Authors: Tammara Webber
Tags: #Young Adult Fiction
Copyright © 2012
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, distributed, stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, without express permission of the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, or any events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Cover Image Copyright © Coka, 2011
Used under license from Shutterstock.com
Cover Design by Stephanie Mooney
"Hardliners," by Holcombe Waller © 2011 HolWal Music (ASCAP). Lyrics reprinted by permission - www.hwaller.com
None of these titles are adequate
to describe what you mean to me
Thank you for all you are
Love you, always
I had never noticed Lucas before
that night. It was as though he didn’t exist, and then suddenly, he was
I’d just bailed on
the Halloween party still in full swing behind me. Weaving between the cars
crammed into the parking lot behind my ex’s frat house, I tapped out a text to
my roommate. The night was beautiful and warm—a typical Southern-style Indian
summer. From the wide-open windows of the house, music blared across the
pavement, punctuated with occasional bursts of laughter, drunken challenges and
calls for more shots.
As tonight’s designated
driver, it was my responsibility to get Erin back to our dorm across campus in
one non-mangled piece, whether or not I could stand another minute of the party.
My message told her to call or text when she was ready to go. The way she and her
boyfriend, Chaz, had been tequila-soaked dirty dancing before they linked hands
and tripped up the stairs to his room, she might not be calling me until
tomorrow. I chuckled over the thought of the short walk of shame she’d endure
from the front porch to my truck, if so.
as I dug in my bag for my keys. The moon was too cloud-obscured and the fully
lit windows of the house were too far away to provide any light at the far end
of the lot. I had to go by feel. Swearing when a mechanical pencil jabbed a
fingertip, I stomped one stiletto-clad foot, almost certain I’d drawn blood. Once
the keys were in my hand I sucked on the finger; the slight metallic taste told
me I’d punctured the skin.
“Figures,” I muttered, unlocking the truck door.
In the initial seconds
that followed, I was too disoriented to comprehend what was happening. One
moment I was pulling the truck door open, and the next I was lying flat on my
face across the seat, breathless and immobile. I struggled to rise but
couldn’t, because the weight on top of me was too heavy.
“The little devil
costume suits you, Jackie.” The voice was slurred, but familiar.
My first thought
Don’t call me that
, but that objection was quickly dismissed in
favor of terror as I felt a hand pushing my already short skirt higher. My
right arm was useless, trapped between my body and the seat. I clawed my left
hand into the seat next to my face, trying again to push myself upright, and the
hand on the bare skin of my thigh whipped up and grabbed my wrist. I cried out
when he wrenched my arm behind my back, clamping it firmly in his other hand.
His forearm pressed into my upper back. I couldn’t move.
“Buck, get off me.
Let go.” My voice quavered, but I tried to deliver the command with as much authority
as possible. I could smell the beer on his breath and something stronger in his
sweat, and a wave of nausea rose and fell in my stomach.
His free hand was
back on my left thigh, his weight settled onto my right side, covering me. My
feet dangled outside the truck, the door still open. I tried to pull my knee up
to get it under me, and he laughed at my pathetic efforts. When he shoved his
hand between my open legs, I cried out, snapping my leg back down too late. I
heaved and squirmed, first thinking to dislodge him and then, realizing I was
no match for his size, I started to beg.
Please—you’re just drunk and you’ll regret this tomorrow. Oh my God—”
He wedged his knee
between my legs and air hit my bare hip. I heard the unmistakable sound of a
zipper and he laughed in my ear when I went from rationally imploring to
crying. “No-no-no-no…” Under his weight, I couldn’t get enough breath together
to scream, and my mouth was mashed against the seat, muffling any protest I
made. Struggling uselessly, I couldn’t believe that this guy I’d known for over
a year, who’d not once treated me with disrespect the entire time I’d dated
Kennedy, was attacking me in my own truck at the back of the frat house parking
He ripped my
panties down to my knees, and between his efforts to push them down and my
renewed effort to escape, I heard the fragile fabric tear. “Jesus, Jackie, I
always knew you had a great ass, but
, girl.” His hand thrust
between my legs again and the weight lifted for a split second—just long enough
for me to suck in a lungful of air and scream. Releasing my wrist, he slapped
his hand over the back of my head and turned my face into the leather seat
until I was silent, almost unable to breathe.
Even freed, my
left arm was useless. I leveraged my hand against the floor of the cab and pushed,
but my wrenched and aching muscles wouldn’t obey. I sobbed into the cushion,
tears and saliva mixing under my cheek. “Please don’t, please don’t, oh God
stop-stop-stop…” I hated the weedy sound of my powerless voice.
His weight lifted
from me for a split second—he’d changed his mind, or he was repositioning—I didn’t
wait to find out which. Twisting and pulling my legs up, I felt the spiky heels
of my shoes tear into the pliant leather as I propelled myself to the far side
of the bench seat and scrambled for the handle. Blood rushed in my ears as my
body rallied for all-out fight or flight. And then I stopped, because Buck was
no longer in the truck at all.
At first, I
couldn’t figure out why he was standing there, just past the door, facing away
from me. And then his head snapped back. Twice. He swung wildly at something
but his fists hit nothing. Not until he stumbled back against my truck did I
see what—or who—he was fighting.
The guy never took
his eyes off Buck as he delivered two more sharp jabs to his face, bobbing to
the side as they circled and Buck threw futile punches of his own, blood
streaming from his nose. Finally, Buck ducked his head and rushed forward with
bull-like intent, but that effort was his undoing as the stranger swung an easy
uppercut to his jaw. When Buck’s head snapped up, an elbow cracked into his
temple with a sickening thud. He collided with the side of the truck again, pushing
off and rushing the stranger a second time. As though the entire fight was
choreographed, he grabbed Buck’s shoulders and pulled him forward, hard, kneeing
him under the chin. Buck crumpled to the ground, moaning and cringing.
stared down, fists balled, elbows slightly bent, poised to deliver another blow
if necessary. There was no need. Buck was almost unconscious. I cowered against
the far door, panting and curling into a ball as shock replaced the panic. I
must have whimpered, because his eyes snapped up to mine. He rolled Buck aside
with one booted foot and stepped up to the door, peering in.
“You okay?” His
tone was low, careful. I wanted to say yes. I wanted to nod. But I couldn’t. I
was so not okay. “I’m gonna call 911. Do you need medical assistance, or just
I envisioned the
campus police arriving at the scene, the partygoers who would spill from the
house when the sirens came. Erin and Chaz were only two of the many friends I
had in there, more than half of them under-aged and drinking. It would be my
fault if the party became the focus of the police. I would be a pariah.
I shook my head. “Don’t call.” My voice was gravelly.
“Don’t call an ambulance?”
I cleared my throat and shook my head. “Don’t call anyone. Don’t call the police.”
His jaw hung ajar
and he stared across the expanse of seat. “Am I wrong, or did this guy just try
you—” I flinched at the ugly word “—and you’re telling me not to
call the police?” He snapped his mouth closed, shook his head once and peered
at me again. “Or did I interrupt something I shouldn’t have?”
I gasped, my eyes welling up. “N-no. But I just want to go home.”
Buck groaned and rolled onto his back. “Fuuuuuck,” he said, not opening his eyes, one of which was probably swollen shut anyway.
My savior stared down at him, his jaw working. He rocked his neck to one side and then back, rolled his shoulders. “Fine. I’ll drive you.”
I shook my head. I
wasn’t about to escape one attack just to do something as stupid as get into a
stranger’s car. “I can drive myself,” I rasped. My eyes flicked to my bag,
wedged against the console, its contents spilled across the floor of the
driver’s side. He glanced down, leaned to pick out my keys from the bits and
pieces of my personal effects.
“I believe you
were looking for these, before.” He dangled them from his fingers as I realized
that I still hadn’t moved any closer to him.
I licked my lip
and tasted blood for the second time that night. Scooting forward into the faint
illumination shed by the tiny overhead light, I was careful to keep my skirt
pulled down. A wave of dizziness crashed over me as I became fully conscious of
what had almost happened, and my hand trembled when I reached out for my keys.
clamped his fist around them and dropped his arm back to his side. “I can’t let
you drive.” Judging by his expression, my face was a disaster.
I blinked, my hand
still extended for the keys he’d just confiscated. “What? Why?”
He ticked three
reasons off on his fingers. “You’re shaking, probably an after-effect of the
assault. I have no idea if you’re actually uninjured. And you’ve probably been
“I have not,” I snapped. “I’m the designated driver.”
He raised one brow
and glanced around. “Who exactly are you designated for? If anyone had
been with you, by the way, you might have been safe tonight. Instead, you
walked out into a dark parking lot,
, paying absolutely no
attention to your surroundings. Real responsible.”
Suddenly I was
beyond angry. Angry at Kennedy for breaking my heart two weeks ago and not
being with me tonight, seeing me to the safety of my truck. Angry at Erin for
talking me into coming to this stupid party and even angrier with myself for agreeing.
Furious at the barely-conscious asswipe drooling and bleeding on the concrete a
few feet away. And seething at the stranger who was holding my keys hostage while
accusing me of being brainless and careless.
“So it’s my fault
he attacked me?” My throat was raw, but I pushed past the pain. “It’s my fault
I can’t walk from a house to my truck without one of you trying to
me?” I threw the word back at him to let him see I could bear it.
One of you
You’re gonna lump me in with that piece of shit?” He pointed at Buck, but his
eyes never left mine. “I am
like him.” That was when I noticed
the thin silver ring through the left side of his lower lip.
Great. I was in a
parking lot, alone, with an insulted, facially-pierced stranger who still had
my keys. I couldn’t take any more of this night. A sob came from my throat as I
tried to remain composed. “May I have my keys, please?” I held my hand out,
willing the tremors to subside.
looking at me, and I stared back into his clear eyes. I couldn’t tell their
color in the dim light, but they contrasted compellingly
with his dark hair. His voice was softer, less hostile. “Do you live on campus?
Let me drive you. I can walk back over here and get my ride after.”