It took one glance at Hunter's face to make me burst out laughing. Okay, so, he was trying hard not to stare at the pair of tits that had practically been thrust into his face, but he was forcing himself to look at Jessica and he was looking at her like she was crazy.
Jessica spun around. Her bra was white – the only colour you could really get away with in our school blouses and not look tacky.
A grin stretched across her face. "Oh no, caught us in the act."
The laughter disappeared on its own. "You wish, bitch."
Had she really been hanging around near the school all day, in her school uniform, just to try to seduce my boyfriend?
"Get out of here, Jessica," Hunter said, his voice low.
"Not until you admit you want me." She turned back to him, crossing her arms, pushing her boobs up.
"Oh, Jesus," I groaned, maybe a tad overdramatically but despite everything, I was kind of enjoying myself. This was normality. This was what being a teenager was.
Part of me was still wishing I could tell Mum about it when I got home, but the rest of me knew it was impossible and was starting to sort of be okay with that.
"What?" She turned her head, staring at me. "Frightened he'd admit he wants me?"
"Not in the slightest."
If someone had told me I'd find myself in this sort of situation, I would have been terrified. Jessica was, well, I guess she was traditionally beautiful. But she was also a cow, and the look on her face was twisted and ugly. Sure, she was confident, and she had every right to be.
Once upon a time, I would have killed for a body like hers.
But in reality, all I had to do was look at Hunter's face to see nothing except confusion.
"Put your shirt back on," he said, shaking his head and turning deliberately away. "You're embarrassing yourself."
Her breathing was getting heavier, and red spread across her arms and shoulders. Huh. Guess someone could blush from head to toe.
At least she wasn't naked.
"You're scared of me," she said, eyes glaring at me. "You're scared."
"No, I'm not." I leant against the wall, forcing myself to look as casual as possible. Over her shoulder, I could see Hunter smiling at me. "Actually, I feel sorry for you."
"Sure you do," she snapped, taking a step towards me. "You should do Drama, you're a good actress."
"Just leave, Jessica. You're not wanted here."
I pushed off the wall, fixing my gaze on her. She stared right back. I really didn't feel scared. Behind her eyes, I could see it.
Wasn't that long ago I saw the same thing staring out from the mirror.
"Soon as he gets to sleep with you," she said, "he'll dump you. Just like he did to me. Just like he did to the others."
My gaze flickered to Hunter. I couldn't read his expression, but she could easily read mine. She smiled as I drew my gaze back to her.
"If he does, I won't go throwing myself at him like a pathetic tramp."
It happened fast.
She lunged, caught my shoulder. My other one scraped across the doorframe and we both tumbled out of the room and onto the floor.
She dug her hands into my shoulders, forced me down, and slammed her knee into my stomach.
I screamed out.
Her weight lifted off me as I heard footsteps on the stairs. My vision wavered, but I could see a very Hunter-like shape holding Jessica's shoulders. She squirmed, and his tight wasn't hard enough. Jessica fell forward, palms hitting the floor either side of my head. She recovered in time to punch me, her fist landing on my cheek and turning my head to the side, other cheek slapping into the floor.
The world span around me. When it stopped, I could see Jessica struggling against both Law siblings. They had her shoulders, and were pulling her back. I sat up, slowly, my head throbbing as I scrambled back until I hit the wall. My eyes locked on Jessica.
"Now you're scared, bitch."
Holly twisted her arm, and Jessica cried out. The older girl leant in, until her lips were right next to Jessica's ears. She whispered something, and all the fight seemed to drain out of Jessica. I watched her body go limp. Hair fell in her face, but between the strands I could see her eyes.
"He'll fuck you and dump you," she said, voice low. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
She wrenched her shoulders free and staggered forward. I pressed myself against the wall, eyes fixed on her. She huffed, grabbed her blouse, and stalked past me and down the stairs.
Hunter jumped forward and fell down to his knees beside me.
"You all right?"
I nodded my head, slowly. He reached forward, finger gently brushing against my cheek. I winced.
I could see Holly over his shoulder, watching us carefully.
"Thanks," I said.
She shrugged. "Wasn't going to just let her beat you up. Seriously, she's fucking mental. I honestly wouldn't have let her in if…"
"I know." Hunter cut her off, glancing over his shoulder at her before turning his gaze back to me. "I thought…she said she just wanted to talk."
I closed my eyes, tilting my head back. The wall was cold, soothing the heat that felt like it was flaring through me. Hunter put his palm against my face.
"You're burning up."
I opened my eyes, just in time to see Holly walking slowly towards us. "She's not." She grinned at me. "I used to get that after getting punched, too."
I frowned at her. "How often did you get punched?"
"Quite a lot. Hunter, go get Sophia a glass of water."
He went to say something.
"Now, Hunter. It'll help her. Make us a cup of tea as well, while you're at it."
He grumbled, but left us.
"Can you stand?"
I nodded, but she helped me up anyway. She gently led me to the bedroom, lowering me slowly onto Hunter's bed. She put her finger under my chin, turning my head so she could look at my face. Her eyes roamed over my cheeks. Holly nodded.
"Yeah. You'll be fine. Best you get someone to keep an eye on you tonight though. Don't sleep for a while, okay? You looked like you hit your head pretty hard."
"Sure. No doubt you are. But best to be safe."
"How many times did you get punched?"
Her grin widened. "Too many. You want to hear a secret about your big brother?"
Despite everything, I found myself grinning back. "Sure."
"Back in school, he was a total man whore."
I laughed, and my jaw ached. "Ouch. You can't be serious."
"Totally am." She lifted her hand, three fingers in the air with her thumb crossed over her little finger. "Scout's honour."
"So Mattie was a whore." I shrugged, before turning my head sharply towards her. "He's changed, right?"
Something flickered in her eyes, and the smile that came on her face was too happy. "Sure. He's changed. He found a girl, fell in love and had a baby. But he's the reason I got punched so much."
"Girls were jealous?"
"Of course they were. We were best mates, Sophia. Me, him and Dale. Proper little threesome."
"Yeah. So? He didn't get on with the people his age. We sort of…took him under our collective wings." The smile softened, seeming more natural. "Anyway, we were good mates. So whenever he turned his eyes to some other girl, she hated me. We'd end up fighting over…well, nothing, really. Me and Mattie didn't date until just before he went away."
I turned my head away, focusing on the bed, picking at a thread sticking out from the sheet. "What happened then?"
"He called me and broke up with me. Made sense, I guess. Long distance just doesn't work."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Because you've had a shitty time of it, and Jessica isn't helping matters. Sophia, I've never had many friends except the guys. But he's asked me to look out for you. He's asked me to make sure you're okay. That's all I want to do."
I turned my head sharply, staring at her. "He says how high and you jump, right? You're in love with him."
"So what if I am?"
I stood, quickly, and the room spun. Somehow, I managed to stay upright on my own. "Cassie wants to leave because of you. Cassie wants to go home because she's not a complete idiot, and neither am I."
I walked towards the door. Holly got to her feet, put her arm on my shoulder. I shrugged her off.
"I reckon you got punched by those girls for the same reason Cassie wants to go. Not because you're a threat, but because you can't stand to see Mattie happy with anyone."
"Stay away from me!" I snapped. "And stay away from my brother."
"I'm trying to help you, Sophia."
"You are the reason they're going." I staggered onto the landing, holding the wall for support as Hunter appeared, coming up the stairs, a tray with mugs and a glass of water on it. His eyes widened as he saw me, and he put the tray down before stepping forward.
Hunter reached his hands out, and I shook my head, sidestepping him.
"I have to go," I said, voice shaking as much as I was. "I need to pack."
"I'll take you."
"You're not walking home in this state." Before I could protest, he had stepped towards me, eyes fixed on something over my shoulder. The look in his eyes was questioning, but it disappeared when he looked at me. "I'll drive."
Holly was somewhere behind me, but I decided to ignore her. Hunter slid an arm around my waist and guided me down the stairs.
X X X
He flicked the radio on in the car, and some new, shitty track came on, filling the car with sound so we didn't have to speak.
It wasn't far to my house. I rested my head against the window, staring at the swimming houses as they went past. My eyes flickered closed once or twice, but I fought against the overwhelming urge to sleep.
He pulled up outside the house, killed the engine.
"What did she do?"
"Punched me pretty hard."
He chuckled, the sound dying in his throat as he twisted towards me, reached out and brushed his finger against my cheek. "Not that. Not that bitch. My sister."
I shrugged. "I think she slept with my brother. Or tried to."
He didn't look surprised. "She likes you."
"Mattie asked her to keep an eye on me." I glanced at the house. The curtains were closed, but between them, I could see the light from the living room. "I know she's your sister, Hunter, but…" I trailed off, not really knowing what else there was to say. I took a deep breath. "She came close to breaking up their family. My family."
I felt his arm on my shoulder, as he gently pulled me towards him. "Holly is…look, she's a great sister, okay? We look out for each other. And if she was married with a kid, I'd be pissed off as hell if someone tried to ruin that." He kissed my forehead. "But they're adults, Sophia. Whatever happens, they have to sort it out themselves."
I put my hands on his chest, closing my eyes as I laid my head between them. "I know," I whispered. "I know but…I'm fed up of feeling so helpless."
"You're not helpless." He kissed my head again, before pulling back slightly and putting his hands on my cheeks. "Sophia, you are not helpless. Ever. You are brilliant, okay?"
"You're just saying that."
"No, I'm not." His eyes locked on mine. "You really have no idea how much I mean that. Jessica…"
"Did you date her?"
"Sophia." There was a whinge in his voice, and I swallowed back the urge to leave it.
I had to know.
"Please, Hunter, just tell me."
He turned his head away, staring at the wheel as he ran his hand through his hair. I still had no idea why it was me sitting in the car with him, and not some other girl, why he seemed to care about me and hadn't been bothered by my reluctance when it came to sex.
Hadn't seemed bothered, anyway.
But he'd told me he hadn't slept with Jessica. She had said they'd slept together, and he'd chucked her. I needed to know which one was right.
He opened his mouth, and my phone buzzed. I glanced at the screen. Cass.
"One second," I muttered, answering it and holding it to my ear. "Hey. I'll be home in a minute, okay?"
"Okay. Are you all right?"
Not really. "Yeah. Fine. Sorry, Cass. I should have rung. I'll explain when I get in."
"That's fine. We've started packing but…"
"Cass, I have to go."
"All right. I'll see you a bit, yeah?"
I nodded, glancing at the house. "Yeah. In a bit." I hung up, took a deep breath, and turned to Hunter. "Please, Hunter. Just tell me the truth."
He sighed. "We dated. Briefly." His eyes flickered to me, holding my gaze for just a second before he look away again.
And I knew I had to push forward. I didn't care, really, how many girls he had slept with. It didn't matter who had come before me, not really. It wasn't like he had a queue of girls outside his house claiming he was theirs. Only Jessica.
And she did matter. She mattered because of what he had told me before. She mattered because she had hated me for no reason since we first set eyes on each other. She mattered because of who she was, what she'd done, and what she might have done.
She was the key to knowing if he had lied to me or not.
"Did you sleep with her?"
He folded his arms so they were resting on the steering wheel, his eyes fixed on the dashboard.
"What do you want me to say, Sophia?" he snapped, turning to look at me. "I don't get where this is coming from."
"You didn't know me," I said, trying to keep my breathing under control. "At the party. You didn't know me and I was messed up and…and I don't get it, Hunter. I don't get why you're with me. And Jessica…" Something inside was telling me to stop, to shut the hell up, but it was like I had no control. I pushed on. "I just want to know if you slept with her."
"Fine! I slept with her, okay? I slept with her and then met you."
My breath caught in my throat. I could feel the tears stringing my eyes as I reached for the handle.
"You dumped her," I turned my head quickly to look at him, forcing myself to do it. "You dumped her when you met me."
"So everything she said was right. You were together when we met."
Before he could say anything else, I opened the door and stepped out into the road, slamming the door and pushing myself against the car as another one drove past. Soon as it was gone, I sprinted across the road, reaching into my bag for the keys.
He'd lied to me.
After a few attempts, I got the key in the lock. As I stepped into the porch, the inner door opened, revealing Cassie.
She took one look at me, stepped forward and wrapped me in her arms, letting me collapse against her as the sobs came.
A/N: As always, I love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this. It really means a lot to me to know what people think. And, of course, I return decent length reviews. There's a poll on my profile page that could really do with some votes, so if you have a moment, please check it out. Thanks.