CHAPTER 5

Before too long, Simon and I heard music blaring downstairs.

"Do your parents know about this?" I asked.

"Well, Jackson told them we were having a 'get together'. He didn't mention how many people would be coming."

"How many people are expected to show up?"

"Hell if I know. Word gets around pretty quick about Jackson's parties. So basically we just get a lot of booze and hope it doesn't get ugly."

I'd never been to one of Jackson's parties. Simon always invited me, but I never felt comfortable enough around his brother to go. I wasn't really sure what to expect.

"It'll be fun, Sophie. Don't worry." He stood and then helped me to my feet. "People will be here soon, let's go downstairs."

People arrived quickly, and the house got full very quickly. The living room smelled like potato chips, beer, and sweat. The music was so loud I couldn't hear myself think. I stayed by Mon's side at first, I didn't want some random tramp to come grind on him. After about an hour, I started to worry about Ellie. I hadn't seen her and I didn't think there was any way that Jackson would have stuck with her. I knew that she could take care of herself, but I also knew she had a nasty little habit of getting into trouble.

"I'm going to go look for Ellie," I told Simon.

"What?" He asked loudly.

"I'm going to go look for Ellie!" I repeated, raising my voice.

"Oh! I think she went upstairs!" He kissed me tenderly. "Be good."

I pushed through the crowd to get to the stairs. There were people sucking face everywhere I turned, and I tried to ignore it. I hadn't really thought about it before, but Simon was a really slow mover. It seemed like we'd been dating forever, yet he never wanted to get intimate. Maybe he wasn't as into me as I'd always thought. He was the complete opposite of his brother, who would take a girl to bed minutes after meeting her.

I was shocked, however, when I walked into Jackson's room and saw my best friend, on her back, making herself a prime example of Jackson's lack of self-control.

I opened his bedroom door, which even though it should not have been, was unlocked. I was horrified to see Jackson screwing Ellie, and looking like he was really enjoying himself. Then again, it was sex, so I can't say I was surprised.

"Sophie?!" Ellie shrieked.

"Shit!" growled Jackson. "Sophie—"

I slammed the door before he could say anything else. I wasn't sure why, but I was feeling really betrayed. I knew it was extremely stupid, considering I had just been thinking that hooking them up would be a great way to get Jackson to leave me alone. Seeing them together, though, had made me feel like a knife had been shoved into my heart—okay, that's a little melodramatic—but it had hurt my feelings a little.

"You're being ridiculous," I told myself. "This will make things easier." I went into Simon's room; I needed a moment to get my head on straight. When I opened the door, I found Scott making out with Lauren Bradford, a very popular cheerleader.

"Why can't anyone lock the fucking doors!?" I shrieked.

Scott jerked his head up. "Whoa there, darlin'. Can we get a little privacy?"

"No! Get off Simon's bed! Get out!"

Lauren stared at me. "What's your problem? You're a little bit insane right now. Go downstairs, have a drink, loosen up, find yourself a nice guy."

I stood there for a moment, motionless.

"Go!" Both of them ordered.

I went back downstairs, trying my best to avoid Simon. I was going to get hammered, and I didn't want him to try to stop me. I planned on partying... really hard.

When I woke up, the entire night was a blur. I didn't remember a thing. The only thing I had on my mind was that partying hard was a really terrible idea. I opened my eyes, and they felt like they were going to fucking fall out of my head. I closed them again and whimpered.

"You're up," I heard Jackson say. This time he wasn't in bed beside me. "Are you okay?" his voice was soft... almost concerned.

"I...I'm gonna puke."

"All right, cupcake, let me take you to the bathroom. I'm going to pick you up, all right?"

I nodded weakly and he lifted me out of the bed and carried me down the hall to the bathroom. He set me on the floor gently and knelt down behind me to make sure that I didn't fall backwards. I threw up after a moment. I just kept puking and puking until there was nothing left and all I could do was lie there, trembling. "Where's Simon?" I asked after a while.

Jackson sat beside me, lifting me so that my upper body was resting on his muscular thighs. "You don't remember a thing, huh? You were really wasted last night. I didn't think you're drank."

"What happened?! Did I do something stupid?"

"You two had a huge fight... Simon will cool off, but until then I'm gonna take care of you, 'cause you're going to be miserable."

I thought very hard, and after a moment, bits and pieces of the night came back to me. Dancing on a table, kissing... someone, and Simon shouting at me as he yanked me away from the mystery guy. The details were fuzzy, but I could remember some of the main events. I was never drinking again. "What did I do? Is he gonna break up with me?!" Tears filled my eyes at the very thought.

He stroked my hair. "He's not going to break up with you. He caught you making out with Scott—"

"Gross!" I cried, and then winced because of the intense pain in my head. "Oh Jackson...

"Shh... I beat his ass for it; I don't think he's going to mess with you anymore. So I guess you're not mad at me?"

"What for?"

"Oh... you don't remember? Never mind."

"Tell me!"

"You caught me... having sex with Ellie."

That part of the night came back to me then, at least a little. "That was the whole reason I drank in the first place."

"I didn't know it was gonna hurt your feelings. You made it pretty clear you weren't interested in sleeping with me."

"I... I don't know why it upset me so much... but it did."

"I'm sorry, Sophie, really."

"Did Ellie get home okay?"

"Yes, she took your car back to your place, and then got her car, I'm assuming. Don't worry, she didn't drink." He brushed my bangs out of my face. "I'll take you home when you're feeling better.

"Why are you being so nice to me?"

"I know what horrible hangovers are like." He picked me up again. "Done puking?"

"I think so," I said, and then I burst into tears.

"Oh Christ, Sophie, what's the matter?"

"You slept with Ellie, I made out with Scott Turnbow, and now Simon hates me! What else did I do last night?" I asked, just to be sure.

"Danced with a lot of guys..."

"I'm a slut!" I sobbed.

Jackson rocked me gently. I'd never imagined him being so nice to me. I was certain that when I was feeling better he'd go back to trying to seduce me. At this moment, though, Simon was pissed at me, so I was going to find comfort in his brother's arms. He tucked me into his bed, and then he stared at me for a while.

"What?"

"It's five in the morning, and I'm really beat, so can I please get into bed with you? I could go sleep in the guestroom, but I don't wanna leave you alone in case you wake up sick again."

I nodded my consent. I was already on Simon's bad side, and Jackson had been nice enough to take care of me. He got into bed, but stayed on the opposite side. I moved so that I was snuggled against him.

"Sophie," he began.

"Hold me... tonight has been so terrible... I just want someone to be with me."

I wasn't usually a dependent person, but I just felt so needy all of the sudden.

"You always seem so cold," he said, wrapping his arms around me. "I never imagined you needing anyone."

"The word cold makes me seem so bitchy; besides, no one is independent all of the time. Not even you, hotshot."

"I didn't mean it like that." He chuckled. "Get some rest, cupcake. We'll talk more tomorrow."

That morning was the first time I saw Jackson as something more than a pretty-boy football player. He held me tighter than Simon ever had, and resting my head on his bare shoulder felt... right; no matter how wrong it was.

When I woke up again, I was alone, but I had been carefully tucked in. I just laid there for quite some time, trying to get the will to move. When I finally did, the first place I went was Simon's room. He was sitting in front of his computer, a frown on his lips.

"Simon?" I began, pulling the door shut.

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