Addicted for Now / Page 8

Page 8


I keep her in my arms easily, my muscles flexing as I wrap them around her. “Lil, shh,” I say, my lips finding her ear.

“I can’t!” she shouts, tears beginning to pool.

“Lil, you can,” I whisper deeply. “Shh.” I lock her arms together for a minute, her body wedged between my legs. Tonight will be the most difficult, I remind myself. It’s confusing for her. She wants to be with me, but my mere presence tempts her. I don’t ever want her to believe that being alone, being apart, is the solution.

It’s not.

She needs me as much as I need her. We just have to find our footing in this relationship. And that takes time.

She grows restless, so I roll on top of her, pinning her legs down with mine, trapping her small frame. She seems to settle, but her chest rises and falls heavily, fear swimming in her eyes.

“Who do you trust more, me or you?” I ask.

“You.” She doesn’t even hesitate.

“Then this is how we’re going to sleep.”

She frowns. “I’m not sure I can hold your weight.”

I smile. This is why I love her—why I relish in the fact that I’m going to wake up next to her, my arms wrapped around her delicate body. She’s f**king adorable. “No, like this…”

I slide off Lily and easily readjust. I tug her closer, and my arm holds her small waist against me. We’re spooning, her back to my chest. Now, where is that f**king hand? I find her right hand curled up underneath her breast, and I take it in mine. Then I intertwine my fingers with hers, securing them with determined force. No more masturbating, Lil.

I’m about to officially instate our new sleeping position, but her ass presses harder into my cock. She’s scooting back, either on purpose or subconsciously, I have no clue. It’s still kind of cute, but it doesn’t help.

I lean back and grab a small pillow, and then I wedge it between my dick and her ass. “Better?”

“Depends who you’re asking—Horny Lily or Good Lily?”

I love them both. I press my lips to her ear. “I love you.”

“…I don’t have much love for myself at the moment,” she mutters in a small voice. I can see her shrinking internally, her self-worth dropping lower and lower from the guilt.

“Hey, I’d be passed out already if I had to sleep in the same bed with a bottle of booze. You’re doing all right. And this is new for both of us, Lil. It’s going to be lots of trial and error. Now we know that we have to sleep like this. Okay?”

“Are we going to have sex in the morning?”

The question doesn’t annoy me. Still, I’m not used to telling her no. I’m usually the one teasing her until she’s hot and bothered. But I can’t do a goddamn thing. Because that would be enabling.

So I say, “We’ll see.”

She sinks back into me—and that damn pillow—as I watch her drift to sleep. When I know she’s safely in slumber’s hold, I allow myself the same luxury.

{ 6 }

LOREN HALE

My heart beats wildly, my muscles burn and my legs pump. I run. Around and around. There is no end.

If I stop soon, I’ll start screaming. The tendons in my calves strain with each foot on the cement track. And I focus on my breathing. In and out. Inhale, exhale. One, two, three…

I’ve always been good at running. Even when I screwed up every f**king thing, I did a decent job at sprinting right away from the cops, from prep school guys wanting to smash my face in, from my father and my problems.

Running has kept me alive.

And if I learned anything from rehab, it’s ways to stay busy. But my warring thoughts only make me want to drink. Even bringing up my father, college, the text messages that threaten Lily—any f**king thing, my chest collapses, and I know just the solution that’ll fix everything. Whiskey, bourbon—an amber glass will melt all the pain away.

Yesterday, I almost walked into a bar.

I lose my steady pace on the track, my breath staggering. One…two…

Each foot feels heavier than before. I want to be light as a freakin’ feather. I want to float right on out of here. But I keep thinking about it.

A smoky bar was directly across the busy intersection as I waited for Ryke to pick me up from therapy. Traffic, honking cabs and bike messengers never stopped me before. Why should they then? The Jack Daniel’s poster in the front window called out to me like a siren singing her deathly serenade on the edge of a dock.

And I nearly drowned in that sea of bourbon.

Stupid, little fuck.

I exhale deeply, which only screws with my pace again. Ryke runs by my side, and his eyes flicker briefly to me. He purposefully slows his quick stride. Right now, he could sprint laps around me. But he chooses to be here. I should be glad that he wants to work out with me, but I hate that he won’t run as far as he can. I hate that I’m holding him back.

I want to scream.

So I push harder, and I race ahead of him.

Not long after, Ryke catches up to my side again, and then he taps my shoulder and veers off the collegiate track towards the bleachers. I follow him, trying to avoid the other athletes in Penn shirts as they sprint down the lanes.

I probably shouldn’t have driven all the way to Penn to run around a f**king circle with Ryke, seeing as how I was expelled and he’s not my favorite person at the moment. I don’t believe that he’s the guy threatening to reveal Lily’s secret to the tabloids. There’s mistrust in our relationship, sure, but he spends too much time driving me to therapy and hanging out with me to have some ulterior motive. He could let me ride alone to New York and give me just enough slack to hang myself with.

He could be uncaring.

But Ryke Meadows is many things—uncaring is definitely not one of them.

I gave him a hard time about the text messages because I’m an a**hole, and a huge part of me resents him for things that I can barely process. Each time I try to understand his childhood where he knew about me and had contact with my father, my hands shake for a sip of something strong.

I unscrew my water bottle, and two girls approach us, one brunette, the other blonde. Both wear cross-country shirts. I’m surrounded by athletes right now—Ryke being one of them.

“Hey, Ryke,” the blonde says. “Who’s your friend?” She looks me over from head to toe.

I try to wear disinterest, drinking my water, shuffling through my gym bag, anything.

“My brother,” Ryke says so easily. I can barely admit that he’s half of my brother to Lily. Saying that we’re related is so easy for him. But I have to remind myself that he knew about me for years. He just never voiced the truth until three months ago.

“Oh yeah, I see the resemblance,” she says, her blue eyes flickering between us.

“Yeah, we both have brown hair,” I say. “Shocking, isn’t it? She could even be our sister for all I know.” I gesture to the brunette hanging by the blonde’s side. My tone is not even close to friendly. And I can’t help it. This is how I normally say hi to people. My manners died somewhere around my eleventh birthday.

The blonde lets out a small laugh, trying to blow over my rudeness.

Ryke sets a hand on my shoulder, and he whispers, “Do me a favor and don’t talk.”

If he wants to hook up with one of them, by all means. Have at them. I’m not going to be his wingman on this one. I have a girl waiting for me at home. I check my watch. Yeah, she should be back from class right about now. I’d rather be there than here. I’d rather be holding her in my arms, even if I have to tell her no by the end of it.

She’s the only good thing in my life.

“This is Laura,” the blonde says, bringing her friend towards Ryke. “She’s a freshman. I thought I’d introduce her to the captain of the track team.”

Ryke checks her out with a slow once-over. The girl is almost as thin as Lily, but muscles pad her legs and arms—they’re just lean like most runners. “How have you liked Penn so far?” Ryke asks.

The girl shrugs, shifting her weight off one leg and to another. “Oh…you know.”

Ryke does that to women, I’ve noticed. He either stupefies them with his dominance or they start spitting out lame lines that make no sense.

I’ve yet to really see a girl that can keep up with him.

“That good, huh?” Ryke says, trying to be nice, but this only causes her face to redden.

“It’s been good.” Laura nods.

This is just awkward and slightly painful. I can’t watch the girl be debilitated by embarrassment and nerves anymore. Ryke is slowly peeling off a Band-Aid. I’m going to rip the damn thing for her.

“Hey, Laura,” I say. “You and your friend are on the cross-country team, right?”

Laura nods again.

“I’m Maggie,” the blonde says, perking now that I’ve shown a tad bit of interest.

“Oh great,” I say. “So you and Laura will have no problem running that way.” I point to the other side of the track.

Maggie’s face falls.

I flash a smile. “Bye.”

“Asshole,” she curses. “Come on, Laura.” She grabs her hand and shoots Ryke a look, guilty by association. When they disappear, Ryke turns to me with a glare.

“Sorry,” I tell him dryly. “I couldn’t remember how long you told me to keep my mouth shut. It snapped back open, couldn’t stop it.”

Ryke throws his sweaty towel at my face.

I grab it and fling it back. “Hey, that brunette was two seconds from fainting. I did both of you a favor.”

Ryke shakes his head. “You did yourself a favor. Don’t pretend that insulting them was for me. I know your motives by now.”

“Yeah, and what’s that?”

“Isolate as many people as you can. Drive everyone away.” He zips his gym bag. “Not going to happen with me, not even if you run off every girl I come into contact with.”

I touch my chest. “You would abstain from sex just to be my brother? Wow. That’s generous, Ryke.” My dry humor barely darkens his eyes. I’m looking for a different reaction, one that comes with a fist to the face, but Ryke never goes there, even if he wants to.

“I’m your older brother no matter what,” he refutes. “Get that through your f**king head and maybe I wouldn’t have to repeat it all the damn time.”

“Can you say that again? I couldn’t hear you,” I quip.

He rolls his eyes, and then we both actually share a smile.

I check my watch subconsciously.

“She’s fine,” Ryke assures me.

“Look, you can pretend to know everything about me, but you can’t understand Lily the way I do.” I’ve watched her cry and shake in a bathroom because she craved sex—because she couldn’t have it. And she wouldn’t turn to me for help back then. Now that we’re together, I should have the power to take her pain away. But I don’t. Because she’s trying to control these impulses. And so I’m back where I started, watching her shake, watching her eyes grow big and wide, pleading for something more. And I have to deny her that pleasure. Over and over.


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