Publication date: April 25th 2016
Genres: New Adult, Romance
Nobody ever said life was easy…
People pleaser, Jane Skylar wants nothing more than to earn her art degree, start her life, and bask in the bliss of living with her boyfriend.
But things don’t always go as planned…
Struggling with her creative side, Jane finds herself in turmoil, often confiding in her roommate – another, more talented art student, Keith Hale. Keith just so happens to be her boyfriend’s older, brooding brother. After a devastating breakup, Jane turns to Keith for comfort. But when the lines blur between roommate and lover, Jane’s life becomes more complicated than ever before.
When Keith’s past comes back to haunt him, their lives all get turned upside down, forcing the truth to surface. Now Jane must fight for what she wants–even if it hurts everyone she loves.
When I pulled the door open, the last person I wanted to see was sitting on a stool, sipping his morning coffee. He didn’t acknowledge me.
I poured some coffee in a random mug, since Keith was using my favorite one, and tried to reach the last package of cookies on the top shelf. I really didn’t want to use the stool in front of Keith.
What was the least humiliating decision? Trying to reach it by jumping on the counter or getting the stupid stool? I almost decided on just eating something at school when a throat being cleared sounded just behind me. I knew that, if I turned around, he would be invading my personal space. I had no intention of letting him ruin my birthday, so I stayed put with my arms crossed over my chest.
“Were you deciding between the cookies, the canned peas, or the rice? Because I can help with either one of them, just not sure which one you get in the morning.” Keith snickered. I could smell him, and the fact that such a pleasant smell could come from such an unpleasant person puzzled me.
I had the strong urge to turn and flip him the finger. I had never done that in my life, but could now understand why people did it. Instead, I turned slowly, thinking about how to have the upper hand this time.
I was right about the personal space: I leaned back and rested my hands behind me on the counter. He was standing so close to me that I had to look up to see his eyes. For a second, I saw the indecision there, as if he knew he should step back.
I had to think of a witty response fast, but then I noticed he had shaved— that was where the amazing smell was coming from. He had a small cut on his throat.
Keith wasn’t smirking now; he was genuinely waiting for me to do something. I wished I could read his thoughts so I could do the exact opposite of what he was hoping for.
I quickly took the wish back. It was my birthday, after all, and we never did know when a wish would be granted. This was one I really didn’t want to come true. Hearing his words hurt enough without having to hear his thoughts, as well.
“Next time you shave, try standing an inch or two closer to the blade,” I whispered, leaning closer to his shoulder.
I was so pleased with my joke that I pondered going upstairs and writing it down. I smiled triumphantly at my quick response and did a little happy dance inside.
“Did you have to think on that one this whole time, or were you just checking me out?”
My smile faltered and then completely disappeared. That had been a good one. Okay, I must have thought about it a little longer than I realized. Maybe I had been kind of checking him out—not in a “you’re so hot” way, but more of a “if you could just be a statue and never speak or move, I would thank the powers that be” way.
I stuck my chin out to try to appear taller. “That was a good one and you know it.” I crossed my arms again and brushed against his chest in the process.
The next towels were easier. I was getting colder and so tired that my eyes started to shut and I dozed off. When the towel on my stomach was removed, the breeze on my skin made me shiver and woke me up.
“Just one more time, and then we’ll check if the fever has lowered.” He changed the towels again. I had stopped feeling awkward about the lack of clothes a long time ago: maybe between the cold towel or the scared look on Keith’s face.
My shivering never stopped. After Keith took all the towels from my body, I just wanted to curl up and sleep. The sheets were wet, though, as well as my clothes. Keith left for a minute and I opened one eye to see him standing at the door, frowning.
“What is it now?”
“I can’t find any clean sheets,” he answered. I wasn’t feeling good enough today to do laundry, so the other set was dirty.
“Come on. Try sitting up.” Keith opened one of my drawers.
“What are you doing?” It was where I kept my underwear. He ignored my protests and took some black cotton panties and a matching tank top and placed them on the bed.
“I’ll be in the hallway. Call me when you’re done—unless you want my help.” His smirk was weak, but I knew he was trying to make me smile. I shooed him out of my room with a wave of my hand and took my time changing out of my clothes. My body hurt, especially my ribs.
“I’m coming in,” Keith warned, as soon as I pulled the tank top down. “Can you get up?” I obeyed him, unsure of why he wanted me to get up if I didn’t have any clean sheets to change the bed with. My bedroom swung around me and I had to sit back down again. I was too weak to stand. Keith sighed and put his arms under me. I stiffened instantly, not just at the gesture, but also at my lack of clothing. He picked me up and left my room.
“What are you doing?”
“What do you think? I’m taking you to my room. The sheets are clean, I haven’t slept there this week, and they are dry, at least.” He winked while pushing open his bedroom door with his shoulder. I had been in his room once or twice to bring him his clean clothes, but I’d never taken the time to look around. I wouldn’t do so this time, either, as the only light on was from the lamp on his bedside table.
The space was clean and tidy. I imagined all his clutter was in the attic, where he spent most of his time.
I whimpered against his cold sheets. “Come on, scoot over,” he said, as soon as he laid me down. I did what he asked and the next thing I felt was his warm body against mine. I gasped at the contact, but scooted back against his chest. I tried to ignore the chuckle that came from him, which shook my body slightly.
His hand came to rest on my stomach for a second before he pulled my tank top up. I was prepared to turn and punch him in the face when I realized what he was trying to do. He lifted his own shirt and hugged my bare back. I sighed, trying not to moan. For the second time tonight, I wasn’t cold, as his body was warmer than mine.
“Just so we’re clear, in the morning, we go back to not caring much for the other, right?” I asked, more to try and clear the air. I felt him tense before answering me with a weird shrug.
“I guess,” he mumbled.
“Why do you hate me?” I whispered.
“I’m sorry about your hand,” I said. He threw his jacket over one of the couches and sat on the other. His eyes dropped to my arm, which I was subconsciously rubbing.
“Did he hurt you?” He wasn’t mad, this time—he was worried.
I tried to hide my smile and shook my head. “Not really. I bruise easily.”
He jumped to get closer. “Bruise?” He pulled my wrist and turned my arm to check the damage. It was red. Maybe I wouldn’t get a bruise, but his face made me smile.
“I’m not dying, Keith. He was just an ass.”
“I told you to go with your brother.” He sat again. “Did you have fun, at least?”
“Not really. I guess I didn’t drink enough.” I shrugged, not feeling drunk anymore.
“You really shouldn’t have told me that.” He jumped from the couch and disappeared into the kitchen. I heard a couple of cabinet doors opening and closing and then glasses clinking.
Keith came back with a bottle under his arm, two glasses in one hand, and a lime cut in two and salt in the other.
I wasn’t experienced, but I knew what that meant. “Tequila? Do you think it’s wise?”
“This night wasn’t supposed to be about being wise. It’s just the two of us: you won’t get in trouble.” He paused for a second, staring at the walls in deep thought. He then placed the ingredients on the coffee table. “We won’t get too drunk. Do you know how to drink this?”
I nodded. I’d never tasted it, but I saw it in the movies. The first one burned, and the second did, too. I stopped, while Keith kept pouring shots for himself.
After the first shot, Keith had turned the TV to a music channel. He had turned it up a couple of times, since. We were laughing at each other’s faces. Of course, he was used to it, but I saw the glimmer in his eyes. We were both drunk. The first time I had ever gotten drunk was with Keith Hale. Who would have guessed?
“You should go to sleep,” he slurred, pushing me to the stairs. “Your brother would kill me if he showed up right now.”
“Really?” I stumbled on almost every step. Keith grabbed my waist every time and released me after I steadied myself, only to stumble again. I repeated the word because it was funny in my tongue. “Really?” He laughed behind me.
“Yeah…” He was also dragging his words. “Thanks.”
“For what?” I had reached my door and turned to say good night.
He struggled for the words. His smile disappeared and he took so long to say anything that I was considering forgetting the question and going to my room. Then he grabbed my face with his hands.
“Ryan doesn’t like us being friends, either, does he?” I asked, maybe half an hour from home. It was a rhetorical question, but I wanted him to answer it.
Keith looked at me from the corner of his eye, making me aware that this was a subject he’d thought was closed. After a few minutes, he answered. “Ryan is your father’s son. Besides, he wants to protect you. Anyone who loves you wants to keep you away from me, as they should.” Once again, my mouth was hanging open. I turned all the way to him, pulling one leg up onto the seat.
“What the hell is wrong with you? Keith Hale, almighty Keith Hale, the most I-don’t-give-a shit-about-anyone, I-can-get-any-girl-I-want-by-snapping-my-fingers, Keith Hale is, in fact, a fake.” He looked at me, surprised. “Yeah, a fake. You don’t have a drop of self-esteem. You were supposed to be the most confident person in the world, yet you keep giving me that cryptic, rehearsed shit. And, yeah, I can cuss. I just didn’t feel like it, before.”
Keith swerved the car to park on the side of the road, which made the car behind us honk. He turned it off and got in my face, anger pouring from him.
“Is that before/after shit I don’t want, Skylar. There is no before. We’re still not friends, got it? I can get any girl I want. I could get you if I wanted, but I don’t.” The last word hung between us for a few seconds. I should have been mad for what he said, like some pathetic girl who’d fallen for him that easily, but, sadly, I was just hurt that he wanted anyone other than me.
Painting Sky Playlist
1. “Jump rope” - Blue October
2. “Nothing Left To Say”, Imagine Dragons
3. “Clear Blue Sky”, Skylar Grey
4. “Not your way”, Misterwives
5. “Blurry”, Puddle of Mudd
6. “Can't Pretend", Tom Odell
7. "Dots and Dashes (Enough Already)", Silversun Pickups
8. “Creep”, Radiohead
9. “The Diary Of Jane”, Breaking Benjamin
10. “Never Let Me Go”, Florence + The Machine
11. “I Won't Let You Go”, James Morrison
12. "I See You, You See Me", The Magic Numbers
Rita Branches is an independent YA (young adult) author who enjoys spending every free moment (when she´s not reading) writing emotional stories. Visit: http://ritabranches.wordpress.com/
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