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Authors: Tabatha Vargo

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BOOK: Black Sheep
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“Julliard’s my dream, Ty. You know that. You’ve always known that.”

But you’re my dream, too.

The words whispered through my mind.

He nodded. “I know you love dancing, and you’re amazing at it. It’s just ...” He stopped, his fingers going through his thick hair once more. My body was warming with his words. It wasn’t often Tyson complimented anyone, much less me.

Then he spoke again, begging with his words.

“Don’t go,” he said so softly I almost didn’t hear him.

The room grew thick and warm. Whenever Tyson showed even the smallest amount of emotion toward me, something happened inside. Something light and happy. Something that longed for all the things I’d spent the last seven years of my life dreaming of.

Tyson cared for me. He’d never admit it, but I could feel it. It lurked just beneath his moody outer layer, but it was there. It was the same yearning I’d felt over the years.

Moving across the room toward him, I saw his body stiffen as I approached. His response to my potential touch hurt my feelings, but I tried my hardest to understand his reasons. Even if I didn’t know the details of his past, I knew it must have been pretty serious.

My arm brushed against his when I closed the door to my room with a click. There were things I needed to say, and the last thing I wanted was for my family to hear.

Tyson didn’t move, but a scarlet flush filled his dark cheeks. His black eyes glittered down at me with a ferocity that I’d never had directed my way before. Only the boys at school who attempted to date me or were hurtful to me in any way had received the expression he was showering me with right now.

“What’s the real reason you want me to stay, Tyson?” I asked, knowing he’d never give me the answer I desired.

His shoulders squared, and his muscles bunched beneath his shirt. “What do you mean? I told you, it’s not safe for you to be there alone.”

I shook my head and strands of my blond hair fell from my messy bun. “I’ll be perfectly safe there, and you know it. Dad would never send me somewhere unsafe. Plus, the school has all kinds of safety measures put into place for students. With my schedule, I won’t have any time to get into trouble anyway.”

He swallowed, his thick throat working up and down and making my mouth water to taste the dark skin above his collar.

“There are plenty of schools here,” he repeated his argument.

“I understand that, but I want Juilliard. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get accepted?” I moved closer, as if I were approaching a rabid pit bull. Then I went for it. I let my fingers brush his forearm, prompting him to pull his arm away. “I can’t let this opportunity pass, but I’ll come back to you, Tyson. I promise.”

He practically leaped away from me, his fingers once again getting lost in his dark strands.

“This has nothing to do with me.” He chuckled sarcastically as if my words were far off from their target. “I’m just saying I’d hate to see you run off to a big city and get yourself killed. It would destroy your mom and dad.”

I felt tears rush to my eyes with his hardhearted words. He cared about me, but he’d always met my feelings with resistance. I wasn’t sure what made me think it would be any different now. Maybe because I was leaving for New York. Maybe because in a way, this was our goodbye, and I knew it would be months before I had to face him again.

All I wanted was for him to admit just once that he cared about me. Just once, I wanted him to treat me as something more than Mr. and Mrs. Palmer’s daughter—a fragile being he felt the need to protect. Just once, I wanted him to treat me the way he treated other girls.

Tyson never had a girlfriend, but he did have girls. Everyone around school knew his reputation, and I hated when I heard him whispered about through the halls. I’d only seen him with a girl one time, and it was by accident at a party.

Still, seeing him pin some chick’s arms to the wall above her head while he plunged his tongue down her throat was enough for me. My heart had been broken since, but I wasn’t stupid. I knew girls wanted him. They wanted his dark looks and tall, muscular frame. They wanted him for sex, and he gave them exactly what they wanted.

It sickened me to think of him with other girls. I wondered if he let them touch him or if he pinned all their arms above their heads. It left a dark shadow on my soul every time the memory of that night at the party entered my mind, but thankfully, I’d never ran into something so heartbreaking again. Even if I knew it was happening every time he went out with his boys for the night.

It didn’t matter, though. Let him keep pretending nothing was between us. Let him act the part of the unattached playboy for a little longer. Soon, I’d be on a plane to New York, and I could grieve his loss then, knowing it would be a while before I saw him again.

Going to school and leaving it all behind was something I had to do. I couldn’t stay in Charleston and follow Tyson around like a lovesick puppy. I needed to spread my wings. Expand my mind. I needed to get away from everything that was holding me back from life and let loose. And I needed to do it without Tyson watching my every move. Without Tyson blocking every guy who looked my way.

He didn’t want to admit his feelings for me. He wanted to pretend he didn’t want me while making sure no one else could have me. That wasn’t going to be the case once I was in the Big Apple. I was going to flirt and date. I was going to live the life I’d missed while I spent my time dwelling over Tyson.

It was going to be great.

“I assure you I won’t get myself killed. Plus, Amber’s going to New York, too. We’ll stick together.”

Amber Goodwin had been my best friend since sixth grade. She was also the only person in the world who knew how deep my love for Tyson ran. Over the years, we would have sleepovers where we’d spill our hearts about the loves of our lives. Hers was different every few months, but mine was always Tyson.

We were total opposites. Where I was blond with blue eyes, Amber was a brunette with brown eyes. She was taller than I was and had an amazing extension in dance class, but while she loved dancing, her passion was science. She was the smartest person I knew, next to my dad, and I’d always known she was going to go amazing places in her life.

Growing up, we did everything together. From Barbies to boys—failed makeup attempts to new fads—we were inseparable, and the thought of ending up in two different states for college wasn’t something we ever discussed.

We’d received our acceptance letters on the same day—mine to Julliard and hers to Columbia University. After years of taking ballet together, we were moving into the world together. I wouldn’t want to share such an amazing adventure with any other person.

It worked out since Columbia and Julliard were only twenty minutes apart. We wouldn’t be alone in a big city since we’d have each other.

“Oh my God, Nicole. She’s worse off than you are,” he scoffed. “You can still change schools. There’s time. You’re staying here. Here, in this house, where I know you’ll be safe. Here, where I can—”

He bit off his words.

“Where you can what, Tyson? Where you can hound me and every guy who even looks my way? Where you can watch me like a hawk but never lay a finger on me?”

My heart was drilling into my ribs, slamming into the bone so hard it hurt.

“I have needs, too, Tyson. I’m so sick of feeling alone all the time.”

He huffed and shook his head. “You’ve never been alone.”

I noticed he didn’t mention my needs. He knew exactly what I was talking about.

We’d never spoken so freely before. Mostly because I’d always been kind of shy and quiet, but also because I had a deep fear of pushing Tyson away.

Well, I didn’t need to worry about that so much now because I was the one walking away. I was the one leaving, and even though he was never going to admit it, he hated it.

“I’ll tell you what,” I started. “I’ll stay. I’ll transfer schools and start next semester at some local university but only on one condition.”

His head popped up, his black eyes glittering with distrust. “What condition?”

I swallowed my nerves, the emotions choking me so hard I felt like I was going to gag. “Tell me how you feel about me. Tell me you want me and I’ll stay.”

His dark eyes widened, and his sharp inhale cut through the stillness around us. Everything went silent, and the sound of the clock on my wall at our side blasted through the room like it was in speaker.

I held my breath as I waited for him to say the words I’d always longed to hear, but instead, his lips crept up in a smug grin, and he started to laugh.

“This is stupid,” he said, leaning his back against the door and crossing his arms. “You know I care about you. You’re like a little sister.”

The air rushed from my lungs as if I’d been punched in the ribs. His words burned in my chest, leaving my heart feeling hollow and my stomach feeling nauseated. He’d never referred to me as his sister. Actually, it was kind of disgusting, considering how things had been between us over the years.

The secret glances.

The underlying emotions we dared not speak of.

His words were an insult to the feelings I’d spent the last seven years developing, and I wasn’t going to let him leave my room until he acknowledged his real feelings for me. Until he took back the words that had hurt me so badly.

I moved closer, and he watched me beneath long, black lashes.

I held my hand out to touch his arm, and his body went tense.

“Nicole,” he warned.

“Shhh. Let me,” I said, inching my hand even closer. “You know me, Tyson. You know I’d never do anything to hurt you.”

His eyes connected with mine, his tense jaw making the muscles pop in his cheeks.

And then I was touching him, and he wasn’t stopping me. My fingers looked pale against his dark skin when I pressed my hand to his arm. His hard muscle jerked beneath my touch, and I heard his deep inhale.

“I’m nothing like your sister. Take it back,” I said, letting my fingers work themselves cautiously up his inked sleeve.

Courage I’d never had before raged through me. I was leaving for a while. I wouldn’t have to see his face for a bit.

What was there to lose?

“Nicole,” he growled in warning.

“Yes, Tyson?” My words were slathered in innocence.

I didn’t stop.

The pads of my fingertips roamed up his arm until my hand was resting against his chest. His breathing accelerated, his chest moving up and down with his breaths. He was so hot against my palm. Hot and hard, and I wanted to remove the fabric between his skin and mine and feel all of him.

“Don’t,” he barked, moving me to the side and stepping away from the door where he leaned.

But I wasn’t finished trying. I still had thirty minutes before I left for the airport. I still had time to change things with Tyson before I left and went months without seeing his brooding, beautiful face.

I followed him, my fingers tangling in the soft fabric of his T-shirt.

“Take it back, Tyson. Admit that I’m nothing like a sister to you. Admit that you think about me the way I think about you. That you touch yourself while you think about me the same way I touch myself and think about you.”

I felt the blush on my cheeks, but I kept pressing and pulling on his shirt, afraid that once he slipped from my room, he’d never come near me again. I’d gone too far. I’d touched him and said things I could never take back.

“I’m in love with you, Tyson. I have been since the very first moment I saw you.”

“Fuck,” he muttered, his fingers going to his silky black strands once more.

“Did you hear me?” I asked desperately. “I said I…”

His large hand went over my mouth briefly before he tugged it away and rubbed his palms together. He peered down at me with an expression I’d never seen pass over his face before. He looked desperate and afraid, like he was genuinely scared of me.

I’d never seen Tyson terrified of anything.

Never.

“I never thought I’d say these things to you, but here I am.” I held my arms up. I moved closer, molding myself to his large frame in a brave move I never thought I’d use. He pulled away, pressing himself into the wall as if I had poison slathered all over my skin.

His breath pushed from his body hard and loud as his midnight eyes moved over my face with insecurity and a host of other emotions that had no authority on such a dark and demanding creature.

“What if this were our last time together, Tyson? What if I got on that plane and never came back to you? Wouldn’t you want me to know how you really feel? Wouldn’t you want me—”

His mouth crashed against mine with desperation. Whether it was desperation for a kiss he’d longed for as long as I had or to shut me up, I wasn’t sure. But what I did know was my body melted into him the way I always knew it would, and I lost myself in his kiss.

TWO

Tyson Payne

 

 

 

 

HEAVEN AND HELL.

I’d crossed the holy pinnacle and entered a place full of softness, light, and beauty, but while her hands on my skin felt like a miracle, I also felt like my flesh was being ripped from my body. Irrational fear struck me deep.

Nicole would never hurt me—at least not physically. Mentally, she’d fucked me up over the last seven years, but she didn’t know she was doing it.

Still, her mouth was heaven, and the devil didn’t belong in Heaven—I didn’t belong in Paradise. I knew that, but my brain ceased all functions the minute my lips touched hers. I was beyond all rational thinking.

My lips brushed against hers.

Once.

Twice.

Before I moved in for more, losing myself in her so completely, I forgot about her hands on me. I forgot she was touching my scars inside and out—soothing them and breaking them open again all at the same time. Her lips made me forget all the promises I’d made to myself over the years—made me forget about the pact I’d made with myself.

Never touch Nicole Palmer.

Each strike of her hot breath against my cheek was like an electric shock to my body, and I couldn’t hold myself back any longer. Her frame felt even smaller than it looked in my grasp when I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her to me. She was soft against my hardness, limp in my arms as she let go with me.

I’d never felt anything like it. Usually, I pinned a girl’s arms above her head to keep her from touching me. Typically, I took control and remained in power, but when my tongue met hers, everything inside me exploded.

Her soft, cautious touch changed, and she clawed at me like a wildcat, tugging at my shirt and pulling me to her as if she couldn’t get close enough.

She couldn’t.

She’d never be close enough.

And while her sudden movements and touches were freaking me out, I wanted more.

I wanted to feel her all around me—beneath me—inside me, lighting all the dark places where I hid my feelings for her—all the dark places where the memories and monsters lived.

Her fingers no longer scared me … they fueled me, forcing my black memories to the forefront and allowing her to slowly destroy each one. She took away the pain and cleared my mind in the strangest, most shocking way.

She tasted like sugar, like melted candy on my tongue as I savored her. My craving for her, the one I’d tamed over the years, grew, as I pulled her to me and thrust my hips. Seeking relief, I rubbed against her, her body feeling better than anything I’d ever felt … even with our clothes between us.

I wanted her.

Hell, I’d always wanted her.

Over the years, in my mind, every girl I’d climbed inside had been Nicole.

My Nicole.

The only girl to ever tame me, and she was clueless about it.

She was leaving me, and I wasn’t taking it well. I hadn’t been okay with the situation since the day she got her acceptance letter to Juilliard. She was a beautiful dancer, one with grace and limbs that went for days, but knowing she was going to New York alone left a sick feeling in my gut.

I couldn’t be there for her. I couldn’t protect her from the sick and demented fucks in the world. I’d go wild thinking about the terrible things that could happen to her while she was hundreds of miles away from me. And while I knew how badly she wanted Juilliard, I also knew how badly I wanted her. How badly the desire to keep her safe burned through me on a daily basis.

She reached between us, palming me through my jeans. Stopping my thoughts completely, her touch caused me to release an agonizing growl into her mouth. I’d had women … too many, actually, but none of them had ever touched me this way. Their fingers had never graced my dick, no matter how badly I wanted it. My mind would never allow it.

It was different with Nicole.

It had always been different with her.

My fingers covered hers, pressing her palm harder against me as I thrust myself into her hand, seeking what I knew I could never have with her. Every second I touched her, I darkened her with my shadowed sin.

Clarity broke through my lust and slammed into me. Tension crawled down my back, tightening my spine and making my entire body stiffen.

It was wrong.

Everything we were doing was wrong.

Her mother and father had taken me in, made me a part of their perfect family, and given me a life I would’ve never gotten without them. If it weren’t for them, I would’ve grown up on the streets, begging for food with only the clothes on my back, and this was how I was repaying them.

By touching their only daughter.

By tainting her with my blackness.

The broken sickness I was born with could be contagious, and the last thing I ever wanted to do was pass it to her—contaminate her perfection. If I ever climbed inside her, she’d never be the same. Her light … I’d extinguish it, bringing her into my darkness. That was the last thing I wanted since Nicole’s light had always been a beacon for me, leading me to do the right thing when the right thing was the last thing I wanted to do.

Bad decisions were in my blood—passed down from a father who ruined me—and touching Nicole was the worst decision I’d ever made. The addiction was instant, and I knew one day I’d overdose on her. Just like my father and his heroin except with more pleasure and more pain.

I pulled back, my body and heart feeling her loss the second I pushed her away.

“Fuck!” I cursed, as I gasped and rubbed roughly at my lips, trying to rid myself of her taste.

I’d never be able to walk away with her flavor on my lips. My craving would never let it happen.

She moved toward me, and I held my hand out to keep her away. I was too weak for her. I’d always been too weak for her.

Her big blue eyes stared up at me, full of trust and lust. Her white blond hair spilled from her bun, curtaining her beautiful face and skimming her flawless skin. She was everything, and I was nothing. The two could never mix.

Rage and disgust slammed into me.

How could I touch her?

How could I taint her perfection with my sin?

“That shouldn’t have happened,” I breathed, trying to catch the air she’d stolen away from me.

“Why not?” she asked, her cheeks flushed and her lips reddened from my rough kisses.

I hated myself for marring her delicate flesh with my touch. She was too good, too perfect for anyone, especially me.

“Because I don’t want you that way!” I yelled, not thinking of who else could hear our conversation.

It was the biggest fucking lie I’d ever told, and that included the lie about my father
accidentally
overdosing.

She stiffened as if I’d smacked her in the face. Her soft blue eyes widened with shock, and I had a front-row seat to the hurt that seeped into her expression when my words struck her conscience.

“But … you want me. I felt it in my hand. I felt it in the way you kissed me.”

I laughed, even though it was the last thing in the world I felt like doing. Truth be told, I wanted to scream in aggravation. Cry in physical pain as my body throbbed for her and repelled her touch at the same time.

“I’m a guy, Nicole. I have a cock,” I said bluntly. “It doesn’t take much to get me hard. That would’ve happened with anyone.”

“Are you trying to say I have no effect on you whatsoever? That you don’t care about me at all?”

She was on the verge of tears and seeing her respond that way felt like a kick in the balls. I never wanted to hurt Nicole. I never wanted to do anything but protect her and admire her from afar. Set her on a pedestal and worship her from beneath.

“Of course, I care about you. I told you, I’d do anything to protect you.”

It was the truth.

I’d do anything for her.

Anything
.

“Like a sister, though, right?” Her voice cracked with unshed tears, and I had to force myself to stay put instead of going to her and holding her to me.

I nodded, the lie slipping from my tongue like it was nothing. “Yes. Like a sister.”

Even saying it made me feel dirtier than I already felt. I’d crawled on disgusting floors as a child. I’d eaten the trash of others. Even thinking of Nicole as anything but the woman I craved made me feel filthy, as if I was rotting from the inside out.

What kind of man longed for his sister?

Craved her so harshly that nothing in life felt good anymore.

There was no pleasure.

There was no joy.

There was only the sweet, agonizing ache of wanting something I could never have.

She’d never be like a sister.

Never.

She was so much more than family—than blood—than life.

Finally, a tear escaped and rushed down her flushed cheek. I moved to wipe it away, but for once, she was the one pushing me away, leaving me feeling crushed inside.

“No,” she croaked. “Just stay away from me.”

She moved to her bed and slammed her suitcase closed, trapping the overflowing clothes inside.

“Nicole,” I muttered, somehow knowing I’d lost her for good.

Something had shifted in our unique relationship, and she was going to pull away from me in the way I’d always hoped she would.

I wasn’t good enough.

I’d never be good enough for her.

No one would be.

She didn’t respond.

Instead, she hefted her large suitcase onto the floor and pulled up the handle so she could roll it around.

Her tears had dried, and her broken expression smoothed into one of cool resolve.

“See you at Thanksgiving,” she said as she waltzed by me and out into the hallway.

She left me alone in her room with only the sounds of her suitcase thumping against the stairs as she took them one by one, leaving me behind like the nothing that I was.

It was what I’d always wanted. Over the years, she’d made it damn near impossible to stay away with her sweet smiles and lusty looks. I knew what she wanted. I’d always known. I also knew I wanted the same, but I’d never let that happen. I’d never curse her with all that I was. I was black trash, and she was white, incandescent light. I was hell, and she was heaven, and I’d never drag her down with me.

Never.

Ten minutes later, when I went downstairs, I was met with silence. Nicole and her dad had already left for the airport, but I could hear Mrs. Palmer in the kitchen.

I went into the room and stood in the doorway as she moved around the kitchen, scrubbing the spotless counters like she did when she was upset or nervous about something.

“Well, she’s gone,” she said with a stiff grin. Her graying hair was pinned in its usual bun, but a few stressed strands had escaped down the back of her neck. “My baby’s off to school—off to the big city without me.” Her voice broke, and I could tell she was holding back tears.

She stopped scrubbing the counters to look up at me. Her eyes were an exact match to Nicole’s—beautiful—knowing. She was the perfect definition of the word mother, and I was blessed to have her in my life.

“I couldn’t go with them, Tyson. I couldn’t watch her leave us.” Her eyes watered, and she quickly turned away to scrub the counter behind her.

I nodded, understanding her.

Donald and Connie Palmer were amazing parents. Thanks to them, the Palmers were a close family, one that I’d grown to love over the years. They took me in when I had nowhere else to go. They fed me and clothed me when I had nothing, and they accepted me and my flaws. I’d never forget the peace and happiness the Palmers brought into my life. Because of them, I had Nicole, and because of me, I’d lost her.

BOOK: Black Sheep
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