Authors: Jennifer Ann
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2014 Jen Naumann
All rights reserved.
Cover design by Najla Qamber Designs
A Treetop Fantasies book (a division of Phantom Owl Press)
For my incredibly sweet cousin, Hope,
one of the strongest, bravest people I know.
The old house buzzes with angry rock, brazen laughter, and occasional screams from girls; it’s an audio explosion of brass sounds that once again make me question my agreement to come in the first place.
Smoke irritates my nose, some of it smelling like the green variety. The “no smoking”
sign near the entrance is clearly more of a loose suggestion than a rule as I’m pretty sure I’ve seen over a dozen people with lit cigarettes in hand, some of them among the guys hosting the party. A thick haze drifts through the room above the crowd, the smell even more robust than the cheap keg beer.
Sticky goop, probably a mix of spilled beer and strawberry margarita mix, covers the bottom of my newly purchased wedges, making a sick, sucking noise whenever I move my feet. Empty red solo cups litter every crevice of the room, apparently because we’re in college and no one can make us follow our parents’ rules.
The crowd’s an odd combination of jocks, hipsters, preps, and kids who don’t belong, like me. At least not anymore.
An oversexed freshman who’s built like Jonah Hill—pre-diet—grinds up against me every few minutes, even though I’m nowhere near the area designated as the dance floor. I’m not amused. Clearly, my desire to be alone isn’t obvious by standing in the least active corner of the house.
Ladies and gentlemen,
this is my life
Or it has become my life anyway, ever since the powers-that-be decided I was way too happy and secure, deciding to give me a healthy dose of reality to choke on.
My reflection stares back at me from an old beer sign on the wall. The narrow nose and dark blond eyelashes I inherited from my mom appear exaggerated in the warped glass. The cornflower blue eyes I inherited from my dad have lost their luster, although it could just be the low lit room overpowering their normal vibrance. But who am I kidding.
My lips are perpetually cracked because I don’t care enough to drink enough water or keep applying balm. The long, curly locks spilling well past my breasts are in serious need of not only a brushing, but also a touch-up at the roots. Because I’m too lazy to call the salon for an appointment, and quite frankly, I don’t give a shit.
a fun hater. I had it all in high school. I was a cheerleader with shining blond hair straight out of a L'Oréal commercial, and a killer body that every guy wanted to sack. My long-term sweetheart, Jason, was at the top of the girls’ lists for hotties, and just happened to be the star quarterback. Every girl either wanted to be me, or hated my guts because of my perceived perfection. The social world was at my fingertips. I was living the high life as our school’s queen bee.
I don’t think anyone was neither sympathetic nor surprised when I was so unceremoniously knocked down.
I look away from the mirror, down to the cup in my hands filled with flat beer. Until recently, I was usually among the typical party girls you see at these kinds of things, slamming down shots of vodka and tequila just as quickly as they’re handed out. I would’ve possibly hooked up with some random guy, and woke in a strange room the next morning.
Then my depression meds were kicked up a notch at my mom’s request. Now I’m just kind of numb to life. Taking a pill doesn’t magically make a person’s mental health better. It doesn’t take away all the hurt and anguish over something that forever changed you. The alcohol doesn’t mix with the drugs—I know this—but sometimes I just need to mask the pain of my past.
I simply go through the motions of each day, going to classes, work, and letting my best friend drag me to these stupid parties, meanwhile waiting for a booty call from my current fling. I have no drive, no vision of what I want to do with my life. Some days I really don’t care if things ever change. Other days I think I’d be doing the universe a favor if I just didn’t wake up in the morning.
You will become what you deserve
Did some ingenious poet with a MFA say that, or was it something I saw on Pinterest?
I dump my drink into a half-dead fern in the corner that’s doubling as an ash tray, and check my phone for the billionth time in the last ten minutes. As usual, my best friend/roommate/wing-woman, Kelly, has become MIA
most likely hooking up on her way to the bathroom.
Before I can leave in search of her, I’m approached by someone so incredibly tall that he’s possibly headlining in the circus. His dark eyes fall on me, filled with that drunken haze most guys get after a healthy dose of hard alcohol. His short, reddish-blond hair looks messy from some kind of playful scuffle with a buddy. The gray t-shirt he dons with the school’s logo and mascot plastered across the front looks wet from mid-chest down, most likely the result of a spilled beverage.
“Hey, beautiful,” he coos in a deep voice.
Yep. This is about to happen.
“Hey, random, drunk guy,” I answer, folding my arms over Kelly’s red shirt that shows far too much. One of these times I’ll stand up against her brash orders on what I can and can’t wear to these nightmares. These days I’m most comfortable in things that cover every inch of my skin, like a moo-moo or a snowsuit.
He leans against the wall at my side, grinning in the cheesy way really cocky guys do when they think they’re being charming. “What are you doing here all alone, sweet thing?”
“Oh, you know. Trying to avoid anyone who thinks because I’m standing here alone that it’s an open invitation to come hit on me.”
His eyes narrow like he’s trying to focus. The smell of booze blasts off him with all the appeal of a skunk in heat. “I haven’t seen you around. You probably know who I am, right?” When I shake my head, he touches his chest with both hands. “Cal Howard?
Starter on the basketball team?”
“A baller?” I fake a gasp. “
The kind of foolish, drunken smile that can make a guy look like a complete moron appears on his lips. Though I’ve never been to a game, I’m sure if his coach knew he could easily blow a .3 about now, he’d be on his way to developing a healthy dose of bleacher-butt next season.
“A pretty little thing like you probably doesn’t know much about basketball. I could take you down to the court some time, teach you how to shoot. Maybe play a little one-on-one?”
I send an SOS text to Kelly, hoping she’ll give up among her throws of passion to save me.
Where r u? I’ve exceeded my capacity 4 douchery
“You textin’ someone?” Cal asks, leaning down to get a look at my phone. Leaning way too close, I might add. The only thing worse than a sloppy drunk is one who’s big enough to fit me in his pocket, and even worse yet, determined. How exactly did I let Kelly talk me into coming here?
These parties are the worst.
“My boyfriend,” I lie, nodding. “He’s head of security for the Vikings. Big guy, about six four and three fifty. He should be here any minute. I’m sure
be into talking sports with you if you want to stick around.”
Cal sways on his feet. I can literally see his intelligence shrinking as he tries to think.
“Do you have a problem with me?”
Taking a deep breath, I fight the urge to roll my eyes. “I would actually have to
you before I could make such conclusions.”
His eyebrows raise clumsily as he takes a step closer. “Maybe you should take the time to
to know me.” The stench of his breath about knocks me over when he moves in to grab my arm.
“Hey!” I yell, trying to shake him off. “Let
of me!” Quite frankly my new buddy Cal seems too inebriated to have a full understanding of what country he’s in at the moment, but I take a step back anyway, ready to bolt.
Out of nowhere, another guy steps in at my side. Nice build with short, dark hair, casually dressed rather than some of the pretentious guys in sports jackets and pressed button downs. The fragrance of men’s body spray, spearmint gum, and something else musky and manly follows him. I hardly notice anything else once his piercing, steely blue eyes fall on me.
“Hey,” he says, his voice deliciously deep and smooth. A nice row of white teeth appears behind his easygoing smile, slight pucker of dimples popping onto his cheeks.
I throw my own version of a sexy smile back his way, but it probably looks more like a five-year-old meeting her first Disney princess in person. “Hey.”
He tips his head at Cal, his eyes never leaving mine. “Everything okay?”
,” Cal answers, finally dropping my arm. “We were just getting to know each other.”
The two guys study each other with their chests out, chins lifted, gazes hard. My money would go on the baller by freakishly unnatural height alone, but the new guy doesn’t seem threatened. The intensity between them pinches my lungs.
“It’s fine, really. He was just telling me he had to leave,” I finally say, not wanting to see the hot guy get his ass kicked.
Cal glares at me a minute before he finally turns, stumbling as he mutters “
”, and disappears into the crowd. There’s nothing like the shunning by someone whose morals are clearly higher than yours, especially when they’re too blitzed to remember it in the morning.
The new guy shakes his head, irritation visible in his expression. His clear eyes are so beautiful, they about take my breath away. “You okay?”
I bray in a nervous giggle. “Guys like that with a shoe size bigger than his IQ? It takes a lot more than that to fluster me.”
He chuckles, scanning the crowd like he’s looking for someone. I take the opportunity to give him a good once over. Broad shoulders, square face, thick eyelashes, strong cheekbones, straight nose. Dark stubble covers his jaw, matching his short hair, the slightly longer stuff on top styled in a precarious ‘do. He looks out of place here in his gray raglan shirt, slightly stretched from the muscle underneath, hole-covered jeans, brown leather bracelet, worn-out Chucks. He’d be better suited in the crowd at a rock concert.
When he turns back to me, I about die as I’m staring intently at him while biting my lip.
“I’m Adam, by the way.”
Underneath his approving gaze, I suddenly feel ten times sexier than normal.
He raises his thick eyebrows, smirking. “Want to get out of here?”
I sigh. This hottie is probably just another guy looking to hook up—bump uglies, no questions asked. It seems that kind is easier to find than a condom dispenser. A few months ago during my careless stage, I totally would’ve been down for a romp with this gorgeous man. Now that I’m somewhat committed to Levi, however, I can’t let myself go down that path again. “I’m kind of seeing someone.”
Adam glances over my shoulder. “Is he here?”
I grunt to myself. It doesn’t really matter that Levi works all the time, or that he’s way beyond his college years. He still wouldn’t come. “No, these kinds of parties aren’t his scene. They’re not exactly mine either, but yet, here I am.”
Adam shoves his hands in his pockets. “I just meant we should get some fresh air.