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Authors: Leanne Davis

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BOOK: The Years After
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She glanced up startled he noticed and called her on it. She shrugged while her face exploded in blush as she dropped her gaze to her feet. “Well, he seems to try harder than some to teach us. You know? Like he cares. I guess, I appreciate that.”

She was shocked when he set a hand on her shoulder and squeezed, “You’re right. People caring is good. Being an airbag doesn’t mean he isn’t a good teacher.”

“I have Math 205 next. What do you have?”

“Ah, break. Nothing up for a few hours. So, you coming to class tomorrow.”

She made a face. “You’ve probably already figured out the answer to that hard riddle.”

“Straight A student?”

“Mmmhmm,” she said noncommittal-like.

“So class at nine no matter what?”

“Yes. No matter what. Will you be there?”

He didn’t answer. When she glanced up he was staring at her with a frown and his eyes had gone weirdly intense. “For you? I might brave nine o’clock. See you, Olivia...”

She was blushing. He was going to quickly figure out she didn’t have much experience if she didn’t start acting a lot more blasé. But like make-up she didn’t see the point of pretending to be whatever she wasn’t. “Lindstrom. My name is Olivia Lindstrom.”

“Derek Salazar.” He grinned then, took her hand in his and shook it. Only it wasn’t a normal handshake. It was holding her hand in his while his gaze roved over her face. His index finger rubbed the inside of her hand in a way that suggested other things he could rub. She burned up while her eyes widened in shock he was so forward. But she didn’t drop his hand. She surrendered hers a limp, useless appendage she didn’t seem to control anymore: he did. He finally let go of her, smiled and turned to leave.

For her he might be there? Her heart simply melted. Holy crap! She already had raging crush and it was only a week into school. How had she not spotted Derek before now? Hard to say, but now that she had, all the other boys seemed to pale and blur. He was like the vibrant, color, HD TV picture and the rest of them all the old black and white, snowy TV pictures.

She watched him leave and then spun around and nearly squealed as she mentally skipped off to her math class. In reality she walked quickly and quietly, but inside her heart was dancing.

****

Why the hell had he stayed? Derek crossed across the campus and toward the park. He didn’t bring his car. Too obvious. Too traceable. The bus and walking worked when he was dealing with anything near campus. Carter usually ran the supplies onto the physical campus. He was a sophomore there, and Derek usually kept him supplied with a pharmacy of inventory in exchange for a huge cut. Carter sold to the student body in ways Derek couldn’t. Today’s payment assured Carter he’d have his stuff by tonight. It was rare Derek came on campus. Carter hadn’t had the money last week and had needed a few days to scrounge it up. Derek was glad he did. Carter was a rich prick whose parents had all but wiped his ass his entire life. But when dad put him on an allowance, the prick decided he needed more. More got him hooked up with Quentrell, and from Quentrell to Derek. But working for them cost steep. And if Carter didn’t pay, Derek was going to have to tell Quentrell. One thing Derek didn’t do was handle the collection of late fees or payments. He wasn’t the muscle. He was always sorry if he had to report someone to be “handled.” But he’d long ago realized it was better their ass than his. He kept up his end of the business it was up to them if they didn’t there’s. They knew the risks and rewards of this business, and both were great.

But Olivia Lindstrom had come after him. He’d had a moments fear it was someone he’d sold to who recognized him. They were something he didn’t like to just randomly run into. Especially here on campus. He would be lost and unable to fulfill his quota for Quentrell if he lost the revenue from school pricks. If campus security realized his presence was nefarious he’d be shut down. So he rarely appeared here. Only today because he’d felt kind of sorry for Carter. He’d been sweating even when he handed over payment. Derek hoped it was enough.

But it hadn’t been a client it had been that girl. Olivia. She had been nearly running after him. He couldn’t mask his surprise. She wore loose riding brown cargo pants, with tennis shoes and white tee shirt. The only thing of interest was her tee shirt leaving her arms exposed and bare. They were long and skinny and he’d determined she had no boobs whatsoever. If she wore a bra even under the white T, he’d be shocked.

Still those eyes… they were nearly hypnotic. They were so deep a color of blue, and kind of child-like the way they tilted up on the ends. They were guileless and wide and so hopeful he’d say he was in the class. What had he been thinking to say yes? To then, actually show up in the class? He paid some kid twenty bucks for his stupid spiral and pen so he didn’t look like he’d been lying to her. What kind of play did he think he was running here? Why didn’t he just ask her out? The interest was there in her eyes. He could see it. In the way she tried to pretend she wasn’t checking him out. She was hyper aware of him.

The thing was he’d felt that way a little bit about her too, which wasn’t something he felt. Ever. For no girl. But a little half girlish, flute playing, straight A college freshman? Yeah, not his type. He could simply just disappear and never show up near her again. That’s what he should do. What was he going to do? Show up at nine o’clock here and sit through a lecture just to see some chick. Some little virgin who probably wouldn’t even put out anyway. For by her body language toward him she was either a virgin or close to. She wasn’t experienced that was for sure.

It would take him a while to get here. He’d be getting up at freaking dawn for what reason? Some little piece of tail that probably would be lousy in bed anyway?

Still… that smile. It was so sweet. Could anyone really be that way? The way she’d stuck up for the teacher, well, that wasn’t something he expected.

He could play it off to Carter he was just keeping an eye on things. Being a presence for Quentrell. Carter had gotten too pushy of late for more of a share. Maybe this could show him Derek was
there.
Maybe reminding Carter who Derek represented would get him to shut up before his big, bragging, arrogant mouth got him thrown in a body bag.

Yeah, that was why he might come back to this piece of shit place and class. To teach Carter a subtle lesson.

And the girl? Well they were always dispensable. He’d yet to meet one that wasn’t.

He grinned and tossed the notebook into the trash bin. But taking it from a rich little virgin would definitely be worth a few of his mornings.

Chapter Two

 

OLIVIA ENTERED HER DORM room after finishing her back to-back classes for the day. She entered quietly and nearly groaned out loud. Kylie, her cousin and roommate, was still nearly passed out on her bed. Olivia had no idea when Kylie came in last night. It seemed she merely face planted onto her bed, leaving her black combat boots on. They jutted off the end of the twin bed. Their room was small, a mirror image of closets, beds, desks and a shared window. That was it. The vinyl white floor was scuffed and scraped from all the years of other students’ occupation. They’d each decorated their own sides of the small room. Kylie’s side reflected her new and almost fierce taste. If Olivia ran into Kylie as a stranger, such an intimate knowledge of her taste would have had Olivia nearly running in the opposite direction. Olivia’s side was a lot more neutral and innocuously decorated with pictures of her friends from high school. Her bedspread had muted stripes, topped off with a large picture of a flute, surrounded by bright light and flowers, that hung over the bed.

Kylie’s bedspread was black. Everything on her side was black. From her bedspread to the evil-looking pictures she hung of zombie movies. Kylie was a sophomore at Peterson. She made her transformation last year and went from being a shy, sweet, unsure cousin, to a gothic-gone-wrong, nearly shocking cousin.

She set her book bag down and took a throw pillow from the floor, which she winged at Kylie’s head. “Are you permanently a vampire now? Is the light going to shine through your skin?”

Kylie groaned as she flipped onto her back and cracked an eye open. Literally, she almost had to crack it as her makeup was so thick, Olivia thought maybe it glued her eyelids shut. Her black eyeliner outlined her gray eyes in deep rings. Her makeup went from black to dark gray and she colored her eyes in all the way to her darkened eyebrows. Her hair was a once soft, lovely shade of dark red, bordering on brown. Olivia hadn’t seen her real color in over a year now. It was a stark, raven black now. Being long, it was usually drawn back into a severe ponytail, which hung down to her mid-back. Her hair was so thick, she used selected strands of it to tie it back. Now her hair kind of stuck out as she scratched at her eyes and yawned.

“Shit, Liv, why do you look so damn perky all the time? You gonna be like this all year? Sleep. Sit. Live a little.” Her voice was gravelly. She slowly sat up and slid her feet to the floor before resting her head in her hands.

“You’re going to be sharing rehab with Aunt Vickie if you don’t lay off a little. It’s three o’clock. You haven’t been to class yet. You rarely get out of here before five.” Their aunt Vickie had been fighting alcoholism off and on until she finally moved in with Olivia’s family. That seemed to do the trick of finally getting her sober.

“What are you, my mother? I swear to God, go hang with Ally if I’m not up to your expectations.”

“Your mother is afraid to say anything for fear you’ll go sacrifice something. Jesus, Ky, what is going on with you?”

She leaned over and started peeling her boots off. Her black jeans were so tight and skinny, Olivia wondered if she didn’t need grease to get out of them. Olivia was bony and skinny in her own right, but Kylie was verging on barely a hundred pounds. She wore heavy layers in front of her parents and other concerned adults to hide it, but Olivia knew she regularly starved herself. She smoked all the time and drank almost more. That comprised most of her calorie count. She never looked well. Dark rings marred the white of her cheeks. Her blood-red lips were painted to hide their thin, bluish color.

She rolled her eyes. “Nothing is wrong with me. It’s called college, Liv. We’re supposed to live a little. Try new things. Break away from the good, perfect, little girls we used to be. Aren’t you tired of it by now?”

“I am trying new things. You have to leave the dorm room for that to happen. And while you were sleeping, I met a hot guy.”

Kylie got up and ran her hands through her slicked back bangs. “Did you run the other way?”

Olivia stuck her tongue out. “Why are you being such a bitch today? What did I do to you?”

“Well, you usually run the opposite direction when anyone with a dick comes near you. Or stammer something stupid before freezing up.”

“I did neither.”

“Band geek?”

She stiffened. Kylie never stopped insulting how she chose to spend the majority of her time. “No. Well, I don’t think so. I don’t know anything about him. Other than he’s hot. Very, very hot.”

“Don’t do this, Liv. Don’t be your normal self. We’re only a week into school. Trust me, you didn’t find your soul mate. There are dozens, no, hundreds of hot, available guys around here. You don’t have to settle for one. Or start pining for this one. You’ll meet a lot more. So just… go screw him. Or not. But don’t talk like we’re little girls in middle school, and our crush just said hi to us today. Okay? You really need to get out more, and see a lot more guys.”

Olivia studied Kylie as she started gathering her things to go into the bathroom, hopefully, to shower off some of the makeup that still streaked her face. “Oh? Because that worked out so well for you last year?”

“I don’t want to talk about last year.”

“You don’t think it’s directly related to Vampire Kylie?”

“I think it’s none of your business, little cuz. Don’t try to read into things that you don’t know about.”

Olivia flipped around to ignore Kylie. She could be so cutting with her statements. She didn’t used to be. She used to be the sweetest person. They were best friends ever since her parents adopted her and introduced them to her as her cousins. From eight years old and on, it was her, Kylie and her sister, Ally. Best Friends Forever. Except they were the real deal. Ally was a year older than Kylie, and two years older in school. She lived with other juniors in an apartment off campus.

She waited for the door to shut. But it didn’t. She turned around and Kylie was standing there, clutching her stuff. She dropped her things and stepped forward to hug Olivia against her. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. Any of it. I love you. I love everything about you. Don’t change. Don’t ever change, okay? And especially, never for some guy. No matter what.”

“Okay,” she whispered to Kylie’s strange, desperate tone. “BFFs forever, remember? Hot guys or not.”

“I always remember. Every day.” Kylie turned without another word and left. Olivia stared after her. She had a rough freshman year. Or at least, everyone surmised that because she changed mid-year and it happened almost overnight. She remained introspective for a few months, only to reemerge as this… angry, rebellious, and fierce girl. Kylie’s mom tried to pry out what happened, but Kylie would never really say, no matter who asked.

She shook off the latest encounter. Kylie was obviously rebelling and experimenting, which was fine, so long as she didn’t expect Olivia to do it with her. She wasn’t getting tattoos or dying her hair strange colors. Kylie recently started a huge tattoo on her lower back and every few months or so, she added more to it. It was a black line that looked like her back was cracking open. It was odd and strange, and big, which kind of described everything that Kylie was nowadays. Olivia wasn’t hooking up with random college boys, or girls, either. Kylie was experimenting in every facet of her personality. She had some chick in there over the weekend, and it wasn’t for a friendly session of girl-talk either.

Olivia wasn’t looking for that. She was here on a scholarship she cherished. It was, to date, her crowning accomplishment. She was so proud at being picked for her ability to play the flute. It made her feel a little guilty because her parents could afford to send her to college, but she was so honored by the scholarship, she intended to make sure she paid tribute to it. She grabbed her things and shut Kylie and the hot guy out of her mind. Placing the instrument to her lips, she soon forgot everything but how it felt to play as she lost herself in the soft, lilting notes she created.

BOOK: The Years After
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ads

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