Authors: Kelsey Jensen
© 2016 by Kelsey Jensen
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, asshole or the like, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
For always standing behind me, loving me, and supporting me in my hair-brained ideas. Without you, I wouldn’t have the courage to go after my dreams.
My big, little brother.
For being the inspiration behind Robby’s protectiveness (even if I’m the big sister, your protective streak gives mine a run for its money), Nate’s love of my baked goods, and for generally loving and supporting me.
Without her, I’d still be banging my head against a wall about comma placements.
I love you all.
And, to the people who truly believed in me.
This one’s for you!
The amazing Jillian for all the help she provided, with
You’re a goddamn phoenix, doll.
Burning bright and flying higher every day!
And to everyone else who played a pivotal role.
The people who helped me with edits.
The people that guided me in finding said help or when I had questions.
To all the awesome ladies (and gents) from Fun Under the Covers who pimped, gave advice, and welcomed my questions.
And, to the people who stuck by and encouraged me to keep writing from the beginning.
Without all of you
Pierce My Heart
would still be a dream.
6 months earlier
I laid there staring at the ceiling, watching my fan go round and round while the scenes from my dreams faded.
I couldn’t believe I was dreaming of him again. It’d been three years since we’d split.
He’d been on my mind a lot at the beginning. Musings of what had happened, how I couldn’t see the signs then, how I ignored them when I could, how I took all the shit. The only good thoughts I had after, other than that we were done, were of what I should’ve done if I’d been smart.
Still, those were just as depressing.
Xavier Michaels was a dick, plain and simple.
One that could probably take the gold if it were ever an Olympic sport. And one I
shouldn’t’ve been thinking of, let alone dreaming of.
If I hadn’t put that flashback thing on my profile last month then all the stupid posts from our relationship that I unfortunately—and unknowingly— missed during my cleanup phase wouldn’t have kept showing up, and I wouldn’t have been reminded daily of my stupidity.
I’ll admit, I’d been that ex-girlfriend.
The one who creeps their ex’s page, trying to see what they’re up to, how quick they moved on, who they’d fooled this time; basically torturing myself. I loathed the guy, but a part of me still loved him—unhealthy as it was.
Thankfully, once I’d seen how quick he jumped into another relationship and how gooey they were, it helped see things in perspective and kill that love.
I was eighteen when I’d met him; young, naïve, and it was the first time I’d been on my own. I’d just moved to the dorms hours away from home and I’d felt free.
There were no parents dictating where, when, and who I could go with.
No brothers harassing people.
No one who knew the shy girl from high school.
I could do what I wanted, act how I wanted, feel how I wanted.
And I did,
He was older, twenty-six, and he had it all, or so I thought.
He wasn’t exceedingly tall, but tall enough that I could wear heels with my 5’6 frame and he’d still have a couple inches on me. Thick black hair and dark shining eyes that were surrounded by long, full, make-a-girl-jealous lashes. Dimples sat on both sides of a smile that rivaled the beauty of his eyes, and his tan skin held an olive tint from his Italian and Spanish descent that only heightened the contrast. He wasn’t slim and toned, but he wasn’t fat—stocky, built like a third baseman. His legs were thick, arms muscular with deep veins that would pop out when he’d show that strength.
He was smart; he knew what he was talking about and wasn’t afraid to show it, or show that you were wrong.
So goddamn charming you couldn’t figure out which way was up when you were with him.
If I would’ve know then, I would’ve never given him the time of day.
I would’ve cut contact after the first time he talked me around.
Would’ve left the first time I saw his temper.
I should’ve gotten help the first time I felt the contact of his hand around my throat, shoving me to the bed and keeping me there while his fingers tightened, but I didn’t.
I’d cried and started to shake while I stared at him with a face full of fear and hurt.
I still remembered his unhinged reply.
Pulling my paisley quilt tight to me, almost like I was trying to protect myself, I closed my eyes and thought back.
I’d recently reconnected with an old friend (one I’d gone out with all of three times) who mentioned he’d love to get together and catch up over a bite sometime.
Xavier had walked up while I was reading the message and flipped out.
When I’d tried to explain things to him, he backed me up towards the bed and told me to get out of his face.
I didn’t listen.
I stubbornly, and stupidly, stayed and tried to talk it out. And that was when he came at me.
So fast I never saw it coming, or had the time to move before he grabbed me by my throat.
My hands shot up to his wrist to try to pull his hand away, leaving me vulnerable when he forced me down to the bed, tightened his fingers, and cussed me out; calling me every name in the book and then some.
When he seemed to realize what happened, he’d wrenched himself away from me and started to pace.
My own hand wrapped lightly around my throat while I leaned back on the bed, watching Xavier pace like a caged animal around the room.
I couldn’t move.
Didn’t want to move.
I didn’t want to draw more attention to myself, so I stayed still.
Even while the silent tears streamed down my face, I never took my eyes off him. But, that didn’t mean I didn’t still jump when he came towards me and started to talk.
“Anna, baby, I’m sorry. Seeing those messages, they fucked with me. You should’ve left till I calmed down. If you would’ve fuckin’ left like I said, I wouldn’t have done that,” he apologized in what I thought was a pained voice.
But was really full of annoyance…at me.
That was his whacked reasoning.
That because I didn’t leave, it was acceptable for him to lose his shit on me.
His hand rose to wipe a tear away and I flinched.
Either he caught it and ignored it, or missed it, because he continued on like nothing happened.
“I love you, Anna. You know that. I wouldn’t have acted that way if I didn’t. Do you forgive me? Say you do, Chunks, say that you love me,” he begged, looking at me like he used to.
Before we fought all the time.
Before he started acting…off.
Before I started making myself sick over what was happening to us.
I looked up at him, moved my hand off my throat and up to his cheek, stroking softly.
I made a choice.
One I would regret.
Peering into his eyes, trying to hold on to what I saw, I whispered, “I’m sorry. I love you, too.”
My eyes blinked open and I blew out a breath.
Peeling my fingers away from the death grip I had on my quilt, I rubbed my hands over my face, holding them over my eyes like I could hide from the memory.
I couldn’t believe it was still so
Realizing I was starting to fall back into an old pattern, I flipped my covers off me and swung my legs over the side of the bed. Swiping my phone from the nightstand to my right, I hit the button to check the time.
I still had a little over twenty minutes before my alarm was set to blast out “Cherry Bomb” by The Runaways.
I didn’t even bother entertaining the thought of getting those extra minutes in.
Sleep was a dear friend, but not right then. Shutting my eyes would just bring back more memories, and that wasn’t something I was looking to make happen.
So, I pushed myself off the bed and went in search of a Diet Pepsi and bagel to start my day.
A buzzing noise woke me up.
My left eye opens in a squint, still managing a glare for the thing that interrupted my sleep before I grumpily snatch it up.
Looking at the display, I catch sight of the picture of Mom and I smiling big before swiping the green button and answering in a groggy voice, while not trying to sound groggy.
“Hey, Mom, what’s up?”
“Anna, honey, please tell me I didn’t wake you up,” she sighs, though it takes a second to click.
Yawning, discreetly as possible, I lie.
“Nope, just haven’t talked to anyone yet today so my voice is a little scratchy.”
She makes a noise that clearly says she doesn’t believe me.
“Anna, you know what your Nana always used to say…” she trails off, obviously waiting for me to finish, but I’m too busy covering my mouth for another huge yawn.
Finally, I manage to get myself under control enough to talk.
“What’s up, Mom? I doubt you called to talk about my sleep schedule or one of Nana’s sayings.”
“My girl, I’m your mother. I’ll always be concerned about your sleep schedule. And your Nana had some good sayings. I should know, I grew up with the woman. There was that one…oh, what was it?” she ponders, more to herself than me.
,” I half whine, half huff.
“Alright, alright, keep your panties on,” she grouses.
Sighing, my eyes roll to the ceiling in search of patience.
It’s way too early to talk about keeping anyone’s panties on, let alone my own—not that that had been a problem lately.
I haven’t even gotten my daily dose of caffeine yet.
Which reminds me.
Sitting up, I push the sheet down as I slide out of bed before padding out of the room, down the hall and towards the kitchen where my lifeline chills. Waiting as patiently as possible (which to say wasn’t very patiently) for her to start up again.
Really, it should be a crime to speak to me before I’ve had my soda.
Luckily for both of us, it isn’t a long wait.
Just as I reach into the fridge to grab a can she asks, “You’re coming to dinner Saturday, right? Robby and Maddy will be here and Nate’s not heading back to school till Sunday night.”
Popping the tab on my can, I take a swig.
“Mom, when do I miss Saturday dinners? Especially ones when everyone’s there?”
Mom was silent for a moment.
“I wasn’t sure if maybe you’d made plans with friends or had a date or something. I just wanted to make sure since I’m making Nate’s favorite and I needed a head count.” A pause. “Speaking of Nate’s favorite, do you think you could whip up a batch of those white chocolate peanut butter cupcakes he loves so much? He says I don’t ever make them right even though he eats almost every single one when I make them,” she complains, but I was stuck back at her mentioning me having a date.
It’s been just over a year since I’ve been out on one.
Taking a sip and leaning against the butcher block counter my dad and brothers helped me recently put in, the dark cabinets of my kitchen turn fuzzy as I remember exactly why it’s been so long.
Richard Drake was his name.
He was a paralegal I’d bumped into while getting coffee at The Bean one morning.
And when I say bumped into, I mean my clumsiness showed its annoying face.
I tripped over my own foot, throwing myself bodily into Richard and spilling my black and white mocha (the only coffee I ever drank outside of Starbucks Holiday flavors) all over his pants. It wasn’t bad enough that I’d dumped my drink on him, but I also made him look like he’d wet himself.
Not thinking anything except for how big of a klutz I was, I sputtered an apology and then tried to wipe the stain away.
Before I got two swipes in, big hands were grabbing onto my wrists to halt my progression.
It’d been awhile since I’d felt someone grab me and my immediate reaction was to back up and pull away, but as I started to pull back I looked up and stopped. My eyes caught sight of a slightly smirking mouth and that was as far as I got.
Until I watched that smirk turn into a smile and a small jerk on my hands pulled my focus up. Over the full lips that surrounded his white teeth, a nose that was straight and defined, and a pair of green eyes that were also smiling. He had a well-sculpted brow, the blonde of his eyebrows matching the loose strands that laid on his smooth forehead, and his hair was short; it was longer on top than the sides, but not so long it looked unprofessional and it was shiny, product shiny.
Not that I had room to talk. On any given day I could’ve had more than two different products gunking up my own hair.
My mouth opened and I tried to say something, but nothing came out.
I watched as his wide smile turned into a chuckle and he said, “Normally I buy a girl dinner before I get her hands on my pants.”
I started, realizing what I’d been doing.
Yanking my hands back, I laughed self-consciously.
“God, I’m so sorry. I know I’m a klutz but usually I’m the only injured party.” Blushing, I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and looked down. “And, uh, sorry for trying to, um
well, sorry for getting a little too up-close-and-personal,” I stuttered out, smiling in a ‘what-can-you-do’ kind of way as I looked back up at him.
He was grinning, but at my last comment his grin turned into a genuine smile, causing my own to turn into a small, but genuine, one as well.
“If you want, I can take them to the dry cleaners for you,” I offered.
He chuckled again. “As much as I would enjoy the looks on their faces, I don’t think my bosses would appreciate me coming in wearing only my boxers.”
I groaned inwardly at my stupidity.
“Of course, my mistake. If you tell me where you plan to take them, I can pop over and pay or give you the money, or…” I trailed off as he stuck out his hand.
I blinked at it before looking up at him.
Obviously I was running a little slow that morning because it took him telling me his name for me to get my head out of my ass and put my hand in his.
“Anna, Anna Pierce.”
That’s how it started with Richard.
We’d exchanged numbers on the pretense that he’d call and give me the details so I could cover the cost of the dry cleaning. But when he called that night, instead of giving me the name of his cleaners, he told me the name of a nice grill downtown and asked if I’d like to go.
I said yes.
Over the next few months we got along well, laughed a lot, and spent some time in my bed and his, without moving too far. Between his job and law school, as well as the hours I was putting into my job, we didn’t have much time other than weekends and a day here-or-there. I was fine with it; I’d figured things would settle one way or another, but I was apparently the only one who thought so.
It was around three months later; we’d just finished our drinks at a bar downtown when he turned to me and decided to lay it out.
“Anna, these last few months have been…fun, but things just haven’t been clicking for me lately.”
I halted, one arm in my coat, the other reaching back to slide in.
Lowering both, I asked quietly, “What?”
He looked away for a moment composing himself, it looked like, or preparing.
“You can’t say I’m the only one who feels it. When we’re together, it’s more like we’re hanging out as friends, or friends-with-benefits, than as a couple.”
I blinked, then repeated, “What?”
He got up, walked behind me, and helped me with my coat before handing over my purse, all while avoiding looking at me.
What he did not do was answer me.
Mindlessly, I’d swung my bag over my shoulder as he placed his hand at the small of my back to lead me out.
We moved towards my car and out of habit, I reached in my bag to grab my keys before turning around and looking up at him.
He stood there, staring into the distance over my head.
So, I waited some more.
His head moved towards me, but his eyes didn’t follow.
When his eyes stayed focused elsewhere, I threw up my hands and snapped, “What, Richard?”
His body jerked like he’d forgotten I was there and I couldn’t help rolling my eyes.
He ran a hand over his face before letting out a breath and looking at me. “Anna, I think we should see other people.”
Again, I stared at him, and this time he stared back.
After a while he started to fidget and I couldn’t help but smile a little inside at his discomfort. Served him right for doing this under a streetlamp; one
that might as well have been a blazing spotlight, lighting up the scene for anyone passing by to see my humiliation.
He sighed, then asked, “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
I looked left, then right. The night had a slight chill, the beginnings of fall in the air. My gaze swung up to the sky, taking in all the stars and the endlessness of it all as I made a decision.
We were standing in a freaking parking lot in the middle of town, under a streetlight in the cold. I had half a mind to just not say anything and leave. Avoid the scene altogether, but I hadn’t wanted to give him the satisfaction of thinking he’d been the “winner” in the breakup.
That I’d gone home and cried my eyes out over him when he’d felt that I was no better than a bed buddy, one who’d never even given it up—and I couldn’t have been more glad that I hadn’t.
I beeped my lock, grabbed my door and started to turn to get in when I’d heard a sound from behind.
Looking over my shoulder, I saw Richard start to open his mouth, but I held up my hand and watched his mouth snap shut. Turning to the car, I leaned in, tossed my bag on the passenger seat, and straightened up, resting my forearms on the door before looking over at him again.
My lips lifted in a small smirk and I watched his eyes blink with confusion before raising my right hand in a salute.
“See ya later, Dick.”
Dropping my hands, I stepped into my car and plopped my ass in the seat, yanking my door shut as I started the car and headed out.
Stopping before turning onto the main street, I let myself look in the rearview mirror once to see Richard still standing there under the streetlamp, his face a mask of confusion and annoyance.
Turning my attention back to the road ahead of me, I switched on the radio and heard the beginning strings of “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson.
A smile tilted my lips as I’d turned it up and sung along all the way home.
My thoughts clear at the sound of my name being said with annoyance in the phone.
“Anna, are you okay?”
I shifted my eyes right to look into the open living room, taking in the brown suede love seat and camel couch, the entertainment center that took
to sand down and stain (but had been so worth it), past the billowy brick red drapes and out the windows towards the back yard.
The sun is shining bright, but the fogging on the windows lets me know it’s just for show.
Autumn is on us and a slight nip is in the air.
“I’m fine, Mom. I’ll make Nate those cupcakes. Is there anything else you need me to bring? Wine, beer for the boys?” I respond in hopes of just moving on.
“My girl, you know I worry about you. You live alone, you’re not dating, you hardly go out unless Evan or Maddy drag you. You spend all your time with us old farts, or at home. I just want to make sure you’re okay.”
My heart clenches at her worried tone.
No matter what, I know she and my dad love me unconditionally and just want me to be happy.
“Mom, I’m fine. I
,” I tell her quietly, letting her know everything’s okay. “Now, do I need to bring anything else? Do you want me to stop by and grab some of that red?”
She’s quiet for a moment, probably wishing there was more she could do but knowing me well enough to know that when I need her, I’ll talk to her.
“No, my girl. Your dad will pick some up when he grabs his weekly case of beer, or more like his semi-weekly case since your brother’s been home.”
I chuckle at that.
Dad loved his beer, but Nate was not shy about helping himself to some of Dad’s stash. And it wasn’t unheard of for them to pack the case in some ice and sit in the back yard with it. Or, for Robby to pick up another case and join them.
Usually, I brought the tequila or wine and roused Mom to come out with me.
At that thought, I smile.
“Okey dokey. I’ll see you guys Saturday, if not before then. I love you. Tell Dad and Nate hi and give them my love.”