Lavender finally looks my way. “You can go back to your bunnies, Kodiak. I don’t need a bodyguard or a babysitter.”
Clarke laughs and smirks at me. “You heard her. We’re good.” He slings his arm over her shoulder and pulls her into his side. I’m pretty sure her ass cheek is pressed up against his leg, and his fingers dangle perilously close to her boob.
My control slips. The frustration over not being able to have what I want is wearing me down. Everyone has an opinion on what’s good for me—how I have to manage all the impulses, how I can’t let the obsessions rule me the way they often do. But this is more than I can take. It’s been weeks and weeks of fighting the need, of being an asshole because the alternative is to dive right back into that fixation—and if I do, I’m very worried it’s going to consume me. And her.
But she’s right above me every night. Close enough to hear and too far away to touch.
All the rational parts of my brain short out. I slam my palms into Clarke’s chest, and he stumbles back. Losing his footing, he lands in the pool with a massive splash.
Lavender throws her hands in the air, her anger nowhere near as vicious as mine. Not yet anyway. “What is your goddamn problem, Kodiak?”
“You are my fucking problem. You’re always the problem,” I snap.
A flash of hurt crosses her face, but she rolls her shoulders back. “You could solve your problem pretty easily by leaving, since this is my house, not yours.”
She’s right. Of course. I could have stayed in a million different places, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to be here so I could torture her the way she’s tortured me for years without even realizing it. Turns out, I’m a bit of a masochist.
Clarke pulls himself out of the pool, spluttering and fuming. “What the hell is up your ass, Bowman?”
I point a finger at him. “Stay out of this. It’s not your business, and she’s not for you.”
Lavender’s mouth opens, but no words come out. A sick feeling makes my stomach twist. I’m doing this in a public place, something she hates so much. All this attention on her, and she’s mostly naked.
I’m done with the audience. I try to take her hand, but she swats me away. I slip an arm around her waist and haul her up against me. She kicks and flails, making it difficult to avoid her thrashing limbs. I drop down on one knee, wrap my arm around her legs, and toss her over my shoulder. She shrieks, high-pitched and clearly shocked. I stalk toward the house, gripping her thighs tightly, because the last thing I want to do is drop her on her face.
She sucks in a gasping breath and wheezes my name, “Kodiak!”
Her tits bounce against my back as I jog up the stairs, past Freshman Jerk-off, the desperate bunnies, and BJ, whose brow is raised like he’s in on a secret.
“BJ!” Lavender shrieks, extending her hand, but he’s way too far away to reach.
He grins, shakes his head, and raises his hands in surrender. “Sorry, Lav, I can’t help you now.”
She grabs the edge of the doorframe as we pass through the French doors. I have to give it to her; she puts up a decent fight—not like when she was a scared little kid.
“Down!” she says, loud and squeaky and pissed.
I turn, not to acknowledge her, but to pry her fingers free. When I hit the first step on the way to the second floor, she slaps my ass, hard. And then she does it several more times, so I do it back.
She shrieks, obviously not expecting my retaliation.
“You might want to think twice before you do that again,” I warn.
“You’re an asshole, Kodiak!”
“You’re just figuring that out now?” My skin prickles as I pass the second floor bedrooms and head for the attic, where we keep Princess Lavender.
The sharp sting of her teeth sinking into my side makes me almost miss a step. My grip on her thigh tightens further, and I turn my head, biting the soft, hot flesh next to my ear. She tastes like things I shouldn’t want.
“Ow!” she screams.
I release her skin from my teeth, barely resisting the urge to suck and leave a mark that will last. She kicks her door open for me, and I almost groan as I’m submerged in everything Lavender—posters on the walls, sparkling sewing needles, and the smells. There’s fresh fabric, lavender candles to calm, and peppermint oil to stimulate for studying. The smell of her shampoo also hangs heavy in the air.
I’ve been in here a few times, even though I shouldn’t—mostly as an experiment to see if I could handle it. I can’t. My knees almost buckle as I breathe in the familiar scents, so much stronger up here. All around her room are pieces of random art and photographs of her with her family and friends.
There is nothing of me. Not one picture. Not a single memory.
I made it this way. I did this.
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