Nothing More by Anna Todd

  “Is that blood?” I ask her, slowly peeling off the black cotton.

  “Probably,” she says like it’s no big deal.

  Like it’s a paper cut that she barely noticed.

  Sure enough, it’s blood. Her toes are crusted with it . . . I’ve seen what ballet shoes do to her feet even before she was dancing full-time. They were bad then. But this is worse than I’ve ever seen.

  “Jesus, Dakota.” I peel off the other sock.

  “It’s fine. I got new slippers and they just aren’t broken in yet.”

  She tries to move away, but I put my hand on her leg to stop her. “Stay here.”

  I lift her feet off of my lap and get up from the couch.

  “I’m getting a washcloth,” I tell her.

  She looks like she wants to say something, but doesn’t.

  I grab a clean washcloth from the bathroom cabinet and run it under warm water. I check the cabinet for aspirin and shake the bottle. Empty, of course. I can’t imagine Tessa leaving an empty bottle of anything around, so the blame is mine for this.

  I glance in the mirror while the washcloth soaks with water, and try to tame my hair. The top is getting long, too long. And the back needs trimming; it’s starting to curl up on my neck, and unless I want to look like Frodo, I need a haircut soon.

  I shut off the water and ring the excess out of the washcloth. It’s a little too hot, but it will cool down by the time I get back into the living room. Grabbing a dry towel, I walk back to Dakota.

  But when I find her, she’s fast asleep on the couch. Her mouth is slightly open and her eyes are tightly closed. She must really be exhausted.

  I sit back down, careful not to wake her, and, as gently as I can, dab the cloth on the damaged skin of her feet. She doesn’t stir, just lies silently sleeping as I clean her cuts and wipe away the dried blood.

  She’s working herself too hard. From the bloody feet to the pure exhaustion she’s wearing on her face right now. I want to spend time with her, but I want her to rest, so gathering up the bloodstained washcloth and the towel, I grab the blanket from the chair and cover her sleeping body with it.

  What can I do to occupy myself while she sleeps?

  Tessa is at work, Posey is at work . . . and thus ends my long list of pals.



  IN THE END, ASPIRIN AND Gatorade were the friends I decided to call upon, which meant a trip to the deli.

  Ellen is working, and since her birthday is tomorrow, I killed some time seeing what she was up to (nothing much) and asking what she thought her parents might get her (again, nothing much).

  Which sounds terrible. So I try to ferret out what she likes so maybe I can get her something fun.

  On the way back, I gave my mom a call and talked to her and Ken for a few minutes.

  When I get back in the apartment, I hang up and hear noise from the living room and figure Dakota’s woken back up. Going in, seeing her there looking at me with a sort of confused where-the-heck-have-you-been look, I set my cell phone down on the table as slowly as I can.

  I do it somewhat comically, but I feel like I’m trapped in an interrogation room or something. Only in this room there’re Cheez-Its and bottles of Gatorade. So, maybe not so much like an interrogation room.

  Though . . . Dakota would make a sexy-ass cop. I can imagine her body dressed in a tight uniform, just for me to peel off. The look on her face right now, though, says that if she were a cop, she would arrest me. And not in a sexy, playful, handcuff-me-to-the-bed-and-tease-me way.

  “It was my mom and Ken on the phone. They had an appointment today for little Abby,” I say with a somewhat fake smile.

  Not fake in that I’m not happy about the baby’s progress, or that Ken is still head over heels for my mom, but fake because I suddenly get paranoid that Dakota overheard me talking to my mom about Nora right at the end of the conversation.

  But Nora is my friend, if barely. Still, Dakota hearing her name as I said it to my mom would only further fuel the fire of jealousy she’s creating over her roommate. The match in her hand is burning pretty bright now and I want her to understand that there’s nothing to be worried about. Nora wouldn’t give me a chance even if I pursued it. It would be messy because of her friendship with Tessa, and I barely know her anyway—so why is this a thing?

  Dakota gets up and stretches out her back. “So, how is she?” she asks. “Abby. How is she doing in there?”

  I let out a little tension-breath I didn’t realize I was holding and step into the kitchen with my haul. Dakota follows me in, wrapping her arms around my neck and leaning her head on my shoulder. Her hair smells like coconut and her curls are soft against my cheek.

  “She’s good. They sounded a little worried for a second, but I think I’m just overthinking things.”

  Dakota’s breath is warm against my skin. “Overthinking? You? You don’t say!” She chuckles and her laugh is beautiful, like she is.

  I reach my hand up and gently squeeze her arm.

  “I’m glad she’s doing okay. It’s still kind of weird to think of your mom being pregnant, at her age.” Seemingly aware of how her words sound, she quickly recovers, adding, “Not in a bad way. She’s the best mom I’ve ever seen, and both you and Abby are so lucky to have her, at any age. I don’t know Ken very well yet, but from what you tell me, he’s going to be a great dad.”

  “He will be,” I say, and kiss her arm as I put the snacks away in the cabinets.

  “Let’s just hope Abby is more like you and less like Hardin.” She laughs again and little needles prick my skin.

  I don’t like the way she said that. Not one bit.

  “What’s that supposed to mean?” I lift her arms from mine and turn around to face her.

  Dakota’s face gives away her surprise at my reaction.

  Am I overreacting?

  I don’t think that I am.

  “I was just joking, Landon. I didn’t mean anything by it. You two are so different, that’s all.”

  “Everyone is different, Dakota. It’s not your place to judge him. Or anyone.”

  She sighs and sits down at the kitchen table.

  “I know. I wasn’t trying to judge him. I’m the last person who can judge anyone.” She looks down at her hands. “It was a shitty joke that I won’t make again. I know he means a lot to you.”

  My shoulders relax, and I start wondering why I got so irritated so quickly. It’s like it came out of nowhere, although I do get tired of people piling on my stepbrother.

  Dakota seems remorseful . . . and Hardin really is a tough pill to swallow. I can’t really blame her for her opinion of him. She only knew him as the guy who smashed a cabinetful of dishes my dead grandma gave my mom. And as the guy who refused to call her by her actual name.

  Hardin does this thing where he pretends that he doesn’t know any female names except Tessa’s. So Dakota became “Delilah” every time he addressed her. I don’t know why he does it, and sometimes I actually wonder if, in fact, he really hasn’t forgotten every woman’s name except Tessa’s.

  Weirder things have happened between those two.

  But I would rather not spend the entire night at odds with Dakota over one remark.

  “Okay. Let’s just talk about something else. Something lighter,” I suggest.

  Since she’s already apologized and seems like she genuinely didn’t mean anything by her comment, I want to move on. I want to talk to her. I want to hear about her days and her nights.

  I want to lie next to her in bed and reminisce about our wild teenage years when we had movie marathons on school nights and held pizza-roll-eating contests on my futon. My mom never questioned why I blew through bag after bag of pepperoni pizza rolls. She had reason to wonder what was going on when I started asking for the combination varieties, because she knew I hated them. But she never once asked me why Dakota ate so much every time she came over. I think she knew that since a couple of forty-ounce bee
rs cost just as much as a bag of pizza rolls, the chances were slim that Dakota’s freezer would have any food in it, much less name-brand pizza rolls.

  “Thank you.” Dakota looks down and I smile at her and move closer.

  “Come on, you.” I dip down and lift her body into my arms and she shrieks.

  She’s light, even lighter than I remember, but it sure feels good to hold her in my arms.

  The twenty-two steps to the couch isn’t long enough to make up for the last few months, but I drop her onto the cushions. She lands with a soft thud and her body bounces up a few inches and she shrieks again.

  I step back and she’s on her feet in no time, running after me with a huge grin. She’s giggling, face red and hair wild.

  When she lunges at me, I jump out of the way. I slide on the thick rug that I was supposed to tape down the second day I moved in and jump onto the chair, missing her fingertips by mere inches. Something creaks beneath me.

  I really hope I don’t break this damn chair.

  I leap off of it and slide across the floor with the help of my socks. I lose my balance, and as my leg muscles strain, unsuccessfully, to right myself, I realize that my pants are so freaking tight that my legs are bending in a painful, unnatural way. Sitting on the floor, I pull one leg in and twist my body and Dakota rushes over to me. Her face is worried when she puts one hand on my shoulders and tucks the other one under my chin, forcing me to look up at her.

  I can’t stop laughing and my stomach hurts from it, but my leg doesn’t.

  Dakota’s panic turns to amusement and her laughter is my favorite song.

  I grab her shoulders and pull her down into my lap. Her hands wrap around my neck and she pulls me closer to kiss her.

  Her mouth is softer than my touch, and not for the first time, I’m a fool for her as I trace her tongue with mine.



  DAKOTA’S HANDS SLIDE FROM MY neck to my arms and she rubs them. Up and down she rubs, staying a few moments extra on my biceps.

  I can’t pretend that I’m not proud of my body. Especially after years of hating it. It makes me feel strong and sexy for the first time in my life, and I’m on cloud nine with her hands all over me.

  “I’ve missed you so much.” Dakota’s words are something between a cry and a moan, and they speak to me, to the man I am now, not just the boy I was when I met her.

  “I’ve missed you more,” I promise her.

  Dakota’s brown eyes are nearly closed, so heavily lidded that I can barely make out their color. Except I already know the color; I memorized her eyes long ago. I’ve memorized every single inch of her from the birthmark on her left foot to the shade of her eyes. They’re a soft brown with a flake of honey in the right one. She used to tell the kids at school that the light mark on her face was a scar from some fight she was in at her old school, but it wasn’t true. She always told stories that made her sound as intimidating as possible, since she was nothing of the sort at home.

  “I need you, Landon.” Dakota’s voice is a desperate whisper as she kisses me.

  Her hands are on my back now, pulling my shirt up. Her mouth traces the nape of my neck and her small hands work to take my shirt off. The floor is cold, but she’s so damn hot and I feel nervous and excited and my mind is racing.

  “Help me,” Dakota says, still tugging at my fabric. “I can’t take it off like this,” she says, and licks at my neck.

  I move quickly, hating that I have to pull away from her but beyond ready to take off all of my clothes—and hers.

  I tug at the fabric and toss the WCU T-shirt across the room . . . only it catches on the lamp and stays there, making the light slightly red.

  I’m so damn awkward that I can’t even throw a T-shirt in a sexy way? Really?

  I’m hoping she noticed that I wore red, her favorite color on me, and sweats, just like she always loved. I used to find it weird that she liked my lounging-about clothing so much, but given how I feel about her sports bra and yoga pants, I get it.

  “Come here,” Dakota says, her voice like candy. Sweet and addicting.

  I move back to her and wonder if we should go into my room. Is it weird to be sitting on the living room floor and taking off my clothes?

  Dakota answers that question for me. She pulls her shirt over her head and somehow manages to bring her sports bra with it. Between her exposed breasts, her wet lips, and the way she’s looking at me, I may just embarrass myself before we even begin.

  I know that look. The one where her eyes are hooded and her mouth is slack. I’ve seen that look so many times, and here it is again.

  She’s desire wrapped in sugar and I need to taste her.

  I move to her, taking one soft breast in my hand and the other into my mouth. Her nipples are hard pebbles under my tongue, and hell, I’ve missed her body.

  She’s moaning now and I’m growing harder by the second. I’ve missed her, I’ve needed her. Dakota is moaning as she pushes her body into me, rising to her knees so I have better access to her. My hand moves from her breast down her stomach, and my fingers find her pussy, soaked and throbbing. I use my index finger to draw small circles over her wetness.

  I know how crazy that drives her.

  Dakota’s body has always been so responsive to my touch. She’s usually dripping for me, so this comes as no surprise. What does kind of amaze me is that I’m thinking clearly while touching her. With my mouth sucking at her nipples and my finger drawing small circles over her swollen clit, I’m aware of every single thing. I’m aware of her hair pulled over her shoulder, her hand tugging at my hair as she gasps, “More, please, more.”

  I’m not used to being so present when I’m touching her. I was always so lost in the sensation that I could barely form a thought.

  I use the tip of my tongue to trace the outline of her taut nipples and Dakota yanks her body away from me.

  I pull back, worried that I did something wrong.

  She lies back a little and tugs at her tight pants, yanking them down her legs, letting me know that everything’s more than fine. When I look down at her exposed body, she’s not wearing panties.

  Jesus freaking Christ, she’s not wearing panties and she’s literally glistening. She’s so wet that she’s probably going to leave a puddle on my floor, and I caused that.

  Knowing that feels pretty damn good.

  “Make love to me, Landon.”

  It’s not a request, I know this. I know her.

  She lies on her back and I suddenly remember when she said our sex life was “boring” and my cheeks flush in embarrassment.

  Boring, huh?

  Dakota is completely naked and my door is locked, and she’s waiting for me to climb on top of her and probably expects we’ll have normal, “boring” sex like we had in the past.

  Only to me, it wasn’t even close to boring.

  Still, I’m going to show her that I’m not boring at all. I have a few tricks up my sleeve.

  I’ve watched enough porn that I’m practically an expert.

  Though if Dakota knew I watched porn, she would probably be pissed. She broke up with me once when she found a Playboy magazine under my mattress. Man, these teenage boys nowadays don’t know how easy they have it, having porn on their phones and not even needing to worry about their mom finding it when she cleans their room.

  Okay, I’m getting distracted.

  Back to being all adventurous and sexy and stuff.

  “Stay still,” I tell her, and she looks up at me.

  She nods, but she looks confused as I take my sweats and boxers off. I don’t try to throw them. I just lay them next to us and act as if I’m continuing on in my plan.

  Except I don’t have one.

  I want to blow her mind.

  I want her to remember me and never forget me and want me and need me all in one second of my touch.

  It’s a lot to pull off, but I’m going to amaze—

  “Are you oka
y?” she asks, impatience clear in her tone.

  I nod and crawl to her, naked and hard and nervous. My hands touch her thighs and she quivers as I slowly trace the tips of my fingertips over her soft skin. Goose bumps rise on her brown skin and she’s so beautiful, it’s like she’s the sun burning through me.

  I gently touch both of her knees and spread her thighs. She moves like she’s going to sit up, but I push my hand out, willing her to stop.

  “Let me try something.”

  I move back and lower my mouth to her body. Her skin tastes like salt and I’m so hard that it hurts.

  I kiss her skin, from her navel to her perky breasts and back down again. She trembles beneath me, her breath so heavy that it makes me shake with desire. I need to be patient, to show her that I can please her, not be “boring” . . .

  My mouth travels lower and I forge a trail of gentle kisses down her body. To her hipbones and down between her thighs. She gasps as the tip of my tongue meets her clit. My cock is throbbing and my palms are probably sweating.

  Am I any good at this?

  I struggle to push all doubts from my mind and flatten my tongue over her. She moans my name when I lap around, licking at her wetness and sucking her swollen bud between my lips. Her fingers claw at my shoulders and she says my name again and again. I must be doing something right. Her legs tighten and I move my tongue faster, then slower, savoring her sweetness with my mouth.

  When her legs tighten around my neck, I bring one hand up to her breasts and move the other down between her legs. Slowly, I tease her entrance with my finger, and she groans, compliant and needy, and I feel like a damn king.

  “I can’t wait anymore.” She pulls at my hair, then my shoulders, and I take one more lick and raise my body to cover hers.

  “Please,” she begs, and I line the tip of my cock between her thighs and she’s panting and I can’t wait to be inside of her. I try to kiss her but she moves her head, pushing her neck to my mouth.

  I suck on her skin, just enough to make her crazy, but not enough to leave a mark.

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