Chapter 31

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November 2014

All day I've been faced with stares and have overheard whispers, not to mention dealing with Max, who has been pestering me with questions about both Jared and Derrick between every class we share. It's been exhausting. I collapse onto my bed throwing my backpack to the side and staring at the ceiling. I couldn't believe the rumors Caroline reported back to me. The one about Derrick and I hooking up whenever I've slept over at Caroline's, the rumor Derrick himself started, is now running stronger than ever. My favorite though has got to be the one claiming that Jared and I broke up because he and Nina were caught together in the woods at the country club, an outright lie that she did nothing to refute.  

I smile, thinking how Jared will like that one too, and then frown suddenly remembering all that's changed since this morning. I'm so disappointed because I have to admit there was a small part of me that thought this time around would easier. The conveniences of the modern world, the way we think now, this was all working in my favor. I mean no one's threatening to marry me off this time! But yet I've still ended up in the same spot, sneaking around with Jared, having Max pursue me, and fake-dating Derrick. I can't fight it, and if I can't fight it, does this mean there is no way I'll ever win? I imagine doing this forever, going round and round lifetime after lifetime.  

There could be worse things. I could be somewhere where I never got to see any of them again. Somewhere I didn't get to experience the fire that he brings to me. I roll over onto my stomach and lay my cheek flat against the covers. It's crazy to imagine that just this past weekend he was here in this bed with me. I run my hand across the faded blue comforter remembering everything. The first time all over again. I think about how many first times I've had him with him. Unfortunately we've hardly ever any second or third times, but not this lifetime; I won't allow it. I want as much as I can of him, while I can still have him. I sigh and roll onto my back, frustrated and wanting him now. This is wasted time right here and I'm afraid I don't have too much of it to lose. I pick up my phone, wondering if he has his or if it's been taken away. I quickly hit his number and anxiously wait as it rings.  

"Hey there." I recognize his voice immediately and let out a sigh of relief. 

"Hi." He pauses for a moment before speaking. 

"Hi." The discomfort I hear in his voice makes me think that he isn't alone. 

"Is your dad with you?" 

"Yes." 

"Oh. I figured. Well I just wanted to tell you that I hated today." 

"Same on this end," he cryptically answers for his father's benefit. 

"And I'm all alone at home," I add, deciding to up the ante.  

"That's interesting." He's barely able to keep his voice nonchalant and it makes me giggle. 

"I wish I could see you," I breathe into the phone, suddenly serious and missing him terribly. 

"I'll try," he promises and it's more than I had hoped for so I'm instantly on cloud nine. 

"That's all I can ask." 

"Bye dude." 

"Dude?" I laugh at him. "Very smooth."

Two hours later he's here and I'm dragging him into my bedroom.  

"I can't believe you actually came," I say in between rapid kisses as he wraps his arms around me, lifting me up and carrying me over to the bed. 

"Are you kidding me? I didn't want to leave you this morning." He sits down with me straddling his lap. His arms hang low around my waist, holding onto me tightly. "How'd it go today?" I make a face and he laughs deeply. "That good, huh?"  

"Everyone bought it, I guess. People were talking about me all day that's for sure." He holds me tighter, frowning now too. 

"And what about Derrick?" I can tell this is the question he wants answered the most and probably the least as well. I get it over with. 

"You're looking at his new girlfriend. Now everyone is busy trying to figure out how it all happened. You should hear some of the rumors!" I smile, kissing the edge of his frown until the corners of his mouth rise once again.  

"People bought it that easily?" he asks, amazed by this. I shake my head. 

"Not everyone. I told Derrick to stop asking questions and Max, of course he hasn't stopped." That old look of jealousy returns to his face as it always does when Max or any of his former selves are ever mentioned. He rubs his hands down my back and squeezes me closer against him.  

"Max? What'd he say?" I think he's trying to sound indifferent, but it's thinly veiled.  

"He's suspicious to say the least. It'll make you feel better to know that he respects my relationship with Derrick even less than he did our relationship."  

"That doesn't make me feel better at all!" He looks at me with his handsome face stricken as I put my hands on either side, and try to smooth the horror off it.  

"Jared I can handle Max. Trust me, I know how to." He looks into my eyes. 

"I trust you Ellie; it's Max that I don't trust." I know exactly what he means. You never know with Max. "So what happened with Derrick?" he hesitantly asks, like he's not sure if he wants to know. I sigh, prepared for this. 

"Nothing happened...until lunch. Derrick got into another fight and this time it was with a guy from the team. It was bad. He was practically calling him out on lying about me being his girlfriend and everyone was watching. So I did it." I quickly see if I'm losing Jared but I'm not, his arms are still around me, his face is filled with curiousity, if anything. "I kissed him." I watch him closely. His body tenses and his arms tighten as if he's afraid he's going to lose me. "I can't tell you how beyond nothing it was." He shakes his head at me.  

"Uh-uh. Don't do that. It's not nothing; it's a kiss. Every one you give me to me is special." 

"That's because it's you," I lean forward and plant another so-called special kiss on his lips.  

Unlike in the past where we were forced into clandestine meetings in the woods, having Jared hiding out here in my bedroom is like a gift, not a punishment. And also unlike the past, I don't have any social moral code holding me back. I'm free to touch him without feeling shameful about it. Each time around it just gets better and better like that. I run my hand down his solid chest.  

"So how long do I have you for Mr. Morrison?" He smiles, laying back onto the bed and taking me with him.  

"About an hour. I'm supposed to be dropping some books off at the library." He sheepishly smiles at the lie. 

"An hour, huh?" I l bend over him, my hair cascading around us creating our own personal sanctuary. Leaning down, I kiss his jawline as he squeezes me against him. "That's plenty of time," I whisper, working my way up to his perfect lips. 

"More than enough," he murmurs, meeting me and taking me away into our own little world, where there's just the two of us, and not a single problem exists.

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