“Sorry that took so long. My mom was giving me a talk.”
Madoc came to my other side and held out his arm for me to take, which I did.
“About?” I pressed, a little nervous about what kind of parenting Katherine was doing today.
“About not getting you pregnant,” he whispered without looking at me.
I cleared my throat. Pregnant?
We both exchanged wary grins, not sure what to say to that. Jared and I had been using protection, but I guess I should get on the pill, too.
“Are we ready?” Madoc piped up from my side.
I held Madoc by the inside of his elbow and held Jared closer to me by the bicep. While a month ago I never would’ve thought I’d be here with these two, I felt at ease. “Totally. This is the start of a great friendship.” I jostled Madoc’s arm playfully.
“It could be the start of a great p**n o, too,” Madoc deadpanned, breaking into laughter.
“Son of a bitch! You’re going to get it tonight,” Jared threatened, and I shook my head laughing.
The dance was more enjoyable that we anticipated, even with the watered down music and trying to juggle two dates. New York, New York was the Homecoming theme, and the gym was awesomely decorated with cutouts of the New York City skyline and twinkle lights.
Madoc and Jared were like yin and yang. Madoc loved everyone and everything. Jared—I love him—barely tolerates anything. Madoc got great pictures of himself and me leaning up against a retro New York City cab for our Homecoming photo. I played along, even though he kept trying to pose like a Goodfella. Jared had to be coerced in front of the camera, but I’m sure he just did it for me.
After the initial weirdness of trying to be together on an actual date, Jared and I loosened up and had a little fun. I met some of his friends, and we got over the awkwardness of being around K.C. I think she was more comfortable with Jared than Liam was. But after a while, it was all good.
“Alright, let’s get f**ked up.” Madoc led the way into the Beckman house in search of liquor. We arrived at Tori’s after-party just as most people were getting there, and I stopped as soon as I stepped inside. The memory of the last time I was here over a year ago got my heart racing.
Jared halted in front of me, probably because I hesitated. My breathing quickened, and I clenched his hand. Even in my head, I couldn’t piece together why I was reacting this way. I wasn’t scared. I knew nothing was going to happen tonight.
“Tate, are you okay?” Jared’s eyes looked concerned.
“Yeah, I need a drink.” I’d be damned if I was going to be trapped by my past. My body was at DEFCON 1 right now, and I just wanted to enjoy this party.
Once we made it to the kitchen, complete with a make-shift bar just like last time, Madoc set to work making us drinks. Jared declined, since he was driving, and I was proud of him for being responsible. Madoc was simply happy he had a DD.
Snatching the red cup out of Madoc’s hand, I swallowed the burning liquid mixed with Coke as fast as I could. With each gulp, the alcohol stung worse and the bitter taste had me wishing for a cookie or a Jolly Rancher or anything sweet. Successfully consuming every last drop, I swung the cup into the sink and coughed into my hand as Madoc laughed at me.
“Aw, she’s about as red as a tomato,” he joked to Jared.
“Piss off,” I mumbled.
Jared wrapped a hand around my waist and pulled me close, kissing my hair. Closing my eyes, I let the alcohol heat up my blood, relaxing my muscles.
“Hey, guys.” K.C. bounced into the kitchen, pulling Liam behind her. He nodded to Madoc and Jared, clearly not happy with Jared and K.C. briefly dating. Liam cheated, but he was acting upset because K.C. spent a couple of dates with another guy.
Get over it.
“What are we drinking?” she asked.
“Well, I just had a little liquid courage, so I’m good for now.” My voice was still raspy from the rush of liquor.
While she and the others set to work making their concoctions, Jared bent down to my ear. “Come with me.”
Goosebumps spread across my arms as his breath tickled my ear. He took my hand, and I let him guide me out of the kitchen and up the stairs to the second floor of the house.
The Beckman place was huge, which was why parties here were so popular. Jared’s and my houses were happy mediums, but Tori and Bryan Beckman enjoyed a lush and spacious two-level home with a finished basement and fully landscaped backyard that was big enough for a modest golf course. This house probably boasted seven or eight bedrooms.
And it looked like Jared was taking me to one.
He knocked on a door to make sure the room was empty and then led us inside.
As soon as the door was closed behind us, he backed me up against it, causing me to grab his upper arms for support. I gasped from the surprise and met his kiss when his lips crushed down on mine. His hand went down to my ass, and he pulled me up to meet his hips. I ripped my mouth away from him to catch my breath as he dipped his head to my neck.
“God, Tate. Your dress should be burned.” His mouth was hot on my ear as he started sucking the lobe.
“Why?” I asked, the desire burning down below making it almost too hard to concentrate.
He laughed against my neck. “Every f**king guy has been looking at you tonight. I’m going to get arrested.”
Taking his head in my hands, I forced his eyes to meet mine as our noses touched. “I’m yours. It’s always been you.” My promise hung in the air while he gazed down at me, his chocolate eyes full of desire.