Breathless Page 15

He cleaned her up and put her back in Adam’s bed. Then he wrapped the quilt around her and lay down beside her.

Adam brought her Tylenol and a glass of water, then left them alone.

Quinn stared through the darkness at the ceiling. It wasn’t spinning now. Every breath seemed to clear her head.

Stupid tears were still leaking out of her eyes, and she angrily swiped them away.

“I’m sorry,” said Nick.

“So you’re g*y?”

He was silent for a moment, and his voice was careful. “I don’t know.”

“No offense,” she said, mocking his earlier tone, “but I’m pretty sure that’s the kind of thing you’d know by now.”

He rolled up on one shoulder to look down at her—but he didn’t say anything.

And then she recognized the uncertainty in his eyes, the mixture of worry and fear and panic and need. She struggled with acceptance every day—she’d never considered that someone like Nick Merrick would be struggling with the same thing. He’d seemed like such a rock, such a steady, put-together guy, and she’d latched on to him, hoping to find some security.

He was really just as screwed up as she was.

That chased the anger away. “Do your brothers know?” she said quietly.

“I don’t know if there’s anything to know, Quinn.”

Well, that sounded like a heaping load of self-denial. She didn’t look away from him and chose her words carefully. “Do they have any idea you might have entertained the thought of kissing another boy?”

His voice was resigned. “No.”

“Not even Gabriel?”

“No. Jesus, no.”

She stretched her hand out from under the blanket and found his. “It’s okay,” she said. “I won’t tell anyone.”

He rolled back to stare at the same ceiling, but he kept hold of her hand. “I should have just taken you back to my house tonight.”

“No, I’m glad this happened.” Then she winced. “I mean, not the puking part. But I thought you were just stringing me along.”

“Quinn.” He squeezed her hand. “I kind of was.”

She moved closer and put her head on his shoulder. “But now I understand why.”

Nick sighed, but he didn’t say anything.

“I should have known you were too good to be true,” she said.

“What does that mean?”

“It means my luck sucks,” she said. “It was nice dating a guy who treated me like a friend instead of a blow-up doll.”

“You were the one trying to unzip my pants in the truck!”

“Yeah, well, I thought you weren’t interested. I didn’t realize that your divining rod just pointed in a different direction.”

“You’re killing me,” he said. But it sounded like he was smiling.

Quinn sighed. “So I’m back on the market. You should have left me on the beach with those guys.”

His voice sharpened right up. “Quinn, that was insane. You know that, right? After what happened with Becca—you can’t—you just—”

“I had nowhere to go!” she cried. “My mother threw me out again—”

“Next time, call me. Or Becca. This was crazy. Anything could have happened.”

“Becca was with Chris. And you—you weren’t—”

“I wasn’t what?” He pushed her off him so he could look down at her. His voice was fierce. “I wasn’t your friend? I wasn’t concerned? Jesus, Quinn, just because I don’t want to sleep with you doesn’t mean I don’t care about you.”

She stared at him. No one had ever lectured her like that.

She kind of liked it.

Nick ran a hand through his hair. “God, you’re crazy. Do you think people will only like you because you put out?”

“I don’t just think that,” she snapped. “It’s true.”

“It’s not,” he said softly. “I promise you. It’s not.” He paused. “You said it was nice dating a guy who was a friend. Why don’t you slow down a bit and take a break from all the . . . ah, extracurriculars?”

Quinn smiled. “You and your vocabulary.”

“I’m serious,” he said. “Why don’t you put all that passion into your dancing?”

“So you want me to hump Adam on stage? I’m not sure that’s the kind of audition he’s looking for.”


She squeezed her eyes shut. She was losing Becca to Chris. It was okay, and she got it, but now she was going to lose Nick, too. It was almost enough to force tears between her lashes again.

She opened her eyes and looked down at him. Her voice was choked. “Could we keep dating?” When Nick frowned, she rushed on. “Not like for reals. Just—just for a little while?”


Because she didn’t trust herself not to jump on another motorcycle the next time her mom was a raging bitch or a cheerleader called her fat or there wasn’t any chocolate in the house. Because Nick was still someone steady to lean on, someone who wouldn’t use her. Somehow this revelation made him safer, and for the first time, she wanted to cling to a boy especially because he didn’t want to put his Tab A into her Slot B.

Not like she could say that. “It would help you, right? Keep a secret?” When he didn’t say anything, she studied his eyes. “Or . . . are you going to come out . . . ?”

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