I don’t want you.
You mean nothing to me.
I never loved you.
I turned my words into swords.
And I cut her down. Shoved the blade in and watched her fall.
I said I’d never hurt her and I did.
Years later I’m faced with all the little lies, the untruths, the false realities, the damage I inflicted when all I wanted was to indulge in my obsession.
Lavender Waters is the princess in the tower. Even her name is the thing fairy tales are made of.
I used to be the one who saved her.
Over and over again.
But I don’t want to save her anymore.
I just want to pretend the lies are still the truth.
*A standalone angsty new adult romance.
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First Day Fuckery
Present day, age 19
“HEY, LAV!” MY brother’s fist slams against the bathroom door, and half a second later it flies open, scaring the living shit out of me as it bashes into the wall.
I jab myself in the eye with my mascara wand, and coffee sloshes down the front of my white tank. I was attempting to multitask. I should know better. “Ow! What the hell, Mav!” I cover my burning eye with my palm and drop my mug in the sink. The handle breaks off. “Goddammit! That was my favorite freaking mug. And I could’ve been naked!”
Maverick makes a gagging sound. “I just ate breakfast. Don’t say things like that if you don’t want me to hurl.”
“Screw you, fuckboy.” I try to close the door on him, but it’s useless, since he’s a damn giant and standing in the middle of the doorway. “And looking at your face makes me lose my appetite.”
Much to my parents’ dismay, Maverick is a certified manwhore. A monogamous one, but a manwhore nonetheless. Based on what I’ve learned from the girls who like to stop by our house—there are many—he hangs out with the same girl for exactly four weeks. And by “hang out,” I mean, bones as often as possible.
My brother is not an ogre—far from it. Maverick looks like a damn supermodel with his wavy dark hair and ridiculously chiseled features. Girls and women fawn all over him. It’s annoying.
“What are you doing busting into my bathroom at seven freaking thirty in the damn morning? I’m trying to get ready for class.” Even though I’m a sophomore, it’s my first day at a new school, and I’d like to start my second year of college on a positive note. Poking myself in the eye with my mascara wand is not very positive.
“Riv has to be at football practice, and I need to be at the arena in like, twenty. Have you seen my car keys?”
“Why would I know where your car keys are?” I drop my palm and glance at my reflection in the mirror. Awesome. Now it looks like I’m part raccoon with the mascara smeared around my eye.
“Mav, we gotta roll out or we’re gonna be late,” my twin brother, River, yells from somewhere in the house.
Maverick runs his hand through his hair. It falls back into place as though it’s made of perfectly obedient soldiers. “Where are your keys?”
“You can’t take my car.” I prop my fist on my hip. “Take River’s.”
“Some chick puked in the back seat last night, and it needs to be detailed.” Mav taps on the doorframe, impatient.
“And that’s my fault, how?” I do not want to know the how and why regarding the puking girl. River isn’t quite as bad as Maverick, but he still has a ridiculous number of girls fawning all over him at any given time—and that’s even with his less-than-glowing personality. Or possibly because of it.
Maverick glances to the right, just outside the bathroom door, and a sly smile turns up the corner of his mouth. He snatches my keys from my dresser and dangles them from his finger. “We’ll owe you one, sis.”
I jump up, trying to grab them back, but my brother is over six feet, and I’m five one and a quarter—that quarter is very important to me—so there is absolutely zero chance I can reach my keys when he’s holding them over his head. “You can’t leave me without my car!”
“You can walk in a straight line, Lav. You’ll be fine.” He strolls down the hall, and I scale his back in an attempt to reclaim my keys, but my contact lens is burning. It’s distracting and means I can only hold on to my brother with one arm while I press my palm against my watering eye. He hits the first flight of stairs and takes them at a jog, bumping me around on his back.
I somehow manage to jam my big toe into one of his belt loops, and it gets stuck there.
He drags me along like an awkward sloth he can’t shake. “My class is all the way across campus. It’s a half-hour walk, and it starts at eight thirty!”
“It’s not that far. You’ll be fine.”
The doorbell rings as we pass through the living room.
River stands in the kitchen, shoving half a bagel slathered in cream cheese into his mouth while texting. He frowns—this is his most common facial expression—and glances from the door to Maverick to me still hanging off his back. He crosses the room in two angry strides and throws the door open. He spins around, pinning our older brother with a disgusted look and thumbs over his shoulder. “This asshole has to sit in the back seat so I don’t have to look at his face.”
Standing in the doorway is Kodiak Bowman, more commonly referred to as Kody by everyone other than me. We all grew up together, basically, and probably know one another better than we should. Like the place he was conceived, Kodiak possesses a rare kind of arctic beauty. His hair is almost black, his eyes a pale green that doesn’t look quite natural, and his features hover between severe and exotic. But when he smiles, there’s a dimple in his left cheek that makes him look boyish and melts the panties of anyone with double X chromosomes. And a lot of XYs as well.
He’s not paying attention to my twin, because he’s too busy staring at his phone. Probably arranging a lunchtime blowjob.
Both he and Maverick are here at school on hockey scholarships. Not only is Kodiak an incredibly talented player like his dad, he’s also a genius, like his mother. But unlike his mother, who is a saint, Kodiak is an asshole.
My twin harbors a particularly severe disdain toward him.
Because of me.
Something happened involving Kodiak two years ago, which was so devastatingly embarrassing for me that I wish I could scrub the memory from my brain. River received the stripped-down version of events, and I made him promise to never, ever speak of it. He never asked any more about it, and I never offered any further details. However, now River can’t stand Kodiak, and he wasn’t his biggest fan in the first place.
Kodiak ignores River. “We gotta roll, Mav, or we’re gonna be late.”
Maverick peels my fingers from his shoulder. “Can you get the fuck off me, please?”
My toe is still caught in his belt loop, so I fall back, and because I have no coordination or balance—thank you so much for that, Mom—I smack my head on the floor. I also shriek because my toe is bent at a very unpleasant angle. Maverick stumbles back a couple of steps, trying to figure out how I’m still attached to him.
“My toe is caught! Oh my God! You’re going to break it!” I scream at the top of my lungs.
It’s ironic, because when I was a kid, I didn’t talk much. River used to do a lot of the talking for me because I was shy and got all tongue-tied around people I didn’t know. He was trying to be a good brother. Unfortunately, it made me reliant on him for a lot of things for a lot of years.
I’ve also been highly insulated by my family. It’s like living inside a bubble, viewing the world from behind a screen and never fully participating in it. For someone raised in a highly stable, incredibly supportive, loving—albeit weird—family, I’m pretty damn messed up.
Maverick manages to get me untangled from his belt loop without breaking my toe. I jump to my feet, and because my embarrassment hasn’t hit epic levels yet this morning, my boob pops out of my tank.
“For the love of God, Lav! Put your tit away!” Maverick yells.
“It’s not my fault it fell out!” It’s genetics.
Kodiak glances up from his phone as I tuck my boob back inside my tank. His expression remains flat, as if he’s completely unaffected by the fact that my nipple was just eyeing him.
Because he is. Completely unaffected.
Unlike me. I can’t even form a full, coherent sentence around him anymore.
I’m sure my face is red and blotchy with humiliation. Again.
Kodiak always seems to have a front-row seat to these awful moments.
“I hope you all sprain your groins at practice.” I spin around and head for the stairs.
“I’ll find you in the quad after your first class, okay, Lav?” River calls after me.
“Whatever.” I stomp my way back up to my room.
I should’ve fought harder for on-campus housing. Even the all-girls dorm would’ve been better than living with my damn brothers. But there was no chance my parents would ever let me live in a dorm—too many unknowns and uncontrollable variables. And River, being the overprotective twin that he is, had a meltdown over the idea that I would even consider the dorms as an option.
The only reason my parents conceded to me moving away from home is because I’m living with my brothers, and I’m only about an hour away. Once high school was over, we packed up our house and moved to what used to be our cottage on Lake Geneva, in Wisconsin, which is much closer to Chicago than Seattle was. And don’t be fooled by “cottage”—it’s really a huge house on a lake.
And now, after years spent avoiding Kodiak—apart from that one, horribly mortifying incident—I’m going to have to deal with him again. Probably on a regular basis.
So I’m here, feeling a lot like I’m moving backward instead of forward. Because instead of fighting for what I wanted, I’ve let everyone else’s fears dictate my choices.
And the First Day Fuckery Continues
THANKS TO MY brothers, I have to rush to get ready for my first class. I also end up having to wear my glasses instead of my contacts because the eye I stabbed with my mascara wand won’t stop watering.
I pull one of my handcrafted dresses over my head—I make all my clothes and have since I could operate a sewing machine. I slip my feet into a pair of flats, grab my backpack, and speed-walk all the way across campus to get to class on time.
I don’t take Uber or cabs because I won’t get into a vehicle with someone I don’t know. I also don’t like public transit because there are too many people I don’t know in a small space. Most of the time, it’s not a problem because I have a car, or I can get a ride with my brothers, if I need one. Except when my brothers screw me over like they’ve done this morning.
On the upside, I’m starting today with a class I’m looking forward to—costume and set design. Unfortunately it’s at eight thirty on Mondays and Wednesdays. Usually only drama majors are allowed to register for this class, but because of my transcripts, my heavy involvement in both school and community theater, and the letter from Queenie, who is still my therapist, I was able to enroll. I was also granted special permission to take a visual arts class, thanks again to Queenie and my dad’s generous donation to both the school hockey team and the arts department. It doesn’t hurt that my dad is a hockey legend.
Is it nepotism? Sure. Do I feel bad that I’m potentially taking a spot from someone? Sure. But I worked hard for this, and the only reason I haven’t declared my major yet is because my parents thought it would be better for me to stick to general classes until the end of my sophomore year. Had my parents not been so adamant, I would be a theater major already.
I don’t necessarily disagree with taking a little bit of everything if you’re uncertain of your future path. Maverick’s already changed his major twice. He started in physics and then switched to chemistry and eventually decided he wanted to go the kinesiology route. All his courses have really long names, and the textbooks are so thick, they could stop a bullet. I may have forgotten to mention that while Mav is a fuckboy and a hockey player, he too is shockingly smart. Maybe not as smart as Kodiak, but pretty damn close.
But I, unlike my brothers, already know exactly what I want to do. My goal this year is to appease my parents, who are afraid attending college away from home is going to overwhelm me. They also don’t want me to lock myself into something too specific and close any doors before they think I’m ready.
I love them, but the overprotective bullshit can be a lot to handle. I get it, but it’s still tough to deal with at times.
I jog up the steps of the art building with only five minutes to spare. Of course, because I’m in a rush, I trip halfway up. My glasses, which I try not to wear unless I’m in the privacy of my own home, slip off and land facedown on the steps. It would be fine if my knee didn’t then land right on top of them. The crunch is ominous and telling.
I scramble to right myself as a pair of hands slip under my arms and someone helps me to my feet.
“Are you okay?”
The voice belongs to a guy. Awesome. Today can suck a set of old man balls.
“Yeah, being top-heavy makes walking tough,” I mumble. Of course those are the first words out of my mouth. Sometimes I wish I were still as tongue-tied as I was when I was younger.
“Pardon? I didn’t catch that.”
“I’m fine, thanks. Just embarrassed.” I smooth my skirt and tip my head back. I’m short. I always have to look up. At everyone. Except for small children and pets.
The guy in front of me is only mildly blurry. It’s possible he may be cute. He’s tallish, maybe around six feet, although to be fair, almost anyone seems tall to me. His dark hair is cropped short and he’s wearing thick-rimmed black glasses. And a Hufflepuff T-shirt.
He bends to retrieve my glasses with a grimace. They’re in two pieces, and the lenses are scratched to hell. “I think you have a casualty.”
“I have spares at home.” Because I’m clumsy and this isn’t the first time I’ve landed on my own glasses—not that the spares are going to help me during this class. At least I have a break between this one and the next, so I can go home and grab a backup pair. I shove the broken glasses in the front pocket of my backpack. I don’t know why I don’t toss them in the trash. It’s not like there’s any hope of fixing them.
“Are you heading in?” My savior inclines his head toward the doors.
“Oh, yeah.” I slip my hand into my skirt pocket—all my dresses have pockets, because it’s convenient and prevents me from hand-talking—and pull out my phone. I have to bring it right up to my face to make out the time. “Crap, I have four minutes to get to class.”
“What’re you taking?”
“Costume and set design.”
“Really? Me too. We can go together.”
“Sure. Great, thank you. I’m so freaking blind without my glasses, I can’t read the numbers on the doors unless my nose is almost pressed against the wall.” That’s a slight exaggeration, but not much.
My new friend taps his glasses. “I’ll be the eyes for both of us. I’m Josiah, by the way.”
“That’s a cool name.” He smiles blurrily. “It’s nice to meet you, Lavender.”
“You too, Josiah.”
We rush the rest of the way up the steps. Thankfully, our class is close to the entrance, and we slip in with a minute to spare. It smells like rich fabric and the metallic tang of electricity, sewing machines, wood, and paint.
“Oh my God,” I half moan in a whisper. “I wish I could see this room clearly. It smells like heaven.”
I follow Josiah to the blob of students arranged in a semicircle on one side of the room. We take the last two seats at the edge, and Professor Martin starts calling names. As usual, I’m last on the list.
Once roll has been called, our professor reviews the syllabus. Luckily, I have a tablet, and Josiah lends me his glasses for a minute so I can make the font huge enough to take notes I can read. Basically it’s a sentence a page, but it’s better than nothing. We spend half the time playing icebreaker games, and in the last twenty minutes, we have to write a couple of paragraphs on what we hope to get out of this class.
Most of the students in this course are super outgoing. I’m the exact opposite, since all I ever want to do is hang out backstage or work behind the scenes, but I survive.
“Are you a theater major?” Josiah asks when we’re on our way out the door.
I shake my head. “I’m undeclared until next year.”
“Really? How’d you manage to get in that class? It’s supposed to be for drama majors only.”
“Uh, usually that’s true. I have special permission. I did a lot of costume and set design in high school and community theater, so they let me take it.” It’s partly the truth.
“Oh, well that’s . . . cool. What other classes are you taking?” He sounds genuinely interested.
“Um, hold on . . . I’ll show you my schedule, and you can tell me if we have any together, since I can’t see anything right now.” I set my bag on a bench, retrieve my binder, and pass it over to him. It would be nice to know someone in more than one class. The whole getting-to-know-people thing is stressful, and I’m always inclined to say dumb, embarrassing things when I’m nervous, which is a lot of the time.
“Looks like this is the only class we have together. But I’m meeting some friends for coffee now, if you want to come?”
“Oh, I would really love to, but I have to go home and pick up my spare glasses. Otherwise I’m going to have a killer headache by the end of the day.” I tap my temple. “Maybe if you’re going after class on Wednesday, I could come with you?”
Josiah smiles. “Yeah, sure. Should we trade numbers?”
“That’d be great. You’ll have to add yours for me, though.” I pass my phone over as it vibrates.
“Uh, Twinsie is texting you?”
“That’s my twin brother.”
“You have a twin? That must be kind of cool.”
“It can be. It can also be a giant pain in my ass.”
I use the text-to-speech function to find out where River is hanging out between classes. He’s all the way on the other side of campus, still with his football buddies, and Maverick has my car keys.
Thank the Lord for speech to text. Mav is in the quad, which isn’t far away, and Josiah, being the nice guy he is, offers to walk me over since I can’t see well enough to make out the names of buildings, or read any of the posted signs unless I’m six inches away from them.
As we draw near, Maverick’s laugh can be heard through the entire quad, along with the sound of simpering girls. At least River isn’t around to act like a rabid, angry guard dog, snapping at Josiah’s heels. He’s adept at scaring off guys.
“Thanks so much for being my guide,” I say.
“It’s really no problem. I’d be in the same predicament if I broke my glasses.” Josiah pushes his up his nose.
“Holy shit, Lav!” Mav shouts and is suddenly all up in our personal space. He grabs Josiah’s hand and starts pumping it. I half expect water to come spraying out of his mouth, it’s so vigorous. “This is so exciting! You made a friend!”
“Oh my God, will you shut the hell up?” If I could see properly, I’d kick him in the nuts.
He finally lets go of Josiah’s hand and wraps his arm around my shoulder. “I’m just so proud of you. I’m Lavender’s embarrassing-as-fuck older brother Maverick.”
“I’m sure he’s already figured out the embarrassing-as-fuck part. Can you lower your voice and turn your younger-sister-humiliation dial down from a ten to a more respectable two or three?” As annoying as this outburst is, Maverick is probably the least overprotective of my family members.
“I can maybe take it down to a five, at best. You gonna stage a formal introduction, or what?”
“Maverick, this is Josiah. I tripped this morning and broke my glasses, and Josiah has graciously lent me his eyes so I could find you, although I’m sure he’s very much regretting that now.”
“Just imagine how much more he’d regret it if it was Riv he was meeting.”
He has a point.
I turn to Josiah. “Anyway, thanks so much for helping me out today. I know you’re meeting friends, and I don’t want to hold you up.” I’m 100 percent giving him an out and hoping he takes it before Mav says something else embarrassing.
“Honestly, it’s no problem. I’ll see you on Wednesday?”
“For sure.” I nod.
“Nice to meet you, Maverick.”
“You too, man.” He waits until Josiah walks away. “Look at you! Making new friends on day one. Just don’t introduce him to your feral twin, and you’ll be fine.”
“I don’t know what was worse, living at home last year or living with you two now.”
While River went to Chicago and lived on campus, where literally everyone we know is, I got to live at home in Lake Geneva with my parents and take a general year at the local college. In hindsight, I think it was the right move for me. Did it suck to miss out on all the stuff that comes with living away from home? And was it hard knowing that pretty much my entire network of friends and cousins were out here? Yup. But it was nice being away from my overprotective brothers. I even had a boyfriend that no one threatened to murder. It was an experience I needed and wanted. That relationship only lasted a few months, but I managed to get in some great experimental learning since he had his own room on campus.
“At least now you have some freedom.” Mav tosses my keys at me. They fall to the ground because I can’t see them, and my ability to catch is questionable on a good day with glasses.
“I can’t see to drive, Mav.” I point to my face and nearly poke myself in the eye.
“Oh, shit, right.” He bends to retrieve them. “Huh, well, I have class in ten. I could take you after that?”
“You know what? It’s fine. I’ll walk.”
“I’ll take her.” Kodiak’s deep voice makes the hairs on my arms stand on end.
“See, perfect? Thanks, K.” Mav is all smiles and cluelessness as he pats Kodiak on the back, slings his backpack over his shoulder, and takes off.
“You don’t have to drive me home. I probably have a spare pair in the glove box,” I mutter. I’m sure my face is on fire. The humiliation from the last time I was alone with him comes flooding back, like blood rushing to a fresh wound.
“You’re gonna need to know where the car is parked, regardless.” He’s so close, it’s hard to breathe.
I’m glad I can’t see him clearly. I want to tell him to go fuck himself, but the words get trapped in my throat. It didn’t used to be like this. For a long time, Kodiak was my safe space. We used to tell each other everything. I thought he was my soul mate—until I screwed everything up and made him hate me, and then he went and made sure I hated him back.
“Let’s go. I don’t have all day.”
I practically run to keep up with his long strides.
I want to make some kind of cheeky remark, but the last time I spoke to Kodiak, the results were less than desirable, so it’s better for me to keep my mouth shut. Besides, there’s a good chance I’ll trip over my words like I trip over my feet.
Tears of frustration and embarrassment prick at my eyes. I feel stupid. Clumsy. Unwanted. A nuisance. Girls whisper his name as we pass, and one falls into step beside him, asking about some party on Friday.
He barely acknowledges her, aloof as always.
“Who’s your friend?” she asks.
I don’t bother to look at her or give any indication that I’m aware I’m being talked about as though I don’t exist.
“No one you need to concern yourself with. See you at the party on Friday.” He snaps his fingers at me, like I’m a dog. “Come on, pick up the pace.”
I follow him across the parking lot, teeth clenched, fighting the urge to scream or cry. This is so humiliating.
My car beeps, and I rush around to the passenger side, but Kodiak has only unlocked the driver’s side door, so I yank on it twice and then have to wait until he feels like hitting the button a second time.
“Please let there be glasses in here somewhere.” I slide into the passenger seat and flick open the glove compartment, pulling out the manual and insurance papers in hopes that I’ll find something, anything. Even an old pair with the wrong prescription would be welcome. Or forgotten contact lenses.
Kodiak opens the driver’s side door and bends over to slide the key in the ignition and roll down the windows before he closes the door again and leans against it, talking to yet another girl.
Suddenly my car is filled with sound. But it’s not music. It’s one of my audiobooks. Specifically, a smutty audiobook. And it’s right in the middle of a particularly smutty chapter. Because that’s what I was listening to last night when I went to bed, and my phone automatically syncs to the sound system.
Some people read books or listen to music before bed. I listen to sexy books. It’s way better than porn. The guys are always super attentive, and the women always have seven billion orgasms. And the hero always gives great oral. It’s the ultimate fantasy. Except last night I decided to try out a new genre: reverse harem. It seemed like it might be female-empowering, which is alluring when you’re me—not the actual reverse harem-ing, but feeling empowered.
“You wanna ride our cocks, baby?” the very sexy, gritty male voice blasts through my amazing sound system. “Both of our cocks?”
“Oh my God.” I frantically search for my phone, but it falls to the floor and slides under the seat. Of fucking course. I slap blindly at the dash, trying to find the volume button, but instead of turning it down, I turn it up, right as graphic penetration happens.
I finally find the volume control and mute the damn thing, but it’s too late. Anyone within a mile radius has heard the literary porn. My mortification is extreme. I sink down in the seat, hiding behind my hair, the sound of laughter outside the car like needles under my skin.
I feel like I’m a kid again—standing in the middle of the playground, someone making fun of me, calling me weird. Why doesn’t she talk above a whisper? Everyone looking at me. Laughing. Until River stepped in. Or Kodiak, before he hated me.
But River’s not here. And Kodiak can’t even stand to look at me. Why he offered to drive me home is another huge question mark. Unless he’s just looking for an opportunity to torment me.
My face is on fire. My entire body breaks out in a cold sweat. I can’t get out of the car, not with all these people around. It makes me feel trapped, and I hate it.
Kodiak finally opens the driver’s side door. “You find your spares?”
I shake my head, refusing to look at him.
“Is that a no?”
I purse my lips and remain silent.
Kodiak sighs. “I gotta take this one home. See ya Friday.”
He gets in, closing the door with a slam. He takes his time adjusting the mirrors, and it hits me how close he is. Some things haven’t changed in the past two years: same deodorant, same body wash, same cologne, same hair product, same asshole.
My eyes burn with the threat of tears, but I refuse to let them fall. I will not give Kodiak the satisfaction of seeing me cry ever again. I hate him so much for so many things, but this unnecessary humiliation is currently at the forefront, the things he said to me two years ago a very, very close second.
“Didn’t realize you’re into the whole tag-team thing.” His voice is flat, apathetic.
I focus on remaining still. On breathing.
“Is that what you and all the drama geeks get up to backstage? You find a nice quiet spot behind the curtains and get yourself good and fucked?”
I want to say something scathing, like I’m surprised that’s not his thing, since his dad was into threesomes back when he was Kodiak’s age. Although, the version of Kodiak’s dad I know is a really good guy, and doesn’t seem like the type who would bang two girls in a hot tub. However, there’s a really, really old video floating around on the internet that proves it’s true.
There are also about a thousand pictures of my dad with his tongue in different women’s mouths. Apparently he didn’t sleep with all the puck bunnies, he just made out with them in public. Including my mom. Having a famous parent can be a real pain in the ass, and far more informative than is normal.
My throat is tight, and anything I say is going to come out a pathetic whisper, if at all. So instead, I clench my fists to keep from fidgeting and try not to focus on Kodiak’s hurtful words, or the memories being close to him incite.
“You got words for everyone else, but none for me?” he taunts.
I stare straight ahead, unwilling to look at his horrible, beautiful face. I weigh my response before I speak, trying to inject some steel into my spine, so it doesn’t come out a weak whisper. “Why would I give you my words when all you do is twist them into something ugly?”
“Still living in the past?” Real emotion hides under his ire, a waver in his voice that I recognize: anxiety.
I let the things I want to say sit on my tongue like bitter pills and finally ask, “Why are you doing this?”
“To remind you nothing has changed, Lavender,” he grinds out.
The boy I used to love never would’ve embarrassed me or talked down to me like this. And his current actions prove that what happened two years ago wasn’t a mistake. He meant to hurt me then, and he means to hurt me now.
He pulls into the driveway, and I yank on the door handle, but it doesn’t open, because the child locks are still engaged. “I hate you.” I spit the words like nails.
He leans over the center console until he’s so close, his face is clear and beautiful and so, so hideous in its perfection. His pale green eyes burn with emotions I don’t understand, and the flecks of gold shine like refracted sunshine. “I don’t believe that. Otherwise you wouldn’t have gotten into this car with me.”
I can feel his humid, minty breath on my lips.
He drapes his arm across the back of my seat, and his fingertips brush my neck. I jerk back and slap his hand away.
Kodiak frowns and grabs my wrist, prying my fist open.
I hate the way my body responds to the contact, a shiver working its way down my spine, soothing but igniting at the same time.
“What the fuck?” He twists my hand so I can see what he does. “You really haven’t changed at all, have you?” There’s something in his voice that doesn’t quite match, an emotion I can’t put my finger on—maybe because he’s touching me and I hate it as much as I crave it.
Four crescent-shaped marks line my palm, and I’m mortified all over again when thin lines of blood well from the fresh cuts. I yank my hand away. “Let me out.” It’s barely a whisper.
“Lavender.” Dismay lurks in my name.
I find my voice, finally, and its strength is fueled by my anger. “Let me out. Now.”
“I should’ve known better,” he gripes and hits the unlock button.
I throw the door open and clamber out, slinging my backpack over my shoulder.
Kodiak cuts the engine and gets out of the car, calling my name again.
I give him the bird without looking back. He doesn’t deserve any more of my words.