Before by Anna Todd


  If only she knew.

  “She’s hot, though,” Nate adds.

  Has everyone noticed how hot Tessa is by now?

  “Hot? No, she’s not,” I lie through my teeth.

  A tan hand swipes over neatly gelled hair. “She’s definitely hot, dude,” Zed says with surprising certainty. “I would fuck her in a heartbeat.”

  “You wish. She’s a total prude, obviously. I mean, who’s a virgin in college?” Molly mocks Tessa.

  Nate laughs. “Right—when did you become friends with her and she told you that?”

  Molly scowls at him. “Me? I wouldn’t talk to her, but Steph has to, and she overheard something about it when ‘Princess’ was talking to her boyfriend, it seems.”

  “Maybe that’s why she’s such a bitch, because she hasn’t been fucked properly,” I say, and move a few inches away from Molly, hoping she won’t follow.

  “I may need to do that, then,” Zed says, trying to make everyone laugh. He fails.

  “Yeah, right. You couldn’t even if you tried,” I taunt him.

  “And you could? I would have a better chance than you!” he counters.

  He can’t be serious. Does he not remember his precious Samantha?

  “What did I miss?” Jace sits down on the concrete and pulls a joint from his pocket.

  “Steph has a total snob for a roommate, and Zed and Hardin here are arguing over who could fuck her first,” Molly informs him with a growl.

  Does Zed actually think she would fuck him? I look around the group, annoyed that everyone is thinking about her that way. If her body is as pure as they say, I can just imagine what the smallest touch would do to her. I would have her twitching beneath me, begging me for more. Zed could never make her come the way I could.

  But would she let him try? If the playing field were completely equal, would Tessa choose him over me?

  “You know . . . we could make this much more interesting. You up for it?” I turn to Zed.

  Zed smiles. “Depends.”

  “Hmm . . . Okay, so let’s see who can hook up with her first.”

  What’s the point of this? I ask myself the moment I say the words.

  And another part of me replies, It could be fun. At least it will give me something to do and a reason to annoy her further.

  “I don’t know . . .” Zed’s voice is full of doubt. I figured he would be all for beating me at something, given our past and the unspoken grudge he holds against me.

  “Come on, don’t be a pussy. It won’t be that hard. We’ll get Steph to make sure she comes to the next party, get her to be friendly with us,” I explain to them. “She’s young and naive—it’ll be simple.”

  I’ve done this sort of thing before—different stakes and different prey, but a game all the same.

  “This is stupid. Who gives a shit who can take some random girl’s virginity?” Molly huffs, whining like usual.

  “If you’re so convinced you can do it, I’ll give you a week.” Jace chokes on the smoke in his lungs and passes the joint to Molly.

  “A week? Dude, she’s super bitchy and we already don’t get along. I think I’ll need longer than that.” They don’t know how stubborn this chick is. She’s rude and fucking pushy.

  “How long? Two weeks? Look, if you get it within a month, I’ll give you five hundred,” Zed says, leaning back against the concrete.

  “Five hundred dollars?” Molly gapes. Her fury is amusing. She’s an attention whore, through and through, and she hates Tessa for stealing the limelight from her.

  “And I’ll add three. Eight hundred. You think you can do it?” Jace asks with bloodshot eyes.

  “Yeah, of course I can do it. I just hope she doesn’t get all psycho and clingy,” I say, deciding whether or not to brag about the times I’ve won games like this in the past. I decide against it. I’m impressed by how easy it is for my signature smirk to come back, the one that Mark, my old friend from Hampstead, always called “the seal.” It’s the look I get when I know I’m going to win something, or someone. Here I am, smirking at Zed, plotting in my mind as the group waits for someone to take me down a few pegs.

  “Doubt it.” Nate laughs, lighting another cigarette.

  “She isn’t going to go for you. She doesn’t seem that stupid.” Zed glares at me.

  Jace laughs, looking directly at me. “Yeah, so we need proof when you hit it.”

  Proof? That shouldn’t be too hard. I can be creative.

  “What about a video? I could use some new material.” Jace leans back, still eyeing me.

  “No, no. That’s too risky,” I argue. I’ve been down that road before and want to steer fucking clear of it from now on. “Trust me, you’ll get your proof without all that.” I look directly at Zed and pull out that smirk again. “I’ve never fucked a virgin. This should be fun.”

  I smile a fake smile and bring my fingers to my lip ring like I’m trying to hide it.

  Molly interjects, “Wait, how exactly are you two idiots going to get this show on the road? It doesn’t make sense: all of a sudden you’re both just trying to fuck her?” She flips her hair in annoyance. “At least be fucking smart about it,” she gripes, and holds her hand out to borrow Nate’s lighter.

  “Good point,” Jace says. “How about a game?”

  “A game?” Zed looks intrigued.

  “Like Truth or Dare. We could ask her questions about sex, confirm she’s a virgin so you two aren’t wasting your time to begin with.” Jace waves his hand between Zed and me.

  “Truth or Dare? You’ve gotta be shitting me,” I groan. No one plays that bullshit anymore.

  “Stupid idea.” Nate shakes his head, mock disappointment playing on his face.

  No one outside of sixth grade would ever want to play Truth or Dare.

  “Actually, it’s a good idea. Less obvious,” Steph adds. “She’s so clueless, she’ll think it’s something people do in college for fun. It’s just edgy enough to seem dangerous to her, and just juvenile enough for her to understand.”

  As I look around the group, everyone is nodding and laughing. These idiots.

  I shrug, giving in to their idea, but only because I don’t have a better one.

  “Truth or Dare, it is.” Jace finalizes it.

  THE PARTY IS CROWDED, even more than the one last week, and I’m sober, like always. I stayed in my room as the music got louder and louder, then decided to come down.

  As I’m wandering around the living room to find Nate, I stop walking when I see Tessa sitting on the couch. Well, at least I think it’s Tessa? She’s dressed differently from before. Way differently. The intriguing blue-gray eyes stand out more when they’re lined with makeup, and her clothes are snug on her curvy body.

  She’s fucking hot. I wouldn’t let her know that, but goddamn, she’s fucking hot.

  “You look . . . different.” I can’t stop looking at her as she gets to her feet. Her hips—damn, those fucking hips should have my fingertips imprinted on their skin.

  “Your clothes actually fit you tonight.” The sound comes out as a laugh, but I didn’t mean for my comment to be a joke.

  She rolls her eyes at me and pulls the top of her shirt up to cover her incredible cleavage.

  “It’s a surprise to see you here,” I say to her, still checking her out.

  She sighs. “I’m a bit surprised myself that I ended up here again.” She walks away from me without a warning, and I hesitate for a moment, considering whether I should follow her. I know the plan, and now that she’s dressed like this, I’m even more ready to get the ball rolling on this shit. I decide not to follow her, not yet. I let her get lost in the crowd for a bit.

  A few minutes later, I’m leaning against the counter in the kitchen, when Molly approaches me. “Are you ready for this bullshit or what?” she asks.

  She’s irritated and jealous of the new center of attention. I get it. She’s used to getting attention from the opposite sex; it’s how she feels needed.
>
  I understand that more than anyone.

  “Are you?” I raise a brow to her.

  She rolls her heavily lined eyes at me. “I’ll have Steph find her and bring her to the living room, since you obviously aren’t going to be of any help.”

  By the time I sit down, water cup in hand, Tessa is joining the group. I feel uneasy but excited for some reason as the game begins. I try not to think of Natalie or Melissa or any of the others. It’s not their fault they were born into this society right along with the scum of it, myself included.

  “Let’s play Truth or Dare,” Zed starts, and our small group of tattooed friends gather around the couch. Molly is passing around a bottle of vodka, and I look away from it, drinking my water as if it was burning my throat in that familiar way.

  Steph; Nate; his roommate, Tristan; Zed; and Molly take turns drinking from the bottle. Tessa watches them but doesn’t have any. I don’t take her for an addict like me. Maybe she just doesn’t like to drink. Even in college, at a party.

  “You should play, too, Tessa.” Molly smiles at her. I know that smile. It’s no good. I still can’t believe we’re going through with this childish bullshit game.

  “No, I’d rather not.” Tessa picks at her fingernails, and I glance at Zed. He looks a little worried. Perhaps he’s intimidated by the way she keeps glancing at me instead of him.

  “To actually play, she would have to stop being a prude for five minutes,” I goad her. The group laughs—all except Steph, who’s putting on a good show. She’s not fooling me; I know her ass better than that.

  I watch Tessa struggle with the peer pressure, ready to give in, then I lean into Zed. “This will be easy. You may as well pay me now,” I tell him.

  Maybe this game was a good idea after all.

  During the first few turns, Zed chugs a beer, Molly shows off her nipple piercings. I get a kick out of watching Tessa’s eyes bulge and her cheeks turn a deep red as she watches Molly. I can’t help but imagine Tessa’s full tits, perky and soft, decorated with small barbells.

  “Truth or dare, Theresa?” Nate asks, getting this show on the road. Finally.

  “Truth?” She sounds unsure. I don’t miss that she didn’t correct Nate when he called her Theresa, whereas every time I do it, she acts as if she wants to chop my balls off and feed them to her lapdog of a boyfriend.

  “Of course,” I taunt. She glares at me as Nate rubs his hands together while trying to pretend like we all haven’t already agreed upon what he’s supposed to ask.

  “Okay. Are you . . . a virgin?” Nate finally asks.

  Tessa’s eyes go wide, wider than usual, and she makes a light choking noise in the back of her throat. She’s shocked, horrified, and offended that a stranger would ask her such a personal question. A blush runs down her neck to her chest. Her hands fidget, and I get the feeling she’s trying to decide whether to curse his ass out or run from the room.

  “Well?” I ask, all the while picturing her naked body under mine. Her voice, soft and subtle, would be making noises that no man has ever heard before. The thought is beyond fucking intriguing, but also fucked up, since I can’t speak to the girl without getting assaulted by her snobbish attitude.

  At last, this innocent girl gives a quick, silent nod.

  Every one of us is thinking about our game and how this sweet, innocent, and crumpling naive girl just became the main piece.

  Tessa’s a virgin—she’s just admitted it to the lot of us. I knew this to be true before she admitted it. I could tell by the way she shivered from our conversations alone. Thinking about being the first one to have her, to show her what she’s been missing out on, makes my cock twitch. I imagine what’s under her outfit. Her soft skin, full tits, her nipples hardening under my touch. Now the game has begun, and my blood is pumping. I’m anxious to be inside of her.

  She plays with her hair from across the circle, and I imagine that blond hair wrapped around my fist, me pulling her closer to me as I fuck her from behind. I would slap her round ass, hoping to leave a mark there. She would be moaning my name through her pink, swollen lips. My name will sound so good coming from her mouth. I adjust my pants and watch Tessa again.

  She licks her lips, and I internally groan.

  I wonder how many cocks she’s had down her throat? I wonder if she’s ever tasted a man’s come before, and as the conversation continues, I learn that she has done next to nothing when it comes to sex, and I intend to show her every last fucking detail of what she’s missed.

  seven

  There are so many mistakes to be made in life, and he made them all. Every ounce of respect he held for her seemed to disappear beneath the confusion of his mind. He loved her and cherished her more than his own breath, but he failed and failed and failed to show it. To remember it when it counted. He toyed with her, played immature games, and didn’t show her his truth. This truth that he had hidden away, locked away tightly and guarded by his upbringing, by the fact that he couldn’t remember the number of times he was hugged and cherished as a child. He wasn’t trying to make excuses, he was only used to doing so. He always blamed everyone else, never took credit for what he did or said. It was easier that way.

  But eventually, he learned his lesson.

  Dare.” I roll my eyes at the childish game. Like anyone thought I would choose otherwise.

  I stare at Tessa, watching Mother Theresa fumble at the challenge of coming up with a good dare. “I . . . hmm. I dare you to . . .” She comes up short. Everyone is waiting, anticipating her question as she plays into our scheme.

  “To what?” I push her to hurry along with this shit.

  This girl, who doesn’t even know how much trouble she’s in with this pack of jackals . . . she still sits in silence, looking around the group in a dramatic panic. It’s only a party game, but I can tell she’s an overachiever, even when it comes to something this stupid. It’s entertaining to watch her worry over something so small. She has a habit of chewing on her bottom lip, the same way I play with my ring. Briefly I imagine her with a ring through her lip. She would look so fucking hot.

  “Take your shirt off and keep it off the entire game!” Molly says for Tessa.

  And Tessa’s cheeks flush. A pattern.

  “How juvenile.” I lift my black T-shirt up over my head and catch Tessa’s eyes on my body. She’s staring, hard, so hard that she doesn’t even notice me catching her. Steph nudges her with her elbow, and she looks away, cheeks red and eyes downcast.

  I’m officially winning this. Zed has no chance.

  The game continues, and I sit here half dressed and watch Tessa try and keep her eyes off of me. I can’t read her—I can’t tell if she’s disgusted by my tattoos or intrigued by them. Her jaw keeps twitching; she’s trying her best to sit still.

  Interesting.

  “Tessa, truth or dare?” Tristan asks.

  I lean back on my palms. “Why even ask? We know she’ll say truth—”

  “Dare,” the stubborn girl says, surprising me with the challenge in her voice. It’s a defiant sound, different than I would have thought possible just a few moments ago.

  “Hmm . . . Tessa, I dare you to . . . take a shot of vodka.” Tristan smiles.

  “I don’t drink.” She sticks her chin out in refusal.

  I figured as much, but I’m pleased by this revelation. Everyone around this place can’t wait for their next high; it’s refreshing to have someone who doesn’t rely on that.

  “That’s the point of the dare,” Tristan counters.

  “Look, if you don’t want to do it . . .” Nate starts to tell her.

  “She’s such a pussy,” Molly says into my ear.

  Pussy? Because she doesn’t want to drink?

  “Fine, one shot,” she says. And like that, Little Miss Oh-I-Don’t-Do-X-Y-or-Z caves easily.

  Honestly, I’m a little disappointed. Not sure why, but I thought there was something different about her. I thought she wasn’t like the rest of us, despe
rate to get the attention of our peers.

  I was wrong about her, obviously.

  “Same dare,” Zed says to her, and takes a large swig before handing vodka over. I’m annoyed by them drinking from the same bottle; it’s disgusting, really.

  As the game goes on, drink after drink, she winces and wipes the burning liquid from her lips. Her eyes are red now, her cheeks matching. She looks lost and off balance, even when sitting down.

  She lifts the bottle to her lips again, and I find my hand grasping it, pulling it from her. She doesn’t try to stop me—does she sense that she’s had enough to drink?

  Does she see this as her first taste at freedom? Such a sheltered girl, out here in the big bad world of people who drink to numb themselves from whatever issues their shitty parents passed on to them. Maybe hers, like mine, is neglect. Was this girl neglected, too? I move my eyes to the neatly pressed collar of her shirt. Nope, she sure as hell wasn’t neglected. It’s possible that her low self-esteem is just a phase. She wants to break free of her controlling mummy and daddy and show herself that she can be a wild girl, too. She’s fully capable of hanging out with the bad kids and drinking herself sick.

  The other possibility is that the lot of us are just that good at dragging people down.

  “I think you’ve had enough,” I say, and go to hand the bottle off to Nate. But Tessa quickly grabs it at the last second and takes another drink. The trace of a smirk covers her full lips as she licks them clean. I watch her throat as she swallows in a defiant gulp, and want to push her lips open and drink the liquor from her mouth.

  I shake the thought away. Molly glances at me, swirling her finger in the air to say that I’m crazy.

  Maybe I am.

  “I can’t believe you’ve never been drunk before, Tessa. It’s fun, right?” Zed asks her.

  She giggles and I roll my eyes.

 
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