“It’ll be okay, Natalie.”
I cried out as I bit the flesh of my thumb too hard. Frankly, I was more worried about how awkward it was going to be. I whirled towards my bag. Did I pack everything?
Jessica and I jumped about a mile high.
“Can’t he knock like a normal person?”
My stomach did backflips as Luke shot from the couch and opened the door before I could move a muscle. Will stood there, looking fresh in his jeans and t-shirt. Just the sight of his arms peeking from the sleeves was enough to make me sigh. It’s not fair. Someone that hot shouldn’t be such a jackass.
His dark eyes narrowed as he focused his gaze on his cousin.
“Luke,” he said politely, inclining his head.
His cousin gave him nothing but a cursory nod, which was a mark of how angry he must be. Will responded with a lopsided grin.
“Are you going to step aside, or are you going to keep eye-fucking me?”
Luke moved away and Will stepped forward, his eyes finally settling on me. The connection I usually felt between us was gone. He might as well have been looking at a piece of furniture.
Cold gripped my limbs.
“Yeah.” I grabbed the handle of my suitcase, but he ducked quickly and took it from me.
He gave Jessica a small smile before crossing the threshold out of the apartment. Luke followed him outside and Jessica and I looked at each other.
For some reason, the look on her face made a horrible lump rise in my throat. She was blinking rather fast as she nearly bowled me over with her hug.
“I’m really proud of you for doing this.”
“What?” I said, blinking hard. “Why?”
Her arms tightened around my neck. “It takes a lot of courage to leave your comfort zone. Most people never do.”
My lips trembled. The flood of everything I’d been holding back suddenly burst through the dam I built up for myself. As much as I tried to deny it, I felt sick with fear every time I thought about my future.
My life was a constant battle for approval. While my dad opened my report cards, I would stare outside and think longingly of the playground where Jessica and I would play. Getting an A- was “acceptable,” but anything below that—grounded.
Going to college was like being born again. I could do whatever I wanted—I was free. But still, something inside me wanted to please my parents, to explain every decision I made. I went against their wishes by majoring in graphic design. They screamed and raged at me, but I did it anyways, though not without a heavy dose of guilt. Within years of graduating, I made myself The Perfect Life to appease them. Perfect fiancé, perfect job, and not-so perfect apartment.
Then it all shattered and freedom’s intoxicating aroma beckoned me to Europe. William crashed into my life, promising excitement and spontaneity and suddenly I was flying thousands of miles with a complete stranger. It was overwhelming.
Jessica’s arms slipped from my neck and I turned away from her, furiously rubbing my eyes. A warm, heavy hand patted my shoulder.
“If Will gives you any problems, call me,” Luke said in a gruff voice.
“I will, thanks. Bye!”
“Call when you get there!”
I hurried outside before I could change my mind and saw an Audi R8 parked outside. I laughed at the contrast between it and the rusty, Ford truck parked in front of it. Will had his arms crossed over his chest, sunglasses perched on his long, straight nose, looking supremely bored. He said nothing about my red eyes. Will took my backpack from my shoulders and I flinched as his fingers grazed my shoulder, unprepared for the wave of dizzying heat. He popped open the door for me and I slid inside the leather seat, watching Jessica’s anxious face in the window.
I’m leaving it all. Finally.
The opening of the driver’s door interrupted the cocoon of my thoughts. Without being able to stop myself, I watched Will’s lithe body slide into the seat. His lean arm yanked on the parking brake and the engine roared under my thighs, revving like the feelings bursting in my chest as I watched him. His dark hair fell into his eyes and I suddenly wanted so badly to reach up and push it behind his ears.
But he didn’t so much as glance at me.
Now that he’s lost interest, you want him? Typical.
My stomach lurched as Will peeled out of our street, whipping around corners as if his life depended on it. I gasped and gripped the armrests as he suddenly braked in front of the first red light. The slightest smile flickered on his face.
“Too fast for you?”
I muttered something in denial of that. “I need to call my parents and tell them where I’m going.”
Will said nothing. My eyes kept wandering up and down his thick biceps and the powerful thighs pressing against his jeans. I could even make out the faint crease between his pecs—and then I looked up and saw him staring at me.
I slammed the phone to the side of my face, hoping that it would hide my blush. The phone rang. Don’t pick up, don’t pick up, don’t pick up.
“Hi, Mom.” I braced myself.
The stiffness in her voice meant that she was still very pissed off.
“Mom,” I said, my voice wavering. “I’m just calling to tell you that I’ll be in Europe for the next few weeks.”
“What? With who?”
My mouth opened and closed. What should I say? I didn’t want to tell her the truth. My eyes watered as I thought of what she’d say. “I’m going with my boyfriend,” I blurted.
Will whipped his head around. My face was probably melting off my skull at this point.
“You have a boyfriend?”
My mind was galloping ahead. “I’ve been dating him for a while. You’ve never met him. I didn’t want to tell you because I knew you both liked Ben so much—”
“What’s his name? What does he do? Who—”
I grimaced. “His name is William. He’s Luke’s cousin.”
“The rich guy?” Mom said in a much more excited voice. “When are we going to meet him?”
I would have laughed at her excitement if I couldn’t feel Will’s eyes burning into my skull. “Mom, I have to go.”
“It’s not true! She’s lying!” Will suddenly shouted.
I snarled at him. “Shut up!”
“Who is that?”
“Okay, sweetie! Love you!” I could hear the confusion in my mom’s voice from Will’s shouting.