“He didn’t offer you up. Shepard Prescott took over the entire situation. You know this.” Kelli starts laughing. “You should’ve seen the look of shock on his face after you slapped him. It was priceless. There was a red handprint on his cheek, Jade. You hit the boy hard.”

“Whatever. He deserved it.” I glance at my buzzing phone. Another text from Joel.

It’s not my fault. Come on Jade.

Please forgive me.

“Ha.” I start texting.

I never want to see you again. Quit making an ass of yourself.

“He makes me crazy,” I mutter as I discard the phone, wishing he would just leave me alone. I’m probably being a total bitch but I can’t help it. He never ran to my defense, he never told Shep to back off, nothing. He let it all unfold and then left me having to deal with the aftermath.

I’m feeling pretty justified in breaking up with him. We’d been growing apart anyway. This was just the final layer of frosting on the gigantic shit cake our relationship had turned into.

“You’re so mean,” Kelli says, shaking her head. “What was Joel supposed to do? Shep Prescott is a big deal. Very intimidating. Joel didn’t have a chance.”

“So? He should’ve defended me, not run away.” I shrug, but what she says makes sense and guilt swamps me. “Besides, you’re mean too. You treat Dane terribly.”

Kelli waves her hand, dismissing my lame accusation. “We’re not talking about Dane. And really, I’m not as mean as you. Poor Joel. He thought he had that game won. Did you see his hand?”

“Did you see Shep’s?” The way he revealed it too. Smug bastard. One card after another. One queen after another. My heart had sunk with every card that fell onto the table. Until it was in the pit of my stomach and I knew I lost. Not Joel.

Me.

“You know he wasn’t serious.” When I say nothing, Kelli continues. “About the bet. About you. He can’t claim you as his prize. You’re a human being with your own mind. He wouldn’t be that much of an asshole to try and collect.”

“Please. He’s a spoiled rich asshole who can have whatever he wants. I’m sure he believes he has every right to claim me.” A shiver moves down my spine and I try to ignore it. The words are kind of sexy when you think about them. Shep “claiming” me as his, like I’m some sort of possession he can take whenever he wants.

Another shiver, this one full body. Those words conjure up all sorts of images, every one of them sexual. Every one of them featuring acts I’ve never once tried to attempt. The more I imagine them, the more curious I become.

This is so not good.

“Well, he probably hates you now since you slapped him so hard his head reared back. I swear I’ve never seen anything like that before. It was straight out of reality TV or something.” Kelli sounds downright excited by the spectacle I caused, which she probably is. I must admit, I’m pretty shocked by my behavior too. I can’t believe I slapped him. I saw the flash of shock register in those dark, dark eyes right before my palm made contact with his skin. Yes, I felt bad. Yes, I shouldn’t have slapped him.

But deep down inside, I know he deserved it.

“I shouldn’t have hit him,” I say, feeling an attack of guilt coming on.

“No, you shouldn’t have,” Kelli agrees. “You’d probably be head mistress in his harem right now if you’d just been agreeable from the start.”

I burst out laughing and shake my head. It feels good to laugh. I’d been tense since we met up with Joel and Dane last night and they’d told us we were going to that stupid poker palace place Shep and his friends run. I’d known from the start the evening would end up crappy. And I’d been right.

“I’m laying low,” I tell Kelli. “In case Shep has set some traps in the hopes he can catch me and take me back to the harem.”

“I’m guessing he’s not interested any longer since you hit him in front of everyone.”

Why do her words bother me? I should be glad Shep isn’t interested in me any longer. I’m not a toy that Joel can hand over in trade. I don’t want to belong to Shepard Prescott in any way, shape or form.

“Good,” I say weakly when I realize Kelli’s waiting for an answer. “Serves him right, to mess with me.” But there’s not much force behind my words. I feel…bad for hitting him. And I can’t help but have a what if feeling too. Like…

What would’ve happened if I hadn’t slapped Shep? Would he have tried to charm the pants off of me? Would I have let him? Despite my still being with Joel at that moment? Would I have cheated on him in order to sample the Shep Prescott goods?

Maybe…

Ugh. That’s not good. I’m not a cheater. I’m loyal. Not like I’ve had a ton of boyfriends—fine, I’ve had two serious ones—but I don’t mess around behind anyone’s back. That Shep tempted me, even in my head…disturbs me.

Greatly.

“Well, forget all that.” Kelli waves her fingers in a dismissive gesture, clutching her clean clothes to her chest with her other hand. “I’m going to take a shower and then we’re going out.”

“We are?” I run my fingers through my still damp hair. I’d truly planned on laying low tonight. I have a paper due Tuesday I need to finish. Well, more like start.

“Yeah. Saturday night. Party at one of the frat houses. I got us an in.” Kelli grins, looking pleased with herself.

“What about Dane?” I ask warily.

“What about him? We’re good. We’re solid. He has a birthday party to go to. Guys getting together and eating buffalo wings and drinking beer at someone’s house off campus. Bleh.”

“Yeah, well we’re in for the same scenario. Minus the buffalo wings,” I point out.

“Right, but we need to find you a new boyfriend since you dumped Joel.”

“That is the absolute last thing I need.” I met Kelli a few days before school officially started, when we were moving into the dorms. We hit it off right away and I was so thankful since one of my biggest fears was that I would hate my roommate.

We have a lot in common. We’re both sarcastic. We both like to study but aren’t fanatical about it. We’re both reasonably clean. But where we differ is our attitude toward guys. Kelli likes to keep them coming, one after the other. Not that she’s a slut or anything. Far from it. She just ends it with one and picks right up with another.

Me? I take a long time to even find one that I click with. And once I find him, it takes me a while to come around. After I come around and I’m finally ready to say yeah, let’s do this, I like to settle in and consider him my somewhat boyfriend.

So now that I’ve broken up with Joel—my only boyfriend thus far my freshman year and it’s already early April—it’s going to take me months to get back on the boyfriend train.

Months. Like maybe not until my sophomore year because school’s almost finished and everyone will go home, including me.

“You’re no fun.” Kelli mock pouts. “Have you ever thought how awesome a quick hookup would be?”

“Ew.” I make a face. “I don’t do hookups. That’s so gross.” My body is my temple, damn it.

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