“Wow,” Georgia murmured. “I thought I was going to have to get a fire extinguisher for you two.”
My cheeks burned as I turned and unlocked our door. Stepping inside I tossed my bag on my bed and fell down beside it.
“That’s Shaw? Forgot to mention just how beautiful he is.”
“Pepper and I said he was hot.”
“There’s hot and then there’s that.” She waved toward the door.
“Don’t you have a boyfriend?” I reminded her.
She shrugged. “That doesn’t mean I’m blind. But more important, you don’t have a boyfriend, so—”
“And I don’t want one.”
She sank down on her bed across from me. “So you and he are just—”
“Nothing,” I cut her off. “We’re nothing.” I rubbed the center of my forehead where a headache was forming.
“That looked like something to me. It looked kind of intense.”
I bit back the unkind reply that anything would look intense to her given that Harris was her barometer for passionate kisses. The guy seemed more inclined to kiss his image in the mirror than Georgia. I kept my opinion to myself. It wasn’t my place to judge. What did I know about relationships anyway?
Deciding to change the subject, I asked, “Are you heading to Harris’s tonight?”
“No. He’s studying.”
I frowned. “You said you just needed to get something from the room—”
“Well, yeah, I wanted to give you your space. I would have just grabbed some books and headed to the library or something. You were clearly in the middle of something, and I didn’t want to ruin it. Thought I’d give you two privacy.”
I smiled. “Thanks, but unnecessary. Remember? I don’t have guys stay over the night.”
“There’s always a first time, Em.”
I shook my head. “Nope.” Those were my rules, and I wouldn’t bend them.
Georgia rose and started to change. She kicked off her jeans and slipped a pair of comfy-looking pajama bottoms over her shapely runner’s legs. “So, you going to see Shaw again?” she asked as she slid a knit T-shirt over her head.
I shook my head. I didn’t plan on it, but then something told me I hadn’t seen the last of him. And that fired both excitement and panic through me. I really needed to get a grip.
Tugging off my boots, I rose and shrugged out of my jeans.
“You dropped some money.” Georgia pointed to the carpet.
Bending, I picked up a crumpled twenty, deducing that it had fallen from my pocket. Where I had not put it.
“Damn him,” I muttered.
Just then my phone buzzed. I dug through my bag and read the screen.
Shaw: It was a date
With a growl, I flung the phone on the bed. The guy didn’t play fair. I was always in control.
Except around him.
“What?” Georgia repeated.
My eyes snapped to her as determination rushed through me. “No. No, I’m not going to see him again.”
Whatever it took, I had to get him out of my life.
My phone buzzed again. I glanced down, fully expecting another message from Shaw, but no.
Annie: You’re in
I frowned, confused. I typed back three question marks and waited, watching as she typed.
Annie: The kink club. I’m a member now. After tonight, honey . . . of course, I am
Really. What else could I say?
Annie: You’re my first guest, girl. You better bring your game
My fingers hovered over the keys, unsure how to respond. I didn’t especially want to hang out with Annie anymore. And the idea of the kink club might have sounded fun at first. But now . . . I wasn’t that intrigued.
“Who is it?” Georgia asked.
“Ugh. Her.” Georgia whipped her long golden hair into a messy knot on her head. “Let me guess. She trying to get you to go out?”
I nodded. “Something like that. She got into that kink club.”
Georgia’s eyes widened. “Really?” Her lips quirked. “Not surprising, I guess.”
I nodded slowly, thinking. “She invited me to go with her next time.” I lifted one shoulder in a half shrug. “Whenever she goes again. She’ll get back to me with all the details.”
Georgia’s amused smile slipped. “You can’t.”
I sat up straighter on the bed. “Why not?”
“Well . . . Shaw . . .”
I bristled. Clearly I was doing something wrong if my own friend thought I was so involved with a guy that I couldn’t carry on as normal and go to a kink club. She wasn’t hearing me when I said there was nothing between us. Okay, and maybe going to a kink club wouldn’t exactly be my normal. It would be a first for me, but I had always been the kind of girl who would have embraced an opportunity like that. At least before.
“I’m going,” I declared with a shrug. “Why not?”
Georgia looked at me warily, disapproval lurking in her eyes. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Em.”
Of course I did. I was taking control of my life again.
WHEN THE UNKNOWN NUMBER popped up, I was in the process of stuffing my laptop into my bag. Sometimes my hair salon called to confirm appointments and they didn’t always use the main line I had plugged into my phone. Zipping up my bag, I answered. “Hello?”
My art history professor, a Frenchman about my height, glared at me as I was squeezing out between desks. I sent him a small, apologetic smile. Class was over, but he didn’t seem to care.
“Emerson? It’s me. Justin.”
I stopped, my fingers clenching around my phone until my joints ached.
A girl bumped into me from behind at my sudden stop.
“Excuse me,” she said sharply.
I looked dumbly over my shoulder and stepped aside so she could pass, too shocked to even muster up an apology.
“How did you get this number?” My lips felt numb as the words passed out of my mouth. I stepped out of the classroom and walked slowly down the hall. It was crowded, lots of students buried in their phones or talking to the person next to them. Except for my snail-crawling pace, I didn’t look out of the ordinary. Even if I felt it. Even if I felt like I’d just gotten hit by a semi.