I remember exactly who I took those photos for. A guy named John. Ten years older than me and richer than my daddy, he made me feel like I was special. He spoiled me rotten, took me shopping, bought me sexy shoes, sexy lingerie …
He was also a total pervert who loved to look at me naked—particularly my butt. Claimed he could stare at it all day.
Being the generous semi-girlfriend that I was, because we weren’t necessarily a couple but we were together one Valentine’s Day, I decided to send these photos to him via text.
Too bad his actual girlfriend found them. The one I didn’t know existed. The one who didn’t know I existed, either. Thank God John deleted all of those photos before she could do any major damage.
Did I learn from that lesson? Um, no, doesn’t look like I did. Not when the last photo appears, the image filling my screen in vivid detail. Of me sitting in the center of my bed, my head tilted to the side so my hair spills over my shoulder, covering one of my breasts, my nipple peeking through. A sultry smile curves my lips and my legs are spread wide, knees bent and feet planted firmly on the mattress, all my goods on blatant display …
I cover my face with my hands and make an inarticulate noise, trying to tell myself it’s all going to be okay. Despite the laptop being gone, these photos won’t show up anywhere. At least I didn’t save them to my cloud storage. I don’t trust the cloud, and for good reason. But hey, I’ll be fine. Absolutely, perfectly fine.
Inhaling sharply, I hold my breath then let it out, trying to calm my racing heart. But it’s no use. Whoever has my laptop—fucking Max, motherfucker—has access to those photos.
Those horrible, reputation-ruining, there’s-absolutely-no-mistaking-it’s-me photos.
My family is going to shit their pants if they’re ever made public. Daddy will disown me, Grandma will probably have a heart attack, and disappointing Violet and Rose … I don’t know if I can handle it.
And I have no one to blame but myself.
I scream into my palms as loud as I can but I don’t feel any better. My head is pounding, my hands are shaking, and if Max appeared in front of me right at this very instant, I would probably kick him in the face before I rammed my knee into his balls.
The violent thought doesn’t satisfy me one bit.
My cell phone rings, startling me, and I drop my hands to check the screen to see who’s calling.
Dread churning in my stomach, I answer with a tentative hello, praying the shit hasn’t already hit the fan. Could it happen that fast? With the speed of information these days, yeah, it probably could. My naked ass could be up on a Times Square billboard for all I know.
“What are you doing?” Rose asks cheerily, like nothing’s wrong.
Which means nothing is wrong, right?
“Nothing much,” I say, my voice tentative. “Just … messing around on my computer.”
“Not changing anyone’s grades up, huh?” Rose laughs. She knows what I used to do; she’s heard all the old stories. “You don’t do that sort of thing anymore, right?”
“Actually …” I swallow hard, not sure how much I should confess. Or if I should confess anything in the first place.
“Lily, you’re not up to any trouble, are you?” Rose’s voice changes in an instant, full of worry and concern.
“No,” I say quickly—too quickly. “Why? Is something going on?” My entire body goes stiff waiting for her reply.
“No, I just … I don’t know.” Rose’s voice lowers, as if she’s telling me a deep, dark secret. “Caden says I’ve been jumping to conclusions lately and that’s unlike me. He feels like he’s always on the defensive when we talk, even about stuff like the weather. I told him I have no idea what he’s referring to.”
Now it’s my turn to worry. What if Rose’s handsome, charming devil of a husband is up to no good? “Is he acting suspicious?”
“No, no, no. He’s like, perfect. Almost too overprotective, but I have no business complaining about that, right? He loves me.” Rose sighs. “That’s the weird thing. It’s all me. I’m the one who’s acting freaky. I know exactly what Caden’s talking about, but half the time I pretend I don’t have a clue.”
My sister is making little sense. “Are you okay, Rosie? Seriously. You’re not acting right.”
“I know, tell me all about it. I blame the baby. The little monster is making me crazy,” Rose whispers. “I love my future little booger, but listen to me! I sound like I’m insane.”
She does. I can’t explain it, but I feel like she’s talking in circles and I can’t keep up. Though I’m thankful for the conversation because it takes the heat off me and focuses on crazy, pregnant Rose.
“The real reason I called is I wanted to go out to breakfast.” Rose pauses. “And I want you to go with me.”
“Okay.” I draw the word out, feeling unsettled. “When?”
“Now? Are you dressed? I’m already in a cab, headed toward your building.”
I glance down at myself. I’m wearing skimpy little sleep shorts and a tank top. My hair is a mess and I’d bet I have raccoon eyes since I slept in my makeup from yesterday.
If Grandma knew, she would have an absolute fit.
“I’ll need a few minutes,” I tell her. “Do you want to meet somewhere?”