Her smell, cinnamon and fermented grapes, blows over me. Amelia sits her wine glass down on the bar and leans against my shoulder. I glance down at her and she bats her long, dark lashes at me. The shadows from the poorly lit bar settle in the hollows of her face and while they linger, she looks more like a demon than angel. .
“You wanna go home?” I ask, despite already knowing her answer.
She shakes her head. “I’m bored, but the night’s still young.”
Amelia pushes off of me and eagerly scans the bar for something to do. Clearing my throat, I shift on my stool. I don’t like it when she gets this look in her eye… like a hungry lion before it pounces. I watch closely as her stare rests on the couple playing darts in the far corner. They were here long before we arrived and they’re still doing the same thing, only drunker. She touches my arm and through her grip, I feel her excitement. It sets me on edge.
“I want to play darts.”
“No, you don’t. You hate darts.”
She rolls her eyes. “Jackson, they’ve been playing forever. It’ll be a public service, really.”
I shake my head. “I’m not going to make them move just so you can get your power hit, Amelia.”
Her eyes, as black as glass, thin into seething slits. “He is a little taller than you—and older. It’s okay to be scared of him.”
I scoff. “You think I’m scared of him?”
She doesn’t know me at all. She leans in close and I hold my breath as her glossed lips graze the shell of my ear.
“No.” She says and relief fills me like a balloon. “I think you’re a pussy.”
With words as sharp as a pin, she pops my balloon and I deflate, losing all sense of relief. I know better than to bite. I know better than to let her under my skin, but I can’t stop it. She’s like a scarab beetle. She burrows under my skin and follows my circulatory system until she’s in my brain and I can’t think of anything else. She said the exact same thing to me when she wanted me to get a tattoo and I didn’t want to. Growing up, I never wanted a tattoo, that was Seth’s goal. Now, I’m barely nineteen and I have an entire left arm sleeve and plans for more. The artist wasn’t kidding when he said they were addictive.
With an exhale, she turns on her stool and slumps over her wine glass. It bugs me! I clench my jaw and try my fucking hardest to ignore her…
…the next thing I know, I’m on my feet and standing right by the couple playing darts.
“Can I help you, kid?” The man asks with a flick of his wrist, sending the thin, metal dart into the left of the board.
“My girl and I want to play darts and you’ve been hogging this board for a while.”
The man turns and looks directly at me. My gaze falls to his thin, graying moustache. “It’s a free country, squirt, and there are no rules here.”
His constant referral to my youth pricks at my temper and I grit my teeth together as his lips pull into a condescending smirk. His blonde haired girlfriend, wearing heels much too high for a place like this, steps closer to her partner with her own smug little grin. He raises his hand to throw the dart and ignores me like I’m nothing.
I glance over my shoulder at Amelia and the look she’s giving me—the look of total disappointment churns my stomach. Rage ignites inside me and this motherfucker’s blood is going to put the smile back on her face. I snatch his hand before he’s able to throw the dart and I pry it from his fingers. Red tints my vision and his absolute disrespect propels me harder, making me hate him more than I really should. I slam the tip of the dart into his thigh and in the distance, I hear his girlfriend shriek.
“Ahh, you fuck!” He growls as he hunches over to protect his thigh.
Not caring if he winds up dead, I grab his head, bunching his wiry hair in one of my hands, and punch him clean in the side of the face, repeatedly, until his body sags against mine. His gesture is clear defeat, but I don’t care. As he folds over himself in front of me, I grip his head with both my hands and drive my knee into his face. Then, my world catches up with me and the silence of the bar becomes too loud, even over the pound of my unsteady heartbeat. I look around and everyone stares… watching me with wide eyes. A second later, the red begins to fade and the regret settles in. It hits me with tremendous force, completely knocking the wind from my lungs. I look down at the man and inch towards him.
To help? I think so.
He lies on the floor, choking on his own blood. My chest tightens—my entire body tightens. I’m going to faint… I lean forward slightly, clenching my stomach. What the fuck did I do that for? His girlfriend rolls him onto his side and cries out for help. The man, the stranger, groans and clenches his thigh. Behind me, Amelia giggles and it sends bile up my throat. How can she enjoy seeing such a scene? She wraps her arm around mine and pulls me away from the man I’ve seriously injured. My hands tremble and the drops of blood that stain them seem to burn like acid on my skin.
“I thought you wanted to play darts…” I mumble, dazed as she escorts me from the low-end bar.
“Ugh,” she scoffs. “I hate darts, you know that.”
My blood runs cold—so cold I’m certain it freezes in my veins. The icy tendrils send chills down my spine and I snap away from her, as if her very touch is turning me to ice.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” I demand, not caring who overhears.
“This again? Jesus, Jackson, will you grow pair already?”
“No!” I shout, making her jump.
It’s not fear that has her watching me closely, it’s excitement. She has to be the only person in the world who gets off on other’s anguish. As her dark irises flick over me, I watch her. Her porcelain skin, red hair and beautiful dark eyes mesmerize me for a second. How’d she get this way? What did she suffer through to make her so… cold? So heartless?
Why’d she choose me? I was young… I still am young. Am I that impressionable? She’s the first girl I’ve ever been involved with, sexually, and it’s enough to completely control me? How? How do I get away from her? I could walk away and never look back… but I have nothing else. I left my Mom and Dad almost a year ago to the day to be with Amelia, and Seth is busy with his own family problems. I have no one else… I pushed them all away to be with her.
She is all I have.
“What are you thinking, Jacky?” She asks, stepping closer.
A devilish twitch pulls at the corner of her lips, but she manages to contain her smile.
“You’re all I have.” I whisper, not sure if I’m telling her or convincing myself it’s real.
“I know I am.”
Amelia allows herself to fully smile and it’s wrapped and wicked. Still, it sends my heart slamming into my ribcage and causes my blood to warm and pool in places I know she wants to touch. The worst part of all of this is the fact I’m unable to hold her accountable for her manipulation… no. The worst part is, she doesn’t force me. I choose to do these things for her, to make her happy—to impress her. As her lips press against mine and her tongue slides into my mouth, I feel my heart blacken and freeze just that little bit more. I can’t escape her.