“Do you know how many other girls have tried to convince me they were on birth control?” he asks, and my smile fades away.
“I wasn’t lying,” I assert in a voice devoid of all the warmth I felt just a few seconds ago. I try to push off of him, but his stubborn arms keep me from budging.
“I know. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.” He brushes his thumbs over my skin and says, “I’ve never been with anyone like that.”
“Never?” I ask, studying him.
His eyes lift to the ceiling, his voice thoughtful when he says, “Never.”
I should let him keep avoiding eye contact. I should keep my mouth shut. I shouldn’t pretend any of this means anything.
“Neither have I,” I confess, and Joel’s eyes drop to mine.
He stares at me for a long moment, and I know he’s wondering why him. Just like I’m wondering why me. But neither of us ask. Instead, he says, “I don’t want you being with anyone else like that.”
“I won’t be.” Sex without protection with Joel was amazing, but with anyone else, it would be terrifying and not worth the risk.
“That’s not what I meant,” he says. He exhales a long breath toward the ceiling. “I don’t want you being with anyone else period.”
My brain flickers into static, his words lost in the noise. “Are you asking me out?”
“Then what are you saying?”
He closes his eyes, his chest rising and falling on a sigh. “Hell if I know.”
I can’t help it. I laugh. And eyes closed, a smile forms on his face.
“You’re not making any sense.”
“If I’m not supposed to be with anyone else, who am I supposed to be with?”
“So you are asking me out . . .” I say, heart pounding, palms sweating, thoughts racing. If he is, what will I say? If I turn him down, where will that leave us?
“No,” he says, opening his eyes and fixing his cobalt gaze on me. My chest deflates, and I try to convince myself it’s with relief. “Don’t take me at more than face value, Dee. I’m not asking you out. I’m just a guy without a house or a car or anything worth offering, telling you I don’t want you fucking anyone but me.”
Something must be seriously wrong with me, because in that moment, I don’t think I’ve ever wanted him more. My eyes drift to his mouth. “Okay,” I say, and then I press my lips to his.
The kiss is soft, brief, and it ends too soon when he breaks away to say, “Okay?”
“Okay, I hear you,” I clarify, and then I kiss him again, unwilling to make any promises I can’t keep, even if they’re promises I want to.
“WHAT THE HELL is WRONG with him?” Rowan says as we walk through the vast lot next to the buses while the guys take their morning showers. Last night, I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, and for the first time since Saturday, I didn’t dream. I didn’t have nightmares. I didn’t wake thinking of Cody—I woke to Rowan hissing at me and pointing toward the stairs. She reluctantly let me shower and get dressed before dragging me outside, but then she pounced on me and made me tell her everything that happened last night, covering her ears when I tortured her with details.
“Do you know what the weird part is though?” I ask.
Rowan glances my way, stepping over a discarded beer can.
“Him refusing to ask me out was part of what made it so hot.” Her face contorts with confusion, and I can’t help but laugh. “Seriously. Any other guy would have told me whatever he thought I wanted to hear. He would have asked me out and then gone and cheated on me or something if I stayed with him long enough.” Rowan flinches, and I rush to get her mind off her scumbag ex. “But Joel was honest with me. And he said he doesn’t want me to be with other guys, and God, Ro, it was just so fucking hot.”
“Wouldn’t it have been better if he did ask you out though?” she asks, and when I don’t answer, she adds, “Wouldn’t you have said yes?”
I pull the length of my hair over my shoulder to detach it from the sweat beading on the back of my neck. “What would be the point? We’d just break up in a few weeks anyway. You know we would.”
She can’t argue, so she doesn’t. Instead, she lets out a hopeless sigh and says, “I just want you to be happy, Dee. This thing with Joel . . . yeah, he makes you happy sometimes, but he also makes you miserable. What happens if we go back home and he starts messing around with other girls again?”
It’s not like I haven’t thought about it. When I was lying on top of him with him still hard inside me, all he said was that he didn’t want me with other guys. He never said anything about him with other girls.
“I don’t know,” I confess. “It’ll bug me, yeah, but I’ll just have to get over it.”
“Bury myself in school like you do?”
She barks out a laugh, and when I push her shoulder, she nearly trips over a guy passed out on the lawn. We both end up laughing hysterically, and she chases me all the way back to the bus.
Upstairs, I root out a white The Last Ones to Know T-shirt and butcher it with scissors. The shirt I wore last night was a big hit, but I modify this one differently, cutting peek-a-boo slits in the front and slashing the shape of a heart into the back. I wear it with a lacy bright red bra that shows through the sheer material and cuts.