Authors: Kim Karr
I screamed out—loudly.
“Fuck,” he hissed as he stilled his body.
I collapsed on his chest and he pulled me tight. For a few moments, his fingers rubbed shapes on my back. Nondescript. But shapes nonetheless. Soon, too soon, he shifted and rolled me to my back as he stood to dispose of the condom.
“Are you thirsty?” he asked.
I shook my head no.
He lowered himself back down and his head landed on the pillow next to mine. He was so close to me I could see the blue glimmering in his eyes from the faint light illuminating the room.
After a few minutes, I moved even closer so that we were on the same pillow. “I can’t believe we just did that.”
He looked concerned. “Do you regret it?”
“No, not at all,” I sighed dreamily.
I hesitated. “It’s just . . . I don’t even know you. We’re strangers.”
He shook his head. “We’re not though. You know more about me than most people.”
I blew a piece of hair out of my eyes. “I doubt that.”
“It’s true. But what do you want to know?”
I squirmed under his intense gaze. “Everything.”
He grinned. “Just kiss me.”
“Get your hands off her,” Jeremy growled in the most ferocious way.
His voice was deeper, but I would have known it anywhere.
“What’s it to you?” Lars spat.
It all happened so fast. Jeremy forcefully grabbed Lars’ arm and yanked it off me and then he spun around to face Lars. “Get lost, asshole.”
“Fuck you.” Lars seethed, but after a few seconds of staring, he stomped away.
Jeremy turned back around to face me. “Are you okay?”
I nodded. Even though I was shaking, I reached my hand out to touch his face but stopped myself just in time. “Jeremy,” I gasped.
“Phoebe.” His voice broke on my name.
My breath caught and my pulse thundered from the sound of his voice saying my name. Blood swooshed in my ears as I tried to flush my past out of the present. He was still eye-wateringly handsome. His heart-pounding physique, his scent, and the intensity of his stare that always seduced me—it was all there.
I’d loved him once, even though I’d never told him I did.
And as I looked at him, everything I’d ever felt for him came rushing back. In a moment of extreme clarity, I realized he was the one I was measuring my relationship with Dawson against and what I’d had with him never could compare to what I’d shared with Dawson.
What Jeremy and I had was epic.
Jeremy was the reason I couldn’t commit—I was searching for what I’d had with him before I lost him.
I stood paralyzed as everything that he once was to me came rushing back.
Out of nowhere, Lars was striding back toward us but Jamie stepped in front of him and threw a punch to his jaw.
“What the fuck!” Lars yelled.
“Learn to keep your hands to yourself,” Jamie muttered and started toward me.
“Hey, douche bag,” Lars called to him.
Jamie turned around and Lars shoved him so hard, he went flying backward and into a waitress carrying a tray full of drinks.
All of our heads snapped to the sound of glass shattering, and in the chaos Lars slipped away.
Jeremy went after him.
“Fucking hell,” Jamie muttered from the floor.
I snapped out of it and raced toward him. “Jamie, are you okay?”
He was on the ground covered in food and drinks. He rubbed the back of his head and then tried to sit up but fell back down. I thought I saw red but I think it was a Bloody Mary. He tried to sit up again. It wasn’t until the third attempt that he managed to do so.
I felt dizzy as I bent down. The room started to fade in and out. “Whoa,” Jamie said, steadying me. “Don’t worry about me. Go sit down.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Dawson standing close by but he kept his distance. “I’m fine.”
A hand gripped my arm and brought me to my feet. I could feel the current course through me the minute Jeremy touched me.
“Here, drink this,” he said, handing me a glass of water.
He moved quickly, extending a hand and helping Jamie to his feet. “You okay, man?”
I watched him and wondered if that was going to be it for our communication tonight. I downed the water, knowing I’d drunk way too much alcohol.
As Jamie shook his limbs, loose pieces of glass dropped to the pool of mixed liquors that puddled at his feet. “Yeah, I think so. Did you find that asshole?”
Jeremy shook his head. “He took off. I’m not sure in which direction.”
“Fuck him,” Jamie cursed and then turned toward the waitress who was staring at us in disbelief. At least she was completely unmarred by any of the spillage. “I am so sorry. Let me cover this,” Jamie said, reaching into his wallet.
The cocktail waitress refused his money and stood in some kind of shock for a beat before Jeremy whispered something in her ear.
She nodded and then looked at me. “Come on. It looks like you need to sit down.”
I did need to sit down. My head was spinning and my vision was blurring. But I didn’t want to leave Jeremy’s side. Which must have been obvious.
“Go on,” he said in that husky voice I had always loved.
I shook my head no.
He stepped toward me. Not too close but close enough that my body hummed from his proximity. “Go with Shelly, Phoebe St. Claire. We’ll talk later,” he whispered in my ear.
Even his breath was familiar.
Everything about him made me swoon.
He stepped back just as quickly as he had approached. When he did, the room started to spin but what kept me grounded was one simple fact—he knew who I really was.
And he was talking to me.
Shelly took my arm.
But I worried that once I turned my back—I’d never see him again.
It wasn’t that unlikely.
After all, it had happened before.
He was a bad boy.
A boy my mother would never approve of.
He smoked. He rode a motorcycle. He swore. He talked dirty. He went commando. He did what he wanted, when he wanted. But I could see he was trying to mature—“evolve” is what he called it.
There was nothing at all I didn’t like about him, but I didn’t tell him that. I preferred standing strong beside him, trying to counter his commands with even more authoritative ones. He said it was cute. I didn’t care if he didn’t see me as fierce, I felt like I was. When I was with him, I was someone else. Someone I liked. Someone I wanted to be. I was strong for the first time in my life.
Spend the night with me turned into spend the week together, which turned into me practically moving in with him. His mother had gone to Miami and had to stay there. Sadly, his grandmother was dying.
Jeremy worked two jobs. The days were long when he worked. But the nights he worked were even longer. During those times, I stayed at the house with my friends. At first things were calm there—we lay on the beach, hung out, and the guys drank.
But it had been only three weeks since we’d arrived, and things were getting out of hand. Chaos had ensued on a nightly basis—parties, drugs, lots of drugs, alcohol, limos, lobsters, caviar, champagne, anyone and everyone who was in the Hamptons for the summer stopping by. It was crazy, but I didn’t care about that kind of crazy.
I had my own crazy going on.
My friends and I had rented a house together for the summer. The house wasn’t crazy big like any of our parents’ homes in the Hamptons. It wasn’t in the epicenter of town. But it was available. It belonged to my college roommate’s father. The Charlestons had purchased a new house a block or so away and Mr. Charleston wanted to do some repairs before he put it on the market. He rented it to us with the contingency that he could work on it while we stayed there.
I loved the place.
I was the only one.
Standing in front of the television screen, I strapped the plastic guitar across my chest and assumed my best rocker stance. My fingers twitched slightly on the fret buttons in anticipation as the camera zoomed down to my on-screen avatar and I listened for the first beats of the song to start up.
“Since when do you play Guitar Hero?”
“You’re back,” I said and looked over. “Oh my God, what happened to you?” Logan had a jagged cut under his eye that had a butterfly bandage on it.
He shrugged. “Nothing really. A small fight. I’m fine.”
“You were in Boston again?”
I could tell he didn’t want to talk about it. “Do you want to play?”
He picked up the second guitar. “You mean, do I want to kick your ass? Hell yeah.”
Jamie leaned against the door frame, staring at me curiously. “What’s gotten into you? Poker the other night. A game of pool last week, and now this? Who are you and what have you done with the real Phoebe St. Claire?”
“She’s branching out,” Logan offered.
“Jeremy taught me,” I added.
“When are you bringing this dude over? I need to thank him for bringing my friend out of her shell, breaking through her reserve.”
“You know I can’t invite him over here.”
“No, I don’t know that. Give up the game and tell him who you are.”
“Jamie, it’s not a game. And you don’t understand.”
The music kicked in and the screen displayed the note chart. I focused on the bottom of it. More specifically, on the target line with the five color-coded discs that corresponded to the top-down order of fret buttons on the controller. Still, I couldn’t catch the beat. I had lost my concentration.
“Here, give it to me,” Jamie said.
I handed him the guitar.
He strapped it on and started playing. Right away, the color-coded gems slid along the fret lines toward the target line with ease. He hit the matching fret buttons and strum bar at the same time the gems hit the target line. He was good. Almost as good as Jeremy.
When a small flame burst above the gems on the screen, he yelled, “Fuck, yes.”
His score was ridiculously high when he finished. He turned to Logan. “Just call me master.”
Logan took his stance. “Fuck that, you know I’m the master.”
Jamie rolled his eyes and then turned to me. “The key to scoring is timing. It really helps if you know the song so playing the Sex Pistols when you listen to top forty isn’t going to help you. And then there are the HOPOs.”
“The what?” Jeremy had yet to mention them.
“HOPOs: hammer on and pull-off notes. It’s Guitar Hero lexicon.”
“That’s too much information.” I turned to watch Logan, who was going to town on “Free Bird.” Another classic rock song. I got it now and Britney would be my strategy the next time Jeremy and I played.
Logan jammed out the last of the song with his fingers moving so fast I was in awe. When he finished, he gave Jamie his classic head bob and waved the guitar in the air. “Who owned who?”
Jamie pouted. “Rematch.”
“Hey, I hate to leave you both but I have to get ready. Jeremy is picking me up in thirty minutes.”
Jamie gave me a narrow-eyed glance. “Let him at least come in past the door this time.”
“I have. But no one ever notices.”
“We’ve talked a few times,” Logan vouched for me.
“See,” I said to Jamie and left it at that.
I ran up the stairs to get changed. Lily had taken off for St. Bart’s yesterday with some guy she met at a party but left most of her wardrobe behind for me. I rifled through her closet and found a simple white dress with an empire waist. Jeremy was picking me up in his mother’s car instead of his motorcycle so I could actually wear a dress. Tonight he wanted me to get to know his best friend, Kat. Kat was a petite girl. She had jet-black hair and bangs and looked like a kewpie doll.
I really didn’t like her but my reason was stupid—she knew Jeremy so well and he called her Kit-Kat.
I was jealous.
I knew I shouldn’t have been. Jeremy spent all his free time with me. When he wasn’t working, he taught me how to drive, to play pool, to master Guitar Hero, how to have fun, how to be spontaneous—he taught me how to live.
In the past three weeks, we’d explored parts of the Hamptons I’d never been to—we walked Hedge’s Harper, strolled along the Long Wharf, and flew kites on Peter’s Pond.
He also let his rebel side slip out every now and then. When he did, we followed our own version of crazy, like swim naked in the ocean at three a.m., eat eggs on top of leftover pizza for breakfast, drive his motorcycle to Montauk to watch the sunrise, have sex whenever the moment struck. We didn’t care where we were—we found places.
He was crazy.
I was crazy with him.
I loved it.
I loved him.
But I hadn’t said the words out loud.
Neither had he.
I shook away my jealousy about Kat and slipped the dress on. When I did, I had to laugh. The simple white dress had a deep plunging neckline. So Lily. I went to take it off but took one more glance at myself in the mirror. I liked what I saw. I twirled around and looked again. I never liked to look in the mirror. What had changed?
But I knew what it was. I was more confident about who I was. I felt like a butterfly that had just emerged from her cocoon. When the thought gave me a burst of confidence, I decided to keep the dress on. I grabbed a necklace and my flat gold sandals and headed down the stairs.
As I was leaving, I took hold of the doorknob and looked back. Both men were gazing at me. “What?”
“You look hot,” Jamie said.
Logan cleared his throat. “Second that.”
My smile was huge. “Thanks guys.” I ran over and hugged them and then rushed out to the driveway.
Jeremy was just pulling up as my sandals hit the plush green grass. I liked to walk under the large elm trees that lined the driveway instead of on the gravel. He stopped the car and hopped out. And so did Kat. She had been sitting in the front seat. Since I wasn’t expecting her to be with him, jealousy ran through my veins before I could stop it.
She ran toward me and threw her arms around me. “Phoebe, I’m glad to finally meet you.”
I blinked in shock at how nice she was and the smile I gave her in greeting was genuine. “Hi, Kat, it’s nice to meet you too.”
Jeremy slid his hands on my hips and pulled me back. “Don’t I get a hi?”
I turned and wrapped my arms around him. “Hi, sexy.”
He grinned. “Sexy, huh? I’m looking at sexy.”
I pressed myself into him, something I normally wouldn’t have done in front of people but I had to make my mark. I was surprised when he slid his tongue into my mouth in a deep kiss.
I leaned back. “I missed you.”
The look he gave me sent shivers through my body. “Ready?”
I walked around to the front of the car at the same time Kat did. “I’ll sit in the back,” she offered.
How could I not like her—she was just too nice.
We rode into town and talked. It made me feel nervous—a different kind of nervous.
“So, who’s staying with you?” she asked.
“There were five of my friends, but one took off.”
“Six girls under one roof?”
“No. Three of my friends are guys.”
“Oh.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her slide Jeremy a look. I’d never thought about it but he seemed okay with it. He knew who lived in the house and didn’t seem to mind.
After that, she changed the subject.
“How was work today?” Kat asked Jeremy.
He thumped his hands against the steering wheel, listening to the music and talking. “I can’t complain.”
She leaned forward. “What about you, Phoebe? You don’t have to work this summer?”
I shook my head. “My father’s friend owns the house and gave us a good deal. And besides, I’m splitting the rent with five of my friends.”
“Still, that couldn’t have been cheap.”
“My parents gave it to me for a graduation gift.”
“Nice,” she said and leaned back.
“How’s the catering going?” Jeremy asked her.
I was relieved for his unintentional intervention.
By the time we got to the restaurant, Kat was telling Jeremy about some of the catering jobs she and her mother had done. Kat and her mother were running Jeremy’s mother’s business for her for the summer.
We parked across the street from the pizzeria and he held my hand as we crossed. Kat hurried beside him and he put his hand on the small of her back to keep her in step. When he held the door open for us to go inside, she went first. I followed and he brushed his body against mine as we entered the restaurant together.
“Let’s find a table,” he said, rubbing his stomach. “I’m starving.”
I looked around. I’d never been to this restaurant. “How’s the food?”
It was an innocent question.
“The best pizza in the world. You’ve never been here?” Kat asked.
“No, but I love pizza.”
“Really, everyone on a budget comes here.”
I smacked my lips together. “Never been.”
Jeremy held his arm out toward a booth in the corner and I slid in first. He sat next to me and Kat sat across from him.
She smiled as she handed me a menu.
I felt like she knew who I was. I couldn’t shake the concern.
“We got a call to do a job at the St. Claires’ Saturday night,” she said to Jeremy.
Did she know?
Jeremy stiffened. “I hope you told them to fuck off.”
Panic rose in my gut. He seemed to hate my father so much.
Kat laughed. “Didn’t have to. We were already booked and without your mom, one job a night is all we can manage.”
My eyes dropped to the menu. I was afraid the fear in them was evident. I had to tell him the truth soon but he hated anyone with money so much. How could I make him understand?
“Phoebe,” Kat said. “Did you hear me?”
“I’m glad you eat.”
“What do you mean?”
Jeremy even looked at her sideways.
“You’re so skinny. Most of the time, girls as skinny as you never eat.”
Now I knew for certain her niceness was an act.
“Actually, I’ve struggled with being too skinny my whole life and I’ve hated it.”
“Come on, no girl hates being too thin.”
I shrugged. “I do.”
Jeremy slipped his arm around me. His lips grazed my ears. “I think you’re sexy as hell.”
I turned to him and kissed him. I wanted to tell Kit-Kat that I’d gained weight in college but decided to take the higher road.
She seemed to drop it.
Jeremy played with the hem of my dress and I concentrated on him and his touch.
We ordered and ate and the rest of the dinner conversation was actually pleasant.
“I’ll be right back,” Kat said after we’d finished eating.
Once she’d walked away, Jeremy turned toward me and pressed me against the wall. “I can’t wait to fuck you.”
It came out of nowhere, but then again it usually did.
Still, I felt the same.
His hands slipped under the hem of my dress. “Fuck, you’re so wet.”
“I already told you, I missed you today.”
His lips grazed my jaw. “Yeah, but you didn’t tell me how much.”
Pleasure had immobilized me as he kissed my mouth—lip to lip.
His mouth tasted faintly like beer and garlic. Delicious. “Tell me what you want me to do to you first.”
“Whatever you want,” I breathed.
“Tell me you want me to eat you.”
My shock at the words he used had long ago dissipated. He spoke only the truth. I’d almost forgotten we were in a public place, I was so fixated on his mouth. What he was saying. How he was describing what he wanted me to say. He did that to me all the time.
I almost repeated everything out loud. “Yes, that. All of that.”
He pulled back and took my lip with him. “Soon,” he whispered. I was surprised he gave up trying to get me to talk dirty. He liked it when I told him what I wanted.
“I’m ready if you are.” Kat had sat back down.
How long had she been there?