Authors: Erin McCarthy
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #New Adult, #Contemporary, #General
YOU MAKE ME
by Erin McCarthy
2014 by Erin McCarthy
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner and the publisher of this book, excepting brief quotations used in reviews. Purchase only authorized editions.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, businesses or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
2014 by Sarah Hansen, Okay Creations
Formatting by Polgarus Studio
Special thanks to Rhonda Helms and the wine bar. This book wouldn’t exist without both of you.
Thanks also to Christy Carlson, for helping me flesh out the story while we were on a plane escaping winter.
And of course, thank you to Emily Brontë for her fabulous novel of passion and flawed characters.
Heath said he would never leave me.
He promised that nothing, no one, would ever come between us.
I was lying on the grass staring up at him, overwhelmed at how much I loved him, and how intensely good it felt to have him sliding inside me, my sundress shoved up around my waist. The ground beneath my back was hard, the grass cool and dewy. My body hot. Tense.
“Cat,” he murmured, his pale blue eyes locked onto me. “I don’t exist without you, you know that, right? You make me who I am.”
A year long friendship. A sly flirtation. All while falling deeply in love as we were left mostly alone on the rocky shores of coastal Maine. It had all brought us to that moment of surrender on the grass.
“I love you,” I whispered, throat tight. No other words were right or weighty enough to express what I was feeling as I gave him my virginity, my trust. I felt full of him, body and soul, and nothing in my life had ever been so perfect, so important.
“I love you, too.” His tongue ran over my bottom lip as he came inside me, and all his words echoed around and around in my head and my heart.
Yet they were promises that were broken.
And lies he told me.
Because that was the last time I saw him.
There is a danger when you leave the past behind, and reinvent your life, that at some point you’ll look at yourself, and no longer recognize who you see. I felt that way the night of Homecoming, getting ready with Aubrey, our hair, nails, makeup done, dresses on and zipped.
“Oh, my God, we look amazing,” she said, smiling at our reflections.
I didn’t want to grin, because it seemed super conceited to stand there and smile at my own reflection, but I couldn’t prevent the corner of my mouth from lifting up. There was nothing of the teenage Cat in the mirror, the girl with the snarly long black hair who ran around barefoot, berry stains on my fingers. The poor girl who never had the right clothes. There was only Caitlyn, college junior, vice-president of my sorority, well-dressed, well-liked. I had worked hard to be her, and there she was, in a cobalt blue dress, going to the Homecoming dance with her perfect boyfriend, Ethan Walsh.
And somehow she was me.
The ultimate makeover that none of my UMaine friends even knew had happened. They all thought I’d been born that way, like they had. Shit together, supportive families, promising futures. I’d had none of that, and now I did.
“My brother is going to swoon when he sees you,” Aubrey said, messing with a curl on her updo. “He’s already ridiculously in love with you. This dress will make him go all Byron on your ass.”
“Bryon wrote besotted poetry, but he was also involved with married women and most likely was bisexual. I don’t need Ethan to pull a Byron,” I said, amused, adjusting my shoes. “I kind of like him faithful and into girls, specifically me.”
Aubrey and I had been friends first, paired together in a bio lab as freshmen, and through her, I had met Ethan. It had started out between us as a quiet friendship but had grown into something more as I realized that he was solid. Loyal. Hashtag No Drama.
Unlike some people who had to remain nameless because they didn’t exist, and I was never talking about them ever again. People who just walked out on you without a word and disappeared from all social media and you heard not one goddamn thing from them in four years and they could be dead for all you knew.
Those people were Drama and I was staying away from that type this ride on the relationship merry-go-round. Ethan didn’t make me burn for him, but Ethan didn’t make me doubt myself or my sanity either.
Ethan had never made me cry.
“You ready?” I asked Aubrey. I was excited for the whole Homecoming thing and I didn’t want to miss the grand entrance, where all the sorority guests walked under the arch of all the guys’ arms at their frat house. It was cheesy and retro, but I liked that about it. There was something awesome about strolling through all the guys, looking hot, having your escort meet you halfway. For someone who never had tradition growing up, I enjoyed every single moment being a Black Bear and a sorority member.
“Yep.” She pulled on a thick black coat. “You know, it would really be nice if for once it wasn’t like five degrees outside for Homecoming.”
“If you want that, you’ll have to move.” I didn’t mind the weather. I had always liked that summers were mild, the air still breathable. Fall and spring crisp, the salty smell of the ocean in the air back home. There at school, I liked the dense foliage, the thick snow on top of the trees. It felt cozy to me, even if it was cold.
“You know I’m applying to every grad school down south that I can find that has a forensic psychology program. I’m so over the snow.”
“There is no snow outside. It’s October and you’re being dramatic.” I put my own coat on and grabbed my clutch. We made sure the door to her room clicked shut behind us before heading down the hall. The sorority house was quiet, which meant we were late. I walked faster.
“There will be snow. Soon. It pops up when you least expect it. Like a random dude’s hard on.”
That made me laugh. “Aub, there are warnings before a snowfall, just like there are with hard ons. There are verbal and nonverbal cues.” We went down the stairs, holding onto the railing with a death grip. I wasn’t that awesome with the three-inch heels and my perspective was totally off. Nothing was going to ruin my night, certainly not a face plant down the stairs.
“You are always so logical. You and Ethan are like the most reasonable people ever.” Aubrey hit the bottom landing and moved towards the front door. “I can’t believe my date is a freshman. How pathetic is that? I am going to Homecoming with my older brother’s frat baby brother. My love life has been reduced to handouts.”
I felt bad that Aubrey was feeling bad about not being with someone right then. “At least you know that Colton really wants to go with you. You’re a junior and gorgeous and he’s totally in heaven.”
“Whether he wanted to go with me or not is irrelevant. He couldn’t say no to Ethan. My brother runs the fraternity. Colton isn’t stupid.”
“He’s also cute, so what are you complaining about?”
“It’s my superpower,” she told me, giving me a smile that promptly disappeared when we started down the sidewalk, the wind cutting through our coats and across our legs. “Fuck me, it’s cold!”
It didn’t seem that bad to me, but truthfully, Aubrey didn’t need me to respond. We only had a short way to walk anyway and when we got to the Gamma house, it was completely lit up, couples milling all over the front path and visible through the windows. The receiving line of frat brothers was still in place and music was pumping out the open front door.
“Here we go,”Aubrey sighed. “Enter the arch of assholes on your way into the world’s most lamest Homecoming dance.”
Yet I was grinning while suppressing a girly squeal. Aubrey took all of this for granted but I’d never expected to have any of it, so for me it was everything I’d ever wanted. With poorly hung blue streamers wrapped around the front porch posts to cap it off. The guys started chanting some fraternity call as we walked under their arms and even though Aubrey rolled her eyes, I thought she secretly liked the catcalls and compliments they tossed our way.
One guy mimicked “call me” with his fingers by his face before winking.
I gave him a nod of acknowledgement and paused to take a pic with my friend Jay who yanked me out of the middle for a second, phone in hand.
After Jay let me go and I readjusted my purse under my arm, I stopped walking, goose bumps racing up my legs and across my exposed cleavage. It felt like someone was staring at me, that sensation when eyes drag across you longer than is appropriate.
Which was stupid. Of course someone was staring at me. Lots of guys were staring at me. It was the whole point.
Giving myself a mental eye roll, I started to search the remaining line for Ethan.
And instead my eyes landed on the back of a dark head, disappearing into the house, a shiver jiggling my shoulders unexpectedly. Walking on my grave. That’s what my father would say. Which never made a damn bit of sense to me, since I wasn’t dead and didn’t have a grave, but I always just took it to mean it was an ominous sign when you felt it.
“Who is that?” I asked Aubrey, looping my hand through her arm so I could lean in and talk to her.
“Who is who?”
“That guy who just went into the house.” He had seemed familiar. I must know him. I knew most of the Gamma guys.
She glanced up. “I don’t see anyone.”
“Never mind.” It was just a guy. It was clearly bothering me only because I hadn’t recognized him on sight, but how many guys did I recognize from a ten second glimpse at the back of their freaking head? It was stupid. Half the guys on campus had the same short, spiky haircut. Plus they were all wearing suits, so of course they looked nearly identical. It was like trying to pick out one penguin from another.
Before I could say anything further though, Ethan stepped out from the line, suddenly appearing in front of me, a smile on his face. “Hey, Caitlyn.” He had one hand in his pocket. “You look beautiful,” he said, his eyes filled with lust and admiration.
“Thanks.” Sometimes when I was with Ethan, I wasn’t sure what he saw when he looked at me. But I wasn’t stupid enough to ask. I just enjoyed it. “You look sexy.” I reached out and put my hands on his lapels.
His eyebrows rose but he laughed as his hand fell out of his pocket and onto the back of my waist. “Thanks.” He leaned in and kissed my temple, his warm breath teasing at my eyelashes. “I feel like the luckiest guy here tonight.”
He had light blue eyes, the color of the ocean in Mexico, not the ocean here in Maine. At home on the coast our water was dark and stormy, nearly black. There was nothing dark about Ethan. He had light hair, light eyes, a light personality. Those eyes were sparkling as he firmly took one of my hands, turned us toward the house, and lifted a flask to his mouth with the other. “Sip?”
“I’m underage,” I said, teasingly, knowing he didn’t care.
“You’re old enough.”
I took a swallow. He was twenty-two already, perfectly legal. Perfectly gorgeous. As the whiskey ran down my throat and settled into my limbs and between my thighs, I felt grateful that Ethan had been capable of drawing out desire from me. No one had been able to before. Not since Heath. I’d started to think no one ever would be able to again. Yet Ethan had, slowly, steadily, one kiss, one touch at a time, until finally I had been ready and willing to have sex with him.
He turned back to his sister. “You look pretty, Aubrey. I like the dress.”
“Thanks.” She was giving Colton a grimace.
The poor guy towered over her by about a foot and a half and he kept bending over to talk to her, at one point knocking her purse out of her hand. “Shit, sorry,” he murmured.
I gave her a look to indicate she should go easy on him, but then I was distracted by Ethan saying, “Smile.”
“What?” I turned and realized he wanted to pose in front of the frat house. I smiled for the camera, his arm outstretched to hold his phone. “Don’t you want someone else to take a picture for you? So we can pose better?”
But he shrugged. “We can do that later.”
Walking into the house was like having the red sea part for Moses.
Everyone moved out of his way. Everyone greeted him with a smile.
Ethan was the It Guy. He was a senior, pre-law, an excellent student, with a solid plan for his future in mind. He played soccer, ran the fraternity, and volunteered as a tutor. Everyone knew that he was going places and almost more importantly, he was a good guy, a standup friend and never an asshole.