At least that’s what I wanted to believe. What I wanted the world to see. Five years of trying to find the girl I hid from the world.
I wouldn’t let the bullies win. I couldn’t.
What was I supposed to do when he walked into the building? He’d made my high school years a living hell.
But, he doesn’t recognize me.
How do I prove he didn’t break me? Simple, take him home for a one-night stand.
At least it sounded like a good idea at the time.
But there was no denying it.
Cole Wallace was here.
The room that only hours ago seemed small now seemed minuscule, like the walls were closing in on me.
Five years I’d spent trying to push every memory of him out of my head. To reinvent myself. To become a woman I was proud of. And the night that everything could change—the night things could finally go my way—Cole had to step into the same bar.
A light knock rapped against the door. I pulled my legs tighter against me, pushing myself closer to the wall, hoping whoever it was would go away. The knock grew louder, until the person was pounding on the door. Each thud sent a tremor through my body.
“Mari, open the goddamn door. I know you’re in there.”
I buried my face in the protective embrace of my arms, ignoring Sawyer, memories of the worst years of my life assaulting my brain even as I tried to keep them at bay.
I glanced at my phone. Shit, I was going to be late to class if I didn’t hurry. Turning down a side hallway, I picked up my pace. It was the long way around, but it meant I didn’t have to take the main hallway, past where the cheerleaders and football players hung out between classes.
The bell rang.
“Aww, late for class?”
The hairs on the back of my neck rose. These hallways were normally empty.
My stomach dropped, but I ignored the voice and moved even faster. A hand wrapped around my arm, pulling me to a stop.
“You’re already late. Stay. Have some fun.”
With a shove, I was pushed up against the lockers behind me. My heart raced in my chest. I tried to control the shaking of my hands as I lifted my eyes to see which one of the jocks had decided to torture me today.
He lifted a hand to brush the hair from my face. I flinched at the contact.
“Look at that, Cole, she doesn’t look happy to see us.”
Over Sam’s shoulder, I could see Cole leaning against the lockers on the other side of the hallway.
Sam leaned in and I pressed my cheek to the locker, the metal cool against my heated skin. I closed my eyes, afraid he was going to try and kiss me. There was a long pause before he laughed, cruelly.
“Did you actually think I would kiss you?” He sneered. “Why in the hell would I let these lips touch a freak like you? No guy in this school wants to put any part of their body near you, Mariloon.”
Cole burst out laughing. Sam stepped back, tilting his head down the hall. “Let’s go. I don’t need a detention.”
They started to move away and I felt my shoulders sag. They weren’t out of earshot, though. Still close enough for me to hear Cole say, “Just tell them Mariloon tried to kiss you and you had to stop her before you could get to class.”
My knees buckled and I slid down the lockers to the floor, tears racing down my cheeks. The sound of footsteps forced me to my feet and into the nearest bathroom. I raced inside the stall, slamming the lock across and sitting on the seat, my head in my hands, sobs racking my whole body. How could I go to class now? There was no doubt everyone would know what happened by now, and exactly like Cole said, it would be all my fault. They probably told everyone that I came on to Sam, hoping to sleep my way to the popular group. It was just the same as always.