© Sorraya T 2015
After our first conversation, I knew that I hated him.
His confident stroll through the milling freshmen on their first day on campus, already surrounded by a group of sniggering lackeys and paired with a dazzling smirk, all declared him to be hot shit.
I had been sitting under a tree, minding my own business with an earbud in one ear while nodding along disinterestedly to the conversation of the group of people who'd decided to surround me. I was absentmindedly agreeing with whatever some blonde chick wearing a brand new UCLA T-Shirt was gushing about when a shadow fell over me.
I looked up, and there he was. Leering over me and surrounded by his new minions.
"Ten." He said decisively, glacial blue eyes holding my gaze. His cronies all wolf-whistled and jeered, chortling at his apparently hilarious statement.
"Fuckboy." I responded calmly. He cocked an eyebrow, waiting for an explanation. "Are we not passing judgements based on appearances? Did I misinterpret this conversation?"
His group of idiots all "ooh-ed" and jeered some more. I was, admittedly, surprised that the only response he gave me was a broader grin. "Kale Emery."
He squatted down in front of me, resting his elbows on his knees, and held my chin in one hand as he leaned forward to whisper in my ear. "So I finally have someone fun to play with. See you around, Tor."
And that was the start of the longest four years of my life.
"Pens down." I rolled my eyes and made a show of picking up my pen only to drop it loudly again while many of those around me furiously kept writing. The Persian concept of kingship in the time of Xerxes wasn't exactly a difficult topic, and the exam was worth barely anything. I'd finished my essay fifteen minutes ago.
The Professor gave me a disapproving look which I responded to with a thumbs up. The man hated me ever since the paper I wrote which discredited his dating of the Exodus. It's not my fault his work was shoddy and under-researched. He finally let us leave and I marched out the door of the classroom before the doorway could be clogged by hysterical students whining about the exam. Christ.
A hand grabbed my elbow in the hallway, and I turned to see my roommate, Claire, looking at me wryly. "Let me guess," she said, hooking her arm through mine and pushing us on our way again. "That was too easy for you?"
"That topic could be covered accurately by fifteen year olds." I argued. "We should be learning something challenging."
"Dawson would be teaching us something a bit harder if you hadn't discredited him so badly." she pointed out, a slight snigger escaping. "I heard he's so scared of being disproved again that he refuses to teach anything that could be challenged."
"Well, he's turning my degree into a farce, then." I grumbled.
Claire giggled before changing the subject. "Are you coming out tonight? Joe Carmichael's the one holding this party."
Joseph Carmichael, resident business student and all around privileged party boy, held the best parties at UCLA, a fact that was common knowledge. If you skipped out on a Carmichael event, you could be damn well sure that you would be catching up on gossip for weeks afterward.
"You know me better than to ever seriously think I'd miss a Carmichael extravaganza." I grinned.
I noted the beautiful weather as we made our way to the quad to find our group, relieved it was so nice – there was no doubt a horde of drunken college students would be invading the Carmichael pool tonight, and with weather this good I knew I'd be one of them.
Claire laughed beside me. "Good point. Get ready together?"
I rolled my eyes as we plopped down onto the grass under the sycamore tree in the quad. "We live together. What do you think?"
She flipped me the bird and put her sunglasses on, lying down to bask in the warmth of the sun. We'd been best friends ever since freshmen year, when we'd moved to an apartment just outside campus and lived together every year after that.
Claire wasn't like me, in a lot of ways. She was warm, funny and likeable. I, on the other hand, was aware that I spent a good portion of my time being a bitch. Despite this, the friends I had were incredibly important to me, and knew when to cool me down.
I had been enjoying the sun on my face when it was interrupted by a shadow and the salty tang of seawater hit the air. Without even opening my eyes, I sighed. "Emery. You're blocking my sun."
"Let's share it then." A deep, smooth voice laughingly spoke. With that, I opened my eyes to see him sit down, and then lie across my legs, placing his head in my lap. I rolled my eyes as he grinned up at me smugly.
Our other friends, Jack, Eddy and Ben, sat down as well. But, taking one look at Kale and I, they shook their heads and went to speak with Claire. They'd learned long ago not to get in the firing line.
"What do you want?" I asked shortly.
"Just making sure." His deep blue eyes twinkled at me and his fringe of brown hair lay unstyled in a mess over his forehead. The rest of his short hair was clean, and I couldn't resist taking up the opportunity for revenge. So, with a saccharine smile, I turned in his grip and lay a hand on his arm, pushing him forcefully onto his back and straddling him. I distracted him with a deep grind on his crotch, which he hissed at, as I ran my hands up to his hair and brushed my fingers through it, twisting it into a slightly cleaner look.
He groaned beneath me. "You don't play fair."
"This isn't new information."
I suddenly found myself flipped to my back with Kale's groin pressed insistently between my legs. "Neither do I."
I glared at him venomously. "Get off me."
Kale shot me a dazzling smile. "Admit it, you think I'm charming."
"You're about as charming as a disease." I scowled.
He gave me that cocky smirk of his, deep blue eyes searching me. I gazed back without giving away anything. When he was satisfied with what he'd seen, he flashed those pearly whites in another grin and sat up slightly to turn back and lie on my lap again.
"Tori!" a voice called and I swivelled to see some frat boy I'd had dinner with the week before waving as he made his way over to me.
"Garrett." I acknowledged tolerantly.
"Really, Tor? Garrett Hawthorne?" Emery asked, his smile slightly dimmer. "I hope you don't think I'd get jealous of a frat boy."
"Not everything's about you, actually. Especially not who I date." Lie. Garrett was just reaching us. "What's up?"
Garrett looked between me and Emery, laying on my lap and flashing a lazy grin up at the other, and a small scowl hit his face. "Just wondering if you were free to hang out for a bit."
"She's busy." Emery yawned.
I looked between the tanned, dark haired, and clear blue-eyed surfer that was laying on me, and the tall, blonde and all-American frat boy standing above me and sighed. "Another time, Garrett. Emery's having a tantrum."
Looking slightly disgruntled, Garrett looked between the two of us before shrugging and shoving his hands into his pockets. "Whatever, see you at Joe's tonight."
I nodded in acknowledgement and he left. Looking back at an especially smug Kale, I whacked him on the side of the head. "Piss off, and stop interfering."
He just laughed. "Oh, come on, Tor. Garrett Hawthorne? We both know you have better moves than that."
"A pawn is a pawn." I said simply. "And he broke up with his girlfriend when I implied I'd go to coffee with him."
"Okay." Emery frowned. "Ten points."
"Which gives me a solid five point lead over you, two hundred and twenty-six to two hundred and twenty one." I pointed out.
His gaze probed me and he gave me a half-smile that didn't appear truly happy. "Well played."
And here is the truth.
Kale Emery and I? We are not good people. We don't pretend to be. In fact, we make each other worse, and have done since the first week of college, when we started this game. Neither of us intended for it to go on this long, but it has, and we can't stop competing, can't stop trying to break the other.
We use people and then dump them once we have nothing more to gain. Once we have no more points to score. Our friends know about our game and openly disapprove. But we don't stop. Because if one of us does the decent thing and stops playing this game, stops playing with people's lives, it's admitting defeat to the other.
And that's something neither of us can do.
It was three in the morning on my first week of college when I was woken by a loud banging sound. My eyes shot open and I jumped to my feet, grabbing the baseball bat I kept under my bed and looking around. The banging continued and was coming from my window, so I crept forward and ripped open the curtains, only to see the douchebag from the first day of college grinning in at me.
Needless to say, I was not amused. I don't know why I did it, but I threw the window open to let the boy I barely knew in. I turned and put the bat back under my bed, listening to him clamber through and into my bedroom. I turned back to face him. "What are you doing here, and how the hell did you find where I live?"
He simply smiled at me, his height and general bulk appearing too big for the small room. "I was bored, so I asked around."
He smelled like smoke and stale alcohol, the typical post-party smell. "How drunk are you?"
"I'm not, actually." He said. I looked into his eyes and they were as clear as the first day I'd met him, and decided he was being honest with me. He may have been out, but he wasn't drinking.
We sized each other up for a moment more, before I sighed and went back to my bed. Without even asking, he followed, and lay behind me, wrapping an arm around my waist as he pulled the comforter over us. His thumb rubbed circles into my stomach and he entangled his legs with mine, before he pulled me fully into him.
It didn't make sense. I'd spoken to him once, he broke into my apartment, and now I was going to sleep in his arms. I was struck by how odd the whole situation was but decided to think about it in the morning. Just as I began drifting off, his deep rumbling voice murmured to me.
"Do you always sleep half-naked?"
When I walked into Joseph Carmichael's party with Claire that night, the first thing I saw was a certain dark-haired surfer on his knees, chugging from a beer bong as everyone around him cheered. He finished chugging and jumped up with a loud "WHOOP!", laughing and looking around him until his eyes caught mine. His face changed, becoming less focused on the revellers and more on me.
"Oh, God." Claire groaned. "Can you two just get over yourselves and fuck already? Put the rest of us out of our misery." I ignored her.
He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and sauntered over to me, looking me up and down, from my heals, to the tight back dress held together by an oversized white zipper from my mid-thighs to my cleavage, and right up to the loose hair lying in waves halfway down my back. He reached forward and picked up a brunette strand, twirling it around his finger. "Not bad, Victoria Cole. Not bad at all."
I looked him up and down right back. He was in fine form tonight, a deep blue button down that matched his eyes concealing the muscled arms and abdomen I knew he possessed, dark brown hair in a faux-hawk and strong jaw possessing that designer stubble he knew was irresistible. I could smell deodorant and a hint of his usual salty tang. Instead of saying any of this to him, however, I kept up the game. "You have beer on your shirt."
He glanced down and saw the small wet patch over his abdomen and then back at me, an upwards quirk to his lips. "Game on, then."
"As always." I agreed.
I felt a brief moment of pity for our victims tonight.
I'd had enough shots to feel tipsy, but still in control. I had to be in control.
There were six boys I'd deemed acceptable as targets for tonight. I went outside to search for Claire and ask who the top scoring one would be, in her opinion, and stopped short.
I felt dizzy, sick, everything was spinning. And it wasn't because of the alcohol.
Kale Emery had some redhead pushed up against a wall, her skirt up around her waist, mouth on hers, and his hand inside her panties.
He's breaking the rules. I thought, dull shock overcoming me. He's breaking the rules. He's breaking the rules.
"Tori?" I heard a voice distantly, and felt a comforting hand on my arm. "Tori, are you okay?"
"I don't think she's hearing you, Claire." Another voice said. "Look at what she's seeing."
"Oh, God. Idiots." The hand pulled me around to see Claire and Ben staring at me with concern. "Tori, are you okay?" she repeated.
I stared at the two of them and the sight of that concern made me feel pathetic, and shook me out of my stillness. "I'm fine." I said. "Claire, I need you to help me pick the winner out of tonight's finalists."
"Not more of this again!" Claire snapped. "You and Kale can't keep using people in your twisted games. It's cruel, to each other and especially to the poor people you manipulate into feeling special."
I shrugged and pulled her with me, glancing over my shoulder one last time to lock eyes with Kale. My eyes hardened and his jaw clenched. I turned away. "That's the game." I told her.
Somewhere along the way, unspoken rules had been established. We slept together, but we didn't have sex. We started scoring each other's dates and the situations they'd arisen from, the more scandalous the better, the more they showed how irresistible we could be. Why one of us should want the other.
If my window was closed, he knew that I'd been involved with a guy that night, and he wasn't welcome. If he had been physically involved with a girl in any way, he knew he wasn't welcome for the night, so he wouldn't come. We never had to say it aloud; it was just the way it was.
I wouldn't be able to stomach the sight of him and another girl. Talking about it was one thing, seeing it was entirely different. It was real. And in return, he would never have to see me with another guy, because he'd go berserk. We never had to speak the words, but we knew. We knew it would be a step too far.
I should have known my world would come crashing down when he started to break all the rules.
I threw my door open and stumbled into my room clumsily, flicking the light on while the guy following me rambled about how hot I got him as he groped me. I couldn't remember his name – Forrest? Fergus? – but my less than successful attempts at recalling it were interrupted when a low voice rumbled out a sentence that stopped me in my tracks.
"Tell me I'm seeing things right now, Victoria."
Kale's eyes were fastened on Filius, who'd reeled back at the male voice coming from the bedroom of his supposed 'one-night stand'. "Shit, Emery, didn't realise you two were official... I'll step back bro, I'm sorry, didn't mean to get on your turf..."
While Finlay rambled, Kale's eyes drifted to lock on mine, and I gazed back guiltlessly. His blue eyes looked so dark they could have been black, and his jaw was taut with anger, his fists clenched as his arms were crossed over his chest. He spoke again. "Tell me I'm not seeing you throwing some d-bag in my face. Tell me that this is all a fucking hallucination, because I know Victoria Cole isn't this dirty."
At this I lost my composure, a trill of incredulous, scornful laughter escaping. "You're one to talk about being dirty, Emery. Weren't you the one publicly dry-humping some girl in a garden tonight?" Kale's guard dropped and he paled. I smiled thinly, coldly, without a trace of amusement. "Exactly. Hypocrite."
A that he glared. "Hypocrite? I'm standing right fucking here. I didn't take her home, I came here. You brought him home with you, and I'm worse?" His eyes turned black with rage as he looked over my shoulder and locked eyes with Fenton. "Get the fuck out."
I heard the door slam shut.
"You started this." I snarled. "You started on her right where I could fucking see. You came here after her, expecting me to welcome you? HA."
Sometime during our exchange, we'd gotten so close that our faces were only millimetres apart as Kale had leaned down to scream at me.
I'm not sure who made the first move, but the next thing I knew, we were kissing. My arms were wrapped tightly around his neck and his hands were tangled in my hair, and we were aggressively attacking each other's mouths. I almost couldn't stand the heat between us, the pure passion.
He picked me up and wrapped my legs around him, carrying me over to my bed, his mouth never leaving mine.
That night, I slept with Kale Emery. But it was entirely different to the sleeping we'd been doing for the previous three years.
The first thing I registered when I woke up was that I was alone.
Kale was nowhere to be seen, and I remained naked, entangled in my sheets. There were five condom packets scattered on my floor, and my entire body was sore, in a really, really good kind of way.
But my heart was in my throat. He'd left before I even woke up.
I stumbled over to my closet and tossed on a bra and tank, as well as some exercise shorts. I found Claire in the kitchen making coffee, and Ben, Eddy and Jack all collapsed on our sofas with MTV on as loud as they could bear it to be with their hangovers. Hearing me enter, Claire's head whipped around and she stared at me, concern and uncertainty in her eyes.
"Hey, how are you this morning?"
I hesitated a second before answering. "Could I get some of that coffee, please?"
She stared at me for another moment before running her hand through her messy blonde hair and sighing. "Sure."
She poured me a cup of scalding black liquid, and I sipped at, it leaning against the wall of our living room. We all listened to the TV until Ben finally got impatient. "Okay, that was you and Emery we heard fucking last night, right?"
I stiffened. Claire hid her head in her hands and groaned while Eddy and Jack just groaned and hit Ben with sofa pillows.
"I… Have to go." I muttered, putting my empty cup on the kitchen counter. "Thanks for the caffeine, Claire."
I all but ran out of my apartment and down the flight of stairs to the front door of the building.
I don't know how long I walked for, but I assume it was a long time, as the sun was setting by the time I finally sat down to rest at a small coffee shop my group frequented. I was in my own world, head spinning.
Kale and I had broken the rules. We'd crossed the line and started something we couldn't take back. I didn't know how to be in control in this situation. I didn't know what I was supposed to do.
And… he'd left. For some reason, I always thought that the day we broke, it would be final, and we would figure out the next step together. But he'd ditched me. He'd left.
I was shaken when I heard a familiar chuckle. My head shot up and across the other side of the coffee shop was Kale, sitting with his buddies from the business faculty. I didn't realise I'd even stood up until I was standing at his table, having walked over. I couldn't take my eyes off him, and when he looked at me, instead of the usual smirk, instead of receiving his full attention, he did something that made me feel sick to my core.
His eyes swept over me with polite disinterest, and he turned back to his friends.
"Emery." I said, and even to my own ears, my voice sounded hollow.
"Victoria. Come back for more, huh?" he asked jeeringly. His eyes only momentarily meeting mine.
My jaw dropped as all of his friends cheered and yelled different taunts.
"The ice bitch got told!"
"Not so special anymore, huh sweetheart?"
"Hah! I think she's gonna cry!"
The last call had me shake myself out of my strange, distant state. I suddenly felt a crash of emotions tumble into me all at once; pain, disgust, humiliation, but most of all, a white-hot fury.
My face transformed into the cold mask I'd never really turned on Kale before. I'd only lost my temper badly where he was concerned once, and even then, he'd never received the full force of my wrath.
"Cry?" I questioned, my voice quiet and calm in a way that stopped the loud laughing and jeering of the boys at the table. Kale stiffened. "Unlikely. In fact, as I seem to recall, you were the one who cried, Dustin." I said to the boy who'd unwisely pushed me over the edge. "When after I fucked you and kicked you to the curb, you begged me to take you back, swore to me that Kale was nothing compared to you. You cried because after I rode you and made you come so hard your legs were shaking for the rest of the week, I was unsatisfied with your less-than-impressive performance."
Dustin had gone green, both at the embarrassment of having our tryst in sophomore year exposed in full detail, and in terror at seeing Kale's hands balled into fists so tight that his skin had gone white.
But I wasn't done; oh, not even close.
"And you, Alex. Remember that night you turned up at my apartment in the middle of the night and told me you'd give me anything I wanted just for one night? Do you remember stripping off and telling me you'd have your rich daddy pay for my degree just to have sex once?" My voice was conversational, and I laughed with a chilling coldness that made half the boys at the table wince. Alex couldn't look up from the table, and if he had he would've seen how Kale's eyes had gone as black with rage as they had the previous night.
"And who can forget, Max, when at Kale's twenty-first birthday last year, you and I had birthday sex on his behalf, in his bed. And you told me 'fucking his girl in his bed is the closest I'll ever get to destroying that prick'. Wasn't that a blast?" My voice had turned to silk and by the time I spat out the last, poisonous word, Kale was on his feet with a terrifying look of murderous rage in his eyes, as he flipped the coffee table and scalding hot coffee fell over the three boys he'd been sitting with. They all yelled and scrambled back, looking between the two of us with absolute fear.
By now, everyone in the coffee shop had turned to stare at the commotion. I held my head high and look Kale right in the eye.
He stared back, chest heaving. "I shouldn't be surprised the biggest whore on campus has some game. Out of interest, did you cry when you woke up to find I'd left you naked in your bed when I was done with you?"
His words dug through and stabbed me in the heart. I suddenly just felt very, very tired, and very, very sad. "No, Kale. I didn't cry. But you knew, didn't you, that this was why I never let us get this far? Because you're too weak to face an emotion, and instead you run away, try to pretend it never happened."
I waited a moment, but he didn't respond, rather he simply went very still. I sighed. "I didn't cry. I've never cried over you. But you? You were trying to destroy this, weren't you? You wanted me to cry, but I won't."
It had hit me, sometime in the past ten minutes standing in front of him, that this weekend had been the last move in his game. He was trying to win. I didn't care anymore. He could have a hundred points over me if he wanted. "You win. You win the game, I admit defeat." He looked at me and surprise killed the anger on his face. "But your victory has a price. Me. I hate you, Kale John Emery. I truly do."
My voice was quiet and honest throughout the whole speech, and when I came to the last part, I saw the anger on Kale's face killed by a wave of shock and pain. "T-Tor… I need you."
I simply shook my head and walked out of the coffee shop, aware that everyone in the shop was staring at me. Because I hadn't been lying. I hated Kale Emery.
But I was so goddamn in love with him it wasn't like it mattered anyway.
The following weeks were a blur. The whole campus had heard of the dramatic fall-out between the king and queen, Kale Emery and Victoria Cole. A number of people had decided this was their opportunity to jump on either of us. Claire, Ben, Jack and Eddy had all received news of the drama and were walking on eggshells around me, and I could only assume they were doing the same to Kale.
Claire had tried multiple times to have me talk to her about my feelings, and was deeply unhappy that I would only respond to her by saying "There's nothing to talk about."
Before I knew it, it was the last day of semester. I hadn't seen Kale in over a month. I felt tired and empty. I had passed all my classes with flying colours, much to Dawson's chagrin, and would be returning the following year to continue my study into Mesopotamian archaeology.
But I was ready to go home and mope for the summer. I missed my mom, and my brothers. I needed them more than ever.
I walked home and went straight to my bedroom, ignoring Claire's kind, albeit unnecessary, attempt to talk to me. I locked my door behind me and leaned back against it, sliding down until I was on the ground. I felt the breakdown that had been looming on the horizon for weeks hit me, and finally I felt the warm wetness of tears running down my cheeks.
And I accepted the terrifying and humiliating truth. I'd been in love with Kale Emery for four years, and right now, what I was feeling was heartbreak. I was crying over him. Just like he'd wanted.
I heard the unmistakable sound of someone clambering through my window, and when I looked up, I saw a large, muscular and entirely too attractive Kale climbing into my bedroom. I hadn't been able to break the habit of leaving my windows wide open over the past month.
"You're so lucky you've never been robbed." He said to me suddenly. "I mean, I always climb up that tree and jump through here, and your window is always open, and you have so much valuable shit lying around the place. It's a miracle, really."
I looked at him through tear-blurred eyes incredulously. "You turn up here after a month of no contact and that is the first thing you say? You know what, sure, I'll start closing my window."
"Don't." he said softly. "I was hoping to god it was still open. I knew if it was closed you really didn't want me back and… and I don't even want to think about that."
I wiped hastily at me eyes but didn't bother standing up. "What do you want, Kale? Come here to gloat? I'm crying over you, are you happy now?"
He came and sat beside me against my door. "No. Not even close. Haven't been happy in a long time. About four years. But the past month has just been the cherry on top."
I looked over at him and noted he looked as exhausted as I did. There were bags under his eyes, his stubble had grown into a messy and unkempt, yet somehow still attractive, beard. He was pale and he didn't smell like salt. He just smelled like deodorant.
"Well, if I've been making your life so miserable for four years, why are we even bothering to talk now? You're finally free of me." I mumbled.
He laughed bitterly. "We've been making each other miserable. Ourselves miserable. Everyone around us. Ruining everyone's happiness just because we're cowards."
We were both silent for a moment until he continued. "You know what I should have said to you the first time I climbed in here and bothered you?"
"What?" I asked quietly.
"'Be with me.'" He told me. "Should have said it straight out instead of just climbing into bed with you like that wasn't completely fucking psycho. Should have said straight out that you were everything I wanted. Instead of starting these fucking mind games."
"You weren't the only one at fault for that." I told him quietly. "We both did it. God, Kale, what's wrong with us? What kind of people are we to treat people like this?"
"We're idiots, clearly." He sighed. "Cruel and immature and idiotic and selfish. But you want to know something, Tor? If we weren't like that, I don't think we'd love each other half as much as we do."
My breath caught at his words, and I turned and felt more tears well up as I caught his eyes. He laughed and brought a warm, strong and calloused hand to my cheek, brushing away tears with one thumb. "Wow, so I can make you cry by confessing my undying love but not by being an immature prick? That's a pretty big blow to my immature side, I thought it had all the power."
I couldn't help laughing wetly. "I love both sides. I love everything about you, especially the immature prick."
"Can we stop playing games now, Tor? Please?" he asked quietly.
I looked up at Kale Emery and felt such a surge of love for my selfish prick that it was like I was about to burst. "I thought you'd never ask."
And then he kissed me. And it wasn't angry. And it wasn't trying to prove anything. It was just full of love and hope and all the pain we had to fix and all the mistakes we'd made.
But that kiss made me sure that if there was anything I could work through, and any one person I would fight for, it was Kale Emery. It was us.
And this is the first thing I've posted in god knows how long. I'm sick and studying for exams for uni and looking back, all my stories need a ton of editing before I update them.
Anyway, I've missed this place and hope you guys aren't too mad at me for being gone for so long. Lots of love to all of you, as always, R&R! I respond to every one and would love some feedback.