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The Ruins Of Us

 

What do you do when the one that got away comes back?

Carter

I thought I was doing right by those Emilia and I both love when I let her go. So why has not a single thing in my life felt right since she left? Emilia is back now, and I’m ready to fight like hell for her. But how do I convince Emilia to give me another chance when there’s still so much standing between us?

Emilia

It’s been years since I’ve been back in Woodstock. Had it been up to me, I’d never have come back at all. I don’t want to be here – I don’t want to be around Carter. So why does life keep pushing me back to him?

Author’s Note: The Ruins Of Us is the final book in the Mayhem trilogy that followed Emilia Parker and Carter Clarke through high school, college and adulthood. Emilia and Carter will definitely have their well-deserved HEA in this book, and this will conclude their story.

The e-book version of Chaos is only available on Amazon, so you can’t buy it from me. I’m not allowed to sell it myself, since I have an exclusive contract with Amazon for the e-book version of Chaos. But as an Amazon Associate, I do earn from qualifying purchases, so buying through the button below is the best way to support me. All of my e-books are in Kindle Unlimited too 🙂

Read the first three chapters of The Ruins Of Us

Emilia

* * *

I’m trembling as Kate and I walk up to the apartment that Carter and Asher share. My hands are clammy and my heart is hammering in my chest.

Carter and I haven’t had a single real conversation in the last year and a half. Every time he came home he went out of his way to avoid me. If he was ever forced to speak to me he’d treat me with such indifference that I’d barely recognize him. Ever since the first time he came home he and I have slowly but surely become strangers. Carter now treats me with the same cold politeness that he used to reserve for Kate’s other friends. It’s like he and I were never friends. Like we weren’t so much more than that. I’m terrified of seeing him again. I’m terrified of him pushing me away even further.

I’ve been in a weird state of denial, telling myself that we’re only distant because he’s been so far away, but soon I’ll be out of excuses. I’m not sure I’m ready to deal with the guy he’s become. Carter and I used to be so close, but now I barely know him. All I know is whatever I hear from Kate and Helen, combined with what I see on social media and on the news. He’s a rising football star and based on the photos I’ve seen online, well loved by the girls at USC. While I logically know he isn’t the guy I used to know, my heart refuses to accept it. In the few interviews he’s done on his private life he made it clear that he doesn’t believe in love at all and that he greatly enjoys his bachelor lifestyle. The Carter I used to know wasn’t like that. He might not ever have said it, but I’m pretty sure he used to love me as much as I loved him.

The door opens and Asher appears, his eyes lingering on Kate. I know the two of them have been seeing each other on and off again — neither one of them able to stay away, though they both keep trying. All the while they’ve done their best to keep it from Carter, promising each other to keep it quiet until they finally decide to make things official, which has yet to happen. For Kate, Carter’s graduation party was the start of something new. It was the night she and Asher finally gave in and acted on their feelings, setting in motion the months of push and pull they’ve gone through. For me it was the end of the best thing I ever had. The night I spent with Carter was the last night we had together.

Asher pulls Kate towards him and hugs her tightly, his face buried in her hair. When they’re still wrapped up in each other minutes later I clear my throat awkwardly. Asher blinks and looks at me, confused. Yep. He didn’t even see me standing here. He blushes and steps back to let us in.

“Hey, Emilia,” he murmurs. I roll my eyes and push past him. If they’re going to be this obvious about their affection for each other then they might as well not even try to keep it from Carter. They’re hardly very subtle. For just a split second I wonder what things might have been like if Carter and I started dating two years ago. Would we have made it? Would Helen and Kate have gotten over it? Would he be welcoming me the way Asher is welcoming Kate? My heart aches at the mere thought of all the would-haves and could-haves.

“Make yourself at home,” Asher tells us. Kate and I follow him in curiously. The apartment looks so normal. It doesn’t at all look like the bachelor pad I was expecting. It’s just a regular two-bedroom apartment with mostly neutral colored furniture. It isn’t even remotely messy. The boys can do with a bit of color, but they certainly haven’t done a bad job.

We pause in front of Carter’s bedroom and Kate sighs. “Is he still asleep?” she asks, her mood souring.  I check my watch and bite down on my lip. It’s nine am on a Sunday, but he knew we’d get here today. I might not have spoken to him much, but I know Kate has.

Kate rolls her eyes and opens his bedroom door. I hesitate before following her in. Will he at all be happy to see me? Will he be upset if we wake him up? Things haven’t been the same between us in months now, but I’m hoping we can at least become friends again now that we’ll be seeing a lot of each other.

It’s pitch dark when we walk in and Kate slams her hand against the light switch angrily. Carter’s room is bathed in light and he groans. My eyes roam over his room in surprise. His floor is scattered with clothes and other mess. Carter was never super tidy, but he was certainly never this messy either.

Carter sits up and runs a hand through his hair, an annoyed expression on his face. The sheets fall to his waist and my eyes fall to his body. It looks like he’s naked and the sheets only barely cover him. He looks mad as hell to have been woken up, but his anger drains away once his eyes land on us. He looks at Asher first, and then at Kate.

“Kate,” he says, his voice rough and sleepy. His eyes linger on me for just a few seconds, his expression entirely unreadable. I can’t figure out if he’s even remotely happy to see me. He dismisses me easily and looks back at Kate. “When did you get here?” he asks. He grabs his jeans from the floor and pulls them on underneath the covers before standing up.

My heart aches at how easily he ignores me. He’s focused entirely on Kate and it’s like I’m not even here. He hasn’t so much as smiled at me.

“A few minutes ago,” Kate says. She crosses her arms over each other and glares at him. “I told you Milly and I would get here today. Why are you still in bed?”

I look up at him as discreetly as I can. He looks bigger. More muscular and rugged. I’m hit with a familiar sense of longing. My eyes roam over his body hungrily and my gaze freezes on his lower abdomen. He’s got more than a few little kiss marks on his skin and I suddenly feel sick. I bite down on my lip harshly to keep my emotions in check. It feels like someone has stabbed me in the heart and then twisted the knife. It’s been over a year since Carter and I ended things, so why do I still feel this way? I look away, frozen in place.

I breathe in as deeply as I can, my breath hitching. It really hurts. He warned me that he’d move on, but I guess I was just in denial. Carter has done his best to hide his sex life from Kate and me. I always knew, but knowing isn’t the same as seeing. I take a step back and rub my chest as though that’ll soothe my aching heart.

“I thought Asher told you that our orientation is tomorrow. I literally called you last night to make sure you’d be up in time. I can’t believe you’re still in bed,” she says, snapping at him.

Asher clears his throat and puts his hand on Kate’s shoulder. “Come on,” he says. “I’ll show you my room and the rest of the place while Carter gets ready. It won’t take him long.”

Kate glares at Carter one more time and then follows Asher. I trail behind them quietly.

“I… uh… I’ll make some coffee,” I say, tipping my head towards the kitchen. I need a moment to pull myself together. Just seeing Carter is so much harder on me than I thought it would be. It’s like feelings I thought were long gone came rushing back at once. I guess part of me still hoped there’d be something between us. I never got over him, but it seems like he’s definitely moved on. I can’t help but blame myself. I should’ve chosen to be with him while I still could.

Kate looks at me worriedly and I smile at her. “Just tired,” I tell her, lying through my teeth. She hesitates but eventually nods and follows Asher.

I walk around the kitchen numbly, working mostly on auto pilot. I don’t snap out of it until Carter walks into the kitchen. Looks like he didn’t actually bother getting ready — he’s still in nothing but his jeans, his chest exposed. Carter leans back against one of the counters and studies me curiously.

I push a cup of coffee towards him wordlessly, a small insincere smile on my face. I’ve been standing here completely spaced out for so long that the coffee is now lukewarm at best. Usually I’d have offered to make him a new cup, but I just don’t have it in me today. My heart feels shattered. Is this what Carter and I have become? Strangers that don’t even say hi anymore?

My eyes involuntarily drop down to the kiss marks on his skin and I’m hit with another flash of pain. Carter looks down and traces the marks with his fingers, a small frown on his face. I look away and stare at my cup instead.

“Hmm, looks like my friends and I had a bit too much fun last night,” he says, grinning roguishly.

I feel sick to my stomach and grit my teeth. “You fuck all of your friends?” I ask, my voice harsh and angry. I can’t help it. I promised myself I’d be better than this, but I just can’t help myself.

Carter looks startled and then chuckles. “Emilia, I’m single and I’m a football player. I’m not gonna stand here and pretend like I’ve been a saint. We’re at college, for God’s sake. It’s not like you’ve been a saint back home. How’s Landon these days?”

I frown. “Landon?” I ask, confused. I haven’t even thought about him in a year. “We broke up like a year and a half ago,” I tell him honestly.

Carter straightens and stares at me with wide eyes. “You what?”

I look away and wrap my arms around myself. I broke up with Landon the first time Carter came home from college. I still remember the exact moment that I knew Landon and I would never work out. I tried pulling a prank on Carter and he caught me. Carter had me pressed up against his window, his fingers buried deep inside me. I knew right there and then that I’d never want Landon the same way and that it would be unfair to keep dating him, when I knew I was just using him to get over Carter. I broke up with Landon the very next day.

“I only dated him because I was wondering what dating might be like. It wasn’t really as good as I thought it would be, so I ended things.”

Carter blinks in disbelief. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he asks, his eyes flashing with anger.

I frown and cross my arms over my chest. “When was I supposed to tell you, Carter? Whenever you came home you ignored me. Besides, why would you even care?”

Carter runs a hand through his hair and looks at me through narrowed eyes. “You said it wasn’t that good. What wasn’t that good? Did you sleep with him?”

I shake my head instinctively and immediately regret it. Carter’s lips tug up at the edges and his entire demeanor relaxes. I grit my teeth and glare at him.

“It’s none of your business who I have or haven’t slept with, you manwhore.”

Carter chuckles. “Hmm okay, Minx,” he murmurs. My heart skips a beat and I hide my face in my coffee cup. He hasn’t called me Minx in months. It’s always Emilia these days. To hear him call me the way he used to oddly revives the butterflies that I try so hard to keep buried.

“So those two times with me are the only times you’ve had sex, huh? You’re practically still a virgin, Minx. At this rate you might as well keep it up until marriage.”

I almost choke on my coffee and cough violently. Carter grins as though my unease is amusing him. I poke him on the chest angrily. “Whose fault is that, Carter? You kept everyone away from me. Even after you left most guys didn’t dare come near me.”

I’m shaking with anger. Even though we always denied it, everyone always saw me as Carter’s girl. As the girl that’s out of reach unless you want to deal with Carter himself. Long after he left people would ask me how he’s doing. Other than Landon there weren’t many guys that could even look at me without immediately associating me with Carter. Not that it would’ve mattered. No one captured my interest anyway. In the last two years I couldn’t even imagine sleeping with anyone other than Carter. I still can’t.

“Seems like you don’t have that issue, huh? You’re far from virginal, aren’t you?” I say angrily, my voice breaking. I’m consumed with pain and rage that I know I have no right to feel. I glance at my coffee cup, longing to give into my temper and dump my coffee on his head dramatically. It won’t mend my broken heart, but still.

Carter laughs and tips his head towards my coffee cup. “Do it. I dare you,” he murmurs.

I grit my teeth and glare at him. I can’t believe he still reads me so well. I hate it. I hate that he still owns every piece of me. “Don’t think I won’t,” I snap.

Carter crosses his arms and grins at me provocatively. I glare at him and rise to my tiptoes, my coffee cup in hand. I bring it to his head slowly and Carter merely looks at me in amusement, as though he’s waiting to see whether I’ll actually do it. I hold my cup over his head and empty it slowly, looking him in the eye as I do it. Coffee streams all over his face and down his body. He could’ve evaded me easily but instead he just leans back against the counter as coffee streams down his body.

My eyes follow the trail down his abdomen and a moment that should’ve felt victorious and vindictive instantly turns into more. I lick my lips and try to keep my mind off licking my coffee off his body. I swallow hard and Carter’s eyes darken as though he knows exactly what I’m thinking.

The moment shatters when my eyes zero in on the kiss marks on his skin. Just looking at them makes me feel like I’ve been sucker punched. How many girls know exactly what Carter’s abs taste like? Hell… some girl probably still has the taste of him on her lips. I look away, equal parts disgusted and heartbroken. It’s obvious he’s been spending his days fucking around.

He’s clearly moved on, just like he said he would. So why am I still stuck in the past? Why am I unable to even want anyone else? Seems like Carter is having great sex and I’m just missing out. I’m missing out because I keep comparing every man I meet to the one I can no longer have. No more. I’m going to live it up at college as much as Carter has. Maybe that’s exactly what I need to finally get over him. Seems to have worked just fine for him. I’ll find someone to sleep with before the week is over. How hard can it really be?

I grit my teeth and Carter grabs my jaw. He turns my face towards his and shakes his head. “It’s not happening, Minx. Whatever you have in mind right now, forget about it. It isn’t happening.”

I glare at him, hating that he can still read me so well. “We’ll see about that, Carter.”

Carter

* * *

I feel like a dick even though I haven’t done anything wrong. Emilia and I aren’t together — we’ve never actually been together. Yet the way she looked at me when she saw those hickeys on my skin made me feel guilty. I’ve had plenty of wild nights since I went to college and last night was no exception. Never once have I felt ashamed of my sex life, though. Not until today.

I thought I was over Emilia, but I still can’t stand to see her hurting. I didn’t expect it to happen, but my heart still races when she smiles at me and I still crave her with every fibre of my being. It doesn’t help that she’s even hotter now than she used to be. It’s not just her body I want, though. I still feel that need to mess with her and to rile her up. Seeing her again brings back so many memories. I still remember all the childish hopes and dreams I had for us and all the things I thought I’d show her when she finally joined me in LA.

My mind involuntarily drifts back to the day I saw her standing in her bedroom with Landon. I’ll probably always remember that day as the day that all those hopes and dreams I had for Emilia and me shattered. I’d been so infatuated with her and I’d been so heartbroken to see her with someone else. Things seemed pretty serious with them back then so it seems odd that she broke up with him so quickly. I can’t believe Kate didn’t tell me about it either. Not that it would’ve mattered. She and I never would’ve worked out. My mother was right. We were too young and my sister never would’ve gotten over it. Part of me wishes she and I never even got together. If we hadn’t then we might’ve still been close now. We might not have grown apart the way we did. I might not have pushed her away.

I hate to admit it, but I’ve actually missed her. I’ve missed the pranks we used to pull and the friendship we shared. I sigh and set up Emilia’s little Nespresso machine in the dorm room that she’ll be sharing with Kate. I glance at her and grin to myself. The way she looked at me with all that coffee streaming down my body… she looked like she was thirsty as fuck. Thirsty for me. The chemistry between us is still there and it’s still hot as fuck. I doubt that’ll ever change. Emilia’s eyes meet mine and I can’t help but want to mess with her a little.

“Want some coffee, Minx? You did spill the cup you made this morning.”

She blushes and tries to look stern but fails. Emilia nods and turns back around. She’s been a little awkward around me all day, and I guess it’s weird for her too. It’ll take us time to get back to being friends, but I think I know how to make it happen. Pranks have always been the foundation of our friendship.

I smile to myself and make her a cup of coffee. I stir a good spoonful of salt in, a wicked grin on my face. I can’t wait to see the look on her face when she takes a sip. I hand it to her with a serene expression. I might not have messed with her in years but my game face is still on point. Or so I thought. Emilia glances at me suspiciously and I purse my lips. She reads me far too easily. It’s been years since I’ve truly been able to trick her in person. I always have to do it behind her back.

Emilia takes a sip and spits it right back out, coughing. She glares at me and slams the cup down. “You total disgusting devil!” she shouts, her cheeks reddening rapidly. Her eyes flash and I burst out laughing. She looks cute as hell.

Emilia grabs my t-shirt and shakes me. Or she tries to, at least. She’s unable to move me with her tiny little frame. She places her palms against my chest and her brows rise just a little. I watch her intently and see the anger drain away, replaced by a flash of lust. Her hands glide down my chest appreciatively before she catches herself and pulls away.

“You! Do you want another cup of coffee thrown on you? You’re unbelievable, Carter. So childish! I thought you said we were done playing pranks? What the hell!”

She glares at me fiercely and I instantly remember why I’ve always loved messing with her so much. She looks fucking hot when she’s all riled up like this. I just love getting a rise out of her. Her cheeks are flushed and her eyes are blazing. I wrap my hands around her waist and she melts into me subconsciously. Her body still fits against mine perfectly. She presses her boobs against my chest and I’m hard instantly. I see that hasn’t changed either. I always thought I was just easily aroused, but it’s only Emilia that makes me feel this way. Her eyes widen when she feels my dick pressed up against her stomach and she looks up at me. She tries to look stern but I know that look all too well. The lust in her eyes in unmistakable, no matter how hard she tries to hide it. Rather than pull away and admonish me, she moves even closer.

“I’m going to get you for this,” she whispers. I can’t help but grin. I’ve missed the hell out of her. I’ve missed messing with her. Hell, I’ve missed just merely interacting with her.

“Oh yeah, Emilia? I’m trembling in my boots.”

She clenches her jaw and pulls away from me. Her eyes drop to my jeans and she bites down on her lip when she sees how hard I am. I grin at her unapologetically. I can just imagine what those sexy lips of hers are going to feel like wrapped around my cock. I smile and look away. I’m sure things will get more and more interesting from now on.

Emilia

* * *

I’m anxious. It’s only been a few weeks and I already feel like I’m falling behind in my classes. I’m more overwhelmed than I thought I’d be. I literally can’t afford to fail anything. If I don’t keep my GPA up, I’ll lose my scholarship. If I’m already struggling now, then how much more difficult is everything going to get?

I carry my heavy bag to the library, my shoulder already aching. I really miss having a locker. I wish I could’ve done what Kate did and just buy all the e-books instead, but my scholarship provided me with the physical books, so I have to suck it up and lug this heavy bag around campus. I sigh and reposition my bag on my shoulder.

I glance up when I hear a familiar voice and find Carter standing by the library entrance. He’s standing next to a girl and the way she’s touching his arm and pushing her breasts in his face tells me they’re either intimately acquainted, or she’d like them to be. I take in her long blonde her and the sweet smile on her face. I know this girl. It’s Lisa. The girl Carter keeps being tagged in photos with. The one I’ve seen photos of for years now. I may or may not have done some Facebook stalking, and I may or may not know more about her than I realistically should. I know she’s a cheerleader — a very good one. On top of that she’s an engineering major, just like Carter. They look good together and they must have so much more in common than he and I ever did.

My heart twists painfully. Just seeing him with someone else still makes me jealous. I can’t help but wonder if she’s the one that put those kiss marks on him, and if by now she knows his body better than I do. It’s been two years since he and I were together, so why do I still feel this way? I can’t go down this road with him. I still can’t be around him without wanting him.

It doesn’t help that he seems to be everywhere. And each time I run into him, he’s got another girl on his arm. It’s painful and it’s weird. He never used to be like that in high school. But then again, he never slept with anyone before me. I guess it’s different now.

Carter spots me before I can walk past him and he immediately walks up to me, leaving Lisa staring after him in surprise. She approaches us with a confused expression on her face and I’m already done with this shit. I don’t ever want to have to compete for a guy’s attention.

“Emilia,” he says, smiling. My heart skips a beat at the way he looks at me. He looks like he’s actually happy to see me. How can my heart feel so full, yet ache at the same time? Lisa catches up to us and smiles at me — it’s one of those genuine smiles that make you want to smile back instantly and I hate her all the more for it. I nod at the two of them politely and move to walk past them, but Carter throws his arm around my shoulder, stopping me in my tracks.

“You’re going to the library to study? We were just headed that way,” he murmurs. Carter grabs my bag and throws it over his shoulder. “Fucking hell, Emilia. What are you carrying in here? Bricks?”

The edges of my lips turn up and I shake my head. “I can carry it, Carter. You don’t need to do that. I also actually really need to study. I don’t have time to mess around with you.”

Lisa chuckles and holds her hand out for me. “I’m Lisa,” she says. “You have no idea how excited I am to finally meet the infamous Emilia. Carter told me about some of the pranks you two have pulled on each other and that shit is lit.”

I shake her hand awkwardly and smile at her. What am I supposed to say to that? Yeah I know all about you too, but that’s because I Facebook stalked you?

“Lisa and I actually need to study too. Let’s go together,” he says. Lisa nods as though she genuinely doesn’t mind and I suddenly feel conflicted. I’m hesitant and tug on my bag but Carter is holding it hostage. Eventually I give up and walk to the small secluded study corner that I’ve been using. Carter and Lisa follow me and sit down opposite me. Much to my surprise both of them actually grab their bags and take out their laptops and books. They’re so in sync that it’s obvious this is their usual routine, and I’m oddly jealous. I’ve never felt like an outsider in Carter’s presence. Even long before he and I were anything but friends, we were each other’s person. Now it seems like my role in his life belongs to someone else.

“What?” he says, smiling. “I have a partial academic scholarship, remember? I have no choice but to keep my GPA up.”

I nod and stare at Carter in disbelief as he pulls out his tablet and starts drawing up complicated equations. Lisa glances at him with such a sweet smile that I’m hit with instant possessiveness that I’m not entitled to. “No choice, huh? Keeping his GPA up is effortless for him. I swear he’s the smartest guy I know.”

Her eyes are sparkling with admiration and affection, and I oddly feel like the third wheel here. This is exactly why I’ve been trying to avoid Carter. I’ve been clinging to the memory of what we used to be to each other, and every time I see him, I’m hit with the realisation that everything has changed. I’m no longer the person that knows him best. I’m not the girl he reaches out to. And I’m definitely not the girl he holds in his arms — not anymore.

Carter smiles at her and drops his arm to the back of her chair. “Says the girl that keeps beating my test scores.”

The familiarity and mutual respect between them is obvious, and it’s painful. I don’t know why I expected her to be mean or… I don’t know. I guess it would’ve been easier. It would’ve fitted the image I built of her in my head so much better.

Lisa smiles at me and then puts in her earphones, tuning us out and focussing on her textbook completely. She and Carter work in tandem, the two of them exchanging notes wordlessly.

I tear my eyes away from them and blink at my own textbook. I don’t understand what’s happening in my statistics assignment at all. I glare at it furiously and drop my forehead to the table, beyond frustrated. I’m going to have to get a tutor and my scholarship won’t cover that. I feel so stupid and so out of my depth.

Carter chuckles and rises from his seat. He drags his chair to mine and sits down next to me. He leans back and grabs my assignment brief, reading through it patiently. Then he laughs again and shakes his head.

“Minx, this is basic stats,” he murmurs. My heart skips a beat. I’m no longer used to him calling me Minx and what used to be a regular nickname now feels like something intimate. I blush and shake my head.

“It’s not,” I argue petulantly. “Basic stats is about marbles and shit. This is just torture. I don’t understand why I need to know this.”

Carter grins and puts his arm around my shoulder. I peek at Lisa, but she hasn’t so much as looked up at us. I want to know what’s going on between them. They’re acting like they’re just friends, but some of the photos I’ve seen of the two of them made it look like they were definitely more than that. At least he hasn’t introduced her as his girlfriend. What would I have done if he did?

“Come on. I’ll explain it to you,” he murmurs, and I snap out of my thoughts.

Carter leans in and proceeds to break down every single step of the calculations. He’s far more patient than I ever would’ve expected. He’s serious and he doesn’t even joke around at all. He’s explained things to me before back in high school, but it’s different this time. I always knew he was ridiculously smart, but I’m impressed nonetheless.

Carter makes up a few examples and hands me his tablet. “Now you try,” he tells me. I nod and get to work. Carter gets back to work on his own stuff and occasionally checks in with me to point me in the right direction.

“Shit. I think I get it,” I whisper.

Carter chuckles. “If you’re struggling with this then you should probably know it’s only going to get harder, Emilia.”

I nod and bite down on my lip worriedly. I really am going to need a tutor to get through this. There’s no way I’ll be able to do this otherwise.

“I’ll do it,” Carter says. I frown at him and tilt my head in question. “I’ll be your tutor.”

I blink at him in disbelief. “I do need a tutor, but I think I’ll try learning by myself first. I don’t think I can afford one anyway,” I murmur. I’ll never get over all these feelings that have resurfaced if he tutors me. We’ll be too close too often.

Carter grins and grabs my chin. He turns my face towards his and I scowl at him. I’m suddenly feeling petulant and annoyed. His eyes drop to my lips, where they linger, until he pulls away.

“Hmm, Minx. You don’t have to pay me in cash. You can just pay me with your body.”

I look at him with wide eyes and he bursts out laughing. “You can cook for me, Emilia. Cook for me in return for tutoring. I’m happy to get you the ingredients too. Asher and I built some apps that are bringing in a decent amount of cash, but you know I can’t cook for shit. I miss the food Mom and you used to make. It’d be nice to have that as a treat every once in a while.”

I’m not used to this flirty version of Carter. When we were younger he was often sweet rather than flirty, and I’m a little thrown off. I hesitate and end up nodding against my better judgement. I know he and I shouldn’t spend more time together. The more I find myself alone with him the harder it gets to resist him. We’ve finally found ourselves at a stage where we can actually be friends again. I can’t mess that up by falling for him all over again.

“Okay,” I whisper, unable to resist. “Yeah, I guess that might work.”