“For you?” I arched an eyebrow. “Why would this dress be for you?” My snarky attitude was meant to play with him. Something I’d gotten very good at.
Jared wrapped his arms around my lower back and picked me up, bringing his lips to mine in a hard “take that” kiss.
“You taste like a Starburst,” he groaned against my lips. “And you look like the sun.”
Elation swept over me at his words. “You look great, too.”
The distant hum of Madoc’s GTO echoed through the neighborhood, and I squirmed out of Jared’s arms. I was sure my dress had ridden up a little when he grabbed me and that was not a sight for his friend.
Madoc pulled up alongside my house and climbed out of the car in nearly the same black suit and shirt as Jared’s, but Madoc had added a purple tie. With his blonde hair and handsome face, he looked cavalier and gorgeous. The bruises from his fight a couple of weeks ago were pretty much gone.
Whereas Jared had the movie star look, Madoc was pretty like a model. Too pretty for my taste but pretty all the same. Walking in with these two tonight, I’d be the talk of the town tomorrow.
Madoc slowed when he looked up and noticed Jared in front of me. Whatever Madoc saw in Jared’s eyes gave him pause. Any trace of a grin he was wearing had now vanished.
“I’m not going to get hit again, am I?” Madoc asked, half-timid and half-joking.
“Go f**k yourself. You’re lucky you’re getting her at all tonight.” Jared sighed and walked back over to his house. “I’ll get my keys. We’re taking my car.”
Madoc smiled after Jared as he watched his friend disappear inside his house and slam the front door.
I registered a low whistle and brought my eyes back to Madoc. “You look….edible.” He shook his head as if he couldn’t believe I could clean up nice. I rolled my eyes and fixed him with an impatient stare.
“Relax.” He smiled and held up his hands. “I’ll mind my manners…tonight,” he added the last with a threatening smirk.
Shaking my head, I turned towards the house. “I’ll grab my bag.”
After I slid my clutch purse off the entry way table, checked myself in the mirror, and locked up the house, I twisted to see Madoc holding a corsage in his hand.
Feeling slightly uneasy, since I thought Jared would be the one getting me a flower, I looked at him suspiciously.
He approached me, a thoughtful expression on his face. “If you don’t mind, I asked Jared if I could get this for you.” He widened the wristlet, and I slipped my hand through. “I’m sorry for being an ass**le all these years. I did have a plan, though.”
Puzzled, I asked, “Which was?”
He smiled to himself. “Jared’s my best friend. I’ve known for a while that he cared about you. The first time I came over to his house Freshman year, I found a stash of pictures of the two of you. He keeps them in his nightstand.”
My heart beat faster, but I was relieved. I hated that I didn’t see any pictures of us among his box of photos the night I snooped. Now I know that he kept them somewhere else. Somewhere close to him.
“Anyway,” Madoc continued, “I never understood why he treated you the way he did, and Jared is about as revealing as a hermit crab. He’s like one of those piggy banks that you have to break to get anything out of. You can’t just shake him and he’ll give up the goods. You have to get the hammer.” He looked straight at me. “You were the hammer.”
“I still don’t follow.”
He pursed his lips like he was annoyed he had to explain it further. “I messed with you more than he asked me to, because I wanted him to react. He’s never been a particularly happy guy, and I was sick of his brooding. He went ballistic after you left for France, and I figured out that his destructive behavior had something to do with you. Like he was lost without you or something. So, I decided to try to make him jealous when you got back and see what happened.”
“And you think that makes you a good friend?” Why would Madoc want to rile Jared up? Why not just talk to him?
“I don’t know,” he said sarcastically. “You two seem pretty damn happy.”
We were very happy. But I doubt it was Madoc asking me to Homecoming that got Jared to act. I guess it didn’t matter, though. Jared and I had come together again, stronger I hope, and Madoc got to entertain himself.
“So you wanted to see him happy. Why do you care about Jared so much?” I asked.
Madoc stuck his hands in his pocket and tried to hide a grin. “Did you ever hear about the time Freshman year that I got stuffed na**d into my locker by some Seniors?”
Madoc got bullied? “Uh, no,” I laughed, not believing a word of it.
“No one knows. And that’s why Jared is my best friend.” His voice was even, and I could tell he was serious. Jared had helped him.
I didn’t know what to say, but we both turned our attention to Jared as he came walking out of his house. Taking my hand, he kissed me under my ear.
“Sorry that took so long. My mom was giving me a talk.”
Madoc came to my other side and held out his arm for me to take, which I did.
“About?” I pressed, a little nervous about what kind of parenting Katherine was doing today.
“About not getting you pregnant,” he whispered without looking at me.
I cleared my throat. Pregnant?
We both exchanged wary grins, not sure what to say to that. Jared and I had been using protection, but I guess I should get on the pill, too.
“Are we ready?” Madoc piped up from my side.
I held Madoc by the inside of his elbow and held Jared closer to me by the bicep. While a month ago I never would’ve thought I’d be here with these two, I felt at ease. “Totally. This is the start of a great friendship.” I jostled Madoc’s arm playfully.
“It could be the start of a great p**n o, too,” Madoc deadpanned, breaking into laughter.
“Son of a bitch! You’re going to get it tonight,” Jared threatened, and I shook my head laughing.
The dance was more enjoyable that we anticipated, even with the watered down music and trying to juggle two dates. New York, New York was the Homecoming theme, and the gym was awesomely decorated with cutouts of the New York City skyline and twinkle lights.
Madoc and Jared were like yin and yang. Madoc loved everyone and everything. Jared—I love him—barely tolerates anything. Madoc got great pictures of himself and me leaning up against a retro New York City cab for our Homecoming photo. I played along, even though he kept trying to pose like a Goodfella. Jared had to be coerced in front of the camera, but I’m sure he just did it for me.
After the initial weirdness of trying to be together on an actual date, Jared and I loosened up and had a little fun. I met some of his friends, and we got over the awkwardness of being around K.C. I think she was more comfortable with Jared than Liam was. But after a while, it was all good.
“Alright, let’s get f**ked up.” Madoc led the way into the Beckman house in search of liquor. We arrived at Tori’s after-party just as most people were getting there, and I stopped as soon as I stepped inside. The memory of the last time I was here over a year ago got my heart racing.
Jared halted in front of me, probably because I hesitated. My breathing quickened, and I clenched his hand. Even in my head, I couldn’t piece together why I was reacting this way. I wasn’t scared. I knew nothing was going to happen tonight.
“Tate, are you okay?” Jared’s eyes looked concerned.
“Yeah, I need a drink.” I’d be damned if I was going to be trapped by my past. My body was at DEFCON 1 right now, and I just wanted to enjoy this party.
Once we made it to the kitchen, complete with a make-shift bar just like last time, Madoc set to work making us drinks. Jared declined, since he was driving, and I was proud of him for being responsible. Madoc was simply happy he had a DD.
Snatching the red cup out of Madoc’s hand, I swallowed the burning liquid mixed with Coke as fast as I could. With each gulp, the alcohol stung worse and the bitter taste had me wishing for a cookie or a Jolly Rancher or anything sweet. Successfully consuming every last drop, I swung the cup into the sink and coughed into my hand as Madoc laughed at me.
“Aw, she’s about as red as a tomato,” he joked to Jared.
“Piss off,” I mumbled.
Jared wrapped a hand around my waist and pulled me close, kissing my hair. Closing my eyes, I let the alcohol heat up my blood, relaxing my muscles.
“Hey, guys.” K.C. bounced into the kitchen, pulling Liam behind her. He nodded to Madoc and Jared, clearly not happy with Jared and K.C. briefly dating. Liam cheated, but he was acting upset because K.C. spent a couple of dates with another guy.
Get over it.
“What are we drinking?” she asked.
“Well, I just had a little liquid courage, so I’m good for now.” My voice was still raspy from the rush of liquor.
While she and the others set to work making their concoctions, Jared bent down to my ear. “Come with me.”
Goosebumps spread across my arms as his breath tickled my ear. He took my hand, and I let him guide me out of the kitchen and up the stairs to the second floor of the house.
The Beckman place was huge, which was why parties here were so popular. Jared’s and my houses were happy mediums, but Tori and Bryan Beckman enjoyed a lush and spacious two-level home with a finished basement and fully landscaped backyard that was big enough for a modest golf course. This house probably boasted seven or eight bedrooms.
And it looked like Jared was taking me to one.
He knocked on a door to make sure the room was empty and then led us inside.
As soon as the door was closed behind us, he backed me up against it, causing me to grab his upper arms for support. I gasped from the surprise and met his kiss when his lips crushed down on mine. His hand went down to my ass, and he pulled me up to meet his hips. I ripped my mouth away from him to catch my breath as he dipped his head to my neck.
“God, Tate. Your dress should be burned.” His mouth was hot on my ear as he started sucking the lobe.
“Why?” I asked, the desire burning down below making it almost too hard to concentrate.
He laughed against my neck. “Every f**king guy has been looking at you tonight. I’m going to get arrested.”
Taking his head in my hands, I forced his eyes to meet mine as our noses touched. “I’m yours. It’s always been you.” My promise hung in the air while he gazed down at me, his chocolate eyes full of desire.
“Come here.” He led me to the center of the large bedroom, which looked to be a guest room by the absence of photographs or other personal paraphernalia.
Jared took out his phone and pushed a few buttons before Seether’s Broken started playing. Setting the phone on the chest of drawers, propped up by its kickstand, he walked back over and took me in his arms as I wrapped mine around his neck. Slowly, we started moving together to the music in our very first slow dance.
“I’m sorry I didn’t dance with you tonight.” His eyes wouldn’t meet mine, and there was regret in his voice. “I don’t like doing things like that in public. It feels too personal, I guess.”
“I don’t want you to change who you are,” I told him. “But I might like to dance with you some time or hold your hand.”
He pulled me closer in a hug and wrapped his arms around my back like a steel band. “I’ll try, Tate. Yesterday is gone. I know that. I want that comfort we used to have back.”
I tipped my head up further to meet his eyes as we continued to sway to the music. “Your tattoo—Yesterday lasts forever, Tomorrow comes never—that’s what it says. What does it mean?” I’d finally been able to read the script on the side of his torso one morning this week while he’d been sleeping.