CHAPTER ELEVEN. jealousy

I awoke on my stomach, naked and tangled in Travis Maddox’s sheets. I kept my eyes closed, feeling his fingers caressing my arm and back.

He exhaled with a deep, contented sigh, speaking in a hushed voice. “I love you, Abby. I’m going to make you happy, I swear it.”

The bed concaved as he shifted, and then his lips were on my back in slow, small kisses. I remained still, and just as he had made his way up to the skin just below my ear, he left me to walk across the room. His footsteps leisurely plodded down the hall, and the pipes whined with the water pressure of the shower.

I opened my eyes and sat up, stretching. Every muscle in my body ached, muscles that I never knew I had. I held the sheet to my chest, looking out the window, watching the yellow and red leaves spiral from their branches to the ground.

His cell phone vibrated somewhere on the floor, and after clumsily searching the crumpled clothes on the floor, I found it in his jeans pocket. The display was lit with only a number, no name.

“Hello?”

“Is uh…is Travis there?” a woman asked.

“He’s in the shower, can I take a message?”

“Of course he is. Tell him that Megan called, would ya?”

Travis walked in, tightening his towel around his water-splotched waist, and smiled as I held out his phone.

“It’s for you,” I said.

He kissed me before looking at the display, and then shook his head. “Yeah? It was my girlfriend, what do you need, Megan?” He listened for a moment and then smiled, “Well, Pigeon’s special, what can I say?” After a long pause, he rolled his eyes. I could only imagine what she was saying. “Don’t be a bitch, Megan. Listen, you can’t call my phone anymore….Well, love’ll do that to ya,” he said, looking at me with a soft expression. “Yes, with Abby. I mean it, Meg, no more phone calls…Later.”

He tossed his phone on the bed, and then sat beside me. “She was a little pissy. Did she say anything to you?”

“No, she just asked for you.”

“I erased the few numbers I had on my phone, but I guess that doesn’t stop them from calling me. If they don’t figure it out on their own, I’ll set them straight.”

He watched me expectantly, and I couldn’t help but smile. I had never seen this side of him. “I trust you, you know.”

He pressed his lips to mine. “I wouldn’t blame you if you expected me to earn it.”

“I’ve got to get in the shower. I’ve already missed one class.”

“See? I’m a good influence already.”

I stood up, and he tugged on the sheet. “Megan said there’s a Halloween party this weekend at The Red Door. I went with her last year, it was pretty fun.”

“I’m sure it was,” I said, raising an eyebrow.

“I just mean a lot of people come out. They have a pool tournament and cheap drinks…wanna go?”

“I’m not really…I don’t do the dress up thing. I never have.”

“I don’t, either. I just go,” he shrugged.

“Are we still going bowling tonight?” I asked, wondering if the invitation was just to get some alone time with me that he no longer needed.

“Well, hell yeah! I’m gonna kick your ass, too!”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “Not this time you’re not. I have a new superpower.”

He laughed. “And what’s that? Harsh language?”

I leaned over to kiss his neck once, and then ran my tongue up to his ear, kissing his earlobe. He froze in place.

“Distraction,” I breathed into his ear.

He grabbed my arms and flipped me onto my back. “You’re going to miss another class.”

 

After finally talking him into leaving the apartment long enough to attend History class, we raced to campus, and slid into the seat just before Professor Cheney began. Travis turned his red baseball cap backwards to plant a kiss on my lips, in full view of everyone in the classroom.

On our way to the cafeteria, he took my hand in his, intertwining our fingers as we walked. He seemed so proud to be holding my hand, announcing to the world that we were finally together. Finch noticed, looking at our hands, and then to me with a ridiculous grin. He wasn’t the only one, our simple display of affection generated stares and murmuring of everyone we passed.

At the door of the cafeteria, Travis blew out his last puff of smoke, looking to me when I hesitated. America and Shepley were already inside, and Finch had lit another cigarette, leaving me to go in with Travis alone. I was certain the gossip had soared to a new level since Travis had kissed me in full view of everyone in our History class, and I dreaded walking out onto the stage the cafeteria presented.

“What, Pigeon?” he said, tugging on my hand.

“Everyone is watching us.”

He pulled my hand to his mouth and kissed my fingers. “They’ll get over it. It’s just the initial shock. Remember when we first started hanging out? Their curiosity died down after awhile and they got used to seeing us together. C’mon,” he said, pulling me through the door.

One of the reasons I had chosen Eastern U was for its modest population, but the exaggerated interest in scandal that came with it was at times exhausting. It was a running joke; everyone was aware of how ridiculous the rumor mill was, and yet they all shamelessly participated in it.

We sat down in our usual spots with our food. America smiled at me with a knowing expression. She chatted as if everything was normal, but the football players at the other end of the table were staring at me like I was on fire.

Travis tapped my apple with his fork. “You gonna eat that, Pidge?”

“No, you can have it, Baby.”

Heat consumed my ears when America’s head jerked to look at me.

“It just came out,” I said, shaking my head. I peeked up at Travis, whose expression was a mixture of amusement and adoration.

We had exchanged the term a few times that morning, and it hadn’t occurred to me that it was new to everyone else until it tumbled from my mouth.

“You two have just reached the level of annoyingly cute,” America grinned.

Shepley tapped my shoulder. “You staying over tonight?” he asked, his words garbled among the bread in his mouth. “I promise I won’t come out of my room cussing at you.”

“You were defending my honor, Shep. You’re forgiven,” I said.

Travis took a bite of the apple and chewed, looking happy as I’d ever seen him. The peace in his eyes had returned, and even as the dozens of people watched our every move, everything felt…right.

I thought of all the times I had insisted being with Travis was the wrong decision, and how much time I had wasted fighting my feelings for him. Looking across the table at his soft, brown eyes, and the dimple dancing in his cheek as he chewed, I couldn’t remember what I was so worried about.

“He looks awful happy. Did you finally give it up, Abby?” Chris said, elbowing his teammates.

“You’re not very smart, are ya, Jenks?” Shepley said, frowning.

The blood instantly rose to my cheeks, and I looked to Travis who had murder in his eyes. My embarrassment took a back seat to Travis’ anger, and I shook my head dismissively. “Just ignore him.”

After another tense moment, his shoulders relaxed a bit, and he nodded once, taking a deep breath. After a few seconds, he winked at me.

I reached my hand across the table, sliding my fingers into his. “You meant what you said last night, didn’t you?”

He began to speak, but Chris’ laughter filled the cafeteria. “Holy God! Travis Maddox is whipped ?”

“Did you mean it when you said you didn’t want me to change?” he asked, squeezing my hand.

I looked down at Chris laughing to his teammates, and then turned to Travis. “Absolutely. Teach that asshole some manners.”

A mischievous grin spread across his face, and he walked down to the end of the table where Chris sat. Silence spread across the room, and Chris swallowed back his laughter.

“Hey, I was just givin’ you a hard time, Travis,” he said, looking up at him.

“Apologize to Pidge,” Travis said, glowering down at him.

Chris looked down at me with a nervous grin. “I…I was just kidding, Abby. I’m sorry.”

I glared at him as he looked up to Travis for approval. When Travis walked away, Chris snickered, and then whispered something to Brazil. My heart began to pound when I saw Travis stop in his tracks and ball his hands into fists at his side.

Brazil shook his head and huffed in an exasperated sigh. “Just remember when you wake up, Chris…that you bring it on yourself.”

Travis lifted Finch’s tray off the table and swung it into Chris’ face, knocking him off his chair. Chris tried to scramble under the table, but Travis pulled him out by his legs, and then began to wail on him.

Chris curled into a ball, and then Travis kicked him in the back. Chris arched and turned, holding his hands out, allowing Travis to land several punches to his face. The blood began to flow, and Travis stood up, winded.

“If you even look at her you piece of shit, I’ll break your fuckin’ jaw!” Travis yelled. I winced when he kicked Chris in the leg one last time.

The women working in the cafeteria scampered out, shocked at the bloody mess on the floor.

“Sorry,” Travis said, wiping Chris’ blood from his cheek.

Some of the students stood up to get a better look; others remained seated, watching with mild amusement. The football team simply stared at Chris’ limp body on the floor, shaking their heads.

Travis turned, and Shepley stood, grabbing both my arm and America’s hand, pulling us out the door behind his cousin. We walked the short distance to Morgan Hall, and America and I sat on the front steps, watching Travis pace back and forth.

“You okay, Trav?” Shepley asked.

“Just…give me a minute,” he said, putting his hands low on his hips as he walked.

Shepley shoved his hands in his pockets. “I’m surprised you stopped.”

“Pidge said to teach him some manners, Shep, not kill him. It took everything I had to quit when I did.”

America slipped on her large, square sunglasses to look up at Travis. “What did Chris say that set you off, anyway?”

“Something he’ll never say again,” Travis seethed.

America looked to Shepley, who shrugged. “I didn’t hear it.”

Travis’ hands balled into fists again. “I’m goin’ back in there.”

Shepley touched Travis’ shoulder. “Your girls out here . You don’t need to go back in there.”

Travis looked at me, forcing himself to stay calm. “He said…everyone thinks Pidge has…Jesus, I can’t even say it.”

“Just say it already,” America muttered, picking at her nails.

Finch walked up behind Travis, clearly thrilled by all the excitement. “Every straight guy at Eastern wants to try her out because she landed the unattainable Travis Maddox,” he shrugged. “That’s what they’re saying in there now, at least.”

Travis shouldered past Finch, heading for the cafeteria. Shepley bolted after him, grabbing his arm. My hands flew to my mouth when Travis swung, and Shepley ducked. My eyes darted to America who was unaffected, accustomed to their routine.

I could think of only one thing to do to stop him. I scrambled off the steps, wheeling around, directly in his path. I jumped on him, wrapping my legs around his waist, and he gripped my thighs as I grabbed each side of his face, planting a long, deep kiss on his mouth. I could feel his anger melt away as he kissed me, and when I pulled away, I knew I had won.

“We don’t care what they think, remember? You can’t start now ,” I said, smiling with confidence. I had more of an effect on him than I ever thought possible.

“I can’t let them talk about you like that, Pigeon,” he said with a frustrated frown, lowering me to my feet.

I slid my arms under his, interlocking my fingers behind his back. “Like what? They think I have something special because you’ve never settled down before. Do you disagree?”

“Hell no, I just can’t stand the thought of every guy in this school wanting to bag you because of it.” He pressed his forehead against mine. “This is going to make me crazy. I can already tell.”

“Don’t let them get to you, Travis,” Shepley said. “You can’t fight everybody.”

Travis sighed. “Everybody. How would you feel if everybody thought about America like that?”

“Who says they don’t?” America said, offended. We all laughed, and America made a face. “I wasn’t kidding.”

Shepley pulled her to her feet by her hands and kissed her cheek. “We know, Baby. I gave up being jealous a long time ago. I’d never have time to do anything else.”

America smiled in appreciation, and then hugged him. Shepley had an uncanny ability to make everyone around him feel at ease, no doubt the result from growing up around Travis and his brothers. It was probably more of a defense mechanism than anything.

Travis nuzzled my ear, and I giggled until I saw Parker approach. The same sense of urgency I’d felt when Travis wanted to return to the cafeteria overcame me, and I instantly let go of Travis to quickly walked the ten or so feet to intercept Parker.

“I need to talk to you,” he said.

I glanced behind me, and then shook my head as a warning. “Now is not a good time, Parker. It’s a really, really bad time, actually. Travis and Chris got into it at lunch, and he’s still a little raw. You need to go.”

Parker eyed Travis, and then returned his attention to me, determined. “I just heard what happened in the cafeteria. I don’t think you realize what you’re getting yourself into. Travis is bad news, Abby. Everyone knows it. No one is talking about how great it is that you’ve turned him around…they’re all waiting for him to do what he does best. I don’t know what he’s told you, but you have no clue what kind of person he is.”

I felt Travis’ hands on my shoulders. “Why don’t you tell her, then?”

Parker shifted nervously. “Do you know how many humiliated girls I’ve taken home from parties after they’ve spent a few hours alone in a room with him? He’s going to hurt you.”

Travis fingers tightened in reaction, and I rested my hand on his until he relaxed. “You should go, Parker.”

“You should listen to what I’m saying, Abs.”

“Don’t fucking call her that,” Travis growled.

Parker didn’t take his eyes from mine. “I’m worried about you.”

“I appreciate it, but it’s unnecessary.”

Parker shook his head. “He saw you as a long-term challenge, Abby. He has you thinking you’re different from the other girls so he could get you in the sack. He’s going to get tired of you. He has the attention span of a toddler.”

Travis stepped around me, standing so close to Parker that their noses nearly touched. “I let you have your say. My patience has run out.” Parker tried to look at me, but Travis leaned in his way. “Don’t you fucking look at her. Look at me you spoiled shit stain.” Parker focused on Travis’ eyes and waited. “If you so much as breathe in her direction, I’ll make sure you’ll be limping through med school.”

Parker took a few steps back until I was in his line of sight. “I thought you were smarter than that,” he said, shaking his head before turning away.

Travis watched him leave, and then turned around, his eyes searching mine. “You know that’s a bunch of bullshit, right? It’s not true.”

“I’m sure that’s what everyone is thinking,” I grumbled, noting the interest of those walking by.

“Then I’ll prove them wrong.”

 

As the week wore on, Travis took his promise very seriously. He no longer humored the girls that stopped him on his way to and from class, and at times he was rude about it. By the time we walked into The Red for the Halloween party, I was a little nervous about how he planned to keep the intoxicated co-eds away.

America, Finch and I sat at a nearby table while watching Shepley and Travis play pool against two of their Sig Tau brothers.

“Go, Baby!” America called, standing up on the rungs of her stool.

Shepley winked at her and then took his shot, sinking it into the far right pocket.

“Wooo!” she squealed.

A trio of women dressed as Charlie’s Angels approached Travis while he waited his turn, and I smiled as he tried his best to ignore them. When one of them traced the line of one of his tattoos, Travis pulled his arm away. He waved her off so he could make a shot, and she pouted to her friends.

“Can you believe how ridiculous they are? The girls here are shameless,” America said.

Finch shook his head in awe. “It’s Travis. I think it’s the bad-boy thing. They either want to save him, or think they’re immune to his wicked ways. I’m not sure which.”

“It’s probably both,” I laughed, giggling at the girls waiting for Travis to pay them attention. “Can you imagine hoping you’re the one he’ll pick? Knowing you’ll be used for sex?”

“Daddy issues,” America said, taking a sip of her drink.

Finch put out his cigarette, and tugged on our dresses. “Come on girls! The Finch wants to dance!”

“Only if you promise not to call yourself that ever again,” America said.

Finch jutted out his bottom lip, and America smiled. “Come on, Abby. You don’t wanna make Finch cry, do you?”

We joined the policemen and vampires on the dance floor, and Finch broke out his Timberlake moves. I glanced at Travis over my shoulder and caught him watching me from the corner of his eye, pretending to watch Shepley sink the eight ball for the game. Shepley collected their winnings, and Travis walked to the long, shallow table that bordered the dance floor, taking a drink. Finch flailed about the dance floor, finally sandwiching himself between America and me. Travis rolled his eyes, chuckling as he returned to our table with Shepley.

“I’m going to get another drink, want anything?” America shouted over the music.

“I’ll go with you,” I said, looking to Finch and pointing at the bar.

Finch shook his head and continued to dance. America and I shouldered through the crowd to the bar. The bartenders were overwhelmed, so we settled in for a long wait.

“The boys are making a killing tonight,” America said.

I leaned into her ear. “Why anyone bets against Shep I’ll never understand.”

“For the same reason they bet against Travis. They’re idiots,” she smiled.

A man in a toga leaned against the bar beside America and smiled. “What are you ladies drinking this evening?”

“We buy our own beverages, thanks,” America said, facing forward.

“I’m Mike,” he said, and then pointed to his friend, “This is Logan.”

I smiled politely, looking to America who made her best go away expression. The bartender took our order, and then nodded behind us, turning to make America’s drink. She brought over a square glass full of pink, frothy liquid, and three beers. Mike handed her some money and she nodded.

“This is something else,” Mike said, scanning the crowd.

“Yeah,” America said, annoyed.

“I saw you dancing out there,” Logan said to me, nodding to the dance floor. “You looked good.”

“Uh…thanks,” I said, trying to remain polite, wary that Travis was just a few yards away.

“You wanna dance?” he asked.

I shook my head. “No, thanks. I’m here with my—,”

“Boyfriend,” Travis said, appearing out of nowhere. He glared at the men standing in front of us, and they backed away a bit, clearly intimidated.

America couldn’t contain her smug smile as Shepley wrapped his arm around her. Travis nodded across the room. “Run along, now.”

The men glanced at America and me, and then took a few cautious steps backward before retreating behind the safety of the crowd.

Shepley kissed America. “I can’t take you anywhere!” She giggled, and I smiled at Travis, who was glowering down at me.

“What?”

 

“Why did you let him buy your drink?”

America let go of Shepley, noticing Travis’ mood. “We didn’t, Travis. I told them not to.”

Travis took the bottle from my hand. “Then what’s this?”

“Are you serious?” I asked.

“Yes, I’m fucking serious,” he said, tossing the beer in the trashcan by the bar. “I’ve told you a hundred times…you can’t be taking drinks from random guys. What if he put something in it?”

America held up her glass. “The drinks were never out of our sight, Trav. You’re overreacting.”

“I’m not talking to you,” Travis said, his eyes boring into mine.

“Hey!” I said, instantly angry. “Don’t’ talk to her like that.”

“Travis,” Shepley warned, “let it go.”

“I don’t like you letting other guys buy you drinks,” Travis said.

I raised an eyebrow. “Are you trying to pick a fight?”

“Would it bother you to walk up to the bar and see me sharing a drink with some chick?”

I nodded once. “Okay. You’re oblivious to all women, now. I get it. I should be making the same effort.”

“It would be nice.” He was clearly trying to subdue his temper, and it was a bit unnerving to be on the wrong side of his wrath. His eyes were still bright with anger, and an innate urge to go on the offensive bubbled to the surface.

“You’re going to have to tone down the jealous boyfriend-thing, Travis. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Travis shot me an incredulous look. “I walk up here, and some guy is buying you a drink!”

“Don’t yell at her!” America said.

Shepley put his hand on Travis’ shoulder. “We’ve all had a lot to drink. Let’s just get out of here.” Shepley’s usually calming effect was lost on Travis, and I was instantly annoyed that his tantrum had ended our night.

“I have to tell Finch we’re leaving,” I grumbled, shouldering past Travis to the dance floor.

A warm hand encapsulated my wrist. I wheeled around, seeing Travis’ fingers locked without regret. “I’ll go with you.”

I twisted my arm from his grip. “I am fully capable of walking a few feet by myself, Travis. What is wrong with you?”

I spied Finch in the middle, and pushed my way out to him.

“We’re leaving!”

“What?” Finch yelled over the music.

“Travis is in a pissy mood! We’re leaving!”

Finch rolled his eyes and shook his head, waving as I left the dance floor. Just as I spotted America and Shepley, I was tugged backward by a man in a pirate costume.

“Where do you think you’re going?” he smiled, bumping up against me.

I laughed and shook my head at the silly face he was making. Just as I turned to walk away, he grabbed my arm. It didn’t take long for me to realize he wasn’t grabbing at me, he was grabbing for me — for protection.

“Whoa!” he cried, looking beyond me with wide eyes.

Travis barreled his way onto the dance floor, and plunged his fist straight into the pirate’s face, the force sending both of us to the ground. With my palms flat on the wooden floor, I blinked my eyes in stunned disbelief. Feeling something warm and wet on my hand, I turned it over and recoiled. It was covered in blood from the man’s nose. His hand was cupped over his face, but the bright red liquid poured down his forearm as he writhed on the floor.

Travis scrambled to pick me up, seeming as shocked as I was. “Oh shit! Are you all right, Pidge?”

When I got to my feet, I yanked my arm from his grip. “Are you insane ?”

America grabbed my wrist and pulled me through the crowd to the parking lot. Shepley unlocked his doors and after I slid into my seat, Travis turned to me.

“I’m sorry, Pigeon, I didn’t know he had a hold of you.”

“Your fist was two inches from my face!” I said, catching the oil-stained towel Shepley had thrown at me. I wiped the blood from my hand, revolted.

The seriousness of the situation darkened his face and he winced. “I wouldn’t have swung if I thought I could have hit you. You know that right?”

“Shut up, Travis. Just shut up,” I said, staring at the back of Shepley’s head.

“Pidge…,” Travis began.

Shepley hit his steering wheel with the heel of his hand. “Shut up, Travis! You said you’re sorry, now shut the fuck up!”

The trip home was made in complete silence. Shepley pulled his seat forward to let me out of the car, and I looked to America, who nodded with understanding.

She kissed her boyfriend goodnight. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Baby.”

Shep nodded in resignation and kissed her. “Love you.”

I walked past Travis to America’s Honda, and he jogged to my side. “C’mon. Don’t leave mad.”

“Oh, I’m not leaving mad. I’m furious.”

“She needs some time to cool off, Travis,” America warned, unlocking her door.

When the passenger side lock popped, Travis held his hand against the door. “Don’t leave, Pigeon. I was out of line. I’m sorry .”

I held up my hand, showing him the remnants of dried blood on my palm. “Call me when you grow up.”

He leaned against the door with his hip. “You can’t leave.”

I raised an eyebrow, and Shepley jogged around the car beside us. “Travis, you’re drunk. You’re about to make a huge mistake. Just let her go home, cool off…you can both talk tomorrow when you’re sober.”

Travis’ expression turned desperate. “She can’t leave,” he said, staring into my eyes.

“It’s not going to work, Travis,” I said, tugging on the door. “Move!”

“What do you mean it’s not gonna work?” Travis asked, grabbing my arm.

“I mean the sad face. I’m not falling for it,” I said, pulling away.

Shepley watched Travis for a moment, and then turned to me. “Abby…this is the moment I was talking about. Maybe you should…,”

“Stay out of it, Shep,” America snapped, starting the car.

“I’m gonna fuck up. I’m gonna fuck up a lot, Pidge, but you have to forgive me.”

“I’m going to have a huge bruise on my ass in the morning! You hit that guy because you were pissed at me ! What should that tell me? Because red flags are going up all over the place right now!”

“I’ve never hit a girl in my life,” he said, surprised at my words.

“And I’m not about to be the first one!” I said, tugging on the door. “Move, damn it!”

Travis nodded, and then took a step back. I sat beside America, slamming the door. She put the car in reverse, and Travis leaned down to look at me through the window.

“You’re going to call me tomorrow, right?” he said, touching the windshield.

“Just go, Mare,” I said, refusing to meet his eyes.

The night was long. I kept looking at the clock, and cringed when I saw that another hour had passed. I couldn’t stop thinking about Travis and whether or not I would call him, wondering if he was awake as well. I finally resorted to sticking the ear buds of my iPod in my ear and listening to every loud, obnoxious song on my playlist.

The last time I looked at the clock, it was after four. The birds were already chirping outside my window, and I smiled when my eyes began to feel heavy. It seemed like just a few moments later when I heard a knock at the door, and America burst through it. She pulled the ear buds from my ears and then fell into my desk chair.

“Mornin’ sunshine. You look like hell,” she said, blowing a pink bubble from her mouth and then letting it smack loudly as it popped.

“Shut UP, America!” Kara said from under her covers.

“You realize people like you and Trav are going to fight, right?” America said, filing her nails as she chewed the huge wad of gum in her mouth.

I turned over on the bed. “You are officially fired. You are a terrible conscience.”

She laughed. “I just know you. If I handed you my keys right now, you’d drive straight over there.”

“I would not!”

“Whatever,” she lilted.

“It’s eight o’clock in the morning, Mare. They’re probably still passed out cold.”

Just then, I heard a faint knock on the door. Kara’s arm shot out from under her comforter and turned the knob. The door slowly opened, revealing Travis in the doorway.

“Can I come in?” he asked in a low, raspy voice. The purple circles under his eyes announced his lack of sleep, if he’d had any at all.

I sat up in bed, startled by his exhausted appearance. “Are you okay?”

He walked in and fell to his knees in front of me. “I’m so sorry, Abby. I’m sorry ,” he said, wrapping his arms around my waist and burying his head in my lap.

I cradled his head in my arms and peered up at America.

“I’m uh…I’m gonna go,” she said, awkwardly fumbling for the door handle.

Kara rubbed her eyes and sighed, and then grabbed her shower bag. “I’m always very clean when you’re around, Abby,” she grumbled, slamming the door behind her.

Travis looked up at me. “I know I get crazy when it comes to you, but God knows I’m tryin’, Pidge. I don’t wanna screw this up.”

“Then don’t.”

“This is hard for me, ya know. I feel like any second you’re going to figure out what a piece of shit I am and leave me. When you were dancing last night, I saw a dozen different guys watching you. You go to the bar, and I see you thank that guy for your drink. Then that douchebag on the dance floor grabs you.”

“You don’t see me throwing punches every time a girl talks to you. I can’t stay locked up in the apartment all the time. You’re going to have to get a handle on your temper.”

“I will. I’ve never wanted a girlfriend before, Pigeon. I’m not used to feeling this way about someone…about anyone . If you’ll be patient with me, I swear I’ll get it figured out.”

“Let’s get something straight; you’re not a piece of shit, you’re amazing. It doesn’t matter who buys me drinks, or who asks me to dance, or who flirts with me. I’m going home with you. You’ve asked me to trust you, and you don’t seem to trust me.”

He frowned. “That’s not true.”

“If you think I’m going to leave you for the next guy that comes along, then you don’t have much faith in me.”

He tightened his grip. “I’m not good enough for you, Pidge. That doesn’t mean I don’t trust you, I’m just bracing for the inevitable.”

“Don’t say that. When we’re alone, you’re perfect. We’re perfect. But then you let everyone else ruin it. I don’t expect a one-eighty, but you have to pick your battles. You can’t come out swinging every time someone looks at me.”

He nodded. “I’ll do anything you want. Just…tell me you love me.”

“You know I do.”

“I need to hear you say it,” he said, his brows pulling together.

“I love you,” I said, touching my lips to his. “Now quit being such a baby.”

He laughed, crawling into the bed with me. We spent the next hour in the same spot under the covers, giggling and kissing, barely noticing when Kara returned from the shower.

“Could you get out? I have to get dressed,” Kara said to Travis, tightening her robe.

Travis kissed my cheek, and then stepped into the hall. “See ya in a sec.”

I fell against my pillow as Kara rummaged though through her closet. “What are you so happy about?” she grumbled.

“Nothing,” I sighed.

“Do you know what co-dependency is, Abby? Your boyfriend is a prime example, which is creepy considering he went from having no respect for women at all to thinking he needs you to breathe.”

“Maybe he does,” I said, refusing to let her spoil my mood.

“Don’t you wonder why that is? I mean…he’s been through half the girls at this school. Why you?”

“He says I’m different.”

“Sure he does. But why?”

“Why do you care?” I snapped.

“It’s dangerous to need someone that much. You’re trying to save him and he’s hoping you can. You two are a disaster.”

I smiled at the ceiling. “It doesn’t matter what or why it is. When it’s good, Kara…it’s beautiful.”

She rolled her eyes. “You’re hopeless.”

Travis knocked on the door, and Kara let him in.

“I’m going to the commons to study. Good luck,” she said in the most insincere voice she could muster.

“What was that about?” Travis asked.

“She said we’re a disaster.”

“Tell me something I don’t know,” he smiled. His eyes were suddenly focused, and he kissed the tender skin behind my ear. “Why don’t you come home with me?”

I rested my hand on the back of his neck and sighed at the feeling of his soft lips against my skin. “I think I’m going to stay here. I’m constantly at your apartment.”

His head popped up. “So? You don’t like it there?”

I touched his cheek and sighed. He was so quick to worry. “Of course I do, but I don’t live there.”

He ran the tip of his nose up my neck. “I want you there. I want you there every night.”

“I’m not moving in with you,” I said, shaking my head.

“I didn’t ask you to move in with me. I said I want you there.”

“Same thing!” I laughed.

Travis frowned. “You’re really not staying with me tonight?”

I shook my head, and his eyes traveled up my wall to the ceiling. I could almost see the wheels spinning inside his head. “What are you up to?” I asked, narrowing my eyes.

“I’m trying to think of another bet.”

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