Play(9)

By: Kylie Scott



“Didn’t think you’d burst into tears. Christ.”

My beer was empty; time to go. Besides, I needed to escape before my watery eyes betrayed me. And Mal had to have better things to do with his time than talking to me. Teasing me. This had been the most excruciatingly awkward and awesome conversation in my entire life. For a while there, I’d forgotten all about my problems.

He’d made me smile.

“So.” I thrust my hand out for shaking, wanting that final contact, needing to touch him properly just once. He’d been on my bedroom wall back home for years. I’d end meeting him on a high if it killed me. “It’s been lovely to meet you.”

“Are you trying to get rid of me?” he asked, laughing.

“No, I–”

“Stop looking over my shoulder, Anne. Look me in the face,” he ordered.

“I am!”

“Are you scared you’re going to make crazy eyes at me again?”

“Yes, probably.” I clicked my tongue, exasperated. “Do you normally taunt your fans like this?”

“No. I never realized it could be this much fun.”

My hand hung in the air between us. I was about to retract it when he grabbed hold. I stared him in the face, determined not to lose it this time. The problem with Mal Ericson was that he was physically flawless. Not a single imperfection marred him, big or small. If he kept riding my ass, though, I’d fix that for him.

“What’s that look mean?” he asked, leaning in. “What are you thinking now?”

My stomach swooped and all thoughts of violence were pushed aside. “Nothing.”

“Hmm. You’re not a very good liar.”

I tried to pull my hand from his grasp. Instead, he held it firmly.

“One last quick question. This shit with your friend, that sort of thing happen often?”

“What?”

“’Cause when you were on the phone, talking with your other friend, it sounded like it did.” He loomed over me, blocking out the night sky. “It sounded like it was a problem for you, people using you.”

“We don’t need to talk about this.” I twisted my hand, trying to get free. Even with the sweaty palms it was an impossible task.

“Did you notice how your friend asked for a favor even knowing you were all sad faced about this other friend ripping you off? How do you feel about that?”

I yanked on my arm, but he held fast. Seriously, how strong was this bastard?

“Because I think that was kind of a low move. Between you and me, I don’t think you have very good friends, Anne.”

“Hey. I have great friends.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? They rip you off and expect shit from you when you’re down. Seriously, dude. Only assholes would do that.”

“Mal–”

“But what’s worse is that you’re letting them. I don’t get that.”

“I’m not letting them do anything.”

“Yes, you are,” he said, voice rising in volume. “You so are.”

“Good god, do you have a mute switch?”

“It’s appalling! I’m officially appalled,” he yelled, clueing the whole damn neighborhood in on my life. “This must end! I will stand for it no longer. Do you hear me, Portland?”

“Let me go,” I said through gritted teeth.

“You, Miss Rollins, are a doormat.”

“I am not a doormat,” I growled, everything in me rebelling at the idea. Either that or running in fear of it. I was so worked up it was hard to tell.

He rolled his eyes. “C’mon, you know you are. It’s right there on your face.”

I shook my head, beyond words.

“So, I’ve given this absolutely no thought and decided that you need boundaries, Anne. Boundaries. Are. Your. Friends.” Each word was punctuated with his finger tapping the tip of my nose. “Do you hear me? Is this getting through?”

Which is about when I snapped and started screaming. “You want boundaries? How about getting the hell out of my face! How’s that for a boundary, huh? None of this is any of your damn business, you obnoxious dickhead.”

He opened his mouth to reply but I charged on regardless.

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