Love Me Never

Page 11


“All they do is grovel,” He snarls. “I am a thing to them, not a person. They worship me because they don’t know me.”
“Yeah, but you keep it that way – everybody thinks you’re intimidating and hard to approach, just how you like it. You don’t make any effort to be nice, or make friends. It’s easier to be worshipped by people than it is to be friends with them.”
“What the hell do you know?”
“I don’t know anything - except that you’re here, in the library, reading corny-ass romance books.” I gesture around me. He holds my gaze, like he’s looking for something inside me, and then backs off. He puts the book back and takes out a few, piling them on his arm.
“These aren’t for me.”
“I’ve heard that before.”
“I have a friend who enjoys them,” he says, voice now softer. “But she can’t get out a lot. So I bring them to her.”
“Oh. Well. That’s nice of you. Also kind of weird, since you seem to intensely dislike all women.”
“I don’t dislike them. I’m tired of them. There’s a difference.”
“Tired of them? You’re seventeen! Why do I have to keep reminding you of that? There are soooo many women you haven’t even met yet! Don’t act like you’re tired of the puss-puss, no guy is ever tired of the puss-puss.”
He shoots me a withering look, but for a split second I swear I hear him half-laugh, half-scoff quietly under his breath.
“You’re bizarre. And a moron. But I suppose it could be worse. You could be normal.”
“I could be normal,” I agree. “It could be even worse – I could like you.”
“True. I don’t like you, either. In fact, I despise you.”
“Can we maybe not talk about your gross little feelings for me?”
“Trust me, they are anything but little. And gross is an understatement - they cause instantaneous vomiting.”
“Oh good! That makes two of us. I threw up four times on my way to the library to ask you about this!”
I flash the black and red card between my fingers. Jack’s expression doesn’t change from one of utter boredom. I flash it again in front of his face, waving it back and forth a few times for good measure.
“Aren’t you the least bit concerned I have one of these?”
“I know you had it. I counted the cards when your friend returned my wallet.”
“How did you know I was the one who took it?”
“How else would Kayla get it?” He sneers. “She’s not the type to steal. You are.”
“I’d be insulted if I wasn’t rolling in five cubic tons of hot-ass self-confidence.”
“I have twenty-two cards, and there were twenty-one when she gave it back,” He ignores me.
“Are you OCD or something? You keep count of how many business cards you have in your wallet?”
“Can you just get on with threatening me?” He sighs. I treat him to a brief glare.
“I haven’t called the number on this card. Yet.”
“But you’ve memorized the number.”
“Of course,” I breeze on. “And if you have an ounce of brain in that thick head of yours, you’ll apologize to Kayla before I call it and leak to the campus cop whatever sordid drugs you deal as a side job.”
He scoffs. “Drugs. That’s what you think it is? You think I’m that predictable? I’m offended.”
“The people in juvie will certainly be offended by your holier-than-thou attitude. Offended enough to beat you up on the daily.”
“You poor girl,” He laughs, pinching the bridge of his nose like he has a headache. “You poor, naïve little girl. You talk a big game, about how much smarter you are and how you’re different from them. But at the end of the day, you’re just as oblivious as all the other girls.”
“Don’t patronize me!” I snarl. “I know you’re doing something illegal. If you don’t apologize to Kayla –”
“You’ll what? Out me? Go ahead. Call that number.” He leans in. “I dare you to.”
“Back the hell off,” I hiss up at his face. He narrows his icy-flint eyes, but doesn’t lean away.
“Do it.” He holds out his phone.
It’s a trap. I’m walking into the biggest trap in the world. Jack looks at me with a keen, almost hungry interest. He wants me to find out what this card means. By the time I do, I might’ve sprung the trap closed. But I want to know, too. The part of me that wants to know more is louder than the part of me that’s a prudent, tactical battle master. If I call this number, I’ll get a significantly huge amount of blackmail material. In theory. What’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like he’s rigged a bomb to the number or anything. It could be nothing at all, a huge dud, but I won’t know until I try.
I dial slowly, and raise it to my ear. There’s a ring. And another ring. Jack isn’t moving. He’s barely blinking. I’m barely breathing – anticipation heavy on my chest.
“Hello, Madison speaking,” A pleasant woman’s voice chirps. “How may I help you?”
“Uh, hi, I’m –”
“Looking for a rose,” Jack says lowly.
“Looking for a rose.”
There’s a brief pause. “One moment while I bring out the books. May I ask your name?”
I look to Jack again, but he just shakes his head.
“Isi – Isabelle.”
“Alright Isabelle, and who are you calling after?”
“The name on the card you were given?”
“Oh. Jaden.”
If this is a drug request line or something, it’s the weirdest one ever. There’s a tapping noise as the woman types on a keyboard. Jack’s eyes are scanning over my shoulder, watching people walk by, but I can tell he’s still fully tuned in to the conversation I’m having.
“And is this your first time with the Rose Club, Isabelle?”
“Y-Yes? Yes.” Club? What kind of Club –
“Alright, thank you so much for choosing to book with us, Isabelle. Jaden’s one of our most popular escorts, so I’m afraid there’s a bit of a wait. The soonest opening I have is on December 4th, at 12:30 pm, in Columbus. In addition I’m obligated to mention to any and all customers his fees are considerably higher than those of our other escorts –”
I scrabble for the button to cancel the call and end up fumbling the phone onto the floor. It slides beneath a shelf and disappears. Before I can bend to pick it up, Jack hefts off the shelf and picks it up in one fell swoop.
“I set my phone to record that call. I now have you and the operator’s conversation on tape. If you tell anyone what you know about that card, I will counter with this recording and say you were a customer. Is that clear?”
I swallow so hard I swear I hear my throat crack.
“I said, is that clear?” He hardens his voice. I don’t dignify him with a nod. I’m gone before he has the chance to form another imperious sentence. It was a trap. And I fell for it.
I am getting my shit kicked in.