Lesson #3

Bleed Me Slowly

"And she just stepped out of her dress and started dancing. That's when he came up and danced with her."

Alyce excitedly retold the story of the event that had led to her sister's new boyfriend. It sounded so wonderful, but just like when Scarlet had been sharing her story, Alyce once again felt a pang somewhere in her chest.

She wasn't that much different than her sister. So why didn't she have as much luck as her? Scarlet always had the amazing and interesting stories to talk about and while Alyce had some too, hers never compared.

Vivian, ever the blunt one, grimaced and said, "Sounds like a fairytale. You know what I think about fairytales."

Alyce snorted, the spell of longing broken, "Yeah, you think they're bullshit."

Vivian curled her lips in a saucy smile, "Forget love and come join the dark side. Lust is so much better."

Alyce exchanged a look with her other friends – Cynnamon, Summer, and Noelle – and burst out laughing.

Noelle sputtered, "You. Sound like. A. Horny. Guy with a cheesy pick-up line." She finished clearly.

Vivian rolled her eyes good-naturedly and replied, "That's 'cuz it is. Someone tried it on me at the food court yesterday. It came to me now for some reason. Anyways, who wants a shot? I'm off to get one. Or more."

Cynn glared Viv, "We're underage."

"Yeah and that's what fake IDs are for." Alyce rolled her eyes at her reformed friends while Vivian just walked away.

When Cynnamon rounded her glare to her, she defended, "What? I have two older sisters."

"Yeah and I have an older sister too. Doesn't mean I'm using that as an excuse to do illegal things."

Alyce pouted and without thinking, asked, "What happened to you, Cynn? You used to be fun."

Shit. How could Alyce have forgotten about Cynn's dad? She felt another pang, this one of guilt as Cynnamon looked down at the table.

Cynnamon, staring hard at the table reminded her, "My mom and dad happened remember? And I grew up."

Alyce closed her eyes briefly, cursing at her stupidity and then light-heartedly said, "A little too fast, perhaps. I think tonight, you need to take a risk."

Cynnamon had a smile on her face, causing Alyce to raise her eyebrow at the mood swing.

Summer, just as curious, asked, "What? Why the smile?"

"Because she voiced exactly what I'd been thinking a couple minutes ago." Cynnamon replied, gesturing to Alyce.

That made Alyce grin wickedly. Maybe she hadn't completely ruined her best friend's mood. Time for some fun damage control.

"Excellent. Shall we toast to being bad tonight?" Alice challenged her friends, then observed: "Oh look, here comes Vivian. Perfect timing."

"For what?" Viv asked as she reached them. A guy carrying their drinks for her wasn't far behind.

Vivian smiled sweetly at him when he put the tray on the table for them and then waved him away.

"Oh nothing much," Alyce began with a twinkle in her eye, setting her plan into motion. "We were just going to toast to being wicked this night."

Vivian laughed, giving Alyce a secret wink acknowledging her plan.

Viv raised her shot, "I'll toast to that! Here's to being wicked!"

"Cheers!" Alice lifted her glass, smiling like the Cheshire cat, only prettier.

"Cheers!" Noelle and Summer joined in with no hesitation.

Cynnamon, however, hesitated. There was a moment where the rest of the group – all wanting Cynn to loosen up tonight and have fun – held their breath.

Then she lifted hers as well and murmured, "Cheers."

"What? We can't hear you!" Alyce insisted, not wanting her friend to go into this half-heartedly.

Cynnamon loudly replied, "Cheers!"

Vivian whooped and then Alyce and Vivian pulled Summer and Noelle away from the table and away from Cynn.

Alyce and Viv left the other two by the corner of the bar and watched Cynn look around helplessly. As painful as it was to watch their friend so lost, there was no time to nudge her out of the nest, they'd have to kick her to help her fly.

Soon enough though, they noticed Cynnamon head to the bar for more liquid courage and, smiling in satisfaction, Alyce and Vivian left her up to her own devices. She'd have fun tonight for sure.

"So what now?" Vivian asked.

"Hmm," Alyce pretended to think. "Dancing, of course!"

Pulling her friend to the floor, they began to dance.

"Do you think Cynn's had enough to drink by n-"

"Oh shit!" Viv cursed suddenly.

Alyce stopped, "What? What?"

"Don't turn, but he's here."

Alyce blinked. "Who?"

"Your guy, of course!"

"I don't have a- oh!" Alyce's head whipped around, looking for him.

Vivian was talking about Torin. Alyce couldn't stop thinking about that boy, no matter what. She was even freakin' dreaming about him! It was getting insane!

All thoughts of her friend left her head as thoughts of him once again filled it. It was a wonder she'd even stopped thinking about him for a moment let alone hours. But her goal on returning the old Cynnamon had taken up her entire consciousness.

She finally found him, lounging against a wall partially hidden by shadow. He was looking towards the stage, probably waiting for the live act. Wasn't his brother and their friends supposed to be playing tonight?

"Alyce!" Vivian hissed, jerking her back around. "Stop staring. He'll notice you looking and then he'll find out you're obsessed with him."

"I'm not obsessed with him!"

"Yes you are!"

"No, I just…can't stop thinking about him."

"Same difference."

"Shut up, Viv."

Her friend smirked at her. Realizing they'd been standing in the middle of the dance floor unmoving, they moved off to talk.

"It's unhealthy, Alyce. You have to stop and get rid of whatever infatuation you have. I mean, get it out of your system some way."

Alyce smiled slowly as her friend's words sunk in. Get it out of her system. She could do that.

"Oh, no. What stupid idea is in that pretty little head of yours now?" Viv asked cautiously.

"You're right. I'm going to get him out of my system."

"And how do you suppose you'll do that?"

Alyce didn't bother answering but just kept smiling.

Viv's eyes widened, "Oh no. No, no, no, no, no, no, no."

Vivian was shaking her head fervently but it was futile. Once Alyce had an idea, she was way too stubborn to let go. And her friend knew this. But that didn't stop her from trying.

"Bad idea, Alyce. It's a very bad idea."

"I just need one taste," Alyce reasoned. "Then I won't want to know what it's like. Then I'll stop thinking of him."

"Alyce, it's not that eas-"

But Alyce was already walking away, calling over her shoulder, "I'll be right back."

Alyce pushed her hair off her shoulders as she strode towards Torin. She was really going to do this. No backing out, no second thoughts. She needed to do this.

He didn't notice her until she was almost to him. He glanced her way, did a double-take, looking her up and down as recognition mixed with another emotion flared in his eyes.

By the time he was done his once-over, she'd reached him. Pushing him gently, but firmly, against the wall by his shoulders, she stepped right up into his space and kissed him.

He froze in shock for a second, but then his hormones must have kicked in because he kissed her right back. Both knew what they were doing and before long, they were making out passionately and all thoughts off getting him out of her system were gone from Alyce's head.

Actually, there were no thoughts at all, just impulse and action. And man did it feel good to be so bad. She'd imagined this so many times, but now that it was actually happening, she couldn't think straight. Everything was a lust-filled haze.

His hands slid from their position on her waist into her hair. Her hands slid up his abs – his delicious abs! – and began to push his leather jacket off his shoulders and down his arms to shrug it off.

Then suddenly, hands grabbed her arms and jerked her away from him.

Vivian was screaming in her ear: "Alyce, we have to go! Cyn's gone crazy! She was dancing on the freakin' stage with a million guys probably mentally stripping her!"

Without even giving her a moment to recover, Viv started to drag her through the crowd. If Alyce had looked back, she would have noticed that Torin had immediately reached for her as she'd been pulled away.

However, she was still in too much of a daze to think straight. But as they got closer to the exit, one thought rang in her mind: that could have been very awkward if they'd gotten a moment to talk and she was glad Vivian had pulled her away so fast.

Right by the exit, she turned around, her eyes immediately catching Torin's. He was still looking at her, she realized with giddiness. He was staring at her so intensely; his mouth swollen by her kisses, eyes glazed with lust, and hair tousled by her hands.

God, he looked sexy. So, Alyce thought: hey, why not leave a lasting impression too, right? She knew just what to do. She titled her head slightly to the left and, with a parting, sultry and amused smile, she turned away and followed her friends out.

She may not have flushed him out of her system, but that had definitely been worth it, consequences be damned.

Alyce, Scarlet, and Sapphyre were at the local grocery store shopping for the night's meal. It had become kind of a tradition for their whole family to dine together on Wednesdays since that was the only time they were all usually free.

They'd taken Scarlet's car since Alyce's and Sapphyre's were still on lockdown until their parents believed they really weren't fighting anymore.

"Chicken. Marinara. Corn." Scarlet was reading off the list. "And…Oh, we need broccoli."

"I'll get it." Sapphyre volunteered.

As she walked off, Alyce spoke up, "I'm craving chocolate. Be right back."

Walking into the aisle that held chips, candies, and chocolate, she headed right for the Cadbury dark chocolate box. She loved dark chocolate.

She grabbed one of those, hesitated, and then grabbed another. If her mom asked, she'd say she needed it to soothe her nerves.

She was about to leave when she decided to double back and grab a bag of Smartfood cheddar popcorn, one of Miss Vickie's original, and a pack of starbursts. Why not go all out?

Grimacing, Alyce realized the twins would be pretty impatient by now and began to jog back, only to run into a hard wall and end up sprawled on the floor surrounded by junk food.

Oops, not a wall – a body. A very hot body.

She looked up; up past the jeans, up past the well fitted shirt and at a mortifyingly familiar, smirking face and into amused eyes.

Torin.

Oh dignity, where art thou?

"Alyce, it's good to see you again. We didn't really get to talk last time and then you left so quickly."

Blushing, she cleared her throat and answered, "Well, we had an emergency."

"Let me guess. You guys didn't want Alec to find out you were there and Cynnamon's performance kind of ruined that idea."

She stared at him wondering how he knew. He flashed a charming smile like he knew what she was wondering.

He held out his hand to her and pulled her up right against him as he answered, "Well Alec found out and, trust me, he was pissed off. I'm sure you'll all hear about it sooner or later."

She tried to push away from him, but he was to strong. He smirked as if he was proving a point and when she stopped struggling, he let her go.

"What do you want Torin."

"Well what I really want is a girl to shove me against a wall and kiss the hell out of me…oh wait."

She narrowed her eyes hoping she wasn't too red.

He continued, "Actually, I am kind of curious to know why a girl might do that. Girls aren't really known for being that forward, even though this particular girl has been known to be different."

"I was drunk." That usually worked for her sister. Why not try?

"You're forgetting your tongue was in my mouth. If experience has taught me anything, it's that you only likely had one shot. And I've seen you handle way more than that before."

She gritted her teeth, "I thought you were someone else."

He paused but it was just for a second.

Then he asked, "I thought you just said you were drunk?"

"I didn't want to hurt your feelings. I know how guys can get about that stuff; testosterone and all."

His face was now impassive, "Someone else, huh? Who'd you think I was?"

"I thought you were, uh, Jasper."

"My best friend Jasper?"

"Yeah."

Torin walk towards her and she backed up until her back hit the chips behind her. "He was right behind where you'd been standing with Vivian."

She frowned, he'd noticed them standing there. Whatever.

"Well, I don't have eyes in the back of my head do I? And Vivian said you were Jasper."

He smirked as he leaned into her.

His mouth was hovering right over hers and he whispered one word, "Liar."

She felt trapped and in turn getting pissed off. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me. I'm saying you're lying. You might not have known Jasper was behind you but you sure as hell knew it was me you walked up to. You sure as hell knew it was me you pushed against a wall. And you sure as hell knew it was me you kissed."

Then, with his eyes flashing with what might have been jealously mixed with what was likely lust, he finally kissed her.

Like at the club, she didn't think, she just responded, and soon enough they were making out in a supermarket.

Alyce didn't know how long it was before someone cleared their throat and she finally regained her senses.

She turned her head to see her sister Sapphyre standing there with eyebrows raised and an amused grin. Perfect.

Sliding out from between the aisle and Torin before he could stop her, she almost ran towards her sister.

Grabbing Sapphyre's arm, she got them away from him as fast as she could. At the end of the aisle, he was still standing where she'd left him, staring at her with a smirk. He even winked.

She glared back as she walked out of his line of sight

Turning to her sister who had started to say something, she snapped, "Don't ask."

Alyce sighed in frustration, and exchanged a look with all the other girls who were trying to get Cynnamon off her ass and into the car.

Everyone was looking forward to The Waterhole but Cynn was acting like a paranoid freak. Even Alyce didn't fear bumping into Torin over there, although he did seem to be everywhere nowadays.

I mean, what were the chances? She'd asked herself. No boy knew about that place.

Alyce tried again, voicing her thoughts. "Look, I swear to god they're all at Viv's house. It's just us girls. I don't think the guys even know about The Waterhole."

"See Cynnamon? Your not-so-mystery guy won't be there. He can't if he doesn't know about the place to begin with." Skye – Cynnamon's sister – supported Alyce.

Cynnamon was peering up at them from her position on her living room couch with a look that could be described as betrayal.

Well, she wasn't getting any sympathy from this bunch; they'd never let her wallow her life away because of one night and some guy.

Alyce was wondering whether to go with asking her or hauling her to the car when Alexandria, Viv's older sister, spoke up.

"And the way I see it, Cynnamon, you owe us all one, seeing as Alec's trying to get us all on lockdown since your club stunt. Just be glad he hasn't found out you have the hots for one of his best friends."

Alyce noticed that everyone, including herself, was trying desperately to hide their amused grins. Alec would like to try to keep them all in check, but there was only so much he could do about a big group of wild, independent teenage girls.

A grinning Scarlet, in a teasing tone, mentioned, "Also, you can't hide in here forever, Love."

Alyce smirked, knowing her friend had noticed the emphasis her sister had out on the endearment she'd used with Tristan.

For some reason though, Cynnamon glanced between Alyce and her older twin sisters – Scarlet and Sapphyre – and rolled her eyes. Well, the three of them could be a very powerful force of persuasion when they worked together.

It seemed to work too, since seconds later, Cynnamon got off the couch grumbling, "Fine. But we do a drive-by first."

Alyce and the other girls erupted into cheers at a job well done. They all trampled up the stairs behind Cynn and to her room, where they all began looking for something nice to wear.

"How'd you not recognize Tristan anyway?" Enigma asked absentmindedly.

Cynnamon had a thoughtful expression on her face as she sat slowly down on her bed.

When she didn't say anything, Vivian promptly answered for her, "She was plastered."

Everyone else grinned while Pandora handed Cynn a blue and green bikini and continued her twin's train of thought, "We get that. But, really? Come on."

They all heard Cynnamon moan from behind her screen and mutter, "I'm never, ever listening to Viv and Alyce again."

Everyone else, knowing all too well that this most likely did start with her and Vivian, burst out laughing. Alyce couldn't help but chuckle, and noticed Viv smirking.

Sapphyre sounded like she was choking as she advised, "Yeah, that's a pretty smart decision."

Hey, Alyce thought, slightly insulted.

Glaring at her sister, she roughly pulled out a pair of shorts and tossed them at Cynn, while defending, "Like you're any better. Anyways, it's mostly on Viv. She's the really bad one."

Vivian smirked at her and threw back, "Oh, Alyce, I wouldn't be talking. I'm sure Noelle and Summer can attest to how naughty you were that night."

Alyce could feel her face going red and narrowed her eyes in warning at Vivian. Her friend hadn't exactly helped either. Her attempts at trying to stop her were less than half-hearted.

"Oh yeah," Cynnamon stepped out from behind the screen, her face full of amused curiosity, "You guys still haven't told me what she did that night."

"We'd love to know too."

Damn it. That was her older sister backing up her friend. Now everyone was going to want to know.

Why couldn't they all just leave it alone? And who the hell had started all this?

Scarlet continued, grinning and motioning towards everyone else. "This sound pretty interesting. How exactly was my little sister naughty?"

Little. It was only a year's difference. Alyce scowled, not really angry at any one thing in particular, but everything as a whole.

Cynnamon was accepting the fishnet halter from her sister Skye but her gaze was directed towards Alyce. Noticing this, Alyce raised an eyebrow, pissed that her friends were ganging up on her.

"Let's just say, Cynn wasn't the only one attracting a hot guy that night." Vivian spoke up with a smile.

Everyone started asking her questions at the same time and some even hooted.

Alyce threw her hands up and sighed. Well, thanks Viv. Appreciate it.

Fortunately, one of her friends still cared about her a little bit.

Cynnamon, saving her from her misery asked, "So are we still going or have we all decided to hide in my house today?"

Touché. Nice one, Cynn.

Thank god that distracted everyone. Soon, after quickly deciding which cars to take, the group was off to The Waterhole.

It was extremely weird to see the place so empty on such a hot day; you'd think The Waterhole would be filled with girls.

For the first time after a long while, it was like it used to be when this particular group had first discovered it: just theirs', all of it.

Alyce rushed out of her cover-up and, finding a slightly higher edge, implemented a perfect swan dive into the cool, refreshing water.

"Show off!" Vivian called before swinging off her rope and somersaulting into the water.

Alyce laughed when Vivian came back up and shot back, "Look who's talking!"

Viv grinned at her, "Couldn't let you take all the glory."

Turning to look at Scarlet and Alexandria chatting as they floated, Vivian smirked, then asked, "How about a wakeup call?"

Alyce's devious grin suddenly matched Vivian's and with a nod, they were off. Frog swimming over till the other two, they waited till they were below them before grabbing them around the waist and pulling down.

They could hear the startled shrieks even underwater as they were, and it took everything not to burst into laughter while they were still under.

When everyone was back up for air, the two older girls tried telling their sisters off, but good-humored as they were, they kept laughing during their lecture, making it ineffective.

With a promise to get them back, their sisters turned away, prompting Alyce and Vivian to do the same. Imagine their surprise when they found their heads underwater.

Coming back up, Alyce saw her sister's laughing face and stuck her tongue out.

"I didn't think you'd be trying that soon." She remarked.

Scarlet smirked, "Exactly."

Alyce mock glared, and in a deep, gravelly voice she intoned, "It's war."

Just as the four girls sprang apart, trying to get one another, an actual naturally deep voice rang out, stunning everyone into silence.

"Well, well. Look what we have here."

Look what we have here indeed. The other gender had finally found the girls' sacred place of fun.

"What the fuck, Alec! What are you doing here?" Alexandria's voice cut sharp through the silence.

"What are you doing here?" Alec asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Well, what does it look like Einstein?" Her voice dripped with sarcasm. "Oh, we can't be swimming."

"You know what I meant Alexandria."

"Not really. I answered your question. Now you answer mine."

"Fine. Why don't I just answer it like you? We can't be standing." He mocked.

"Don't be a smartass! I-"

A sudden splashing got their attention, and they all turned to look at the spot where Cynnamon had just been treading.

What the hell? Where-

Suddenly, Cynn's head poked up out of the water.

Coughing out water and glancing around, her face red, she cleared her throat and quickly said, "Just thought I'd get everyone's attention."

Amusing, but what had really happened? Skye's head, right in front of Alyce, was looking between Cynnamon and…Tristan! Oh shit! He was here!

A huge grin spread across Alyce's face and she didn't even try to stop it. Smooth, Cynn, very smooth.

Wait, damn it. Cynnamon was going to be so pissed at them. Well, at least she knew how to choose 'em. He was really good-looking, not to mention he was Torin's broth-Torin!

Alyce's head jerked back to shore where the guy in question was lounging against a tree, very much like the wall in the club, and looking at her with no hint of what he was thinking.

Alyce could feel her face burning. Damn, he was here.

She slowed maneuvered herself till she was between him and her two sisters. Cowardly, yes, but wow, she hadn't been expecting him at all over here. After their last meetings, it was kind of awkward.

Great, now Cynn was talking about getting out of the water to talk to them. Right, Alyce would rather stay and get wrinkled like a prune. But she didn't want others to think she was a coward, so she followed.

Alec passed by and tossed her a towel with a stern look and she just stuck her tongue out at the boy who'd been like a brother to her since she was a child. He rolled his eyes in response.

"I could think of better things to do with that tongue." A smooth voice observed from beside her.

She turned to look at Torin. God, he looked hot. Completely in the bad boy way that he always did. That was what had made her want him in the first place: his personality, like a human Damon Salvatore except without all the centuries of pain and angst.

And he didn't kill people for their blood – that was a plus point. Wait a second, what was it her psych teacher had called this? Intellectualization mixed with a little fantasy or denial. Right, defense mechanisms.

Alyce realized Torin was looking at her with a very amused expression and remembered what he'd said. Surely, he didn't think she was actually going to reply?

"Well, are you going to say something?"

Apparently he did.

"No."

"You just did."

"What? We're being childish now?"

"No, that was just you. But hey, if you'd like, we could take that from PG to at least 18A."

She blushed but shot back, "Neither of us are even 18 yet."

"And that still didn't stop you from making it Rated R at the club."

She blinked. He'd brought it up. Shit, she'd just been about to hope that he wouldn't. Dumbass…him, not her.

"But who am I to judge," he continued when she didn't reply, "I sure as hell didn't mind."

"Why are you here?" She snapped the question that had been bouncing in the back of her mind in a desperate attempt to lead him away from talk of that night.

He was surprised enough that he actually gave her a straight answer, with no innuendos or between the lines stuff.

"We came looking for you guys." He paused then asked, "Why are you here?"

"It's our place." She answered automatically.

When he raised his eyebrow, she launched into the story and went on to explain the history of this place and the significance of freedom from boys it held…or once had, at least. If he asked any questions, she patiently answered before continuing.

When she was done, they just looked at each other, both surprised that they'd just had a decent conversation.

She licked her lips nervously then cursed herself when it drew his attention. But he didn't say or do anything, just closed his eyes for a few moments and then opened them slightly so they were hooded.

Then, finally, he grinned that bad boy smile of his and said, "Is this where you push me against a tree and kiss me? Or should I do the honors this time?"

She gaped. It had been going so well! But apparently he couldn't resist. She turned away from him and almost stomped towards her best friend Cynn. Childish? Not her.

"Cynnamon," Alyce interrupted what obviously would have been a kiss, but pretended obliviousness and complained, "Can you believe it? Now this place is going to be swarmed by boys."

"Hey, babe, we won't tell anyone. But that doesn't mean we won't enjoy the benefits." Alyce turned her head towards the arrogant jerk that had apparently followed her.

Benefits? Was that supposed to be a double entendre? The-the…jerk.

There was a twinkle in his eye as he grinned devilishly at her. Oh, yes he did. He was giving her a look that conveyed what he really meant.

She could feel her temper rising as Tristan introduced Cynnamon to Torin who replied by saying: "Hey Gorgeous."

Apparently his brother didn't appreciate Torin flirting with the girl he liked, if the glare sent his way meant anything, but Torin, being incredibly dense, kept on going.

"You'll have to excuse my brother, he may be older, but he's kind of rude. Let me know if you want to trade up."

Fuming, Alyce finally snapped, "You don't get to enjoy any benefits! And stay away from my best friend, Casanova."

"Jealous?" Torin looked smug, "We've been through this and you rejected me. Don't regret your actions now."

"Actually, I'm hurt you girls didn't immediately tell us about this place. I mean, we weren't complete devils when we were kids."Jason's voice came from out of nowhere, interrupting Alyce's sure-to-be-witty comeback.

"Yeah, you're right Jace. My own sisters betrayed me. We wouldn't have destroyed this place. But since you didn't share with us when you could have, I guess now you have no choice." Alec was grinning, sliding a victorious look at…Noelle?

"What!" Vivian hadn't seemed to notice as she almost literally stomped to her brother, "You can't just come over and dictate to us! We found this place and it's ours. You need to leave."

"And who'll make us?" Jasper chuckled as he smoothly intercepted Viv, "You?"

Vivian stopped abruptly to avoid walking right into him and deliberately looked anywhere but at him.

Thankfully, Noelle covered for her and said, "If we have to."

Alec tilted his head back to her and smirked, "I don't think you can."

Noelle opened her mouth again, actually looking irritated for once, but Scarlet interrupted, "Fine. But we have conditions."

Sapphyre complained, "Come on, Scarlet! Just because your boyfriend's here?"

"No." Scarlet said semi-truthfully, "Because we really can't stop them. But we can make sure no other guys find out and it stays how we want it."

Everyone weighed the truth of her words and all the girls sighed collectively and backed off. Rules were set, but meanwhile, Alyce was just trying to edge away from Torin. Hopefully he wouldn't notice.

Finally, they all got back into the water – the boys had actually had the nerve to bring their bathing clothes!

Alyce was making her way over to one of the ropes when someone grabbed her arm and jerked her away from the water towards the cover of trees.

"Hey!" She yelped.

Turning furiously, she faced an amused yet somewhat irritated Torin.

"What's your deal, Alyce? I mean, you come up and throw yourself at me in a club, and then you avoid me like the plague. And when you do run into me, you have nothing to say unless it's something you can yell."

Alyce closed her eyes briefly. If only she'd known that the damn kiss would cause her so much trouble, she'd never have done it – recurring dreams or not.

"Aren't you supposed to be like some bad boy? I'd think you'd be used to this sort of stuff." That was the best she could come up with. Wow. Lame, right?

"Yeah, I'm used to girls throwing themselves at me, but at least they can usually finish what they start."

Her cheeks heated up in anger and maybe a little jealousy. "Well, I wasn't planning on anything more than a kiss! Ever. I just wanted you out of my head! I wanted the damn dreams to stop!"

He paused, but then a slow smile spread across his face. Oh, no. No-no-no-no-no. That wasn't supposed to slip out. Oh shit, she'd just blurted out that she'd been dreaming about him.

Her cheeks burned even more, but now it was completely because of embarrassment. Oh dear god, she wanted to rewind the last few minutes. Maybe even hours…or days. Yeah, definitely days.

"I didn't mean th-" Alyce was cut off when he gently pushed her against a tree and kissed her, not unlike the way she'd kissed him at the club. Except he'd at least been gentle about his push whereas she might have well as shoved him.

She found herself thinking that she wouldn't have minded if he'd shoved her. Oh well, she might as well take the initiative, right?

Lightly, she ran her fingertips from the top of his neck down his back, stopping when she reached the line of his swim shorts. She smiled against his mouth when she felt him shiver and he bit her lip in response.

Damn, now she knew why girls threw themselves at him. This was so much better than her dreams.

He was drawing circles on the skin of her waist now and she was trying really hard not to shiver in response. She wanted a response out of him first.

Taking a page out of his book, she pulled his bottom lip between her teeth and bit lightly, causing him to groan in return. It reverberated through her body since she was pressed right up against him and she finally shivered.

"Alyce!"

They jumped apart as the sharp voice cut through their lust-filled haze. Alyce turned her head guiltily to see Scarlet and Jude standing there. Scarlet had one eyebrow raised imperiously and Jude was just grinning as if he found this situation amusing.

"What?" Alyce asked, collecting herself and pushing away from Torin.

"What? You're asking me what? What the hell are you doing?"

"What does it look like? And don't give me that look. You and Jude are no better!"

Scarlet snorted, "Yeah, well, at least we're dating."

Alyce stopped, not knowing what to say, but Torin cut in, "So are we."

All three of them turned to look at him in surprise and he just shrugged.

"What? I like you." He looked at Alyce and grinned mischievously, "And you obviously like me. So why not try a relationship?"

"You like me?" Alyce blinked. "You could have started with that instead of being your normal, obnoxious self.

He rolled his eyes, "You've got me pegged as this bad boy. You'd never have believed me."

He was right on that count. She was still having doubts, even if he'd just kind of asked her out in front of her sister and her sister's boyfriend – who was also his friend.

"Why me?" She wondered.

He smirked, "Well…"

"Don't answer that." She said almost immediately.

"No, Alyce, you intrigue me. You're interesting and you don't back down. And you're daring and fun and-"

"Okay, I get it!" She cut him off but she was smiling now, too.

"So why not?"

"Why not?" She repeated.

They just looked at each other, smiling, until Jude cleared his throat.

"I've got to tell you guys, but that was one of the sappiest moments I've ever seen."

Scarlet laughed, "He's right. I have no words to describe what I just witnessed."

"Ignore them." Torin muttered.

Alyce giggled which was unlike her usually, but hey, the guy – her guy? – was being adorable.

"So we're dating now?" She asked, just to clarify.

He grinned at her, "Yeah, we are."

Scarlet cut in again, "Can we go back now? You two have probably missed the Tristan-Cynnamon love fest by now."

Alyce turned to her sister in surprise, "Last time I checked, Cynn couldn't get away from him fast enough. Suddenly they're making out?"

Scarlet smirked, "They're not the only ones, huh? Must be something in the air."

"So will you come with me?"

The words rang in Alyce's ears as she stared at Torin, standing in front of her. His eyes were shining with hope and what she was began to think might be love.

He was so close that she could reach out and touch him but, it felt like every second that passed, he got farther away.

Probably because she knew she was going to have to say no. She couldn't follow him as he went with his brother to help his friends as a manger on the band's tour.

She had her own life and her own dreams and it felt way too much like being a groupie. Not to mention, she'd have to miss the internship opportunity she'd just been offered.

She loved him – how could she not after so many weeks of an amazing relationship? But she wasn't going to drop everything and leave for him.

As minutes went by with her standing in silence, the light in his eyes dimmed and she felt like crying. Why couldn't she just find the right words to say?

Why couldn't she come up with the right answer? The one that would bring back his charming smile and put both their doubts to rest.

He back up a bit, and she could see him swallow like he was swallowing away pain.

She opened her mouth and because she had to say something she whispered, "Torin."

He was already shaking his head. "I got your answer Alyce. I got it."

He started to walk away.

"You don't understand." She replied, following after him.

"Actually, I do. I really do."

"Torin, please, listen."

"Alyce, I get it! I'm not stupid. If you don't want to come with me, it's fine."

"It's not that Torin!"

He turned around and yelled, "Well, what is it? What is it, Alyce, that's always got you hesitating? These past weeks have been amazing, but you treat everything I do like it's not real!"

"It's got nothing to do with you!"

He jerked back away from her as if she'd struck him.

Then he smiled sardonically and said, "Oh? I don't suppose it was me who asked you to come with…me?"

She sighed, "That's not what I meant."

"Then what did you mean, Alyce?"

"I've never been that girl. The one that'll forget all her dreams just to follow the guy she loves anywhere he goes. I have my own dreams Tristan! You want to manage your brother's band and make a ton of money? That's great, but where do I fit in?"

"You-"

"No, Torin. That was a rhetorical question. I don't fit in. And every second I'll be there with you, I'll be wondering what else I could have been doing instead; where I might be in my job at the moment; what I'm missing in my life back where I should have been. And being with you wouldn't be enough because eventually, the regrets would become too much and they would overshadow anything we'd have together."

He stood there silently, much like she'd been when he'd first asked.

He looked at her and she could see the anger and pain in his eyes as he replied, "Is that it? Because I don't think that's it. Whatever you're hiding from me, you can keep it. I don't want to know."

She frowned and opened her mouth but he took a last look at her and turned around to walk away.

The last words she heard from his mouth were, "Goodbye, Alyce."

Then the front door slammed and she was left alone. He hadn't even realized that she'd said she loved him. He had just left.

She couldn't help but wonder how just a few minutes had changed everything. There would be no going – or rather, coming – back now.