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Rules of a Rebel and a Shy Girl, Page 9

Jessica Sorensen

  Maybe Beck’s right. Perhaps it’s time to say enough is enough.

  Then what? I walk out on my mom and hope she’ll clean up her act? After all, in the end, as crappy as she is, my mom is the only family I have left. And I’m the only person she has who cares enough to worry about her.

  Chapter Eight


  After spending the morning worrying about Willow, I was glad to be at her place again, even if it was just to tow her car home.

  As I stood at her front door, I drummed my fingers against the sides of my legs, restless. The neighborhood made me uneasy; people were always selling drugs and sometimes their bodies, and a couple was screwing each other on the front porch of their apartment … At least, I think it was their apartment.

  My nerves died, however, when I heard Willow talking to someone through the door, saying my name and sex a couple of times. I wasn’t exactly sure what was being discussed, but listening to Willow talk about me and sex had me grinning like a dumbass.

  When she opened the door, I tried to hide my elation and failed epically. Honestly, I didn’t really give a shit. After all, Willow was talking about me and sex. Sex and me.

  I couldn’t stop grinning idiotically as I thought about last night.

  Then I noticed the disarray in the living room, and my good mood went poof as I was painfully reminded of another thing I have to do today: have a talk with her.

  Ari is supposed to meet us on the highway in about an hour, which leaves me about thirty minutes to persuade her to move away from this fucking hellhole in the middle of town, and not just move away, but move in with me. Knowing Willow, she isn’t going to take what I have to say very well. She’ll be stubborn, try to refuse. I’ve had this conversation enough times with her to know. But I’m not ready to give up.

  I have nightmares of the stuff that goes on here, stuff I’ve heard Willow whisper about when she’s really frightened. I know she holds back all the details … all the time.

  “So, what happened to your mom this time that set her off?” I ask after Willow signals for me to come inside. I turn in a circle in the kitchen, glass crunching underneath my boots. Then I tip my head up and frown at the broken light above. “Someone broke your light.”

  “I know.” She heaves a weight-of-the-world-on-my-shoulders sigh before crossing the kitchen and opening the fridge. “And I’m not sure what set her off. I think she’s just rebounding.”

  I walk up behind her as she lowers her head and peers inside the empty fridge. “Did anyone bother you after I left? The house seemed empty.”

  “A guy knocked on my room, but that’s it.”

  “That’s it? You say that like it’s no big deal.”

  “It’s not. Not really. And at least he didn’t come inside my room.”

  I take a deep breath as my frustration rises, reminding myself that I’m going to talk to her about this, get her out of here.

  She extends her arm across the empty top shelf, slips her fingers behind it, and wiggles out a small box of pre-cooked bacon.

  “Did you hide that back there?” I lean against the wall beside the fridge, observing her: the way strands of her long, brown hair hang in her big eyes; the arch of her back; the way her ass peeks out of her pajama bottoms … If I walked up behind her, it’d be the perfect position…

  “Yeah, I did.” She steps back and closes the fridge, thrusting me out of my dirty thoughts. “I have to because my mom’s friends usually eat everything when they come over …” She trails off as she looks at me with her head angled to the side. “What’s that look on your face about?”

  “What look?” The look where I think about fucking you from behind? Do I have a look for that, too?

  “You just look … I don’t know”—she scratches at the back of her neck—“pensive or something.”

  “Pensive, huh?” I choke back a laugh. Huh, so that’s the look I have on my face when I get dirty thoughts of her. “Interesting word choice.”

  “Well, it’s what you look like.” She tears open the box of bacon. “But the question is, why?” She heads toward the microwave then reels back around with an amused look on her face. “I’m thinking either you’re high or you got some this morning.”

  “You know I don’t drive when I’m high.” I pause, assessing her reaction. “And as for the getting some this morning, I actually haven’t gotten any for a really long time.”

  “What’s a really long time?” Her teeth sink into her bottom lip, her gaze flickering to my lips. “Never mind. That’s none of my business.”

  “Why not?” I cock a brow. “I told you when I lost my virginity.”

  She scratches her neck again. “Yeah, and I felt pretty uncomfortable when you did.”

  I should drop this, but I can’t. She’s acting so shifty, and I want to know why, if it has anything to do with me.


  She picks at the corner of the box of bacon. “Why what?”

  I straighten from the wall and cross the tiny kitchen, eliminating the space between us. “Why does it bother you when I talk about sex?”

  She studies me then frowns. “Have you been talking to Wynter?”

  Okay, not what I was expecting, but I’m definitely curious.

  “No … Why?”

  “Nothing.” She hurriedly waves me off, facing the microwave.

  I snag her by the hip, spin her around, and back her up against the counter, causing her to part her lips in shock.

  “No way. You can’t just ask something like that and not explain.” I put a hand on each side of her, pinning her between my arms, then lean in until our bodies are flush.

  Her chest heaves against mine as she sucks in panicked breaths. I expect her to shove me away, but she elevates her chin, maintaining eye contact, her bottom lip trembling.

  “Why is it weird that I asked if you’ve talked to Wynter? You two talk all the time.”

  “Yeah, but clearly, you two had a conversation.” I lower my head closer to her, our lips inches apart. So. Fucking. Close. “I’m guessing it was about me and sex.”

  Her cheeks flush, and it’s probably the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.

  “Why would we talk about your sex life?”

  “That’s what I’m wondering.” I slant back slightly to search her eyes. “There’s not really much to talk about.”

  She averts her gaze from mine. “There’s some stuff, though.”

  I lean to the side, forcing her to look at me. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  “Nothing.” Her blush deepens. “Can we please stop talking about this? Wynter already made me have a very uncomfortable conversation with her today.”

  “About sex?” I pause, tension rippling through my body as something occurs to me. “Wait. Did you … have sex with someone?”

  “I’m so not talking to you about this.” She places her hand against my chest and gently pushes me away, but I trap her hand and hold it right above my heart.

  The fact that she didn’t give me a direct answer makes my pulse race with nervous energy, which I’m sure she can feel. I don’t care. I’m panicking a little. I mean, sure, I’ve had sex before, but not for a while, not since I realized how much I like her. As far as I know, Willow is still a virgin. If that’s changed, it’s been recent.

  Did she meet someone?

  “Why can’t you talk to me about this?” I struggle to keep my voice even. “We’ve talked about this kind of stuff before.”

  She shakes her head. “We have not.”

  I hold up a finger. “Last year, after we played beer pong at one of my parties, we went up to my bedroom, and you admitted to me that you were still a virgin. And I admitted to you that I slept with two people.”

  “You don’t need to remind me about that. I have a pretty good memory of it.” Her cheeks flame bright red, and she wiggles her hand away from my chest. “I also remember that I couldn’t look you in the eye for, like, two weeks because you …” Sh
e looks everywhere except at me. “But if you really need to know, the answer is no. I haven’t had … sex with anyone.”

  There are a million things I want to say to her right now, most of them involving the words sex and touch and kiss, but I back off, remembering the last time I kissed her. Our friendship was like a shaky tightrope afterward until she created that no kissing rule. That’s when I realized how fragile she is, how easily I could lose her.

  I don’t ever want to lose her.

  I don’t know how much longer I can follow the no kissing rule, either … especially after last night.

  “All right, enough with the awkwardness.” I snatch the box of bacon from her hand and toss it onto the table. “Go get your pretty ass dressed so we can tow your car home and then get you something decent to eat.”

  She offers me a thankful smile. “Sounds good. But you don’t need to feed me. I can eat the bacon.” She steps toward the table to pick up the box, but I sidestep, blocking her path.

  “You need to eat more than that.” I trail my knuckles down her side, repressing a groan when she shivers. God fucking dammit, I love it when she does that. Why can’t we just do it all the time? “You’re already too skinny as it is.” Because her damn mom lets her friends eat all their food.

  “Beck, you really don’t have to take care of me,” she insists, but I can see her willpower cracking.

  I just wish she’d let it down completely, let me in completely. Stop fighting perfection.

  “I know I don’t have to, but I want to,” I tell her. “And last night, we both agreed that we should let me do what I want.”

  “We never agreed to that.”

  “Well, then we should because it sounds like a pretty good agreement.”

  She fights back a smile. “For you.”

  “No way.” I press my hand to my chest. “You totally benefit from this agreement.”

  She elevates her brows. “How do you figure?”

  I grin. “Because everything that I want to do involves you.”

  She grows quiet, looking at me with worry, guilt, and a bit of shame. I hate that she feels ashamed over accepting my help. I hate that she thinks she has to take care of her problems herself. I hate that her mom has fucked with her head.

  God, I hate her fucking mother. The only good thing she’s ever done is bring Willow into this world.

  “Fine, I’ll go get dressed,” she relents. “And then we can stop at a burger place on our way where I’ll buy myself a burger. And I want to give you gas for having to drive out here twice.”

  “Sounds good.” Not. If she tries to give me money, I’ll sneak it back in her purse when she’s not looking, something I’ve done before.

  “I mean it.” She backs away with her finger aimed at me. “One day, I’m going to pay you back for everything you’ve done.”

  “Okay.” What I don’t say is that she’s already paid me back by letting me into her life… by always telling me how great I am … by never letting my father’s negativity bring me down … by sticking up for me … by letting me hug her … by lying to get me out of trouble all those times.

  By … everything.

  After Willow leaves the room, I grab a garbage bag out of a drawer and begin picking up the seemingly endless amount of garbage. I’ve never really cleaned before since I have a maid, something I’m extremely grateful for when I find a used condom and an old pair of underwear wedged between the wall and the fridge.

  Fucking, yuck. I really need to convince her to leave this shithole.

  Once most of the beer bottles and cigarette butts are cleaned up, I head into the living room to put the furniture upright, but I veer toward the door as someone knocks.

  I glance out the peephole to see who it is, and confusion sets in.

  “What the hell?” I open the door and step out onto the empty front porch. “I know I heard a knock.” My gaze roves over the cars in the parking lot, a group of people lounging around on rusty patio furniture a few doors down, and then lands on the motel across the street where a Mercedes is parked. It’s the same one I saw last night.

  What the hell is going on with that?

  “What’re you doing?” Willow’s worried voice sails over my shoulder.

  I twist back around and eye her over. She’s changed into a pair of fitted jeans, a tight black shirt that shows off a sliver of skin, and clunky boots that lace up to her knees. Her hair is damp, her skin bare and flawless, and her glossy lips are begging to be licked.

  I tear my gaze off her mouth and focus on her eyes. “I thought I heard someone knock, but I guess I’m losing my mind or something because no one was out here.” When her shoulders slump, I immediately grow concerned. “What’s wrong?”

  “It’s nothing.” She ravels a strand of her hair around her finger, nibbling on her bottom lip.

  “Clearly, something’s bothering you.” I inch toward her and lightly tap her nose. “Or else you wouldn’t look so worried.”

  “You know me too well.” She untangles her hair from her finger. “Right before you showed up, I noticed this person standing across the street, and it looked like they were staring at my house.”

  Tension pours through my veins. “Do you know who it was?”

  “They had a hoodie over their head, so I couldn’t see what they looked like.” She slants against the doorframe, releasing a stressed exhale. “I’m probably just overreacting … I just get so stressed out when my mom starts partying and doing so many,” she lowers her voice to an embarrassed whisper, “drugs … They make her do a lot of sketchy shit and piss a lot of people off.” Her eyes flash with fear as she swallows hard. “Sometimes, the wrong people.”

  “Something’s happened before, hasn’t it?” I ask. “I can tell by the look in your eyes.”

  She rubs her finger below her eye as if attempting to erase the look. “There’ve been a couple of times when she’s screwed over some drug dealers, and they’ve come banging on our door, demanding money.”

  “What!” I exclaim way too loudly, drawing attention from the neighbors. Fuck them. This isn’t about them. This is about Willow putting herself in danger by being here. “Why haven’t you told me about this?”

  She becomes deeply engrossed with inspecting her fingernails. “Because I knew you’d worry, and I don’t like worrying you … This isn’t even your problem. You shouldn’t have to be here, cleaning up my house and being a taxi for me … You don’t even get anything in return.” She lowers her hand to her side, but keeps her gaze glued to the ground. “It’s not right. And I really need to stop relying on you so much.”

  I fix my finger under her chin and angle her head up. “First of all, I do all these things because I want to, because you’re my best friend. Not because I have to. And second, I do get something out of it.”

  Her brows knit, again proving how clueless she can be sometimes. “What do you get?”

  “You,” I say boldly. Before she can react, I say, “And as your best friend, I can’t let you stay here anymore. Not when I found out you’ve got pissed off drug dealers coming around. It’s not safe, Wills.”

  “Nothing in my life is safe anymore,” she mumbles, staring down at her feet.

  “Then it’s time to fix that. Move in with me.”

  Her eyes pop wide open, and she swiftly shakes her head “I can’t do that … It’s too much.”

  “For me or you?”

  “For … for both of us.”

  “Don’t include me in the us, because I’m perfectly fine with the idea. In fact, I like it a lot.”

  “You say that now,” she mutters, “but you’d get sick of me eventually.”

  “That’s not true, and I think you know it,” I say, softening my tone. “I think there’s another reason, one you’re not telling me.”

  “I just don’t want to be a charity case.” Her voice cracks.

  “You’re not a charity case. You’re my friend … a friend who needs to get the fuck away from a life
that’s dragging her down.”

  “Moving into your house isn’t going to save me from that.”

  “It’s a start.”

  She smashes her lips together, peering up at me with her sad eyes. I can tell she wants to agree to move in with me, but beneath the want is fear.

  What’re you so afraid of? Moving out? Me? Or is it someone else?

  “Will you just promise me you’ll think about it?” I ask in a pleading tone. “Even if you don’t move in with me … Maybe you could move in with Wynter.”

  She considers this, biting on her fingernail. “Maybe I could do that … She did say she might need a roommate …” Her shoulders unwind a smidgen, and my heart dies a little.

  So, it’s me.

  “I don’t think I could afford half of her rent, though,” she adds. “Not when I’m paying rent on this place.”

  I gape at her. “Then stop paying rent on this fucking place. It’s not your job to pay for your mom’s apartment.”

  “Yes, it is.” Guilt fills her eyes. “If I don’t, then my mom will end up on the streets.”

  I mold my palm to her cheek and wipe the tears away with my thumb. “I know you may not want to hear this, but that might be a good thing. Helping her out … It’s enabling her.”

  She sniffles then surprises me as a faint laugh slips from her lips. “Where the hell did you learn that?”

  “A psychology class,” I admit. “It was briefly covered when we discussed drug addiction. I’ve heard it enough that I know it’s true.”

  “It is,” she says. When I give her a questioning look, she adds, “I had to talk to a therapist a couple of times after I had that meltdown during our senior year.” She winces at the memory of the time she broke down in English class because she got a B on an assignment.

  The panic attack wasn’t really about the grade, though. She’d been barely sleeping, overworking herself with two jobs, studying, filling out college applications, and taking care of her mom. No one else knew that about her, and they started mocking her for freaking out over a grade. A good grade, at that. I knew, though. I knew everything, and I hate that I did because I felt so helpless.