18 months ago
I toss back my fifth shot of tequila and slam the glass down on the table. Unlike the girls, and a few of the guys, around me, I don’t grimace, cough, or chase it with soda. I’m far too drunk to feel the burn.
I can feel eyes on me as I walk towards the dance floor where couples are grinding, and singles are losing themselves in the music. That is what I want to do. Lose my self. I don’t want to overthink anymore. I want to blackout tonight, so I don’t have to think or feel until tomorrow when I wake up with the mother of all hangovers.
The music is intoxicating, and I move to the beat, feeling freer by the second as the alcohol warms my belly.
Heat covers my back as hands grip my waist. I go with it, keeping my eyes closed, grinding into whoever it is. I can feel him start to get hard, but I don’t care. I don’t intend to go home with anyone tonight, but what’s a little fun here and there for the broken people in this world.
My dress leaves nothing to the imagination. Black body-con dress with large cut-outs in the midsection and a deep v at the neckline showing off my cleavage. The back dips down low and is held together by a thin gold chain.
It’s a man killer dress. Very appropriate with my mood tonight
The hands on my hips start to move up the curve of my waist. I know they are aiming to feel up my boobs, so I change positions. I spin around and plaster myself to the stranger. I look up at his face, which is blurring at the edges. My drunk brain registers that I know him from somewhere, but his name is not coming to mind.
His hands immediately land on my ass. One of my hands moves to curve around his neck and the other around his midsection. One of his knees props between my legs. It is downright dirty how we move, and I start to rethink my decision not to go home with anyone. He looks like he would be good in—
The stranger is jerked back from me and thrown to the floor. I would have ended up on the floor with him, but arms of steel band around my waist as I am pulled back and lifted into another warm chest. My feet are high enough off the ground that my five-inch heels don’t touch the floor.
For fucks sake.
“Let me go, Damon,” I say, without even needing to turn around and see who was holding me.
“Stay away from her, Cohen. You will not like what happens otherwise.” Those words are spoken to the guy that I was dancing with. My brain connects the name to the face finally.
Cohen. Daniel Cohen. Damon doesn’t like him much. Oops.
“This ends now,” he says to the back of my head as he carries me off the dance floor and down the hallway to the right. We pass four or five doors as he continues to walk, I don’t fight. I know it would be pointless. Resigned to my fate, I grip his arm that is banded around my chest in an effort to hold myself up a bit.
It is significantly quieter down the hall, away from the pounding music and drunken people. Quiet enough that I can hear several more footsteps behind us, stalking at the same speed.
I groan in frustration. They all can just fuck right off.
Damon releases one arm around my waist, easily supporting my entire weight with one arm, and throws open the very last door in the hallway.
I get about three seconds to assess where I am, from the time it takes him to cross the threshold to when he gets halfway to the king-sized bed in what looks like the master suite. I don’t get a very good look, for one, because I am three sheets to the wind, and two, I am launched ten feet onto the bed, right on a pile of pillows.
I land in the middle of the bed and bounce up, before landing on a mountain of softness. The world is spinning after that move, so I just lay there, trying to get the world to stop doing cartwheels.
The world continues to do flip when I feel the bed depress on my side. I look over and see a head of beautiful blond hair and an amazing smile next to my head.
I do love that smile.
“Hey, babe. What’s in that head of yours right now?” Beau says, poking my head between my eyebrows playfully.
I go to lick his finger before he can pull it away, but my eye-tongue coordination is seriously off and I miss.
“I am one shot away from nothing being in my head, Beau. However, I was pulled away before I could complete my mission.” I say, smiling and dodging his question.
Then I lose the smile on my face when I remember that I am mad at them. I look up to the ceiling, hoping beyond hope that they will get the hint and go away.
Spoiler alert: they do not go away
“Talk to us, Em. Something is up.” A voice comes from near my feet.
“Yeah. You are acting all kinds of messed up.” Another voice comes from the same place.
I struggle to my elbows to look. I try to squint to clear my blurred vision. Two of the same face stares back at me. Chocolate brown skin and sharp, god-like cheekbones. Ethan’s strong eyebrows make a crease in the middle and Noah has a serious frown marring his perfect lips.
Their looks unsettle me, but I hold onto my anger to ward it off.
“Chill out, I’m good. Better than good. Amazing. Fantastico!” I giggle at my change of language. I am the only one to laugh. Whatever. Fuck them.
“Care to explain why you are acting like a first-year college student out of a Mormon household? And while you’re at it, you can explain why you have been acting like you have a bug up your ass since this morning. And why you rode to this party with that bitch you secretly hate, rather than us, without telling us? And why you let that handsy bastard touch you?” I look to the side and see dark brown hair that curls at the bottoms, sweeping just above his brows. His body language feigns indifference, but I know him well enough to know he is a bomb waiting to explode.
I scoot to the edge of the bed and let my legs dangle off the side. The motion causes my stomach to churn a bit, but I ignore it.
“Didn’t know we were playing twenty questions,” I slurred slightly. Damn, the alcohol was really hitting me now, but I try to stay focused. “However, I am not in the mood to play, Damon. As you know, I can do what I want ever, whenever I want, with whoever I want. You are not my father.” I blow out a breath of frustration.
I don’t want to think about their betrayal right now. I took so many shots for the purpose of not thinking. I try to push the hurt from my heart away, for now.
I look around at the four boys all looking at me with mixed faces of confusion, worry, and anger.
I try to slide all the way off the bed, planning an escape, but my drunkenness, tall heels, and long, annoying, brown hair all prevent this from happening. My heels wobble when they hit the floor since the bed is a lot taller than I was expecting. I try to balance myself, but I have no balance in my current state, and my hair falls in my face when I try to look down at my feet. This makes everything worst. I am about to fall on my face, when warm hands wrap around my waist, soaking through my thin dress and warming my insides.
These hands stop my downward travel and pull me right into Damon’s chest. I hum quietly in the back of my throat and lookup. His dark blue eyes are storms of emotion. He is trying to read my mind, I can tell, but he won’t have much luck.
I want to take is face in mine, run my hands from his jaw, up into his hair and pull. I want to be closer, touch him and feel his warmth.
I shake my head and close my eyes to clear those thoughts form my brain. My anger warring with my need.
I take a huge breathe in and make a decision. I will not be mad at them the rest of the night, willing to save it for tomorrow.
Yes, I can pretend for the night. I’m good at pretending. I have lots of practice.
“Let’s dance. I want to dance,” I open my eyes and grab handfuls of his skintight black t-shirt. “I want to forget this day.” I bat my eyelashes at him, watching his face get softer. I push my body even closer, loving the feeling of him. All hard muscle encased in a tall frame. Wet-dream worthy for sure.
Damon's hands tighten minutely on my waist but his eyes narrow at my sudden change. He is not buying any of it. His voice is soft when he says, “I think you have danced enough tonight,” looking down at me like I am annoying him.
“Pllleeeeaaasseee” I moan in frustration.
I hear chuckles around us, but don’t look at them. I stare into Damon's eyes, waiting.
It takes a full ten seconds for him to close his eyes in resignation.
I know that I've won this round.
“One hour,” Damon says. “Then we’re gone.”
Two hours later, the five of us walk out of the party. Well, four of us walk, I am being heavily supported by Ethan and Beau while I stumble along.
We get into Beau’s black SUV, Beau driving, Noah riding shotgun, and Damon, Ethan, and I in the back. I’m in the middle.
The boys are talking about a teammate of theirs who was seen with a cheerleader at the party. The teammate’s girlfriend is in DC visiting family. They seem to agree that the girlfriend is a bitch and probably deserves it, but they will send an anonymous text to her letting her know about the cheater tomorrow. I smile.
I decide within minutes of driving down the dark road that I will hurl if I stay upright. I decide to lay my head on Damon’s lap and put my feet up on Ethan’s lap. I sigh in pleasure because this is ultra-comfortable.
“You had quite the night, girl,” Ethan says as he slides my heels from my feet and starts massaging my ankles. I moan my appreciation. What I don’t do is answer.
“Yeah, Em. I haven’t seen you go all sorority girl in a hot minute. Not that that is a bad thing. You do you. Just odd,” Beau says.
Damon’s hand dives into my hair and starts to massage. Fuck that feels good! I moan again in bliss. What I don’t do is answer.
“Cohen needs to watch himself before he catches a bullet to the face,” comes from Damon.
“I think he got the message when you threw him across the room,” Beau laughs.
“We will pick you up for school tomorrow at 7:30."
I groan at Noah’s words. Who in their right mind throws a party on a Wednesday night? I mean really. However, it was a blessing in disguise. I have effectively shut off my brain for a few hours. Mission accomplished.
"Noooooo," comes out as a whine.
"Bio test first period, remember?" he teases. Fuck him.
"I want to go back in time and light Gregor Mendel on fire," I declare.
“I'll go with you and help,” Ethan throws out.
"7:30," Noah says again.
“Yeah yeah. 7:30. Fuck.” I slur my words a bit, but I think they get it.
I feel the car come to a stop.
“Casa a la Emmie bear. Need help to the door?” Beau asks.
“No, I’m fine.”
I push myself up from Damon’s lap with effort, my hand on his thigh. His hand falls from my head but his eyes meet mine in the dark and they are searching, pleading for me to talk about why I was upset. He could tell something was wrong. They all can. I’m not fooling anyone, but I know that they won’t demand an answer if I am not ready to give one. At least Noah, Ethan, and Beau won’t.
Damon slides out of the car and holds out a hand for me to take to climb out. I do, not because I want to, but because I will fall on my face if I don’t.
I do stumble, but Damon steadies me and walks me to the door of my ridiculously white, colonial-style mansion.
As I look up at the house, I can't help thinking that I should not stop at just Mendel and his fucking peas.
I am reaching for the doorknob when Damon speaks.
“Whatever it is, you can tell me.” He cups my jaw tenderly. I don’t meet his eyes. I can’t, I will crack. I will break into thousands of pieces.
I am so angry at Damon and Ethan and Noah and Beau. I want to smash their heads together and run them over with a truck. But I'm also so hurt and want to curl up in a ball and cry. I don’t let myself do either, not yet.
While I am staring at the door, his thumb slides across my lower lip, pressing in a bit.
Fuck, Em. Why did you kiss him two days ago? Why did you throw yourself at him? Years of friendship down the toilet.
I knew the answer to my own question, but I still lie to myself.
“Good night, Damon,” I say as I pull away without looking him in the eyes. I open the door, closing it behind me.
I lean heavily on the door as I try to catch my breath from being that close to Damon. I feel dizzy and it is not alcohol.
I feel the tears coming, and I take a deep breath in.
“I can smell the alcohol on you from here.” I deep voice says from the staircase in front of me.
“Congratulations. Want a metal?” I drawl.
“Watch your mouth,” he snaps. “You will not embarrass me by going out dressed and acting like a whore.”
I roll my eyes. “Because that is my main goal anytime I go out with my friend and have fun, to embarrass you. Just imagine how embarrassed you would be if the world found out how you act behind closed doors.” Alcohol makes me brave. And stupid. Always has and I usually regret it later.
He is across the room and standing in front of me in an instant. His hand shoots out and his fingers wrap around my throat. He doesn’t squeeze, but his hold is firm and full of promise.
“You little bitch. If I catch you acting like this in public again, I promise you will regret it.” His eyes shine in the darkness, full of hate and evil.
The haze of alcohol lifts slightly as my heart rate skyrockets. Inside I want to cower in the corner. On the outside, I show boredom at his demonstration of dominance.
He thrives on fear. Craves it. I won’t let him see my fear.
I level my stare straight into his eyes, silently challenging him but terrified he will act on it.
My expression causes his fingers to flex harder on my neck as a threat.
“Am I understood, Ember?” he almost whispers.
I know his game. I’ve played it my whole life. I know if I continue to challenge him tonight, I will wake up with bruises and nothing to show for it.
I avert my eyes to the floor. I reason that it is self-preservation, not submission.
He holds my throat for another few seconds, but eventually let’s go. He turns and walks up the stairs, cool, calm, and collected. Like he did not just threaten my life.
Anger and fear nearly overwhelm me, but my murderous thoughts are cut short when I hear my phone ring. I pull it out of my bra and look at the screen. It’s a restricted number. Hmmm.
“Hello?” I answer.
A masculine voice fills my ear. He talks for no more than thirty seconds and then gives me an address before hanging up. Tears are welling up in my eyes before I hear the ending tone.
I drop my chin to my chest and let a few tears roll down my cheeks and hit the floor. One minute. I give myself one minute to stand there and fall apart.
Then I swipe the wetness from my face, pull myself together, open the Uber app, and walk back out the door.
Who was on the phone? What did he say? Where is Ember going? Keep reading to find out.
And what about Damon and Ember? Hot?
Who else wants to punch her father?
I can't wait for you to see what comes next!