When he didn’t show any signs of stopping, I stepped forward. “Stop. Jared, stop!” I called out, my firm voice carrying over Nate’s grunts and gasps.
Jared ceased his assault but immediately yanked Nate by the crook of his elbow and threw him to the ground. “This isn’t over,” he assured the bloodied, crumpled mess on the ground.
What was he doing?
Turning to face me, Jared’s chest rose and fell heavily with his breathing. The exertion made his body seem weighed down as his shoulders slumped, but his eyes were still vicious. He looked at me with a mixture of weariness and fury.
“I’m taking you home.” He turned to walk for the lot, not even seeing if I’d follow.
Take me home?! Yeah, so he could feel like the big hero?
Letting Jared feel like he’d dug me out of a situation I had control of cut my pride. Screw that.
“No thanks. I have a ride,” I spit out the lie before I let him do me any favors.
“Your ride,” Jared turned to look at me with disgust, “is drunk. Now, unless you’d like to wake up your poor grandmother to come out into the middle of nowhere to get you after your date gets drunk, and you almost get raped—which I’m sure will do wonders for your father trusting you to be alone, by the way—then you’ll get in the goddamn car, Tate.”
And he turned to walk away, knowing I’d follow him.
The click signaling that the car doors had been unlocked sounded, and I climbed into Jared’s warm car, the passenger side this time. My hands were shaking from my encounter with Nate, so I struggled as I tried to take off Jared’s shirt.
“Leave it on.” He didn’t even spare me a glance before turning the ignition.
I hesitated. His anger was visible as the muscles in his jaw clenched. “But I’m not cold anymore.”
“And I can’t look at your ripped shirt right now.”
I shrugged the shirt back over my shoulders, put my belt on, and slammed into the back of the seat as he peeled out of the parking lot.
What the hell was his problem?
Was he mad at me or Nate? Obviously, Jared didn’t want to see me hurt—not physically, anyway. But why was he being so curt with me?
The car fishtailed slightly as it left the gravel lot and pulled onto the paved road of the highway. Jared weighed down on the gas and shifted forcefully as we picked up speed. No music played, and he didn’t speak.
The highway was deserted except for the haunting trees that loomed over us on the sides. Judging by how quickly everything flew past my window, Jared was way over the speed limit.
Peeking at him through the corner of my eye, I saw that he was seething. He licked his lips and took several heavy breaths, while he tightened and retightened his grip on the steering wheel.
“What’s your problem?” I grabbed the bull by the horns and asked.
“My problem?” He raised his eyebrows as if I’d just asked the dumbest question. “You come to the bonfire with that idiot Ben Jamison, who can’t stay sober enough to drive you home, and then you traipse off into the woods, in the dark, and get groped by Dietrich. Maybe you’re the one with the problem.” His voice was low but bitter and spiteful.
He was mad at me? Oh, hell no.
I turned in my seat and looked straight at him. “If you recall, I had the situation under control.” I tried to keep my voice calm. “Whatever favor you think you were doing me only satisfied your own anger. Leave me out of it.”
He sucked in his cheeks and continued down the highway.
As I glanced at the speedometer, my eyes bulged when I noticed that Jared was driving over eighty miles per hour.
“Slow down,” I ordered.
He ignored my plea and gripped the steering wheel harder. “There’s going to be situations you can’t handle, Tate. Nate Dietrich wasn’t going to take too kindly to what you did to him tonight. Did you think that was going to be the end of it? He would’ve come after you again. Do you know how badly Madoc wanted to do something after you broke his nose? He didn’t want to hurt you, but he wanted to retaliate.”
Why didn’t he then?
Madoc had been humiliated, no doubt, at that party more than a year ago when I broke his nose. But he’d just let it roll off him, or so I thought, and hadn’t sought any payback. Thanks to Jared.
I guess Nate Dietrich wouldn’t be seeking retribution, either. Not with Jared involved.
I felt gravity pull my body towards the other side of the car, and my heart thumped wildly when I saw that Jared wasn’t slowing down as we rounded the soft turn.
“You need to slow down.”
Jared snorted. “No, I don’t think so, Tate. You wanted the full high school experience, didn’t you? Football player boyfriend, casual sex, reckless behavior?” He goaded me with his sarcasm.
What was he talking about? I never wanted that stuff. I just wanted to be normal.
And then he switched off his headlights.
The road was black, and I couldn’t see more than a foot in front of us. Thankfully, there were reflectors that separated our lane from the oncoming traffic, but the country roads were busy with deer and other animals, not just traffic.
What the hell was he doing?
“Jared, stop it! Turn on the lights!” I braced one hand on the dash as I turned to confront him. We were zooming down the road at a frightening speed, and a lump formed in my throat.
The tattoo on his arm peeked out of his t-shirt, and it stretched with his tensing muscles while he gripped the stick shift. My legs were weak, and for the first time in a long time, I was too scared to think.