It was as if he wasn’t quite aware of his own strength as he refused to let me get away from him. The more I struggled, the tighter his hold on me became. That’s what scared me more than whatever words were currently spewing from his mouth. His words couldn’t hurt me, but his hands could. And they were.
“Please stop,” I pleaded, my voice shaking. “You’re hurting me.”
“Hurting you. How’s I hurting you?”
His words were nonsensical as he moved his face dangerously close to mine. Then he licked his lips before diving straight at my mouth.
I turned my head quickly, cringing with disgust as my cheek was kissed and licked. Gross. I tried to push him away, but I wasn’t strong enough.
“Get off,” I said, my voice soft. Too soft.
“Stop pushing at me.”
He breathed drunkenly into my face, using his body to press me even harder against the wall. I was half surprised it didn’t swallow me with the force. When his hand moved down the length of my body, I stifled a cry as his fingers grazed my breast. Suddenly feeling ill, I froze as panic coursed through me.
A handful of people were nearby, close enough to help me, but I couldn’t find my voice. I’d been told what to do in situations like this, but my body refused to do it. I simply went numb. Too intimidated to move, too panicked to scream, too shocked to do anything but stand there, pressed against a wall in the dark with tears filling my eyes as some drunk guy tried to grope me.
“What the fuck?” I heard before feeling the release of pressure.
All at once, I was free. I slid to the floor, struggling to right myself, my knees weak with relief and my legs shaking.
A loud thump drew my gaze as I saw Nick pinning the drunk guy against the other wall, his muscular forearm pressed against the guy’s neck. The drunk struggled, probably the same way I had, but this time Nick was the one who was stronger.
“You like cornering women? Make you feel like a tough guy to know that you’re stronger than a girl? How about now? Not feeling so tough now, are you?” Nick spat out, and I noticed the guy’s cheeks turning an unnatural shade of reddish purple.
“Nick!” I pounded on his back. “Nick, let him go. He can’t breathe. He’s just drunk. Nick!”
I shouted and pulled at his flexing shoulder, his muscles taut and hard. He glanced at me, and when our eyes met, he dropped the guy like he’d never existed in the first place.
“Jess, are you okay?”
Nick’s strong arms that only moments ago were being used to inflict pain now wrapped around me, and his hands gentle as he comforted me, touching me with care.
I started to cry; I couldn’t help it. The emotions over what had just happened overwhelmed me. It was everything—the drunk guy’s actions, my fear, my shame over my inability to help myself, and Nick’s reaction to it.
“Nick,” I whispered, but the word barely came out.
“Come on. I got you.”
He lifted me into his arms, cradling my body as he walked me down the rest of the long hallway toward what I assumed was his room.
Falling or Something Like It
When I saw my frat brother David pressed against Jess in the hallway, I almost lost my fucking mind. And it wasn’t only because I didn’t like seeing her in the arms of someone else.
No, it was the way she struggled against him that really set me off. She tried to move, to get away from him, but she wasn’t strong enough. And he refused to let her go, his face and body inching closer with every second that no one stopped him.
I saw red, blood fucking red, and it took Jess yelling in my ear to get me to calm down. I wasn’t sure what would have happened if she hadn’t gotten me to stop, but I had an idea.
I’d never been so out of control before. Usually I was too preoccupied sticking my tongue down someone’s throat, as Jess would say, to pay attention to what was really going on at my parties. The thought made me wonder if this type of thing had ever happened before, but either way, I sure as shit was going to make sure it never happened again. I had no tolerance for that kind of behavior toward girls. It did everyone in our gender a disservice.
Shaking my head to rid myself of those dark thoughts, I turned and focused my attention on Jess, who was now sitting on top of my king-sized bed, staring down at her hands.
“Are you okay?”
“I think I’d like to go home,” she all but whispered.
She looked up at me, her blue eyes brighter now they were swimming in tears. When a few slipped free and started to spill down her face, I sat next to her and rubbed my thumb along her jawline before pulling her close and giving her a tight hug. She gulped in her breaths and trembled a little in my arms. Watching her wade through her emotions and not be able to help was one of the worst things I’d ever experienced.
As president of the fraternity, I was always expected to attend our parties and act as host. So when the party was in full force earlier, I knew I should have been out there socializing, but I’d started feeling sorry for myself when I realized Jess wasn’t coming. Or at least, when I thought she wasn’t.
Assuming she had blown me off, I’d moved my pity party to my bedroom and stayed out of sight, not wanting to see everyone else having a good time when I wasn’t. Alone in my room, I was idle but my mind was busy, coming up with scenarios of her and her stupid ex-boyfriend getting back together, or thinking that maybe she hadn’t enjoyed the time we spent together the day before.
It all came back to Jess not caring enough to show up at the party tonight, and I couldn’t fucking handle it. And because of that, because of my stupid fucking ego, I wasn’t there to protect her when she needed me.
“I’m so sorry I wasn’t there,” I said. Reluctantly, I released her, but ran my palm over her back, up and down and back again, keeping my movements slow and easy. “I’d been out there waiting for you all night. I actually thought you weren’t going to come, so I was sitting in my room. Sulking, to be honest. I’m so sorry, Jess.”
And I was. I felt responsible in some way. Even though I knew logically that it wasn’t my fault, my mind refused to give me a reprieve. Certain things were my responsibility, and this felt like one of them.
“It wasn’t your fault,” she said softly.