Mingling sounds like the stupidest idea ever. “I’ll hold up this wall, thanks.”

Tristan shakes his head, muttering something about dudes with no balls as he walks away.

Whatever. I can’t take offense. I am acting like a dude with no balls. All over a girl. Since when do I let a girl have so much power over me?

You’ve never met a girl like Jade before.

Isn’t that the truth?

I start to drink out of my crumpled cup when I remember it’s empty and I leave it on a nearby table. Hopefully Tristan remembers to bring me a cup along with that bottle of vodka. If he even brings a bottle. If not, I’m bailing. Seek out a liquor store and buy my own bottle of vodka I can nurse for the rest of the night.

Shit. I sound like a hopeless drunk.

Girls approach, one after another and I remain stoic. Bored as they try to talk to me, seemingly desperate to engage me in conversation. But I’m not having it. I’m cranky. Not interested. I shut every one of them down, one after the other, until they stop approaching and I’m alone once more, holding up the wall, waiting for Tristan, jonesing for a drink.

That’s when I think I spot her. It has to be her. I’d know that glorious fucking hair anywhere. I push away from the wall, my gaze locked on the spot across the room where I swear I saw her. Jade. The front room is packed full of people and the music is deafeningly loud. I start to push through the crowd, making my way toward the beacon that is her. I catch another glimpse of red hair, long and wavy, hanging down her back. Unbound, unrestrained, and my hands literally itch to touch it. Touch her.

It’s as if the crowd parts, like I’m Moses or some such shit, and there she is. Standing near the entryway of the kitchen, a red cup in her hand, her sexy-as-fuck lips stretched into a giant smile as she laughs at something her roommate Kelli says.

Not that I notice Kelli or anyone else for that matter. All I can see, all I can focus on, is Jade.

I stare at her like a starving man who just caught his first glimpse of a meal after going so long without. She’s wearing…good fucking lord I don’t know where she found those shorts but all I see is legs. Lots and lots of legs. Pale and long and firm, the denim cutoff shorts she has on barely cover her.

They should be fucking illegal.

The black tank top reminds me of the first time I saw her. She wore a black tank that night too and I fucking approve. Her tits look amazing—unbelievable I still haven’t seen them in their naked glory and that is one of the many serious regrets I have when it comes to Jade—and she pushes her hair off her shoulder, turning in my direction, her gaze meeting mine.

I stand up straighter, releasing a shuddering breath, trying my best to appear cool. Like I’ve got this. If I smile at her I’m afraid she’ll throw a fucking dagger at my chest. Hell, I already feel like a thousand daggers are stabbing me right in my heart just seeing her again like this. She’s so close yet so very, very far away.

She lifts her chin slightly, my ever defiant, ready for a fight Jade. Her eyes narrow the slightest bit—damn they look good, all dark and shadowy and sexy as fuck—and her lips curve downward for the briefest moment.

Then she’s smiling as she turns away from me, hooking her arm through some guy’s that’s standing next to her and realization dawns slowly, making my head spin.

Holy shit. She came here tonight with another guy. I deserve this. Fuck me, I deserve this for shutting her so completely out but it’s only been a week. Does she move that fast? Though how can I judge? I’ve moved that fast—faster—for years.

Working my jaw, I watch as she leans into the guy and he turns to smile down at her. I recognize him. The ex-boyfriend. The asshole who lost her in a bet. Noel or Joel or whatever the fuck his name is.

No way can Jade be serious about that guy.

“Hey.” I turn to find Tristan standing in front of me, clutching what looks like a jug of vodka. Damn, he’s good to me. It’s like he knows exactly what I need. “It’s cheap but better than foamy warm beer, right?” He hands me a cup with a couple of cubes of ice inside and I take it gratefully.

“Pour it.” I hold the cup out and Tristan undoes the cap, then fills the cup almost to the very top. “Thanks man,” I say before I swallow half of it and hold out the cup again.

“You’re gonna get wasted fast on this,” Tristan warns me and I ignore him, waving my cup at him. Frowning, he refills it.

“That’s the plan,” I mutter as I take a couple of more swallows, slowly turning to see if Jade is still standing there.

She is. The guys are gone. She’s with Kelli and the both of them are watching me, their lips curled like I’m a bug buzzing around their heads and they’re dying to kill me. Squash me dead.

Feeling brave with vodka coursing through my veins, I start to approach them, ignoring Tristan as he calls my name, ignoring the girls who giggle and offer up squeaky greetings as I pass by. I hear no one else, see no one else with the exception of Jade.

I stop just in front of her, my gaze dropping to her legs. Good God, they’re long. Why did I never notice this before? I can only imagine having them wrapped around me as I fuck her deep.

You blew that chance asshole.

“What do you want?” she asks snidely. No hi, no what’s up Shep. Not that I deserve anything more.

“You,” I tell her like an idiot. I swallow hard, ignoring the buzzing sound swarming in my head that’s most likely vodka-induced. “I want you, Jade.”

Her eyes flare the slightest bit and then narrow. Like she had a glimmer of hope there for about two seconds before she realized oh that’s right, I’m a total asshole. “You had your chance,” she whispers as she steps closer to me. Was she always this tall? I let my gaze drop to her feet, see that they’re encased in wedge sandals—I know about wedges, don’t forget I have two older, very fashion conscious sisters—that make her impossibly tall.

Impossibly sexy.

“And you ruined it,” she continues, her eyes sparkling and full of anger. I’ve never seen her look prettier.

Well, that’s a lie. I loved seeing her with no makeup, just bare skin covered in freckles.

“Yeah. I did. I’m sure you won’t accept my apology and I totally understand why,” I start, clamping my lips shut when her roommate appears at her side.

“Is this asshole giving you trouble, J?” Kelli sends me a look, one that says she’d like to poke me in the balls with an extra sharp stick.

“No.” She tears her gaze away from mine to smile at Kelli. “He’s harmless.” She looks at me once more, her lips curling in distaste. “Like a rat.”

“Rats are disgusting, dirty creatures,” Kelli says, sneering at me.

I say nothing. I deserve their shitty words, Jade’s hatred. She hates me. She has to. I’d hate me too. I do hate me.

“Sometimes you can keep them as pets,” Jade points out, like maybe she has hope I could change. Does she? God, I wish. “They can be really sweet.”

“Yeah, but they’re all beady eyed with pointy little noses and long, disgusting tails.” Kelli visibly shudders. “They’re awful.”

“Hey.” Noel-Joel reappears on the opposite side of Jade, turning to look at me. His eyes go wide when he recognizes me and I don’t smile. I don’t react at all. This guy can go suck a dick for all I care. “Prescott. What’s up?”

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