Broken Juliet
Author:Leisa Rayven

I don’t want to look at the next message, but I know I have to. He sent it an hour after the first one.

 

<I fucking hate that I made you cry. Call me when you get this. I don’t care how hungover you are. We need to talk.> I stare at the screen for a long time as I reread his words.

 

“Cassie? Everything okay?”

 

“I don’t know. He said ‘we need to talk.’”

 

“Oh, shit.”

 

“That’s what I thought.”

 

I dial his number. It goes to voicemail. “Hey, this is Ethan. Leave a message. Or not. Whatever.”

 

I hang up.

 

“Dammit!”

 

“It’s only seven,” Ruby says, “and you did keep him awake with your drunken verbal abuse. Maybe let him sleep.”

 

“I need to borrow your car.”

 

“Uh … you don’t think you’re still too drunk to drive? I sure as hell am.”

 

“I need to get over there, Ruby.”

 

She rubs her eyes. “Fine. The keys are on my desk. But you might want to shower and get changed first. You have pepperoni stains on your boobs.”

 

I look down, and I’m not at all surprised to see she’s right. “Ruby, we are never drinking again.”

 

“Amen.”

 

 

 

 

Half an hour later, I knock on Holt’s door while nausea and panic fight it out to see which can make me vomit first. When he doesn’t answer right away, panic quickly takes the lead. I knock again.

 

After a few more seconds, I hear shuffling footsteps, then the door opens a crack to reveal Elissa’s squinting face.

 

“Cassie?”

 

“Hey, Lissa.”

 

“It’s seven thirty in the morning.”

 

“I know.”

 

“On a Saturday.”

 

“I’m sorry. Is your brother here?”

 

“No, or I’d freaking kill him. He bellowed something about going for a run about an hour ago. I hope he gets hit by a car. The hotheaded idiot banged around the apartment from like, three a.m. Swearing and slamming things around as he cleaned.”

 

“He … cleaned?”

 

“Yep. He only cleans when he’s beyond agitated. He started to vacuum around four. Did something happen between you two last night?”

 

“Uh, the thing is, I was drunk, and I … well, I think I verbally abused him.”

 

“You drunk-dialed him?”

 

I screw up my face. “Apparently.”

 

“Well, that explains a lot.” She yawns. “Do you want to come in and wait?”

 

“Sure. If that’s okay.”

 

“It’s fine.” She pulls the door open, then shuffles back toward her room. “He shouldn’t be long. Make yourself at home. I’m going back to bed. When he gets back, slap him over the head for me, would you?”

 

“Okay. Thanks. Sorry for waking you.”

 

“No problem.” She closes her door behind her, and I gaze around the living room. It’s spotless.

 

Never before has a tidy room given me such a sense of foreboding.

 

My head aches, so I sit on the couch and flick through a magazine for a few minutes, until I realize I’m barely looking at it. I toss it back onto the coffee table and head into Holt’s room. His bed has been made with military precision. Sitting open in the middle of it is … oh, God.

 

Is that his diary?

 

His neat writing covers both pages, and a pen lies along its spine.

 

Temptation, thy name is Holt’s Journal.

 

The urge to read it is almost impossible to resist, but I know how it feels to have your privacy invaded, and even though I’d give my left arm to get a sneak peek inside his brain, the breach of trust wouldn’t be worth it.

 

I close the book, careful not to look at what he’s written, and place it and the pen on the nightstand. Then I crawl onto the bed and shove my face into his pillow.

 

Hmmm. Smells so good.

 

Please don’t let him be angry with me. Let me be able to fix this.

 

Please.

 

 

 

 

Something brushes against my neck.

 

Lips. Warm breath.

 

I turn toward it, wanting more.

 

“Cassie?”

 

Shh. You’ll scare away the lips.

 

“Hey … you awake?”

 

“No. Shhh. More lips. My boyfriend will be back soon.”

 

The lips return. A different shape. Smiling?

 

They move up my neck, across my jaw. So soft but next to something rough. His chin. Cheek.

 

“Who do you think is kissing you?”

 

“Hmm. Orlando Bloom?”

 

Lips freeze, mid-kiss.

 

“Bloom? Seriously? Your boyfriend would kick that pasty Englishman’s ass.”

 

“Are you implying that you’re my boyfriend?”

 

More kisses that linger on my neck, then press softly against my ear. “I’m not implying anything. I’m stating it as fact.”

 

“Impossible. My boyfriend isn’t this affectionate.”

 

The lips stop. Breath exhales. Tension leaches from his body into mine.

 

I swallow, eyes still closed. “I’m sorry.”

 

“For what?”

 

“What I just said. What I said last night. Please don’t be angry. It was the wine’s fault.”

 

“No, it wasn’t.”

 

“Okay. You’re right. I can’t blame that entirely, but it helped.”

 

He cups my cheek. “Cassie, it wasn’t the wine, or you, or even Ruby, although I could hear her cheering you on. If it was anyone’s fault, it was mine.”

 

The excuse I’m about to say dies on my tongue. I open one eye. “Um … what?”

 

“You called me a fucking terrible boyfriend, and you were right.”

 

Both eyes open. “Did I actually use those words?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Even the ‘F’ word?”