unraveling

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Chapter 9

AVERY

Madden shivered, curling himself closer to me. His presence was calming for me. He was incredibly distracting, so that kind of countered that, but he had an aura that was oddly relaxing.

My eyes slid down the length of his body, snagging on the marks dotting his pale skin. They were still visible, even when he wasn't fully naked. My first thought was still that he really shouldn't let me do that to him. But he had begged and pleaded and writhed with pleasure underneath me just hours earlier, I could hardly feel any remorse.

"You're all tense," he murmured.

I glowered, making a face. "I have one rule. Keep your mouth shut."

He smiled softly. "You're staring at me. Not working."

I glared down at him. "Shut up."

"Sorry," he mumbled, sounding entirely unapologetic, leaning his head against my chest.

It was Friday. Hale's words weighed heavily at the back of my mind. Showing up after 5 years would no doubt be a whole big deal I was so not in the mood to deal with. I still kept in touch with my brothers, but they would still have questions that I was also not in the mood to deal with. And my parents. That was a whole other thing.

'You have to forgive them one day. We all have.'

The implication of that statement had been clear. Before they die, you should forgive them. That was a really huge guilt trip. But that wasn't what bothered me. It was unreasonable for me to still be resentful considering Ian had already moved on.

I glanced down at Madden whose eyes were closed now. He wasn't asleep yet, but he was tired. I didn't blame him. I leaned back in my chair, shifting slightly. He was a light sleeper. His lashes fluttered and he looked up at me. "Are you done?"

"Why don't you just go sleep in the bed like a normal person?" I said dryly.

He pouted and I rolled my eyes. "Your house is freezing. And you're warm."

"That's not why," I countered.

"You're right," he yawned, putting his head back down. "I just like bothering you."

Sighing, I ran a hand through his hair, petting him gently. "Brat."

"Dick," he shot.

When he had said he wasn't scared of me, I had not believed him. Though, as the past month proved, he really wasn't.

What was I doing? With Madden? Sure, he was entertaining. And he was really pretty. And he was a great fuck. But what the hell was this? And why?

"Could I borrow you tomorrow?" I asked.

Madden's eyes flew open and he frowned adorably. "What?"

"You heard me," I mutter. "I'll pay you."

He blinks, studying me. I kept my face blank and he gave me a puzzled look. "What do you need me for?" he asks quietly. That question seemed to come out with a completely different meaning.

I pursed my lips. "An escort."

His eyes widened. "You realize we're already fucking, right?"

Okay, I'll admit Madden's not stupid. But sometimes, I questioned how the fuck he ended up from one thought to another than to words that came out of his mouth. "Yes."

"Then..."

"I need you to come to dinner with my parents," I said flatly. As soon as I said the words, they sunk in and I sighed. I was actually going through with this?

Madden's mouth hangs open and I use my hand to push his jaw together. "But...why?"

"Because," I started, my voice even. "I need a distraction."

He squints up at me. "Okay...? But why me?"

Good point. Why him? "I need you to pretend to be my boyfriend."

This was not a good idea. I was very aware of that. Not just because it was ridiculous, because honestly, it wasn't that far fetched. I figured if he was willing to have sex with me for a grade, this was nothing for him. My face hardened at that thought.

Madden swallowed anxiously. "I...um, aren't your parents super rich?"

That was what was stopping him? "I suppose," I admit.

"And you think this is a good idea?"

I make a face. "No."

"Then why?" I was surprised he wasn't questioning the other aspects of this request.

I scowled. "It's probably my best option."

He looked like he wanted to say something else, but he seemed to bite his tongue. "Okay. But can I ask you for something?"

My eyes narrowed. "What?"

"Teach me how to cook."

"No," I said immediately.

His mouth popped open. "What? Why?"

"You're not allowed anywhere near a kitchen. Especially not my kitchen. You'll burn it to the ground," I said flatly.

Madden stuck out his bottom lip, turning around fully so he was straddling my lap. "Please?"

"No."

"I'll be good. I won't do anything you don't tell me to do," he tried.

"No."

"Please, professor?" he asked.

I had zero intention of doing this, and yet... "No," I said, jaw clenching.

"Please," he murmured, tilting his forehead against mine. His arms looped around my neck and I could see the bruising I had left on his wrists in a very clear ring. Madden looked so pretty when he was all marked up and crying. And damn it if that wasn't one of the reasons I wanted him so badly.

"No," I hissed.

He makes a face but ultimately gives up. "Okay"

Damn it. I stared at his face, hating him more and more by the second knowing how easy it was for him to fuck with my brain. "We'll see," I mutter.

His face brightens visibly and he kissed my cheek. I pushed his face away automatically, which only made him smile more.

What was happening right now?

The sooner I distanced myself from him, the better. He still had my class for another semester. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to stay away from him. Especially not with him clinging to me almost every night.

If I couldn't stay away from him, I needed to get him away from me. That, however, was easier said than done.

Everything he did just rendered all my self-control and my resolve non-existent. It was infuriating and he was one of the most irritating people I've had to come across.

"You're heart's beating fast, professor," he said, a smirk twisting at his lips. It was. I could feel my pulse hammering.

I scowled. "Shut up."

"Hmm," he hummed. "What should I call you?"

I paused, expression still hard. "What?"

"Tomorrow, I mean."

I wasn't entirely sure how taking Madden, of all people, to dinner with my family would turn out. "Avery," I said.

He turned to look at me, then he mouthed my name as if he needed to test it out. "Avery," he mumbles. "I don't think I can do that."

"Why?" I sighed, rolling my eyes.

"I don't know. It's... foreign?"

"Yes, well, figure it out," I respond dryly.

"You still haven't called me by my name," he points out, eyebrows raised.

"And I'm not going to." My voice was icy. It was entirely irrational. There were already so many lines being crossed. Calling a student, anyone of my students by their first name made things personal. Plenty of professors did it, but that wasn't a line I wanted to cross right now. Because you couldn't exactly go back from it once you're done. It served as yet another reminder that Madden was my student. Nothing more than a pretty face with an annoying voice.

"Avery," he muttered again. The way he said my name was so innocent, but fuck. I needed to hear him say it. No, scream it. I wanted to hear my name falling from his lips in needy, whimpers, and moans.

I clenched my jaw. "Stop that."

He looks up at me, confusion written all over his face. "What did I do?"

I don't answer, choosing to ignore the question. That was the problem. He didn't have to do a single damn thing and he was driving me insane.

As he laid his head down on my chest, I watched him, his entire body seeming to mold against mine as he relaxed. All his behaviourisms were similar to that of a small child which was annoying at best. It was like taking care of a toddler I definitely did not ask for. And yet, I chose to do it. I tolerate him beyond what I should put up with, even from a student I'm fucking with.

He was curled up in my lap, falling asleep for fucks sake.

I was just as pathetic as he was.

I realized that there was a good chance that I was taking Madden to meet Hale again. The memory of their flirtatious smiles and complete unsubtle comments at each other made me grit my teeth. I didn't blame either of them, they were probably more alike to each other then I would ever be.

Why the fuck did I care?

I inhaled a sharp breath, the irritation of my own thoughts running sending pinpricks up my skin. The thought of a particular petite brunette being anyone else's, hell just touching anyone else made my blood boil.


-

The Castien Manor was a remarkable piece of work. It would be a perfect haunted house if my mother hadn't insisted on growing bright multicolored roses along the front of the gates. I eased into the driveway and parked my car in what can only be called the parking lot.

As soon as the staff answers the door, a figure runs up to me unceremoniously, utterly ruining the refined elegance and sophisticated tranquility of the manor's serene interior design that was most certainly not meant to be sprinted on.

"You came!" Levi grinned.

I pressed my lips into a thin line. "Yes."

Levi was my youngest brother. And probably the most...normal. He blinks, turning in surprise to Madden who was staring in what I presumed was shock around the grand receiving room of the house.

Stepping back into the place after so many years was a relapse I had not been prepared for. Piles of memories both good and bad twirled together, from the elegant staircases to the marble tiling beneath my feet.

I didn't hate it. I thought I would. But I didn't.

"Who's this?" Levi asks.

Madden glanced up at me, questioningly. When I didn't say anything, he offered my brother a warm smile. "I'm Madden. Avery's boyfriend."

I scowled a bit at that. I hadn't anticipated how the idea of having Madden pretending to be my boyfriend might fuck my mind. Levi's jaw dropped. "You have a boyfriend? And you didn't tell us?"

I rolled my eyes. "Don't be dramatic."

Levi turns to Madden, sticking out a hand. "I'm Levi."

Madden's smaller hand wrap gently around it, shaking it lightly. "Pleasure to meet you."

"He's so cute," Levi mutters to me.

Madden laughs softly. "Thank you."

Bringing him might've been a terrible idea, but clearly, he was a people's person. He would get along great with most of my brothers. Levi started leading him further into the manor.

He followed Levi into the open floor that served to resemble a dining room. It was almost exactly as I remembered, a long table at the center, and there, already sitting with an almost relieved look on his face was my father at the head of the table. I stiffened. Next to him, my mother looked like she was about to cry.

I pursed my lips, not moving. Madden stopped, glancing back at me. Concern was written on his face, which only made me pause more. "You okay?" he murmured gently.

"Fine," I snapped.

He smiled and held out his hand, face up. "Wanna hold my hand?" I glared at him and he winked, tiptoeing to press a kiss on the cheek. I didn't move away. I was also very aware that we were being stared at.

The next few minutes felt slow. Like a sluggish recall of what happened played in front of me instead of the reality hitting. My mother wrapped her arms around me and I stood stoically, waiting for her to pull away. "Avery," she said, a tearful smile on her face. "You're here."

I don't reply to that, unsure if I should feel something. If I should be angry, or upset, or even happy to talk to the women who birthed me. I give a small nod.

On my father's side sat my twin brother, Ian, who seemed to already have broken out the alcohol. He took a sip of scotch, a stony and very bored expression on his face. "Who's the twink?" he asked flatly. "And why is he here?"

My father still hasn't met my eyes, but I sat down at the table. Madden blinks slowly, before seeming to realize that he should follow. "This is Madden," I replied. His name felt odd on my tongue. Right, but still odd. Suddenly, I got what he meant by foreign.

"I didn't ask for a name. I want to know why he's here," Ian countered. He was staring at me as well, an unrecognizable expression on his face. He didn't look surprised to see me here. I did still talk to my brothers quite regularly, but Ian of all of them, the least.

"That's his boyfriend," Levi supplies helpfully. Ian arched a brow at me, his eyes curious.

My father cleared his throat. "I'm...glad you came."

"I can't say the same," I drawled. It was an honest remark. By every passing second, I was regretting this decision.

He seemed to falter, just slightly, but he kept his resolve. The door to the room flew open dramatically. Hale entered, looking like he expected applause and some sort of spotlight. He had a natural smile pasted on his face. Then he spots me. "Why's Madden here?"

Madden hides a smirk. I narrowed my eyes at the small movement. "They're dating," Levi said again.

"Okay, excuse you," Hale announced, rounding on me. "You didn't bother telling me?"

I did relax a little at Hale's presence. "What?"

He points at Madden. "You said you didn't like him."

I rolled my eyes. I was tempted to say I didn't, but that seemed anticlimactic. "And?"

"You're dating?" he said suspiciously.

"Yes," I muttered. Hmm, I should've thought this through.

"It's a long story," Madden cuts in.

"Where's Nathan?" my mother asked.

"He'll be here later," Ian said quietly. There was a hint of resentment in his voice that made me pause.

Really. Nothing in this house has changed. Including the people. Which meant there was very little chance that my parents have either.

Hale frowns. "Okay, how old are you?"

Madden looks up. "Oh, um, 20."

Ian blinks. "So, you're a gold-digger?"

He actually flinches at the question. Then, for the first time since I've met Madden, he genuinely looked annoyed. "No," he said, voice equally as flat as his.

"Then, what? A prostitute?"

My face hardens. I did bring Madden so I wouldn't have to actually talk during this, but this was not what I had been expecting. "No," Madden said again.

"Ian," my mother chides. "Don't scare him off."

Her tone made her unspoken words clear. Don't scare them off. "Where did you meet?" Levi asks. It was an innocent question.

"He's Avery's student," Hale mutters.

"What?" Levi said, eyes widening.

Madden puts a hand on my thigh under the table, almost forcing me to relax. It worked. Just barely. "I fucked my professor," he said bluntly. "Big deal. You have a problem with that?"

Five sets of eyes stared at him, slightly in shock and probably judgment. "No," Levi said slowly.

"Do you?" Madden asks Ian.

Both of my parents looked very uncomfortable, but Ian looked genuinely like he wanted to laugh. "Alright, now I'm interested."

Madden smirks a bit. "You all look like you have questions. Ask away."

Oh. I made a mistake now. I should not have brought him here.

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