Broken and screwed 2, p.19
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       Broken and Screwed 2, p.19
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         Part #2 of Broken and Screwed series by Tijan

  I didn’t realize you’d get hurt by that, Alex.”

  “Too late, asshole. You go to bed too.”

  “Yeah, yeah. Alex, we’ll finish the paper tomorrow night.” He chuckled. “Maybe at the library instead.”

  I wanted to say something back. I wasn’t sure what. Maybe a reassurance or a question, I didn’t know, but I couldn’t. The emotions were too fresh and raw inside of me so I laid my head back down and stayed still. The agony that blasted me had lessened, just a bit, but enough so I wasn’t crying so loudly anymore. But when Jesse glanced down, his concern didn’t let up, and I felt more tears sliding down my face.

  I wasn’t going to be normal. Ethan’s death had started the change, but my parent’s abandonment stamped it in place.

  The realization sunk down, like an anchor to my soul. I knew, as Jesse turned and started down the stairs for the basement, that I would have to pretend to be normal from now on. People couldn’t see the mess inside of me. They’d want nothing to do with me.

  When Jesse went to his room and put me on the bed, I knew he intended for us to sleep together that night. I couldn’t let that happen. He’d seen too much. He couldn’t see the rest, not when I was in this fragile of a state.

  “Take me home.” My throat was hoarse.

  “Stay. Please.”

  I shook my head, more tears slipped free. “Take me home.”

  “Alex,” he sighed. “I’m sorry. Is this because of before? I’m sorry I was so rough. I just—I’m sorry. I won’t do that again.”

  “It’s not. It’s…” I hesitated. What answer would be accepted by him? “It’s because of Ethan. I want to go back and be alone.”

  His arms tightened around me. “But that’s not what we did before. When it got too much, we were together. Remember?”

  But we weren’t. Our old tradition had stopped when I left him in Vegas. Ethan’s anniversary passed by and I’d been alone from everyone at that time. Since coming to school, there was no routine for Jesse and me. Maybe this was the time to start the break. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt as much if we slowly faded our time together.

  I shook my head as my heart was breaking. “I just want to go home.”

  Expecting more of a fight from him, I was surprised when he gave in. He let me down to my feet and I followed as he took us out to his car. The ride to my dorm was quiet. And when he parked in the back lot, we waited until the hour mark before getting out. As he climbed out of his side, I looked over. “What are you doing?”

  A thin smile graced his features. He tossed his keys in the air and caught them in a swift movement. “Oh. I brought you home. That’s fine and dandy.”

  There was a but. I waited for it.

  “But I’m not leaving you alone.”

  “Jesse.”

  “Nope. If it comes to it, I’m prepared to walk through the front lobby. I don’t care. And I certainly don’t care about keeping this secret anymore. I’m going up there with you, whether you want that or not.”

  I glowered at him, but I couldn’t deny the pitter-patter my heart was doing in my chest.

  “Alex.”

  “Fine.” Glaring at him, I felt like baring my teeth. Why did he push me so much? Why did he care so much? “You always say I’m going to be the death of you, but it’s the other way around.”

  He flashed me a perfect white smile.

  “You’re going to be the death of me.”

  “Yeah, well, I think Ethan would want us to be together.”

  “That’s not what you said before.”

  He shrugged, falling in step beside me as we went to the back stairway. He thumbed in the passcode from Kara and opened the door for me. His hand touched the small in my back as we started our way up the stairs. He murmured, bending close to my ear, “I think he would’ve come around and realized he was being stupid.”

  “Is that so?”

  His hand applied pressure on my back as he nipped at my earlobe. “I think so, yeah.”

  We snuck into my room. When I took my caddie to the bathroom to get ready for bed, a tingle was spreading inside of me. It was tickling me, sending me into something that might’ve resembled being happy. But that wasn’t me and it wouldn’t last. This was the first night Jesse was sleeping in my room, in my bed, and I tried to tell myself this wasn’t a boyfriend/girlfriend deal. This was what we used to do. When we had an itch, we sought each other out.

  Stepping back into the emptied and darkened hallway, I went to my room and then took deep breaths. I had tried to fade the relationship, or I started to try to fade us out. It hadn’t worked. Jesse just changed tactics, but I needed to remember the truth.

  I was a mess. And he had no idea how much of a mess.

  Closing my eyes for a moment, I took one more deep breath before I went inside. As I did, as I saw him waiting for me on my bed, with an easy grin on his face, I knew that he was going to learn how screwed up I was.

  Was it too much to hope that he wouldn’t leave when he realized how broken and screwed up I was?

  “I’m horny.” He wiggled his eyebrows at me. “Come on. Crying women speak straight to my loins, Alex.”

  The last shred of resistance I had to him shattered.

  I was in love with him. I had never stopped.

  Jesse never pushed for the reason of my emotional breakdown at his home. He thought it was because how rough he’d been earlier. That time with him had touched me in ways he’d never know. He had energized me. He had made me feel alive, in ways that I hadn’t felt since before Ethan’s death. And that had also been the night when my floodgates were opened again. They’d been closed, but were gaping open once again.

  I felt Ethan everywhere I went, but it was different. Instead of the grief from before, or the hole that he’d ripped in me, it was a better feeling. Maybe this was the acceptance stage of mourning. I didn’t know, but I did know I was still angry. Ethan shouldn’t have died. I shouldn’t have lost my brother. We should’ve still been a family.

  The last part was still off-limits to me. I didn’t think about my parents. I couldn’t. Every time I did, the same hysteria and rage bubbled inside of me, but that had also changed after that night. I’d been shut off from what they had done to me. I was angry with them. Duh. That was a no-brainer and I didn’t need a therapist to tell me that, but I’d been numb to their damage. Since Jesse’s house, I couldn’t do that anymore.

  I felt my rage towards them, but it was banked. It was always there, in the bottom of my gut. It was simmering but manageable. Because of that, I snapped at people more. Beth got it a few times when we had dinner in the cafeteria. Jesse got it too. Hannah just snapped back at me. It didn’t seem to faze her. The only benefit was that Jamie watched how he talked to me. I knew most of it was because of that time in the cafeteria, when I let him really see the storm warring inside of me, but I lashed out at him a few more times when we finished our project.

  Cord was quiet around me. Jesse told me that Cord blamed himself for my outburst. It happened after his dig at Jesse so he figured two plus two equaled him. It didn’t. The truth was that I didn’t know why I snapped, but I had and things hadn’t been the same since. For me.

  “This blows. Let’s go.”

  Jerked back from my wandering thoughts, I stared across the table. Hannah threw her leg up on it and leaned back. Stretching her arms up and wide, she arched her back and sent a wink at a table of guys behind us.

  “Shhh!”

  She flipped off the girl, at the table beside us.

  “Do not get us banned from the library,” Beth warned her cousin, slumped down in her own chair as she peeked over the edge of her book. “I need this place to survive the midterms this week.”

  “Whatever. Robbie’s having a party. Who wants to go?”

  I became engrossed with my laptop while Beth jerked back down underneath her book cover.

  Hannah sighed in disgust. “You guys suck.”

  Beth smirked back. “We may suck ri
ght now, but we’re going to have passing grades next week. You won’t and you’ll be crying your misery to me over a beer.”

  “At least I’ll be drinking.”

  “Drinking and failing. Do you want Tiffany to have more ammunition over you?”

  Hannah pointedly ignored that last curve thrown to her. She straightened in her chair, arched her neck out, and sent another flirty glance over her shoulder as the edge of her shirt slipped down to bare her arm. She didn’t pull it back up as she muttered to us, “I’m more in the mood for Club T.”

  I glanced over. Beth was sitting next to me and she froze at the club’s name. I’d gone back a few more times with them to learn that someone was there, someone that Beth searched for and disappeared with for an hour each time. Hannah would go to the dance floor, grind against guys. I would hold down the base at a table nearby with our drinks on a tray, ready for Beth and Hannah to grab. When Beth was done with whatever she did, she’d return and keep me company. I had been told that Beth had an itch to scratch when she went there, but it was more than that. Beth was seeing a guy, who was always at Club T, who was only at Club T. I could imagine Hannah in my place as she’d pump her cousin for information, and when none was given, she’d smirk as she taunted, “Growing more and more curious. Who’s the dick you crave?”

  But Beth didn’t rise to the bait. She slunk back in her seat and Hannah’s disappointment was noted. She snapped, “Jeesuz, you are pissing me off. I never took you guys for being nerds.”

  Beth sent her cousin a dark look. “Do not start quoting your sister at me.”

  “Oh. Sorry.”

  So Tiffany called Beth a nerd? I wasn’t surprised.

  “Alex.”

  Hannah had turned her mission my way. I glared at Beth, who gave me a smug look back. “What?”

  “Wanna go to Club T?”

  “No.”

  “You’re just like my cousin! Losers.” But the grin Hannah was sporting negated what she said. “Fine.” Standing up, she winked at the guys one more time. “I’m going to roam. See you two in a bit.”

  As she left, one of the guys darted behind her. They disappeared around the corner to the restrooms.

  “Great. I wanted to go to the bathroom.”

  Beth had been watching too. She nodded in the opposite direction. “There’s a bathroom in the back section of the library. I use that one sometimes. No one goes back there so no one knows it’s there.”

  “Yeah, all right.”

  Our library had six stories with crooks and crannies all over. To be honest, it could be a scary place to walk around. People could hide for days if they wanted and I heard stories where people did. So after I found the bathrooms Beth had been referring, I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear Jesse’s voice behind a bookshelf in the very far section.

  We hadn’t seen much of each other over the past week, both of us studying for midterms coming up. A thrill went through me as I started for him, but when I heard a soft feminine voice, I careened to a stop. There were two bookshelves between us and I hunched down. I was eavesdropping. I wasn’t ashamed.

  I heard the girl saying, “I just saw my sister in the front section. And guess what she was doing?”

  Jesse murmured, distracted, “Studying?”

  She snorted. “I wish. She was flirting with an entire table of guys. Can you believe that?”

  Oh. My stomach settled with a crash. Tiffany Chatsworth. And she was alone with Jesse, in a very private corner of the building. A rollercoaster started inside of me, but we weren’t exclusive. I had to keep reminding myself. But still. After Jamie had asked him not to touch her.

  “Yeah.” Jesse didn’t sound riveted.

  The rollercoaster stalled, coming down a slope and it waited before it would swoop back up.

  Tiffany sighed from exasperation. “I’m just so sick of how she sleeps around. I get it. She’s heartbroken. Dylan fucked her over, but she has to stop spreading her legs for any guy. It’s so hard to sit and watch her do this to herself. And my cousin doesn’t help. She lets Hannah go off and do whatever. What if my sister gets sick? What if she gets AIDS?”

  He yawned as he replied, “I’m sure she uses protection.”

  “Yeah, if she’s sober enough. They go to Robbie Haskill’s house, you know. All three of them. You know what kind of a crowd he runs with. And I know Hannah sleeps with him. I’ve gotten threatening texts from his girlfriend. She’s always warning me to rein my sister in and keep her away. I think they even got into a physical fight.”

  “Wait. What?”

  My stomach lurched. The rollercoaster went back at the interest in Jesse’s voice now. He was more alert now as he repeated, “What’d you say?”

  “About Robbie Haskill’s girlfriend?”

  “No, all three of them go to his parties?”

  “Yeah.” A thick moment of silence before she asked, “Why?”

  “Who’s the three of them?”

  “My sister. My cousin. And that weirdo girl that’s always hanging around them. Do not tell me you have a thing for her? She’s been hooking up with Cord. She’s why he dumped Chandra.”

  I shook my head. All of that was news to me.

  “I didn’t think Chandra and Cord were dating.”

  “Hooking up. It’s the same thing.”

  “Not for Cord.” I could hear the amusement in Jesse’s tone. “Chandra knew that.”

  “It was exclusive for her. She wasn’t seeing anyone else—”

  “She should’ve been. Cord doesn’t date. Chandra knew that.”

  “What’s your problem? Why are you harping on Chandra’s heartache? She really loved him.”

  Jesse snorted, yawning again. “And that’s the problem. Cord’s not been quiet about who he is. Chandra knew that going in and she decided she could change him. She couldn’t. No big shocker there. What is it with you girls? Why do you always think you’re going to change the guy you’re with? He’ll only change if he wants to. You can’t do a thing about it.”

  She grew quiet again, but asked a moment later, in a timid voice, “Are you talking about Jamie?”

  “What? No.”

  “You are, aren’t you?” She grew more insistent. “Are you trying to tell me something about him? Is there something I should know?”

  “Tiffany, stop.”

  Her voice grew muffled. A sob hiccupped from her. “I know he texts my sister, you know. I pay for his phone and I see the records. I’ve tried to search in it, but he’s got it password protected. Are they hooking up? You can tell me. I won’t say anything. I just need to know.”

  He groaned. “Come on. We’re supposed to be studying.”

  “Are they?” Her tone rose again, sharp now. “I don’t know if I could take that, my sister and my boyfriend.”

  “Your whole thing is messed up. If you want to keep Jamie, an open relationship is not helping you.”

  “It’s not open on my end.” She paused again. She said now, a husky laden promise, “But it could be.”

  My eyes snapped open. The rollercoaster went flying again and I waited, my heart pounding, for his answer. I knew a proposition when I heard one.

  “Stop, Tiffany. I didn’t agree to study with you for this.”

  And this hadn’t been the first proposition. Judging by Jesse’s wariness, this wasn’t even the second or third. He sighed again. Books were closed. A chair was pushed back. His voice sounded again, more authoritative, “You’ve been a great study buddy, but our friendship needs to cool off.”

  Another chair was shoved back. “That’s not what you said this summer.”

  A knife went into my chest. My insides were gaping out now.
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