The next day is actually pretty peaceful. My brothers don't drag me into the cafeteria and try to humiliate me in front of the entire school. Dominic doesn't even show up to ruin my wonderful mood. I half expect him to jump out from behind a corner and attempt to use my birthday as a way to get into my pants. Boys are ruthless that way. After school Matt and Doug drop me off at the bookstore before going home to set up for their party.
I've been working at Callaway Books for about a year now. Mr. Callaway used to be friends with my parents and I've spent so much time in his bookstore over the years that he promised me a job as soon as I turned sixteen. In all honesty, I don't need to work. Dad is barely home, but he does provide all of us with anything we could ever need. I like having money that's my own and a place I go my brothers start annoying me or throw a massive party in our house. Callaway's is the perfect place to hide when you need to escape. It's cozy and filled with hundreds of books to loose yourself in. Aside from the regular customers and a sporadic wanderer, I'm mostly on my own here.
After sorting through some new arrivals and entering inventory into the computer, I grab a random book from a shelf and start reading. The overhead bell rings and I don't even glance up from my book. Most of the people that come here don't want an employee jumping down their throats. Except for this customer, I realize, when a shadow falls over my book. The person in question clears their throat and I mark my place, glancing up. When I do, I almost wish I didn't. Dominic Connor is standing in front of me – in my freaking happy place – with a smug smile on his face.
"Is nothing sacred to you?" I ask, leaning back in my chair and crossing my arms over my chest. "How did you even find me? Stalking is illegal, you know."
"I'm not stalking you," Dominic says, rolling his eyes. "Though don't girls find that flattering these days anyway? Because of that stupid vampire book?"
"Nope. I still think it's creepy," I reply. "So should I just call the cops now or will you leave peacefully?"
"I told you, Alexa. I'm not stalking you," he repeats. "I stopped by your brothers party and asked Andy where you were."
"You know Andy?" I ask, suspiciously.
"We go way back," he says, waving it off like it's nothing. "He dated my sister Ashley when he was a senior."
"Your sister is Ashley Connor?" I snap, realization dawning. "So that's why you're after me all of a sudden."
"You lost me," Dominic replies, looking confused.
"My brother hurt your sister and now you're trying to 'woo' me as you so graciously put it in order to get your revenge!" I smile smugly now that I've discovered his true intentions.
Dominic throws his head back and laughs. It's so obnoxious, actually, that I'm a bit offended.
"My sister doesn't need anyone defending her honor!" Dom gasps out between breaths. "You two actually have that in common. Plus, if I was really trying to screw you over then why would I tell you that she was my sister. Wouldn't I be all secretive about it?"
"Obviously not," I say, my resolve wavering. "Because Andy knows you and could tip me off."
"Do you really think so little of yourself?" Dominic asks, baffled.
"No. I think that little of you," I grumble.
"Look, Alexa, I've seen you around school doing all of that crap for that organization you're in and Andy talked about you all of the time when he and Ashley were a thing. I thought it would be cool to get to know you and girls usually respond when I just walk up and tell them that," Dominic explains.
"You are so cocky," I retort, snorting.
"But, see? It obviously doesn't work on you," Dominic replies, chuckling. "I know you won't believe a word I have to say because you obviously have major trust issues -"
"Hey!" I snap and he laughs again.
"It's just, you're kind of hilarious. In fact you're the first girl I've ever met that I don't think I'd mind hanging out with," he finishes. "Platonically, of course."
"Let me get this straight, for the last week you've hit on me every time I've seen you and now you want to be friends?" I demand, raising an eyebrow. "Are you bipolar?"
"I still think you'll fall for me some day. If you haven't noticed – and obviously you haven't yet – I'm kind of irresistible. However, you seem like you could use some friends," he says.
I snort. "And you think you're a good candidate?"
"I do, actually, because I'll call you on your shit," he responds bluntly.
"How do I know this isn't some kind of game?" I question.
"You don't," he replies. "But I realized today that while hooking up with you would be fun-"
"And an impossibility," I interrupt.
"Hanging out with you might be cool, too," he concludes, ignoring me.
"I think you might be insane," I say, taking in his face. "Have you ever been checked out by a psychologist?"
"I have some pride, Lex," he replies. "Usually if a girl doesn't seem interested in me I just let it go and move on to the next one. No harm, no foul. It's not like I'm really struggling to find a date."
"So do you try to befriend all of your failed conquests?" I ask.
"Only the ridiculous ones," he teases. "So that's it. We will be friends then."
"Well, as persuasive as this has been, I'm not really in the market for any new friends right now," I reply, still not believing a word he says.
"And I'm not really asking," he shoots back. "Isn't it clear to you yet that I'm kind of persistent? Plus, you don't really know anything about me. We haven't been acquainted for very long."
"Look, just go away, okay? I don't want to hook up with you. I don't want to be your friend. I really don't want anything to do with you," I reply, rubbing my temples. "Your mere presence is giving me a head ache. The only explanation I can think of – aside from this being yet another ploy to get in my pants – is that you are some kind of masochist that enjoys verbal abuse."
"No, I just don't think you're as tough as you pretend you are," he responds, shrugging. "You act like you hate everyone, but really I think you just want people to prove themselves. Your trust is earned. I respect that."
My jaw drops. Who is this kid? Why does he think he has a right to show up in my life all of the time and tell me who I am? I'm about to tell him where he can shove it when he smiles at me and pats me on the head. Oh, now I'm going to kick his ass.
"I know that you need a ride home because Andy mentioned it so I'll just read a book or something until it's time for you to close up. Then I'm going to drive you home and we can go to your brother's party together. Okay?" he says, but it sounds more like a command than a question.
"If I say no, you'll just ignore me won't you?" I mumble.
"Look! We're learning things about each other already!" he teases before disappearing into an isle.
I try to keep working, but it's a slow night and no customers come in. I have no choice but to sit here and literally feel Dominic's presence. Every cell in my body is screaming to stay away from him. This has to be some kind of game. He probably thinks he can befriend me, make me trust him, and then have his way with my down the line. Something in my brain tells me, though, that there must be another reason he's trying so hard. He's basically debunked my theory that he's looking for revenge. I'm certainly not going to sleep with him and I think he knows that so that can't be his angle. For some reason my brain flashes back to my conversation with Samantha. Maybe he does just legitimately like me. Either way, I'm stuck with him until the end of the night so there's no point in fighting it anymore.
At closing time, Dominic reappears at the counter and helps me clean up – not that there's much to do. I reluctantly follow him out to the car, excepting that for now this is my fate. I will be killing Andy later, though. It's unfortunate that things have to end this way because I'm sort of attached to him. Dom leads me across the parking lot and over to a mini van.
"Wait. The big shot mechanic drives a mini-van? Do you moonlight as a soccer mom?" I ask, raising an eyebrow.
Dom rolls his eyes. "I usually ride my Grandpa's old Harley, but I figured you wouldn't appreciate that. This is my Gram's car."
"Oh," I say, a bit surprised he thought that far ahead. "Well, you're right. I would definitely not get on a motorcycle with you."
"Again, I think you'll probably change your mind about that someday. Until then, Gram's always willing to lend me her car. She hates Ramp's motorcycle."
"As she should," I reply, climbing into the passenger seat. "Bikes are dangerous."
"I've scene under the hood of your car, sweetheart," he says a bit condescendingly for my liking. "Trust me. My bike is safer."
"If we're going to continue to associate on any level at all then I suggest you resist calling me sweetheart ever again," I snap. "Obviously my threats mean nothing to you, but I have three older brothers. You learn a few things. Plus, I've been taking kickboxing for three years."
"Oh, wow. I'm terrified. The ninety pound girl is going to pummel me," Dominic mocks, chuckling. "I better higher a full security detail."
"I hate you," I reply, biting back a smile.
"Ah, but I bet you find me amusing," he responds.
"Not in the slightest," I say just as he turns onto my street. I can already hear the noise of the party and my stomach flips. People are packed onto my lawn and literally bursting out of my house. The fact that my brothers have never had the cops called on one of their ragers baffles me. Maybe the cops are called, but they probably fear my father as much as the rest of the people in this stupid town.
"Wow, I think it's actually gotten bigger since the last time I was here. Did they invite every teenager in the state?" Dom mutters, pulling into the first available spot which is nearly two blocks from my house.
"If I called the cops on my own brother's birthday party would that be mean?" I muse not even removing my seatbelt in an attempt to avoid the inevitable.
"Hey. If at any point this is too much for you then just let me know. We can get out of here no questions asked," Dominic offers.
"Surprisingly, that actually sounds more enjoyable than going into my own house right now," I reply. "Who would have thunk?"
"Ready?" Dominic asks opening his car door.
"Not even remotely," I reply, doing the same.
If I thought it was loud inside of Dominic's car than the actual noise of the party is almost deafening. It's not too bad on the street, but the second we enter the front door I'm almost blown over by the noise. People are crammed everywhere and I probably only recognize about twenty of them. Dominic immediately grasps the back of my shirt so I don't get lost in the scuffle. I push my way through the crowd in search of any of my brothers. Matt is the first one I spot, unsurprisingly, doing a keg stand. Andy is holding up one of his legs and he waves when he spots me and Dominic. Doug is grinding with some girl in the living room and I almost gag. He sees me over her shoulder and pushes away from her. The crowd parts like the fricking Red Sea so he can get to me.
"Lex!" he exclaims. The smell of alcohol on his breath makes me wince. He gathers me into his arms and lifts me off of the ground. "You came!"
"I came home," I clarify as he sets me back down. "This is where I live and work was over. Coming here was my only option. Don't you think this is a bit out of hand?"
"You told me to break the house," Doug reminds me.
"Yeah, but I was being facetious. You're going to get arrested, Doug!" I snap.
"Pfft," he replies, waving me off. "I invited all of the neighbors. They can't get mad if they were invited."
"Most of our neighbors are in the eighties," I point out.
"Yeah, well, I paid them, too." He shoots me a goofy smile. "Just have fun, Lexi. Loosen up! It's out birthday!" A drunk guy crashes into me and I glare at him. As if he's just realizing Dominic's presence at my shoulder, Doug steps up to him. "Who are you and why are you touching my baby sister?"
I roll my eyes and grab Dominic's arm, pulling him over to Matt and Andy. Matt is nearly belligerent and I'm pretty sure he doesn't even recognize me. My chest tightens. I hate when he gets like this. Andy, though, smiles a bit guiltily.
"Sorry this is so crazy, Lex," he says to me.
Instead of answering, I push Dominic at him and say, "I believe this is yours. I'm going to bed."
It takes me about fifteen minutes to get through the crowd and up to my bedroom. It gets a little easier to make it past people when I guy near the bottom of the stairs smacks my butt and I punch him in the throat. People tend to get out of your way after you assault someone. When I finally make it to my room there's a couple hooking up on my bed.
"Seriously?" I demand. The couple shoot up and the girl hides her face. I vaguely recognize her from one of my classes freshman year. "Get out of my room!"
"I thought this was Doug Malone's house," the guy says.
"Yeah. I'm his sister. Get out!" I snap.
"Sorry!" the girl exclaims, jumping up and grabbing the guys wrist. I lock my door behind them and rip my sheets off my bed. Doug better enjoy his seventeenth birthday because he definitely won't be seeing his eighteenth.
A/N: So this is as far as I've gotten thus far. I could really use some feedback from you guys. (Don't worry, I'll change it after I complete this draft. I won't do this to you guys again). Is the change in Dominic's behavior too abrupt? Alexa isn't immediately going to trust him, but she will realize that she needs him in the coming chapters. I'm going to Tennessee in a few days for Bonnaroo, but I hope to have one or two more chapters posted before I leave. I'll also be writing every chance I get while I'm there so I can pick up as soon as I get back. Thanks, guys. You're the best!