I closed my eyes, my chest tight. Writhing. Sweaty. That wasn’t me. I’d never please him.

He continued, standing up and moving flush with my chest. “I used to fantasize about pinning you against the lockers at school and running my hand up the inside of your thigh, hearing your whimpers.”

My knees shook, about to buckle, and I felt the warmth between my legs. He needed to stop.

“I wanted your mouth on mine,” he whispered, his breath tickling my forehead. “And your legs wrapped around my waist as you rode me.” Oh, my God. “Man, I wanted you, K.C. I wanted to undo you.” His lips were so close to my face I could feel the moistness of his breath as he whispered, “I wanted to dirty you up.”

And then he grabbed my wrist, and I gasped before clamping my mouth shut again. His hand was fire on my body, and my breath shook as he leaned in, almost touching my lips.

“But then I got to know you.” His voice grew hard and clipped and my wrist ached where he squeezed. “You’re gutless and helpless and I’ve never met anyone so desperate to get out of her own skin.”

And then he yanked my wrist in between us, turning up the inside to reveal my two-inch scar. Running his thumb over it, he scowled down at me, looking disgusted.

Tears burned my eyes.

He knew. How did he know?

Pressing my teeth together so hard it hurt, I glared at him, yanking my hand out of his grasp.

Backing away, I pushed away the tears and hardened my jaw, determined never to show him defeat.

And as I walked out, back through Jax’s house, I didn’t even break pace as I grabbed an abandoned drink off the kitchen table and threw it on an amplifier before I left. I vaguely heard it fizzle, white static filling the room, as I walked out.



I sat on the edge of Tate’s bed the next morning, running my thumb back and forth across the jagged scar on the inside of my wrist that lay in my lap. It was long and thin but well hidden, running diagonally on the inside of my wrist.

Gutless and helpless. I shook my head slowly, feeling a cold tear land on my arm.

Jaxon Trent was an asshole.

Everyone thought they had me figured out. Jax, Jared, Madoc, Liam, my mother … everyone.

Everyone except Tate and Shane. They were the only family I really had, because they were the only ones who knew everything.

“I’ve never met anyone so desperate to get out of her own skin.”

I tucked my long hair behind my ear and sniffled. He was right about that. Immediately the memory hit me as if it had just happened yesterday.

“Katherina, come here,” my father calls. He sits by the window, wearing blue lounge pants and a robe.

I chew on my nails, looking up at my mother, scared. But she doesn’t look back. Why won’t she look at me?

I’m four, and they don’t tell me what’s wrong, even though I keep asking. All I know is that my daddy can’t live at home anymore. His hair is messy, and he never had a beard before.

“Katherina.” He waves me in with his hand, wanting me to come.

“Daddy, I’m Juliet,” I mumble, and my mother pinches my back.

My lip shakes, and my face hurts. I did something wrong. When I do bad things in public, she pinches me, because she says she can’t yell at me.

I see my daddy’s face look sad, and I drop my hands, because I want him to love me. “I’m just kidding.” I smile as big as I can. “I am Katherina.”

And I run to the safety and love of my daddy’s arms, holding on tight, even though he thinks I’m my sister.

I couldn’t believe it, and I hated to admit it, but the asshole was right. I wasn’t my dead sister, Katherina, and what was worse, I didn’t even know who the hell Juliet was anymore. I barely existed.

What ice cream did K.C. like? Because I’d just eat that so I wouldn’t confuse my father’s happy delusions. Did I have to wear Mary Janes to church every Sunday just because they were K.C.’s favorite shoes? I hated Mary Janes, but no, I was supposed to like them, so I decided just to like them and forget about it. What did I want to be when I grew up? Or, wait. What did K.C. want to be? Because Daddy liked to talk to her about that, and I had to try not to upset him.

In death, my sister was perfection. She never bit her nails, acted up, or listened to bad music. She was beautiful, perfect, and alive. Juliet was the dead one.

I trailed around in a daze, having slept barely at all the night before, and stripped off my pajama shorts and cami as I stepped into the bathroom. Turning on the shower, I climbed in, my heavy limbs moving only as much as they had to, weighted down with fucking defeat.

Gutless and helpless.

I dipped my head back and shivered as the hot water poured welcome heat all over my skin. The weather outside was hot and wet, and I kept the temperature inside at eighty degrees, not wanting to run up the Brandts’ electric bill while I stayed here. But even though it seemed I was constantly wiping sweat off my brow, I wanted it hotter. I turned the faucet, increasing the temperature from a pleasant thaw to a fever, and I didn’t care if it was almost too much. I wasn’t cold anymore.

“… writhing and sweaty and begging.”

I tilted my head, leaning it on the shower wall and closing my eyes.

“I wanted to taste how wet you were for me.”

Sucking in my bottom lip, I felt the fire pool between my legs, and my head felt as if it were floating.

It could’ve been the heat of the shower. Or it could’ve been the memory of his breath on my face. It had smelled like apples and pears and rain.

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