Closing the door to my room, I felt my phone vibrate, and I shoved my hand into my purse, letting out a heavy sigh. This day needed to end.

Seeing a number I didn’t recognize, I answered anyway as I threw off my purse. “Hello?”


“Juliet Carter?”

“Yes?” I plopped down on the bed.

“Hi, this is First National. We’re calling to verify recent activity on your account?”

My bank? I sat up, wondering what recent activity they needed to verify. I hadn’t purchased more than a Diet Coke with my debit card in over a week.

“Um, okay,” I answered, giving her the go-ahead.

“We have a deposit made into your checking account yesterday,” she started, “in the amount of fifty thousand dollars …”

Fifty what?

“… and then a transfer out of your account,” she continued, “in the amount of twenty-nine thousand five hundred to Arizona State University.”

I felt my heart leap in my chest, and I shot off the bed, gritting my teeth. Twenty-nine thousand five hundred was exactly what my out-of-state tuition cost.

She spoke up again. “Do you verify this activity, ma’am?”

I jerked the phone away from my ear and clicked END.

“Motherfucker,” I snarled, shoving my feet back into my flip-fops and tossing my phone on the bed.

Running back downstairs, I rushed into the kitchen, seeing Jared sitting alone at the kitchen table, Three Doors Down’s “Here Without You” drifting in from outside.

“Where’s Jax?” I demanded.

“Just left,” he answered, resting his hand on his chin. “Need to borrow my car?”

And he slid his keys across the table, shocking me. No one drove Jared’s car.

But he was in a mood, Tate was drunk, and shit was wrong. And I couldn’t think about other people’s problems right at this moment, so I grabbed them and ran.

“Thanks,” I called.

Jamming out the front door, I climbed into Jared’s car, turned it on, and released the clutch as I pressed the gas.

And my angry shoulders sank when the car stalled.

New car, new sweet spot. I hate clutches!

Okay, not really. Turning the ignition again, I shifted my feet, feeling for it the way Jax had taught me, and finally took off. Accelerating quickly, I shot into second gear and then third, not stopping as I barreled onto the highway without even checking oncoming traffic.

Pushing in the gas, I shot into fourth and then fifth, barely noticing the trees flying by. Lord help any animal crossing the street, because the only thing lighting up the road were my headlights. There was no way I would be able to stop quickly.

I squinted, seeing the taillights of another car, and immediately recognized Jax’s NATIVE license plate.

Speeding up, I damn near climbed on his ass, letting him know loud and clear that I was here, before swerving around him and cutting in front of him on the road. He honked his horn and swerved, probably afraid I would hit him.

But I knew he had to recognize Jared’s car.

Jerking the wheel, I skidded to the side of the road, where I pulled to a stop.

I heard the gravel kick up under the tires and saw Jax had come in right behind me.

I pushed my hair behind my ears and turned off the car.

“What the hell are you doing?” I heard him shout from behind me, and I swung the door open, climbed out, and slammed it shut.

“You know what?” I shouted, charging up to him. “I had a clean-cut boyfriend from a good family. His mom made brownies, and his dad played golf with the mayor.” I shoved Jax in the chest. “He cheated on me!”

He stared at me wide-eyed as I pushed into his space again.

“And Shane dated the student class president,” I pointed out, advancing as he retreated. “He got straight A’s, wore cuff links to church, and his pants were always ironed.” I shoved Jax again, watching him stumble. “He was gay!” I yelled.

I bared my teeth and kept pushing him. “You know that football jock who’s on the cover of this magazine or that?” I jeered, shoving his chest again. “Well, he date-raped a girl in college. Or how about the mom you were jealous you didn’t have in the third grade?” I pushed him again. “Yeah, she’s on every antidepressant under the sun!”

He just kept backing up, speechless, with shock written all over his face.

“Stop being a fucking moron,” I growled, “and break the cycle, asshole!” I pushed him back again. “It’s all an illusion, Jax! There’s nothing wrong with you, and there’s nothing in this world better than you!” I cried, gritting my teeth and feeling the tears pool in my eyes.

“You saved me, and I love you!” Every muscle in my body was hot with fury. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me! The best thing in my life, jerk-off!” Completely worked up, I slapped him on the arm, seeing him wince but take it. “And if you don’t want me”—I slapped him again—“then stop taking care of me!” I ordered.

“Take your tuition money,” I snarled, shoving him again with all my weight, “and shove it up your ass!”

And I whirled around, marching back to Jared’s car as I swiped my hand across the tear on my cheek.

Asshole little shit.

But before I reached the car, Jax hooked my elbow and spun me back around.

“Come here,” he growled, and lifted me underneath my arms, holding me above him.

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