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Authors: Alexandra Vos

Off Limits

BOOK: Off Limits
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Off Limits

Alexandra Vos

 

 

© Alexandra Vos 2015

 

All rights reserved. This book or any
portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without
the express permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations
in a book review.

 

 

Also by Alexandra Vos:

 

Young Adult Novels

The
Reluctant Assassin

 

Young Adult Novellas

The Kissing Ban

 

New Adult Novellas

Hunting Him

 

 

Chapter One

 

Luke was doing his
absolute best to make everyone’s mood miserable. “I swear she hates me,” he
continued to whine, waving around his test score as if anyone actually cared. “
Another
E, really? I’m sure I can’t have done that badly.”

 

“It’s a
standardized test. If you got that mark it’s because you sucked at the test.
End of story.” I was in a bad mood, too, and it definitely wasn’t helping to
resolve the situation. I just wanted to get home to say goodbye to my dad, not
have to listen to perfect, intelligent Luke whining about how he failed
something because he
chose
not to revise for it.

 

Phoebe, his
girlfriend and my best friend, was far more compassionate. “Your grade will
improve,” she squeezed his hand, “I’m sure you’ll have mastered it by the end
of the year.”

 

“Can we just get
going? It’s his own fault he failed. Normal people do actually have to revise
for things if they want to get a good grade.” Luke had always sailed through
school without a single problem. It was part of the reason I was so opposed to
him. Working my ass off to get the same results made me incredibly bitter.

 

Unfortunately, I
was forced to put up with him on a daily basis since he’d started dating my
best friend.

 

Realisation seemed
to dawn on Phoebe’s face and I almost sighed in relief.
Finally
. I
wasn’t going to even catch my dad if we kept dawdling around. “You’re good at German,
right?”

 

German was the
only thing about school I genuinely enjoyed and whilst it didn’t come naturally
to me like everything else did to Luke, I was quite good at it. “I guess,” I
admitted. I knew where this was going and I didn’t want any part of it.

 

It wasn’t just my
distaste for Luke’s natural ability that got on my nerves; we’d always been at
odds with each other. Since I could remember Luke and I had play-fought in the
playground, one of us always ending up getting genuinely hurt. We’d sabotaged
each other’s relationships, engaged in some incredibly messy food fights and
got each other more detentions than was really acceptable. My mum definitely
wasn’t a big fan of the name Luke, even if she’d never actually met him.

 

Our bickering was
odd. Sometimes it ended in laughter and sometimes my bad mood extended for days
afterwards.

 

“You could tutor
him!” It was like Phoebe had finally found the solution to all her problems.
Our bickering always annoyed her, even if I secretly revelled in it.

 

There was
something about Luke, even with all the shit he caused me, that had me
daydreaming about the possibility of him going out with me instead. It wasn’t
often and I really tried to avoid it, but sometimes, the idea was too tempting
to resist. He was attractive, with his mess of black, unruly locks and there
was no hiding the fact he worked out.

 

I liked to think I
knew that because he punched me in the arm so often, rather than because I
sometimes couldn’t stop myself checking him out.

 

It was silly and I
almost loathed it, but there was phases when I fancied Luke so much I could
hardly look at Phoebe.

 

“I really hope
you’re joking,” I spared her a sideways glance, speeding up my pace and wanting
to get away from this conversation as quickly as possible. “I just want to go
home and have as much Luke-free time as possible.”

 

Luke fired me a
grimace. “Don’t think I’m loving this idea. Come on Pheebs, I’m sure I can
manage a bit of French without being stuck with the short-arse.”

 

But Phoebe had
come to a complete standstill, forcing us to stop as well. “Nope, I’m serious
about this. You two need to stop arguing so much, it’s silly. I’m sure you’d
get on if you just got to know each other.”

 

I did know Luke. I
knew every relationship he’d ever been in and why it failed, I knew all his
friends and all their drama. I knew how good he was in school and, when I’d been
forced to sit next to him in history last year, he’d blurted about how his
grandma was dying of cancer. I knew he’d regretted it almost instantly and I’d
never mentioned it again.

 

I knew Luke and I
knew I didn’t want to be spending any more time with him than I had to.

 

“I really don’t
want to do this.”

 

“Well, we’re not
going anywhere until you do,” she was much less of a genius than the smug smile
suggested.

 

Luke frowned
slightly. “Don’t you think that’s taking it a bit far?”

 

Phoebe sighed. “I know
you both don’t want to, but if you were actually friends just imagine how
awesome it would be.”

 

I was ashamed to
admit Luke and I had ruined plenty of Phoebe’s plans by falling out. It wasn’t
too surprising she wanted to stop us being at each other’s throats all the
time. “Fine, whatever. I just want to go home.”

 

Phoebe grinned.
“Awesome. Why do you want to go home so badly, anyway? I thought you were all
up for avoiding your mum as much as possible.”

 

I blinked. So all
I’d needed to do was remind her and she’d have let me go without this palaver. “My
dad’s leaving today.”

 

Phoebe’s eyes
widened. “Oh, shit, I didn’t realise. I’m so sorry. Why didn’t you just say?”

                                                                                      

I scratched the
back of my head. I couldn’t really admit I thought she might actually have been
playing on it to get me to accept. “I don’t really know.”

 

“I’m really not
that
much of a dick,” pulling out her car keys, the door unlocked. “Well, let’s
get going, then. I’m really sorry I forgot. I had it in my head it was next
Monday, for some reason.”

 

Luke, for a
change, shook his head. It wasn’t often I saw anything even slightly negative
towards Phoebe from him. Their relationship had been going quite perfectly so
far, even if it had only been three months.

 

I was kind of
certain their lovey-dovey behaviour had made me even more bitter.

 

In fact, I was
generally just a bit of a mess right now and I just wanted it all to go back to
normal. My parents were divorcing and it had thrown me completely off-balance. I
wasn’t in the mood to deal with anything or anyone, almost permanently.

 

“Does this mean
you’ll undo the forcing her to tutor me pact?” Luke tried to bargain when we
were safely on our way. He wrapped a finger around one of her long dark brown
ringlets and managed some extreme puppy dog eyes. Luckily, this wasn’t one of
the phases I was head over heels for him.

 

“No way. You and
Carmen need to start getting along, I mean that. This will help, I’m sure.”

 

Luke’s expression
fell immediately, into something exasperated and annoyed, but he reigned it in.
“Fine, I guess.”

 

At least Luke and
I were agreed this was a terrible idea. Maybe he could bring his laptop and
we’d agree to sit with our headphones in for a few hours and not talk. That
could definitely work.

 

When we pulled up
outside my house, I was forced to recall the misery of my parental situation.
My dad was sat on his suitcase at the end of the front garden, staring into the
road with such a forlorn expression that he must have really thought I wasn’t
going to make it. I hopped out of the car, not bothering with my bag, and
enveloped him in a hug.

 

“Sorry I’m late,”
I didn’t have the motivation to explain anything else. I just wanted him to
stay and her to leave. “How are you?”

 

“I’ve been better,
but I’m sure it’s all going to be fine. I’m glad to be leaving.” His voice
caught and his arms tightened around me, but there were no tears.

 

At least not on
his part. My eyes were watering and when I caught a glimpse of my mother
watching from the window, it almost sent me over the edge. “I’m going to really
miss you.”

 

My parents had
been separated for many months, but that hadn’t been so bad because it was
amicable. They’d both been muddling through a divorce they knew needed to
happen within their tight monetary constraints. Up until my mum had been caught
with another guy in the bed they were forced to still share, anyway.

 

Then it had all
gone downhill. My dad had said he was leaving straight away, throwing away the
agreement they had to wait until it was financially viable for him to move out.
He had been put in the most awful situation and it was all my mum’s fault.

 

“I’ll miss you
too, sweetie,” he squeezed extra hard before pulling back, pressing a kiss to
my forehead. “But I’m sure I’ll still see you a lot. You’ve got my number and
I’ll let you know when I’m settled in.”

 

“Okay. Love you,
dad. See you soon.”

 

He picked up his
case and shoved it into the boot and my throat burned. I needed so desperately
to cry, but I refused to let my mother see it and I didn’t want Luke and Phoebe
to see, either. Instead, I wrapped my arms around myself and attempted to stay
stoic.

 

When he was gone,
I stood still, staring at where his car had been. My mum had disappeared from
the window.

 

Avoiding the bitch
was my new top priority.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

I snatched my bag
from the back seat, hiding my head in case I’d managed to smudge my make-up.
“Thanks for the lift, you really didn’t have to wait around.”

 

“Are you okay?”

 

“I’m fine, really.
It’ll all seem normal pretty soon, I guess.” I highly doubted that. I wanted to
live with my dad and not be stuck in the house with the whore that had made
this all happen, but it was impossible. My dad didn’t even know if he’d got
anywhere to stay, yet. He hadn’t really got any friends and he didn’t work to
have any colleagues. His family lived out of the country. If he ended up on the
streets I’d never forgive my mum.

 

“Try not to be too
harsh on your mum, I’m sure she’s upset, too.”

 

I raised my head
and shot her a harsh glare. “Please don’t sympathise with her, I really can’t
deal with it right now.”

 

Phoebe opened her
mouth to try and argue, even looking to Luke for help, but coming up with
nothing. “You could tutor Luke tonight, if you wanted. It might help get your
mind off things.”

 

I wanted to snap
that she was being ridiculously selfish, but had to admit that she was right. Putting
my mind to work coming up with snarky comebacks would probably be a very good
distraction. “Sure. May as well get it over and done with.”

 

“You’re sure? You
really don’t have to,” Luke actually sounded quite uncomfortable about the
whole thing. I couldn’t blame him for worrying that I might break down and he’d
have to deal with it.

 

I slammed the door
and called over my shoulder that I was positive. Luke was forced to scramble to
catch up with me. My mum was waiting just inside the door, but I strode past
her and straight up the stairs, expecting Luke to follow. “Carmen!” She called
after me. “I need to talk to you. Who is this? I don’t want you upstairs alone
with a boy. Keep the door open.”

 

I slammed the
door, not feeling the need to explain that this was Phoebe’s boyfriend, the
notorious Luke she already hated through hearsay. I’d let her stew on it for a
while. Maybe I could convince him to bash my bed into the wall for a while and
see what happened.

 

“So. German. Are
you really that bad? Because I’m not that great myself.”

 

My room was tiny:
a single bed pushed against one wall, my desk cramped into the other side and a
tiny walkway to get from one to the other. Luke took an awkward seat perched on
the end of my bed. For once, he looked like he had no idea what to say to me.
“I got a load of E’s, how bad do you think I am?”

 

Grimacing, I took
a seat on my desk chair. “I guess I’ll be able to manage if I start at the
basics. How are you even going to get home? I’m going to have to drive you,” I
made a noise of discontent. “This was all such an awful idea.”

 

Luke chuckled,
making himself comfortable on my bed just to annoy me. My bum was already
starting to go numb from my hard chair. “I have to agree. But, I really do need
to get a better grade to get into the uni I want, so hopefully you’re not
completely hopeless.”

 


You’re
the
hopeless one, so shut up and listen to what I’m saying. I’m the one passing
here. Please actually concentrate, I want this to be as quick as possible.”

 

Luke smirked and
watched smugly as I attempted to figure out the best way to teach him the
vocabulary. It was embarrassing, more than anything, staring at my notes and
wondering how to teach the guy who was a prodigy at everything else in the
world. Eventually, I sucked it up and got on with it and Luke was nice enough
to keep any sarcastic comments to himself.

 

Part of me knew he
really did need this and I revelled in the knowledge I outperformed him in
something.

 

Halfway through,
the sound of my mum’s loud laughter came floating through from downstairs. My
mood, which had been slowly been improving as I got lost in explaining the
German grammar rules, dropped straight back down. I grimaced, standing up and
excusing myself.

 

Luke put his foot
against the door to stop me. “What happened with your parents?”

 

“It’s none of your
business,” I snapped, attempting to wrench the door open. His leg was stronger.
“Now let me go and talk to her.”

 

“My parents went
through a messy divorce. You should talk about it instead of shouting at her.
It’ll make you feel better.”

 

He was sincere,
but my first reaction was to snap, “and why would I ever talk to you about it?”

 

Luke didn’t look
too offended. “Ring Phoebe up then, but you should talk to someone.”

 

I retook my seat
at my dressing table and gave in, explaining everything. He’d done this to me
once, I could repay the favour. I’d probably regret pouring my heart out, too,
but for now, I couldn’t stop focusing on the fact he actually looked like he
cared.

 

“So yeah, now you
understand why I hate that bitch and why the fact she’s downstairs, no doubt
talking to that piece of shit that she slept with in my dad’s bed is slightly
irritating.” I was on the verge of tears and I couldn’t hide it. I swiped at my
eyes and couldn’t look up. “And that’s that, really. I don’t feel better for
having told you, just so you know.”

 

Part of me
wondered what it would be like if Luke hugged me, but I didn’t move a muscle
and neither did he. “I bet you feel better than if you’d gone and shouted at
your mum. Avoiding her is probably better.”

 

“You’re not of the
opinion that I should forgive and forget because she’s my mum, then?” I’d
thought Luke and Phoebe were some kind of single-entity at this point.

 

Luke chuckled. “I
do have my own opinions, you know,” he scratched his head and thought about it.
“I don’t think what she did was completely abominable, but I can understand
that it’ll take you a while to get over it. Just don’t mess your relationship
up beyond repair.”

 

Part of me knew I
didn’t want to do that anyway, but right now I was just so angry with her that
it was difficult to remember that eventually we’d be okay. “I’ll really try my
best, but I’m not very self-disciplined.”

 

“Yeah, you don’t
have to tell me that.”

 

Remembering all
the times I’d taken out my frustrations at Luke in petty ways did serve to make
me feel a little bit better. I was dying to ask Luke about his parents, but
resisted. We definitely weren’t close enough for that. “Do you think we’re done
for the night? I just want to go and buy some ice cream before the shop closes
and see if I can get away with buying wine without them asking for ID.”

 

“I’m not eighteen
either, otherwise I might have been kind enough to offer some help. But yeah,
I’m definitely done with this shit. I don’t even know why I took it in the
first place. I could have passed anything else just fine.”

 

I rolled my eyes,
double-checking my make-up was okay before grabbing my car keys. “Why didn’t
you, then?”

 

“I needed a
language to stand out from the crowd. That’s why I’m doing as many A-levels and
extracurricular stuff as I can.” Luke was, of course, the only person doing
five A-levels in our entire school. It was quite ridiculous.

 

“You’re going to
get immaculate grades, well, apart from maybe the German. I’m sure you’ll be
fine.”

 

He waved me off,
clearly unwilling to explain. “Let’s just get out of here. If I spend any more
time with you I might go insane. Then I’ll not pass any of my exams.”

 

I threw my bag of
face wipes at him. “Thank God. I never thought a day would come where I’d have
to spend this much time just with you. I really hope you learn this stuff
quickly.”

 

“Phoebe’s going to
be so sad that we’re not best friends already.”

 

“Maybe you should
give her a ring and get her to pick you up. I’m sure she’d be more than happy.
I really can’t be bothered to drive right now.” I’d remembered that there was
still a tub of ice cream in the fridge and, if I was lucky, I’d find some
alcohol from rummaging around in my cupboards. “Or you could just walk.” Luke
had gotten up to grab his bag and I threw myself onto the bed.

 

“It’s not that far
to mine. Like twenty minutes or something.” Luke tugged on my long red hair,
trying to drag me up. I groaned, refusing to move.

 

“Get your mum to
pick you up.”

 

“She doesn’t
drive.”

 

I continued to
just lay there, quickly becoming comfortable and knowing I’d made the wrong
decision. Getting up now was going to be impossible.

 

Luke didn’t give
me much choice; grabbing me as if I weighed nothing, he hoisted me over his
shoulder. I shrieked, unable to stop myself as I wobbled. Luke secured his grip
easily, hand over my hips and dangerously close to my bum. “You’ve still got
your car keys, right?”

 

“Put me down,
idiot,” I hissed, really trying hard not to react to the physical contact. He
wasn’t exactly gentle, with fingers digging into my skin, and I wasn’t having
the most innocent thoughts. “I’ll give you a stupid lift home if you tell me
where you live.”

 

I could
practically hear the grin in Luke’s voice as he explained that it would be more
fun to piss my mother off by bringing me downstairs like this. I continued to
bang on his back as if it would do something and when he bent down to go
through my door, I couldn’t stop the small scream that left my mouth.

 

I’d never been
good with heights.

 

My mum had opened
the door the second she heard us on the stairs and she could only grimace up at
our position. “What do you think you’re doing, young lady? I expressly said I
wanted that door kept open.”

 

“Sorry Mrs.
Slater,” Luke’s voice was full of cheek and even I blushed at the arrogance.
“I’ll try and keep that in mind next time.” His step didn’t falter as he
whisked me past my mother and she was staring, almost open mouthed. I’d had
plenty of boyfriends in the past, but I’d always made an effort not to bring
them home. No doubt our position wasn’t giving my mum impressed thoughts.

 

“See you later,
mum,” I called, deciding to just roll with it and loving the angry expression
on her face. I’d explain that Luke was as far from a boyfriend as could
possibly be later, but for now this was too amusing to pass up.

 

At my car, Luke
placed me down and his hands lingered on my hips for only a second. “I hope she
doesn’t ground you or something.”

 

“I wouldn’t
listen, so it doesn’t matter. Her expression was priceless.”

 

Luke rolled his
eyes. “You know where I live?”

 

“Nope. Is it someone
I’ll know?”

 

He gave me the
address and I chucked him my keys, not recognising the street name at all. “If
you hurt my car I will kill you.”

 

We were heading in
the opposite direction to school, so Luke must have had one hell of a drive
every morning and afternoon. The days he wasn’t staying at Phoebe’s, anyway.

 

“I really need to
ask for your help with something,” Luke turned down the music I’d been blasting
out. “It’s kind of important.”

 

I frowned. That
wasn’t the insult or joke I’d been expecting. “What’s up?”

 

“I have a job that
I’m supposed to be working in the evenings starting next week, so I can’t
really practice the German after all.”

 

I stared. “Well,
why didn’t you just tell Phoebe that, then?”

 

He scratched the
back of his head. “I don’t want to tell her about it at all. I’m working at a
fish and chip shop and you know how all her family is. I don’t want her looking
down on me or anything.”

 

“I can’t lie to
her. And you know she’s not like that, anyway. Did you see the house I just
came out of? And we’ve been best friends for years.” He was being completely
ridiculous. “Just tell her and it would be fine.”

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