She does know Harrison prefers men, right?”“Let her have hope,” I said, smiling to myself.He turned his attention back to me. “Yes. Hope is good. Bianca, I-” He grinned wickedly. “I knew you’d give in sooner or later.” He put his hand on my knee and ran it smoothly up my thigh. “You’re finally going to admit that you love me, aren’t you?”I swatted his hand away. “First of all,” I began, “I don’t love you. I love my family and maybe even Casey and Jessica, but romantic love takes years upon years to develop. So I don’t love you. But I will admit, I’ve thought a lot about you lately and I definitely have feelings for you… feelings other than hatred for the most part. And maybe it’s possible-in the future-that I… could love you.” I hesitated, a little scared of the words that’d just left my mouth. “But I still want to kill you most of the time.
If I tell Dad he has a problem, he’ll think I hate him. How can I hurt him more? He just lost everything.”Wesley shook his head. “Not everything. He didn’t lose you,” he said. “At least not yet. If you don’t talk to him, he’ll just end up driving you away, and then he will be in far worse pain.
Before he could say my name, I closed the space between us. Quickly, my lips moved against his. The mental and emotional emptiness took over instantly, but physically, I was more alert than ever. Wesley’s surprise didn’t last as long as it had before, and his hands were on me in seconds. My fingers tangled in his soft hair, and Wesley’s tongue darted into my mouth and became a new weapon in our war.Once again, my body took complete control of everything. Nothing existed at the corners of my mind; no irritating thoughts harassed me. Even the sounds of Wesley’s stereo, which had been playing some piano rock I didn’t recognize, faded away as my sense of touch heightened.I was fully conscious of Wesley’s hand as it slid up my torso and moved to cup my breast. With an effort, I pushed him away from me. His eyes were wide as he leaned back. “Please don’t slap me again,” he said.“Shut up.”I could have stopped there. I could have stood up and left the room. I could have let that kiss be the end of it. But I didn’t. The mind-numbing sensation I got from kissing him was so euphoric-such a high-that I couldn’t stand to give it up that fast. I might have hated Wesley Rush, but he held the key to my escape, and at that moment I wanted him… I needed him.Without speaking, without hesitating, I pulled my T-shirt over my head and threw it onto Wesley’s bedroom floor. He didn’t have a chance to say anything before I put my hands on his shoulders and shoved him onto his back. A second later, I was straddling him and we were kissing again. His fingers undid the clasp on my bra, and it joined my shirt on the floor.I didn’t care. I didn’t feel self-conscious or shy. I mean, he already knew I was the Duff, and it wasn’t like I had to impress him.I unbuttoned his shirt as he pulled the alligator clip from my hair and let the auburn waves fall around us. Casey had been right. Wesley had a great body. The skin pulled tight over his sculpted chest, and my hands drifted down his muscular arms with amazement.His lips moved to my neck, giving me a moment to breathe. I could only smell his cologne this close to him. As his mouth traveled down my shoulder, a thought pushed through the exhilaration. I wondered why he hadn’t shoved me-Duffy-away in disgust.Then again, I realized, Wesley wasn’t known for rejecting girls. And I was the one who should have been disgusted.But his mouth pressed into mine again, and that tiny, fleeting thought died. Acting on instinct, I pulled on Wesley’s lower lip with my teeth, and he moaned quietly. His hands moved over my ribs, sending chills up my spine. Bliss. Pure, unadulterated bliss.Only once, as Wesley flipped me onto my back, did I seriously consider stopping. He looked down at me, and his skilled hand grasped the zipper on my jeans. My dormant brain stirred, and I asked myself if things had gone too far. I thought about pushing him away, ending it right where we were. But why would I stop now? What did I stand to lose? Yet what could I possibly gain? How would I feel about this in an hour… or sooner?Before I could come up with any answers, Wesley had my jeans and underwear off. He pulled a condom from his pocket (okay, now that I’m thinking about it, who keeps condoms in their pockets? Wallet, yes, but pocket? Pretty presumptuous, don’t you think?), and then his pants were on the floor, too. All of a sudden, we were having sex, and my thoughts were muted again.
Wow,” Wesley said. We were lying in his bed only a few minutes after we’d finished, with a foot or more space between our bodies. “I definitely wasn’t expecting that.”God, he ruined everything when he talked. Annoyed, and still wading through the emotional repercussions, I sneered. “What? Ashamed that you screwed the Duff?”“No.” I was surprised by how serious he sounded. “I’m never ashamed of anyone I sleep with. Sex is a natural chemical reaction. It always happens for a reason. Who am I to dictate who experiences the joy of sharing my bed?” He didn’t see me roll my eyes as he continued. “No, I just meant that I’m shocked. I was honestly starting to believe that you hated me.”“I do hate you,” I assured him, kicking off the covers and moving to pick up my clothes.“You must not hate me too much,” Wesley said, rolling onto his elbow and watching me dress. “You did pretty much throw yourself at me. Generally, hatred doesn’t inspire that kind of passion.”I pulled on my T-shirt. “Believe me, Wesley, I definitely hate you. I was just using you. You use people all the time, so I’m sure you understand.” I buttoned my jeans and grabbed my alligator clip from the nightstand. “This was fun, but if you ever tell anyone, I swear I’ll castrate you.
I looked at him, into his warm gray eyes, and suddenly understood what he was trying to tell me. The message hidden beneath the
Look, I’ve already fucked you twice. You don’t have to flatter me. Besides, I love my friends way too much to trade them in for the sake of looking hotter.”“Seriously?”“Yeah. I mean, Casey has been my best friend since, like, forever, and she’s the most loyal person I’ve ever met. And Jessica… well, she has no idea about me and her brother. We weren’t friends back then. In fact, I didn’t want to know her after Jake and I split, but Casey said it would be good for me, and she was right… as usual. Jessica can be a little ditsy, but she’s the sweetest, most innocent person I know. I could never give either of them up just to look good. That’d make me a real dumbass.”“Then they’re lucky to have you.”“I just said not to flatter-”“I’m being honest.” Wesley frowned at the mirror. “I have only one friend-one real friend. Harrison is the only guy who will be seen with me, and that’s because we aren’t trying to attract the same audience, if you know what I mean.” A small smile spread across his lips when he turned to face me. “Most people will do anything to avoid being the Duff.”“Well, I guess I’m not most people.
Bianca?”Startled, I focused on Toby again. “Hmm?”“Are you all right?” he asked.My fingers had been toying with the little B charm around my neck without my realizing it. Immediately I dropped my hand to my side. “I’m fine.”“Casey warned me that you’re probably lying when you say that,” he said.I gritted my teeth and searched the dance floor for my so-called friend. She was being added to my hit list.“And I think she’s right,” Toby sighed.“What?”“Bianca, I can see what’s going on.” He glanced over his shoulder at Wesley before turning back to me with a little nod. “He’s been staring at you since he got here.”“Has he?”“I can see him in the mirrors over there. And you’ve been staring back,” Toby said. “It’s not just tonight either. I’ve seen the way he looks at you during school. In the hallways. He likes you, doesn’t he?”“I… I don’t know. I guess.” Oh God, this was uncomfortable. I just kept spinning my straw between my fingers and watching the little waves that appeared on the surface of my drink. I couldn’t meet Toby’s gaze.“I don’t have to guess,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious. And the way you look at him makes me think you’re in love with him, too.”“No!” I cried, releasing my straw and glaring up at Toby. “No, no, no. I am not in love with him, okay?”Toby gave me a small smile and said, “But you do have feelings for him.”I couldn’t see any sign of pain in his eyes, just a touch of amusement. That made it a lot easier to give him an answer. “Um,… yeah.”“Then go to him.”I rolled my eyes without meaning to. It was just so automatic. “Jesus, Toby,” I said, “that sounds like a line out of a bad movie.”Toby shrugged. “Maybe, but I’m serious, Bianca. If you feel that way about him, you should go over there.
You know it’s true.”“Even if it is,” I cried, “what does it matter? You could sleep with anybody, Wesley. So what if I walk away? So what if I have feelings for you? I was just a screw to you! You would never actually commit to me. You could never commit to anyone, but especially not to Duffy. You don’t even find me attractive.”“Bullshit,” he growled, his eyes on my face as he moved closer to me again.He was so close. My back was pressed to the wall, and Wesley stood only inches away. It had only been a week, but it felt like ages since we’d been in this kind of proximity. A shiver ran up my spine as I remembered the way his hands felt on me. The way he’d always made me feel wanted, even if he had called me the Duff. Did he? Did he find me attractive despite the nickname? How? Why?“Then why would you call me that?” I whispered. “Do you know how much it hurts? Every time you call me Duffy, do you know how shitty it makes me feel?”Wesley looked surprised. “What?”“Every time you call me that,” I said, “you’re telling me how little you think of me. How ugly I am. God, how can you possibly find me attractive when you put me down all the time.” I hissed the last words through gritted teeth.“I didn’t-” His eyes fell, staring at his shoes for a moment. I could tell he felt guilty. “Bianca, I’m sorry.” He looked into my eyes again. “I didn’t mean-” His hand reached out to touch me.“Don’t,” I snapped, shrugging away from him. I slid to the side and stepped away from the wall. I wasn’t going to be cornered. I wasn’t going to let him have the power here. “Just stop, Wesley.”It didn’t matter if some part of him found me attractive. That didn’t change things. I was just another girl he’d slept with. One among many.“I didn’t mean anything to you,” I told him.“Then why am I here?” he demanded, turning to face me again. “Why the hell am I here, Bianca?
What would you do without me?” he asked one night. We were tangled in the silky sheets of his gigantic bed. My heart was still pounding as I came down from the high of what we’d just done, and he wasn’t helping matters by putting his lips so close to my ear.“Live a happy… happy life,” I murmured. “I might even… be an optimist… if you weren’t around.”“Liar.” He bit my earlobe playfully. “You’d be absolutely miserable. Admit it, Duffy. I’m the wind beneath your wings.”I bit my lip, but I still couldn’t hold back the laughter-and just as I was finally catching my breath, too. “You just referenced Bette Midler… in bed. I’m starting to question your sexuality, Wesley.”Wesley looked at me with a defiant glint in his eye. “Oh, really?” He grinned before moving his mouth back to my ear and whispering, “We both know that my manhood has never been in question… I think you’re just changing the subject because you know it’s true. I’m the light of your life.”“You…” I struggled for words as Wesley pressed his mouth into the crook of my neck. The tip of his tongue moved down to my shoulder and made my brain get all fuzzy. How was I supposed to argue under these conditions? “You wish. I’m just using you, remember?”His laughter was muffled against my skin. “That’s amusing,” he said, his lips still grazing my collarbone. “Because I’m pretty sure your ex is out of town by now.” One of his hands slid between my knees. “Yet you’re still here, aren’t you?” His fingers began gliding up and down my inner thigh, making it difficult for me to think of a retort. He seemed to like this, because he laughed again. “I don’t think you hate me, Duffy. I think you like me a lot.
And,” I continued, “I’m probably going to be a bitch most of the time. I guarantee I’ll find a reason to yell at you almost every day, and don’t be surprised if a few drinks get dumped on you from time to time. That’s just me, and you’re going to have to deal with it. Because I’m not changing for you or anyone else. And I-”Wesley slid off his bar stool and pressed his lips against mine before the words could get out. My heart pounded as every thought vacated my mind. One of his arms encircled my waist, pulling me as close to him as possible, and his free hand cupped my face, his thumb tracing my cheekbone. He kissed me so passionately I thought we would catch on fire.It wasn’t until after he pulled away, both of us in need of some air, that I could think straight again.“You jerk!” I yelled, pushing him away from me. “Kissing me to make me shut up? God, you’re so obnoxious. I could just throw something at you right now.”Wesley hopped onto his bar stool with a big grin, and I suddenly remembered him telling me that I was sexy when I was mad at him. Go figure. “Excuse me, Joe,” he called to the bartender. “I think Bianca wants a Cherry Coke.”Despite my best efforts, I smiled. He wasn’t perfect, or even remotely close, for that matter, but, hey, neither was I. We were both pretty fucked up. Somehow, though, that made everything more exciting. Yeah, it was sick and twisted, but that’s reality, right? Escape is impossible, so why not embrace it?Wesley took my hand and laced his fingers with mine. “You look beautiful tonight, Bianca.
Where are you going?” Wesley asked in a semi-sleepy voice.“Home.” I pulled on my jeans. “I’ve gotta take a shower and get ready for school.”He pushed himself up on one elbow to look at me. His hair was a mess, brown curls falling into his eyes and sticking up in the back. “You can shower here,” he offered. “I might even join you if you’re lucky.
I needed something to distract me-anything far away from my parents’ drama-just for a second. And when I saw my chance I didn’t stop to think about how much I’d regret it later. An opportunity sat on the bar stool beside me, and I lunged at it. Literally.I kissed Wesley Rush.One second his hand lay on my shoulder, and his gray eyes rested, for once, on my face, and the next my mouth was on his. My lips were fierce with bottled emotion, and he seemed to tense, his body frozen in shock. That didn’t last very long. An instant later, he returned the aggression, his hands flying to my sides and pulling me toward him. It felt like a battle between our mouths. My hands clawed into his curly hair, tugging it way harder than necessary, and his fingertips dug into my waist.It worked better than punching someone would have. Not only did it help me release the agonizing pressure, but it definitely distracted me. I mean, it’s hard to think about your dad when you’re making out with somebody.And as disturbing as it sounds, Wesley was a really good kisser. He leaned into me, and I tugged at him so hard that he nearly fell off his bar stool. In that moment, we just couldn’t get close enough to each other. Our separate seats seemed like they were miles apart.All of my thoughts vanished, and I became a sort of physical being. Emotions disappeared. Nothing existed but our bodies, and our warring lips were at the center of everything. It was bliss! It was amazing not to think.Nothing! Nothing… until he screwed it up.
See!” Dad yelled. “Boys don’t stay with whores, Bianca. They leave them. And I’m not going to let you turn into a whore. Not my daughter. This is for your own good.”I looked up as he reached a hand down to grab my arm. I squeezed my eyes shut, waiting to feel his fingers clamp around my forearm.But they never did.I heard a loud thud, and Dad grunted in pain. My eyes flew open. Wesley moved away from Dad, who was massaging his jaw with a shocked look on his face. “Why you little shithead!”“Are you all right?” Wesley asked, kneeling in front of me.“Did you just punch my dad?” I couldn’t help but wonder if I was delirious. Had all of this really just happened? Totally bizarre.“Yes,” Wesley admitted.“How dare you touch me!” Dad screamed, but he was having trouble balancing enough to approach us again. “How dare you fuck my daughter, then hit me, you son of a bitch!”I’d never heard my father swear like that before.“Come on,” Wesley said, helping me to my feet. “Let’s get out of here. You’re coming with me.” He wrapped an arm around me, pulling me close against his warm body, and ushered me out the open door.
Without warning, Wesley lifted me up onto the pool table. His hands moved to my shoulders, and a second later, I was flat on my back, staring up at him as he smirked. He shifted so that he was on the table too, leaning over me with his face only inches from mine.“On the pool table?” I said, narrowing my eyes at him. “Seriously?”“I can’t resist,” he said. “You know, you’re pretty sexy when you’re pissed at me, Duffy.”First, I was struck by the irony of that statement. I mean, he used sexy and Duffy-implying I was fat and ugly-in the same sentence. The contrast was almost laughable. Almost.
Why are you here, Wesley?”“I told you,” he said. “I got worried. You’ve been avoiding me for the past week at school, and when I called you today, you didn’t answer. I thought something might have happened with your dad. So I came to make sure you were okay.”I bit my lower lip, a wave of guilt washing over me. “That’s sweet,” I murmured. “But I’m fine. Dad apologized for the other night, and he’s going to AA meetings now, so…”“So you weren’t going to tell me?”“Why would I?”“Because I care!” Wesley yelled. His words crashed into me, stunning me for a second. “I’ve been worried about you since you left my house a week ago! You didn’t even say why you left, Bianca. What was I supposed to do? Just assume you would be all right?”“God,” I whispered. “I’m sorry. I didn’t-”“I’m worrying about you, and you’re fucking that pretentious little-!”“Hey!” I shouted. “Don’t bring Toby into this.
I couldn’t resist the urge to reach over to the gearshift and put my hand over Wesley’s. His skin was warm and soft, and I could feel his pulse throbbing steadily beneath my palm. I forgot about my stupid car and my fight with Casey. I just wanted Wesley to smile again. Even that cocky grin would have worked. I hated that he was so hurt by the possibility of losing his sister’s respect. I wanted to comfort him. I cared abou
Don’t ask where I got this idea, because I couldn’t tell you, but I knew precisely where we were going, and I was sure that this might officially make me a slut. But when we reached the door of the unused janitor’s closet, I had no feeling of shame… not yet, at least.I grasped the doorknob and noticed Wesley’s eyes narrow with suspicion. I yanked open the door, checked that no one was watching, and gestured for him to go inside. Wesley walked into the tiny closet, and I followed, shutting the door stealthily behind us.“Something tells me this isn’t about The Scarlet Letter,” he said, and even in the dark I knew he was grinning.“Be quiet.”This time he met me halfway. His hands tangled in my hair and mine clawed at his forearms. We kissed violently, and my back slammed against the wall. I heard a mop-or maybe a broom-topple over, but my brain barely registered the sound as one of Wesley’s hands moved to my hip, holding me closer to him. He was so much taller than me that I had to tilt my head back almost all the way to meet his kiss. His lips pressed hard against mine, and I let my hands explore his biceps.The smell of his cologne, rather than the lonely, stale air of the closet, filled my senses.We wrestled in the darkness for a while before I felt his hand insistently lifting the hem of my T-shirt. With a gasp, I pulled away from the kiss and grabbed his wrist. “No… not now.”“Then when?” Wesley asked in my ear, still pinning me to the wall. He didn’t even sound winded.I, on the other hand, struggled to catch my breath. “Later.”“Be more specific.”I squirmed out of his arms and moved toward the door, nearly tripping over what felt like a bucket. I raised a hand to flatten my wavy hair and reached for the doorknob. “Tonight. I’ll be at your house around seven. Okay?” But before he could answer, I slipped out of the closet and hurried down the hall, hoping it didn’t look like a walk of shame.
Wesley was playing Soulcalibur IV. And because I’m a glutton for punishment, I’d challenged him.My God, I had to find something I could beat him at!And you know, something about beating the shit out of an animated character really made me feel better. Before I knew it, I wasn’t even worried about Mom or Dad. Things would be okay. They had to be. I just had to be patient and let things happen. And in the meantime, I had to kick Wesley’s ass… or try, at least.
Don’t pretend, Bianca,” he said. “You’re smarter than that, and so am I. I finally figured out what you meant when you left. You said you were like Hester. I get it now. The first time you came to my house, when we wrote that paper, you said Hester was trying to escape. But everything caught up with Hester in the end, didn’t it? Well, something finally caught up with you, but you’re just running away again. Only, he”-Wesley pointed to my bedroom door-“is your escape this time.” He took a step toward me, forcing me to crane my neck even more to see his face. “Admit it, Duffy.”“Admit what?”“That you’re running away from me,” he said. “You realized you’re in love with me and you bailed because it scared the shit out of you.