Unless, of course, he likes me. The thought literally makes me smile and I feel dirty and wrong for hoping a lunatic likes me. I had it coming, though. I should have never let him in the house, knowing I’m alone. And now he knows I’ll be home all weekend alone. If I had to weigh tonight’s decisions, this would probably be so heavy it would break the dumb side of the scale. I foresee this ending in one of two ways. We’ll either come to a mutual understanding of one another, or he’s going to kill me and chop me up into tiny pieces and bake me into cookies. Either way, it makes me sad for all the dessert that isn’t being eaten right now.

“Cake!” I yell, jumping up off the bed. I run to the kitchen just in time to smell my latest disaster. I grab the oven mitt and pull the cake out, then throw it on the counter in disappointment. It’s not too badly burnt. I could probably salvage it by drowning it in icing.

I shut the oven and decide that I’m moving on to a new hobby. Maybe I’ll make jewelry. How hard could that be? I grab two more cookies and walk back to my bedroom and hand one of the cookies to Holder, then lay down on the bed next him.

“I guess the gay-bashing asshole remark was really judgmental on my part then, huh? You aren’t really an ignorant homophobe who spent the last year in juvenile detention?”

He grins and scoots down on the bed next to me and looks up at the stars. “Nope. Not at all. I spent the entire last year living with my father in Austin. I don’t even know where the story about me being sent to juvi came into the picture.”

“Why don’t you defend yourself against the rumors if they aren’t true?”

He turns his head toward me on the pillow. “Why don’t you?”

I purse my lips together and nod. “Touché.”

We both sit quietly on the bed eating our cookies. Some of the things he’s said over the past few days are starting to make sense, and I begin to feel more and more like the people I despise. He told me outright that he would answer anything if I just asked, yet I chose to believe the rumors about him instead. No wonder he was so irritated with me. I was treating him just like everyone else treats me.

“The window comment from earlier?” I say. “You were just making a point about rumors? You really weren’t trying to be mean?”

“I’m not mean, Sky.”

“You’re intense. I’m right about that, at least.”

“I may be intense, but I’m not mean.”

“Well, I’m not a slut.”

“I’m not a gay bashing asshole.”

“So we’re all clear?”

He laughs. “Yeah, I guess so.”

I inhale a deep breath, then exhale, preparing to do something I don’t do very often. Apologize. If I wasn’t so stubborn, I might even admit that my judgmental behavior this week was completely mortifying and he had every right in the world to be angry with me for being so ignorant. Instead, I keep the apology short and sweet.

“I’m sorry, Holder,” I say quietly

He sighs heavily. “I know, Sky. I know.”

And we sit like this in complete silence for what seems like forever but also doesn’t feel like near long enough. It’s getting late and I’m afraid he’s about to say he needs to leave because there’s nothing else to say, but I don’t want him to. It feels right, being here with him now. I don’t know why, but it just does.

“I need to ask you something,” he says, finally breaking the silence. I don’t respond, because it doesn’t feel like his statement is waiting for a response. He’s just taking one of his moments to prepare whatever it is he wants to ask me. He takes a breath, then rolls over onto his side to face me. He tucks his elbow under his head and I can feel him looking at me, but I keep staring at the stars. He’s way too close for me to look at him right now, and by the way my heart is already pounding against my chest, I’m afraid moving any closer will physically kill me. It doesn’t seem possible that lust can cause a heart to take this much of a beating. It’s worse than running.

“Why were you letting Grayson do what he was doing to you in the parking lot?”

I want to crawl under my covers and hide. I was hoping this wouldn’t come up. “I already told you. He’s not my boyfriend and he’s not the one who gave me the black eye.”

“I’m not asking because of any of that. I’m asking because I saw how you reacted. You were irritated with him. You even looked a little bored. I just want to know why you allow him to do those things if you clearly don’t want him touching you.”

His words throw me for a loop and I’m suddenly feeling claustrophobic and sweaty. I don’t feel comfortable talking about this. It makes me uneasy how he reads me so well, yet I can’t read him for anything.

“My lack of interest was that obvious?” I ask.

“Yep. And from fifty yards away. I’m just surprised he didn’t take the hint.”

This time I turn to face him without thinking, and tuck my elbow under my head. “I know, right? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve turned him down but he just doesn’t stop. It’s really pathetic. And unattractive.”

“Then why do you let him do it?” he says, eyeing me sharply. We’re in a compromising position right now, facing each other on the same bed. The way he’s staring at me and dropping his eyes to my lips prompts me to roll onto my back again. I don’t know if he feels the same, but he rolls onto his back, too.

“It’s complicated.”

“You don’t have to explain,” he says. “I was just curious. It’s really not my business.”

I tuck my hands behind my head and look up at the stars that I’ve counted more times than I can count. I’ve been in this bed with Holder longer than I’ve probably been in this bed with any boy, and it occurs to me that I haven’t felt the need to count a single star.

“Have you ever had a serious girlfriend?”

“Yep,” he says. “But I hope you aren’t about to ask for details, because I don’t go there.”

I shake my head. “That’s not why I’m asking.” I pause for a few seconds, wanting to word things the right way. “When you kissed her, what did you feel?”

He pauses for a moment, probably thinking this is a trick question. “You want honesty, right?” he asks.

“That’s all I ever want.”

I can see him smile out of the corner of my eyes. “Alright then. I guess I felt…horny.”

I try to appear unaffected, hearing that word come out of his mouth, but...wow. I cross my legs, hoping it’ll help minimize the hot flashes racing through me. “So you get the butterflies and the sweaty palms and the rapid heartbeat and all that?”

He shrugs. “Yeah. Not with every girl I’ve been with, but most of them.”

I angle my head in his direction, trying not to analyze the way that sentence came out. He turns his head toward me and grins.

“There weren’t that many.” He smiles and his dimple is even cuter close up. For a moment, I get lost in it. “What’s your point?”

I bring my eyes back to his, briefly, then face the ceiling again. “My point is that I don’t. I don’t feel any of that. When I make out with guys, I don’t feel anything at all. Just numbness. So sometimes I let Grayson do what he does to me, not because I enjoy it, but because I like not feeling anything at all.” He doesn’t respond and his silence makes me uncomfortable. I can’t help but wonder if he’s mentally labeling me as crazy. “I know it doesn’t make sense, and no, I’m not a lesbian. I’ve just never been attracted to anyone before you and I don’t know why.”

As soon as I say it, he darts his head toward me at the same second I squeeze my eyes shut and throw my arm over my face. I can’t believe I just admitted, out loud, that I’m attracted to him. I could die right now and it wouldn’t be soon enough.

I feel the bed shift and he encompasses my wrist with his hand and removes my arm from over my eyes. I reluctantly open them and he’s propped up on his hand, smiling at me. “You’re attracted to me?”

“Oh, God,” I groan. “That’s the last thing you need for your ego.”

“That’s probably true,” he laughs. “Better hurry up and insult me before my ego gets as big as yours.”

“You need a hair cut,” I blurt out. “Really bad. It gets in your eyes and you squint and you’re constantly moving it out of the way like you’re Justin Bieber and it’s really distracting.”

He fingers his hair with his hand and frowns, then falls back onto the bed. “Man. That really hurt. It seems like you’ve thought that one out for a while.”

“Just since Monday,” I admit.

“You met me on Monday. So technically, you’ve been thinking about how much you hate my hair since the moment we met?”

“Not every moment.”

He’s quiet for a minute, then grins again. “I can’t believe you think I’m hot.”

“Shut up.”

“You probably faked passing out the other day, just so you could be carried in my hot, sweaty, manly arms.”

“Shut up.”

“I’ll bet you fantasize about me at night, right here in this bed.”

“Shut up, Holder.”

“You probably even…”

I reach over and clamp my hand over his mouth. “You’re way hotter when you aren’t speaking.”

When he finally shuts his mouth, I remove my hand and put it back behind my head. Again, we both go a while without speaking. He’s probably silently gloating in the fact that I admitted I’m attracted to him, while I’m silently cringing that he’s now privy to that knowledge.

“I’m bored,” he says.

“So go home.”

“I don’t want to. What do you do when you’re bored? You don’t have internet or TV. Do you just sit around all day and think about how hot I am?”

I roll my eyes. “I read,” I say. “A lot. Sometimes I bake. Sometimes I run.”

“Read, bake and run. And fantasize about me. What a riveting life you lead.”

“I like my life.”

“I sort of like it, too,” he says. He rolls over and grabs the book off of my nightstand. “Here, read this.”

I take the book out of his hands and open it to the marker on page two. It’s as far as I’ve gotten. “You want me to read it out loud? You’re that bored?”

“Pretty damn bored.”

“It’s a romance,” I warn.

“Like I said. Pretty damn bored. Read.”

I scoot my pillow up toward the headboard and make myself comfortable, then start reading.

This morning if you would have told me I’d be reading a romance novel to Dean Holder in my bed tonight, I’d tell you that you were crazy. But then again, I’m obviously not the best judge of crazy.

Tags: Colleen Hoover Hopeless Romance
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