“I couldn’t.” He wiped his brow before stuffing his hand into his pocket. “I can’t.”
“You’re doing fine so far. I want to know why all of this started in the first place. Why did you want to hurt me? The pranks, the black-listing from parties? That wasn’t about other guys. What was your problem with me?” I accused him.
His cheeks puffed out as he sighed. “Because you were there. Because I couldn’t hurt who I wanted to hurt, so I hurt you.”
That can’t be it. There has to be more.
“I was your best friend.” Frustration pushed my patience further away from me. “All these years…” My voice broke off barely containing the tears that pooled in my eyes.
“Tate, I had a shitty summer with my dad that year.” His voice sounded closer. “When I came back, I wasn’t the same kid. Not even close. I wanted to hate everybody. But with you, I still needed you in a way. I needed you to not forget me.” Jared’s voice never cracked, but I could tell there was remorse in his tone.
What had happened to him?
“Jared, I’ve turned it over and over in my head wondering what I could’ve done to make you act the way you did. And now you tell me that it was all for no reason?” I looked up to meet his eyes.
His body inched closer, but I didn’t care. I wanted to hear more. “You were never clingy or a nuisance, Tate. The day you moved in next door I thought you were the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I f**king loved you.” The last was barely a whisper as his eyes dropped to the ground. “Your dad was unloading the moving truck, and I looked out my living room window to see what the noise was. There you were, riding your bike in the street. You were wearing overalls with a red baseball cap. Your hair was spilling down your back.” Jared didn’t meet my eyes with his confession.
We’d moved to a new house in town after my mom passed. I remembered seeing Jared for the first time that day. He remembered what I was wearing?
I loved you. A tear spilled over as I closed my eyes.
“When you recited your monologue this week, I ….” he drifted off with a sigh. “I knew then that I’d really gotten to you, and instead of feeling any satisfaction, I was angry with myself. I wanted to hate you all these years, I wanted to hate someone. But I didn’t want to hurt you, and I didn’t really realize that until the monologue.”
Suddenly, he was in front of me. Cocking his head to the side, his glistening eyes searched mine. I didn’t know what he looked for, and I didn’t know what I wanted to reveal. I hated him for the years of torment. He threw away everything we had because he was angry at someone else. Needles pierced my throat as I struggled to hold back more tears.
“You’re not telling me everything.” My voice cracked, as he reached up to cup my cheek and wipe the tear away with his thumb. His long, muscular fingers were warm on my skin.
“No, I’m not.” His husky whisper caused tingles to spread over my body, or maybe it was his thumb caressing circles on my cheek. I was becoming light-headed with everything that had happened tonight.
“The scars on your back,” I choked out, my eyes fluttering with the sensation of his touch. “You said you had a bad summer, and that when you came back you wanted to hate everybody, but you haven’t treated anyone else as badly as…”
“Tate?” His lips were inches from mine, and his body radiated heat. “I don’t want to talk any more tonight.”
I blinked and noticed how his body had drawn me in. Or maybe I’d drawn him in. We were like the positive sides of twin magnets again. He was so close now, and he’d eaten the distance between us without me noticing.
You’re not getting off that easy.
“You don’t want to talk anymore?” I spit out, not quite believing what I heard. “Well, I do.” And I twisted around to launch another key into the air, but Jared’s arms darted out and circled around my body, trapping me from behind.
I gasped for breath, while I tried squirm free. Thoughts swirled in my head, and it was hard to latch onto just one. He’d never hated me. I’d done absolutely nothing! Even though I knew that, part of me always thought there had to be a reason. And now he didn’t want to finish his story? I needed to know!
His solid arms secured me, his breath was hot against my hair as I struggled to move out of his arms. “Shhh, Tate. I won’t hurt you. I’ll never hurt you again. I’m sorry.”
Like that was going to erase everything!
“I don’t care about you being sorry! I hate you.” My hands gripped his forearms, which were braced over my chest as I tried to yank them loose. My anger turned to rage with his mind games and bullshit, and I was sick of the sight of him.
His hold on me lessened as he used his hands to peel the keys out of my fist. He let go of me, and I stepped forward before turning to face him.
“You don’t hate me,” he asserted. “If you did, you wouldn’t be this upset.” The cocky twist to his tone made my body stiffen, but I eased up when I felt the sting of my nails dig into my skin.
“Go screw yourself,” I snapped and began walking away.
Like hell was he going to get the upper hand! He wanted to me to forgive him in one night for years of embarrassment and unhappiness, and then he assumed that I cared about him. He thought he was coming out of this unscathed.
What a colossal douchebag!
The next thing I knew, my feet were being swept off the ground, and I was upside down. Jared had tossed me over his shoulder, and all the air left my body as his bone dug into my stomach.