Totally Tormented
Author:Lucy Covington

“You’re pretty well spoken for a dude who breaks people’s faces for a living,” I said.

 

“I don’t fight for a living, yet.” He sighed. “I’m actually a manager at Costco. It pays the bills.”

 

I grinned, trying to picture a guy like Jimbo doing a normal nine-to-five. He must have cleaned up pretty good to snag a managerial type job.

 

“Sorry if we’re boring you,” Jimbo said to Lindsay.

 

“Not at all,” she told him, taking a reluctant sip from her drink. “I’m just…taking it all in.”

 

Meanwhile, I looked around and noticed the way guys were checking Lindsay out. Apparently she wasn’t the only one “taking it all in.” Pretty much every man in the room—and even some of the ladies—were stealing appreciative—or in the girls’ cases, jealous—glances at her.

 

Why was it that my stomach immediately tightened into knots and I wanted to put my arm around Lindsay? I moved a step closer to her, knowing that I couldn’t truly behave how my instincts wanted me to. I couldn’t act like she was my girl because she wasn’t. And she never could be.

 

So then why did you bring her here? And why did you beg her to sleep in bed with you last night, and why are hoping she’ll stay over again? What is wrong with you?

 

Jimbo got distracted by a fight being shown on the giant flat screen TV in the other room, and wandered over to check it out.

 

I took another, longer, drink from my beer. I didn’t have any real answers and I didn’t want to have to admit it. I felt confused and somehow angry. I wanted to throttle the guys that were eyeballing her, and I wanted to throttle myself for the way I was feeling about her.

 

She’s a friend. That’s it. A friend.

 

But I knew it wasn’t that simple, and I hated that it couldn’t be. I hated knowing that someday soon, I was going to have to deal with the situation and it was going to hurt.

 

Because there was only one way this whole thing could end, and that was with Lindsay and me going our separate ways.

 

Not yet, though. Just enjoy being with her while you still can.

 

I glanced over at Lindsay and offered an apologetic smile. “I know it’s not exactly your scene.”

 

“I’m not some wilting flower, Justin.”

 

“I know that.”

 

She took a quick sip of beer, so quick that I wondered if she was “faking” it.

 

After Jimbo had joked about pissing in the beer, I couldn’t blame her.

 

“So,” Lindsay said, “that guy said something about you hitting like a truck. And he had a bruise under his eye. Is he the guy you fought with yesterday?”

 

“One of them.”

 

Her eyes widened. “How many were there?”

 

I took a long pull from my beer and tried to stare down anyone who had the nerve to look over at Lindsay. “I’m not quite sure,” I admitted. “Everything started to blur together after the first three or four.”

 

“You fought more than three or four people?” Lindsay shook her head. “Don’t you feel weird being at a party with the same guys who beat you up last night?”

 

“First of all,” I said, turning to her, “I didn’t get beaten up last night. I was in a fight. And I’m used to hanging out with the same dude who I might have to punch in the face next week or next month. It’s just the name of the game.”

 

“I just don’t really understand it.”

 

“I’m sure that’s true,” I said. It came out sounding a little sharper than I’d meant it, and Lindsay made a face.

 

“I know you think I’m na?ve and ridiculous,” she told me, “but the truth is, I just don’t like the idea of people hurting you.”

 

I was about to respond to her, when I saw Malcolm Stevens waving me over from the other side of the room. Malcolm “The Pit bull” Stevens was the standout wrestler that had given me hell last night. He looked even bigger and stockier in his long sleeved shirt and jeans. Standing beside him was a young woman, probably around my age. She had long, dark hair, an olive complexion, and pouty lips that quickly turned into a smirk as I looked over.

 

Was she his girlfriend, a groupie, something else entirely? Did I care?

 

Not really.

 

But Malcolm waved me over again and I thought I should attempt to be polite.

 

“Hey, this guy wants to talk to me,” I said to Lindsay.

 

Lindsay looked away. “Okay,” she said. “Go talk.”

 

I couldn’t tell if she was hurt, but I didn’t have time to sort through it, and I was a little aggravated with her for suddenly getting moody on me.

 

Still, I’d rather have just been alone—Lindsay and I—than hanging out at this party and feeling like she hated me and we had no business being together.

 

When I crossed the room and reached Malcolm, he held out his beer and we clinked bottles. “Cheers,” Malcolm said. He turned to the dark haired girl next to him.

 

“This is the new stud at the gym,” he told her.

 

“Justin Brown?” she said, looking me over with utter confidence.

 

“Do I know you?” I asked.

 

She smiled secretively. “No, but I’ve heard a lot about you in the last few hours.

 

You’re the talk of the town. What are they calling him, The Viking or something?”