It’s really hard for me to believe I’ve known Jade for only a few days. It feels like an eternity. And not in a bad way either.

“I don’t think she’s a virgin,” I say slowly.

“Aha! And that’s the problem.” He points a finger at me. “You don’t know if she’s a virgin or not. Meaning you don’t know anything. She’s stringing you along and she’s eventually going to give you a major case of blue balls for your trouble.”

Sighing, I toss my head back and stare at the ceiling, struggling for patience. If he weren’t my cousin, I would’ve kicked him out of the house a long time ago. Guy never knows when to shut up.

“I’m serious dude. Stop wasting your time on that ice queen. One and done, remember? Those are the rules,” Tristan stresses.

“Who came up with these so called rules anyway, huh?” I look at him again, ignoring my buzzing phone, wanting to hear Tristan’s answer. “Because they are seriously fucked up.”

“You’re the one who came up with them, asshole,” Tristan reminds me just before he turns and stalks back toward the kitchen, muttering the entire way.

I run a hand through my hair, tamping down the frustration that’s rolling through me. I’m so sick of everyone telling me what I’m supposed to do. It’s been that way my entire life. My sisters bossed me around. My parents. Hell, now even my freaking cousin and my best friend are supposedly offering me advice about my sex life.

But what the hell do they know? What does anyone know? I have no idea what’s happening between Jade and I, and I’m not going to stop pursuing her either. I want her. Badly. One shitty interruption by an obnoxious girl who yells toodles isn’t going to stop me. I can be patient when I want.

With Jade, I’m willing to do just that. Be patient. Coax her into this. I know she’s reluctant. I think…I scare her. Hell, she scares me too. I don’t do this sort of thing. I’m not a believer in relationships. My parents cured me of that. They have one of the most fucked up relationships I’ve ever seen.

Then again, maybe I’m coming on too strong, though I’ve behaved like a freaking saint most of the time when I’ve been with her. I could’ve fucked her the night she was drunk but I was respectful enough not to.

I almost want to laugh. Me, respectful? That’s all kinds of hilarious.

My phone starts buzzing in my hand again and I glance at the screen to see that it’s my mother calling.

Hell. I don’t want to talk to her. She’s bound to give me an endless bunch of shit, like she usually does.

“Thank you for the birthday gift darling,” she coos when I answer.

Great. I forgot to call her on the most important day of her life. I’m never going to hear the end of it. “Happy Birthday, Mom.”

“Ah, thank you, Shepard. I do adore that candle. It will go perfectly in the house. And it smells absolutely divine.”

I think of Jade. How she thought it was so boring that I bought my mother a white candle. “Glad you like it. Are you having a good day?”

“Well, your father isn’t around, but that’s par for the course so his absence hasn’t disappointed me yet. Though he claims he’ll be here tonight to take me to dinner.” I wonder sometimes why they’re still married. They hate each other. Reminds me yet again that marriage is a complete farce, forced upon us as the right thing to do.

“I’m guessing you’re going out with your friends then?” I ask.

“Yes. A late, martini soaked lunch is on the agenda. I can’t wait.” She laughs and I wince. I don’t want to hear about Mother and her martini soaked birthday lunches. Bad enough I feel like a shit for forgetting to call her. Though thank God my father reminded me of her upcoming birthday a few days ago.

“Listen, I need to go to class.” Lies. “But I hope you have a great day, Mom. You deserve it.”

“Thank you, darling.” She sighs, sounding wistful and just before I end the call she says, “Trust me, though. The older you get, the harder these birthdays are to face.”

Huh. I guess that’s why she wants to get drunk on too many martinis. When I celebrated my twenty-first, I got drunk because I finally was legally able to. Mom’s getting drunk because she wants to forget she’s getting old.

And this little realization is exactly why I have zero desire to get serious about…anything.

You’ve been avoiding me.

I drop my phone after reading Shep’s latest text and press my face against my pillow so I can groan into it. Can’t he be like every other shitty guy out there on the planet and leave me alone? Guys have ignored me pretty much my entire life and I was used to it, thank you very much. The first gorgeous one who comes along has for some reason set his sights on me and now he won’t leave me alone. I should be thrilled.

And I am, I swear. I’m also scared. He makes me so incredibly nervous it’s stupid.

It’s been three days since the kissing incident—or as Kelli likes to call it, the fuck birds moment. Yes, I told her about Miss Toodles and my roommate and tormentor found the entire story hilarious. I’m glad she can laugh at my pain.

Anyway.

Shep called me as promised the next day, but not until the late afternoon. Yes, he kept me on pins and needles, just like he predicted. He made me laugh. He flirted heavily. He asked what I was doing. I told him I was writing a huge paper that was due the next day. Eventually he ended the call but not before murmuring in that sexy, melt all my bones voice that he would call me again tomorrow.

And he did. I mean, what the hell? I don’t get his fascination with me. I really, truly don’t. I’m a bitch toward him most of the time and it’s like I can’t help it. I think he brings out the worst in me. He’s been so sweet though. Calling me, making me laugh. Sending me silly texts. Asking me if we can get together again and I keep putting him off with lame excuses.

I don’t want to tell him the truth. Not only does he scare the crap out of me because he so does, but there’s also that pesky little monthly issue that I’m currently dealing with.

As in, Aunt Flo is making a visit. And she’s a real nasty bitch sometimes.

It started with the small migraine headache the morning after the kissing incident (aka fuck birds moment). I knew when I woke up I was in trouble. By that afternoon I had major cramps. I really did have to write a huge paper that night so the excuse was legit. But since then?

Nope. It’s been all about the period.

“Your misery is making me crazy.” Kelli slams her laptop shut, startling me. I glance up from my pillow to find her glaring at me. We’re usually in sync. It’s that weird female hormonal thing that causes women who are together a lot to be on their periods at the same time, which is just…odd. But she finished last week and is all perky and happy while I’m drowning in my grouchy mood.

“Sorry,” I mumble, not sorry at all. My phone dings again, reminding me of my text from Shep and I inhale deeply, wishing I could answer him. But what could I say?

Oh hey, Sheppers I wish we could hang out tonight but I’m surfing the crimson wave at the moment and there’s no way you want to get near that so…toodles!

Yeah. That wouldn’t go over so well. And I bet no one in his life has ever called him Sheppers.

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