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The door closed softly behind her. She kicked off her ankle boots, groaning in relief. The house was dark and so, so quiet. The floorboards creaked as she padded down the hall. She heard Amy’s car drive off. Amy was her best friend; they’d been out late at some shady club. Hell, she didn’t even know what time it was.
Emma Beaufort was eighteen years old. She’d graduated high school in June, and she’d chosen to take a year to figure her shit out before going off to college. Thankfully, Amy had come to the same conclusion. Having her friend with her made her feel like considerably less of a loser.
Her balance wobbled as she made her way through the house. She raked her hand through her shoulder-length dark brown hair, her fingers catching on the knots. The tank top she was wearing underneath her shirt was riding up again, for about the thousandth time. She grunted as she walked into a chair, partially blindfolded by her own shirt.
Cool air tickled against her bare skin. Ah, sweet relief. One of her bra straps slipped down. She began to fumble for the clasp when she realized she wasn’t alone. Groggily, she turned her head, looking into the kitchen. Someone was sitting at the bar, his elbows propped up on the counter.
“You were out late,” he said lowly.
“What time is it?” she muttered, rubbing at her eye with the heel of her palm. Drunk as she was, it didn’t alarm her that she was shirtless in front of her father. It was dark, anyways. It didn’t matter.
She’d been living with him for almost a month now. It was still… odd. She hadn’t adjusted quite yet. Her mom was half-way across the world, with her newest boyfriend. It was a miracle that her dad had actually agreed to take her in. Her own father was a complete stranger to her, and she to him.
The stool scraped back as he stood. “Almost three in the morning.” He stopped in front of her, looking down at her with an unreadable expression. The smell of whiskey carried on his breath. She’d never gotten in trouble with him before. Honestly, she hadn’t really thought about it when she’d been out.
Emma rocked back on her heels. “Whoopsie,” she said through a yawn. She made to walk past him, but he grabbed her wrist, making her yelp. “Your hands are freezing!”
“Too bad. Are you drunk?”
“Aren’t you?” she countered, scowling. She’d already found his impressive stock of assorted alcohol in the pantry. She felt like she was living in a mansion. Her father wasn’t a millionaire (as far as she knew), but he certainly was wealthy. The contrast between this and the two-bedroom apartment she’d lived in with her mom was dizzying.
Instead of letting her go, he pulled her closer. Her hand hit his chest. “That was Amy, wasn’t it?” he demanded, ignoring her retort. He made it sound like Amy was a horrible influence – despite the fact that he barely knew a thing about her. “You’re supposed to be an adult now, aren’t you? Stop acting like a child.” Most of the night was a blur of flashing lights and bodies pressed close together. The pounding of the music still echoed in her head. Some guy had bought them drinks… or had there been more than one guy?
She was sweaty and tired and drunk. She wanted to shower or go to bed. Or both. If only she could do both simultaneously… Emma shook her head. “I just want to – to go to sleep.” She tried to pull free again. His grip tightened, the pressure enough to bruise. Her free hand covered his, attempting to pry him off. “That hurts,” she whined.
“Good. Maybe it’ll teach you a lesson.”
Emma laughed. “What are you gonna do, spank me?” The words slurred and slowed. They tripped and twisted on her tongue.
Something changed in his expression. He looked her up and down, his gaze lingering on her exposed chest. Emma shifted. Heat stained her cheeks. Thoughtfully, he licked his lips. “Maybe I should,” he muttered huskily.
“Wh-what?” she stammered. “No, n-no I was kidding. Like you are. You’re kidding. You are kidding, right? Dad?” He wouldn’t hit her, would he? No, that was crazy. People didn’t do that anymore. He had to be joking.
He blinked, then scoffed, letting her go. She bit the inside of her cheek, waiting for him to laugh, or to say something else. She still didn’t know quite how to act around him. “Forget it. Goodnight, Emma.” Relieved, she turned to dart to her room. Before she could take more than one step, his hand came down on her ass. Emma shrieked, spinning around. He held up her shirt and tank top, smiling. “Don’t forget these.”
Emma nodded, grabbing them and speed-walking the rest of the way. Had he just smacked her ass? He had, hadn’t he? She ran up the winding staircase and shot down the hall. She kicked her bedroom door behind her, letting her clothes tumble out of her grip. He hadn’t hit her hard, but still. It was probably best to forget it. She wiggled out of her shorts and shrugged out of her bra. Emma crossed the room to yank the window open. It definitely felt like summer, despite the hour. She could feel the canlı bahis stifling heat sticking to her. Hell, she could taste it.
Cool air rushed over her. She sighed in deep content. Emma grabbed a baggy old t-shirt off the floor and pulled it on. The fabric felt like it stuck to her skin. Ugh, she probably reeked of booze and sweat. She climbed onto the messy bed, flopping onto the mattress and exhaling into the pillow.
“Did your dad freak out?” Amy asked. It was the morning after, and Emma’s head was killing her. Amy had come over in the early afternoon, and the two were sitting at the kitchen table. Amy, chipper as always, had made them both smoothie bowls with fresh berries and granola on top. It was delicious, of course, but Emma was finding it hard to focus on much.
She waved her hand in a vague gesture. She didn’t remember much from last night. She remembered talking to him, and that he’d been drinking. “All fine,” she murmured sleepily.
Amy tapped her spoon against Emma’s wrist. “What happened there?” They both looked at the faint bruises.
“I dunno, I guess someone grabbed me at the club.”
“Yeah.” Emma scooped up some of her smoothie, making sure to get some blueberries. She leaned back in her chair, one foot propped up on the seat. It was another warm, sunny day. Amy was dressed in black yoga pants and one of those running hoodies. Emma wore a white tank top with an open back, and denim short-shorts. Amy had probably jogged over here. Emma, for her part, planned to spend the day lazing about.
One of the best benefits of moving was that she was closer to Amy’s house. Not by much, but still.
Amy leaned forward, grinning, “Do you think we should have brought your boy-toy?”
Emma looked at her irritably. Jeremy, her boyfriend, would have loved the club. He would’ve gotten drunk ridiculously fast, and then hit on every girl around. Amy glanced up, her eyes widening. “Oh, hi Mr. Beaufort!”
Heat coloured her cheeks. Emma looked back at him over her shoulder. He’d heard, hadn’t he? Of course he had. Shit.
Clearly, he’d just come back from the gym. He put down his nearly empty water bottle and set his phone on the counter. Emma saw Amy taking it all in, fixating on his muscled arms in particular. Amy had practically swooned when she’d first met her dad. His chest was bare, showing off his six-pack – which, Emma thought, was totally un-dad-like – and his tanned skin shone with a sheen of sweat.
He walked over to her, all serious and stoic. Something was different. Had they argued last night? She couldn’t remember. She tensed as he reached for her face. His thumb brushed her chin, right under her lower lip. It came away smeared purple from the smoothie. Then, he smiled. “We have napkins for a reason.” Amy laughed. And then, just like that, he walked away.
Her heart was pounding. She felt weirdly light-headed. Just a little. What was that? She looked at Amy, speechless. Amy sighed dreamily, cupping her chin in her hand. “God, I love your dad.”
“What? He’s hot. And young.”
He was thirty-six. Both he and her mom had been eighteen when she’d been born. Needless to say, they hadn’t been planning on starting a family. She supposed thirty-six was pretty young, and her dad looked even younger. Her and Amy had decided he looked somewhere between twenty-five and thirty. He certainly took care of himself, minus the drinking. And he was genuinely handsome, beyond the muscles.
Wait. Why was she thinking about this? She shook her head, scooting her chair forward and planting both feet on the ground. Amy rambled on as Emma devoured the rest of her smoothie. She heard the shower start. Her shoulders slumped. Her spoon scraped the bottom of the bowl.
“So, what are we doing today?” Amy asked.
Emma picked up both bowls and carried them to the sink. “I wasn’t aware we were doing anything today,” she said as she rinsed them off. “I was thinking of a do-nothing day, you know? Watch Netflix, read, the usual…” She bent to put the dishes in the dishwasher; she bumped it closed with her hip.
Amy grinned, “You could always invite Jeremy over for Netflix.”
“With my dad home? No thanks.” Calling him ‘dad’ still felt awkward. She didn’t know him very well, and he hadn’t been a part of her childhood. ‘Dad’ felt too comfortable, in a way, but it wasn’t as if she could call him Mr. Beaufort. Why her mom had decided to give Emma his last name, she didn’t know. Maybe she wanted her daughter to have a more interesting surname than ‘Smith’.
Amy shrugged, “That’s what makes it more fun.” She stood, tightening her ponytail. Her blonde hair swayed as she walked. “You know, the chance of getting caught? A girl’s gotta find excitement somewhere.” Excitement with Jeremy had become a rare thing lately. They’d been together for almost six months now. It had been fun at first, and the sex had been great. Maybe because Emma didn’t have anything to compare the experience bahis siteleri to… Jeremy was her first and, so far, her only.
Emma sighed, running her hand over her dark hair. Amy sobered. The two of them talked about everything. “Listen, Emma… If you’re not happy, I mean, why bother? You can just dump his ass and find someone you actually like.” It wasn’t the first time they’d had this same conversation.
She scoffed, “Yeah? Like who?” Her relationship with Jeremy was the only certain thing in her life. She didn’t know what she was going to do when she went to college. None of the things she was truly passionate about led to ‘careers’. Her mom told her to go to medical school, or, if she liked English so much, then she should be a teacher. Thinking about it gave her a headache.
Maybe she should call Jeremy. “Uh, what about Branden?” Emma followed Amy to the hall. She grabbed her keys and her phone. “Branden Jackson? He’s cute.”
“Sure, he’s cute, but the guy’s a complete idiot. And a perv.”
Amy nodded, frowning. “Right, right.” She shoved her phone in her pocket, gripping her keys in one hand. Emma crossed her arms over her chest, leaning one shoulder against the wall. Amy lowered her voice, “Have things gotten any better?”
Emma glanced behind her, but they were still alone. She turned back to Amy and shrugged. “It’s okay. I can deal.”
Amy smiled sadly. Suddenly, the girl pulled her in for a hug. “At least you’ve got someone, I guess.” Amy released her, opening the door behind her. The sunlight was blinding. Amy backed out of the house, waving goodbye before jogging away.
She kicked the door shut. Amy was a good friend, though she didn’t understand why Clara and Jeremy were still together. They hadn’t talked in almost a week. Should she miss him more? Probably. Should she be more concerned that he might be sleeping with other girls? Definitely.
The neighbourhood was certainly better here. She was surrounded by giant, fancy houses. Most of them, including her dad’s, had their own pools. It was quieter, too, which was nice. Emma pushed a pair of sunglasses on and slung her bag over her shoulder. Her shiny new keys jangled as she closed the door behind her and turned to lock it.
Her toenails were painted black, reflecting her mood. She glanced at them as she walked down the steps. She was wearing a cute pair of lace-up sandals Amy had gotten her last year. They’d be great for the beach, if she ever actually went.
Her tote bag bounced against her hip as she walked. She was supposed to be meeting Jeremy at Starbucks. Stubbornly, she kept her hopes low. What was she going to do? Maybe Amy was right. Maybe she should break up with him. But things used to be so good between them! Shouldn’t she give it another chance?
It was late in the afternoon, with blissfully cool winds breezing through to keep the worst of the heat at bay. It took around thirty minutes to walk from her dad’s house to the Starbucks downtown.
Jeremy wasn’t there. She shot him a text and went to stand in line. Even with the long line, and the wait for her Green Tea Frappuccino, he still hadn’t shown up. She grabbed her drink and walked outside. Every table – inside and out – was taken.
She waited. And waited. She threw out her empty cup. Finally, twenty minutes later, she called him. He didn’t answer. Emma swore, loud enough to earn her a few looks.
“Emma! Over here!” Jeremy’s car pulled up. He waved cheerily, as if everything was completely fine.
Emma took a deep breath. Stay calm, she reminded herself, you’re going to try to fix things. Since he wasn’t coming out, she walked over to him. One look at his slicked back hair and his dopey, stupid smile, and she had to force herself not to start yelling. Usually, she was better at minding her temper, but, for some reason, she found herself seething. What was wrong with him? Did he have any respect for her, at all? She didn’t even want to spend time with him anymore.
“Hi,” she said blandly.
“It’s been a while,” he grinned. “What’s up? You wanna go somewhere?” He had the suggestive ‘let’s go fuck’ look that instantly made her want to slap him. Was that all she was good for?
Instead of causing a scene, she opened his car door and got inside. “We could go for lunch?” If he was disappointed, he didn’t show it. The words ‘I want to talk to you’ pushed at her lips, but she knew that was an immediate red flag. He’d think she wanted to break up.
Jeremy was fairly chatty, and annoyingly upbeat. She used to find his boyish energy contagious, but today it was more tiresome than anything. He rambled on and on, the conversation always circling back to him and his group of rowdy friends. They went out for lunch; it was a wonder that he didn’t choke. He just kept on talking, nonstop. All Emma had to do was smile and nod.
The next thing she knew, they were parked in his parents’ driveway. “C’mon, it’ll be just us.” He flashed her a grin.
Emma followed him bahis şirketleri inside. Maybe it would be better this time. They went to his bedroom. It was a mess – it looked like a hoarder’s paradise. And the smell! It was enough to make her stomach clench. She was just about to suggest the living room when his mouth pressed against hers.
She stumbled back, wincing when her hip hit the doorknob. He pushed against her, already hard. His hands were sweaty and hot as they grasped at her waist.
Disgust had her pushing at his shoulders. “Jeremy, stop. Stop! Just—”
He pulled back, scowling, “What?” He fumbled for the button of her shorts.
“Stop it! I… I don’t w-want to.”
He looked at her. His brow furrowed in confusion. What was he going to do? Would he dump her? Suddenly, he burst out into laughter. “You’re hilarious, Em.”
She lurched back at the feel of his fingers brushing her stomach. “I’m not kidding! I don’t want to! Leave me alone!” He was trying to take her shorts off. Panicked, her hand shot out, slamming against his chest.
“Emma? What the hell are you talking about? Stop messing around.” The laughter was faded now. That dopey smile was gone. He glared at her, shaking his head. “The fuck is your problem? You think you’re too good for me now, living up in that fancy ass house?”
She felt behind her for the door. Jeremy scowled. He grabbed her by the shoulders and yanked her towards him. “I don’t want to be with you anymore,” she ground out, staring up at him with wide-eyes.
“Someone told me you were at that club last night, dancing with all those guys. Did you fuck ’em? Huh? You fucking bitch!” She retreated from his shouts, from his red-faced anger. But every step she put between them, he moved closer towards her. His fingers curled into white-knuckled fists. “I’ve been so god damned good to you, and this is how you repay me? How dare you. How dare you! You’re such a fucking slut, Emma.” Again, he grabbed for her. His hand went up her shirt.
Shaken and scared, Emma did the one thing that formed in her mind. She kicked him in the balls. But he had a fist in her hair and he brought her down with him. Tears stung her eyes, her knees hitting the floor.
Jeremy grunted, swearing furiously. She’d never seen him like this before. Sure, he had a bit of a temper, but he’d never been so mad at her! Finally, she managed to break away. Strands of hair were left caught between his fingers.
She was almost to the door when he grabbed her. She turned, her head knocking into the wall as his fist hit her face.
Everything else was a blur.
She remembered running like her life depended on it, hearing him swear and shout. Tears ran freely down her aching face. She ran until she couldn’t breathe, until her legs were shaking and she felt like she was going to collapse.
She had no phone on her, or any money. She’d left her bag at Jeremy’s, and there was no way she was going back for it. The distance between their houses made for a long enough drive, but a walk? It was dark out by the time she was staggering up the hill.
How was she going to get in? The lights were all out; he wasn’t home. She hugged her elbows to her as she stumbled up the front steps. She tried knocking, but no one answered. She supposed she could break a window or something, but she was so tired.
She sat against the door, her knees drawn to her chest, and waited.
Blearily, she swam to consciousness. Well, almost. Her eyelids felt too heavy, her mouth too dry. The pounding against her skull was enough to make her fantasize about Advil. And her face! It felt like she’d been hit by a crowbar.
Warmth surrounded her. She could hear someone breathing, right above her. Was she… being carried? She smelled cologne and coffee. She turned towards his chest, letting out a little groan. The man smelled amazing. So warm and comforting… She could feel the bulk of the muscles carrying her. Emma was blanketed by a secure feeling of safety.
Reluctantly, she peeled open her eyes. Why did her face hurt so much? Why was she so tired? Her vision gradually cleared as she blinked away the haze. She peered up at the gorgeous face above her. Dear god, she thought, he could’ve been a model. The angles of his face were sharp and defined, but his lips and eyes were soft and trusting. Her gaze dropped to his neck, and she suddenly had the urge to curl her hand around it.
He must have realized she was awake. His greenish blue eyes looked down at her, brow creased in concern. “How are you feeling?” he spoke lowly, his voice a murmur she felt the echo of in his chest.
Heat crept into her cheeks. “Um, tired? My head hurts… a lot.” It was her father. Ugh. ‘Father’ felt way too formal. She couldn’t call him that. ‘Dad’ seemed too personal, too familiar. Emma didn’t even know how to address him, much less how to talk to him.
He took her to the kitchen. She was terribly aware of his hands on her skin. Emma squinted at the abrupt burst of light, a pulse of pain shooting through her skull. “Sorry, that was stupid.” He turned off the lights and she sighed in relief. He sat her down on the countertop, then moving to click on the light over the stove.
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