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Loving War

By:C.M. Owens

f a bitch?

“You guys can join us if you want to,” Kade says while walking away.

“No, we’ve got—”

“I’ll come,” I say, interrupting Maverick.

I don’t know what I’m doing, but I can’t just sit back and watch this douche rub his hands all over Tria.

“Dude!” Maverick calls loudly.

“Catch up with you later,” I call over my shoulder, rushing my steps.

Kade tries making idle conversation with me as we close the short distance between us and the girls, but I tune him out. My attention is on one thing, and that’s the jerk whose hands are all over Tria. He doesn’t even know her.

“Sorry, boys,” Kade says loudly, “this one is mine.”

Raya’s smile could brighten a room when Kade makes a show of kissing her, but it only briefly distracts me.

“Kode,” Tria sighs, seeming annoyed with my presence.

I try to act casual as a waitress brings me a fresh glass of whiskey. “Care to introduce me to your new friend?” I ask, motioning to the animal who is groping her ass now.

She flinches when he moves in behind her. She doesn’t want him touching her. So why isn’t she just slapping him away? Why the fuck is this eating me alive? I can’t stand to see his hands on her.

***

TRIA

The only reason I haven’t punched this guy in the nose for his brazen gropes is because Kode Sterling is seconds away from unleashing his wrath. Why else would he come over here?

“I got us a booth. This place is supposed to have phenomenal burgers,” Raya says, tugging Kade’s hand. “You guys sitting with us?”

She looks from me to Kode several times, and then she looks at the jerk who is sliding his hand around my waist. I roll my eyes, and Kade pulls Raya toward the booth, deciding not to wait on a response.

“Okay, that’s enough,” I grumble. That’s all I can take.

He doesn’t let go. Instead, he tugs me to him tighter. “Let’s get out of here,” he whispers, acting as though he completely missed what I just said.

“She said enough,” Kode says, keeping his tone strong and a little threatening. “It wasn’t an invitation for more.”

Oh boy. If he’s helping me out, then it’s only to execute some master plan of humiliation later.

Considering Kode is easily 6’3, and this guy is a mere 5’10 tops, he backs down from the sandy blonde with a fight in his eyes. At least Kode is scary to everyone—not just me.

“Thanks,” I mutter when the guy walks off.

“You shouldn’t be letting them hang all over you if you don’t want them expecting more,” he says through a bored tone, but his jaw clenches as if he’s pissed.

That makes no sense.

“I was trying to keep you from possibly humiliating me. It seemed best if I had a guy around. I should have picked someone a little soberer,” I mumble, frowning.

His right eyebrow raises questioningly, and then his panty-dropping smile comes up as he leans down to get right in my face. “You thought that douche could stop me from doing anything I want to you?”

Was that... seduction? Surely not. He’s not trying to seduce me. It’s Kode. This is a game.

I swallow hard, denying my body the right to shiver under his heated gaze. There’s no way he’s looking at me this way. He’s fucking with me. He probably knows I once had a crush, but that was years ago—before he tortured me to damn death and grew an unhealthy obsession for my sister.

“Let’s play,” he says, making me go on guard.

A warning? Kode Sterling doesn’t usually warn his victims of his impending attack, and I don’t feel like playing his games.

“I knew you were going to—”

“Pool,” he says while setting his glass down on the rim of the pool table, interrupting my would-be rant.

My mouth opens and closes a few times as he starts chalking one of the pool cues. What is going on?

“I’d rather not,” I say, backing up. I’m almost worried he’s going to jerk my dress up while I’m bent over the table, just so he can embarrass the hell out of me in front of everyone here. It would be like high school all over again when he pulled my skirt up in the hallway after an argument I had with Rain. People still make fun of my Hello Kitty underwear.

He smiles a little as his eyes meet mine.

“It’s not a trick, Tria. It’s just a game of pool.”

He has to be shit-face drunk right now to even think I’d fall for something like that.

“What’re you drinking?” he asks.

I glance down at the fourth glass of vodka I’ve had. I hit the strong stuff once I realized Kode was here.

“Vodka.”

He motions for a waitress and orders us two more glasses of our drinks before he walks over to me, making me falter for my footing. I wish he’d stop looking at me like that. Is this my punishment? What game is he playing?

“Hitting the good stuff, Tria?” he asks, but he doesn’t wait on my response before coming to stand behind me. He places a pool stick directly in front of my body before saying, “One game.”

I shiver when my body refuses to be as strong against him as my mind.

“I’ll even let you go first,” he adds, making it sound so much dirtier than necessary as his breath coats my ear with a teasing touch.

Damn him.

“Fine.” I take the stick away from him, and ignore his hard as hell length against my back before stepping away. “One game. And if you do anything to embarrass me, I’ll break this stick on your balls. Got it?”

Why am I doing this? Any sane girl who knows Kode as well as I do would run away before he can execute whatever terrible plan of torture he has in mind.

“Got it,” he says, grinning like he has already won.

I warily step to the other side of the table, and I do my best to focus on breaking the balls. I strike the white ball hard, but it slowly rolls right instead of into the triangle.

Crap.

“Here,” he says, walking around the table to come stand behind me again. Damn. Why is he so hard? “You’re doing it wrong. Let me show you.”

His body rests over mine as he leans against my back and wraps his arms around me to adjust my hold on the stick. “Like this,” he say

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