By Nicki DeStasi
Anna lives every day the best she can while struggling against the demons that threaten to consume her and drag her back into the darkness of her troubled past. The last thing she needs right now is a guy, especially one as sweet and sexy as Jed.
When the attraction becomes too strong to resist, she gives into it. Even when she knows it’ll only end in disaster and leave her more her scared and broken than she was before.
Jed wants to find the right woman and he’s drawn to Anna by carnal magnetism, but she also brings out an alpha side of him that he’s never known. When his alpha rears its head, it triggers memories in Anna and her carefully crafted wall of protection begins to show cracks.
When fate and misunderstandings threaten their already delicate relationship, can they survive? When Anna’s demons threaten to be unearthed and Jed’s inner alpha only seem to make them worse, can they overcome?
Is it even worth it?
Anna (The Past)
A few weeks later, I approach the lunch table.
Shannon shouts, “Happy birthday!”
I think she enjoys embarrassing me. The smile on my best friend’s face is the only thing that stops me from smacking her.
“Why don’t you say it a little louder Shan? I don’t think people across the street heard you,” I mutter as I plop in between her and Jared.
She rolls her eyes. “Smile, it’s your birthday. You’re not allowed to be grumpy.”
Jared snakes an arm around my shoulders and pulls me into a half hug. He plops his usual friendly kiss on my head. “Happy birthday, beautiful. How does it feel to be fifteen, like the rest of us?”
“Feels like any other day. It kinda sucks to be born in the fall though.” I smile up at him as our hug separates.
Until I met Todd, I’d wanted Jared. He’s sweet and gorgeous with dark brown hair and matching eyes. My eyes shift and catch his newest girlfriend scowling at us. A month ago, her presence would have been a smack in the face, a reminder that my feelings weren’t shared. But now, I have someone who does share my feelings.
Thinking about him, my eyes drift around the cafeteria to see if I can catch a glimpse of Todd. Even though we’ve officially been dating for a month, he still doesn’t want people to know that we’re together, and that is a little jab to my heart. I don’t want him to be embarrassed of me, but I try to understand. I want to make him happy, so I swallow my disappointment.
“Who are you looking for?” Alison asks.
Alison and Aaron, who are dating, are the final two in my little group of friends. Well, Shannon’s boyfriend is part of our group, too, but he goes to a different school.
I quickly bring my attention back to the table because Todd doesn’t want even my friends to know, and I don’t want my wandering eyes to spark questions. “No one.”
“Really? You looked like you were trying to find someone,” Alison pushes
“Nope,” I say. “So, are you guys going to the football game on Friday?”
I know I won’t be able to go because my dad is working, and someone needs to be home with my sisters. Mom will be there, but she’ll probably be in her bedroom—again.
The distraction works, and they chatter on with their plans for Friday night. No one is surprised when I say I can’t join them. I zone out until I notice everyone has stopped talking. When I realize that their eyes are focused behind me, I look over my shoulder, and ice seeps through my veins. Todd is standing with clenched fists and a blank stare that just barely conceals his anger. My heart starts to race, and my palms begin to sweat.
Something is wrong, very wrong.
“Savannah,” he says evenly, “can I talk to you in the hall for a minute?”
I glance back at my friends, who are wearing matching shocked expressions. When their eyes shift back to me, I see the questions forming. I stand up and mumble, “I’ll be right back.”
I start to follow Todd when Jared puts a hand on my arm, stopping me, and I turn to see his brow furrowed.
“You okay?” Jared asks.
I open my mouth to respond, but Todd clips, “She’s fine. Let’s go, Savannah.”
My gut is a jumbled mess, but I give my friends a half smile and turn to follow him out into the hallway.
When the cafeteria door closes behind me and the two of us are alone, he turns to me and pushes me against the nearby wall. His hands grip my biceps and his face is an inch from mine when he asks through clenched teeth, “What the fuck are you doing? Are you trying to make me angry?”
My eyes widen, and my body electrifies with anxiety. I rack my brain to figure out what I did wrong, what I did to make him so angry. My heart races as I stammer out, “I’m sorry. I-I don’t know what you mean.”
“Why is that little shit putting his hands on you?”
Todd’s jaw clenches, and his hand on my arm squeezes tighter, but he says nothing.
“He’s just my friend. We’ve been friends since middle school,” I say in a rush. Even though I’ve had a crush on Jared since I’ve known him, my feelings for him are nothing compared to what I’m feeling for Todd.
“If he’s just a friend, why the fuck did he kiss you?” His eyes flash with anger.
“I…I don’t know. He’s always done that,” I explain quickly.
“I don’t like him. I don’t want you hanging around him.”
My face drops. Jared is my friend, and he has been for a few years now. I don’t want to make Todd mad at me, but I don’t want to lose my friend either. “But he’s my friend.”
“That little asshole wants in your pants, and I don’t want him anywhere near you.”
My face flames at the mention of sex. Todd was my first kiss, and other than a few make-out sessions, I’ve never done anything more than that. Jared doesn’t see me that way anyway.
I shake my head. “He doesn’t.”
His hand grips me harder, and I wince.
“So, you want him then, huh? Is that it?”
“What? No!” I guess, on some level, it’s a lie, but I’m not pining after Jared anymore.
I have Todd, and I care about him. I think I might even love him, so I don’t want him to think that I want Jared. He might leave me, and that thought makes me tense and scared.
“You sure?” he asks, his face softening a little.
The stiffness in my body begins to melt away. “Yeah, I only care about you,” I reply gently.
He rewards me with a gorgeous smile. My body relaxes completely when he envelops me in his arms and presses his lips on top of my head. He keeps them there for a few moments, allowing contentment to settle over me.
“I think you should prove it,” he mumbles against my head.
It’s Wednesday now, and I’m watching something stupid on TV. Well, I’m not really paying attention to the TV. My focus is on Anna, who is curled up next to me, studying some papers. It’s fascinating to watch her study. She chews on her thumb with a pencil tucked behind her ear, and her beautiful blue eyes skim across the page. Every so often, her eyes will narrow in concentration, and she’ll pull the pencil out and jot something down or underline a sentence. Then, she’ll twirl the end of the pencil in between her plump, lush pink lips. That’s when I redirect my attention back to the TV, so I’m not tempted to rip the papers out of her hands and replace the pencil with my tongue. I discreetly adjust myself as I try and fail to rid myself of the image of her lips wrapped around the pencil…or around my cock. Shit!
When I glance back down, she’s out, and I inwardly chuckle. Here I am, imagining my cock in her mouth, and she’s so tired that she passed out in the middle of studying against me. I’m glad she’s getting a little rest though, and I take the opportunity to drink her in. She’d probably be embarrassed that I’m studying her right now. Her cheek is kind of squished, and her mouth is parted a little more than normal. She’s beautiful. I take my finger and gently—so I don’t wake her—trace the line of her jaw, the curve of her nose, and along her eyebrows. My dick stirs when my finger travels across those pouty full lips.
Her brow furrows, and she frowns.
My lips tip down, too. Huh. I wonder what she’s dreaming about.
Her body tenses into a rigid plank, and her face crumples. She looks like she’s in pain and maybe embarrassed.
Jesus, what the fuck?
“Um…Anna,” I whisper.
“Sthop! Wahda ya doin?” she slurs, whispering.
What the hell needs to stop? What the hell is she dreaming about? I’m starting to panic. Should I try to wake her up? Isn’t there an old wives tale that says not to wake people up, or they’ll go on a murdering spree or something, right? Wait—no, that’s sleepwalking. I should try to wake her.
“Anna,” I say a little louder, giving her shoulder a shake.
Her face contorts. She whispers, “Ged offa me.”
My stomach drops, and my jaw clenches. Get off of me? Christ, I need to wake her up and get her out of whatever hell she’s in.
“Anna,” I say louder, shaking her shoulder a little harder.
“Plleeaasse sllopp,” She starts trembling.
Oh fuck. I’m freaking the fuck out because I’m almost positive she’s dreaming about rape or something just as shitty. I want to jump in her head and bash the shit out of her dream attacker. I feel helpless, and I hate it.
“Anna!” I yell and shake her hard.
Her frantic eyes pop open, and she sits up so fast that she almost knocks me off the couch. Her wild eyes search the room.
“Are you okay, baby?” I ask. I’m sure the horror and concern are all over my face.
She finally stops her wild searching, and when her eyes meet mine, her face falls, and she ducks her head, squeezing her eyes closed. That’s the moment I know. I know this wasn’t just a dream. It was a memory, and it was exactly what I thought it was. I swallow thickly, and I try not to show an ounce of my rising anger because I don’t want to scare her. I need to comfort her and make sure she knows that she’s safe.
“Hey,” I start softly, “you’re okay. I’m right here.”
“I should go.”
“I have school in the morning, and you have work. It’s getting late. I’m sorry I passed out,” she says, getting off the couch. She moves to the chair where her coat and schoolbag are, and she starts shoving everything in.
It takes me a moment to recover from the shock. This is not the reaction I was expecting.
“Don’t go right now. Talk to me.” I stand up and approach her carefully.
She plasters a fake smile on her face, but I can see the panic behind it. It’s rising, and I can see her hands shaking as she puts on her coat.
Ah shit. I’m trying to tamp down the urge to physically keep her here. I can’t have her take off in the state she’s in right now.
She smiles a wobbly smile, and I can see tears forming in her eyes.
“Nothing to talk about, but I should get going.”
I can’t let her run from me—not like this, not right now. “You’re staying. Talk to me.”
She clenches her jaw. She won’t look at me as gathers her things. As she pulls her purse over her shoulder, she turns her back to me.
“You talk in your sleep.”
She freezes and turns slowly to look at me. Her face is full of pain, embarrassment, and regret. She opens her mouth to say something, but then she quickly closes it. I see the tears well up again. She swallows thickly, and I can tell that she’s trying with everything she has not to cry.
“Talk to me. What happened?”
She shakes her heads with a tiny jerk. “I’ve got to go.”
Before I can stop her, she flies out the door.
Shit. I throw on my shoes and grab my keys, and then I rush out the door. She’s sprinting toward her car, but I’m close behind her.
Fuck, it’s cold out here. I forgot my jacket.
I reach her car a few seconds after she closes the door, and I knock on the window.
Her head is buried in her hands, and when she finally looks up at me, her face is tearstained. She looks so tortured, and the thought of something happening to her is tearing me up. I’m fighting against my conflicting emotions—my need to comfort her and the rage I feel toward whoever did this to her.
I open the door and kneel down in front of her. I reach out to wipe away a falling tear. “Let me in.”
She squeezes her eyes closed, and then she gives a jerky shake of her head. “I can’t.”
I take her face in my hands and lean in close. She needs to open up. I need her to open up.
“Did someone hurt you?” I ask.
I can feel her jaw clench under my hands. She looks scared and hurt. I can also see the shutters slam down like a steel door.
“I’m sorry, Jed, but I need to go,” she says in a quiet, even voice.
She reaches for the door handle, but I grab her hand a little too hard.
“You—” I start to say, but when her eyes widen in terror, the words die in my throat. I drop her hand quickly, and my mind starts spinning.
Her face turns blank. “I need to go.”
I’m so shocked that I stand up and step back. She closes the door, starts the engine, and drives off. The whole time, I just stand and stare. I know it’s fucking freezing out here, but I don’t feel a thing. As her taillights disappear, I come out of my daze, and I want to punch something.
What the fuck just happened? And why is this girl trying to drive out of my life?
I thought we were finally getting somewhere. She said on Saturday that she’d open up to me one day, and tonight was a perfect opportunity. Instead, she ran. I’m trying to understand that she’s scared and she panicked, but I’m pissed that she wouldn’t unload on me when I’ve been telling her and showing her that I’m here for her, that she can come to me.
My patience is wearing thin. I know she cares about me, and God help me, I’m not letting her go. She might be broken, but I’ll help her put herself back together if it’s the last thing I do.
Meet the Author
Nicki DeStasi was raised in a small town in Massachusetts. She attended Fitchburg State College and studied Early Childhood Education. As a child, she enjoyed reading, but only recently began doing it again. She has always had an inventive imagination and finally decided to put those ideas on paper for others to enjoy. Worth It will be Nicki’s first self-published book. A few personal facts: Sloth from The Goonies is her third cousin, she acted and stared in several plays throughout high school and college, and she can play four different instruments. Nicki’s philosophy is to appreciate the good things in life. If we didn’t make mistakes and have bad things happen then we wouldn’t know how truly wonderful the good things are. No matter how difficult life is sometimes, if we look to the people that love us, then we can get through them and on to the good stuff.