The Dare

Page 71

“She dumped you because there’s a video going around of her from pledge week freshman year. It was never supposed to be public, but someone uploaded it to embarrass her. Now she’s humiliated and scared and she didn’t want you to know about it so she broke up with you first.”

“What kind of video?” I demand, confused with the vagueness of it. “And if she didn’t want me to know, why are you here?”

“Because,” Abigail says, “if I rip the Band-Aid off for her, maybe she’ll stop being afraid and fight back.”

If she means what she’s saying, I guess she isn’t quite the enemy anymore. No telling what brought on this sudden change of heart, but that’s another conversation entirely, and one I’m not sure is mine to have. I’m not ready to trust her completely, but this would be a hell of a long way to go to pull a prank.

“Fight back against what?” Matt asks from his spot in the recliner.

Good question. The other guys sit up, anxious and interested. The controllers and game are all but forgotten.

Abigail looks around awkwardly. “On the last night of pledge week, they had us in tank tops and underwear, and the seniors hosed us down while ordering Taylor and another girl to make out. They recorded it. Last week someone stole the video and posted it on a porn site. It’s…graphic. As in, you can see, you know, stuff.”

“Oh hell no.” Foster looks at me, eyes wide.

Motherfuckers. An overwhelming urge to punch a wall flashes through my mind, but I stop just short, remembering the last time I did that I hit a stud in the wall and broke my hand.

The fury has no outlet and instead courses through my blood. Heart to fingers to toes and back up again. Hot, boiling rage accompanied by the images assaulting my mind—random guys watching her, leering at her. Jerking it to my girlfriend.

Fuck. All I want to do is start ripping heads off. I glance at Alec and Gavin, both of them hunched forward like they’re about to launch out of their seats. Fists clenched, just like mine.

“How am I only hearing about this video now if you say it’s been going around?” I demand.

“Honestly I’m surprised you didn’t already know.” She glances at her fellow Kappas with a pleased nod. “I guess our efforts are working.”

“Efforts?” I frown.

“To shut it down and stop it from spreading through campus. We ordered everyone on Greek Row to shut the hell up about the video and not pass it around, but I didn’t expect any of those jackasses to actually listen, especially the frats. We’ve been doing everything we can to try to stop this shit from going viral.”

“Who?” I growl through gritted teeth. “Who uploaded it?”

“One of our Kappa sisters. Now former sister,” Abigail is quick to add. “And my ex-boyfriend.”

That’s all the guys needed to hear—there’s another dude whose ass we could kick.

They jump to their feet without delay.

“Where do we find this asshole?” Foster grunts.

“Should curb-stomp his face.”

“’Bout to fuck up his whole day.”

“Dude better have a will.”

“No,” Abigail orders, throwing her hands up like a blockade. “We came here because you need to convince Taylor to go to the police. We tried to work on her and the other sister in the video, but they’re scared. We hoped if you could get through to Taylor, she’d convince the other girl it’s the right thing to do.”

“Nah, fuck that,” I mutter. “She can do what she wants. I’m gonna fucking shred this jackass.”

“You can’t. Trust me. Kevin’s a sniveling little shit and he’ll absolutely go to the cops if you lay a hand on him. You’ll end up in jail and who’s going to protect Taylor then? So simmer down, big guy, and listen.”

“Taylor isn’t talking to me,” I tell the girls, who are all looking at me like I’m an idiot. “I’ve tried.”

“So try harder.” Abigail rolls her eyes, making a show of sighing loudly. “Duh.”

“Put your back into it,” another one says.

“Mind over matter.” This comes from one of the chicks who was at the diner that one time. Olivia something or other.

They’re right, though. Much as I’d like to drag this fucker behind my Jeep, now would be a terrible time to get arrested. As long as that video of Taylor is out there, she’s a target. Who knows what kind of sick pervert might get a real dumb idea to mess with her. I’ve got to be here to watch her back, even if she doesn’t know I am.

I’d do anything to keep her safe.

“I’ll try,” I promise Taylor’s sorority sisters. My voice sounds raspy, so I clear my throat. “I’ll head over to her place now.”

If Abigail’s story about why Taylor broke it off is true, I’ve got to get her back. Up until this point, I hadn’t wanted to push Taylor too hard. Yeah, I probably blew up her phone too much the night she ended it, but I didn’t stand outside her window with a portable speaker or wait outside her classes with a banner. I didn’t want to be overbearing and wind up driving her further away.

But now I realize I was hiding too. The things she’d said that night had really hurt. She stirred up all my insecurities, and I’ve been nursing my pride ever since. I didn’t chase her or beg her to take me back because I didn’t think there was any reason for her to do that. Because I wasn’t worthy of her.

More than that, I think I was afraid of a final rejection there’d be no return from. If I avoided the subject, I could keep believing there was a chance, at some distance time, where we’d come back to each other. If I didn’t look in the box, the cat was both alive and dead.

This changes everything.

 

 

42

 

 

Taylor

 

 

I feel like I’ve put on five pounds this week and I can’t find it in me to care. After the first shower I’ve taken in two days, I throw on a peasant top and a pair of jeans. My mom called yesterday to invite me to another family dinner with Chad and Brenna Jensen, so I have no choice but to make an effort. That means brushing my hair, too. Ugh.

This time they’re making the safe play to eat out at the Italian place in town rather than risk another cooking catastrophe. I’d tried to make an excuse to decline, but Mom wasn’t having it.

And then, of course, I had to dodge on the topic of Conor when she told me to invite him. I told her he was busy, and besides, whatever Coach might have said, he’d probably appreciate not having one of his players tagging along on all his dates. She bought it, albeit skeptically. Mom can read me like a book—I’m sure she’s guessed the relationship has fizzled out, but she’s gracefully declining to press for details.

As much as I’m dreading tonight, I suppose it offers a distraction from the obvious, a commercial break in my infinite binge and self-pity party.

I’ve just got my hair up in a ponytail when there’s knocking on the door. I check my phone for the time. They’re early. Whatever. I didn’t feel like putting on makeup anyway.

“Just give me a second to find my shoes,” I say as I fling open the door.

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