Destructively Oblivious

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Chapter 8: Drink or Dare

Drink-Or-Dare

/driNGk-ôr-der/

noun

1. a party game where you have the o ption of choosing dare or shot; if dare is chosen, you perform a dare; if shot is chosen, you drink a shot of alcohol.

______________________________________

*Chloe’s Point of View*

The clock flashing three in the afternoon was the first thing I saw upon opening my eyes. I frowned, then sat up in my bed, noting the blaring sun shining past my windowsill. I yawned, and my frown returned due to the fact I’d slept my day away, once again.

It wasn’t a rarity for me to wake up so late after getting a measly few hours of sleep each night for the last few weeks, but that didn’t make it any less frustrating. What a wasted Saturday.

Walking downstairs, I glimpsed at Asher in the kitchen, halfway through his day, leaning against the counter on his elbows and reading the paper. Staring at the Greek-God-like boy, I admired him. The way his mouth relaxingly parted as he focused. The way his eyes ticked over the article. The way he was attractive without even trying. He looked so good reading you’d assume he got paid professionally to do it.

Making no effort to remove his eyes from the newspaper nor the smug smirk from his lips, Mr. Greek God spoke. “You can stop admiring me now.”

Hoping I could make it out of the kitchen with not only my coffee but my dignity, I denied his affirmation, noticeably as pink as a peach when I did, grabbing an apple and heading straight for the machine that constructed the bitter drink I craved each morning. Some were addicted to cigarettes, some addicted to alcohol — I was addicted to coffee, not a moment I didn’t wish for a cup in my hands.

I shook my head as I grasped the maroon mug. “I wasn’t admiring, just staring. You look... weird.”

That was a terrible excuse and a lie. He looked perfect, no surprise there.

Tossing the paper down onto the granite counter, Asher made no attempt to hide his smirk-gone-crazy, undoubtedly seeing right through my feeble attempt to recover.

“Weirdly attractive.” He motioned over his face and I laughed.

“You’re too cocky,” I shared.

He dropped an eyebrow. “I’m too cocky? Does that mean I have too much-” I cut him off with my hand over his mouth.

“Don’t.” Shaking my head and hesitantly removing my hand from the crude mouth that belonged to Mr. Greek God, I grabbed my fruit and addiction-in-a-cup, taking it with me to sit at the bar on the other side of the counter. His smirk not once leaving that perfect face, he kicked me a glance.

“Sleep well?” he teased, noting my late arrival downstairs.

I sighed. “Too well. I planned on starting and finishing a good book today and now my Saturday’s gone.”

With a chuckle, Asher brought his own coffee mug to his lips. He leaned forward on the counter, setting the mug down, asking, “Besides making me feel ashamed for how slow I read, what are you doing tonight?”

Biting into my succulent breakfast, I dipped my brow in mock thought, knowing I had nothing to do besides sleep the rest of my day away, and start that book. “I have a feeling you’re about to tell me.”

“That’s very premonition-ist of you.” He grinned. “We’re going to a party.”

“I thought you were grounded.” I lowered a brow.

He copied my expression. “What’s your point?” I shrugged and he took my comment as conceding, nodding contently. “Good, it’s tonight at eight.”

When he shifted towards the stairs, I called after him, “I’m bringing Jamie!”

He turned the corner at the top of the staircase, out of sight, and yelled back, “Whatever! I’m driving.”

With no other choice, I whipped out my phone and called my best friend. A few hours later, that best friend showed up to get ready with me. With her hair in a messy bun, a short white skirt, and a red halter top, Jamie looked like she could be on the cover of some Teenage-Hormone-induced magazine. I, on the other hand, threw on jeans and a sweatshirt and watched Jamie’s face shift from a smile into a scowl.

“You’re not wearing that,” she stated sternly with no room for argument, turning towards her purse.

She gripped onto the white fabric that I hadn’t noticed was filling up the majority of the bag and tossed it my way. I held the scarce amount of fabric up to my body in the mirror and cringed.

“Don’t make that face. It’s cute,” Jamie tried.

“It’s barely anything,” I responded, my cringe transforming into a wince.

After multiple threats, she had gotten me into the barely-anything fabric, and my wince contorted into a recoil when I eyed myself in the mirror.

“You look great!” My best friend cheered with her hands above her head.

“I look like I work the corner,” I retorted, pinching the tight fabric and watching it snap back into place.

“Hey, that came out of my closet. What are you trying to say?” Jamie’s features pulled downward with mock-offense but they swiftly turned up. “Any guy in the world would agree you look hot. Watch.”

She opened the bedroom door and hollered out for Asher. Before I could make the attempt to cover up, or even hide, his bedroom door was open.

“What?” he asked as he strolled from his room to mine. His eyes widened when they crash-landed on me and I watched his lips part delicately before he made the effort to seal them.

Jamie, too invested in my appearances, failed to notice the way Asher had momentarily looked at me, but I was sure that if she had seen him, she would have felt an emotion akin to how I was feeling.

She grinned and panned my way. “Doesn’t Chloe look nice?”

He tore his eyes off me and settled them on her. “She looks great,” he complimented before a scowl took over his face and he peered back my way. “There’s no way in hell you’re wearing that.”

His sudden reluctance made me extremely defensive over my outfit and I never wanted to remove the dress. I wanted to sleep, eat, and shower in the dress. “Why not?”

“It’s a college party Dol,” he voiced, only to watch my face morph with confusion. He sighed. “I’m not spending my night breaking every guy’s nose who drools in your direction.”

I crossed my arms over my insanely visible cleavage withstandingly, holding back a sly grin when Asher’s eyes briefly headed down that route. I scowled. “You don’t have to. You’re not supposed to be fighting anyway.”

His expression grew more annoyed. “Change.”

Jamie’s death stare commenced, melting on Asher. “Come on! Every guy in there is going to come in his pants when they see her.”

I groaned in disgust while my roommate looked at her astoundingly. “Oh good,” he grumbled sarcastically. “You’re starting to see my problem.”

I stuck out my bottom lip and pointed it in his direction, softly asking, “Do you really hate the dress?”

He gave me a single nod. “Yes.”

I didn’t appreciate Asher telling me what to wear any more than I enjoyed him telling me what to do. Feeling stubborn, I gestured out of my room, maintaining my kind tone and my smile as I said, “Then it’s settled. I’m wearing it.”

His expression lowered into a glower, but he quickly shifted into an eye roll. He sighed, appearing stressed as he questioned my actions. “There’s nothing I can say to get you out of that dress?”

Jamie shook her head and ushered him out, muttering, “You’d love to see her out of that dress, wouldn’t you?” before shutting the door in his face.

Chuckling at her, I asked for her permission to wear a jacket, as I did feel considerably more vulnerable wearing almost nothing at all. My desire to spite Asher overtook my desire to throw my sweatshirt back on.

Jamie noticed my pained expression and tossed me the oversized leather jacket lying nearby. With the coat, I felt slightly more secure, although most of me was still on display. I nodded my approval towards the outfit, not that my approval mattered when it came to clothes.

She did a once-over. “You look amazing. I didn’t know you owned a leather jacket.”

Furrowing my brow, I stared into the mirror, feigning confusion for my best friend’s benefit.

“Me neither...” I lied, knowing the jacket was stripped right from Asher’s closet. Refusing to tempt Jamie with that information, I simply shrugged.

We made our way downstairs where our carriage awaited us, also known as Asher and his car. Hopping in the passenger seat, I was bombarded by the weight of Asher’s gaze on me, starting at my face and skating to my feet.

As he silently disapproved of my outfit, I smiled brightly and teased, “How do I look, Mom?”

He grinned as he started the car. “Like you stole my jacket.”

My lips fell open in faux shock and, knowing I’d mislead Jamie who was sitting comfortably in the back, I shrugged. “Oh, that’s where it came from,” I feigned.

He smiled over at me, returning his eyes to the road. “It’s the least you could wear after putting on that damn dress.”

Hoping for nothing more than to bring irate to his peaceful night, I expressed, ”You’re not used to not getting your way, are you?” with a laugh.

“Can’t say I am,” he told me, peering over to connect his gaze with mine. “And I presume your stubborn ass is going to make this extremely hard for me.”

I smirked, mocking, “That’s very premonition-ist of you.”

______________________________________

We arrived at the house party, but house was an understatement. It was more like a mansion, or a small state. Cars were pulled up on the lawn, plastic cups were scattered about, and the number of people did nothing to soothe my anxious nerves.

Many rooms were packed with people dancing, others talking, a few making out as well, though I averted my eyes quickly from those groups. The volume of the music was so loud I was sure the ground was shaking beneath me.

Asher led Jamie and me inside the house and located the guys immediately, but after exchanging brief greetings, he dragged me into the kitchen and shoved a red cup into my hands. I looked down at it, the strong smell of the drink inside making me realize that it was not the punch I thought it was.

“Dol, do not take these cups from anyone except me. Or the guys. Got it?” I nodded at his instructions and took a sip of the beverage, the bitter taste dipping against my tongue immediately turning me off from the drink.

I was no stranger to alcohol. It was never something that was hidden or misunderstood in my family. My dad even let me have my first shot of tequila on my twelfth birthday. I didn’t generally prefer it, but I did know how to let go every once in a while. It had been a few months since I’d... indulged, and whatever was in my cup was unlike anything I’d ever tasted.

Asher picked up his own red cup, bringing it to his lips, and I delivered him a stern look, hoping he wasn’t about to do what I thought he was going to do. “You’re not drinking, right? You’re driving us home.”

Slowly, he pulled the drink from his mouth, his confused eyes bouncing between the cup and me. Eventually, he set it back down, looking slightly disheartened as he agreed, “Right. I’m driving.”

I began to ask him if he usually disregarded the law by drinking and driving, but Danny walking in interrupted the inferred question. He clapped Asher on the back as a hello as he spoke. “Hey, guys, we’re about to play Drink or Dare. Wanna join?”

Asher sent me a curious glimpse, leaving the decision up to me. “What’s Drink or Dare?” I asked.

Danny smiled, jerking his head out of the kitchen. “They’ll explain the rules when we get in there.”

Not wanting to lose Asher in the crowd of sweaty, indecent bodies, I allowed him to grab my hand as we walked through them. We ended up in another, equally crowded room and I released him to approach Jamie, who was sitting against the opposite wall. Asher collapsed on the other side of me. Zach, the guy on the opposite side of Jamie, gave each of us a smile before he spoke.

“These are the infamous rules of Drink or Dare! We all sit in a circle.” He nodded when he noticed we had already unknowingly followed rule number one. “Whoever is going first, which will be me, will whisper a question regarding a dare to the person to their right. The person to the right has to answer out loud. The trick is that no one else in the circle knows the dare. Then, we throw a flip-flop in the air. If it lands face down, the asker doesn’t say anything, and everyone else is left to wonder what the dare was. If it lands face up, the asker must say the dare out loud to the whole group. Now, this is the best part. If the flip-flop lands face up, then after the dare is stated aloud, the answerer either has to take a shot or has to do the dare that was requested. Understand?”

Everyone nodded. Nervous and entirely out of my comfort zone, I could feel the equal amounts of excitement ticking through my veins. I think my nervous side stood out more. My leg was shaking at an embarrassing speed and Asher seemed to notice. After making me feel stupid by chuckling at me, he placed his hand on my bare thigh, giving it a gentle squeeze. It was only for a few seconds, but after that, I felt at ease.

Zach whispered something to the person to his right, who happened to be Andy, and my friend glanced around the room, debating. Not letting another second pass, he grinned, his eyes landing on the girl to my right.

“Jamie,” he announced.

My best friend smiled, flattery bright on her face. The flip-flop was thrown, landing face up in the process, and Zach, the original questioner was happy to make the inquiry clear to everyone. “The question was, you and someone in the group go into a dark room for an hour and do unspeakable things. Who?”

A cringe utterly evident on my face, Jamie’s expression was the opposite, desire clear on her features. Surprisingly, she chose to take a shot rather than leave me alone for an hour to do unspeakable things with, out of all the people in the world, Andy, and I was grateful. Andy, on the other hand, seemed disappointed.

The next boy, a stranger, was the second person of the night to suffer through the anxiety-ridden round, nervously letting Andy whisper a question into his ear. Stating a girl's name far too quickly after the inquiry, the flip-flop, unfortunately, landed face-up, revealing to the group the strange question that involved the act of covering someone in peanut butter before licking it off them. Unsurprisingly, the girl promptly chose to down her shot.

Round number three was dedicated to another stranger, a girl whose hair was as bright red as the blood pumping through my nervous body. When asked her question, her response was Asher. He seemed unbothered by the fact he was her answer, waiting patiently for the flip-flop to make its decision on whether to land face up or down. Its decision was down, and I, the complete opposite of Asher, was curious about the question that would remain unknown.

Rounds passing by, each one getting closer and closer to becoming mine, it was Blake’s turn to ask his most-likely-over-the-top question that would be offered to Asher. Leaning in, Blake’s mouth came to Asher’s ear, whispering in a question I was eager to know.

Appearing not to hear him the first time, Asher leaned in again to have the statement repeated to him, scanning the group when the question was clear.

Close to ceasing to work, my heart jerked from my chest when Asher’s eyes landed on me, his head tilted cutely, muttering the word, “Dol.”

Blake’s eyes broad with shock, he took a moment to clarify with his friend that he had heard the question correctly. Upon Asher’s confirming head nod, Blake grinned impishly.

The flip-flop was up in the air a second later, the longest second that had ever passed. I could almost feel everything go into slow motion. Or maybe my brain was manipulating space and time but finally, it landed on the floor, face up.

Asher and I both looked at Blake expectantly. Well, I looked at Blake expectantly. Asher looked about as indifferent as he had been before.

Basically giggling through the statement that had had every muscle in my body tensed from the moment offered, Blake answered, “The question was if you could kiss anyone in the room, who would it be?”

Nonchalantly staring around the room at this monumental moment, Asher was oblivious to the struggle it took to keep my face straight. I would have been surprised that Blake’s question had been so innocent if the shock of that didn’t pale in comparison to Asher’s response.

Forgetting I had a choice to make, I turned back to the group of people awaiting my answer as I glimpsed down at the shot fiddling in my fingers. I could feel everyone in the group staring holes straight through me, including Asher.

Oh, God.

My eyes disconnected with the small glass in my hand and relocated on Asher, who instantly looked away from my glimpses, unable to maintain eye contact. I failed to read his expression due to his blank face, but I tried, venturing to buy myself more time before making my decision.

Not leaving a lot of room for rationality, I dropped my shot, letting the alcohol sop into the carpet below, concluding quickly that I wanted to be drunk off of Asher’s lips alone.

I swept the tips of my fingers across his cheek, urging him to face me before I drove forward and seized his mouth in a gratifying kiss before I’d even let the thought settle. I felt him tense against my mouth and I knew he would pull away any second. Except, he didn’t pull away. He froze.

I never would have expected Asher Freed to get stage fright, but we were stiffened against each other, our lips immobile. But as the nanoseconds passed us by, I felt his lips begin to respond, and we both concurrently gave in to the desired kiss.

Asher’s body relaxed against my own, and his lips began moving along in a way that made mine tingle, fireworks exploding in my stomach from the act. The kiss was soft and light and steady and it seared my lips in a million indescribable ways. It was as patient as ever, slow as we worked our mouths against each other, but I’d never been kissed that way before.

Asher began breaking the connection between us and I breathed out from the loss of contact when his mouth disengaged from mine. I opened my eyes and stared into his, and my gaze distressingly wavered to his lips, still so close to mine. My fingers lingered on the side of his face while his eyes blazed an intolerable throbbing across my entire body, all the way down to the bottom of my aching spine.

Before I could blink, his hand located the nape of my neck, his grasp proprietorial as he jerked my mouth back to his, where I felt it belonged. I gasped against his fervent lips, overwhelmed, yet entirely at ease. His tongue ran gently along the inside of my upper lip, slowly sweeping mine against his. I breathed out, relishing in something I hadn’t realized I needed until right then.

I could hear the people in the room cheering and laughing. I could even feel Jamie’s hand on my shoulder, shaking me in a congratulatory type way, but I ignored everything except Asher's tongue as it stroked mine slowly. I fluttered my eyes as our lips moved, feeling a zap of electricity, and knowing the buzz I wanted off Asher was already working.

His thumb rubbed gently against my cheekbone, then back and forth across my jawline as we tasted each other, our actions gentle but fiery, passionate but effortless. I was pushing my mouth against his hard, aware that the moment our mouths lost contact, I would never experience the feeling again. Our bodies were pressed to one another, but I wished we were closer.

Finally, before my unangelic thoughts led me any farther, I let us pull away, twisting back towards the cheering group of strangers. I licked my lips, wanting once more to taste him on them before I turned to him, watching his self-satisfied smile as he looked over me.

______________________________________

The game didn’t last long after that as most people filtered out. It had been a few hours, and somewhere within those few hours, I lost everyone I knew. I was looking around the room for them for the fifteenth time to no avail when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I prayed it was a friend but much to my dismay, it was a stranger who was lanky and much taller than me, and the colorful lights in the room cast a pink tinge on his orange hair.

“Hey! You’re Chloe right?” I nodded at the stranger’s question suspiciously. “I’ve seen you with Asher Freed recently.”

“Oh,” I sounded, attempting to be louder than the music. “Are you a friend of his?”

“No.” His answer confused me. Why had he approached me about Asher if he wasn’t a friend? While that response had mystified me, his next question had thoroughly baffled me. “Are you guys sleeping together?”

I huffed in annoyance, wondering why I was letting the stranger distract me from friend-hunting. “No, we’re not.”

Eyeing me carefully, his eyebrows pulled together. “Are you dating?”

“No!” I yelled louder than intended, drawing a few party-goers attention. I was nearing an apology, but the stranger merely laughed.

“I didn’t mean to offend. That’s what everyone thinks. And it sure didn’t help when everyone watched you tongue each other earlier.”

I sighed, trying to mutter a string of excuses that sounded nothing like what I’d hoped for. “Have you seen Asher anywhere?” I asked instead.

“No. Why does it matter where he is if you’re not hooking up?” The stranger’s tone was condescending and his smirk was vile.

I tried to explain that I merely wanted to go home and Asher and I happened to share one, but my eyes finally landed on Jamie and Andy, sitting at the kitchen table across the room and I excused myself from the stranger to dash over to them. Jamie smiled when I arrived.

“Chlhoe-y! I’m so happy to see you!” She wrapped her arms around my waist from her seated position. I laughed, cradling her head, and ran a hand through her drunken, messy hair.

Andy handed her a water bottle as she pulled away from me. “She’s really drunk. I think she needs to get home soon.”

I nodded in agreement. “I think so too. I don’t know where Asher is. He was our ride.”

“I can take you both home if you need it. She keeps taking shots whenever I look away. I don’t even know where she gets them. I think she really needs to be out of this environment.” He chuckled. He grabbed some bread from the snack table and came back to hand feed it to Jamie. I giggled at the sight.

“I think I’m going to hang around for a bit longer and find Asher, but if you don’t mind taking her home, that would be great. Just make sure you text me when you drop her off, okay? In fact, call me when she’s home with her mom. And-”

“I will call you.” He laughed at how stressed I seemed regarding the matter. The small grin on his face towards me shifted into a giant smile when he looked back down at Jamie. I picked at my nails, inwardly smiling at the somewhat sweet altercation between the two.

“Sorry, I’m really protective over her,” I admitted.

“I see that.” He gave me a salute. “Promise I will make sure she gets home safely.”

“I believe you.”

Jamie, with a mouth full of bread, attempted to smile at Andy. “Yay! Sleepover!” she exclaimed as he and I watched loose crumbs spill from her open mouth.

I cringed, but Andy’s smile didn’t waver, even with Jamie’s mess falling onto his lap. Swallowing the bread, she lurched forward instantly, running her hands through Andy’s hair. He let her tug on the ends of his curls as if she were a toddler, shoveling another piece of Hawaiian roll into her mouth.

I continued to watch him feed Jamie bread like a horse as I wondered where my roommate was. Although it had been quite a while since I saw him, I could still feel the shadow of his lips on mine.

I looked down at Andy and asked, “Have you seen Asher?”

Andy chuckled, leaning out of Jamie’s reach to look at me. “Last I saw he was sticking his tongue down some girl’s throat in the hall upstairs.”

I kept my face even, but my stomach dropped and nausea ate away at it within a seconds time. I gave him a curt nod, but the simple action was tough to do as the lump arrived in my throat. “Oh... okay.”

My face remained straight, but Andy still cringed up at me, pausing in feeding Jamie the bread. She leaned forward for more, pouting when Andy’s hand stopped just short of her mouth.

He looked guilty as he said, “Shit, sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

I forced a smile and tried to laugh, but I couldn’t rid the block that was making it hard to swallow. “Andy, don’t worry about it. He and I... we’re... nothing. Just friends. You know Asher, you should know that better than anyone. I'm going to find him. Thanks again.”

My words were spilling out of my mouth at lightning speed and I was sure my voice was wavering. My body felt like I’d set it on vibrate.

I escaped the conversation before he could say anything more and made my way upstairs. I suddenly regretted not asking how long ago he saw Asher and didn’t know if he was done making out or not. I didn’t exactly want to see him... in action.

Before I could even process the thought, my eyes hyper-focused on him down the hall with a girl pressed against a wall, her leg hitched around his hip. With bright red hair and a looming figure, I could see what was so appealing about sticking his tongue down her throat.

I identified the redhead quickly as the girl who had previously answered with Asher’s name during the game of Drink or Dare. I guess he had cared more about it than I’d realized.

When I saw her hand traveling blindly against the wall towards a doorknob to a room, I assumed a bedroom, I looked away, not wishing to see whatever would happen next. I hurriedly turned and ran face-first into someone, their drink spilling all down the front of me, and I groaned in frustration.

“Oh, God! I’m so sorry,” I heard, gazing up at the stranger whose drink I was covered in and immediately recognizing him as Hayden Larkin, a cute boy who had been in one of my classes the year before.

His cuteness over the months since I’d last seen him had sculpted finely into handsomeness and I swallowed hard when we locked eyes. The blue strobe lights turned his light hair a different color, emphasizing his baby blues. After the initial shock from the drink had passed, I smiled up at him and he grinned back down at me.

“H-hi,” I stuttered as if being covered in his red non-punch wasn’t embarrassing enough.

He smiled brilliantly. “Hey, Chloe, right? You were in my English last year.”

“Yeah, it’s Chloe,” I managed to say.

“I’m really sorry about your dress. I can try and get something to clean that.” He looked genuinely worried that I might be upset over the stain.

I smiled, hoping to reassure him that the mess was no big deal and that my entire night had already fallen apart before we’d collided. Or maybe I’d keep the last part to myself.

Before I could respond, I was seized at the waist. I squealed as I was pulled back against a warm body that I immediately recognized against my own. Without turning around, I rolled my eyes and snapped, “Asher, what do you want?”

He stepped in line with me and came into my peripheral vision, his arm still around my waist as he asked, “Ready to go?”

“No, not yet.” I grabbed his hand from around me and ripped it off, cringing over the fact that seconds before it had been on another girl. Looking back at Hayden, I gave him a bright smile. “Don’t worry about the drink. This dress isn’t my favorite anyway.”

Hayden laughed, his smile glowing the same way his eyes were as he brought them from Asher back to me. “Still, if you need any help cleaning it-”

“She’s fine.” Asher cut him off with a glint in his eyes that told Hayden not to rebuttal.

And he didn’t. He only looked at me with a sheepish grin. “Sorry regardless.”

I nodded once. “I’ll watch where I’m going next time.”

“Ditto.” Hayden smiled, then glanced up at my glowering roommate, bringing his sparkling gaze back down to me once more. “I’ve got to head out, but good luck with the spill.”

I grinned and gave a slight wave as I watched the cute boy make his way back downstairs. I promptly turned to Asher when he was out of sight, harshly biting out, “What?”

“What?” he repeated.

“Why did you interrupt us? You scared him away.”

He shrugged, apparently unaffected by my annoyance. “Whoops.”

I suddenly wondered what happened to his make-out session, but realized I didn’t want to know. All I really wanted was to be by myself. “Asher, will you please give me a second alone?”

Hesitantly, he nodded. Thankful he was willing to actually let me be for a bit, I walked down the hall in the opposite direction of him and searched each room lining the hall for a bathroom. The first door I opened was an occupied bedroom, and I apologized profusely to the two-bed occupants before closing the door. I knocked on the door beside it, listening for silence, before opening it to reveal an empty bathroom.

I spent many minutes attempting to scrub the colorful drink from down the front of me, but the stain clung to the fabric. I exhaled shakily while blotting at the white cloth, frowning over the fact I’d have to pay Jamie back for the horrendous dress.

Several minutes later, I stepped from the bathroom and must have taken a wrong turn, because I ended up farther away from the crowded party than I was to begin with. I turned down a vibrantly colored hallway and spotted two other partygoers farther down, sighing in relief as I moved towards them and the party I thought I was returning to.

Unfortunately, as I stepped closer to the pair, the music from the party felt farther away, like I was only adding distance between it and myself. I eyed the girl, who could barely raise her head from the guy's shoulder as he pressed her against the wall and dropped his face into her neck. I looked around for anyone else, but the hall was empty.

I eyed them carefully as I approached, noting the girl’s semi-closed eyes and the way her entire body was being held up due to being squished between a wall and the guy's chest. I must have thought for a second that I was 6’2 because my initial instinct was to bodyslam the guy like a linebacker. I decided against that idea for a plethora of reasons and instead picked up my feet and moved towards them as naturally and as quickly as I could.

I grabbed the random girl’s arm and forced a smile. “Hey! I’ve been looking all over for you. Are you ready to go?”

The guy took his face out of the crook of her neck to look over at me. “I’ll take her home,” he huffed. I narrowed my eyes at him.

“That’s not necessary.” I looked down at her. “Are you ready to go?”

She looked as if she was using all the strength she physically could at that moment to open her eyes and nod. I grabbed the poor girl’s arm again, pulling her towards me.

The guy growled, “I said I’d take her home.”

I growled back, “And I said it wasn’t necessary.”

A flash of hope startled in front of my eyes as he released the girl, but when she slid down the wall, he moved his attention from her to me, gripping onto my arm. The situation was already enough to have me on high alert, my anxiety doubling as he pressed himself against me, sandwiching me between the wall and him. Moving as much as possible to remove the stranger’s grasp on me, I screamed, the sound swallowed away by the music in the house.

“Let go,” I warned, pushing my free hand against his chest.

The stranger laughed at my attempts, leaning into my ear to whisper, “I don’t think I want to let go, beautiful.”

He followed his comment with a kiss against the corner of my jaw and I struggled against his touch, letting out a disgusted sound. I tried glimpsing around the empty hall again, hoping anyone, a familiar face or not, would careen around the corner and come to my rescue. Nobody could hear me protest over the loud house. I was in such a panic that I couldn’t distinguish what the guy was saying. All I could hear was my own breathing.

I felt the stranger’s hand move around to my backside, tugging me harder against him. He ran his nose across my cheek, letting his lips follow behind. I didn't know how to punch and I didn't even try. I instead opened my hand and slammed my palm against his nose as hard as I could. He stepped back from the jarring pain, his hand still clutching onto my dress.

Suddenly, I was staggering forward when the stranger was thrown off of me. His grip on my dress vanished as he hit the floor, and my brain barely registered the figure on top of him, throwing punch after punch. My unidentified hero showed no mercy as he gripped a handful of the man’s hair and bashed his head into the floor repeatedly. With a groan, the guy finally gave out, his head roughly hitting the ground.

My savior stood and gripped my wrist, and my blurry eyes finally focused on his face, watching a bead of sweat make its way down the side of his cheek.

“Seconds up,” Asher muttered, pulling me down the hallway and away from the unconscious stranger.

“Asher!” I exclaimed, drawing his attention to the girl on the floor who was mumbling incoherent speeches in her state. Asher looked at her, then the guy on the floor, nodding as he kneeled on the ground beside her. He lifted her chin, his eyes taking in her face before he frowned.

“Janine?” he questioned, to which he received no answer. He sighed, releasing the so-called Janine’s chin.

I knelt beside him, asking, “You know her?”

He nodded, wrapping his arm around her to pull her to her unsteady feet. His voice was grainy as he answered, “A little. She’s... a friend of a friend, I guess.”

I swallowed from his explanation, but nodded and helped him walk Janine downstairs and back into the party, both of us at her sides as she rested between us. Three girls moved in our direction when they spotted us and Asher muttered something about them being her friends before they reached us.

A brunette I didn’t recognize screamed, “Janine! Thank God, there you are.”

She sped to Janine’s side where she was resting on my shoulder and gestured me out of the way as she grabbed for her friend. I happily released her and allowed her friends and Asher to walk her to the couch.

While the three girls comforted their friend, Asher approached Blake, who had been talking to a few other guys across the room, and whispered something in his ear. Blake looked puzzled when he pulled away, and Asher pointed towards the couch where Janine laid, then tilted his head upstairs.

I realized he was explaining to Blake what had happened, and I hoped that he had left my portion of the story out of his explanation. Neither of them looked my way, so I assumed he hadn’t said anything about me. Blake nodded, then shouldered the guys beside him. They exchanged a few words before they all moved out of the room.

When Asher was back at my side, I asked, “What was all that about?”

He shrugged. “Someone’s got to take care of that guy upstairs.”

I nodded, not necessarily upset at the idea of the assaulter suffering at the hands of Blake and the group of guys he was with. “What are they going to do?”

“Anything they want,” he answered, looking away from me and at Janine. I accepted his answer and stood silently beside him as he looked towards the group of girls on the couch, calling out at the brunette who’d helped earlier. “Alyssa, I’m leaving. Is everything handled here?”

Alyssa nodded, helping Janine drink out of a water bottle. “We’re good. Thanks. We owe you one.”

The girls around her nodded, but Asher grimaced. “No, you don’t.”

She smiled, diverting her eyes, then sighed. Slowly, like she was afraid to speak, she mumbled, “You know, Olivia keeps asking about you.”

Not sure my poor stomach could take more nausea, I swallowed hard, wrapping my arms around my midsection as I looked down at my feet. I truly didn’t think I could handle hearing about this Olivia character, and yet simultaneously my mind attempted to retrieve the memories of every Olivia I’d ever met, hoping to identify who had been asking about my roommate.

Asher rolled his eyes, utterly unimpressed with what Alyssa had shared. “Whatever.”

He grabbed my hand after that, dragging me through the crowd and into the kitchen. He turned to me with a sigh. “And to think, all that complaining about the dress earlier, and I still ended up breaking someone’s nose.”

Grinning, I lifted my head. “Thank you, Asher.”

He smiled at me, and for a moment I almost forgot what I'd seen. Almost. But I didn’t. That, alongside my dangerous situation that could have ended a lot worse, and whoever this Olivia character was, made me sick. The pit in my stomach came back, and I frowned, waving away the vomit I wanted to release all over this vast state-sized property.

I sighed. “Can we go?”

Asher nodded, protectively leading me back to the car, pushing and glaring at any person who came remotely close to me. Not to mention, he pulled the bottom of my dress down a few inches so many times that I lost count. I looked down at the digital clock as he pulled from the curb, the time far past midnight.

Silence fell over the car like rainwater, which was fine by me, but Asher looked over as he slowed at a nearby stop sign. “Are you okay?”

I pondered his question for a few mute seconds, then looked his way slowly as I asked, “Why did you kiss me?”

I instantly regretted ever opening my mouth, and wondered why I had such a loose tongue around him. His eyes widened, obviously thrown by my question.

“Uhh... well...” He took a slow, shaky inhale through his nose before his expression shifted carefully into confusion and he narrowed his eyes. Belatedly, he answered with, “You kissed me, Dol.”

“Don’t turn this around on me,” I said through gritted teeth, although technically he was right. “You said my name. When asked who you’d kiss, you said my name.”

“I didn’t want to make out with just anyone.” He exhaled.

“You made out with just anyone in the hallway earlier.” I didn’t mean to say it, but the cold tone slipped out before I could stop it.

He paused, then smirked, the sight only intensifying my anger towards him. “Are you jealous?”

I scowled at his idiocy and his amusement. “No. I don’t want STDs from you kissing everyone at the party, you man-whore.”

He laughed aloud, remaining untouched by my crude, demeaning comment. “Jesus Christ, Dol. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking, I guess.” His amused chuckles faded with effort and his expression dipped into a grin. “I didn’t mean to offend you with my man-whore-ish ways.”

I didn’t have time to respond, the car cutting off my thoughts with its invasive sputtering noises. Asher frowned as he immediately pulled over to the side of the road, worried about the vehicle he called his baby. Shutting off, the car came to a complete, jolting stop.

My eyes wide, I asked, “What happened?”

Asher sighed, closing his eyes, and leaned back against the cold leather seats. “I don’t know.”

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