Hate to love you, p.17
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       Hate to Love You, p.17
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           Tijan

  Shay Coleman is the top tier. He’s the whole tier at the very fucking top.”

  “I know,” I started.

  He kept going.

  I shouted to shut him up, “I know!”

  He stopped.

  “Okay? I know. And it isn’t as if this was planned. We just, he just—I just . . .” No. No. No. I wasn’t explaining how I ended up in Shay’s bed last night. I pressed my hands to my forehead. A headache was forming, and I began to rub there, hoping to smooth it away.

  It wasn’t working. I knew it wouldn’t work. I gave up.

  Gage was looking at the ground. He stuffed his hands into his pockets. “You never said you weren’t in his bed. You would’ve jumped on that instantly if it wasn’t true.” He let his sentence hang, and I couldn’t refute it. He was right. I would’ve. I wasn’t pre-law anymore, but I still had that fighting spirit in me. I would’ve been all over that.

  “No one knows.”

  “Do you even know?”

  My eyes flicked to his. “What do you mean?”

  “Do you know what you’re doing? With him. I know what Parker did to you, and I wouldn’t wan—”

  “Shay is not Parker. He’s the farthest thing from Parker.” I hoped.

  My inside voice, the one I kept in the back of my mind, piped up, That isn’t true. I shut it down. Parker was popular. Parker was charismatic, and he had the whole school eating out of his hands. Parker was gorgeous, but that was it. The similarities ended there.

  Parker was not Shay—no. Shay was not Parker.

  I shook my head. What was I thinking there?

  I laughed. “I’m good. It isn’t emotional. It’s just physical. I mean, we have rules.”

  “I don’t need to hear them. Seriously. Please. No.”

  “I get that.”

  “I am sorry about last night. I felt horrible, and then I saw how furious Coleman was, and that made me feel even worse. Look, I don’t want to get involved with whatever you have going on, but he cares. I saw that last night. Linde cares, too. Whatever you have going on, those two guys are good friends right now.”

  Right now.

  I knew why my brother said that, because friendships end. Friendships fade. Friendships crash and burn sometimes. I nodded. “I know.” And since he mentioned Linde, I started, “Hey. Um. I have to talk to you about Casey.”

  He’d started to head back but faced me again. “Sure. What?”

  I had no other way to say this, so— “Don’t date her.”

  “What?” He laughed this time, a hitch of nerves in there. “What are you talking about?”

  “Linde’s sister was raped.”

  “What does that have to do with Casey and me?”

  I gave him a look. “Come on.” I didn’t wait for him to acknowledge what I knew was going on. The way his voice just sounded verified it for me. “Linde said that after his sister was raped, she used another guy to try to erase what the rapist did to her. She thought he could, I don’t know, replace what she was feeling on the inside.”

  Gage had gone so still. He asked so quietly, “Did it work?”

  I shook my head.

  Another confirmation. My brother was already involved. He had feelings.

  I murmured, “No. She pushed him away. Gage, did you—”

  He shoved through the trees’ opening and went back to the library. I followed at a slower pace, but he was packing up his stuff when I got there. Shay and Linde were both watching. Aby was gone.

  I stood behind my seat. “Gage, I—”

  “Stop.” He was dead serious. “I think it’s really fucking stupid what you’re doing, so don’t tell me what I should do.”

  “It isn’t the same thing.” I would not look at Shay.

  Gage did. His eyes glanced to him before finding mine again. “Isn’t it? One guy destroyed you . . .” He didn’t finish his sentence. He let the insinuation linger, and I flushed.

  Gage zipped his bag closed and left.

  Fuck.

  I sank down onto my chair.

  Linde cleared his throat. “Do we even want to know what that was about?”

  I shook my head. “No.” I didn’t look at him. I still didn’t look at Shay, and when Aby and Becca returned to the table, I didn’t look at them. I went back to the old Kennedy, the one who kept quiet, kept under the radar, and yearned for the sanctity of her planner and isolation.

  “Clarke!”

  I’d just left the library. We researched for a few more hours, but I was tired and that headache never left. It only got worse, and Shay was coming after me now. He called again, “Kennedy!”

  I stopped and turned around. My bag fell off my shoulder, catching on my elbow with a thump before it could fall to the ground. “I’m tired, Shay. I just want to go back to my dorm.”

  He slowed his pace, sliding his hands into his pockets as he drew near. “You were quiet after your brother left.”

  “You don’t have to do this.” I didn’t want this. “We’re not dating.”

  His eyes narrowed, and he tilted his head to the side. “This is called human decency. I still did stuff like this when we weren’t sleeping together, remember?”

  “See.” I pointed to my face. “This idiot here is being bitchy to the wrong person.” I rubbed a hand down my face. “I’ve had an eventful weekend. This loner is salivating at the thought of hanging out in her room alone for the rest of the night.”

  “Okay, but I still wanted to check on you. If I hadn’t come, Linde would’ve.”

  “Ah.” I liked Linde. We were pals, but I could be honest in a different way with Shay. I was now relieved it’d been him. “Thank you. Again.” I waved and started back down the sidewalk.

  I got a couple feet before he called my name again in a low voice. “If you can’t sleep, just give me a call. I can pick you up.”

  I stared at him. For a moment, just a moment, I considered it. Going back to his house, sleeping in his bed, in his arms, sounded like a sheltered seclusion away from whatever my roommate would say to me about the video, with Casey and worrying about her or how she was going to hurt my brother, and even the loneliness that came along with being a loner. Shay was warm. Shay was nice, and in that moment, as I stared at him, I forgot why I ever hated him in the beginning.

  But that would bring other problems. Maybe not right away, but eventually. Bad shit always came along. A person couldn’t hide from it, and I shook my head. “I’m going to be the responsible freshman.”

  “My phone will be on. I’m just saying.”

  “Okay.”

  He held his hand up before heading back for the library.

  I walked the rest of the way alone.

  Missy was leaving the room in a pair of sweats and some slippers. She had a bag of Twizzlers and chips in hand, her blanket thrown over her arm. “Hey.” She stopped in the hallway, popping a Twizzler into her mouth. She spoke around it, “Where’d you sleep last night? I didn’t hear you come in at all.”

  “I got in late and left early.” I indicated my backpack. “Long day at the library.”

  “Oh.” Her eyebrows pinched together. She pointed down the hall with her Twizzler. “We’re watching movies in Holly’s room if you want to come. Did you go to the game yesterday?”

  Had she not seen the Dick Crusher video? “Uh.” I itched behind my ear. “Yeah. I was there.”

  “That’s weird. I didn’t see you.”

  “I was.”

  “Oh.” She took another chomp. “Come watch a movie with us. We’re all bringing snacks.”

  “I don’t have any.”

  “Order a pizza. You’d be the hit of the room.” She grinned.

  I refueled with food only once today, and it was after ten. My stomach growled to remind me. Maybe a pizza was a good idea, but I shook my head. “I kinda just want to curl up and watch a movie in our room tonight.”

  “Okay.” She waved with a new Twizzler. “See ya later. I don’t have my morning class tomo
rrow, so I’m staying up later.”

  I breathed a thank you prayer under my breath as I headed for the room, and she went the opposite way. Not only could I relax but I’d also be able to sleep and not get woken up from six to seven, all the way until I had to finally crawl out of bed.

  I checked my email, typed up some leftover notes from our research project, and ordered a pizza.

  I put a movie on, pulled out the fluffy robe, and the pizza arrived. It was all for me.

  Best. Night. Ever.

  I was sleeping when Missy came in, rocking the bunk beds as she climbed to her mattress. She was snoring five minutes later. She snored her way through my alarm and as I got ready for class. I was a little later than normal because I went slow so as not to wake her up, but I wasn’t missing my coffee. I needed my coffee, so I made a quick detour through the library first. When I got to my classroom’s building, I bypassed the main door everyone used and headed down the barren sidewalk Shay and I been standing when we had talked about Casey on Friday.

  I was able to slip into the building, up the stairs, and I came from the north hallway. There was no line like there was heading up from the stairs. I headed in, and immediately a cheer rose from the room.

  “It’s Dick Crusher!” a guy I didn’t know led the crowd. He waved his hands in a worshipping motion. “All hail the DC.”

  Some girls laughed. Some guys echoed him, making the same motions, and I rolled my eyes. The back row was still empty, and I marched right there. I’d seek shelter with friends. Screw my rules. I had a feeling I’d need the support, and I plopped down in the far right seat. It was the only one the guys didn’t sit in.

  The guy who led the cheer sat up and turned around. “I know Carruthers. How’d it feel to hold his dick? Did you get a little turned on? You can be honest. This is just between you and me.”

  More snickers sounded.

  One guy started to add to it, but Shay walked into the room with Linde and the rest of their friends following.

  Shay said, “Only you would go dirty from that video.” He skewered the guy with a look, walking down the aisle. He let his bag fall from his shoulder, catching it before it hit the floor. “Tell the truth, James. Do you have your girlfriend grab your nutsack like that? You like it a little kinky?”

  He stood in the aisle and waited.

  The guy sat back down. “I was just joking, Coleman.”

  “Yeah, you were.” Shay shook his head, dropping into the seat next to me. Linde didn’t miss a beat. He sat in the third chair, right on the aisle. The other four guys paused, but moved into the other seats.

  Shay asked under his breath, “You okay?”

  The girl who usually sat beside me looked over her shoulder to us. Her eyes slid from Shay to me, then back again before she turned to the front.

  I nodded, feeling the back of my neck warming.

  Linde leaned forward to see me. “Say the word, Clarke. That James guy likes to work out with us in the afternoons. I can have some guys spot him and give him some uncomfortable time under those weights if you want.” He winked. “Just say the word.”

  “Thanks, Linde.” I said before turning to Shay, “I’m fine. I’ll be fine.”

  Shay nodded, leaning back in his seat and pulling out his notebook. “I’m pretty sure I was doing him a favor. If he provoked you enough, he’d be in the hospital bed right alongside Carruthers.”

  Linde snorted. “You haven’t had a problem with him or his buddies, have you?”

  “No.” I hadn’t even considered that. Besides Parker, no one messed with me in high school, not like that. The girl shit happened, but this wasn’t the same. Guys found out who Blake and Gage were and backed off. Usually. I never had an altercation like I had on Saturday. That was new for me. “Are they the type to do that?”

  Linde didn’t say anything. He just sat back in his seat, as if he were slinking away.

  Shay shook his head. “I’m sure you’ll be fine. I wouldn’t worry about it.”

  He looked like he was going to say something else, but the professor came in, and we spent the next hour learning about the political dynamics in the United Kingdom.

  Once we were dismissed, Shay asked, “Have you already done the reading for Wednesday?”

  I nodded. “I’m caught up through next week, but it isn’t really sticking in my head. Everything he said today was all new stuff. I should go over the book again.”

  “You want to do that together?”

  Linde and the other football players already left.

  A couple girls stayed behind, sneaking glances at us. Or no. They were watching Shay.

  He was standing in the aisle, and I hadn’t yet cleared the desk where Linde sat. A few of the other students lingered, as well, mostly to talk to the professor, but I caught a few other curious looks our way.

  I lowered my voice. “Like in the library with our group?”

  He didn’t even know the girls were there. “Like in my room, or in the living room if you’re uncomfortable.” His eyes darkened as they held mine.

  He wasn’t just talking about studying, though I was sure we’d also do that. “I—” Fuck. I was going to decline, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to spend time with him, or maybe it was that whole hiding away factor. I’d been hiding before, but in a different way. I hid who I knew, who I was related to, and that seemed to be getting out more and more. But that feeling to hide again was there, and going to Shay’s house was the perfect place.

  I felt flutters in my chest.

  I couldn’t lie to myself. There were other reasons I wanted to go to his place, but studying and hiding were at the top of that list. I nodded. “Yeah. I’d be game for that.”

  His lips lifted in a half-grin. “You have a couple classes still, don’t you?”

  “One. I’m done by two-thirty Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.”

  “You want a ride?”

  “Uh . . .” I considered it. “I should drive my own car. You know, since we’re not—”

  “We’re classmates, Clarke.” He led the way down the aisle and out the door. He bypassed the girls completely. “You’re always bringing up the dating thing. Maybe you’re the one who wants to be dating.”

  He started down the stairs. I was following behind him, and I didn’t answer. It was too difficult. People were going the opposite direction for their classes, and still others trickled in behind us from the floors above. When we pushed through the bottom doors, it was like a dam and the students were spilling free. I glanced over my shoulder and spotted Kristina walking out.

  “Hey.” I stopped to wave.

  She looked up, a grin spreading over her face. She’d been frowning down at her planner, but put it away as she drew near. Her eyes flicked to Shay. “We meet again.”

  “Kristina.”

  She nodded. “And everyone knows who you are.” She asked me, “Where have you been all weekend? Oh, my God. You’ve missed a ton.”

  “What are you talking about?” I assumed she would’ve seen the dick-in-the-hands video.

  Her eyes widened dramatically. “Laura, Sarah, and Casey had a massive fight last night. Massive. I must share the details.”

  Shay began edging backward. His eyes found mine. “That’s my exit. I’ll see you later.” He held a hand out toward Kristina. “It was nice seeing you again.”

  “You, too.”

  Kristina sighed as he left. “I know I have a boyfriend, but damn, girl. He’s gorgeous. I can’t believe you’re still holding out
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