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Текст книги "Sweet"

Автор книги: Erin McCarthy

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Текущая страница: 12 (всего у книги 17 страниц)

Chapter Fourteen

“Hey, what’s up?” the bartender said to Riley when we walked in.

Riley waved and pulled out a stool for me. I eyed the bartender, expecting him to card me, but he looked more interested in checking his phone than preventing underage drinking.

So this was a townie bar. It was dark, with a full display of liquor bottles behind the bar, the chairs cracked vinyl. It was nothing like the dance clubs we always went to, but more like what you see in movies, where hairy loggers are grabbing a beer before the zombie apocalypse.

Spinning on my bar stool to get a view of the room, I lost my balance and almost wiped out. I wasn’t sure why I was having so much trouble staying upright.

Riley laughed. “Settle down over there. I’m going to get a beer. I hesitate to ask this, but do you want something?”

“Let’s do a shot,” was my brilliant answer. It seemed to sound like a fabulous idea. We had dropped Tyler back off at the house, and I was thinking that tonight Riley and I could finally have sex. I was thinking a shot might increase the probability.

“Only if I can do it off your tits,” he said, with a look that said he clearly thought that was about as cheap and ridiculous as you could get. He gave a mock fist pump. “Hooter tooter. Dickwads.”

“Ha ha.”

“So who’s your friend here, Mann?” the bartender asked Riley, eyeing me with blatant curiosity.

“Maybe you should sit down,” Riley told him. “Because this is Jessica, my girlfriend.”

The guy laughed, stroking his long beard. He was bald and heavily tattooed. “No shit?” He held his hand out to me. “Well, it’s nice to meet you, Jessica. I’m Zeke.”

I shook his hand and gave him what I assumed was a charming smile. “Nice to meet you, too.” Then I nudged Riley. “Why is it so hard to believe I’m your girlfriend?”

“I don’t bring girls to bars.”

“So how did you two meet?” Zeke asked. “At the mall?”

Was I being insulted?

Riley just laughed. “Screw you. No, Jess is Tyler’s girlfriend’s roommate. We’ve known each other for about a year I guess.”

“Six months,” I corrected.

He shrugged. “Six months.”

“Nice. Make Tyler do all the hard work of scoring a girl, then you just shop from her friends. I admire that.”

What, was I a pair of jeans? But I had to assume Zeke was joking.

“Yeah, well, I’m working with a handicap here.” He gestured to his face, then eyed me. “Okay, how about one shot of vodka, since that’s what you’ve been drinking all night? Zeke, you going to do one with us?”

“Why the hell not?” was his opinion as he reached back for a bottle. Shot glasses appeared from under the counter.

“Now if you’re going to do a shot,” Riley instructed me, “you have to do it right. None of this sipping on it crap.”

“I know how to do a shot.” I gave him a dirty smile. “Open my throat.”

His eyebrows went up. “You good at that?” His knee nudged mine.

“Oh, yeah.” Yes, I was flirting. Yes, I was lying. I could do a shot no problem, but I never gave blow jobs. Ever. So the implication was false, but I figured he wouldn’t care once we were naked and I was offering other alternatives.

Our three glasses filled, Zeke handed one to me. Riley took his and we lifted them. “Cheers!” I said.

Zeke just nodded and raised his glass to his lips.

I knocked my glass into Riley’s. It was meant to make a sweet little chink sound. Instead, I overestimated my strength and half of his shot sloshed over the glass onto his hand. “Oops. Sorry.” I leaned over and licked his hand. “Trade me.” I switched our shots and then drank the halfsie one down.

He drank his in one tilt, wrinkling his nose. “You want something on the jukebox?”

“Well, yes, I do.” The vodka was warming me down into my inner thighs and I wanted to dance with him. After I got a little closer. I leaned over to his stool, hands on the bar top, feet on the footrest bar, and kissed him.

He kissed me back, hand firm on the small of my back, gradually shifting down onto my ass. He broke away. “Every woman in here hates you right now.”

“Why? Because I’m kissing you?” That was a little arrogant on his part. Not that it was untrue but yeesh. I glanced around and saw that of the ten people in the bar, nine were watching us. The men were all in their fifties except for one and they were all gawking openly. The women were of the big hair, blinged butt jean variety and they were shooting me glares. What did I do, besides have a hot boyfriend?

Riley patted my butt. “No. Because you have legs that are a mile long and the shortest pair of denim shorts in the history of the world on and you look smoking hot.”

“Oh.” Well, that was okay then. As long as he thought I looked hot. I licked my lips. “Thanks.”

“You’re killing me.” He stood up. “Come on, let’s play pool.”

We did. Or rather, he did, and I tried, but all I succeeded in doing was almost taking my own eye out. But it had the added benefit of forcing him to lean over me and help me with my strokes. No one in the bar bothered us, and I decided I liked it there, in the dark, smoky quiet. Everyone was disregarding the no-smoking law and just puffing away, and while I didn’t love the smell, I liked the haze.

Dark and seductive, that’s what it was.

The jukebox took negotiation. “No way in hell,” Riley said to a pop song.

I flipped and pointed.

“Lame. No. Over my dead body.”

“You pick one then,” I told him, pinching his arm.

“Hey. You can’t just pinch me.”

“Yes, I can.” I did it again.

He laced his fingers through mine so I couldn’t touch him anymore and grinned. “You are asking for it.”

“You say that all the time,” I murmured, “and nothing ever happens.”

“You say that like you want something to happen,” he said, eliminating all the space between us.

My lips parted.

He bent, his expression intense. When he kissed me, he nipped at my bottom lip and I closed my eyes. I wanted him so much, the alcohol making my body feel liquid and hot, and I shifted so that his thigh was between my legs, my hips bumping against him.

His eyes darkened, the corner of his mouth tilting up. “I’m picking the song.”

He did and it was something I’d never heard of. It sounded like it was a fuck-me song masquerading as a love ballad from the seventies. Or rather a love ballad from the seventies masquerading as a fuck-me song. Something like that.

Riley pulled my arms up to rest around his neck, and right there, in the skeezy bar, with Zeke and bullet-bra-wearing women watching, he slow danced with me. He actually had good rhythm.

I sighed. “This is better than prom.” My date had been Tweeter Brinkley and he was nice enough, though with a serious sweating problem. But he had been in love with Chelsea Zane and had spent the whole night following her around while I had gotten drunk in the restroom with Kylie. At one point, I pulled out my hair extensions and wrote on my arms with a Sharpie brilliant things like Seniors! Prom Blows! And Troy Trojans . . . because she rode the wrong horse. My parents were not amused the next day, even though I insisted I had been held down forcibly against my will.

“I didn’t go to prom,” Riley said.

“You didn’t miss a damn thing.”

“What I was missing was you,” he said.

My breath caught. Everything inside me melted. I had never felt more female in my entire life than I did right then and I felt softer, languid.

Like I was falling in love.

“Let’s go home,” he said as we swayed to the song that was now my favorite song ever, because it had created this moment.

“You always have the best ideas.”

Riley pulled me toward the bar. “What do I owe you?” he asked Zeke.

“It’s on me,” the bartender said, drying a glass in his hand. “Thanks for the entertainment.”

They fist bumped.

“Got everything?” Riley asked.

“I left everything in the car.”

His hand rubbed my knee during the three-minute drive home, and I wouldn’t have thought such a simple thing could be so erotic, yet it was. It just went in slow circles over my bare skin and it felt as sexy as that slow dance.

As we went down the hallway to his bedroom, Riley paused once to kiss me, cupping my cheeks with his hands. “God, you’re so beautiful.”

Not only did I feel beautiful with Riley, I felt like a nicer, better person, softer, like melted butter. Maybe it was the vodka, maybe it was dark hallway or our whispered voices, the boys all asleep, but I felt like I was going to crawl out of my skin if I didn’t get to have sex with Riley in the next five seconds. When he stripped off his shirt, after carefully closing his door and locking it, I yanked off my shirt and tossed it on the floor. I took my bra off, too.

He turned to me and actually jumped a little. “Holy shit, Jess.” His voice was strained.

“What?” I undid the snap on my shorts and started to take the zipper down.

“Slow down.”

“No.” I wanted to feel his skin on mine.

But Riley pulled me down onto the bed with him before I could finish taking off my shorts and he kissed me deeply, with tongue, so that I groaned, hips arching to meet his erection.

“Not tonight, honey,” he told me, breathing hard, his eyes agonized.

I froze in the act of humping his crotch, astride his body, my breasts scraping along his chest. “What do you mean?”

“I mean we’re not having sex tonight. I don’t want our first time together to be when you’re shitfaced.”

It was like a slap. Hot humiliation rushed into my mouth, a thick bile, and I sucked in a few deep breathes, suddenly feeling like I was going to be sick. “I’m not shitfaced,” I protested. “I know exactly what I’m doing.”

But he still shook his head. “I don’t want it like this.”

He didn’t want me. That’s what I heard. I rolled off of him and curled up against the edge of the bed, feeling as rejected as I had when I had been cut from the cheerleading squad in seventh grade for fucking up a back handspring.

“I want you to remember it,” he said.

“What I’m going to remember is that you’re a prick,” I said venomously.

“Don’t be irrational.” He touched my back and I swatted at him.

“Don’t touch me.”


“Whatever.” I closed my eyes, willing myself not to cry. No tears. Jessica Sweet didn’t cry. It was the golden rule.

My body was aching with the need for an orgasm and my stomach was roiling from the alcohol. I tried to breathe quickly in and out of my nose, nausea climbing. The damn waterbed was moving, further contributing to the bed spins from all the booze. It was like being on the deck of a ship. For a second I thought I was going to be okay, but then Riley rolled over and the whole bed undulated. I grabbed the lip of the frame and felt my stomach heave in protest.

Game over. I sat up and fumbled my way out of bed and along the wall.

“Where are you going?”

I didn’t bother to say anything, just clawed at the door until I yanked it open and dashed into the bathroom, topless, my shorts unzipped. I flicked on the light, blinding myself, and barely had time to flip up the lid on the toilet before I threw up, the stench of peanut butter and chocolate making me cough and choke as vodka and Reese’s and bile expelled from my stomach.

Riley appeared behind me and I waved him off, not wanting him to see me like this. After the heaving stopped, I still clung to the toilet, on my knees, drool dangling from my mouth.

He lifted my heavy hair off my face and smoothed it over my back. “You okay?”

I nodded. As good as anyone can be horking topless in front of her boyfriend who won’t have sex with her. Sinking backward, I shifted my legs and sat on my ass, leaning against the wall, wiping my mouth with my arm. My eyes were watering, and I noticed how badly torn up my knee actually was from falling. There was dried blood dripping down my leg.

The faucet turned on and suddenly Riley’s hand was in my face, and he was gently wiping my mouth, eyes, cheeks with a towel. Then he dried me off and shifted to my knee, dabbing at the dirt and blood. When he put a T-shirt over my head and dressed me like a doll, carefully pushing my arms through the holes, I wasn’t any help to him, but I didn’t resist either.

I waited for the recriminations, the judgment over taking that last shot.

But he didn’t tell me I was stupid.

That was the voice in my own head, not his.

“Are you going to throw up again?” he asked, squatting in front of me, knuckles gently drifting down my cheek.

“I don’t think so.”

“Let me help you back to bed then.”

“I can’t sleep on that waterbed. It’s moving.” Just the memory of it made me gag a little.

“Okay, you can sleep on the couch. Come on.” He lifted me under my armpits and dragged me to my feet.

With his help I stumbled to the couch and collapsed, pulling one of the new pillows under my head and sighing. I closed my eyes, but that made the spinning start again, so I kept them resolutely open as Riley draped a blanket over me. It was too hot for the blanket, but I left it, appreciating his care.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

In the dark room, he leaned over and gave me a half smile. “Vodka happens. No big deal.”

That wasn’t what I meant. I was trying to tell him that I was sorry for being me. I shook my head. “No. For everything.” For not being good enough for him, because I knew that I wasn’t. I was a liar and afraid to stand up to my parents, passive in my life, and far too willing to put out instead of make emotional connections with people.

My last name shouldn’t be Sweet, it should be Sour. Jessica Sour. That was me.

A big tart, mouth puckering, acidic mess.

That was my last drunken thought before I drifted off to sleep, Riley still petting my hair.

* * *

I woke up out of a restless sleep burning hot, mouth dry. I jerked when I realized that Easton was sitting on the coffee table watching me. “Hey,” I mumbled, my throat sore. I checked under the blanket to make sure I was wearing clothes, because I had a memory of being topless while puking.

But I was wearing a soft T-shirt, so I kicked the blanket off with my feet, boiling hot, hair damp with sweat.

“Hey,” he said. “If you give me ten bucks, I’ll go the store and get you Red Bull. That’s the best thing for a hangover, my mom always said that.”

Wonderful. I was sending him back into memories of his hard-partying mother. “That’s nice of you, but I’m okay.” I also thought Red Bull was probably a poor choice for dehydration, but what did I know? There hadn’t been a lot of nights where I had hit it like I had the night before.

His leg bounced. “Are you sure?”

Suddenly suspicious, I swallowed hard and studied him, picking at my left eye, which seemed gummed shut with mascara. “Do you want to go to the store?” I asked carefully.

He shrugged. “I don’t mind.”

“Are you conning Jessica?” Riley said, coming into the room in basketball shorts, no shirt. “Beat it, punk.”

Easton sent me one last meaningful look that I didn’t understand and ran past his brother, darting out of the way as Riley tried to rub the top of his head.

“Why does he want to go to the store?” I asked, trying to pull myself to a sitting position with a sigh.

“He takes a cut of the money and buys himself candy. Plus I think the dude at the 7-Eleven lets him look at the latest issue of Playboy.”

“Oh. At least he’s enterprising.”

Riley laughed. “I guess you could call it that. How are you feeling?”

“Like shit.”

Jayden came into the room. “Oh my God!” he exclaimed when he saw me. “What happened to you? You look like butthole!”

Perfect. Even Jayden recognized a hot mess when he saw one.

“U!” Riley frowned at him. “That’s a pretty goddamn rude thing to say to a chick.”

“Oh. Sorry.” Jayden looked at me, his apology looking and sounding sincere. But then he added equally truthfully, “But you do look terrible.”

I couldn’t help it. I had to laugh. “I’m sure I do. This is why vodka has a warning label.”

Jayden either didn’t get it or didn’t care. He lost interest in me and turned to Riley. “It’s hot as balls today. Can we go swimming?”

Riley looked like he would rather have his nails torn out, but he nodded. “Give me at least an hour though. And no harassing me about it in the meantime. You drive me crazy when you follow me around sighing.”

“Okay!” Jayden moved off down the hall singing a Lady Gaga song at the top of his lungs.

Riley shook his head. “God, what song is that? It’s a good thing I love them. Because otherwise I might drive them out into the country and leave them in a cornfield.”

“You would not.” My head was throbbing, but I knew he was full of shit. He would do anything for them. He already had.

“Nah. I wouldn’t.” Riley moved into the kitchen. “I have coffee for you,” he called out as he disappeared from view. “I iced it.”

When he brought me a cup of chilled coffee and a yogurt I made a face. “Drink it. Eat it. You’ll feel better, trust me.”

I took a tentative sip. It was cold and wet and all that was wonderful. “Thanks. Where’s my purse? I want to see if Robin got home okay.” I should have texted her from the townie bar and made sure she had a ride. But I was too fucked-up to think about it.

“You threw this on the floor when we got back.” Riley bent over by the front door and handed my wristlet to me.

Unzipping it, I took another coffee sip and checked my phone. No relevant texts. I tapped out a message to Robin and closed my eyes again briefly. “I’m sorry about last night.”

“What was that all about?” he asked, sitting on the coffee table where Easton had been earlier, resting his elbows on his legs.

“I got drunk.”

“No, I mean, what was that all about, later? Were you really upset with me for wanting to wait?”

I wanted to lie and shrug it off. But it did bother me. A lot. “I felt—no, I feel—rejected.”

“Why would that make you feel rejected?” He looked genuinely confused.

“Because you don’t want me.” If I hadn’t been feeling like ass, and obviously according to Jayden, looking like it, too, I never would have said it. But I was pretty much so low I was crawling on the dirty ground of the townie bar, so what difference did it make? It wasn’t like I had an ounce of dignity left.

His jaw dropped. “Are you joking? Of course I want you! I want you so fucking bad it hurts. But you were loaded last night. You weren’t going to wake up today and think that was an awesome sexual experience.”

“It’s not just about last night. You don’t ever try to . . . you know.” I was having a hard time extracting words from my sluggish brain.

“What? Stick it in you after zero effort on my part? Bend you over the couch after five minutes of dating? No. I don’t try to do that. Because I care about you. I want to take some time and get to know each other and each other’s bodies, together.” He shifted closer to me, his brown eyes earnest. “I want to explore you and your body, not use it.”

“Oh.” I wasn’t sure what to say to that, it was so totally foreign to me. “But I want to have sex with you. Don’t make me feel bad for that.”

“I’m not trying to. I think it’s awesome that you want to get naked with me.” He raised his eyebrows up and down. “Trust me, I’m looking forward to it. But it’s like cramming a whole ice-cream cone in my mouth and swallowing it whole. What good is that? It’s over and done in a second. I want to really taste it, to lick it slowly. I want to savor the ice cream, you know what I’m saying?”

Holy crap, it was hot in the living room. “So this isn’t about you punishing me for sleeping with other guys before I met you?” Because that was my ultimate fear.

Riley took my hand and put his palm so that it faced out and he laced his fingers through mine. “No. Absolutely not. But I have to admit that I do want to be important. Not just another guy, but the guy. More important than my brother, than Bill, than whoever else.” He kissed my knuckles. “I want to be the man you love.”

The thing was, I thought maybe he already was. Who else could make me feel like this? So special, so beautiful, so cherished, when I was laying in my sweat, vomit still in my hair, breath smelling like the bottom of a trash can. I nodded enthusiastically, because I didn’t trust myself to speak without crying. There was a tightness in my chest, my throat, and I squeezed his fingers tightly.

I thought and discarded a few different things to say as wrong or over the top and settled on, “You are more important than any of them. Ever.”

For the first time ever, I caught a glimpse of vulnerability in Riley. He looked like he couldn’t speak now, and he gave a short nod, his jaw working. Then he said, “Good. Okay. So we’re on the same page now?”

I nodded. “Though I still want to have sex.”

He laughed. “Me too. But it’s been two years, I figure I can last a few more weeks.”

Weeks? God save the queen, was he for real? And wait a minute. He hadn’t had sex in two years? That made my self-control seem virtually nonexistent. I had to step it up. “Oh me too, of course. I was just testing you.”

“Jessica, you are amazing.” He leaned forward and kissed me. “Now eat your yogurt so we can go to the pool later. You’re coming with us, right?”

“Wouldn’t miss it.” I swung my legs around and forced myself to stand. “Though I don’t have a bathing suit with me.”

“We can stop at your apartment.” Riley gave me a look. “And maybe you should just pack a whole suitcase. It’s a little inconvenient to have your stuff there when you’re always going to be here.”

Hello. He was suggesting I stay with him. Not quite living with him, but there being extended periods of time where I didn’t go back to my apartment. That might seem fast, except for the fact that we had started out living together. It didn’t seem weird to me, it just seemed awesome. “Good point,” I told him, just as casual as he was. “Now I have to go pee.”

“After all that booze I’m surprised you didn’t wet your pants last night. I have to hand it to you, you can hold your liquor.”

“I puked in your bathroom. How is that holding my liquor?”

“But you did it with such style. Topless. That’s classic.”

I could only imagine. “Before the whole throwing-up thing, I had a great time with you. Well, after you shoved that guy’s face into a garbage can of booze. Everything in between was a lot of fun.”

“Actually, I had fun at the bar with you, too. Next time let’s skip the frat party and go straight there.”

“Deal.” Relieved that not only had I not ruined our relationship, we seemed to have taken it to the next level, even without sex, I went into the bathroom and checked out the horror reflecting back at me in the mirror. Yep. Train wreck. My face was swollen and dry, mascara streaking down both cheeks. My hair was stringy and sticking up in the back. Chapped lips. Filthy, dirty feet and a scraped-up knee. Yep. Adorbs. That was me.

I didn’t even bother to brush my hair or wash my face. I figured everyone has already seen me looking like ass. I used the toilet and padded back out to the living room, grabbing the yogurt and coffee. I could hear the guys all out on the back patio and I wanted to sit with them. The sun might feel good. Wincing when I opened the door and the sun hit me in the eyes, I shuffled over to the table and plopped down next to Riley.

Tyler was on the other side and he took one look at me and said, “Wow. Good morning, pretty girl.”

“I hate you,” I said.

He laughed. But he did call out to his brother, “Hey, Easton, go grab your sunglasses for Jess. She needs them.”

Easton went streaking by.

“That kid never walks, does he?” I said, scooping up some of the yogurt and forcing it into my mouth, even when I thought I might gag.


Riley was straddling the bench sideways, and he reached out and started rubbing my shoulders, easing the drunken knots out of them.

“Oh my God, that feels so good.”

Easton came back and flung a pair of plastic sunglasses on the table before going back into the yard shirtless to poke at something in the corner with a stick. “Thank you,” I called after him.

Then I opened them and realized they were twin dollar signs. Nice. I put them on my face and Tyler and Riley both started laughing.

“Wow, big pimpin’, Jess.” Riley took a sip from my coffee.

“It does help with the glare,” I said. “I can’t really look any worse, so what’s the difference?”

“I think you look cute,” Riley said, reaching out and brushing his fingers over my lip.

Oh, my. Heart. Melt.

“Suck-up.” Tyler coughed into his hand.

I looked at Tyler, thinking about how happy he was with Rory, thinking about how I really liked him as a friend, but now, next to Riley, he was like, well, a brother to me. It was almost impossible to remember what it felt like to see and feel him naked, his body inside of me, and instead of shoving that away, ignoring it, I wanted to examine those feelings and memories. I wanted to be honest with myself.

It was a weird phrase “inside of me” when you thought about it, like as if sex were an invasion. An alien moving in your body. It didn’t factor in the emotional side of sex at all.

Because I knew in that capacity, no one had ever actually been inside me.

So if I knew then what I knew now, would I still have sex with Tyler? It was hard to remember the exact circumstances that had even led to it to the first time. So it was hard to say. Probably no. But I wasn’t exactly sure.

All I knew was certain was that like fabric fades in the sun, so had the physical part of my relationship with Tyler, and neither of us would ever miss it. In some ways, it was already like it had never happened.

Which gave me my answer. Because if you could look back on sex with someone and say it was like it had never happened, then it never should have in the first place.

It should matter.

So while it wasn’t regret I felt as the sun beat down on me on the patio and Tyler smoked me out with his ever-present cigarette, I knew that I was looking forward to me and Riley.

To a relationship that mattered.

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