GOD. WAS I really going to do this?
The sound of the basketball hitting the gym floor grew louder as I drew closer. He was in there. I could already feel his dark presence. The need to submit to fear was trying to overpower my stupidity.
The gym door stared back at me, and the cause of my problems was on the other side. I sucked in air and pushed through the doors in time to see him take a shot. The swish of the net was the only sound until the ball hit the court again.
I thought he would go after it, but he didn’t. He stood still and watched the ball bounce until it rolled away and still, he didn’t move.
His chest moved up and down, and from where I was, I could see the sweat running over his tan skin.
I wondered what was wrong with him until his head slowly turned and his gaze found mine.
With one glance, he knocked the fight out of me. I wanted to run, but my legs were lead.
“What?” he snarled.
“Do you seriously just interrupt my practice so I can listen to you fucking stutter?”
“No. I wanted to— I got your n—note.”
“What note?” His tone was flat and disinterested. He turned away from me to retrieve the ball.
“Nope.” He picked up the ball and took a shot. It slipped through the net with ease. “You’ll have to tell me.”
The notepaper crinkled under my tightening fist, and I felt my feet move across the court that vibrated under the force of the ball bouncing on it repeatedly. “I have it here if you want to see. I know you wrote it.”
“And?” He took another shot but missed. I watched him grit his teeth and turn on me.
“What does it mean?”
“You’re safe from me today, Monroe. I suggest you take advantage of it.”
“But why?” Why was I questioning this? I wasn’t disappointed. Not in the least. But I was suspicious.
“Why are you doing this and why today?”
“Are you a fucking masochist? Do you want me to hurt you?” He took quick steps toward me. I retreated as quickly as I could but fast wasn’t fast enough. I stumbled and fell on my ass. He followed and leaned down, thrusting his face into mine. “If you want something from me, say it,” he growled. His voice was too deep. Too raw.
His face was twisted and his breathing deepened.
I could have sworn his gaze dropped to my lips before they shot back up and darkened.
What just happened?
“I want to know what you mean by being yours.” My voice was small, and I hated that. He didn’t move for the longest time and remained crouched over me. I couldn’t stand the closeness. It suffocated me.
I used my hands to slide back and give us some space, but I wasn’t prepared for his hand around my throat. This was it. He was finally going to kill me like he’d been threatening since we were eight.
I pushed against his shoulders not wanting to wait for him to squeeze the life from me, but he only leaned forward, forcing my back against the court floor, and moved his body over mine.
I felt my nipples harden under my t-shirt and flushed with the embarrassment when his gaze lowered, taking notice. His nostrils flared, and then he met my gaze again. My entire body trembled when his head lowered until his lips were dangerously close to mine.
Would he kiss me?
Why would he put himself so close to me?
Our position was far too intimate and nothing I had ever experienced before. It made me dizzy with confusion and fear and… excitement?
“It means you’re fucked.”
The way Kieran uttered the word was like an electric shock. I wanted to repeat it and see if he had the same response, but he let go of my neck and stood to his feet.
He hadn’t choked me, but for some reason, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I gasped and drew in air as quickly as I could. The room spun as I slowly rose to my feet, feeling angry that I had let him touch me that way. He had no right, and I knew it wasn’t okay. More than anything, I wanted to demand he never touch me again, but I knew it would only challenge him to do just that or worse.
It was early, and there was no one around except Willow, who was probably already hiding in the school library. It was where we always hung out before school started. We didn’t mix with the crowd for different reasons, but she was the only one who was willing to be friends with me despite Keiran’s influence.
I watched him pick up the ball. His back was turned to me, and I couldn’t help admiring how broad and strong it looked even at our age. He had an athlete’s body. There was no mistaking that. He was stronger than me in more ways than one. I bet he’d never let anyone treat him like he did me. It made me wonder where he came from and what made him so tough.
His voice cut through the silence like an explosion. I immediately turned to go, knowing challenging him would bring consequences I couldn’t handle. This was not normal.
He was not normal.
“Monroe,” he called out before I could escape. I didn’t turn around. I didn’t need to. I could feel him watching me. “I won’t control myself next time.”
The sound of the ball hitting the court rhythmically echoed long after the doors closed.