My eyes finally shot open and my sightless exploration was confirmed. I was in Jaxon’s bed, but he wasn’t here with me. How did I get here? Did I get up and get into his bed in the middle of the night? If so, I needed to get out of here before he came home. Nothing would be more embarrassing than being the ex-girlfriend that not only couldn’t let you go, but also crawled in your bed in the middle of the night.

I stretched my arms out in front of me and noticed familiar handwriting on my palm. I brought it closer to my face to read, since my eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to the morning light.

My rule still stands. My bed. Not Cole’s or Jace’s.

Was this seriously happening? Did he go in Cole’s room last night and take me out of his bed just so he could come lay me in his bed all alone. Why the hell does he care where I sleep anymore? “My rule still stands.” Who did he think he was? He doesn’t have any right to make rules for me. He had better not still be in this apartment because if he was, I might rip his head off. What right does he have to take me away from my friends? I might just take a nap in Jace’s bed later today, just to piss him off.

To my chagrin, I was only in Cole’s shirt and my panties, which meant that he carried me with barely any clothes on. I know it shouldn’t bother me because he’d known every single inch of my body at one time, but I think that I deserved to be awake if he was going to touch me again. I looked around the room and didn’t see my clothes anywhere, so they must have still been in Cole’s room. He could have at least brought my clothes with me when he kidnapped me.

While I had been looking around his room for my clothes, I did notice more framed pictures than I remembered the last time I was in here. There were pictures on his desk, on his nightstand, and lined up on his wall. I moved in closer to look at each of them, noticing that I was in almost all of them. There were pictures of me and his mom, me and Jace, me and some of his buddies back home that I met at a couple of parties, me, Cole, and Quinn, and finally, me and him.

My favorite picture of the two of us was sitting next to his bed on his nightstand. It was the night of Garret’s birthday party, when we weren’t even together yet. I remember we were standing next to the counter in the kitchen right after I had taken the tequila shot in front of him. I was looking up at him like he was the only person in the world. I was amazed that I was able to give anyone that deep of a look. My hands were, as always grabbing the waistband of his jeans tightly.

I remembered that Mason, who was majoring in photography, had taken this picture. He was usually snapping away at every event. At the time, we hadn’t realized that he was taking our picture, not until after we heard the identifiable click of a camera, and then he came over and showed us the image on his screen. I remembered we had both smiled at it, but I hadn’t seen the photo since then. I wondered if Jaxon went and asked him for it, or if Mason had given it to him. If he had given it to Jaxon, why hadn’t he given it to me as well?

I tried to think about the last time I was in Jaxon’s room. It had been the day before that awful party where I freaked out and ran away from him with Devon. I remember he had the one picture of all five of us together sitting on the couch that I had taken by setting the timer on my camera. But all of these other pictures definitely hadn’t been here. Why the hell would he frame all of these pictures of me and hang them up in his room? The more I sat here and thought about his actions, the madder I got. This was just hurtful. He needed to stop looking at pictures of me and playing my mixed CD every damn night, where I basically poured my heart out to him through songs. He wanted this break-up, I didn’t.

I left his room and went down to Cole’s room. His door was closed, so I waited and listened outside the door to make sure I wasn’t about to walk in on something I couldn’t un-see. When all was silent, I entered the dark room. I noticed Quinn was still snuggled up next to Cole sleeping. When the light from the hallway streamed in, they started shifting around.

“Sorry, Coley, I just needed to grab my clothes.”

“Emmy, where did you go? When I woke up last night and you weren’t here, I figured you had gone home,” Quinn asked, lifting her head up.

“That as**ole Jaxon came in here, grabbed me out in my sleep, and dumped me in his bed!” I shoved my palm in front of her face so she could read his written note.

“What are you talking about? Why would he do that?” Cole sat straight up, trying to read my palm as well.

“Months ago, he asked me not to sleep in your bed or Jace’s. He left me this freaking note on my hand saying ‘his rule still stands.’ I don’t know who he thinks he is. Now all I want to do is sleep in yours and Jace’s bed every night.” I paced back and forth.

Shaking his head, “Wow, he’s got it bad.”

“He’s about to have it real bad.” I grabbed my clothes and stomped out of the room.

I actually hoped he was in the living room, because I was about to tear him a new one. Talking about it with Cole and Quinn had only riled me up more. Jaxon didn’t have any right to break up with me, in public nonetheless, and then try to control where I sleep at night. It only made me want to go around and sleep with every guy he has ever spoken to at this school. I knew I wasn’t capable of doing that, but he sure made me want to. I reached the end of the hallway with my hands in fists.

When I stormed into the living room, Jaxon was on the couch. Why would he put me in his bed, when he would just have to end up sleeping on the couch? He was lying on his stomach with his arms extended out under his pillow. On the rare occasion that I would wake up before him, I always found him like this. It became a game for me to see how long I could kiss his back before he woke up. Sometimes I could kiss a line up and down three times before he would start stirring. I had loved that uninterrupted time to explore his muscular back. With my fingers, I enjoyed tracing the lines of his tattoo that spread across the back corner of his shoulder.

I lost track of how long I stood there staring down at him sleeping. I hadn’t allowed myself to really look at him this past month. Anytime I started to, he would catch me, so I forced myself to stop. My anger fizzled as I listened to the rhythmic in and out of his breath. I would get furious with him later. It didn’t look like he was sleeping peacefully anyway; he had a pinched expression in his eyes that I wanted to reach down and smooth out.

As I stood in the hallway entrance to the living room watching him, warm hands slid over my shoulders.

“Whatcha’ doing, pretty girl?” Jace whispered in my ear.

I jumped at the sound of his voice. “I’m just heading out,” I whispered back, but not moving forward.

“You were standing here when I went to the bathroom five minutes ago.”

“Um… I guess I just zoned out. I’m still really tired,” I lied.

“You two are like sad little puppies. I don’t understand it,” he continued whispering so we wouldn’t wake him up.

“I don’t think it was his either.”

I didn’t want to talk about this with Jaxon’s brother, no matter how good of a friend he was to me. “Hey, do you want to do a quick study with me later for English?”

“Sure, want to just do it now?” he asked.

“I need to shower first, but I’ll be right back.”

I hurried down to my place and pulled the t-shirt over my head. I balled it up and held it to my nose. It didn’t even smell like Cole anymore. It smelt like Jaxon and I mixed together. I quickly tucked it under my pillow alongside his shirt that I’d never returned. Cole wouldn’t be getting that one back for a while either.

I rushed through my shower and wrapped my wet hair up into a messy bun. I had a busy day ahead of me; there wasn’t time for blow-drying and styling. I needed to run through my review for the English exam today, and then after class, I would have to hurry over to the hotel and make sure all the preparations were done for the Auction tomorrow night.

I walked up to the guys’ apartment door and debated whether I should knock or just go right in. I used to walk right in when Jax and I were together. Besides last night, I haven’t been over here since our break-up. If Jax was still sleeping, my knocking would wake him up, and I didn’t want to interact with him right now. I turned the knob quietly and slipped inside. The couch was empty and Jace was in the kitchen cooking.

“Hey, Ems, that was fast. I thought girls took showers for like hours?” he asked, laughing.

“I wish. I don’t have time today though. Do you mind if we study in your room?” I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders and handed me a plate of eggs and bacon. “Yeah sure. This plate is yours with the nasty chopped onions in it.”

“You put onions in my eggs?” I asked, surprised. “How did you know I liked them like that?”

“Take a wild guess. He came in here, chopped them up, and threw them in without asking. Does he care that I hate onions? No. I had to start over and re-make my plate,” he grumbled.

“Jaxon did that?” He nodded his head and continued walking for his room. “You know he makes no damn sense,” I said.

He walked into his room and I closed the door behind us. “You’re trying to get my ass kicked, aren’t you?” He nodded toward the closed door. “Why don’t you just talk to him, Em? He’s never happy anymore…“

“He wanted this. I messed up and now I’m paying for it.”

“You’re just making both of you miserable. Didn’t we have this conversation with Quinn once?” When I didn’t respond, he continued, “He is going to get pissed that the door is closed…”

“We aren’t together anymore, Jace. If I want to go into some guy’s bedroom, I can. He can get over it; that’s what happens when you break up.” I sat down on the edge of his bed.

Jace’s room was just as tidy as Jaxon’s always was. Their mom really had taught them well. Where Jaxon’s bedroom was bright with light grays and whites, Jace’s room was darker with a black comforter and black-and-white pictures on the walls. I noticed a pair of used boxing gloves hanging from the ceiling in the corner above his bed. On his desk sat a model car that was an exact replica of the one Jaxon drove around in Texas. Next to the car was a framed picture of him, Jaxon, their beautiful mom and stunningly gorgeous dad, all standing together in front their massive barn.

Interrupting my inspection of his room, Jace asked, “You haven’t been in many bedrooms though lately, have you?”

I stared at him, wondering if I should answer that question, while he came and sat next to me on the bed. I decided not to. He would just relay that back to his brother and I would feel even more pathetic than I already did.

Instead, I pulled out my English text and began going over each subject area we needed to know. I quickly realized that Jace didn’t need to study this at all. He knew everything by heart already; he was only doing this to help me out. I caught myself zoning out while he read from his book to me. I watched his facial expressions and his mouth move as the words he spoke flowed from his lips, lips that were the same size and plumpness as Jaxon’s. I spied that damn slightly turned in front tooth that I had once told Jaxon was my favorite part of his face. My heart began to hurt from the sight of him. He looked too much like his brother and it was painful.

Before I could catch myself, I began leaning in toward his lips. In my mind, this had become Jaxon sitting on his bed reading to me, not Jace.

He immediately leapt backward away from me, before I made contact. “What the hell, Em?” He looked at me with a stunned expression on his face.

I finally came back to earth and realized what I’d almost done, when it wasn’t Jaxon’s deep melodic voice I was hearing, but Jace’s. My hand shot up to cover my lips.

“Oh my God, Jace! I’m so sorry!” I yelled. All of a sudden, tears were streaming down my face. What the hell was going on with me? I stopped crying weeks ago and now this week, I couldn’t stop.

“You really are trying to get my ass kicked,” he said, trying to lighten the mood and I loved him for it.

“No, no, no, God, that wasn’t supposed to happen. I zoned out. You were…” I couldn’t say it. I was humiliated enough. How could I tell him that I thought he was his brother and that was why I had almost kissed him?

“It’s okay, I understand.” He gave me a sad, pitying look and I couldn’t be in this room with him another second.

I quickly reached down and put all of my papers and books back into my bag and leapt for the door.

When I ran out the door, I stumbled over Jaxon’s body that was sitting on the ground and leaning up against the wall. Simultaneously, my hands flew out to catch myself but my face followed and my mouth hit my knuckle. I brought my legs in toward my body and crouched on the ground in that position for a second. If I ever hoped to get my dignity back in front of him, it apparently wasn’t happening anytime soon.

“Babe, are you okay?” Jaxon asked, hovering over me nervously.

“What the hell did you do man?” I heard Jace’s voice from further back.

“No, asshole, what the f**k did YOU do?” he barked at his brother. “I heard her shouting in there. Why would she be shouting when you said you two were just going to be studying?”

I couldn’t let Jace take the fall for my embarrassing mistake. I stood up and faced them. “Stop yelling at him Jaxon, he didn’t do anything wrong,” I scolded.