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Authors: Colina Brennan

Tags: #Romance, #romance sex, #Young Adult, #sex addiction, #Contemporary, #sex, #new adult, #contemporary romance

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BOOK: Addicted to You
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Maybe if he told James he was having dreams
about one of the subjects, he would be reassigned.

Except a part of him kind
of wanted to go back and see the group again. Specifically, he
wanted to see
her
.

At first, when he called the group out on
their hypocrisy—which he probably shouldn’t have considering he was
meant to fit in, but the words had been out of his mouth before he
could stop them—the suspicion in the way her head tilted had
worried him that he’d been caught. But then she had responded by
insulting him, and he realized she just wasn’t keen on having
others defend her. Or maybe she wasn’t used to it. She had regarded
the entire group with such contempt that it wasn’t hard to see why
the others didn’t like her.

And yet she had still helped one of them to
the door, which made him wonder just how much of her indifference
was feigned.

Maybe he hadn’t been the only one there
under false pretenses. He couldn’t believe that a girl who’d
perfected the ability to look simultaneously gorgeous and
contemptuous would attend a sex addiction treatment class if
someone wasn’t holding a gun to her head.

In his freshman year, some friends had
gotten caught drinking at a campus party. The University had given
them the choice of either a hefty fine or weekly alcohol
counseling. Maybe she was in a similar situation, although Will
could only imagine what someone had to be caught doing to be sent
to sex addiction therapy.

Best not to linger on that.

Throughout the whole meeting, she hadn’t
cracked a smile once. But in spite of the ‘Ice Queen’ reputation
the others in the group had given her, she’d shown plenty of
emotion. She was just more cautious about it, as if she expected
something terrible to happen if she let her guard down. Then, when
she finally talked, her voice had surprised him by being
unexpectedly low. Sultry. The opposite of cold and detached.

He didn’t even know her name, but everything
about her intrigued him.

Despite this, he wasn’t
sure if he even liked her. He
shouldn’t
like her. And he didn’t
know why his brain had turned on him by making him feel like a
pervert who
did
need therapy.

As he began typing up his notes, he recalled
the introduction he’d given and the reaction it had gotten. He
mentally cringed. He had practiced that speech three times,
perfecting his best ‘I’m a man on the edge of spiritual collapse’
voice. It had been meant to dispel any fears about his sincere
addiction, making him one of them. But instead, he had rattled
through the whole thing with a helplessly daft grin on his face and
confused the hell out of them. And all because he had been
distracted by a pretty face.

He should have been focused on his job, not
making eyes at one of his unsuspecting subjects.

“So how was sex therapy?” came a loud
voice.

He minimized his notes just as Finn
deposited himself on the edge of Will’s desk.

James only gave Will’s friend a brief nod of
acknowledgment. James didn’t mind Finn coming around, even though
he was an art major, because he usually helped file papers. James
was all for free labor.

Finn had been Will’s dorm mate their
freshman year. They had bonded over paintings—specifically, Finn
had painted them and Will had analyzed him by judging what he saw
in them. His general evaluation had been ‘adequately sane.’

“It's not—” Will stopped himself and shook
his head. “Sex therapy means fixing whatever issues you’ve got
through having sex, not learning how to resist it. If you have to,
call it hypersexuality.”

Finn gave him a blank look. “You are ten
times less cool than you were before you started talking.”

Will laughed. “Shouldn’t you be in
class?”

“Cancelled. Prof is hungover.”

Will gave him a skeptical look.

“Well, the email only said he was sick, but
I read between the lines,” Finn said, flashing a grin.

“And you actually got out of bed?”

Finn gestured at himself. His short, dark
blonde hair stuck out at all angles and his T-shirt looked like it
had never seen an iron. Or a washing machine. Was it some sort of
unspoken rule that art students look perpetually unkempt?

“Look at me. This is the image of a man
thwarted out of more sleep. I didn’t find out until I got
here.”

Will nodded at the stack of files James had
pulled from the wall shelves yesterday. “If you’re going to stick
around, be useful and put those away.”

Finn hopped off his desk and set about
organizing them. “So are you now equipped to restrain your manly
urges?”

“The research isn’t about learning how to
approach the addiction so much as it’s about whether those
approaches are credible, particularly since it’s an unregulated
treatment program.”

“Well then what did you learn?”

“I don’t think I should be discussing this
with you.” Will’s remark was accompanied by a pointed look at his
boss.

“Oh, come on, James loves me.” Finn glanced
over at James. “Right?”

James gave a noncommittal flap of his
hand.

Finn beamed. “There, see? Was there anyone
interesting at least?”

At his question, the series of
contradictions that was his mystery girl rushed through Will.

“You hesitated!” Finn crowed with, to Will,
a boggling amount of triumph. “Who was it? Was she hot?”

He was
not
interested in a sex addict, no
matter how gorgeous or intriguing she was. Unfortunately, when Finn
set his mind to something, he was like a mosquito buzzing in your
ear. So instead of replying, Will only smiled and pretended to
ignore Finn’s prying questions.

Chapter Four

 

After Leah’s last class (poetry still made
little sense to her, but she was pretty sure she could get by as a
writer without understanding everything Cummings ever wrote), she
drove the thirty minutes out of town to her family’s estate. The
gates stood at the end of a long, overgrown path. A brick wall
surrounded the grounds, although the elements had worn it down due
to a lack of upkeep. Or more specifically, a lack of financial
resources to pay for the upkeep.

Even in its current state, the mansion still
held glimpses of its former grandeur. Her parents did what little
they could—or were willing to do—to keep the lawn trimmed and the
paint from chipping, but she wished they’d just sell the place and
move somewhere more practical. Two thirds of the Carter Estate had
been closed off and left to gather dust. The rest was left to the
cleaning whims of her mother, who refused to pay for a
housekeeper.

Leah let the car roll forward down the
gravel path. Low hanging branches that hadn’t been trimmed since
before she was born dragged against her windshield. It was a good
thing her car was a green junker with plenty of old scratches to
cover up the new ones.

As she approached the gates, she pressed the
button on the remote she kept on her dashboard. The gates were huge
and iron with rusted hinges and the sort of floral metalwork that
would have been beautiful if maintained. As it was, they still held
an aged beauty found only with old structures. They shrieked as
they slowly swung open, and she drove forward onto the paved
driveway.

Before she’d even reached the walkway for
the three-story mansion, the front door burst open. Her brother
waved excitedly, his grin the most welcoming thing she’d seen all
day. Truthfully, he was always the brightest spot of her day, and
not for the first time, she wished her parents would just let her
take him. She’d raised him after all—he was practically hers.

Elijah had been an unintended, and unwanted,
pregnancy. Her mom, surprisingly, had refused an abortion, instead
planning to give the baby up for adoption. Leah wouldn’t even have
known about the pregnancy or their plans for the baby if she hadn’t
overheard her parents discussing it.

Since she had always wanted a sibling, she
begged her mother to keep him. She had promised to do everything
for him; she would be the baby’s full-time nanny. When Elijah was
born, she’d kept her word, despite the fact that she had only been
twelve at the time. Of course, her mom had to teach her the basics,
like changing diapers and mixing formula, but from the moment Leah
got home from school in the afternoons to the moment she left in
the mornings, Elijah was her responsibility. She and her mom had
switched roles—Leah became Elijah’s primary caretaker, and her mom
helped out only when necessary.

A part of her had hoped that having Elijah
would change things. Once her mom saw the baby, maybe something
would click inside her, and she would turn into the loving,
considerate person that books and TV said moms were supposed to be.
But her mom had handled Elijah with the same sort of detached
efficiency as the nurses at the hospital. Leah was just grateful
she’d helped out at all.

As for her dad, she couldn’t remember him
holding Elijah even once as a baby. But considering he’d always
treated Leah more like a pet than a daughter, it wasn’t too
surprising.

But they still wouldn’t let her take
him.

“Think about how it’ll look to everyone,”
her mom had argued.

“They’ll think we can’t take care of our own
son,” her dad had added.

“Because you can’t!” she had shouted,
furious with them.

Predictably, that hadn’t won her the
argument.

She waved at Elijah as she parked her car.
He stood leaning against the front door frame. For nine years old,
he was getting impossibly tall. He had the same hazel eyes and full
mouth as Leah, but unlike her, he was all smiles and good
cheer.

“How was school?” she asked, reaching out to
ruffle his hair.

He slapped her hand away, grinning. “We’re
learning about constellations. Can we visit the observatory?”

“Sure. Maybe next Sunday? I work this
weekend.”

The front door opened onto a large foyer.
They passed through the formal dining room, and she gave the
chandelier a scrutinizing look. A film of dust coated the hanging
crystals. She made a mental note to clean it before she left.

Leah banged around the large kitchen until
she found a packet of dry pasta and a jar of tomato sauce. Then she
rummaged through the fridge and was grateful to see her mom must
have gone grocery shopping recently. Elijah took a seat at the
opposite side of the island, smiling at her as she set the items on
the counter. He liked to watch her cook.

Seeing the happy way he watched her move
around the kitchen kind of hurt, but only in that dull ache sort of
way. It hurt because it reminded her of how she used to watch her
mom. Their mother was a brilliant cook. She could mix magic in a
pot and made even the barest ingredients taste like gourmet
cooking. She’d learned everything from her own parents, who had
both been culinary masters. Leah couldn’t remember much about her
grandmother because she’d died when Leah was four, but she did
recall the way she always smelled of different spices.

Her mom, who had always been emotionally
reserved, had changed after that. Then, when Leah’s grandfather
died a few years later, her mom quit the chef job that their
financial situation had forced her to take and she became as
distant as Leah’s dad. It was years before she began cooking again,
but even now, it was rare to find her in the kitchen. At least she
still went grocery shopping so Leah could make Elijah dinner every
day.

She grabbed a package of ground beef, an
onion, some green peppers, mushrooms, and then closed the fridge
and set those items on the counter as well. Then she filled a large
pot to boil the pasta, pulled out a host of spices from the spice
rack, and began chopping vegetables to spruce up the sauce.

A part of her wished her mom had opened up
about how much losing her parents had hurt her. Maybe their
relationship wouldn’t be so strained now, but Leah had been too
young to fully understand. She hadn’t known how to ask, and she
wouldn’t have known how to help. All she could do was wait every
night at the kitchen island and wonder if she’d ever see her mom
smile over a pot of homemade soup again.

By the time she was Elijah’s age, she had
accepted the answer was no.

“Can I help?” Elijah asked.

His eager face struck at that persistent
dull ache in her chest. She finished smashing a clove of garlic
before asking, “Did you finish your homework?”

Elijah made a face. “Almost.”

“Well, go finish it first.”

He slid from the stool, and she could hear
his footsteps echoing through the emptiness as he made his way
upstairs to his bedroom.

It wasn’t right, him home alone in such a
huge house. She saw him every afternoon, but she hated leaving him
afterward. The guilt ate at her, turning into a roiling anger at
her parents. She had moved out as soon as she could because she
could no longer stand being dependent on people who would never be
there for her, and despite the crushing guilt that she had about
leaving Elijah there, she couldn’t move back. Just the thought of
going back there to live set her pulse racing. It would be like
willingly jumping back into a hole it had taken years to climb out
of. She wouldn’t do it.

But Elijah needed her. And if her parents
kept refusing to let Elijah move in with her, maybe she’d just take
him anyway and to hell with them.

Elijah dragged his backpack into the dining
room where he set up on the table to finish his homework. Once the
sauce was done and the noodles were boiling on the stove, she
checked over his homework and circled the math problems he’d gotten
wrong. Then she pulled her book of nineteenth century poems from
her purse, which she’d tossed onto the kitchen counter earlier, and
settled next to him to skim through assigned pages. They were
studying the classics in order to develop their own poetry writing.
Her professor kept telling her to stick to concrete images instead
of meaningless pretty words. All poetry sounded like meaningless
pretty words so how was she supposed to figure out how to stop?

BOOK: Addicted to You
11.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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