“Em, go stop him. Apologize!” Quinn begged me.

“Apologize for what? For being completely honest? It’s better that I upset him now than destroy him later, if it even made it that far. I can’t be with anyone. It doesn’t work. Even Jace warned me not to hurt him.” I turned to the liquor bottles on the counter and started searching through them. When I didn’t find what I wanted, I turned to look in the cabinet above the fridge. Even standing on my tiptoes, I was still inches away from reaching into the cabinet.

“What are you looking for, Em? I’ll get it,” Jace said from beside me.

“No, I need to find it.” I went to the counter to get on top of it, but Jace lifted me up by the waist so I could reach. I dug past all the other bottles, the glass clinking together loudly, until I found the tequila I wanted. Jace set me back down on my feet.

“No way! Put that stuff back,” Quinn said, pointing to the expensive tequila, like it might jump out and bite her. It was an old bottle that used to belong to my dad; I’m pretty sure it was a gift because he rarely ever drank any of it.

Ignoring her, I grabbed a clean shot glass from the cabinet below. I knew better than to shoot expensive tequila, but I needed this in me the quickest route I could get. I wanted to forget about where Jaxon may have taken Rachel and forget about what they could be doing right now, possibly next door. Hadn’t I been the one telling him we would still be sleeping with other people? I should be happy he was holding up his end. I needed to wash away Emerson and be Em again. I lifted the old bottle and poured the golden liquid into the shot glass with “Cancun, Mexico” imprinted on the side. I remember getting this glass on a trip I took with my dad, Ellie, and Quinn when I was fourteen years old, the summer before he died. I guess it was fitting I was pouring his drink into this glass.

“Anyone joining me?” I looked around at the three sullen faces staring back at me. I couldn’t tell if they felt bad for me that Jaxon left with Rachel, or if they were disappointed in me for being the reason he left in the first place. No one stepped up to join. “Suit yourselves.”

“I’ll join you, Emmy!” Micah boomed as he came toward the entrance of the kitchen. Instantly, Jace and Cole held out their arms to bar him from coming in. “Fine, assholes. You know I’m getting really tired of you and your cock-blocking brother,” he said, pointing to Jace while he turned to go out onto the patio.

I shrugged my shoulders, not having the energy to get upset with yet another person for making decisions for me again.

“Here’s to losing Emerson, and finding Em again!” I raised the shot glass in the air.

I carried it back down to my lips and poured the liquid into my mouth. To compensate for shooting expensive tequila, I held it on my tongue for a couple seconds to savor the taste. The smooth burn down my throat made me slam the glass on the granite countertop.

“I was enjoying Emerson,” Quinn stated with a sad look on her face.

“Okay, are you done now?” Cole asked me with a worried expression.

“Cole, I know all you want to do right now is take Quinn back to your place. I don’t need a babysitter. You guys can go,” I snapped, while pouring another round.

He stepped up and grabbed the bottle from my hand while moving the shot back with the other. “Right now, all I care about is making sure that one of my best friends isn’t going to drink herself into the hospital tonight. You’re upset and that’s okay, just please don’t be stupid.”

I reached around him and downed the second shot. I stepped past the three of them and moved to the middle of the dance floor. I lost myself in the thumping of the music, the smell of sweat rolling off of bodies around me, and the feel of my body dancing to the music. I needed to get off this treacherous path that I was finding myself on. I’m not sure how much time went by, but I know when I stumbled into the kitchen later that night, I was a couple of shots drunker. I’m pretty sure the word for me wasn’t drunk anymore, it was wasted. Quinn, Cole, and Jace had stayed in the kitchen to keep an eye on me, even though I told them to leave; I was a big girl.

When I came in and saw Jace, I knew it was Jace but he just looked so much like Jaxon. I wondered what kind of look I was giving him because he looked a little worried. I couldn’t stop myself from going up to him and putting my hands around his neck. The only thing that stopped me from trying to kiss him right then was the fact that he didn’t smell the same as Jaxon. I don’t know what kind of cologne Jaxon wore, but it lingered in all of his clothes and I smelled it in my dreams. I loved when he would come over to study, because when he sat on my bed, I swear I could smell his cologne for days.

“Why do you have to look so much like him?” I slurred into his chest.

He rubbed my back. “Are you kidding me, I’m the good looking one.” I tried to laugh at his attempt at a joke.

“I like him a lot. I like him so much it hurts,” I drunkenly admitted.

He leaned down to whisper in my ear, so he could give our conversation some privacy, “I know he feels the same way about you. You have to let him in.”

“I wish I could. I wish I were that type of girl.” A tear slipped down my cheek and Jace wiped it away with his thumb. “I’m sorry, I’m drunk and I’m rambling. Now, I’m crying in front of his twin brother like some idiotic girl.”

“Hey, don’t say that. I would rather you ramble to me than to anyone else. Unless it was Jaxon himself.” I leaned more of my weight into his body, as I began to get tired from all the alcohol in my system.

“Em, let’s get you into your bed, before you pass out,” Quinn came over to say to me.

“Please don’t. Jaxon and I share a bedroom wall and right now, I just can’t handle that. When everyone leaves, I’ll crash on the couch,” I said incoherently, I’m sure.

“Shit, I forgot about that,” Cole said, “Well, it’s too loud over here anyway. You and Quinn can take my bed.”

“I don’t want to hear anything, Cole. I can’t go over there.”

“You have to sleep somewhere, and it’s not going to be alone. Come,” he spoke, kindly.

“I’ll shut this place down,” Jace said while transferring me over to him.

Cole and Quinn helped me get down the hallway to the guys’ apartment. I was dreading the idea of running into Jax or Rachel. When we got to the apartment, it was blissfully quiet and dark. I didn’t want to think about where they would have gone instead. We walked into Cole’s room and he handed Quinn and I both some big t-shirts we could wear to bed. Quinn helped me out of her dress and tossed it on the ground.

“Fuck, I’m living every guys dream right now. Two girls in my bedroom helping each other out of their clothes,” Cole laughed.

“Yeah, except there’s no way you’re getting laid tonight.” Quinn winked at him.

“And… my bubble gets popped,” he groaned sarcastically.

I grumbled. “Guys, I’m ruining your first night together. Please just let me sleep on the couch, I can’t do this to you. I love that you’re finally together.”

Cole came over and wrapped me in a bear hug. “Quinn’s not just a fling for me; I’m in it for the long run with her. Which means we have a million more nights. Right now, we need to make sure our best friend, who is drunk off her ass, is safe.”

Quinn grabbed my hand and pulled me into Cole’s large king-size bed. She pushed me down and lay next to me. Cole came in and lay down next to Quinn. I remember mumbling a ‘thank you’ to my best friends before passing out.

I don’t know how long I was sleeping before I was being jostled awake by warm hands and angry whispers.

“Dude, leave her here, and go back to bed. You can talk to her tomorrow. It was a rough night for her.”

“I know. Jace told me and that’s exactly why I’m taking her back to my room.”

“Jax, I’m being completely serious, don’t f**k with her.”

“I need her next to me right now.”

“She’s going to be so pissed.”

“She’s so drunk; please just make sure and watch her.”

I was being lifted up off the bed into a warm, bare chest. I snuggled in closer, smelling my favorite scent. I locked my hands around his neck and sighed. Shortly after I had been picked up, I felt a soft mattress underneath me again. Strong hands came up from behind me and pulled me back into a hard body. A comforter was pulled up and over me.

“I’m so sorry, Beautiful,” the angel voice whispered before I passed out again in an alcohol-induced haze.

When I woke up the next morning, my face was smashed up against hot skin and my body was overheating. I started feeling around and realized Jaxon’s solid body lying curled around me, with my face in his chest. He had his chin resting on the top of my head and one leg draped over my hip. His slow breaths coming in and out were blowing wisps of my hair back and forth. When I fell asleep last night, I’m pretty sure I was in Cole’s bed with him and Quinn. I started remembering the angry whispered conversation and Jaxon picking me up and bringing me in his bed.

Last night wasn’t a good night for me. I was a bitch to him because he made people think that we were together. I hurt him and he left with Rachel. I drank way too much beer and tequila. Thank God, I wasn’t the type to ever get drunk enough to throw up, because if I had, it would have been an even worse story. I remember babbling to Jace about his brother. I’m pretty sure I cried in front of him. Then it hit me, Jaxon left to go be with Rachel last night and when he finally came back, he pulled me into bed with him? That was wrong on so many levels. I’m Queen of sleeping around, but I would never sleep with one guy and go get in bed with another on the same night. That was tacky. I needed to get away from him. I was too close to his delicious-smelling skin, but I know that Rachel was all over him last night. Who could blame her?

I slowly lifted his arm off of me, moved it down to his side and then, gradually rolled over to the edge of the bed. I felt Jaxon reach out for me in his sleep, so I darted away from his searching hand. He mumbled something about “beautiful” and rolled onto his stomach. Thank goodness, he was a heavy sleeper. I didn’t want to have the conversation I’m sure he was anticipating we would have this morning. I only had Cole’s t-shirt and a pair of panties on, and I’m thankful for Cole’s height because this shirt went all the way past my knees.

When I stepped out into the hallway, I grimaced because I could hear Quinn and Cole making up for lost time last night. I was happy for my best friends, but I absolutely did NOT want to hear this. I hurried to the bathroom and when I finished, I washed my hands and used the mouthwash that was on the counter. It didn’t help. I needed to get down to my apartment to brush out the aftertaste of tequila, beer, and sleep. I walked past the kitchen heading for the front door when I noticed the clock in the living room said it was only seven in the morning.

I jumped at the sound of a voice. “Holy Crap, Jace. Why are you awake?”

He was pulling ear buds from his iPod out of his ears and gestured at the four textbooks lying open in front of him. “Damn, those two are still going at it?” He pointed toward Cole’s room and scowled at the noise.

“Yeah, that’s why I need to get out of here.” I was only half-lying.

“Right… it doesn’t have anything to do with a certain guy that might resemble me, does it?” He smirked.

“I’m not sneaking out. Thanks for telling him about last night by the way.”

“Em, he came back here in a pissed-off mood last night and all I said was that it wasn’t a picnic for you here either. I swear.” I nodded at him. “Oh, and if you actually do happen to be sneaking out, I’d hurry it up. He never sleeps in.”

With that, I slipped out the door quietly and walked down to our apartment. I decided I needed to go for a run before I had to go to work. I made a quick breakfast for my empty stomach and changed into a running bra and shorts. As I was tying up my sneakers, I heard the beeping tone of a text message on my phone.

Jaxon: You snuck out. Can I come over?

I decided I didn’t have time to text back. I needed air immediately. I stepped out of the apartment and jogged down the hallway. When I made it outside and down the stairs, I almost got to the street before I heard my name called from across the parking lot. I pretended that I didn’t hear it and turned for the road.

I usually ran toward the beach; it was a good marker for me to know how far I had run. The beach was also a good spot to stop midway and rest. Today I decided to run in the opposite direction for a change of pace.

I wasn’t sure what I should do about Jaxon. I liked being around him, and it wasn’t just the sex that I enjoyed with him. I liked the way he made me feel that I didn’t need to sleep with anyone else. Hell, I didn’t want to, for that matter. I thought two weeks would be difficult without sex, but the only reason they would be hard is because I can’t sleep with him for two weeks. I loved the way he made me feel so safe when I was around him, like he would protect me no matter what, even if I didn’t need it. Why couldn’t I just let him protect my heart as well? Why couldn’t I just live in the moment, relationship-wise like everyone else in college? Quinn and Cole were finally doing it. I’m worried about the future, about deaths and cheating. I can’t handle being left behind again like my parents left me, hurting a trail of people in their departure. I just need some distance from him to gain some perspective. Once I’m not around him all the time, I’ll remember the reasons I originally had for not getting into a relationship. I was too easily distracted by a deep sexy voice, miles of muscles on a tall body, and blue eyes that could read your soul.