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crawling back to you ('cause I always do)

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Maybe she wouldn’t hate Valerio so much if he wasn’t the reason her parents are getting divorced. Well, not him directly, but his stupid skanky mother, who was slutty enough to fuck her very married father, then dumb enough to get caught doing it, which Lu’s mother took as a reason to file for divorce. Fucking idiots, all of them.

It’s not like it was a happy marriage, but it wasn’t ever this publicly unhappy. Things were fine before — her dad was never home, her mom was usually busy organizing charity dinners and book club meetings and girls trips with her expat crew, and no one cared what Lu got up to.

Not anymore.

Now she has a curfew — midnight on weekdays and two am on weekends — and the only way around it seems to be when Valerio sucks up to her dad and promises to get her home safe, which... God. How is this her actual life right now?

What’s worse is how they have Sunday family dinners now, a blatant attempt by Lu’s dad to impress this new girlfriend of his. Yuck.

Lu isn’t just gonna play nice and act like they’re a big, happy family. Valerio and his mother moved in a few weeks ago, right in time for the new school year. He’s taken up residence in the guest room next to hers, and every time she sees him she’s reminded of what a cheating son of a bitch her father is. The only reason she’s still living with her dad at all is that her mom is going on some sort of bizarre, bougie trip around the world to ‘find herself’, so going back to Mexico would’ve meant boarding school. She may as well finish out high school in Spain before getting as far away from her father and her new stepbrother-to-be as possible.

The way her dad is acting like this is all completely normal and that there didn’t use to be a different woman sleeping in his bed, under this very same roof, just a few weeks ago is ridiculous.

“Here’s to family,” her father toasts at Sunday dinner, and across from her Valerio eagerly raises his champagne flute in the air. Lu wishes she could roll her eyes at them both.

“Mr. Montesinos, thank you so much for being so welcoming,” Valerio says, and Lu kicks him under the table. Motherfucker. If only he wasn’t so good at turning on the charm when their parents are around, they might see past all this and realize he’s an irresponsible idiot.

“Please, I told you before, just call me Felipe,” her father says, and the genuine smile that makes its way onto his lips agitates her. There really is no reason for anyone in this room to be happy. “We’re family now.”

Lu forces a smile and joins in on the toasting, if only because she wants to be drunker than she is. Preferably champagne drunk.

And really, he’s such a fucking pushover. “Hey sis, could you pass me the bread?”

He draws out the word like he’s trying it out on his tongue and she’s completely at his mercy because he knows exactly how to rile her up. He always has. It didn’t use to make her want to kiss him, though. That’s a problem for another day.

Now she watches him make effortless small talk with her dad, laughs in all the right places to ensure she appears to be listening, and really, really hopes he’ll stop trying to play footsie under the table.

It probably isn’t worth the risk.


Valerio transferred to Las Encinas in the middle of freshman year, when his parents moved to Madrid from Chile, and she’s been scoffing at and bickering with him ever since. He’s infuriating. If he wasn’t so annoyingly attractive and frustratingly good at reading her, she’d probably make more of an effort to stay away from him. Really, she was doing fine with the whole not acknowledging his existence thing until her father decided to sleep with his mother.

She’s pretty sure this whole ~thing (it’s not like that, ew) with him is the most annoying ongoing power struggle she’s ever had to deal with. Lu doesn’t tend to struggle — certainly not for power. He’s the exception to that rule. 

Their freshman and sophomore year was probably when she hated him most. He spent both making pointed remarks and mean spirited comments that rivaled her own in creativity. Maybe a part of her knew she’d met her match then.

When he got to Las Encinas, the first time she really noticed him was at swim practice. He was in the same blue regulation speedos as everyone else, fairly toned for a 16-year-old, and even though it must’ve literally been his third or fourth day at school, he had an arm around Guzmán and Polo, talking to them like he’d known them for years. Lu had never seen any of the bazillion new kids that come and go manage to crack Guzmán and befriend him — she was intrigued.

She wasn’t the only one who noticed him.

“Polo says he’s cool,” Carla told her a few weeks into the spring semester, which really meant Guzmán thought Valerio was cool because Polo didn’t form opinions on people without consulting his best friend with the overbearing grin first.

So he befriended the boys, became part of their little clique and got invited to all the parties going forward. He dragged them to his fair share of parties as well. Turns out he’s a thrill-seeker, a total party animal and aspiring cokehead who enjoys a good outdoor rave more than anyone else Lu has ever met.

And sure, they’ve always played rough with each other. Once that first year, in gym class, she hit Valerio with her field hockey stick after he kept blocking her shots. It was annoying and he deserved the bruise on his shin; she definitely didn’t deserve the week of detention she got for it.

It only got worse their junior year, because somewhere along the way their bickering turned into flirting. He would find her at parties, two or three drinks in, some random line of baseless provocation on his lips and she’d always, without fail, fall for it. It didn’t matter that she had a boyfriend, not to him, and certainly not to her — harmless flirtation isn’t cheating.

All of this had finally cumulated in her getting way too drunk at her seventeenth birthday party in June — which he wasn’t even explicitly invited to, for the record — and when Guzmán and her got into a fight, Valerio inexplicably came after her and comforted her and she... kissed him. She’s not proud of it, okay? But she felt alone and her fucking useless boyfriend had just abandoned her on her birthday.

The sex was really fucking good. She didn’t see him all summer after, made up with Guzmán, planned on never speaking to Valerio again and then found out his mother was fucking her father on a regular basis.

Which pretty much brings us to present day.

She’s living with the obnoxious, good looking imbecile she cheated on her boyfriend with. What could possibly go wrong?


She normally avoids intimate get-togethers that Valerio is around for — she likes to limit his access to her as much as possible, lest he thinks it indicates she enjoys his company. This one was supposed to be just her and Cayetana, catching up after the summer, but Val somehow scored an invite and dragged Guzmán along, and somewhere between the second and third bottle of champagne, it ends up turning into a little bit of a mini rave.

Val, Guzmán and Caye are all barefoot and dancing dangerously close to the pool, and Guzmán keeps trying to get her to dance. She’s not in the mood. Instead, she watches them make fools of themselves, all of them drunk and some of them coked-up enough to think that an impromptu dance party on a Thursday afternoon is fun.

Maybe she should drink more.

The only reason she agreed to come over after school was to get out of the house and away from Valerio for once, but he’d found a way to ruin that. Now she looks over at him spinning Cayetana around and wants to laugh at how obvious he’s being, how hard he’s trying to piss her off. He keeps glancing at her, like he’s daring her to come join them — she isn’t going to. Despite his best efforts to get a reaction out of her, it doesn’t work at all until he suddenly reaches for Caye and pulls her up for a (very sloppy) kiss.

Lu stares at them, an angry blush of color flooding her cheeks, jealousy coursing through her veins. She hopes no one can tell; if he knew she was affected by all this, he’d never let her live it down. Of course Guzmán has barely even noticed the little display Val is putting on — Val makes out with random people all the time, this is hardly unusual. That’s another reason Lu hates him — he’s a little bit of a whore.

He’s a whore, but she’s the one thinking about the way he’d felt inside her as he— no. She needs to stop thinking about that.

The insistent ringing of the doorbell interrupts their little make-out session, and when Caye takes off to greet whoever’s arriving, Guzmán follows suit. He’s an enthusiastic drunk — it’s pretty cute.

Her boyfriend is pretty cute. Maybe if she keeps reminding herself of that, she won’t feel tempted to slap Valerio across the face and ask him what the fuck he thinks he’s doing kissing girls other than her. She’s always had a dangerous possessive streak. 

Valerio’s left staring at her, a lazy smirk on his lips and she rolls her eyes. He takes a few steps towards where she’s sitting on the chaise lounge, then holds out a hand and waits for her to take it. All she does is scoff at him, licking her lips as she pops a chocolate-covered strawberry into her mouth in what some might argue could be construed to be a sexual way. It’s not her fault people associate her favorite fruit with sex and seduction, though.

Caye and Guzmán are still nowhere to be found, and Val’s shirt is hanging loosely off his shoulders, the buttons undone to reveal is abs. He really is trying his hardest to get her to cave.

Ok, fuck it. You’ll have to forgive her for being a little impulsive — he brings out that side in her. She sighs, but grabs his hand anyway, lets him pull her up so she’s standing right in front of him. When he instantly leans in to bite at her neck, she shakes her head to laugh.

There’s no way she can let him get away with thinking he has the upper hand in this. “You’re being a little transparent, don’t you think?”

He chuckles meanly, bites down on her collarbone for good measure and she tries hard not to whimper. It’s a futile effort — her hands go out to grab onto his shoulders, fingers digging into his tight muscles and she resents the grin on his face when he finally pulls away.

“Admit it,” he dares, whispers it in case anyone’s around. “You still think about me.”

“I think about how much of a pest you are all the time,” she confirms, and he laughs it off.

They bring out the worst in each other. She’s always, always in control when it comes to... everything. But with him? It’s like a switch in her brain is flipped. It makes her feel impulsive and reckless and unhinged. It’s a recipe for disaster. (She likes it a little too much.)

Now, Val motions towards the front of the house. “Does he know?”

“What do you think,” she scoffs, then grabs a handful of his curls to roughly pull him down towards her. “If you tell him anything, I’ll tell my dad about your little drug problem.”

Crazy. He makes her feel like she’s fucking crazy sometimes, like now, when she impulsively clings to him and feels her mouth fall open a little when his eyes drop to her lips. No. No, no, no. Not happening.

Thankfully, her boyfriend (!) interrupts their little tryst, yells something about reinforcements having arrived and excitedly gestures to Polo and Ander, who look about as sober as Lu feels.

Great. This party she never intended to be at just got bigger.


She tends to forget about her vocal dislike for him after a couple of drinks. He tends to be the one buying her these drinks.

They enable each other.

She’s wearing one of her favorite dresses, this golden, shimmery ensemble with a scooping V neck. This is the kind of party that happens once in a while, where she lets go of all the frustrating perfectionism she normally craves and just lets herself enjoy her night. Guzmán spins her around and pulls her close and she feels young and foolish and crazy in love when he finally kisses her as they dance the night away.

Of course she’s taken note of Valerio tonight. He’s been distracted, probably high, and has made it his mission to seduce the new girl — the one who looks like a crackwhore’s daughter, if her tacky gold jewelry is anything to go by. Lu is trying hard not to watch as he drags her off the dance floor, his arms wrapped around her waist. Valerio’s an affectionate guy; excessive touching doesn’t usually mean anything with him.

Guzmán goes to the bathroom, which she’s pretty sure is code for doing a few more lines of coke, seeing as he’s clearly sticking to that new habit and Lu has barely lost sight of him in the crowd when Valerio sneaks an arm around her waist from behind and pulls her closer.

In her defense, she’s basically defenseless. Tipsy Lu loves being touched, no matter who’s doing the touching.

Valerio leans down to nose at her neck and she stifles a gasps. “Did he leave you all alone out here?”

This is the part where she should tell him Guzmán will be back any minute to get him to stop being obvious. Everyone else around them is drunk or high or a mixture of the two but it still seems reckless to let him brush her hair aside as he nips at her earlobe.

“I’m not,” she insists. Not alone, that is. His hand is playing with the belt on her dress, and she’d love nothing more than to drag him away and have her way with him. God, she shouldn’t have had that last drink. “Val.”

It can’t be much later than midnight, maybe one in the morning, but she feels the sudden urge to get out of here. The music is too loud, the bass pounding in her ears, and an odd kind of nausea settles low in her stomach. That may have something to do with Valerio’s arms around her. It may be anticipation rather than nausea.

“Wanna go?” He asks, and all she can do is nod weakly when he moves to take her hand and drags her towards VIP, where the rest of their friends are hanging out. Yeah, they should say their goodbyes before taking off if they want to avoid talk. “Let me take you home,” he says over the music, and something about that sentiment rattles her.

The look on Carla’s face when she sees her with Valerio is obnoxious. Lu hugs her goodbye and gives her a warning look. Carla is the only person she told about her brief lapse of judgment at her birthday party, so of course the blonde has made it her mission in life to tease her relentlessly.

Guzmán gets back from the ‘bathroom’ right as they’re heading to leave, and she can tell he’s high from the dilated pupils alone. It’s probably a little selfish, but right now she welcomes his newfound drug habit; he’ll be too cheery and focused on having a good time to make a scene about her leaving early. He grabs her elbow, then hugs her tight, and before she knows what’s happening she’s outside of the club, arm hooked through Valerio’s, as he waves down a cab.

Maybe she made this a little too easy for him.

The second they're in the backseat, he slides towards her and leans down to whisper in her ear.

“So, si—“

She slaps his thigh and rolls her eyes. “If you refer to me as your sister one more time, I will castrate you.”

Valerio practically leers at her. God, he’s shameless. She kind of adores the way he’s refusing to be apologetic about how much he wants her.

“What, not into the whole incest thing? The ultimate taboo… Tempting, no?”

All she does in response is tilt her head away from him, but their legs are still touching. His arm is still wrapped around her, his fingers playing with the hair at the nape of her neck.

She doesn’t know how she lets herself end up on the pool table, in her dad’s study, somehow completely misses all the red flags leading up to it. One minute they’re reminiscing about some crazy night out last year — distinct from others because for once she didn’t want to strangle him — and the next they’re on their backs, side by side, silence stretching over them.

He’s looking at her funny, like he might actually like her or something, which is new and definitely less than ideal, but this late at night she struggles to be mean — it’s tiring.

“I missed you.”

She looks at him with a brow raised. “No, you didn’t.”

“Did, too,” he murmurs, then runs a finger over the Dior choker she’s wearing, sort of presses the metal into her skin a little. That shouldn’t feel as good as it does.

Her eyes flick to his lips, and she lets her guard down for one stupid second — just one — but it’s enough for him to pounce. His lips are on hers, firm but gentle, and then her tongue meets his and she finds herself moving closer to him, wanting more. As soon as it starts, though, she’s pushed him away again, a hand on his chest to keep him at arm’s length.

She’s breathing hard and so is he, recovering from what was probably the hottest kiss of her life. His hand is on her waist, and she wishes he’d move it, to make all of this easier to bear.

“I’m not a cheater, Valerio,” she whispers, wills herself to believe it, because of course she is. She has cheated. She is cheating — even if she rarely acts on her impure thoughts. Having them is bad enough.

His laugh is accusatory, slightly exasperated too. It makes her want to prove herself to him, in all the ways that matter most.

“You’re a cheater, I’m a cheater,” he chuckles meanly as he shrugs. “Must run in the family.”

She’s pushed his hands off of her before she can form a verbal response, stands upright in front of the pool table as she gathers her bearings, sparing him a resentful glance.

“I am nothing like you.”

She walks out and doesn’t look back.


It would be an understatement to say he tries to get under her skin again and again after that — he doesn’t just try, he tries relentlessly.

He stops wearing shirts around the house, and often doesn’t bother with clothes at all. His favorite outfit of choice these days is a large white towel wrapped around his waist, a trickle of water droplets sprayed over his chest and abs, and when she walks into the bathroom they share and quite literally runs into him, his hands move to her hips to steady her, conveniently resulting in the towel falling to the floor.

She doesn’t look down.

“I’m not sure what your endgame is here,” she tells him at breakfast one morning, glaring at her cup of black coffee as she watches him scarf down a huge bowl of cereal. It’s seriously unfair how fast his metabolism must be.

“I don’t have an endgame,” he says, shrugging, just moves his foot higher up her calf under the table, then leans forward to angle his toes just right. She bites her lip. “This is fun.”

She finds herself thinking it would be a lot more fun if their parents weren’t dating. If they weren’t dating and she didn't have a boyfriend and didn’t kind of resent Valerio’s entire existence. Hell, if he wasn’t so grotesquely good at making her forget all about logic and reasoning, she might stand a chance against him.

But he is, so she doesn’t.


Evidently, her goody two shoes, perfect boyfriend — if you overlook the temper and the newfound appreciation for drugs — thinks she’s fucking blind.

The party itself would probably be fun if Guzmán wasn’t making it difficult for her to enjoy herself. Lu loves a good themed night; and she happens to look amazing in red, not that the guy she’s dating has bothered to tell her this tonight. Whatever — she knows.

(Valerio may have mentioned it once or twice.)

The second Guzmán finishes his first drink of the night he leaves her side, and she assumes he’s just gonna go find Ander and Polo. She’s left at the bar with Valerio and Carla, both nursing vodka sodas while Lu clutches at her G&T. Guzmán has disappeared into the crowd of people on the dance floor dressed in red, and she loses track of him for a while, unbothered — it’s not like he’s gonna be up to much, she can probably enjoy her drink in peace and rate people’s outfits with Val and Carla.

Not much later, Carla tells her she’s gonna go find Polo and Val takes this as his cue to come up behind her and grab her hip roughly. Subtle as always. She thinks he’s just being a dick until he gently brushes a hand up her arm and carefully lifts up her chin to direct her gaze towards the other end of the room. The second she realizes what he’s drawing her attention to, she feels dizzy with anger. Across the dance floor, Guzmán is talking animatedly to Nadia. Nadia, who Lu knows has been fawning over him for the past year. She’d always laughed at the obvious little schoolgirl crush the girl’s got on him, but she knows what her boyfriend looks like when he’s flirting — he’s clearly bringing his A-game right now.

The fact that Nadia is her academic rival and a scholarship student, of all things, only makes this worse.

Valerio’s hand moves back to her hip, his breathing completely even against her neck like he’s just content standing here watching her watch Guzmán. When her asshole of a boyfriend pulls Nadia close as they dance, she groans and covers Val’s hand with her own, squeezing hard.

He doesn’t hesitate for even a second, just leans in closer and says, ”You deserve better than that."

She sucks in a breath.

“Val," She scolds, closing her eyes. "Of course you'd say that."

He laughs quietly, but she can tell he doesn’t mean it. She's not stupid. It’s fairly obvious to anyone with eyes that Val’s got a thing for her. She's definitely known since her birthday.

She just kind of thought it was all a game to him, that he’d fuck her once and get bored. He clearly hasn’t.

"What's that supposed to mean?" he asks it like he’s willing her to acknowledge this thing between them. There’s no way she’s gonna do that.

And honestly, she’s kind of tired of all of this — of pretending her relationship isn’t doomed, of forcing herself to resist Valerio’s advances again and again, even when they’re tempting enough to make her blush. So she turns around, just looks at him, blinks slowly and sighs.

"Val," she says, loud enough to be heard over the music, but low enough for him to pull her closer. “Don’t.”

It should probably bother her a little more, how easily she gives in. He tugs on her hand, drags her into the crowd of drunk teenagers, and then they’re dancing to whatever J Balvin song is playing. Her defenses are down, and really, if her boyfriend isn’t gonna make an effort to be faithful, why should she?

She loses track of time, stops caring about anything that isn’t the thumping reggaeton beat and his hands on her body, dipping her, spinning her, pulling her close. He’s a much better dancer than Guzmán, and she really, really needs to stop comparing them to each other.

When they finally leave the dance floor and stumble to the bar for a much-needed beverage break, Lu giggles at Valerio, who looks similarly high on the kind of endorphins a good dance session produces.

Her boyfriend is nowhere to be found and she doesn’t care. She doesn’t.

Caye comes over for a chat, and Valerio excuses himself to find the nearest bathroom. They’re not close friends, but the blonde is decent enough company to keep; it’s preferable to standing around on her own while Val is gone, anyway. It’s nearing two in the morning, and she’s getting tired, so she leads Cayetana outside, makes chit chat as she shivers and waits for Valerio to come to find them — she texted him.

She’s drunkenly ranting about Guzmán being useless, and she knows she can always count on Caye to be game for that — the girl has always disliked him.

“He could at least try to be subtle about it,” she says. “Maybe it’s this new drug thing he’s into, maybe he’s gone insane. I should talk to his parents.”

“Lu, just stop worrying about him, he doesn’t deserve it,” Cayetana says, voice laced with concern. “Find someone who’s gonna worry about you like that.”

Valerio walks over then, drapes his coat around her shoulders and she looks back at him and smiles. He’s got his arms wrapped around her, hands clasped in front of her chest, and she lets herself lean into him a little.

He nudges her with his chin. “Our car is here.”

Caye looks like she wants to say something else, but Lu doesn’t really care enough to ask when she could be in a car and one step closer to her bed. The alcohol is wearing off and she’s feeling more and more sleepy.

She throws the girl a smile, then walks off with Val and barely fights him when he puts an arm around her in the backseat to pull her closer.

They each sleep in their own bed, and she drifts off thinking about how that’s kind of a shame.


She faints in French class. What a perfect start to her day.

It’s not like she’s consciously starving herself, but she hates breakfast, and she missed dinner last night because she was fighting with Guzmán — over text, fucking coward — and lunch at Las Encinas is too hit or miss to bother with and did she mention she doesn’t eat breakfast? So she hasn’t actually had any solid foods for two days or so. It happens to the best of us.

Valerio is sitting behind her when she feels herself slip away, and she’s kind of glad she was sitting down because fainting standing up is dangerous and scary — she knows this from personal experience. She feels her vision blurring and the noise of class discussion fades away, and of course she knows what’s about to happen but she’s also too weak to do anything about it.

This isn’t her first fainting rodeo.

She’s lying down in the school nurse’s office when she comes to, Valerio sitting at the little desk as he talks to the woman, and the first thing she hears is, “She’s my stepsister, I’m happy to take her home.”

Well, that’s a bit of a lie. They’re hardly step-anythings at this point, but it’s probably easier to convince the nurse to let him take her home like this than if he launched into some elaborate explanation about how his mom is dating her dad.

Her shoulders and arms feel incredibly tense, so she’s guessing she either fell on them weirdly or had a cramp when she fainted. She tries moving them around and moans when her shoulder socket pops a little as she does.

“Hey, you’re awake,” he says, and she doesn’t have the energy to reply. “I was just telling nurse Martha about how you were in such a hurry this morning, you left your breakfast untouched.”

It’s nice of him to cover for her, at least. She’s not sure what she’d do in her current state if she had to sit through a lecture on eating regular meals.

She groans a little. “Can I have some water?”

The nurse keeps insisting that she’s really supposed to inform her parents, and Valerio keeps charming the fuck out of her to prevent that. Lu is busy sipping from a cup of water, trying hard not to just zone out and nap while they settle this.

Finally, Valerio nudges her and smiles. “Come on, we’re leaving.”

They don’t talk while they’re in the car, and she kind of wishes he’d say something. But he stares straight ahead as he drives, looks a little angry almost, which seems uncalled for. Nobody asked him to get involved and fix this for her — that was all his doing.

She closes her eyes and sighs. A little nap would be nice. The car comes to a screeching halt a few minutes later. When she opens her eyes, she’s confused.

“What the fuck, Valerio?”

They’re in the parking lot of a fucking McDonald’s. If her stomach wasn't already glaringly empty, she might puke when she catches a whiff of rancid frying oil in the wind.

He grabs his keys and gets out, then walks around to open the door for her. When she doesn’t budge, he drags her up by the arm, which actually really hurts, and she recoils from his touch a bit once she’s standing upright.

“I’m not leaving until you eat some fucking food, Lu,” he tells her and she laughs because he sounds so overly concerned. “This really isn’t funny.”

“There’s no way I’m eating here.”

He locks the car and grabs her hand, and she’s too tired to argue. Whatever it’ll take to get him to leave her alone is fine. She just wants to go home and sleep.

He gets a large Big Mac combo meal and some chicken nuggets, and she sincerely hopes that’s not all for her. She might actually puke if she has to eat even half of the food on the tray in front of her.

But she is kind of hungry, and carbs are probably the easiest way to refuel. Fine. She begrudgingly dips a fry and sticks her tongue out at him when he grins at her. She swallows it and rolls her eyes.

“There. Happy?”

“Delighted,” he agrees, stuffing a handful of fries in his mouth. “Do you remember what happened?”

Of course she doesn’t. She was unconscious. That feels kind of obvious, but instead of pointing it out she just shakes her head.

“Carla caught your fall before you were fully off the chair,” he says. God, how embarrassing. Everyone at school is probably talking about her right now. “You were barely awake when the two of us took you to see the nurse.”

That sounds weird — she thinks she’d remember walking to the nurse's office, even if she was being propped up by people.

“I basically picked you up and carried you there.”

She wonders what Guzmán was doing when this happened. It should’ve been him taking care of her.

She’s angry and confused enough to stop worrying about her current circumstances — namely how she’s at one of the worst establishments for food in the country, or maybe the world, eating food she normally wouldn’t even feed stray dogs.

After she takes a sip from the soda — real, full sugar coke which is really just disgusting — she reaches for her pocket and checks her phone. There are texts from Carla and Cayetana asking if she’s alright, which she thinks is sweet. Guzmán hasn’t bothered texting her at all. That’s less sweet.

Apparently, Valerio has decided to stop treating her like a delicate little flower again because he grins at her when she looks up from her phone, then says, “He hasn’t texted, right?”

It pisses her off how that’s enough of a foregone conclusion for him to come to. What pisses her off more is how Valerio isn’t even trying to be nice to her and is still taking better care of her than her boyfriend ever did.

She shakes her head, goes back to eating her food and avoids eye contact.

When they’re back in the car, he turns the key in the ignition and regards her carefully. “If you ever pull this shit again, I’m telling your dad.”

That makes her scoff. He wouldn’t dare, would he? The look on his face makes her worry he might. He looks too pissed off and concerned to be bluffing, so she rolls her eyes and nods.

He won’t let her nap in her own bed, claims she needs someone to be around in case she passes out again, and she’d fight him on that a little harder if she wasn’t absolutely exhausted and he wasn’t already taking his school blazer off and slipping into bed, motioning for her to join him.

She unzips her skirt, slips out of her blouse and cuddles up to him.

Sleeping next to someone just sounds really good right now.

(It’s great.)


They’re in the pool, wasting time before family dinner one Sunday when he swims closer to her and dips a hand into her bikini bottoms while they bicker.

She was about to call him a crazy egomaniac, but the words die in her throat, replaced by a quiet little moan.

He pushes her up against the wall of the pool, and she lets him. She doesn’t even scold him for it, too busy trying not to moan as he drags his fingers through her folds and expertly pushes all her buttons.

She’s about to beg him to touch her properly when she hears his mother’s voice coming from the kitchen, “Kids, dinner is ready,” and pushes him away. It’s harder than she’d like to admit, and she really doesn’t want to do it at all, but if they don’t get to dinner in time, their parents will come looking for them and… Yeah, she doesn’t even want to think about the sort of lecture she’d have to sit through.

“This isn’t over,” he says.

She gets out of the water, slips on her robe, and tries not to let on that she knows he’s right.


Things finally, seriously fall apart on Halloween.

Guzmán has been distant and all-around shitty to her all week. It’s nothing she can’t handle, and definitely not the first time it’s happened, so she mostly brushes it off. Earlier today, he basically told her he hated her Frida and Diego costume idea, then took off to stop by his house for dinner, and she’s not the least bit surprised when he shows up to the party at Rebeka’s house sans costume.

She isn’t surprised when he tells her he slept with Nadia either, but she still slaps him across the face. It’s the least he deserves. They’ve always fought, and she cheated a few months ago too — maybe this means they’re even now. Maybe she’s jaded enough to not see any other way for this to end.

It does end, though. Guzmán recovers from the slap, takes her hand in his, and says, “I don’t love you, Lu,” which is preposterous, really. He definitely loves her; chances are he’s just too emotionally stunted to know what that feels like.

She could cry and scream and ruin her makeup over this, but she won’t. This is what they do — hurt each other. “We’ll talk later,” she says instead. He looks confused, like her lack of response is throwing him off, and she wants to laugh because he’s so predictable. He'll probably be back to begging her to give him another chance by second period on Monday. He’s still holding onto her wrist, so she pushes at his chest roughly and takes off.

She’ll need to find a way to forget any of that happened if she wants to have a chance at enjoying herself tonight.

She does a shot of tequila, then humors Carla and Polo for a little while and jokes about their costumes a little — Polo is in a period-appropriate Mozart-esque get-up to match Carla’s evil Marie Antoinette costume, and they look adorable, like the royal couple they are. Life imitates art.

When Valerio wanders over and offers her another drink, she takes his hand and nods, mumbles an, “Excuse me,” to the couple standing next to her and ignores Carla’s displeased frown. Sure, Lu could’ve told her she’s newly single, but this party hardly seems like the place to have that conversation. She’ll take the judgmental little looks over the embarrassment of having to admit Guzmán actually had the audacity to cheat on her.

Val pulls her into a secluded corner of the room, and when he points towards the nearest table with refreshments, she shakes her head. She thinks alcohol might not be the best idea tonight.

For the first time, she takes note of his costume, the blonde wig that he’s pulled back into a ponytail, the vampire teeth on display when he smiles at her. He looks fucking amazing, but his ego probably doesn’t need the boost so she doesn’t mention it.

“Are you the guy from Guns N’ Roses?”

That makes him chuckle, and he twirls her around the dance floor a little before pulling her to his chest, her back pressed against him as he cages her in. “I can be whoever you want me to be tonight.”

She actually fucking whimpers a little at his words, at the cheesy pickup line he delivers, which is indicative of just how badly she needs this to happen. There’s no way she’s not gonna sleep with him tonight.

“I’m having a bad night,” she tells him, pausing for emphasis. Her eyes land on his necklace, the one with the dog tags and the not-so-subtle little vial of coke and she pulls on it teasingly. Normally she isn’t really into drugs. This is not a normal night. “Got anything to make me feel better?”

He catches her drift immediately, reaches a hand into his pocket and shoves a tiny blue pill into her hand, then stops her when she goes to swallow it. “Take half,” he says, breaking it in two for her. “You’re tiny.”

It’s sweet of him to look out for her like that. Sometimes she wonders if she sets the bar for kindness too low. Anyway. She nods, then places one half of the pill on her tongue without breaking eye contact. It burns her tongue a little, but it’s worth it for the look on his face alone, and then he very unceremoniously leans in to kiss her, somehow wrangles the pill from her mouth and swallows it himself. She’s pretty sure this corner is secluded enough for none of their mutual friends to have seen the kiss, and she honestly stopped caring about being seen with him right around the time he walked over and took her hand in his tonight.

She takes the other half, then grins at him and lets him pull her closer for a hug.

Before she can feel the high kick in, she drags him over to the bar and gets each of them a small bottle of water — she’s a control freak, and even though she likes ecstasy because it allows her to stay in control, she wants to stay hydrated and ideally not die tonight. Yes, she knows — famous last words, but still.

They spend a good chunk of time — she has no idea how much — dancing and she gets so used to having his hands on her, she actually pouts a little when he pulls them away for a moment. She feels a tap on her shoulder a second later, so chances are he was just being considerate.

Carla takes one look at her, gaze flicking to her blown pupils, and actually rolls her eyes. “I just wanted to check on you, we’re about to leave,” she says over the music, and Lu kind of resents her for it. She hates when Carla pulls that whole royal we thing, especially when Polo is standing right behind her. “But I see you’re… preoccupied.”

That’s not fair. Carla doesn’t get to judge her for letting loose once in a while. Hell, she barely even knows Valerio; maybe she shouldn’t be judging him this harshly at all. Why is Guzmán the acceptable choice when both boys share an affinity for drugs? This definitely isn’t the time to pick a fight, though, because she’s feeling kind of comfortably hazy and blissfully calm. She hugs the blonde goodbye, nods at Polo, and turns back to Val.

He just grins at her. “Water break?”

She nods, then pulls him down the hallway, drapes her legs over his lap when he sits down in an armchair. They sip their water in silence for a moment, the music coming from the other room the only sound to be heard — or maybe it isn’t, but it’s the only thing she can hear right now anyway.

“Lu,” he slides his hand up her thigh and his fingertips slip beneath the hem of her dress, trailing higher. Finally. She can’t help the shiver that runs up her spine. “Do you want to…”

He trails off, but she knows what he’s asking. Yes. Yes, she wants to. Now that she’s calmed down a little after the dancing, she knows for a fact that she’s not willing to wait any longer, either.

She gets up, grins as she says, “Follow me.”

Fucking him in Guzmán’s former childhood bedroom isn’t something she does to be petty. That’s the furthest thing from her mind, actually, especially when he’s got her pinned to the door as he bites at her neck, his hands toying with the zipper of her dress.

In no time he’s got her naked and begging, so on edge, she swears she’ll probably never recover from the emotional distress of having him tease her. She should sue for damages.

Thankfully he takes pity on her soon after, his grin mean when he finally pushes into her. In the distance, as though she’s a bystander in all of this, she hears herself scream.

Things fall apart and she lets them, lets him fucking ruin what was left of her restraint as he sets a relentless pace, his hands on her hips so painful, she knows they will leave bruises.

And he’s the drug she’s hooked on — not the chemicals still coursing through her veins. He’s a drug that’s powerful and potent and horribly addictive because this isn’t even over yet and she’s already thinking about doing it again.

Lu takes charge and gets more than she bargained for. Frida Kahlo would be proud.


Guzmán takes her aside at school on Monday, winks in that cocky, overly confident way of his, and she straightens his tie for him before she walks away.

There’s never any harm in trying again.