Not in Her Wildest Dreams(7)

By: Dani Collins

She sent another baleful look at him from her one eye. “I’m not going to let Dad sign anything while he’s in the hospital stoned on morphine. You wouldn’t either. But I don’t hold grudges.”

“You just said you blame me for the talk about you, but I had nothing to do with it,” he pointed out.

“You told your mother I had sex with you! And that you weren’t my first!” Her tone rang with, What the fuck?

“That’s not what I said.” He held up his hand, still feeling a pinch of guilt over the way his mother had interpreted his ‘I didn’t get her virginity’ remark: that he’d completed the act, but there’d been no virginity to be had. “And people were talking already, Paige. You started that yourself.”

“No. That’s not fair.” She held up a finger, stern and strong and with an anger that was deep enough and genuine enough to earn his full attention. “I was a kid, being teased by my brother and his friend about still being a virgin. They turned it into me wanting to lose my cherry to you and you’re the one who made it real by showing up and making me think you liked me.” She pushed the ice pack back onto her face and turned her head to hide her expression behind it.

He had liked her, in the way that was ninety-percent youthful lust. But he’d barely spoken to her before that evening.

“I guess putting it out all over town is what everyone expects from a Fogarty, though. So that made it okay to call me a whore?”

“Paige.” She was exaggerating.

“Men offered me money. Men. A forty-year-old stranger propositioned me in the grocery story. Do you have any idea how scary that is when you’re seventeen? So, yeah, thanks for coming all this way to forgive me for that. You’re a helluva guy, Sterling.”

She flipped him her middle finger then went the long way around the partition and came back into the kitchen, opening the freezer again to pull out a loaf of bread.

He drilled holes in her back, trying to ignore the unease crowding out his righteous anger.

“Maybe I should thank you,” she said, turning with a magnanimous smile that went flat very quickly. “Since Dad finally took out a loan and sent me to Seattle, once he heard I was the town bike.”

He winced. “You didn’t act like a virgin,” he reminded in a mutter and watched her eyes bug out.

“I kissed you back so I deserved to be treated like a paid sex provider? Called out as a slut and turned down for honest work?”

No, he begrudgingly acknowledged, squirming at the picture she was painting, but she had kissed him back. She’d seemed damned willing to have sex with him in his car in her father’s driveway.

He could still recall the way his heart had pounded like a pile-driver from the moment her brother had said, ‘She wants you to be the one.’ He’d been planning to just ask her on a date. Somehow a few laughing, excited comments had turned into a kiss and that had turned into so much trembling heat pressed against him, he’d nearly lost his mind.

Did she have any idea how much of a betrayal it had been when the yank on his collar had come, as Grady had dragged him from the car and wailed on him? She had set him up for that insanity. Had to have.

“You and your brother wanted to take me down a peg. That’s why you set up your Dad to find us like that.”

“I didn’t know Dad was here!” She made a contemptuous noise then needed two tries to put the bread in the toaster. “Lyle brought his car home from work to fix it and I thought Dad was at the bar or something.”

Her hand was shaking, making him realize that for all her bravado, she was deeply rattled. Which shook him, making him feel even more of a bully when he was the injured party.

“I didn’t even know you were coming over,” she reminded. “How could I have arranged for Dad to show up right then?”

Sterling didn’t know, and he didn’t want to believe her. If she was telling the truth, it meant he’d been wrong. Worse than wrong.

…made me think you liked me.

If she hadn’t been setting him up, she might have been genuinely carried away that night. Didn’t that blow a man’s mind? If their necking had been purely natural reaction, they’d been positively volatile.

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