Authors: Tara West
Tags: #Fiction, #Coming of Age
A Something More Novel
Table of Contents
Theo, thank you for making my manuscript shine. You do amazing work.
Elle, thanks for formatting for me so quickly, and for working hard to make sure my book sparkles. Emma and Shea, thanks so much for reading my manuscript and for your excellent feedback. I can’t wait to see you all in Vegas!!!
Tammy, special kudos for telling me to add those scenes with Andrés’s POV. You have helped to make this book so much better. I don’t know what I would have done without your advice.
To my fan club, especially Becky, Jacklynn, Jodi, Kelly, and Sheri, thank you for your continued support of my writing. Your friendship and encouragement means so much to me.
“Teenie, you okay in there?”
Just ignore him,
I tell myself
. He’s invisible. A figment of your imagination. You are not engaged to be married to the world’s biggest ass. Jackson James does not exist. You can’t see him on the other side of that door. Hold steady. Focus on the smooth porcelain. The elongated silver handle. Stucco walls.
“I’m starting to think you don’t like sex with me.” He is whining. Now he’s scratching on the door.
Oh, God. Go away. Please go away.
“You’re killing my ego.” I can hear him breathing through a crack in the door. He sounds nasally, congested. His breath smelled like farts tonight.
I clutch the porcelain and heave. It burns coming out, so hot my eyes water. Steaming chunks get tangled in my hair as wisps fall in my face.
My bare bottom sticks to the cool tiles. I try in vain to pull my hair back as I heave. The rancid smell stings my nasal passages, and a wave of nausea causes me to vomit again.
He’s still whining. I wish he’d shut up, but now I’m too sick to care.
I have no idea why for the past two weeks, every time I’ve had sex with my fiancé, I end up on the bathroom floor, clutching the toilet like a lifeline. I’ve never missed a pill and my pregnancy test was negative. If I had the flu or food poisoning, I’d know it by now. Maybe my body is trying to force my brain to acknowledge the truth: this relationship is failing.
All I know is I’d still prefer this moment, this
moment, to going back into that bedroom and having sex with him.
“No! No! No!” I scream while hurling fried wontons at my fiancé.
Jackson sits there for a moment with mouth agape, absorbing the first round of my tantrum with a look of comical horror in his blue-green eyes. Then his pale face colors, first a soft shade of coral, then a red the same hue as the obnoxious tie he’s wearing. His flush spreads like wildfire all the way to the roots of his wavy blond hair.
“Teenie, you’re making a scene.” He throws his chopsticks on the table and hisses through clenched teeth. “Sit down!”
“No!” I grab a fistful of shrimp and pineapple and something unrecognizable and throw it at his ugly tie. I wipe my greasy hand on a cloth napkin and storm toward the exit, knowing I look awkward as I wobble in three inch stilettos.
Once outside, I inhale a deep breath of warm Austin air, a welcome relief compared to the stifling smells inside. Heavy clouds crowd the night sky, blotting out much of the light from the full moon. My skin is coated in a thin mist as a drizzle falls on my head. I pray it doesn’t start raining harder before my ride shows. I cannot go back inside that restaurant. I cannot go back inside to
I pace near the entrance, scanning the rows of parked cars for my best friend, Karri, my rescuer from this hellish night.
Not surprisingly, the heavy restaurant door swings open and Jackson stomps toward me like a big pouty steam roller. “What is wrong with you? You barfed when we were making love last week and now
“Making love?” I laugh. “Is that what you call it?” Smacking my ass hard enough to leave angry red handprints and calling me his “dirty whore” is hardly my idea of making love. In fact, just the idea of having sex with Jackson again makes me want to hurl, which is why I haven’t let him touch me all week.
His pudgy face is illuminated beneath the glow of the street lamp overhead. I used to think his boyish looks were attractive, but I’ve grown sick of staring at him. I read the rage simmering in his hooded eyes. I’d only seen him this angry with his roommates, usually when they drink the last of his beer. At six foot two, he towers over my small frame as he bears down on me with a scowl. Jackson is expecting me to back down. Jackson is expecting me to apologize.
I look up at him and meet his gaze with a glare of my own. “This is my twenty-first fucking birthday! I don’t even like Chinese food!”
“Calm down.” He holds out both hands and I think he cringes, but then he straightens his face, trying his best to look impassive, like he’s the one in control. “I’ll let you order the soup.”
“I don’t want any damn soup!” I stomp my foot and wince. My mother’s flimsy heels hurt like hell. Why had I let her talk me into wearing them? “I want a beer.”
Preferably not with you
, I want to say, but I don’t. Despite my little act of defiance tonight, years of being browbeaten by my mother and now Jackson, have trained me to bite my tongue.
He flashes that crooked grin I used to think was attractive. The “let’s get drunk and screw” grin. “We can talk it out at my place.” He steps toward me and reaches for my arm.
I jerk away before he can touch me. “You mean we’ll go have
at your place.” The words come out on a hiss. I don’t mean to sound like a spitting cobra, but I kind of like the look of shock in his eyes. I turn up my chin and hold my ground, though my insides start to quiver.
My gaze darts to the cars zooming by. I silently pray one of them will be my ride out of here.
This is the new me
, I want to say to him.
I’m not putting up with anyone’s shit any longer.
I hold back from unleashing that part of my verbal assault. I wonder if I’ve got the guts to hold him and my mom off forever.
I don’t know if I can do it
, a little voice inside me whines. I hate that voice. I tell her to shut up as I turn from Jackson and walk across the slick driveway. A pimple-faced valet with a crooked buzz cut is jingling a set of keys and smirking at me. I ignore him.
Karri should have been here by now. I’m hoping she’ll spot me if stand out on the main road.
“Where are you going?” Jackson calls at my back.
Please stop following me,
I silently beg.
Let me win an argument just once.
“None of your damn business,” I shout over my shoulder. I don’t know what happened to Christina. I don’t know this girl who’s using my mouth to talk back to my fiancé, but I like her.
I keep walking until I’m on the sidewalk facing the busy street. Cars buzz by and ruffle the fabric on my hot pink chiffon skirt. I hate this skirt. It barely covers my ass, but my mother said it makes me look sexy, and if I want my fiancé to set a date, I have to entice him by showing off my legs. I inhale gas fumes and cover my mouth, stifling a cough. Surprisingly, I’m not bothered by the smell. If this is what freedom smells like, I’ll take it. I cringe at the sound of heavy steps behind me.
“You’ve ruined my celebration.” His deep bellow sounds like a heavy drum in my ear. “You’re acting like a total bitch, Teenie.”
I clench my fists and tell myself I will not back down. I can feel his hot breath on the back of my head. I imagine it smells like farts and spicy Asian shrimp. That makes me smile, but only for a moment.
I slowly turn on my heel, looking up at him through narrowed slits. “My name is Christina.” The words rapidly roll off my tongue, punching the air between us. Then I thrust a finger into his beefy chest. “And for your information, tonight is
To my amazement, Jackson steps back. I think maybe he’s going to let me win this argument. I hope he’ll just get in the expensive car his daddy bought him and drive off. But then his brows draw together, and I can see that wheel in his head turning. No, he’s not backing down. He’s just regrouping and reassessing the situation, so he can think up a hurtful, witty comeback. Something to get me to feel like shit and apologize.
His lower lip turns down, taking his round jaw and the entire lower half of his face with it. He heaves a sigh and then adds a sniffle for good measure. His eyes are as dry as dust. What a faker. How had I ever fallen for his bullshit?
“How can you be so selfish?” The intensity and pitch of his whine increases with each word and his face falls even more. “Like my promotion doesn’t mean anything.”
Anger wells up inside me as heat flames my chest and fans my cheeks. “Not tonight it doesn’t.” I desperately want to slap that fake pout off his face. “And you just got more responsibilities, not a pay raise. You’re a fucking intern.”
His daddy got him the job at a friend’s investment firm. He is supposed to be working for this company for college credit, but he spends most of his time on the green either with his dad’s friends or his frat buddies. He still hasn’t told me exactly what he’s done to earn this promotion.
The wind ruffles his blond hair while he stands there with his hands hanging limply by his sides. He looks like a child on the verge of a tantrum. How had I ever been attracted to this guy?
Oh, yeah. His family’s wealth. After my dad’s series of poor business decisions, and sudden demise, Mom realized she hadn’t saved enough money to maintain her lifestyle forever. One day, she’ll be forced to choose between groceries and botox. I know she’s hoping Jackson and I will support her. When my mom found out Jackson’s dad was a software tycoon, she practically had a money-gasm the first time I brought him home. From that moment on my fate was sealed. I was supposed to use any means necessary to secure Jackson James as my husband. Love him, seduce him, lure him into my matrimonial clutches.
Disregard his foul breath, little penis, and short temper. Those are all inconsequential. Keep your eye on the prize. Marry into one of the wealthiest families in Texas and live a life of security and privilege. Those were my mother’s instructions. She’d be furious if she knew how close I was to throwing it all away.
I turn from him, dig my phone out of my purse and fire off a message to Karri.
Where are you?
“Please tell me you’re not texting Karri,” he groans behind me.
“I’m not texting Karri,” I mumble while I impatiently await her response. I tap my heel on the concrete, hating the loud click as it hits the ground.
“You’ve been changing, Teenie, and I think it has a lot to do with
.” The whine in his voice is so pronounced, I have the strong urge to cover my ears with both hands.
I turn toward him. “I
been changing and it has
to do with her.”
He shakes his head. “She’s a bad influence. She’s never going to go anywhere in life and she wants to bring you down with her.” His eyes widen as he looks at something over my shoulder. “Goddamn, is that her?”
Relief floods through me as I see Karri’s dark blue Sentra pulls to a stop in front of me. There’s a new scratch on the hood and the front passenger tire is missing a hubcap. An infant car seat is propped up in the rear center.