“Goddamn it, Kahlan. I can’t do this anymore,” Max stormed out of the kitchen.
I had been sitting alone, eating a bowl of cereal at the table. Max had come in muttering. He banged a few things together, slammed the refrigerator door and yelled at me. I just sat there. Ten seconds later he came back.
“How could you stay in there with him when I’m right across the hall?!”
“Max, what are you talking about?”
“I know you stayed with him last night. I couldn’t sleep, thinking about how crazy I am over you. Thinking about that kiss before I left for Atlanta. I hear you go in and before I know it, ages have passed and you haven’t come back. I can hear his door, hear walking around. You stayed in there all night!”
I pushed back from the table. “Max. I did not stay in there all night.”
“You’re lying.” His eyes were furious.
“I went back to my room after half an hour. He gave me a present, same as you did.”
“Some present,” Max scoffed. “More like you gave him something.”
The anger blindsided me. All I could see was red. I didn't start this. I didn't want this. And now I was on the block for it. Well fuck you! You want a fight I will give you a fucking fight.
“I. Am. Not. Lying.” I growled. I was standing now. “Let’s not forget who started all this! Tanger loves you, Sid has a crush on you, pick me, pick me. No pressure, just take a shower with me and here’s some ice cream and hey, I bought you these ‘fuck me’ shoes.”
“And you’re so innocent,” he shot back. “Kissing me and dancing with everyone and throwing yourself at whichever guy within 10 meters isn’t paying enough attention to you!”
“God forbid I’m not paying attention to you! Kris never takes his shirt off and finds a reason to rub up against me.”
Max tossed the paper towels into the sink. “Kris couldn’t think of that! He loves you like a fucking puppy. He wants to build you a tower and lock you away. He could never do the things I can. He could never make you feel what I do.”
“That is not true,” I glared at him. “Don’t you make this about him. This is about you and me. You never meant for me to choose. You didn’t mean a word you said about giving me space and not pushing. You only said those things because you assumed I’d choose you.”
I hadn't wanted this before, but I wanted it now. I wanted something. I just didn't know what that was. Hell, maybe I wanted everything! But I'd be damned if I was going to let Max decide for me.
I came out from behind the table. “You are arrogant, Max. You can’t stand the thought of losing anything. I am becoming another fucking prize for the mantel. How long did you think I’d make it? A week? A day? Could I go a whole hour before I fell into your bed? And then what? Toss me out like a hundred other girls who’ve come through this place.”
He was stunned. “It could be a million other girls, and they don’t mean shit to me. I wanted to be with you. Only you. But you couldn’t do that for me. Everybody else had to want you too. I think you like the attention. Aren’t you fucking special now?”
I could have spit. “Is that what you do, Max? You make girls feel special? For what, an hour, before you send them packing? I have seen your ‘special’ before. I need something more that what you’ve given every other girl on the block, Max. How the hell else am I supposed to know you won’t get tired of me tomorrow? How am I supposed to trust you?”
Max covered the distance to me in two strides. He flung his body onto mine, pulling my hair, forcing my face into his. He kissed me so hard I tasted blood on my lip. Tears were streaming down my face and I couldn’t breathe. I slapped at his arms, but he wouldn’t let go. He moved one hand under my thigh and lifted, boosting me onto the edge of the kitchen counter. Now he could get even closer, my weight riding down on his lower body. His mouth was still mashed against mine.
I lost it. I screamed through my teeth. His free hand was moving up my thigh, pressing my skirt up. I was suspended against the tile and I could feel how hard Max was beneath his sweatpants.
I tried to push his hand away, force it back down my leg. He took his hand from my hair, grabbed my wrist and held it behind me. He didn’t look at me. He just kept moving his hand beneath my skirt. I know he would find me wet. He seemed to know it too, want it as validation. His fingers found the crease where my leg met body, and he followed it down. A thumb grazed across my clit and I shuddered involuntarily. Two fingers pressed down the length of my front and felt liquid.
He let go of me and pressed his hands beneath his waistband. Sweatpants fell to the floor. Hiking my skirt back up, he stroked my wetness as he breathed in from my neck. Quickly he hooked my panties aside, and pulled my body down onto him.
I felt him slide all the way into me in one quick motion. I gasped, only to realize I’d been holding my breath the whole time. He thrust into me, pressing me against the counter for support. His thighs were slick with my juice. I was holding onto his shoulders, trying to get some leverage of my own, when he pulled us away.
In a not-so-gentle tumble, we were down on the kitchen floor. I could barely form a thought. His body was on top of mine, his tongue in my mouth. Every inch of me was screaming. And then he was back inside me, driving up. I shifted down onto him, slamming onto his rock hard penis. He was breathing hard. I was hardly breathing.
Max found his rhythm and twisted his hips a little, changing the angle, keeping the breakneck pace. I felt him inside me in a whole new way, grazing slightly against that spongy little spot that changes everything. He seemed to sense the shift in my body language, and started moving even harder. I strangled a cry every time his cock almost… almost touched it. I raked my fingernails down his back, willing him on.
“Harder,” I whispered without thinking. Max did not need to be told twice.
With barely a thought for bruising or construction damage, Max grabbed onto the bottom of the cabinet behind my head. He used it to pull himself up into me as far as he could go. I reached up and pressed away from the same spot, keeping myself as close to the base of his shaft as possible. I felt that spot again, starting to tingle as the tip if his cock teased it.
Another tilt of the hips and Max was coming dangerously close to sending me over the edge. I caught his eye and a little gleam told me he knew he was there, that he was playing with me.
“Say it,” he growled.
I whimpered. I was so close. “Please Max, please,” I gasped.
And he did. With an arch of his back, his throbbing cock pressed into my G spot and I let rip a scream. He didn’t stop, he kept moving, making my orgasm wash over me like waves. I wrapped my legs around him and held on. As he thrust, he came too.
“Kahlan,” he grunted. His body tensed hard, like a flash, then released. He pumped three more times, draining himself inside me. Then he collapsed on top.
It took me five whole minutes to regain my senses. Max was slumped across me, asleep in that impossibly post-coital way that only guys can be. One of his hands was still twisted in my hair. I ran my hand down his back, over his ass and onto the back of his naked thigh. Then I shook him awake.
“Max,” I whispered. “Max.”
He stirred and opened his eyes, the smiled. “Not a dream, eh?” He moved, pulling out of me, sitting up. He gaze traveled over my body, disheveled and revealed on the kitchen floor. “Better than a dream.” He reached out to brush a hair from my face… and a car pulled into the driveway.
Max grabbed his sweatpants. I righted the blender we had knocked over on the counter. And we ran for our rooms.
I threw the door shut behind me and hit play on my iPod dock. I didn’t want to hear Kris walking past. I flopped down on my bed, then jumped back up. I was a mess. My thighs were sticky, my hair rumpled. Kneeling down, I pulled my vanity case off a shelf in search of a makeup remover wipe. Whatever worked.
Goddamned iPod. I was rifling through the case, frantic to get myself right, when the music came on – Ellie Goulding’s “This Love.”
Who are you to make me feel so good
Who are we to tell ourselves that we're misunderstood
Oh who am I to say I'm always yours
Who am I to choose the boy that everyone adores
This love is be and end all
This love will be your downfall...
I sank the rest of the way down as the music played. My makeup case spilled and I just lay there. I willed the song to stop, but couldn’t move to turn it off. Instead I pressed my face to the floor and cried. No way anyone could hear me, so I just let it out.
Hot tears burned tracks down my cheeks and pooled on the carpet. I was ashamed, stunned, exhilarated, terrified. I’d been on eggshells for weeks and now I’d finally done something I could never undo. Yes there had been Sidney, but that had actually, in a twisted way, solved a problem. I had put on my big girl shoes and stomped right through the most fragile, important thing in my life.
I was scared of how much I had wanted, no needed, something to happen. And not surprised that Max had done it – ever impulsive, that was always his style. I had not lied when I’d called him arrogant. He had fully expected all along to win me, and when I’d thrown it in his face he stopped pretending. He knew what he wanted and he took it. I wanted him to take it. And now I couldn’t take it back. The next track played:
We’re under the sheets and you’re killing me
In our house made of paper, your words all over me
We’re in a mess babe...
I thought of Kris, probably barefoot in the living room. I prayed we hadn’t left a crime scene in our mad dash. He shouldn’t have to find out about this from a broken teacup or spilled jar. But he would find out, I knew, and I cried harder. Another song played – I had a brief thought to delete this album forever:
You know this is your biggest mistake
What a waste, what a waste, what a waste
And of all the things you never explained
You know this is your biggest mistake...
I lay there for what seemed like hours. Eventually the tears stopped and I just stared blankly at the ceiling. I tried to force away my thoughts, to get a handle on myself. They floated just outside my mind’s eye – Kris’ face when he handed me the menu, Max putting the bracelet on my wrist, the two of them leaning on the car after my exam.
My phone buzzed. It must have fallen from the bed when I moved to the floor. I blindly flipped it open.
Max: Please talk to me.
My eyes blurred again and I pressed the heels of my hands over them.
Max: Please tell me you are okay.
Max: Don’t make me climb in your window.
That actually made me smile a little.
Max: Can I come in?
Me: Not now. Please.
Max: OK. I love you. Soon please. Confused too.
I hauled myself up from the floor and cracked my door, but the hall was empty. The TV was on in the living room. I slipped into the bathroom, put the shower on as hot as it could go and climbed in. Water poured over me as I sat down in the tub.
Pull it together, I told myself. It was an off night, so I was stuck in the house with both of them. I couldn’t call Cara for fear of having to tell her what happened. With no studying to hide behind, I was going to have to do something.
I finished, dressed and steeled myself to see Kris. Silently I prayed that Max would still be in his room, but when I turned the corner he was there on the couch. They were watching highlights on NHL Network. My stomach did a pirouette as they both looked at me. I smiled quickly and hurried into the kitchen.
Deep breath, deep breath. I glanced around – the kitchen looked like it had this morning. Before everything. At least there’s that.
“Are you making an Arnold Palmer?” Kris called.
“I am now,” I answered. I poured half-iced tea and half-lemonade into three glasses and carried them into the living room. Kris shifted to make room between them on the couch. I pretended not to see as I put the glasses down and plopped into the armchair.
“Belle,” Kris said, putting his hand on my arm. My stomach clenched at his touch. I slowly turned to look at him. “You’re hurt.” He touched his thumb to the left side of my lower lip. Instinctively I sucked it in between my teeth, feeling a small, stinging cut. My brain flashed a memory of tasting blood when Max had first kissed me. I pulled his hand down.
“Guess so, it hurts a little,” I said.
I sat there for 20 minutes. No one spoke. Max kept looking at me, the heat of his gaze giving him away though I never turned. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Let’s go somewhere,” I said.
“Somewhere loud,” Max added.
It was barely 4 PM, so we settled on bowling. I needed to be around people, to have something to do with myself. I called Sid, who called Jordan to join us. We chose a place a few towns over where the guys were less likely to cause a stir. I sat quietly in the back of the car. The tension was suffocating me but I tried to act normal for Kris’ sake.
Once we got started, I relaxed. Jordan brought Cara with him, so we teamed up. We were actually pretty good. Sid paired with Max, both of whom bowled like they were taking slapshots with the ball. Kris was with Jordan, and Jordan bowled two strikes in a row.
I didn't look at Max. I tried to be casual and hoped to God that no one would notice. He never came near me, but I could feel his stare.
Someone bought a bucket of beer and hot wings. The only ball Kris could find at the right weight was hot pink, and he took a lot of crap for it. Cara and I beat Sid and Max, but Jordan carried Kris to victory. We rotated teams for the next round. I paired with Sidney, in his black hoodie and baseball cap, trying to be incognito. I thought you could tell exactly who he was from across the room. It didn’t help that Jordan, gigantic Jordan, was howling and dancing his way to a lifetime high score.
“What is going on?” he asked me from the side of his mouth, pretending to tie his shoe.
“What?” He just looked at me.
“Max is a mess. I know him well enough. Plus,” he stood and loomed over me. “Your lip is swollen. Either someone hit you or someone kissed you.”
I closed my eyes and shook my head slightly. Sid understood that meant “Not now” and patted my arm. He turned back to the game with a shout, covering our whispered conversation.
We lost the next round, so Jordan sent me for more beers. I was barely up the stairs from our lane when I heard footsteps.
Max didn’t say anything, he just followed. I kept walking right past the bar, around the arcade and out the side door. I went left and leaded my back against the side of the building. He did the same. The sun shone right into our faces, so I closed my eyes. For a minute we didn’t speak. Then he reached down and put his hand in mine.
“Kahlan, what do I say? What do I do here?” he stepped in front of me, blocking the afternoon light. He was still holding my hand.
“I don’t know, Max,” I said softly, opening my eyes.
He was wearing a brown sweater with a high collar, open zipper at the throat, and the color darkened his piercing eyes. They were bottomless, full of worry and confusion. A little crinkled creased his brown, right between his eyebrows as he searched my face for a hint.
“I will do anything,” he said. “Anything. I will even walk away right now.” He touched my face, made me look at him. “But I do not regret what happened. I would never regret being with you.”
He thinks I regret being with him, I knew. Do I?
He continued. “I was arrogant. You were right. I thought that because I love you, you would love me back. I thought I had some kind of right to be with you,” he breathed out a disappointed little laugh. “You really set me straight, Kay. I had no idea how you felt, how all those other girls made you feel. I loved you even when those girls were around, and I didn’t even think that I was showing you I couldn’t love anyone, couldn’t care about anyone. I don’t think I cared about myself until I realized how much I care about you.”
Tears were stinging my eyes now, but he didn’t stop.
“I am an asshole. I have given you nothing but reasons to be disgusted by me,” he squeezed my hand, still in his. “And you cared for me anyway. You loved me even though I didn’t deserve it.
“Kahlan. I have made so many mistakes,” he stopped. “Did I make a mistake today? Did I take something from you that you didn’t want to give?”
“No Max,” I pressed my thumb into the palm of his hand. “No. I wanted you. I couldn’t even admit it to myself till it was happening, maybe I still can’t. But I wanted you. I made you come and get it because I knew, eventually, that you would.
“I trust you, Max. I’m sorry for the things I said. I never cared about those other girls before, they never bothered me. That’s just who you were. You’re the love machine,” I hiccuped a little laugh. “And the girls knew the rules. At least most of them.” He laughed at that too.
“I have never judged you over other girls. I was just angry and scared when I said that. But I didn’t mean it.” I looked up to meet his eyes. “I do not regret today either. It was out of control, but I feel my whole life is out of control right now.”
My eyes were stinging again. This was the part where I tell him what I want, who I choose, what I’m going to do. But I still have no idea.
“Ma petite,” he said. “You do not need to know the future. Not today.” He put his forehead to mine.
My sigh of relief was audible. I half wanted someone to just tell me what to do. I probably would have done it. But Max didn’t push, it seemed we’d had enough of that for one day.
“What about Kris?” I said.
Max put his hand through his hair. “Kris,” he said to himself. “It’s not fair, what I did today. Not fair to him.”
“Max, I did it too.”
“Yes, cherie, but we had rules. I made an agreement with him and I broke it. I will tell him, if you want.” He looked at me, then started to smile. “Or you could sleep with him, and we’d be even again.”
“Max!” My mouth fell open.
He laughed. “I know, I know. He’s not that kind of guy. You’re not that kind of girl.”
I thought about Sidney. Max didn’t know about us. I felt like I was keeping everything from everyone, making them think I was something better than I am. Better than what I had suddenly become. Plus, I felt defiant. I wanted to test Max. He was asking me to think nothing of his past. I needed to know if he could do the same.
I steeled myself. “I am not as great as you think I am.” He started to laugh, to dismiss me. “Max, I slept with Sidney.”
He froze. I felt surprise slap him like an open hand. He was silent for a long minute. “When?” he asked.
“The day he told you he wasn’t going to pursue me anymore,” I looked at the ground.
“It just happened. I was so worried I was going to lose you all. He was trying to ask me if he should give up, protect me from more confusion, protect himself from rejection… I think he wanted to make my decision for me.”
I met Max’s stare. He wasn’t angry, not yet.
“In a way, he did. As soon as it happened, we both knew that I didn’t love him. He asked if he should still give up, and I said yes. We walked away. I felt better. I’d actually done something, made some kind of decision – even a crazy, reckless one. Maybe I even knew he wasn’t the one, so I thought I could afford to make a mistake there.” I paused. “But it was not a mistake. No more than today was. But today was different.”
“Because I still want you,” he said, a little flatly.
“Because I still want you,” I answered.
His expression softened a little. I could see he was starting to relax. I was instantly glad I had told him, otherwise I would have hung it over my own head forever.
“I knew something happened that day. I couldn’t figure out what it was. Maybe I didn’t want to.” He put his hands in his pockets. “Because the thought of someone else touching you – anyone else – Kahlan, it makes me insane. I could kill. But I understand that you were not mine. You still aren’t… not yet.” He sighed. “So I had those girls, and you had Sid… and what, now we’re even?”
I shook my head. “Not everything is a game, Max. I just need you to know that I’m not perfect.”
“All I know,” he put his hand behind my neck and leaned in, “is that you cannot have done for Sidney what you did for me today. I could never have given up after that.”
I playfully pushed his chest away from me. “Actually, it was amazing,” I said matter-of-factly.
“Mon dieu, spare me!” Max pretended to choke himself. Then he got serious. “Don’t tell Kris,” he warned me.
“I would never,” I put my hand to my heart. “I don’t even know about today.”
Max shook his head. “I can’t tell you what to do there. I broke his trust, but he’ll be more upset with you.” He took my hand from my heart.
“And please, don’t sleep with Kris,” Max looked deeply into my eyes. “Not for my sake, for his. He couldn’t handle it. He can’t have you if he doesn’t get to keep you, it would break his heart.”
I pressed my lips together and nodded. Any second I’d be crying again.
“Let’s go,” Max pulled my hand toward the door. “They’ll think I kidnapped you.”
I went to bed that night completely confused. Max had been perfect, and that freaked me out. Not that I wanted him to put a claim on me now. But I felt like I deserved some kind of punishment. If he’d been furious, or demanding, I would have railed right back and probably felt a lot better about myself. Instead he was being the good guy and I felt more like shit.
4 years ago