I wake up the next morning with a splitting headache. I have no idea where I am but as I look at my surroundings, I realize, I’m in my room. My mind searches through the hazy memories of the night before. Ros came and picked me up, that’s how I got here, and she put me to bed. No, wait… it wasn’t Ros that put me to bed, it was…
The memory of Anastasia in my bed last night comes to the forefront of my mind. I told her I wanted to fuck her. I actually said that I wanted to fuck her. Shit! Did I fuck her?
I look wildly around the room as if expecting to find her with me still, but I’m alone. I’m still wearing the same jeans and shirt from last night, so that’s a good sign. No… No, I remember now. She got up and started asking me questions about Elena but… fuck, I don’t know what happened after that. I have no idea what I said to her about Elena.
God damn it, my head hurts.
There is a bottle of Tylenol on my bedside table and I quickly slug down three pills and the entire glass of water next to it. Anastasia must have left them for me before she left. Wait… shit. I need to talk to her before she talks to Kavanagh, before Kavanagh talks to Elliot… I came home pretty late last night. Odds are Anastasia hasn’t told her what happened yet and I can head her off before she does.
My stomach roils. I need to eat something and absorb the rest of this alcohol or I’m going to have a shitty day. I’ll take Anastasia to breakfast. Yeah, somewhere out of town where I don’t know anyone so I can find out what she knows.
I climb out of bed and pull off my clothes, which still smell like alcohol, jump in a quick shower, and towel off. I don’t have time to worry about looking presentable so I pull a t-shirt out of a drawer and throw on a hoodie. It’s just after 7, and I have no idea what time the girls normally wake up. Picking up my keys, wallet, and phone, I leave my room without bothering to lock the door behind me and bang on Anastasia’s door.
I wait. I can hear them talking inside but neither of them answers the door so I knock again. A few seconds later, the door swings open and Kavanagh stares angrily back at me.
“What, Grey?” she snaps.
“Is Anastasia awake?”
“No,” she says, and begins to shut the door, but I hear Anastasia call out to stop her.
Kavanagh turns to glare at me once more before disappearing back into the room and Anastasia takes her place.
“What is it, Christian?”
“Come to breakfast with me,” I tell her. It isn’t a request. Her brow furrows.
“It’s too early, Annenberg isn’t even open yet.”
“Come to breakfast with me,” I repeat, trying to emphasize my need to speak with her in my tone. She looks at me suspiciously for a moment and then rolls her eyes.
“Let me get dressed,” she says, and the door closes. The muffled voices behind the door tell me Kavanagh and Anastasia are arguing about something, probably her decision to come to breakfast with me, but I don’t have time to worry about what is said because after only a minute or so, Anastasia opens the door again, ready to leave.
She’s changed into jeans that hug tightly to her hips and the thin fabric of her sweater brings back the foggy memory of her holding me up in the hallway last night. I saw her nipples through her camisole. Fuck, I wish I remembered that more clearly.
I turn down the hall and lead her to my car in the parking lot closest to our dormitory. If I’m going to win her over, convince her not to tell Kate or Elliot anything about what happened last night, especially if I was a complete fucking moron and spilled the beans about Elena, I need to get on her good side, which at this point will probably be impossible since I’ve taken every opportunity over the last month to be a complete jackass to her. Still, she didn’t say no to leaving with me.
When we get to my car, I open her door before taking my place in the driver’s seat. It looks as though we’re catching the tail end of a storm and I’m grateful for the heavy clouds that block out the sunlight. My head is still pounding.
Once we’re off campus, I turn north towards Medford, because I don’t know anyone in Medford. Anastasia seems confused by the direction we’re driving in but doesn’t say anything until we drive past the fourth restaurant we’ve seen.
“Where are we going?” she asks.
“Out of town.”
“Why? Are you going to kill me and dump my body?” She laughs, and if I wasn’t so preoccupied by what I may or may not have said the night before, I might have laughed with her.
“You think I would have let Kate see you leave with me if that’s what I was doing?” I ask dryly. She glares at me.
“Glad to see you’ve put some thought into it at least.”
“I know a lot of people in Cambridge,” I explain. “I don’t want to be bothered or interrupted.”
“Or overheard?” she asks, and my heart sinks. Fuck, she knows something.
My jaw clenches together as we continue up the wet pavement and I try and think of a way to ask her what I said last night without giving too much away, just in case I really didn’t tell her anything. She’s quiet as she stares out the window and absentmindedly twirls a strand of hair around her finger. I wish I knew what she was thinking. I need to get her talking.
We turn a corner and the clouds break apart, sending bright sunlight beaming straight through my windshield. I groan and reach over to the glove compartment for a pair of sunglasses. She blushes slightly as my hand brushes against her knee and I groan internally. Why? Why couldn’t I have met her a few months from now when I had the option not to sign the contract right in front of me? Now all I can do is sit back and watch her fall for Carter-fucking-Reed and try desperately to keep myself away from her.
Maybe… Maybe if we were friends, if I could be someone she could confide in, I could convince her what a dirt bag Reed really was. Maybe by the spring, they’ll be broken up and she’ll need a shoulder to cry on, someone to help her through it all, someone to help her forget all about him…
“I’m sorry,” I say after I’ve had a few minutes to formulate a plan. She turns and looks at me with a raised eyebrow.
“What?” she asks, and I swallow as I try to think of the most diplomatic way to start.
“I’m sorry,” I repeat. “You wanted an apology, fine. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I lost my temper, I’m sorry I touched you, I’m sorry I kissed you. It was wrong, unfair of me, and I’m sorry.” I grip the steering wheel tightly. Sure, I’m sorry I yelled at her, I’ll grant her that, but I’m not sorry I touched her, and I’m not sorry I kissed her. I’m sorry I didn’t do more…
“Um… thank you,” she says, clearly unsure of how she really wants to respond. I turn to look at her so I can read her face. She needs more and, surprisingly, it’s easy to continue now that I’ve started and the apologies come out like a torrent, relieving a lot of the anxiety I’ve been plagued with over the last month.
“I’m also sorry about what I said to you on the quad that day after class. I was cruel and it was a lie. I’m sorry for the way I’ve treated you since that day. I don’t want to stay away from you, Anastasia. I want us to be…” I have to stop myself to choose the right word. “Friends.”
“You want to be friends?” she asks skeptically.
“Yes,” I tell her, exhaling as the clarification I have to give comes next. “Look, it’s complicated. I can’t be around you the way that your other guy friends can. I’m not like that Rodriguez guy you know or even Elliot.”
“What do you mean?” she asks, and I realize this question means she doesn’t know anything, well at least that I didn’t say anything about Elena. That’s not the only issue though…
“I’m fucked up, Ana,” I admit quietly. “I’m really fucked up and if you were smart, you’d stay away from me. I tried to stay away from you, to let you be, to keep you away from all of my bullshit, but I can’t do it. I want to know you. I want to be around you and talk to you and listen to you and I can’t keep ignoring you. But there are things about me, about my life, that I can’t tell you and I need you to be okay with that if we’re going to be friends.”
“What can’t you tell me?” she asks.
“Ana…” I groan, and she glares at me, an accusation in her eyes.
“Is it about Mrs. Lincoln?”
“I don’t know how I can make there are things I can’t tell you anymore clear, Anastasia,” I reply irritably.
“So you want to be friends, but you don’t want to tell me anything about yourself and I’m supposed to be okay with that?” she asks angrily.
“Just some things,” I tell her, although I doubt she’ll find any comfort in the sentiment.
“Some things like Mrs. Lincoln?”
“Yes,” I say harshly and she grinds her teeth together as she turns away from me and stares out the front window.
“I’m not okay with that,” she replies quietly, and I actually feel a stab of pain at her rejection. I turn a pleading look on her.
“Anastasia…” I begin, but she stops me.
“No, Christian. I’m not going to try and be your friend when you’re living some secret double life that I can’t know anything about. You’ll be lying to me and I don’t make it a habit to maintain relationships with liars,” she says. Anger flares in my chest as I’m suddenly put on the defensive and my response comes through bared teeth.
“I can’t talk to you because everything I do tell you, you immediately turn around and tell Kate, who is dating my brother.”
“So tell me not to tell her and I won’t,” she says. Thankfully, we’re coming up on a small diner and I’m saved from having to argue with her anymore.
“We’re here,” I say as I pull into a parking place. She exhales exasperatedly but gets out of the car.
The hostess standing near the front doors leads us to a booth by one of the front windows and asks for our drink order. My head is worse now and I’m not sure if it’s from the hangover or arguing with Anastasia, so I order juice, coffee, and water, hoping one of them will do something to take the edge off. Anastasia asks for their tea selections and I take note of her preferences in case I’ll need to know them later. Friends remember other friends’ drink orders right?
Once the waitress leaves, I rub my hands over my face, trying to keep myself alert, and then reach for one of the menus she’s left on the table, though I find myself spending more time studying Anastasia than the menu. When the waitress brings back our drinks and immediately pound down the water and then wait for Anastasia to order. She looks expectantly back at me, silently asking me to go first, so I pick something random on the menu and she settles on a bowl of fruit.
I look at her dubiously. Fruit? Surely she can do better than that.
“That’s it?” I say, glaring at her and when she shrugs, I turn to the waitress. “No, she’ll have whatever your standard breakfast is. Eggs, hashbrowns, toast…” I stop and look at her. “Do you prefer bacon or sausage?”
“I’m really not that hungry,” she argues, but I’m not in the mood.
“Bacon,” she says, rolling her eyes. The waitress clarifies how she wants her eggs while I rest my head in my palms. It’s really bright in here.
“I’ll bring you some more water,” she waitress says, and, without looking up at her, I ask her to bring a pitcher.
“I really don’t need a big breakfast,” Anastasia says, and I turn to look and glare at her.
“You need to eat,” I say.
She shrugs, but when I turn my head again so that my palms are shielding my eyes from the light, her gaze becomes concerned. “Are you feeling okay?”
“The food will help,” I reply. Reluctantly, I sit up straight, take a deep breath, and do my best to concentrate on the girl across from me.
“What were you doing last night that got you so drunk anyway?”
I hesitate. Well, put up or shut up time, Grey.
“I’ve been having a… difficult week,” I tell her. Difficult month, more like it. “There are some things that have come to my attention that I seem to be having trouble accepting.”
You fucking Carter Reed.
“It doesn’t matter, I’ll get over it.”
“What? Is this one of those things I’m not supposed to ask about?”
“When did you start dating Carter Reed?” I blurt out. She looks taken aback, and frankly so I am I. Where the hell did that come from?
“I…uh, we’re not. I mean, really, we’re not dating just, I suppose technically, uh… we went on a date yesterday.”
My jaw clenches as another white hot flash of anger sears through me. I swear to god nothing would make me happier that beating Reed’s face into a bloody pulp.
“What you don’t like Carter?” Anastasia asks.
“No,” I reply, my tone clipped.
I snort. Where do I even begin?
“You mean besides the fact that he seems to have never met a cardigan he didn’t like?” She doesn’t like that response, so I start listing off the first reasons that come to my mind. “He’s regularly late for rowing practice, he can’t keep time, he’s crude and immature, and intelligence-wise, I’m convinced he only got into this school because his father is a legacy.”
And he’s fucking my girl.
I stop. My girl? Where the fuck did that come from?
“I think he’s nice,” she says defensively, and I roll my eyes.
“That’s because he wants to sleep with you.”
There it is, Anastasia. It’s all laid out. Now tell me you already have so I can hunt him down and end him.
She doesn’t though.
“So?” she asks, crossing her arms defiantly. I narrow my eyes, and put the bait out there again.
“So, are you going to?”
“Why would I tell you that?”
“Because we’re friends now.”
“Are you going to tell me why you’re sleeping with Mrs. Lincoln?”
I feel as though her words slap me in the face. Fuck, maybe I was wrong. Did I say something to her last night after all? No. No, she would have said something before this. Play it cool, Grey.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I lie, and she glares at me.
“I think you do, Christian.”
Oh, thank god. Despite the assertion in her words, there is a hint of doubt in her voice. She suspects, but she doesn’t know. I’ve been here before… I’ve perfectly honed by ability to seem uninterested in Elena Lincoln over years of practice. However, just as I am about to deny her accusation, my phone rings and she gives me a smug look as if a phone call proves she’s right. I look wearily down at the screen on my phone. Thank God, it isn’t Elena.
“It’s my mother.” I tell her, returning her smug smile. She frowns as I answer.
“Christian, Elliot just called. Apparently, he talked to Kate this morning and she told him you came stumbling back to your dorm in the middle of the night, too drunk to stand on your own. Care to explain yourself?”
“No,” I say defensively, looking up and glaring at Anastasia. This is why I can’t fucking tell you things, Anastasia. “I don’t know what she’s talking about. I didn’t even see Katherine Kavanagh last night.”
“Christian, why would she say it if it wasn’t true? What could she possibly have to gain?”
“I don’t know, Mom, maybe she’s just a liar.”
“Look, I think maybe you’re just having a difficult time adjusting and we should just add a few extra session with Dr. Fisch until you’re more comfortable at school.”
“No, I don’t need another session.”
“No, I’m fine, Mom. Look… can I call you back? I’m out to breakfast with a friend.”
“You’re out with a friend?”
“Yes. See, I told you, I’m fine.”
“Well, if you’re sure… I want to talk more about this. Call me back, okay?”
“I love you, Christian.”
“I love you too. Bye.”
I hang up the phone and look pointedly at Anastasia who is staring back at me guiltily.
“That’s your fault,” she says eventually. “I didn’t say anything to her. She heard you come home last night, just like everyone else in Grays Hall.”
“Well, I wish she would stop giving Elliot a running commentary on my life. My mom is obviously using him to keep tabs on me and the last thing I need is for this to get back to…”
Fuck. Shut up, Grey! I shake my head and turn to look out the window.
“Back to Mrs. Lincoln?” Anastasia presses me. I take a deep breath but she continues before I can speak. “Last night you kept saying, you can’t tell her, I’m not allowed, if she finds out I’ll be in trouble.”
“I said a lot of stupid things last night,” I say, and to my surprise she blanches slightly.
“Were they untrue?” she asks, and when I turn to look at her, I can see an almost pleading look in her eyes. Wait, does she want…
Her teeth sink into her bottom lip and my cock stirs.
“Please stop biting your lip,” I tell her, and she complies but her eyes don’t move away from mine. We stare at one another, her pleading words hanging between us.
She is so beautiful. I’m ready to fuck her on this table and she hasn’t done anything but look at me, well and maybe suggest that she isn’t necessarily opposed to the idea. I allow myself to briefly entertain the thought that, maybe she isn’t. As we stare into each other’s eyes, the intensity between us grows and, once again, she bites down on that delectable lip.
I can’t take it anymore. Not after this last month, not after last night. I need to touch her. I need to feel her against me. Fuck whatever retribution I have to face. In this moment, I don’t care if she personally called Elena and told her that I fucked her in the back seat of my car. I need to touch her.
I reach across the table, grab Anastasia by the hand, and drag her from the restaurant. The car is parked too closely to the sidewalk, too many people to watch, so I move past it. If I’m going to have her, I’m going to have her to myself.
“What are you doing?” she asks as I lead her around the back of the restaurant, but I ignore her. I look quickly to my left and to my right to make sure we’re alone in the alley and, when I don’t see anyone, I push her against the wall, pin her arms above her head so that she can’t touch me, and take her lips with mine.
She tastes like fucking heaven, better than I remember. I pin her hips against the wall with mine, holding her down as I take full possession of her mouth, claiming her, making her mine. She doesn’t protest. She doesn’t try and stop me and her willingness leaves me rock fucking hard.
Shifting her wrists so that I’m only holding her with one hand, I move my now free hand down her arm, caressing the side of her breast as I make my way down to her ass. I want her wrapped around me. I want her completely at my mercy. I pull harshly oh her thigh, bringing her leg up around my waist and pushing into so she can feel how hard I am for her. I want her, here, now, but just as I’m about to reach up for the waistband on her jeans, I stop.
This isn’t enough.
This isn’t nearly enough.
If I do this, I’m no better than Reed. Treating her like some trashy hooker getting fucked in an alley. No, I don’t want that. What I want is to have her, cherished and cared for and completely willing to fully surrender herself to me. I don’t want to fuck her and wonder if Reed will have her later. I want her to be mine, and only mine.
I break the kiss and press my forehead to hers, listening to her desperate panting.
“Christian,” she moans.
“Wait for me.”
“Wait for me,” I repeat, and it’s actually a plea. “It ends this spring, and I won’t sign again. Wait for me, Anastasia.”
“What ends?” Her clear blue eyes pierce through me. “I won’t tell, Kate,” she promises and I feel my resolve waiver.
“Please, Christian,” she pleads, and it reinvigorates the fire within me, as if she’s begging for something else… I can’t deny her.
“I’m sleeping with her,” I whisper, and her face goes utterly blank.