When I felt remotely better, I straightened up and walked back to the car. Camden was sitting on the front bumper, looking straight up in the sky like a dejected prom date. A few tiny stars had poked through the light pollution.

I climbed up beside him and sat on the hood, for once not caring that my ass was making a dent in it. The whole front right corner of the car was smashed up, the headlight dangling. I swallowed hard at the damage of my poor car then did a silent prayer of thanks. It was better that Jose got injured than us. Besides, he wasn’t my car to grieve over.

“Luck be a lady tonight,” Camden said quietly. “I think she’ll turn on us soon.”

I looked at him sharply, studying the back of his head. “She turned on me a long time ago.”

Silence swirled around us. Finally he said, “Oh, why don’t you just shut up, Ellie.”

My heart squeezed. “What?”

He turned his head so I saw the side of his face. His blue eyes glittered menacingly in the dark, such a change from a few moments ago. “This always has to be about you, doesn’t it?”

I was taken aback and struggled for words. Indignation flared hot inside. “Well I’m sorry I have some psychopath after me. I’m sorry it’s such a big inconvenience for you. I didn’t ask for this, you know.”

“Yes! You did!” he said, bringing his eyes back to the endless black of desert in front of us. “You asked for everything you’ve gotten.”

“Oh, fuck you.”

“No,” he said, getting up. He turned to face me and leaned forward on the hood, his arms on either side of me, causing me to flatten beneath him. “Fuck you. Why the hell do you have to go fucking with people? Is there anyone else you’ve pissed off?”

His face was so close to mine, the anger just seething off of him. “What did Javier do to you? What did he do to make you take his car and his money? To get me in this mess. Huh?”

“It’s a long story,” I spat back. “You wouldn’t understand.”

“Try me!”

“Fine!” I yelled back. “He cheated on me, okay? He was my first love, my first everything, and I came home one day and…well there you have it. I saw something that ripped my heart out. I overreacted. I was angry…I, I would’ve done anything to hurt him. Don’t you see? All this time I was the one pretending…I never thought he was pretending too. Everything was a lie. I was so tired of the lies.”

“This is all because of lies?” he asked.

“This is all because of love,” I told him, my lower lip trembling. “Or maybe it’s all the same. Maybe it will always be the same with me!”

“He hurt you,” he said. “You hurt him back.”

“The only way I knew how. Javier doesn’t have a heart to break. Isn’t that what you think of me?”

His eyes narrowed into cool slits, appraising my face. “That is what I thought of you, Ellie. Heartless, reckless, selfish, and cruel.”

He was back to shooting me when my armor was down. I turned my face away from him, not wanting to let him see the hurt in my eyes.

He reached up and put his fingers under my chin, bringing my face forward again, forcing me to look at him. “Beautiful, sad, wounded, and lost,” he continued. “A freak, a work of art, a liar, and a lover.”

His gaze was starting to eat away at my insides. Razor-blade butterflies whirled in my heart.

“I hate you, Ellie Watt,” he whispered, lips coming closer to mine, “because I still love you after all these years.”

Shock seized me first, the butterflies shredding me to pieces. Then he grabbed my face and kissed me, hard. His lips devoured mine as our mouths pressed against each other in a painful frenzy. It was fire itself, our tongues and lips fanning the flames, our teeth nipping each other like sparks. I ran my hands up and down the back of his head, over his shoulders and back, pulling him to me; I couldn’t get close enough. He reached down and pulled my dress up over my waist, leaving me bare, my legs straddling him.

With one hand he began thumbing my clit, rubbing me until I was slick with desire and throbbing for release. He kissed, licked, and bit down my neck. With each groan, his hot breath flared against my skin. Once he reached my lacy neckline, he grabbed it with both hands and ripped it straight down the middle. My designer dress was left in tatters as it fell off my shoulders, leaving me naked. I didn’t care.

He worked his way down my chest and stomach, then buried his head in my cleft. He ran his tongue down the insides of my thighs, teasing me until I was grabbing his hair and forcing his dripping mouth onto my clit. He obliged with a grunt and I moaned in response, my back arching into him.

Just when I was about to come, he pulled his tongue away. He deftly unzipped his pants and positioned his cock into my opening. I was more than ready. I grabbed him by the ass and back and thrust him into me. I wrapped my legs around him, holding him until he was deep, deep inside. I ignored the pain from the tattoo and just kept him as close to me as possible while he started pumping in and out of me, my hips in his vice-like grip. He worked faster, harder, and was pounding me back into the hood, deepening the dent. I’d never been fucked so thoroughly before; I felt like I was going to meld into the metal.

“Fuck!” I cried out as we came together, my yelping cries soaring high into the desert sky, joining those of coyotes. He came hard into me, his fingers digging into my ass as he pumped his load into my spasming body. My convulsions milked him dry until he collapsed on top of me, pressing me to the hood. It felt deliciously cold against my hot and sweaty bare back.

We lay like that for a few minutes until the chill got to us. He pulled up and ran a finger over my lips. I kissed it, smiling, enjoying the taste of me on his fingers.

“We’ve thoroughly ruined this car tonight,” he murmured, planting a kiss on my forehead and down my nose.

“Everyone needs a little excitement,” I said, running my hands through his thick, soft hair. “Even cars.”

He smiled, soft and sweet, and studied me. I had seen that look before, one we’d shared on his trampoline. I never knew what that look was at the time, but I knew now.

“How can you still love me?” I asked quietly as I traced circles into the back of his head. “After everything I did to you.”

God, he was wonderful when he grinned like that.

“There’s no one else I wanted to love,” he admitted. “No one who deserved it more than you.”

I didn’t know what to say to that. I didn’t know how to feel, other than my heart feeling like it was pressing against my chest, up my throat, until it was stretching my mouth into a smile. I let out a little laugh of joy. He stroked his fingers down my face, peering at me intently. He didn’t need his glasses on for me to see the honesty in his eyes.

“I hope one day I’ll deserve it too,” he said.

My heart broke, jagged and sharp mixed with the warmth that was flooding through me. I held his head tight in my hands and looked deeply at him. “You will, Camden.”

I couldn’t promise when it would happen. But I wasn’t going anywhere. We had time.

At least, I hoped we still had time.

I let go of him and he straightened up. “Time to go?” he asked, reading me.

I nodded. “I might as well get changed here.” I sat up.

“I’ll get your clothes,” he said. He zipped up his fly and dusted off his tux. Aside from his bowtie that I had yanked loose, he looked calm and collected and ready to take on the night. He went inside the car and came back with a pair of boxer shorts, a shirt, and sweater. “You should probably still keep the area around the leg loose. For now.”

When I was done changing, having left the ruins of the dress on the desert floor, we got back in the car and drove off, heading for our next destination, wherever that was. In the side mirror I watched the dress blow away in the night wind, black wings on a black sky.


The girl hadn’t meant to go home early. Even though Javier was taking care of her, both physically and financially, she felt strange without having a job. She felt even stranger that he wasn’t some sugar daddy that had come into money, but that he got his wealth through criminal means.

In some ways, the girl could relate to her lover. After all, she had been conning him the whole time they were together. Sure, she never took any money from him, but she was still keeping tabs. She still wanted to get even with Travis, his boss, the man who ruined her all that time ago, but as the year went by, she felt she was less fueled by vengeance. Being loved by Javier—being in love with Javier—stifled the anger she felt inside. For the first time in a very long time, someone was able to take her hurt away.

So, because she didn’t like relying on Javier for everything, because she felt he was already giving her so much through his romantic gestures, constant attention, and charming personality, she had gotten a job as a waitress. It was just a local bar and she only worked weekends. It didn’t matter that her weekends were taken up when Javier didn’t work business hours anyway. Breaking fingers and running drugs could be done at any time of the week.

That day, the day that everything changed for the girl, she was sent home early. There had been a small fire in the kitchen and they were closing it down for the evening to assess the damage. The girl got into her Chevy truck, something she still drove despite craving Javier’s car, and went home. She stopped at a mini-mart, picking up a six-pack for them to split. Javier had been stressed out lately—why, she didn’t dare ask—and thought it might be nice to surprise him. They used to love taking drinks onto the white sand beach and watching the waves roll in, something they hadn’t done for an awful long time.

The girl was pondering why they hadn’t been together as much lately, doing the things that used to bring them joy, when she pulled up to the house. It was completely dark and looked like no one was home, though she had only left him sitting at his computer two hours earlier.

Maybe he’s napping, she thought to herself. He often went out into the wee hours of the night to do his business. She didn’t once have any suspicions. Why would she? Even though she and Javier weren’t spending as much time together as they used to, their sex life always kept them connected. He was a powerful and insatiable man in the sack—dominant, sensual, slightly kinky, and extremely vocal.

For a long time the girl’s mind would go back to that moment, the moment she decided to get out of the car and walk into the house. If she’d stayed in the car, perhaps even for a few more minutes, the whole thing would have been avoided. Perhaps her life wouldn’t have changed. She looked at that blissful ignorance and wanted it back. The truth was too painful.

But she got out of the car and walked into their house, facing the truth that was hidden in the bedroom. She quietly closed the door in case he was taking a nap and tiptoed through the hall. She gently laid the cold beer on the kitchen counter and pulled one off the ring for herself. She walked down the hallway toward the bedroom—and stopped dead.