Three years ago she was left in pieces . . . Most college freshmen love the newfound freedom of living on campus, but none of them craves it like Beth Caplan. One ill-fated night when she was fifteen left her locked in a posh prison of private tutors. It’s for the best, everyone said, and maybe it was. But after years of hard work and healing, the one person who never thought of her as broken could be the one to break her all over again. And Beth can’t seem to stay away now any more than she could all those years ago.
As soon as David March learned his best friend’s little sister was enrolling at his school, he promised to look after her, and promised himself he’d keep a safe distance. But the sweet little girl he’d grown up with has transformed into a gorgeous young woman, and she’s attracting attention from people she shouldn’t-like the ex who nearly destroyed her and a strange new student with a disturbing habit of showing up wherever Beth goes. But for David, the most troubling discovery is realizing that he doesn’t just want Beth to be safe. He wants her to be his.
Beth slams the door of the Uber and runs barefoot into the building, her heels dangling from her hand by their straps. I give her a thirty-second head start, clenching my jaw shut to resist calling after her with something I might regret, knowing my temper and the still-potent buzz of alcohol have the potential to create the perfect storm right now.
Beth bypasses the small elevator bank and veers left toward the stairwell, heaving the door open and making sure to slam it loudly behind her.
I shake my head in disapproval, wanting to berate her for even that—taking the stairs alone at night when she knows the elevators are safer. Even if the small part of my brain that’s still somewhat rational admits that my building is relatively safe in general. But it’s her mentality that’s making me crazy. With everything going on right now, and everything she knows about this fucked- up world, why would she take risks with her safety at all?
I shove my hand through my hair and slam my foot into the doorjamb. I just can’t fucking believe her right now! And she has the balls to stomp away from me as if I’m the fucking bad guy?
I haven’t had much occasion for indignation in my life, but right now it’s making me grind my teeth into fucking dust. Because the reality is Beth could get hurt again. She could get hurt worse.
My brain gets caught on that last thought, and I can’t get past it no matter how hard I try. It rages through me until my blood boils over, the buzz of alcohol feeding the flames like gasoline as they fire me back into motion. I crush what’s left of my cigarette under my shoe, and march up the rest of the steps and down our hallway. I’m already reaching for the door with my keys when I realize it’s fucking ajar, and the sight of it incenses me even more.
Could she possibly be any more cavalier with her goddamned safety?
It’s after one in the motherfucking morning! Who the hell leaves their front door open in the middle of the night like an invitation for trouble? Especially someone who, on top of everything else, just spent the entire fucking night drinking. She once told me she thought I was trouble. She has no fucking idea what trouble even is.
I barge through the door, all out of patience and ready to tell her off, but the apartment is dark, the only light glowing from the crack beneath the bedroom door. Beth’s presence would be impossible to miss, though, what with the sound of her tramping around the room, violently yanking and slamming drawers like she wants the whole damned building to feel her wrath.
Well, at least that’s one feeling that is definitely fucking mutual.
I throw the bedroom door open with more force than I intend, and Beth jumps at the reverberating bang as it smacks against the opposite wall. But she catches herself without even glancing my way, continuing about her business like I don’t even fucking exist.
My outrage dissipates as I take her in. Her long blonde hair is haphazardly piled on top of her head, and she’s already changed into a T-shirt and yoga pants. My eyes get stuck on her ass for several seconds before I even process the fact that she’s shoving her shit into her duffle bag.
She yanks open another drawer—the one I’d cleared for her bras and underwear—and panic rolls through me. It doesn’t mix well with the indignation. Or the booze.
Somehow I manage to force enough patience to keep from unloading my every grievance on her at once, and I just stand here glowering, biting back every word I couldn’t wait to get out just moments ago—those words now lodged uncomfortably in my throat, held hostage by that fucking duffel. And suddenly I resent that, too. The fact that Beth has the nerve to vilify me for looking out for her. For taking her out to do something she fucking loves. But more than anything, I resent that I fucking care. That the sight of her packing her things affects me. Not just my feelings—my motherfucking feelings—but my actions, too.
It gives her a kind of control—power. It’s not a dynamic I’m used to with women, and it’s left me a little lost and a lot confused. And even more pissed the fuck off. It’s enough to demolish even my pretense of patience, my composure shattering in one fell swoop, and I spring into action, thrusting myself in front of her in challenge.
“’The fuck are you doing?” I demand.
Beth’s jaw locks, but she just sidesteps around me.
“Beth,” I warn.
She snatches handfuls of panties from her drawer—my drawer—with enough hostility that I worry for the integrity of the delicate lace, and my inebriated mind actually pities them until I remember it’s me she’s fucking pissed at. The appearance of her underwear doesn’t help my focus, either. But watching her shove them purposefully into her bag snaps me back to reality. Or it snaps me the fuck out of my Beth-panty-coma, at least.
“What the fucking hell are you doing?” I repeat as calmly as I can manage—which, it turns out, isn’t calm at all. But where the hell does she think she’s going in the middle of the goddamned night?
“Taking my stuff and going back to my dorm,” Beth deadpans, and it takes me a second to realize she’s not actually kidding.
I shake my head and grab her upper arms. “The fuck you are!”
Beth wrenches from my grip, and I have to release her or risk hurting her, which is not a fucking option. “The fuck I am, is right!” she shouts, skirting back around me to stuff more clothes into her bag.
And, finally, I lose it.
I grab the offending fucking duffle and flop it upside-down, shaking it violently until all of her shit falls onto my bed in an unceremonious pile of all things Beth.
“What the hell are you doing!” she hisses, climbing onto the bed to regather her clothes.
I don’t even think. I take hold of her calves and jerk her knees straight, and she squeals with surprise, falling facedown onto the bed, right atop the heap of clothing. But I don’t back off. I grab her hips and flip her onto her back in one not-so-smooth movement, bending over her and planting my palms on either side of her face in a makeshift cage. Beth’s lips part in a small o of shock, but she can’t escape my gaze, trapped beneath me like she is.
But that goes both ways, and I force myself to close my eyes, and inhale a choppy rush of air before meeting hers.
Something changes when I reopen my eyes. Beth’s temper seems to have dissipated, her dark blonde brows pulled together in helpless bemusement. Her eyes are deep blue oceans, and they draw me in like an undertow, luring me into their shallows before drowning me in their depths.
But, somehow, they calm me, and the anger is drained right out of me as something tugs inside my chest. For a moment I forget how we even got here. All I register are her sharp, shallow breaths as they whisper against my lips in soft gusts.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I know this is dangerous—her lying beneath me like this. It calls to that reckless part of me. The same part that risked dancing with her tonight…that wants to just say fuck it, again and again and again. The part that can’t remember the reasons to stay away.
Beth’s tongue darts out to lick her bottom lip, and my dick jumps in my jeans, still swollen and aching, which it has been all night on some level or another. I suck in an uneven breath, the air hissing between my teeth, and I know I need to either get off of her or inside her in the next sixty seconds.
Danielle Pearl is the Amazon and iBooks international best selling author of the Something More series. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and three children. She is a life long book enthusiast who has been writing ever since she could hold a pencil.
Danielle went to Boston University and worked in marketing before she published her first novel, Normal in 2014. She writes mature Mature Young Adult and New Adult Contemporary Romance.