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Authors: D.J. Pierson

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BOOK: Forever Altered
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When
we reach our floor, he looks troubled.  “Thanks for taking me for a ride,”
I say trying to ease whatever is bothering him.

“Says
someone not at all interested in cars,” Rocco teases raising his
eyebrows. 

“It
wasn’t the car I was referring to.  See you in class tomorrow,
Rocco.”  I say walking away.

“Have
a good night, Alyssa,” he chuckles.  When I glance back, he’s standing
there smiling watching me walk away.      

Once
back in my apartment, Leah, Julia, and Erin are sitting in the living room
waiting for me.  There’s no way we are going to do this right now. 
“No.  Don’t even start.”  They start laughing hysterically. 
It’s going to be a long night.

Awakening
to a cold, rainy, dreary Monday morning has me seriously regretting my decision
to attend a college in northern New Jersey instead of Florida.  Everyone
seems to be having the same thoughts hidden underneath umbrellas trudging to
class.  If it wasn’t for the fact that today was a lecture day for both of
my science classes, I may still be in under my warm, toasty blankets. 

After
my first class is finished, I proceed downstairs to the lecture hall on the
first floor of the Science Building.  As usual, most of the class is
already seated, ready and waiting for the professor to begin.  The only
seats ever left are in the very back of the large room.  I slide into my
seat and get situated to be thoroughly confused even further.  When
someone unexpectedly sits in the seat next to me, I turn to see my favorite set
of blue eyes watching me.

“Good
morning!”  Rocco says.

“What’s
so good about it?”  I sigh even though my mood has drastically improved in
the last twenty seconds.  “This rain seriously sucks.  The bottom of
my pants are still wet and I’ve been in this building for over two hours already.”   

“What
rain?  From where I’m sitting, the sun is shining brighter than I’ve ever
seen.”  He’s really too cute for his own good.  Deciding to keep that
secret to myself, I just roll my eyes at him and try really hard not to
smile.  Thankfully, Dr. Willis clears his throat and begins his speech for
the day.

It
is so much easier to concentrate when Rocco isn’t sitting next to me. 
Occasionally, I’d find myself looking in his direction only to see him turning
to me at the same time.  At one point, he throws a small piece of paper on
my binder.  The note says for me to turn down the brightness because he is
having trouble concentrating.  Shaking my head, I crumple it up and throw
it at him.  Of course, he finds my reaction funny and it only encourages him
to try to make me laugh even more.  I am so relieved when class is finally
dismissed.

“You’re
a pain in my ass,” I blurt out when we get into the hallway. 

“Oh,
come on.  I’m not all that bad, am I?”  I don’t believe for one
second that his ego is even slightly bruised the way he’s pretending it is.

“I
didn’t say you were bad.  I said you’re a pain in my ass.  There’s a
difference,” I clarify.

“Hey,
Rocco.  Wait up,” some girl calls from behind us.  She is very
pretty.  Long, bright blond hair with pretty blue eyes and a body any guy
would fall for.  He stops, but I keep walking.  Witnessing the
tireless flirting of Rocco Matthews with one of his
girls
is not
something I need to stick around to see. 

“What
do you need, Carrie?”  I notice he’s short with her.

“You’re
coming to hang out tomorrow night, right?  You left so early Saturday, we
didn’t have the chance to talk much.”  Just before heading back out into
the rain, I happen to glance back only to see her playing with a lock of her
hair, looking up at him like she wants to jump him right there.  That’s
enough for me. 

I’m
not even through the small courtyard in front of the science building before
Rocco comes running out of the door calling my name.  “Alyssa.  Hold
on.”  He jogs over to me.  “Where are you running off to?” he asks
when he catches up to me.

It’s
obvious he wants to know why I didn’t wait for him while he talked to one of
his
admirers
, but I won’t acknowledge it.  He takes my umbrella
from me and holds it over the both of us.  “I’m going to get a sandwich
from the Hamilton Building before heading back to my room.  My next class
isn’t until tonight.”

“That’s
where my next class is.  I’ll walk with you.”  We walk a few steps in
silence before he breaks it.  “You know there isn’t anything going on with
me and Carrie, right?”

“That’s
none of my business, Rocco.”  It’s too hard to look at him.

“I
just want you to know,” he tells me with the same troubled look I saw on his
face last night after we got back from the ride in his car.  “You doing
anything tomorrow night?”

“I
don’t really do anything on Tuesday nights because I have to get up early on
Wednesday mornings.”

“I’m
in the same class as you and I still manage to squeeze in a little fun.”
 He is back to teasing me again.

“I
have Physics lab at seven.” 

“You’re
taking Physics, too?  Are you crazy?” 

“If
I want to graduate any time soon, I don’t have a choice,” I explain.

“That
sucks.”  We’ve reached the Hamilton Building, so he folds up my umbrella
and hands it back to me.  “Enjoy your lunch.  I’ll catch up with you
later.” 

“Have
fun in class.” 

“I
can guarantee it won’t be nearly as fun as my last one.”  There’s that
friggin
smile again.  Damn it!

Chapter
Nine

Rocco

 

 

It’s
becoming harder and harder to go to my classes when I’d rather be with
Alyssa.  Keeping her company seems to be the only thing that interests me
anymore.  Between yesterday and today, she doesn’t seem to be bothered
about her ex-boyfriend anymore.  Yesterday while she was talking to his
sister, the sadness still never showed like it had the week before.  Her
eyes have been bright, even when she is trying to pretend like she’s mad. 
When she laughs, my heart melts.  She has absolutely no idea how
friggin
adorable she is.  That’s the part I like most
about her.   

By
the time my classes are over, Alyssa’s class has already begun.  Since
there is nothing I can do until she gets out in a few hours, homework helps me
pass some time.  Once it is finished, I decide to take a few minutes to
check in with my mom.  Excited is an understatement when describing her
reaction to hearing how I’m bringing a date to the charity dinner this
year.  We are on the phone for another half hour while she questions me
relentlessly about Alyssa.  Since she will be busy that night, she wants
me to bring Alyssa by the house this Sunday, so she can meet her.  I
promise to ask and tell her I’ll get back to her before the weekend. 
     

Just
as I’m hanging up the phone, Shane is walking through our bedroom door
announcing how he just walked Alyssa to her apartment.  “What do you mean
you walked her back?”  A quick glance at the clock shows me the three
hours have come and gone. 

“I
told you.  She’s in my Accounting class.”  I didn’t realize that was
the class they had tonight.  “So, what’s up with you two?”  He
dropped his backpack on his desk and then sat on his bed.   

“Not
much.” 

He
laughs.  “You two really should talk.” 

“What
do you mean by that?”  Was he talking to her about me?

“I asked
her the same thing and she didn’t have an answer either.  She lit up as
soon as I mentioned your name.”  Why does hearing that make me feel like
this?  “The smile on your face right now is sickening.”  He can make
fun of me all he wants.  Leaving all of my homework right where it is, I
grab my keys and head out.  There is no need to tell Shane where I’m
going.  He already knows.

Leah
opens the door.  “Hey, Rocco.  What’s up?”  She stands to the
side giving me room to walk through the door. 

“Shane
told me he walked Alyssa back from class.  Thought I’d swing by and see
what she was up to.”  She smiles at me.  “What?” 

“Nothing.” 
She’s shaking her head as she answers my question.  “Have a seat. 
She was just going to jump in the shower.  I’ll try to catch her.” 

Leah
disappears into her room and I hear her knocking on the bathroom door telling
Alyssa I’m here.  Alyssa comes out of her room a few minutes later pulling
her hair up.  She’s wearing a long sleeved t-shirt and a pair of pajama
pants.  This isn’t something any other girl would ever do and it thrills
me at how comfortable she seems to be around me.  “Hi,” she says coming
over to sit on the other end of the sofa.

“Hey,
Sunshine.”  That gets a smile out of her.

“You’re
still sticking with that, huh?”

“I
am.  I like it,” I say winking.  “You going to bed or
something?  I thought you went to bed early on Tuesday nights?”

“She
goes to bed early
every
night,” Leah calls from their room.  It’s
nice to know I’m not the only one Alyssa rolls her eyes at. 

“No. 
Well, not yet anyway.  Leah is going to the movies with Tyler.  Erin
and Julia are already out.  Figured I would get comfy and watch some TV
before calling it a night.”

“She
won’t come with us, Rocco.”  Leah comes out of their room.  “Tell her
to stop being such an old lady,” she says sticking her tongue out at
Alyssa.  “She doesn’t even have class until the afternoon tomorrow.”

“I
think you’re old enough to go on a date with your boyfriend all by yourself,
Leah.  You don’t need a chaperone.  Now, get the hell out of here
before I change my mind and make you stay home.”  There’s a knock on the
window and Leah waves goodbye.  “Make sure you are back by midnight,”
Alyssa tells her.  Leah sticks her tongue out at her again. 

I’m
left shaking my head at the two of them.  “You girls are like an old
married couple.”  They both laugh and tell me I’m not the first one to
tell them that.  Leah heads out leaving the two of us alone. 

“You
going to stay for a little bit?” she asks me.

“Sure
you don’t mind?”  I’m instantly relieved at not being kicked out.

“Why
would I mind?  Want some ice cream?  We have cookies-n-cream.” 
She stands up and goes to the refrigerator.  After pulling out the ice
cream container from the freezer and dropping the lid on the counter, she walks
over grabbing two spoons from the top drawer and a bag of pretzels from the
cabinet. 

“I
love ice cream,” I say when she hands me a spoon and the bag of pretzels. 

She
sits down so close to me that her leg is right against mine.  The way she
looks at me causes a wave of nervousness, excitement, and something else I
cannot quite put my finger on to pulse through me.  A girl has never made
me feel this way before.  In a short amount of time, she’s done exactly
what I thought she’d be able to do.  Alyssa has found her way into my
guarded heart.  Part of me is scared to death because if she doesn’t feel
the same way about me, I’m going to be crushed beyond repair.  The other
part knows damn well that being friends with her will never be enough for
me.  I’m about to cross a line I had no choice but to draw a few years ago
when Vicki threatened me and those around me.  Without a doubt, I’ll do
whatever it takes to protect her.  Well, all except staying away from
her.  This girl is the only one who has been able to make me feel alive
since I lost my dad and I’ll do anything to make her
mine.         

“Luckily
for you, I like you.  I don’t normally share.”  She winks at me
interrupting my thoughts.  I watch as she takes a pretzel out of the bag
now laying on my lap and dips it in the ice cream before eating it.

“What
did you just do?” I ask giving her a disgusted look.

“Don’t
knock it until you try it, Matthews!”  She dips another pretzel into the
ice cream and holds it out for me to eat it.  My eyes lock with hers and
neither one of us breaks the gaze.  Grabbing her wrist and bringing it to
me, I open my mouth and take the pretzel from her. 

“Not
bad,” I barely manage to get out still staring at her. 

Just
as I’m about to reach my hand up to her cheek, the loud fucking buzzing of the
fire alarm rings throughout the apartment making us both jump.  Alyssa
closes her eyes and sighs.  I’m ready to hunt down and kill the son of a
bitch who thought tonight would be a good night for a fire drill.  She
gets up to put the ice cream in the freezer, then goes into her room to grab
her sweatshirt and shoes.  If the Resident Assistants didn’t check every
room, we wouldn’t be leaving this apartment right now. 

“Do
you want to sneak over to your apartment to grab your jacket before they kick
us outside?” she asks coming out of her bedroom hopping on one foot and pulling
her shoe on. 

“Nah. 
Who needs a coat when I have you to keep me warm?  Let’s go.” 
Placing my hand on the small of her back, I lead her outside before the RAs
come in here.  Once we are far enough away from the building, she stops
walking and turns to face me.  The air has cooled off from all of the rain
earlier in the day.  When the wind blows, she shudders, so I wrap my arms
around her and pull her against me to keep her warm.  Right away, she
relaxes next to me just like she did the last time I held her.

Shane,
Logan, and Troy somehow manage to find me even out here in the dimly lit
parking lot.  They come over to us and I think to myself how they better
hope Alyssa doesn’t let go of me.  All three of them have smirks on their
faces, so I shake my head giving fair warning.  If they fuck this up for
me right now, there will be hell to pay. 

“Hey
Rocco.  You want to keep me warm, too?”  Fucking Logan and his big
mouth. 

Alyssa
picks her head up looking in his direction.  “Back off, Logan.  He’s
mine right now.  Go find someone else.”  The way she says that only
confirms my feelings for her.  She lays her head on my chest and wraps her
arms around my back.  Shane and Troy laugh at him making me even
happier.  They start telling me about the football game that I couldn’t
care less about right now. 

Once
they say we are allowed to go back in, Alyssa lets go of me, but she stays next
to me.  My hand reaches for hers.  She takes it, however, she seems
tense all of a sudden.  When we get back inside the building, she reaches
for her keycard in her pocket.  After opening the door, we both head in
and the door closes behind us.  The look on her face is still there when
she comes out of her room from putting her shoes away.

“What’s
wrong?”  I’m too anxious to try to figure it out.  She just needs to
tell me. 

“I
feel bad,” she confesses quietly.

“About?”

“I’m
keeping you from the game with your friends.  Did you want to go back to
watch it with them?” 

I
walk over to where she is standing right outside her bedroom door. 
Putting my hands on both sides of her face, I tell her the truth. 
“There’s no way in hell, I want to be anywhere but right here with you.” 

A
look of confusion washes over her face.  How has she not figured out that
I’ve been falling for her since the first time I saw her?  I’m done
playing games.  I lower my head and touch my lips to hers.  She
kisses me back, so I deepen the kiss.  It doesn’t last long before she
pulls away, her hand on her lips and tears in her eyes.  What the fuck did
I do? 

“I
can’t,” she says taking a step back.

“You
can’t what?”  She’s shaking her head.  If this girl cries right now,
I’m going to fall apart right along with her.

“I
cannot be another one of your girls.  I just can’t do it.”  She turns
around and starts to go back into her room.  I grab her arm to keep her
facing in my direction.  There is now a tear running down her right
cheek.  My finger wipes it away causing another one to spill over.

“Don’t
cry.  Man, I fucking hate it when you cry.”  Now I’ve pulled her to
me and I’m holding her tight against my chest again.  How do I convince
her this is where she belongs?  I kiss the top of her head and lean her
back just enough so I can see her face.  “Alyssa, listen to me.”  She
doesn’t look at me until I put my finger under chin and tilt her head back
slightly.  “I don’t know what I did to make you feel that way, but I’m so
sorry.  Please believe me.”

Her
tears seem to stop at hearing that.  “You didn’t do anything.  It’s
just that I’ve heard how you can be.  Things that you’ve done.  Girls
you’ve…”  She doesn’t finish what she was going to say and I’m thankful
especially since she’s right.

I
shake my head.  “This is going to sound pretty damn cliché, but I have to
say it anyway.  I’ve never had a girl mean anything to me before you came
along.  I don’t know what it is about you.”  I’m not sure if she
believes me or not.  She’s been hurt too severely, too recently and
someone has told her all about my past.  “I had absolutely no idea it was
even possible for me to feel this way about someone, but I’m so glad my heart
waited for you.  I want to be the one who makes you forget all the
heartbreak you’ve had to deal with and I want to be the one who makes you happy
the way you make me happy.”  There are more tears trailing down her face
now and it makes me feel like she’s telling me no.  She doesn’t want me to
be the one who gets to take away her pain.

Alyssa
wipes her tears on the sleeve of her shirt.  “I don’t want to feel that
pain ever again.  I don’t think I’d survive if my heart ever had to deal
with it again.” 

What
the hell she is trying to say?  “Please, Alyssa.  Let me in. 
Give me the chance to prove that I deserve you.  I get you’re concerned
about the shit I’ve done.  I can apologize for it a thousand times, but
there’s nothing that can be done to change it.  I honestly wish there was
a way I could.  I can only promise that you will never regret giving me a
shot.  I’ll never be the same person I was before finding you.”

There’s
a long pause and my heart is ready to explode from the anxiety.  “Don’t
you see?  I’ve already let you in, Rocco.”  She’s blinking away her
tears and a small smile replaces the torture that was there before.  “You
just showed up out of nowhere and barged your way in while I was trying to
block everyone else out.  When you leave, I’ll never recover.”

Is
she saying what I think she’s saying?  “You’re letting me in?”  She
nods her head once.  “You’re giving me a chance?”  She nods
again.  The overwhelming happiness that fills my chest is too deep to
describe.  Alyssa wraps her arms around my neck and this time when I kiss
her, she doesn’t pull away.  Kissing her is like nothing I’ve ever
experienced before, nor could I ever feel again if she left me.  Pulling
away from her and looking in her eyes, I say what she needs to hear, but she’ll
only believe when she sees it.  “Just so you know, I’m not going
anywhere.”  She starts to look away, but I don’t let her.  “You’ll
see.”

BOOK: Forever Altered
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