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“I don’t particularly find redheads hot, but you would, Jay.” Because it’s true. I have seen the women Jay likes. He definitely has a type. Unfortunately, it seems to be my type too. I was not about to admit that Gia, the new girl, was too sexy for her own good. That would give Jay an excuse to give me shit about my commitment to Tess.

Just the thought of her hurts me. I start shadowboxing again. I’m so sick of feeling like this. The pain that I have been through this year and a half has been the worst thing I have yet endured. I duck out of the ring and pound the punching bag. Jay walks over and holds it as I take out all my angst. Finally, when my arms feel like Jell-O and my lungs are on fire, I look up. Andrew, Jax, and Jay are all staring at me.

“What?” I growl.

Andrew holds up his hands. “Nothing man.” Then he looks at Jax. “I posted Blake’s address on Facebook, so I’m gonna roll.”

“Later, Drew.” Jax snickers.

I nod at him. He grabs his workout bag, stopping beside me. “You know, Reed, maybe you should think about showing some interest in something besides your body or drinking away your sorrows.” He slings the bag over his shoulder. “The rumor is she wants you, man.” He points at me as he pushes the button for our elevator to take him to the ground floor.

Jay is picking up his stuff. “So, you guys need a ride tonight or cabbing it?”

“You want the night off?” Jax asks.

“No, I’ll take the extra hours if you need me to drive.”

“Cool, then let’s leave around seven.”

He nods and steps into the elevator.

I’m still punching the bag—I want relief even if it’s short-lived. It’s been over a year since she left me. I know she didn’t have a choice, but that’s not exactly true. Claire, albeit not mother of the year, is still her mother. She has rights to Tess as much as Robert does. He hasn’t even allowed her to visit, let alone for me to visit her. I have been supportive, and I know she needs his approval, but I never dreamed she would pick him over me. Wiping the sweat off my forehead, I continue to pound the bag. My breathing is loud, and my arms and chest are burning. I take a breath. It’s almost over. She has promised she’ll be back as soon as school is out. Unfortunately, the longer she stays away, the more the poison inside me grows. I give the bag one last punch and fall to the ground. Jax walks over and slumps down next to me.

“How’s our girl doing?”

I snort a bitter laugh. “How the hell do I know?” I know I sound like an ass, but that’s pretty much how I feel since she’s been gone. Lonely, lost, joyless—the list of adjectives goes on.

“Well, you two talk all the time via text, Facebook, or Skype.” He gets in my face. “I get you miss her. I miss her too, but you have been a miserable shit for over a year now! If you can’t wait this out, then maybe you need to cut Tess loose. Because you can’t be making her happy, and you’re sure as shit miserable here.”

I want to punch him, but my arms are like rubber and I think he would punch me back and probably win. “Stay out of it, Jax. I will never get over it. She’s destroying me, don’t you get it? I only want her, but she’s in London. So, what do I do?” I yell.

“I guess, you either love her and wait, or you break up and get laid. Either way, commit. Living like this is not living, brother.” He gets up, leaving me in a pile of self-pity and sweat. I don’t know how long I sit in our gym alone. At last, it dawns on me: Jax is right. I have been partying way too much. I gave up on school. Thankfully it comes easy to me. Although I’m pretty sure if my dad wasn’t who he was, my teachers would not be giving me the grades I’m getting. I can’t remember the last time I laughed or had an actual good time. I keep making excuses for her, but the truth is that I’m fucking livid with Tess. I guess it’s time I tell her. Standing up, I go to my room and grab my laptop. I Skype her number. It rings and rings. I’m ready to hang up and try again when I hear that fucking raspy voice that haunts me, and I groan.

She must be asleep because it’s dark. “Turn on a light,” I snap. “I want to see you.”

“Reed? What time is it?” Suddenly I see her beautiful face. At first, it’s just her dark hair as she moves into the screen after turning on her light. Then her eyes blink a couple of times and she runs her tongue over her lips. I feel myself getting hard, fueling my anger.