If You Dare: Chapter 6

After

Violet

Even though I don’t meet anyone’s gazes, I can feel the eyes of each of my classmates on me as I shuffle into my Advanced Fiction Writing class. I was so excited when I registered for this class last semester, determined that I would finally figure out how to write my first book.

Now, all I want to do is bolt.

I can’t remember the last time I put pen to paper or typed a single letter in a word processor.

The chair beside me screeches. “Hey, Violet.”

A familiar thin voice and red hair. Maxwell. Relief rushes through me. He gives me a small smile, the one person in this room who doesn’t hate me.

Last year, Chloe dared me to flirt with Maxwell at a party. At first, it was completely humiliating, but we ended up having a nice conversation. Other than Aneesa, he’s my only remaining ally.

“Hey, how was your summer?” I manage.

“Good.”

He doesn’t bother asking about my summer. He knows exactly how it went.

Professor Tate breezes into the room, either completely oblivious to the attention on me or actively choosing to ignore it. Either way, I’m grateful. She was my favorite professor last year, and I’m relieved to have another class with her. She taught my Intro to Fiction Writing course, and I’ve liked her since the first day. She’s casual, always has an easy smile, and lets us write whatever genre we prefer.

Thank god she doesn’t force us to introduce ourselves to the rest of the class like other professors do on the first day. She spends most of our class time explaining the syllabus and what we’ll be learning this semester.

When we have ten minutes remaining, she instructs us to find something to write with. “You’re going to do a freewrite. I want you to freewrite every day at the start of class to get your creative juices flowing. Consider it like stretching and warming up before a run. For this freewrite, I want you to reflect on your strongest memory and write about it. No stopping. You must continue writing for the full five minutes. I don’t care if it’s I don’t know what to write until the next thought pops in your head. But your pen—or fingers—cannot stop moving. Now write!”

I hurry to grab my pen and start scribbling about the strongest memory that flashes through my mind.

The night Chloe died

My hand freezes next to the letters scrawled in ink, already bleeding through the page.

“No stopping, Violet,” Professor Tate calls.

But my stomach churns, beads of sweat prickling up along my neck as the room grows hotter. A buzzing fills my ears, drowning out the sounds of my classmates scribbling across their notebook pages or typing on their laptops.

Professor Tate’s voice breaks through the buzzing, muffled. “Violet?”

Now everyone’s eyes are on me again.

I can’t let my mind go back to that night. I won’t.

Bile rises in my throat.

Hand over my mouth, I race out of the room.


Even though all I want to do is go back to my dorm room, bury my head under the comforter, and cry, I can’t skip my first day of work.

Work-study is part of my full-ride to Diamond. If I don’t work, I don’t get to remain a student. Luckily, the library was hiring.

Reading and writing have been my solace my entire life. My dad died when I was four, so it’s almost always just been me and Mom. Being a single parent meant she had to bust her ass working two or three jobs, so I spent most of my time at home alone. No one at school ever understood why reading and writing became the only things I wanted to do. Mom’s supportive, but even she doesn’t fully understand the obsession. Why I’d want to go to college for an English degree that will offer few job opportunities when I’ve watched her struggle my whole life. But writing and books are all I’ve ever known.

Chloe would be so happy for me if she knew I landed a job at the library. Too bad this place is so quiet, I can’t keep my thoughts off her.

“Should be an easy job for you. Students normally come to the library to study or find a book for class.” Edith is an older librarian with white, cropped hair, thin-framed glasses, and an appetite for steamy romance.

I already like her.

“Your job is to make sure I don’t have to do mine.” She’s perched on a chair low to the ground. So low you almost can’t see her behind the circulation desk. She pats her legs. “These old things aren’t what they used to be. Your job is stacking books and keeping my nose in my latest novel. If you can do that, I don’t care what you do in your downtime. Study, do homework, read a book, text your boyfriend, scroll on the TikToks, whatever it is you kids do these days.”

I grin. “I think I can manage that.”

She guides me through how to use the computer and the library system before I push the full cart of books back to the shelves. Edith disappears into the back office to read undisturbed.

While I’m stacking, the door to the library opens. Someone dings the bell at the desk.

“I’ll be right there!” I call.

I hope Edith is right about this being a lowkey job that involves blessedly minimal interaction with my fellow students. But I can’t pretend to ignore the looks. It’s been even worse being back on campus than I thought it would be.

But that’s what I deserve.

A pair of heavy boots approaches. I keep my eyes on the stack of books in front of me until the footsteps get unnervingly close. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

Whoever they are, they’re getting closer and closer. At the last second, I realize they don’t intend to pass me.

When I finally turn, there’s a flash of movement before I’m shoved up against the bookshelf. My spine slams into the wood, a gasp escaping my lips.

He pins me by the shoulders, looming over me with fire raging in his blue eyes.

Wes Novak.

When I imagined our reunion after Chloe’s death, I thought Wes would wrap me in a warm, tight hug. That he’d sob in my arms while I attempted to comfort him. That we’d cry together, finding solace in each other in the darkest moment of our lives.

But there is nothing warm or comforting about him now.

The scent of his cedarwood cologne wafts up my nose. Gone is the guy who used to wear long shorts, a simple T-shirt, and old sneakers. The hockey player with the boyish smile and rugged good looks. Startling blue eyes, six-foot-four frame, sex-addled brown hair, and arms that looked like they could pick me up and throw me.

This man in front of me is in dark jeans, a button-up with sleeves rolled to the elbows, and a pair of black combat boots I’ve never seen before. Boots he wore to stomp me into the earth.

This man wants me dead.

“Why the fuck are you here?” he growls. His sharp, square jaw flexes. The muscles bulging on his biceps are rock-hard on either side of me. Before Chloe died, I would’ve given anything to be in this position with Wes.

Now, it’s terrifying.

This is the first time he’s spoken to me since that night. Since he told me to shut the fuck up because I was screaming over the dead body of his little sister.

I dare a glance away from him, desperate to make eye contact with anybody who might be able to save me. But there’s no one around.

I am all alone with Wes Novak, the captain of the Devils.

“I . . . I work here,” I stutter, legs trembling.

His scowl deepens, and he moves just a centimeter closer, but the walls are closing in on me. I am a mouse caught in a trap and the snake is preparing to strike.

“Not in the library.” His growl grates its way down my spine. “On this campus. My campus. Her campus. You don’t belong here anymore.”

He’s right. I don’t belong here. And right now, I wish to god I was anywhere else. My knees wobble. “My mom made me come back. Believe me,” I whisper, “this wasn’t my choice.”

How could Mom not think this would happen? There’s no way she could’ve missed the way Wes glared at me when we left the courthouse. She must know he’s out for blood. Maybe at this point, she doesn’t care what happens to me.

That muscle in his jaw feathers. Like he doesn’t believe I’m here against my will. As if I want to be reminded of all my memories with Chloe. Of all the memories she and I will never make together. Reminded of what I did.

“You should be in jail.”

“I know,” I whisper.

Wes leans closer. So close, someone watching might think he’s leaning in to kiss me. I almost brace for him to reach out and skim a finger down my cheek. To brush his lips against mine.

But the fury in his eyes tells me if he touches me, it won’t be gentle. He’ll make it hurt.

“The judge may have let you off easy, but I won’t make the same mistake.” His voice is low, reverberating down to my toes. Before, I heard his voice in my dreams. Now, it’ll echo in my nightmares. “If you don’t leave this campus, I’ll make your life a living hell. I’ll make you pay for what you did. Make you suffer worse than you made her suffer. You’ll be begging for a prison cell when I’m through with you.”

I swallow, hardly able to get any words out. He hates me. I’ve never been hated before, but it’s no less than I deserve. “I promise you won’t ever see me,” I plead. “I’ll stay out of your way.”

He’s so busy with his classes and hockey, our paths shouldn’t cross. We can avoid each other with minimal effort. I’ll stay away from any corner of the campus he wants, avoid all the buildings and dining halls he frequents. He’ll forget I exist.

Wes pushes off the shelf and away from me. I suck in air like a fish stranded ashore.

“Not good enough.” His voice is flat, lifeless. More terrifying than his fury. “I want you gone.”

I can’t look away from the fierceness in his eyes, no matter how much I long to. A deer unable to do anything more than stare at the blinding headlights, at death barreling toward her.

Diamond was the only university to offer me a full-ride. The prestigious creative writing program is one of the best in the country. My only hope of finishing the book I promised Chloe I would write for her. I get why Wes doesn’t want me here, but my heart aches painfully at the thought of leaving.

Disgust curls his lip when I remain silent, distorting his beautiful face. He shakes his head, forced to look away from me and clench his fists at his sides before he strangles me right here in this library.

Please just walk away.

Instead, his piercing blue eyes slice into me again. And this time, I won’t recover. “I’m telling you now, Violet. If you don’t get the fuck off this campus, I’ll kill you myself.”

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