She smiles and shouts over my shoulder to Leti. “Leti, do you know what I love best about Dee?”
“Her wardrobe?” he shouts back.
“Not her butt?”
Rowan and I both laugh, and she says, “Her attitude!”
I completely lose it, laughing so hard I have to stop dancing and grip Rowan’s shoulders to stay upright. By the time I collect myself, I have an unshakeable smile on my face, mirrored by Rowan’s bright blue eyes and rosy pink cheeks.
I dance until my thighs are burning and my hair is sticking to the back of my neck. “Drinks?” I ask during a lapse between songs, and we make our way back to the bar.
My heart teeters precariously on the wire while I scan the bar for Joel, and it nearly falls when I realize he’s still not here. Before, I couldn’t bear the thought of telling him how I feel. Now, every second that he doesn’t know feels like a second we’re drifting further apart.
I miss him. I miss him so much that I can’t even think about it without tears threatening to form. It’s been a full week since I’ve seen him, two weeks since he could stand to look at me.
“I need to go to the bathroom,” I tell Rowan and Leti before we get to where Adam, Mike, and Shawn are sitting at the bar.
“Want me to come with?” Rowan asks, but I shake my head. I need a minute to myself to pull my game face back on.
“Nah, I’ll be right back.”
I turn on my heel before she can argue, weaving through clusters of people to get back toward the front of the building where the cleanest bathrooms are. When I get there, the women’s bathroom is taped off with a sign that deems it “Out of Order,” but I push open the door anyway and duck under the yellow tape. The other bathrooms are at the other side of the building, and I need the alone time too much to wait. In front of the wall-width mirror above the sinks, I take a deep breath and begin freshening my makeup, mentally rehearsing what I’m going to say to Joel.
I love you. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. I want to be with you.
In my head, he furrows his brow at me. You broke my heart, and now I’m supposed to take you back?
I brace my hands on the sink and close my eyes, telling myself over and over again that it’s only been two weeks. You can’t stop loving someone in two weeks—not if you ever really loved them at all.
When I leave the bathroom, I’m telling myself not to worry, that everything will be fine, that he’ll want me and we’ll have each other. But when I get close to the bar, I see him, and my heart slips off the wire.
He’s walking toward where Rowan and the guys are gathered, his arm around a girl with long blonde hair and a dress even shorter than mine. He’s smiling, he’s laughing. His blue-eyed gaze is traveling around the room, and my heart is breaking.
When his eyes land on me, his smile falls away. Tears flood my vision, and I turn on my heel to race back toward the bathroom, turning this way and that to melt through the crowd. I push through the press of bodies and duck under the yellow tape, slamming into the bathroom door and stumbling inside.
He was happy. It’s only been two weeks, and he’s happy without me. Two weeks, and he’s happy with someone else.
Ugly tears are dripping onto the floor when the bathroom door pushes open and Joel ducks under the tape. He stops and looks at me, and all I do is stare back at him while letting the tears fall. There’s no use trying to hide them.
“No,” he says, his long stride eating the distance between us. He takes my face between his hands and stares down at me. “No. You don’t get to do this.”
A tiny sob sounds from inside me. Even though my heart is breaking, it feels so right having his hands on me. I want to press them tighter against my cheeks. I want him to hold me.
“You don’t get to do this, Dee,” he says again, his voice cracking. He brushes his thumbs over my wet cheeks and presses his forehead against mine. “Stop crying,” he says in a voice so soft and sad, it breaks my already crushed heart. “You don’t get to cry.”
I want to tell him I love him. But what would be the point? I thought he would be better without me—now I know I was right.
Joel’s lips brush over mine, his blue eyes closing. “You don’t get to do this anymore.” He kisses me again, and my fists bunch in his shirt as I kiss him back. Tears are pouring down my cheeks when he says, “You don’t want me.” He says it between kisses growing increasingly more insistent, and when he backs me up against the wall, he kisses me so deeply that the sound that comes from my lips is more moan than sob. In the next instant, he’s lifting me into the air and I’m pushing my hands under his shirt, needing to feel his skin on my skin and his lips on my lips.
A spark flares between us, and we’re lost. Our kisses are bruising and frantic. My dress is being pushed up, his pants are being unzipped, and my panties are being yanked to the side.
When he sinks inside me, my fingernails dig into his back and a low moan crashes between us. His. Mine. Tears are still dripping down my cheeks, and when I open my eyes, his eyes are glassy too. I hold his face between my hands and kiss him desperately as he thrusts inside me over and over again. We breathe each other as he takes me, kissing and pulling and never getting close enough. I want to tell him I love him, but when I remember the girl waiting for him back inside the club, the way he laughed with her, I can’t. Instead, I kiss his mouth, his jaw, his neck, his ears.