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Damaged Goods: Chapter 16


The day keeps hitting all the checkmarks to becoming the world’s crappiest.

Thalia shows up at my door. She smells of Miss Dior and wears a green plaid minidress, a big hair bow, and a bracelet with a sparrow on it. Subtle.

She looks like she is wearing a costume of me.

I’m all about Daria’s hand-me-downs and high-fashion knockoffs I find at thrift stores.

“Come on in.” I smile, not sure how to feel about her anymore.

On one hand, she hooked me up with Sydney knowing—or highly suspecting—I have a problem.

On the other, she must feel like a third wheel, which is terrible.

She never asked for me to come back into town. I rolled in and ruined all she’s worked for.

“Bailey, you look radiant!” She checks me out from behind orange opal sunglasses.

Liar. I’m as presentable as a bag of hair. Probably just as lively.

“Is now a good time?”

Never would be a great time, but we’re gonna have to talk sooner or later.

“Yeah. How about we hang at the pool?” I suggest.

“Totally, if you can give me a bikini?”

Sure. You took the boy I love. Why stop there?

“Follow me.”

We climb upstairs and I hand her my lettuce-edge floral bikini. I slip into a white handkerchief piece, trying not to stare at her nauseatingly flawless body.

I finger my dove bracelet. Thalia catches the gesture, releasing a sigh. “I’m so bummed I can’t come with you all to Jackson Hole.”

Every year our families go skiing together. Uncle Vicious has a mansion there. Thalia is implying Lev invited her—and that invitation is active… But that can’t be true.

He was going to dump her. I officially gave him the green light to go after me. You know, right before I started ignoring him again.

“Why aren’t you coming?” I swallow, trying to recover from the surprise.

“My gymnastics schedule is brutal.” She pouts. “Plus, we won’t be able to keep our hands off each other, which would be so cringe.” She giggles.

“Ho ho ho, Merry Cringemas,” I say dryly. Literally kill me now.

She twists up her nose. “Oh my God, what’s that smell? I can’t breathe.”

“Sage.” And that’s because you’re a succubus.

“Aw. Guess I’m not a fan.”

I’m actually burning sage so Mom doesn’t smell how I haven’t washed my sheets in days, maybe weeks. “I’ll keep it in mind for next time you come.”

I won’t. But my dang manners won’t let me say anything else.

We go downstairs to the pool and occupy two sun loungers.

“I was so worried for you when you left the bonfire the other day. Did you get home okay?” Thalia lathers her legs in enough baby oil to drown one.

The question is so backhanded and manipulative that I can’t help but let my inner Daria do the talking for a second, “Oh, yeah. Lev looked for me all over town. Found me pretty quickly, though.”

“He is great, isn’t he?” Thalia smiles brightly, reaching to pat my arm. Feels like a snakebite. “He came to my place right afterwards.”


My rage is so potent it feels like there are lava bubbles burning through my veins.

He was supposed to break up with her. If he is so-called in love with me, why does Regina George over here think she has an invitation to our family holiday?

There’s so much anger and frustration and despair in me, and I have nothing to do with them. Nothing but wait for her to leave so I can pop more Xanax.

Thalia notices me flinch. She presses home with a dreamy moan. “Oh, don’t be nervous, Bailey! I totally kept our little secret.” She winks. “Let’s just say I found a way to distract him, if you get what I’m saying.”

Barf fills my mouth, and I force it down my throat.

No way am I letting her see how much it hurts.

Slanting my gaze her way, I ask, “Have you spoken to him about college yet? Are you guys sticking it out?”

Lev might be knocking boots with Daisy Douche over here, but he is not taking her seriously.

I know because he is all heart and she is all venom. But Thalia seems serene as she folds her bikini bottom an inch to allow the sun to evenly tan her groin. “Not yet. But things are looking up. I’m starting to see he truly cares for me. I think we’re super bonded over the fact he lost his mom and I almost lost my sister to cancer, you know? We get each other. Thanks for the advice, Bailey. You’re such a good friend!”

It hurts.

Hurts so much I can’t breathe.

Hurts that I can’t make one good decision lately.

Hurts that I’m addicted. Hurts that I’m injured.

Hurts that I’m hurting others.

My entire universe seems to be pain, and for the first time in my life, I wonder if the world is going to be better if I just…leave it.

“You’re so welcome.” I smile.

“High-school sweethearts! Imagine if we end up married!” She squeals.

Thanks, I’d rather imagine being devoured by hungry sharks in the open ocean.

I fling a towel over my head to signal the conversation is over.

I shove Thalia out my door as soon as decorum allows and trek downstairs to the basement to pop a few pills.

Only after my mood is somewhat leveled, I decide to launch Operation Make Lev Dump Thalia.

Not the catchiest title, but it’s safe to say I’m not at my peak right now.

I’m doing this out of purely altruistic reasons. She is obviously a terrible influence.

She gave me drugs when I tried to kick the habit. Lev deserves better, even if that better isn’t the drug-addict ballerina next door.

If he dumps her without realizing she is the one hooking me up with drugs, I can get both my drugs and happy ending with my best friend.

Standing with my back to the studio mirror, I pull out my phone, stick my butt out, and drop my bikini bottom, snapping a semi-naked picture of myself and sending it to Lev.

I’m not sure what I expect to get back from him, but it isn’t the deafening silence that greets me, so I decide to give him another nudge.

Sexting is the bread and butter of the twenty-first-century civilization—how hard can it be?

I lie on the floor, pulling my bikini top down, and snap a selfie of me topless, swimming in the shimmering gold of my hair. My nipples are taut, my lips pink and parted, and now it is no longer a hint. It’s an open invitation.

Old Bailey would say ten million Hail Marys just for toying with the idea of sending a nude pic. But my normal self isn’t home right now.

This time, I send it with a caption:

Still settling for the knockoff, or are you ready for the real thing?

A minute passes. Then five.

Fear trickles into my gut like acid, drip, drip, drip.

What if he’s had enough of my mood swings? What if he hates this new me? Normal Bailey texts him fun ballet and aviation facts, not pictures of her nipples. How much longer can he be kind and understanding before he finally snaps?

The door upstairs swings open, crashing violently against the wall. I jump in surprise.

Upstairs, Dad is growling, “What the hell, Lev? I’m gonna send your old man a bill for that crown molding.”

“Where is she?” Lev demands savagely, ignoring Dad’s threat.

He doesn’t sound horny. He doesn’t sound happy, either. He sounds…murderous.

Yup. There’s definitely room for growth in the sexting department for me.

Quickly, I slip back into my bikini and hastily tie my bottoms over my hips.

“Practicing downstairs.” Mom’s voice is barely a whisper. “She had a day.”

“Yeah? Well, it’s nothing in comparison to the evening I have in store for her.”

I run to the mirror and pinch my cheeks to look half-alive, noticing my eyes are glassy, blank, un-mine.

Not only do I not look pretty, I don’t look like myself, period. I’d been hyperfocused on my body in the selfies, not my face.

Lev bursts inside still in his gear. His white football pants are muddy, his buzz cut dirtied, streaks of sweat and mud contouring his godlike face.

He is shredded to perfection, all bronzed, glistening skin and smells of freshly cut grass, warm summer nights, and sex.

“You are so fucking dead, Bailey Followhill,” he sneers, getting right in my face.

I take an involuntary step back, my ass hitting the ballet barre.

My shaky fingers curl around it. My unsteadiness is the result of adrenaline and desire, not fear. Lev would never hurt me. If he makes me scream, it’ll be from pure pleasure.

“Ignoring my ass for days and weeks, making me worry sick about you, then sending me nudes.” His roar bounces off the walls. “Where’re the drugs?”

His breath skates along the column of my neck, hot and citrusy. Chills nip at my flesh, and my breath becomes shallow and fast.

“What drugs?” I bat my lashes innocently. “I just want to have some fun.” I buck my hips forward, rolling them over his pelvis. A small moan escapes me.

“Searched your room again when you went to your support group yesterday, since you wouldn’t let me see you.” His jaw tics with fury.

I want to lick a path through the sharp slope of it. “Went through all the bathrooms and Daria’s old room too. Should’ve known you’d do a good job. You’re smart. Fucked-up, but still the smartest person I know.”

Holy hell. He went through my entire room and I didn’t even notice? How high was I?

For the first time I’m questioning my grip on reality.

Old Bailey would know if someone moved her markers an inch.

“Maybe I’m sober.” I trail a fingernail down his chest.

“Old Bailey would never send me nudes.”

“Old Bailey sounds like a bore.”

“Hey.” He coils his fingers around the front of my neck, angling his chin down. “Don’t you dare fucking badmouth the girl I love.”

“If you love me so much, fuck me!” I toss my hands up in the air.

Ho. Ly. Heck.

What did I just say? Weirdly, I can’t bring myself to take it back.

I need him to do this. To treat me like the subject of his darkest desires, not some holy nun.

Lev is no cheater. If he touches me inappropriately now, he’d break up with Thalia.

His conscience wouldn’t let him two-time us.

“Never said anything about loving you.” His eyes rake my body with noticeable boredom.

I rub myself shamelessly against his pelvis. The chafe of my bikini bottom’s fabric against his rock-hard bulge makes my clit swollen and sensitive. Heat swirls in my stomach.

Lev bares his teeth. “Feel free to stop humping my jockstrap whenever you’re ready. I can’t feel jack shit through it.”

His words are like freezing-cold water over my mood.

Then he adds, “Even if I were hard, I wouldn’t fuck you.”

I plaster on a smile and purr, “Too bad. I might actually cooperate if you get me off. Tell you where all those bad drugs are.”

A spark of something sinister ignites behind his pupils. There is a domineering element to Lev, and I don’t know how I haven’t noticed it before.

Maybe because I always considered myself his security blanket, his person, his home.

Now when I’m clearly not all those things to him, I’m hard-pressed to come up with a more alpha, controlling…man.

“So it’s like that?” His free hand grabs at my hip bone, and with an effortless tug, he pulls one of my legs to wrap over his waist.

The dove on his tattered bracelet brushes over my outer thigh and a strangled grunt rolls past my lips. His tongue swipes at his full bottom lip, and his eyes hood farther.

“That’s exactly what it’s like.” I pinch my shoulder blades together to display my chest. “What are we doing now, Lev?”

“Foreplay.” His hand hikes farther down my waist, drawing at the string keeping my bikini bottom together deliciously slowly.

I gasp with pleasure. “My parents could walk in any second.”

Or maybe not? It’s hard to tell because, lately, they’ve been trusting me with nothing.

But they do trust Lev. Trust that he would always make the right decision for both of us.

“Let them see,” he answers, his lips tracing my own, and it’s not exactly a kiss, but it’s not exactly not a kiss, either.

I want him to devour my mouth until I can’t breathe. Jockstrap and cup or not, he is affected.

He groans into my mouth, and for a moment, I’m not high anymore. I’m Old Bailey, and he is my Lev, and we’re pressing our lips together like children practicing what we saw on TV, breathing each other in.

Our hearts beat in the same rhythm. Our fingers lace together.

It’s quiet. It’s romantic. It’s everything.

My eyes flutter shut and my lips clasp over his so seamlessly, we’re like a lock and a key. A match made of kismet heaven.


“No. Shut up. Let me pretend you’re her.” My heart squeezes for a second, and I can’t breathe. Her? Her who? Thalia? But then he adds brokenly, “My Bailey.”

He glides his hand from my neck to my jaw and squeezes, opening my mouth forcefully.

I welcome his tongue as it chases mine, licking, flicking, exploring.

He swallows my little pants of appreciation with greediness. With my bikini bottom half-undone, he presses his hot palm against my pussy until he hits bone.

My nipples pucker and I shudder, rolling my hips relentlessly, hunting his touch.

I want him to bend me over the ballet barre and fuck me raw.

I want him to tell me I’ll be fine, that we’ll get through this together.

I want him to come inside me and watch me drip.

To lick the inside of my thighs from behind and whisper sweet nothings that would soak into my skin.

I open my legs wider, giving him access to me.

Lev tsks into my mouth, his tongue stroking mine skillfully. “You’re gonna have to use your words, Dove.”

“Finger me,” I whimper. “Please.”

His mouth rips from mine, and he drags his nose down the side of my neck, leaving hot, sexy kisses everywhere his lips land. These kisses are a drug more powerful than anything they can create in a lab.

“Where’re the drugs?” he repeats.

I don’t answer, taking his hand and jerking it desperately between my legs.

The asshole laughs into my collarbone, hand limp between us, as his tongue draws lazy circles around the tip of my shoulder. “Answer me.”

“Finger-fuck me first,” I groan. “Don’t pretend like you’re not curious to know what I feel like inside.”

Lev hisses into my skin, a mixture of pain and guilt swimming in his tortured expression when I feel his digit skimming my slit.

I’m so wet it slicks the tip of his finger instantly. We both stop everything and take a moment to tremble in each other’s arms.

Our heads drop forward and we watch as his finger strokes back and forth along my entrance. My breasts feel full and heavy, and my belly bottoms out.

Our eyes meet, and Lev plasters his forehead against mine, closing his eyes. “Where are you hiding those pills, baby?”

Baby. Oh Marx. I love this nickname in his mouth.

I shake my head. I’m never gonna tell him. I can’t. “Please give me some relief. Please, Lev, I need it.”

“It’s wrong.”

“Then do something wrong anyway. Even if you don’t like it. For me. For once.”

He buries his face in my shoulder as he pushes his finger deep inside me.

I clench around him instantly, so wet and turned-on he meets no resistance from my body.

“Oh, fuck. You’re so tight. You’ll milk my cock dry when I fuck you.”

When. He said when.

“Now seems like as good a time as ever.” I rotate my hips, riding his finger like a cowgirl when he adds two more to the party.

I’m so close I can practically feel the edge of an orgasm before it overtakes me.

He glides in and out of me, his dirty, sweaty fingers still smelling like cowhide and grass from football practice.

With three fingers inside me, he massages my clit with his thumb, flicking it teasingly.

My knees are trembling and I drop my head back. Stars dust along the ceiling, a thousand tiny supernovas, as my vision blurs and my climax crawls up from the tip of my toes up my legs. Warmth spreads along my limbs.

It’s happening. I’m coming.

“Where are the drugs, Bailey?” Lev repeats, his teeth grazing the tip of my chin.

“I’m not on drugs.” I clench around his fingers.

“You’re a liar.” He keeps thrusting his fingers into me, manic, hungry, fueled by desire.

His other hand is holding me by the front of my neck to keep me from falling.

I’m pressed against the mirror. He’s handling me roughly, just like I want him to.

And I can’t get nearly enough of this.

“And you still love me,” I taunt.

“Tell me where.”

“Keep dreaming, Levy.”

“Fuck, Bailey!” He tears himself away, running the hand that was inside me over his scalp.

My orgasm comes to a screeching halt, and my ass hits the floor now that he is not there to hold me.

I stare at him from my spot on the parquet, my limbs knotted together like a newborn fawn.

He paces back and forth, swiping his hand over his mouth in frustration. He stops. “Last chance, Bail. Where are the drugs?”

“Screw you. You just cut my orgasm short.” I reach between my thighs to play with myself.

But the moment is gone and so is the promise for climax. The wetness inside me feels cold and empty.

I have a moment of clarity where I see myself from the outside. Through his eyes. This wretched, long-limbed creature trying to reignite something that is long dead.

As if confirming my suspicion, Lev drops to his knees beside me.

“Look at yourself.” He ties my bikini back together hastily. “Fuck, Dove. What would it take to make you get some help?”

Smiling, I try to gulp down the ball of tears forming in my throat. “Just because I’m no longer perfect, doesn’t mean I’m not perfectly me. Anyone ever told you you’re a fair-weather friend?”

And then, something awful happens.

He stops helping me. Stands up. Flashes me his megawatt, crooked, ’90s-heartthrob smirk. The one I see him giving his rivals on the field before he wipes them out and finishes their season. Lev doesn’t have bedroom eyes.

He has bend-you-against-the-kitchen-counter-while-your-parents-are-literally-in-the-next-room-and-fuck-your-brains-out eyes.

And right now, this drowsy, sexy, long-lashed stare is looking at me like it is trying to measure me up.

Which part of me he wants to break first. The answer is clear, by the way—the heart.

“Fine. You wanna act like a loser, Bailey? I’ll treat you like a loser. Have fun with your drugs.”

He advances to the door, and I chase him, grabbing at the edge of his shirt. “You’re just gonna walk away from the conversation?”

“What more is there to say?”

“Break up with your girlfriend. For me.”

I always thought that if I were to channel an Ariana Grande song, it’d be “Dangerous Woman.” This is definitely not my month.

Lev turns to glare at me. I never thought I’d see the day when he looked at me like I’m a bug he wants to crush under his shoe.

“For you?” He arches an eyebrow, giving me a slow, patronizing once-over. “Nah. Let me know when my best friend is back.”


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