Broken and screwed 2, p.22
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       Broken and Screwed 2, p.22
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         Part #2 of Broken and Screwed series by Tijan

  Alex. I really am. I had no idea—”

  “Obviously,” his girlfriend ground out again. Then we heard crying from the doorway and she sighed, “Hannah.”

  “I’m so sorry, Tiff. I’m so, so sorry. I can’t believe I was going to do that. That’s—”

  “I know you guys have been texting each other.”

  Hannah hiccupped on a sob and wiped a tear from her eye. “You do?”

  “Wait, how?”

  Tiffany sent another lethal warning look to her boyfriend to shut up. The message was delivered and received. He slid to the floor, cradling his head in his hands. A soft ‘oh, man’ could be heard underneath his breath. He kept repeating that phrase, no doubt seeing his life flashing before his eyes.

  “I pay for his phone.” She’d gone over to Hannah and peered down. “You’re really drunk, aren’t you?”

  Hannah wordlessly nodded, more tears falling from her. Then she lifted skinny arms and wound them around her older sister’s head, hugging her tight and mumbling, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” Wrapping an arm around Hannah, Tiffany rocked her back and forth, brushing her hair down her back and murmuring, “I know. I know you are.”

  Cord was the one who cleared his throat and suggested, “Jamie, you might want to clear out for a while.”

  “Because I was rude to his girl? Jesse, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

  “Shut up!” Jesse whipped back at him. The fury caused even me to jump back. He jerked forward, pressing against Cord again, as he drilled holes into his roommate on the floor now. “You stepped wrong, Striker. I want you out.”

  “Hey, whoa.” Derek and Cord both turned at the same time. Cord spoke up first, “You’re kicking him out, for good?” Derek ended, “That’s extreme.”

  But Jesse didn’t care. I saw the cold in him and shivered, he was beyond not caring. “It’s my house. I want him out. Get your shit tomorrow and don’t come back. I don’t want to hear it either.” He sent me a scathing look. I knew he didn’t blame me for what happened, but the anger was barely checked. I was scorched by it, but I knew this Jesse. He wanted time alone so when he stalked downstairs, I stayed put. I’d go in a little bit.

  Kara had sidled up next to me. “Should you go after him?”

  “No. I need to wait.”

  Tiffany glanced over, confused, but she didn’t comment as she continued to stroke her sister’s back. Hannah was full-out sobbing now, clinging to her sister. The guys helped Jamie to his feet and he went to his room. It wasn’t long before he came back down, a bulging bag over his shoulder. He paused in the doorway, but he didn’t say anything as he left. He looked ready to apologize or say something to his girlfriend, but she shot him a dark look and turned her back to him. So he left with a defeated sloop to his shoulders.

  He deserved it.

  Derek and Cord went back to their rooms, leaving the girls around the sisters. Kara had gone over and was stroking Hannah’s back as well. She kept crying. It was the deep sobs, the ones that come from a person’s gut. Flinching, I could sympathize. I’d experienced the same gut-wrenching emotion.

  “I’m so sorry, Tiffany.”

  “Ssh. Just let it out. This is good, Hannah.” Tiffany pressed a tender kiss to her sister’s temple, moving her hair aside. “You need to feel this pain.”

  And this wasn’t about Jamie anymore. This was about Dylan, her ex-boyfriend, which she’d been with for six years. I stood there, unsure what to do. The Hannah I was used to wasn’t this one. She was crass, bold, sexual, carefree, or maybe careless. I knew she was hurting. I knew she was broken, but it was always covered up. Not now. She was letting it out. Feeling a tear threatening, I swiped at it, annoyed at myself. It’d been so long since I’d been with girlfriends like this, when one needed support from me.

  I found myself scared. I wasn’t sure what to do and I couldn’t mess it up. I may not get this opportunity again to show that I cared. But then Kara suggested, quietly, “Maybe you should just take her upstairs.”

  Tiffany nodded, leading Hannah up the stairs with her friend following behind.

  Standing at the bottom of the stairs, I opened my mouth. What did I say? Should I do something? And Kara turned back, a smile to me. “You can shut off the lights. Thanks, Alex.”

  Oh. Yeah. I could do that. Reaching out, the house plunged to darkness again. Myself included.

  Jesse was pacing in the room when I went back down, pissed off and ready to do damage. As I stepped inside, he swung his piercing eyes to me, pinning me down. “What else did he say to you?”

  “I think you heard most of it.”

  He growled, “Cord said he’s been rude, but not like that. That wasn’t being rude. That was being a dick to you.”

  “He didn’t know—”

  “He shouldn’t have to know!” He punched the side of his closet door and it broke off. The hinge cracked open.

  I rushed over to inspect his hand. There was blood, wood splinters, but I didn’t see anything too damaging. His hand would be black and blue by tomorrow. It was already swelling up. Caressing his rigid arm, I helped him ease it from the door and then touched the side of his face. He was struggling. His breath was wheezing.

  “Hey,” I murmured, softly.

  His eyes opened and I saw the storm inside.

  “Thank you for defending me.”

  “God.” He swept me against his chest and tucked his head beside mine. He breathed out, haggardly, “I’d do more than that. No one should talk like that to you.”

  Pain pierced me and I had to blink back my own tears. Jesse had defended me. He stood against his roommate, did serious damage, and he’d do it again. He’d done that for me. My throat was thick with emotion and I couldn’t talk, not then and there, but I was so touched. Turning my head, I nuzzled into his until he moved to meet my lips with his.

  My body quivered with emotion.

  He had created a hole in my armor and it opened further that night. It was big and gaping and I wasn’t scared for the first time in a long time. I was becoming okay again.

  “She was crying?” Beth sat across from me with a dumbstruck expression on her face. She had pulled her feet up to her chair so her knees were against her chest. With one arm resting over them, she reached to pick up her coffee.

  We had met the next morning for breakfast. Jesse asked if he should come with, but it’d be worse if he had. The attention was going to be there, it’d be ramped up ten notches if he was with me. As it was, I had only been propositioned three times by guys in the parking lot and approached by a handful of girls. They were giggling freshmen and wanted Jesse’s autograph, if I could hook that up. I caught a few speculative gazes from other girls. I was being sized up. They were figuring out the best angle to go through me to get to him.

  To be honest, I had been expecting worse than this, but it was the first morning. And it was early. There was an entire day to look forward, though I’d get a break. Jesse wanted me to meet him for lunch. He explained where he ate, but it sounded complicated. He said to keep up with Cord after our class. That explained where the guys went that one time. They had lunch with him.

  I nodded at Beth now. “Yup.”

  “Like a breakdown sort of crying?”

  “Yup.”

  “Huh.” Beth bobbed her head forward, munching on her breakfast sandwich. She seemed dazed at the turn of events. “I never saw that coming. I thought it’d be longer, in three months yet.”

  “She was with Dylan since seventh grade?”

  “Yeah.”

  “Now he’s with her best friend?”

  “Ex best friend/roommate still. She’s been trying to get out of that room, but Housing said there were no other openings.”

  “She could take my room.”

  Interest flickered in her gaze. “Yeah, you’re right. She could.”

  A table beside us was filled with girls. All of their heads were pushed together and we could hear loud whispering from them. At the gl
ances, I knew they were talking about me. I sighed and put my toast back down. My appetite had waned suddenly. “How bad is it on the floor?”

  She grimaced at me. “You don’t want to know.”

  I didn’t think it would bother me, but I was surprised at the lengths the girls went. A few approached Beth, hoping to get to me, and that path always led to Jesse. My door was covered with invitations to parties. A few sorority girls had stopped by to extend in-person invitations to their tea parties. The only part that angered me was when she said Kate and Amanda tried to break into my room. I still had things in there, photographs of Ethan that I hadn’t even told Jesse about. If any of them were damaged, I’d be livid. But by the end of breakfast, it was decided that Hannah would move into my room. Hell hath Hannah. I knew the other girls wouldn’t be a problem when she opened the door.

  We just had to fill her in on the plan.

  Leaving for classes was another ordeal, or it might’ve been because more students were arriving on campus. When I checked my mailbox, a group of girls just stood and watched me the whole time. They didn’t interact, just watched me. A path opened for me as I left. Stepping out onto the quad, clumps of people were all over. I was painfully aware of heads turning, conversations stopping and then starting with renewed vehemence. Ducking my head down, I gripped my bag tight, and plunged onward.

  Seriously. Jesse was this big of a deal? When I got to my class before lunch, Cord plopped down in the chair beside mine. He flashed a grin, glancing at the girls who had turned around in their chairs to openly stare at me. Leaning forward, he pretended to bite my arm and beamed at them. He picked up my arm and held it out to them. “If you want, you can have a bite too. She’s right here, no pens or cages. She’s free for the taking.”

  Two of them flushed and jerked around. The third girl chuckled before she joined her friends. With their backs to me now, I saw more girls were looking over from the other side of the classroom. Cord leaned close and said for my ears only, “Jesse’s the closest thing to a celebrity they have here so you’re like prime rib to them. They’re hungering for you, thinking they can take what you have. You can’t be weak or they’ll eat you alive. I’ve seen it happen to other girls. Jesse went on a date with one girl last year; she announced it to everyone. They never went out again, but she said she was his girlfriend. She used him to get in some prestigious clubs on campus.”

  “So they don’t even want Jesse.”

  He nodded. “They want what he has, his connections, his power, whatever they can get. Some girls just want that attention.”

  It made sense, but it sickened me. I couldn’t help but wonder about that girl who was claiming she was Malcolm Hunt’s daughter. I wondered if she knew about Jesse or wanted what he had because of his father. Jesse hadn’t been called for any more lawyer meetings, but I knew the court case was coming up. It was scheduled for the same time as the NCAA tournament. It had already been hard on him, but it was going to get worse.

  Then Jamie slunk in. He took the seat at the end of our aisle, shoulders hunched, a glower in place that matched the bruises on his face. Cord turned and grew quiet. He was waiting for something, and then I knew what it was.

  Jamie swiveled his head to me and held out a hand. “I’m sorry for talking to you like that.”

  He expected me to shake his hand? All was forgiven? Just like that? My eyes narrowed to slits. I don’t think so, buddy.

  He grimaced and withdrew his hand back to his side. “Fine. Whatever. Look, just tell Jesse that I apologized. All right?”

  Cord smacked him in the back of the head.

  “What?!”

  “You talk to Tiffany like that?”

  He flinched. “Not yet. I have a whole apology list.” He slumped down in his chair. “It sucks.”

  “It’s good for you. You can’t talk to girls like that. And I’ll do you a favor. I won’t tell Jesse about your half-ass apology right now.”

  “What?” Jamie’s head jerked around. “Oh, come on. I apologized.”

  “That wouldn’t fly with Tiffany and you know it.”

  “She ain’t my girlfriend.”

  “No, but she’s Jesse’s. You better turn your mind around. You’re not getting back in the house like that.”

  “I’m already going to have to grovel for Jesse. Come on. Give me a break. And the sisters. They’re pissed at me.”

  Cord sighed, shaking his head. “If that’s your starting point, you’ve got a long way to go. Good luck and nice knowing you, Striker.”

  Jamie growled in response, a scowl now a permanent fixture on his face. “This sucks!”

  “Deal with it. You screwed up. Big time.”

  I grew fond of the day Jamie had been scared when I let him see my inner rage. That lasted a week. A deep sigh left me. Jesse had changed me. That rage was going away and I couldn’t let it out on command anymore. Something would have to trigger it now; something deep enough, dark enough, and something that would make me lose control.

  A foreboding sensation spread in me. I hoped that day would never come.

  Lunch with Jesse was located in the back of a building, overlooking their stadium. Cord showed me the way with a reluctant Jamie behind us. As we got closer and as I saw the small cafeteria, Cord whispered to me, “The best athletes eat here. Boyfriends, girlfriends, close friends are invited, but only if it’s kept a secret.”

  As I got inside, I could see why. The buffet had a carving station with a private chef behind. There was another grilling station. A salad buffet was set up on the far side, along with a pasta bar. As I passed by, there was whole grains, tofu, items that I’d only see in the organic section of a grocery store and certainly too pricey for me to buy. This was all for them, the elite athletes.

  Jesse waved from a table in the back corner. He was surrounded by other guys, a few girls, and all of them moved down to make room once we filled our plates and grabbed some drinks. Jamie pounded fists with a few of the guys before he sat, eyeing Jesse at the same time, warily. Cord filled in next to him. Wrapping a hand around my wrist, Jesse tugged me beside him. Derek and Kara came in not long later and sat across from us. Glancing around, I wondered if Tiffany would show. Kara must’ve guessed at my thoughts. She gave me a brief shake of her head, leaning over the table. “She’s with Hannah. They stayed at the house today.”

  “Jesse’s?”

  She nodded. “It’s become a retreat for some of us.”

  I could understand. I wasn’t even sure if I dared invite Beth over, the study session being an exception. But I made a note to ask Jesse about it. She had proven her loyalty, more than a few times already to me.

  “How was your day?” Jesse had been waiting to ask.

  His eyes pierced mine, trying to shift inside and read my thoughts. I caught the concern in his and wanted to lean against him. Merely shrugging instead, I murmured, “It was interesting.”

  “I had a ton of girls ask about you. They wanted to know who you were and how you guys met.” Kara smiled, her eyes sparking from warmth.

  Sipping on my water, I wasn’t sure what to say to that.

  “What’d you say?” Jesse spoke for me, frowning slightly.

  “I didn’t say anything except that Alex is a very nice girl.”

  I’d been holding breath and released it now. I wasn’t sure why I’d been tense, but Kara hadn’t thrown me to the wolves. She added, “I’m not being nice because you’re one of my residents, Alex. Jesse’s a good friend, one of Derek’s best friends, so you can reach out for anything. I mean it.”

  “Even though Tiffany hates me?”

  Her eyes shifted down the table, to where Jamie wasn’t hiding his own eavesdropping. Her lips pressed together. “Even if Tiffany hates you. She knows better not to now, now that Jesse handed Jamie his own ass last night.” She ducked down, but I caught the pink flush and small giggle that escaped her lips.

  Derek gazed fondly at his girlfriend, rubbing her back. “You’re good for Je
sse. We’ve noticed a big difference from this summer.”

  “Yeah,” Jamie surprised everyone by speaking up. He cleared his throat as he straightened in his seat. “I’ve noticed that too. And,” he caught Cord’s meaningful look, “I want to apologize for last night. Again. I should never have spoken like that to you.”

  Cord coughed once.

 
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