Authors: Nadia Weiss
A BAD BOY ROMANCE
By Nadia Weiss
Table of Contents
I strolled into Creative Writing Practicum with my leather satchel slung over my shoulder and a confident swagger in my hips. It was the first day of my senior year in college, and the world had given me a crisp, sunny September morning to commemorate it. I loved the clear light that streamed through the windows of the musty Whitney Hall classroom.
Whitney Hall had been a good friend to me these past three years. I was a writer, and I had honed my craft here, at Merritt University. My dream was to work for
some day. I had visions of living in Manhattan, wearing black blazers and sexy, thick-rimmed glasses. My name, Ellen Castell, would be engraved on a plaque on my office door. When people asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I usually said I wanted to contribute to the marketplace of ideas and open new fields of dialogue. But mostly I just wanted to be right all the time.
As I walked into class to start my final year in college, I felt strong and confident. I also had a smug knowledge about how good I looked from behind in my new pencil skirt.
As I looked for a seat in my first class of the year, I studied the faces around me. There was the usual grab bag of students that you’d expect at a small liberal arts school in Oregon—the stoner with the dreadlocks, the sorority girl in a cashmere sweater. I spotted Owen, the features editor at the school paper,
The Merritt Daily
. I nodded to him as I walked past and he nodded icily back at me.
, I thought. He’d been my editor at the paper for over a year, and for all his airs, he wouldn’t know a good feature if it slapped him in the face.
Most of the seats were full, so I settled for an empty one in the front row. As I hung my denim jacket on the back of my chair and pulled out my notebook, I noticed the tattoos of the guy sitting next to me. His right arm was covered by a full sleeve of detailed tattoos, and his left arm showed a half-sleeve down to his elbow.
Wow, somebody’s got extreme taste
, I thought.
As I settled in, I heard the guy on the left of my tattooed neighbor talking excitedly.
“Wow, those tats are sick, man,” he said, grinning and bobbing his head up and down in approval.
The voice that answered was unexpectedly soft, but deep—it made me glance at the tattooed man again. I saw his profile; he had a tall, straight nose, a strong jawline, and thick brown hair, long on top but combed back. His dark, deep-set eyes were heavily lashed. He had on a plain white T-shirt that hugged his muscles and worn, dark jeans that were cuffed over leather boots. Judging by the way his legs were folded under the little desk, he was tall. He could seriously have been the leading man in a movie about a 1950s biker gang.
Holy cow. This dude’s hot.
“I have a tat on my shoulder but I don’t know if I could do a whole sleeve, man,” the excited guy continued. The Gorgeous Guy with the Tattoos just nodded.
“When did you get all your ink done, man?”
“I was fourteen when I got my first one,” Gorgeous Guy replied.
“Whoa! That’s cool.”
Gorgeous Guy didn’t sound like he was bragging, but I had to roll my eyes at this.
“Seriously?” I butted in with a scoff. Both pairs of eyes turned to me. “C’mon, where was your mom? Shouldn’t she have stopped you from getting ink at fourteen?”
There was a pregnant pause—too pregnant—and suddenly I didn’t feel so cocky.
“Yes,” said Gorgeous Guy, looking me directly in the eyes, “she should have. But that was the year she died. And that’s why I got a tattoo.”
My confident swagger froze solid in the pit of my stomach then shattered into a million pieces. I felt a surge of remorse. I briefly closed my eyes.
Oh, god. I am an asshole.
“I’m sorry,” I said. I made myself look him in the face. “I’m an asshole.”
He continued to look at me evenly.
“And an idiot,” I tacked on. He looked at me for a moment longer, then, with a light shrug he turned forward again without another word—but did I see the corners of his mouth turn up?
I was still grimacing with remorse when the lecturer called the class to order.
I walked out of Creative Writing Practicum feeling deflated and stupid.
Well, there goes being right all the time
, I thought. If I wanted to be as smart and pulled-together as I hoped to be one day, I would have to watch my mouth. After my comment to the Gorgeous Guy with the Tattoos, it had been impossible for me to concentrate on what the lecturer was saying, and class went by in a blur. I couldn’t shake my feeling of regret. I kept kicking myself with a phantom foot over and over again.
I had about an hour before my next class, so I texted Maggie, my best friend:
Are you out of class yet? First class was a failure, come and console me with a donut.
I headed straight to our favorite coffee shop on campus and ordered a black coffee. I had just sat down at a table and was taking the lid off my Styrofoam cup when Maggie dropped her bag in the seat opposite.
“So. Why was it a failure?”
I looked up to see Maggie’s pretty, all-American face in front of me. She was such a catch—blonde, petite, and feminine, with a killer bowling record. Watching Maggie hustle frat boys at the local bowling alley made me swell with pride. We’d been best friends since middle school, when she was a competitive bowler and I was scribbling ’zines that nobody but her read. We’d chosen to go to Merritt together. It was the one thing about our relationship that embarrassed me a little, but Maggie didn’t think anything of it. “You couldn’t do without me, bitch,” was her usual evaluation of the topic.
“Maggie, I grossly offended the hottest guy in class. I basically made fun of the fact that his mother was dead.”
Maggie’s jaw dropped. This was shocking, even for Maggie who knew all my past mistakes. I explained what had happened, and rather than consoling me Maggie burst out laughing.
“You are such a mess,” she said over her laughter.
“Ugh,” I said, dropping my head onto my folded arms. “You’re not helping. Go buy me a donut.”
“All right, you cry baby,” she said, still chuckling. When she came back with my donut, she took up a different train of thought.
this hot guy with the tattoos?”
I shared the donut with her as I described his manly jawline and his sultry, made-for-radio voice. Maggie listened appreciatively. She was a connoisseur of gorgeous men. But as I talked, I realized with some sadness that I didn’t even know his name.
“Ellen? Hey, El! Wait up!”
I was walking through the quad to my next class, sufficiently cheered up by Maggie and the donut, and it took me a moment to realize I was being called. I turned around to see Warren jogging toward me with a sunny smile.
I melted into an affectionate smile myself. Warren and I had a pleasant—if unconventional—relationship.
“Hey, buddy, how you doing?” he said, draping his arm around my shoulders and falling in step next to me. “Nice skirt,” he said with a roguish grin. The breeze tousled his mop of sandy hair and sent his flimsy T-shirt rippling against his defined pecs. It was a delicious sight.
“Thanks, buddy. I’m just heading to my next class. You wanna escort me?”
“Wish I could, buddy,” he replied, “but I have a meeting with the brothers. We’re having some people over to the house tonight. You wanna come by?”
“Yeah, I’ll probably see you there,” I said. “Save me a tequila shot.”
“I will. Later, buddy.”
Warren gave me a flirty wink and then jogged off. I stood for a moment, watching his strong body at work. Warren and I called each other “buddy” as a not-so-subtle joke about our status as fuck buddies. It was no secret, everyone knew, and we were both comfortable with it. Warren was attractive but he was a goofball, and I would never consider him seriously as a partner. Warren, I supposed, had his own reasons for feeling the same about me. We had found that perfect ratio of physical attraction and respectful indifference for each other. Warren was just Warren to me, like the kid down the block you play T-ball with. But instead of T-ball, we had rollicking sex. It was just good fun every time; it never got emotional. And it was practical—it was sex without the mess and theatrics. Afterwards you could go about your business and get things done.
Many people I knew had wished for or tried out a buddy situation but it always ended in emotional disaster. Warren and I had been exercising our system without any glitches since junior year when we met in an anthropology class. My friends couldn’t believe a relationship like Warren and mine could exist, and I knew what a rare treasure I had. Maggie even called Warren my “unicorn.”
But, for all it was worth, and for all that my friends envied me, I had to admit that it was starting to feel a little boring. At the end of the day, empty sex was just…empty. I was starting to crave something more, something with substance, something that demanded an emotional investment. Somewhat perversely, I wondered what it would feel like to have sex with someone and be afraid—be truly afraid—that that person could break your heart.
As Warren disappeared into a crowd, I roused myself from my confused thoughts and walked to class.
About eight hours later, I found myself slightly buzzed on cheap beer and walking over wet lawn with Maggie and Archie to Warren’s frat house. It was a crisp night for September, and I held my denim jacket tight around me with the collar up. Archie, who was the drunkest of us, was loudly enumerating all of Warren’s dazzling physical features, as usual. Archie had had a crush on Warren ever since he saw me making out with him on Maggie’s couch a year ago. Archie had a penchant for wanting what he couldn’t have, because Warren was as straight as they come.
oh my god
, how I would
to twist my hands through that
hair,” he was saying as we walked up the steps of the house, in full hearing range of the fraternity brothers milling around. Archie didn’t care much about tact, and that was one of the reasons why Maggie and I loved him.
“Hey, Mags!” one of the frat brothers called out as we entered the house. “C’mere, sweet cakes, grab a beer!”
Maggie rolled her eyes. “Sweet cakes? Why do we hang out with these guys again?”
“I don’t know,” I said with a shrug, and followed her into the kitchen.
Since it was the first night back at school, it was a casual get-together, not a raging party, and I appreciated the chill vibe of the loose crowd chatting and laughing. I was handed my beer and was walking back to the living room with Archie to survey the social scene when I froze. My eyes landed on the profile of a man lit by the dim light of the stairway. He had a chiseled jaw, deep-set eyes, dark brown hair…and tattoos on his arms.
“Oh my god,” I said under my breath.
“What?” said Maggie, joining us. “What’s wrong?”
“See that guy over there? With the tattoos? He’s the one I…had my encounter with in creative writing today.”
Maggie and Archie both looked. Archie gave a high-pitched little gasp and his hand went to his mouth.
“Good Lord, honey, that man is a
!” exclaimed Archie.
Maggie turned to me and clarified, “He’s the one whose mother, um, passed away?”
I closed my eyes, grimacing at the memory of it, and slowly nodded.
“Oh, El,” she said, “you really chose a bad one to piss off. He’s gorgeous
looks like he’s in a gang. He could probably get someone to ‘off’ you. You know, like if you made him mad enough—”
“Yes, thank you, Maggie,” I cut her off. “I gathered that much.”
Just then Warren came up behind me with a wide smile, and the sight of him seemed to bring me back to good ol’ solid, everyday earth. Seeing that mystery man with the tattoos in the dim light seemed to have excited a sense of uncertainty in me—it was a little scary, but kind of sexy.
“Hey, buddy,” said Warren.
“Hi, Warren!” chirped Archie before I could respond.
“You guys wanna do some shots with us?” Warren had on a short-sleeved plaid shirt and worn jeans that hung low on his hips. Warren may not have been the most original of conversationalists, but he looked really good, and getting drunk with him sounded exactly like what I needed.
“Always!” I said, leading the way to the kitchen.
After I had pounded two tequilas back to back, my cheeks felt hot and I felt a flame lick the inside my rib cage. I gave Warren a sly look. He was already looking at me with desire in his eyes.
“Let me see this new skirt again,” he said as he took my hand and made me twirl slowly in front of him. I was proud of my new purchase—it was tight, dark grey, and hugged all my curves. He gave a low whistle.
“Ellen Castell, you are one very well endowed lady,” he said, his eyes lingering on my behind. Out of the corner of my eyes I could see Maggie rolling her eyes and turning to Archie. They both knew what would come next.
“Hey, we got a new fish tank in the den upstairs. Do you want to see it?”
I grinned and nodded. Warren pulled me a little closer, his hand at the small of my back. I welcomed his touch, anticipating what was to happen in the den upstairs. That room, I knew, had a lock on the door. As he led me away, I turned back to Maggie and Archie and mouthed “Twenty minutes” over my shoulder. Archie gave me a thumbs-up. Maggie just grinned and shook her head at me.
Warren and I made our way toward the stairs, and I stiffened for a moment as I realized I had to walk by the Gorgeous Guy with the Tattoos, but I was relieved to find he was preoccupied, talking to someone. I quickly stepped to the other side of Warren, hoping his body would shield me from view. I breathed a silent sigh of relief when we were safely upstairs.
Leading me by the hand, Warren stepped into the den and turned the light on.
“Anybody in here?” he called out, his eyes sweeping over the old-fashioned room. There was wood paneling on the walls and hulking furniture upholstered in red leather. The room was superficially overdone and silly, looking like something out of the Clue board game.
It was Miss Castell, in the study, with the frat boy,
I thought, chuckling to myself. I did notice there was a new fish tank against one wall—so Warren hadn’t told a bald-faced lie, at least.
Warren was satisfied when no one responded, and he closed the door behind us, still holding my hand. He turned to me and smiled.
“And finally, I have her alone,” he announced, rather triumphantly. He gently pushed me against the door as he turned the lock with his other hand. I heard the bolt slide into place and my pulse quickened.
“We didn’t see much of each other over the summer,” I said, sliding my hands down his chest. “How have you been?”
“Good,” he said and gave me a light kiss on my neck. He circled his arm around my waist and brushed my cheek with his other hand. “Doing even better now.” He flashed that roguish grin again. “You?”
He slid his hand slowly from my face to just under my breast. He let it rest there gently and he kissed my bottom lip, pressing his body a little harder against mine. I found myself responding.
“Mmm…Pretty good,” I said, my hands wandering up his muscular back. I entwined my fingers in his hair. He was kissing me harder now, first on my mouth, then behind my ear, then on my neck. His hand moved up to cup my breast and he pushed his knee between my legs. My skirt was tight and thin, and I could feel the roughness of his jeans rubbing against me. I rubbed back, moving my hips back and forth, and a soft moan escaped my lips.
“Mmmm,” Warren pulled back slightly and looked me in the eyes. He smiled and bit his lower lip. I unbuttoned his shirt, listening to him breathing heavily. I laid my hands on his chest and paused for a moment, enjoying the sight of his tanned torso. He really was beautiful—golden tan and all muscle, the iconic California surfer guy. I bent my head and bit into his pectoral muscle over his heart—not too hard—and he groaned with pleasure. I pushed the shirt over his shoulders and it dropped to the floor. I kissed my way back up his neck, and when I reached his mouth, he kissed me deeply, pushing hard against me while his tongue searched the inner recesses of my mouth.
Warren’s hands moved down low, lower—and then they were lifting up the hem of my skirt. His fingers scraped the skin of my thighs as he pushed the material up. Suddenly, he wrapped his arms under my ass and lifted me off my feet. I wrapped my naked legs around his waist and he turned, carrying me easily to the overstuffed red leather couch. We dropped onto it, still kissing, and he reached a hand into his pocket.
“Oh, shit,” he said, his lips still against mine.
I pulled away. “What?”
“I didn’t bring a condom.” Warren looked annoyed and apologetic. “I’ll have to go get one out of my room.”
“Oh,” I said, pushing myself up from under him. I leaned against the arm of the couch. “I’m sorry, I think I’ve got one but my purse is downstairs.”
“Yeah, it’s okay. Don’t move. I’ll be right back.” He left the couch and went looking for his shirt.
But something inside me had deflated.
“You know, Warren, it’s okay. I think I should get going anyway.”
“What?” Warren looked up sharply, his arms frozen in the act of putting on his shirt. “Why?”
“I…” I faltered. I didn’t really know why. “I’m just kind of tired. First day of school and all.”
Warren looked scandalized. He’d never seen me turn down a free ride because of tiredness before.
“Are you sure? Is everything okay? Did I do something wrong?” He looked so concerned I had to laugh.
“Yes, I’m sure! Nothing is wrong and you’re great, as always. I just don’t have the mojo tonight, I guess. Please don’t take it the wrong way.”
Warren still wasn’t convinced, but after a moment he seemed to give in and shrugged.
“All right, I guess,” he said, buttoning his shirt. “It’s a shame I didn’t get to make the most of that skirt.” He looked wistfully at the grey material that was still bunched up at my hips.
“I will wear it again some day, I promise,” I said, standing up and straightening myself out. I cleared my throat. For some reason I had had enough and just wanted to go home. I looked at Warren again, who was leaning with his hand on the doorknob, looking at me with questioning eyes. I walked to him and rumpled his already rumpled hair.
“Sorry, buddy,” I said. “Rain check?”
Warren gave me a half-hearted grin and shrugged again.
“Whatever you say, buddy.” He opened the door and I walked out.