I hated the word whore. It sounded so…filthy. I’d been called a hundred different names before—slut, skank, ho, bitch, just to name a few—but when someone called me a whore, it would set my blood on fire.
As I stared down at my fate, I realized that they’d all been right. I was a whore.
There was no coming back from this.
I closed my eyes and willed myself not to cry. I’d done this to myself. This was what I deserved.
I hadn’t always been this way. Once, a really long time ago, I’d been innocent. I’d worn my heart on my sleeve. I’d looked at every day like it was a gift instead of the plague that it really was.
Life was so damn hard. I hated it. I’d hated it for years. More than once, I’d wished that I hadn’t had to deal with it, that I hadn’t had to deal with him. But fate had laughed at me, repeatedly throwing him in my face just when I thought I’d healed.
How could I tell him this when he seemed to hate me more and more every time we saw each other? How could I tell him this after what she’d done? I was no better than her.
What was once innocent love and attraction had morphed into something…volatile and ugly. By now, it was almost unrecognizable.
Who am I kidding?
It had never been innocent. We’d seemed to be incapable of innocence, especially him.
I would never survive this. The moment I’d seen him, even though I hadn’t wanted to admit it, I’d known that I would never survive him.
Tears fell down my cheeks, but I brushed them away as I stood and walked out of the room. When I reached my bedroom, I picked up my cell phone and dialed the only person I knew I could trust, the only person who knew every secret of mine—my best friend.
“Hey, Amber. What’s up?”
“Chloe, I need you,” I whispered.
Four Years Earlier—May
Charleston, West Virginia
I ran a brush through my dark brown hair and looked in the rearview mirror, making sure that my makeup was still flawless. Bright green eyes stared back at me, outlined perfectly with black eyeliner. My tanned skin was practically glowing from happiness. I smiled to myself as I adjusted my low-cut tank top so that it revealed even more of my cleavage. I climbed from my car and tugged on my shorts, inching them up my legs bit by bit.
I’d fought with myself for almost an hour as I debated on what to wear to surprise Chad, my boyfriend for the past year. Today felt special for some reason. I wasn’t sure why, but it did, and I wanted to look perfect.
Along with my two best friends, Logan and Chloe, Chad and I had graduated from high school just last week. We only had two months to spend together before we would head off for West Virginia University in the fall. He’d be there with me, but I knew things wouldn’t be the same, so I wanted to make sure that this would be a summer he’d remember.
I’d grown up alongside Chad in Charleston, West Virginia. We’d been in classes together since kindergarten, but it wasn’t until last year when I’d really noticed him. I wasn’t the only one who had taken notice either. He’d come back to school a good two inches taller and heavier with several pounds of all muscle. Girls who had barely looked at him before had started hanging around him, flirting their hearts out, but he hadn’t paid them any attention. Instead, his eyes had watched me.
Two weeks after school had started, we had officially become an item. Since then, we’d been inseparable. He’d even earned bonus points by winning over Chloe and Logan.
I was a lucky girl, and I knew it.
I grabbed a grocery bag out of the backseat and locked my car before walking up the sidewalk to his parents’ two-story brick home. I grinned as I slipped my key into the lock and quietly opened the door. After closing it behind me, I put my bag down by in the entryway and crept up the stairs to Chad’s room.
His parents were on vacation this week, and instead of going with them, he’d decided to stay home and spend some quality time with me. Unfortunately, he had called early this morning to let me know that he had to cancel our plans because he’d ended up with food poisoning.
Instead of letting him wallow in misery alone, I’d decided to surprise him and nurse him back to health with some soup, and I would do it all while looking fabulous, of course.
When I reached his room, I grabbed the doorknob and slowly opened the door. I didn’t want to wake him if he was sleeping.
The smile left my face when I saw his bed. He definitely wasn’t asleep. My world crashed around me as I watched him fucking Carrie Jenkins, head cheerleader and complete whore. I stood there, frozen in shock, while he let out a groan as he came. He kissed her forehead before pulling out and standing, his back still facing me.
He slipped on a pair of basketball shorts. “As usual, that was great, babe.”
Carrie mumbled something before burrowing underneath his covers. When he turned around, facing my direction, he had a satisfied smirk on his face, but it died instantly when he saw me standing in the doorway.
I shook my head as he took a step closer.
“Don’t come any closer, or I’ll rip your dick off.”
“It’s not what it looks like,” Chad said, his voice pleading.
I laughed. “It’s not?”
“It’s exactly what it looks like,” Carrie said from the bed.
I looked over to see her sitting up and stretching her arms above her head, putting her breasts on full display.
I rolled my eyes. “At least one of you is honest.” I turned to leave.
“Amber, wait. Please,” Chad said.
I ignored him. I hurried through the hallway and down the stairs to the front door. He caught up to me just as I was getting ready to open the front door.
I jerked my arm out of his grasp and leveled him with a death glare. “We’re finished, Chad.”
“I know I messed up, but it won’t happen again.”
“How many times?” I asked quietly.
“How many times have you slept with her?”
“This was the first time, I swear. She’s been coming on to me for months, and I finally caved. It was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. You mean the world to me, Amber.”
I laughed. “You’re lying through your fucking teeth, Chad. I heard what you told her. The sex was great—as usual. This wasn’t the first time you’ve slept with her, and I doubt that it will be the last. Enjoy each other. I can’t think of two people who deserve each other more.”
His mouth hung open, obviously shocked that I’d caught him in another lie. I stared at him, truly seeing him for the lying asshole that he was.
“I can’t believe I thought I loved you.” I laughed bitterly. “Never again will I give you the power to hurt me. Stay away from me, Chad, or you’ll regret it.”
I turned and threw open the door, and then my eyes landed on the bag I’d put down earlier. “By the way, I brought you some soup and crackers to help your stomach.”
I picked up the bag and tossed it at his head. It missed and crashed into the wall, knocking several pictures onto the floor. I watched as the glass in the frames shattered, but I didn’t even care.
I turned and walked out of his house. I promised myself that I would never look back, but I’d always remember this day. It had changed everything for me. I wasn’t naive and innocent anymore. Chad had stolen that from me, and I’d never forgive him.
Maybe I should’ve thanked him. He’d shown me what the world was really like.
He was the beginning of the end for me.
I walked into my parents’ house, wiping my tears away.
“Oh my God! What happened to you?” Chloe shrieked.
I looked up at my best friend. How many times had I comforted her while she cried over her abusive mother? It was more than I could count. We’d been best friends for years, but I couldn’t think of a time when I’d cried in front of her. I was sure it had been a shock to see me walking through the door, sobbing, with my makeup destroyed.
“Chad,” I whispered, sitting down on a barstool in the kitchen.
I rested my elbows on the counter and willed myself to stop crying. He wasn’t worth all this pain. He wasn’t worth anything.
“What did he do?” Chloe pulled out a stool and sat down next to me.
She reached out and pulled me to her. I cried into her shoulder for a few minutes before pulling away. I winced when I saw the black stain, courtesy of my eye makeup, on her white shirt.
She looked down and frowned when she saw what I was looking at. “I don’t care about my damn shirt, Amber. Now, tell me what happened.”
I stared at her, almost smiling at the fierce look on her face. It seemed foreign on her delicate face. Despite the way she’d been raised, Chloe was fragile. I always told her that she reminded me of a porcelain doll. She thought it was because of her blonde hair, blue eyes, tiny frame, and creamy pale skin. It wasn’t the reason, but I let her believe it. No, it was because she was so damn breakable. I was always the strong one, the one who defended her and offered to crack skulls whenever she needed it.
I wondered how I’d fair with a porcelain doll coming to my rescue. We might both end up broken by the end of this conversation.
“He cheated on me. I caught him screwing Carrie Jenkins about half an hour ago.”
Her eyes widened in shock. “Chad? You can’t be serious. He’s so…nice.”
I nodded. “I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. He called me this morning to tell me that he was sick, so he couldn’t meet up for our plans. I thought I’d surprise him and help him get better, but I was the one who got the surprise.”
Chloe shook her head. “I’m so sorry, Amber. I really thought he was a good guy.”
“It’s not your fault. I didn’t see it, and neither did Logan.”
She gave me a small smile. “We could always call Logan. I bet he could kick Chad’s ass. Logan is bigger, and he’d probably even enjoy doing it for you.”
I shook my head. “There’s no point. Logan would end up in trouble. And for what? A lying, cheating asshole who doesn’t deserve even a second of our attention.”
“You’re right,” Chloe said finally. “Are you going to be okay? I’ve never…it’s just…you never cry.”
Her voice was so soft and gentle that it nearly brought me to tears again.
“I’m not okay right now, but I will be. I’ll survive.”
She pulled me into another hug. “I’m right here. I’ll make sure everything gets better for you.” She took out her cell phone, one that my parents had paid for, and started texting.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Texting Logan,” she said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
Truthfully, it was. The three of us were inseparable. We would be best friends forever—or at least until Chloe realized that Logan was in love with her. Then, I wasn’t sure where our terrible threesome would end up.
“He’ll be here in a few.” She stood and walked to the fridge.
I watched as she opened the freezer and pulled out a tub of ice cream.
She grabbed three spoons out of a drawer and turned to face me. “Come on, I know just what you need.”
“What?” I asked wearily.
“An ice cream party while we watch the hottest man alive slay evil things.”
I smiled. “Buffy marathon?”
She nodded. “Buffy marathon.”
When Logan arrived twenty minutes later, we’d already put a huge dent in the ice cream. He took one look at the television and sighed before dropping down on the couch beside me.
I handed him a spoon. “We’re going to spend the day getting fat. You might as well join us.”
He smiled before glancing over at Chloe. His eyes were still on her when he took the spoon from my hand.
Finally, he looked back at me. “You good?”
Chloe had obviously told Logan what was going on.
“I’ll survive. Now, shut up, and let me watch Angel. I think he takes his shirt off in this one.”
He rolled his baby-blue eyes. “Oh, goody, I can’t wait.”
I laughed as I elbowed him in the stomach. He’d obviously been working out more. My elbow felt like it had collided with solid steel.
Logan was one of the prettiest guys I’d ever seen but not in a feminine way. No, no one could describe him as feminine, that was for sure. His sandy blond hair was cut shorter than normal for summer, but he pulled it off well. His eyes were a bright blue, and his lips were full but not overly so.
I’d watched him for the past four years. His once round baby face had gradually sharpened into the strong face of a man. Once upon a time, I’d thought that I cared about Logan as more than just a friend.
I’d even tried to act on those feelings, but he’d kindly told me no. I’d been hurt until he explained how in love he was with Chloe. Once he’d admitted his feelings, I wasn’t sure how I’d been so blind to them. From then on, I’d notice him watching her daily with a desperate look in his eyes.
Even though he’d shot me down, I never held it against him. He’d been sincere with his regret. That had been much easier to handle than watching my boyfriend of over a year fuck someone else.
Tears welled up in my eyes again, and I silently cursed myself. I tried to hide them, but Logan missed nothing. He wrapped his arm around my shoulders and pulled me tight against him.
“This show isn’t all bad. At least Buffy is hot,” he said without taking his eyes off the TV.
Jesus, I love this boy. Leave it to him to let me deal with my tears without drawing more attention to myself.
I glanced over at Chloe. I only wished she could love him the way he wanted her to. Out of all of us, Logan deserved happiness the most.