“He seemed alarmed by this. He said Brody was upset. Honey, I don’t understand—”
She had talked so long that the message cut her off. I was glad because I didn’t want to hear any more. I ended the message and laid my phone on the counter, staring down at it.
The guy last night—the guy in the VIP room—wasn’t a stranger. That’s the reason he seemed familiar… because he was.
The scent of cologne suddenly washed over me and I gasped. Not only had half the guys in our school worn it when it came out, but so did Brody. I clearly remembered that fragrance from every date we ever had.
“I think you’re getting the message a little late,” said a voice from the kitchen entrance.
“Brody!” I gasped, spinning around. I guess I hadn’t been imagining or just remembering the cologne. Brody was here, and he was wearing it now.
“So you recognize me now? Last night you seemed to have no clue. Or are all men just faceless objects for you to toy with?” He wasn’t quite as tall as Cam, not reaching six feet, but he was broad through his upper body. He wore a pair of cargo shorts, a T-shirt, and a baseball cap. The hat may have shadowed his face, but it couldn’t completely disguise the black eye, busted lip, and bruise across his cheekbone.
I now had no doubt it was him last night. Clearly, Cam’s fists did a lot of damage.
“What are you doing here? How did you get in?”
“You know why I’m here,” he said, his voice deadly calm. “You really should lock your doors.”
“You need to leave.”
He laughed and stepped farther into the kitchen.
I guess I suspected why he was here, but that didn’t make it any easier to grasp. And even if my assumptions were right, I still had a hard time comprehending his behavior. In all the years I’d known Brody—dated him—I never thought he was capable of attacking me or coming into my home uninvited (with really bad intentions).
Yes, I’d kept the secret of the rumor I started, but in my opinion, he deserved it. He did it to me first (Hey, I was in high school. That’s the kind of logic I was dealing with here). But even so… this was years ago. Who cared if John blurted out he really never had sex with me?
“Do you have any idea the amount of humiliation you caused me senior year?”
“I’m thinking it couldn’t be any worse than walking through the hall and people whispering the words ice and tease at my back.”
“What I said was the truth.”
I cocked my head to the side. “Says who? You? Just because I wouldn’t sleep with you back then gave you the right to spread rumors about me? You thought by labeling me a cock tease or some ice princess that you were going to make me finally give it up?”
“I was with you for years,” he snapped. “Years of thinking it was going to happen and then just when I thought we were going to go all the way, you shut me down. And then you cheated on me. With the freaking quarterback. I was the laughing stock of the entire school. I became the guy who couldn’t get it up. I became the guy that no girl wanted… Hell, some people even thought I was gay.”
“You brought that on yourself.”
His fists clenched and his eyes flashed. I realized I’d probably gone too far. He took another step toward me. I couldn’t back away because my back was already pressed up against the counter.
“When you left for college, I thought people would forget, that no one would care anymore. But no one forgot. I was stuck in that fucking town where people made Viagra jokes and I could barely get a date. And then John came home from college for the summer. I saw him at the bar. He had one too many beers and started running his mouth. Imagine how I felt when he told everyone that he never slept with you. That you made it all up just to ruin my reputation.”
“Brody, that was years ago. We were just kids.”
“Yeah, but that lie followed me everywhere I went.”
“I’m sorry,” I murmured. I hadn’t realized how badly the lie had hurt his reputation. I certainly hadn’t meant to cause any long-lasting damage. Back then, I’d been a girl who just wanted the whispers to stop. I didn’t want to be known as some frigid bitch.
I wasn’t frigid… but I had acted like a bitch.
“We both lied and it got out of hand.”
“Shut up!” he yelled. “You don’t get to say you’re sorry. There’s only one thing that can make up for what you did.”
Ice formed low in my belly. It was so cold that it spread through my veins, freezing everything in its path. “Go. Now. Or I’m calling the police.” I reached around me and picked up my phone, getting ready to make good on my threat.
He lunged forward and snatched the phone out of my hand and threw it across the room, where it slammed against the wall and cracked, sliding down to the floor into several broken pieces.
“I’m not leaving until I get what I came here for.”
“What’s that?” I stuttered, very afraid I already knew.
His eyes raked over my body, making me feel sick and dirty all at once. “You’re going to give me what was rightfully mine. I’m going to screw you and I’m going to make sure everyone knows that I did.” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a phone and held it up.
Oh my God, he was going to rape me and take pictures?
“I am not having sex with you,” I said, my voice hard and clear.
“So you can dance for strangers? You can get naked and dance around on a table for them and let a sleazy bartender take shots out of your tits, but you won’t give me something I earned?”
He was the stranger at the bar that night. He was watching Cam and me. It was him I felt staring at me from across the room.
“Sex isn’t something you earn.”
“I spent four years of my life putting up with you, thinking it would pay off, but all I got was a bad reputation and the quarterback stealing my thunder.”
So what? I’d been some game to him? Some prize to be had? Did he plan on taking my panties and waving them around school after he’d claimed my virginity?
“I’m afraid you’re too late,” I spat. “My virginity has already been taken.”
He let out a frustrated cry and leapt at me, trying to grab me. I shrieked and jumped back, reaching out and grabbing the jar full of rice. Without thinking twice, I swung it around and hit him across the face.