Tải bản đầy đủ

Lost to you



LOSTTOYOU

A.L.JACKSON


CONTENTS
Copyright
AlsobyA.L.Jackson
Chapter1
Chapter2
Chapter3
Chapter4
Chapter5
Chapter6
Chapter7
Chapter8
Chapter9
Chapter10
Chapter11

Chapter12
AlsobyA.L.Jackson
Afterword
ConnectwithA.L.Jacksononline:
AbouttheAuthor


Copyright©2018A.L.JacksonBooksInc.
SecondEdition
Allrightsreserved.ExceptaspermittedundertheU.S.CopyrightActof1976,nopartofthispublication
maybereproduced,distributed,transmittedinanyformorbyanymeans,orstoredinadatabaseorretrieval
system,withoutpriorpermissionofthepublisher.Pleaseprotectthisartformbynotpirating.
A.L.Jackson
www.aljacksonauthor.com
CoverDesignbyRBADesigns
Photoby???
FormattingbyMesquiteBusinessServices
Thecharactersandeventsinthisbookarefictitious.Names,characters,places,andplotsareaproductof
theauthor’simagination.Anysimilaritytorealpersons,livingordead,iscoincidentalandnotintendedby
theauthor.
PrintISBN:978-1-946420-16-9
eBookISBN:978-1-983404-50-4


ConfessionsoftheHeart–NEWSERIESCOMINGSOON
MoreofYou
AllofMe
PiecesofUs

FightforMeSeries
ShowMetheWay
FollowMeBack
LeadMeHome

BleedingStarsSeries
AStoneintheSea
DrowningtoBreathe
WhereLightningStrikes
Wait
Stay


Stand

TheRegretSeries
LosttoYou
TakeThisRegret
IfForeverComes

TheClosertoYouSeries
CometoMeQuietly
CometoMeSoftly
CometoMeRecklessly

Stand-AloneNovels
Pulled


WhenWeCollide
HollywoodChronicles
AcollaborationwithUSATodayBestsellingAuthor,RebeccaShea
OneWildNight
OneWildRide–ComingSoon

FormoredetailsonA.L.Jackson’sbooksheadovertoherwebsitewww.aljacksonauthor.com


ONE
CHRISTIAN

SHE SAT ACROSS FROM ME, this beautiful girl who had to be both the cutest and
sexiestthingI’deverseen.Arichtenorranginherwords,thismodestkindof
confidencethatsuckedmein,whilehercheeksseemedtocontinuallylightwith
agentleflushwhenshesaidanythingthatembarrassedherintheslightestway.
Asublimecontradiction,self-assuredandshy.
Howironicitwasher.
But really, I shouldn’t have been all that surprised. I always knew what I
wantedthemomentitsawit.
Shiftingagainstthehardwoodofthechair,Ileanedforwardandstruggledto
pay attention to the words she spoke as I stared, mesmerized by that perfect
mouth.
One elbow was propped on the table, her head tilted to the side as she
supported it with her fingertips. Sun-streaked waves of dark blonde hair fell
downaroundonesideofherheart-shapedfaceasshethumbedthroughthethick
textbookrestingonthetablebetweenus.
Concentration edged her brow, her pouty lips pulling into a thin line
whenevershebecameengrossedinsomethingsheread.
“Doyouthinkyou’reupforthis?”sheasked,soundingoverwhelmed.
“Definitely.”
Noquestion.
Iwasupforallkindsofthings.


Lastnight,I’dsharedtwoshortemailswithher,andwe’darrangedtomeet
atthislittlecaféduringthetimewebothhadabreakinourclasses.
Ofcourse,atthattime,IhadnoideawhomyAmericanGovernmentstudy
partnerwouldturnouttobe.Thelittledescriptionshehadgiven,I’dscribbled
onthenotethatwasnowcrumpledinmyfrontpocket.
ElizabethAyers,long,blondehair.
Atthebottom,I’djotteddownhercellphonenumber.
Yeah,I’dbeholdingontothat.
A groan of apparent dread slipped through her lips, and the sound almost
causedmetoreleaseoneofmyown.
“Areyousure?Becausehaveyoulookedthroughthissyllabus?”
She glanced up, then back at the small stapled pack of papers laid out
betweenus.“There’sgoingtobeatonofmemorization.I’mprettysurethisis
goingtobeaprettydifficultclass,”shesaidseriously,completelyfocusedonthe
informationshewasdevouringashereyesrovedoverthepage.
“You have no idea how happy I was to find that sign-up sheet for a study
partner. I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford to get a bad grade in this
class.”Shescribbledsomethinginhernotebook,lickedherlips,rambledmostly
toherself.
AndIjuststared.
Fifteenminutesago,beforeI’dwalkedthroughthedoorofthecaféandseen
her, I’d been all wrapped up in this grade, too. I’d been just as worried about
whomypartnerwouldbe.I’dfiguredit’dbemylucktogetpairedwithsome
loser who wouldtake advantageof mytime andmy hardwork. I’dhavedealt
withit,too,suckeditupandworkedmyassoffbecauseIhadnootherchoice.
TherewasnowayinhellI’dgivemydadanotherreasontoridemebecause
Ihadagradeslippingbelowhisapproval.
Butno,I’dwalkedthroughthedooranditwasher.
Sincethen,I’dhadareallyhardtimefocusingonanythingbutthefluidlilt
ofhervoiceandtheamberwarmthofhersoftbrowneyes.
ShockhadfrozenmeinthedoorwaywhenIwalkedthroughthedoorofthe
caféandwasmetwiththefaceofthesamegirlIhadn’tbeenabletoshakefrom


mymindsincethefirstdayofourAmericanGovernmentclasslastweek.
Whentheclasshadbeendismissed,Igatheredmythingsandstoodtoleave.
Lookinguptomakemywaydowntheaisleofsteps,I’dglimpsedjusttheside
ofherfacewhenshe’dcastafurtiveglancebehindherasshe’dbeenheadingout
thedoor.
Mybreathhadcaught.
Since then that face had slipped in and out of my mind, creeping into my
thoughts,makingrecurrentappearancesinmydreams.
MyreactiontoherhadbeenjustasstrongwhenIwalkedthroughthedoor
today.
Girlsdidn’tdothisme.Andshe’dmanagedittwice.Sittingacrossfromher
now,IknewIhadtohaveher.
Evenifitwasonlyonce.
Pausing, she looked up at me, her eyes narrowed in what appeared both
humorandmildagitation.“Christian,didyouhearanythingIsaid?”sheasked,
hergazewanderingmyfaceforananswer.“Pleasetellmeyou’renotgoingto
makemedoallthisworkmyself.”
Iattemptedtoshakeoffthevisceralreactionthathadmybodyitchingtotake
whatIinstinctivelyknewwouldbemine.“Ofcourse,Iheardyou.Classisgoing
tobeatonofwork.I’mgoodwiththat.”Igrinnedather.“Andno,I’mnotgoing
tomakeyoudoallthework.”
I nudged her foot under the table with mine, flashing the same smile I’d
learnedyearsagowasthesurestwaytogetwhatIwanted.AndwhatIwanted
rightthenwasher.“WhatkindofguydoyouthinkIam?”
Heatrosetohercheeks.Icouldalmostfeelherwarmthradiatingacrossmy
faceinconfusedwaves,thissweetshynessthatseemedtobelackingfromevery
othergirlI’drunacrosssinceIcametothiscity.LackingineverygirlI’dcome
intocontactwithinthelastfouryears,really.
I could feel the attraction that mingled with it, though it was flanked by a
strongcurrentofself-preservation.
“Ihaven’tfiguredthatoutyet,”shesaidasshestraightenedandpitchedher
head to the side. She slowly tapped the backside of her pen on her notepad,


studyingmeforintent.
Her steady gaze locked on me, as if she contemplated who or what I was,
whileminewasunruly,myeyeswanderingontheirownaccord.
Theytraveledthecurvedlineofherjaw,downherneck,totheexpanseof
perfectskinexposedabovetheVofherT-shirt.
CouldanyoneblamemethatIwantedtoburymyfacethere?
Iwonderedhowlongit’dbebeforesheletme.
WhenIbroughtmyattentionbackup,herexpressionhadshiftedandshesat
back, a knowing smirk settling on her face, though it seemed to be hiding
somethingdeeperinthewarmthofherhoneyeyes.
Itlookedawholelotlikedisappointment.
Anunfamiliarfeelingcurledinmystomach.
Guilt.
Ilookedaway,downatmyhandsclenchedtogetheronthetableinfrontof
me.
Everythingaboutherswamwithinnocence,buthereyesweretoosharpto
speakofnaivety.SheknewexactlywhatIwasthinkingasmygazecaressedthe
soft slope of her neck. Most girls would be crawling all over me by now, but
Elizabethlookedlikemaybeshe’d justdecidedshedidn’twantanythingtodo
withme.
Swallowing,Itriedtoreelmyselfin.
Iwasfuckingthisallup,andIhadnoideawhyIcared.
ButIdid.
Imean,Ididn’twantarelationshiporanything,butIwanted...something.
TheexpressiononElizabeth’sfacetoldmeshe’dalreadydecidedwhatthatwas.
Yeah.Definitelyfuckingthisup....
Shewentbacktoflippingthroughthepages,meticulousasshemappedout
our study plan for the semester. She asked me several questions about my
strengths,myschedule,whenandwhereIpreferredtohaveourstudysessions.
Even though she was so obviously worried about her grade, there was no
doubtinmymindshewasgoingtoacethisclass.
“Where are you from, Elizabeth?” The words were abrupt, and I shifted in


myseat,leaningfartheracrossthesmalltablewithmyelbowsdiggingintothe
wood,edgingherdirection.
Honey kissed every inch of her—her hair, her eyes, her skin—and I knew
shecouldn’tbefromaroundhere.
“Uh . . . San Diego,” she said almost absently, absorbed in the words she
wrote,beforeshesurprisedmebystoppingandlookingupatmewithawistful
smile. “I lived there my whole life. This is the first time I’ve been out of
California.Istillcan’tbelieveI’minNewYorkCity.It’scrazy.”
Withasmall,contentedshakeofherhead,shebitatherlipandpickedup
whereshe’dleftoff,thefluidsweepofherhandacrossthepaperassheplanned.
“This is the first time you’ve been out of California?” Incredulity dropped
frommymouth.Howwasthatevenpossible?
I’dtraveledtheworldwithmyparents,forcedtogoontripafterboringtrip.
WhenIwasyoung,IwouldgetexcitedasIsatinafirst-classseatontheplane,
antsytogetintotheair,toseenewthings—formyfathertobethere.
ButsoonIrealizeditwasalwaysthesame.
Mestuckaloneinahugehotelroom,playingmyoldNintendoGameBoy
withanannyIdidn’tevenknow,whilemyparentswentofftodowhateverthey
did.
Vague memories of my mother’s promises lingered in my mind, but they
were always an excuse, a lame apology that next time she would take me
sightseeingortoathemeparkorsomeothercoolplaceIwantedtogo.
BythetimeIwasfifteen,whenevertheywentoutoftown,Irefusedtogo
withthem.
“I guess that’s not normal for most people,” she said, “but my mom raised
meandmysistersbyherself,sotherewasn’talotofmoneyleftforvacations.”
She lifted her head and I could see her face. A gentle casualness framed her
mouth,somethingthatspokeofrespectandgrace.
My mother would have rather died than admit she lacked the money for
something.Butherewasthisgirlwhocouldn’tbemorethaneighteen,layingit
allout,settingherprivateworldondisplay.
Andwithoutanagenda.


A tiny laugh slipped through Elizabeth’s lips. “But we always had our
beach.”
Forasecond,sadnesscloudedherfeatures,analmostindiscernibletwitchof
hermuscles.
“Youmissit,”Iblurtedthroughawhisper.Itwasn’taquestion.Ifeltitasit
suddenlysaturatedtheairaroundus.
Shrugging,shebegantodoodleonthemarginofhernotepad.“Thatobvious,
huh?” She grimaced a smile. “It just kinda hit me a couple of days ago. I’ve
neverbeenawayfromhome,andhereIam,allthewayacrossthecountrywith
nofriendsorfamily.Imean,don’tgetmewrong,Iworkedmyentirelifetoget
here,andI’mbeyondthankfulforit.”
She wet her lips, swallowed, and averted her gaze as she hunched her
shoulders.“Ijustreallymissmymom.”
Somethingthatresembledpainstruckmedeepinthechest.Iwassofarout
ofmyelement,amillionmilesfromwhatIknew.
WhatIknewweregirlswhowantedtheexactthingIwanted.
Oneswhoclimbedinmybedwithoutasecondthought.
Ourintentionswereneverdishonest,andthatwaswhereitalwaysended.I
never pretended I would give them any more. And they never pretended they
wantedanythingmorefromme,either.
Butrightthen,theonlythingIknewwasIreallywantedtohugthisgirl.
Ididn’tevenknowher,thoughitdidn’ttakealotformetorealizeIwanted
to.
“Hey,”IsaidasIleanedinlowtocapturehergaze,slidingmypalmacross
the table to rest next to her notebook. My fingers twitched, and I resisted the
urgetotakeherhandthatlayaninchaway.“You’renotalone.”
I raised a brow, lightening my tone in hope of lightening her mood. “Just
thinkofallthetimeyou’regoingtohavetospendstudyingwithme.”
Herheadwasstillbowedwhenshelaughedandlookedupatmefromunder
the hedge of hair that had fallen like a veil to the side of her face, though the
sadnessthathadtemporarilyhazedherexpressionwasgone.
Shesmiled,anditwasasifIcouldseeeverythinginsideofher.


Inthatmoment,IhadthisstrangesensethatIknewherbetterthanI’dever
knownanyone,eventhoughIreallydidn’tknowheratall.
Elizabeth was strong and driven, incredibly intelligent, but what was most
apparentwasshewasgenuinelykind.
Sheemittedaslightsnortandraisedherownbrow.“Idon’tknowifthat’sa
goodthingornot,Christian.”
Itwasallteaseandtruth,playfulwordsloadedwithinnuendothatconfirmed
she’dalreadymadeassumptionsaboutme.
“Howaboutyou?”sheasked.“You’refromhere?”
“Nah,I’mfromVirginia.”
“Virginia.”Sheseemedtoponderitasifitweresomeforeign,exoticplace.
“SowhatbroughtyoutoNewYork?”
I laughed low, but it lacked any humor. “I’ve known I would be going to
ColumbiasinceIwasalittleboy.”
There was never any choice. Anything less and all my father’s careful
grooming,primingmeforthefuturehe’dpickedoutforme,wouldhaveallbeen
invain.
Frowning,shereachedouttowrapherslenderfingersaroundhercoffeemug
andsippedatitasshewaitedformetocontinue.
IansweredherassimplyasIcould.“Mydadwenthere.”
“Ah.” She nodded as if she understood what I meant, as if she recognized
she’dhitanerve.Shelookedlikeshewastemptedtoaskmemore.
Iquicklychangedthesubject.MyparentswerethelastthingIwantedtotalk
about.“Sowhataboutyou?WhyNewYork?”
Shegotthatwistfulsmileagain,hereyessoftandherwordssofter.“It’skind
ofembarrassing,buthaveyoueverhadaplacethatjustbecameafairytaleto
you?”
I blinked, not really understanding, but wishing I could. I offered a little
shrug.“No.Notreally.”
Definitelynot.
She reddened again, dipping her chin in the way she did every time she
seemedtogetself-conscious.“NewYorkhasalwaysbeenlikethatforme,from


thetimeIwasalittlegirl.Ialwaysthoughtithadtobethemostamazingplace
intheworld.ThenwhenIdecidedIwantedtobeanattorney,Iknewithadtobe
Columbia.”
“Wait...what?You’repre-law?”
Shenodded.
Couldshebeanymoreperfectforme?
Andwherethehelldidthatthoughtcomefrom?
“Metoo,”Isaid.
Shesatup,bothofusmoreexcitedthanweprobablyneededtobe.“Really?”
“Yeah . . . you know, my dad’s headed a firm for years. Real estate. I’m
goingtotakeoverforhimwhenheretires.”
“Oh God . . . that’s amazing.” She was grinning, maybe happy for me.
Maybehappytofindoutwehadmoreincommonthanwe’dinitiallythought.
“Whatareyougoinginto?”Iasked.
Shewasstillsmiling,herbodyvibratinginherseat.“I’mnotsureyet.Some
sort of family law . . . I want to work for the state or a non-profit.” Passion
poured from her mouth, her heavy exhale thick with emotion. She hugged
herself, as if she were imagining herself there, what her future would be like.
“Something where I can help kids.” Her face glowed. “An advocate of some
kind.Idon’tknow.”
She shrugged, but clearly not because she didn’t care. It didn’t have to be
perfect.Itjusthadtoberight.
Iwasfloored.
I’dnevermetanyonelikeher.
Iknewwhatthosejobspaid.Obviously,Elizabethdidtoo.Shewasafterthe
worst position any attorney could ever have, what my father called scrounge
work.
For years, he pounded it into my psyche that it would be required before I
madeittothetop.Hewouldn’tevenconsiderallowingmeintohisfirmuntilI’d
spentatleasttwoyearsscrubbing.Iexpectedittobethetwoworstyearsofmy
life.
AnditappearedtobeElizabeth’sultimategoal.


For my dad, it wasn’t about giving back. It was about paying dues. He
wantedtoseemescrapethebottomofthebarrelsoI’dunderstandwhathewas
givingmewhenheultimatelyhandedmeajobonasilverplatter.
“What?”sheaskedwhenshenoticedmyexpression.Confusiondimmedthe
lightthathadglimmeredfromherface.
Istaredatherfortoolong,mymouthdryandmypalmswet.HowbadlyI
wantedtoclimbinsideher,toreallyunderstandher,toknowwhatit’dfeellike
nottobedrivenbymoneyandgreed.
ButthelastthingIwantedwashertoseeinsideofme.
Ishookmyhead.“Nothing.That’sjust...reallycool,Elizabeth.”
“Thanks,Christian.”Ahumblesmiletuggedatthecornerofhermouth.She
flipped the textbook shut and shoved the syllabus into a folder. “I need to get
going.ArewegoodtomeethereonMonday,then?Sametime?”sheasked.
Monday was five days from now. Something inside me protested. I didn’t
wanttowaitthatlongtoseeheragain.
“WhatareyoudoingFridaynight?”
“Me? Studying.” She emitted a low laugh and shook her head as if
anticipatingwhatIwouldsaynext.
“How about you go out to dinner with me instead?” I asked her anyway. I
smiledthatsmileagain.
“That’snotgoingtohappen.”Redcoloredhercheeks,butsheseemedtobe
fightingasmile.Shegatheredafewloosepapersandtappedthebottomedgeof
thepileonthetabletostraightenthem.
“Whynot?”
“BecauseI’mnotthekindofgirlyou’relookingfor.”
“AndhowdoyouknowwhatkindofgirlI’mlookingfor?”
Shesatbackinherchair,levelinghergazeonme.
Ifidgetedunderit.
All traces of that shyness were gone and set in its place was a steely
determination as she lifted her chin high. “Okay then, Christian, answer me
something.”
Itiltedmyhead.Iwassogoingtoregretagreeingtothis,butIcouldn’thelp


butbite.“Allright.”
Asmiledancedinherbrowneyes.“HowlonghaveyoubeeninNewYork?”
IletoutthebreathIwasholding.Okay,thatwaseasy.Relieved,Iincheda
littlecloser.“Myparentshadmemoveduphereatthebeginningofthesummer.
They said they wanted me to have a chance to get used to my surroundings. I
figuretheyjustwantedmeoutoftheirhair.”
She nodded subtly, her brow cinched together as if she’d been struck with
someunknownsuspicion.
“Areyouhappyhere?”whisperedfromhermouthasifshewereaskingme
torevealmydarkestsecret.
Iblinked,caughtoffguardbythesuddenintensityofhervoice.“Anywhere
is better than spending another minute in my parents’ house.” I answered her
honestlybecauseIfoundIdidn’tknowhowtolietothegirlsittingacrossfrom
me.
For a second, her expression softened, and she just nodded as she held my
gaze. I was pretty sure I’d never felt more exposed than I did in that single
moment.
Sheclearedherthroatandlookedaway,breakingtheconnection.Whenshe
lookedbackup,everythinghadshifted,thesamechallengeglintinginhereyes.
“Andhowmanygirlshaveyousleptwithsinceyougothere?”
Ohshit.Ofcourse,shehadtoasktheonequestionIdidn’twanttoanswer,
voicingthejudgmentshe’dalreadycast.
“Uh...um...”Istumbled,thenbitdownonmybottomlip,shakingmy
headasIreleasedaself-consciouslaugh.
She crossed her arms over her chest, the smile at the edge of her mouth
lifting.“What?Youcan’tcountthathigh,oryoudon’twanttotellme?”
Hertonewaslight,aneasymirthatmyexpense.
But I could see it, set there in the perfect lines of her face that I wanted
nothingmorethantotracewiththetipsofmyfingers.Shereallycaredaboutmy
answer.She’dbaitedme,strungmeup,andleftmewithnowheretohide.
Red-faced,Iscratchedthebackofmyneck,knowingnomatterwhatanswer
Igave,it’dbethewrongone.IfIlied,she’dknow,andIknewtherewasnoway


she’dbeokaywiththetruth.
“Comeon,Elizabeth...Ijustaskedifyouwantedtogotodinnerwithme.”
“So,you’resayingyoudon’twanttosleepwithme?”
Frustrationtumbledfrommymouthinastrainedgroan.Still,Icouldn’tlieto
her.
Likeitwasn’tobvioushowbadlyIwantedtotakeherbacktomyplaceand
coaxthatblushfromeveryinchofherbody.“That’snotwhatIsaid.”
She leaned down to her backpack that was sitting on the floor and slid her
things into it. Her face was lifted to look up at me as she did. “Well, then,
Christian,Ithinkit’ssafetosayI’mnotthekindofgirlyou’relookingfor.”
Thesharppealofherzipperannouncedherdeparture.
I really couldn’t remember ever being turned down before. I’m sure I had,
butit’dmadelittleimpactonme,somethingforgottenasI’dimmediatelymoved
ontothenextandbetterthing.
Thisslammedme.
IcoulddonothingbutstareatElizabethasshestoodandslungherbackpack
overhershoulders.Itwasn’tasensationIwasfamiliarwith,thebiteofrejection,
butnowithadmepinnedtomychair.
Whythehelldidthisbothermesomuch?
Shereachedupandpulledoutherhairtrappedbyherbackpack,grippingthe
bulkofitinafistthatsherandownthelength.Itspreadoutinasoftwaveover
oneshoulderasshereleasedit.
Iswallowed.
God, looking at this girl and not being able to touch her was complete
torture.
“I’llseeyouaround,”shesaid,takingasteptowardthedoor.Shetwistedto
lookatme,walkingbackwardasshespoke.“Ifyoudon’tfindanythingbetterto
doFriday,I’llbestudying.Youhavemynumber.”
Shegrinned,andallIcoulddowaslaugh.Iwasdefinitelynotexpectingthat.
She spun back around, and for the first time, I was able to appreciate her
perfectassinthosetightjeans.
No,Idefinitelydidn’thaveanythingbettertodoonFridaynight.


Shit.
Iwasinsomuchtrouble.
“It’sadate,”Ihurriedtocallafterher.
She swung the door open, shaking her head with a small laugh. “No,
Christian,it’snot.”


TWO
ELIZABETH

OH,hewassoofflimits.Sounbelievablyofflimits.
The door to the café shut behind me with an echo of his throaty laughter
ticklingmyears.
I hitthesidewalk,hurryingtoputsomespacebetweenus.Ihadfivemore
minutesIcouldhavestayedbeforeIneededtoleaveformynextclass,butIwas
gettingoutoftherebeforehetalkedmeintosomethingIwoulddefinitelyregret.
People swarmed around me as I cut a path against the flow of the
approachingcrowd.Imutteredunheardapologiestowardmyfeet,edgingoffto
therightandblendinginwiththebodiesheadingbacktowardcampus.
Ihikedmybackpackhigherandtriedtoridmymindofhim.
There was no way I could allow myself to get lost in this guy, and by the
thoughtsthat smile had left swirling through my head—that stomach-flipping,
heart-lurching,earth-shatteringsmile—IknewjusthoweasilyIcould.
OhGod.
ChristianDavisonhadtobethemostgorgeousguyI’deverseen.
ThesecondInoticedhimwalkingthroughthedoor,I’dbeencaughtinthe
darknessconcealinghisface,thehalooflightstreaminginbehindhimpartially
castinghisfaceinshadows.
It was as if my body knew what hid behind them was worth waiting to
discover.
Anddamn,ifitwasn’tright.


Thedoorhadslippedshutwhenheinchedforward,swallowingtheshadows
andrevealinganunrulyshockoftheblackesthairI’deverseen.Pairthatwith
thoseblueeyes,andIwaslost.
Theyweresointense.
Sounsettling.
Hisjawwasallsharpanglesandhopelesslylosingthebattlewithacoatof
coarsestubblethatwasjustasdarkasthehaironhishead.
But his mouth was flirty and soft—full—something to smooth out the
severityofeverythingelse.
It was the first time in my life I’d had the urge to reach out and touch a
complete stranger, to run my fingertips over his jaw, maybe across his lips,
wondering how his skin would feel under mine—wondering how I would feel
doingit.
For a moment, he’d searched the room, before recognition had dawned on
his face when his eyes landed on me, his stride purposed as he’d walked my
direction.
Each step he’d taken had radiated confidence, those lips curving with an
arroganceasheapproached.
Itonlytookacoupleofsecondsformetounderstandwhyhispresencehad
seemedtofilluptheentireroom.Whyhe’dseemedtostoptimewhenhewalked
throughthedoor.
Theguywascompletelyfullofhimself.
It’s not like I was all that experienced, but I wasn’t stupid, either. I knew
exactly what Christian wanted. It had gleamed in his eyes and rippled through
hismuscles.Iwasn’topposedtoguys—tohavingaboyfriendorsomeonewho
caredaboutme.
WhatIwasopposedtowasgivingmyselftosomeonelikehim.
The man would own me with one passing touch, and I was certain that’s
exactlywhatitwouldbe.
Passing.
ThelastthingIneededmyfirstyearincollegewastogetmyheartbroken
byaboywhowasundoubtedlyafteronething.Ididn’tworkthishardtogethere


togetmyhearttrampled.
AfterallthesacrificesIhadmadeIwasn’tabouttodosomethingsofoolish.
Giving up on most activities my friends had reveled in—the parties, the
shopping,thefun—infavorofstudyingandstrivingtowineveryscholarshipI
couldearn.
The extra hours my mother had worked to scrape together a few extra
dollars,everygrantI’dappliedfor,andeverystudentloanIhadtoonedaypay
back.
I’dworkedtoohardtowastemytimehere.
A complication like Christian Davison was something I definitely didn’t
need.
Butman,washepretty.
Thereallyirresponsiblesideofmethoughtit’dbeworththerisk.
Somethingrecklessandcompletelyunlikemetoaddtothelistofcherished
collegememories.
Aflingwithaboywhowouldsoobviouslymakemeforgetmyself.
Oneglimpseofhissurehandsandstrongbodyleftnoquestionthathewould
makemeexperiencethingsI’dneverexperiencedbefore.
Ashivertraveleddownmyspineandpooledsomewhereinmystomach.
Shakingmyselfoutofit,Iforcedthatdangeroustrainofthoughtaside.
I knew myself better than that. It wouldn’t be a cherished memory, but
somethingthatwouldeatatmeforyears.
Ididn’tdoflings.
Ifellinlove,andfallinginlovewithsomeonelikeChristianwasamistakeI
couldn’tafford.
ButifIcouldsomehowputtheunknownlonginghecreatedinmeaside,I
realized I liked him. I liked the way he seemed to get lost in thought,
disappearing somewhere deeper beneath the façade I doubted few people ever
penetrated.Icouldalmostfeelit,anundercurrentofvulnerabilitytherebeneath
hisperfectexterior.
Maybethat’swhatheneeded,someonetolookpastthatgorgeousfaceand
hisarrogantsmile.MaybeheneededafriendinthiscityasmuchasIdid.


We’dsee.

Therest of the week passed in a blur. Every time I stepped out my apartment
door,Istillfoundmyselfinawe,amazedbythiscity.AsmuchtimeasI’dspent
hoping for it—working for it—there was a part of me that never believed I’d
makeit.
Eventhoughlivingherewasalifelongdream,ithadtakensomegettingused
to.Themassofpeopleateveryturn.Thebuildingsthattoweredoneveryside.
ThereweretimeswhenIfeltclosedin,liketheskycouldcrashdownonme
andI’dhavenowheretorun.Butforthemostpart,Iloveditandreveledinthis
citythatIhadonlyknowninpicturesandmovies.
WhenmylastclassoftheweekletoutonFriday,Iwoundmywaythrough
thecrowdstowardmyapartment.I’msureIappearedatourist,myheadraised
asIsoakedupthedetailsofeverybuildingandlandmark.
My building was a drab block of gray brick, glued between two taller
buildingsoneachside.Ijoggedupthestairstothesecondfloor.Turningthekey
inthelock,thedooropenedtomysmallstudioapartment.
Well,smalldidn’treallydescribeit.
Atwinbedwaspushedlengthwiseupagainstthefarwalltotheright,anda
miniaturekitchenlinedtheoppositewalltomyleft.Straightbackwastheonly
separateroom—abathroomsosmallIcouldfititinmybackpocket.
ButIlovedit.
Itwasmine,myownspace,arewardforwhatI’dworkedsohardtoachieve.
Crossingthefivestepstotheotherendoftheroom,Isighedinsatisfaction
anddroppedmybackpacktothebed,shruggedoutofmyjeans,andpulledon
someblackyogapants.
IfIhadtospendmyFridaynightstudying,Iwantedtobecomfortable.
Floppingontomyunmadebed,IdugoutthebooksIneededfrommybag.
Afternoonlightfilteredinthroughthewindow,wrappingtheroominacozy
glow.Isnuggledupandhunkereddown.InordertostayinNewYork,Ihadto
keepallmyscholarships,soIcouldn’trisklettinganyofmygradesslip.


I dove into my first class, reading through the materials that were due the
nextclassperiod.
Lateafternoonbledintoevening,timepassingquickly.Theroomhadbegun
todarken,andIreachedovertotwisttheswitchtothesmalllampthatrestedon
thefloornexttothebed.
Thelightbulbflickeredon.
A dim light seeped up the back wall and illuminated my book. I figured I
couldn’tputitoffanylonger,soIchangedtomymostdreadedsubject—math.If
there was onesubjectthatwould ruinme, mathwasit.Iflippedtothecorrect
chapter.
My mouth moved slowly as I struggled to absorb the instructions and
somehowmakesenseofthenumbers.
Ilookedtotheceilingandgroaned.
Completelyhopeless.
My phone rang from the front pocket of my backpack. It was a welcomed
distraction.
Momcalledmealmosteveryevening,andIwasanxioustohearhervoice,
forhertotellmeshemissedmeasmuchasImissedher.
Unzippingthepocket,Irummagedaroundtopullthephonefreeandglanced
atthescreen.
Butno,itwasn’ther.
IfrownedasIstaredatthenumberlituponthescreen.ItwasanumberI
reallyhadn’tanticipatedseeingtonight.
Actually,Iwaskindofshocked.
Itdidn’tmeanhisfacehadn’tflutteredinandoutofmyconsciousnessover
thepastweekorthatIhadforgottenthatsmile.ItjustmeantwhenImadethe
offer,Ineverreallybelievedhe’dtakemeuponit.
A flicker of excitement sparked in my stomach. I chalked it up to being
lonely.
Acceptingthecall,Iplaceditagainstmyear.
“Hello?” I realized I was smiling. No doubt, he could blatantly hear it
coloringmyvoice.


Ridiculous.
“Hey, Elizabeth, it’s Christian.” His voice was easy, filled with the same
confidencehe’dapproachedmewithatthebeginningoftheweek.Thistimeit
didn’tthrowme.Iexpectedit.Welcomedit,even.
“Hi,Christian.Whatareyouupto?”
“Ijustgotoutofmylastclassfortheday.Wantedtofindoutwhereyou’re
studying.”
“Um...”IglancedaroundmytinyapartmentthatIcouldonlyimaginewas
smallerthanChristian’scloset.
Itriedtopicturehimhere.
Ridiculous.
“I’mactuallystudyingatmyplace.”Ibitatmylip,andIcouldn’thelpbut
tease,“What,nohotdatefortheevening?”
Hisvoicedroppedlow,hintingathumorandsomethingelseIdidn’twantto
recognize.“What,youdidn’tbelievemewhenIsaidIwasgoingtospendthe
eveningstudyingwithyou?You’regoingtolearntotrustme,youknow.”
Ishookmyhead,tryingnottolaugh.“Isthatso?”
“Yes,that’sso.”Acurrentofsuggestionslippedthroughhisvoice.Thisguy
hadtobethemostdangerouspredatorwalkingthestreetsofNewYorkCity.
SowhydidIseemtolikehimsomuch?
Irattledoffmyaddress,thentoldhim,“Allrightthen.I’llbewaiting.”
Ending the call, I hopped off my small bed and ran around to pick up the
dirtyclothesI’dleftinrandompilesaroundtheroom.
Itwasn’tlikethestudiowasdirty—itwasjustcluttered.
Myarmswerefullofclotheswhentherewasatapatmydoor.
Itossedthemintothehampernexttomybedbeforerushingovertounlatch
it.
Andjustlikehepromisedtobe,Christian,inallhisperfectglory,stoodat
mydoor.
OhGod.
Menshouldnotbethatpretty.
Andofcourse,hehadtounleashthatsmileonme.“Hey,Elizabeth.”


Tài liệu bạn tìm kiếm đã sẵn sàng tải về

Tải bản đầy đủ ngay

×