chapter ten

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"I find it almost funny," I began, speaking to Ben through the open door between our rooms. He leaned forward, his hands placed on either side of the doorway, eyebrow raised in amusement. "that you're so critical of who I date and who I'm attracted to, yet Monica Wilkinson was your rebound in high school."

"Keyword, Sam"—He bit this out, using the nickname he knew I hated—"high school."

"And I didn't find you guys' tongues down each other's throats in the back of the library last semester?"

His jaw slightly clenched, just enough so that a small, protruding vein in his forehead ticked. However, he fought a smirk through it, as though this was both funny and aggravating at the same time. "She was helping me destress. You can't tell me that you and Jeremy never had a library session before, if you know what I mean."

He winked. I glared.

"Actually, I hold myself to a certain standard in which I like to refrain from public displays of affection," I replied, shooting him a sarcastic smile. "Plus Jeffrey and I liked to do library things in the library. Such as studying. And caring about our GPAs and getting a degree."

"So you're telling me that if I did this in public"—It all occurred in a split second, but the next thing I knew, Ben's hands were cupping my cheeks and his forehead brushed mine, his lips teasing my own only millimeters away—"you'd ask me to stop?

And for a split second, this wasn't the guy I grew up loving and hating and toying with his heart before he did the same with mine. This was the guy who made the pit of my stomach churn in delight and my cognition go slightly fuzzy. This guy could do that in a single second, while Jeffrey wasn't able to in 730 days.

I opened my mouth to say something, when he moved away from me and stepped back into his room. "Just kidding. Why would I do that in public when you seem more interested in Mr. English you saw at the buffet for three minutes?"

A smile played on my lips when he said that, and I folded my arms across my chest. "Are you jealous, Benny?"

"No. And don't call me that."

I snorted. "I may be a bad liar, Ben, but you're quite possibly worse."

"I'm not jealous, and I'm not lying," he stated, beginning to unbutton his shirt. We were supposed to be heading to the pool ten minutes ago, yet here we were too busy arguing over the dumbest things. "I'm just trying to protect you from your horrible guy choices."

"Protect me?" I opened my suitcase next to the door and fished around for my bathing suit. "I'm not a child."

His shirt was completely unbuttoned now, the gap between the buttons exposing his smooth skin. He leaned a hand against the doorway and looked me in the eyes. "Samar, I don't care how much we claim we hate each other. I've known you since we were toddlers; therefore, a small—and I say very small—part of me cares about you."

I clutched my chest. "Aw, that is the sweetest thing you've ever said to me."

"Oh, shut up," he said, a smirk tugging on the corner of his lips.

And then he slammed the door shut between us.


╍╍╍╍╍


Our elevator ride down was awkward again.

We stood at opposite sides, though slightly closer than the last. I was too busy fiddling with my coverup to care. The thought of having to take it off and go swimming made shudders move down my spine. Childhood memories kept poisoning my brain and closing my eyes didn't alleviate the situation.

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