Em shakes her head back and forth and Jax questions, “Do you really think you would let her get away? After all these wasted years, would you really let that happen again?”

“I would chase her to the ends of the earth,” I reply emphatically.

“Alright then, case closed. You’ll find your girl, but you better give her a second to forgive your sorry ass,” he chuckles drowsily.

Em’s phone begins to vibrate on the table next to her and I stare, willing it to be Audrey. She notices my intense gaze and shakes her head when she reads the screen, indicating it’s not who I want it to be. With a defeated sigh, I take the seat nearest the window.

“Hello?” Em’s voice questions into the phone. Whoever is on the other line is somewhere loud, because I can hear the roar of a party from her phone’s speaker. I can’t make out what’s being said though.

“Uh, no, sorry I don’t have that, why...

Well, check her phone. Obviously she would have it...

Have you asked her...

Em’s eyes dart to me then quickly away. The hair on the back of my neck rises as I hear the one-sided conversation.

“Well, don’t let her do that,” she barks into the phone.

She looks at me again and asks, “You wouldn’t happen to have Lane’s number, would you?” Her smile is too wide, too fake.

“Do you have his number or not?” she demands. I shake my head with a negative.

“Where are you?” she asks her mystery caller. “Okay, I’ll be there in like fifteen minutes.” She hits the end-call button before I can yank it out of her hand.

“I think I should take care of it, Jace. She wouldn’t want you to see her like this,” Em says. I look to Jax for help because there’s no way in hell he would let that fly.

“Sorry, babe, I have to side with Jace on this one. If someone had said that about you, I’d being going ape-shit. Just let him go get his girl.”

“Okay...fine...” she groans in irritation. “You better be nice to her!”

“I swear,” I immediately respond, while shoving my wallet and phone back into my pockets.

“So that was Max, and he said that he showed up at the Sig Alpha party...” I groan, already not liking where this is going.

“Apparently, Garrett and Mason found out Audrey has never had alcohol before, so they convinced her to try some...” she trails off uncomfortably. Doesn’t matter I’m already halfway down the hallway, heading toward the elevator. Oh, I’ll be nice to Audrey, but I never promised anything about Garrett and Mason. Or Max. That as**ole should have called me!

Frat row is lined with cars and all the driveways are filled. Last year, we were on this street three or four times a week. I’m glad we all kind of backed off this year. Most of the parties are at the beach now, which somewhat keeps them under control. I pull up in front of the packed Sig Alpha house and park right on the grass of the front lawn. The music is pumping so loud, I can feel my heart beating in sync with the tune already.

As I hop out, a little guy who looks a lot like a freshman comes barreling down the drive. “Hey, you can’t park here, this is Sig property,” he squeaks.

“I’ll be out in ten minutes. I’ve got fifty bucks with your name on it if no one touches this car,” I call out to him as I climb the porch steps.

“Deal,” he cries with his hands up in surrender.

Max is perched at the top with his arms crossed and a smirk on his face. “I was hoping you would show up instead of Em.”

The second I reach him, my hands shove his chest, forcing him to shuffle backward. “Next time, asshole, you call me,” I demand.

He raises his hands and says, “She begged me not to.”

“If it concerns her, it concerns me.”

“Message received. Now go get her. Hopefully you’ll have more luck than I did.”

“Hey, if it means anything, I was hoping by calling Em I’d get you,” he confides to my retreating back. I nod my head because that’s all I can give him right now.

It takes some effort to push the front door open with the thick crowd on the opposite side. I shoulder my way in, searching for her. It’s not hard to spot Audrey in this mass of bodies, and it’s not because I practically have a homing device on this girl. It’s because she’s standing on the kitchen bar top with Mason, Garrett, and a few other girls I don’t recognize, the five of them dancing wildly to the blaring music.

I may be pissed at the circumstance but seeing her again is like a breath of fresh air. When Jaxon and I were kids, we used to go out to the lake near our house and swim all the way out to the very middle. Once we got out there, we would race down to the very bottom, touch it, and swim back to the top.

The only problem is that it was extremely deep. Our ears would begin to pop from the pressure by the time we were touching the cold sand. The worst part was swimming back up. I can’t even remember the number of times I began to panic, thinking that this was going to be the time I wasn’t swimming fast enough and needed air about three seconds ago. Each time the surface seemed a little bit further away, but the second my arms would cut through the water into the open air, I would feel this moment of extreme euphoria.

Seeing Audrey again is like breaking through the water and taking that first gulp of air. Except this time, I didn’t even realize how oxygen-deprived I was. I can’t let her get away from me again. If she doesn’t go to Texas, I’ll have to figure something else out because I go where she goes. But first, time to get her away from these guys and get my girl back in my arms.

Garrett takes a swig from his beer bottle and tilts it toward her lips for her to take a drink. Audrey leans his way and takes in a mouthful. She covers her mouth to swallow and laughs out loud. Mason moves up behind her and latches onto her hips. I begin to have déjà vu at this familiar scene. I yell for him to remove his hands, but the crowd is too loud and my voice is lost in the music. I’m charging forward when someone grabs a tight hold of my arm, halting my advance.

“Watch it,” I growl and turn to face my captor. When I realize it’s only Cole, I reel in my temper.

“What are you doing here?” I ask, still trying to get closer to Audrey.

“Jax called me in for back-up. Good thing he did too,” he gestures to my girl and whistles.

“I’m not gonna get in a fight...” I don’t even believe the words that leave my mouth, so I know Cole’s not going to fall for them.

“Right...seeing as how Mason is leaning in closer to her neck, I’m having a hard time believing that.” His words cause my body to go rigid, and I instantly start shoving people out of my way. I’m f**king done trying to push through politely.

My Auditing and Assurance class spent the day sitting in on one of Los Angeles’ top accounting firms while they went through their clients’ audits. The day could not have dragged by at a slower pace. Lane went to a different firm than I did, so I got to know Olivia, one of my classmates, really well today.

She’s the reason I’m here now. I told her I needed to relieve some stress, when in actuality I just wanted to feel. Jace can’t be the only person or thing that makes me feel alive. I realized this past week that I’ve been going through the motions, smiling when I thought appropriate, speaking when spoken to. The truth is I’ll always love Jace. No matter how many times I think that maybe we’re better off without one another, there’s this part of me that won’t let go. But I need to be able to breathe without him.

Olivia convinced me to wear these tiny shorts and this tight, button-up, sleeveless shirt. I was hesitant about the party at first. I never pictured myself as the type of girl to be pulled up onto a bar to dance and actually enjoy it. I should have never let Mason and Garrett know that I’ve never tried alcohol because now I feel like I’m swimming in it. My stomach is full of liquid and I feel a buzzing sensation in my veins. My head is cloudy and my movements are sluggish, even though I feel like I’m moving at lightning speed.

I was dancing with Olivia when Mason and Garrett decided to hop up and join us. I shouldn’t have been surprised, since I’ve been batting away Mason’s advances all night. Earlier, Max popped in and asked where Lane was, but I just responded with a shrug of my shoulders. When I spotted him pulling out his phone, I shouted, “Don’t you dare call Jace!”

So imagine my surprise when I see his handsome face charging through the crowd below. Cole follows closely after him and I realize that Max is behind this somehow, because these two look like they are on a mission. And I’m pretty sure that mission has something to do with me.

Jace reaches out and grabs Mason’s leg and growls, “You have three seconds.”

Surprisingly, Mason actually considers his words before deciding not to argue it and jumping down. Garrett passes me another drink from his bottle and I quickly swallow the foul taste. Beer must be one of those drinks that has to grow on you, because I just don’t understand how everyone here seems to enjoy drinking it.

“I’d stop doing that if I were you,” Cole calls up to Garrett.

Meanwhile, Jace is still glaring at Mason. “She’s NEVER had a drink before and this was your brilliant idea?” he hollers.

“Oh yeah, and what did you plan on doing later when she’s puking her guts out? Where did you plan on being then?”

“Hey, I would have had her upstairs and in my bed before she got to that point,” Mason quips. Jace was already mid-swing halfway through his sentence. Mason didn’t even have a chance. Jace may look a little skinnier than he was a little over a week ago, but that obviously hasn’t affected his right hook. The crunch of bone hitting bone is loud and I gasp at the sudden impact. Mason’s body hits the floor, hard and fast.

“Jace!” I yell, but before my brain can catch up, my feet lose their battle with balance. I tilt away from the bar and all I can feel is the muggy air gusting around me.

My body falls into a set of waiting arms and I smile when I look up into my favorite pair of eyes. No one can compete with them, not even Jaxon. While Jaxon’s eyes are more ice and winter, Jace’s look more like the ocean surrounding a tropical island. He’s my personal paradise.

“That was fun,” I breathe out through my rush of adrenaline. I cringe as I notice my slurring.

“Let’s not do it again, okay?” he smiles softly. When he glances up, his grin instantly hardens into a look of murder. “You want to join him?” he calls up to Garrett, who steps away from the edge of the bar and shakes his head. I squeeze my arms around Jace’s neck harder, hoping he doesn’t plan on putting me down to deal with poor Garrett. “Don’t ever touch her again. Better yet, don’t even look at her again. You can relay that message to your buddy when he wakes up,” Jace finishes. He doesn’t put me down. Instead, he holds me tighter as he navigates the crowd toward the front door.

“Well, Jaxon’s gonna kick my ass. Thanks man, I was supposed to prevent all that from happening,” Cole calls over Jace’s shoulder.

“Not even Jaxon could have stopped that from happening. Mason had it coming.”

When we reach the front porch, Cole squeezes his shoulder and smiles at me. “I’m gonna head back to my baby mama now.”

“How did you know?” Jace asks in amazement.

“I helped her down from the bridge,” I reply, as if they should already understand this.

“The one she was gonna jump off of. She was pretty freaked out when she found out,” I say, closing my eyes. The porch fan above us is making me dizzy, and there’s already enough spinning going on. I don’t need the fan’s help.

“She was going to jump off a bridge?” Cole cries, interrupting my random thoughts.

“Not a real one,” I whisper for dramatic effect. “You know, it’s just a metamorphosis.”

I lean forward and speak with my lips touching his, “That’s what I said.”

“Well, thanks for helping Quinn out,” Cole says genuinely. “You’re kind of cute when you’re drunk.” He chuckles and kisses my head before walking away.

“Jace, your car is on the lawn,” I whisper, while looking around for who could have done this.

I wiggle out of his hold until my feet are planted firmly on the wooden porch. I reach out for his hand and pull him alongside me. I’m not sure where I’m going yet, but I’ll show him how damn adorable I can be.

The side of the house is pitch black and thankfully deserted. When I find a spot hidden by the bushes, I push Jace up against the brick wall. He eyes me with confusion.

“Babe, I need to get you home before you realize how sick you’re going to be later,” he groans, as I slam my body and lips up against his.

“Shh...” I whisper, “You don’t want someone to catch us, do you?”

“Catch us doing what?” he questions quietly.