But I missed him.

Then, one night after dinner, the tides changed, and I got a little piece of him back. Normally, Elec never ate at home, but this particular Wednesday night, for some reason, he decided to join us. Ever since the night I saw how badly Randy treated him, I’d all but avoided my stepfather, except for sitting down with him at dinner. My mother and I were not really on the best terms either because she continued to insist that it wasn’t her place to get involved in Randy’s issues with Elec.


Elec wasn’t making eye contact with me at the table. He’d just look down and twirl the pasta around his fork. At one point, I’d stared out the window to gaze at the neighbor’s laundry lined up and drying in the breeze. I could feel his eyes on me. It was as if he were waiting for me to turn away so that he could look at me when he thought I didn’t notice. Sure enough, when I turned toward him, his head moved downward again, and he was back to playing with his vermicelli.

Randy was in rare form that night, complaining that the plain dinner of pasta and red sauce did nothing to curb his appetite. He abruptly got up and walked over to the snack closet.

“Greta, what the hell are you doing stuffing all these underpants inside a can of Pringles?” he yelled.

My mouth hung open, and I looked over at Elec. We stared at each other for a good few seconds before Elec snorted and lost it. We both simultaneously burst into laughter. Neither of us could stop.

I loved the sound of his genuine laugh.

Looking over at Randy’s confused face made me crack up even harder.

When the laughter dissipated, Elec was still smiling at me and said low enough just for the two of us to hear, “I told you they weren’t in my room.”

Randy slammed the can on the table in front of me. I opened it and checked the inventory. “These aren’t all of them.”

Elec winked. “I kept a couple for me,” he said seductively.

I rolled my eyes and threw one at his face. He promptly put it on his head and wore it like a beanie. Only my stepbrother would look smoking hot with a pair of underwear on his head. He continued looking at me with the wicked grin I’d longed for. It felt good to have his attention again, albeit briefly.

That night, I was just getting into my pajamas when my phone buzzed.

Can you come in here for a minute?

My heart raced as I walked down the hall. When he opened the door, he looked so incredibly sexy.

His breath smelled like mint toothpaste. “Hey,” he said, flashing his beautiful white teeth, which contrasted perfectly with his tanned skin and black hair.

“Hi,” I stepped inside the room and took a deep breath, noticing that the clove cigarette smell was almost completely gone.

He was wearing a black hoodie with the sleeves rolled up. It was left open over his bare chest, and his hair was still drenched from the shower. I stared at his lips where the cut had long healed. The metal of his lip ring glistened, and I hadn’t ever yearned for anything more than to lick it, to feel his mouth and tongue against mine again.

Kissing me.

Licking me.

Biting me.

Change the subject.

“Why does it smell so fresh and clean in here?”

He lay back on the bed with his hands resting behind his head. I couldn’t help staring at the V just below his abs and wished I could lie on top of him against his skin.

“Are you saying my room normally smells like shit?”

“Did you quit smoking?”

“I’m trying.”

“Really?”

“Yeah…this weird girl who walks around commando once told me it was bad for me. So…I thought about that and finally listened.”

“I’m really proud of you.”

He sat up straight and looked at me. “Well, the truth is, you were right. That shit will kill me someday. A lot of aspects of my life may suck, but there are other things that make it worth living.”

Something in the air seemed to shift when he said it, and an awkward silence ensued.

I cleared my throat. “Why did you need me to come in here?”

He walked over to his closet to get something. Then, I realized it was his book. He handed me the binder. “I wanted to give you this. I want you to read it.”

“Seriously?”

“I don’t let anyone read my shit, Greta. This is a big step for me. Whatever you do, don’t show Randy. I don’t want him anywhere near it.”

“Okay. I promise. Thank you for trusting me with it.”

“Be honest, too. I can take it.”

“I will. I’ll take my time with it.”

***

I’d gone straight to my room that night and started reading. Minutes turned into hours. I’d told him I’d take my time with it, but the truth was, I couldn’t put it down and ended up staying up the entire night to finish it.

Even though the story was told in the third person, and the boy named Liam was supposedly only loosely based on Elec, it felt like I was getting a window into his mind and soul through Liam’s character.

There were too many similarities that I knew were derived from his life, particularly the fact that Liam’s father was verbally abusive. The beginning of the story before Lucky came into the picture was quite sad. At the same time, it would make me cry in one part and literally laugh in the next. There were actually lots of funny parts separate from the main plot.

In one scene, Liam had a crush on the girl across the street, so he asked Lucky to go her house. His hope was that the girl would think Lucky was lost and that the dog would lead her back to Liam’s house. Instead, Lucky, who was a big dog, ended up humping the girl’s Pomeranian puppy out front. Liam watched from the window as she took her puppy inside and slammed the door. Lucky proceeded to take a dump on her lawn before running back home to Liam empty-handed.

But the main plot surrounded Liam’s ability to sense evil via his hypersensitive hearing. The information he received was not always clear, often jumbled unless Lucky was present. At one point, Liam took information surrounding the murder of a local girl to the police. It turned out that a corrupt police officer was behind the crime. He had Lucky kidnapped so that Liam wouldn’t be able to help authorities finish solving the murder. Lucky ended up escaping, and the reunion scene between Liam and the dog was so touching that it had me bawling.

Everything was depicted so realistically, from the vivid descriptions of the Ireland landscape to the emotions Liam experienced. There was even a fun bonus chapter written from the dog’s point of view at the very end. I had found only a few grammatical errors and jotted them down in a notebook for him.

By the end of the story, I’d felt as though I’d fallen in love with the characters, which was a testament to his writing. At the same time, I felt closer to him and was so honored that he’d given me a glimpse into his incredibly creative mind. I needed to find the right words to properly explain to him how amazing this was…how amazing he was.

So, the next day, I decided that I would sit under a shady tree after school and write down all of my feelings in a letter that I would give him when I returned his manuscript. I poured my heart into it and explained why I felt he was born to write and that it didn’t matter if his father wasn’t proud of him but that I was so incredibly proud of him.

***

That afternoon, I planned to drop the letter off at his room. When I got to the top of the stairs, my stomach turned when I heard a girl’s voice from behind the closed door.

Giggling

Lips smacking together

Elec hadn’t brought anyone home since long before the night we kissed in my bed. I thought that maybe he’d been respecting my feelings for him or that he’d changed.

I was wrong.

Knowing he was with another girl used to annoy me and make me jealous, but this time, it felt different. It just made me incredibly sad. I couldn’t even bear to stay in the house, so I left the book along with the note in front of his door and ran back down the stairs, worried that his writing wasn’t the only thing I’d fallen in love with.

CHAPTER 9

It upset me that he hadn’t even acknowledged my letter after several days.

Victoria had also given me no choice but to finally tell her the truth about my feelings for Elec. She wouldn’t stop talking about how she couldn’t understand the fact that he never asked her out again after their kiss at the diner. I had no patience for it anymore and told her everything that had happened between us. She was shocked, but at least it got her to stop talking about him once and for all.

Elec continued to basically ignore me over the next week. He took on more hours at the bike shop and during the other times, stayed in his room with the door closed. He obviously knew that I’d overheard the girl in his room that day since I had left the book on the ground outside. He clearly didn’t care to apologize or address what impact that might have had on my feelings.

So, when Corey Jameson asked me out on a date that week, I said yes. Corey was probably one of the sweetest guys at school. Truly, I was not physically attracted to him but needed a distraction and knew at least, we would have a good time together. He was one of the few males I’d considered a friend, although it was obvious he wanted to be more.

Friday night rolled around. I had styled my hair into waves and put on a royal blue dress I’d bought on sale at the mall, but my enthusiasm level was the same as if I were going over to Victoria’s to watch a movie.

When Corey came to the door, my mother opened it and yelled upstairs, “Greta, your date is here!”

There was low music coming from Elec’s room, and the door was closed. A part of me wanted him to see me leaving with Corey, but another part didn’t want to deal with him.

Corey was waiting at the bottom of the stairs with flowers, and that made me feel oddly embarrassed for him. I could never picture Elec picking up a girl and handing her Gerbera daisies. Let’s face it; he didn’t need to.

“Hey, Corey.”

“Hey, Greta. You look awesome.”

“Thanks.”

“Do you mind if I use your bathroom real quick before we leave?”

I hesitated to send him upstairs in the event Elec were to come out of his room. “Sure. It’s upstairs. Just take a left, and it’s at the end of the hall.”

I waited on a stool at the counter.

“He seems totally nice,” my mother said.

“He is,” I said, placing the flowers into a vase.

That was the problem. I’d grown to love a little mean mixed in with my nice.

After a five-minute wait, Corey had an odd look on his face when he returned.

“Are you ready?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said without making eye contact. He walked in front of me and led me to his Focus parked out front.

He was still acting strange after we got in the car and before he started the engine, he turned to me.

“I ran into your stepbrother upstairs.”

I swallowed the lump in my throat. “Oh?”

“He said to give you these, that you’d left them in his room.” He handed me a pair of pink lace panties, the second to last piece of underwear that Elec had been harboring.

I took them and stared out into the street in disbelief, confused as to whether I was angry or slightly amused.

When I composed myself, I turned to him. “He’s just trying to mess with you…and me. It’s sort of what he does. I know this sounds silly, but he took all of my underwear as a joke and hasn’t given them all back. Nothing else is going on.”

He sighed but still seemed a little uncomfortable. “Okay. That was just really weird.”

“I know. Believe me. I’m sorry.”

Corey was looking straight ahead at the road, so I took out my phone and discreetly sent Elec a text.

Greta:  Why would you do that???

Elec:  Don’t get your “panties in a bunch.” It was funny and you know it.

Greta:  It wasn’t funny to him.

Elec:  You don’t even like him.

Greta:  How would you know that?

Elec:  Because you like me.

Greta:  You’re full of yourself.

Elec:  You wanted to be full of me too once, remember?

My jaw dropped.

Greta:  Why do you always do this?            

Elec:  What’s that?

Greta:  Revert back to your inner ass**le.

Elec:  In her ass**le, huh?

Greta:  You suck!

Elec:  I do…very well. I’d show you if I could.

Greta:  Why are you doing this?

Elec:  Because I can’t f**king stop.

I wasn’t going to write back. He texted again.

Elec:  Come home.

Greta:  What?

Elec:  Come home. Hang out with me.

Greta:  No!

I shut off my phone and glanced over at Corey who was still looking ahead quietly.

Elec was out of his mind. Who did he think he was, trying to prevent me from casually dating while he continued to whore himself out?

Elec had cast a shadow over the rest of the night, and while we were able to make small talk at the Mexican restaurant, I knew that Corey was totally turned off by what Elec did. The sick thing was, I wasn’t even that mad. If I were being honest with myself, it secretly satisfied me that Elec cared enough to want to sabotage my date.

I tried to focus my attention solely on Corey and was doing a half-assed job while eating my flan dessert. All I could think about was Elec. He’d not only gotten under my skin tonight, he’d hijacked my entire mind.

My phone chimed just as we were getting ready to pay the bill.

I need you to come home.

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