I stepped in before Madoc opened his mouth. “‘She’ wanted a brief word with you.”
I crossed my arms over my chest and hooded my gaze, trying to look tougher than I was. Jared did the same, and while his lips were still, his eyes were amused.
“Make it quick. I have guests,” he ordered.
He strolled into the room and took position on the other side of the pool table. Madoc and Sam took their cue and shuffled back into the kitchen. I caught Madoc out of the corner of my eye, swatting Sam over the head.
The control I was desperately trying to maintain threatened to rupture. After the epiphany brought on by Madoc’s confession, I hated Jared more than ever. It was hard to look at him.
“I.Have.Guests,” Jared repeated, fixing me with an annoyed stare.
“Yes, I can tell.” I peered around him to the doorway where the brunette still stood. “You can get back to servicing them in just a minute.”
Jared’s expression fell to a slight scowl. The brunette finally took the hint, walked over to Jared whose eyes never left mine, and kissed him on the cheek. “Call me,” she whispered.
His glare stayed on me as he continued to ignore her. After a few moments’ hesitation, she backed out of the room, twisted on her heel and left. No wonder guys acted like jerks. Girls like that let them.
Pulling myself together, I held my head high. “I have to be up in about five hours for an appointment in Weston. I’m asking politely that you please turn down the music.” Please don’t be an ass, please don’t be an ass.
So much for the power of prayer.
“Jared.” I paused, already knowing that I wouldn’t win. “I came here being neighborly. It’s after midnight. I’m asking nicely.” I was trying to keep my tone even.
“It’s after midnight on a Friday night.” He kept his arms crossed over his chest, giving the impression of being bored.
“You’re being unreasonable. If I wanted the music off, I could file a noise complaint or call your mom. I’m coming to you out of respect.” I looked around the empty room. “Where is your mother, by the way? I haven’t seen her since I’ve been back.”
“She’s not around much anymore, and she won’t be dragging her ass down here in the middle of the night to break up my party.”
“I’m not saying to ‘break it up’. I’m asking that you turn the music down,” I clarified, as if I still had any chance that Jared would concede.
“Go sleep over at K.C.’s on the weekends.” He started circling the pool table and rolling balls into pockets.
“It’s after midnight! I’m not bothering her this late!”
“You’re bothering me this late.”
“You are such a dick.” The whisper left my lips before I could stop it.
“Careful, Tatum.” He stopped and glared. “You’ve been gone for a while, so I’ll cut you a break and remind you that my goodwill doesn’t go far with you.”
“Oh, please. Don’t act like it’s such a burden to tolerate my presence. I’ve put up with more than a little from you over the years. What could you possibly do to me that you haven’t done already?” I, again, crossed my arms over my chest and tried to look confident.
My past nervousness came from my inability to handle him. He was clever and quick-witted, and I always lost when we verbally sparred. But I was not afraid of him.
“I like my parties, Tatum.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I like to be entertained. If you take my party, then you’ll have to entertain me.” His hooded gaze and husky voice were probably meant to be sexy, but it only came off as threatening.
“And what disgusting task, pray tell, would you like me to do?” I lavishly waved my hand through the air as if talking to a Duke or Lord. Maybe the jerkoff wanted his toilets cleaned or socks folded. Either way, he was only going to get my middle finger pointed in his face.
Sauntering over to me, Jared grabbed the hem of my hoodie and said, “Take this off and give me a lap dance.”
My eyes widened. “Excuse me?” I choked out in a husky whisper. He stood so close to me, and my body hummed with energy. His head was level, but his dark eyes were downcast with a penetrating gaze. I was hyperaware of his body, his bare skin, and then the mental pictures of a lap dance started flowing. Oh, my. I hate him, I hate him, I reminded myself.
Jared flicked the Seether emblem on the left breast of my hoodie. “I’ll put on Remedy. Still your favorite song? You give me a quick lap dance, and the party’s over.” The corners of his mouth turned up, but the dead coldness was still in his eyes. He wanted to humiliate me again. The monster needed to be fed.
Isn’t it time you fought back?
If I accepted his offer, Jared would only find some way to back out of the deal and embarrass me. If I didn’t accept the offer, we’d be at an impasse. Either way, Jared was aware he didn’t have to surrender anything. The jerk also assumed I was too flustered to think of a third choice.
Isn’t it time you fought back?
In the brief moment it took me to make my decision, I took one final survey of him. It was such a shame. Jared was stunningly gorgeous, and once upon a time, he was a good guy. If things had been different, I could be his. Once upon a time, I thought I was his. But I wouldn’t be sacrificing my pride to him. Ever. Again.
My legs started to shake, but I refused to let go of my resolve.