Home > Collide (Off-Limits, #2)

Collide (Off-Limits, #2)
Author: Piper Lawson








It’s easy to look at someone’s life and think, they’ve got it all together.

They’ve never had their heart broken, or gone without, or been told they’re not enough.

All I wanted was to be closer to this man who makes me feel things I’ve never felt before, want things I’ve never let myself want.

And I got my wish.

Until yesterday.

The train ride back to campus is a blur. Adam and Royce talk about sports and the competition and other things I tune out. Madison sits silent, her face buried in a textbook.

Last night keeps replaying in my mind.

Sawyer’s frustration and anger. Madison’s shock exiting the elevator.

Putting together whatever she heard, plus my tear-stained face and Sawyer’s posture, it took all of two seconds for her to size up the situation and cross the hall.

“You need to leave, Professor Redmond.”

I expected him to tell her to stay out of it, but with a last look of agitation, he complied.

“Are you hurt?” she asked me.

“No.” Not how she meant. “Thank you,” I started, but she stalked past me for the bathroom.

“Don’t talk to me and go the fuck to sleep.”

Today when the train arrives at Elmwood, I get in a cab without looking back.

Now, every step, my legs feel heavy. Like ballet practice the morning after I went drinking for the first time with some classmates from school.

He didn’t care about me—I was a type to him. A challenge for his reckless soul, a way to say fuck you to the world that did him wrong.

I want to curl up in a ball, but I’ll settle for a shower and a coffee in private before I have to figure out what to do about Madison.

When I drag myself up the stairs of our building and unlock the door of my apartment, Jules sits on the arm of the couch. Kat leans over the back of a chair. Planted in the center of the couch is my sister.

“Emma. What are you doing here?” I blink. I’m probably seeing things after a hellish twelve hours.

“I had a fight with Trey. My boyfriend,” she adds for Kat and Jules’ benefit. “We were supposed to go out this weekend and I had it all planned but he bailed. Mom told me she talked to him and that’s why.” She bursts into tears.

I set my bag down by the door and cross to her, folding her in my arms. “Hey, it’s okay.”

The couch creaks as I sink onto it, and I stroke her hair like when we were kids.

“Mom said he was a psychopath.”

“That’s dramatic.” Sure, he’s older and has a bike, but psychopath might be a stretch.

“Where were you last night?” she mumbles against my shoulder.

“In the city for a school thing.”

Kat and Jules exchange a look.

I shift on the couch to get more comfortable, only something lumpy prods at my butt.


I reach under the cushion and spot a purple vibrator the size of a large vegetable. I pinch it gingerly between my fingers before tossing it at Kat.

“Oh, that one’s mine,” Jules says, reaching for it.

“For future reference, Emma, all problems can be solved by vibrators,” Kat says breezily.

“Or not dating guys in the first place.” Jules shrugs.

Emma sniffs from the couch, looking between them wide-eyed, then back at me.

“Does Mom know you’re here?”

A defiant head toss. “No. Don’t try to make me go home,” Emma warns. “I won’t do it.”

I want to be alone. But if I can’t be, then I have to get out of here.

Out of this room. Out of this school. Out of this neighborhood.

“I have an idea,” I start.



The four of us spend the day exploring town, going to Some Like It Hot for coffee and pastries, taking bikes around campus and hitting Jules’ favorite vintage store.

I send a text to Madison in between, as I pause flipping through a rack of summer dresses and shorts.


Liv: I get that you don’t want to talk, but we need to.


There’s no answer, but I can’t help looking at another chain of texts.


Unknown: Olivia. Please talk to me.


Unknown: Come on.


“Enough phone.” Emma swipes it out of my hand before I can stop her.

“Emma, give that back!”

“Why? What’s so important?” She looks down at the screen, and my pulse accelerates. She swipes through the text messages. “Oh my God. Who is this guy?”


“No one.” I manage to get the phone back, but she looks hurt.

“It’s not Adam. Adam wouldn’t talk like that.”

“It’s some guy I’ve been hanging out with.” It sounds totally inadequate.

“But now you’re fighting.”


He lied to me. About who he is. What we are.

“That reminds me… Are you and Trey hooking up?”

“That’s why Mom lost her shit. She found my condoms. But we haven’t had a chance.” Emma pulls out a hanger without looking at me, holding up the dark purple skirt against her body. “It’s not a big deal.”

“Sex is always a big deal.”

“So you’re supposed to be in love? You made Adam follow you around to fundraisers and parties for years before you let him in your pants and look how that turned out.”

“That’s not what I mean. Even if it’s casual, you need to trust the other person.”

She slings the skirt over one shoulder. “The new guy. Is he in your class?”

“He’s from school.” I flip through more clothes on the rack.

“And with this mystery guy, it’s different. Better.”

“Yes, it’s better.” At her curious look, I force myself to go on. “With Adam, I felt like I was going through the motions. Performing some routine, and my heart wasn’t in it.”

Her sigh is half groan. “The fucked-up thing about Mom is I’m being responsible. He doesn’t want anything to do with condoms. I’m the one who told him I won’t do it without. Because that’s some shit I’m not asking for.” She slides a look at me. “You’ve never…”

“Gone without? No.”

It always felt as if Sawyer was touching the deepest parts of me with a look, a kiss, a smile. Him inside me with nothing between us would be devastating.

“Listen, Ems. Don’t accept less than you deserve. You want a guy who treats you well. Who’s honest with you and wants you for who you are.”

“I get that.” Her lips curve. “But Trey’s also super hot.”



The karaoke place is a basement dive on the same side of town as Velvet, though not as far out.

“Have you ever done karaoke?” Jules asks Emma as we head down the stairs.


I raise an eyebrow at the short purple skirt. There seemed to be more fabric when my sister pulled it off the rack at the store.

She catches me. “Like you can talk, Sister Stripper.”

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