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Too Sweet: Chapter 24


I TRY NOT TO WINCE as I get up to leave the auditorium, but Nico sure didn’t help when he put me on all fours earlier. Sex this morning was an entirely different experience from last night, and if I’m being honest, I liked it better today.

He was more himself, no longer worried about hurting me. He dominated every second, barking orders and manhandling me into the positions he wanted. I hope he won’t stop controlling our sex life because I love his possessive, demanding tone. He knows what he wants, what I want, and how to make it happen.

“Not so fast, kitten.” Brandon blocks my way when I step into the corridor. He backs me into a corner, a scowl twisting his face. “We gotta talk.”

“I have nothing to tell you.”

“You sure about that? I hear you’re not liking the attention you’re getting. My boys say you’re avoiding them, shooting them down.”

I fold my arms, hoping it’ll be enough to stop him pressing into me. “Your boys are correct.”

“Who told you about the prize?” He glides his finger along the line of fabric on my chest and tilts my chin when I don’t answer. “It was Justin, wasn’t it? Cheeky fucker. I’ll deal with him later, and you…” He sweeps his thumb along my jaw. “You have one last chance to play ball. I want that first, Mia.”

“And yet you let your friends try and score with me. That’s an odd way of saying I want you.”

“I don’t want you. I want your pussy. There’s a difference.”

I grit my teeth, pushing down nausea threatening to eject the contents of my stomach into his face. Maybe I should just roll with it. Projectile-vomiting all over the star quarterback would be the highlight of my college career.

“You’re too late,” I say, swallowing hard. “Both I and my pussy are taken.”

He cocks an eyebrow, looking me over, surprise fading from his snobbish face quickly. “Nice try, kitten. I’m not falling for that. My boys played nice until now, but you just had to ruin the fun, didn’t you? Imagine that instead of asking you out, they’ll get handsy.”

“That’s sexual assault. Even you’re not stupid enough to order that.”

He traces one hand down my side, making me shudder with disgust. “You think anyone will prosecute them for slapping your curvy ass? I doubt it. Let’s see how long it’ll take before you come crawling, begging me to fuck you.” He pats my butt, and on reflex, I slam my knee into his groin.

“You won’t like what follows if you ever put your hands on me again.”

He holds his breath and his balls, doing a surprisingly decent job of not doubling over. “Twenty grand,” he grumbles, his face changing colors like a kaleidoscope. “And I’m opening the game to every guy on campus.”

That does it.

The thought of being harassed by the entire male population of this nightmarish ecosystem has my stomach twisting into tight knots. I’m flooded with images of obnoxious, hungry-for-cash guys cornering me in empty corridors, forcing me to use the self-defense moves the triplets taught me.

Brandon’s friends aren’t short for cash, but there’s plenty of students here whose parents don’t own yachts and ocean-view mansions.

“You wouldn’t dare…” I suck in harsh breaths, shepherding my raging nerves. “Brandon, this isn’t funny.”

He doesn’t reply, walking away with a triumphant smile while I try to sever the tendrils of an onrushing panic attack. It proves useless when, in the thinning crowd, I spot Blair surrounded by a tight circle of friends. She silently simmers, clenching and unclenching her fists, jealousy painting her face red.

She made my life miserable since kindergarten. I know what she’s capable of… she can bring more hurt than the twenty grand prize. The cruelty she threw my way over the years flashes before my eyes, turning my stomach further.

That’s it. Not even mint can help now.

I faintly register that the triplets entered the building, but I don’t wait for them to come closer. I run toward the bathroom, one hand clasped over my mouth as I burst into the first cubicle, and lean over the toilet, dropping to my knees.

The door opens again, probably Cody, Colt, or Conor hot on my tail while my breakfast and coffee pour into the toilet. I’ve no idea why the triplets are still in my corner, but they’ve had my back for a year now, and the thought of losing them has my heart breaking clean in two.

Wave after wave of powerful shudders shake my body dotted with goosebumps. My throat burns. My eyes water. There’s nothing left to throw up, but dry heaves aren’t easing.

Whoever’s in here comes closer, looming behind me, not saying a word. I feel them gather my hair, holding it out the way.

I can’t get a word out, still spitting down the toilet and gasping for air between pathetic whimpers.

My hair fans down my back.

Footsteps beat a fast retreat.

The door bangs closed, and a stench of something burning hits my nose.

My mind stops spinning around Brandon, focusing on what’s burning. The smell is so strong that I—

A pained cry tears from my mouth when intense heat blazes up my back.

No, no, no, no, no

I jump to my feet, spin around, and catch my reflection in the mirrors above the sinks. Flames consume my blonde locks faster than fire runs in dry grass.

Adrenaline kicks in, my senses razor sharp. I turn the faucet and dip my head, shoving it under the water.

That’s when the fire alarm starts, drowning out my distressed cries. A second later, the sprinklers douse my hair, face, and clothes.

Water patters down my bare back, but… I have a blouse on… I reach behind me, feeling big holes burned through the fabric, my skin hot and tender.

Slowly, I look up, the initial frenzy wearing off, replaced by a sense of impending doom.

My hair is half its length now. The locks that fell to my butt seconds ago barely reach my shoulder blades.

Tears spill, disguised by the sprinklers drenching the bathroom. I slide to the floor, hugging my knees.

“Mia?” Colt shoves his head between the door. His eyes land on me, and he rushes in, letting the door bang against the wall. “What the fuck happened?! Cody! Get in here!” He kneels on the wet floor, gripping my shoulders.

“Don’t touch me,” I choke, swallowing tears. “It hurts…”

“Jesus, sweetie, your hair…” He trails off, combing his fingers through my damaged locks. “Who did this? Was it—”

“Blair,” Cody clips from the doorway, nodding toward the mirrors. “Stay away from him, bitch,” he reads what’s been written in red lipstick.

The sprinklers turn off, and the building is suddenly blanketed by gloomy, tragic silence. Conor shoves Cody aside, making room for Mr. Finch, who stops two steps in, his assessing eyes taking in the scene.

“Miss Harlow, do you require medical attention?”

I shake my head, gritting my teeth as Colt cuffs my wrists, helping me off the floor. He tucks me under his chin but stops short of wrapping his arms around me.

“Mia, your back… you need to see the first aider.”

“I’m okay. I’ve got burn cream at home.” I swat my tears away, inhaling a calming breath, but tiny rivers trail my cheeks, despite my efforts to keep the pathetic whimpers in. “Can you take me home?”

“I must insist—”

“You heard her,” Cody cuts off Mr. Finch. “She wants to go home, so she’s going home. And you better make sure Blair’s not here on Monday.”

“Blair Fitzpatrick? Was she the one who…” He gestures at me, twirling his finger in the air, “…did this?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t see anyone.”

“You know it was her,” Cody says, his voice one level off yelling. “She’s a psycho. Don’t let her get away with it.”

“It’s my word against hers. There’s no witnesses. Do you want to guess how many people will vouch she was with them on the other side of campus?” I rest my forehead against his chest. “Just please take me home.”


“You think Thalia or Cass could fix her hair a bit?” Conor asks his brothers when Cody parks on my driveway.

“I’ll do it myself.” I lift my head from Colt’s lap. “Thank you for bringing me home.”

This isn’t the first time Blair destroyed my hair. She stuck gum in it all the time in elementary school and chased me with scissors in kindergarten, nipping whatever she caught between the blades. She clipped my skin, too. That’s when the teacher walked in, finding me hiding in the corner, bleeding and crying, locks of my hair littering the floor.

“I hope you don’t think we’ll leave you here alone,” Colt says, squeezing my hand. “We’re staying.”

“No, you’re not because I’m not staying. I promised Nico I’ll grab a few things and stay with him tonight.”

“Wait till he hears that bitch burned your hair,” Cody says, getting out of the car to open the back. “He’ll lose his fucking shit.” He takes my hand, helping me out.

“He won’t find out. Promise you won’t tell him,” I plead as we enter my house.

“Why the hell not?” Conor asks, jogging to the fridge. “You think he won’t notice your hair’s half the length?” He pulls out a pack of string cheese, hauling himself onto the kitchen counter.

“I’ll make something up.”

“Why?” Cody demands, leaning against the cupboards beside Conor. “Is he being an asshole? Are you afraid of him?”

“What? No, of course not, but he… he…” I trail off, remembering what Nico said this morning. Don’t mention college unless you absolutely have to. “He won’t stick around if I start bringing pointless trouble.”

This is too juvenile for him, and I’m determined to keep my school problems away from his ears.

“He should know, Mia.”

“And how will it help? My hair won’t grow back if I tell him. Blair won’t stop being jealous, Brandon won’t quit thinking of ways to get me in his bed, but Nico will question whether the ten-year age gap is too much. I just got him, Cody,” I mutter, standing there like an orphan. Hayes brothers are loyal to a fault, and lying, or rather withholding information on my behalf, is not something the triplets will take on lightly. “Please,” I whisper. “I don’t want to lose him two days in.”

Three pairs of eyes study me in silence. Cody rubs his face, exhaling a heavy breath, and they exchange the look. “We’ll go with whatever story you fabricate under one condition,” he says, pushing himself away from the countertop to hug me. “Slow down, okay?” He pecks my head. “You’re falling in love with him too fast, Bug.”

My mouth opens to protest, but the contradiction gets stuck on its way out. I am falling in love with Nico. I have been, slowly but surely, since the Spring Break party almost two months ago, and I’ve not stopped since.

“I’ll try,” I say, but I don’t mean it.

Nico makes me whole. Happy. Why would I suppress that? Because it’s too fast? Because we just started dating? We did, but we’ve been spending time together for weeks. I know more about him than I know about my own sister.

“I’ll take a shower, and we’ll see what I can do with this.” I point at my hair. “Feel at home. I won’t be long.”

The coffee maker starts going before I lock myself in the bathroom. I cry again when my damaged hair snaps in my fingers. I wash it three times to rid the burned smell, and once I’m done, the drain is blocked. It takes two handfuls to gather up the hair littering the shower floor.

My back is red where my blouse burned through, but thankfully no blisters. Nothing a few coats of cream won’t fix. I slip into a pair of shorts and hold a towel close to my chest, my cheeks hot when I tiptoe in the living room.

“I can’t reach,” I say, glancing between the triplets. They’re all drinking coffee, looking comfortable in my living room. I hold out the burn cream. “Could you—”

“Come here.” Cody holds his hand out. “You can’t let Blair get away with this, Bug. Fuck…” he whispers, voice thick with emotions as he smoothes the cream on. “How the hell will you explain this to Nico?”

“I’ll lie, but only a little.”


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