My name is Tierra Owens, and I like to kiss. A lot. It numbs the hollow ache in my chest and—for a few minutes—makes me forget how truly alone I am. My mother is an alcoholic. She hates me and insists I'm the reason she's not married to my father, whom I have never met. My best friend, Kaylee, is the only person who knows the real me. Everyone else sees what I want them to: a happy, confident, popular girl who has the world at her feet.
I am a fraud.
Relationships are forbidden. I avoid them at all costs. Sex? Emotions? Those things make a person vulnerable, and vulnerability always leads to heartbreak. When my childhood crush, Mattie shows up at school my world tumbles off its axis. The shell I surround myself with feels more like a pathetic crutch than a protective barrier, and I find myself wanting things. Daydreaming about what it would be like to have a boyfriend, a relationship—love.
The sad fact is: I'll never have any of those things. I am unworthy—trash. Which is why my mom abandoned me.
*Recommended for readers ages 15+
Kissing: You're either good at it, or you suck. Zachary Harris sucked at kissing. Actually, it wasn't so much that he sucked. It was more like he slobbered. All over my chin. My neck. My ears. My skin felt like flypaper—sticky and gross.
Then, of course, there was the issue of the very prominent bulge grinding furiously against my hip. With a groan, Dirk Diggler in disguise muttered a low "fuck" and licked a gooey trail across my collarbone. "God, you smell good. I want to lick you all over and make you scream."
I gagged. Captain Slobber was, indeed, on a fast track to making me scream, but not in the way he intended. I didn't care how popular he was—if I had to endure another second of his gross, reptilian tongue slithering over my flesh I'd vomit. All over him. It was a damn good thing kissing can be taught. This guy needed a crash course, stat.
Calloused fingers trailed a back-and-forth pattern between the hem of my top and the waistband of my jeans. My skin tingled from the soft caress and I dug my fingers into his hair, desperate to feel close, needing the contact, and ashamed of myself for getting it this way. When his fingers began fiddling with the button on my jeans, I shut him down.
"That right there is a no-parking zone, baby." I slid my hand from his arm to his shoulder and shoved. "You need to slow down."
A pair of dark eyebrows slashed over a set of brilliant blue eyes, the skin between them creasing in confusion. "Slow down? But we were just getting started." He sat back on his hip, his gaze falling to my bed, then to my half-unbuttoned shirt. The right side of his mouth curled up into a wolfish grin. "I thought this was what you wanted. I mean … you did bring me into your bedroom. I thought you were hot for some action."
Heat prickled across my skin like wildfire. I was hot, all right. Just not for him. The sooner he realized that, the better.
No guy got past second base with me. Ever. The stupid craving I had to feel close to another person was just that: stupid. Sex, emotions … They make you vulnerable. And vulnerable got you hurt.
The overhead light from the garage door opener clicked off, leaving us in the dark.
Static filled the small space between us, the electricity in the air snapping at my skin and ratcheting up my pulse. The oxygen became thin, almost impossible to draw into my lungs, forcing my chest to visibly move with each breath I took.
Needy. I felt impossibly needy. The ache to connect with someone, if only for a few moments, rushed through my veins like a stampede of angry bulls.
Overwhelming shame burned beneath my skin, the contempt I felt for myself barely outweighed by the frenzied craze Mattie's nearness had on my body. This boy … he did things to me. Made me crave things I knew I couldn't have. Made me forget myself.
Somehow, my mask had fallen. Was dangling from my ear, perilously close to snapping completely off. I felt jumpy, amped—ready to explode. And I was positive he sensed my undoing. Though I could barely make out the outline of his face, I knew he was smiling when he leaned over the console.
His hand came to rest on my shoulder, the heat from his fingers scorching through my cardigan and shirt as if I were naked as they trailed down the length of my arm. My wrist … I was sure it would spontaneously combust the moment his calloused fingers circled its width. I heard his smile grow, felt his warm breath brush across my cheek in a minty-fresh wave. Nearly melted into the seat when his thumb brushed across the center of my palm before closing my fingers over my keys.
His voice was low and caressed my skin like a feather-light kiss. "I'm not stalkerish, Tierra. I just miss my old friend. And am happy as hell my new house is only two blocks away."
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