The sexy smirk on his face was almost my undoing. “I was wondering if you would ever come talk to me again, Em,” he finally said.

Ouch. “Don’t do that. Don’t call me Em like everyone else; you’ve never called me that before,” I said quietly.

“Aren’t I just like everyone else to you?”

He was not going to let me off the hook easily. I had hurt him with my rejection and I needed to make it right. He deserved to know that he had been right all along, that I was just scared. When he called me out on running away from him and us, he was accurate, and I didn’t like that. I kneeled down in the grass as gracefully as I could with a skirt on. I wanted to be able to see into his blue eyes and apologize.

“There you are!” I heard a girl interrupt from across the courtyard.

I turned to see that it was Audrey with her curly brown hair pinned to the top of her head. Jaxon cursed under his breath and slammed his text shut. Shit, does she go to school here now or something? I turned back around to face Jaxon, giving him a questioning look. He was too busy looking at her though.

“I’ve been looking all over for you, Jaxy.” Ew, I hated that nickname instantly. I don’t know if it was because it was coming out her mouth, or if it was just horrible in general, but I did not want to hear this. I stood up and grabbed my bag off the ground from beside me.

“What are you doing here, Audrey? I said I would come back to meet you at the apartment after my classes,” he sounded frustrated. I noticed that he had spun his ball cap to the back and he was standing up as well. I guess his quiet solace was entirely interrupted now.

“What, I can’t come hang out with my hubby? Besides, it doesn’t look like you’re in class, anyway,” she said while looking directly at me.

What the hell did she just call him? “HUBBY?” I gasped, looking at Jaxon. Was he married? Had he been married when we slept together? I started backing away from both of them.

“Audrey, shut the hell up!” Jaxon hollered. He pinched the bridge of his nose and when he brought his hand out toward me, I shook my head and continued walking away. “Emerson, please!”

I didn’t look back or respond, but I could hear him in the distance talking to Audrey in harsh clipped tones. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Who the hell gets married in college or did it happen before college? Why would Jaxon chase after other girls while he was married?

I ran all the way out to the parking lot, intending to run straight home or catch the bus if there was one waiting. Here I was once again running from Jaxon. When I got out to the lot, Jace was sitting on the tailgate of the truck reading from about four different textbooks again. When he looked up and saw my face, his dropped and he hopped off the back of the truck and came running up to me. He grabbed my shoulders and bent down to look in my eyes.

His hands dropped and he backed away. “Shit…”

“I don’t care what kind of bro-code you guys have, but don’t you think that kind of thing should be made known?” I started walking again. My body was feeling antsy, like I couldn’t control this painful current flowing through me.

He reached out and stopped my movement. “Em, it’s not what you think.”

“I don’t care what it is anymore. This whole ‘relationship’ situation is already too painful and it never even began. This is exactly why I never wanted to go down this road in the first place, why I made rules. I give up!” I shouted.

“Just stop for a second, Em. Let me at least take you home, we can talk this over,” he pleaded.

“Forget it, Jace. I’ll see you later, I’d rather walk right now anyway.” I continued walking away from the parking lot and he didn’t follow after me.

On my walk back, I decided to call Quinn, hoping that she was available to take a call. She answered on the third ring and I could tell I had interrupted her, because she told me to ‘hold on’ in a whisper.

“WHAT?” she shrieked, “Emmy, she’s a crazy bitch, just talk to Jaxon.”

“I’m going to kill Cole. I’ve got to go, but I’ll see you at home later.”

I should feel bad for Cole, but this time I didn’t. He was supposed to be my best friend; shouldn’t he be looking out for my best interests? The mile walk back to the apartment took longer than it should have taken me. I just wanted to lie down in my bed and mope for a couple of hours. Then I would dry my eyes and3 move on. This wasn’t me; I didn’t get upset over anybody. But for now, I just needed a couple of hours to feel sorry for myself.

It’s nice having such close friends. I love it, really I do, but you get absolutely no privacy or solitude. People feel comfortable just walking in on me all the time. Especially Jaxon. I was lying on my bed with my headphones on and eyes closed, listening to angry rock music, because that always gets me out of my funk, when I literally felt my door slamming. My eyes popped open to see Jaxon standing there in front of my closed door, looking extremely livid.

The whole right side of his face was flaming red and he had a large gash right above his eyebrow that was dripping blood down his face. It had already streamed down his cheek onto his shirt. I also noticed his hands were balled up into tight fists. I jumped up to look for a towel to put on his face.

“Oh my God, what happened to your face?” I cried, ripping the headphones out of my ears.

I snatched a washcloth out of my closet and came back to help him clean up. He grabbed me and slammed his mouth onto mine. For a moment, I forgot about my rejection, his ‘wife,’ and even his bleeding face. There was only he and I, with nothing between us. I missed him so much. I missed the feel of his body under my hands.

Before I was ready, he pulled back and ended the kiss. “Are you ready to listen to me now?” He asked in a husky voice and I could tell that kiss had the same effect on him as it did for me.

“Let me grab some supplies to help clean up you first.” I left my room before my face turned as red as his. I grabbed all of the first-aid supplies Quinn and I had from the bathroom.

When I got back to my room, he was sitting in the chair at my desk and I gestured at his shirt. “Take it off.”

His uninjured eyebrow cocked up at me in question, although he was smiling at my request.

“Your shirt is getting ruined by your stupid face bleeding all over it,” I replied, to his cocky look.

“It’s already red, who cares?” he asked, but he reached behind his neck to take it off anyway. I loved the way he dragged his shirts over his head.

It took every ounce in me to stop myself from sliding my hands up his abs and around his neck. I wanted to put my lips on that tattoo hugging his right shoulder.

“Are you going to tell me why half your face is busted?”

“Are you going to talk to me without running away?”

“Touché. I’ll talk,” I replied, leaning in quietly and inspecting his eyebrow. “You should probably get stitches.”

“Hell no, I don’t need stitches, just slap a bandage on it.” He grabbed my h*ps and placed me in his lap with my legs wrapped around him. I instinctively grabbed his bare shoulders to steady myself.

When I gave him a questioning look, he shrugged. “Just so you can get a closer look, Nurse Emerson.” I watched as a smile broke out across his face. Playful Jaxon was hard to resist.

I tapped his forehead above his gash as to remind him he had some explaining to do first.

“I was in the parking lot coming to find you when that idiot Cole came blazing down the lot yelling at me. He f**king just started wailing on my face. He was pissed,” he let out a small laugh. “I knew he had a right to be, so I didn’t stop him. Jace jumped in there after a few good ones though. I’m almost f**king positive he could have stopped him sooner, but I think he’s pissed at me too.”

“Cole did this?” I hollered at him.

This cut was really deep; I had no doubt that he needed stitches. One time I had opened the kitchen cabinet and a glass cup came flying down at my face from the top shelf. It sliced a cut across my cheek right under my eye. The ER doctor didn’t want to place stitches so close to my eye, so he sent me home with a box of butterfly stitch bandages. I still had a couple left over that I could use on his eyebrow to hold the cut closed; hopefully it would heal without a scar or infection.

“Yeah, I guess he was finally tired of me ruining things with Quinn for him, because she got pissed at him for not telling you about Audrey. Man, don’t get in the way of that guy and his girl.”

I groaned, “They just got started and we keep spoiling it for them. I’m an awful friend.” I continued wiping up all the blood and trying gently to scrub off the areas that had already dried to his skin. When it was all clean, I smoothed some ointment across it. He continued to sit there quietly, watching my face while I worked. Every once in a while, we would make eye contact and I had to force myself to break it before I started something up with him I wouldn’t be able to stop. I needed to know who Audrey was and what he hadn’t told me yet.

He was still staring into my eyes as I pushed his cut together and applied the bandage so it would hold the skin firmly in place. When I was done, I dropped my hands into my lap.

“I’m not married, Emerson.” I slowly let out a breath I didn’t realize I had been holding. “I used to be though.”

The breath I had just released was sucked right back in. He laid his forehead down onto my shoulder, I’m assuming so he didn’t have to look at my shocked face.

“I told you I had no room to judge anyone. I was a moron.” He lifted his head back up to look at me. His face appeared sad and guilt-stricken. I gently tried to smooth away the lines across his face, carefully avoiding his cut. “I went a little crazy in high school and I started dating Audrey. My senior year, right after I turned eighteen, she got pregnant. She was so pissed at me and pressured me to do something to make it right. I couldn’t tell anyone; I was disappointed in myself. I didn’t tell my Mom or even Jace. I snuck off with her to get married since we both were eighteen. I thought that was the right thing to do if she was going to have my kid.” He laid his forehead back down on my shoulder.

“Wow, a kid?” I whispered, I couldn’t even imagine having a kid at thirty, let alone eighteen. “If you aren’t married anymore, what happened?” I asked.

“Well, after we came back from getting married, I told my mom. She blew a gasket, called me an idiot in as many different ways as she could think of. Then she calmed down and asked me if I knew for sure that the baby was mine. I’d never thought of that before. I’d never even fathomed the idea that Audrey would cheat. Holy shit, was I a cocky idiot.”

This whole story was messed up. I hated Audrey even more for where I was assuming this was going. I wanted to go find her right now and give her a gash or two on the side of her face. Or twelve. Who in their right mind would cheat on this beautiful caring man sitting in front of me?

He lifted his head. “After much reluctance on Audrey’s part, we finally got her to agree to a paternity test and turns out it was her married Physics teacher’s kid, not mine. She got everyone into a whole mess of trouble. Not that our teacher wasn’t equally as guilty, or me, for that matter. My mom ended up finding a lawyer to annul the marriage on account of my idiocy and Audrey’s fraud. Before the annulment, Coach Chase caught wind of everything and that’s when he pulled my scholarship and spot on the team for two years. He said if I cleaned up everything before my junior year, I could come out here. My mom’s the best, she had it all taken care of before I walked the stage at graduation, but Coach wouldn’t reinstate my scholarship for the freshman or sophomore year.”

He let out a relieved breath and his shoulders relaxed, like it felt good to finally get all of that out. Cole should be a little happier now with him, as well.

“I’m glad you’re not actually married.” I gave him a small smile.

“And why is that?” he leaned in and whispered underneath my ear.

“Because the idea that I slept with a married guy freaks me out,” I responded breathlessly.

“Well, it’s a damn good thing I’m not married then, huh?” He started kissing from behind my ear, down the edge of my neck.

My thighs impulsively clinched tighter around his hips. I felt his hands come up the sides of my legs, moving my skirt upward until it was bunched up around my waist, and he squeezed me from behind. He finally moved his mouth in front of mine and I reached out and nipped his bottom lip between my teeth. The space between my thighs tingled when I heard him moan. Suddenly, he was squeezing my backside harder and he stroked his tongue across mine, leaving me breathless.

As we started speeding up, I pulled back. “Wait. Stop,” I gasped.

He tucked his face into the nook of my neck and groaned.

“You’re just going to leave here and go get into bed with Audrey after this; it kind of kills it for me.”

“What the hell? No, I would never. I would never do that to you nor would I ever touch her again.” His eyebrows shot up and he looked disgusted. His expression made me giggle.

“Why else is she living in your apartment then?” I asked, even more confused now.

Frustrated he said, “Ugh… it’s been three years and that girl is still messing everything up. She showed up here hoping that I would take her back. I’m supposed to forget the fact that she has a kid with some other guy, that she cheated on me, and that I think she’s disgusting. I tried all week to get her to go back. She finally bought a plane ticket, but it’s not till tomorrow morning.”