Sunlight filtered into the bedroom in stages, making its way from the bay window to my bed. Each individual ray hit my eyes like a thousand samurai swords that had been set on fire and simultaneously shoved through my eye sockets to pierce my brain. I curled into a ball of pain and misery, throwing the blankets over my head and groaning in agonized distress just as the nausea swept over me. Shivers wracked my body and I simply lay there for a moment not sure if getting up and running to the bathroom was a trip necessary to make or merely an evil plan created by the universe to make me feel worse—if that was even possible.

After a few moments of hell, the pain that seemed to radiate from everywhere began to ebb and I sighed with relief. When about twenty more minutes of lying as still as humanly possible passed, I felt safe enough to attempt to open my eyes. The paisley bedspread that my mother bought stared back at me dimly, the cavern I had created by covering my head with blankets only allowing a small amount of light to illuminate the design I cherished.

Water. I needed water desperately. I lifted my head gingerly. Pain speared me once again, but calmed to a dull roar as I forced myself to be still and breathe deeply. I flipped the edge of my cover over so only my eyes peeked out, grimacing at the light and overall sunshiny happiness that greeted me outside of my lovely, depression cavern.

Peering at my clock to see that it was….twelve in the afternoon… I noticed a glass of water sitting on my bedside table along side of two aspirin. No longer caring about the pain in my head, I sat up and grabbed for the glass, gulping down the magic elixir of life and groaning again as the cool liquid wet my parched throat. After drinking my fill, my eyes fell to the aspirin and I looked at it curiously, my brow furrowing. I didn't get that, and my parents were out of town for the entire week.

Oh well. Thanking God for small miracles, I swallowed the two tiny pills down and finished off the water, imaging that my head felt better already. With a sigh, I squinted at the window and cursed the sun for maybe the millionth time since it had begun torturing me. Setting the glass back on then nightstand I sighed and looked at the clock again forlornly.

What the hell happened? Where had my entire morning gone? I was never one to get up late. I rarely slept past ten. Putting a hand gently on my aching temples, I sighed and leaned against my pillows, trying to gather some sense of humanity and ignore the god awful churning in my stomach. It was only when I looked longingly at the empty glass that my eyes alighted on the piece of notebook paper with handwriting scrawled on it. Though wary of trying to make my brain do actual work for fear of it exploding, I picked up the paper and read it.

Crys, I had to go to work but you seemed to be sleeping okay. If you're reading this, you aren't dead which is good because that means I won't have to feel guilty about leaving you. Come by my job so that I know you're functioning. If you aren't up by six (which wouldn't be a good sign) I'll stop by to check on you. -Jake

"Your job?" I echoed. Never mind the fact that Jake was clearly in my house watching me sleep for whatever reason. That idiot could never hold a job. Turning the note around, I saw that in the same neat print was the name and address of a mechanic shop, which I could only assume to be where he worked. How odd. What was he doing here last night? And why did it involve him staying? Clearly I must have been drunk. But for some reason, I couldn't remember anything at all that had happened last night. Pushing the note aside, I leaned forward, confused by this total lapse of memory. I tried to recall what had been going on, but I could only get little bits and pieces. Friday night. A party, maybe? Loud music and too many people for the small rooms. Drinks. Lots of drinks. Drinks that made me woozy –

It slammed into me like a ton of bricks. I was drugged last night. Drugged and almost raped by Richard and…some other guy. I could almost feel their hands on me, the cruel glint in their eyes. And without deciding whether it was safe or not, I launched myself out of bed and scurried to the bathroom, my stomach heaving.

After praying desperately to the porcelain god, I laid face down on the cool tile, feeling some relief in my stomach and head. With nothing left in there, I figured that my stomach would decide not to try and kill me anymore.

Thoughts of those two creeps pulling me up the stairs and my inability to stop them made my skin crawl and I moaned, wretchedness leaking out of every pore. Now I remembered everything. Jake saved me. He had broken down the door to get into the room and then knocked one of the guys unconscious. Richard left…after I begged him to let me go and promised not to rat him out. And then, that "idiot" carried me out of that house of sin and drove me home. And apparently, if the small flashes of memory I could recall served correct, he stayed with me the whole night. Or at least until the combination of alcohol and whatever drug they slipped in my drink put me totally out of commission. I groaned as a hazy memory surfaced involving incoherent, garbled sentences, crying, and him holding me…until I fell asleep…

"Why me?" I asked the tile, inwardly cringing with embarrassment at myself and my behavior. When I didn't receive an answer, I sighed and forced myself into a semi-upright position. The aspirin had finally begun to actually make a difference even though my blood pressure must have been through the roof. For a minute, I considered dragging myself into the shower and simply drowning away my misery, but decided against it because it required too much effort.

Clothes were things that I needed. I stood on shaky legs and stumbled to my closet. "Sweet Jesus." My reflection didn't bode well for the success of the rest of this day. My hair stood up haphazardly in several different directions. I looked tired, pale, and haggard, like death was waiting right around the corner. And maybe it was, I thought with a shrug. Turning determinedly from the small hanging mirror in my closet, I picked the first two things that looked like clothes that could be worn in public.

"Oh, shut up," I murmured to the birds that yammered with annoying cheerfulness outside of my window. Gently pulling off my tank top, I eventually couldn't take anymore happy sunshine. I walked determinedly to each set of blinds and yanked them down, casting my room into a pleasant darkness. I would have nodded with satisfaction, but the pain that exploded in my head with even the smallest movements made me decide against that. Instead, I simply pulled on clothes, gingerly brushed my hair into some semblance of normalcy, applied as much makeup as I could be bothered with, and clomped my way downstairs, note in hand.

Deciding against eating any real food, I shoved a piece of bread in my mouth and drank at least two more glasses of water before heading out the door and facing the horrific torture that was daytime.

Driving maybe wasn't the best idea, but I had no idea how else to get to the shop that Jake worked at and with sunglasses on, the agonizing sunlight was dulled just enough for me to have coherent thoughts past the aching in my head which had calmed to a periodic throb.

Saturday afternoon was usually a busy one and this one didn't deviate from the norm. People hustled and bustled in the streets, weaving through parked cars and attempting to dodge traffic. After a couple close calls involving pedestrians, I finally made it to my destination – a small mechanic shop right at the corner of the shopping strip. Parking across the street, I forced myself to move, walking into the dark garage. The radio was blasting and several cars were hoisted up, a guy working in each one. However, when I walked in, they all stopped and turned even as the man at the corner stood up straighter. I heard a soft whistle of appreciation and couldn't even muster the strength to smile or care. Instead, I walked up to the man at the counter, sunglasses still firmly over my eyes.

"What can I do for you, little lady?" the man said, leering. I thought with what little sense of humor I could muster that he was certainly making a lot out of nothing with the way I looked in my simple tank top and shorts, but I nodded politely and instantly regretted it, wincing at the pain in my head.

"Can I speak to Jacob Riley?" the man sighed, then yelled Jake's name, and I thanked him, both for confirming that Jake was there, and sending me reeling with pain at the proximity of his shout. Drifting away from the counter, I miserably sank down into a bench seat, letting my poor head rest in my hands.

What was wrong with me? Why did I decide to become an alcoholic yesterday of all days? Just because my parents were gone on their little vacation didn't mean that I had to act like a complete lunatic. And damn if I didn't get what I deserved for it. Now I was wallowing in a pool of depression and never ending suffering and it was close to the worst I had ever felt in my entire life.

"You're alive," a familiar voice said as a shadow fell over me.

"Barely." I said gloomily not even bothering to lifting my head. He sighed and sat beside me on the bench and out of the corner of my eye I saw jeans smudged with what I could only guess was oil and other car sludge.

"That bad, huh?"

I contemplated that for a moment. "Think of the worst pain you've ever felt. Think about what it would feel like to be turned, literally inside out. And then, combine those two things with what you might imagine being repeatedly rammed directly in the forehead by a sixteen wheeler would feel like. Multiply that by ten thousand and you're…oh I'd say about one third of where I am right now."

He laughed; the sound that would have otherwise been extremely pleasant grating on my aching nerves. "You always have such a way with words."

"Try me when I'm sober. And functioning."

He chuckled again and I thought bitterly that at least one of us could get some amusement out of this. "Did you take the aspirin I left for you?"


"Drink plenty of water?"

"I had to. I was dying of an unquenchable thirst."

"Have you eaten anything yet?"

Sighing with frustration at this annoying roll call of things that I should have done, I looked up at him, "Yes, I…" words fell from my mind just as fast as I tried to think them and for a second, I simply stared at Jake, my jaw most probably hanging open. He was…shirtless. And sweaty, and so insanely rugged and masculine that something deeply feminine in me faintly yearned for him. His body, sculpted by only the most precise angels, I'm sure, was nothing short of perfection. Chiseled abs, sculpted arms and flawlessly defined, wide shoulders—it was enough to make any sane girl drool. And I was definitely sane, if a little out of it at the moment. "Uh...I had some…bread. Earlier."

He looked at me curiously and I realized with relief that because of my sunglasses he couldn't really see that I was ogling him. To keep it that way, I looked down at some point on the floor that suddenly became insanely interesting. Thankfully, my jaw hadn't been hanging open and I swallowed hard, marveling at what I had just discovered.

Jacob Riley, the kid that I had hated through high school, was without a doubt the most beautiful male specimen I had ever laid droopy, unfocused eyes on.

And I was a complete and utter fool last night.

"Bread? Crys you have to eat more than that."

Somewhere, I found my voice, "What are you, a doctor?"

Hands gently framed my face and my heart began to race feverishly as said hot boy made me face him. Pulling my sunglasses off, he peered directly into my eyes, squinting with concentration. "No, but my dad is. So you could say I've learned a few things." He murmured, looking at me. "You seem okay. Whatever drug they slipped you isn't affecting you anymore."

"Could've fooled me," I muttered as he turned my head this way and that, feeling two spots right under my jaw. His big hands on my face was strange, but not in an unpleasant way, more in an I-remembered-him-doing-this-last-night way. While he studied me, I studied him. His short brown hair was slightly wavy and tousled, probably from him running his hands through it which was something I remembered seeing him do often, both throughout our time in high school together and last night. He had stunning light green eyes, eyes that you could imagine getting lost in. Last night I remembered that they had been hazel… I wondered if they were the type that changed color. High cheekbones and a smile tilted just so to indicate the possibility of mischief at any time, Jake wasn't your traditional pretty boy. But when you really got to stop and look at him, he was one that I could definitely learn to appreciate.

"You're alright." He asserted and I snorted again, disagreement clear on my face as I snatched up my sunglasses and shoved them over my eyes to protect myself. "Make sure you eat something. Protein would be good, but don't try to force it. Maybe some soup."

"Yes, mother," I retorted, standing.

"That's daddy to you, Mr. Riley if you're feeling fresh." He rose from the bench to tower over me, at least half a foot taller than I was which was a lot considering my height of 5' 8". I smiled without emotion and he laughed again. "Hey," he said gently, placing a hand on my arm as I turned away. I faced him again, taking in his piercing gaze. "You'll be okay." His voice had changed and I could tell that he meant more than my physical sickness. Smiling depreciatingly, I crossed my arms over my chest.

"Yeah. I'll manage." I looked out into the busy street, not really seeing the cars that rushed by. He nudged me gently with a shoulder, making me smile.

"I've got to get back to work. Get some rest. I'll stop by your place when I get off just to make sure you haven't croaked or burned the house down."

I looked up at him, curiosity in my eyes. When I saw nothing but sincerity in his expression, a smile curved my lips. What a sweetheart. He didn't have to do that and he knew it, but it was nice to know that I wouldn't be suffering in my house alone all day.

He smiled back, "See you later."

"Sure," just as he began to walk away, I reached out, putting a hand on his arm to stop him, "Jake, wait." He turned to me expectantly and I let my arm drop, lowering my head with embarrassment that I was trying my damnedest to hide. "I just..." I fidgeted before looking up at him again. "Thank you."

He shrugged, "It's nothing."

"Not just for this…for everything. For finding me and staying with me. Thank you."

He smiled crookedly at me, gently tugging a lock of my hair. "No problem. What are friends for?"

I smiled wryly at that phrase, one I remembered us saying sarcastically to one another every time we got on each other's nerves. As I watched him walk back into the depths of the garage, his bare back glistening beautifully in the sunlight, I chuckled to myself. Friends indeed.

Okay, so I figured I should go ahead and say something. First of all, thank you for any interest in my story at all! It's so greatly appreciated. Also, I'm open to constructive criticism and like any author, I crave feedback so please, please, please review. I know I didn't mention anything about it before, but this is indeed rated M for a reason. I don't know when the M parts are going to show up just yet, but it probably won't be much longer. Sorry the summary was so vague, but it's hard to fit a good, solid summary into a character limited space as I'm sure many of you know. Once again, thank you so much for any and all feedback; it really does mean a lot. I'm going to try my absolute hardest to stay on top of updating—hopefully having a chapter out at least once every two weeks if not once a week which is more of what I'm leaning towards. I'll try to stay consistent; I know how important that is to a good story! Please review; like I said, it means a lot! And of course, enjoy the story