Alistair knocked hard on Piper’s door. He was fuming after his argument with Sterling. The brother’s always bickered but they rarely fought and it made him angrier than anything. He had decided on his way to Piper’s dorm room that he was going to cancel their date so he could go back to his brother’s apartment and kick his ass. But as soon as she opened the door, his plan was forgotten. She was so beautiful and all his anger melted away just at the sight of her.
“Hey,” she said with her sweet smile. “What kept you?”
“I’m sorry,” he said quickly, not wanting to remember the argument. “You look gorgeous.”
“Thank you,” Piper said, blushing slightly and starting to close the door behind her.
“Do you mind if we stay here for a while?” Alistair asked. “I’m just a little out of it right now.”
“Of course. Are you all right?”
“I’ll be fine,” he promised, stepping inside and walking toward Piper’s room. Why shouldn’t he tell her that he loved her? He knew he did. He had never been as certain of anything before in his life. But what if Sterling was right? Alistair was no expert in the area of love. What if he ended up breaking her heart? He never wanted anything to happen to Piper, especially at his hand. Doubt started to swirl around his already clouded head and he barely heard her bedroom door close behind them.
“Alistair? What’s going on?”
He turned to look at her. She was completely breathtaking, her brown hair hanging over her shoulders, her large green eyes looking at him as if he was the most important thing in the world.
“Come here,” he said quietly, holding out his hand for her.
She quickly took it and he pulled her close, kissing her lips as she wrapped her arms around him. She felt warm and wonderful against him, as if she belonged there without a doubt. He pulled her closer, never wanting to let her go. Sterling could go to hell for all he cared at that moment. His hand roamed up her back and through her hair. He was about to pull away and confess his love for her when his fingers found something on her scalp. It felt like a deep scar that ran just above her ear.
“What is that?” He asked, breaking the kiss and lifting her hair.
But Piper stepped back and looked away from him. “It’s nothing to worry about.”
“Was that a scar?”
“Yes,” Piper answered in a soft voice.
“How did you get it?”
“I don’t remember.”
Alistair smiled at her. “No, seriously, how did you get it?”
“I don’t remember,” she said again.
“If you don’t want to talk about it…”
“I was high when it happened,” she said quickly. “High enough to have blacked out almost the entire night.”
“What?” Alistair didn’t think he had heard her right.
Piper sat down on her bed and pushed her hair away from her face. “It happened almost a year ago. I woke up in the hospital and nobody could tell me what happened.”
Alistair stared at her, waiting for her to continue.
“I might as well tell you everything,” Piper looked at him, a regretful expression on her face.
“You don’t have to. Not until you’re ready.”
“I don’t want to hide anything from you,” she said before starting her story, the weight of that sentence startling Alistair into an uncertain reality. “I had this boyfriend, Craig, who I met when I was 15. He was older and I thought he was absolutely perfect.” Piper smiled and Alistair sat down beside her on the bed. She looked at him with confident eyes and continued. “It wasn’t until we had been dating for a few months when he started bringing me to his college parties. He would get me and my girlfriends liquor and let me smoke weed with him. But then he dropped out of the University and weed turned into ‘shrooms and ecstasy and then cocaine when he could afford it. Meth was the cheapest and really easy to find. I resisted most of it at first, but he told me he loved me and I wanted to make him happy. I couldn’t even tell you when I first figured out I was addicted. I never thought it would happen, because who really plans on becoming a fucking drug addict, you know? I thought I had everything under control, my boyfriend, school, crew team…but obviously I didn’t.
“So it was the first weekend of winter break during my senior year and Craig was throwing a party. I drank about a fifth of vodka and then took a few lines of what I thought was coke but actually turned out to be low-grade heroin. And the next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital.”
“Who took you there?”
“No one. Someone found me lying almost dead in the street, covered in blood, and called an ambulance. Craig didn’t even know I had left his house.”
Alistair shook his head in disbelief. “Why didn’t I know any of this?”
Piper took his hand and brought it softly to her lips. “Because I’m not that person anymore. I didn’t want you to feel sorry for me or judge me.”
Piper kissed his hand but didn’t let it go. Alistair stared at her, wanting to ask a million questions but not knowing where to start. “I’m glad you told me,” he said slowly.
Piper smiled at him. “I’ve been sober for 349 days. Once I got out of the hospital, I confessed everything to my parents and they sent me to detox over Christmas and New Years. It gets easier each day. The days when I get to see you are the best.”
Alistair smiled. “What happened to Craig?”
“He promised he would stop using but he never did. I was focused on getting my life back together and my trying not to lose my scholarship and he didn’t deal well with my sobriety. We fought all the time and I’m pretty sure he was cheating on me but I kept giving him second chances, like the stupid girl I was. He told me last summer that he wanted to see other people while I was at college so I finally broke it off.”
“Wow. Piper, I don’t know what to say.”
“It’s a lot to take in, I know,” she smiled at him.
“Are you okay? You seem so okay with everything. I would be freaking out…”
Piper laughed. “I’m not embarrassed by it. I mean, I can’t change what happened and I know I’m so lucky because I could have fucked up my entire life.” But she dropped her gaze to the bed. “I just hope this doesn’t change anything between us.”
Alistair dropped her hand and lifted her chin with his fingers. “This changes nothing. We’ve all done stuff in our past that we aren’t proud of. But that doesn’t change how I feel about you now.”
Piper smiled at him and leaned over to kiss him. Alistair let her kiss him though his thoughts were elsewhere at the moment. When Piper said she had been found in the street near death, the first image that came to his mind was that of Rebecca lying dead in the shower.
Piper pulled away and saw that familiar look in Alistair’s eyes. She was always curious as to what, or more likely who he could be thinking about during those moments when his blue eyes would glaze over and his mind would travel to an entirely different world. She kissed him again and watched as he tried to smile.
“Since we’re on the subject of our past, do you want to tell me who she is?”
“What?” Alistair instantly came back to the conversation at hand.
“I can tell by the way you look at me sometimes. It’s like you’re searching for someone else. It’s a girl, isn’t it?”
Alistair sighed, he hadn’t wanted any of his time with Piper to be affected by his grief. “Yes. But it’s probably not what you think.”
“Hey,” Piper said with a smile. “I’m the last person who is going to judge you.”
Alistair smiled back and tried to think of where to start. The entire story could take hours to tell and he didn’t want to subject Piper to all the painful details. “Her name was Rebecca. We started hooking up freshman year of high school and I always knew she wanted more but I just didn’t like the idea of having a girlfriend.”
Piper raised an eyebrow and Alistair shot her a guilty look.
“So, our senior year, she started dating someone else and I guess I realized what I had only after I had lost it. So I told her that I loved her and that I was ready to commit but she turned me down. I was completely heartbroken and desperate. And so I agreed to go out with one of her friends because I thought she would be jealous enough to come running back to me.” Alistair paused, not sure if he wanted to continue.
“She killed herself,” Alistair said before he could give it a second thought. “She slit her wrist in the shower. Laila and I found her.”
“Oh my God,” Piper said in voice that was just above a whisper.
“I thought that I wanted to die too, you know?” Alistair couldn’t stop now that he had started. “Rebecca’s friend came to see me about a week after she died and Rebecca’s boyfriend came to find us. He had a gun and meant to hit me but ended up killing Kalyn instead. He shot himself without even realizing he had missed me.”
“You can’t be serious.”
Alistair could only look at her. “I wish I wasn’t. For about three months, I would only speak to Sterling and Laila. She literally kept me sane and functioning. I would have been so lost without her. I loved Rebecca and it’s weird to think of what life would be like if she were still here. But she’s not and I’ve learned to live with it.”
Piper shook her head and looked around her room. “And I thought I had a fucked up senior year.”
Alistair smiled and waited until she had looked at him again before speaking. He knew this was the right time. It wasn’t ideal, but it was right. “I wanted to be romantic about this, because I figured that’s what a good boyfriend would do, but I love you, Piper. I love you so much regardless of what either of us has done in the past.”
A wide grin spread over Piper’s face and all the sorrow of their conversation melted away as a new emotion took over. “I love you too,” she whispered.
“I’m not good at this whole relationship thing, but you took me completely by surprise and I want to do everything I can to make this work.”
“You’re doing a great job so far.”
“Well, it sounds like your expectations weren’t too high after your last boyfriend,” Alistair teased her.
Piper laughed and leaned over to kiss him. “You are never what I expect, Alistair Pierce. But I love that about you. I love that you don’t know what you’re doing. I love that you gave me a high five after our first dinner together. I love that you kissed me at the beginning of our first date. And I love that no matter how much time we spend together, you always surprise me.”
Alistair kissed her again but pulled away before he let himself get carried away. He wanted, almost more than anything, to make love to Piper but he knew it wasn’t the right time for that. He stood up and reached for her hand. “Are you ready to get out of here?”
“Yes,” Piper said, smiling up at him. She knew she had unloaded a lot of baggage on Alistair that afternoon and she had been prepared to fight for their relationship. Yet Alistair had surprised her again. She suspected there was more to his story but she knew he would tell her when he was ready. Alistair wasn’t going to run away from her, he wasn’t worried about her past – just focused on their future.
She still had those days when the homework was piling up, when her mother and her coach were reprimanding her for one thing or another, and all she wanted to do was drink away her problems. Alistair had been the first person outside of Seattle who she had confided in and it felt good to have someone so close on her side, someone besides her sponsor who could talk her through those rough nights.
They both smiled uncontrollably that evening, always holding hands or needing to touch each other. She realized, as Alistair kissed her goodnight and asked her if he could see her the next morning, that she had officially found her new addiction. And he had the sexiest dimples she had ever seen.
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