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What the hell is this introduction???
12 May 2021 (13:45)
woah i haven't read the book but i can already tell the amount of times i know I'm going to slap myself because of the second hand embarrassment in the book.
29 June 2021 (12:22)
GODDD FR LMFAOO ^ I CANT
15 July 2021 (09:13)
I don’t know if I want to read this now
15 July 2021 (15:02)
WTF IS THIS LMFAOOOO
18 July 2021 (10:18)
the introduction is so stupid lol is she a pedo or sumn
23 July 2021 (16:47)
im speechless- wtf w the synopsis lmao
01 August 2021 (07:36)
the introduction is full trash
03 August 2021 (07:48)
THE DESCRIPTION IS GARBAGE WTF LMAOOO I AINT READIN THIS
04 August 2021 (21:50)
This description is slow weird. Who gave this 5 stars???
23 September 2021 (21:57)
Copyright © 2016 by L.J. Shen All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotation embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. Resemblance to actual persons, things, living or dead, locales or events is entirely coincidental. Defy Edited by: Karen Dale Harris, Ellie McLove Cover Designer: Letitia Hasser, RBA Designs Interior Formatting: Stacey Blake, Champagne Formats Table of Contents Title Page Copyright Epigraph Dedication Soundtrack Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Epilogue Acknowledgements Books by L.J. Shen Vicious Sneak Peek Sneak Peek of Illicit by Ava Harrison “I would always rather be happy than dignified.” —Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre To Jaime Steinman-Jones and Kerissa Blake Soundtrack “Secretly” – Skunk Anansie “R U Mine?” – Arctic Monkeys “Under Your Spell” - Desire “Colors” - Halsey “Crazy In Love” - Nightcore “Whistle for the Choir” – The Fratellis “Halo” - Texas “Atomic” - Blondie Originally, the anchor symbol was not used by those on the water, but by people on land. During the early years of Christianity, Christians were under heavy persecution by the Romans. To show their religion to other practicing Christians under the watchful eye of the ruling people, they would wear anchor jewelry or even tattoo anchors on themselves. The anchor was seen as a symbol of strength as anchors hold down ships even in the stormiest of weather. It was also a popular symbol because of its close resemblance to the cross. Anchors were also used to mark safe houses for those see; king refuge from persecution. MyNameNecklace.com My name is Melody Greene, and I have a confession to make. I slept with my student, a senior in high school. Multiple times. I had multiple orgasms. In multiple positions. I slept with my student and I enjoyed it. I slept with my student, and I’d do it all over again if I could turn back time. My name is Melody Greene, and I got kicked out of my position as a teacher and did my walk of shame à la Cersei Lannister from the principal’s office, minutes after said principal threatened to call the cops on me. My name is Melody Greene, and I did something bad because it made me feel good. Here is why it was totally worth it. I SNAILED MY WAY OUT of the principal’s office toward the SoCal mid-winter clouds. Anger, humiliation, and self-loathing coated every inch of my soul, creating a film of desperation I was desperate to scratch away. Rock. Meet. Bottom. I’d just found out All Saints High was not going to renew my contract as a teacher next year unless I pulled my shit together and performed some magic that’d transform my students into attentive human beings. Principal Followhill said that I showed zero authority and that the literature classes I was teaching were falling behind. To add fuel to the fire, last week I’d received notice that I was getting kicked out of my apartment at the end of next month. The owner had decided to remodel and move back in. Also, the sexting partner I’d bagged through a questionable dating site had just fired me a message saying he wouldn’t be able to make it to our first in-person date because his mom wouldn’t give him her car tonight. He was twenty-six. So was I. Being picky was a luxury a woman who hadn’t seen a real-life cock in four years really didn’t have. And, as a matter of fact, other than a few short flings, I’d never had a relationship. At all. With anyone. Ballet had always come first. Before men and before me. For a while, I’d actually thought it was enough. Until it wasn’t. When did it all go wrong? I could tell you when—right after I started college. Eight years ago, I got accepted to Julliard and was about to fulfill my dream to become a professional ballerina. This was what I’d worked for my whole life. My parents had taken out loans to pay my way through dancing competitions. Boyfriends were deemed an unwelcome distraction, and my only focus was joining a prestigious New York or European ballet company and becoming a prima ballerina. Dancing was my oxygen. When I said my goodbyes to my family and waved at them from the security point at the airport, they told me to break a leg. Three weeks into my first semester at Julliard, I literally did. Broke it in a freakish escalator accident on my way down to the subway. It not only killed my career dreams and lifelong plan, but also sent me packing and back to SoCal. After a year of sulking, feeling sorry for myself and developing a steady relationship with my first (and last) boyfriend—a dude named Jack Daniels—my parents convinced me to pursue a career in teaching. My mom was a teacher. My dad was a teacher. My older brother was a teacher. They loved teaching. I hated teaching. This was my third year of teaching, and my first—and judging by my performance, only—year at All Saints High in Todos Santos, California. Principal Followhill was one of the most influential women in town. Her polished bitchery was formidable. And she absolutely despised me from the get-go. My days under her reign were numbered. As I approached my twelve-year-old Ford Focus parked across the aisle from her Lexus and her son’s monstrous Range Rover (Yeah, she’d bought her son, a senior, a fucking luxury SUV. Why would an eighteen-year-old need a car so big? Maybe so it could accommodate his giant-ass ego?), I decided my situation couldn’t possibly get any worse. But I was wrong. I slid into my car and started backing up into the almost empty parking lot, slipping back toward the two pricey symbols of a small dick. At the exact same moment, Mr. Living With His Mom texted me again. The green bubble flashed with GOT THE CAR. R8DY TO SEX IT UP? accompanied with approximately three thousand question marks. I got distracted. I got annoyed. I bumped straight into Principal Followhill’s son’s SUV. Choking the steering wheel and gasping in horror, I slapped my hand over my heart to make sure it didn’t shoot out of my ribcage. Shit. Shit. Shit! The thud that filled my ears and shook my car didn’t leave any room for doubt. I’d done to his SUV what Keanu Reeves did to the movie Dracula. I’d fucking ruined it. My fight-or-flight adrenalin kicked in, and I briefly contemplated whether I should hit the gas, assume an alias, and flee the country to hide in a cave somewhere in the Afghan mountains. How was I going to pay for the damage? I had a big deductible and there was that notice at home about my last insurance premium being late. Was I even covered? Principal Followhill was going to kill me. Mustering my courage, I peeled my sorry ass off my seat. Technically speaking, Jaime’s precious black SUV wasn’t supposed to be parked in the teachers’ lot. Then again, Jaime Followhill got away with a lot of shit he wasn’t supposed to, thanks to his looks, social status, and powerful parents. I circled around to find my cheap car’s ass that was kissing his Range Rover’s back quarter panel, leaving a dent the size of Africa. Suffice it to say, now things couldn’t get any worse. But I was wrong. Again. Bending down, I squinted at the destruction, not giving a damn about the fact that my brown knee-length dress danced in the air, exposing my new lace panties. There wasn’t anyone else in the parking lot to see them, and it wasn’t as if I was going to be flaunting them in front of Mr. Living With His Mom tonight. “Oh, no, no, no…” I chanted breathlessly. I heard a guttural growl. “Next time you bend over like this, Ms. G, make sure I’m not behind you, or it’ll end up on National Geographic: When Predators Strike.” I slowly straightened, pushing my reading glasses up the bridge of my nose and scowling at Jaime Followhill as I took him in. Jaime looked like the lovechild of Ryan Gosling and Channing Tatum, and I was not making this shit up. (Side note: This would be a great idea for a M/M romance novel. I’d totally read it, anyway.) Sandy-blond hair tied into a low, messy bun, indigo eyes, and the body of a male stripper. Seriously, the kid was so ripped, his guns were the size of fucking bowling balls. He was a walking, talking cliché of the prom king in a 90s movie. A baller who had every girl’s attention at All Saints High… And his eyes were now on me as he strode closer to his very smashed ride. He wore a tight gray Henley shirt that made his biceps and pecs stand out, slim dark denim, and high-top shoes that looked so expensive and tasteless you just knew P Diddy had to be behind that design. He had a few bruises on his arms and a fading black eye. I knew where he’d gotten them. Rumor was he and his stupid friends beat the shit out of each other on the weekends in a fight-club game they called Defy. Guess Pretty Boy wasn’t too rich to be pushed around. I wondered if his mother knew about Defy. Wait, did he ask me a question about my hamster? Or was it my hamstrings? “Well, fuck me to the moon and back.” He stopped a few inches from our cars, releasing a wicked grin. It looked like the two cars had melded together. Like his SUV was giving birth to my ugly car through its rear end, and now the SUV’s significant other (Principal Followhill’s Lexus) was demanding a paternity test. I taught Jaime, and he was one of the few kids that I could count on not to yell/scream/throw crap at people in English Lit. He wasn’t a good student by any stretch of the imagination, but he was too busy with his cell phone to make trouble in my class. “Sorry.” I released a pained breath, my shoulders sagging in defeat. He lifted the hem of his shirt and rubbed his perfect six-pack, stretching lazily and yawning at the same time. “Seems to me like I fucked your car up, Ms. Greene.” Wait…what? “You…” I cleared my throat, looking around to make sure it wasn’t a prank. “You fuck—I mean, you damaged my car?” “Yeah. Bumped right into your ass. Pun intended, obvs.” He kneeled down, frowning at the spot where our two vehicles met. He brushed his tan palm over the shiny paint of his SUV. Jaime made it sound like he was the one who’d crashed his car into mine. I had no idea why. He wasn’t even in his car. He’d just walked up. Maybe he wanted to blackmail me? I considered myself a respectable teacher with a moral compass. But I also considered myself someone who would prefer not to bathe in the ocean and sleep in her car. That was exactly what I would need to do to survive the financial blow if I admitted to being at blame for hitting his expensive car. “James…” I sighed, clutching onto the gold anchor necklace hanging around my neck. He shook his head and raised his hand in the air. “So I screwed up your ride. Shit happens. Let me make it up to you.” What. The. Heck? I didn’t know what game he was playing. I just knew that he was probably better at it than I was. So, in true Melody Greene fashion, I turned around and walked straight back to my car, essentially running away from the situation like the little pussy that I was. “Whoa, not so fast.” He chuckled as he grabbed me by the elbow and spun me around. My eyes darted to his palm on my flesh. He lowered his hand, but it was too late. Butterflies somersaulted in my stomach, and my skin prickled with need. I was hot and bothered by one of my pupils. Only Jaime Followhill wasn’t just any pupil. He was also a sex god. There was gossip in the hallways of All Saints High to prove it, enough stories to compete with the length of the fucking Complete Works of Shakespeare. And that wasn’t the only things that were long and impressive about the guy if the rumors were true. Followhill made me almost as uncomfortable as his mother did. Only difference was his mom inspired fear in me, while he poked at my most sensitive spot. He made me feel embarrassed. That could be because my eyes always drifted his way while I taught his Lit class. Like a moth to a flame, I always noticed him, even when I didn’t want to. I was worried he knew that too. That I was looking at him in a way I shouldn’t be when he was dicking around, messing with his phone. Not like a teacher. But like a woman. “I said I dented your car.” His blue eyes shimmered with intensity. Why was he doing this? And why the fuck did I care? This kid received more pocket money than I had in all my savings combined. If he wanted to shoulder this, I should just accept. Was it a better grade he was after? Doubted it. Jaime was a senior on his way out the door. I’d heard his rich ass had landed a spot at an excellent Texas university (see: Mommy Dearest), where he’d play football and probably fuck his way into some kind of a man-whore Guinness World Record. “You did,” I said, swallowing. “And right now, I’m running late. Please step out of my way.” We mentally shook hands on that lie, our eyes hard on one another. I had a feeling I was digging a hole. A hole in which I was about to dump a ton of dark shit that’d land me in hot trouble. I was striking a deal with the devil’s spawn. Even though I had a good eight years on him, I knew who he was. One of the Four HotHoles. A self-centered, privileged princeling who ruled this town. Jaime took another step my way, his body flush with mine. His breath skated over my face. Mint gum, aftershave, and musky male sweat that made me oddly heady. I was so unprepared for this that my face twitched. I took a step back. He took a step forward. Bending his head down, he moved his lips close to mine. To my horror, my knees buckled, and I knew exactly why. “I owe you,” he murmured darkly. “And I’ll make sure you get to cash in on that debt. Soon. Very soon.” “I don’t need your money,” I sputtered, my womb tingling with fuzzy warmth. His mesmerizing eyes widened, and he flashed me a dimpled smirk. “It’s not money I’m going to give you.” How could someone so young be so arrogant and self-assured? I felt his thumb stroking my stomach, barely touching, teasing, making me quiver through the thin fabric of my dress. It was like he’d shoved his whole fist into me and attacked my mouth with his. I licked my lips and blinked, astonished. Holy shit. Holy. Fucking. Shit. Jaime Followhill was hitting on me. Blatantly. In the parking lot. In plain sight. I wasn’t a troll. I still had a dancer’s body after all, green eyes, a nice California tan, and soft chestnut curls. But I didn’t exactly give the cheerleading crowd a run for their money. Tripping backward, I swallowed a groan, feeling my pulse everywhere, eyelids included. “That’s enough, James. Drive safely, and please be sure to do your homework for tomorrow,” I had the audacity to say. I tucked myself back into my Ford, and then accidentally bumped my car into the Range Rover one more time before I fled the scene, smearing the ugly dent into a long, wide scratch. From the rearview mirror, I watched as he cocked his eyebrows at me in a challenge. I drove so fast I swore my curls transformed into a dramatic blow-out by the time I parked under my building. At home, I slouched on my couch in front of my phone and waited for Principal Followhill to call and tell me she was firing my ass and suing me for every single penny that I had. Or in my case didn’t have. Long hours passed, but the call never came. I crawled into bed and closed my eyes at ten p.m. but couldn’t sleep to save my life. All I thought about was that gorgeous asshole, Jaime Followhill. How he smelled like the hottest guy I’d ever been near. How he looked like the most delicious thing in the world when he rubbed his tan six-pack. How he helped me out of a shitty situation without flinching, knowing that his mother would probably crush me for this, and now…he wanted something back. On paper, he was still a kid, but every other part of him felt like a man this afternoon. It so defied logic, it was unnerving, almost infuriating when I thought about it. This morning, I’d woken up with the impression that I hated the Followhills. But after this afternoon, there was no denying it—there was at least one Followhill I wanted to get very friendly with. HERE WAS ALL YOU NEEDED to know about Todos Santos: it was the richest town in California and, as a direct result, home to the most entitled teenagers in the world. My students knew I couldn’t fail them. Their parents had enough power to strip me of my citizenship and banish me to an oxygen-deprived planet. These kids did whatever they wanted during class, much to no one’s surprise. The day after the car incident was different. I taught six classes. The first five had gone better than expected, meaning I didn’t have to slap anyone with a detention slip or call an ambulance/911/a SWAT team for assistance. But it was the sixth and last class that changed my life forever. I sashayed into Jaime’s class—following another barking session from his bitchy mom—into an echoing silence I wasn’t used to. Everyone was seated, nobody threw anything, and Vicious, Jaime’s BFF, hadn’t cut anyone’s face and adorned their forehead with a satanic symbol just to burn time. Normally, this was the part where I had to contain the wrath and deplorable behavior of the Four HotHoles. (Hot Assholes, as they were dubbed by everyone in Todos Santos.) It was three months before graduation, and they were all seniors, a possible excuse for their behavior. Except they’d been this way since the first day. There was Jaime, who spent my class texting the whole world and drawing the attention of every girl who wasn’t tongue-deep into Trent Rexroth, the underprivileged mocha-skinned football star, who made out with random chicks in the back. He once had a girl sucking his cock under his table in calculus. I kid you not. There was Dean Cole, the airheaded stoner who enjoyed pranks and annoying me in equal measure, and finally, Baron “Vicious” Spencer, the World’s Biggest Jerk. Vicious was by far the worst. He made good on his name. So goddamned cold and sullen all the time that people nicknamed him after Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. He had coal black hair, expressionless eyes, fair skin, and the kind of rebellious anger that could electrify you to the point of the chills. The permanent tick of his clenched square jaw made girls wet their panties from fear and lust. He was a jock, like all the HotHoles, but he was leaner than the rest, not as muscular. But scarier. Definitely fucking scarier. That day, Millie LeBlanc, a sweet girl who was the most frequent target of Vicious’s wrath, arrived three minutes late. I tilted my head, signaling for her to take a seat. I felt bad for her. Her parents had dragged her all the way from Virginia her senior year to take a job as live-in servants at one of the town’s many mansions—Vicious Spencer’s house to be exact. As always, she strode right in the psycho’s direction and took the empty seat beside him as if she didn’t know or care who Vicious was. My soul shouted an extended “Noooooooo!” when I saw how he was watching her. He will grind you and feed you to his pet snake, I wanted to warn. But Emilia just lifted her head, offered a polite smile, and drawled a Southern “hey, y’all” in the direction of him and the other HotHoles. Vicious blinked slowly, intrigued by the idea that she dared to speak to him without permission, and his expression clouded into a taut frown. “Motherfucker, did you just ‘hey, y’all’ me?” He let out a feral growl. “Please tell me it’s a fucking safe word you’re using now because some new boyfriend shoved the Confederate flag up your ass, pole included. Otherwise, don’t ever fucking ‘hey y’all’ me again.” Wow. That was more words than he’d spoken all year. Millie sighed and said, “I’m only trying to be polite. You should try it sometime.” “I don’t do polite,” he retorted, a rare smile tugging on his lips. Usually, he seemed to despise her, but he was studying her so intently it looked as if he was the one who’d like to shove numerous things up her perky little butt. “Leave him alone, baby doll.” Trent, the guy next to her (who took a breather from letting the chick next to him suck his thumb) glanced from Dean to Vicious. “Vicious stop being a—” “A raging fucking asshole,” Jaime finished from behind them, scraping his chair back and towering over their heads, his sculpted muscles flexed to the max. Goddammit. It was the first time my workday had ever been blissfully uneventful. The HotHoles just had to ruin it. Before I could warn everyone off with an impotent threat I’d never follow through with, Jaime galloped toward Vicious and pinned him to the nearest wall, his fingers laced firmly around Vic’s neck in a death squeeze. “Where’s your loyalty, man? Leave it be, okay?” Jaime tightened his hold on Vicious’s neck. “James!” I raised my voice, flying up from my chair and banging my palm over the desk. “Back to your seat, now!” Vicious looked thoroughly amused, rolling his head on the wall and laughing like a maniac. Jaime and Vicious were best friends, but they were also two alphas with a shitload of testosterone and hormones coursing through their veins. They were also the inventors of Defy. The teachers and high school staff didn’t know too much about Defy, because it went on at Vicious’s house parties over the weekends, but we got the general idea. The game was simple: Our students challenged each other to bloody fights and beat the shit out of each other. For fun. Defy was supposedly voluntary, but I didn’t doubt people were afraid enough of Vicious to indulge his whims, however ridiculous or dangerous. “Make me,” Jaime challenged me on a whisper, his eyes narrowing into slits and zeroing in on my face, his fingers still digging into the neck of an amused, bluish Vic. Jesus Christ. I never touched Followhill when it came to detentions and tardy slips. His mom was the fucking principal, and she already hated my guts. But he’d cornered me. I had to react. I clutched my necklace tighter. Why was he doing this? Yesterday, he eye-fucked me to unconsciousness and back. And now…he…he… Oh, shit. Now he’s cashing in on the debt. He didn’t want me to back down. He wanted me to accept his dare. Was I going to take the bait? It wasn’t like I had much choice. I owed him big time for the Range Rover. Whatever it was he wanted from me, it was already his. “You’ve just landed yourself in detention for the next week, starting this afternoon.” I pulled open the drawer of my wooden desk and started filling out the detention form. Everyone fell silent. I’d never done this before. Not to a senior and definitely not to James Charles Followhill III. From the corner of my eye, I watched as Jaime finally let go of Vicious’s neck. Vicious made a sucking sound and grabbed his junk, motioning to Jaime, laughing as he strode back to his seat. Other students slapped his back and looked between them, slipping notes. Probably bets on an impending Defy fight that was about to go down this weekend. I smacked the detention slip on Jaime’s desk, and he jerked his eyes up, beaming a smile at me so sinister my panties melted into gooey, sweet liquid. We both knew what I was doing. Awarding him with one-on-one time with me, exactly what he wanted. Accepting an arrangement that’d put me in a fragile, potentially disastrous spot. I was saying thank you to him for threatening my class, telling them to behave, so that he’d be the only person in detention for the next week. And at this point, there was no denying it—I was allowing myself to free-fall headfirst into the end of my career, doing somersaults on my way down. Jaime Followhill had celebrated his eighteenth birthday three days before the parking lot incident, which made the chain of recent events even more suspicious. Had he waited to hit on me? Why? He could have any girl in school. (After Trent Rexroth had a taste, of course.) I’d already spent my lunch break roaming his Facebook page like there was no tomorrow. His timeline was a pointed reminder that he was eight years my junior. He had pictures from summer camp, for fuck’s sake. He was always sporting a dimply smile, tan muscular forearms, a stunning pair of bright blues, and a ton of friends. Jaime had everything, and I had nothing. He had a coddled past, a cushy present, and a dazzling future. I, on the other hand, was already tainted with career failure and headed toward a life of scrambling to stay employed and out of debt. We didn’t make sense. Even for a fling. But I was too selfish and vulnerable to say no. Besides, having him would be like sticking it to his mom without really letting her know about it. Win-win, right? That afternoon, I slipped into the classroom where detention took place, noting that the wooden door to the room had a window. I wasn’t surprised to see the blond HotHole was already there, sitting in the front row, jingling his car keys—and our secret—between his strong fingers with a smirk, haunting me with his teal eyes. Gulping, I sat down at the teacher’s table and took out my laptop and some exams I needed to grade. “Put your phone in your backpack, Jaime.” I wet my lips, my eyes focused on my paperwork. He did as he was told, but I felt his lingering gaze licking me everywhere. My self-consciousness levels were so high I was on the verge of throwing up. I acted like I was about to commit a crime. In a way, I was. After a few minutes of me pretending to type absolutely nothing on my laptop and him staring at me with a cocky smile, like he was about to devour me at any second, I grunted, “Why don’t you do your homework? I’m sure you can do something constructive with your time while you’re here.” He had two hours to burn, and my face couldn’t be that fascinating. But I swore I heard him mumble, “Sizing up my prey is constructive.” My head bolted up from my screen, and I shot him a dirty look. “Excuse me?” He tilted his chin up, flashing a row of pearly whites of the Hollywood variety. “Ms. Greene, this is going to happen.” I knew what he meant. “I have no idea what you mean,” I snipped. Pshh. Playing games with an eighteen-year-old. I promised myself that after today, I was going to take a long, hard look at my life. Preferably while enjoying a generous glass of wine. Well, not a glass, maybe more like a bowl. Jaime leaned forward on his elbows, his huge arms spanning his whole desk. The devious twinkle in his eyes assured me, once again, that his age was merely a number. Hell, he’d probably slept with more people than I’d kissed in my entire life. “Yes, you do. You know,” he said with a smile that was arrogant, yet forgiving. Who was the grown-up here? Who was corrupting who? I swallowed. My eyes dropped to my keyboard, and I struggled for a steady breath. I was shit-scared and turned on. Apparently, this was the perfect combination to make me produce small moans resembling a cat in heat. “Why me?” I asked. Jaime remained motionless, but his stare nipped at the sensitive flesh of my neck, tickling my lower abdomen. “Because,” he said slowly, his soft lips parting as he drank me in, “I want to fuck a teacher before I go off to college.” And just like that, ladies and gentlemen, my quivering thighs and glassy eyes suffered a bad case of ice-cold bucket of rage. Standing up and folding my arms, I pinched my lips together to make sure a curse didn’t escape them. “I’m sorry, James. I don’t seem to register half of the things you’ve said today, because it sounds like you’re begging to fail my class and get kicked out of school.” Now it was his turn to stand, and I shrank back toward the whiteboard when I remembered he had a good nine inches on me (also in his pants, if that prevailing rumor was right.) “Sweetheart,” he said, following that with a tsk-tsk of his tongue, his confidence unnerving. “Give me your worst. Fail me. Throw me in detention for the rest of the year. We both know it won’t affect my graduation or my future. You’d only be shooting yourself in that lovely, sexy-as-fuck foot of yours.” His eyes moved to my legs, and he took a step forward. My throat constricted with an unfamiliar need to bite something. Preferably this HotHole’s butt. “The damage to the Range Rover is around eighty-five hundred dollars, thanks for asking,” he continued, straight-faced. Another step. Thump, thump, thump, went my heart. I was a flower and he was a rare sunray, and we were drawn to each other, reluctantly, unwittingly, disastrously. Every cell in my body sizzled, begging for his touch. Jaime wanted to fuck a teacher, so what? I wanted to fuck a baller. We were two sensible grown-ups making a conscious decision…only he wasn’t really a grown-up, was he? And I was anything but sensible to get into this mess. But he had leverage on me. And those piercing blue eyes. Besides…I wanted him. He was the first thing that had made me feel giddy in a while. Since Julliard, to be exact. How sad was that? “Jaime,” I croaked. “I’m sure there are other teachers you could…work your charm on. How about Ms. Perklin?” She was about three centuries old and smelled like used dental floss, but I wanted to gauge his reaction, postponing what was beginning to feel inevitable. Jaime stopped when our toes touched, his dimpled smile broadening, the black eye barely visible. I might have an easier time rejecting him if he weren’t a female lubricant, I thought while admiring his masculine jaw and high forehead. “Correction…” His lips brushed mine as he leaned down, and I shivered and stepped back, aware people might see us through the door’s glass window. “I don’t only want to fuck a teacher. I want to fuck my Lit teacher. She’s got sass, great ass, long legs, and even though she thinks I haven’t figured her out, I know that behind the prissy disguise is a woman who curses like a sailor and can outdrink anyone on my football team.” Damn right, I could. They were only teenagers. I had impressive binge-drinking mileage. Eras of destructiveness caused by dark times of depression. But I digress. “Do you want us both to get kicked out of All Saints?” I inhaled, patting my sweaty palms on my navy polka-dot dress. Someone had to talk sense into this boy. Too bad it was me we depended on. My willpower was nonexistent in those days. I had very little to lose at this point, if at all. He grabbed me by the waist and spun us around so his back shielded my whole body from the windowed door. He pulled me into him, and my body melted against his like hot butter. “I won’t tell,” he whispered into my neck, making me shiver with pleasure. “Neither will you. A nice short fling, Ms. G. I’ll move to Texas to play college football. You’ll move on to an ugly-ass accountant with a good heart or some shit. Someone to make babies with. That’s all. Now what do you say, Melody?” I was about to say dream on but didn’t have the chance. Jaime dove down, his sultry lips breathing into mine. “On second thought, don’t say a word. I’ll see for myself.” Jaime Followhill kissed me, the most intoxicating kiss I’d ever had. The minute his mouth slammed over mine, my toes curled inside my sensible pumps. It wasn’t just the urgency of his hot mouth or the sweet taste of his gum but also his drugging male scent. He invaded every inch of my pores, kissing me like he had something to prove, a point to make. I grabbed his smooth-cheeked face with abandon and inhaled, while he opened my mouth with his tongue and devoured me like I was his fucking last meal. His tongue attacked mine, owning my mouth, licking every part and swallowing my needy moans. I wasn’t surprised when his hand dug into my ass and he yanked me into his erection. He rubbed himself against me, shamelessly jerking off on me, grabbing one of my hands and placing it against his impressive cock. It was wrong. It was wrong, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like how wrong it felt. Whether I was corrupting or being corrupted…I loved how it made me feel. My heart drummed with excitement and fear. I knew part of the thrill was the possibility we’d get caught. It felt like swallowing an eight ball of speed and washing it down with a dozen shots of vodka. Hot fucking damn. Jaime Followhill had some moves. “Anyone can see us,” I muttered into another dirty-hot kiss. The space between us was already charged with sex, reeking of juices we barely kept hidden behind thin clothing. I was soaked and ready, and he’d released those male hormones that make teenage guys’ rooms smell like jizz and sweat. Only on him, the smell was pretty magical. “You’re covered by me,” he murmured into my neck, nipping my skin with his teeth and moving south. His tongue sliced through the valley of my swollen breasts like an arrow. “Not true.” My face was now on display for anyone to see. “Meet you at your place in an hour.” “You don’t know where I live.” I hungrily skimmed my hands over his iron chest. Jaime pulled away and gave me one of his mischievous grins. Jesus. He was a stalker, too? I had to admit, I found it hot as hell. One of the sexiest guys at school…stalked me. Why did I have to be a teacher? Shit like that never happened when I was a student. “No.” My voice was resolute. With every second his lips weren’t on mine, the fog of a building orgasm faded, making way for logic. Hello, logic. You killjoy, you. “Ms. Greene…” His forehead and nose were crushed against mine. We both panted, eye to eye, chest to chest. “You’re about eight minutes too late to walk out of this arrangement. This…” His hand ducked under my dress hem and up between my thighs, and a finger traveled along my wet slit through my plain cotton underwear (no lace today), stroking not pushing, in a torturous tease. “Is mine until school ends. I will eat it, fuck it, play with it, and sleep in it if I want to. And I want to. I wanna do all those things to you.” What horrified me the most about Jaime’s statement was that I knew he was going to get his way. I had agreed to it before I’d even walked into detention today. He had too much power over me, and not only because of his social status. I’d always been aware of his beauty and powerful presence, but up until now, I used them to resent him. Now that they were offered to me, all bets were off. “We’re going to be exclusive. If I catch you spreading those toned legs for anyone else, he’s gonna regret he was born with a dick.” Oh yeah? Was he going to resist all the temptation that was swarming around him like bad BO at Coachella? As if reading my mind, he added, “My cock will only have two homes. Your mouth and your pussy. Ass, too, if you’re feeling adventurous.” Mother of God. “Detention’s over. Take your stuff and leave,” I gritted, taking one step back and then another. He followed me and dipped his head, biting my neck before straightening and snapping his fingers. “Get in your car and drive home. I’ll join you soon.” He smacked my ass, turned around, and left, leaving a whiff of his singularly masculine scent. I stood there, mouth agape, his taste still on my lips, the tingling of his touch still between my thighs as I rolled one thought around in my head: Oh, Melody, you are so fucked. Luckily for me, I was about to get fucked even harder. I DIDN’T GO HOME. Going home would be admitting defeat. I might technically have let Jaime take the blame for the car, but I hadn’t initiated anything sexual with him. That was all on him. What made my decision even easier was bumping into his mother on my way out. I was headed to the parking lot when I spotted Principal Followhill watching me through her office window. I stabbed the entry remote, hysteria controlling my movements as I considered making a dash for my car when her icy voice seeped from the open window. “Ms. Greene. A word?” There was a soundless moment when I saw my life flash in front of me, and sadly, it was a short, shitty movie consisting of me sprawled out on my old couch watching American Ninja Warrior, showing up to family events dateless, and attending a weekly support group for former athletes (most of us were in various stages of drunkenness). Ya know, fun times. If Principal Followhill knew what had happened in detention, she was going to remove every internal organ in my body, restuff it with dynamite, and blow up the whole school. That’s how much she hated me. “Sure.” I smiled big, throwing my arms in a why-not gesture and walking back toward All Saints. Why not? Because she wants to kill you and because you just made out with her teenage son. The minute I entered her office, I knew she was onto something. Her usually smooth Botoxed forehead looked like it had collapsed into a heap of extra skin. “Sit.” I did. “Ms. Greene, do you know why you’re here?” I was so nervous I couldn’t breathe but somehow managed to shake my head no. Her office alone scared the shit out of me. It was so big, yet suffocating, with its heavy furniture of cherry-stained wood and burgundy leather and its ox-blood walls, everything a deep red, like Carrie had paid a visit there on prom night and lost. Principal Followhill stood near a painting that probably cost more than my rent, her arms behind her back, and closed her eyes, exhaling. “The incident with my son, James.” Oh no. Please, no. I wasn’t ready to die. I had so many things to see and experience. Most of them between the sheets with her barely-legal son, but still. Jokes aside—I was pretty sure I peed myself a little. I was terrified. Not of getting fired, but of the consequences of pissing off someone with Principal Followhill’s clout. My parents taught in the school district adjacent to Todos Santos. This was their home, and they were a vital part of this small, judgmental community. I was about to screw my family because of a brief kiss. “Principal Followhill, I can explain,” I rushed to say, jumping up from my seat. She launched in my direction and shoved me back into the chair. If I wasn’t so consumed with guilt, I would’ve been floored that she touched me. She held up her hand, her face pale. “No, you listen to me. James is a brat. Don’t you think I know that? What he did to your car… he should have left a note after he hit you, not driven away. It looks bad, but he simply panicked. He explained it all to me. No need to file a police report. I assure you he’s very, very sorry, and he’s going back to the student-parking lot from now on. I’ll write you a check for your repairs, and I’ll, of course, compensate you for the inconvenience as well. I’ll be damned if I’ll allow one reckless decision to tarnish my son’s reputation.” She reached for her Hermès bag and plucked out a checkbook. My eyes followed her movements like she was performing some trick of dark magic. Of course, I was a problem. She wanted it fixed, so she threw money at it. At me. She didn’t know about the kiss. All she knew was that Jaime came back home yesterday with a banged-up Range Rover and his own version of what happened in the parking lot. He’d kept his side of our deal. “This little car mishap is not to leave these walls. Do you understand, Ms. Greene?” Principal Followhill bent down and scribbled on the check, her mouth twitching in annoyance. “You have a mouth, in case you didn’t notice. You could use it and say something.” Why do you hate me? I wanted to scream. What have I done to you? Though I already knew the answer. She hated me because I wasn’t royalty. I wasn’t someone who was born and bred in Todos Santos. I was an outsider, contaminated and mortal, with middle-class parents. On top of that, I was a weak link who—because of my above-mentioned disadvantages—couldn’t control my classes. “Understood,” I sniffed. She fingered the check she’d written for me. Despite my best intentions, I plucked it from between her French-manicured nails and peeked. Ten K. Way, way more than necessary. Bribe. We were all corrupted now. It made me a little less remorseful about making out with her son. Jaime was blackmailing me. And I was blackmailing his mother. My parents always said money made people twisted and immoral. I used to think they were exaggerating. I was starting to believe that they weren’t. I stood up, smoothing my dress and jutting out my chin. Principal Followhill held my gaze but tugged at her ear. Nervous. Desperate. Clueless. “All is forgotten?” Her lips barely moved. “All is forgotten.” I nodded, walking out of her office $10,000 richer. I drove straight to a local bar. After all, I had some money to burn. And dirty little secrets to forget. I WOBBLED BACK TO MY apartment building at midnight, my breath stinking of Bud Light and stale peanuts. Trying to fish for my keys, I halted in front of my door in the darkened hallway, rummaging through my loaded handbag. When I finally felt the sharp edge of the key, I jerked out my Pointe shoe keychain and it clunked to the floor. Blowing a lock of my hair from my face in frustration, I sighed. It was going to be a bitch to retrieve. I was getting too old to get tanked. But I didn’t even have to bend down. Because someone else picked my keys up for me. From behind. My heart throbbed faster, yet I stilled, feeling the warmth of another body pressing against mine. The air pulsated with the vitality of an impending fantasy that was about to be fulfilled. Fear and lust filled my veins with adrenaline and dopamine. The overlapping feelings made me heady, excited and aroused. Crap. I couldn’t resist him in my current state. His erection dug into my ass, and I swallowed. I watched his hand unlocking my door from behind. His warm lips whispered into my ear. “Get in and get naked.” It was an order. The door flung open with a little push from his hand. I wanted to cry in excitement. Correction: I did actually cry in excitement. There were tears of joy in my eyes. What can I say? Booze and eighteen-year-old jocks who are hung like a horse made this girl hella happy. I practically skipped into my living room/kitchen, which was decorated with brown boxes and my old couch. I had to move to hell-knows-where next month and was already starting to pack. Seeing my life crumbling, stuffed into half-filled cardboard containers, only made my decision to have sex with my student easier. It wasn’t like I was ruining anything substantial I’d built. I was a loser, practically homeless and soon-to-be unemployed. An outcast. Jaime took the edge off of the reality of my future. I felt his huge form pacing behind me, ready to pounce at any moment. I pulled off my polka-dot dress and threw it on the floor. Turning around, I looked at him for the first time, smiling under my lashes. Jaime did not return the playful smile. In fact, his brows were knit tightly together and his jaw so clenched, it looked like it was about to snap. He had a cut lip and dried blood coating his nostrils. He fought. Again. Probably with Vicious, judging from the nasty welts and purple bruises. “What happened to you?” I swallowed. He ignored my question. “This is how you repay me for fixing up your shit, Ms. Greene?” His voice was dark and serious. Not at all like an eighteen-year-old’s student. “Jaime.” My tone danced unevenly. Jaime…what? I stood him up. Even though I never did agree to meet him at my place. How long had he been waiting, anyway? I was standing in my bra and underwear in my living room, dealing with a cranky teenager and was pretty fucking sauced. Another low I didn’t think I was going to stoop to. I hugged my own waist, covering some of my skin. “I like your bra,” he said hoarsely, but it did not sound like a compliment. It sounded like a threat. I looked down to examine the pink lace. “It’s my favorite. Victoria’s Secret.” I licked my lips, sounding dumber than an Adam Sandler character. I was so out of my element. Jesus. What the fuck was wrong with me? “Come here,” he demanded, pointing at the floor. I paced in his direction, my eyes bugging out at the thrill. He was wearing dark Diesel jeans and a black muscle shirt with his gym’s name on it. And flip-flops. I loved men who could pull off flip-flops. His bun was spectacularly messy, too. When I got to him, I looked down. No toe hair. A keeper. “Down on your knees, Greene.” His voice still had a menacing edge to it. Where did that come from? He was usually a pretty playful guy. In an I’ll-fuck-you-over kind of way. I did as I was told, because…well, because at this point, I was pretty much the Followhills’ bitch. Sit, bend, cash checks, forget secrets, kneel down. I was lucky they hadn’t asked me to scoop dog poop from their front lawn. “I have a blow job with your name on it for making me wait here like a soft dick.” He brushed a brown curl from my face. “I don’t do blow jobs. I have a really bad gag reflex,” I answered truthfully. Seriously, I’d found out about it the hard way during high school. Never had a corn dog or a banana since. Calm and collected, he unzipped and lowered his jeans, releasing his hard, swollen cock out of his Calvin Klein black briefs. Holy shit, it was beautiful. Not nine inches like the cheerleaders were whispering about in class (they sucked at geometry, that should’ve been my first clue) but almost—it was just picture-perfect. Postcards-and-stamps worthy. He had the sleekest, smoothest shaft, a prominent head, and a thick velvety vein. And a tilt. To the right. Perfect, perfect, perfect. And he fucking knew it, the bastard. That was why he displayed his dick to me like it was the Mona Lisa. I took a brief moment to process the fact that I had my student’s one-eyed snake staring right back at me in the middle of my tiny empty apartment. Worst part? Still giddy and excited. My throat bobbed. “Maybe I can make an exception, since you took a bullet for me and all.” I rolled my eyes, feigning amusement. But there was nothing amusing about that cock. It was serious. Things were about to go down, literally and figuratively. The only problem was…I didn’t know how to give head. I think Jaime figured it out himself, because he tugged at my hair toward his groin. “Start licking,” he instructed. I did. His flesh was hot and silky under my keen tongue. I circled his cock’s head hungrily with my eyes closed, feeling it jumping in delight to the movements of my mouth. After a minute, Jaime picked up my hand and curled my fingers around the base of his shaft. Would you look at that? My Lit student was giving me a sex-ed lesson. “Pump,” he groaned. I did. I wondered how many of my female students had sucked him off. Probably a lot. I wished I could say I didn’t care, but that would be a lie, so I tried to convince myself I cared because it made me feel inexperienced. “Now suck, in and out,” he whispered, grabbing the back of my head and moving it back and forth. Every time I went in, his cock hit the back of my throat and I struggled for air…but I loved it. My underwear was once again damp with want. Logically, I knew this wasn’t okay. But if it was so wrong…why did it feel so right? Jaime kicked one of his flip-flops off and dug his toe into the fabric of my underwear. It was humiliating…and so fucking hot. He used his toe to lower the waistband of my undies with a loud growl. Once my sex was exposed, his toe honed in on my clit. “Shit, fuck, Jaime.” I did not sound like his teacher. Didn’t feel like one, either. “What are you doing?” “Making you come. Keep sucking, Greene.” I licked and sucked and got addicted to the sounds that left Jaime’s mouth. I gave in and gave it my all. He kept on rubbing his toe against my swollen clit, and the feeling of an impending orgasm fired every nerve-ending in my body. My knees shook with pleasure, and I greedily rubbed my pussy against his toe. I was sure my OB/GYN would have a lot to say about the hygiene of this act, but at that moment, none of that mattered. Not even the nagging suspicion that he might’ve done this so he could brag to his friends and humiliate me in front of the whole school. “I’m going to come in your mouth, and you’re going to come on my toe.” He was so filthy. It was beautiful. Just when the warm liquid shot into my throat, I felt a sharp pain as my bra was torn from my body from behind. I gasped in horror, swallowing his salty hot cum and opening my eyes at once, shocked. He fucking tore my favorite bra. On purpose. Jaime used his toe to nudge me to a reclining position on the floor, and I collapsed, rubbing the pink skin where he’d pulled off my bra. “What the hell!” I screamed but was silenced by a kiss. A dazzling kiss that was followed by the two strong fingers he shoved into my pussy. I clenched around him, watching him move his head south and graze my hard nipples with his teeth. “That’s for keeping me waiting. I don’t take well to tardiness.” The fucker was late to ninety percent of the classes I taught him! “Well, I don’t take well to assholeness,” I muttered. “I’ll make it up to you. I’m a master at oral sex.” Jaime’s perfect skillful mouth said, his serene blues scanning me earnestly. “How so?” I raised an eyebrow as he inched closer to my pussy, still pumping his fingers to the rhythm of my thudding heartbeat. He gave a light shrug. “Spent summer camp last year eating pussy at Park City, Utah’s most exclusive teen retreat. Campers, counselors, even a fucking park ranger. Twenty-six of ‘em.” That was probably one of the most disgusting things I’d ever heard, but I was having too much fun to care. “Not all women like the same things in bed,” I croaked when his face was level with my pussy. “True, but all women like me in bed.” Jaime punctuated his cocky grin with a wink, reached for his jeans, pulled out something small, ripped it open—was it a condom?—and tossed it into his mouth. “I know what you want, Ms. Greene. You want to come undone. I’ll make you come. And with me, you’ll never be done.” He dove in. Jaime’s cold, minty mouth met my hot-as-sin flesh. My hips bucked, chasing his touch as he sucked hard on my clit before breathing the fresh bite of mint into my pussy, driving his tongue deep inside. I tried to wriggle free, the intensity of my pleasure so profound I felt like I’d combust into burnt marshmallow under his body. But he pinned me down, placing a flexed muscular arm over my stomach, insisting I see this through with him. It was tantalizing, the wave of weakness and lust that crashed over my body, head to toe. I gripped his long blond hair—so soft and shiny—in my small fist and jerked him closer into me, letting out a desperate mewl. A violent orgasm ripped through me, my muscles tightening in pleasure. Jaime pinned me to the floor and crawled on top of me, devouring my mouth with his. “Taste it,” he growled like a beast, disposing of his gum in my mouth. His tongue was everywhere—my teeth, the walls of my mouth, on my chin, even my cheeks. “It tastes like you, Teach.” I chewed on his gum. He was right. It tasted like my pussy. Thrill sliced through my veins when Jaime raised his body and fumbled for his jeans. I prayed he was actually searching for a condom this time. I wanted to fuck him more than I wanted to hit the lottery jackpot, but I was still too flushed, my nerves too sensitive after my mind-blowing orgasm. He rolled on a condom and guided his cock between my folds until his balls hit my entrance. “Missionary, huh? What kind of camp was it? ‘Book of Mormon’ Youth?” I egged him on. He laughed, hissing a moan, his eyelids half-mast as he started thrusting, finding the tempo that made us both groan. He was the perfect size. Big and thick, but not scarily so. “Baby, I’m just breaking you in for the future.” He bit my earlobe, his damp chest sticking to mine. “Once I’m done, you’ll be begging for missionary.” I believed him. The sex lasted nearly fifteen minutes, a lot longer than I thought an eighteen-year-old, even one who’d just gotten off from a blow job, would be able to last. He came again, and after flipping him so I was on top, watching his gorgeous, Channing-Tatum-meets-Ryan-Gosling face as I clutched his cock, so did I. When we were done, I rolled back and lay on the floor beside him. He had one hand tucked under his head and the other on his stomach. Everything about him was so perfect. Even his blond armpit hair was sexy. And that made me sad, because I knew guys like Jaime grew up to find women who were just as put-together as they were. And these type of women? I wasn’t among them. He stared at my popcorn ceiling in contented silence. “Say something.” I cleared my throat, glaring. I had my head propped on one arm behind my head, my chest still dancing up and down. We were both naked, and it was starting to get chilly on my floor. But I wanted him to speak. Needed him to, badly. “I’ve just fulfilled a fantasy.” He slanted his head so we were looking at each other. “I think I’m allowed a moment to regroup.” “I was your fantasy?” How could that be? He was perfect, rich, and handsome. Young and sexily dangerous. And I was…his boring teacher. “Ms. Greene…” he started, cupping my cheek. I leaned into his hand before I realized what I was doing. By the time I felt his warmth against my skin, it was too late to pull away. “Please, call me Mel when we’re alone.” His lips twitched, but he fought his smile. “Mel,” he corrected. “You’re it. You’re so. Fucking. It. Smart, sassy, and witty, and unimpressed with all the wealth and bullshit drama around you. You have no idea how hot you are. Which makes you even hotter. This is fucking happening, baby. We’re happening.” I nuzzled into his neck, knowing that I was fueling a delusion that was just waiting to explode into calamity but not giving a damn anymore. His words moved something inside me. Not gently, either. They shook me to the core. “Just until school ends,” I whispered into his warm muscular shoulder, trying to convince myself more than him. He brushed his thumb along my back, sending goosebumps to my arms and scalp. “This ends the last day of school,” he agreed. We had a deadline. We had a plan. And for a moment there, our warm bodies on that cold floor, with the haze of sex and bliss clouding our minds, I believed we were going to keep our careless promise. There was a little earthquake—a literal one—that moved some of the boxes as we made this agreement. I thought it was a coincidence. It wasn’t. It was the devil in hell down below, rattling the earth with his laughter. Laughing at me. At how wrong I was. THE NEXT WEEK AT SCHOOL was paradise. My classes were perfectly behaved. I didn’t struggle to hold the students’ attention, because my new fuck-buddy, an intimidating senior jock who made people fall in line with his stare alone, spread the word not to mess with Ms. Greene. No one was ballsy enough to ask why. Everyone naturally assumed my fucked-up car and his freshly painted Range Rover and its retreat to the student parking lot were the answer to that question. To them, Jaime wanted to keep me happy since he bumped into my car. No one suspected we were bumping a few other things in our free time. I taught all my classes then sat with Jaime in detention. I used the time to work, while he used the time to text. On the last day, I kept glancing at my watch, tapping my Sharpie against my desk. I couldn’t concentrate on anything with him in the room. There were no words spoken between us. When his time was up, we both picked up our belongings and walked out of the classroom. I went to my car, he went to his, but by the time I got home, he was waiting inside my building, his hands shoved into the pockets of his jeans. “Would you like to come in?” I sloped my chin down, biting a smile. He, too, grinned at his shoes. We were giddy. I liked that. I liked that and I hated that I liked that. “Nah…I can’t. Football practice for the exhibition. The Kings are going to kill those pussies playing next year for the Saints if we don’t pull their shit together. Trent’s pissed. A scout’s coming to watch the game and look at his leg. They might reconsider his scholarship now that his rehab’s done. Seven okay?” “Seven’s perfect.” He nodded. We stood there, staring at one another, before he shrugged and closed the space between us with a long step. “Screw this shit, I missed those lips.” Then came a hard, desperate kiss where his lips assaulted mine for a good minute. Breathlessly, I unlocked my door and disappeared behind it, pressing my back against it with a sigh. That didn’t feel forbidden, or bad. Just a boy and a girl liking each other. He came back at ten after seven, and for every extra second I waited, anxiety and disappointment built in my gut. I opened the door, frowning. “You said seven. I hate tardiness.” “That makes two of us.” He roughly pushed me into my apartment, oozing charged energy. “So, about that missionary position…” The quarterback giant stepped into my orbit. His cut lip and new purple welt were even more prominent with the pink flush on his cheeks after a grueling workout, and his hair still wet from the shower. Between footfall and Defy, there were a lot of injuries among the HotHoles. A broken ankle had ended Trent Rexroth’s football career in the fall. That happened in a locker-room accident. But it was almost like Jaime wanted to fuck up that pretty face of his. The Saints practiced and scrimmaged even in the winter, but he was a senior. He and his friends wouldn’t be part of the team next year. “Flip your dress up.” I did, without even blinking. He should’ve been the teacher with that kind of authority. Exposing my baby blue panties, I awaited further instructions. “Turn around and bend down to touch your toes, Little Ballerina.” I had no fucking clue how he knew I was a dancer, and asking him about it would force me to deal with the truth. That he was a crazy stalker. And that I absolutely liked that about him. So, I just did as I was told, my ass in the air, presumably level with his groin. The throbbing ache between my thighs demanded release. I felt his fingers clutching my pussy from behind. He ripped my underwear off in one go and served them to me from behind. “Still wet, despite my tardiness.” He rubbed them against my lips. “Not that mad, I see.” Shit. The wet spot was obvious, even now, when my panties were merely a string. “Can you please stop tearing my stuff apart? Not everyone’s under mommy and daddy’s financial wing.” Goodie. The cat was out of the bag now. He laughed, his abs bouncing against my ass, then thrust three fingers at once into my entrance, making me stumble forward. He caught me by the shoulder before I fell headfirst. “This week was an introduction,” he warned. “Today…today, baby, I’m marking you as mine.” It sounded crazy. And hot. Crazy hot, actually. I was immediately game. If I was going to fuck up my career, better enjoy the ride, right? “Let’s see your ballerina’s balance as I fuck every other guy you’ve ever had out of you.” With that, I heard his zipper rolling down as he freed his cock from his pants. His bulging head found the lips of my pussy, and I quivered in anticipation, lifting up slightly to gain more balance. “Hands. On. Toes.” He bit the crook of my neck from behind and drew circles with his tip around my pussy, making me mad with need. He was also fucking bare. “Jaime, wrap up and get in before I die.” My voice trembled. “Shh,” my stalker said, ripping the condom wrapper with his teeth, still teasing my entrance from behind. “You just keep holding on to those toes, ballerina. I’ll take care of the rest.” He went in slow. Painfully slow. Every inch of him took a second to go in, then slid back even slower. My legs quivered. I cried out in pleasure and frustration. This was torture of the highest level, but I was enjoying every minute. “Faster,” I begged under my breath. He wouldn’t listen. The next time he went in, it was even slower. “Jaime.” I bit my lower lip. “Fuck me like you mean it.” “Then act like you fucking want it,” he growled, grazing my shoulder with his teeth. “Don’t stand me up. Don’t give me shit when I’m ten minutes late, and don’t try and act like you don’t want this.” Inch. Another inch. Another inch. It was a beautiful torture. I wanted to push him away and run to my bedroom to finish my business with my plastic boyfriend, Victor the Vibrator. But I wasn’t strong enough to resist him, no matter what he did to me. “Fine,” I grunted. “Fine, I promise. Now fuck me.” “That’s better,” he murmured, thrusting himself all the way in and making me stumble. He gathered my hair into a ponytail and jerked my head upward, pulling my body close to him so I wouldn’t crash. Then he fucked me so hard I felt numb from the waist down before he was done with me. That’s what happens when you come seven times in one night, I thought as I wobbled toward my bed. By the time he went home, around midnight, I couldn’t feel my clit. Or my legs. Hell, not even my feet. But he’d made his point crystal clear. And me? I wanted him to make it all over again. DAYS FILLED WITH CHAIN ORGASMS and hurried kisses in hidden corners and deserted classes ticked by. A blur of bliss and danger, abandoned lust. The trick was not to think about it. Any part of it. Not about my future—as a teacher and an adult—or about what I was doing. And definitely not about who I was doing it with. No longer in detention, Jaime found other creative ways to stick around after school and spend time with me. Mostly, we fell into a routine where he visited me at my apartment after his football drills with next year’s team. Three weeks into our affair, when another Saturday rolled around, I was glad he had other plans. I finally mustered enough fake bravado to collect my thoughts and try and make sense of it all. The Saints were playing an exhibition scrimmage against the Kings of Sacramento, and technically, I could’ve supported my local team and watched Jaime play but decided against it. Putting some space between us and reminding myself that this was just casual fun was in my best interest. His too. Besides, I’d made my own plans to meet my parents at an Italian joint in downtown Todos Santos this evening. I did pass by the game on my way to Target that afternoon, taking the long way just so I could catch a glimpse of the game. I tried to convince myself it wasn’t about Jaime. Football was a big deal at All Saints High. But no matter how you looked at it, when I stopped at the red light and glanced across the road to the field, I was looking for number four. For Jaime Followhill. For the HotHole who always made my stomach dip like I’d just gotten on a rollercoaster. For the boy who felt too much like a man. And, sadly, for the guy who filled the void in me with more than just his arousal and hot flesh. I found him standing on the sidelines, chewing on his mouthguard with his hands on his waist while nodding at something coach said to him. He looked distracted, and if I had the courage, I’d want to believe it was me he was thinking about. His body looked cut and perfect, even through his jersey. It was worrisome. I should have known right there. The way I smiled to myself, like I owned him in some way. Like this perfect creature, that was now yelling to his friends from the sideline, looking animated, looking perfect, was under my spell. I kept on staring until someone behind me honked and I had to speed away, hitting the gas pedal too hard. Just then, Jaime twisted his head in my direction, as if he heard it too. It was ridiculous. There was no way he could know I was watching him. The place was crowded as hell and the parents and students of All Saints High were very vocal about their local team. But that didn’t soothe the blush that crept up my neck and spread through my cheeks. Nothing did. For the remainder of the day. My parents and I had dinner, during which they asked about when my contract with the school would be renewed (probably never?), when I might find a man (ditto, but hey, I found a hot boy who knows how to go down on a woman thirteen different ways), and why my cheeks were so flushed (see the answer to question number two). It wasn’t bad, per se. The food was great. The company…well, made me feel like the biggest letdown humanity had to face. That was the thing about being Celia and Stewart Greene’s daughter. The minute my dream of becoming a ballerina died, so did their pride in me. I was never quite good at anything else, and I guess they knew that. They made sure I remembered it, too. It wasn’t an excuse for why I was like this. Unmotivated and sarcastic, but it definitely didn’t help. The three of us walked back to our cars and passed by the central fountain in downtown Todos Santos across from Liberty Park, the home to a semi-famous lake and alarmingly aggressive swans. Teenagers were always roaming there on weekends, playing loud, shitty music. (Guess that was one reason why the swans were prone to attacking.) Not that night, though. That night, it was worryingly quiet. My parents and I were about to round a corner and head to the parking lot when I saw Vicious’s silver Mercedes-Benz McLaren slicing past us. I couldn’t miss the 500K vehicle because HE WAS DRIVING ON THE FUCKING SIDEWALK opposite from us. The kid was honking his horn at people like his daddy owned this town. Unfortunately, his daddy did own this town. Vicious’s father was so rich he hit lists like Forbes and shit every single year. Maybe that’s why his son felt entitled to hit everything and everyone else, I thought bitterly. Pedestrians made way and let him pass through, accepting his behavior with bent heads. Everybody knew who he was, and more importantly, who he was going to be—a powerful, lawless cretin and the heir to a huge portion of the business interests in Todos Santos. My parents and I skidded to a halt, our mouths shaping into stunned Os. We stared as my student parked on the grass, got out of his car, and strode toward a row of kids on their knees near the lake. Well, fuck me sideways scissor-style. The older jocks were standing above the teenagers on the ground, yelling animatedly and pushing each other, on the verge of breaking into a huge fight. I saw Jaime there. My eyes were drawn to him immediately, on instinct, before my mind even processed what I was staring at. He was leaning against the gazebo, exchanging hushed words with Dean Cole and Trent Rexroth, the former captain of the football team, who had his leg in a fresh-looking cast. Shit. He’d broken it again? What happened at the game today? Jaime, Trent, and Dean kept to themselves, furrowed brows and brooding expressions on their faces. I recognized some of the kids on their knees, their heads down in surrender and their arms behind their backs. All failed, aspiring, or younger football players at All Saints High. The Four HotHoles were up to something, I knew. And it didn’t look like this was a voluntary game, like Defy. It looked serious. Vicious unrolled the sleeve of his white tee and took his soft Camel pack out of it, lighting a cigarette and squatting down, blowing smoke into the face of one of the kids who sat on their knees, awaiting the verdict. The guy gasped and choked on a cough but didn’t dare move an inch. It looked like an ISIS execution line, and I knew I had to do something. The police chief was a kiss-ass friend of Baron Spencer Senior, Vicious’s father, so calling the cops would have gotten me nowhere. But I couldn’t just stand there and watch this happen. Right? Right? Vicious walked slowly along the row of suspects, his arms behind his back. “Listen up, fuckers. I know the Kings weren’t the dickbags who greased the floor under Trent’s locker. That’s twice someone targeted him. The captain of your fucking team, you sorry-ass bitches.” He was so mad, he spat as he spoke. I watched the saliva flying out of his mouth, illuminated by the Victorian lamppost. “Last time I figured this was an attack from a rival team to keep him from playing. Eliminate the competition.” Vicious took another drag and spat near one of the meatheads on the end with a red varsity jacket and a baseball cap turned backwards. “But Trent’s graduating. No reason for another team to take him out now.” Some of the teens were crying as they looked down to the dewy grass, and some were moaning in pain. They weren’t bleeding, they didn’t look beaten up. Well, not physically, anyway. But Jesus, this kid was as fucking intimidating as Satan himself. “I. Will. Find the fucker who greased the floor!” he shouted. The jocks on their feet behind him roared, pumping their fists in the air. Jaime, Dean, and Trent were still deep in conversation. Luckily, they weren’t feeding the troll. “I WILL punish the motherfucker,” Vicious screamed maniacally, thumbing his chest and looking around for support. “Fuck yeah!” The jocks raised their hands, slurring into the night. “And by the time we’re done with him, he will be sorry his whore of a mother ever gave birth to him!” “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I had chills up and down my arms. I hated Baron Spencer. According to Coach Rowland, he wasn’t even a very good football player, and I doubted he cared about the team that much. No. This whole nightmare of a night was orchestrated because he was a sadistic, violent fuck. My mother yanked my white blouse and gritted, “I know some of these kids. They go to All Saints High. They are your students, Melody. You can’t let this happen.” “The screaming one in the skinny jeans is Baron Spencer,” I whispered back. “His daddy owns this town.” “Doesn’t matter.” My father shook his head, resting his hand on my shoulder. It felt so much heavier than it actually was, and I knew why. “This is about your integrity, Mel.” Oh, fuck. That old thing. I knew I had to step in. I also knew I was about to be royally humiliated in front of my parents. Vicious feared me just a little less than he feared a Chihuahua in a pink tutu. Meaning, he wouldn’t give a damn about me butting into this mess. I crossed the road on shaky legs. Vicious’s ruthless voice was still booming in my ears, getting louder with each step I took. My spine crackled, but I moved forward. “Rat out the asshole who’s responsible, or each and every one of you fuckers goes back home with a permanent mark.” He pointed his cigarette at his potential victims. A few ballers behind them hauled them up to their feet by their hair, and the captives cried in agony. Vicious stopped in front of a heavy guy, who had tried to make it onto the football team last year, and inched the burning ember of his cigarette toward the guy’s forehead. They are your students, Melody. You can’t let this happen. My dad was right. “Baron!” I hurried, lightly jogging from the crosswalk into Liberty Park. He was not going to hurt the kid. Not on my shift. Vicious didn’t even have the courtesy to turn around and check to see who called him. “Take all suspects to the gazebo behind the parking lot for interrogation.” His voice was clipped and low. That gazebo was isolated, a deserted, scary place where no one set foot at night. Bastard had a touch. No surprises there. “Baron Spencer!” I raised my voice, only a few feet away from him now. Some of the students cleared out of the way for me, but the majority just snickered as I raced toward the teenager from hell. They were more scared of him than they were of me. I couldn’t blame them. “Stop this immediately! Let these boys go!” When I reached him, he finally turned around, his face painted with boredom and pity. When I didn’t back down, his expression darkened. Vicious might not be as beautiful as Jaime, Trent, and Dean, but he somehow had the most memorable face. He looked like a guy whose shit list you didn’t want to be on. I swallowed hard, hating myself for feeling intimidated by him. “I’m sorry, remind me who the fuck you are?” Of course he knew who I was. I taught him Lit every day, which is what made everyone around us laugh, pointing their beer bottles and Solo cups at me. Even his fucking captives chuckled. I’m doing this for you, assholes. Heat spread up my neck, and my hand tightened around my anchor necklace, as it did every time anger washed over me. I did everything in my power not to look at Jaime, because I was afraid to see what was written on his face. Was he laughing at me like all the rest? “Do it now, or I’m calling the police,” my voice barely shook. Vicious took a step forward, his face so close to mine I saw the crazy dancing in his irises. His eyes, black like an abyss, threatened to pull me to the dark side. I dug my heels deeper into the grass and balled my hands into fists. My body hummed with adrenaline. This was happening. I was standing up to him. “I fucking dare you, sweetheart. Go ahead, test me. Actually, I’d love for you to do that. It’ll get you kicked out of your job, and I won’t have to see your sour-ass face every day.” That was it. I was so pissed that I wasn’t above punching his smug face. I stepped back, fishing out my cell phone from my bag. So what if they fired me? They weren’t going to renew my contract anyway. A warm, familiar hand stopped me before my fingers dialed 911. “Apologize,” Jaime’s voice commanded. But the order wasn’t aimed at me. Vicious tipped his head back and snorted, his straight teeth on full display. “Tanked again, Followhill? Jesus. It’s not even midnight yet.” “You better do it,” Jaime sing-songed, ignoring the jab, stepping into his BFF’s face. Nose to nose now, their gazes dripped defiance. “Unless you want out of the HotHoles.” I was baffled, to say the least. Two bullets in less than a month this guy had taken for me. Vicious and Jaime were locked in a stare-down. Vicious glowered under his devilish brows, begging Jaime to let it go—every muscle in his face quivering in anger—but Jaime wouldn’t back down. Finally, after a whole minute at least, it came. Sweet and orgasm-worthy. “My bad, Greene.” Vicious’s words were sharp and insincere as his shoulder brushed past Jaime’s. He looked like it physically pained him to say them. As much as his indifferent act sprinkled fear-dust on everyone’s heads at school, he was still mortal. Capable of feeling the loss of his best friend. And Vicious knew the truth. People didn’t like him, not really. They loved Jaime, Dean and Trent. The handsome, funny, wholesome jocks he hung out with. He needed them. But something told me that they needed him, too. “Apology accepted. Now, break this thing up immediately.” I smoothed my blouse, arching one eyebrow and slanting my head to his captives. “No,” Jaime said firmly, turning around to face me. I allowed myself to drown in his face, even if for only a second. We were back to acting like a teacher and a student, playing our roles, but I knew those lips which he now rolled inward, probably to suppress words he should never say to his educator. Knew how they tasted and what they were capable of doing under my thin, worn blanket. “Sorry, Ms. Greene, but you’ll have to sit this one out. This is a team matter. I give you my word, it won’t rub off on you. Someone screwed Trent over.” He shook his head, his lips pinching in annoyance. “We need answers.” “Mr. Followhill—” “No,” he said, cutting me off. “You lose.” The last sentence came out soft, and what came after was even softer. “Next time I catch you stalking me from across the road,” he whispered into my ear, close enough for it to look suspicious but not enough for people to talk about it afterwards, “you better come say hi. Better yet, you better show me how much you miss me with your lips, instead of stripping me with your eyes.” There wasn’t anything I could do about Vicious and his dangerous tricks, and I knew it. The HotHoles always took care of their own. Trent was injured again, and someone had to pay. I had very little power over the students of All Saints, but I very much doubted anyone else, including Principal Followhill herself, would be able to stop them from seeking retaliation. Slowly, without breaking eye contact with him, I backed down, until I finally turned around and walked back to my parents, who were still waiting on the other side of the road. “Well?” My mother elbowed me, her eyes shimmering the same healthy curiosity she had about almost every subject matter in the world. “I took care of it.” I avoided her gaze, pretending to look for something in my bag. Maybe it was my dignity I was looking for. Either way, Vicious had won. And Jaime helped him. But not at my expense. And that was something. That was a lot. I SPENT THE WEEKEND WONDERING what happened to the poor bastards the Four HotHoles had interrogated at Liberty Park and whether my face-off with Jaime and Vicious would change the pact between me and my fuck-buddy. My fingers tingled to text him and ask all those things, but I knew it was risky. Was I angry at him? Was the incident a wake-up call, reminding me that we were so different? That he was still a teenager, taking tentative steps toward becoming a man? These were exactly the kind of questions I didn’t want to deal with. No. I was biding my days, clinging to the weekend in the hope distance and time would wash away the fog of lust between us, making room for logic and rationality. Monday was the best day of my entire career. Everything ran smoothly, and when I reached the last class with Jaime and his friends, they all behaved. Everyone…other than Jaime. He was messing with his phone, as usual. Since he wasn’t looking at me, I let it slide. I wanted to teach this class without feeling my nipples puckering under his scorching gaze. My phone on my desk flashed. I resisted the urge to check it, focusing on Millie, who was standing up, reading a poem she’d written. She was good. A creative spirit, with an artistic flare that poured through every cell in her body. Did she want to write? Maybe paint? Her textbooks and hands were always decorated with doodles, her nose always buried in a book. With the right guidance and nurturing, she could do great things. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I wasn’t the person to bring them out of her. I lacked motivation, compassion, and authority, the three qualities that made a great teacher. As I stared at her, I realized that even Vicious was quiet when she spoke. She had the kind of quirky charm a girl couldn’t fake. Everyone’s eyes were on her, which allowed me to sneak a peek at my phone. In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman: Big mistake. Big. Huge. Jaime: I missed you this weekend. Thought your ungrateful ass would text me a thank you for saving you from the wrath of Vicious. Alas, I was wrong. Wow. Did he have any idea how much trouble he could get us into if someone saw this text? Students and teachers had each other’s numbers for professional purposes only. I ignored him and continued nodding at Millie, smiling tightly. Ping, another text came. Jaime: It’s cute how you pretend to listen to Millie when I know your just waiting for the clock to hit 3 so I can bend you over that desk and fuck you so hard the windows will rattle. Of course, I didn’t grace that message with an actual answer. Although, I was itching to correct “your” with “you’re.” The Lit teacher in me hated when people misspelled shit. Apparently, even during sexting. My cheeks darkened, and I played with my anchor necklace, brushing it against my lower lip. I coughed, clearing my throat, and said, “Louder, Millie.” She looked around, anxious as I was, and reluctantly raised her voice with the next line. Her poem was pretty fascinating, actually. About life and death and the way the cherry blossom tree symbolizes both. Everybody was quiet and alert. Dean Cole had his elbows on his desk, leaning forward, drinking her words like they were oxygen. And Vicious? He looked at her like she was his. But there was no point. The only thing my ears were tuned into was what I secretly hoped to hear—the sound of my phone vibrating against the table as another message came through. Jaime: Your nipples are so tight I could cut fucking diamonds with them, baby. It’s a turn on when everyone can see what I do to you. In half an hour, I’m going to shove my hand into your pencil skirt and my fingers into that pussy. Digging into Ms. G’s G-spot and hitting it again and again until you pass out from your orgasms. I circled the table and leaned back against it facing the class, hoping they couldn’t see the blush that was a daily challenge since the start of our affair. Jesus! Affair? That was a bit much. It wasn’t an affair. I was fucking my student, and my future, all at the same time. Nonetheless, I couldn’t stop. I scanned the classroom full of students, and his face was the only one that stood out in the sea of bland teenagers. I barely registered the other faces, lost in the fog of lust. Another vibration. This time I waited a few seconds before I glanced his way and found him smirking at his phone. Asshole. Jaime: Then I’ll take my hand out, let you lick my fingers one by one, suck on them hard, and beg for me to take you. But I won’t. You’ll have to go down on me first, and I’ll make you choke on my cock until you can’t breathe. How would you like that, Mel? I was sweating. Sucking in short breaths. Millie finished reading her poem. She was still standing, expecting my feedback. All eyes were on me. She’d done a wonderful job from what I could decipher in my lust-induced haze, but the words wouldn’t leave my mouth. I was truly afraid that I’d blurt out something about Jaime and his dick. It really was too fucking beautiful not to be celebrated by our fine nation. “Millie,” I started, clearing my throat when I realized my voice cracked. I heard Jaime softly chuckle in the back of the room. I was going to kill him when the class was dismissed. Her big, blue Bambi eyes followed my every movement as I spoke. “I thought it was brilliant. Your poem had a rhythm like heartbeats. It was…enchanting,” I managed, my smile almost apologetic. It wasn’t the right thing to say. I needed to open this up for discussion, but I was having a hard time stringing together a coherent sentence while my panties were this wet. Damn Jaime and his texts. Straightening my spine, I clapped my hands one time. “Let’s hear your thoughts about Miss LeBlanc’s poem. Anyone?” Bzzz. Another vibration erupted. A handful of people raised their hands, and I chose Shelly, the girl who I knew wouldn’t shut up, and therefore allowed me time to read my incoming text. Jaime: So lost. So confused. So fucking mine. Owning someone has never felt this good. His words hit me hard. Was I really his? It didn’t feel like it. Like it was real. Maybe for him, it was. But for me? I was too scared of the consequences of truly having him to even consider it an option. Lost. Confused. I felt all those things. Not just in that moment, but in general. Where was I going after this? I was a terrible teacher, and my students deserved better. What more, I cared enough about them to acknowledge the fact that I need to make room for someone more passionate. More caring. Someone who would take the Millies of the world and turn them into artists, and not keep them here, in the gray classroom, reading poems they could barely understand. After Shelly babbled something for the sake of talking, and another student asked Millie a couple of questions, Vicious, who had his long legs crossed over the table, his boots nearly touching someone’s back, held up his hand. My breath hitched. I didn’t want him to shatter Millie’s confidence. Actually, I wanted to talk to her about enrolling in a creative writing class I knew across town. I liked to believe I saw some of me in Emilia. She was delicate, artistic, and unfazed by the privileged environment she wasn’t a part of. I had a weird urge to protect her from Vicious, but no one else was lifting their hands. I wanted to strangle the sulky bully as I ground out a weak permission for him to speak. “Yes, Baron?” Vicious’s hooded eyes were on Millie as he played with one of his rusty metal rings—a part of his iconic serial-killer attire. He bared his teeth, expecting her to shrink back into her chair like the rest of them, but Millie was still standing, eyeballing him like he was a punching bag she was about to swing her fist into. I fucking like this girl. “I thought it was spectacularly awful,” he said, tugging at his full lower lip. She raised one lonely eyebrow, a smile on her pretty, round face. “That’s enough from you, Baron,” I started, but Millie raised her hand. “Please, Ms. Greene. Let him finish. What was so ‘spectacularly awful’ about my poem?” she asked him, and she sounded genuinely interested. I cringed. Why was she doing this to herself? Vicious slumped back in his chair, examining his rings. “Too wordy. Too many analogies. Some of them were corny. Ones we’ve heard a thousand times before. You’ve got talent, I’ll give you that. Still.” He shrugged. “Your writing’s sloppy. Stick to painting.” “And what would you know about writing?” I snapped. It was my turn to ask. It wasn’t like me to lose my temper during class, but Vicious was literally being vicious. The fact that he’d won on Saturday night at the park didn’t help, either. I think Jaime knew better than to continue sexting me, because he tucked his phone into his jeans pocket and frowned at Vicious, his expression screaming, Shut the fuck up, man. “I know quite a fucking bit, actually,” Vicious chirped, his face lighting up. Usually, his voice was like a straight line on a heart monitor, uncaring and flat. “Ass-kissing’s never helped an author or a poet grow and develop. Constructive criticism does. Maybe you’re in the wrong profession, Greene.” Fuck this shit. I was going to throw him into detention until he was seventy. I didn’t even care that Jaime had just invited me to another sex-fest after school, and that all I could think about was his angry, swollen cock. I didn’t want Vicious talking to me like this and more importantly—to Millie. The girl didn’t deserve it. “Pack your stuff, Baron. You’re coming with me to see Principal Followhill after class. I hope you don’t have any plans for the upcoming month, because you’re going to spend it with your mediocre educator. In detention. Where you can explain to me all about good poetry and bad life choices. Like talking back to your teacher.” I let loose a sugary smile and cracked open my notebook with the name list, looking for the next poor soul that had to share a poem with class. Trent groaned from his place on the other side of Vicious. “Good going, cunt. You just had to talk shit, didn’t you? We’ve got team business to handle. Did you forget?” “Language, Rexroth. Or you’re up next.” I got ballsy. I had a back. It was Jaime. Who, by the way, looked just about ready to explode, staring down Vicious like he had just slaughtered a basket full of kittens. There was fire in his eyes, and it scorched everything it landed on. The bell rang, filling the class with laughter and noise, and people shoved their stuff into their backpacks. “Mr. Linden, you’ll be reading your poem next time. Class, I want you to read The Rules of Poetry by Michaela Steinberg and know it by heart for next class. There’ll be a quiz,” I barked into the chaos of teenage chatter. Students poured into the hallway, but Jaime stayed put in his chair. His clenched jaw suggested someone in the room was about to get killed. Vicious was the only one still there other than us, and he took his time, stuffing his bag deliberately slow with a grin so big you’d think I was about to escort him to an exotic vacation on an island populated by strippers and international arms dealers. I dropped Vicious at Principal Followhill’s office and got back to class. I think she was both impressed and horrified with me calling Vicious on his bullshit. I had no idea how she was going to deal with him, but I didn’t care, either. I’d done my part. The minute I walked back into my classroom, I heaved a sigh. “What did you do to those kids the other night?” Jaime sprawled back in his chair. He was wearing navy Dickies, high-top sneakers, and a purple muscle shirt that showed off his corny tattoo of a stupid-ass quote he had inked on his ribs. I’d never bothered reading it, but wouldn’t be surprised if it was something from SpongeBob Squarepants. Who cares? He was my own personal calorie-free dessert. At least, that’s what I tried to reduce him to in my mind. Most of the time it worked. But the more we spent time together, the more I needed to feed myself this lie. “Come here.” He crooked his index finger at me. “Excuse me? I’m the teacher,” I teased, happy to have him alone. “And I’m the pissed-off guy who needs to put you in your place every now and again. Here.” He patted his desktop and plopped back in this chair. I glanced at the closed door and back at him. “Vicious could come back,” I argued. “Vicious would keep his mouth shut even if he walked in on me fucking Mr. Pattinson while the PTA president licks my asshole. I can do anything with anyone as long as it’s not Millie. We’re goddamned near blood-brothers.” Millie, huh? Maybe the bastard did have a beating heart after all. I took slow steps to him and sat at the edge of his desk. He grabbed me by the waist and pulled me into his groin so that I straddled him, my legs curling around his waist. “What did you do to them?” I whispered again, my hands buried in his golden hair as my arms circled his neck. Despite everything, I cared about those kids. “Baby…” He brushed his knuckles against my lips, his eyes focused solely on them. “Well?” I deliberately widened my eyes, questioning him. He laughed like he thought my expression was cute. “Nothing yet. But we got a name. Toby Rowland.” “And?” Rowland was a junior, another douche who I taught. He was also Coach Rowland’s son. Jaime shrugged. “Dude’s always hiding behind his daddy in practice. It’ll be hard to pin him down, but neither one’s getting away with what they did to Trent. Fuckers killed his ticket out.” Trent Rexroth, All Saints’ stand-out football star, had slipped in the locker room before a big game this fall, breaking his ankle and ending his path to college and pro-football glory. I opened my mouth, intending to convince him to give up the retaliation, but he grabbed me by my ass and pulled me into his aching erection, sucking hard on one of my breasts through the fabric of my blouse and finishing on a teasing bite. “Shit…” I muttered. “How was your weekend?” He placed his lips on my neck and licked his way to my cleavage. I shivered into his body. “Did you miss me?” “It was good.” My hands ghosted over his broad chest greedily. “And no,” I lied. “I thought we agreed this was just harmless fun.” “It is.” He tipped his head back, staring at me seriously. “And it’s fun being with you.” “I bet it’s just as fun being with high school girls.” My mouth went dry when I said it. It was stupid and insecure, but it felt good to finally say what I’d been thinking about for weeks. Where Jaime went, girls followed. Bronze-skinned, shiny-haired cheerleaders with wide smiles and legs for miles. They caught up with his long steps in the hallways, leaned against his SUV after school, and laughed at everything he said…even when he didn’t make jokes. Jaime smirked, his right hand tracing my inner thigh, traveling upward and disappearing under my pencil skirt. “I beg to differ. High school girls are high maintenance. They’re full of drama. They talk about fucking hair straighteners and parties for hours. The hot ones make you go to Jennifer Love Hewitt movies. No. There’s nothing fun about high school girls. You, on the other hand…” His fingers found my soaking undies, and as usual, he cocked his head, smirking, letting me know that he was onto me. My body sang a tune only Jaime knew the words to and my heart drummed so fast and loud that I felt the pulse in my toes. Doing this was almost like begging to get caught. A part of me was desperate to be seen. “You talk back,” he said. “You’re cold and stubborn. Sad and snarky. I like your brand of weird. The whole package.” He drew an imaginary circle with his finger around my face, leaning into me. “But most of all…” he breathed, placing a gentle kiss on the corner of my lips. “I like the chase. You make me sweat somewhere besides a football field. Turns out…that’s the exercise I’ve been looking for.” Just as he said that, the door flung open and Vicious pushed his way inside. Lucky for me, he was staring down at a piece of paper he held in one hand and the ripped-open envelope he had in the other. “Can’t believe she says shit like this,” he muttered. That allowed me a minute to jump off Jaime’s boner and rearrange my skirt, leaning back down and pretending to flip through one of the books he had on his table. “Here’s the paragraph you were looking for.” I cleared my throat and straightened. Vicious finally looked up, but it wasn’t at me. “Trent just texted me. Coach called a team meeting. Toby’s been named as captain for next year.” “Whatever.” Jaime’s jaw ticked. The atmosphere in the room changed. No words were spoken, but plans were being made, right in front of my eyes. Toby Rowland was in so much trouble, it physically hurt me to think what they’d do to him once they got him alone. “Whatever sounds right,” Vicious echoed, his voice flat. “Thanks a fucking ton for detention, Ms. G. Hope you know what you’re doing.” He shook his head with a sadistic smile. A threat. “Vicious,” Jaime gnashed. A warning. Vicious strode to his chair and flopped down, waving his hand. “She’s lucky you have a soft spot for her. Otherwise I’d have reduced her to ashes at Liberty Park.” A hard spot, baby, I thought as I made my way back to my desk. And you have no idea. THAT DAY CHANGED EVERYTHING, BECAUSE that day Jaime and I started texting. It made it so much easier to plan things. More hot dates at my partially-packed apartment. More fucking in insane positions. More stealing kisses at school, getting off on the thrill of being caught. At the end of the week, Jaime sent me a picture of himself flexing his guns in front of the mirror in their locker room. I almost didn’t open the text message, fearing I’d see something horrific like someone else’s junk, but then I remembered it was Jaime I was talking about. He was oddly responsible for someone his age and with his status. Out of the four of them, he was the quietest. The one with the working moral compass. If Vicious was the evil one, and Dean was the stoner one, and Trent was the lost, beautiful soul searching for its mate, Jaime was the cement that glued them together. He was the guy you could always count on. And I was starting to count on him too. Jaime: It’s scientifically proven. You’re riding the best stud in town. These guns could kill. Me: Jaime, you’re an eighteen-year-old. Perspective, please. Jaime: This from someone who goes to sleep with my dick clutched in her hand. Pizza tonight? Me: That happened once. By accident. Me: And yes. But no onions. I leaned back against a box filled with books and giggled, hugging my cell phone like an idiot. A disaster, I thought to myself. What the fuck are you doing? Dating him now? Jaime: No onion? No condom then. I’m clean. Your on the pill. Me: YOU’RE. YOU-apostrophe-RE. Me: And deal. Jaime: Nice doing business with you. x Dear God, I needed to stop this. Stop this before I was going to get hurt. Already, the way my heart squeezed every time I noticed him for the first time in class felt a little too hard. The pleasure of sleeping with him freckled with a dash of pain. He still filled me. Filled me with joy and laughter and amazing sex. But now he was sucking from me, too. Emotions, thoughts, logic. That evening, Jaime got to my apartment and tackled me to the sofa, peppering my whole face with kisses. I laughed, throwing my fists at his sculpted abs. We rolled around, half making out, half fighting and laughing, before we both stopped to take a breath, examining each other’s faces for the first time since he walked in. He was atop of me, his eyes roaming my face, searching for answers to questions we were both too scared to ask aloud. “How did you know I’m on the pill?” The silence rang so loud, I felt the urge to break it. “Saw them on your bathroom counter. Duh.” “Well, let’s get nekkid and do some dirty stuff then. I know it’s Friday, and you probably want to hang out with your friends later.” I grabbed the hem of my shirt and started getting undressed. He stopped me, his palm on my hand. “Take it easy, missy. No rush. Let’s watch a crappy nineties movie together while we wait for the pizza. I’m going to sleep here tonight.” I frowned. Vicious threw balls-out parties every weekend, and the HotHoles were always in full attendance. It was mandatory or some shit. I happened to know this because at All Saints getting invited to these things meant that you were one of the cool kids. I also happened to know there was a party tonight because yesterday the hallways were filled with hushed convos about which guys were going to be challenged to a fight in Defy and which girls were going to get inside Vicious’s private media room where the HotHoles hung out. “What about Vicious’s party?” I asked. The last few weeks, the mere idea of having Jaime sitting there in the secluded room with young, willing women offering themselves to him made me lose my mind. I hated those parties, and despised Vicious even more for throwing them. “I’m planning an even bigger party between your legs tonight.” He wiggled his brows at me. I rolled my eyes but couldn’t help but smile. “I think I like you,” I muttered, pressing my face to his muscled torso in a hug. I felt his heartbeat under my ear. “I think I like you back.” My heart nearly exploded, and I found myself clutching the anchor on my necklace for dear life, knowing that this time, it couldn’t save me from falling deeper into whatever the hell that was we were creating. Actually, I knew exactly what it was. Magic. It’s been psychologically proven. People lie to themselves in order to protect themselves from the things they do. From what they think and feel. I was in denial when it came to Jaime Followhill. In my head, I downplayed the whole thing. Reduced it to nothing but some fun. But the truth was, I was never so intrigued by a man. Defy. That’s what I wondered about most. Why did he fight? He didn’t look like the type who needed a violent outlet to unwind. Vicious, sure. But Jaime? No. He seemed like a laid-back guy. So after the movie and pizza (no onions. He remembered), I asked him. I prepped him beforehand. Knew that Jaime was not going to open up about things that had to do with his friends so easily. I got down on my knees and took him—all of him—deep in my mouth, covering most of his shaft, my fist doing the rest. He groaned and yanked my head back and forth, my hair in his fist. “I’m going to come in your mouth,” he announced. He stood, one foot lazily propped back against my fridge, in all his naked six foot three inch glory. I moaned into his hot flesh, lolling my head from side to side. I liked it. To feel admired and desired by a younger man. He was driving me crazy…but I was driving him wild. My moan encouraged him, and he emptied himself inside my mouth. The warm, salty liquid shot straight into my throat, and I swallowed it instantly, desperate for every drop of him. After his release, he glided down the front of my fridge, sinking into a sit-down position, his knees bent, as he slowly let go of my hair. We both grinned, the kind of private smile only we knew how to decode. I doubted I could give that smile to someone else, even if I’d tried. “What’s up?” He grabbed my hand, offhand and confident, and jerked me to sit between his legs. I did, purring into his mouth as we shared a slow, seductive kiss. “Look at my Little Ballerina, learning how to give head like it’s the eighties.” “What happened in the eighties?” I asked, feeling ridiculously stupid. You’d think I know more about the decade than he did. He shrugged. “Nothing. People liked giving head, I guess.” I shook my head on a laugh. He was so ridiculous sometimes, but that’s exactly what made it so easy to unwind with this guy. I flattened my palm against his chest. “I need to ask you something.” “Uh-oh. Am I in trouble, Ms. Greene? Have I been a bad boy? Do I need a spanking?” He wiggled his brows and laughed. God, he was sexy. And God, it was creepy. I shook my head, closing my eyes so I wouldn’t see his reaction to my blush. “Tell me about Defy,” I said. None of the teachers knew much about Defy, other than the injuries we spotted on Monday mornings. Students got into bloody fights at Vicious’s parties, and there was nothing we could do about it. Jaime frowned. “What do you want to know?” “I want to know everything.” I cleared my throat. “Where, why, how, and most of all…why are you doing it?” His eyes darkened, and he pulled his blond hair into a high bun. I watched him silently, swallowing hard while he examined me under his lashes. I was stepping deeper into a territory that wasn’t mine. We both were. This was intimate and secretive, two lines we promised we wouldn’t cross outside the bedroom. Are we breaking the rules? It occurred to me that I was the first one to step over the line that I was so quick to paint in our relationship. But it also occurred to me that there wasn’t one line. It was more like an abstract painting full of lines, circles and triangles. It was a mess, and trying to maneuver your moves