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Stone Reeves was my neighbor, and I’ve hated him since sixth grade.
Gorgeous and charismatic, he became the town’s football god, while I became the town’s invisible girl.
He was a first round pick for the NFL …
Now I’m in Texas trying to pick up the pieces of my life.
It doesn’t matter that disaster has struck my life again.
Because for me, he always has been and always will be my enemy.
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The window shattered.
I heard it.
It’s supposed to be flight-or-fight. I did neither. I froze.
The funny thing, as I saw his silhouette approach the bedroom doorway, a part of my mind detached and all I thought about was how I had run the first time. Flight.
This was the second time.
If there was ever a third, maybe I’d fight then.
He came in, and my gaze shifted.
I left my body, my room, but I remembered the paperweight on my dresser.
I never stopped staring at that paperweight.
That was a party house.
Full out. No exceptions. That was a total party house.
Every room was lit up. People were on the front yard. The door was constantly opening and closing. People were running in and out. Girls. Guys. All Homo sapiens with those red cups in hand. A person didn’t need to be a social outcast like myself to know what was in those cups. Beer. Booze. Alcohol. Liquor.
I checked my email again, and yep. This was not what I had signed up for. The rental ad read, BORING! STUDIOUS! QUIET! I clicked on it, and a person named ‘Char’ seemed only too eager for me, saying I was a ‘perfect fit’ and the rest had been history.
I mean, not totally.
There’d been the credit history, because mine wasn’t so great since I had helped with family stuff, and she’d not been so regular on getting back to me, but the end result was all that mattered. Right? Right. I was answering myself and I was right. It was right.
But no, looking at the house that matched the address and matched the pictures, that was so not right.
Same house. Different context. The pictures she sent me told me it was a demure house. Boring, like her ad said. White-trimmed shutters. Freshly painted red on the house. A freaking blue door. The door might’ve sold it, or it might’ve been the promise that I’d have my own entrance and exit. My own parking spot.
She said quiet, studious, boring! Boring. Hello. A party with red Solo cups and people milling in and out the door, and those weren’t even what I would consider normal party people. I was looking closer at them. I knew people from the higher echelon circles, and these people were definitely it.
That was not me. No way.
I had had a small scrape with someone from that world, and I walked away with a full body shiver.
Well. I was shivering again. A full body/full twitchy one.
I had two years left. Two freaking years. A thing happened and I had made the decision that life was short. I was going for what I truly loved, and apparently, what I truly loved took me almost five states away from my father and my stepmother.
I made my decision, applied, and when I was accepted a week later, even though I was late in the application process, I searched for a place to live while I was packing my car. The house was four blocks from college. I was changing my major from pre-law to marine biology, so I needed quiet, I needed studious, I needed boring because I knew what my next few years were going to be about. I would not have a life. That was okay with me. Fully. Totally.
It’s what I wanted.
I let out a sigh and pulled my keys from the car. This was it. Do or die.
Well, not die. Not actually. That was too—I was shivering again—morbid.
My phone rang.
Fishing it out of my purse, I saw it was my stepmom and hit decline. Gail would need to wait, but I knew she was worried since I drove the whole way. I hadn’t wanted to part with my car. My car meant independence, and I couldn’t afford to ship it across state lines, so I texted her back.
Me: Just got here. Safe and sound. House looks cozy and quaint.
Lies. I tossed it back in my purse, grabbed my bag, and had to take another moment to compose myself.
I hated meeting people. Like, truly hated it. I was what you’d call an introvert extrovert. I was chatty once I got to know someone, but let’s be honest here, because of a certain incident, I was very peopled-out.
Again. Noticing a theme here.
The less interaction with people, the better, which was why I was having a hard time making myself leave my car. I was safe here. I wasn’t safe out there. I was shot-putting myself out of my sanctuary zone, but I had to go and face this.
I also had to pee. Badly.
The twenty-ounce coffee from the last gas station had been a great idea…then. Not so much now.
My hair was a road-trip mess. I tried pulling it back into a ponytail, but I knew some of the strands refused to obey. They kept slipping out, and I probably smelled. More like definitely smelled. I’d been driving since five that morning, and it was now evening. I wanted to just get here, and my six-hour pit stop at a motel hadn’t been the most restful decision I’d ever made. But, alas, it was necessary. I’d been almost falling asleep behind the wheel, so I was forced to pull over. I was pretty sure the room next to me had been filming a porn—or auditioning for one—but I’d been so exhausted I’d even slept through that.