ENEMIES

“YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!”

The screaming jerked me upright. I’d been awake, lying in bed and reading about population dynamics of Asteroidea. Eavesdropping was bad. So was gossip. Overhearing roommate drama, bad move. I was going anyway. Easing my door open, the basement was dark. Lisa’s door was closed, though that didn’t tell me if she was in the house or not. She was still avoiding me like the plague, but I moved through the game room, closer to the stairs.

“Wyatt! OMG! Don’t!”

It was Mia screaming.

“What is going on?!”

That was Nicole, so she was home, and she was annoyed.

“Nothing. It’s nothing!” Feet stomped over my head, they were coming close to the kitchen doorway.

The basement door must’ve been left open, or I wouldn’t be able to hear so well. Lisa must’ve been up there because no one else would come down here.

“Hey! What the hell.”

“It’s nothing.” A more calmer Wyatt, but he was restraining himself.

I could almost imagine him gritting his teeth.

“It’s not nothing!”

And I could imagine Mia tossing her hair, throwing her hand to her hip.

“My God. Calm down. You guys were fine a minute ago.”

“That was before he—” Silence. I didn’t know what she was doing, but I could hear her huffing. “—started lecturing me on reaching out to Char, but he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Guys are different. There’s no beef. They all fight and get over it—”

“Not completely,” a low mutter from Wyatt, but still calm. I was giving him props for that. “We compartmentalize more. Will I probably need to see this dude again in the future? If yes, get over it. If no, then throw a punch. Or throw a punch no matter the answer. Sometimes that’s just more fun, but you never know. Some guys lately are weasels—”

“Wyatt!”

“Right. You don’t care about what I’m saying.” He sighed, now I heard his irritation. “What a surprise. Nothing new there.”

“What does that mean?”

And judging by how snippy her tone turned, I could imagine her crossing her arms over her chest. Maybe a defiant tilt of her chin to complete the look?

“Mia.” He was trying to smooth things over, but I heard the creak of a foot above. He was going toward her. His voice was calm, almost too calm. I couldn’t have remained calm like him in that situation. “You are hurt by your friend. Char left you, she left everyone, and all I’m saying—”

“What?! That I’m being a bitch?!”

“Christ’s sake.” He snapped back, “You ARE!”

I heard an audible gasp. Mia’s? Nicole’s? It was the name game.

“Wyatt. Dude. Maybe—”

“No! She’s being a bitch, and instead of picking up the fucking phone and chewing out the friend she should be chewing out, I’ve had to listen to her all fucking week talk shit about someone she doesn’t even know.”

A sick laugh from Mia. “Yeah. Right. I don’t need to know the reject roommate to know a few things about her. She’s—”

My heart sank. She was talking about me. This whole thing was about me. What the hell?

“YOU DON’T KNOW HER!”

My heart picked back up at Wyatt’s roar.

He kept on, “You don’t know her! You have no idea if she’s nice or mean or poor or anything. You have no clue, except it’s obvious she’s quiet because you never know if she’s here and she’s fucking desperate. Why the hell would someone stay in the situation with you and Lisa actively hating her unless she had nowhere else to go.” A pause. “And she’s not heard eighty percent of the bullshit you’ve been spewing about her.”

“WHY IS THIS YOUR PROBLEM?!”

“BECAUSE I DON’T WANT A HATEFUL FUCKING MEAN GIRLFRIEND!”

Wyatt’s stock just skyrocketed to me. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t heard him. But hearing Mia had remained on the Hate New Roommate Train wasn’t a surprise to me. Just confirmed everything I’d been feeling, and to think I almost considered trying again with them.

“She ditched Nicole and the group,” Mia was still trying, but she was losing some of her momentum. “What kind of person does that? I mean, that’s so mean and rude and disrespectful. Nicole didn’t have to invite her at all in the first place.”

“Yeah. You know, it was kind of shitty what she did, but put yourself in her shoes. She told Savannah she had driven across the nation to come here. She told Savannah she didn’t know anyone else in town. You are a bitch to her within two seconds of stepping inside this new place. You’re surrounded by all your friends. She’s alone. She was set up by Char, too, and yeah, that was an insanely bitchy move on Char’s part, but it’s Char. Then, what I hear is that Lisa was a bitch to her. Sorry, but I’d probably ditch, too, because you never know when the tide is going to turn.”

Silence. Total and complete silence.

Then, a hiccupping sob. “I’m not a mean person.”

“No, you’re not, but you’re acting like one.”

“Wyatt,” a soft gasp. I don’t know from who.

“Look, you can hate the girl all you want, but at least make it be for a good reason. You’re hurt and mad at Char. Take it out on Char! That’s the kind of girlfriend I fell in love with, someone who had a problem and took it up with that problem. You can’t take it up with this girl because you know it’s not really about her. And you’re scared to deal with Char. I don’t get why because you know that Char’s gonna wake up and come back crawling and begging to be let back into this house, so you actually have the upper-hand with your old bestie.”

I was firmly team Wyatt here.

“If you want to rip into the new girl, fine. I’m with you, but make sure it’s because she’s done something that deserves it.”

My team allegiance was slipping.

Then the doorbell rang. Followed by a fist pounding against it.

“What the—”

Someone gasped again.

And then I heard my worst nightmare happening in real life, in real time, and I was frozen to stop it.

“Is Dusty here?”

Low. Angry. Irritated. Frustrated. A hint of savage impatience, too, and then as I swooned, but not in a good way, the fainting way because this was not happening. No way because I couldn’t deal if it was—and then Wyatt went, “DUDE! You’re Stone Reeves!”

There was a moment here.

It was the beginning of the storm. The air is thick, heavy. Hair sticking to the back of your neck. Your hands are oddly clammy. Your pulse is racing. You know a train is coming your way. You know you’re on the tracks. You know you should jump off, but you can’t. You’re frozen because it’s not just a flight or fight response. There’s the whole freezing response, and as your heart picks up in force, in speed, in sound, you know you’re about to get pummeled.

Yeah. Because that’s what was about to happen.

Then a door slammed upstairs and I heard a gasp, “Stone Reeves is here?”

Another pounding of feet.

Shit. They were coming from everywhere.

“Oh my God.”

That was Nicole. I recognized her voice just as I heard a growl rip from Stone.

“Hi. Yeah. I really need to talk to Dusty first, and then I can come back and chill for a while.”

“Chill. He said chill.” That was Wyatt. I could almost hear the face-splitting smile through those words.

A giggle. That was Mia.

She’d been screaming seconds ago, beside herself with anger, and now she was giggling.

I wanted to vomit.

The door in front of me opened and Lisa came out, her hair in a mess and her eyes soft from sleeping. Her face looked a little puffy. She stopped in the doorway, seeing me, and for a split second, we weren’t enemies.

She frowned, hearing the chaos above. “What’s happening?”

Um.

I said the first thing I thought, “Fire!”

And with that, I could move. The paralysis broke from me, and as Lisa yelled and rushed upstairs, I turned and sprinted for my room.

Thank God I hadn’t changed into pajamas yet. It was nearing eight that night, so with my heart trying to pummel its way out of my chest, I grabbed everything I thought I’d need. I had no plan, other than maybe sleeping in my car, but I was running. As far away as I could.

He sounded furious.

Yeah.

Running was the best course of action and the only thing that could save me right now. I was embracing my inner sailfish.





Chapter Ten





Purse. Books for tomorrow. Phone. Keys. I checked—I had a bra on. I toed on my sandals, and I threw my arm through my backpack, pulling it on without stopping, and I was out the back door. Wait. Backtrack—I grabbed my toothbrush and paste from the bathroom, then I was running up the stairs.

Out the door.

“Fuck no, you don’t!”

A cement arm grabbed me around the waist, and just like we were kids, Stone had me up in the air.

“No!”

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