"I need you to vouch for me,” Jackie said, tapping her best friend on her shoulder. Looking up from her phone, Rose met eyes with her, raising a single brow.
“What for?” She asked, setting her phone down on her chest.
Sighing, Jackie sat up, flicking hair from her face. “Wyatt wants me to come stay at his lake house in a week, and I really want to go. I haven’t seen him because he’s been working, and this sounds like, the perfect summer activity.”
“So what do you need me to do? Sounds like you’ve got it covered.”
“I need you to say I’m staying with you for the week so my mom doesn’t ask questions. You know she would freak if she found out I was dating Wyatt,” She reasoned, taking her hand. “Please! You wouldn’t even have to do anything, I’ll tell my mom I’m staying here, and that’s it! I’ll give you $20.”
“I don’t know Jackie…”
“Please! Wyatt even told me he’d invite one of his friends so you aren’t alone. How long has it been since you got some? You’re really uptight.”
“Wow, how could I ever say no to that winning proposal,” Rose stood up, leaving Jackie to fall on her belly. In all honesty, it had been a while. She was starting to feel like a nun or a Mormon. No sex, no kissing; she hadn’t even flirted with anyone in, like, months. It was a shitty situation. “Besides, you know I’m not the dating type.”
“Yeah, not since Damien left. What did he do to you that would make you swear off any other man?”
Damien. Even hearing the name sent a shiver down her spine. Her ex-boyfriend had left for college two years ago, and ever since, no one had compared. Maybe because no one was as rich and sexy as him. Or maybe no one else understood her as well as he did. She had tried, don’t get her wrong, but… there was no other Damien Carter out there.
She supposed that’s how Jackie felt about Wyatt. The two of them had been dating on and off for about two years, and every other week, they were off. Jackie swore up and down that Wyatt was her soulmate, but Rose was sure her slight minded best friend was a bit wooed by his flashy car and multiple houses in their state. And the fact that he was apparently a “Sex God” didn’t hurt anything. It was like watching a dog chase their tail; Jackie wouldn’t give up on that boy until she got him. Maybe they did need that week with him… God, she really was going to do this for her friend, wasn’t she?
Heaving a sigh, Rose turned to face her. “Fine. I’ll vouch for you.”
“Thank you! You’re the best friend in the world, I swear, I’ll make it up to you! Ooh, let me set you up on a date! I have this guy I really think you’d like,” She already had her phone out and was searching through it.
“Jackie, I really don’t think-”
“What about him?” She showed Rose a picture of Wyatt with someone, a light-skinned guy wearing a hat. He had striking green eyes, and wore a half smirk that was… more than a little attractive.
“Uh,” Rose stuttered. “He looks nice-”
“Good! I’ll give him your number and don’t even try to stop me,” The wheels were turning in her friend’s mind and Rose ran a hand down her face, knowing there was no stopping her now. “Done! He’ll text you soon, I have to go get ready! I have to pack and get waxed and refill my birth control; love you, Rose, I’ll talk to you later!”
The door slammed behind her and Rose sighed, sitting down on her bed. Well, she had committed now. Falling back on her mattress, she stared up at the ceiling, wishing Jackie hadn’t brought up Damien. She had a motto; if you don’t say his name, you won’t think about him. And it worked, typically. But when she heard his name, he became all she could think about. It was sad, to still have feelings for him when he was so far away, and probably didn’t even remember her name. In the life of a college student, eight months is nothing. She was probably not even a blip on his radar when he was like a fucking cruiseliner on hers.
She needed a smoke.
Opening her bedroom window, she dug out her cigarettes from her nightstand, resting one between her lips. She lit it up and leaned out the window, breathing in the evening air. Summer was coming, and yet again, all she’d be doing is working, and trying to find anything to fill her time. Jackie would prove a good distraction, when she wasn’t busy whining over Wyatt, talking about Wyatt, shoving her head between Wyatt’s thighs; typical girlfriend stuff.
She sounded bitter, she knew, but could you blame her? Going on two years, she hadn’t had a serious relationship. It had been months since she had gotten laid, and everyone who did want to sleep with her was either below her standards, or way too desperate to find sexy. Taking a long drag of her cigarette, she ran a hand through her dyed green hair. It fell messily around her shoulders and she bit her cigarette between her teeth, going to tie it up.
On the windowsill, her cell phone buzzed. She picked it up and saw a message from an unknown number; the guy Jackie had sent her way. Shaking her head, she decided fine, if her best friend would throw her a bone, she would take it and run. There was no harm in a little flirting to pass time, right?
Two Years and Seven Months Ago
“Come on! You suck ass!” Rose laughed, trying to kick her boyfriend above her. Damien had her pinned to his mattress, grinning at her. “Let me go!”
“All you have to do is say it, and I’ll let you go, Rose. You’ve always been so stubborn,” He sang, holding her wrists in one hand. His other inched menacingly towards her waist, making her gasp.
“Don’t you dare!”
“Four simple words,” He reminded her, fingers twitching. She tried to jerk away.
“But it’s so… dirty,” She wriggled, cheeks flushing bright red. “I-I can’t.”
Leaning down, Damien pecked her lips, whispering against her mouth. “Say your safe word if you need to, hon. I’m not making you do anything you don’t feel ready for.”
Rose nodded, swallowing hard. That made her feel a little better, that she wasn’t being pressured into anything. She could trust Damien, he had never given her a reason not to. Slowly, she let out a shaking breath, looking up into his caramel colored eyes.
“I just have to… say it?”
“That’s it, babe. You can say it,” He coaxed her, lips pressing under her jaw. She sighed gently, closing her eyes at the feeling. It was fine, it was just four words… nothing too scary yet. He was teaching her and keeping his promise of going slow with her. She trusted him… opening her pink lips, she spoke.
“You own me, daddy.”
Tilting her chin down, Damien chuckled darkly. “That’s right, baby doll.”
He captured her lips in a kiss, letting her hands go. His kisses always made her head spin, her legs clench, and her body go limp. Teeth and tongues worked with one another, his free hand spreading her legs. Laying between them, he ground his hard cock against her, making her gasp. Pulling away, he breathed into her ear.
“Rose! Are you taking that order, or not?”
Jerking back into reality, Rose looked up. Her manager was staring at her expectantly. Nodding, she clicked on her headset, walking over to their electronic register.
“Welcome to Grubber Hub, can I take your order?” Her voice was calm, even though she was incredibly embarrassed. Damn, she had been daydreaming again. She did that really bad when she had first started working, but not so much anymore. Fuck Jackie.
“That’s going to be $17.82, thanks,” She turned off her headset, sighing and filling up a soda cup. Her coworker, Abigail, bumped her with her hip, looking a bit concerned.
“Yeah,” Rose lied, handing her the cup. “Just lost in thought.”
“I noticed,” Abigail laughed, taking the customer’s money. “Thinking about your date? It’s really been too long, huh?”
Rose had told Abigail about her date with Gabriel, who just happened to be Wyatt’s best friend. When she had heard that, she had almost canceled. But Jackie assured that Gabriel and Wyatt were very different, and had even made their date a double date to ease her friend’s nerves. So, the four of them were headed out that Thursday night and Rose was about… 65% excited.
“Yeah… sure. I’m kind of excited,” She shrugged, handing off the bag of food to her. Abigail shook her head, closing the drive-thru window and leaning against the wall.
“You know you don’t have to go if you don’t want to. No one is holding you at gunpoint and saying you have to go on this double date,” She told her, giving her a good-natured smile. “My sister and I are going to have a horror movie night. You’re welcome to join us there if you want.”
In all honesty, Rose just wanted to go home and be alone. She had lost hope for this date because she knew the whole time, she would just be comparing him to Damien, which wasn’t fair. Sure, no one had ever topped Damien, but that didn’t mean a dark horse contender couldn’t come out of the wild and surprise her.
Maybe she was afraid that was what would happen. Truthfully, if she kept telling herself that no one would be better than Damien, she wouldn’t have to face the dating world again. She wouldn’t have to put herself out there and try…
“I’m going to take a smoke break. Thanks for offering, Abigail.”
“Just trying to help,” Her coworker waved a hand at her as she headed out the back door. The evening air felt nice, less stifling than the heat of the kitchen. She walked towards their supply shed, hands trembling as she tried to light her cigarette. When it finally caught, she breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medication would be better for her, but all she could afford was a $6 pack every month or so.
Running a hand down her face, she debated pulling out her phone and texting Jackie, telling her the date was off… but her sweet best friend wanted this so bad. She hadn’t stopped talking about it for the few days since they had planned it. And if there was one thing that Rose knew, it was that she loved Jackie more than anything. Shaking her head, she flicked her cigarette away and headed back inside.
“Thanks for the offer, but I’m going to go on this date.” She told Abigail when she had come back inside. Her coworker gave her a knowing glance, and Rose tossed a straw at her. “Piss off. Fuck, a customer. Look alive. Welcome to Grubber Hub, can I take your order?”
That Thursday, Jackie had Rose seated in her desk chair, going to town on her face. She had already chosen her best friend’s outfit and was trying to make her “glow”. Whatever the hell that meant. Either way, Rose was tired of this date and it hadn’t even begun. Why was she doing this again? Oh, yeah, because she was a good best friend and wasn’t going to make Jackie beg… much.
“There! Take a look and save your tears because that eyeliner took me 25 minutes to do and I am not redoing it!” Handing her a mirror, Rose looked at herself. Jackie had accented her eyes with brown shadow and eyeliner, as well as given her a soft tan lip. It didn’t clash with her green hair; actually, she looked kind of nice.
“Thanks, Jackie.” She handed the mirror back to her and stood up. She did look good, wearing a ribbed grey tank top and ripped jeans. Due to her incessant fighting, she had even gotten Jackie to let her wear combat boots. Outside, a car pulled up and honked, and Jackie squealed, grabbing her hand.
Rushing her out the door, Rose watched as Jackie’s ridiculously rich boyfriend stood from his blue sports car, holding his arms out to her. Jackie sprinted to him and was scooped up off her feet, being kissed passionately. Even Rose had to admit, when they weren’t fighting, the two of them made a cute couple. If not a bit infuriating at times.
“You’re Rosemary, right?”
Looking to her left, she saw her date, Gabriel. He was only an inch taller than her but had those same pretty eyes and strong jaw she had seen in photos. Yeah, he was cute. Good job, Jackie, she had hit all of the standards Rose didn’t even know she had.
“Yeah, that’s me, it’s nice to meet you.” She smiled as he gave her a hug. “Sorry they dragged you out here to be stuck with me.”
“Don’t worry, it’ll be a fun night.”
Riding in Wyatt’s car was always a trip. He drove fast and the car roared on the highway, leaving Jackie giggling in the front seat. Rose played with her phone as she sat in the back, half avoiding conversation with Gabriel. It wasn’t like she didn’t like him, but first dates were always… uncomfortable to her. Noticing she had an unread text, she told herself she would check it at the restaurant.
They went to a local wing place for dinner, the atmosphere loud and masculine. It put a pit in Rose’s stomach, but she stayed quiet and ordered her food on Gabriel’s dime.
“Tell me about your Deathstalker wings,” Wyatt asked the waitress, who chuckled.
“They’re our hottest wings on the menu. I wouldn’t recommend eating more than two.” She said.
“Give me six.”
Rose rolled her eyes. Now, she didn’t hate Wyatt. Not as a person. But it was his personality that irked her a little. She hated how he always had to show people up- by chugging a beer in 30 seconds, by owning the nicest cars and going on trips all the time -or the way he strung her silly little best friend along. She also really, really hated his hair. No particular reason why; she just did.
Her salad was set in front of her and so were Wyatt’s wings, which made him rub his hands together.
“Alright, alright! Gabriel, you want in on this?” He asked, offering the plate to his best friend. Rose looked to her date as he picked up a wing, both of them tapping their food together in a mock toast. “Let’s do this.”
They both took a bite. Gabriel’s reaction was instant, he put the wing down and picked up his beer, drinking the rest of the ¾ full glass in one go. He then sighed heavily.
“Shit. No kidding.” He looked to Rose who smiled softly. Her phone buzzed again, but she was distracted by Wyatt, who had finished his drink and was working on Jackie’s. Her friend shook her head.
“Frat boys.” She said simply.
“Tell me about it.”
After dinner, they went to some horror slasher flick. Rose wasn’t a fan, but it gave Jackie a reason to sit in Wyatt’s lap, and she couldn’t deny her friend her happiness. They sat in a row together, Jackie on the opposite side of her boyfriend, leaving Rose by Gabriel.
“You have to forgive me if I freak. I’m not great with horror movies,” She told him, making him smile.
“I’ve seen this one before, I’ll warn you when anything scary is about to happen,” He promised her. It was a sweet gesture and she thanked him, settling down as the movie began. Of course, right out the gate, there was a jump scare that Gabriel hadn’t warned her about. She gasped and hid her face while he laughed, making her hit his shoulder.
“You ass! You said you’d warn me!” She was laughing a little though.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, that was just funny,” He glanced at her. “I’ll warn you now.”
Rose survived the movie having seen little blood and gore and was able to walk out of the theater saying she’d enjoyed herself. The ride home was short but enjoyable, with Gabriel making light conversation with her. She’d had fun. Maybe dating again wouldn’t be as hard as she’d thought it would be. Probably not with Gabriel, there hadn’t been much of a “spark”, one would say, but it was fun.
Wyatt spoke back to her as he turned onto her street. “Um, who’s car is in your driveway?”
“It’s mine,” Jackie told him. “I drove to hers so you guys could pick us up, remember?”
“Baby, I know you don’t drive an orange convertible.”
“What?” Sitting forward, Rose looked out the front window and sure enough, in her driveway sat a stunning Audi A5. Was that… pulling out her phone, she checked her missed text messages.
“There’s someone on the porch,” Gabriel pointed out.
“Stop the car,” Rose said.
Wyatt did so, looking back at her. “You know them?”
Ignoring him, Rose got out of the car and walked around the front, watching as the figure on her front porch stood, revealing their face in the setting sunlight. She didn’t know whether she wanted to cry or laugh or scream. With shaking hands, she put her phone in her back pocket, slowly crossing the lawn.