After Jace said his good-byes, Quinn scooted out of the truck. “I have to be at my tutoring session in five minutes, I’ll see you at home?” she asked.

“Man, I never got to finish my lunch. My stomach’s going to be growling the whole time, Quinn,” Cole complained.

“You know you don’t have to sit through her sessions, right?” I teased.

“As long as Bryce is her student, I do.”

“Come on babe, you can eat in the Tutor Hall Café,” Quinn said, while grabbing his hand. “Em, you can take the car, you should go home. Cole has his car.”

“He’ll come back here. I’m going to wait.” I watched as they shrugged their shoulders and walked off.

I was left alone on the bed of the truck. It’s ironic that I was just here yesterday hiding from Jaxon, and now I here I was hoping to find him. I scooted further into the bed and laid down flat on my back. The weather was unusually warm today and the sun felt good on my skin. I noticed a shirt balled up in the corner, so I reached over to grab it. It was Jaxon’s and I wondered when he had taken this off to toss it back here. I used it as a pillow under my head to help alleviate the discomfort of the ridges on the truck bed floor. The scent of his cologne helped me doze off in the comfort of the sun.

I woke up with a start when I heard the loud rumble of a motorcycle engine. Jaxon was parking the bike next to the truck and pulling his helmet off. His eyes were already on me before the helmet was all the way off his head. He snapped the helmet straps around the handlebars of the bike. His backpack swung around the side of his body and he reached in to grab out that black ball cap. I sat up on my elbows to watch him. I adored when he wore that cap; he looked even more sexy than usual.

“I love when you wear that,” I decided to tell him.

“The cap?” he asked, looking surprised and I nodded to him. Then as he thought about something, he frowned at me, “You’re going to be sunburned if you’ve been lying out here the whole time.”

“I knew you would come back. I wanted to be here,” I said quietly. “Ready to go home?” I scooted out of the truck.

He gave me a confused look and then nodded his head. I got up and went around to the passenger side of the truck. I wasn’t even going to ask if we could ride on the motorcycle, since I knew the answer to that one. Jace and Jaxon carried both sets of keys with them at all times now. They were always switching out on each other without telling the other one. I think by now, Jace knew that if I was with Jax, the truck would be occupied. Jaxon followed behind and lifted me up into the seat. He stared into my eyes like he wanted to ask me something or he was waiting for me to say something. I leaned in and kissed him softly.

The ride home was quiet. I couldn’t read him. I still didn’t know if he was mad at himself or me. His emotions were all over the place on his face. I grabbed a hold of his hand as we were walking up the stairs to the apartment. He pulled out his keys and let us into his place. He pulled me into his bedroom and laid me down on the bed. I started breathing heavily as he climbed above me. I was instantly turned on by his proximity. His body was the best kind of aphrodisiac. The only problem was that his face still held a lot of worry as he looked into my eyes. I reached up to smooth the lines under his eyes.

“Beautiful, please just get it over with. Yell at me; tell me how mad you are, so I’ll feel a little better. Not that I deserve to,” he said in a rough beaten tone.

“Huh? Why would I yell at you?” I questioned.

He bent his head down into the crook of my neck as he spoke. “Because I acted like an idiot.”

I shoved his cap off his head and ran my fingers through his soft hair. “Jaxon, all of that would have been prevented if I wasn’t such a coward.”

“No babe, I shouldn’t have let that get to me.”

“But it did and part of being your…just yours,” I had almost said the ‘g’ word, “I need to find a way to get over my insecurities and make you feel more comfortable.”

I felt the side of his cheeks pull up into a grin when he caught me stuttering over that ‘just yours’ part.

“No, I don’t want to make you move so fast that it scares you off again. I can handle it next time, promise. I just hate that they feel like they can touch you whenever they want and say whatever they want.”

“I wouldn’t hate it if you touched me whenever you wanted to though.” I wiggled against him.

“Hmm… damn, I’ll never get tired of you telling me that,” he said, while lifting my shirt up. His head bent down to take me into his mouth and I moaned, writhing against him to find relief. His sweet torment was going to be the death of me.

Before I knew it, we were both completely na**d and he was thrusting into me feverishly. It was strange being able to do this with him whenever I wanted to. I didn’t have to worry about my stupid rules. I didn’t have to worry that he was with someone else, because he was with me. I didn’t care if anyone else liked him, because he was mine. Because of those things, I got to pass my three-limit rule repeatedly.

He grabbed my wrists with one of his hands and held them tightly above my head. He was driving so hard and fast it was almost impossible to concentrate on anything besides the euphoria he was building inside of me. I pulled my legs up so they went up over his shoulders and he turned his head to trail kisses up the inside of one of my legs. The contrast between his fast and hard movements, versus this sweet side of him, started pushing me over the edge. I clinched him hard inside of me and I heard him groan as his hand gripped me tighter.

“Fuck, baby, do that again,” he panted. When I did, he let out a long groan.

His lips slammed against mine passionately. I couldn’t hold on any longer and I screamed out his name so loud that if anyone else were home, I would have been embarrassed. Jaxon was able to hold on for a couple more minutes, slowly building me back up. No one had ever revved me up this much.

By the time he let go, I made sure my eyes were open to watch the ecstasy on his face. The pure pleasure in his eyes sent me over the cliff one more time. He had let my hands go in his release so I grabbed onto his back, sinking my nails into his skin with my back arched into him while riding out the waves. He finally collapsed onto the spot right next to me. I rolled over to lay my head on his chest while we both panted from exertion.

His hand ran up and down my back softly. The soothing motion made my eyes heavy. I sat up to look at the clock because I had work tonight and Jaxon pulled me back down to his chest.

“Shh, Beautiful… just sleep, I’ll wake you in time.” He leaned down to kiss my forehead.

The weeks until winter break flew by. I thought it was best if we stayed away from the parties for the rest of the semester. Jaxon didn’t argue with me. I think he felt like he couldn’t yet control the urge to punch other guys who got too close to me. It was nice to be able to go out without the added drama of other people. I also still wasn’t able to admit we were in an actual relationship, so if we didn’t hang out around others, I didn’t have to define it. Jaxon never brought it up either. We’d had a lot of time to open up with one another, and he finally told me about his dad dying and how hard it was for him to cope afterward. It seemed like a good time to tell him about my parents, but I just couldn’t do it.

We hadn’t seen each other too much this week, besides at nighttime after one or the other got off work. We entered finals week and I realized it was too hard to study around Jaxon, so I forbade him from coming over to distract me. It seemed to work out for the best because we both felt extremely confident about our grades.

On Thursday after our last final, all five of us were hanging out at the guys’ apartment watching movies and eating junk food. We had all planned on going out to a house party together later, but we still had a couple of hours until then. Quinn convinced us to finally get out and celebrate the end of the semester.

“Are you excited about spending the holidays with your mom and dad, Emerson?” Jaxon asked.

Quinn’s head shot over to look straight at me. I knew she was shocked that I hadn’t told him yet. She tried to act casual, moving toward the kitchen as if to get something, but it was obvious something had bothered her. Cole stood up awkwardly to join her.

“Uh… no, not really. I don’t really like holidays.” Actually, holidays were the absolute worst time of the year, aside from February 2nd, the day they were both killed. Coincidently, that was also my birthday as well. Yep, happy birthday to me. I NEVER celebrate it. It’s forbidden. Quinn doesn’t even mention my birthday anymore.

Completely oblivious to our odd reactions, Jaxon laughed a little and said, “What? Who doesn’t like the holidays?” He was holding my hand and I had to release it.

I looked over at our audience; Quinn, Cole, and Jace all knew. I looked to them for help, for someone to distract him from this topic. No one stepped up and I was all alone.

I gripped my hands together tightly and murmured, “Umm… someone who… doesn’t have parents.” It was hard to get out of my mouth but I couldn’t lie to him.

He turned to look at me, a little more concerned now, but I could tell he still thought I was pulling some weird joke on him. “What are you talking about, Beautiful, yes you do. You’ve told me tons of stories about how you grew up.”

“All of those stories stopped before I turned fifteen. They were both killed in a car accident,” I whispered, wringing the blood from my pale hands.

“What the fuck, Emerson? Why haven’t you told me this before?” he stood up and shouted.

“Dude, it’s time to chill out and leave her alone,” Jace said, looking up at him from his spot on the couch.

Jaxon looked at his brother and his expression turned murderous. “YOU knew about her parents?” He jabbed his finger at Jace. Then he turned to look at me again. “FUCKING JACE KNEW?” His voice was getting even louder now.

“I’m so sorry, Jaxon,” I said in a calm voice, hoping it would bleed into him.

“Jax, seriously stop it. It was a weak moment; you guys weren’t even together yet. She had just come back from home to see you, when she saw that Audrey was here. She got upset and it just came out.” Great, yet another piece of information I hadn’t told him yet. Girlfriend of the year right here. Although, I guess I didn’t even have that title.

Cole finally stepped up. “Jax, you need to f**king lay off of her or I’m taking her out of here, away from you. You can see her when you get back from break.” The protective big brother was coming out in him and I loved him for it. But this was entirely my fault; he deserved to know that about me.

When Cole talked about taking me away from him, I saw his expression snap from infuriated to frightened. He quickly came up to me and knelt between my legs. Jace got up and left. Once Cole and Quinn were satisfied that Jaxon wasn’t going to yell at me anymore, they left the living room as well.

“Baby…” He laid his forehead down on my leg. “Don’t leave, I’m sorry I yelled,” he lifted his head and apologized.

“I’m not going anywhere, Jax.” I rubbed my hands down the side of his scruffy face.

“Why didn’t you tell me? I told you about my dad.”

“When you were telling me about your dad, it seemed like your moment. I felt that if I were to tell you about my parents at that time, I would just be one-upping you. ‘Oh, you lost one parent, well I lost two.’ You needed that private time to tell me about your dad. I honestly never talk about my parents anymore because of the way everything happened. I don’t even talk to Quinn anymore about it.”

He came up onto the couch next to me and pulled me into his lap. I wrapped my hands around him and kissed his neck.

“What happened when they died?” I instantly stiffened at the question. “Tell me,” his voice was kind but firm. No more beating around the bush.

This whole event is basically why I’ve become the way I have. My life since then has circled around that moment in a vicious cycle. I’ve never been able to step away from it. It’s why I created my rules, it’s why I haven’t been able to give myself fully to Jaxon, and it’s why events like this continue to come between us.

“My parents were divorced. My dad was remarried to Ellie, Quinn’s mom. That’s how we’re sisters.” He nodded his head because he knew we were actually stepsisters and not blood relatives. “Everything was perfect. My parents didn’t fight anymore, and I got Ellie and Quinn in the deal. Then one day, our principal pulled me out of class and told me my parents had died. Together. In the same car. My parents couldn’t stand each other, the last time I had checked, and they certainly didn’t just ride around in cars together,” I took a deep breath and he rubbed circles along my hand. “That was the day that I learned that people always leave. If they aren’t cheating on one another, they’re dying. My parents did both in the same day. It hurts too much to get close to anyone; I couldn’t risk feeling that kind of loneliness again. I almost didn’t make it out alive, and if it happened again, I know I wouldn’t.” I spoke all of this to his shoulder, too afraid to see his judging eyes.

He placed his hand underneath my chin and lifted it up. I’m not sure I liked what I saw on his face, but it was better than judgment. He looked like everything I just said made total sense, as if now he understood why I acted the way I did.