Soon we were both completely naked, and the small voice inside of me wanting to savor the moment and take things slow was easily overpowered by Abby’s desperate kisses and the soft hums she made whenever I touched her pretty much anywhere.

I lowered her to the mattress, and her hand shot out toward the nightstand. Instantly, I remembered my unceremonious breaking of the fishbowl of condoms to pledge my intended celibacy.


“Shit,” I said, panting. “I got rid of them.”

“What? All of them?”

“I thought you didn’t . . . if I wasn’t with you, I wasn’t going to need them.”

“You’re kidding me!” she said, letting her head fall against the headboard in frustration.

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I leaned down, breathing hard, resting my forehead against her chest. “Consider yourself the opposite of a foregone conclusion.”

The next moments were a blur. Abby did some weird counting, concluding that she couldn’t get pregnant that particular week, and before I knew it, I was inside of her, feeling every part of her against every part of me. I had never been with a girl without that thin sheath of latex, but apparently a fraction of a millimeter made a lot of difference. Every movement created equally overpowering conflicting feelings: delaying the inevitable, or giving in because it felt so fucking good.

When Abby’s hips rose against mine, and her uncontrolled groans and whimpers escalated to a loud, satisfied cry, I couldn’t hold back anymore.

“Abby,” I whispered, desperate. “I need a . . . I need to . . .”

“Don’t stop,” she begged. Her fingernails dug into my back.

I rocked into her again one last time. I must have been loud, because Abby’s hand flew up to my mouth. I closed my eyes, letting everything go, feeling my eyebrows press together while my body convulsed and stiffened. Breathing hard, I looked into Abby’s eyes. Wearing only a tired, satisfied smile, she peered up at me, waiting for something. I kissed her over and over, and then cupped each side of her face with my hands, kissing her again, this time more tenderly.

Abby’s breathing slowed, and she sighed. I leaned my body to the side, relaxing next to her, and then pulled her against me. She rested her cheek against my chest, her hair cascading down my arm. I kissed her forehead once more, locking my fingers together at the small of her back.

“Don’t leave this time, okay? I wanna wake up just like this in the morning.”

Abby kissed my chest, but didn’t look up. “I’m not going anywhere.”

THAT MORNING, LYING WITH THE WOMAN I LOVED, A SILENT promise was formed in my head. I was going to be a better man for her, someone she deserved. No more flying off the handle. No more temper tantrums, or violent outbursts.

Every time I pressed my lips against her skin, waiting for her to wake up, I repeated that promise in my mind.

Dealing with life outside the apartment while trying to stay true to that promise proved to be a struggle. For the first time, I not only gave a shit about someone, but I was also desperate to keep them. Feelings of overprotection and jealousy chipped away at the oath I’d made just a few hours before.

By lunchtime, Chris Jenks had pissed me off and I regressed. Abby was thankfully patient and forgiving, even when I threatened Parker not twenty minutes later.

Abby had proved more than once that she could accept me for who I was, but I didn’t want to be the violent asshole everyone was used to. Mixing my rages with these new feelings of jealousy was more difficult to control than I could have imagined.

I resorted to avoiding situations that could throw me into a rage, and remaining oblivious to the knowledge that not only was Abby insanely hot, every dick on campus was curious how she had tamed the one man they thought would never settle down. It seemed they were all waiting for me to fuck up so they could try her out, which only made me more agitated and cantankerous.

To keep my mind occupied, I focused on making it clear to the coeds that I was off the market, which had pissed off half the school’s female population.

Walking into the Red with Abby on Halloween, I noticed that the sharp, late fall air didn’t hinder the number of women wearing an array of slutty costumes. I hugged my girlfriend to my side, grateful that she wasn’t one to dress up as Prostitute Barbie, or a football-player-slash-transvestite-whore, which meant that the number of threats I would have to make for staring at her tits or worrying about her bending over would be kept to a minimum.

Shepley and I played pool while the girls looked on. We were winning again, after having already pocketed $360 from the last two games.

From the corner of my eye, I saw Finch approach America and Abby. They giggled for a while, and then Finch pulled them onto the dance floor. Abby’s beauty stood out, even amid the bare skin, glitter, and glaring cleavage of the naughty Snow Whites and sleazy referees around her.

Before the song was over, America and Abby left Finch on the dance floor and headed toward the bar. I stretched up onto my toes to find the tops of their heads in the sea of people.

“You’re up,” Shepley said.

“The girls are gone.”

“They probably went to pick up drinks. Get to stickin’, lover boy.”

With hesitation, I bent down, focused on the ball, but then missed.

“Travis! That was an easy shot! You’re killin’ me!” Shepley complained.

I still couldn’t see the girls. Knowing about the two sexual assault incidents the year before, it made me nervous to let Abby and America walk around alone. Drugging an unsuspecting girl’s drink was not unheard of, even in our small college town.

I set my pool stick on the table and made my way across the wooden dance floor.

Shepley’s hand fell on my shoulder. “Where are you going?”

“To find the girls. You remember what happened last year to that Heather chick.”

“Oh. Yeah.”

When I finally found Abby and America, I saw two guys buying them drinks. Both short, one was thicker around the middle, with a week’s worth of scruff on his sweaty face. Jealousy should have been the last thing I would feel when looking at him, but the fact that he was clearly hitting on my girlfriend made this less about his looks and more about my ego—even if he didn’t know she was with me, he should have assumed by looking at her that she wouldn’t be alone. My jealousy mixed with annoyance. I’d told Abby a dozen times not to do something so potentially dangerous as accept a drink from a stranger; anger quickly took over.

The one guy yelling to Abby over the music leaned in. “You wanna dance?”

Abby shook her head. “No, thanks. I’m here with my—”

“Boyfriend,” I said, cutting her off. I glared down at the men. It was almost laughable trying to intimidate two men wearing togas, but I still unleashed my full-on I Will Kill You expression. I nodded across the room. “Run along, now.”

The men cowered, and then looked to America and Abby before retreating behind the curtain of the crowd.

Shepley kissed America. “I can’t take you anywhere!” She giggled, and Abby smiled at me.

I was too angry to smile back.

“What?” she asked, taken aback.

“Why did you let him buy your drink?”

America let go of Shepley. “We didn’t, Travis. I told them not to.”

I took the bottle from Abby’s hand. “Then what’s this?”

“Are you serious?” she asked.

“Yes, I’m fucking serious,” I said, tossing the beer in the trash can by the bar. “I’ve told you a hundred times . . . you can’t take drinks from random guys. What if he put something in it?”

America held up her glass. “The drinks were never out of our sight, Trav. You’re overreacting.”

“I’m not talking to you,” I said, glaring at Abby.

Her eyes flashed, mirroring my anger. “Don’t talk to her like that.”

“Travis,” Shepley warned, “let it go.”

“I don’t like you letting other guys buy you drinks,” I said.

Abby raised an eyebrow. “Are you trying to pick a fight?”

“Would it bother you to walk up to the bar and see me sharing a drink with some chick?”

“Okay. You’re oblivious to all women, now. I get it. I should be making the same effort.”

“It would be nice,” I said, my teeth clenched.

“You’re going to have to tone down the jealous-boyfriend thing, Travis. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“I walk up here, and some guy is buying you a drink!”

“Don’t yell at her!” America said.

Shepley put his hand on Travis’s shoulder. “We’ve all had a lot to drink. Let’s just get out of here.”

Abby’s anger turned up a notch. “I have to tell Finch we’re leaving,” she grumbled, shouldering past me to the dance floor.

I took her by the wrist. “I’ll go with you.”

She twisted from my grip. “I am fully capable of walking a few feet by myself, Travis. What is wrong with you?”

Abby pushed her way out to Finch, who was flinging his arms around and jumping around in the middle of the wooden floor. Sweat was pouring down his forehead and from his temples. At first he smiled, but when she yelled her goodbyes, he rolled his eyes.

Abby had mouthed my name. She had blamed it on me, which only made me more mad. Of course I would get angry if she did something that could get her hurt. She didn’t seem to mind so much when I was bashing Chris Jenks’s head in, but when I got pissed about her taking drinks from strangers, she had the audacity to get mad.

Just as my anger boiled to rage, some asshole in a pirate costume grabbed Abby and pressed himself against her. The room blurred, and before I knew it, my fist was in his face. The pirate fell to the floor, but when Abby went with him, I snapped back to reality.

Her palms flat on the dance floor, she looked stunned. I was frozen in shock, watching her, in slow motion, turn her hand over to see that it was covered in bright red blood gushing from the pirate’s nose.

I scrambled to pick her up. “Oh shit! Are you all right, Pidge?”

When Abby got to her feet, she yanked her arm from my grip. “Are you insane?”

America grabbed Abby’s wrist and pulled her through the crowd, only letting go when we were outside. I had to walk double-time to keep up.

In the parking lot, Shepley unlocked the Charger and Abby slid into her seat.

I tried pleading with her. She was beyond pissed. “I’m sorry, Pigeon, I didn’t know he had a hold of you.”

“Your fist was two inches from my face!” she said, catching the oil-stained towel Shepley had thrown at her. She wiped the blood from her hand, wringing the cloth around each finger, clearly revolted.

I winced. “I wouldn’t have swung if I thought I could have hit you. You know that right?”

“Shut up, Travis. Just shut up,” she said, staring at the back of Shepley’s head.

“Pidge . . .”

Shepley hit his steering wheel with the heel of his hand. “Shut up, Travis! You said you’re sorry, now shut the fuck up!”

I couldn’t say anything back. Shepley was right: I had FUBARed the entire night, and suddenly Abby kicking me to the curb became a frightening possibility.

When we reached the apartment, America kissed her boyfriend good night. “I’ll see you tomorrow, baby.”

Shepley nodded in resignation and kissed her. “Love you.”

I knew they were leaving because of me. Otherwise, the girls would be staying the night at the apartment like they did every weekend.

Abby walked past me to America’s Honda without saying a word.

I jogged to her side, trying an awkward smile in an attempt to defuse the situation. “C’mon. Don’t leave mad.”

“Oh, I’m not leaving mad. I’m furious.”

“She needs some time to cool off, Travis,” America warned, unlocking her door.

When the passenger side lock popped, I panicked, holding my hand against the door. “Don’t leave, Pigeon. I was out of line. I’m sorry.”

Abby held up her hand, showing the remnants of dried blood on her palm. “Call me when you grow up.”

I leaned against the door with my hip. “You can’t leave.”

Abby raised an eyebrow, and Shepley jogged around the car beside us. “Travis, you’re drunk. You’re about to make a huge mistake. Just let her go home, cool off . . . you can both talk tomorrow when you’re sober.”

“She can’t leave,” I said, desperately staring into Abby’s eyes.

“It’s not going to work, Travis,” she said, tugging on the door. “Move!”

“What do you mean it’s not gonna work?” I asked, grabbing her arm. The fear of Abby saying the words, ending it right there made me react without thinking.

“I mean the sad face. I’m not falling for it,” she said, pulling away.

A short-lived relief came over me. She wasn’t going to end it. At least, not yet.

“Abby,” Shepley said. “This is the moment I was talking about. Maybe you should—”

“Stay out of it, Shep,” America snapped, starting the car.

“I’m gonna fuck up. I’m gonna fuck up a lot, Pidge, but you have to forgive me.”

“I’m going to have a huge bruise on my ass in the morning! You hit that guy because you were pissed at me! What should that tell me? Because red flags are going up all over the place right now!”

“I’ve never hit a girl in my life,” I said, surprised she would ever think I could ever lay a hand on her—or any other woman for that matter.

“And I’m not about to be the first one!” she said, tugging on the door. “Move, damn it!”

I nodded, taking a step back. The last thing I wanted was for her to leave, but it was better than her getting so pissed off that she ended up telling me to fuck off.

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