Anna lives every day the best she can while struggling against the demons that threaten to consume her and drag her back into the darkness of her troubled past. The last thing she needs right now is a guy, especially one as sweet and sexy as Jed.
When the attraction becomes too strong to resist, she gives into it. Even when she knows it’ll only end in disaster and leave her more her scared and broken than she was before.
Jed wants to find the right woman and he’s drawn to Anna by carnal magnetism, but she also brings out an alpha side of him that he’s never known. When his alpha rears its head, it triggers memories in Anna and her carefully crafted wall of protection begins to show cracks.
When fate and misunderstandings threaten their already delicate relationship, can they survive? When Anna’s demons threaten to be unearthed and Jed’s inner alpha only seem to make them worse, can they overcome?
Is it even worth it?
The Past: Anna
A few weeks later, I approach the lunch table, and Shannon shouts, “Happy birthday!” I think she enjoys embarrassing me. The smile on my best friend’s is the only thing that stops me from smacking her.
“Why don’t you say it a little louder Shan, I don’t think people across the street heard you,” I mutter as I plop in between her and Jared.
She rolls her eyes. “Smile, it’s your birthday. You’re not allowed to be grumpy.”
Jared snakes an arm around my shoulders and pulls me into a half hug and plops his usual friendly kiss on my head. “Happy birthday, beautiful. How does it feel to be fifteen like the rest of us?”
“Feels like any other day. It kinda sucks to be born in the fall though.” I smile up at him as our hug separates. Until I met Todd, I wanted Jared. He’s sweet and gorgeous with dark brown hair and matching eyes. My eyes shift and catch his newest girlfriend scowling at us. A month ago, her presence would be a smack in the face, a reminder that my feelings weren’t shared. But now I have someone who does share my feeling.
Thinking about him, my eyes drift around the cafeteria to see if I can catch a glimpse of Todd. Even though we’ve officially been dating a month, he still doesn’t want people to know that we’re together, and that is a little jab to my heart. I don’t want him to be embarrassed of me, but I try and understand. I want to make him happy, so I swallow my disappointment.
“Who are you looking for?” Alison asks. Alison and Aaron, who are dating, are the final two in my little group of friends. Well, Shannon’s boyfriend too, but he goes to a different school.
I quickly bring my attention back to the table because Todd doesn’t even want my friends to know and I don’t want my wandering eyes to spark questions. “No one.”
“Really, you looked like you were looking for someone.”
“Nope,” I say. “So are you guys going to the football game on Friday?” I know I won’t be able to go because my dad is working, and someone needs to be home with my sisters, and although Mom will be there, she’ll probably be in her bedroom. Again.
The distraction works and they chatter on with their plans for Friday night and no one is surprised when I say I can’t join them. I zone out until I notice everyone has stopped talking. When I realize that their eyes are focused behind me, I look over my shoulder and worry seeps through my veins. Todd stands behind me with clenched fists and a blank stare that just barely conceals the anger underneath. My heart races and my palms sweat as my worry turns into panic. Something is wrong. Very wrong.
“Savannah,” he says evenly. “Can I talk to you in the hall for a minute?”
I glance back at my friends who wear matching shocked expressions. When their eyes shift back to me and I see the questions forming, I stand up and mumble, “I’ll be right back.”
I start to follow Todd when Jared puts a hand on my arm stopping me, and I turn to see his brow furrowed. “You okay?”
I open my mouth to respond, but Todd interrupts him with a curt “She’s fine. Let’s go, Savannah.”
My gut is a jumbled mess, but I give my friends a half smile and turn to follow Todd out into the hallway.
When the cafeteria door closes behind me and the two of us are alone, he turns to me and pushes me against the nearby wall. “What the fuck are you doing? Are you trying to make me angry?” he hisses and inch from my face.
My eyes widen and my body electrifies with anxiety. I wrack my brain to figure out what I did wrong, what I did to make him so angry. My heart races as I stammer out, “I’m sorry. I…I don’t know what you mean.”
“Why is that little shit putting his hands on you?”
His jaw clenches and his hand on my arm squeezes tighter, but he says nothing.
“He’s just my friend. We’ve been friends since middle school,” I rush out. Even though, I had a crush on Jared since I’ve known him, my feelings for him are nothing compared to what I’m feeling for Todd.
“If he’s just a friend, why the fuck did he kiss you?” His eyes flash with anger.
“I…I don’t know. He’s always done that,” I explain quickly.
“I don’t like him. I don’t want you hanging around him.”
My face drops. Jared is my friend and has been for a few years now. I don’t want to make Todd mad at me, but I don’t want to lose my friends either. “But he’s my friend.”
“That little asshole wants in your pants, and I don’t want him anywhere near you.”
My face flames at the mention of sex. Todd was my first kiss and other than a few make out sessions, I’ve never done anything more than that. Jared doesn’t see me that way anyway, so I shake my head. “He doesn’t.”
His hand grips me harder and I wince. “So you want him, then huh? Is that it?”
“What?! No!” I guess, on some level it’s a lie, but I’m not pining after Jared romantically anymore. I have Todd and I care about him. I think I may even love him, so I don’t want him to think that I want Jared. He might leave me and that thought makes me tense and scared.
“You sure?” he asks, his face softening a little making the stiffness in my body begin to melt away.
“Yeah, I only care about you,” I reply softly.
He rewards me with a gorgeous smile and my body relaxes completely when he envelops me in his arms and presses his lips on top my head. He keeps them there for a few beats allowing contentment to settle over me.
“I think you should prove it,” he mumbles against my head.
The Present: Jed’s POV
It’s Wednesday now, and I’m watching something stupid on TV. Well, I’m not really paying attention to the TV. My focus is on Anna who is curled up next to me, studying some papers. It’s fascinating to watch her study. She chews on her thumb, tucks a pencil behind her ear, and her beautiful blue eyes skim across the page. Every so often, her eyes will narrow in concentration and she’ll pull the pencil out and jot something down or underline something. Then she’ll twirl the end of the pencil in between her plump, lush, pink lips. That’s when I redirect my attention back to the TV, so I’m not tempted to rip the papers out of her hands and replace the pencil with my tongue. I try to discretely adjust myself, and try and fail to get the image of her lips wrapped around the pencil out of my head, or around my cock… Shit!
When I glance back down, she’s out and I inwardly chuckle. Here I am imagining my cock in her mouth and she’s so tired, she passed out mid-study against me. I’m glad she’s getting a little rest though, and I take the opportunity to drink her in. She’d probably be embarrassed that I’m studying her right now. Her cheek is kind of squished, and her mouth is parted a little more than normal, she’s beautiful. I take my finger and gently, so I don’t wake her, trace the line of her jaw and the curve of her nose. I run my finger along her eyebrows and my dick stirs when my finger travels across those full pouty lips.
Her brow furrows and she frowns, and my lips tip down too. Huh. I wonder what she’s dreaming about.
Her body tenses into a ridged plank and her face crumples. She looks like she’s in pain and maybe embarrassed. Jesus, what the fuck?
“Um…Anna,” I whisper.
“Sthooooppp. Wahda ya doin?” she sobs whispering.
What the hell needs to stop? What the hell is she dreaming about? I’m starting to panic. Should I try and wake her up? You’re not supposed to wake people up or they’ll go on a murdering spree or something, right? Wait, no, that’s sleepwalking. I should try and wake her.
“Anna,” I say a little louder and give her shoulder a little shake.
Her face contorts in agony and whispers, “Ged offa me.”
My stomach drops and my jaw clenches. Get off of me? Christ, I need to wake her up, get her out of whatever hell she’s in.
“Anna,” I say louder and shake her shoulder a little harder.
“Pllleeeaassse sllopp,” she whispers, and then starts to sob tearlessly and nearly silently.
Oh, fuck. I’m freaking the fuck out because I’m almost positive she’s dreaming about rape or something just as shitty. I want to jump in her head and bash the shit out of her dream attacker. I feel helpless, and I hate it.
“Anna!” I yell and shake her hard.
Her frantic eyes pop open, and she sits up so fast that she almost knocks me off the couch, her wild eyes searching the room.
“Are you okay, baby?” I ask and I’m sure the horror and concern are all over my face.
She finally stops her frantic searching and when her eyes meet mine, her face falls and ducks her head, squeezing her eyes closed tighly. That’s the moment I know. I know this wasn’t just a dream. It was a memory, and it was exactly what I thought it was. I swallow thickly, and try not to show an ounce of my rising anger because I don’t want to scare her. I need to comfort her and make sure she knows that she’s safe.
“Hey,” I start softly. “You’re okay, I’m right here.”
“I should go.”
“I have school in the morning and you have work and it’s getting late, sorry I passed out,” she says and lifts off the couch. She moves to the chair where her coat and school bag are and starts shoving everything in.
It takes me a moment to recover from the shock. This is not the reaction I was expecting.
“Don’t go right now. Talk to me.” I stand up and approach her carefully.
She plasters a fake smile on her face, but I can see the panic behind it. It’s rising, and I can see her hands shake as she puts on her coat. Ah, shit. I’m trying to tamp down the urge to physically keep her here, but I also can’t have her take off in the state she’s in right now.
She smiles a wobbly smile, and I can see tears forming in her eyes. “Nothing to talk about, but I should get going.”
I can’t let her run from me. Not like this, not right now. “You’re staying. Talk to me.”
She clenches her jaw and won’t look at me, but continues to put on her coat and gather her things.
“You talk in your sleep.”
She freezes and turns slowly to look at me. Her face is full of pain, embarrassment, and regret. She opens her mouth to say something, but then quickly closes it and I see the tears well up again. She swallows thickly and I can tell that she’s trying with everything she has not to cry.
“Talk to me. What happened?”
She shakes her heads with a tiny jerk. “I’ve got to go.” Before I can stop her, she flies out the door.
Shit. I throw on shoes, grab my keys, and rush out the door. She’s sprinting toward her car, but I’m close behind her.
Fuck, it’s cold out here. I forgot my jacket.
I reach her car a few seconds after she closes the door, and I knock on the window.
Her head is buried in her hands, and when she finally looks up at me, her face is tearstained. She looks so tortured and the thought of something happening to her is tearing me up. I’m fighting against my conflicting emotions—need to comfort her and rage towards whoever did this to her.
I open the door and kneel down in front of her. I reach out to wipe away a falling tear. “Let me in.”
She squeezes her eyes closed tight, and then gives a jerky shake of her head. “I can’t.”
I take her face in my hands and lean in close. She needs to open up. I need her to open up. “Did someone hurt you?”
I can feel her jaw clench under my hands. She looks scared and hurt, but I can also see the shutters slam down like a steal door. “I’m sorry, Jed, but I need to go,” she says in a quiet, even voice.
She reaches for the door handle, but I grab her hand a little too hard. “You-” I start to say but when her eyes widen in terror, the words die in my throat. I drop her hand quickly and my mind starts spinning.
She shakes her head, and her face turns blank. “I need to go.”
I’m so shocked that I stand up and step back and she closes her door, starts the engine, and drives off. The whole time I just stand and stare. I know it’s fucking freezing out here, but I don’t feel a thing. As her taillights disappear, I come out of my daze and I want to punch something. What the fuck just happened? And why is this girl trying to drive out of my life? I thought we were finally getting somewhere. She said on Saturday that she’d open up to me one day, and tonight was a perfect opportunity. Instead, she ran. I’m trying to understand that she’s scared and she panicked, but I’m pissed that she wouldn’t unload on me when I’ve been telling and showing her that I’m here for her, that she can come to me. God-fucking-dammit.
My patience is wearing thin. I know she cares about me, and God help me, I’m not letting her go. She might be broken, but I’ll help her put herself back together if it’s the last thing I do.
Nicki DeStasi, Author
Nicki DeStasi was raised in a small town in Massachusetts. She attended Fitchburg State College and studied Early Childhood Education. As a child, she enjoyed reading, but only recently began doing it again. She has always had an inventive imagination and finally decided to put those ideas on paper for others to enjoy. Worth It will be Nicki’s first self-published book. A few personal facts: Sloth from The Goonies is her third cousin, she acted and stared in several plays throughout high school and college, and she can play four different instruments. Nicki’s philosophy is to appreciate the good things in life. If we didn’t make mistakes and have bad things happen then we wouldn’t know how truly wonderful the good things are. No matter how difficult life is sometimes, if we look to the people that love us, then we can get through them and on to the good stuff.