“Yeah, yeah. I know.” Madoc rolled his eyes, bruised from the night before. His nose wasn’t bandaged, but it was cut. “I’m just saying, you never had to work this hard to get a girl into bed.”
“I’m in no hurry. I might want to play around with this one for a while.” Jared shrugged as he started to climb the stairs but stopped and turned to face Madoc, looking like he was about to say something before Madoc cut him off.
“Tate’s going to be pissed,” Madoc’s voice sounded amused, and I wanted to run at hearing my name.
“The whole point,” Jared stated flatly.
“Oh…so that’s the plan.” Madoc nodded, finally understanding the end game.
My throat tightened, and my mouth was dry. He knew she was my best friend, my only friend pretty much, and losing her would make me miserable. The tightness spread to my jaw, and I shook my head in disgust. He hated me that much?
“Thanks again for backing me up last night.” Jared jerked his chin at Madoc before turning to the stairs.
Madoc spoke. “This thing, with Tate…” Jared stopped and turned again. Madoc continued, “why do we do it? I know I’ve asked before, but you don’t tell me shit. I just don’t get it.”
Jared’s eyes narrowed. “I think you go above and beyond. You mess with her without me telling you, so why do you care?”
Madoc let out a nervous laugh. “This isn’t about me. I never wanted to make an enemy of that girl. She came outside last night like she was ready to back us up. She’s hot, athletic, tough, and she can handle a gun. What’s not to like?”
Jared descended the stairs to stand one above Madoc. His dark brow pulled together in a scowl as he stared his friend down. “Stay away from her.
Madoc held up his hands. “Hey, man, no worries. She broke my nose and kicked me in the balls. I think that ship’s sailed. But if you don’t want her, why can’t anyone else have a shot? ”
Jared paused as if searching for words. Them he let out an exasperated sigh. “I’m not standing in her way anymore. If she wants to date and screw every guy in school, she can have a ball. I’m done.”
“Well good, because word is she went out with Ben Jamison last night.” Madoc’s tone sounded a little too pleased to deliver that news. Jared’s eyebrows pinched closer together, if that was possible. His grim expression accompanied by his dark looks made him appear formidable.
“That’s fine,” he said, but his jaws remained clenched. “I couldn’t care less. They can all have her.”
My breath caught in my throat.
He finished climbing the stairs and disappeared. Madoc stared after Jared for a moment before continuing down the hall and disappearing himself.
The stabbing sensation in my throat surrendered to the tears wanting their release. I raced to the nearest ladies room and locked myself in a stall. My back collapsed against the wall, and I slid down until my rear landed on the floor. Hugging my knees, I gave myself over to the tears. My breakdown was quiet, the misery uprooted from my gut and not my throat. The worst part was I didn’t know if I was angry, sad, desperate or miserable. The deep wailing came from my body silently, but the tears streamed down my cheeks like a river.
Jared indulged in my misery like it was candy. He had fed me to the wolves time and again, reveling in the unhappiness he caused. Jared, my friend, was completely gone, leaving a cold monster in his place.
His last words also irked me. He was setting me free, allowing me to date. The nerve! In my sick, twisted attachment to the boy who used to be my friend, I still took some comfort in the attention he showed me. Even if it was negative attention, at least he acknowledged my existence in some way. Maybe, if he still took the trouble to cross my path, then he might be holding a piece of me with him, too. But he was done, as he’d said.
As I stood, I remember that Jared had promised to have me in tears this week. Job well done, and it was only Tuesday. Wiping my eyes, I had to admit that the dick had skill.
“Sorry I left you hanging this morning,” K.C. apologized while sliding her leg over the picnic table bench. She was late to lunch, too. “So, tell me everything about last night!” She sounded plastic, like her excitement took effort. Her head was elsewhere.
Last night, I thought. The first image that hit me was her and Jared on his motorcycle, and then the kiss this morning. The second thing that came to mind was the fight I’d witnessed. The super scary figure Jared presented last night as he pounded his opponent was why people at this school fell in line around him. Some wanted to be in his orbit while others kept a respectful distance. Some people wanted to be recognized by him, while others considered themselves lucky to be unnoticed.
“Last night? Why don’t you go first?” I looked at her out of the corner of my eye while I sipped my water. I tossed around the idea of acting like I knew nothing, but her and Jared weren’t going to be in control of my emotions. This needed to be settled.
“What do you mean?” K.C. was wide-eyed.
“You’re going to lie to me then? I saw you. I saw you and him on the motorcycle last night and then again this morning by the cafeteria.” I pursed my lips and threw my wadded up napkin on the table.
“Tate, this is why I didn’t tell you…”
“Tell me what? That you’re screwing the guy that hurts me? That you two are laughing behind my back?” My voice cracked, but I was grateful that I hadn’t started yelling.