“You are already waiting on me right?” seventeen-year-old Tori Martin asked into her cell phone to her best friend. She was ready to go the minute her best friend and her best friend’s brother showed up to get her.
“Yes, Tori, we’re here and waiting on you.” Jess McBride disconnected the phone call and shot a glance at her older brother. She didn’t understand why Tori always had to sneak out just to hang out with them. She knew she couldn’t tell her other why they had to wait for Tori at the end of her driveway. He would be furious and more than likely put a stop to it.
Tori opened her bedroom window and crawled out of it fast.
She pulled the window shut until there was enough of a crack for her to push it back up later to sneak back in. She took off towards the road, this was becoming an every weekend thing. She glanced back at the two-story light-blue house. Her gaze narrowed as she pulled up the hood of her hoodie and continued towards the road.
She was glad even though she lived in the city limits, the house was still pretty far from the road. She finally made it to the road and her heart was close to bursting out of her chest when she saw the sliver with black rims truck sitting there waiting. Her stomach did the same somersault as usual. He was sitting there waiting for her, Jason McBride. She took a huge gulp, feeling silly. She knew it wasn’t for a date or anything but those butterflies still erupted through her.
He was only a couple years older than her and it seemed to be the main reason he set her mom off. Anytime Tori mentioned Jess or Jason, her mom would start her shouting spree.
Tori pushed the thoughts away fast as she opened the door and hopped into the backseat. She leaned forward towards Jess. “So where are we going tonight?”
Jess couldn’t contain her excitement anymore, “Luke Terwood invited us to one of his parties, can you believe it?”
Tori raised an eyebrow, “Party, as in with drinking and all that?”
“Well yeah, why?” Jess asked as she turned in her seat a little to look back at Tori.
Tori glanced at Jason, she couldn’t believe what Jess just told her. There was no way Jason was okay with taking them to a party. “And Jason’s okay with dropping us off at a party?”
“No, that’s the buzzkill of the night, he laid down the law and isn’t leaving us by ourselves. I tried to get him to drop is off, but he won’t hear of it, even though he wasn’t invited,” Jess glared at Jason a little then turned back towards Tori. “Especially when I told him you were coming with me, so I wouldn’t be alone, he really got up on his high horse and refused not to come, he’s more protective over you than he is me.”
Tori averted her gaze from Jess as she turned bright red. Ever since Tori had accidentally let slip that she had feelings for Jason, Jess never dropped it, she always dropped hints and made gestures.
She glanced back up as Jason punched Jess hard in the leg. She saw the glare Jason shot at Jess.
“I told you from the start you weren’t going by yourself, no matter who you took with you.”
“And once I said I told you who I was planning to take with me you were even more persistent and all over it.”
“Why don’t you just shut up Jess damn, why do you always stick your nose where it doesn’t belong, I’m watching both of you tonight, not one more than the other.” Jason glanced back at Tori and saw her just stare out the window. He shot another glare at Jess and then took off to Luke’s.
He couldn’t believe his sister, she had no right to say what she just said. Ever since the fifth grade for Tori and Jess and seventh grade for him, Jess had been trying to set him up with Tori. It wasn’t like she was bad to look at or anything, she definitely had all the right curves and everything, but he just couldn’t bring himself to be with his sister’s best friend. He looked in his rearview mirror and seen Tori stare out the window, he had hurt her feelings that wasn’t his intention at all.
Tori stared out the window, managing to keep her tears at bay. It sometimes hurt that he didn’t return her feelings. She had liked him for a very long time. What she wouldn’t give to be with Jason. It wasn’t fair, but she would just have to learn to live with this disappointment. She took a deep breath when they pulled up into Luke’s driveway, she was not ready for this, she didn’t like drinking or anything like that, she didn’t know why Jess didn’t say anything to her about where they were going she would have probably said no way.
Jason glanced at Tori again before he got out and went to the passenger’s rear door, he smiled at her after he opened it, he held his hand out to Tori, “Your escort is here if you’re ready.” He teased her as she took his hand.
Tori pushed the tingling feeling that ran through her fingers all the way up to her shoulder away. She searched Jason’s sexy brown eyes slowly and rolled her eyes, “You are one crazy person.”
He chuckled as he led them towards the big red metal barn still clasping each other’s hands. “You do realize that is why we get along so well, it does take a crazy person to know another crazy person.” He pulled her up short before they walked through the small entrance door. He just gazed into her beautiful gray eyes with his brown before he uttered a word, completely lost in them. He shook himself from his thoughts and smiled gently. “Hey, just take it easy tonight, I don’t want to have to bail you out of anything.”
Tori frowned at Jason as she searched those chocolate brown pools of his, if she wasn’t careful she would get even more sucked in. She couldn’t figure him out though and it was frustrating. “Please tell me you had the same lecture with Jess.” She didn’t even notice they were still hand in hand, it just felt so natural.
“Nope, just you my dear, I don’t want anything to happen to you, Jess can take care of herself, plus I’m sure Luke will be paying very close attention to her.” He smiled at her softly then pulled her into the barn slowly.
He scanned the scene in front of him and realized everyone was already pretty wasted. He shot a look at Tori, he wanted to take her home already. Everyone was too noisy, the music was way too loud and the dancing was so vulgar by the also knew he couldn’t leave Jess in this kind of situation by herself.
As soon as Tori saw the scene in the barn she moved closer to Jason and grabbed his arm with her other hand tightly. She, obviously, wasn’t thrilled at the sight of the party like most seventeen and sixteen-year-old’s would be. She glanced around and there was no sign of Jess anywhere, obviously, she had taken off the moment she walked into the barn. It was a disaster area and she wanted to leave. “Do you see Jess?” Tori looked up at the boy she was still holding onto tightly.
“Knowing her she took off with Luke the second her eyes landed on him. Just stick close to me, everything will be okay.”
Tori went rigid against him, a little anger flew thought her as she narrowed her eyes at that five-eleven sexy guy. “Um, this isn’t my first party.”
“You know I know that I just figured you always stuck close to me before, so why would tonight be any different?” he headed over to one of the empty picnic tables that were set along the one side of the barn in the straw that covered the ground.
Tori let out a sigh of defeat, he was right, they always ended up with each other at these things. She ran her fingers through her slightly wavy brown hair as she followed Jason to the table, she slowly sat down beside him. She glanced up at him hating when this devilish cowboy was right.
Every time Jess would take off on her, and she stayed by Jason’s side, but he never seemed to mind, that’s why she never seemed able to fight the wave feelings that washed over her when she was around him. He was always there no matter what.
“Hey how are your parents doing?” his husky voice pulled her out of her thoughts quickly.
Tori shrugged her shoulders staring at the table. “Same old, same old. Seems all they ever do is fight, I’ve learned to plug my earbuds in and down out the arguments.” A weak smile spread across her pink glossed full lips that sparkled just right in the light as she looked back up at him. Jess hadn’t asked that question in months but Jason asked almost every time he saw her like he knew things were getting worse.
He laid his hand against her back and rubbed it gently just as Luke’s older brother, Mark, walked up to them.
“Hey, pretty lady, what do you say to me and you getting out on this makeshift dance floor?” he was already slurring his words.
Tori glanced at Jason, she had never danced with anyone but Jason, and she had to admit that she was a little curious what it would be like.
Jason rubbed her back and smiled reassuringly. “Go ahead, I don’t care, I’ll be here when you get back I promise.” He watched helplessly as Mark took Tori away from him over to where the others were dancing at. He hated feeling like she was being taken away from him, he had to remind himself that she would come back and it wasn’t like he had a say of who could and couldn’t dance with her, he just wished he had the say.
He looked away he felt the stab of jealousy flow through his body, it always happened when he saw another guy look at her or talk to her at school. He wanted her to be his, it would just be awkward with Jess being the reason the two of them were so close in the first place. He looked back at Mark and Tori, she made him absolutely crazy but that didn’t mean she felt the same way about him. Seeing Mark’s hands grab the small of her back and bring her closer to him the jealousy stabbed through Jason again. He moved his gaze to the floor clenching his fist against his thigh.
~ ~ ~
Mark spun Tori around in a circle and brought her to him a little too close for Tori’s liking, she pushed back against him. “Mark I think that is enough, I’m just going to go sit with Jason.”
Mark pulled her hard up against him. “Aw come on now, honey I can show a better time than he can.”
Tori pushed him again. “Mark get off me, I don’t want to dance with you anymore, I’m done.”
~ ~ ~
Jason looked back to Tori, anger flew through him when he saw her struggling against Mark. He was up in a flash and hurried over to Mark and Tori. He grabbed her arm and pulled her away from Mark. “It looks like the lady is done Mark so why don’t you just back off.”
“And if I don’t want to back off?” Mark challenged Jason, he was about the only stupid one that would, he was tired of Jason always being in the way when it came to Tori.
“Then I guess I am going to have to make you back off won’t I?” He grabbed Mark by the front of the shirt moving in front of Tori.
“All right, I’m backing off.” Mark walked away from Jason and Tori, they had to be an item with the way the two acted towards each other.
~ ~ ~
Jason turned towards Tori laying his hand on her shoulder gently. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah fine, I want to go home now.” Tori pushed his hand from her shoulder and practically ran out of the barn. She would never come to one of these parties ever again, Jess could just ring one of her other friends that Jason could babysit and fall in love with because it would never be her. The only way he acted towards her was brotherly, well no more.
Jason started to go after Tori, but he knew it was better to just go find Jess and leave. Relief washed over him when he finally found his baby sister, he was glad it didn’t take as long as he thought it would. “Jess, come on its time to go, Tori is a little upset, and she’s ready to go now.”
Jess sighed as she rolled her eyes, this was probably going to be the last time she brought Tori with her. They always had to leave when things were just getting good. She looked up at Luke and let a small smile spread across her lips. “I’m sorry, thank you for inviting us, I guess I’ll see you Monday.” She turned to follow Jason.
Luke caught her hand and spun her back towards him and pulled her close to him smiling. “Or I could pick you up tomorrow.”
The smile got bigger on Jess’s lips. “I’d really like that.”
Jason shook his head as he headed out of the barn with Jess behind him. They headed to his truck, he pushed the unlock button as soon as the truck came into view, he watched as Tori flung the door open and climbed in. They left the party, Jason headed to his house first, he kept waiting for Jess to ask Tori what had happened or if she was even okay but it never came, some friend his sister was.
Jason glanced at Tori in the rear-view mirror, she just kept staring out the window. He shot Jess a glare, she could at least pretend to care or attempt to talk to Tori but nothing.
He was glad when they finally pulled into the driveway. “Here you go Jess, I’ll be back in a little bit, see you later,” He turned in his seat a little when Jess got out, he could tell she was angry, but he didn’t care. “Tori, you can sit up here if you’d like.”
Tori glanced at Jason before she got out of the back and went up to sit beside Jason. She glanced at him again but had to look away when her heart sped up, she stared out the window again trying to calm herself. She needed to quit acting like a fool and just move on, nothing would ever change. She felt the hand on her thigh, she turned to look at him.
“You’ve been awful quiet since we left, are you sure you’re okay?”
She nodded her head and turned back towards the window. She heard him let out a heavy sigh, but he didn’t move his hand, and she didn’t mind.
“I’m not taking you home yet, by the way, I can’t with you being this upset, I have a perfect place to go.” He turned out of the driveway and drove just a little way then turned onto a dirt road and parked when he got far enough down the path. “Come on, we’re just going to sit here and look at the stars for a little bit.” Jason hopped out of the truck and went around to the other side to open Tori’s door. His breath caught in his throat when she turned towards him. He laid his hands on her sides and helped her out of the truck. His body reacted to her the minute he grabbed her waist, he wanted to pull her close to him and kiss her. He shoved the thought away as fast as it came, he gently took her hand and led her to the bed of the truck.
Tori let the tailgate down and before she knew it she was lifted up on to the tailgate by Jason. She stood up slowly then walked back to the cab of the truck, she sat down leaning against the cab as Jason climbed up. She couldn’t take her eyes off of him as he walked towards her in his sexy walk he did. He took his time doing everything, walking, eating, working with the horses, and riding them like he just didn’t have a care in the world. He sat down beside her, and she laid her head against his shoulder, this wasn’t supposed to feel so natural but it did. Was it because they had been friends for so long? Or did they each share the same feelings for one another? She didn’t know, she only knew here lately he was a better friend to her then Jess was, especially after she had caught Luke Terwood’s eye, she forgot all about Tori.
At first, they just sat there with her head on his shoulder, his hand on her thigh. She slowly let out a sigh and lifted her head slowly. They locked eyes at the same time, it seemed like they were held in the place for an eternity, she went to break eye contact just as Jason made his move.
He laid his hand against her soft, slightly reddened cheek as he moved closer to her. Their lips were only inches apart when a pair of headlights shined on them making them pull away from each other quickly.
Tori couldn’t move back fast enough, she turned towards the car that was now sitting in front of them. She recognized it right away turning a beat red. “Well shit,” she muttered, she glanced at Jason as her mom got out of the car. “I’m sorry, Jason.”
“Tori Martin get in this car right now!” Natalie Martin scolded her long blonde hair flying around her as she got out of the car and stormed up to the truck. Tori and she were a spitting image except for the difference in hair color. Small frame, tiny hands, her eyes were a greenish-blue with gold flecks in them. And their demeanor couldn’t be any more different, Tori was laid back, more farmer and tomboy than anything, Natalie, on the other hand, was uptight and a total stuck snob.
Tori glanced at Jason again as those eyes that sucked him in filled up with tears. “I really am sorry, Jason, but thank you for tonight.” She slowly got up and walked to the end of the tailgate and got down. She didn’t understand how her mom even knew she had left, or even how to find her once she found out she was gone. She glared at her mom as she stomped past her to the car. “What the hell are you even doing here? It wasn’t like we were doing anything wrong.” Tori was so embarrassed, her first chance to finally kiss Jason and it was ruined because of her mom. She got into the car, slamming the door hard, folding her arms across her chest.
All she could do was watch Jason jump down from the bed, put the tailgate up and then walk, what seemed so gracefully, to the driver side of his truck.
~ ~ ~
Jason sighed as he watched Natalie tear out of the dirt drive, throwing dirt clumps and dust everywhere. He leaned his head against the window as he took his Stetson off, and run his fingers through his somewhat wavy brown hair. Tonight had been his chance, why had he been so stupid and took the girls to the party? He got up in his truck and headed home mentally kicking himself for being so dumb. It wouldn’t matter what he did or didn’t do, Natalie Martin would always hate him, and he didn’t know why.
He cursed under his breath when he saw Jess was sitting on the wooden porch steps. He parked the truck and got out to head to the interrogation he was sure was coming from his baby sister.
“Um, so can you explain to me why the heck you left me here and you two took off?” Jess frowned as she folded her arms and stood on the bottom step, still not being close to Jason’s height. Even with her five three and his six-two, she didn’t back down from him because she knew he loved her, and he was her protector for as long as they were alive. She was just really tired of the games Tori and Jason seemed to play with each other even though she tried to help it along they still fought everything between them.
“Do you really care, Jess, honestly?” he shot her a disappointed look as her long dirty blonde hair whipped in the breeze gently, they were so different, him muscular and hard, dark complexion, dark everything, while she was petite and so pale and light blue eyes, light dirty blonde hair.
“Yeah, I do care, you’re my brother, and she’s my best friend.”
“Cut the bull Jess, you didn’t even ask what happened or if she was even okay.”
Jess narrowed those light blue-eyed gaze at Jason. “I figured if it was bad enough one of you would have told me. I just figured you guys didn’t want to talk about it, now why did you leave me here?” she demanded still holding her own.
“Fine Jess if you really must know, I just wanted to get her calmed down before I took her home and it almost led up to me making a move on her, that is until her mom showed up out of the blue to take her home. I’m so sick of the jealousy I feel when some other guy touches her, there are you happy? I care for our best friend in more than a just a friend kind of way, it’s whatever though, I missed my shot again.” Jason brushed past Jess quickly up the wooden steps, trying not to make too much noise with his boots on. “I should have known nothing would happen.” He headed into his room leaving his sister dumbfounded and rooted to the steps outside. He kicked his boots off, threw his shirt on the floor, and Stetson on his desk. He laid on the bed staring at the ceiling, trying to ignore the look Tori had given him with those beautiful eyes of hers like she actually wanted him to kiss her.
Jess actually felt bad for her brother, she knew they were both crazy about one another but if Natalie had her way about it then Jason and Tori could never be together. It seemed Tori was going to let her mom control her life, Jess wasn’t sure what she could say to Jason to make him feel better.
~ ~ ~
“I don’t understand why I can’t hang out with Jason, he’s been my best friend for as long as I can remember, I’ve grown up with both Jess and him, but somehow that’s my fault. Why can’t you just let me live my own life Mom?” Tori exclaimed as they both got out of the car. She slammed her door, running towards the house, in past her dad, and to her bedroom slamming that door as well. She was burning with anger like she was going to burst like a balloon held over a flame for too long, she just wanted to pop and deflate into nothing, it was basically what her mom wanted her to do anyways.
Daniel Martin watched his daughter run to her room then immediately turned back to his wife. “What did you do?” he demanded.
“I broke up her little make-out session, and you know who that make-out session was with? Jason McBride!” Natalie was so furious with her daughter for disobeying her again, another weekend where she was sneaking off with him like it was okay to do.
Daniel looked at Natalie like she was insane, which wasn’t too far from her state of mind anymore. “So?” he was so confused, Jason was always a gentleman towards Tori, he wouldn’t want to see her with anyone else.
“So, so, Daniel I don’t want her ending up like me, being stuck in this one-horse town and being married to a cowboy, she deserves better than this Daniel, I deserve better, I can’t do this anymore, if you don’t feel the same way and won’t support me, I want a divorce, and I am taking Tori with me.” Natalie left Daniel standing in the living room in shock, she would get her way no matter what it took, she would get her way, Tori and Jason would not be involved with each other.
~ ~ ~
Tori was listening to her parents, an argument again, that seemed to be all they ever did, only her dad didn’t fight very hard this time. The tears streamed down her face, he couldn’t let this happen, he couldn’t let her mom take her away from the one and only home she ever knew, she loved it so much and couldn’t imagine her life without it. She didn’t see her dad trying to keep her there with him though either.
She stared at her cell phone for a few seconds and scrolled to the J’s. She went to hit Jess’s name but went back to Jason’s instead. She was surprised he answered on the first ring. “Jason, can you come get me please, I don’t want to be here, I just need to get away from here.”
“Yeah I will be right there, do you want me to wait at the end of the driveway or actually come get you?” Jason’s heart broke when he heard the tears in Tori’s voice, he wondered what happened.
“You can come up to the house, I don’t care.” She was moving around her room packing a few clothes, she would just stay the night at the McBride place, she was glad it was only ten o’clock at night.
“Okay I will be there in ten,” Jason hung up the phone. “Jess I’m going to go get Tori, she sounded upset, she’s probably going to want to stay the night here, go talk to Mom and Dad about it.” He spilled out to his sister as he rushed out of his room and past her in the hallway, he headed out to his truck and started for Tori’s place.
~ ~ ~
Tori walked out of the house without anyone even noticing, her mom was in the bedroom not talking to her dad, and he must have been in the kitchen She thought about saying something to him, but she was in no mood to care, she was glad when she heard Jason’s truck pull up in the driveway. She ran over to it and slid into the cab as she tried to wipe the tears away.
Jason laid a bear, gentle hand on her shoulder as he turned the truck out of the driveway, he glanced at her “Tori, what on earth is going on, are you okay?”
Tori moved closer to him to the middle seat between them and laid her head against his bicep. “My mom is leaving, she wants to take me with her, I don’t want to go but I know my dad’s not going to try to keep me.” She turned her face into his bulge of a bicep as the tears continued to fall.
Jason went back to his house but made a drive out past the pastures and barns. He threw the truck in park and shut it off. He wrapped his arms around Tori tightly. “I know, sweetie, I’m sure we can figure something out, just sit here with me for a little bit, once you’ve calmed down we’ll think of something together.” He gently rubbed her back and arm gently as she buried her face against his hard muscled chest and grabbed the front of his shirt in one of her hands.
Jason just sat there and let Tori soak his shirt. He knew she needed to let everything out no matter how long it took he would let her get everything out. He kept rubbing her back gently as he stared out into the dark night through the windshield, if only they could just run away together, if only. Then again she loved this town and leaving it behind even with him in the picture would tear her apart.
He glanced down when he heard the crying subside, he realized she had fallen asleep against his chest. He took a deep breath, this felt so good, she felt so warm against him, so fragile and yet strong at the same time. If only he could figure out a solution and fast. He carefully leaned his seat back and a smile spread across his face when he felt her move closer. He decided not to wake her up, her getting upset all over again wouldn’t help, and she had cried more than enough for the night.
That was how he eventually fell asleep, a smile on his face, holding the girl who had completely captured his heart. He knew he’d probably regret it in the morning but it’d be worth it.
~ ~ ~
Tori moved against something very solid pressed into her cheek. Her amber eyes fluttered open to the misty gray sky, she looked around for a minute and realized she was in a vehicle. It was becoming very familiar as she glanced around, her gaze landed on the boy sleeping beside her, she let out a tiny gasp and froze as she just stared at the teenage boy as he slept. He was so handsome, the stubble that was grazing his square jaw was so tempting to just run her fingers across, but what she loved most she couldn’t see at the moment and that was those chocolate brown eyes. The butterflies erupted through her stomach again. She let out a tiny giggle when she saw his black hat knocked askew on his head. Her eyes lingered on his chiseled features, so strong and masculine. Her eyes flowed over him from his forehead to his noise but stopped the minute she reached his lips. They had almost been pressed to hers the night before and it would have felt more than amazing she was sure of it. She blushed as the thoughts of those delicious looking lips on her soft ones, she slowly sat up and ran her fingers through her straight light brown hair, making sure it wasn’t too messed up. She reached out her hand slowly wishing she could just stay like this but knew he had things to get done, she gently shook him. “Jason, wake up.” She murmured to him.
Jason was up in a flash. “What’s wrong?” those chocolate eyes met her amber ones, more yellow-tinted today.
“Nothing, unless you call us staying out in your truck all night something wrong, which probably wasn’t the best choice to do.”
Jason sat up straighter and cracked his back. “Wasn’t the most comfortable, but I wouldn’t say it was wrong, I’m just going to hear it from Jess I’m sure, I told her to check with Mom and Dad last night, tell them what was going on,” he smiled at her. “But it’ll be worth it.” Tori’s faced flamed with embarrassment but smiled at Jason at the same time, her eyes shining more than they had in a very long time. They were always so dim anymore but right now he couldn’t take his eyes off of her. He started the truck and headed back to the house, they both got out of the truck and headed towards the red metal barn. Jason explained how much feed to give the horses, they got done quickly. Jason sat down on a straw bale as the horses chopped on their food. He smiled when Tori sat down beside him and pretty close to, their thighs were only inches apart.
“Jason, thank you for everything last night, even though I was a blubbering mess you didn’t make fun of me.”
“Of course I didn’t, you’re my best friend and I wouldn’t dream of making fun of you, trust me, honey it was okay, you needed to break down and I wasn’t going to stop you, you’ve been holding your head up for way too long now.” He laid his rough hand against her cheek and turned her face to look at him. He rubbed her cheek gently with the pad of his thumb. “You should know I will never judge and I will always be here for you, no matter what.”
They froze as they looked into each other’s eyes, they slowly moved closer to each other when the sound of tires spinning on the gravel driveway, making Tori move back.
She closed her eyes laying her head on his shoulder, she knew exactly who it was before the ear-splitting voice pierced their ears. She would never forgive her mom for this. Tori slowly stood up and walked to the front of the barn. She was surprised when Jason began to follow her. Tori glared at her mom as she got out of the gray Honda Accord and stormed over to them.
“Tori, you get in this car right now, we’re leaving today!” Natalie grabbed her daughter by the arm hard and pulled her towards the car.
Tori yanked her arm away from and rushed over to Jason, she threw her arms around his neck in what she was sure was a good-bye hug. “I’ll try to think of something, tell Jess I’ll call her later.” She slowly let go of Jason and went over to the car. The tears fell as they left the McBride’s house. She was going to lose everyone and everything she held dear in this town, all because her mom was stupid. Everything would change and not for the better.