Dark Hunger


Page 39



“You and Sam are strippers?”

The car swerved slightly, and I looked down at my phone.

I love you.

“This just got even more interesting,” Darla muttered, leaning forward, propping her chin on the front seat.

“How did you—” Liam looked at my phone. He deflated. “Sam told you?”

“Well, thank God. It’s about time you knew,” Darla huffed. “You people and your secrets.” She stared pointedly at me. “Ooh! Can I tell him all about yours?”

“Shut up, Darla,” I said absentmindedly, as if it had become a reflex.

“When did she become such a bitch?” Joe asked Trevor.

“When I found my boyfriend getting an endoscopy from another woman’s tongue.” I shot him a death glare.

“That would do it,” Joe muttered meekly.

“Liam?” I barked.

“We’re strippers for bachelorette parties. Sam didn’t want you to know.” The words poured out like a little boy confessing he’d stolen candy from his grandmother. He shrugged, as if that let him off the hook, as if he’d just said, We’re fry cooks at Denny’s. Sam didn’t want you to know.

Relief flooded me. “So Sam really wasn’t kissing her?”

“God, no. That woman attacked him. And her boyfriend wanted a threesome.”

“Nothing wrong with that,” came three voices from the backseat in unison.

“Is this why you’re all here? To tell me my boyfriend gets naked and shakes his dick in front of other women for money?” Whatever outrage I was supposed to feel wasn’t there. A deeper disappointment replaced it. Sam hadn’t trusted me.

And without trust...

“We do way more than just shake our...” Liam’s protests faded out. “OK. That about sums it up,” he admitted.

“You make good money wiggling your winkies,” Darla chirped.

“Says the woman who works for a threesome dating service,” Liam jabbed back.

The backseat went quiet.

“A threesome dating service?” I choked, craning to look at Darla. “There’s no end to the variety of start-ups in Cambridge, is there?”

She uncharacteristically kept her mouth shut.

I continued. “Now that we’ve all established our perv credentials—”

“Except for you,” Liam interrupted. “Miss Pure as the Driven Snow.”

Darla snickered.

“Don’t you say a word,” I snapped, finger in her face as I twisted around.

“Oh, does Amy have a skeleton in her closet?” Liam asked as he pulled into a parking spot, grabbing an unbelievably lucky open one right near my front door.

“More like in her hoohaw.” Snicker.

“Shut up!”

We all piled out of the car as the guys exchanged perplexed looks.

“Then what do you need to tell me?” I whirled around and faced the four of them.

“What you need to know,” Joe said, a sad look on his face as he took Darla’s hand in his and walked to my front door, the rest following.

Apparently, I didn’t have a choice.

Sam

She wouldn’t answer my texts and calls.

She wasn’t at her apartment.

She wasn’t on the street.

So where the fuck was Amy? I knew she wouldn’t go back to her mom’s house—not after what had happened the other day.

Stupid, stupid, stupid I looped in my stupid mind, over and over, the chant taking over and making it hard to think. How could I have been so fucking stupid and have kept what I did a secret? Now she thought I was throatfucking that chick and cheating on her. Amy had every right to be mad and to think the worst of me, but I wanted a chance to tell her the truth.

The truth.

All of it.

The night air had long ago turned my hands and feet into ice bricks; Liam had my regular clothes in his car, because we always showed up for parties dressed only in the uniform. I’d received a few “Hello, Officer” comments as I walked the streets, and it had been funny.

At first.

My feet took me, slowly, to the only place I really wanted to go.


Back to Amy’s apartment to await our fate.

Which was, now, entirely in her hands.

Along with my heart.

Chapter Ten

Amy

“Did Sam ever explain exactly what happened to him that day after he left the debate tournament?” Trevor asked. For a guy who seemed to be perpetually joking, his countenance was remarkable. Somber, in fact. It set me on edge.

My apartment wasn’t a clown car, and yet somehow we’d managed to cram all five of us in here, everyone sitting on the floor or my futon. It felt like some cheesy 1960s encounter group. All of them were staring at me, faces practically carved in granite. A slow roll of intrigue took over my skin, a numb feeling and a coolness pouring from my solar plexus out and down. Whatever they were about to tell me was going to alter me forever.

Whatever they were going to tell me already had.

“No.” I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Just no. The truth.

Trevor’s hand was shaking, and Joe looked like he was going to throw up. Even Liam seemed rattled. What the hell was this? A tight knot of fear resurged in my stomach, the same one that had lived there all these years, implanted the day Sam cut me off.

“I’m not sure...” Liam interrupted, looking between me and Joe. Why Joe?

“She should know,” Trevor insisted, inhaling a ragged breath. He and Liam really did look like brothers. Funny how my mind wandered off when faced with something awful.

“What happened to him? And why are you looking at Joe like that? Did Joe do something to Sam that day? I know he gave him a ride.”

The jumble of voices made me lean back, away from a ferocious cacophony of protest. Little snippets—“Joe didn’t do—”

“No way, he’s the one who saved—”

“Sam’s face was so bad—“

“WAIT!” I shouted, putting my palms out in protest. “OK. OK. Just say it!” I cried, a cloud of red behind my eyes, heart tearing in two. “Whatever happened to Sam, you have to tell me now! You can’t give me these hints and then clam up.”

Silence.

Liam came to my defense. “She’s right, guys. Someone should have told her a long time ago.” He looked at Joe with a kind expression, one that made me like him even more. “Can you tell the story, Joe? It’s yours to tell.”

“Of course I can.” All traces of Joe the Asshole from high school washed away suddenly, and the man staring into my eyes was a compassionate, pained human being.

“You won the debate.”

No shit, I thought. Instead of saying that, I just nodded.

“So, Sam snapped. Something in him made him go into some kind of state of shutdown. He wasn’t himself, and it was like watching a zombie wander down the hall and out of the auditorium. I thought he was just destroyed by being beaten by a girl—”

Liam snorted.

“Hey—I’ve evolved in four years,” Joe hedged. “Anyhow,” he said, glaring at Liam, who raised his eyebrows and gave Joe a gesture to continue, “I offered him a ride home and he took it. On the drive there he said his dad was going to kill him for not winning.”

I nodded. “I know it was important to him. And the scholarship.” Choking back a mouthful of tears, I said, “I didn’t know that day. I wish I had.”

“Would you have thrown the debate?” Joe asked, incredulous. “Because that would have been worse than winning.”

I’d underestimated him. Most guys would have been thrilled with a win, no matter what. Joe had been so...slimy back then. But this?

“I know it would have—I’m just surprised to hear you say so.”

“No one wants to be thrown a bone. A pity fuck? Sure. A pity debate...”

“Get back to the point,” Trevor barked. “Quit stalling.”

Joe shook his head as if to clear his thoughts. “So, I remember saying something stupid, like how my own dad would kill me for coming in seventh, yadda yadda yadda and then Sam turned to me with the deadest eyes I’ve ever seen in anyone and said, ‘No, I mean he’s going to kill me. If you don’t see me in school on Monday, you’ll know why.’”

Inhaling sharply, I sought out everyone’s eyes. Four pairs looked back with a mixture of regret, alarm, pain and struggle.

“He—what?”

“‘I don’t want to go home,’ Sam told me on that drive. We went and got McDonald’s and delayed, but my mom kept calling me and hounding me to get home, so I finally dropped him off around eight that night. Every light in his house was burning, and as I pulled in to the driveway Sam grabbed my arm and said, ‘I meant it.’ And that was—he jumped out of the car and his dad was right there at the door, a concerned and pissed look on his face.”

“And then what?” I rasped.

“I went home.” He shrugged. “But I couldn’t get it out of my head, so I texted him the next day. His dad’s a preacher, so I knew he’d be at church a lot, but Sam didn’t answer any of my texts. None. That was odd, because we all scheduled practices for the band and shot the shit from texts, and Sam never went silent. I called his house phone—got voicemail.”

Trevor ran his hand through his hair and flicked his eyes between me and Joe. “And then you texted me and asked if I’d heard from Sam.”

“Right. Sam always went to his dad’s first service, and then we met to practice after. Nothing. So I decided to go to his house and see what was up.” Joe gulped, hard, his voice starting to crack.

“You went?” I asked. The room felt like someone had died.

“I knocked on the front door and Mrs. Hinton was there. That was fucking weird.” A whoosh of air came out of him, like an exorcism. “Because she shouldn’t be. Preacher’s wife and all that, right? But she was so nervous and blocked me from even seeing what was going on in the house. Like, opened the door an inch and wouldn’t talk. I kept asking for Sam and she’d just get more nervous, her voice getting higher and higher, and then I called Sam’s phone right in front of her.”

“Why?”

Liam nudged my elbow. “Just wait.”

“It rang. Right there. So I shouted, ‘Sam? You there?’ and Mrs. Hinton about shat a brick. Shut the door on me.”

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Texted Trevor and Liam, and then Trevor called his mom.”

“Your mom?” I turned to Trevor. “Why?”

“Because Joe’s mom isn’t really the type to call in a crisis.”

“And then I waited. But Mrs. Hinton opened the door and started screaming at me to leave. She was so—” he swallowed and frowned, clearly pained by the recounting. A million questions poured into me, but I kept my mouth shut. Hearing him out was more important. Questions could come later. “—like a screaming banshee. All I could hear was that if her husband caught me there he’d call the police, that I was trespassing, and I needed to leave before her husband got there. Over and over. She was fucking terrified of him. Terrified.”

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