Home > The Mistakes (Off-Limits #3)

The Mistakes (Off-Limits #3)
Author: Elizabeth Brown




When I was little, I thought that being an adult meant unlimited ice cream sandwiches and getting to buy all the glitter pencils I wanted.

I was wrong.



Chapter One



“What about herpes? Is it herpes?”

“Hang on,” Ainsley said, her voice muffled by the bathroom door.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m looking it up on my phone,” she explained as I gnawed on the edge of my lip. “Okay, wait, do you have more than one sore?”

I felt around down there with my hand. “No, I don’t think so, but I can’t really see it.”

“But it doesn’t hurt, right?”

“No... I mean, not really. It’s not itchy or burny or anything… just annoying.”

“Okay, hang on.”

I frowned at myself in the mirror. This was so dumb. I knew better. I was twenty-six years old, for Pete’s sake. And while I might get around on a fairly regular basis, I also knew how to protect myself. So why the fuck was I now in my best friend’s bathroom, staring at my vagina, trying to figure out how I’d pissed it off?

I started to go through a list of partners in my head. They’d all seemed clean and professed as much on their OK Cupid profiles. But even then, I’d bagged that shit up.

I wasn’t stupid.

I bet it was fucking Troy. I knew I shouldn’t have trusted a guy in red skinny jeans.

“And you’re sure it’s not a bite?”

I sat back on the toilet. “Pretty sure. Bugs and me don’t get along. I swell up way more than this.”

Ainsley paused long enough that I started to wonder if she’d left.

“You still there?”

“Yeah. Sorry. Still reading. I’m wondering if it’s maybe a genital wart. You said it’s just in one area?”

I looked back down. “Uh, yeah, I think so.” A wart? Great. That’s hot. If Troy gave me a genital wart I swear, I will cut it off and leave it taped to his Honda Civic.


“Hmm,” Ainsley continued. “Could be HPV. This article says that we can test it with vinegar.”

I wrinkled my nose. “Gross. I hate vinegar.”

“You’re not gonna drink it, Winnie. The article says if you put vinegar on it and it turns white, that means you have HPV. If it stays the same, it’s something else.”

I was beginning to regret enlisting my best friend to help me with this. “Are you sure you’re not on foodnetwork or something?”

“It’s Mayo Clinic.”

I sighed. “Do you even have vinegar?”

“Yeah, I think Lam has some in the pantry. Hang on.”

A few moments later Ainsley thrust a glass bottle of white vinegar and a few Q-tips through the crack in the door. “Here. Dab this on and watch it in the mirror.”

“I don’t know if I can, Ains.”

“It’s just vinegar. It won’t even sting.”

“No, I mean, I don’t know if I can watch it. I can barely see down there. I need you to—”

“No freaking way, Win.”

“Oh come on, it’s not like you haven’t ever—”

I could hear her exasperation through the door. “Exactly. I have seen your vagina way more times than I need to.”

“It’s clean, I promise. I mean, except for my STD. I’m all waxed up. Taint is one-hundred percent untainted.”


“Come on, you’re really gonna just leave your best friend here to season Wally all by herself?”


“The wart.”

Ainsley drew in a deep breath and then forced it out. “You are insane. You know that right?”

“You love me. Now get in here and help me with my vagina.”


A little while later…

As Ainsley pulled off the yellow plastic dish-washing gloves she’d donned to do the procedure, I frowned. “Were the gloves really necessary?”

“Win, I love you, but I’m not risking genital warts a week before my wedding. I’d never be able to explain myself to Lam.”

“Lam” was short for Lambo, Ainsley’s finance. Lucky for him, he made her really happy, because I also thought it was short for “The stupidest fucking nickname on the planet”. They’d been seeing each other for almost a year now, but they’d known each other for much longer, since Lam was best friends with her older brother Ryan.

I pulled my underwear back up as she scrolled through her phone. “Well? Anything?”

“Hang on.”

“Ainsley. You’re freaking me out. Did it change color or not?”

“Hang. On.”

A few more moments passed in silence. At this point, I wasn’t sure what I was hoping for. Was a wart better than HPV or herpes? I was pretty sure one of them could cause cancer, but I couldn’t remember which one… was it HPV? I think it started with an H.


I should have paid better attention in health class.

“Would you just tell me? It’s HPV, isn’t it?”

Ainsley sat back on her heels. “Nope. It didn’t change color. Winnie, I think—I think it’s just an ingrown hair.”

I felt the blood return to my face. “Are you serious?”

She nodded.

“But I don’t get ingrowns—I use the fancy gel.”

The fancy gel that costs eighteen dollars a bottle.

“No, really. I don’t think you have an STD. Look, it looks just like these pictures.”

I glanced at the pictures and was about to respond, when my cell phone started buzzing. I glanced at the incoming call. “Hang on Ains, it’s Lucy.”

She started to clean up the supplies as I answered the call. “What’s up Luce, everything okay?” I said, carefully disguising any concern in my voice. My younger sister Lucy has Down’s Syndrome and she gets super annoyed if I treat her like a little kid. Which I suppose is fair, considering she’s almost eighteen.

“I was going to make tacos, but we’re out of cheese,” she said, matter-of-factly.

I looked up at the ceiling, knowing where this was going. I loved my sister, but when it came to meal time, she had her rituals, and Tuesdays meant tacos. And Lucy refused to live in a world with cheese-less tacos.

I hesitated before I responded. Our mom had run off years ago, and consequently I was always walking the line between older sister and parent. In this case, it was between a benevolent sister who could easily pick up cheese on the way home, and a realistic parent who wanted to teach her the importance of learning to deal with a world that sometimes didn’t have cheese.

This time though, the sister won.

Mostly because the sister had bigger issues at hand. “Yeah, I can pick up some cheese on the way home.”


I nodded, even though she couldn’t see me. “Yep. Sure. Cheddar. Got it.”

“Not jack.”

“Not jack.”

“Orange cheddar.”

“The orange-est. I’ll even take it past the tanning salon on the way home.”

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