a new text. After giving myself a pat on the back for being so awesome, I deliberate what I want to type. The longer I think about it, though, the more I realize thinking is overrated. So, I type the first thing that pops into my he
ad. Then I roll onto my back and shut my eyes, drifting off into my fantasies.

  Chapter Fifteen

  Willow

  I wake up the next morning to the sunlight streaming through Wynter’s bedroom window and the alarm on my phone screeching like a wild banshee.

  “Gah.” I reach over and swat the thing with unnecessary force, causing it to fall onto the floor. At least the stupid alarm shuts off.

  I yank the blanket over my head and teeter back and forth between sleep and being awake. I’ve never been a morning person, even after years of working a morning shift at a café. My hangover isn’t helping the situation, either. I should just go to sleep, get a full night’s rest for once. But I need to get home, take a shower, check on things, and then get dressed for work.

  I cringe at the reminder of work and the ultimatum Van gave me. Now that I’ve had a day to think about it, I know I won’t be able to go through with dancing on stage, which means I’m going to have to get another job. Maybe even two or three.

  Grimacing, I pry myself out of my sleepy state, lean over the edge of the bed, and pick up my phone from the hardwood floor. I quickly examine it to make sure it didn’t break. The back popped off, but other than that, it seems fine. Thank God. The last thing I need is to have to pay for a new phone.

  My relief is short-lived, though, when I note I have a missed message.

  From Beck.

  Images of last night creep back to me: stars … dizziness … giggling …

  What the heck did I do last night?

  My puzzlement only magnifies as I read his message aloud, struggling to translate the wonky wordage going on. “Heeeeyyyyy, so I’m lying here in bed after playing too many games of quarters. I’m seriously drunk off my ass…” Huh? So that’s why almost every letter in nearly all the words is duplicated. “But, anyway, I’m going to get straight to the point. I meant what I said in the field, Wills. I’ve liked you forever. You’re seriously the most beautiful, determined, smart, amazing girl I’ve ever met. And that kiss … I know you probably want me to say I regret it, but I can’t. I can’t lie and say I wished I never experienced the most amazing kiss ever. It was so fucking hot. I can’t stop thinking about it.

  “And touching your ass … God, you have a fine fucking ass. And I just wanted you to know that. All of that… to know how much you mean to me—always have. Ever since the day I had Theo drive me to your place to pick you up, and you were standing on the side of the street. I was so worried and just wanted to hold you … But even before that, I liked you. All the way back when I gave you that snow globe … God, you’d gotten so beautiful over the summer, and it drove me crazy that I wasn’t the only one who noticed. I just wish you could see yourself how I see you …

  “I know you think you’re like your mother, but you’re the opposite. You’re sweet and kind and caring and put everyone else before yourself. And you work so hard for everything. You’re so perfect … But, anyway, I’m going to go to sleep now because I’m super drunk and can’t really see the keys anymore. Hopefully, you can read this message and don’t freak out when you do.”

  My heart thunders maddeningly in my chest as the pieces of last night connect and collide.

  I flop down on my bed and stare up at the ceiling. “Fuck. This is bad. Worse than last time. I didn’t even just kiss him, I—”

  “Kissed who?”

  The sound of Luna’s voice startles me, and I nearly fall off the bed as my head whips in the direction of the doorway.

  She’s standing there in her pajamas, looking so dang happy about something.

  “What? No, I didn’t kiss anyone.” I can’t even conjure up a good lie.

  She gets all giddy as she crosses the room and climbs onto the bed beside me. “When did this happen? Last night?”

  “No.”

  “Then when?” She keeps on smiling, as if knowing a secret I haven’t shared yet.

  “I don’t know.” Think, Willow, think. You can’t tell her the truth. Then it all becomes real. And then you’re going to have to deal with the consequences.

  “Oh, come on.” She grabs my hand and yanks on my arm, pulling me upright. “You’re supposed to tell me these things. That’s what girls do. At least, that’s what Wynter says, and she is the best at being a girl.”

  “Yeah, she is.” I huff out a breath, sending strands of hair out of my face. “Fine, I’ll tell you, but only if you promise not to ask any questions.”

  She drags her fingers across her lips, as if zipping up a zipper. Then she sits there with a goofy grin on her face, practically bouncing. I swear to God, she already knows.

  How can she know?

  Wait. Did Beck tell her?

  “Last night, I kissed someone,” I mutter.

  Holy crap. Shit just got real.

  “Okay … Who was it? And where did it happen?”

  “Don’t you already know that?” I ask, assessing her reaction.

  Her forehead crinkles. “How would I know?”

  I can’t tell if she’s lying or not. Luna isn’t much of a liar. Still, she seems to know something, or perhaps paranoia is kicking in.

  “I kissed someone in a field last night,” I divulge, pulling my knees up to my chest. “That’s all I’m going to tell you because the rest is too complicated.”

  She frowns. “At least tell me who it is.”

  Now I frown. “You really don’t know?”

  She shakes her head. “I really don’t, but I have an idea.”

  “How could you have an idea? I don’t even like anyone. Not enough to kiss them, anyway.”

  “You might say that, but I don’t think it’s true. I think you’re just afraid to like someone, particularly this someone, because you two would be perfect together, which means if you broke up, things would be un-perfect.”

  My lips part in shock. Holy mind reader.

  “If you really don’t want to tell me, then you don’t have to,” she adds, kneeling on the bed to face me. “I understand needing to keep stuff to yourself sometimes.”

  Thump, thump. Thump, thump. Thump, thump. My heart is a ticking time bomb in my chest, ready to go off at any moment and destroy me. My mom’s heart was the same way … before my dad left. I remember him saying that to her.

  “You think too much with your heart, Paula, and not with your head,” he said. “And hearts aren’t good decision-makers.”

  “You’re wrong,” my mom replied. “I mean, my heart made me decide on you, didn’t it?”

  My father frowned while I smiled. Looking back, my father probably knew he was leaving my mom and was trying to warn her, but my mom was too busy living in lovey-dovey land to understand. Or maybe she did know and wasn’t ready to accept the truth.

  I won’t be like that. I’ll accept and then find a way to move on. I won’t become my mom.

  “I kissed Beck,” I say flatly while my heart leaps with enthusiasm.

  Shut up, heart. Just shut up.

  Luna’s cheeriness goes kerplunk. “You don’t seem very happy about it.”

  “That’s because it was a mistake.” The words nearly split my heart in two.

  Die, heart, die.

  Luna looks like she might have died a little, too. “What do you mean, ‘it was a mistake’?”

  I shrug nonchalantly, ignoring the tearing sensation in the center of my chest. “That it shouldn’t have happened. That I wish it didn’t.” Lies. Lies. Lies. All lies! When did you turn into such a dirty liar?

  “Willow …” Luna says with pity in her eyes.

  “Look, I was drunk,” I cut her off before she can try to convince me that the kiss did mean something. “We both were … Beck probably regrets it, too.” Ha! Look at you, lying to yourself, too. Just read his text again.

  “I doubt that,” she says. “I’m actually surprised you two didn’t kiss a lot sooner.”

  I blink at her. “Huh?”

  A knowing smile crosses her face. “Don’t act so surprised. You two have al
most kissed, like, a hundred times.”

  “Because we were drunk.”

  “Yeah, so what? For some people, being drunk helps them do stuff they want to do but are too afraid to do sober.”

  My heart races at the truth her words carry.

  I can’t deal with this.

  I push to my feet and grab my jacket off the floor. “I have to get home. Can we talk about this later?”

  She frowns, obviously hurt, and I feel like the biggest bitch ever. But fear keeps me moving forward, one foot in front of the other.

  “Thank you for letting me stay here,” I say, bolting out the door like a coward.

  I pass by Grey on my way through the living. He turns to say something, but I throw a wave over my shoulder, run out the door, and jump into my car.

  The tires spin as I skid out onto the road, driving toward Ridgefield. My adrenaline is soaring, my legs are shaking, and my mind is wired, centered on Beck, my mom, and my dad as I fly through town. I don’t even notice that the light turned red until I’m halfway through the intersection.

  Horns fire off, and I jolt out of my trance, swerving my car off to the side of the road after I make it through the light.

  Shoving the shifter into park, I bash my hand against the top of the wheel. “Shit! Fuck! Dick! This is what happens when you get consumed by guys! You almost get yourself killed!” I let my head slump against the steering wheel. “What am I going to do? This thing with Beck can’t happen. But we need to stay friends, or else I’ll lose my damn mind.”

  Take a deep breath, Willow. Fix the problem. You can do this.

  I rack my mind for an answer, and the memory of the last time Beck and I kissed surfaces. I freaked out then, too, but I fixed the … problem by laying out a rule that we were never allowed to kiss again. That worked for a while … until it didn’t.

  Rules normally work for me. Maybe I just need better rules.

  Leaning over the console, I open the glovebox and dig out a pen and the paper with the rule written on it. Then I sit back, strike a line over the rule, and write a new set of rules, growing calmer with every stroke of the pen.