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If You Dare: Chapter 16



My feet are screaming by the time I hobble into Nohren Hall, dark long since descended over campus. When I reach the elevator, I ache to collapse on the floor, but I know if I stop now, I won’t be able to stand again. My legs are jelly, heels of my feet numb.

When I returned to Diamond University, I had no idea the punishments Wes had in store for me. Humiliating me at a party, nearly choking me to unconsciousness, deserting me in the middle of nowhere with no way to contact anyone for help, nearly forcing me to blow him in front of his friends.

I’m not sure how much more I can take, and I have a sickening feeling this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The second I’m through the door to our dorm, Aneesa leaps to her feet. “I thought you’d been killed! Where have you been? Some guy answered your phone and told me to stop calling. I’m pretty sure he blocked me.”

I collapse onto my bed, groaning at the sweet relief before I peel my shoes off. By some miracle, my socks are free of blood. I don’t know how many miles I walked, and I’m still not totally sure how I made it home. “I lost my phone, and there wasn’t anyone around to give me directions.”

“This campus isn’t that big. How did you get lost for half a day?”

“I . . .” I scramble for a decent excuse. “. . . went off campus.”

Aneesa hovers at the edge of my mattress, peering over at me. Long, luscious black hair dangling down, almost brushing my face. “Why would you leave campus?”

“I just needed to get away for a while. I wanted to go for a walk, get out in nature.”

The lie is flimsy, and Aneesa’s eyes narrow. “Stop with the lies, Violet. Tell me the truth. What’s really going on with you?”

My back protests when I sit up to face her. I take a slow, deep breath. Aneesa’s not going to let me get away with lying any longer. The words spill out of me in a rush. “It was Wes. Wes and his teammates have been basically terrorizing me since I got back to campus. Wes is captain, so they’ll do whatever he says. And he wants to make my life a living hell. His words.”

Her eyes widen. “So Wes is the guy who has your phone?”

I nod. “He told me to get in his car and drove us off campus. Then he made me hand over my phone and get out.”

Aneesa gapes. “That asshole.” She holds out her hand to me. “Come on. We need to go report this.”

“I can’t report it.”

Her brows furrow. “Why the hell not? He left you stranded without any way to call for help. He can’t just get away with it.”

I already know exactly what he would say to that. No, Violet can’t get away with it. “No one will do anything. There’s no evidence, and even if there was, he’s Wes Novak. He’s the star hockey captain, and I’m the killer responsible for his sister’s death. No one would believe me.”

Besides, what he’s dealing with is way worse than what he’s putting me through.

Nothing he does to me will ever hurt as much as losing Chloe. Nothing.

“He doesn’t get to keep punishing you forever for an accident.” Aneesa turns and grabs her bag from her bed. “If you don’t report it, I will.”

My heart leaps to my throat, panic making the words burst out. “Aneesa, if you report this, it’ll only get a thousand times worse for me. Please. Just keep this between us. He’ll get bored of it eventually.”

She debates for a few seconds, chewing on her lip. Then she shakes her head and drops her purse. “I still don’t get why you think you deserve all of this. But if that’s what you really think is best, I’ll keep my mouth shut. For now. If this keeps getting worse, though, I’m reporting it.”

I want to tell her there is no if. This will keep getting worse. Wes will make sure of it. And there’s nothing she or I can do to stop him.

“It won’t,” I lie.

The next morning, an RA calls me to the front desk to let me know that a “good citizen” found my phone. I’m pretty sure Wes only returned it so he could harass me via text too.

After Aneesa and I spend two hours in the first-floor study room of Nohren Hall, she drags me to the gym when it’s clear I’m not going to get more than five words written.

The latest assignment from Professor Tate is to write a love story. If Chloe was still here, the assignment would be an easy one. I could write about friendship, family, romance. Drawing inspiration from Chloe, Mom, the Novaks, Wes.

But now, each concept makes me draw a blank.

Aneesa insists that getting up and moving will help my brain start working. I have zero confidence in her theory, but I also have zero motivation to argue with her. After we lift weights and she guides me through pilates poses, she suggests we do some laps in the pool to cool off. While she dives in, I hover at the pool’s edge.

The last time I was in a pool, my best friend died.

Aneesa swims the entire length of the pool and back before she realizes I still haven’t joined her. She grabs onto the edge, not even a little bit breathless. “Aren’t you getting in?”

I swallow and nod. It’s easier to suck it up and get in than try to explain my hesitation to Aneesa. I’m not the one who drowned, after all.

She takes off again, and I ease into the shallow end. The cool water laps at my hot, sweaty skin, soothing every inch of me. At the first stroke through the water, I’m reminded how much I love swimming. There’s something calming about floating on the surface. A sort of peace I haven’t felt in months, not even between the pages of books.

Aneesa backstrokes across the length of the pool three more times before she yells to me that she’s going to shower.

“I’m doing a few more laps!” I call.

When she disappears into the locker room, the only sound is the rush of water past my ears and the slosh of each of my strokes as I glide through the water.

I’m nearly to the shallow end when I hear a splash behind me. I tread and glance back for Aneesa. Maybe she decided to do more laps. Or maybe someone else decided to workout in the pool.

There’s no sign of anyone anywhere. No break or ripple in the water’s surface. I kick out, aiming for the shallow end again. I’ll hit the showers and let them have the pool to themselves.

But when I kick out again, my foot catches on something.

No, something catches on me.

An enormous hand circles my ankle and yanks me down beneath the surface.

Water rushes past my ears, up my nose, into my open mouth.

My lungs scream for air. No chance to suck in a breath before getting pulled under.

I land a kick on what feels like someone’s shoulder with my other foot and manage to break the surface, coughing and gulping down a bit of air before they pull me down again, this time by the waist.

Their hands release me and instead find my head, pushing me down. I claw at their arms.

His arms.

Through the spinning water, I can just make out the swim trunks on Wes Novak as he attempts to drown me.

This is it. This is when he really kills me.

He lets me break the water’s surface to gulp down a breath only to shove me under again. Over and over. My lungs are burning, chest caving in on itself.

This is how Chloe must’ve felt in her final moments. Floating in the water, unable to move. Unable to save herself.

They say drowning is painless, but nothing has hurt this much since they told me Chloe was dead.

I claw at Wes’s arms holding me down, kick at his knees. Fighting to survive. Fighting for one more breath, one more chance to make things right.

Just as the muscles in my arms and legs start to give out, my chest collides with the hard metal edge of the pool so violently, I heave.

The hands that were just drowning me finally release me and I cough up water onto the tile. My entire body aches and convulses as my lungs simultaneously hack up water and try to suck in air.

Water sloshes as Wes climbs the ladder. He saunters in front of me, stopping with his feet just inches from my fingers.

He waits for me to look up at him. Waits for me to peer at the face of the man who nearly killed me. The man I destroyed.

“Now imagine I’m your best friend,” he says.

I squeeze my eyes shut. I have imagined the betrayal that Chloe must’ve felt in her final moments a thousand times. Knowing I was the one sending her to an early grave.

Now Wes wants me dead. There’s no question about it. But he’s going to drag it out as long as possible.

Water drips down from his dark hair to his pecs, a few drops trailing to the abs he doesn’t need to flex. The hard muscles on his biceps and calves could wrap me up like a python and snap me in half.

His body is exactly as I remember it, but I haven’t recognized his face since she died.

I miss the old Wes. The Wes with the cocky grin and the mischief in his eyes.

But he died with his sister.


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