them, or they’ll do this to you all your life.”
He ran a hand over his face, letting it drop, and he looked even more haggard afterward. “They’ve not been the same since my sister…”
I quieted. Nate never talked about his sister. An incident happened years ago, and she was shipped to a boarding school in Europe. He’d mentioned her one other time, but no details were shared. I wasn’t certain what happened, but I could guess, and if that were my sister, I would’ve been seeing red.
He shrugged, slumping farther down in his bed. “Okay. You’re right. Deal with them. That’s the plan. I’ll get it done.” He started to look around and pointed beside me. “Can you throw me that robe?”
I tossed it his way.
It landed on his lap, and he shrugged it on. “Sorry I was a bitch before. I was mad. Just tell me you’re going to get that fucker.”
I nodded. “Somehow, he’ll get taken care of. I promise, Nate.”
“The asshole had his guys, my former friends, jump me while he was doing a standoff with you guys in public.” Nate’s eyes hardened. I heard the pain from him. He added, “I want him to fry.”
Nate looked up, catching my gaze. I let him see the promise there, and he nodded. Some of the pain slid away.
He murmured, “Thank you.”
Park Sebastian did this shit to him. It went down as Nate said. Sebastian’s friends jumped him in a back parking lot. He was going to his class when they showed up. They’d herded him to a back corner for more privacy, and then they let loose and pounded the crap out of him.
He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t even pull out his phone to dial 911. A security guard found him, and during that time, Sebastian was waiting for Sam.
He orchestrated the whole thing.
The message was sent.
The war had finally started.
It’d been a couple of weeks, and I fell into a routine.
Early mornings would be spent with the girls. Summer and I would walk to our classes together. When Ruby’s latte machine broke, Summer and I began going to the campus coffee shop. Some of the other girls joined us, including Kitty and Nina, and it became a gossip session. Kitty and Nina no longer waited in the hallway for me after I’d evaded them for the first week.
Logan was given strict instructions not to come to my dorm. He came a second time, and Kitty took root on Summer’s love seat in my room. She wouldn’t leave. Nina tried getting her to leave, pinching under her arm and hoisting her legs in the air. She tried to roll Kitty across the floor to the door. Nina’s plan had been to drag Kitty the rest of the way down the hallway to their room, but her butt had been too heavy for Nina. The ninety-six-pound girl was no match for Kitty, who was a solid one hundred eighty. When their Logan fandom lessened, once he had stopped coming by, they became more normal.
The afternoons would be spent going our own ways—to classes and to the library.
My evenings were split between running and seeing Mason. If I saw him in the afternoon, I’d run at night. Summer would go with me, reading her book in the stands as I circled the gym track. If I ran earlier, I’d see him later at night. There were no more sleepovers in the movie lounge. He hung out in my room a couple of times, but Kitty and Nina were scared of him. Summer got better with her starstruck ways. She wasn’t as awkward, but when she caught herself staring at Mason, she’d leave and spend time in another room.
It was easier to go to his house, but it was nice when he was at my place, too. Since the torture from the movie-room night, we kept everything PG-13. If things were going to the R rating, we’d ease back or go straight to his place. Logan caught on. If I saw him on campus during the day, he’d ask if it was a fuck night or a no-fuck night. That was his way of asking if I’d be at the house later, so we could all hang out in the kitchen or living room or if I’d just be seeing Mason at my dorm.
It was that time of day when my path would cross Logan’s. His class was in the same building as the post office and while I waited for him, I was in line to get a package from Malinda.
“Next.” A lady at the counter signaled for the next person to step forward.
That was me. I waited for the guy in front of me to move aside. He stayed in place, so I moved around him and gave the lady my slip. As she went to get my package, the guy didn’t move. I didn’t look up, but I could feel his attention. He shifted to the side, resting his hip against the counter, and he folded his arms over his chest.
He was watching me, and he wasn’t being bashful about it.
I waited, my jaw clenched. Guys were interested in me. I hadn’t dealt with that attention at Fallen Crest Public because everyone knew about Mason, but it was different at Cain University. Mason was known, but our relationship wasn’t. In some ways, it was refreshing. I could go to classes as I pleased with no attention, judging, or cutting me down if I wore a black shirt versus what was in style, but I assumed this guy was interested in more than my fashion sense. I was prepared with an easy lie to evade him, but he never moved back a step. He held firm, almost touching my elbow.
He was quiet, waiting for me to address him.
The guy was an asshole. I felt that much from him, by how brazen he was being. I gritted my teeth when the lady came back. She slid a box to me, and I was right. Malinda’s handwriting was on it. She’d put hearts all around my address with quotes written on the sides.
Go for it, Sam!
Live life to the fullest!
I miss you, and so does your father.
David says, “Hi.”
Mark says, “What’s up?”
Don’t let Logan get you into too much trouble.
Give Mason a hug for me.
There was more written, but those were the ones I glimpsed before I turned to leave. The guy blocked me. I couldn’t go behind me. A large group of students were there, trying to get to their mail slots, too, so I had to go around the guy.
I stepped right, and so did he.
I went left. He did, too.
A growl formed at the bottom of my throat, and my eyes snapped. I didn’t want to get hit on. I didn’t want to deal with this. Everything froze in me.
I was looking right into Park Sebastian’s smirking eyes. His hair was blond, gelled and combed to the side. He wasn’t wearing the polo like last time, but he had on a Cain University shirt with a pair of jeans. The outfit fitted his form nicely and screamed money. Others were wearing the same shirt, but they couldn’t pull off the wealthy vibe like he could. They also couldn’t pull off the arrogant asshole vibe like he was giving off either.
As our gazes made contact, the corner of his lip curved up. He was taunting me. He knew I hated this, hated having another male standing so close to me. He wasn’t Mason. I began to back up, holding the box to my chest, but I was bumped into. Elbows ground into my back. Someone’s hair whipped at my face as she turned abruptly. I was jostled forward.
My eyes got wide.
I was going right into Sebastian, and he knew it. His arm fell down and lifted. He was going to catch me.
I didn’t want him to touch me. I couldn’t stop it, though, and he caught my elbow. I was tucked into his chest, and he transferred us, rotating swiftly on his heel and bringing me to the other side of the line, where I could suddenly breathe. No group was suffocating me, pressing me back into him. He released me at the same time as I hit him with the box. I hoped whatever was inside wasn’t fragile because I’d thumped it hard against his chest, jerking backward. All of that was in one swift motion.
“Hey,” he said, falling back a step. His hands lifted in a quick surrender.
My nostrils flared. He was a joke. “Do not touch me. Ever.”
A few waiting in line for their own packages heard my comment and looked over. They were confused. Sebastian wasn’t touching me anymore. I looked hostile. I didn’t care.
I said to him again, “Stay away from me. I mean it.”
p; I turned to go, but Sebastian blocked me again.
He rounded in front of me, his hands in the air. “Seriously, I won’t touch you.”
“What do you want?”
He had watched me while I stood next to him, waiting for my package.
He knew who I was. I realized he had known who I was, even before going to the side of him. That was why he stayed there. He’d forced me to move to the side. He’d forced the entire situation, trapping me with that group behind me.
I thought about moving to his left side, away from the pressing group, but his bag was there. I had to go to the right side. He kept it open for me.
It was a move that Mason and Logan would do. Their enemy did it, too, and that sent my internal alarms from the ridiculous stage to the ludicrous stage. They were blaring, flashing in circles. I knew Park Sebastian was cunning and manipulative, but he was showing a new card to me.
He was even more calculating than I imagined, but I did what Mason would do. I took that information and put it to the back of my mind. It would help in dealing with Sebastian in the future, if he did anything else. As I stood there, regarding him now in suspicion, I knew he was going to.
My shoulders rolled back. Screw it. I said, “If you’re going to use me to hurt Mason, it won’t work.”
His eyes widened a fraction of an inch. His top lip lifted in appreciation. I surprised him, and he enjoyed that. I frowned. I hadn’t expected that, but I hugged my box closer to my chest. His gaze fell down to it, and he was reading the quotes Malinda put around it. I tried to cover them, closing my hands around the box. He moved to the next quote. I covered that, too. I looked ridiculous, and I felt my cheeks warming.
I couldn’t win like this.
I began to back away. I kept my eyes averted, hugging that box, and I was backpedaling. I could run into someone, but I didn’t care. I had to get away from him.
“Samantha.” He walked with me.
“Stop,” I hissed at him.
He leaned forward, a slow grin tugging at the corner of his lip. He tucked his hands behind his back. “I’m not going to hurt you. Look. See?” He held his hands out again and made a show about tucking them behind his back. “Hands behind my back—literally.”
“Good. Now, stay there.” I kept scooting backward, but glanced around.
We attracted attention from the back of the line. Some were laughing. Others lifted their phones to record us. I cursed. Mason did not need to see that, so I ducked through the line and around a corner that led to the coffee shop. Even more people were milling around there since it opened to a sitting area by a bunch of water fountains.
Shit. I had nowhere to go.
I looked back over my shoulder.
Sebastian was there, grinning at me but trying not to grin. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
“You knew I was behind you in line.”
“I did. Yes.”
An exasperated gasp left me in a sudden whoosh of air. That asshole. I knew he set the whole thing up.
“You waited on purpose, making me go to the right side where I’d be trapped. People come out there from the cafeteria.”
“I…” He pursed his lips together and shrugged. “Yes, I did.”
His head clipped down. “Yes, I am. I’ll take that.”
“I…” He faltered again, his eyes skirting to the side. “I just want to talk. Is that so bad? I’m not going to hurt you, and I’m not going to use you to hurt Mason either.”
I snorted. “Like hell you aren’t.”
His grin grew a centimeter. “Well, I would, if I thought I could, but you’re not exactly naive.” He leaned closer as he said that last word, his grin spreading even wider. A spark appeared in his eyes.
He liked our banter.
I scowled. “Stop enjoying this conversation.”
That brought out a laugh from him. He cleared his throat to cover but couldn’t. A second laugh slipped out, and he shook his head. “Sorry. You’re different than what I remember. You remember meeting me? The first time?”
“Yeah.” My scowl held firm. “You were friends with Nate and salivating over Mason, imagining all that you could use him for in the future.” I scoffed, “Good times.”
His grin slipped a little, and he drew upright. “Not nice.”
If I were Heather, I would give him the middle finger. I refrained, but my upper lip curled in disdain. He got what I was feeling.
Tugging at his shirt collar, he cleared his throat a second time. “I’ve not done anything to harm you. I don’t think I’ve warranted this reception.”
I burst out laughing. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
The sound wasn’t from amusement, and it drew attention from those by the coffee shop. I ignored them. This guy was insane.
“You tried to use my boyfriend. When he said no, you tried to destroy his friendship with his best friend. When that didn’t happen, you tried to hit Mason with a vehicle. When that didn’t happen, you tried to get him expelled—”
Sebastian lunged forward but caught himself.
I hustled back and held my ground, but I was elated. I’d gotten him to slip a little, and that one small movement drew even more attention. It was all about getting the other one to show their true colors. Sebastian looked pretty on the outside, but he oozed slime on the inside. I wanted that slime on the outside. I wanted everyone to see it, too.
“You’re better than I thought.” His nostrils flared up as he noted that with a look of admiration in his eyes.
No. I looked closer. That wasn’t admiration. It was cunning. Shit. Maybe I had shown him my cards too soon. He knew I wasn’t the naive girlfriend who needed protecting. I had fangs, too.
Kitty and Nina came through the door behind Sebastian. They walked around him but paused, taking note of the tension in the air.
I raised my chin. “Walk away.”
“Wha—” Kitty started to protest, but Nina elbowed her in the gut.
I said anyway, “I’m not talking to you, Kitty.”
It was all Sebastian. I didn’t look away, and his eyes narrowed. I had him in the position I wanted. If he wanted to do something—intimidate me, proposition me, threaten me—he’d have to do it now, and he’d have to do it with an audience. He needed to play his cards, or he’d have to retreat and try again.
He didn’t say a word, but he nodded to himself and swung around the girls.
I won this battle.
Closing my eyes, I let out a breath of nervous air. My god. Now that he was gone, I was full-on trembling. I checked my pants. No mess there. Another thing to be thankful about.
“Uh…” Kitty stepped closer to me, watching him, before he weaved around the coffee shop crowd and disappeared from eyesight. “What just happened here?”
Nina asked, “Who was that?” Her tone said it all. She was quiet and cautious. She knew something bad happened.
I met her gaze and saw the knowing look there. I rasped out, “Someone not good. That was who.”
I didn’t tell them about that meeting. Kitty liked to talk about everything. Nina liked to analyze everything, but for once, they seemed to adhere to my unspoken request. Neither said a word.
I skipped my next class, and those two girls were done, so the three of us went back to the dorm. It was Friday night.
Right before I ducked inside my room, Kitty called my name from down the hallway. She was standing in her doorway, her head poking out.
“Yeah?” I asked.