Home > Very Bad Things (Briarcrest Academy #1)(14)

Very Bad Things (Briarcrest Academy #1)(14)
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills

“Like what?”

“I’d hear him rattling around the house at night and get up and go look for him. Most times, I’d find him sitting naked on the kitchen floor eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He loved those things. The naked part . . . well, that I can’t explain.” I chuckled. “So see? It could be worse.”

“That’s a good story,” she said, gazing up at me with hesitant eyes, almost as if she were shy, not anything like the girl who’d stripped.

Without thinking it through, I said, “Tomorrow I’m cooking breakfast, and I’d like for you to hang around and eat. We can talk about payment for the Escalade.”

She gave me a surprised look. “You really don’t have to do that.”

“Yeah, well, we’ll talk more tomorrow,” I said, getting up from the bed to leave, but her voice stopped me. “Leo, I know I don’t deserve your help, but will you . . . will you stay for a while? If you talk to me for a bit, I think I can sleep.” Looking embarrassed, she glanced down again. Yeah, the drunken girl from the bathroom had vanished.

I battled with myself, because I wanted to stay with her, but my head knew it wasn’t a good idea. Feeling like it was a huge mistake, but unable to stop myself, I lay down beside her on top of the covers, careful to keep our bodies from touching.

She grasped my hand and intertwined our fingers, and my first reaction was to pull back, but I didn’t. I stared at our hands and, fuck, I couldn’t think straight. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d held a girl’s hand. Maybe high school?

“Tell me another happy story,” she said, her lips softly parted, like she couldn’t wait.

“Why don’t we share stories? I told you one, so it’s your turn now.”

“You don’t want to hear mine. They all suck.”

I raised my brows. “Come on, a girl like you who has everything? There has to be a couple.”

She tilted her head, like she was considering one. “Okay, but you can’t laugh at how stupid it is,” she warned me. And I think she was kinda teasing me.

I shrugged. “I’ll do my best.”

She said, “When I was fourteen, my parents decided I was overweight and had an eating disorder. So, that summer they sent me off to this camp for screwed up kids with rich parents. It was this super pretentious finishing school for fat girls. Don’t get me wrong, being called fat wasn’t fun, but it was in Paris, France, the most beautiful place in the world with its art museums and amazing architecture. I was sent there for eight precious weeks.” She sighed dreamily, like she was remembering something good. “Sometimes I’d sneak off to this place called Café Bonaparte to eat these hot, buttery croissants. And people watch, of course. It’s kind of a quirk of mine,” she said, sneaking a little glance.

“Yeah, I noticed.”

She smiled. “Your turn.”

I hesitated, surprised that I wanted to tell her about my parents. I’m not the kind of guy who just opens up to girls, especially one I barely knew. “You were right about my parents,” I told her anyway. “They’re dead, killed in a carjacking right outside our house. We didn’t live in the best neighborhood. They were shot point blank in the head by a druggie looking to fund his next fix. So at eighteen, I got a kid, a house, and an old gym. Shit that had taken my parents a lifetime to accumulate.” I sighed. “Sorry, guess I forgot we were supposed to tell happy stories.”

“You loved them,” she said with a bit of what sounded like wonder in her voice.

“Yeah. We never had much, but . . . yeah,” I said, picking at the blue bedding. “My dad taught me to play guitar, but after they died, I gave up being a musician.”

“Because of Sebastian?”

“Yeah. The road’s no place for a kid. Sebastian’s all I got now.”

“You were practically a kid yourself,” she said, squeezing our still clasped hands. “Do you miss music?”

I nodded. “We had a band in LA, and I started one here, too. But this gym was my dad’s dream and now it’s mine. It does well and I like it, but music is my first love.”

We faced each other on our pillows. “Sebastian’s lucky to have you,” she said, her green eyes searching my face. I gazed back, and I think for a second, my heart may have skipped a beat. She was fucking beautiful. I’d been dead wrong at the open house when I’d thought she wasn’t. Her beauty was real and fresh, not manufactured by tanning beds or a plastic surgeon like some of the girls I’d dated. Still dated.

A lock of her sun-bleached hair fell over her eyes, and I reached over and smoothed it out of her face, not wanting to stop looking into her glittering eyes. I let my hand drift down her cheek, and my fingers didn’t want to leave her skin. As my hand fell away, I caught the scent of peaches, and it smelled good and sweet. I couldn’t stop myself from leaning in and inhaling deeper. God, I loved peaches. The sticky juice, the tart taste, the firm texture against my tongue.

Fuck. This was so wrong.

I lay back down and blew out a deep breath that I think I’d been holding since the first moment I’d realized who she was outside.

She sighed. “Leo, I’m sorry for how I acted earlier. For everything.”

“Even the strip tease?” I joked.

She nodded.

“Was that the first time you’ve ever, you know, stripped for a guy?” I said. “I mean, shit, never mind. That’s none of my business.”

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