The Pucking Wrong Guy: Chapter 8

BLAKE

I gasped, my heart racing as I peered around my dark room trying to figure out what had woken me up. The muffled sounds of screaming came then, from somewhere in the house. Or maybe it was just outside?

I frowned and slipped out of bed, my feet making almost no noise on the carpeted floor as I tiptoed to my bedroom door, opened it, then carefully peeked out.

There was screaming again, and I realized it was my parents. They were the ones yelling so loud. Mom and Dad never talked like that; they were always extremely gentle with each other. All my friends said they were gross because they were completely in love all the time. Nerves…and fear gnawed at me as I opened the door wider and made my way down the hall, watching the scary way my shadow crept across the walls. I could hear them clearly now, their voices filled with so much anger and sadness. Things I also had never heard from them before.

‘How could you do this to me? To us?’ My father raged before he released a harsh sob, the sound absolutely terrifying.

‘It’s not what you think, John. Nothing happened,’ my mother’s voice quivered.

I didn’t understand what was going on, but I knew I had to make them stop fighting. We didn’t do this in our family. They always told me that when I got angry. Slowly, I tiptoed down the hallway, clutching my favorite stuffed bear, Mr. Whiskers. I would tell them that everything would be okay, that they should stop yelling. Just like they always told me.

As I turned the corner, I came to a halt. The room was darker, the shapes on the walls more menacing. I saw my father standing in the kitchen doorway, his face twisted in anger, holding something I couldn’t quite make out. It gleamed in the dim light.

‘Daddy!’ I tried to scream, but no words came out. My voice had disappeared, leaving only a silent cry.

There was a deafening noise—a bang that echoed in my ears.

I jolted awake, hot tears streaming down my face as Waldo leaned on my chest, licking me all over as he tried to comfort me.

It had only been a nightmare. What had happened that night was long in the past.

I was fine.

I chanted it over and over again. Like if I said it enough, it would make it true.

The images were etched in my mind, though.

And I didn’t think they’d ever go away.

The Shepfields hadn’t believed in therapy. But as a ten year old little girl, I sure could have used it.

I could’ve gone now. I should’ve gone now. But my list of problems was so long, I was too embarrassed to talk about them.

“Thanks, Waldo,” I whispered, softly stroking his fur. He always woke me up from my nightmares, at least since I’d moved out from under Maura’s thumb and he was allowed to sleep in my bed.

I didn’t know what I’d do without him.

Reluctantly, I slipped out of bed, heading to the shower to wash off the salty sweat that coated my body from the dream.

The scalding water pricked at my skin and I soaked in the pain, fingering the line of scars along my left inner thigh.

My fingers itched to grab a razor, to release some of the hurt that was always bubbled up under my skin.

But I had an audition today.

And new cuts wouldn’t do.

Later, I sat at the kitchen bar, nursing my coffee, the warmth of the cup seeping into my palms as I stared down at my phone. It had been four long days since the hockey game and Clark’s abrupt arrest…and we hadn’t spoken on the phone. Ed, Clark’s lawyer, had been the one to relay the information about Clark’s release, and his subsequent flight back to New York. The terse text messages Clark had sent in response to my attempts at conversation since then hadn’t gotten us anywhere.

It felt like he was somehow blaming me for what had happened, even though I didn’t know how he could come to that conclusion. Still, the unease festered beneath my skin, making it difficult to concentrate on anything else.

Charlotte stumbled through the front door, her disheveled appearance telling a story of another wild night out. I glanced up from my coffee, taking her in. She looked pale, hungover, and positively miserable.

‘Rough night?’ I asked, trying to keep the annoyance out of my voice. She’d been partying with Soto nonstop since meeting him at the game, coming in at all hours of the night. I think she’d even been an hour late to a job yesterday because she was so hungover.

I didn’t know if I was annoyed because she’d been waking me up constantly…or jealous because she had someone who wanted to be around her all the time.

Charlotte let out a groan, sinking into a chair across from me. ‘You have no idea,’ she mumbled, her words slurred from fatigue and alcohol.

I was about to offer her some water when she dropped a casual bombshell. ‘So, Ari was at the party last night. Looked pretty cozy with that actress from one of the new drama series. He couldn’t keep his hands off her.’

I tried to hide my reaction, keeping my expression carefully neutral as I took a sip of coffee.

But my hands were shaking.

That slithery feeling…the nasty one I’d felt in the locker room…it was there again. The mention of Ari at some party, getting cozy with another woman…it shouldn’t have bothered me.

He was nothing to me.

I had no right to be jealous or hurt.

‘Yeah?’ I said nonchalantly, feigning disinterest. ‘That’s good for him. He seemed like a nice guy.’

Charlotte shot me a curious look, probably expecting a stronger reaction. I couldn’t blame her for thinking it was odd, but I didn’t want to admit the hold Ari had on me. The feelings for him that had rooted much deeper than they should have.

I refused to think about that kiss…

Charlotte rambled on about her wild night with Soto, and I tried to hang on every word. Anything that would distract me from thinking about Ari Lancaster.

Because he was nothing to me.

Right?


I entered the audition room hours later, my steps echoing in the sterile, white-walled chamber. The harsh glare of the fluorescent lights illuminated a long table where an intimidating panel of agents and clients sat, their expressions like stone. It was a daunting scene, one I’d never get used to no matter how many I attended, and one that made my heart race as I walked to the center.

The other models waiting their turn lined the room. Tall and poised, they exuded an air of confidence that I’d never have. Their svelte figures, flawless skin, and designer outfits screamed perfection. They exchanged polite nods and strained smiles as we all silently acknowledged the cutthroat competition.

As I began my walk, I tried to project confidence, but the critical eyes tracking my every step weighed me down. The panel’s whispered comments cut through me like a knife. ‘Her posture needs work.’ ‘She lacks the ‘it’ factor.’ ‘Her look is too ordinary.’

Panic coursed through me as I felt my self-esteem plummet with each critique. The room grew stifling, and my chest tightened with anxiety. I couldn’t shake the feeling that they were peeling back my layers, revealing every insecurity I had ever hidden.

Desperation clawed at me, and I sneaked a glance at the mirror behind the staff. In its unforgiving reflection, I saw every single one of my flaws magnified, highlighted in agonizing detail. Their gazes were locked onto me, analyzing every supposed imperfection. I’d been a fool to even show up today. I did much better when I was hired based on my pictures.

No one ever thought I was enough in person.

I kept my head high, struggling to maintain my composure the entire time I was standing there. The second they said I could leave, I bolted, not bothering to stay and see if I’d been chosen. There was no way I had.

As I stepped out of the unforgiving audition room, the weight of everything bore down on me like a leaden cloak. Panic surged, and the walls of the building were suddenly closing in on me. It was as if every set of eyes in the vicinity were dissecting my every flaw.

My breathing grew rapid, shallow gasps that failed to fill my lungs. My vision blurred at the edges, and the world spun around me.

My legs shook as I stumbled down the corridor, my steps unsteady. I was on the verge of collapsing, the panic attack gripping me in its merciless grasp. The world swirled with voices and faces, a nightmarish kaleidoscope that threatened to consume me.

In that desperate moment, I spotted an alleyway just ahead. I pushed myself forward, each step feeling like an eternity, until I reached the sanctuary of the dimly lit alley.

As I huddled against the alley’s cold, graffiti-covered walls, the panic attack reached its peak. I trembled uncontrollably, tears streaming down my face as I struggled to catch my breath. It felt as though the world had turned against me, but in that dark, secluded space, I found a moment of respite, a fleeting escape from the relentless scrutiny that had nearly brought me to my knees.

“Blake?” a concerned, familiar voice called from somewhere nearby. A second later I heard someone walking toward me.

I blinked away my tears and, through my blurry vision, glanced up, hot shame licking at my insides when I saw Ari approaching, his face etched with genuine concern. He crouched in front of me, his eyes locked onto mine, and his voice softened with worry.

‘Hey, sunshine,’ he said gently, ‘what’s going on?’ His presence alone felt like a lifeline, and I struggled to find the words to explain the overwhelming rush of emotions that had consumed me.

“Just a bad day,” I finally squeaked.

“This looks like more than just a bad day…but we can go with that story if it makes you feel better,” he said, reaching out to brush a tear from my face.

All thoughts escaped me as I watched him bring the tear to his lips.

He licked it off.

And he seemed to savor the taste.

“There, now we can share the bad day,” he murmured with a wink, completely unrepentant for the weird as hell thing he’d just done. A shocked cough came out of me.

But a part of me also felt a little bit better.

Because now it kind of felt like we were connected.

And I couldn’t help but like that.

“Let’s get you out of here, yeah?” he asked, holding out his hand.

Embarrassment settled in then, and I became acutely aware of my disheveled state. Crouched down in this dirty alley, my cheeks stained with tear tracks, and my eyes probably swollen and puffy…I was a mess. In contrast…Ari looked perfect.

His crisp white henley clung to his broad chest, contrasting with the rich darkness of his jeans. His raven-black hair fell gracefully over his forehead, emphasizing his striking features.

My cheeks flushed as I continued to study him.

“Let me take care of you, Blake,” he murmured.

Ari’s offer to take care of me, to provide a distraction, hung in the air. He was waiting patiently, like he had all day, even though he must have had a million better things to do than rescue this mess in front of him.

I froze.

‘Not like that!’ he yelped, holding up his hands frantically. ‘I mean, yes, I’d like to take care of you like that, but…Fuckkkkk.” He brushed his hands down his face and a giggle squeaked out of me.

He moved his hands and grinned shyly. “You like me making a fool in front of you, sunshine? That make you feel better? Because I’ll do it all day if it’ll make you smile.”

“No one will be mad about us hanging out?” I asked cautiously, Charlotte’s story about his girl from last night front and center in my head.

Ari’s confusion over my question was clear, and he shook his head firmly. ‘No one will mind,’ he assured me, his tone unwavering. ‘And even if they did, I wouldn’t care. You’ll find I’m a ride or die kind of guy, baby.’

“Okay, let’s go,” I whispered finally, taking hold of his hand. Remembering another time, with another boy, when I’d felt this same way, like I was stepping off the edge of a precipice, and bracing for the fall.

“That’s my girl,” he smiled, helping me up and then leading me down the alley, back to the road, our hands still intertwined.

I gazed up at him one more time as we made our way to where his fancy black sports car was parked, a ticket on the dash from his illegal parking. ‘Nothing more than friends, right?’ I questioned.

“For today, sunshine. Just besties for today.”

He helped me into the car and reached across my lap to buckle my seatbelt.

”Um…”

“I’m only doing my bestie duties,” he said seriously as he clicked it into place.

He smelled so freaking good. I had to concentrate on keeping my back plastered against my seat so I didn’t lean in and take a bigger sniff.

“Lincoln must really enjoy this part of the friendship,” I remarked.

He threw back his head and laughed, and now I’m the one who seems starstruck, because the sound of it is the sexiest thing I’ve ever heard. “Oh, no doubt, it’s the best part for him, for sure.”

We hovered there, him leaning over me, big, silly grins on both of our faces.

And I suddenly couldn’t remember any of the reasons I was upset today.


Ari

My hands gripped the steering wheel, but my attention wasn’t on the road ahead. Nope, it was fixated on her, Blake, sitting in my passenger seat, her beauty a force that couldn’t be ignored. There were still tear tracks on her cheeks, and a desolation in her eyes that made me want to burn the world to the ground for daring to make her sad. Her pain sliced me to fucking pieces. Her tears were the most beautiful and the worst thing I’d ever seen.

She’d always been my sad girl, though. Since the day we’d first met.

From the moment she’d arrived at the group home after her parents’ deaths, tears were an ever-present companion. More often than not, I’d find her curled up in some corner, sobbing over what she’d lost.

I’d had it much better than her. I couldn’t remember the parents who kicked me to the curb, but she’d actually watched her parents disappear. Watched her dad kill her mom…and then himself. The file the P.I. had put together on her hadn’t offered much detail about her adoptive parents, just that they were wealthy socialites who frequented NYC’s social scene.

But it didn’t take a fortune teller to guess they hadn’t been good to her. That they’d maybe even been abusive. Made me even more fucking mad at her “other” because he had done a piss poor job of protecting her the last couple of years. If I hadn’t lost her, I would have done everything to keep her safe.

Anything.

Blake had always been an intoxicating mix of fragility and strength. A masterpiece if there ever was one. Now that I had her back, I would make it my life’s mission to see her smile. To replace the haunted expression in her eyes with happiness.

She was staring out her window now, and I had to hold myself back from tipping her head toward me, so I could look at her, gauge how she was doing.

Blake was so in her head she hadn’t even thought to ask how I’d found her. Which was a good thing, since saying that I happened to spot her as I was driving on a random street in one of the biggest cities in the world seemed a little unbelievable.

Still a better answer, though, than telling her I’d been waiting outside her audition because I was her living, breathing, obsessed stalker.

I turned on some Tay-Tay to try to get her talking, and sure enough, after “High Infidelity” started playing—a banger of a track, by the way—she turned her head back toward me.

“I’m starting to believe there’s nothing wrong with you,” she blurted out, a gorgeous shade to her cheeks as I glanced at her, amused.

“Sunshine, you might be onto something there,” I grinned, flashing her what I knew was a panty-melting smile.

Her blush deepened.

I did think it was perfect that I was so obsessed with her I’d followed her to L.A., bugged her phone, and planted drugs in her boyfriend’s car. All the other fun things I had planned were pretty perfect as well.

A few minutes later, I pulled up to a bakery I’d found my second day here, when I needed help with my midnight brownie tradition. Her violet eyes stared at me questioningly.

‘I find that sugar always makes me feel better,’ I mused, opening the car door.

She hesitated, her gaze flickering to the tempting treats on display in the window. ‘Not when you make a living on how you look,’ she whispered, a hint of uncertainty in her voice.

I made a show of running my gaze from her toes to her angelic face until she was squirming on my seat. ‘Sugar won’t change perfection, Blake. It’ll just make it sweeter.’

A bashful smile graced her lips, and she searched my face as if she was making sure I really meant that. “Sugar does sound good,” she finally murmured, something that looked a lot like adoration in her eyes.

Good job, Ari, I told myself. Because it was important to give yourself mental high fives when you were fucking amazing.

“Stay right there,” I told her hurriedly when she tried to open her own fucking door. Was it weird I got actual anxiety at the thought of her letting herself out?

Yes.

Was I going to worry about that?

No.

I hustled to her door and opened it, pulling just a little harder on her hand than I needed to so that she fell against my chest. I was taking any opportunity I had to have her touch me.

The bakery was a cozy little place, tucked away in a quiet corner of the city. A small smile caught Blake’s lips when we stepped in and she caught a whiff of all the sugar. She obviously had good taste because it smelled bomb in here.

Blake scanned the glass display. I usually would have scanned it too, but of course I was watching her. Because that seemed to be all I did nowadays.

Her eyes darted from one tempting treat to the next. But she seemed to get more agitated the longer she looked.

The way she doubted herself puzzled me; she was nothing short of perfection. Why couldn’t she see that?

Taking a chance, I leaned over the glass counter, almost jumping when I saw how intensely the teen employee was staring at me.

A little less eye contact, thank you very much.

‘She’ll have a strawberry cupcake,’ I declared, confident in my choice. It had been her favorite back when we were kids.

She arched an eyebrow, a hint of surprise dancing in her eyes as she glanced up at me. ‘What if I don’t want that?’

A playful grin tugged at the corners of my lips. ‘Well, you can have whatever you want…but I just have a good feeling about the strawberry cupcake.’

Now would be the perfect time to tell her who I really am.

I’m not sure why I haven’t yet.

Maybe it would be an easy way to get her back.

But if I’m being honest, I haven’t said anything because I’m afraid she forgot me. That the eight months in the group home together has disappeared from her mind.

When it’s stuck in mine forever.

For now, I was content to savor the reunion, to make her fall in love with the Ari I was today.

“I actually do want the strawberry cupcake,” she finally whispered, before frowning as the employee boxed it up. “It used to be my favorite…I haven’t had one since…” Her words trailed off.

“Since when?”

She shot me a smile, but this time, there was a hint of wistful sadness lurking behind it. “Since I was a little girl.”

I didn’t press her any further, and after I ordered the same thing—just in case Blake wanted more after she finished hers—we got back in the car.

She was lost in her head again until we pulled up to the gates of the neighborhood where I was renting a house. It cost an arm and a leg, but with my year timeline, I didn’t want to invest in property when we’d be back in Dallas next year.

Emphasis on the “we.”

I was sure I could educate Blake on all the finer things about Dallas life.

Which was basically everything.

‘This is gorgeous, is it your house?’ she asked, her voice tinged with a hint of nervousness. I didn’t know what she was nervous about; I knew from her file her adopted parents had been like the parents in Richie Rich, so she would be used to nice things.

‘Yep, home sweet home. Don’t worry, I won’t charge you admission,’ I teased, giving her a wink.

She bit her lip and her shoulders finally relaxed. She was smiling as we got out of the car.

I led her up the steps and through the grand front door, making a mental note to introduce her to my housekeeper, Miss Carlie, who’d been with me since I’d signed my rookie contract. She was like family to me and I’d brought her with me to Cali. She lived in the guest house in the backyard.

Even after all these years of making money…it was still weird to think I lived somewhere with a fucking guest house and a housekeeper.

The kid version of me would have called me a pretentious asshole.

The kid me would have only been kinda right.

Miss Carlie happened to be the best cook in the entire world though, and I would have been an idiot not to keep her around.

I parked in the driveway and led her to the front door, unlocking it and kicking off my shoes. Her silence continued as we walked through the foyer, gazing around curiously.

I rubbed the back of my head, trying to see it from her perspective. I guess it wasn’t very homey. No pictures or knick knacks anywhere.

I couldn’t exactly tell her I wasn’t really interested in decorating until she moved in.

I noticed then that Blake’s eyes were glued to the skin peeking out from where my shirt had risen.

She looked positively starving.

Oh, you like that, sunshine? There are plenty of abs for you to stare at where that came from.

Blake saw that I’d caught her staring, and she flushed and quickly glanced away.

“Don’t worry, bestie. You can look as much as you want. It’s part of the friendship package,” I told her as I grabbed her hand and led her into the sunken living room, my favorite part of the house.

She just groaned and covered her face with her free hand.

“It’s okay. I know I’m a thirst trap.”

“A thirst trap,” she snorted.

I wanted to say I could be her thirst trap, but again, I restrained myself.

I’d have to remind Lincoln how much of a saint I was. AGAIN.

My phone buzzed right as Blake pulled away to take in the views from the floor to ceiling windows that lined my living room. I grabbed it and saw it was Lincoln. Speak of the devil.

Lincoln: How’s Operation Blake going?

I glanced over to where Blake was staring outside, rubbing her bottom lip absentmindedly.

Me: Well…it’s going.

Lincoln: That good, huh?

Me:…

Lincoln: Let me know if you need any cuffs.

What did that have to do with anything?

Me: Cuffs? Why would I need—wait. You’re not talking about some kinky sex thing, are you?

Lincoln: …

Me: …

I glanced at Blake again.

Me: I could probably use them.

I slipped my phone back into my pocket, setting aside my new inkling that Lincoln was either a psychopath…or the smartest person I knew. I strolled over to Blake, opening the cupcake and sliding it under her nose. “Ready to Netflix and chill?” I asked innocently.

She wrinkled her nose at me and I got a little caught up on her gorgeous face. As I stood there and looked at her…I wasn’t entirely sure she was real.

No one was that fucking perfect.

“I don’t think besties Netflix and chill, Ari,” she murmured in a soft, enchanting voice.

I was having trouble really concentrating on what she was saying though. I was too busy thinking about kissing her again.

Or fucking her against the glass.

Choking her with my cock until she was gasping for breath.

Burying my face in her cunt until she screamed.

Well…okay then. Maybe Lincoln’s cuff idea wasn’t so crazy after all.

Fuck, my dick could cut glass. Back away, Ari. Back away.

‘Alright, we can table the Netflix and chill for now, and go to the stuff our faces with cupcakes and watch whatever movie you want portion of the day,” I drawled. “But the offer’s always open if you’re interested, sunshine.”

She wanted it. Oh, she wanted it. But like the good girl she was, she trotted toward the couch like her ass—her very nice ass—was on fire.


It took her ten whole minutes into the movie to take a bite of the cupcake. My intention to save the other one had flown by the wayside, and she’d watched me gobble it down like the fucking Cookie Monster as soon as we’d sat.

And here was the thing. It was not my finest moment…because I almost came in my pants watching her savor that first bite.

Like, what the fuck.

It wasn’t even fair that I couldn’t stick my dick in her mouth after that.

I could just picture her tongue licking at my dick like she was licking at that frosting.

Strawberry frosting on my dick. A dickcake.

Brilliant.

“Ari…why are you staring at me like that?” she asked, and I was brought out of my fantasy where her sweet little tongue was torturing my tip…

And now I was the one blushing.

“I just like cupcakes!” I threw out frantically.

Her gaze turned suspicious. “Okay, weirdo,” she finally said, before turning back to the movie.

was a weirdo, because I kept watching her with that cupcake.

Except she stopped when she got halfway and she set it down, leaning back into the couch and hugging herself in the universal “I am not okay” move.

That wouldn’t do.

“You know what I’ve found over the years, sunshine?” I began as I scooted closer to her and got all snuggled up.

“What?” she murmured, not looking at me. She was using that defeated voice again, the one that I absolutely hated.

“It helps to talk about things with someone who cares. Seems to make it feel at least a little bit better…at least that’s what my experience has been.”

She finally turned toward me, her blue-violet eyes glossed over and her lips pursed. She was trying to hold in her tears.

“Why do you even care?” she finally whispered. “Why am I even here? With you. IN THIS HOUSE. What am I doing?”

A tear finally slid down her face, and the effect was…devastating.

“Tell me where it hurts, baby.”

She continued to hold my gaze for a long, long minute. And then she took a deep breath.

“I am so fucking tired of being the villain in my own story, Ari. And I have no idea how to stop.”

Her eyes grew wide as soon as the words came out, like she was shocked she’d actually spoken them.

But once those words came out, more spilled out. The panic attack at the audition, the texts from her asshole adopted mother…the fact that the “other” was barely speaking to her. The fact that she couldn’t eat a fucking cupcake without freaking out.

I mean, I was to blame for her problems with the “other”, but there was no part of me that felt bad about that.

And he wouldn’t be a problem for very much longer.

“Aren’t you sorry you asked?” she finally murmured, staring at her lap in shame as she twisted her fingers together anxiously.

I reached out and stilled them.

She was so wrong. I wasn’t sorry.

I was enthralled.

She’d just told me way more about herself than her fucking file ever could.

“Not at all, sunshine. Just reinforces the fact that you need me. A bestie in your corner to tell you you’re the motherfucking most perfect creature I’ve ever come across in my life,” I said confidently.

She gaped at me as I flashed her my most winning smile.

“We’ll fix all those problems together. I promise. But for right now, you’re going to let me feed you the rest of this scrumptious cupcake, and you’re going to believe me when I tell you that your body literally makes me feel like I’ll die because you won’t let me touch it. And then we’ll watch whatever terrible rom com you just picked, even though Harry Potter would obviously be the superior choice. And I’ll feed you tacos…or whatever else you want. And you’re going to forget all about everything else for the rest of the day.”

You’re going to forget all about “everyone” else is what I wanted to say.

Baby steps, though. Baby steps.

“I’m still thinking I can’t find anything wrong with you, Ari Lancaster,” she finally said shyly as I picked up the cupcake and did an airplane move to her mouth. She bit down and hummed happily as it hit her tastebuds.

I reached over and wiped some frosting off her lip before sliding it into my mouth. After I’d licked it clean, I whispered, “Then stop looking.”

Ignoring the shock on her face, I pulled her into my arms and we did every last thing I’d suggested.

The rest of the day would go down in my history as one of the most perfect days I’d ever experienced. And I decided, right then and there…

I was done waiting.

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