Authors: Bella Love-Wins
Tags: #contemporary fiction, #Romantic Suspense, #New Adult and College Romance, #New Adult and College, #Romance, #Thrillers and Suspense, #new adult, #Contemporary Romance
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.
First edition. February 7, 2015.
Copyright © 2015 Bella Love-Wins.
Written by Bella Love-Wins.
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
This story is dedicated to friendship and love. May the lover sharing your bed also be your best friend.
~ Can a man and a woman be ‘just friends’ forever?
Or will one always fall for the other? ~
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Once again thank you, I hope you enjoy BURNT!
our years of college were coming to an end and Tara Matthews couldn’t believe graduation was just a month away. She was so relaxed on the couch, with her legs outstretched and covering Kevin Crawford’s lap. They were best friends, and had been since they were five. Their plan had been to complete their undergraduate degrees at the University of Alaska in Anchorage and then get their master’s degrees in Montana. They were so close to getting to Montana. She could feel it.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked.
Their eyes locked when she felt his hands massaging her feet. “The past,” she spoke nonchalantly. “We’re about to leave Alaska. It just seems so surreal.”
He smiled, nodding. “It does, but a new chapter in our lives is starting. It’s exciting.”
Tara nodded in agreement. Her things were mostly packed up and ready for the move. She looked around his living room. It held so many memories she didn’t want to give up. However, she was about to have another adventure that would be filled with new memories. She felt his fingers kneading the arches of her feet and she groaned. “God, you have the touch.” She sighed, and closed her eyes.
He laughed. “You sound so surprised,” he replied, pressing his thumbs into the bottom of her feet. She smiled. It was so comfortable with him and she didn’t care who saw it anymore. They had been through a lot of teasing in high school and college. Friends would continually point out that they should get together. Yet Kevin and Tara were insistent that the only thing between them was friendship. She didn’t need to go out on other dates, because she could just be around Kevin. It was all she needed. It was uncomplicated.
She opened her eyes and saw he was watching her. She smiled at him. “I probably should be going. It’s late.”
He ran his hands up and massaged her toes, one by one. “You could stay a little longer.”
“I think you may have just talked me into it,” she replied with a laugh, falling back to the couch and relaxing. She wasn’t going anywhere.
e looked in the window and glared at the couple on the couch. He couldn’t see everything, but knew something was going on between them.
“Kevin’s lied to me all this time,” he said between clenched teeth.
He fought the urge to burst into the house and demand answers, but he held back. He couldn’t let himself be seen...not yet. He needed to show Tara how much he cared about her first, and how much he always had. His eyes went to Tara’s feet and he watched as another man’s hands slowly massaged her ankles. He was torn, not sure whether to look away or continue watching the interaction between them.
The smile on Tara’s face took his breath away. He would not be able to get it out of his mind anytime soon. He bit back a groan, fantasizing. One day she would be his. He turned from the window and went back to his rental car. He needed to head back to Washington State to devise his plan. Nothing and no one would get in his way.
Three weeks later
evin stared at the transcript showing he didn’t pass his Advanced Zoology class. When he got the call to come into Dean Fredericks’ office, he instantly knew that couldn’t be good. He took a deep breath and pushed through to the office. His secretary looked up and smiled. “Hello, how may I help you?”
“I...I need to see Dean Fredericks. He’s expecting me. My name is Kevin Crawford.” He stammered out the words, feeling his chest constrict. He hoped he wouldn’t pass out from his anxiety.
“Sure. Have a seat and I’ll let him know you are here.” She picked up the phone as he took a seat. “There is a Mr. Crawford here to see you.” He looked at her as she talked on her phone. She glanced at him and smiled again. He felt like a kid in the principal’s office, getting ready to be punished for some woeful transgression. “I’ll let him know.” She hung up the phone and turned to him. “He’ll be out in just a minute.”
Kevin nodded. He picked up a magazine and pretended to read it. It was no use; he was reading the same line over and over again. When the door to Dean Frederick’s office opened, Kevin looked up. “I’m ready for you,” the Dean said smoothly. He put down the magazine and followed him to the office. Dean Fredericks pointed to a chair and Kevin took a seat, nervously looking around. “Thank you for coming in,” he said. Kevin didn’t feel he had much choice. “I take it you received your transcript.”
Kevin looked down at the transcript and nodded. “I don’t know what happened. I felt I was doing well in that class, but...obviously not.” The
stared back at him. He had always been a good student, so the failing grade was not something he would have ever expected.
“It’s not usually customary to call a student into my office. I’m not here to be your babysitter or your father, but when I’m forced to explain what happens next...I don’t have much choice.”
“I’m sorry, Dean Frederick. Can you explain what you mean by ‘what happens next’?” Kevin asked. He guessed he’d have to retake the course and hold off on getting his master’s degree. It wasn’t ideal, but he would make it work. It was his only option if he wanted to further his degree.
“You were enrolled in our program with a scholarship. The scholarship provided you student housing. I’m sorry to inform you, your costs next year will not be covered. As you didn’t pass, you lost the scholarship.” Kevin had not thought about the funding implication. The realization of what the Dean shared began to sink in. It was almost tragic. He lived in one of the houses on campus and now, the living arrangement was about to end. “You’ll need to allocate your own funds to pay for housing. Or, find cheaper off campus housing.” Dean Frederick paused before continuing. “In terms of the failing course, you can retake it online, if your family is not here in Anchorage. I’ll leave those planning details up to you.”
Kevin groaned. Things were just getting more and more dire. “I understand,” he said. He had worked diligently to be ready for a career that interested him. He couldn’t give up. He stood up and shook the Dean’s hand. “Thank you,” he said. His mind was reeling with question about what would happen the following year.
Kevin left the building in a daze, walking back to his car on instinct. He didn’t know where he would go after such news. Going back to his lonely place would just be a sad reminder. He drove on auto-pilot until he parked in front of Tara’s apartment. If anyone could make him feel better, it was her.
ara loaded up another box of her belongings. Her roommate had already finished up and was out with her boyfriend, so they could say their goodbyes. Tara was glad to have the house to herself. She enjoyed having a little time alone. As she was closing up another box, she heard a knock on her door.
“Coming,” she called, getting up and heading to the door.
She peeked through the peephole to find Kevin standing outside. She quickly opened the door.
“I’m so glad you’re here. You can help me pack.” She laughed as he walked in. “I’m about done, but I have a few more things to go.” She looked back at him and he smiled a little. “You know me...I tend to be a hoarder.” She paused, glancing around the living room. “I’m going to miss this place. It has been nice living here. We graduate in a week...a week!” She shook her head, glancing at him. “Can you believe it?”
He let out an uncomfortable groan. It was the first time she stopped to see he didn’t appear as happy as she was. In fact, his face was pale and she saw worry in his eyes. Their eyes connected for a moment.
“So, what do you need help with?” he asked, brushing past her.
She reached out and touched his arm, stopping him.
“It can wait. What’s wrong?”
He seemed nervous as he shifted from one foot to the other, but then suddenly stopped.
“I won’t be graduating when you do, Tara.” The words came out hurriedly and she almost wondered if she heard them correctly.
She stared at him, positive she had misunderstood what he said.
“Right,” she chuckled. She realized he wasn’t laughing, which was something she had expected him to do, once he confessed he was only teasing. He wouldn’t even look her in her eyes.
“Kevin, look at me.” When he looked up, she saw he wasn’t kidding. He looked ashamed. “What are you talking about?”
He looked away for a moment, like he was gathering his thoughts, but then faced her again.
“I flunked Advanced Zoology.”
Her smile fell as she processed the words. “But how?”
“I don’t know what happened,” he answered. “I studied. But somehow, I flunked the exam, which brought my final grade down. I have to take it again for a chance to get into the master’s program. So I won’t be graduating with you and there is nothing I can do to change that.”
She felt a gnawing sensation in the pit of her stomach. The dream was always to continue their education together. They both had the same aspirations and so it only made sense they would follow them as a team. She didn’t know how she could do it alone. She walked over to him and placed her hand on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Kevin.” She needed to console him, because he would be by her side if the situation were reversed. “You won’t have to do this alone.”
He turned his head to look at her. She noticed his brown eyes had darkened. They had a hint of gold in them that would brighten or darken depending on his mood. She stepped back, noticing the intensity of his stare.
“How do you figure?” he asked, raising an eyebrow. “You’ll be in Montana, pursuing everything you’ve worked hard for. And you should.”
A thousand thoughts were running through her mind, none of them in any way cohesive. She finally looked up at him.
“I’m not going anywhere,” she said, noticing the immediate shock on his face. “We have been a team and when one team member is down, the other one helps him through. Montana can wait.”
“I can’t let you do it, Tara. This team member is not about to ask his best friend to stay behind.”
“You’re not asking. I’m telling you. I want to do this.” ” She shook her head and swallowed the lump in her throat. She was on board with her decision, but was a little disappointed. She couldn’t deny it.
“Are you sure?” he asked. “I don’t want you to feel obligated to stay, when you’ve worked so hard.”
“Will you stop saying I have worked hard? We’ve both worked hard and I’m going to help you ace this course next time.” She smiled. “That’s what friends are for.” She moved past him, hoping he couldn’t see the conflict probably playing out on her face. “Now, help me pack up. We still can’t stay here, so we might as well go back to Washington State. I’m sure our parents will love to see us.” The words were laced with mild sarcasm. Both had grown up with parents who had given them free rein when they were growing up.
She felt him brushing up against her and she looked up into his eyes.
“I’m going to ask you one more time,” Kevin continued. “Are you positive this is what you want to do? I won’t be upset if you choose to go to Montana. I swear.”
“Kevin, I couldn’t imagine going to Montana without you. It’s just the way it is. I promise you I want to do this. I wouldn’t have said it otherwise.” She turned back to her boxes and continued to pack. She felt at peace. She had made the right choice. She was positive he’d do the same for her. More than anything, she wanted to keep their friendship intact and if this was what she needed to do, then she was going to do it.