Love Me(The Keatyn Chronicles #4)

By: Jillian Dodd

Monday, October 24th

Seriously insatiable.

7:07am



I manage to roll into the Social Committee meeting, Red Bull in hand, at 7:07, which is a feat of unparalleled proportions, as Dawson is seriously insatiable. And while I’m feeling quite relaxed, it’s safe to assume I didn’t get much sleep, for the aforementioned reason. Peyton and Whitney drone on about the Greek weekend’s success, what worked and what didn’t, while I do my best to stay awake and not to look at Aiden.

Because I kinda feel guilty.

They announce that, based on a Facebook poll, our next themed weekend will be French and how excited they all are. Peyton, Brad, Whitney, and Aiden were obviously busy last night.

Brad, who is sitting next to me, goes into details about their plans. I’m half listening, half sleeping with my eyes open.

“So I’m excited about the French theme, but we should have a catchy name for the weekend,” he drones on. “A slogan, if you will. Let’s brainstorm.”

I hear voices calling out ideas.

I see London, I see France.

That one makes me chuckle.

A Night in Paris.

A Weekend in Paris.

I imagine my trip to Paris. My pink dress fluttering around me like spun sugar.

Cougars and Croissants.

Berets and Beignets.

Viva la France.

Bonjour, Eastbrooke.

L’Amour.

I hear Peyton speak up. “Not to be critical, but I don’t like any of them. While Greek weekend was more about fun and games, I want the French weekend to have a completely different feel. I want it to evoke romance.”

I’m barely awake. Sort of stuck between reality and a Parisian daydream. I wistfully think of what Aiden told me that one day. It sounded so incredibly romantic.

“Top of the Eiffel Tower, sunset,” I whisper softly.

“What did you say?” Brad asks, knocking his elbow into mine.

“Huh? Uh, what?”

“What did you just say about the Eiffel Tower?”

“Um, I don’t think I said anything.”

“Yes, you did. Something about sunset.”

Peyton grins at me. “That’s it! Top of the Eiffel Tower. Sunset.”

Whitney nods enthusiastically. “I love it. It sounds so romantic.”

I gulp, realizing what I’ve just done. I don’t dare look at Aiden, but somehow, I can’t stop myself from glancing his way.

He does that thing. Where he stares at me, looks into my soul, grabs it, and doesn’t let go. Then he blinks slowly and his mouth starts that slow buildup to a smile. The little smirk, the smile, and then the full-wattage grin.

Shit.

I’ve got to get more sleep!

Brad hands out passes, adjourning the meeting. They talked all through history class and English is about to start, so I rush out of the room and head to class.



As usual, I sit next to Dallas during English.

“Do you wanna chill tonight?”

“Can we tomorrow night? I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. I’m really tired.”

“Yeah, where were you?”

“Relaxing.”

“Bullshit.”

“Why do you think it’s bullshit?”

“Cuz if you wanted to relax, you’d call me.”

“True. This was a surprise, though. I didn’t plan it.”

“Who did?”

“You can’t tell anyone, not even Riley. Dawson kidnapped me, blindfolded me . . .”

“Kink-ay.”

“No, like, he blindfolded me so I would be surprised about where we were going. Remember yesterday when I mentioned how much I miss baths? Dawson got this huge hotel suite with an amazing tub, so I took three super long baths. I think my fingertips might still be prune-ish.” I hold up my fingers to show him.

“So you and Dawes in the tub, huh?”

“No. I took all three baths by myself. He watched football. He did it to be sweet, not just for sex.”

“So you didn’t have sex?”

I roll my eyes at him.

“Fine. Tomorrow night. Just you, me, and the Cave. Got it? We seriously need to figure out who you’re choosing. You dating them both is not gonna work.”

“Says the guy who made out with three different girls at the Cave Saturday night. It’ll work just fine.”

But I’m not really sure that it will.



Parallel lines that will never cross.

Ceramics



Jake, Bryce, and I are sitting at our table, staring at our pieces that got fired in the big kiln this weekend. Jake’s bowl looks pretty good, although slightly off kilter.

Bryce attempted a vase. It’s round and fat on the bottom and gets skinnier toward the top, so it’s recognizable as a vase. We glazed it a pretty blue, so he probably got a decent grade.

Mine, however, is a disaster.

And I’m so sad because I worked really, really hard on it.

I rolled out tons of skinny strips, like when I used to make play dough snakes when I was little. Then I rolled each snake into a curled up circle, flattened the circle, and put all the circles together to make a bowl. It looked amazing and I was so proud of it.

It, however, did not survive the kiln. It melted apart and is lying in front of me, a bunch of circular pieces in ruins.

“Lookin’ good,” Jake says, elbowing me.

“Shut up. You know how hard I worked on this.”

Our teacher flits by, telling me I needed to put the circles on a base, as she hands us back our grade sheets.

Bryce says, “Sweet, I got a C.”

Jake flips his paper over, grinning and showing off a B.

I don’t even want to look at mine.

“You failed, huh?” Jake asks.

“I’m sure.”

Bryce flips over my paper. On the top of it is a B. “How the hell did you get a B? It fell apart?”

I read the note from the teacher. You had a beautiful and creative design. This was the most thought you’ve put into a piece all year. I’d like to see more like this from you. We’ll work harder on the structure next time. If it had survived the kiln, you would have gotten an A.

I leave ceramics feeling good about my grade, but wondering about my life.

And how the broken pieces relate to it.

I’ve never worked on my structure. I fell apart every time Brooklyn ditched me and I’m not going to do it again.

I want a relationship that can survive the kiln.

I know Dallas thinks I need to choose, but I don’t want to.

And, after last night, I’m not ready to.

Dawson is like my history class. It doesn’t relate to ceramics. They are two separate classes that don’t intersect. Completely parallel lines that will never cross.

I can keep them separate.

And in the mean time, I’ll work on my own foundation.



All’s fair in love and war.

Lunch



As I walk into the café, Annie grabs my arm and pulls me aside. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me you were with Dawson at a hotel!”

I pull her back out into the hall. “How do you know that?!”

She looks at me like I am an idiot. “It’s on Facebook?”

“It’s what?! What does it say?”

She fiddles with her phone, pulling up Dawson’s profile and shoving it in front of me.



I heart hotel bath time with Keatie.



I close my eyes tightly and mutter, “I’m going to kill him.” I calm myself down and open my eyes. “When did you see it? Do you think Aiden saw it?”

“I think everyone saw it, and everyone knows you were both gone last night.”

“When did he post it?”

She looks down at the screen. “About an hour ago.”

My panic returns. “Annie! We have to go to French next. How am I supposed to go to French? Ohmigawd! History and ceramics just intersected! They weren’t supposed to do that! I think I’m gonna be sick. Can you be sick too? Can we skip?”

“What are you talking about classes intersecting? You’re making no sense, and you’re freaking out. You never freak out. If you like Aiden, why did you spend the night with Dawson?”

“I’m so confused, Annie. I thought Dawson and I were just about sex. And I was going to be done with him, but then he got me this huge suite because I had mentioned that I missed taking baths. He’s trying to romance me. And I took three baths all by myself while he watched football.”

“So you didn’t do anything with him?”

“That’s beside the point, Annie. I cannot go to French! What am I gonna do!?”

“Are you mad at Dawson for posting it?”

Then it dawns on me. He did it on purpose. What did he tell me? All’s fair in love and war?

And maybe it is, unless you’re collateral damage.

Am I collateral damage?

Do I even know what collateral damage is?

Or was it a direct hit?

I spy Dawson sitting at the lunch table and chatting with Bryce.

I march over with my hands on my hips, and Annie on my heels. “A word with you?”

Bryce grins. “I wondered why you were all dreamy in ceramics.”

I ignore him.

“What’s wrong?” Dawson asks.

“Your Facebook post,” I say grimly.

His eyes sparkle at me, and he shrugs. Normally, I would find this very sexy.

I sit down in the chair next to him. “Please, delete it,” I plead.

“Nope.”

“I hate you.”

He leans in and whispers, “No, you hate that you love sex with me so much that you can’t give it up. And I can play too. Why is it okay for Aiden to take you to fancy French dinners? If it weren't for him, we'd be back together.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it. It’s because of you that we’re not together.”

“But, Keatie, you understood. You forgave me. Obviously. We’ve done a lot of making up.”

I shake my head at him, not sure what to do.

I don’t eat. I feel sick because I know what’s next.

French.

I don’t know who to turn to for advice, so I decide to send Grandma a quick email.



Grandma—

How do you choose between two evils?



“Annie, ohmigawd, walk with me to French. Tell me something. Distract me.”

“Like what?” The thought of having to distract me seems to make her panic.

“Tell me more about this weekend.”

She smiles sweetly, her panic gone. “It was good. The night we almost did, um, it, I did more than touch it.”

“More with your hand or with your mouth?”

“Both! I figured I would do it wrong, but I was really excited that it worked.”

“It usually does.” I laugh. “Well, that's good. So you’re in love?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“But you said it?”

She sighs. “I know. And now I’m worrying about it. I'm probably analyzing too much and not feeling enough.”

“For a hopeless romantic, I'm surprised you’re not just letting yourself feel.”

She stops walking and looks at me intently. “Is that what you do?”

I think about that. Am I the polar opposite of Annie? Do I feel too much and analyze too little?

“Is that what you think I do?”

“I don't know. You seem ruled by emotion. Like, you go with whatever you feel at the time.”

“Actually, no, Annie. That’s not right. With Dawson, I feel and don't think. With Aiden, I think and try not to feel.”

“Why? Why do you keep doing stuff with Dawson when you really like Aiden?”

“Because it’s scary, Annie. Dawson is a known quantity. Maybe he doesn’t love me in the true love fairy tale sense, but how many people even find that in high school?”

“Two percent.”

“How do you even know that?”

“I looked it up on the internet. I wanted to know what the odds are that Ace and I would actually stay together and get married.”

“That percentage is really low.”

She nods. “I know. But I really do love him.”

“I really loved my ex, too. But we’re not together now. My point is, when you are in love, it’s all rainbows and sunshine. But my mom says that relationships are hard work. And lots of people date, break up, get back together, and end up happily married. Just because Dawson doesn’t know what he wants out of his life now, it doesn’t mean we couldn’t be happy together in the future.”

“Or not.”

“Exactly. That’s my point, exactly. So maybe it is more just lust with us. But it’s fun. It’s easy. I know where I stand with him. I know what to expect. He's sweet. The sex is hot. With Aiden, I don’t know what to expect. And I like him, Annie, I do. And that’s part of why I kinda think I’d be better off with Dawson. I don’t want to get hurt again. Some of the stuff that Aiden says is so amazing, but at the same time, it’s almost unbelievable. Like I don’t know if he’s just telling me what he thinks a girl wants to hear or if he really means it.”

“What does your heart say?”

“My heart is afraid of Aiden.”

“I want to marry Ace. We always have so much to talk about. We even watched the History Channel last night, and he thought it was cool, not weird.”

“Wow, that is weird.”

She bumps my arm. “Shut up!”

I laugh. “You know I'm just teasing. I’m really glad you’re not mad at me anymore. I missed you.”

“I missed you too. Shit,” she says, nodding her head to the right. “There's Aiden. Three o’clock.”

“Let’s pray he didn't see it.” Then I grab her arm and whisper, “Truth be told, I could picture myself married to Aiden.”

“So stop seeing Dawson.”



We sit down in class.

Aiden files in after us, sits at his desk, and immediately leans up behind me. “So, you were at a hotel with Dawson?”

“Yes.”

“Taking baths?”

“Yeah. Earlier yesterday I was telling him and Dawson and Riley that was one thing I really missed about home. I used to take a bath almost every day.”

“And what’d you do in the bathtub?”

“Soaked. Relaxed. Fell asleep.”

“Whatever.”

“Not that it’s any of your business, but Dawson and I did nothing in the bathtub. He watched football while I took a bath. Actually, two very long baths. Like, it was hours. Then we got hungry, so we ordered room service, and then I took another bath. Alone.”

“And then you spent the night with him. Or did you sleep in the bathtub too?”

“Um . . .”

“Never mind. I don’t want to know.”

Class starts, so I can’t talk to him. I get my phone out sneakily—I’m learning—put it under my desk, and text him.



Me: I’m always alone when I take a bath. It’s like meditating for me. I close my eyes. Feel the warm water on me. Let my mind wander everywhere or nowhere. It’s like my time. I love it here but there isn't any ME time. We’re constantly with people. What Dawson did for me was sweet. I am mad about the post though, and he knows it.



Hottie God: You spent the night with him. I know what that means.



Me: Can we hang out tonight after tutoring? Please don’t be mad at me. I didn’t plan it. He surprised me. I thought we were done, honestly.



Hottie God: Sometimes I hate you.



Me: Dawson never hates me.



Hottie God: Ever think that’s cuz he doesn’t care as much as I do?



Me: I don’t know what I think.



Hottie God: :(



Me: Could we do tutoring with food tonight?



Hottie God: Off site or my room?



Me: My room. We never hang out in my room. I’ll order Chinese? Maybe you can see the stars.



Hottie God: Will Katie be there?



Me: Nope :)



Hottie God: You gonna ditch me again?



Me: No. I promise.



Hottie God: Pinkie swear?



Me: Absolutely.



Most important to you.

Dance



Right after dance, Peyton sticks her head in the locker room and says, “Keatyn, can you please come in Miss Tina’s office with me?”

“Uh, sure.”

Peyton shuts the door behind us.

Shit. Am I in trouble?

Miss Tina shuffles through some papers then she looks up at me and says, “It has come to my attention that you’re currently failing English. You know if you’re failing, you don’t get to dance.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“We explained it to you at the beginning of the year. How you have to keep your grades up, just like all the sports.”

“Oh, yeah.”

I feel like I could cry. My face gets all hot. I don’t know what to say. I’m so embarrassed. I’ve never failed anything.

“So, today is Monday. If you want to perform at the game this week, you’ll have to get your grade up above a 70. You’ll still practice with the team. You just won’t get to perform.”

“Okay,” I say, trying not to cry. I can’t even believe I’m in this situation. I have always gotten good grades.

“Do you have an English test or homework coming up that could help raise your grade by Friday?” Peyton asks gently.

“We have a test on Thursday.”

“Study hard for it. You’ve got a 68, so if you do well, you’ll bring it up easily.”

“Okay.”

Miss Tina adds, “You also might consider lessening some of your commitments. You’re in a lot of extracurricular activities and seem to have an active social life. You need to decide which of those things is most important to you.”



Avoiding evil.

4:45pm



And once again.

Someone spoke words to me about one subject that make me think about another subject.

You need to decide which of those things is most important to you.

It’s like the universe is telling me to choose.

But I’m too tired.

I get in my room, drop my backpack on the floor, and lie on my bed.



I go to take my English test, but I don’t have a pencil. Only a pen. And the teacher won’t let me take it with a pen. She tells me I should’ve chosen more wisely.

Then I feel a hand rub across my face. It’s very relaxing. Something my dad used to do to me when I was little. He’d run his fingertips across my face, up the bridge of my nose, across my forehead, down my cheek, and across my chin. It’s how he would get me settled down and ready for bed.

But what does this have to do with English?



I slowly open my eyes.

Aiden is sitting on the edge of my bed running his hand across my face. He smiles at me.

“Can we forget tutoring, and you can just rub my face forever?”

“Forever, huh?”

“It feels good. It’s an expression. I just meant, like, for a while, before we get started.”

I assume he’s going to comply, so I close my eyes. He runs his fingertip across my eyelid, probably totally destroying my eye shadow, but I don’t care. I keep my eyes closed and lean my head toward him. As he runs his hand across my hair, my mind flashes to forever, him taking care of me like this. I hate that I can see forever with him so clearly, but I have no idea what to do about him today.

“Are you dating Chelsea too?” I blurt out, not opening my eyes.

His hand stops. “No, why?”

“Because you hung out with her Friday night. I wasn’t with Dawson. You could’ve . . .”

“Yeah, I could have. But you were upset. I didn’t want to upset you anymore.”

“And you were talking to her at the Cave too.”

He leans down, kisses my forehead, my cheek, and then my nose. “I know you have unfinished whatever with Dawson, and I don’t want to push you. Are you about finished with Dawson?”

“I don’t know. He’s really sweet to me.”

“Look, I don’t know if this is gonna work.”

See. He can’t be my forever love.

He’s already giving up on me.

On us.

And I don’t know why, but little tears spring up in my eyes, run down the sides of my face, and into my ears.

Actually, I do know why. It hurts to hear him say it.

“What’s wrong?”

“I’ve just had a bad day,” I lie. Well, not lie, exactly, because I have had a bad day. My blurting out the Eiffel Tower comment this morning. Dawson’s Facebook thing. Aiden being mad about it. The soccer workout from hell. Failing English. Choosing a pen when I should’ve chosen a pencil, and, now, Aiden giving up.

“What happened?” he asks in a way that sounds like he has the power to fix anything.

Aiden is so far in my heart.

How did I let that happen?

I’ve been trying so hard not to let him in.

“I’m failing English. I’m gonna get kicked off dance if I don’t do really well on my test Thursday.”

“I know how you feel. I went through that all last year. The pressure and threat of being kicked off all my teams because of French. Thank goodness Miss Praline was nice and let me do just enough extra credit to keep me at about a seventy, but it was so close, always. I did have to sit out two basketball games, though. It sucked.”

“I just have so much going on. It’s hard to find time for it all.”

“Okay, so this week, instead of you tutoring me in French, I’m going to tutor you in English.”

“We still have to do our French homework, but that’d be nice. Why are you so nice to me, Aiden?”

I wait for him to say something incredibly sweet. Smile that blazing smile at me. Kiss me.

“Well, I need you out there dancing, shaking those pompoms for me and the team.”

Oh. Wow. He only needs me to dance for him while he’s playing football? Me and seventeen other girls.

Not really what I wanted to hear.

I sigh, “Oh.”

“So, when is the Chinese coming?”

I grimace. “I forgot to order it. I’m so sorry. I came in my room, dropped my backpack, lay down and, well, you woke me up.”

“Sorry.”

“No, it was the best way ever to be woken up.”

He smiles at me. Like I just gave him the best compliment in the world.

“You haven’t been getting enough sleep.”

“I know, last night I . . .”

He doesn’t let me finish. He immediately flicks off the switch.

I used to wish that I could flip the switch. Whatever it was that made him so powerful and attractive to me. So I could speak without stuttering, laugh without sounding like a hyena, and think without getting all foggy.

But I won’t ever wish for that again. I don’t like seeing it flipped.

He slumps a little and frowns at me. “You know what? I’m hungry; you’re tired. Why don’t I just go to the café, and you can get some more sleep. See ya later, Boots.”

And he leaves.

Mad at me again.

Like I told Annie earlier, at least I know where I stand with Dawson. With Aiden I feel like I’m standing in quicksand, slowly being sucked under, while he’s standing off to the edge, watching me, trying to decide if he should let me suffocate or toss me the rope that’s in his hands.

I pick up my phone and see that Grandma replied to my email.



Keatyn—

Since I’m not sure what you’re talking about in reference to two evils, I’m going to assume we are talking about boys, seeing as you asked about true love recently. I hope you are dating nice young men, not any young hoodlums. I know the bad boy gives girls thrills, but he also usually breaks your heart. Well, not always, your grandfather was a bit ornery when I met him. Anyway, I haven’t replied because I’ve been trying to decide what to tell you. Mae West said, “When choosing between two evils, I like to try the one I’ve never tried before.”

I say, skip the evils and find a nice boy.

One who will treat you like gold.

Love you,

Grandma



Grandma doesn’t realize it, but she just gave me totally conflicting advice. If I follow Mae’s advice, I would chose Aiden. I want to chose Aiden. But I need him to choose me.

And is that selfish? Maybe. But I have to take care of me.

Take care of my heart.

If I take Grandma’s advice, I’d pick Dawson. Dawson is a nice young man. He’s sweet, and he won’t hurt me. I know he already hurt me once, but he doesn’t have the same power over me that Aiden does. That I-see-my-life-in-20-years-and-he’s-still-in-it power.

I wish Aiden would just stop wooing me and throw me over his shoulder like a caveman, say I’m his, and drag me back to his cave forever. Then I’d know.

Right now we’re in this awkward, half friends, half study buddies, and half boyfriend-and-girlfriend place.

Wow, even my math skills have gone to shit.

Because, clearly, three halves do not make a whole.

Okay. This week is all about studying. All about me. I’m going to avoid both Dawson and Aiden. I’m going to be too busy studying to deal with them. That’s my plan.

I’ll avoid evil all together.



Katie, Annie, and Maggie come bounding into the room.

“Hey, we’re getting ready to go to the café. Wanna come?” Maggie asks.

“I don’t feel very good. I think I’m just gonna stay here.”

“Do you want us to bring you back something?” Annie asks sweetly.

Katie butts in. “Are you sick?”

“Or did relaxing with Dawson wear you out?” Maggie jokes.

“I think maybe a little of both, but I sorta feel sick.”

They head out to dinner.

Am I lovesick?

I call Riley.

He answers. “Hey.”

“What are you doing?”

“Eating dinner with Dallas, Aiden, Logan, Parker, and some other guys. Where are you?”

“I think I’m getting sick.”

“Does Riley need to bring you some soup?”

“I’d love that. I was supposed to tutor Aiden, but he’s mad at me, and I think he hates me again. Wait. Why are you sitting with Aiden? You never sit with him.”

“I don’t know, just did.”

“Oh. If you wanna bring me something, that’d be cool. My throat kinda hurts, so I’m not that hungry, but I sorta am.”

“I’ll find something. See ya in a few, baby.”

I go wash my face, put on some comfy pajamas, and lie back down.

I start dreaming I’m in a car that’s crashing at an intersection.



Riley sits on my bed. I open my eyes, but it’s not Riley. It’s Aiden, holding a styrofoam bowl and a plastic spoon.

I cover my face with my hand.

“You weren’t supposed to come. Why are you here?”

He gently grabs my hand and uncovers my face.

He leans in and kisses my forehead. “Riley said you’re sick. You don’t look sick.”

I’m now positive he can read my mind. Does he just keep getting more powerful by the freaking day? But if he can read my mind, why doesn’t he know that I’m crazy about him?

“My throat hurts.”

“You’re tired. You don’t get enough sleep.”

“You didn’t answer my question. Why are you here?”

“Why does Riley call you baby?”

“I don’t know. He just does. He thinks he needs to protect me. Like a big brother or something.”

“Baby is what you call your girlfriend. Not your friend.”

“Why does it matter? And you still haven’t told me why you’re here.”

“I brought you soup.”

“Yeah, I see that, but why? You left mad at me. But you’re always mad at me, so I’m used to it. You wanna know the real reason I’m still seeing Dawson? That’s why. And I know my saying that is gonna make you mad again, so you might as well take your soup and leave. You’re going to anyway.”

He glares at me, his eyes turning a pissed off shade of forest green.

He sets the soup on my nightstand and walks out my door.

I call Riley and don’t even let him get out a “hey.” “WHAT THE HELL!?”

“Your throat seems to be better. Did the soup help?”

“I haven’t eaten the soup. Why the hell did you send Aiden?”

“He volunteered. I thought you’d like it.”

“One: he and I were supposed to have dinner together, but he got mad and left. Two: I had just taken off all my makeup and put on pajamas because I thought it was you coming. And three: now he is mad at me again. Rileeeeeey, come over, please.”

“I’m supposed to go hang with Ariela.”

I don’t say anything. I just let out a pathetic huff.

“Fine,” he says. “I’ll be right there.”



A few minutes later, he is sitting on my bed.

“She’s pissed at me now.”

“Why?”

“Cause I call you baby, and I just ditched her for you.”

“Didn’t you tell her I’m sick?”

“Yeah, I don’t think that mattered.”

“I’m sorry. Just forget it; go see her.” I bite my lip and start to tear up. What is wrong with me?

Riley stares at me. “Scoot over,” he says as he slides onto my bed. I lay my head on his chest and hug him. “Are you really sick?”

“My throat is scratchy.”

He rubs my back gently. “Eat your soup.”

“I think I lost what little appetite I had when Aiden left. Riley, did you tell Ariela that you liked her right away? Like, how did she know?”

“Baby, seriously, you know Aiden likes you. Why do you keep questioning it?”

“Because he’s questioning it.”

“Why do you think he’s questioning it?”

“I have no clue.”

“Because you are still seeing Dawson, maybe?”

“No way I’m giving up Dawson for someone who doesn’t even know what he wants.”

“Well, that makes sense, I guess. Why don’t you try to get some sleep. I’m sure things will be better in the morning.”

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