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Rules of a Rebel and a Shy Girl, Page 3

Jessica Sorensen

  “I’m at my sister’s. She’s throwing a week before Thanksgiving party.”

  “Is that a thing?”

  “Apparently. At least to her. But you know how Emmaline is. She throws parties for every holiday and the week before. Remember she did that for Easter a couple of years back?”

  I smile. “Yeah, I remember. You made me go to it with you and told all the kids at the kid table that we were eating rabbit. They freaked out and started to cry, and your dad got so pissed.”

  “My dad is always pissed,” he reminds me with slight bitterness. The only time Beck ever sounds bitter is when he’s talking about his dad, a cold, unemotional man who loves to work more than be a father or husband. “But that time, it was kind of worth it just to see the look on those kids’ faces.”

  “You can be so evil sometimes.”

  “So can you. That’s why we’re so great together. In fact, I think we might create the epitome of perfection.”

  Deep down, I know he doesn’t mean we’d be a great couple, but my lips tug downward, anyway. Not because Beck would be a horrible boyfriend; I just prefer not to think about boyfriends: of having one, of ruining my life to have one, of getting consumed by one, of ending up like my mom because I get so consumed by one. And Beck, he could definitely consume me. I can feel the magnetic attraction, the overwhelming sense of drowning every time I’m near him.

  I glance at the glovebox, thinking about the rule. Knowing it exists makes me breathe easier.

  “Maybe I should try texting Ari again,” I change the subject. “I don’t want to make you leave your sister’s party.”

  “Too late for that. I’m already in the car.”

  If I had a penny for every time he said that to me, I wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with.

  “Besides,” he continues. “I’m not about to pass up my chance to be your knight in shining armor just so I can stick around and listen to my sister’s friends babble about the stock market.”

  “Is that what you rich folks are talking about these days?” I tease, hunkering down in my seat as headlights shine through the rear window of my car.

  “Oh, my God, you have no idea,” he gripes. “I swear if I heard any more about exchanges and volumes and yields, I was going to start singing Linkin Park’s ‘One Step Closer’ at the top of my lungs.”

  I giggle. “Man, I’d love to see that go down.”

  “One day, I’ll make that happen for you.”

  “I’m going to hold you to that,” I tease then suck in a sharp breath as the headlights move closer.

  I turn around to glance out the window, but I can’t tell if the car is driving absurdly slow or has stopped. I double-check to make sure the doors are locked then sink lower into the seat.

  “It’ll have to be at one of your parties, though. That kind of stuff would fit right in with the stupid parties my mom throws all the time. Someone is always screaming about something.” I bite my tongue as soon as I say it. While Beck knows how my mom is, he doesn’t need me whining to him about my pathetic life. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bitch about my mom. She’s just been giving me a headache lately.”

  “I’m guessing Claude the nose picker broke up with her?”

  “Was he the nose picker? I thought that was Wally.”

  “No, I’m pretty sure Claude was the nose picker. Wally was caterpillar brows.”

  “You know what? I think you’re right.” I’m on the verge of smiling, something only Beck can get me to do when we’re talking about my mom’s many ex-boyfriends.

  He actually came up with the idea of giving them nicknames after I divulged I had a difficult time remembering their names. We started giving them quirky names based on their habits and weird characteristics, like Claude the nose picker, Wally the caterpillar brows, and Ed the wedgie picker.

  The headlights spotlight my car as a vehicle pulls up right behind me.

  Fuck, someone stopped.

  When I turn in my seat, someone raps on my window. Whirling back around, I damn near bump my head on the ceiling.

  “You need some help?” A guy in his late twenties smiles at me through the window. “I’m not very good with cars, but I can give you a ride somewhere.”

  I swallow down a shaky breath. “I’m fine. My friend is actually on his way to pick me up. He’ll be here in a few minutes,” I lie. It’ll take Beck at least twenty minutes to get here.

  “You sure?” he asks, squinting through the window to get a better look at me.

  I gulp. “I’m fine. I promise.”

  His gaze travels across my exposed legs, and I shift in the seat, tugging the hem of my jacket lower.

  “Well, all right, then.” He stares at me for another slamming heartbeat before hiking back to his car.

  “Willow, what the hell is going on?” Beck asks through the phone I’m clutching.

  Letting out an uneven breath, I put the phone back to my ear. “Some guy just stopped to see if I need a ride.” I cast an anxious glance in the rearview mirror at the unmoving car. “How far away are you?”

  “I’ll be there in about ten minutes,” he says. “Did the guy leave?”

  “No. He’s just sitting in his car right now … I’m sure he’ll leave soon, though.” I hope.

  “Are your doors locked?”


  “Do you still have that pepper spray I gave you?”

  “Yeah, it’s in the glovebox.” I lean over the console to get it out. “I hope it still works. You gave it to me forever ago.” It was about a year ago after I had to pick up my mom from some sketchy bar and got harassed by a group of drunken guys. When I told Beck about what happened and how scared I was, he went out and bought me a can of pepper spray and made me take a self-defense class.

  That’s Beck for you, always looking out for me. He has been since we were kids, and he promised me in the car that he would always be there for me.

  At the time, I believed he’d never break the promise. Now that I’m older, I understand that one day after he falls in love, he’ll become a knight in shining armor for someone else. Whoever she is, she’ll be very lucky because Beck is great. Perfect. But not for me.

  No guy is perfect for me. And I’m not perfect for any guy.

  Nothing is ever perfect.

  I really need to learn to stop relying on him so much. Stop spending so much time with him.

  The last thought makes me feel sick.

  I clutch the can of pepper spray in my hand. “I wonder if pepper spray expires.”

  “I’m not sure.” He sounds unnervingly worried, a rare occurrence for Beck, and my uneasiness skyrockets. “Is he still there?”

  “Yeah.” I don’t even have to look to know. The blinding headlights announce his presence.

  “If he gets out of the car again, hang up and call the police.”

  My heart rate accelerates so rapidly I worry I’m about to have a heart attack. “Beck, I think—”

  The guy knocks on the passenger side window, and I’m startled, dropping the phone.


  “Hey, I was thinking that maybe I could sit with you until your friend shows up.” His lips curl into a grin. “I’m Dane, by the way.”

  Like telling me his name will somehow make me more willing to let him in my car.

  Keeping my eyes on him, I lean forward and feel around for the phone.

  “Come on,” Dane continues, grinning at me. “I don’t bite. I swear.”

  “L-look, Dane, thanks for the offer.” Take deep breaths, Willow. Deep breaths. Find your phone and call the police. “B-but, like I said, my friend will be here any minute.”

  He glances up and down the empty road then back at me. “Are you sure about that? Because I don’t see any cars coming.”

  “Y-yes, I’m sure.” Calm down. Steady your voice. Stop panicking.

  His eyes drink in my uniform. “Your outfit looks like the ones those girls wear at Crazy, Crazy Morelliesin’s. Do you work th

  I swallow hard. Crazy Morelliesin’s is what the regulars call the club I work at. Regulars are the worst. Sometimes, they wait out back to make illegal offers to the dancers and waitresses we get off work. Some of the girls accept. I’d never get that desperate for money, though. At least, that’s what I tell myself. But sometimes, I question how much I am like my mother. Perhaps I’m living in denial when I say I’ll never be like her. After all, this sort of job is something my mom has done to make cash.

  “No,” I lie to the guy. My fingers brush across the phone, and I exhale shakily as I sit back up and put the receiver to my ear. “Hey, Beck, are you about here yet?” I say loudly enough for the guy to hear. I try not to let my expression falter when I realize the line is dead. “A couple of minutes? Yeah, okay. Sounds good.”

  The guy eyes me over, as if debating whether I’m full of shit. Well, either that or he’s calculating a way to break into my car and not get doused by the pepper spray in my hand.

  “Are you sure your friend’s coming?” he questions. “It seems like it’s taking him an awfully long time to get here.”

  I’m starting to move the phone away to call the police when a BMW pulls off to the side of the road, parking right in front of me. The driver’s side opens, and Beck hops out.

  Thank God. Thank God. Thank God!

  I glance at the dude. “See? My friend …”

  He’s already jogging back to his car.

  Beck strides down the side of the road, passes my car, and heads toward the guy with a look on his face that screams I’m-about-to-beat-some-ass. Beck’s not much of a fighter, so despite the fact that I’d love to see creeper dude’s ass get kicked, I scurry out of the car to stop him.

  “Just let him go,” I tell Beck, chasing after him.

  “No fucking way.” He continues marching forward as the guy jumps into his car.

  I snag hold of Beck’s sleeve. “I don’t want you getting into a fight on the side of the road, out in the middle of nowhere, with some strange, creepy dude. It’s not worth it.”

  He tries to wiggle his arm out of my grip, but I clutch on for dear life, refusing to release him until the guy peels out onto the road.

  Beck curses as the car zooms by, leaving a cloud of dust behind.

  Releasing his sleeve, I rush to the side of the road and squint through the darkness to try to make out the model of the vehicle. I manage to spot a metal horse on the back of the trunk and make a mental note to keep an eye out for Mustangs in the club parking lot. At least then I can have a warning that he’s there.

  My stomach twists with nausea at the thought of seeing creepy Dane again.

  “You should’ve let me beat his ass,” Beck growls, storming up to me.

  “No, I shouldn’t have.” I cross my arms over my chest. “You don’t get into fights. And I’m not about to let you turn into that kind of a person because of me.”

  “It wouldn’t have been your fault. He deserves to get his ass kicked.” His tone is surprisingly sharp and very unlike the calm, collected Beck I know. He inches closer to me, and even though I’m tall, I have to tip my chin up to meet his blazing gaze. “I could hear every damn thing he was saying to you. Trying to get you to let him in the car …” He shakes his head, opening and flexing his hands. “We should report him to the police.”

  “I only got the make of the car, not a plate number. So they probably wouldn’t be able to track him down.” My body quivers, either from shock or from how upset Beck sounds. “Besides, what would I tell them? That some guy stood outside my car and talked to me? Technically, he didn’t do anything wrong.”

  “Yeah, because I pulled up and scared him off.” He roughly rakes his fingers through his blond hair. “God fucking knows what he would’ve done if I hadn’t …” He shakes his head for the thousandth time, glaring daggers at my car. “I wish you’d let me just buy you a new damn car.”

  And here we go. “You’re not buying me a new car, so don’t be weird.”

  He steps toward me and tucks a strand of hair behind my ear, the fury in his eyes shifting into something unreadable, but it makes my heart skip a beat. “Then let me pay to get yours fixed.”

  I shake my head, telling the flutter in my chest to shut the hell up. Flutters that haven’t left since our kiss. That doesn’t mean I have to listen to them, though. They’re just that: silly and insignificant. It’s when I act on them, allow them to control me, that I have a real problem.

  “It’s not your responsibility to take care of me.”

  “Why not? I promised you I would.”

  “Yeah, but … That was a long time ago. We were kids. You didn’t even know what you were getting yourself into.”

  “I don’t feel obligated if that’s what you’re getting at.” He taps the tip of my nose with his fingertip, his lips tugging into a half-smile. I swear my heart glows. “Taking care of you is one of my favorite things to do, so quit arguing and let me do what I love.”

  “Beck …” I rack my brain for the right thing to say. “You’re my best friend, and best friends aren’t supposed to pay for each other’s cars to get fixed. It’s not right, no matter how much you love doing it.”

  He cocks a brow. “Who says it’s not right?”

  “Me.” I rub my hands up and down my arms as the cool night air works through the fabric of my jacket. “I need to start taking care of myself more and stop relying on you so much. I’m too old for you to still be rescuing me.” There, I said what I needed to say. I should feel better, right?

  Then why do I feel so sick?

  He splays his hand across my cheek, looking me in the eye. “I’m not trying to rescue you. I just don’t like you driving around in an unreliable car, especially when you work late and take a road that’s out in the middle of fucking nowhere.” His brows abruptly dip as his gaze drops to the shorts I’m wearing that barely cover my ass. He blinks a few times before his eyes meet mine again. “Wait … Where were you tonight? I thought you were working.”

  Panicking, I search for a lie to tell him. At a party? Dancing at a club? Ha! Like that would ever work. I rarely go out partying, and I wear shorts this short even less frequently.

  Unable to think of a good lie, I decide a party is my best option.

  “I was at this party a girl from my Chemistry class was having. It was a pool party, but you know how much I hate swimsuits, so I just went in shorts.”

  God, I hate lying to him.

  But telling him the truth would be way worse.

  His gaze falls to my legs again. Biting his lip, he reaches out and brushes his knuckles against the outside of my thigh. “How come you never wear stuff like this to my pool parties?”

  I shiver from the unexpected touch, and good Lord, those silly flutters just about lose their damn minds. “I, um …” I clear my throat, trying to clear the flustered tone out of my system. It’s not like he’s never touched your leg before. Jesus, get a grip on yourself. “I don’t know … because I know you and know you won’t get mad at me for not following the party dress code.”

  Rubbing his lips together, he drags his gaze up my body to my face. I search his eyes, attempting to get a vibe on him, see if he’s buying my lie. If anyone can read through my bullshit, it’s Beck. I can’t pick up his vibe at all, though. I used to be able to all the time, but lately, something’s changed. Either I’ve lost the ability to read my best friend, or he’s been more closed off.

  His lips curve into a devious grin. “Well, not anymore.”


  “From now on, I’m going to be pissed off if you don’t follow my party dress code.” He crosses his arms, seeming pretty damn pleased with himself. “So, on Friday, you better show up to my place wearing a sexy black dress.”

  I crinkle my nose. “You’re having a party the day after Thanksgiving that requires people to wear sexy black dresses? What kind of theme is that?”

  “The do-whatever-the-hell-I-want theme.” His eyes sparkle
in the glow of my hazard lights. “And since you’re such a party girl, now I don’t have to beg you to come.”

  Crap. I didn’t think this through very well at all.

  Why do I get the feeling he knows I’m lying about where I was tonight and is just trying to get me to confess?

  He gives me a second to admit I’m full of shit, but being the huge chicken I am, all I do is nod.

  Sighing disappointedly, he strolls past me. “Come on; let’s get you home. I’d ask if you want me to have a tow truck come get your car, but I already know the answer.” He stops near the front of my car where I left the flashlight balanced on the bumper and leans over to inspect the engine. “So, either I can come pick you up tomorrow and we can drive out here and try to fix this, or we can borrow Ari’s truck and tow it to your mom’s house.”

  “Towing will probably be better since I’m not a hundred percent sure what’s wrong with it.” I move over beside him, feeling shaken up about what happened and craving his comforting nearness.

  He stares at the engine with his head tucked down, his mouth set in a thin line. I don’t know what’s running through his mind, but I’m not fond of how upset he looks, and I hate that I might have played a part in it.

  “Thank you for saving my ass,” I feel the need to say as guilt stirs in my chest. “And for being my knight in shining armor again.”

  He takes a deep breath before elevating his gaze to me, a smile playing on his lips. “Anytime, princess.”

  I restrain a sigh. “Beck … I thought we had an agreement that you weren’t going to use that nickname anymore. I’m getting too old for it.”

  “I never agreed to anything. You just told me I had to stop, and I did for a while.” He slips an arm around my shoulders, and all I can think is safe, safe, safe. “But I figure, since I’m your knight in shining armor tonight, you have to be my princess. It’s part of the rules, and you can’t argue with the rules.”

  I shake my head, deciding to let him win this one, even though the nickname makes me feel like a little kid or a damsel in distress.