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Chapter 10

I frowned at my outfit in the mirror and tugged at the floral print for the umpteenth time. Because my closet consisted only of jeans and t-shirts from Walmart, Nikki lent me one of her many dresses that she never wore. Although it was a little loose around the chest area, it did the job, I said nervously, "I look stupid."

"Say that again about my dress and you'll be going naked," Nikki snarled, applying on eyeliner, "And wear that leather jacket you have. It'll hide the fact that it's loose."

"Roommate and stylist," I teased as I slipped on the soft material, my prized thrift steal, "I really hit the jackpot with you Ki."

"I take cash or check."

I gave my bun another tug before I sighed, "That's it, I am not going."

"Uh yes you are you little bitch," Nikki said while she applied her lipstick, "People would kill for a date with the Dylan Gates. And I say people, not just girls. Jamie swears she saw Ted Ackers trying to grab Dylan's ass at last night's rage. The boy has been closeted since he was 11!"

"Is that your most convincing argument? The fact that my rivals span both genders?" I frowned at my outfit in the mirror.

"Alright, what's eating you Riles?" Nikki frowned, "I know you haven't been out much, but it's like you're fishing for an excuse not to go."

Nikki did always know me best, I sighed, "What if-What if I take a chance on Dylan and he ends up just like him?"

The illustrious him of my past.

I could tell Nikki was holding back a groan, "Look, all I know is, that you've always wanted a prince and now life is serving you one on a silver platter," she finished applying her mascara and threw it down, "-a Gates I might add-If you don't go on this date, so help me god Riley, we will no longer be friends."

I was a little taken back, but she stared at me with such ferocity that I swallowed and nodded silently. She was right, as usual. Dylan was everything I could hope for in a guy: smart, funny, and most importantly, honest. But I still couldn't shake off this-nervousness? Doubt? Fear? Which was completely ridiculous, Dylan was nothing like cocky Caleb or him. Even so, I wondered why Dylan was so insistent on taking me to dinner.


I turned back to Nikki who was sliding on pale layered dress, apparently going for the baby-doll look for her date with a school rugby player. She flashed me one her genuine smiles that reminded me of the friend I met at fat camp, "Remember to have fun!"

"Don't be nervous," Dylan touched my hand as he calmly wove through the city traffic.

So he did notice my fidgeting. Despite this being my second date, if you wanted to count the one I went on with Caleb after I saw him in the nude, my heart was pounding a mile a minute. I was almost too nervous to realize that we were heading outside of Throne Prep territory.

"I'm not nervous," was my automatic response.

He chuckled when the lie fell flat, "Of course not. I can't imagine why, when we've already kissed and danced together," he joked.

"All for show Gates," I blushed.

"I am hurt," he gasped jokingly, "Does our relationship mean nothing to you?

"What relationship?" I muttered without thinking, "I'm here because I owe you for saving me at the club." Kind of like the last situation I had with Caleb; I really needed to learn to become my own prince so I could stop owing people.

The car suddenly screeched to a stop.

I felt my seat belt jerk me backwards in response, "Whoa?!" I nearly screamed, I glanced back to make sure there wasn't any cars to run into us, before I turned to Ryan, "Are you crazy?!"

"I'm not going to force you to do anything," he said, uncharacteristically serious, "I can think of other ways to spend my night than with a girl who doesn't want to be with me."


He was implying that he could take me back? Neither of us broke gaze as ions of thoughts ran through my head. It was just as Nikki said, I was scared. I had dealt with too many dishonest people to start believing in boys now: "I just...I just don't understand you," I said slowly and honestly, "I can't tell if you're teasing me or if you genuinely…are interested."

He opened his mouth to say something, but we got an impatient honk from a car behind us. He glanced back in annoyance, and slowly steered us to the side of the road to let the angry man pass us.

"Why are you so quick to judge Riley?" he sighed, my heart quickened at the sound of my name on his lips.

"Because, I know…I know people like you don't go for people like me," I barely let out in whisper, I stare down at my hands that were intertwined. He never would go for someone like me, not when we were surrounded by such beautiful faces.

"Hey," he whispered and touched my face so that I would look at him, "Don't… ever think for a second that you're not special Riley. I asked you out because I am genuinely interested in you...I like you a lot." I almost gasped at the confession and felt my cheeks burn. I never had a guy say that to me.

I wanted to believe him, I really did. But a few kind words could not erase a past of lies and wrongdoings. He was just like him, so kind when it was convenient, but he would not hesitate to push me away in a heartbeat, "How do I know I can trust you?" I asked at last.

"Why don't you give me a chance to prove myself first?"

Oh. I hesitated before nodding and giving him a small smile.

"Excellent," he took my hand kissed it, before pulling back on the street. He didn't let go until we reached our destination.

La Fore was nestled between an Italian and Brazilian restaurant on the lively Bakers Street. It was a quiet street with a few couples and families here and there. I liked it, it was a nice change from the town near Thorne Prep; there was less chance of running into people we knew. As nice as it was, I couldn't ignore the fact that Dylan had driven me half an hour away to take me to this French restaurant. It became clear that this wasn't his first time when the valet's eyes bulged out and stuttered out a 'Welcome back sir' before hopping in the car.

I was still trying to suppress my amusement as we entered the restaurant, "Wow, that was a bit obvious," I noted, as the maître d sauntered away. Like the valet, he all but bowed to Dylan as he led us to our table.

Dylan chuckled, "Perks of having the name Gates on the credit card."

Or bringing multiple dates here, I caught myself thinking. I remembered that I had promised to give him the benefit of the doubt and shook it off.

"Sounds nice," I muttered instead.

"Not all the time," he laughed, "You get a lot of people trying to be 'friendly'."

Seemed quite opposite of my experience, "Friendly?"

He grinned, he gestured to the maître d who was talking to the waiter, gesturing to us, "It comes with the territory I guess. After a while, you can't tell who's real or not. "

Rich people problems again, "100 problems," I blurted out, "All of them women."

"Jealous?" his lips pulled up into a smirk, for a moment, I remembered Caleb.

I pressed my lips together tightly, why was I thinking of him now?

"Hey, come on," he gently touched my hand, "I was kidding."

"I'm sorry," I apologized again, "I don't have really good experiences with men...I'm really trying."

Dylan smiled understandingly, "It's alright, and we'll take it slow. I can understand why you're wary of me, I mean I basically made out with you the first night we met."

Yeah, I remembered that and the awkward next day when I found out that he was my track mentor, but I guess that's just high school. I shook my head, "It was kind of my fault anyway. Besides alcohol is a pretty legit excuse for stupidity. You also saved me from that creep."

He laughed softly, "I wish other people could be as understanding as you."

I shrugged, "It's a gift."

He chuckled, "No doubt." I smiled too, pleased with his reaction. He ordered for me and sent the waiter away quickly so that we could continue our conversation. Dylan was so easy to talk to, so conversation flowed easily with him. I was beginning to shed my initial skepticism; this wasn't so bad after all. I leaned my elbows on the table, "So what does the great Dylan Gates do on the weekends?" The heavy weight of fear was lifting by the second.

"Besides, running? Golfing mostly," he grinned, "And sailing when the season's right, I'm on the school team you know."

"We have a team?"

"Oh yeah," he took a sip of water, "It starts when track season is over and golf is year round. The school owns this property near the Woodland Hills. It's where my dad and his old buddies use to go in their youth. Now it's a country club filled with snobby rich people."

"Huh," I said, I was expecting something like watch movies and video games, "Figures."

He laughed at my dubious expression, "Problem Riles?"

"None Gates," I was no longer feeling nervous, I leaned on my elbows and smiled coyly, "I just admire a man of many talents."

"So have I proven myself?" Dylan grinned as we walked arm in arm, his hands shoved in his khaki pants, he shivered against the cool breeze that passed through.

I rubbed the arm that I clung to and smiled sympathetically, "I think you're chances are getting better by the minute."

"Good," he looked as happy as a school boy, it made me smile, so cute. He parked his car and insisted on walking me to our apartment. It was two o'clock by the time we got back to Thorne Prep, because Dylan suggested that we stop by a coffee shop on the same street to try his favorite espresso. We ended up talking for hours until the shop closed.

"I'm surprised my paranoia didn't chase you away," I joked, although part of me was half serious.

"Please Riley, any man who would be scared over such a small obstacle is not worthy of you," he said simply, so easily, so casually, that it made me blush.

I leaned my forehead against his forearm to hide my embarrassment, and whispered into his sleeve, "I'm glad you didn't."

He stopped walking, turned to me, he was a half a foot taller than me, and gazed down at me, his eyes tender, "Me too."

I realized that we were at my door. I tried to shake off the feeling of disappointment.

"Hey," Dylan's arms engulfed me in warmth, he lowered his head to whisper, "I had an amazing time tonight."

I smiled and gazed up at him through my eyelashes, "Me too."

This one was better. My breath was shallow, as I anticipated it, craved it, and waited for it. He leaned in slowly and my eyes fluttered close as I felt his lips touch mine. My body, my lips, knew immediately what to do. Contrary to our past kisses, this was one deliberately slow, like he knew how much it meant to me. Finally, a real one: where I wanted to kiss him and he wanted to kiss me. I savored it slowly. It was not as fiery as the smooch he laid on me at the club, but it still left me short of breath and craving for more. He gently pulled away and leaned his forehead against mine, he murmured "I'll call you later?"

I was breathless, my eyes still closed as I nodded.

He kissed my forehead, "Later then."

I felt him step back slightly from our embrace, hesitate and then immediately lean in for another one. I smiled against his mouth and reciprocated eagerly, I didn't want this date to end either. His arms wound around my back as he pulled me closer. Good lord, this was what Nikki was talking about.

By the time we released each other for the second time, both of our faces were flushed. He grinned happily as he walked backwards down the steps, "I'll call you," he repeated.

I giggled at his boyish grin, "Later."

I quietly opened the door and closed it behind me. I slid to the floor, my back against the door, my cheeks still burning. It really was more special with someone you actually like.

I touched my lips and smiled.

"Well, well," a harsh voice cracked like a whip from the kitchen. I stood up quickly, heels in hand, and trudged my way to the dimly lit room to find Caleb standing there, naked except for his boxers, with a glass of water in his hand. His eyes looked beady and distant.

"What are you doing up?" I tried to frown, but the happy glow still shown on my face.

"Look at that baby face," he sneered as he gestured to me and chuckled before taking another swig of water, "I do believe the Little Mouse had a good night. I'm surprised you didn't stay out later."

Good feelings gone.

"I'm not like you Caleb," I whispered, appalled.

He spat in the sink, "Kieran is at a conference for one of his clubs and Nikki is sleeping somewhere else. You don't have to whisper."

"What are you doing home then?" I asked, pulling my bun out and letting my hair hang loose, "You usually don't come home on Saturdays."

He dropped the water bottle back into the fridge and slammed the door, I heard the glass bottle clink in protest. He turned to me and smiled suddenly, it looked so feral, I took a step back. Suddenly, my heart was going a mile a minute, a red flag waved in my head, I don't think I was breathing, "Caleb?"

"You know it's a pity we couldn't continue where we left off Little Mouse, but I guess that's my fault isn't it? For being an ass?" he took a step closer to me, I took a step back in response. I didn't realize I had dropped my heels and held up my hands in defense, "Caleb-"

A could smell his breath now; whiskey, courtesy of Jack Daniels, there might have been some Smirnoff worked in there too. Jesus, I knew Caleb had a pretty high tolerance, so I couldn't imagine how much he drank to lower himself to such a state. Caleb was drunk, very drunk and clearly not in the right mind now. I was wearing a dress, something that gave him easy access. I spoke slowly, scared of making him snap, "I am going to the bathroom now Caleb, go to your room and drink some water-NO!"

He was fast.

Too fast.

In a split second, I was thrown over his shoulder and he was carrying me into his bedroom. I kicked, beat at his back in protest, calling his name over and over, hoping that it would snap him out of this mad rage he was in. His only response was to toss me on the covers of his bed. Somewhere, an empty glass bottle was knocked over.


He stood above me, barely clothed, his perfectly sculpted chest heaving up and down. He looked beautiful, lethal, feral, and scary. He took advantage of my momentary shock, grabbed my ankle and pulled me closer to him. His face was inches from mine as his eyes locked me in his gaze. I waited for him to make a move, my fingers ready to poke him in the eye sockets. For a minute, I think he's going to kiss me.

Instead, he collapses down to the floor on his knees, I yelped as he pulls me into an embrace.

"Caleb-" I said breathlessly, relieved almost.

What is going on with him?

"Please," he begged, my heart shattered at the sad sound, "Please, let me stay like this for a while." I couldn't describe the pain in Caleb's voice. It was almost child-like, uncharacteristically vulnerable and despite the shock he had just given me, I wanted to hold him.

I reached up and stroked his bare back as I listened to the sound of his breath heave in and out. After a while his breath began to slow, I found myself in bed with him with his arms wrapped around my waist and his head on my stomach. I lay wide awake, sober, his even breath indicated that he had fell asleep, but his arms never loosened around me. I found myself stroking his hair, the gesture seemed to make him relax as he tightened his arms around me and snuggled closer.

What a baby, I caught myself smiling.

Oh my god.

What was I doing?

By the time I woke up, I glanced at Kieran's Superman clock across the room, it read 5 am. I found myself still wrapped in Caleb's naked (except the boxers) embrace, but managed to untangle myself from his heavy body. I glanced at him and sighed. I dragged the blanket from the living room and draped it over him. I spotted two emptied bottles next to his bed and threw them in the recycling before I went to wash off the make-up that was still caked on my face.

Thankfully, Nikki still was not back from her sexual escapade, and Kieran would not be back until Monday morning.

I had poured my bottle of cereal and opened refrigerator to take out the milk when I saw the water bottle he was drinking when I first entered the apartment. I touched the cap and sank to my knees when my knees gave out. I closed the door and leaned against it, what the hell was that last night?

Should I just ignore the fact that Caleb had a metal breakdown and nearly sexually assaulted me? Or the fact that I felt something...No. Not possible. I was basically with Dylan now.

"You are an idiot Riley Pierce," I muttered to myself, before standing up.

"Mother fucker," Caleb slogged to the kitchen midday. This time, although he was still shirtless, he had the decency to put on sweats "What the fuck was in that drink?"

"A whole bottle of 35% ethanol concentration, give or take a few shots of whiskey," I muttered as I kept my eyes glued to the textbook in front of me, avoiding his gaze, "You could think of better ways to kill yourself."

Of course he wouldn't remember, the boy was so blacked out he couldn't even remember his name.

"Hardy har," he reached for the same water-bottle he was downing last night. When I saw him pause for, my heart quickened- could he have remembered? But he downed the rest of the bottle a second later. My sigh of relief was ill-disguised. Luckily my phone buzzed at the same time, I checked the caller ID:

Dylan Gates

"Hello?" I smile as I picked up the phone, there was a small twinge of guilt though; it was like the night started with Dylan and I, and ended with me in bed with Caleb.

"It's later," he said, I could hear the smile in his voice.

"It is," I laughed, "About ten hours."

"Which I believe is the standard waiting time for a phone call right? I am nothing if not punctual," he joked.

"And traditional," I smile, "Thank you for not putting me into the, 'Is he going to call me back?' funk."

"Anytime," Dylan chuckles, "So, can you do dinner tomorrow?"

"Yup," I hummed, "After practice?"

"Can't wait," he says.

"Okay," I tried to suppress my smile.

"Okay then."

I giggled, "Okay."

"Okay," he said, not hanging up.

"I refuse to play the 'you hang up' adolescent game, so hang up Dylan," I smile.

"Ladies first."

"No-" I began.

Caleb grabbed the phone and pushed the end call button. I slammed my pen down and glared angrily at him. He gave me a rebellious look, "Don't make me sicker than I already am Pierce. Get dressed, we're going out." He walked into his room without closing the door to grab a shirt.

"Uh," I fake a laugh, "What makes you think I would go anywhere with you Caleb? Did you forget the part where we're supposed to stay out of each other's lives?"

"Don't act like you don't miss me Pierce," he smirked from his room, "Besides, there's no food in this apartment and I still owe you a meal."

"What? Since when?" I frowned, slowly rising from the table, he was right about the food part, I could feel my stomach growling in agreement- the cereal from this morning was long gone.

"Since I made you play dress up to please my sister," he said, getting irritated, as he grabbed his car keys, "Get fucking dressed Riley, let's run away for a bit."

This was the third day in a row I found myself being taken away from Thorne College Prep. If only my mom knew what the hell I was doing instead of studying. I don't know why I ended up climbing into Caleb's car, or what I assumed was Caleb's car, there was just this feeling that I would regret it later if I didn't. Caleb gunned through the afternoon traffic and headed toward the coast; it looked like we were going to the beach.

He pulled his car into a parking lot where a mass of people were swarming over the sand hill. I hopped out of the car in Nikki's knee-high caramel brown boots and the same leather jacket I wore to yesterday's date. Good thing too, because the air was even colder right next to the ocean. I shivered, "A little far for a meal don't you think?" I said as we followed the crowd over the hill which separated the parking lot from the beach. Things looked lively here for a Sunday night.

He draped his arm around me, his warmth immediately offsetting the cold ocean breeze, "It's worth it I assure you."

I opened my mouth to protest, but when we reached the top of the hill, I could only gape at the scene below us. The beach stretch was filled with tents and food trucks, on the far right, there was a stage where a band was playing for a mass of people. It was like a combination of a farmer's market, a food truck bazaar and a concert all in one. Above all, it looked amazing. My inner child squealed with glee, it was a beach festival.

Caleb chuckled at my expression, "Told you."

"What is this?" I was mesmerized and could not pull my eyes away from the lights, as we walked down the hill.

"Pretty cool huh?" he grinned and ran his hand through his hair, again attracting attention with his casual jeans and his Floyd green garrison jacket, "I heard about this from Zeke. This is the last night of the year that this is happening and the lineup is pretty tight too."

"This is amazing," I squeezed my arm around his waist, "Thanks Caleb! This is actually pretty awesome."

He looked down at me, shocked, "Damn, is Riley Pierce actually smiling? I must be dreaming."

"So funny," I laughed, in a good mood, and shivered a little when the wind blew my hood off, "Don't quit while you're ahead Caleb. You're already off to a great start."

He flashed one of his rare breath-taking smiles again, "I'll try not to disappoint."


We still had a good amount of time before the act Caleb wanted to see started and decided to stroll around the booths to hunt for food. I found myself enchanted by the different artworks people displayed; there were so many styles to look at. Other booths sold little trinkets and clothes to buy. Someone was even doing henna tattoos for five dollars. Even the food truck food, which Caleb refused to let me pay for, was delicious.

As the night went on, the crowd got bigger; it got to the point that Caleb and I had to hold hands so we wouldn't be separated. At one point of the night, before the hand holding, I was so busy admiring an artist's abstract drawing, I didn't realize I got separated from Caleb. I was asking her about the types of paints she used before a knit maroon beanie suddenly covered my head. I whirled, pulling the cap up to see Caleb behind me, shoving his change in his pocket. The artist whose work I was looking at winked at me and stepped away to give us some space.

"Caleb-" I started to ask, confused, did he really just by me this?

"Don't question it little mouse," he purposely looked away from me at another booth. It was a little difficult to tell, but I think Caleb's ears were red. I grinned and adjusted the hat so it covered my ears-he must have noticed the wind constantly blowing the hood off my head- so Caleb did have this side to him. I hugged him tightly, "Thank you."

"Young couples are always so cute," the artist smiled, "How long have you two been together?"

"Oh no-" I began to say.

"Three months," Caleb interrupted me, giving me a squeeze so I wouldn't answer, "It's been an amazing three months."

She smiled warmly at the two of us, "I wish you two the best of luck."

"Thank you-" Caleb began.

A camera flashed as one of the professional photographers snapped a photo of the artist's booth. I saw Caleb wince-right no cameras for Caleb- I quickly gave him a quick reassuring hug and kiss on the cheek before steering him away before the photographer took a photo of us. I saw him visibly relax, this was different from the masquerade; here he was barefaced, a picture could help his parents easily find him. I tried to change the subject, "So baby, am I your girlfriend now?"

His jaw unclench as he smirked down at me, "Force of habit. I think you'd be used to it by now."

Of course, how could I forget?

A warm feeling began to resonate inside of me.

Me and Caleb together again.

The mood got even better when the band we were waiting for began to play. At first, I was jostled and hit back and forth between strangers enjoying the music and oblivious to everything else. Someone in the crowd was smoking, not cigarettes I might add. I winced as someone's elbow stabbed me in the side and then I felt Caleb's hands on my shoulders as he steered me through the crowd, protecting my back from all the elbows and purses flying everywhere. I failed to suppress a smile and leaned into his chest for protection and warmth. His arms ended up around my waist as we swayed to the music for the rest of the night.

Caleb was right, this was amazing.

The fireworks at the end were the cherry on top.

By the time we got back to the apartment it was already three in the morning; later than my date with Dylan the other night. Nikki was on the couch flipping through a magazine when Caleb gently carried me into the apartment. I was barely conscious, my arms wrapped around his neck. After she glanced at me almost asleep Caleb's arm, I heard her say, "Where the hell have you two been?"

Caleb didn't answer as he silently carried me to my bed. I felt him unzip my boots and pull the covers over me. He turned off the lights before leaving the room. I heard Nikki and him talking in the living room before I heard him slam the door to his room. I couldn't tell if they had argued or not, nor did I care, I was on cloud nine.

I smiled as I surrendered to the sleep.

Please let me know what you think! I'll try to chug out a chapter as fast as possible! Don't forget to keep an eye out for updates on Sun Kissed! Thanks for being so patient and for all your kind words.

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