My name is Tate. He doesn’t call me that, though. He would never refer to me by a friendly nickname. No, he’ll barely even speak to me. But he still won’t leave me alone.
We were best friends once. Then he turned on me and made it his mission to ruin my life. I was humiliated, shut out, and gossiped about all through high school. His pranks and rumors got worse as time wore on, and I made myself sick trying to stay out of his way. I even went away for a year just to avoid him.
But I’m done hiding from him now, and there’s no way I’ll allow him to ruin another year. He might not have changed, but I have. It’s time to fight back.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
One Year Ago
“No! Turn here,” K.C. shrieked in my right ear.
The tires of my dad’s Bronco screeched with the sudden, short turn onto a car-packed street.
“You know, maybe you should’ve just driven like I suggested,” I blurted out, even though I never liked anyone else to drive when I was in the car.
“And have you bury your face in your hands every time I don’t launch myself through every yellow light? Not!” K.C. responded as if reading my mind.
I smiled to myself. My best friend knew me too well. I liked to drive fast. I liked to move fast. I walked as quickly as my legs could take me, and I drove as speedily as was reasonable. I rushed to every stop sign and red light. Hurry up and wait, that was me.
But hearing the pounding rhythm of the music in the distance, I had no desire to rush any further. The lane was lined with car after car, displaying the magnitude of the party we were crashing. My hands clenched the steering wheel as I squeezed into a spot a block away from the party.
“K.C.? I don’t think this is a good idea,” I declared . . . again.
“It’ll be fine, you’ll see.” She patted my leg. “Bryan invited Liam. Liam invited me, and I’m inviting you.” Her calm, flat tone did nothing to ease the tightness in my chest.
Unfastening my seatbelt, I looked over to her. “Well, just remember . . . if I get uncomfortable, I’m gone. You catch a ride with Liam.”
We climbed out and jogged across the street. The party ruckus amplified the closer we got to the house.
“You’re not going anywhere. You leave in two days, and we’re having fun. No matter what.” Her threatening voice shook my already unsteady nerves.
As we walked up the driveway, she trailed behind me. Texting Liam, I assumed. Her boyfriend had arrived earlier, having spent most of the day with his friends at the lake while K.C. and I shopped.
Red Solo cups littered the lawn, and people filtered in and out of the house, enjoying the balmy summer night. Several guys I recognized from school lunged out of the front door, chasing each other and sloshing drinks in the process.
“Hey, K.C. How’s it going, Tate?” Tori Beckman sat inside the front door with a drink in hand, chatting with a boy I didn’t know. “Drop your keys in the bowl,” she instructed, returning her attention to her company.
Taking a moment to process her request, I realized she was making me surrender my keys.
I guess she wasn’t letting anyone drive drunk tonight.
“Well, I won’t be drinking,” I shouted over the music.
“And you might change your mind,” she challenged. “If you want in, I need your keys.”
Annoyed, I dug into my bag and dropped my set into the bowl. The thought of giving up one of my lifelines irritated the hell out of me. Not having my keys meant I wouldn’t be able to leave quickly if I wanted to. Or needed to. What if she got drunk and left her post? What if someone accidentally took my keys? I suddenly remembered my mom, who used to tell me to stop asking “what if” questions. What if Disneyland is closed for cleaning when we get there? What if every store in town ran out of gummi bears? I bit my lip to stifle a laugh, remembering how annoyed she would get with my endless questions.
“Wow,” K.C. shouted in my ear, “look at it in here!”
People, some classmates and some not, bounced to the music, laughing and living it up. The hair on my arms stood on end at the sight of all of the bustle and enthusiasm. The floors echoed the beat coming from the speakers, and I was speechless at the sight of so much activity in one space. People danced, horse-played, jumped, drank, and played football—yes, football— in the living room.
“He better not ruin this for me,” I said, the force of my voice sounding more forceful than usual. Enjoying one party with my best friend before I left town for a year wasn’t asking too much.
Shaking my head, I looked to K.C., who winked knowingly at me. I motioned towards the kitchen, and we both slithered our way, hand in hand, through the thick crowd.
Entering the huge, every-mom’s-dream kitchen, I spied the makeshift bar on the center island. Bottles of liquor covered the granite top along with two liters of soda, cups and a bucket of ice in the sink. Blowing out a breath, I resigned to keep with my commitment to stay sober tonight. Getting drunk was tempting. What I wouldn’t give to just let go for one night.
K.C. and I had sampled our parents’ liquor stashes here and there, and I’d been to a few concerts out of town where we’d partied a bit. However, it was out of the question to be off my guard around some of these people tonight.
“Hey, Tate! Come here, girl.” Jess Cullen grabbed me in a hug before I reached the bar. “We’re going to miss you, ya know. France, huh? For a whole year?” My shoulders relaxed as I hugged Jess back, my muscles less tense than when I walked in. At least one other person here besides K.C. was excited to see me.
“That’s the plan.” I nodded, letting out a sigh. “I’m set up with a host family and already registered for classes. I’ll be back for senior year, though. Will you save me a spot on the team?”
Jess was vying for captain of the cross-country team this fall, and competing was one experience in high school that I would miss.
“If I’m captain, honey, your spot is secure,” she boasted animatedly, clearly drunk. Jess had always been nice to me despite the rumors that followed me year to year and the embarrassing pranks that reminded everyone why I was a joke.
“Thanks. I’ll see you later?” I inched towards K.C.
“Yeah, but if I don’t see you, good luck in France,” Jess shouted as she danced her way out of the kitchen.
Watching her leave, my face quickly fell. Dread crawled its way through my chest and down to my stomach.
No, no, no. . . ..
Jared walked into the kitchen, and I froze. He was exactly the person I’d hoped not to see tonight. His eyes met mine with surprise followed by immediate displeasure.
Yep. I’m totally familiar with that look. The I-can’t-stand-the-fucking-sight-of-you-so-get-off-my-planet look.
His jaw clenched, and I noticed how his chin lifted slightly as if he had just put on his “bully” mask. I couldn’t seem to catch my breath.
The familiar pounding in my chest echoed in my ears, and a hundred miles away sounded like a really nice place to be right now.
Was it too much to ask that I had one night of normal teenage fun to myself?
There were so many times when we were kids, growing up next door to each other, that I thought Jared was the greatest. He was sweet, generous, and friendly. And the most beautiful boy I’d ever seen.
His rich, brown hair still complimented his olive skin, and his stunning smile—when he smiled—demanded undivided attention. Girls were too busy watching him in the hallway at school that they ran into walls. Like actually ran into walls.
But that kid was long gone now.
Quickly turning away, I found K.C. at the bar and tried to fix myself a drink, despite my shaking hands. Actually, I just poured a Sprite, but the red cup would look like I was drinking. Now that I knew he was here, I needed to stay sober around the asshole.
He walked around to the bar and stood right behind me. A nervous heat ran through my body at his proximity. The muscles in his chest rubbed against the thin fabric of my tank top, and a shockwave burst from my chest to my stomach. Calm down. Calm the hell down!
Scooping up some ice and adding it to my drink, I forced my breathing in and out slowly. I maneuvered to the right to get out of his way, but his arm shot out to grab a cup and blocked my passage. As I tried to squeeze out to the left next to K.C., his other arm reached out to grab the Jack Daniels.
Ten different scenarios ran through my head of what I should do right now. What if I elbowed him in the gut? What if I threw my drink in his face? What if I took the sink hose and. . . .?
Oh, never mind. In my dreams, I was much braver. In my dreams, I might take an ice cube and do things God didn’t intend a sixteen year old girl to do just to see if I could make his cool demeanor falter. What if? What if?
I had planned on keeping my distance from him tonight, and now he was positioned right at my back. Jared did things like this just to intimidate me. He wasn’t scary, but he was cruel. He wanted me to know he was in control. Time after time, I let the jerk force me into hiding just so I wouldn’t have to endure any embarrassment or upset. Enjoying at least one party had been my top priority all summer, and now here I was again, dreadful anticipation twisting me into knots. Why didn’t he just leave me alone?
Turning around to face him, I noticed the corners of his mouth turned up. The smile was lost on his eyes, though, as he poured a hefty serving of alcohol into his cup.
“K.C.? Pour some Coke into here, please.” Jared spoke to K.C. but his eyes were on me as he held up his cup for her.
“Um, yeah,” K.C. stammered, finally looking up. She poured a small portion of the liquid for Jared and glanced nervously to me.
As usual, Jared never spoke to me unless it was to bite out a threat. His dark brow knitted before taking a swig of his drink and walking away.
Watching him leave the kitchen, I wiped away the cold sweat that broke out across my forehead. Nothing had happened, and he hadn’t even said anything to me, but my stomach had hollowed all the same.
And now he knew that I was here tonight.
“I can’t do this, K.C.” My weary whisper was a contradiction to the force with which I clenched my cup. It was a mistake to come tonight.
“Tate, no.” K.C. shook her head, probably recognizing the look of surrender in my eyes. Tossing the cup into the sink and making my way out of the kitchen, I weaved through the throng of people as K.C. followed behind.
Grabbing the glass fishbowl, I began digging around for my keys.
“Tate, you are not leaving,” K.C. ordered, every word dripped with disappointment. “Don’t let him win. I’m here. Liam’s here. You don’t have to be afraid.” She was bracing me by my upper arms while I continued my search.
“I’m not scared of him,” I said defensively, not really believing it myself. “I’m just. . . .done. You saw him in there. He was already messing with me. He’s planning something. Every party we go to, or every time I relax at school, there’s some prank or embarrassment to ruin it.”
Still searching for my colorful DNA-shaped key chain, I relaxed the knit in my brow and offered a tight smile. “It’s okay. I’m fine,” I reassured her, my words coming out too quickly. “I just don’t care to stay and see what he’s cooked up this time. The dickhead can starve tonight.”
“Tate, he wants you to leave. If you do, then he wins. He, or that jackass Madoc, might come up with something, but if you stay and stand your ground, then you will win.”
“I’m just worn out, K.C. I’d rather go home mad now than in tears later.” I returned my attention to the bowl. Every time I sifted through a pile of keys though, my hands would bring up nothing resembling my set.
“Well,” I shouted over the music and slammed the bowl back down on the stand, “it looks like I can’t leave anyway. My keys aren’t in there.”
“What?” K.C. looked confused.
“They’re not in there!” I repeated, looking around the room. My money and my phone were in my bag. Two lifelines safe and sound. My other escape plan was missing, and the walls felt like they were caving in. Curses ran through my head, and the weariness that got me running before turned to anger. I clenched my fists. Of course, I should’ve known this was going to happen.
“Someone could’ve grabbed them by accident, I guess,” she offered, but she must’ve known that the odds of that happening were slimmer than people leaving the party this early. Accidents didn’t happen to me.
“No, I know exactly where they are.” I locked eyes with Madoc, Jared’s best friend and henchman, at the opposite end of the room by the patio doors. He smirked at me before redirecting his attention to some random redhead he had pressed to a wall.
Stalking over to him, K.C. followed in my wake as she viciously texted on her phone—Liam probably.
“Where are my keys?” I demanded, interrupting the pursuit of his next one-night stand.
He lifted his blue eyes slowly from the girl. He wasn’t much taller than me, maybe a few inches, so I didn’t feel as if he hovered over me like Jared did. Madoc didn’t intimidate me. He just pissed me off. He worked hard to make a fool out of me, but I knew it was all at Jared’s behest.
“They’re about eight feet under right now. Feel like a swim, Tate?” He grinned wide, showing his dazzling smile that turned most girls into puppies on a leash. He obviously loved every moment of my predicament.
“You’re a dick.” My tone remained calm, but my eyes burned from the anger.
I walked out to the patio and peered into the pool. The weather was perfect for a swim, and people were carousing in the water, so I trekked around the pool looking for the silver glint of my keys through all of the bodies.
Jared sat casually at a table with a blonde on his lap. Frustration knotted in my stomach, but I tried to appear unaffected. I knew every ounce of my discomfort gave him pleasure.
Spying the shimmering silver of the keys, I looked around for a pole to grab them. When nothing could be found, I looked to some of the swimmers for help.
“Hey, would you mind grabbing my keys down there, please?” I asked. The guy turned his eyes on Jared, who sat quietly back, watching the scene, and retreated from me like a coward.
Great. No pole, no help. Jared wanted to see me get wet.
“Come on, Tate. Strip down, and go get your keys,” Madoc shouted from Jared’s table.
“Fuck off, Madoc. You threw them down there, no doubt, so why don’t you go get them?” Liam, K.C.’s boyfriend, had joined her and was sticking up for me like he often did.
I slipped off my flip-flops and stepped to the edge of the pool.
“Tate, wait. I’ll do it,” Liam stepped up and offered.
“No,” I shook my head. “Thanks, though.” I gave him a grateful smile.
One whole year, I reminded myself, savoring the promise. I was going to have a whole year away from Jared.
I dove in hands first, and the water cooled my tense skin. My body immediately relaxed at the pleasure of the pool. No sound, no eyes on me. I savored the peace of it, the kind of peace I get when I run.
I continued downward using the breast stroke. Eight feet was nothing, and I reached my keys in seconds. Clutching them tight, I reluctantly ascended head first, releasing the air in my lungs.
That was the easy part.
“Whoo hoo!” An applause sounded from bystanders that weren’t actually cheering for me.
I just had to get out of the pool and face the whole party dripping wet. They would laugh and joke. I’d endure a few comments, and then go home and eat my weight in Swedish Fish.
Swimming gently to the edge and climbing out, I wrung out my long hair and slipped on my sandals.
“Are you okay?” K.C. came to my side, the wind blowing her long, dark hair.
“Yeah, of course. It’s just water.” I couldn’t meet her eyes. Here I was again. The laughing stock. The embarrassment.
But K.C. never blamed me. “Let’s get out of here.” She locked arms with me, and Liam followed behind.
“Just a minute.” I paused and looked over at Jared, who still had his challenging brown eyes on me.
Walking over to him—something I knew was a bad idea—I crossed my arms and gave him a pointed stare.
“I leave in two days and that’s the best you could come up with?” What the hell am I doing?
Jared fixed me with a hostile smile as he doled out the cards at the table. “You have a good time in France, Tatum. I’ll be here when you get back.” His threat made me want to hit him. I wanted to challenge him to deal with me now.
And I was none too comfortable with the thought of his impending wrath hanging over my head the whole year I was away.
“You’re a coward. The only way you can feel like a man is to pick on me. But you’re going to have to get your kicks somewhere else now.” As I dropped my arms to my sides, my fists tightened as everyone around the table and in the general area witnessed our exchange.
“Are you still talking?” Jared snorted, and snickers erupted around me. “Go home. No one wants your stuck-up ass here.” Jared barely spared me eye contact while he continued to deal cards. The girl on his lap giggled and leaned into him further. The crushing sensation in my chest hurt. I hate him.
“Hey, everyone, look!” Madoc shouted as I tried to hold back tears. “Her nipples are hard. You must be turning her on, Jared.” Madoc’s goading echoed through the backyard, and everyone began hooting and laughing.
My eyes closed with mortification as I remembered that I was wearing a white tank top and was definitely chilled from the water. My first instinct was to cross my arms over my chest, but then they’d know that they got to me. Hell, they already knew. My whole face stung with humiliation.
Son of a bitch.
I’d be going home in tears again. No doubt.
I opened my eyes, feeling flushed seeing everyone visibly entertained by the harassment I’d endured tonight. Jared stared at the table, nostrils flaring, ignoring me. His behavior still puzzled me after all this time. We used to be friends, and I still searched for that kid in his eyes somewhere. But what good did it do me to still hang on to a memory of him?
“Why is she still standing here?” the blonde sitting on Jared’s lap asked. “Is she like “special” or something? She can’t take the hint?”
“Yeah, Tate. You heard Jared. No one wants you here.” Madoc’s words came out slow as if I really were too stupid to understand him.
My throat closed. I couldn’t swallow, and it hurt to breathe. It was too much. Something inside me snapped. I pulled my fist back and popped Madoc right in the nose. He dropped to his knees, hands over his face, as the blood gushed through his hands.
Tears blurred my vision, and the sobs began erupting from my throat. Before I could let them get any more satisfaction out of me tonight, I walked as quickly as possible back through the house and out the front door without looking back.
I got in my car, K.C. climbed in the passenger side and Liam into the back. I hadn’t even realized that they’d followed me. It was on the tip of my tongue to ask about Jared’s reaction, but then I realized that I shouldn’t care. To hell with him.
I looked out the front window, letting the tears dry on my cheeks. Liam and K.C. sat silently, probably not sure what to say or do.
I’d just hit Madoc. I’d just hit Madoc! The novelty of my action was overwhelming, and I let out a bitter laugh. That really just happened.
I took a deep breath and blew out slowly.
“Are you okay?” K.C. looked at me.
She knew I’d never done anything like that before, but I loved the rush of fright and power I felt.
Hell, the last thing I wanted to do was go home now. Maybe a tattoo or something else was in the cards tonight.
“Actually, yes.” It was weird to say that, but it was true. Wiping the tears away, I looked to my friend. “I feel good.”
I reached to put the key in the ignition but paused when Liam chimed in. “Yeah, well, don’t let it go to your head, Tate. You’ll have to come back to town eventually.”
Yeah. There was that.
“So . . . how does it feel to be back home?” My dad and I video chatted on the laptop he bought for me before I left for Europe.
“It’s great, Dad. I’m set.” I counted off with my fingers. “There’s food, money, no adults, and you still have beer in the ‘frig downstairs. I smell a paaarty,” I teased. But my dad could give it as good as he got.
“Well, I also have some condoms in my bathroom. Use them if you need.”
“Dad!” I burst out, wide-eyed with shock. Fathers shouldn’t use the word “condoms”, at least not around their daughters. “That . . . just. . . .crossed a line. Seriously.” I started to laugh. He was the dad that all of my friends wished they had. He had a few simple rules: respect your elders, take care of your body, finish what you start, and solve your own problems. If I maintained good grades, demonstrated direction, and followed those four rules, he trusted me. If I lost his trust, I’d lose my freedom. That’s a military parent. Simple.
“So what’s the plan this week?” Dad asked, running his hand through his graying blonde hair. I’d gotten my coloring from him but thankfully not the freckles. His once vibrant blue eyes were dull with fatigue, and his shirt and tie were wrinkled. He worked too hard.
I lounged cross-legged on my queen-sized bed, thankful to be back in my own room. “Well, there’s about a week before school starts, so I have a meeting with the guidance counselor next Wednesday about my fall schedule. I’m hoping the extra classes I took last year will boost my Columbia application. She’s helping with that, too. I also have some shopping to do and then catching up with K.C., of course.”
I also wanted to start looking for a car, but he’d tell me to wait until he got home at Christmas. Not that I didn’t know what I was doing. I just knew he’d want to share that experience with me, so I wasn’t going to burst his bubble.
“I wish you were home to help me research projects for the science fair.” I changed the subject. “I guess we should’ve done that while I visited you this summer.”
My father retired from the military after my mom’s death eight years ago and worked for a company in Chicago, about an hour away, that built aircraft and sold it around the world. Currently, he was on an extended trip to Germany, holding mechanical trainings. After my year ended in Paris, I’d joined him in Berlin for the summer. My mom would be happy to know I’d traveled and had plans to continue as often as possible after high school. I missed her so much, even more so in the past few years than when she first passed away.
At that moment, the French doors in my room blew open with a gust of sudden, cool wind.
“Hang on, Dad.” I jumped off the bed and ran to the doors to peek outside.
A steady force of wind caressed my bare arms and legs. I leaned over the railing and took inventory of leaves flapping in the gust and garbage cans rolling away. The smell of lilacs wafted through my doors from the trees that peppered our street, Fall Away Lane.
A storm was seconds away, and electricity filled the air with anticipation. Chills ran over my skin, not from cold, but from the thrill of a storm brewing. I loved summer rain.
“Hey, Dad,” I interrupted him as he was speaking to someone in the background, “I need to let you go. I think a storm is on its way, and I should go check all of the windows. Talk to you tomorrow?” I rubbed my arms to erase the chill.
“Sure, honey. I have to run anyway. Just remember that the pistol is in the entryway table. Call if you need anything. Love you.”
“Love you too, Dad. Talk to you tomorrow,” I called out behind me.
Closing the laptop, I shrugged into my black Seether hoodie and opened the doors in my room again. Studying the tree outside, my brain snapped to unbidden memories of the many times I’d sat in that tree to enjoy the rain. I had shared many of those times with Jared. . . .when we were still friends.
Quickly looking up, I took note that his window was closed, with no light to speak of coming from his house that sat less than ten yards away. With the tree acting as a ladder between our bedroom windows, it always seemed like the houses were connected in a way.
During my year away, I had fought the urge to ask K.C. about him. Even after everything he’d done, part of me still missed that boy that was my waking thought and constant companion as a kid. But that Jared was gone now. In his place was a sour, hateful douchebag that had no regard for me.
Shutting and locking the French doors, I pulled the sheer, black curtains closed. Moments later, the sky opened up with a crack, and the rain let loose.
Awakened later that night, my brain unable to ignore the thunder and thrashing of the tree against the house, I flipped on my bedside light and crept to the doors to check out the storm. I caught the sight of headlights speeding dangerously down the street. I tilted my head as far to the side as I could and caught the view of a black Boss 302 charging its way into Jared’s driveway.
The car fishtailed slightly before jetting out of my sight into the garage. It was a new car model with a thick, red racing stripe running down the length of the car. I had never seen it before. Last I knew Jared had a motorcycle and a Mustang GT, so that car could’ve been anyone’s.
Maybe I had a new neighbor?
I wasn’t sure how I felt about that possibility.
On the other hand, that car would totally have been Jared’s taste.
After a minute or so, a dim light fell across my floor with the illumination coming from Jared’s room. I caught the sight of a dark figure moving behind his blinds. My fingers started to tingle, making them too weak to curl.
Trying to refocus my attention on the fantastical display of wind and curtains of rain, my heart jumped at the sound of Jared’s blinds lifting up and the wash of light spilling between our two houses. I narrowed my eyes as I saw Jared lift up his window and lean out into the night storm.
He appeared to be observing the spectacle, same as me. I could barely make out his face through the dense spatter of leaves, but I knew when he noticed me. His arms stiffened as he supported himself on the windowsill, and his head was bowed in my direction, unmoving. I could almost picture those chocolate brown eyes piercing me.
He didn’t wave or nod. Why would he? Absence wasn’t going to make his heart grow fonder—clearly. Dread and apprehension used to plague me when this guy was around, but now. . . .I felt a strange mixture of nervousness and anticipation.
I slowly backed up to close and secure the doors. The last thing I wanted was to trip and give away the emotions boiling under my calm exterior. During my time away, I’d thought about Jared, but I hadn’t dwelled on him, figuring that time and distance would cool him off.
Perhaps that prediction was too hopeful.
And maybe I wasn’t as bothered by his shit anymore.
“So, have you seen him yet?” K.C. leaned on the frame of my double doors looking over towards Jared’s house. I didn’t have to ask who she was referring to.
“No. . . .well, yes. Kind of. I saw a pretty severe looking Boss charging into his garage late last night. Would that be him?” I didn’t want to tell K.C. about seeing him at the window. Hoping to have a couple of days’ reprieve before we came face to face, I was trying to hang on to the calm I’d achieved during my year away.
I continued to sort through the clothes in my suitcase, picking out what needed to be hung up and what needed to be washed.
“Yep. He traded in the GT shortly after you left and bought that. I guess he’s been making a name for himself racing out at the Loop.”
My fingers clenched the hanger tightly at her words. Disappointment coursed through me as I realized that things had changed in the year I’d been gone. When we were younger, Jared and I had dreamed of putting a car together for the Loop.
“It’s a hot car.” I hated to admit it.
Jared used to work with my dad and me in our garage fixing up my dad’s old Chevy Nova. We were both eager students and appreciated the mastery it took to get a car in prime condition.
“In any case,” I continued, “with racing and his job, I just hope he’s too busy to get in my face this year.” I circulated the room putting things away, but my brain throbbed with annoyance.
K.C. backed away from the door frame and belly-flopped onto my bed. “Well, I, for one, am pretty excited to see the look on his face when he sees you.” She leaned her head on her hand, giving me a teasing grin.
“And why is that?” I muttered as I walked to my bedside table to reset my clock.
“Because you look great. I have no idea what happened between the two of you, but he won’t be able to ignore you. No rumor or prank will keep the guys away, and Jared will probably be sulking that he treated you so badly.” K.C. wiggled her eyebrows.
I don’t know what she meant about me “looking great”. As far as I knew, I looked the same as I always had. I stood at 5’7”, blondish hair falling to the middle of my back, and dark blue eyes. Gym workouts made me want to gag, but I had continued my running to keep in shape for cross-country. The only difference was my skin tone. After traveling this summer and being in the sun so much, I was pretty tanned. In time, though, that would disappear, and I’d be pale again.
“Oh, he never had a problem ignoring me. I wish he would.” I sucked in a breath through my teeth and smiled. “I had such an awesome year. The people I met and the places I saw. It all gave me a lot of perspective. I have a plan, and I’m not letting Jared Trent get in my way.”
I sat down on the bed and let out a sigh.
K.C. grabbed my hand. “No worries, babe. This shit has to come to a head eventually. After all, we graduate in nine months.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the foreplay between you and Jared,” K. C. chirped, straight-faced as she hopped off the bed and into my closet. “It can’t go on forever,” she called out.
“Excuse me?” Foreplay was a sex word, and my stomach flip-flopped at the thought of “Jared” and “sex” in the same sentence.
“Ms. Brandt, don’t tell me this hasn’t crossed your mind.” K.C. poked her head out of the closet, using a Southern accent as she pinched her eyebrows together and placed her hand over her heart. She held one of my dresses up to her frame as she examined herself in the full-sized mirror that hung on the back of my closet door.
Foreplay? I spun the word around in my head trying to figure out what she was talking about until it finally clicked.
“You think his treatment of me is foreplay?!” I almost yelled at her. “Yes. It was foreplay when he told the whole school I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome and everyone made farting noises as I walked down the hall freshman year.” My sarcastic tone failed to cover up my anger. How could she think all this was foreplay? “And yes, it was completely erotic the way he had the grocery store deliver a case of yeast infection cream to Math class sophomore year. But what really got me hot and ready to bend over for him was when he plastered brochures for genital wart treatments on my locker, which is completely outrageous for someone to have an STD without having sex!”
All of the resentment I had let go of this year was now back with a vengeance. I hadn’t forgiven or forgotten anything.
Blinking long and hard, I took a mental vacation back to France. Port Salut cheese, French bread, bonbons. . . .I snorted when I realized that maybe it wasn’t France but the food that I had really loved.
K.C. stared at me, wide-eyed. “Uh, no, Tate. I don’t think he is engaging in sexual foreplay. I think he really does hate you. What I’m saying is, isn’t it about time you fought back? Played the game? If he pushes you, push back. I tried to let her words sink in, but she continued, “Tate, guys aren’t mean to attractive girls for no reason at all. In fact, most teenage guys’ energy is for the sole purpose of getting laid. They don’t want to diminish their options, so they are rarely mad at any girl . .. . . . unless she’s betrayed him, of course,” she mused.
I knew K.C. was right to an extent. There had to be a reason for why Jared acted the way he did. I’d wracked my brain a thousand times trying to figure it out. He was cold to most people, but he was downright cruel to me.
I stood up and continued the task of hanging up clothes, my scarves draped over my shoulder. “Well, I haven’t betrayed Jared. I’ve told you a hundred times, we were friends for years, he went away for a few weeks the summer before freshman year, and when he came back, he was different. He didn’t want to have anything to do with me.”
“Well, you won’t know anything until you engage. Like before you left for France. You pushed back that night, and that’s what you need to keep doing.” K.C. shot out advice like I hadn’t thought about it for the past year. My anger got away from me the night of Tori Beckman’s party, but no good was going to come from me sinking to Jared’s level again.
“Look,” I evened out my voice in an effort to appear calm. There was no way I was getting sucked into any more drama with this guy, damn it. “We’re going to have an amazing year. I’m hoping Jared has forgotten all about me. If he has, then we can both peacefully ignore each other until graduation. If he hasn’t, then I’ll do what I think is best. I’ve got bigger things on my mind anyway. He and that asshat Madoc can poke and prod all they want. I’m done giving them my attention. They are not taking my senior year.” I stopped to look at her.
K.C. looked thoughtful. “Okay,” she offered complacently.
“Yes, I said ‘okay’.” She let the discussion go. My shoulders relaxed. She wanted me to be David to Jared’s Goliath, and I just wanted to focus on getting into Columbia and winning the Science Fair in the spring.
“Okay,” I mimicked and quickly changed the subject. “So my dad isn’t due home for three more months. What trouble should I dare to stir up? Do you think I should actually break curfew while he’s gone?” I continued to sort out my clothes.
“I still can’t believe your dad is leaving you alone for three months.”
“He knows that it’s ridiculous to make me stay with my grandma, start a new school and then move back here when he gets home at Christmas. It’s my senior year. It’s important. He understands.” My grandma always stayed with me while my dad was away, but her sister wasn’t well and needed constant help. I was on my own this time.
“Yeah, well your grandma is only like two hours away anyway, so I’m sure she’ll pop in here and there.” K.C. pointed out. “Should we possibly risk having a party?”
She knew I was a worrywart, so her tone was cautious. My parents raised me to think for myself but to use common sense. Far too often had K.C. been disappointed by my lack of “devil may care” attitude. “That way, you wouldn’t be breaking curfew! Because you’d . . . be . . . home,” she quickly reasoned.
My chest tightened at the thought of an unauthorized party, but I had to admit, it was still something I wanted to do at some point.
“I guess it is a rite of passage for all teenagers, having a party while the parents are away,” I admitted but swallowed hard when I remembered that I only had one parent. Although my mom had passed away so long ago, it still hurt every day. I glanced over to our last family picture sitting on my bedside table. We were at a White Sox game, and my parents were each kissing one of my cheeks, my lips scrunched up like a fish.
K.C. patted me on the back. “We’ll go slowly with you. We can start stretching the rules before we break them. How about having a guy over before you have a huge crowd?” She grabbed a black silk top I’d bought in Paris and held it up.
“Yeah, somehow I think my dad would find one guy more threatening that a houseful of teenage partiers. And I do break rules sometimes. I’m guilty of speeding and jaywalking and. . . .” My voice trailed off as my lips pulled up into a grin. K.C. and I could be adventurous, but it was never of much interest to me to lose my father’s trust. Normally, I didn’t even bend rules. I respected him too much.
“Yeah, okay, Mother Theresa,” K.C. muttered dismissively as she began flipping through some photos I’d taken during my year away. “So can you speak French fluently now?”
“I know some useful words for you.” I deadpanned. She grabbed a pillow from my bed and flung it at me without looking away from the pictures in her hand. After three years of devoted friendship, we could exchange harmless insults as easily as clothes.
Walking into my private bathroom, I called out, “So, can you stay for dinner? We can do pizza.”
“Tonight I have to be home, actually,” she shouted back. “Liam is coming over for dinner. My mom is getting a little anxious about our relationship and wants to see him more.” She enunciated “relationship” as if there was a double meaning.
Liam and K.C. had been dating for two years, and they’d been having sex for a while. Her mom no doubt suspected that their “relationship” had progressed.
“Uh oh, is Sergeant Carter on to you two?” I grunted while shoving my now empty suitcase under my bed. I called K.C.’s mom ‘Sergeant Carter’ due to her authoritarian mothering. K.C. had little privacy and was expected to report on everything. However, it only made her want to keep her secrets more.
“I’m sure. She found my nightie and went ballistic.” K.C. stood up and grabbed her purse off the bed.
“I would’ve loved to see you talk your way out of that one.” I shut off my bedroom light and followed her down the stairs.
“If my parents were like your dad, then maybe I wouldn’t be so nervous about telling them things,” K.C. mumbled.
I was pretty sure I would never tell my dad about my first time, whenever it happened.
“Well, we can hook up tomorrow or whenever. As long as it’s before school starts.”
“Absolutely, tomorrow.” She gave me a tight hug. “I need to go get myself cleaned up before dinner. I’ll see you later.” And she rushed out the door.
“Goddammit!” I bellowed up to my bedroom ceiling, now illuminated by the arrival of another partygoer.
Déjà vu struck me as the house next door roared with music and voices. I’d blissfully forgotten about Jared’s raucous parties. The constant vibrations of engines revving and girls screaming—out of pleasure, I hoped—filled the air for the last two hours and was still going strong. My muscles tensed at every new noise.
I glanced, again, at the clock on my bedside table, willing it to stop ticking away the minutes. It was after midnight, and I had to wake up in five hours to meet up with my running club for their weekly workout. I had to wake up I thought, and that was providing I could get to sleep in the first place.
And that wasn’t going to happen without an intervention.
Isn’t it about time you fought back? K.C.’s words buzzed through my head.
There was almost no chance that Jared would turn down the music if I asked, but the diplomat in me thought it was worth a shot. The “old Tate” would’ve lain in here awake all night, too intimidated by her bully to ask him to turn down his music. Now, bodily fatigue and weariness had chipped away my patience.
Maybe, just maybe, Jared had pulled the corn cob out of his ass and gotten over whatever problem he had with me. It didn’t hurt to hope.
The evenings had turned chilly, so I was reluctant to step out of my warm bed. Throwing off the covers before I chickened out, I slipped on black Chucks and covered my white camisole with my black hoodie. My hair was hanging loose, I was wearing no make-up, and I sported my favorite pair of blue and white pinstriped linen sleep shorts. I could’ve looked better and probably should’ve put on some more modest bottoms, but I just didn’t care. I was too tired, so I just stalked down the stairs and out the front door in all my disheveled glory.
It was either the warm, August evening or my nerves, but I had to roll up my sleeves to cool down as I left my yard and traipsed into his. The front lawn boasted random people, none of whom I recognized, and the beating of my heart relaxed a bit at the knowledge that there’d be few people I might know here. I knew Jared’s list of friends included people from other schools, colleges, and even legal adults from questionable backgrounds. By now, the crowd was so wasted that I slipped by unnoticed.
Inside the house, the carousing was loud and obnoxious. People danced in the living room, or rather some slutty looking girls let themselves get dry-humped, while others sat or stood in various parts of the downstairs chatting, drinking, and smoking. My nose crinkled at the revolting den of underage debauchery and stench. . . .but, I admitted, everyone looked like they were having fun and being normal.
It was official. I was a stick-in-the-mud.
Chevelle started pumping through the speakers, which seemed to have an output located in every room. Hats Off to the Bull might make it worth my while coming over after all.
Entering the kitchen in my search for Jared, I immediately halted. While various people lingered around the keg and other, harder offerings located on the countertop, the sight of Madoc sitting at the kitchen table playing drinking games caught me off guard. He was with a few other guys and a couple of girls. It was too late to do an about-face.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” He popped out of his chair and stalked over to me. His sneer was plastic. For show purposes only. I knew Madoc relished any drama that spiced up his night.
And I was drama.
I decided to play it cocky. “Well, I’m not looking for you.” Smirking, I continued to scan the room looking disinterested. “Where’s Jared?”
“He’s already got a girl for tonight. And I doubt he’d be interested in you anyway.” He got in my face with the last.
More than a few girls wanted Madoc’s attention, but I wasn’t one of them. He was good-looking with his bright, blue eyes and styled blonde hair. He had a great body, and his clothes complimented his form. However, I doubted he ever used girls for longer than one night.
I turned to leave and continue my search, but he grabbed me at the elbow. “Actually, I’m a glutton for punishment, but you do look fucking fantastic in your pajamas. If you’re looking for some action, I can take care of you.”
My stomach turned and my body stiffened. Was he joking? Didn’t he have any pride? Freshman and sophomore year, he and Jared made my life hell. I was suffocated everywhere I went. Even at home. Now, he wanted to take me upstairs? Now, I was good enough?
“Hey, man, Jared says she’s off limits.” Sam Parker, one of Jared’s nicer cronies, chimed in from the table.
Madoc’s eyes glided down my body, lingering at my legs. “Jared’s upstairs fucking Piper. He’s got other things on his mind right now.”
My mouth went dry. Unwanted images of the boy I used to share a tent with in my backyard flashed in my mind. Jared was upstairs, in bed right now, screwing some girl. Blowing out a breath, I turned to leave. I just needed to get out of here.
Madoc jerked me backwards into his body and wrapped his arms around me. I briefly registered Sam bolting out of his seat and out of the room. My body twisted and my muscles tensed, but I held off on any serious struggling for the time being. I wanted to see Jared, and hopefully that’s where Sam went. If I could get out of here without major drama, I’d prefer it that way.
But Sam had better be quick, because Madoc’s nose was about to meet the back of my skull.
“You don’t learn, do you?” I stared straight ahead. A few feet away, some guys were playing pool, but paid us no attention. Clearly, the game was more important to them than a girl being assaulted.
“Oh, my nose? It’s healed well, thanks. And I think I owe you for that one, by the way.” His words were muffled as his lips glided down my neck. My shoulders wiggled from side to side as I tried to pry myself out of his grasp.
“You smell good,” he whispered. “Keep fighting me, Tate. It turns me on.” His snort was followed by his tongue darting out and licking my ear lobe before grabbing it between his teeth.
My pulse raced with anger, not fear. Fire surged in my arms and legs.
Play the game. I forgot if those were K.C.’s words or mine, and I didn’t care.
Let’s see how he likes being handled. I worked my hand behind me, in between our bodies, and grabbed Madoc by the crotch. I squeezed just enough to get his attention but not enough to hurt him. . . .yet. Madoc didn’t release me, but he stilled.
“Let.Me.Go,” I gritted out. Onlookers were beginning to take more notice of the scene, but still stayed out of it, looking amused. No one made a move to help me.
I applied a little more pressure, and he finally released his hold. I quickly stepped away before turning to face him, forcing my anger down. Until I got Jared to turn down the damn music, I wasn’t leaving.
Madoc raised an eyebrow. “You’re probably still a virgin, aren’t you?” he took me off guard. “Guys sure wanted to fuck you, but Jared and I took care of that.”
Isn’t it about time you fought back? K.C.’s voice egged me on.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Pulling my hoodie back into place, I stood my ground, my body a wall.
“What the hell is it between you and Jared anyway? I mean, when I first met him, and he wrangled me into sabotaging all of your dates freshman year, I assumed it was because he had a thing for you. Like, he was jealous or something. But then after a while, it was pretty clear he wasn’t pursuing you. . . .for some reason. What did you do to him?” Madoc looked at me accusingly, cocking his head to the side.
My fingers curled into fists. “I didn’t do anything to him.”
Our confrontation was becoming a scene. My raised voice forced people to start clearing out. I circled around to the other side of the pool table to give myself distance.
“Think.” Madoc goaded with a cocky smirk. “You’re gorgeous, and speaking for myself, I’d have screwed you every which way by now. A lot of guys would’ve, if not for Jared.”
My thighs tightened together. The idea of this asswipe thinking he could get into my pants reached a new level of grossness. “What do you mean ‘if not for Jared?’” The hair on my arms stood on end as my breathing got heavier.
“It’s simple. Every time we’d get word that someone was interested in you or had asked you out, we’d set out to make sure it ended as quickly as it’d started. We were pretty lame about it for the first few months. Todd Branch asked you to that bonfire freshman year, but he heard you were receiving lice treatments and never called you. You never wondered how he heard that?”
That particular rumor was one of the least hurtful ones over the years, but at the time, it was devastating. I had just started high school, was trying to make friends, and then I realized people were laughing behind my back.
“Daniel Stewart asked you out for the Halloween dance that year, too, but never picked you up because he heard you had lost your virginity to Stevie Stoddard.” Madoc barely finished the last word, he started laughing so hard.
I grimaced uncontrollably as heat rose up my neck. Stevie Stoddard was an incredibly sweet kid, but he suffered from serious acne and ate his boogers. Every school had a Stevie Stoddard.
Madoc continued, “Yeah, we were pretty busy at first. A lot of guys wanted to get in your pants, but by sophomore year our rumors got more sophisticated. People had pretty much caught on that you were a social leper. Things got easier for Jared and me. . . .finally.”
And things had gotten harder for me.
Movement was impossible. What had I been thinking? Of course, it was all Jared!
I knew he was behind some of the pranks as well as all the parties I was shut out of, but I didn’t think he’d been responsible for all of the rumors, too. I never knew why Daniel Stewart stood me up, and I’d never heard the Stevie Stoddard rumor. How much else escaped my notice? He pulled pranks on me, leaked some lies, and was an all-out dick throughout high school, but I never suspected he was so active in my unhappiness. Had he just gone ballistic for no fucking reason?
“What is she doing here?” Jolted out of my internal musing, I found Jared braced in the doorway between the pool room and the stairs. His arms were above his head, hands secured to both sides of the door frame.
My breath caught. Seeing him face to face made me forget everything else. Madoc, his disclosures . . . Shit! What the hell were he and I just talking about? I couldn’t remember.
Even with my resentment towards Jared, I couldn’t look away from the way the muscles in his smooth chest stretched with his arms. My body involuntarily reacted as heat gathered below my belly and steam moved up my neck. I’d been in France for a year, and seeing him again up close sent my stomach into a double back handspring.
His dark brown hair and eyes seemed to make his skin glow. The severe straight eyebrows enhanced his forbidding presence. Looking at him should be a sport. Whoever pulled their eyes away from him the soonest won.
He stood half naked, wearing only a pair of black pants featuring a wallet chain hanging from his pocket. His skin was tanned and his hair was shamelessly mussed. His two tattoos blazed, one on his upper arm and one on the side of his torso. His blue and white checkered boxers peeked out of the top of his pants, which hung loose due to the unfastened belt looped around his waist.
Unfastened. I closed my eyes.
Tears burned behind my lids, and the magnitude of his deeds came flooding back. Seeing this person that hated me enough to hurt me day after day made my heart ache.
He’s not getting my senior year, I committed to myself. Blinking away the unshed tears, my breathing slowed. Survival is the best revenge, my mother would say.
Under one arm, I saw Sam peeking in, looking comically like Dobby cowering behind Lucius Malfoy. Under the other arm, a sexy brunette—whose name I assumed was Piper—squeezed through, looking like the cat that just ate the canary. I recognized her vaguely from school. She wore a skin tight red halter-top dress with scary, black heels. Even with the six inches added to her height, she still fell below Jared’s chin. She was pretty in a . . . well, in every way, I guess.
Jared, on the other hand, might’ve been about ready to eat a live baby with the scowl he wore. Making no eye contact with me, he made it clear that he spoke to Madoc and that I wasn’t being addressed.
I stepped in before Madoc opened his mouth. “‘She’ wanted a brief word with you.”
I crossed my arms over my chest and hooded my gaze, trying to look tougher than I was. Jared did the same, and while his lips were still, his eyes were amused.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Tate and Jared used to be best friends. They loved each other - or at least she though they did. Then when they were 14 everything changed. Jared went from a loving friend to a bully for no apparent reason. He made it his mission in life to ruin high school for Tate. She got a brief reprieve from his torture for year, studying abroad in Europe. Now that she is back, she wonders if Jared will go back to tormenting her or if maybe he has forgotten all about her and moved on. Regardless of what his plans are, Tate vows to herself to not let him ruin her Senior year. If he is going to pick up where he left of, then this time she will fight back. I was so hesitant to read this book because the idea of falling for your bully kind of annoyed me. But after reading so many great things about it, I decided to give it a shot. Let me tell you, I am so glad that I did! Tate - my heart broke for her repeatedly for everything she endured at the hands of Jared. I mean, how much can one teenage girl take before she breaks? But Tate is too strong for that. She took a much needed time out from Life with Jared and came back from Europe and more self confident young woman. The Tate that came back home for her Senior year had a lot more attitude and was finally ready to stand up to him. And then there is Jared. Sigh. How I hated him through the majority of this book. And I'm not talking about a little hate, but full blown, I want to throttle you hatred. When Tate give her monologue in class and it is clear that Jared is emotionally affected by it, I realized there was a world of pain hidden beneath the bully veneer. At that point I started to forgive him and I want them to rebuild what once was an amazing friendship. There are some interesting side characters in here as well which I think will lead to some great additional books n this series down the road. I will say that I did not like Tate's best friend K.C. At all. she pissed me off and I felt like she was being a crap friend. On the other hand, I loved Jared's BFF Madoc. He made me laugh and especially at hard he worked to make up for being such a Jerk to Tate all these years. Plus he isn't afraid to call Jared out on how he really feels about her. This book is emotional and angsty and sexy and just down right all around awesomeness. You'll want to punch Jared in the face and then climb him like a tree. I am so glad I stopped being stubborn and read Bully.
Jared Equals Yummy I don't care what anyone says but in my opinion Jared fully redeems himself in chapters 30 and 31 of Bully. I don't need to read Until You to forgive him in all his yumminess but I will read it anyway...lol
This book was an amazing debut novel. I loved the characters. The author brings you into the world of Tatum and Jared. I was blown away and could not wait to see what happened next. I devoured there story. If you choose to read this one you will not be disappointed.
I loved, loved, loved this book. This story line was so amazing. I fell in love with Tate. She is so sweet, innocent, kind, and caring but also really lonely, she doesn't realize how lonely she is. Jared & Madoc are two guys you'll love to hate and then you hate to love them. Jared is such a lost and angry soul and Tate is his salvation. This story was so intence at times that my heart literally ached for Tate. Her life became so heart breaking I just wanted to slap someone. I cried so hard it almost felt real. The sexual chemistry between Tate and Jared grew to be unbelievably hot. The ending was perfect but I wish the story went alittle longer. 283 pages wss great but I still wanted more. I highly recommend this book to everyone. I will be looking forward to reading so much more from Penelope. This is the type of story you want to read over & over again.
Could not put this book down! Don't hesitate, buy this book.
I liked this book. But there is a things I don't like about it. I liked that Tatum was a kick butt kind of girl. But then on the next chapter she seemed to lack self respect and self control. It is like she is girl power than nothing power IDK but whatever it is called it got on my nerves.
I liked it a lot but wish it was longer for more of Tate and Jared together rather than towards the end.
Geez, things are really complicated for Jared and Tate. Things are always complicated and intense when you are between the ages of 'I'm in hormone hell' and 'Crap, I think I'm dying'. But things are really hard between these two, because they are a big hot mess of hormones, 'I'm dying', my-peanut-butter-hates-your-chocolate, he ripped the head off my voodoo doll, no one can hate her as much as I hate her, no one can have her--but I don't want her, he's not there if I don't look at him, AND NO ONE CAN EVER LOVE HIM/HER MORE THAN I HAVE SINCE WE FIRST MET. It's like the Magic 8 Ball as a relationship. Does it sound like a cluster-eff of angst, drama, loathing, self destruction, and trauma? Dude... it really is a cluster-eff of angst, drama, loathing, self destruction, and trauma and worth every freaking moment! Every. Freaking. Moment. This book is sexy. It's sexy in all the ways that makes mothers tell their daughters to stay away from bad boys. Penelope Douglas has her finger on the pulse of what makes a relationship that terrible combination of tragic perfection where love destroys and hate give birth to stronger beautiful things that no one should ever have to make. First let me say--this is NOT the relationship I would ever want my sister to be part. I don't think anyone would wish this on anyone, but it's an exaggeration of a relationship that is closer in reality to what most girls out there are going to encounter than the majority of YA novels available in contemporary YA genre. Does it make it an ideal relationship? NO! But it makes a effing phenomenal story and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the amount of heartache and emotional torture. There have to be over 9000 reasons to read this book and one of those reasons is because I say you need to! My reason has more weight than the other 8999 because I am the coolest effin' person on the Earth. I haven't said jack-squat about Bully other than blah, blah, blah yet though… Tate and Jared were once inseparable. The two of them were in one another's pockets. Original BFFs, who had secret sleepovers--they lived next door and shared all their secrets and dreams with each other. Then parts of Jared's body started being like, "Hey, she has a socket and you have a plug." Feelies began to evolve and thoughts began to change to, "Hey, she has a socket and I love her. She's mine. I have a plug." But the thing is girls are from one side of the tree and guys are from the other and guys think with their plugs but never use their words. So where Tate was thinking along the line of, "Jared is awesome and he has pretty eyes, I wonder if he would ever like to kiss me?" and giving him fluttering lashes, Jared thought she had something in her eye and never said crap. Outcome: Jared makes a choice that ends up having devastating results and the resentment of all his plug anger gets hoisted on Tate. Yes, this book--boiled down to a quick summary is: Adolescent penis fury fuels malignant passionate ill will between true lovers, in rare psychotic perversion of schoolyard tormentor game. By the time the story of Tate is rolling she has become tempered steel. She has been in the flames for a VERY long ass time and struck down to a powerful weapon. Jared and his friend Maddoc have been going after her; slandering and persecuting her to the point where in the past she felt unsafe leaving her house and because she lived next door to Jared she'd not been sure that was safe either. To further exacerbate the situation she was ashamed that things had become so bad. She had no respect from her schoolmates and no self-respect. She was going to a year long study abroad and couldn't be happier to leave Fall Away St. behind her. When she returns she is full of fury. She doesn't know where the strength is coming from but she isn't taking crap from Jared and Maddoc anymore. The result isn't that they stop torturing her... it's that Jared can't get enough of her. He's mesmerized and the plug has never wanted her socket more. This book is great. I don't think this is a 'how-to' book for dealing with bullies for young adults. Do not think your bully and you are going to fall in love. Dicks don't become princes most of the time. Do not run out and find a Jared. If you are a girl of 13-992... boys of this ilk are bad, bad news. Boys with their crap together that can take care of you is what you want. Guys in a downward spiral taking everyone with them are terrible for you. When someone you are with gives you a diet of crap, that isn't love. Don't eat crap; it will go to your thighs. (This review was written for my blog All The Things Inbetween at AlltheThingsInbetween-dot-net)
Gripping, Addictive, Intense... Overwhelmed! I Could. Not. Put This One Down! 4.5 On Edge, Anxious Stars! The Review: Though I have very mixed feelings about this book, I completely loved it. First off, let me say, it was well written and I loved the story and what it stood for and since I was completely immersed in it, reading it all in one night, I can conclude that it was one of those books you love to hate. The characters, mainly the hero Jared, will make you both love them and hate them. This book was painful to read. I found myself gritting my teeth, balling my fists and silently shouting expletives in my head, sometimes aloud. Angsty doesn’t even start to cover how to describe this book. Story... Tate has been ridiculed, embarrassed and bullied for the past couple of years. Jared, the source of all her torment is her once, childhood best friend, the boy she loved and the one person she should have been able to trust above all others. But after returning home from a summer visit with his father when he was fourteen, Jared turned from the protective, caring and kind boy he once was to an aggressive mean boy. Deciding to get away from all the pranks and bullying, Tate travels abroad for school and vacation for a year. But she’s back now, in the town that caused her so much grief and hurt, hoping that her time away will have changed things and made them better. But after just one confrontation with her past, she realizes escaping isn’t as easy as she’d hoped, even if she has decided to find her inner bad girl. Jared is gorgeous, he’s popular, he’s feared, he’s respected, he’s got girls hanging all over him... and he has secrets. Deep, dark, horrifying secrets and with a hate raging as strong in him as the one he carries, an outlet is fundamental and Tate has become the object in which he releases all that anger, hurt and pain. Characters and Thoughts... I liked Tate a lot. When we first meet her, she’s scared and shies away from social situations all because she’s been bullied for the last three years. Jared came back from a summer visit with his dad a changed boy and started treating Tate like public enemy number one. He’s never given her a reason but Tate’s always wondered why he went from the best friend she ever had to her worst enemy. He goes to great pains to make sure Tate suffers, doing horrible things to her in the form of rumors, teasing, pranks and verbal beat downs. He pulls his friends into the bullying and this makes Tate constantly look over her shoulder, wondering where and what form the next embarrassing trap will come from. My stomach was in knots the entirety of this book. Watching all these things play out, all the sneering glares, quiet whispering and right out snickering was written so well I felt like I was walking in Tate’s shoes, living through her torment right along side her. I felt so bad for her and I really, REALLY disliked Jared and his partner in crime, Madoc. I even grew to dislike Tate’s only BFF, KC, because with a few sweet words and a bit of hero play from Jared, KC turns from Tate’s confidante to accusing her of being the problem. And then there was the kids in that town. I wanted to strangle EVERYONE with the exception of Tate! But then secrets are revealed and things start to change for Tate and Jared. However, after everything, I’m not sure I could ever trust a person who did those things to me, even after knowing his reasoning. This is where my conflict comes in. I wanted Tate to be able to move past all that pain and find a way to let it go but trusting Jared would have been hard for me, if I were her. As for Jared, I really loved to hate him most of the book. You could tell the things he was doing were for a revenge of some kind. Through the incredible writing, you could also tell he was conflicted even as he carried out these awful plans. And even when we find out his secrets it took until the end of the book for me to like him... and truthfully, I’m not sure like is the correct word. Probably acceptance is more like it. Yes, he was gorgeous and a completely hot bad boy but I felt he needed to atone more and truly feel the guilt of what he’d done. I both loved and hated him! NOTE: The next book in the series, Until You (Fall Away 1.5) is in Jared’s POV so I’m hoping to get all those goodies and “feels” from his side of the story! Yay. I’m excited for that one. I can’t conclude this review without taking the time to acknowledge how this author does a wonderful job of showing what bullying can do to a person. How the daily hurt and conflict and fear can turn you into a person you don’t recognize in the mirror. Tate found herself doing and saying things she normally wouldn’t have done. She found an aggression inside her she didn’t like but found necessary unless she wanted to continue to cower and be stomped all over. I do love how for the most part, she was able to hold on to her true self. But it did change her and how she viewed people, the world and the way she fit in it. The Wrap Up: This is one of those books that will make you think.. and think.. and think some more because you are so conflicted about how to feel. I loved the book. I loved the story. I really didn’t love some of the characters and their actions. But I wasn’t supposed to. I was supposed to be conflicted. This is not your traditional love story. Tate is either really stupid or an incredibly forgiving and wonderfully kind person. She’s strong, that’s for sure because I’m not so sure I would have been strong enough to let it all go. But I’m glad she did because when these two finally come together, they are sexy as hell and the story turns from sour to sweet. Now, on to the next book! *Written for Craves the Angst Book Reviews*
Loved Bully. Loved Until You. Please Ms. Douglas, won't you please consider writing a short novella with Tate & Jared that takes place after the events of Until You. Just a little something to keep us readers tied over until Rival comes out next summer..
I love the story, still wanted a bit of more time for Tatum to forgive Jared after everything she went through, but I love teen angst and the book delivered in so much more than I was expecting. Will be reading the next book.
Great storyline and not predictable!
Bully really is intense, emotional listen or read. Now, this is the second book that I’ve listened to by Douglas. And I absolutely loved it. I was having a hard time getting into one, that I was listening to previous. So I jumped on this one. Just starting out, it grabbed me and held my attention. I couldn’t stop listening! it was that good. I don’t think I’ve listened to this narrator before. But she did a good job. Tate and Jared have had this history together. They were BFF’s and spent every day together. But something happened when he came back from a trip. And essentially he was never the same. The whole time I’m listening to this, I’m like Jared is such a douche this poor girl. Why?! is he bullying her? what made him this way? You don’t find out till much later. But totally worth the wait. I’m all about angsty teenagers and all of it. Just these two together, you could feel the tension, the desire and you're like just do it already lol Douglas really has a way of building that tension that has you on edge the whole time. I’m so glad I jumped to this and already started Rival. I really can’t get enough.
Byybyyy ny hbtgg g gbhhyyy yy
Love love this book!
Very predictable. I'm just not sure I can finish this book. I really wanted to like this one :( Main issue for me so far is that the female mc is a bully too. She goes away for a year (we don't follow her or the bully for that year) then she comes back a completely different person & while I'm sure the author meant for us to be empowered by the transformation all I feel is bewildered. It's like we go from chapter 1 where we are told about all the things the bully has done to our mc and how she just let it happen. Then in chapter 2 (not literally) she is busting up parties and attacking one of her bullies. What the hell happened to her in that year...I couldnt stand the female mc.
I freaking love Jared!!
I loved this book!
One of my favorite series.
Sexy! It captures you and reels you in I couldn't stop reading ! !
Loved the series
I really love this book and series. The character development is great on all the characters. You end up falling for Tate and Jared. The story has great push and pull and both characters are strong.