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Good Girl Complex: Chapter 31

MACKENZIE

I’m waiting on Cooper’s doorstep when he gets home from work that evening.

After leaving my parents, I had all this pent-up energy and nowhere to release it, so I walked the boardwalk for a while, then strolled down the beach until I wound up at his place. A while later, I’m still sitting on the porch when Cooper’s truck parks in their driveway and both brothers get out.

“What’s up, princess?” Sauntering up to the front door, Evan gives me a wink as he lets himself inside. We’re old pals now, me and the Bad Twin.

“How long have you been out here?” Cooper looks surprised to see me as he comes up the steps.

I momentarily forget what he asks, because I’m too busy gawking. He puts me on my ass every time I see him. His dark eyes and windswept hair. The suggestion of his body under his T-shirt and faded jeans flirts with my memory. There’s something wildly masculine about him. He’s spent all day on the jobsite, dusty remnants still coating his skin, his clothes. The smell of sawdust. It gets me positively reckless. Reduces my entire being to want want want.

“Mac?” he prompts. A knowing smile curves his lips.

“Oh. Sorry. An hour, maybe?”

“Something wrong?”

“Not at all.” I take the hand he extends and let him help me to my feet. We go inside. Once we kick off our shoes, I lead him straight to his bedroom.

“I have news,” I announce.

“Yeah?”

I close his door and lock it. Because more than once lately, Evan has gotten his kicks by jiggling the handle when he knows we’re getting up to something, just to scare the shit out of me. Guy needs a hobby.

“I dropped out of school.” I can barely contain my excitement. And maybe there’s some fear too. It all feels the same, bubbling inside.

“Holy shit, that’s big. How’d that happen?”

“My parents ambushed me on campus and kind of forced my hand.”

Cooper peels out of his shirt and tosses it in his hamper. When he starts to unbuckle his belt, I cross the room and pull his hands away, taking over. As I undo his zipper, I feel him watching the top of my head and his abdomen clenches.

“How’d that go?” He sounds a bit distracted now.

Leaving his jeans on, I reach inside his boxers and begin to stroke him. He’s already half hard when I do. Quickly, he’s fully erect and his breathing is shallow.

“I told them to get bent.” I swipe my thumb over the drop of moisture at his tip. He hisses in a sharp breath. “Not in so many words.”

“Feeling pretty fucking full of yourself, huh?” His hands comb through my hair and tighten at my scalp.

I lean closer and kiss him under the corner of his jaw. “Just a bit.”

Then I walk us backward until his legs hit the bed and he sits on the edge.

Hunger darkens his gaze. “What brought this on?”

“Mostly me.” From his nightstand I grab a condom and toss it to him. Then I pull my dress over my head. “A little you.”

My bra and underwear drop to the floor.

“Independence looks good on you,” he says roughly, running his fist up and down his shaft as he watches my every move.

Slowly, I climb onto his lap. He curses in my ear, grabbing my ass with both hands. With my palms flat against his chest, I ride him. Gently at first, as a flurry of shivers race through me. It’s always a shock to my system, being with Cooper. Everything about him feels right, and yet I’m still not used to this. I don’t think I want to be. I’m still finding surprises. Still shaken every time his lips travel along my skin.

I rock back and forth. Shamelessly. I can’t get him deep enough, close enough. My head falls to his shoulder and I bite down to keep from making a sound as I grind on him.

“Oh hell, I’m not gonna last,” he mumbles.

“Good,” I breathe.

He groans and gives an upward thrust, his arms tightening around me.

I smile as I watch the haze of bliss fill his expression, as I listen to the husky noises he makes when he comes. After he tosses the condom, he lays me on the bed and kisses his way from my breasts to my stomach, and then lower, until he settles between my legs and opens me to his tongue. Cooper licks me until I’m tugging at his hair and moaning with pleasure. He’s too good with his mouth. It’s addictive.

Later, after a shower and another round of orgasms, we sit on the front porch with Daisy while a frozen pizza bakes in the oven.

“I don’t know if I would’ve gone through with it if I hadn’t met you,” I tell Cooper, as our puppy sleeps in his lap. “Dropping out, I mean.”

“Yeah, you would have. Eventually. I’m the excuse that gave you a nudge.”

“Maybe,” I admit. “But you inspired me.”

He rolls his eyes.

“Shut up. I mean it.” Something I’ve learned about Cooper: He’s terrible at taking compliments. It’s one of his more endearing qualities. “You’re not afraid of anything or anyone. You make your own rules. Everyone else be damned.”

“It comes easy when you don’t have shit to start with.”

“You believed in me,” I say. “You’re the only one who ever has. That means a lot. I won’t forget that.”

But even as I bask in my newfound independence, I’m not naïve enough to believe my parents will take my decision lying down. They’ll figure out a way to make it hurt. No one crosses my father and gets away with it. So there will definitely be fallout from this sudden outburst of disobedience. It’s only a question of how bad.


It doesn’t take long for the consequences of my actions to make themselves known. Exactly six days after dropping out, I receive an email from the dean of students. It’s short and concise. A polite Get your ass in here.

I’m a few minutes late for the meeting, and I’m ushered into a cherry wood–trimmed office by the secretary. The dean is otherwise engaged and will be with me in a moment. Would I care for some water?

I guess my parents made a few calls hoping a neutral third party can lobby me on their behalf to not drop out of school. Though as far as I’m concerned, all that’s left are the formalities of paperwork. Admittedly, I’ve made little progress on finalizing my withdrawal from Garnet. Between the hotel and my websites occupying most of my attention, I’ve enjoyed what counts for me as slacking off.

“So sorry about that.” Dean Freitag, a petite woman whose leather skin clings in brittle ripples to her bones, enters the room. She comes around her desk, breathless, fluffing the humidity out of her shoulder-length helmet of blonde hair. She adjusts the jacket of her cranberry suit ensemble and pulls the silk scarf from her neck. “Hotter than the devil’s bathtub out there.”

The dean flicks on a small desk fan and aims it at herself, basking for a moment in the breeze before turning her attention back to me.

“Now, Ms. Cabot.” Her demeanor shifts. “I understand you’ve not attended a single class in the last week.”

“No, ma’am. I’ve come to the decision to withdraw from the semester.”

“Oh? If I recall, you’ve already delayed your freshman year by twelve months.” One pencil-thin eyebrow props up. “What’s so pressing that your education must wait?”

Something about her friendly ignorance unnerves me. As if I’m walking into a trap.

“Actually, I’m withdrawing from Garnet entirely. I won’t be back next semester.”

She regards me, impassive, for several seconds. So long that I’m almost moved to elaborate to get her going again. When she finally speaks, I can’t help but interpret some vengeance in her voice.

“And I suppose you’ve given this a fair bit of thought?”

“I have. Yes, ma’am.”

A brief suit yourself smile crosses her lips before she rattles her computer mouse to wake the screen. She trains her attention on it as she speaks.

“Well, then we can certainly help you with that. I’ll have my secretary pull the necessary forms.” She glances at me with a look that falls short of reassurance. “Don’t worry, it’s just a signature or two.” Clicking her mouse around. “Of course you’ll need to vacate your dorm at Tally Hall within twenty-four hours of submitting notice to the Office of Student Housing.” She hits me with the Miss Melon Pageant smile. “Which—here we are!—I’ve just submitted it for you.”

And there it is. Total setup.

A big screw you from Daddy.

She’s right, of course. I have no business squatting in a dorm room if I’m not a student here. A minor detail that seemed to slip my mind. No doubt my parents spent the last week waiting for me to come crawling back home for a place to stay.

“Will there be anything else?” The dean grins at me as if I’ve done this to her. A personal slight.

I don’t waste a second agonizing over it, however. For better or worse, we’re broken up.

“No, ma’am.” I offer a saccharine smile and rise to my feet. “I’ll just be on my way.”

An hour later, I’m in my dorm, boxing up my belongings. A little over three months. That’s how long my college career lasted, and yet … I’m not sad to see it end.

I’m pulling clothes off hangers when I hear the buzz of an incoming text. I grab the phone from my desk. It’s a message from Kate, who I haven’t seen in weeks. I asked her to hang out a couple times—I didn’t want to be one of those girls who ditches her friends the moment she starts dating a new guy—but she’s been busy rehearsing with some band she joined last month. She plays the bass guitar, apparently.

Kate: Hey girl! Sooo, heads up—I spoke to my sister on the phone earlier and your name came up. Mel said your ex is asking around, trying to find out who you’re dating. I guess someone saw you in town with some local?

I curse out loud. Damn Evan. I knew that night would come back to haunt us.

Me: Ugh. Awesome.

Kate: Yeah. Preston’s on a mission now. You’ve been warned.

Me: Thanks for letting me know.

Kate: Np. Btw—our first gig is next Friday, open mic thing at the Rip Tide in town. Come!

Me: Text me the deets!

Before I can get back to packing, the phone vibrates again in my hand. Speak of the devil. This time it’s Preston, and he’s not happy.

Preston: You dropped out of Garnet? WTF is wrong with you, Mackenzie. Why are you throwing your life away?

My jaw tightens. I’m so sick of his high and mighty bullshit. The judgmental, patronizing way he treats me, acting as if I’m incapable of living my own life.

Me: Out of curiosity, are you spying on me personally or are you paying other people to keep tabs on me?

Preston: Your father called me. He thinks you’ve gone off the rails.

Me: I don’t give a shit what he thinks.

Me: I also don’t give a shit what you think.

Me: Stop texting me.

When I see him typing, I switch on Do Not Disturb mode. I can’t bring myself to block his number yet. A concession to our history, I guess. But I have a feeling I’ll need to, sooner or later.

When Bonnie returns to the dorm following her afternoon class, I’m completely done packing. The little blonde stops short in our common area and stares at the half dozen boxes lined up against the wall.

“You goin’ on the run?” She tosses down her backpack and grabs a water from the mini fridge, then stands there with the door open, cooling her legs.

“Got kicked out,” I answer with a shrug. “It was bound to happen.”

“Well, shit.” She pushes the fridge closed with her foot. “You think I’ll get to keep the place to myself now?”

I smile at her. Bonnie isn’t an especially sentimental girl, but I know she cares. “I’ll miss you too.”

“What are you going to do with all your stuff?” She nods toward the boxes. Then she gives a catty smile. “I suppose we can ask our cheatin’ ex to borrow his Porsche?”

I snicker. “I’m sure that would go over well.” Walking toward my former bedroom, I fish my phone from my pocket. “It’s fine, I know someone with a truck. Let me see if he can come get me.”

“Oooh, is it the townie with the magic dick?”

“Maybe.” Laughing, I duck into the bedroom to make my call.

“Hey babe. What’s up?” Cooper’s rough voice tickles my ear and sends a shiver up my spine. He even sounds sexy.

“Hey. So. I have a big ask.”

“Shoot.” The banging of hammers and whir of saws fade in the background, like he’s stepping away from his jobsite.

“I have to vacate my dorm. Was tossed out, basically. I guess I’m not allowed to live in student housing when I’m not a student.”

“You realize that’s a completely reasonable decision on the school’s part, right?”

“They gave me twenty-four hours’ notice,” I argue. “How reasonable is that?”

He chuckles. “Need help packing?”

“Nope, but I’m hoping you can pick me up after you’re done working so I can load some boxes in your truck? I’ll put most of it in a storage unit in town until I find an apartment.” I hesitate. “And, um, I could use a place to crash until I find something more permanent. If it’s not too much to ask.”

I mean, it is a lot to ask. We’ve barely started dating. Moving in, even on a temporary basis, is no small favor. Yes, Evan and I are on good terms now, which eases the possible tension, but they didn’t exactly sign up for a third roommate.

“No, you know what,” I interject when he starts to answer, “I’ll get a hotel. That’d make way more sense.”

Because seriously, what was I thinking? This was a stupid idea. How did I think my first option should be to force my way into Cooper’s house, as if I’ve known him for longer than a few months? That’s insane.

“There’s that motel at the north side of the beach. I bet they rent rooms weekly—”

“Mac?”

“Yeah?”

“Shut up.”

I bite back a laugh. “Rude.”

“You’re not staying at a shithole motel on the north side. You’re staying with me. The end.”

“You’re sure? I didn’t really think this through before I called, I just—”

“I’m done at six. I’ll come grab you from campus afterward.”

A lump of emotion rises in my throat. “Thanks. I, uh … damn it, Cooper, I really appreciate it.”

“I got you, princess.” Then he hangs up with a harried goodbye, leaving me to smile at the phone. Not that I expected Cooper to be a dick about it, but he’s taking the whole thing remarkably well.

“I’m sorry, do my ears deceive me?” a highly excited voice bubbles from my open doorway. “Or did I just hear you refer to our mysterious caller as Cooper?”

I meet her wide eyes. Sheepish.

“As in Cooper Hartley?”

I nod.

Bonnie gasps loud enough startle me, even though she’s right in front of me. “Oh sweet little baby Jesus! That’s who you been hidin’ from me?” She barrels into the room, blonde curls flying around her shoulders. “You are not leavin’ this dormitory till you provide me with every last detail. I need everything.”


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