The way with you the way.., p.5
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       The Way With You (The Way #2), p.5

           Anne Mercier
 
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"I told him I wanted a break and it just went all kinds of wrong."

  "Was he a dick to you?" he asks, stopping us from walking.

  I look up at him, lifting a brow. "What do you think?"

  "I'm sorry, Livvy," he says, then kisses my forehead.

  I take another deep breath, letting out the hurt and hate and pain.

  "Thanks, but I've been through worse. I've survived a near-death experience, the death of my best friends—I can surely survive Cameron," I tell him, though the hurt in my heart isn't going to make it easy.

  "You can survive Alison, too. You're one tough cookie," Bash assures me.

  "Only because I have to be."

  And just once, I wish I didn't have to be.

  six

  The next day is Saturday and it's too quiet. I'm bored. Lex never came home last night. I'm sure she hooked up with her secret football player. Eventually I'm going to figure out who he is. No word from Bash either.

  I sigh. What to do, what to do.

  I look out the window. The sun is shining brightly and it's supposed to be a bit warmer today. As much as I dislike exercise, I'm going to take a walk.

  After lacing up my Chucks and putting on my coat, I tuck my hat and gloves into my pockets just in case, and head out the door. I'll explore the other parts of campus I haven't had a chance to get to—or haven't been bored enough to get to.

  I wander over in the poly-sci area, biology, history. Nothing too interesting. It's rather boring, really. I sit on a bench that overlooks a small creek and try to make sense of my life.

  I have to admit, I'd been pretty damn blessed—up until graduation night. And now I thought I'd turned tragedy around and found something promising. What a joke. I should have realized that Cameron Stone, my childhood and teenage bully, would always be just that—a bully. I mean, if he could be so disrespectful back then, I don't know why I thought he would respect me now.

  He said he loved me. I'm not sure that's true either. I honestly don't think Cameron knows how to love. That makes me wonder… do I know how to love? I didn't really love Danny—not an all-encompassing love, and since breaking up with Cam hasn't turned me into a blubbering mess, I don't think I had that with him either. I thought I did, but it was probably just the lust—the first guy I had super passionate, toe-curling sex with.

  It's easy enough to confuse mind-blowing orgasms with sex, I suppose.

  I sigh again.

  And then I smell it. That sweet, headache-inducing perfume drifting in the breeze, getting stronger, and I know psycho Alison is close and coming for me.

  I look heavenward toward my friends and Him and wonder: Haven't I had enough?

  A cloud drifts in front of the sun, blocking the warmth, and that's when she sits down next to me. A shiver runs down my spine. Alison is pure evil.

  "All alone out here?" she asks, her tone mocking.

  "You're sitting on my invisible friend," I snark.

  "I wouldn't doubt it. Seems like the only kind you'll be able to get now that Cam dumped you," she replies with a grin.

  I just roll my eyes and she narrows hers.

  "You're awfully cocky lately, Olivia. I think something needs to be done about that."

  "Oh yeah? What are you going to do? Steal my clothes? Nope, you can't get into my room. Put dye in my shampoo and 'Smurf' me? Nope, you can't do that either. Tell me I'm worthless? Let me know you think I should be dead along with my friends? You've already told me that multiple times and, honestly, it's getting old. You need some new material," I spout off, knowing it's a mistake but too pissy to care.

  Alison leans in close, pointing her perfectly-manicured nail into my chest. "You've forgotten your place, Muppet. I'm going to have to remind you and I can assure you it won't be anything like high school. It's going to be much, much worse."

  Oh hell. Why not go for broke?

  "I look forward to it." I want to take it back. I'm shaking in my Chucks but I am not going to let Alison get the best of me. Not this time.

  "You better watch your back, Muppet. It'll happen when you least expect it and when it does, you'll remember exactly where you belong," she tells me, standing up when Brittany walks up.

  "What are you doing talking to her?" Brittany asks.

  "Just giving her a little reminder," Alison replies, her smirk as evil as it gets, and in that moment I know that whatever Alison has planned, it's going to be bad—very, very bad.

  Walking back to the dorm, I'm thinking back to what Alison said, my mind a flurry of motion, thinking of all the horrible things that could happen, when I slam into a very hard, very large chest.

  "Steady there," Cam says, gripping my shoulders to stop me from falling on my ass. He's like walking into a brick wall.

  I look up into those heart-stopping green eyes and try to tamp down my temper. He treated me like a whore last night and then humiliated me in front of everyone at the party. Asshole.

  "What do you want, Cameron?" I ask, knowing he hates when I call him Cameron.

  He looks down, dropping his hands when I try to shrug them off. After a few seconds, he lifts his gaze back to mine. "I want to apologize, Olivia. I'm so sorry for the shit things I said to you last night. I have no excuse and I'm not going to try to make one. You deserve better and I want you to know I am truly, truly sorry."

  I look away and sigh. "Cam, I don't even know what's going on with us right now, but what you said last night, it reminded me of high school, you backing me into a corner and humiliating me. When you love someone, you don't treat them like a whore and then accuse them of fucking another guy—and all in front of the people who are supposed to be our friends."

  "I know. I do, and I really am sorry," he says, having the decency to at least look sheepish and ashamed.

  "Do you know how that made me feel?"

  His eyes lift back up and I stare into them, the shame clear as day.

  "And then you're with Alison? How can you do that to me? I've told you time and again the things she's done, and while they aren't criminal, she is bullying me—again. Last night made it look like you supported her instead of me—it made it look like she was your girlfriend instead of me. If that's what you want, then you need to tell me now. I won't go through that again. I can't," I tell him, not holding back.

  "I don't want Alison, Liv. I want you. I won't make excuses. I'll admit to being stressed out with all the shit going on with football and I'd had way too many tequila shots."

  I shrug and step back when he reaches for me. "Sounds like excuses to me."

  He runs a hand through his hair and all I see now when he does that is frustration—at me. Welcome to my life.

  "I get you're busy and you're stressed with football and working your ass off to get noticed, but as your girlfriend I shouldn’t have to work just as hard to get a few minutes of your time. You make it seem like a chore. I don't want to be a chore or an obligation. If you don't have the time for me right now, just say it and we'll take that break I mentioned," I offer.

  "I don't want a break, Liv. I'm sorry I haven't made time for you." When I give him a look he adds, "I'm serious. I am sorry. I don't have a lot of spare time, but what I do have will be yours."

  I sigh. "Cam, I don't expect that. Like I said, I know you don’t have a whole lot of time, but it doesn't take much to call me." I hold up my hand when he starts to speak. "Yes, you called me once this past week and texted the other days—very short texts I might add, but I deserve more than that. I want to know what's going on with football, how your day was, if it was better than the day before, if the coach said anything about your performance, if you're hurting and need to ice your body—and that's just for starters. I want to know about you—about what's going on in your life. That's what couples do. They share their lives."

  "I know. I've been an asshole."

  "Yeah, you have."

  He lifts a brow. "Not giving an inch are you?"

  "No," I rep
ly, shaking my head.

  He nods. "Will you give me another chance, Liv? I just need to learn to manage my time better."

  "You also need to start listening to me when I tell you about Alison. She's a very real threat to me, Cam. You may not think so, but you aren't on the receiving end of her actions and words. I don't appreciate you brushing me off like this whole situation doesn't matter or isn't important enough to help me through," I tell him, a bit of my temper showing.

  "All right, Liv. I'm sorry I didn't take this seriously. I'll do what I can to help you."

  "Does that mean you'll stop hanging out with her and flirting with her at parties too? Because that, Cameron, is a deal-breaker for me. I will not be with someone who disrespects me enough to be friends with the person who is bullying and threatening me. I would never do that to you."

  "I'm all but on my knees here, Liv. I'll do whatever it takes," he tells me.

  "Again, you're making it feel like I'm annoying and you're going to avoid Alison out of obligation. That's not how I want this to go. You need to want to do it for the right reasons," I answer.

  "I swear to you, I am." He reaches for my hands and this time I let him—his larger ones engulfing mine as he pulls them to his lips and kisses my knuckles. "I love you, Liv."

  "I love you, too. I don't want to be a bitch or demand things from you, but these are things that should come naturally."

  "I know, but you need to remember, I've never had a steady girlfriend—nothing like what I have with you, so I'm still learning," he reminds me.

  "I know that's true and I think I've been understanding, but please, Cameron, if you find it's too much, just say so. We can take a break until you have more time," I offer. Please don't disappoint me again. Next time there won't be another chance.

  "I promise," he murmurs, kissing my forehead and pulling me into his embrace.

  He smells so good and it feels good to be in his arms again, but I'm not feeling all that great about our discussion. I really, really hope he means what he says and isn't just placating me, because if that's the case, he'll destroy the last of what's between us—and it's already very fragile.

  We walk the rest of the way to the dorm and sit down on the couch.

  "You going to the game, tonight?" he asks after looking at the clock. I know our time is short. He's got ten more minutes and he's back to the game.

  "Yep. I'll be there," I tell him with a smirk. "Like I'd miss seeing you in those tight pants."

  "Pervert," he teases with a chuckle.

  "Damn right. Tight buns, muscular thighs—my boyfriend is seriously hot," I tell him, fanning myself.

  "After the game I'll remind you just how hot I can be."

  His eyes have that sexy smolder that so easily seduces me.

  "Promises, promises," I taunt.

  He pulls me onto his lap. "Baby, I'm going to love you all night long—or until I pass out from exhaustion."

  "I'm going to hold you to that," I tell him, running a fingertip over his lips, tracing them.

  He leans in, kissing me softly, gently, reminding me of the Cam my heart opened for. His tongue licks along the seam of my lips, and I open for him without hesitation. Lord, this man can kiss. Our hands are caressing each other as our tongues tangle and retreat, our breathing getting heavy, our hearts beating fast and loud.

  By the time we pull apart, I'm panting and he's not in much better shape.

  "I've missed the hell out of you, Liv," he admits, and it feels so good to hear it, I fight back tears.

  "I've missed you, too. Let's not make it possible to miss each other like this again unless we have to," I propose.

  "Deal." He gets up, but before he walks away, he looks down at me. "I know I'm a shitty boyfriend, Olivia, but do me a favor?" he asks, dropping to his knees in front of where I'm sitting.

  "If I can."

  He rests his hands on my sides, his thumbs moving over my ribs. "Eat. You're too skinny and I know it's at least partly my fault. Don't do that for me. I would never want you to get sick because of me."

  I nod.

  "Promise me," he pleads, knowing I won't break a promise to him after our vow not to.

  "I promise."

  He presses his lips to mine and lingers for a few seconds before pulling back.

  "I've got to go. This is a big game tonight. Not just because of the scouts, but OSU is one of the best," he explains. I know how the game is played, but not who the teams are.

  "You're gonna kick their ass, baby," I tell him with a wink.

  "Damn right," he tells me with a grin just before he closes the door and I'm alone once again, the silence ominous, and I really, really hope I'm wrong in thinking it's a sign of things to come.

  seven

  The game is insane. The crowd even more so. I've been to the games before, but tonight? The fans are taking things to a whole new level. Shirtless frat guys with purple and red letters painted on their chests, females all decked out in jerseys or sweatshirts, and the cheerleaders as loud as I've ever heard them.

  "Holy shit, did you see that last play!" Lex yells. "Cam plowed over those two and dragged them along for a good three yards." She's been going on about him since halftime began.

  "He's a beast," Bash agrees.

  I smile, pride filling me. My guy puts his everything into the game, and as I look at the scoreboard, I can see that's exactly what he needs to do. We're up 17-14 at the half. It's going to be a tight one.

  My phone beeps with a text and I pull it out of my sweatshirt pocket. It's from Cam.

  Cam: We're coming out now. I had one of the assistants put a surprise for you by the fire extinguisher behind the old concession stand. Check it out when you get a chance.

  I'm grinning like an idiot and Bash elbows me.

  "What?" he asks.

  I show both him and Lex—Lex grins, Bash's smile goes flat.

  "Go!" Lex urges, "before they start playing again and you miss the ass whooping."

  I snort. "Fine, fine, I'll go."

  "Want me to go with you?" Bash asks.

  "Nah. I should be okay. Want me to bring you anything back?" I ask.

  "No! Now hurry!" Lex bosses.

  I head toward the stand, weaving between people going up the stadium stairs while I go down. I breathe a sigh of relief when I'm finally outside, away from the crowd, and walking over the grass toward the alleyway that leads from the street all the way to the main cafeteria building.

  I get so many people waving—too many—and all because I'm Cam's girlfriend. The attention is daunting. I just want to go back to being a nobody, being invisible, anonymous. Life is so much easier when people aren't trying to kiss your ass to get close to your boyfriend.

  I reach the building, finding the extinguisher enclosure, and open the door. I frown when all I see is a piece of paper folded into a tiny triangle. I pick it up, pricking my finger on something as I do.

  "Shit," I mutter, trying to see what it was, but it's too dark in that cubby. I pick up the paper and unfold it.

  Boo is all it says.

  I flip the paper over, smudging it with the blood from my finger, trying to see if there's anything on the other side. Nothing.

  What the hell? I barely finish the thought when I'm grabbed from behind. He's big and his breath smells like sausage and I want to puke.

  "Fucking cunt," he whispers against my ear. "The recognition you're getting by fucking the running back is bullshit. It's time you remember you are nothing."

  A fist plows into my lower back—my kidney, I think. Then again and again and again until the pain is so piercing it steals my breath. He turns me around and shoves me back against the wall, the handle of the extinguisher cubby digging into my spine. He pulls me forward and slams me against the wall, the back of my head slamming into it. My vision blurs and my ears begin to ring.

  I try to look to see if I can recognize him, but he's got a black ski mask on. H
is fist smashes into my face over and over. I hear the cartilage of my nose crunch and feel the warm rush of blood. Well, he broke that real good, didn't he?

  My eyes begin to swell shut, and when I can no longer maintain my balance, I collapse onto the ground. But he's not done. Not even close. Now he starts kicking me.

  Boots. Black boots with laces, I see when he kicks me in the face, the head. My arms, chest, back. I throw up the third time he kicks me in the stomach and he just keeps going, moving down to my legs and back up.

  I faintly hear my phone go off, but there's no way I can grab it. More than one finger is broken, and I wouldn't be surprised if my arms are as well. I hurt. I hurt so badly I can't breathe.

  My phone rings again when the blackness starts to dim my vision.

  "Liv?" I hear someone call out. Bash. Help! I scream, but it's only in my head.

  With one last fist to my face, my attacker takes off.

  I turn to my side, my breath wheezing, the pain sharp and searing, and I attempt to crawl out where Bash can see me. I try to grunt or make noises, but all that comes out are wheezes and weak groans.

  "Olivia!" he shouts.

  I breathe faster until I'm about to hyperventilate, wanting him to find me, needing him to find me.

  He hears me and runs.

  "Livvy… baby!" he calls out in despair. His breath hitches and he reaches out to touch me but stops himself. "I won't touch you. I want to, but I don't know... I'm calling 911."

  I hear him talking and I focus on pulling breath into my lungs, but with each inhalation, there's a gurgle—same when I exhale. What does that mean? Am I dying? The pain is so bad now I barely feel it. It might just be because I've closed my eyes and I feel myself drifting…

  "No, she's breathing. Olivia! Open your eyes! Stay with me!" Bash yells, and I struggle and fight to do just that in spite of the fact they're swollen. I can still see through what I'm sure are tiny slits.

  "Just hurry, god damn it! Everywhere. She's beaten everywhere," he tells the emergency operator. I can hear his fear and agony. I want to reassure him it's going to be okay—but I can't. Not just because I can't talk, but because I don't think it's true. It's not going to be okay. Not by a long shot.

 
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