Page 61 of Mayhem (Mayhem 1)

My eyes swim with tears, but I keep them directed at Adam so that Brady doesn’t get the satisfaction of seeing how much he hurt me. Again. “There’s nothing left to say.”

Adam tucks me under his chin and plants a kiss against the top of my head. I feel him turn his chin toward Brady, and then he says, “You hear that? You fucking blew it, and if you ever try talking to her again, I’m not the only guy you’ll have to fucking deal with.”

Chapter Twenty-One

IN FRONT OF Adam’s apartment building, I find myself in his arms again.

“It’s okay,” he says to calm me. “It’s okay. Just . . . take a deep breath or something.”

When we pulled up to his five-story apartment complex, I tried to pull my suitcase out of the backseat but ended up bursting into tears instead. Adam pressed up behind me, wrapping me tightly in his arms. Now, his chest is against my back, his cheek is against my temple, and his arms are laced around my stomach. He’s holding me together like I might fall apart.

I just might.

“That guy is a fucking douchebag. I mean, that hair? Come on.”

An airy laugh pushes its way out of my nose. Brady’s blond hair is cropped short and always perfectly gelled, parted on his left side and swooped to the back. It’s nothing like Adam’s shaggy brown rocker hair.

“See? You’re too good for an asshole like that,” Adam says, planting a chaste kiss against my cheek. “Now, I’m going to take you upstairs, and we’re going to get you a drink, and . . .”

And? What comes after “and”? Because the last time Brady made me feel like this, Adam took me to his bus, got me a drink, and then taught me all of the wonderful things he could do with his tongue.

“And?” I risk asking. If he doesn’t finish that sentence soon, I’m pretty sure I’ll need to sit down—right here in the middle of the parking lot while I wait for my head to stop swimming.

“And . . . we’ll do whatever it is friends do when shit like this happens.” Adam’s gentle hands urge me to turn around. “I’ve never really done this before.”

I imagine he hasn’t. He’s been on the other end though, I’m sure, making girls like me cry. They’ve probably called him every name under the sun. And maybe he deserved it . . . which is probably why he’s stuck here with me now, losing what’s left of his weekend. Karma’s a bitch.

“Have you ever cheated on anyone?” I ask impulsively. I suddenly need to know, because . . . because I just need to.

“Cheated?”

I nod, afraid of the answer.

Adam leans against the car door, drumming his fingers against the shiny black metal. “Cheated . . . no. You have to be in a relationship to cheat on someone, right?” When I nod, he says, “I don’t really do relationships. One crazy girl tried to accuse me of cheating, but she knew what she was getting into. They all know. It’s not like it’s a secret.”

He’s right, after all. Anyone who spends any time at all with Adam can see how he is. Flirty and reckless and noncommittal. But even though those qualities are what should warn girls to stay away, they’re the exact things that draw girls to him. Girls like me. Adam is a bad boy, damaged goods. He’s the boy that every girl in the world hopes she can fix.

Only I know better.

“Don’t you ever want a girlfriend?” I ask, too numb to care about what I’m saying, even though I know I’ll be kicking my own teeth out later.

Adam smirks down at me. “Why? Want to be my girlfriend?”

I force a chuckle, pretending to find the idea absurd. Hell, who needs to pretend? It is absurd. “I’m just wondering.”

With a smile, he says, “Do I ever want a girlfriend . . . hm . . .” He fiddles absent-mindedly with a stringy black bracelet on his wrist, thinking. “Girlfriends are a lot of work.”

“So that’s a no?”

He chuckles and scoops my suitcase from the car, carrying it across the parking lot to the door of his apartment building. “It’s an observation.”

I take his cue and let the conversation drop as we walk through a lobby with polished granite floors and a five-story-high ceiling. We take an elevator to the fourth floor and then walk along a narrow hall to Adam’s apartment. 4E.

The door opens into a large living room, and even if I didn’t already know Adam and Shawn live here, I’d know that college-aged bachelors did. Hardwood floors stretch into the space, which features a plush gray couch and two mismatched recliners. They frame a wooden coffee table and face a massive entertainment setup with a large flat-screen TV and big, big speakers. In the corner of the room are more speakers and three guitar stands, two with guitars propped on them. The walls are muted gray and bare, except for a small patch where someone has written, in bright blue marker, DON’T COLOR ON THE WALLS! I recognize the handwriting from Adam’s notebook and smile widely.

After setting my suitcase down, he walks into the kitchen to our left and sets two glasses on the counter. Then he opens a pair of cupboards filled to the brim with liquor bottles, his restless fingers drumming against the wooden doors. I hop onto a bar stool in front of the breakfast bar separating the kitchen from the living room and watch him. His back is to me, his black T-shirt hanging loosely over his shoulder blades, when he says, “Alright, I have an idea.” He turns around with a mad-scientist glint his eye. “Let’s make a new drink. We’ll call it a forget that fucker cocktail or something. Just tell me what’s in it.”

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