“Don’t ‘what the hell’ me, I have no idea.” She slipped the little card out from the tiny envelope and read it. “It’s just from one of my students I tutor. Here, Ems, go ahead and take out the one piece that you only ever eat.” She handed me the monstrosity of chocolate.

“You’re so weird about that, Em,” Cole mentioned while he was trying to peek at the card Quinn was holding.

“Who needs this much chocolate?” I asked while sorting through for the lone piece that’s in every box.

“What does she mean ‘the one piece you only eat’?” Jaxon stepped up behind me to ask.

“They usually only put one chocolate raspberry truffle in these things, it’s the only one I care about. Why they would send this giant box and only one raspberry is beyond me.”

I finally found it and pulled it up to my lips. When I took a bite, my eyes rolled back in my head. I never buy candy, but every once in a while, someone will give Quinn or me a box and waiting for just this one piece is worth it. When I opened my eyes, Jaxon was watching me intently with his hands gripping the countertop.

“Fuck, you can’t keep doing that in front of me. At least not for the next two weeks,” he sighed. I darted my tongue out to taste the last half in my fingers and I heard him groan while leaning forward closer to me.

Cole’s deep voice shook me out of my Jaxon-seduction, “BRYCE!?! This is from that as**ole Bryce, Quinn?”

“Babe, we literally got together like two hours ago, no one knows. Give me a break,” she said while hugging him around the waist.

He started dragging her toward the front door. “You better damn well believe everyone will know on Monday,” he grumbled and she patted his chest.

“Thanks again, Jax, for the alcohol,” she sang while continuing down the hall to our place.

He looked right at me after she said that. “Don’t look at me, I’m not thanking you. There was something I needed you to take care of earlier and I was embarrassingly denied,” I said walking past him.

He grabbed my arm before I could make it down the hall. “Wait, I embarrassed you?” he asked honestly with concern in his eyes. He backed me up and placed his hands on the wall on either side of my head.

“No, not really, but I was rejected while I had my br**sts in your hands. I can definitely say that has never happened.”

“Ask me again in two weeks and I f**king swear, I’ll never say ‘no’ again.”

“I haven’t gone two weeks since freshman year,” I divulged nervously.

“Wow, really? Well, this will be good for you then.”

“You don’t have to judge so loudly,” I grumbled trying to squeeze out from underneath his arms and I heard him groan.

I should have known I wouldn’t make it far. He scooped me up into his arms and carried me back into his apartment. He walked us to his room and kicked the door closed behind him. We sat back against his headboard on the bed with me in his lap.

“Emerson, I would never judge you. I, of all people, have no place to judge. I don’t care what you’ve done,” he said, looking into my eyes.

“It’s okay, everyone does. I understand what people think of me.”

“If they think you are beautiful, feisty, and brilliant, then I would agree with them. Anything else, I don’t care about.”

I should be pushing him away right now, that would be the smart thing to do. The more I let him get closer to me like this, the more I know I’ll only let him down. He just kept sneaking underneath more of my obstacles and I was standing on the sidelines watching it happen. I told him upfront that I couldn’t do relationships; I hope he understood that was still the case. I’m not sure if he has an ulterior motive by being this way with me.

He interrupted my fears by running his fingers through my hair and pulling my head toward him so our lips could meet. His kiss was aggressive and his tongue found mine quickly.

“Holy shit, you taste good.” I could tell he sampled the chocolate from earlier, so I giggled.

I wasn’t even thinking about my fears right now. The way he was kissing me was so overwhelming, that I could think of nothing else. I pulled his shirt over his head and he didn’t fight me. To my surprise, he pulled mine off as well. We were grabbing at each other like we needed to be inside of one another, as if we needed the other one to breathe.

My bra was still in his truck, so when he bent down and started kissing the swell of my breasts, I was surprised by the instant contact. Abruptly we heard a hard pounding on the other side of his door. All of a sudden, Cole burst through, startling me. Jaxon pulled me to his chest and laid his t-shirt across my na**d back.

“Fuck, why are we always caught with your shirt off?” Jaxon grumbled.

“Oh hell no, you guys get your asses up. There’s no way you’re going to interrupt Quinn and my first day together, so y’all can turn around and do the same thing,” Cole shouted.

“I’ll wait; make sure you don’t get lost along the way,” Cole responded cheekily.

“Turn the hell around so she can get her shirt on, jackass.”

He rolled his eyes and turned around. “Trust me; I’ve seen all of Em.”

I felt Jaxon tense at that and he dropped his hands from my back. It didn’t matter how nice he tried to be, how understanding he wanted to be, it was always going to bother him that I sleep around. Even though I had reassured him I had never been with Cole, he still seemed perturbed by the fact that he had seen my body before. Cole has walked in on me one too many times; it’s a hazard of my ways. His eyes wouldn’t meet mine and he didn’t move.

“Hey, nothing has happened between him and I. You know that right?” I asked while grabbing at his face. He still didn’t budge and his mind was still in some faraway place, so I helped him out. I got off his lap and threw my t-shirt back on. When he still hadn’t moved, I walked out of the room. On my way out the door, I heard Jaxon talking to Cole, but I didn’t stick around to see what they were saying about me.

When I went back to the apartment, it was packed with football players, cheerleaders, frat guys and everybody in between. I ran down to the closet and changed into one of Quinn’s one-shoulder mini dresses. This one was a deep red and since it was Quinn’s, it was a little tight in the chest… perfect. As I was pulling my hair up, I noticed Jaxon’s message still on my hand. I doubt I’m his favorite right now.

An hour later, I was three margaritas into my night and there was no sign of Jaxon. I was in the kitchen playing bartender, as usual, with a hot guy I had never met before named, Gage. He was pretty hands-on and I didn’t mind, since he was helping me not to think about the fact that Jaxon couldn’t even look at me. There were a bunch of guys at the dining table playing a drinking game. Every once in a while, someone from the table would shout for more beer or liquor from me.

After about the third shout, Gage hollered back, “Shut the hell up and get your own damn beer, you idiots!” He smirked at me.

“Thanks, I always get suckered into being the bartender.” I smiled back. I noticed he took a final chug from his beer so I popped open a new one for him. Old habits die hard. I also decided to switch to beer, because the tequila was going straight to my head. “Do you go to our school, Gage? I’ve never seen you around.” I was pretty sure I would remember him, although he did look vaguely familiar.

“No, I go to Columbia University. I’m just out here visiting the little brother.”

“Wow, Columbia, what a way to empty the parents’ bank account.”

He shrugged like it was no big deal. I understand that going to college in southern California wasn’t close to being cheap, but I tried to work as much as I could to offset those expenses.

“So who’s your brother, I probably know him.”

“Micah Woods, he’s a Sig Alpha.” Of course he was.

A couple of guys at the table started laughing and Garrett opened his big fat mouth. “Oh yeah, she knows Micah, all right,” he teased.

“Oh, Garrett, let’s not talk about the time we ‘got to know’ one another. I know forty-five seconds was probably an all-time high for you, but trust me; most girls would prefer at least a minute,” I scolded.

Everyone at the table including Gage started hooting with laughter. They all had their heads thrown back and were slamming their bottles on the table. There was a chorus of cuss words and slaps on Garrett’s back.

“Yeah, yeah, Em, that was freshman year. Try me out again,” Garret laughed, taking the ribbing well.

I turned around pulling more bottles and cans out of their boxes to put them in the fridge for later. When I stood back up, Gage was right up against me.

“Let’s go dance,” he whispered into my ear. I thought he was hot, but I really didn’t want to do anything with him. Honestly, I wanted to know why Jaxon never came. I was almost tempted to go down the hall and ask him myself. Almost. I hated that I was missing him. That thinking is exactly why I grabbed Gage’s hand and pulled him out to the makeshift dance floor in our living room. I can’t allow thoughts like that. This is who I am, right here on this dance floor with Gage.

When we got to the middle of all the other dancing bodies, I turned toward Gage and lifted my hands above my head. I started dancing in his wandering hands to the fast beat of the song. When I turned to my left, I noticed Quinn and Cole were right next to us. I leaned over and bumped her with my hip. When she turned to look at me, she had a happy glazed-over look in her eyes. Cole didn’t even look in my direction; his face was stuck in the side of Quinn’s neck. They were already disgustingly cute.

When Quinn finally noticed who I was dancing with, she gave me a confused look, “Where’s Jax?”

I shrugged my shoulders at her. “Not here,” I said and turned back toward Gage.

He leaned down and asked, “Who’s Jax?”

The last person I wanted to talk about Jaxon was with this guy. I turned around in his arms and grinded against him. I heard him groan when he grabbed my h*ps to pull me in closer. I knew the question was lost with each move of my hips. This is what I was good at, this is what I did; not wondering about some guy with a sexy southern accent. He turned me around and dipped down to trail his lips up the line of my jaw to just behind my ear.

He straightened up and said, “Wanna get out of here? My car’s outside.” I stared into his eyes for a long moment trying to figure out what I wanted to do.

“Yeah, that’s not going to happen.”

Startled, I turned to see Jaxon standing right next to us glaring down. He was a good three inches taller than Gage and had about forty more pounds of muscle. The contrast between them was staggering; I hadn’t realized how big Jaxon was. I always see him next to his identical twin brother and Cole, who is equally as built. I was so shocked at my comparison that I forgot to respond to Jaxon’s statement.

Gage raised his hands from around my waist, “Sorry, man, didn’t realize she was taken.”

I should’ve been angry at the fact that he so easily thought I could cheat on my boyfriend, if that’s what Jaxon actually had been. But he wasn’t. I waited for Jaxon to correct him. Say something, because not saying anything at all was pissing me off. I wasn’t anyone’s.

“SHE is not taken, thank you very much!” I yelled over the music at both of them. When I started pushing my way through the writhing bodies, Jaxon caught my arm. I spun around to glare at him. Gage had already pulled one of the sorority bimbos into his arms. Typical.

“I’m sorry, Emerson.” He pulled me up against his chest. “I shouldn’t have left that open like that.” I enjoyed the feel of his chest against my face; his warm scent assaulted me every time. When he bent down and pulled me into a fervent kiss, I noticed the room got a little bit quieter. I pushed away from him when I realized the quiet was because they were all gawking at us.

I was scared. I didn’t want people thinking that I belonged to someone. That can never happen. I was also mad at him for shutting down on me earlier. The instant the words left my mouth, I realized how much of a bitch I had just been to him. I watched as his face dropped and his hands moved away from me. It took him a second to compose himself, but then his face hardened and he nodded his head as he backed away. I walked over to the kitchen to open another beer.

When I leaned against the counter looking out into the living room, I noticed Jaxon was still on the “dance floor” in the middle. He walked up to Rachel Morgan who was sitting in one of the chairs that was pushed up against the wall. She looked up at him with seduction in her eyes. I wondered what kind of look he was giving her, if it was the same look that made my knees weak, the same look he had just given me in his bed before we had this freaking party. I watched as he pushed her hair away from her ear and he slowly bent down to whisper something in it. Her face lit up and she nodded her head up and down. She stood up and he held out his hand for hers. When she grabbed it and he led her to the door, it was then I realized he was leaving with her and my stomach dropped.

Jace walked over and caught them at the front door, “Don’t do this, man.”

“Do what? Leave with a girl who actually wants to be with me?” he questioned rhetorically, as he walked out the door with Rachel in tow.

I slumped a little bit against the counter. Jace, Cole, and Quinn all walked over to me in the kitchen.