- Published: 18 October 2022
- ISBN: 9780593549476
- Imprint: Jove
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 384
- RRP: $22.99
Addicted to You
I wake up. My shirt crumpled on a fuzzy carpet. My shorts astray on a dresser. And I think my underwear is lost for good. Somewhere between the folds of the sheets or maybe hidden by the doorway. I can't remember when I took them off or if that was even my doing. Maybe he undressed me.
My neck heats as I take a quick peek at the sleeping beauty, some guy with golden hair and a scar along his hipbone. He turns a fraction, facing me, and I freeze. His eyes stay shut, and he groggily clings to his pillow, practically kissing the white fabric. As he lets out breathy snores, his mouth open, the strong scent of alcohol and pepperoni pizza wafts right towards me.
I sure know how to choose 'em.
I masterfully slip from the bed and tiptoe around his apartment, yanking on my black shorts-sans panties, another pair gone to a nameless guy. As I pick up my ripped gray tee, tattered and practically in shreds, the foggy image of last night clears. I stepped through the threshold of his room and literally tore my clothes off like the raging Hulk. Was that even sexy? I cringe. Must have been sexy enough to sleep with me.
Desperate, I find a discolored muscle tee on his floor and manage to tug it over my shoulder-length brown hair, the straight strands tangled and greasy. That's when I find my woolen hat. Bingo. I smack that baby on and hightail it out of his bedroom.
Empty beer cans scatter the narrow hallway, and I stumble over a bottle of Jack Daniel's, filled with black spittle and what looks like a Jolly Rancher. A photo collage of inebriated college girls decorates the door to my left-thankfully not the room I exited. Somehow I was able to dodge that Kappa Phi Delta horn dog and find a guy that doesn't advertise his conquests.
I should know better. I swore off frat houses after my last encounter at Alpha Omega Zeta. The night I arrived at fraternity row, AOZ was hosting a theme party. Unaware, I stepped through the four-story building's archway to be met with buckets of water and guys chanting for me to rip off my bra. It was like Spring Break gone awry. Not that I have much in the upstairs department to show off. Before I convulsed in embarrassment, I ducked underneath arms, wedged between torsos and found pleasure at other places and with other people.
Ones that didn't make me feel like a cow being appraised.
Last night I broke a rule. Why? I have a problem. Well, I have many problems. But saying no happens to be one of them. When Kappa Phi Delta announced that Skrillex would be playing in their basement, I thought the crowd would be a mixture of sorority girls and regular college folk. Maybe I'd be able to land a normal guy who likes house music. Turns out, the demographic centered on frat guys. Lots of them. Preying on anyone with two boobs and a vagina.
And Skrillex never showed. It was just a lame DJ and a few amps. Go figure.
Deep, male voices echo off the marble balusters on the balcony and staircase, and my feet cement by the wall. People are awake? Downstairs? Oh no.
The walk of shame is a venture I plan to avoid all four years of collegiate society. For one, I blush. Like intense tomato-red. No cute flushed cheeks. Just rash-like patches that dot my neck and arms as if I'm allergic to embarrassment.
The male laughter intensifies, and my stomach knots at the nightmarish image spinning in my mind. The one where I stumble down the stairs and all heads whip in my direction. The look of surprise coats their faces, wondering what "brother" of theirs decided to hook up with a flat-chested, gaunt girl. Maybe they'll throw a chicken bone at me, teasing me to eat.
Sadly that happened in fourth grade.
Likely, I'll sputter unintelligible words until one of them takes pity on my flaming red leopard spots and shuffles me out of their door like unwanted garbage.
This was such a mistake (the frat house, not the sex). Never again will I be forced to hoover tequila shots like a vacuum. Peer pressure. It's a real thing.
My options are limited. One staircase. One fate. Unless I happen to grow a pair of wings and fly out of the second-floor window, I'm about to face the walk of shame. I creep to the balcony and suddenly envy Veil from one of my newer comics. The young Avenger can vaporize into nothingness. A power I could surely use right now.
As soon as I reach the top step, the doorbell rings and I peek over the railing. About ten fraternity brothers are gathered on leather sofas, dressed in various versions of khaki shorts and collared shirts. The most lucid guy nominates himself for door-duty. He manages to stand on two feet, his brown hair swept back and his jaw intimidatingly squared. As he answers the door, my spirits lift.
Yes! This is my one opportunity to dash out unseen.
I use the distraction to glide down the steps undetected, channeling my inner-Veil. Halfway to the bottom, Squared-jaw leans on the door frame, blocking the entrance. "Party's over, man." The words sound cottony in his mouth. He lets the door swing shut in the person's face.
I hop over two more stairs.
The bell rings again. For some reason, it sounds angrier.
Squared-jaw groans and yanks the knob hard. "What?"
Another frat guy laughs. "Just give him a beer and tell him to piss off."
A few more steps. Maybe I can really do this. I've never been a particularly lucky person, but I suppose I'm due for a dose.
Squared-jaw keeps his hand planted on the frame, still blocking the passage. "Speak."
"First of all, does it look like I can't read a clock or furthermore don't know what daytime looks like? No shit, there's no party." Holy . . . I know that voice.
I stay planted three-quarters down. Sunshine trickles through a tiny space between the door frame and Squared-jaw's tangerine-orange Polo. He clenches his teeth, about ready to slam the door back in the other guy's face, but the intruder puts his hand on it and says, "I left something here last night."
"I don't remember you being here."
"I was." He pauses. "Briefly."
"We have a lost and found," Squared-jaw says curtly. "What is it?" He edges away from the door frame and nods to someone on the couch. They watch the scene like a reality rerun on MTV. "Jason, go grab the box."
When I glance back, I notice the guy outside. Eyes right on me.
"No need," he says.
I sweep his features. Light brown hair, short on either side, full on top. Decently toned body hidden beneath a pair of faded Dockers and a black crew-neck tee. Cheekbones that cut like ice and eyes like liquid scotch. Loren Hale is an alcoholic beverage and he doesn't even know it.
All six-foot-two of him fills the doorway.
As he stares at me, he wears a mixture of amusement and irritation, the muscles in his jaw twitching with both. The frat guys follow his gaze and zero in on the target.
I may as well have reanimated from thin air.
"Found her," Lo says with a tight, bitter smile.
Heat rises to my face, and I use my hands as human blinders, trying to cover my humiliation as I practically sprint to the door.
Squared-jaw laughs like he won their masculine showdown. "Your girlfriend is a skank, man."
I hear no more. The brisk September air fills my lungs, and Lo bangs the door closed with more force than he probably intended. I cower in my hands, pressing them to my hot cheeks as the event replays in my head. Oh. My. God.
Lo swoops in behind me, his arms flying around my waist. He sets his chin on my shoulder, hunching over a little to counter my short height with his tall. "He better have been worth it," Lo whispers, his hot breath tickling my neck.
"Worth what?" My heart lodges in my throat; his closeness confuses and tempts me. I never know where Lo's true intentions lie.
He guides me forward as we walk, my back still pressed against his chest. I can barely lift up a foot, let alone think straight. "Your first walk of shame in a frat house. How'd that feel?"
He plants a light kiss on my head and disentangles from me, walking forward. "Pick it up, Calloway. I left my drink in the car."
My eyes begin to widen as I process what this means, gradually forgetting the horrors that just occurred. "You didn't drive, did you?"
He flashes me a look like really, Lily? "Seeing as how my usual DD was unavailable"-he raises his eyebrows accusingly-"I called Nola."
He called my personal driver, and I don't begin to ask why he decided to forgo his own chauffeur that would gladly cart him around Philadelphia. Anderson has loose lips. In ninth grade when Chloe Holbrook threw a rager, Lo and I may have been discussing illegal narcotics that were passed from hand to hand at her mother's mansion. Backseat conversations should be considered private among all car-participants. Anderson must not have realized this unspoken rule because the next day, our rooms were raided for illegal paraphernalia. Luckily, the maid forgot to search in the fake fireplace where I used to keep my X-rated box of toys.
We came away clean from the incident and learned a very important lesson. Never trust Anderson.
I prefer to not use my family's car service and thus embed myself further in their grips, but sometimes Nola is a necessity. Like now. When I'm slightly hungover and unable to drive the perpetually drunk Loren Hale.
He has knighted me as his personal sober driver and refuses to shell out money to any cab services after we were almost mugged in one. We never told our parents what happened. Never explained to them how close we were to something horrible. Mostly because we spent that afternoon at a bar with two fake IDs. Lo guzzled more whiskey than a grown man. And I had sex in a public bathroom for the very first time. Our indecencies became our rituals, and our families didn't need to know about them.
My black Escalade is parked on the curb of frat row. Multi-million dollar houses line up, each outdoing the last in column sizes. Red Solo cups litter the nearest yard, an overturned keg splaying sadly in the grass. Lo walks ahead of me.
"I didn't think you were going to show," I say and skirt past a puddle of barf in the road.
"I said I would."
I snort. "That's not always accurate."
He halts by the car door, the windows too tinted to see Nola waiting in the driver's seat. "Yeah, but this is Kappa Phi Delta. You screw one and they may all want a piece of your ass. I seriously had nightmares about it."
I grimace. "About me getting raped?"
"That's why they're called nightmares, Lily. They're not supposed to be pleasant."
"Well this is probably my last expedition into a frat house for another decade or at least until I forget about this morning."
The driver's window rolls down. Nola's deep black curls caress her heart-shaped face. "I have to pick up Miss Calloway from the airport in an hour."
"We'll be ready in a minute," I tell her. The window slides up, blocking her from view.
"Which Miss Calloway?" Lo asks.
"Daisy. Fashion Week just ended in Paris." My little sister shot up overnight to a staggering five-foot-eleven inches, and with her rail-like frame she fit the mold for high fashion. My mother capitalized on Daisy's beauty in an instant. Within the week of her fourteenth birthday, she was signed to IMG modeling agency.
Lo's fingers twitch by his side. "She's fifteen and probably surrounded by older models blowing lines in a bathroom."
"I'm sure they sent someone with her." I hate that I don't know the details. Since I arrived at the University of Pennsylvania, I acquired the rude hobby of dodging phone calls and visits. Separating from the Calloway household became all too easy once I entered college. I suppose that has always been written for me. I used to push the boundaries of my curfew and spent little time in the company of my mother and father.
Lo says, "I'm glad I don't have siblings. Frankly, you have enough for me."
I never considered having three sisters to be a big brood, but a family of six does garner some unique attention.
He rubs his eyes wearily. "Okay, I need a drink and we need to go."
I inhale a deep breath, about to ask a question we've both avoided thus far. "Are we pretending today?" With Nola so close, it's always a tossup. On one hand, she's never betrayed our trust. Not even in the tenth grade when I used the backseat of a limo to screw a senior soccer player. The privacy screen was up, blocking Nola's view, but he grunted a little too loud and I knocked into the door a little too hard. Of course she heard, but she never ratted me out.
There's always the risk that one day she'll betray us. Cash loosens lips, and unfortunately, our fathers are swimming in it.
I shouldn't care. I'm twenty. Free to have sex. Free to party. You know, all the things expected of college-aged adults. But my laundry list of dirty (like really dirty) secrets could create a scandal within my family's circle of friends. My father's company would not appreciate that publicity one bit. If my mother knew my serious problem, she'd send me away for rehab and counseling until I was fixed up nicely. I don't want to be fixed. I just want to live and feed my appetite. It just so happens that my appetite is a sexual one.
Plus, my trust fund would magically vanish at the sight of my impropriety. I'm not ready to walk away from the money that pays my way through college. Lo's family is equally unforgiving.
"We'll pretend," he tells me. "Come on, love." He taps my ass. "Into the car." I barely stumble on his frequent use of love. In middle school, I told him how I thought it was the sexiest term of endearment. And even though British guys have claimed stake to it, Lo took it as his own.
‘Eighteen starlit nights with you.’ Joshua Bouvier’s big brown eyes were determined.
It wasn’t the happiest of beginnings. Tilly tried to pretend it would be okay . . .
Six twangy notes of guitar were all it took for every man in a hundred-metre radius to unbuckle his belt, drop his pants and do a dumb dance in his undies.
My fifteenth birthday is stinging with a blistering heatwave. Balloons and streamers are dangling off the clothesline, motionless.
There aren’t many rules of singlehood, but I have made a few for myself in the two (if anyone asks, but really it’s four) years in which I’ve been single.
The October wind twirled coffee-coloured willy-willies south across the Queensland border.
Carra Finlay stood under the clothesline and watched in dismay as all her dreams blew away in the wind.