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She does what I say. Her two fingers go to town on herself. She puts them inside and pumps herself only to bring them out and rub herself frantically and hard, so hard. I’m jerking myself off rough and fast as our eyes lock.

“Rub that clit hard. I want you coming. Rub, baby.” Her eyes darken; her body starts to jerk. “Yeah… Just. Like. That. Kitten.”

Her fingers stop as her clit clenches and pulses. That’s all I need as I jet off all over my stomach and vaguely feel some land on my neck. We’re both breathing harshly. There’s a small smile on her flushed face. I sit up, pulling my shorts up. Grabbing a bunch of Kleenex, I do a quick wipe off. Now that we both have calmed down, I look at her. She sighs and makes me feel like I’m all she needs. But that’s a lie and just like that, the incredible feeling fades. And the truth that we still have to get through four more months makes me frown.

“What’s wrong, Reed?” Her voice makes my dick twitch again.

“I’m sick of this. I hate this fucking screen.” I lean forward, resting my elbows on my knees. “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

She sits up and grabs for her black slip nightie. “What are you talking about?”

“I’m saying it’s time you come back to me. It’s been a year and a half. You’re miserable, and I can barely function.” My eyes sting. I clear my voice. “This isn’t working for me, Tess. I’m either the most important thing to you, like you are for me, or we need to rethink what we mean to each other.”

“What do you want me to do?” Her voice cracks and she looks toward her door again. “He won’t let me come back.”

“Just leave, Tess. Claire’s not perfect, but she’s still your mother. How long are you going to let him control you?” She’s silent.

“Tess? Is there something you’re not telling me?” I’m starting to sweat. After all, the plan was for her to finish the school year, then come back.

I sigh, rubbing my hands up and down my face. “Look, Tess, I’m sorry. I’m impatient. We’ve made it this long—what’s a couple more months.”

Tears form in her sapphire eyes. Dread slithers up my spine and into my head. And I know, without a doubt, this is it. Our moment of truth.

“What?” I snap.

Her eyes are huge, and her breathing is elevated. “Reed.” It comes out as a whisper.

“I… I don’t think I will be coming back until I graduate.” Her voice is strangely flat. I stare at her, stunned and confused.

“What are you talking about? I thought you were coming back at the end of this year. You promised me.”

A sob escapes her. “I tried, Reed, but he threatened to disinherit me. And my mom is not fighting for my return at all! I’m all alone, Reed. You have no idea what I’m living through!” Her voice is on edge, almost accusing.

“Like hell I don’t!” I yell. “Who the fuck do you think has been doing this with you? Who has had to deal with your panic attacks through a goddamn screen? Who? If I don’t know what you have been going through, then you need some serious help, Tess.”

“Stop it, Reed.” She pulls her nightie back on. “I can’t handle this right now!” She sniffs. “You know, Reed, I see everybody’s Facebook posts. You know what I see?”

“No, Tess, what? What do you see?”

“I see my boyfriend drinking, laughing, one party after another! How about what all the girls post on you? You know like my friend Lexi! She loves posting all kinds of interesting stuff. So, excuse me if I don’t weep for you. You have everyone, Reed. You know who I have? My fucking dad’s twenty-seven-year-old Russian girlfriend! That’s my only friend, Reed!”

“That’s bullshit, Tess. You have me, Jax, and Brance. Christ, Brance comes to visit all the time. You want more friends? Get your skinny ass up and make some. But you won’t because you know I’m all you need!” She’s flushed, and we’re both breathing heavily.

“Now, are you going to come home like you promised?” I grit my teeth.

“Reed, you are being so—”

“It is a yes or no question, Tess. Are. You. Coming. Home?”

She’s silent; then she looks down and my heart breaks. I sit back and rub my chest.

“When were you going to tell me? Or were you going to do what you’ve been doing since the day you left and lie?”

That snaps her head up. “I never lied,” she whispers.

“Really? First it was ‘I will be home before school starts.’ Then, ‘I will be home in the summer.’ Then it was Christmas. And now we are into March and you are not coming back for another year and a half?” I run my hands through my hair.