“Wake up, dickhead.”
The screaming horn stops. My head drops toward blinding light as I stare up at a bright blue sky and Hunter Davenport’s face. I realize then that I’m stuffed on the floor of the backseat of his Land Rover, my head now hanging out the open passenger door.
“The fuck?” I grumble, struggling to get my limbs or wits about me. But I’m unable to pry myself free of the tangled puzzle.
“We’ve been looking for you since last night, dipshit.”
Hunter grabs my arms and yanks me out of the SUV, then drops me in a heap on the pavement. With effort and tingles buzzing through every sleeping nerve, I climb to my feet and reach for the vehicle to prop myself up. My brain is blurry, eyes unfocused. My head erupts in pain. For a second I think I’ve got it under control. Then I sprint, unsteady and clumsy, to the grass to upchuck what tastes like Fireball, Red Bull, and Jäger.
I hate myself so much.
“Feel better?” Hunter asks cheerfully, handing me a bottle of water.
“No.” I take a few swigs, swish, and spit it out in the bushes. I know these bushes. I’m near my driveway. I don’t remember leaving the party across town, though. And I definitely don’t remember getting in Hunter’s car. Where’s my Jeep? “Wait. You said you’ve been looking for me?”
“Man, you went MIA last night.”
I check my pockets and find my keys, phone, and wallet. So at least I’m good in that department.
We go back to Hunter’s Rover and lean against the trunk while I take inventory of my last recollections. There was a house party at some friend of Demi’s. The guys were all there. We played beer pong, the usual. I remember pounding shots with Foster and Bucky. A girl. Shit.
“Where’d you go?” Hunter asks, apparently seeing the realization creep across my face.
“I made out with some chick,” I say half as a question.
“Yeah, we all saw. You two were all up on each other in the kitchen. Then you disappeared.”
Fuck. “She took me into one of the bedrooms. We were going at it, you know. Kissing and whatnot. Then she tried to get my pants off to blow me and I bugged out. Couldn’t do it.”
“Limp as a piece of raw chicken.” I search my brain. “I think I sort of left her there.”
“Demi saw her come down, but we couldn’t find you after that,” Hunter tells me. “Nobody could. We all started calling. Fanned out looking for you.”
It’s all pretty fuzzy. There are gaps. Starts and stops of a jittery picture. “I left the house, I think, out the back. It was too crowded in the yard and I couldn’t find the gate in the fence, so I think I hopped it.”
I look down at my hands. They’re all scratched up and my jeans have a fresh tear in them. I look like I went rolling down the side of a mountain.
“Then I think I was going to walk home, but I couldn’t figure out which way I was pointed or where home was. I remember being real fucking confused about where I was, and I think my phone died, so I was like, fuck it, I’ll just wait for one of you to take me home. I don’t why, but I guess I crawled in your backseat.”
“Jesus, dude.” Hunter shakes his head, laughing at me. Rightly so. “I left the car at the party last night after we suspended the search. Demi and I walked home because we’d both been drinking. Foster called this morning and said you never came home, so I went back for my car so I could start driving around checking ditches for you. Found you in my backseat and drove you home.”
“Sorry, man.” This isn’t the first time I’ve woken up in a strange place after a night out. But it’s the first time it’s happened since I came to Briar. “Guess I got a little outta hand last night.”
“You’ve been a little outta hand all week.” Hunter turns to me, arms crossed. He’s got his captain’s face on. The I’m not your daddy but face. “Maybe it’s time to take it down a notch with the partying. I know I was Team Drink It Out of Your System before, but now I’m calling it. Going missing for twelve hours is the limit.”
He’s right. I’ve been out every night since Taylor dumped me. Knocking back drinks like it’s my job, trying to lose the memory of her in some other girl’s face. Only, it doesn’t work. Not for my heart and not for my dick.
I miss her. I miss only her.
“You should try talking to her again,” Hunter says gruffly. “It’s been a few days. Maybe she’s ready to come around.”
“I’ve texted her. She won’t text me back.” Probably blocked my number by now.
“Look, I can’t begin to understand what went wrong there. But when she’s ready I know you two can work it out. I don’t know Taylor well or anything, but anyone could see you were both happy together. She’s going through something. Like you were before.” He shrugs. “Maybe it’s her turn to figure stuff out.”
She already has. She finally figured out that she’s too damn good for me. I might be making strides to better my life, but I’m not there yet and Taylor knew it and she didn’t want to wait around, I guess. I almost don’t even blame her. What the fuck have I ever done for her aside from giving her some orgasms and standing her up at a dance?
I choke down the rush of bitterness that fills my throat. Hey, at least it’s not puke anymore.
“Anyway, whatever you need, man. You know I’m here for you.” Hunter pats me on the back then gives me a shove. “Now get the hell off my car. I’ve gotta go wash the piss out of the backseat.”
“Fuck off. There’s no piss there.” I pause. “Just some vomit maybe.”
“Thanks for the ride,” I say, laughing as I back away. “See ya later.”
I head into the house, where I take a ragging from the roommates about last night. Won’t be living this one down for a long time. They invite me to brunch at the diner, but I’m exhausted and I’ve got a shit ton of packing to do before I head back to Cali in a few days. So I go take a shower, and they go out and bring me back some waffles and bacon.
About an hour into laundry and packing boxes, our doorbell rings. The guys are deep into a video game, so I wander over to the front door and answer it.
On the other side I find half a dozen of Taylor’s Kappa sisters, led by the infamous Abigail.
Before I can get a word out, she says, “Truce. We’re on the same side.”
I blink. “Huh?”
I don’t invite her in so much as she invites herself. Plus the six other girls trailing behind. They march into the house and take a stance like a troupe of angry townsfolk in the middle of the living room.
Foster gives me a wary look from the couch. “Hunter said no more parties.”
“Shut up, dumbass.” I focus on Abigail, who’s clearly the leader of this invasion. If it has something to do with Taylor, I want to hear it. “Why are you here?”
“Listen up.” She steps forward, hands on her hips. “Taylor didn’t dump you because she doesn’t love you anymore.”
“Oh snap!” Foster exclaims then buttons his lips when I shoot a warning glare at him.