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Rules of a Rebel and a Shy Girl, Page 6

Jessica Sorensen

  “See? All the more reason for you not to go. You’d never be able to pass that class.” She reaches over and cups my face with her hand. “Face it. You’re too sweet, Beckett.”

  It takes every ounce of my willpower not to lean into her touch and shut my eyes.

  “Beckett? Since when did you start calling me Beckett?”

  “I was just trying it out.” An evil glint twinkles in her eyes. “I figure, if you end up becoming a lawyer, Beck isn’t going to work for you anymore. I don’t even know if Beckett will work. You might have to change your name to Greg or Chad or something equally douchey.”

  “Greg and Chad are douchey names?” I arch a brow. “Since when?”

  She removes her hand from my face, leaving my skin—my entire body—cold. “I have a Greg and a Chad in my Women’s Literature class, and every single time they come to class, they make a point to walk by my desk and”—she makes air quotes—“ ‘accidentally’ knock my books onto the floor. I don’t even know why they take the class to begin with. I don’t think they ever do any of the assignments.”

  I thrum my fingers on top of the steering wheel, a little annoyed with Greg and Chad, though I’ve never met them. “Yeah, I might know why they’re doing that.”

  “Really …? Wait … Do you mean taking the class or knocking my books off my desk?”


  “Okay …” She looks at me expectantly. “Are you going to tell me?”

  Honestly, I’m not sure I want to. As wrong as it is, I like that Willow is clueless about how attractive she is and that she doesn’t notice when guys check her out. I worry, though, that she’ll one day become aware, and then she’ll meet a guy she decides is worth giving up her no dating rule for.

  When she stares at me with her lip jutting out in a pout, I cave.

  “They’re doing it so they can check out your ass when you pick up your books,” I explain. “And they probably took the class because they thought there’d be a ton of girls in it.”

  Her nose crinkles. “Really? That doesn’t seem like it could be true.”

  “Trust me; I’m right.”

  “But it doesn’t make any sense. I mean, they knock my books off every single class. And for what? Just to look at my ass? It’s not that great.” She faces forward in her seat, shaking her head. “No, I’m pretty sure they’re being assholes. They always laugh when they do it, too.”

  “Trust me on this one. I’m a guy. I know how guys think, and I promise you that guys check out your ass all the time … It’s a really great ass.” My gaze wanders to her legs as she crosses them. “And if you were wearing those shorts, Chad and Greg would probably knock your books off before and after class, maybe even take a few bathroom breaks …” I force my eyes off her legs to find her gaping at me. “What?” I ask innocently. “You tell Wynter when guys are checking her out. Why can’t I do the same thing for you?”

  She self-consciously tugs on the hem of her shorts. “Because I don’t tell Wynter she has a great ass.”

  “Well, maybe you’re not as good of a friend as I am,” I say, slowing down to turn into the parking lot of the apartment complex. “And FYI, you never tell me my ass is nice, either.”

  She looks completely unimpressed. “I don’t tell Wynter her ass is nice because that’s not what friends do.”

  “Says who?”

  “Says everyone.”

  “Well, I think everyone is wrong and I’m right. Telling your friend that they have a nice ass should be done daily to boost their self-confidence. That’s what life’s about, right? Making other people feel better?” I flash her my best charming smile. “And when people feel better, the world is a better place.”

  She gives a dramatic eye roll. “Okay, maybe you should become a lawyer, Mr. Overdramatic.”

  “Hey.” I playfully poke her side, and she squeals through a laugh. “No going over to the dark side.” I’m about to laugh with her when her smile suddenly vanishes. “What’s wrong?”

  She rubs her lips together. “It’s nothing. I was just thinking about some stuff.”

  “What kind of stuff?” I ask as I park in front of her apartment. The sound of thudding music and the sight of empty liquor bottles on the steps cause me to immediately frown. “You want me to come inside for a while?” So I can find out what’s bothering you and so you don’t have to be alone at one of your mom’s parties.

  She scrutinizes the smoke snaking out the open window of her apartment. “No … I’m fine. I just didn’t know she was having a party.” She fiddles with the hem of her shorts again. “I was trying to get a hold of her all day … I thought she was passed out drunk, but I guess we made it to the rebound stage already.” Heaving a sigh, she unfastens her seatbelt. “Thanks for the ride. I’ll see you tomorrow.” She reaches for the door handle then pauses. “Unless you have other stuff to do. I can always just have Ari come over here and pick me up and we can tow my car. It should only take two people.”

  “No way. Ari doesn’t get to take away doing my favorite thing.” I catch her wrist. “What’s with the mood dive?”

  She tips her head downward, her long, brown hair veiling her face. “It’s nothing. I’m just really tired. With work and school and stuff, I haven’t been sleeping very well.”

  “Willow,” I summon my best warning tone, “fess up the truth or pay the consequences.”

  She peers over at me, restraining a smile. “You know, that used to work on me until I found out what your”—she makes an air quote with her free hand—“ ‘consequences’ were.”

  “Hey, tickling can be a good form of punishment, especially when someone almost pees their pants.”

  “I did that one time,” she argues, holding up a finger. “And that was after you tickled me for five minutes. Anyone would’ve lost bladder control in that situation.”

  A cocky grin spreads across my lips. “Not me. And you want to know why?”

  “No,” she answers, having heard it all before.

  I brag, anyway, trying to get her to smile. “Because I’m not ticklish.”

  “So you say.” Her eyes travel across my arms, my chest, my legs, and she sucks her bottom lip between her teeth. “But it’s never been proven, at least that I’ve seen.”

  Fuck, what I wouldn’t give for her to look at me like that all the time.

  “I’ll tell you what. If you come home with me and spend the night at my place, I’ll let you find out the real answer.”

  “Aren’t we a little too old for sleepovers?”

  “You just spent the night at my house last month.”

  Wariness floods her eyes. “Yeah, but only because my car broke down, and I didn’t want to make you drive me home.”

  “You used to stay at my house all the time to get away from this shit,” I remind her, nodding at the house. “What’s the difference now?”

  She sucks in a shallow inhale. “The difference is, I’m starting to realize that this shit is just part of life, and I can’t escape it by running away for the night.”

  With that, she climbs out of the car, slams the door shut, and rushes inside the apartment.

  My lips part in shock. Never has Willow run away from me like that. Well, except for the time we kissed. Never mind running away into her house. It’s usually the opposite.

  I rewind through everything I said, trying to figure out where I went wrong. All I can come up with is perhaps I pushed the whole flirting thing too far. I did mention her ass a lot, but seriously, it’s an incredibly hot ass.

  I need to make sure she’s okay, that she’s not freaking out. Then I need to lie, lie, lie, lie and pretend I don’t like her so much it hurts.

  I get out of the car, make my way up the path, and knock on the door. No one answers.

  Figuring the music is too loud, I decide to walk in, but the door is locked. People laugh from inside, and the music is turned up more loudly as the front window slides shut.

  Through the thin walls, I hear Willow
’s mom shout at the top of her lungs, “Holy shit! Look at my daughter, everyone!” The request is followed by, “She’s turning into a little slut!”

  “Just like her mama!” a male voice says.

  Goddammit, I hate this place. I hate that Willow’s in there.

  Fighting the urge to break down the door, I return to my car and send Willow a text.

  Me: Just want to make sure you’re okay before I take off. Things sound pretty intense in there …

  A couple of minutes tick by while I wait for her to respond. A few guys carrying beers and passing around a joint exit her place, a couple a few doors down are yelling at each other, and a woman is trying to sell herself to everyone who passes by. Everything about this area is sketchy, so when a brand spankin’ new Mercedes pulls into the parking lot, I have to question if perhaps it belongs to a drug lord. Then again, I’m sitting in my BMW. Perhaps the driver’s here to try to save someone they care about.

  I keep throwing glances at the car, curious to see who gets out until my phone pings, distracting me.

  Wills: Yep, I’m fine. It’s not as noisy in my room. And I have the door locked, so no one will bother me. Thanks for the ride, Beck. I really do appreciate everything you do.

  What she doesn’t say, but I swear is written between the lines, is she feels guilty I have to help her. She wishes she didn’t have to be here while feeling obligated to because her mom is smashed.

  One day, though, I’m going to get her away from this life, no matter what it takes. Until then, I’ll keep doing what I can, helping her as much as she’ll allow me to, and hope to God nothing bad ever happens to her.

  I fear I’ll one day drop her off here or she’ll break down on the side of the road, and I’ll never see her again.

  Chapter Five


  The disastrous night was becoming okay, even after Beck made the remark about my ass. Then he joked about me going to the dark side, and the ominous words struck a deeply embedded nerve.

  God, if he only knew how right he was, he wouldn’t be here.

  Guilt about my new job rose over my head, drowning me in shame, and I bolted from the car. As soon as I stepped foot into the apartment, though, I wished I never left Beck’s car.

  I wished I never had to.

  “Holy shit! Look at my daughter, everyone!” my mom shouts the second she spots me standing in the trashed kitchen. Her eyes are bloodshot, and she’s wearing nothing but a leather mini skirt and a red lacy bra as she stands in the middle of the room, twisting. “She’s turning into a little slut!”

  I glance down at my clothes and wince. Shit! I forgot I was wearing my uniform.

  I tug on the bottom of the hoodie as eyes fixate on me. Most of the people in the room are men twice as old as me, but the age difference doesn’t stop them from ogling me with their bloodshot eyes.

  “Just like her mama!” a taller man with hairy as fuck arms shouts, fist-pumping the air.

  They all laugh. Even my mom.

  She continues laughing as she twirls and twirls around in the center of the messy kitchen. Empty whiskey and beer bottles cover the brown countertops, the linoleum floor is littered with cigarette butts, and pieces of broken glass are scattered across the table, from what I’m guessing used to be a crack pipe. Before I left for work, I cleaned the place spotless. Ten hours later, it looks like a crack house, and maybe it is. I really don’t know anymore.

  I want to run away, go back to Beck, and let him take me to his house, put me in his bed, and fall asleep in the peaceful bliss of comfort and quiet. But two things stop me: One, the promise I made to myself to stop relying on him so much. And two, I don’t feel comfortable leaving my mom alone in this condition. When I was younger, I used to all the time, but now I’m older and better understand the severity of the situation.

  Taking a measured breath, I squeeze past people, slapping hands away that brush against my ass, and push my way up to my mom.

  “How much have you had to drink tonight?” I ask her loudly over the music.

  She stops spinning, swaying tipsily from side to side. “Oh, I haven’t had anything to drink tonight.”

  I watch her worriedly as she zigzags toward the fridge.

  “Then what did you take?”

  She shrugs, yanking the door open. “A few things … Don’t worry, though. I feel completely fine. Great, actually.” She smiles at me to prove her point. The problem is, her point is lost in the droopiness of her eyes and how big her pupils are dilated.

  “Maybe we should tell people to go home,” I suggest. “It’s really late, and the neighbors might make a complaint again.”

  She waves me off, ducking her head to look inside the fridge. “Those neighbors moved out, like, a month ago. And all I have to say is good riddance. They were ruining the unwritten rules of this apartment.”

  The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end as someone moves up behind me. “What rules?”

  “The keep your mouth shut rules.” She grabs a beer from a six-pack in the fridge, which is pretty much the only thing in there. “Where the hell did all the food go? I thought you went grocery shopping.”

  “I did a few days ago.” I shuffle forward as my personal space gets stolen away. “And there was way more food in there when I left for work.”

  “Well, you should probably go again because there really isn’t much left.” She closes the fridge and faces me, unscrewing the lid off the bottle. “Where do you work, anyway? And why are you dressed like that?”

  “You mean like a slut?” I ask with bitterness, wrapping my arms around myself.

  A drop of remorse emerges in her dazed eyes. “I’m sorry about that, sweetie. I was caught in the moment. I get that way sometimes.”

  When I was younger, I latched on to her apologies and the rare moments when she resembled the mother I had before my dad left. Now I understand that most of the time, she’s either trying to butter me up because she wants something, or she’s blazed out of her mind.

  “It’s fine,” I lie, ramming my elbow into the guy behind me. He curses and calls me some not-so-nice names, but thankfully, backs off. Still, the confrontation makes me feel out of control and breathless, and not in the good kind of way, like when I sometimes look into Beck’s eyes and feel like I’m spinning out of control. “But I still think maybe you should ask everyone to leave.”

  “Nah, the fun’s just getting started.” She downs a swig of the beer then steps toward me. “Don’t worry. We probably won’t stick around for very much longer. There’s supposed to be live music down at the corner bar. We’ll probably go check that out.”

  “Please don’t drive,” I plead. “Take the bus or walk, okay?”

  “Of course.” Her dismissive tone leads me to believe she’s lying. And she already has a revoked license because of too many DUIs.

  Once she leaves the kitchen to do shots with her friend Darla in the living room, I sneak into her bedroom and steal her keys out of her purse before heading for my bedroom. On my way down the crowded hallway, a guy smirks and reaches for me.

  “Look, it’s a mini-Paula,” he tells one of his friends.

  I smack his hand away, my heart an erratic mess. “I’m nothing like my mother.”

  Then I glance down at my clothes, painfully reminded of what I was doing only hours ago.

  Maybe I am.

  Tears flood my eyes as I shove the guy away, run into my room, and lock the door. Then I peel my clothes off and change into my pajamas, wishing I could take a shower and wash tonight off me. But the last thing I want to do is go into that madness again.

  Before I climb into bed, I receive a text from Beck.

  Beck: Just want to make sure you’re okay before I take off. Things sound pretty intense in there …

  I tiptoe over to the window and peer out, wondering if he’s still out there. I spot his BMW almost instantly. It stands out here like a cheerleader at a Goth club. Strangely, though, a Mercedes is parked beside Beck
’s car.

  Two fancy cars in one night. So weird.

  I wouldn’t think too much of it, but here, I worry some rich drug dealer is inside, staking out my apartment because my mom owes them money.

  It wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened.

  Fear lashes through me, causing my heart to pound violently in my chest. I want to confess everything to Beck, admit I want him to come inside, throw me over his shoulder, and carry me out of this hellhole. I want him to save me. On my way, I’d tell my mom I’m never coming back. And I’d mean it. I wouldn’t care.

  The problem is I do care about my mom, even if I don’t want to. And besides, asking Beck to save me isn’t what I want. I want to be able to save myself. I want to be a strong person who doesn’t break when they’re alone.

  You can handle this. You’ve done it a thousand times.

  Me: Yep, I’m fine. It’s not as noisy in my room. And I have the door locked, so no one will bother me. Thanks for the ride, Beck. I really do appreciate everything you do.

  He doesn’t reply, and I lie down in bed, staring at the snow globe collection my father gave me before he left. They are the only items I have left that are connected to him since my mom pawned off everything else he left behind.

  Front and center is the snow globe Beck gave me after he came back from Paris. It’s my favorite one because it came from him. Beck is my favorite person in the entire world, and knowing that is scary.

  Tumbling, falling, out of control—that’s how I feel when I’m around him.

  I like him too much.

  I try to convince myself that Beck’s silence is for the best. Maybe he’s finally giving up on being my knight in shining armor. The stinging ache in my heart has nothing to do with the fact that maybe, just maybe, he’s finally moving on. Still, my heart twinges.

  I rub my hand across my chest, willing the pain away as I lie in my bedroom, battling sleep.

  About ten minutes into the battle, a light tap hits my window. I don’t budge, terrified I was correct about the drug lord.