The Impact of You Page 15

When Stacia straddles my lap, I let my eyes slip closed. And when she leans down to kiss me, I fight to turn off my brain. Yet it’s impossible not to notice that her mouth doesn’t fit against mine like Avery’s, that she smells different, that she wears too much perfume.

“Wait.” I break the kiss and Stacia opens her eyes. “Go turn off the lights.”

She frowns. “You never used to want the lights off.”

“I know, but I do now.”

She bites her cheek, her mind working, but she dutifully climbs from my lap and crosses the room to switch off the lamp. Once the room is lit by just the dim moonlight, she saunters back toward me, removing her shirt and bra before she reaches the bed. The familiarity of her should comfort me, but my mind is reeling.

She rubs a manicured hand against my uninterested cock. “Just relax, Jase. Let me take care of this tonight.”

I don’t want her. But would it be so bad to do this? To let her try and make me forget the girl I really wanted? Stacia knows we aren’t together. We’ve been down this road before. It won’t change anything between us. Stacia’s fingers fumble with my belt buckle and I close my eyes again, fighting to make myself relax.

Chapter 22


I hate how alone I feel without Jase. We haven’t spoken since that heated exchange in his room after he found out about my past. I know I shouldn’t have, but a tiny piece of me was hoping that he’d be okay with it. Well, not okay, but maybe more understanding. I guess he isn’t who I thought he was, either. It was stupid to think he could be the one to save me. I’d learned long ago to rely on myself and not put too much stock in others. They just let me down in the end anyway.

I can’t change my past. And as much as I wish I could, I can’t track down every person who downloaded that degrading photo collage. The only thing I can control is what I do next.

Realizing it’s time to deal with my identity issues and face my past once and for all, I open my laptop and log into my email account. I debate over creating a generic email address that can’t be linked to me, but in the end, I want my birthmom to know my name, to know who I am.

I type what I had intended to be a brief message, but it turns out when you’re emailing your mom for the first time, there’s a lot to say. I tell her about my dads, how I had a great childhood, and that I am in college now. I tell her about my roommate and our crazy gay friend, Noah, who likes to borrow our clothes. I spill my heart out in my note, hoping she’ll laugh when she reads it and understand that I am a normal, happy girl. Or heck, maybe I’m just trying to prove to myself that I really am; either way, I hit send before I change my mind and delete it all.

Madison returns from class a short time later, dropping her bag to the floor and turning to face me with a concerned expression. “Hey…How are you?” The sympathy in her eyes is new.

“Um, fine I guess.”

She crosses the room and hugs me, pulling me firmly into her arms. Uh-oh. Madison is not a hugger.

“What’s wrong?” I ask, wrapping one arm awkwardly around her back.

“We need to talk.” She pulls back suddenly, her hands resting against my shoulders. “Jase stopped me after class today.”




“And he told me. Everything.”

My heart sinks.

Madison continues, “At first he was coy, asking me about your dating background, your experience with guys.” She let out a nervous chuckle. “I basically told him you wouldn’t know what to do if a cock slapped you upside the head. But he informed me I was wrong. At first, I was proud, but then he explained about the pictures your ex used to exploit you, and I’m so sorry, Avery, I had no idea. Now I feel terrible that I always tried to get you to break out of your shell. I thought you were just a little shy – not scarred from a traumatic event.”

“It’s okay, Madison. I just don’t really tell people about it. But I am okay.”

“Really?” Her brow wrinkles in concern.

I shrug. “I’m trying to deal. It’s not like I have a choice. And I don’t want to hide under a rock anymore.”

Her smile grows, pushing her mouth upwards. “Good, hun. That’s good.” She gives my hand a squeeze “I’m here for you.”

“Thanks, Mads.” I shouldn’t care, but I do, and I can’t resist probing for information on Jase. “So what was Jase’s mood like?”

Madison’s smile falls. “He seemed sad, worried about you, but mostly sad. He wanted to make sure you’re okay.”

“Oh.” I don’t know what this means, or how to process this information. It isn’t like he calls me anymore, or even sits near me in our shared class. I can’t control Jase’s response to learning about my past. The only things I can do is move forward, and pray that everything works out like it’s supposed to.

Chapter 23


Removing Stacia from my bed and my life again is a bigger pain in the ass than I was expecting. We’re not dating and we’re not together, but she seems to have blocked out that information. Ever since the drunken night where we messed around and passed out in my bed, she’s been coming over every day. Today, I’ve got to put an end to that. Even if I wasn’t still plagued by memories of Avery, I know I don’t want Stacia.

When Stacia arrives, I make sure I’m waiting for her downstairs. I don’t want her getting cozy up in my room.

She’s all smiles when she comes in and tosses her purse on the couch.

“We need to talk,” I say.

Her face falls and she tenses up.

She can tell by my stiff posture things aren’t going to go her way. “Sorry Stacia, I’m just not feeling it,” I mutter, rubbing a hand over the back of my neck.

“You seemed to be feeling it just fine when you were in my mouth last weekend.”


She snatches the purse she’s just deposited on the couch. “You know what, Jase? Don’t waste your breath. I’m done with your shit.”

“I’m sorry, okay?”

She rolls her eyes and stomps to the door, which I pull open for her. “I’ve been sleeping with Trey anyway,” she adds before slamming the door in my face.


I turn the lock on the door as if to prove a point. Stacia is done invading my life. That chapter is closed. As for Avery…I’m not sure yet.

Chapter 24


“Enough moping,” Madison says, snatching the dirty romance novel from my hands. “Come on, you’re coming out with me and Noah.”

“But I was at the part where he spanks her for the first time…” Wow. I can’t believe I just said that. I also can’t believe I’m reading the book that Madison shoved into my hands after finishing it in one day. But she’s right, it is addicting.

“Told ya you’d love the smut. But you can read it later. We’re going bowling.”

I don’t want to give up the progress I’ve made, so I get dressed, add makeup and let Madison straighten my long, crazy hair. The girl in the mirror looks different, but she’s still me. Maybe even a better version of me. No longer terrified of being discovered, because the worst of that has happened – a guy I was falling for found out in the most spectacular fashion and hasn’t spoken to me since – and it can’t get much worse than that. So I’m done hiding in the dorms while my friends go out on the weekends. Maybe if I pretend I’m normal and not destroyed by Jase’ rejection, things will fall into place. Fake it till you make it. Right?

With the truth out in the world, I should feel freer. But the effect is more like a great burden. It’s no longer necessary to hide. I feel worse than ever. I should’ve had the guts to tell Jase. He was a big part of my healing, and he opened himself up a lot along the way, too. By keeping it from him, I cheapened the entire experience. If he is done with me, I at least want to keep our memories, but now they are soured with my own guilt and self-loathing.

When we reach the bowling alley, all promises of a low key evening go up in smoke. Delta Sig has rented out half the place for a private party. You have got to be kidding me. I pause at the entrance and Madison looks past me to the group of obnoxiously drunk guys taking up half the bowling alley.

“Did you know?” I turn to her.

“No. I swear. We can go somewhere different if you want.”

Noah takes my hand and gives it a squeeze. “You’re not running away this time, love. You got this.”

I nod. “Yeah. Okay.” I think I can do this.

Noah pays for our lane while Madison and I go get fitted for our hideous bowling shoes. Madison leads the way back to our lane, which is thankfully on the opposite side from the Delta Sig guys. I see don’t Jase. It’s possible he’s not here. But either way, I know I won’t be able to relax with the promise of his presence looming in the background.

Seeing him in the flesh would force up feelings I can’t manage right now. I thought I was healing, but his presence assures me that was not the case. Far from it. I miss his hugs that lifted me clear off the floor, his stupid nickname for me, the sexy gleam in his eye when he wanted to kiss me…

I select a ball and when I turn, I spot Jase and Stacia across the room. Ugh. As if seeing him isn’t bad enough… Stacia wraps her arms around his waist and, even though his hands remain loose at his sides, he does nothing to stop her roaming hands from mauling him. The pain of watching them together stabs at my chest. Maybe I’d overestimated everything we’d shared. Perhaps he and Stacia have always been more than just friendly exes and I refused to see it. Just as Stacia pointed out to me once before, he and I were never exclusive. That doesn’t mean the ache of losing him hurts any less. Especially the way it went down. The icy look in his eyes, the flat tone of his voice – I’ll never forget that.

Jase leans down and whispers something in Stacia’s ear and she bursts out laughing, swatting his arm. Watching this doesn’t help my heartache any.

I set the bowling ball down before I drop it on my foot, then I turn to Madison and Noah. “I was wrong. I need to go.” I have to get out of here before I do something awkward, like start crying in the middle of the bowling alley. Lord, this is ridiculous.

They exchange a glance and nod in silent understanding.

“Yeah, let’s go,” Noah agrees. “These shoes are a total travesty with these slacks.” He makes a point of looking down at the multi-colored shoes and bright red skinny jeans in disgust.

I smile at his half-hearted attempt to make me laugh. I link my arm with Madison’s and tuck my chin to my chest, hoping that Jase won’t spot me fleeing into the night.

* * *

I am done with lying. So when I call my dads requesting they drive my car up to campus, I could tell them I’d changed my mind about wanting my car with me, or that I got a part time job off campus, like I’d talked about doing. But instead, I make them both get on speaker phone and I tell them the truth. I’ve been in contact with my birthmom through email and am planning to go and meet her in Denver during our upcoming school break.

Their silence is the longest ten seconds of my life. They ultimately agree, saying they knew I’d want to do this eventually, that it’s only natural to wonder about where you came from. Humans are wired to want to understand their identity and lineage. They don’t like the idea of me going alone, so it takes some convincing, but eventually they come around. I’m not quite sure they are completely onboard with the idea, because they worry about me being disappointed, or hurt, and not to mention driving halfway across the country by myself. But I insist and they relent.

They drive into town on Sunday to drop off my reliable little red sedan, briefly meet Madison and Noah, take me out to lunch and spend the afternoon plotting out my route, covering safety basics on the road, and make me promise to call every day.

They’ve been way cooler than I ever imagined which makes me feel worse that I considered lying to them. I wonder if they would react so well if I’d kept this from them, and they found out later, from someone other than me. No, I know they’d be livid if that was the case. I can’t help but see the similarity about how Jase had found out about my past. I try to tell myself it doesn’t matter, and his reaction told me everything. I wonder if things would be different if I’d just told him myself from the beginning. It’s too late now. Jase has cast me away like some diseased whore. I am damaged goods in his eyes, and I shouldn’t be pining over a guy who doesn’t want me. Of course, I wish it was that simple. My body still remembers his touch, and my heart still aches over what has been so cruelly ripped from me.

My computer pings with a new email, and for a brief little second I wonder if it is from Jase. Crossing the room, I stare at my computer screen in disbelief.


Why is he contacting me? He went away to school in Florida on a basketball scholarship. At one time, I thought it would suck going to college in two different states. Now, an entire ocean isn’t far enough.

I click on the message.

Hey Avery,

You’ll probably delete this without reading it. I know I don’t deserve the chance to explain, but I’ve been thinking about everything lately and I wanted to apologize. I did care for you, and I never meant for things to get out like that. I showed a couple guys from the team your sexy photos and, before I knew it, they were everywhere. For what it’s worth, I am sorry. I know your senior year sucked after that. You’re probably over it, but I wanted you to know.


I hate that I’ve been carrying around so much hurt and anger for two years. I hate that I’ve allowed him to rob me of any time. It sounds rather stupid now that I think about it. I delete the message without responding, deciding I’m done wasting my time on asshats like Brent. I’m over wasting any of my time worrying about crap I can’t change. Straightening my shoulders, a slow smile curls on my lips. This is a whole new Avery. I am woman, hear me roar!

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