Home > Easy (Contours of the Heart #1)(49)

Easy (Contours of the Heart #1)(49)
Author: Tammara Webber

I knew Chaz was a good guy, if misguided and gullible. He’d swallowed Buck’s side of what happened between us, had argued with Erin that maybe I was drunk that night, and I didn’t remember everything clearly. He was probably one of those boys to whom ra**sts were ugly men who jumped out of bushes, assaulting random girls. Rapists weren’t your nice-guy coworker, or your frat brother, or your best friend.

Maybe it never occurred to him that his best friend was capable of ripping a girl’s self-confidence away in the span of five minutes. That he could hurt someone innocent to wound a rival. That he could violate her in a twisted attempt to obliterate his own powerlessness. That he could make her feel constantly threatened, and not give a shit.

The only time I felt completely safe was when I was with Lucas.


Ten minutes later, I was watching Buck dance with a senior from Erin’s sorority. He smiled and laughed, and so did she. He looked so… normal. For the first time, I wondered if I was the only girl he’d ever terrorized, and if so, why. I jumped when I heard Kennedy’s voice in my ear. “You look stunning, Jacqueline.” My drink sloshed over the cup’s rim onto my hand, luckily missing my dress. He took the cup from my hand. “Ah, I’m sorry—didn’t mean to startle you. C’mon, let me get you a towel.”

I was disconcerted enough from his arm steering me through the crowd, his hand on my bare back, that I wasn’t aware of the separation from Erin until we were in the kitchen with my arm over the sink as though I had a mortal injury rather than a beer-soaked hand. He rinsed and patted my hand dry, and I withdrew it from his grasp when he didn’t let go right away.

He ignored my withdrawal, smiling down at me. “As I was trying to say before—you look beautiful tonight. I’m glad you came.”

The music was loud, and conversation required us to stand closer than I wanted to be. “I came for Erin, Kennedy.”

“I know. But that doesn’t diminish my satisfaction that you’re here.”

He was wearing his usual Lacoste cologne, but it no longer made me want to lean against him and inhale. Once again, he stood in direct contrast to Lucas, whose scent wasn’t any one thing—it was his leather jacket and his barely-there aftershave, the meal he’d cooked for me and the subtle yet sharp smell of graphite on his fingers after he’d been drawing, the exhaust of his Harley and the minty shampoo smell of his pillow.

One brow cocked, Kennedy looked at me closely, and I realized he’d probably said or asked something.

“I’m sorry, what?” I leaned my ear toward him so I could take a second to push Lucas from my mind.

“I said, ‘Let’s dance.’”

Unable to shake my errant thoughts, I agreed and let my ex lead me to the designated dance floor, right in front of the band. An area had been cleared of furniture just under the motorized disco ball, which hung dangerously low for some of the taller guys. Rotating slowly, its mirrored surface threw flashes of light in waves around the room, illuminating faces and gyrating bodies, and glinting off any reflective surface from doorknobs to jewelry to Erin’s silver dress. Her hands were locked behind the neck of a Pi Kappa Alpha senior, an empty cup hanging from her fingertips. Her dance partner was unknowingly at the receiving end of a death glare from Chaz. Erin had noticed, though, and she pressed closer to him, staring up into his eyes with rapt attention.

Poor Chaz. I should be angry with him, too, but he was clearly miserable.

“I heard about Chaz and Erin. What happened?” Kennedy had followed my gaze.

“You should ask him.” I wondered what Kennedy would make of Buck’s behavior. They were civil with each other, but that competitive fixation had been between them from day one.

“I did, sort of. He didn’t seem to want to talk about it. Said they’d had a big fight, she was being unreasonable, blah blah—you know, the stupid stuff guys say when we f**k up something good.”

Just then, the music changed to something fast, allowing me to reinstate my bubble of personal space and fortunately axing the conversation about breakups and f**kups. I was so relieved to end that exchange that I failed to pay attention to where Erin was. I failed to pay attention to where Buck was.

In a lull between songs, he walked up behind me. “Hey, Jacqueline” he said, and I jumped for the second time that night. “Are you done dancing with this loser? Come dance with me.” The hair on my arms stood on end, every nerve in my body on full alert, and I moved closer to Kennedy, who put his arm around my shoulders. I didn’t want his arm on me, but given the choice between them, there was no choice.

Smiling, Buck held out a hand.

I stared at it, incredulous and cringing closer to Kennedy, whose body became rigid, aligned with mine. “No.”

With his usual indolent smirk, Buck gazed down at me as though my ex wasn’t there. Like we were alone. “All right then, maybe later.”

I shook my head and focused on the word I’d said over and over that morning. The word that preceded every kick. “I said no. Don’t you understand no?” From the corner of my eye, I saw Kennedy’s gaze snap to my face.

Buck’s eyes narrowed and his mask of indifference slipped for a split second. And then he recovered and the guise was back in place. I knew in that moment that he wasn’t giving up. He was merely biding his time. “Sure. I hear you. Jacqueline.” His eyes shifted to Kennedy, whose guarded expression was at odds with the piqued rigidity of his body. “Kennedy.” He nodded and Kennedy responded in kind, and then he walked away.

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