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Damaged Goods: Chapter 7


Miserable Fact #357: More than 7,000 people die annually due to their doctor’s bad handwriting.

Thalia: I forgot to mention, I spoke to Bailey yesterday and accidently told her we’re a couple lol.

Lev: ?!

Lev: 1. Why did you speak to Bailey? 2. How did it come up? 3. We aren’t.

Thalia: 1. I wanted to check on her. You don’t OWN her, Lev. 2. We talked about ASH. 3. Just bc we’re not official doesn’t mean it’s not a thing.

It’s the beginning of football practice, and as captain, I’m leading the stretching and conditioning portion of the warm-up. Everyone is on the grass, watching me texting my girl-something instead of getting ready before Coach shows up to rip us a new one.

“Can we work on our hamstrings, not our fingers?” Mac drawls from his position in a deep 90/90 stretch.

“Yeah. He already jerks off three times a day. Those fingers get their workout.” Finn throws a thumb Mac’s way.

“Nah. Just from fingering your ma.”

“Hey, Ballsy, when you doggystyle someone and your balls hit the back of her pussy, is it considered BDSM?” Mac snorts. Everybody laughs.

Ballsy pounds his chest. “My balls may be big, but so is my heart. Besides, what’s the alternative? Finn’s yogurt-covered raisins?” More laughter. I wonder if the Air Force Academy is also full of idiots who think Emily Dickinson is a porn star. Probably not. But since I’m going to a legacy football college, I’ll never find out.

“Remember when he shaved them before hooking up with that chick from Las Juntas? It looked like his dick was sandwiched between Korean buns.” Ballsy cackles.

“Hey, hey!” Finn rips a wad of grass, tossing it at Ballsy. “Even Michelangelo’s David was a grower. My dick is perfect-sized.”

“For a hamster, maybe.”

“’Kay, assholes. Time to snap into shape.” I clap once. “Follow my lead.” I start duck-walking across the field. Everyone joins me, grumbling that I’m a buzzkill. The less eye contact I have with these fuckers, the more I can concentrate on the epic shit show Thalia has stirred up especially for me.

Lev: She’s going through big changes. She doesn’t need updates about my sex life.

Notice how I didn’t call it my love life. Because there’s only one person in it—Bailey.

Lev: Besides, you know the drill. You and I are just having fun together.

I’m such a jackass, but right now I’m more concerned about Bailey’s feelings than Thalia’s. I told Thalia what was up before we hooked up. Never lied about what we were.

Thalia: She took it fine. You’re freaking out.

Thalia: She said she’s happy for us.

Thalia: Besides you said we were exclusive. WTF???????????????

As if on cue, Grim joins me. You’d think duck-walking would make him look ridiculous like the rest of us. Nope. Assfuck is as graceful as a swan.

“Thalia getting tired of being a placeholder yet?” My best friend tuts.

I swing my gaze back to my phone, ignoring his ass.

Lev: We are. Exclusive, not serious. Stop overreacting.

Thalia: Stop gasliting.

Lev: Stop misspelling gaslighting.

Thalia: LOL you’re lucky you’re cute.

As soon as I reach the end of the field, I turn around and bear-crawl. Everyone groans in frustration but follows suit.

Lev: I hate to be this asshole, but I’m going to be this asshole to avoid being an even BIGGER asshole down the line. I thought we had an agreement this would be casual. Chill. If this doesn’t work out anymore, maybe it’s time we go our separate ways.

She answers after a few minutes, when Coach emerges from the locker room to the field, his assistants in tow.

Thalia: Trust me, Lev, I’m not sending out wedding invitations or anything like that. I like Bailey and I want to be her friend. That’s all.

Guess Bailey could use some company here to keep her mind off things. Though it still pisses me off to hear Bailey was happy I’m in a relationship. What the fuck? If she was hooking up with someone else, the only thing to make me happy would be drowning the dipshit’s head in a toilet.

Lev: Okay.

Thalia: Love you.

My eyes nearly bulge out of their sockets.

Thalia: KIDDING.

Thalia: Omg look at your face.

Lev: You can’t see my face.

Thalia: But I can sit on it l8r today😊.

Thalia: Meet me in the locker room after practice.

Lev: Busy day.

But I really should get my rocks off. My nuts are about to explode from the sexual tension with Bailey earlier this week.

Thalia: <sent an attachment>

The attachment is a naked selfie. I delete it before anyone can see it. Or at least, I think I do.

“Ask her for anal, dude. And to gag her. Her voice is awful.” Grim makes a face, his head inches from my phone.

I punch his arm, growling. “Kwon, I say this as a friend—you’re a fucking menace.”

“Aww.” Grim parks his head on my shoulder, staring up at me. “I love you too.”

“Cole!” Coach barks, tromping toward me, his legion of assistants scurrying behind him. Gotta hate SoCal and its super-competitive high school football mentality. “Find anything amusing?”

“No, Coach.”

“You sure? Because the shape of our team looks like a real joke to me. St. John Bosco will annihilate us if you don’t take this seriously.”

“Yes, Coach.”

He is in my face now, all six-foot-five former NFL player of him. What’s with people pissing all over my personal space? I’ve never been closer to punching someone to a pulp than I am right now.

Happy for me, my ass. Bailey has to be jealous. She has to be.

Coach Taylor’s nose touches mine. “You missed practice yesterday.”

I shrug indifferently. “Had the shits.”

“There’s a lot more shit in your future when I throw you off the team.” He steps back when he realizes I don’t flinch. “Clear head makes for steadier legs. Ditch the phone, or I’m ditching you from my squad.”

Blow me, asshat. I’m the best you’ve got and we both know it.

The worst part is that I wish he’d kick me off of the squad. Then I’d have the perfect excuse to apply to the Air Force. Alas, I’m too chickenshit to disappoint Dad and Knight.

“Yes, Coach.”

Coach starts breaking us into groups for agility drills. Before I toss my phone into my duffel bag, I text Bailey, Fine. You win. Lunch?

I’m not doing this whole silent-treatment bullshit with my former best friend. Even after the clusterfuck that was our reunion.

I turn to join the team Coach assigned me to. My head’s such a mess, I fall flat on my face, stumbling over my own legs. I recover quickly, back up on my feet, but people aren’t blind.

“Oh, shit!” Austin booms. “Is the ground okay?” Laughter rings across the field.

“Do you want us to be the butt of every joke south of Huntington Beach?” Coach roars, stomping in my direction. “I miss your brother. He was a fuckup, high as a kite half the time, but at least he liked to play ball.”

“Yeah, well, feel free to play with my balls if you’re so inclined,” I mutter, jumping up quickly and joining his group.

“I’m gonna pretend I didn’t hear that, boy,” Coach Taylor says.

By the time the school day ends, Bailey still hasn’t replied.



At first, I accommodate Bailey’s brazen ghosting. I get it. Everyone deserves a free pass. And technically speaking, she has every right to give me shit. Not about the drug inquisition. That, I would do all over again. The Thalia thing, however…that must’ve stung.

We never really dated anyone seriously when we were good friends. I once beat a guy to a pulp for asking her out. He was a senior while I was a freshman. So I’m feeling pretty fucking two-faced right now.

After school, I head over to the Followhills’ and let myself in. Bailey is probably waiting for me to pick her up to grab a bite like we used to.

Her lack of response was general fuck-you-ness for telling her she’s a junkie. Only, when I walk in, Mel announces Bailey went with her dad to Costco. She chose Costco over me. Costco. Bailey doesn’t even eat the free samples. She likes bulk electronics as much as I like jerking off using hot cooking oil as a lubricant.

“That’s fine,” I bite out. “I was gonna work on the Chiron outside anyway. I’ll just catch her when she comes back,” I hear myself tell Mel. I tromp outside and pull the navy chrome Bugatti outside of our garage, pretending to change the oil.

I’m swallowing every piece of the humble pie she’s serving me, crumbs included.

Happy now, Bails?

Finally, Jaime’s Rover pulls into their garage across the street and I wipe my hands with a dirty cloth, sauntering their way. Bailey slides out of the passenger’s seat.

She’s wearing a plaid green skirt, knee-high white socks, Mary Janes, and a cropped top. I shove the oiled cloth to my back pocket and give her a look as I stop in front of her in their garage. “Lookie here, now. You’re alive after all.”

“Disappointed?” An insolent smile tugs at the corner of her mouth.

I see I’m getting the Royal Bitchiness version of her today.

“Never.” I unleash a charming Cole Man smile.

“I’m gonna go make myself scarce,” Jaime mumbles, shaking his head behind boxes laden with food and drinks. Bailey juts one leg out, showing me that her new skirt is about six inches shorter than the one Old Bailey wears. Not gonna lie—New Bailey is a fucking hot new nightmare.

“Got your text, Levy,” she purrs. “Sorry, I’m super busy. Let’s try to get together later this week.”

Later this week? This little shit needs permission from her parents to go to the bathroom.

I run a hand over my buzzed scalp. “Is this how we’re playing now?”

“Oh, Levy.” She throws her head back, laughing. “I’m not playing games. But if I were? You’d be the pawn. Ta-ta, now!”

She blows me a kiss, then blows me the fuck off as she darts inside. Her tone is so airy, so casual, so unlike her, I’m tempted to turn around and throw the towel. She’s pretty but also horrible. No pussy is worth this kind of BS. But then I remind myself that somewhere inside this idiot is my best friend in the whole entire world.

On my way back to the garage, I calm myself down. If I were to find out she has a secret boyfriend, heads would roll. Of course, I’m actually in love with her, but that’s beside the point.

When I get to the Bugatti, I kick it so hard I leave a dent on the front bumper.


Whoever invented love was one sadistic son of a bitch.

The same evening, I send Bailey a chain of unhinged text messages.

Lev: If this is about Thalia, may I remind you you BEGGED me to move the fuck on?

Lev: On your knees and shit.

Lev: Not how I imagined seeing you on your knees, btw. You owe me a fantasy.

Lev: Something tells me these texts are not serving their purpose.

Bailey: Is that something your singular functioning brain cell?

Lev: Jesus, Bails. What are you addicted to? Witch potion? You’re a meanie when you’re in withdrawal.

Bailey: This conversation is over.

And it is, because a second later, I hear a splash on my window and see an egg dragging down it. She’s egging my fucking house. The girl who used to get riled up about TP-ing houses because it’s not environmentally friendly and can make squirrels choke or whatever.

A glutton for punishment, I visit her the next day.

And the next-next day.

And the one after that too.

Not because I care about the twisted version of her I’m seeing on the reg, but because I want to save the Old Bailey from the girl who hijacked her body.

Dove is full of excuses. And bullshit. One time she’s practicing downstairs; the other she is online tutoring kids who struggle at math. At this point, she’d rather eat a cake made out of all the dirt under the Kardashians’ fake nails than give me the time of day.

I want to grab her by the shoulders and shake her. Unfortunately, Mel and Jaime are always around. And there’s something else standing in my way—I’m not an abusive asshole.

I don’t think she’s using, but the truth of the matter is, she doesn’t look like herself. Something’s off. Her eyes are glazed over, her skin is gray; she’s a static radio sound. A fuzzy-screened TV. Just because you’re drug-free, doesn’t mean you’re not an addict.

Bailey is in some kind of limbo, and I want to help her, but I’m also growing tired of feeling like a pathetic puppy.

Actually, I’m tired of feeling, full stop. She makes me feel. And I cruised through the last several months being comfortably numb.

The St. John Bosco game comes and goes, and we actually win, albeit out of sheer luck. Coach is still pissy with my ass. I miss practices left and right, locked up in the attic with my aviation simulator and working on my cars with the garage door open in a bid to catch a glimpse of my neighbor across the street. Grim takes advantage of my absence and apparently leads warm-ups and acts like the captain.

I feel like Bailey’s demise is going to be my demise too, and it pisses me off that she didn’t keep her shit together for both of us.

Four days after Thalia told Bailey I’m stuffing her muffin, I catch Bailey in a compromising position. Unfortunately, a partially clothed one. Spot her through my bedroom window, sunbathing topless.

Since Bailey is not in the habit of showing her tits to her parents, I take it her dad is at work and her mom is away. At the sight of her tits, my dick gets so hard I have to squeeze it to relieve the pain. She’s alone and this is her way of inviting me over. I know because she’s been playing the sex-kitten game ever since she arrived here. I oblige, even if I’m not sure if I hate or love her at this point.

I amble through her front door, unlocking the cabana and stepping out to her backyard. She’s sprawled over a sun lounger, a gym towel thrown over her face. Holy shit, her tits are just insane. Pear shaped, with the tiniest, little, pink nipples.

Feeling vindictive—not to mention ruthlessly horny—I grab the ice-cold bottle of water next to her and squirt it all over her tits.

She yelps, jumping to her feet and ripping the towel from her face. “Oh my Marx! Lev, what the hell?” She’s running around in circles, her skin full of goose bumps.

“My bad. You looked hot.” I pull her into a one-arm hug, her diamond-hard nipples pressing against my muscle shirt. “Still do, though.”

“Get off of me!” She squirms, pushing me away. But this is the first time we’ve talked since the Thalia fiasco, and I’m not letting her run away.

I step into her personal space, backing her up against the side of her house. Her bare back hits a wide window. We’re flush against each other. I pin my arms on either side of her shoulders. Her tits are bouncing with her labored breaths and I can’t decide if I want to devour her or punish her for what she’s doing to herself. My feelings for her just got a whole lot more complicated.

“Been busy, Bails?” My mouth is so close to hers I can almost taste her. And I want to. Fuck, I want to. The new her. The old her. I’ll take any version she is willing to give me.

“Not as much as your dick, apparently.” She flashes a snarky smile.

If I were an optimist, I’d think she is jealous. Because I’m a realist, I know the reason why Bailey is bitter about Thalia is because she wants to mommy me to death and know everything about my life. Thalia caught her off guard.

“Really, Bails. If you wanted a taste, all you had to do was ask.”

She barks out a choked laugh. “Not if you were the last guy on planet earth.”

“Sure about that?” My eyes glide over her upper body, halting on her tits. Her nipples are rosy and hard and begging to be tugged. Her breasts swollen, her back arched to try and touch my pecs. “I could swear you’d let me suck this tit whole if I wanted to.”

She licks her lips, her gaze dropping to her feet. If she can even see them behind my mammoth erection that’s poking into her stomach. She is defiant but also interested. Problem is, I think the version of her that’s interested is also the version who’d suck me off for a Xanax prescription. And it’s breaking my fucking heart.

“What do you say, Bails?” I run the back of my fingers along her rib cage, going north.

Her breathing picks up. She doesn’t slap my hand away. My mouth is dry. I want this, but I also know I shouldn’t do this. I stop when my index is almost at the curve of her breast. We’re staring at each other silently. She is there on a silver platter. All I have to do is have my fill.

“Should I?” I whisper.

The tiniest nod. Barely visible. But I see it.

It takes everything in me to pull away and shake my head. “Jesus, Dove.”

That makes her angry, and she stomps on my foot, all hundred and fifteen pounds of her, trying to push me off. “Oh, screw you.”

I don’t budge an inch. I am huge and she is little. Physics isn’t her friend.

“What are you on, Dove?”

“Nothing, but you’re currently on my nerves, so get off my case.”

“You need to go to rehab. Just because you aren’t using doesn’t mean you’re yourself.”

“I am myself.” She pushes me again, her eyes glinting in rage. “It’s just a side of me I tucked away to make sure I fit into everyone else’s life. Well, everyone can suck it.”

“If you’re sober, you wouldn’t mind going to rehab.” I bump my chest against hers, losing my patience. “Fess up or I swear to God, I’m ripping this entire house upside down to find your stash.”

“Ew. Say it, don’t spray it, Lev.”

Lev? I’m Lev now?

She wipes imaginary spit from her face. “Took a leaf out of Vaughn and Penn’s book? Trying your hand at being a big, bad bully?” She goads me, her eyes, blue like a frozen lake, narrow on mine. They’re full of contempt. “I don’t wanna hang out with your ass. Deal with it.”

“You really that butthurt over the Thalia thing, or are you just out of your mind because you’re always high?” I push her back, and we’re both close to the edge of the pool.

“I’m not!” It’s her turn to push me. “I don’t care.”

“You don’t have to worry about Thalia.”

She is frantic, but that seems to hold her attention. “Why?”

“Because she isn’t you.”

She shakes her head, looking tired all of a sudden. “I was never really good enough. Which is why now, when I’m being less than perfect, everyone is so upset. You included. Seriously. Just…leave.”

I hate that she sounds sad. I hate that she is still topless and doesn’t even realize it. She lost her pride. Or maybe it’s something else she doesn’t have anymore. Either way, it made her her.

Sighing, I say, “Look, I don’t know what crawled up your ass, but if it’s that big of a deal, I’ll break up with her. Problem solved.”

She tips her head back and laughs coldly. My intestines twist together into tight knots.

When her fake giggle subsides, she shrugs. “I don’t want you to break up with Thalia. At this point, she is your only redeeming quality.”

“What the fuck does that mean?” I scowl.

“I like her.” She pouts, studying her fingernails with her arms folded over her chest. “She’s a hustler.”

“Are you guys BFFs now or something?”

“Why? Are you micromanaging her life and friendships too?” Bailey ducks under my arm quickly, snatching her cropped MTV top from the floor and slipping it on.

“Nah, Thalia’s none of my business. But you are.” And honestly, this sounds crappy, but I’m not sure I want them hanging out. Thalia knows some shady-ass people.

“Are you done spreading your toxic masculinity like a dog pissing on furniture?” She marches into the house.

“Still got the couch and kitchen table left,” I growl, following her. Truth is, I am treading bully territory and don’t want to overstep that line.

I need to figure out a way to take care of her and still give her space. But first, I need to know if she is sober and can’t relax unless… “I want you to piss into a cup, Dove.”

She sighs. “Go home, Lev.”

I snatch her hand a second before she goes upstairs, pushing our dove pendants together. They clack, and a shot of electricity runs through me.

My fingers shake as I lace them through hers. We’re doing this finger-play thing that used to soothe me when we were young. She gasps a little. Our eyes meet. The world falls back around us like walls collapsing. For one small moment, we’re Bailev again.

“You said you would never turn me down. That you’d always be there for me.” I feel stupid reminding her of that. “In the forest, remember?”

Her bottom lip shakes. She’s about to cry. “And I will be there for you. But I never said anything about wanting you to be there for me.

I don’t want you to see me like this. Broken. Lost. Hopeless. I love you, Lev Cole. But I wish I could unlove you. Your mere existence is too much for my soul.”

Her words cut through skin and muscle, cells and bones. Bailey stops midway up the stairs, holding the balustrade railings. She looks like a queen addressing her lowly citizen. “If I really am your dove, you’d let me fly away. Set me free, Lev. You have a girl who looks like me who adores you, and I can’t afford this drama in my life. You’re my sun. Lovely as you are, I can only admire you from afar.”


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