mentioned @luxecouture, @suchawasteofayoungheart, @emmylou :)

My head was swimming. It felt like floating, suspended, in some sort of liquid. I might sink right through myself if I moved. I pulled the covers up to my chin, squeezing my eyes even tighter shut.

“Nina.”

My eyes flicked open. Crap. I’d forgotten where I was. I became aware of my legs, entangled with his beneath the sheets. I could feel the warmth of his body on my bare skin, see the rising and falling of his chest. 

“What time is it?” I groaned, stretching my arms out in the air. 

“11.”

“Holy crap.” I sat up in bed, the covers slipping down my body and leaving my chest bare. Jackson grinned, reaching out and tracing his fingers across my lower back. “Shouldn’t you be at work?” I asked, suddenly very aware of the fact that I was naked in my brother’s friend’s bed.

He shook his head. “Actually, you’re giving me a good excuse to not go in this morning.”

“Okay,” I shrugged. “But... I’m surprised you haven’t kicked me out yet.”

“It’s a lot harder to kick someone out when you actually know them,” Jackson smirked. He ran his hands over his face a few times and pushed the covers back, swinging his legs out of bed and standing up. He pulled on a pair of sweats and threw a shirt on the bed, presumably for me to wear.

“Breakfast?” he asked.

“You cook?”

“No, I have Apple Jacks...”

“Oh,” I grinned. “That sounds perfect.”

I followed him out to the kitchen, taking in the amazing views of his penthouse. I’d been here once before, for a poker night with the guys, but was too drunk to appreciate the place. I walked over to a window that looked out on the city, pressing my fingertips lightly to the glass. Below me, I could see the specks that I assumed were people, going about their days. Nothing had changed for them. But for me... there was a line that had been crossed. Yes, it was a long time coming and yes, maybe – it was inevitable. But I still had some knotting, worrying feeling in the bottom of my stomach like maybe I’d betrayed Q and maybe he’d hate me forever and maybe it wasn’t all worth the repercussions – 

“Breakfast is served.”

Jackson’s voice sliced through my thoughts, and I padded over to the dining table to join him. He made conversation – which was mostly just gossip about the other guys – and I felt myself relax, slightly. I guess I’d also been anxious that he’d hate me in the morning. I didn’t know him that well, but from what I did know, he didn’t seem to appreciate girls overstaying their welcome. But nothing in his tone, or in his face, was telling me to leave.

Our conversation was interrupted by his phone ringing, and he smirked again as he picked it up.

“Eli,” he said, raising his eyebrows at me. “What’s up?”

I felt that weird, twisting feeling force its way back into my stomach at the mention of Eli’s name. But I didn’t know why. I didn’t feel like I’d disappointed him, like I did with Q. This seemed a lot different. 

“Yeah, she’s still here,” Jackson said, obviously referring to me. Then he laughed. “No, dude, I took her home and we ate ice cream and held hands all night – what the fuck else do you think happened?”

I bit down on my bottom lip, swirling the last of my cereal around in my bowl. After a minute, the boys’ conversation obviously turned to my brother – and who was going to tell him. I picked up both our bowls and walked back to the kitchen bench, dropping them into the sink and pouring water over them. I stood there for a few minutes, not really washing, but letting the cold water run over my hands. 

I didn’t notice that Jackson had stopped talking, but I jumped when I felt him press against my back. And I mean, I felt all of him.

“I have a housekeeper for that,” he murmured, softly pushing my hair away from my neck and brushing his lips over my skin. I wondered if he wanted to do me again just because he’d talked to Eli, or if he’d been planning this all along. “Can you stay another half hour?”

---------------------------------------------

“Order up!”

I grabbed the plate from the hands of the cook, who blew me a kiss as he turned away. Cafe Society was pretty empty for a Friday afternoon, but the cheap margaritas would probably have the post-work crowd flooding in sometime soon. 

My mind definitely wasn’t on the job. It had only been two hours, but I’d already messed up an order and dropped a glass. Sandy just shook her head as I walked past, clicking her tongue.

“I don’t know what’s gotten into you today, Nina,” she sighed.

“Or who’s gotten into her,” Victoria cackled. I threw her a death glare, and she retreated back into the kitchen. Sandy raised her eyebrows.

“Oh, is there a story?”

I shook my head. “I don’t want to think about it.”

“Why, was it bad?”

“No,” I said, pausing. “It was great, but... there’s going to be drama.”

Sandy nodded understandingly, squeezing my arm. “Well, just enjoy the peace then, while it lasts.”

The peace didn’t last long. It was another hour into my shift until Q came storming through the door, wild eyes darting around the restaurant, seeking me out. I felt myself almost shrinking behind the counter, knowing what was coming.

“What the fuck, Nina?” he asked, grabbing my arm tightly and pulling me to a quiet corner of the restaurant. I winced, trying to pull away from him. That was definitely going to bruise.

“What?”

It only seemed to make him madder. “You know exactly what. Jackson, really? Why?”

I shrugged. “Because I can, Q.”

“No, you can’t, you’re... you’re my little sister, you’re not allowed to sleep with my friends.”

“Look, I’m not some tiny, shy girl anymore,” I hissed back at him. “I can do whatever, and whomever, I want.”

“Not my friends! I knew that I never should have let you hang out with them.”

“I can take care of myself, I don’t need to you protect me, okay?”

He shook his head. “Seriously, Nin, you’re an idiot. You’re going completely off the rails. Is this what you want, huh? You want to piss off everyone? You’re doing a pretty good job...” he grimaced, rubbing his forehead. “God, you’re so immature.”

“Me? Immature?” I scoffed. “Q, you are the king of immaturity. You’ve spent so much of your life doing stupid shit.”

“This isn’t the same thing. I don’t want you to see my friends anymore.”

“They’re my friends too, now.”

“Fucking hell, Nina, what the hell are you trying to do?”

“I can take care of myself.”

“You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into...”

“No, Q, I’m perfectly aware of what I’m getting myself into. And despite what you think, I’m not going to go falling in love with your friends and getting hurt. I know what I’m doing. It’s just fun.”

“It’s not fun for me,” he spat, pushing me away and turning on his heel.

“Where are you going?”

“To talk to Jackson.”
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