Two more drinks later, I am dancing to the music with Sam. I have my back turned to the bonfire, my main focus on the boy in front of me. We’ve been talking, and I found out that he and Grey were childhood friends and that he came from Indiana—Grey’s home state. He currently isn’t enrolled in college classes, nor will he be in the near future. For a job, he works as his uncle’s partner in a sales company.
I bet if he wanted, he would have told me his blood type, which is insane since I barely know him—well, not so much anymore, but he isn’t hesitant to tell me about himself. With Grey now, it’s like pulling teeth. He won’t tell me anything about his past or his plans for the future. But with Sam, it’s so much easier, and I actually want to know more about him. Maybe even be more than friends…
To consider it makes a shiver run down my spine. The only boy I’ve ever gotten close with in any way is Grey. Always has been, and I didn’t think I would associate myself with another, but here I am, dancing and chatting with a boy he deemed the devil’s spawn. It just goes to show how bad his judgment is.
Sam leans down and shouts over the music, “Do you want to go sit by the fire?”
I stiffen and glance over, shaking my head with a tight smile. “No, I can keep dancing for a little longer.” I continue to move my shoulders while nervously flitting my eyes to the black figure beyond the flickering fire. “I’m actually kind of thirsty.”
He nods and holds up a finger. “I’ll go get you a drink. Wait here.”
I offer him back a smile and watch as he walks over to the cooler. I turn around and run my hands through my hair. I spot Julia and wave her over. She stops her conversation with two other people smoking and walks over to me with a grin, holding out the white stick between her fingers.
“Want some?” she asks, spewing smoke out of the side of her mouth.
I disregard the burning stick and shake my head. “No, thank you.” I look around for Sam and pull her closer. She laughs, obviously “under the influence,” and widens her eyes.
“Whoa, what’s up with you?” she asks, sucking in more smoke.
“Grey is here,” I whisper, nervously flicking my eyes over my shoulder.
She almost chokes. Smoke waves through the air as she tries to get her breathing in order. “You mean here here?” I nod and nervously nibble on my lip. She stares at me for what seems like an eternity before erupting into horrendous laughter.
My cheeks heat, and I cross my arms, annoyed. This isn’t funny in any way. Where the hell is Jaimie? I know she’s behind this, which is not cool.
“Do you know where Jaimie is?” Surely she’s out of the bathroom by now, but I don’t see her around anywhere. To be fair, there are a lot of people joining the party. Like a lot. Where are they all coming from?
“Nope, but if I see her, I’ll tell her you’re looking for her,” she promises and tries to hold back laughter. “I’m sorry…wow, that’s crazy, man.” A storm of laughter slips out of her, and I watch in annoyance as she shakes her head and walks away.
“Thanks for your help, Julia,” I mutter sarcastically under my breath. Now that there are a million people here, it shouldn’t be too hard avoiding him. All I have to do is stay away from the bonfire. Sounds achievable.
I turn around and come face to face with Sam. He almost runs into me but balances himself and throws his arms out in exaggeration.
“Whoa there,” he says, narrowing his eyes as he gives me the cup in his hand. “Are you okay? You look like you just saw a ghost.”
“I wish,” I mutter under my breath.
“What was that?” He tries to catch my gaze.
I flash him a smile. “Nothing. Thank you for the drink. I was really parched.” I tip the drink back and try to seem okay. I don’t want to alert him of where my mind is right now. I don’t even want to alert myself. I want to push that toxic boy from my mind and fully enjoy my time with Sam. However, I can’t help but wish Mason were here—but he’s on a date.
“Okay…” he says hesitantly, watching me with a skeptical expression as I smile over the cup before downing the entire thing. The subtle alcohol feels stronger the faster the drink flows down my throat. It stings and leaves my tongue tingling when I pull it away. It all hits me at once, and I stumble. He catches me and suggests, “I think you should sit down. Let’s go by the fire.”
My head is spinning, but I nervously laugh and tell him, “That isn’t necessary. I’m fine, I promise. I just need to dance. Let’s dance, Sam.” I take his hands and try to dance but end up almost falling on my face. Why did I drink so fast? I just wanted to show him that I’m okay, and here I am stumbling over my feet.
“What you need is to sit down. If you keep saying no, well, then you leave me no choice.”
“What do you—?” I’m cut off when he grabs the back of my thighs and lifts me into his arms. I let out a scream and quickly wrap my arms around his neck so I don’t fall over. “Sam, what are you doing?”
“I am putting you down. After you chill for a bit, then we can dance.” The whole time he talks, I shamelessly stare at his lips. They are so pink and pouty. And his arms. Lord have mercy on the gym equipment he uses. Must be frequent. How tipsy am I right now?
I let out a groan when I am gently placed onto a hard surface—it’s a log. I wrap my arms around my stomach and lean my head against his bicep when he sits down. He laughs and wraps an arm around me. I briefly stiffen as his hand lazily holds my waist but relax into his warm embrace and close my eyes to calm my buzzing head.
Maybe I’m just overreacting, and Grey can’t even see me. The flames are really high. I could barely see him until I practically walked around to the side. As long as he doesn’t look around it or gets up to use the bathroom or get something to drink, I should be fine.
Why am I even worried about that prick? He’s the one who broke my heart. He’s the one who came here with that disgusting girl. He should be the worried one. Worried about my fist colliding with his beautiful face.
“I don’t need him,” I mutter angrily and throw my hand at Sam’s arm.
He chuckles and grabs my hand. “Remind me to never let you drink again.” He lifts my hand, and I watch as his face drains of color. His blue eyes rush up to meet mine. “Liv, your hand. What happened to it?” I glance at the bandage and let out an exhausted sigh.
“Grey happened,” I mumble.
He stiffens. “He cut you?”
I look up and take his hand. I’m surprised he burst into anger so quickly. “Not like that. I accidentally cut my hand. Broken glass, Sam. I was trying to get him some water, but the glass slipped, and I cut my palm while cleaning up the mess.”
He visibly relaxes and nods, but his scowl doesn’t diminish. “Okay, does it hurt much? And why were you trying to get him water? I thought you weren’t on the best of terms.”
I shrug and pick at the soft cotton of his shirt. “Not much, and I was helping him when I shouldn’t have in the first place.”
“So why were you?” he questions.
I shrug and think about earlier, when I admitted something I shouldn’t have because it’s not true in any way.
“I’m a good person, and he needed help. I’m more of a fool, actually.” I let out a pathetic laugh.
“You are not a fool, Liv. You are a good person, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it.”
“Well, I’m definitely not a smart person, because I keep finding myself with him despite all the bullshit he puts me through.”
“I’m sure that’s not true,” he says. “Maybe you just have such strong feelings for him that you keep finding yourself gravitating to him.”
“Not true,” I tell him with a little huff of laughter.
“Then why do you keep finding yourself with him, talking about him?”
“Because I lo…because I like to put myself through crap.” I almost said that stupid phrase again. I should not have drunk anything. I shouldn’t have even come out tonight. I always have a way of bumping into him.
“Okay, tell yourself that. Just don’t say you’re a fool or anything stupid like that; you are the smartest, most moral person I know. And I haven’t known you for long, so that’s saying something.” How is he so nice? More like, how was Grey so wrong?
“You know, Grey tried to tell me you’re a ‘bad guy.’” I put up air quotes and shake my head. “He was wrong, as usual.”
He just smiles at me and shrugs.
“What did happen to you two?” I can’t help but ask. I’m curious to know what.
“We had a bit of a falling out.” So vague. I want to know more. Maybe he’ll pity my pathetic drunkenness and tell me more.
“What kind of a falling out?”
He opens his mouth to answer but is cut off by an angry shout. I look up to find Grey glaring down at us. The fire behind him makes him out to be an intimidating beast. Funny how he doesn’t really need the fire to seem that way.
“I knew it was you,” he accuses. His eyes shift to Sam, and I visibly notice the curling of his fists and his chest slowly falling and rising. “I’m going to give you to the count of three to remove your hand from her. One…two…”
“Calm down, Grey!” I jump to my feet and immediately regret it. I hold my head and look over my shoulder. “I’ll be right back,” I tell Sam. I sound as exhausted as I feel. I didn’t want to do this tonight. I actually wanted to just have a good time without having to fight with Grey. It’s like he sucks out all of my energy.
I take his hand, ignoring those stupid sparks I get whenever I touch him, and drag him a few feet away from the fire.
“What are you even doing here?” I hiss, crossing my arms.
“The more important question is: What the fuck are you doing here with Sam?”
“Let’s focus on one thing, shall we?” I give him a look, and he clamps his lips shut. “Now, tell me what you’re doing here. And with Diana, nonetheless.” I sound bitter, but I don’t give a damn. I have a right to be. That girl has created more problems than I would have liked.
“Jaimie invited me here, but I was supposed to fight tonight. And Diana…she’s like a freaking leech. I guess she heard about the party and came, hoping to run into me.” He rolls his eyes.
“And you’re here because…?” I guess he likes fighting with me more.
“Well, because she said you would be here—” I’m going to kill her. That’s why she looked so suspicious when agreeing to come tonight. She is so sneaky! “So I had the fight moved here.”
That explains the amount of people pouring in.
“Why are you having it here? I thought you fought underground. You know, because those types of fights are secret, underground fights. This place isn’t exactly underground, nor shying away from secrecy,” I point out.
“It’s just a title, doesn’t really mean much. And these people like a change of scenery every once in a while.” I still don’t understand why there are people who enjoy watching two men fight. “And I had to see you—I’d rather just be here with you. But it seems you have company.” His jaw clenches, and I roll my eyes while silently telling myself, Here we go. “Why the fuck are you here with Sam? I told you he was a bad person.”
“Like you’re so angelic,” I bite back.
“I’m not over-exaggerating or lying, Liv.”
“How do I know that? All you’ve ever done is lie to me,” I snap. He runs his hands through his hair. He’s growing frustrated. Well, so am I. Can you believe I was ready to give him—us—another shot earlier? Neither can I, because here we are, fighting once again. I’m getting so tired of this. It’s seriously making me sick.
“He’ll show his true colors, but I don’t want you around when he does.”
“You’ve shown your true colors, and I’m still around. I think I’ll be fine. I’m an adult, remember? I can hang out with other people and do whatever I choose.”
His face falls, and he takes my hands.
“How do I get you back?” he suddenly asks. I’m caught off guard and gape at him. Can he at least try to inform me when he’s going to switch his erratic moods instead of leaving me with serious whiplash?
“You never had me to begin with.” I turn away and head anywhere but here. I’d rather be with Sam than this asshole. All he does is hurt me and leave me wounded. I’m so tired of licking those wounds.
“Would you like me to be like those cheesy rom-com dudes? Holding up a boombox for you? ’Cause I’ll do it.” He turns me around, but I look away from him. If I look at him, he has a greater chance of swaying me. I have to hold firm and give him the cold shoulder like he has done to me many times before.
“They make big gestures, Grey, and you never would. You don’t really care about me; you just think you do because you need something to latch onto. And I refuse to be that thing you desperately hold onto,” I tell him truthfully.
I glance at him—he’s frowning.
“I will make any gesture you want. Just give me another chance.”
“No.” I tear my hands away and turn to walk away.
“Liv!” he calls after me. I pick up my speed, but he wraps his arms around me and yanks me back.
“Stop chasing after me! Stop grabbing me! I am not yours to touch!” I scream and wriggle out of his hold, but he has his hands latched around my wrists. I’m aware of the hundred eyes watching us, but I don’t care. I feel lightheaded and just so damn tired.
“You chose to make me believe you didn’t give a shit about me instead of talking to me! You’re fucking bonkers with your logic, and I refuse to be on the short stick with your Goddamn wacky emotions. You should just get counseling instead of taking everything out on me!” I rant and pant as I try to get my breath.
He looks hurt, but that doesn’t stop him from lashing back at me. “What do you expect from me, Liv? You want me to be that cardigan-wearing boyfriend that your mother would adore? You want me to be clean-cut and perfect? That can’t ever happen. This is me! I’m screwed up, I hurt people, and I fucking want you more than I have ever wanted anything. Ever.” He tugs on his hair.
“I don’t date, yet I am here vying for you—fighting so damn hard for you to take me back. Do you know how fucking pathetic I have become since I met you? You are all I ever think about, day and fucking night. You, Liv. It’s you I desperately want.” His voice completely shatters toward the end.
I am utterly speechless. I can’t form a single word or thought. He said exactly what I wanted to. What I craved to hear, but I can’t help but wonder: Is it enough? I’m too afraid, too expectant that he will say this and then go right back to hurting me.
I have to protect myself and my already battered heart. I have to. Otherwise, he’ll be free to torment me without any repercussions, and I can’t let that happen.
Before I can say anything, a loud bullhorn breaks through the air and the music is cut.
“Ladies and gents, are you ready for the fight between infamous skull crusher Grey Wyler and the legendary Xion?” The loud voice slices through the silence. A rowdy cry from the growing audience is his response. “Let’s. Do. This!”
I flinch and look around as people walk over to Grey and nudge him toward the circle, but he stands his ground and sneers at them. Not wanting to mess with “the skull crusher,” they back off and join their group of sadistic people.
“Say something, Liv,” Grey nearly begs, his voice cracking both his words and my heart.
“I hope you enjoy your fighting, because that’s the only constant in your life. Not me…not anymore,” I say. My heart bursts at the sight of his face. Tears well in my eyes, and one escapes. I tighten my grip around myself and walk away.
As I enter Sam’s open arms, I can’t help but wonder if I’m doing the right thing…or making the biggest mistake of my life.