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Trust in Me: A Novella, Page 2

J. Lynn

  I snickered. “Don’t you think if I knew why, I’d find a way to stop him?”

  “I think it’s cute,” said a soft, feminine voice.

  Jase and I turned toward the couch. No one sat quite the way Stephanie Keith did. One long, shapely tanned leg hooked over the knee of the other in the perfect picture of modesty. But the goddamn denim skirt of hers was as modest as Ollie after taking a shower. If I moved my head just a fraction of inch to the right and tipped my chin down, which I had about three minutes ago, I could see the curve of her ass cheek.

  Steph was a thong girl.

  Or a no-panties girl depending on her mood, and it was looking like she might be in the mood. Steph leaned forward slightly, crossing slender arms under her breasts, giving me and anyone else who happened to be looking—quick check told me Jase was—a nice view of her tits. And they were nice. I’d seen them up close and personal quite a few times. Those baby-blue eyes of hers promised a happy ending and they were fixed on mine.

  Surprisingly, there was absolutely no shrinking of my nylon shorts in the crotch area, which was a damn waste of tits and ass.

  Half of Jase’s frat would give their left nut to be on the receiving end of Stephanie’s attention. There was a time I gave my right one, back when I couldn’t even keep track of who was who, but that felt like ages ago, back when the idea of staying with one girl made me want to chew off my own arm. Now?

  Well, shit, I didn’t know what I wanted now. Hadn’t for a while, which probably explained why I wasn’t scooping Steph up, taking her back to my bedroom, and dropping pants.

  Steph was a good girl, but the time of giving up my right nut had long since passed.

  Averting my gaze to where Ollie was dancing in front of the TV, holding the squirming Raphael in the air, I took a drink of my beer. “He’s molesting my tortoise.”

  She laughed as she stood. “I don’t think that’s what he’s doing.” One arm wrapped around mine and she put her chin on my shoulder. A sheet of inky black hair slipped over the bare skin of my chest. “But I wouldn’t mind being molested.”

  Over the music, I heard the oven timer go off. Gently disentangling myself, I shot Jase a look. An unsympathetic grin crossed his face. Bastard. “Be right back.”

  Dodging guys, I trotted into the kitchen before Steph could respond. The girl wasn’t going to be that disappointed with my lack of interest. I’d bet ten bucks she’d moved on to Jase or someone else by the time I got back in.

  I sat the beer down on the counter and opened the oven door, inhaling the aroma of freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies. And not that premade crap. This shit was from scratch.

  And they would be banging.

  Setting the sheet aside, I flipped off the oven and scooped up a cookie. So hot, the dough sunk in, squeezing the tiny chips of chocolate onto the chunks of walnut. I broke the cookie in half and popped it into my mouth.

  “Fuck,” I groaned.

  Burned like holy fucking hell, but it was worth it. Washing it down with my beer, I stepped out of the kitchen just in time to see Ollie heading toward the front door. With Raphael.

  “Oh, come the hell on.” I put my beer down.

  “Be free, little green buddy,” he coaxed, kissing Raphael’s shell. “Be free.”

  “Bring Raphael back!” I yelled, laughing as Ollie drunk-karate-kicked the front door the rest of the way open. “You fucktard!”

  Ollie put Raphael down and gently nudged his shell. “Free.”

  Grabbing his arm, I spun him around and pushed him back into the apartment. Laughing, Ollie grabbed Steph’s friend and lifted her over his shoulder. A riot of squeals broke out.

  I scooped up the tortoise. “Sorry, Raphael. My friends are complete, fucking . . .” A strange tingle broke out across my neck. I looked to my left and then my right, seeing Avery standing in a doorway, her brown eyes wide. “Assholes. What the . . . ?”

  I hadn’t drunk nearly enough to be hallucinating, but I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that Shortcake was standing in my apartment building. The apartment had been empty whenever I’d been around over the summer, but someone, obviously, could’ve moved in.

  And based on the way she was dressed, someone she was very familiar with. The cotton shorts were short, ending at the thigh, and my gaze got hung up on her legs. They were long, not too skinny and perfectly shaped. Who would’ve thought Shortcake would be rocking a pair of legs like that? Blood shot straight to my groin. The long-sleeve shirt she wore covered everything, but it was thin.

  Hell yeah, it was thin.

  Her breasts were soft swells under the shirt, fuller than they had felt pressed against my chest earlier, and those tips . . .

  Her cheeks flushed several shades of pink. “Hey . . .”

  I blinked and when she didn’t disappear and neither did my sudden, raging hard-on, I assumed she was real. “Avery Morgansten? This is becoming a habit.”

  “Yeah,” she said. “It is.”

  “Do you live here or are you visiting . . . ?” Raphael started squirming.

  She cleared her throat, watching the tortoise. “I . . . I live here.”

  “No shit?” Holy crap. I made my way around the railing to the stairwell and toward her door. I didn’t miss how her eyes went to my abs. I liked. So did my cock. “You really live here?”

  “Yes. I really live here.”

  “This is . . . I don’t even know.” I laughed, somewhat dumbstruck. “Really crazy.”

  “Why?” Confusion marked her pretty face, crinkling the skin between the delicate brows.

  “I live here.”

  Her mouth dropped open. “You’re joking, right?”

  “No. I’ve been living here for a while—like a couple of years with my roommate. You know, the fucktard who put poor Raphael outside.”

  “Hey!” Ollie yelled. “I have a name. It’s Señor Fucktard!”

  I laughed. “Anyway, did you move in over the weekend?”

  She nodded.

  “Makes sense. I was back home, visiting the fam.” I cradled Raphael against my chest before he wiggled his way to a broken shell. “Well, hell . . .”

  Avery tipped her head back to meet my gaze. For a moment, she held mine with her own soulful gaze, before turning her attention to Raphael. Her eyes . . . they reminded me of something. “That’s . . . um, your tortoise?”

  “Yeah.” I lifted him up. “Raphael, meet Avery.”

  She bit down on her lip and gave Raphael a wave, and a grin split my lips. Shortcake got pointers for that. “That’s a very interesting pet.”

  “And those are very interesting shorts. What are they?” I took another long look at those legs. I couldn’t help myself. “Pizza slices?”

  “They’re ice cream cones.”

  “Huh. I like them.” I lifted my gaze, taking my time. “A lot.”

  She finally let go of her death grip on the door and crossed her arms over her chest. Her eyes narrowed when I grinned. “Thanks. That means a lot to me.”

  “It should. They have my seal of approval.” I watched the flush continue to stain her cheeks. “I need to get Raphael back in his little habitat before he pees on my hand, which he’s bound to do, and that sucks.”

  Her lips twitched into a small grin. “I can imagine.”

  Did Shortcake just grin? It had to be a first. I wondered what she looked like when she actually smiled. “So, you should come over. The guys are about to leave, but I’m sure they’ll be around for a little longer. You can meet them.” I leaned in, lowering my voice. “They’re no way as interesting as I am, but they’re not bad.”

  Avery’s gaze flickered over my shoulder. Indecision crawled over her face. Come on, Shortcake, come out and play. She shook her head. “Thanks, but I was heading to bed.”

  Disappointment pricked at my skin. “This early?”

  “It has to be after midnight.”

  I grinned. “That’s still early.”

  “Maybe to you.”

  “Are you sure?” I was about to pull out the big guns. “I have cookies.”

  “Cookies?” Two brows rose.

  “Yeah, and I made them. I’m quite the baker.”

  “You baked cookies?”

  The way she asked that was like I’d just admitted to baking a homemade bomb in my kitchen. “I bake a lot of things, and I’m sure you’re dying to know all about those things. But tonight, it was chocolate-and-walnut cookies. They are the shit if I do say so myself.”

  Her lips twitched again. “As great as that sounds, I’m going to have to pass.”

  “Maybe later then?”

  “Maybe.” She stepped back, reaching for the door. “Well, it’s good seeing you again, Cameron.”

  “Cam,” I corrected. “And hey, we didn’t almost run each other over. Look at us, changing up the pattern.”

  “That’s a good thing.” She took a deep breath. “You should get back before Raphael pees on your hand.”

  “Would be worth it.”

  Confusion marked her features. “Why?”

  I sure as hell wasn’t going to explain it. “If you change your mind, I’ll be up for a while.”

  “I’m not going to. Good night, Cam.”

  Ouch. Damn. Shortcake just dismissed my ass. For some reason, that made me smile. Maybe because I couldn’t remember the last time a girl outright sent me away. Interesting. Here I thought I was incredibly charming.

  I took a step back as Raphael poked his head out of his shell. “See you tomorrow.”


  “Astronomy class? Or are you skipping again?”

  “No,” she sighed, flushing, and I couldn’t help but wonder how far that flush traveled south. The likelihood of me finding out seemed very slim. “I’ll be there.”

  “Great.” I forced myself to back away, because I was pretty sure I could stand there for an hour just to mess with her. “Good night, Avery.”

  Shortcake ducked behind the door like Raphael was about to pee on her head. I chuckled when I heard the lock click in place. I don’t know how long I stood there while Raphael’s little legs flailed, staring at the closed door.

  “What are you doing, Cam?”

  I turned at the sound of Steph’s voice. She stood in the doorway, head tilted against the frame, smiling and the picture of willingness. Unlike the girl on the other side of the door I stood in front of.

  “I don’t know,” I said, heading back to my apartment. I really didn’t have a friggin’ clue.


  I’d never been a morning person, but today, I was up at the butt crack of dawn, having only slept a few hours. While Ollie was still passed out on the couch, facedown, one arm flung toward the floor, I boiled four eggs, ate them, and scooped up some cookies for the road.

  Ollie still hadn’t moved when I slammed the door shut behind me.

  I arrived on campus, weirdly early for probably the first time in my life, and headed into the Robert Byrd Building. Once inside the astronomy class, my gaze immediately started scanning the room.

  If I were Shortcake, where would I sit? Probably in the back of the class.

  I searched out a familiar bowed head. In the dimly lit classroom, her hair wasn’t as red as it was in the sunlight. Why I even noticed that was beyond me. And why I headed straight for her went straight over my head.

  In middle school, I had a crush on this girl in my class. She was a lot like Shortcake—tiny, rarely spoke, nervous as one of those small dogs that shook all the time. But when she smiled, the fucking sun seemed to rise. She never gave me the time of day, but like a goober, I looked forward to seeing her every day. Turned out in high school, she liked girls and not boys, which probably explained why she had absolutely no interest in me.

  Sliding my hand up the strap of my book bag, I could easily admit it would be hella disappointing if that were the case with Shortcake.

  I strolled up on Avery, and she had no idea I was even there. Shoulders rolled forward, right hand toying with the bracelet on her left wrist. She was staring straight ahead, the taut expression on her face telling me that she might be physically present, but she wasn’t in this room.

  Was Shortcake ever relaxed? Didn’t seem that way.

  I glanced up at the front of the class, where a few people I knew were sitting. That’s where I should go. Instead, I eased my way down the row of seats. Shortcake still hadn’t registered I was there.

  “Morning, sweetheart,” I said, deciding against sitting down first.

  Shortcake jerked like a startled cat, twisting in the seat. Her jaw dropped as her eyes made contact with me. She said nothing as I slid into the seat next to her and settled back.

  “You look a little rough this morning,” I commented.

  Her lips pursed. “Thanks.”

  “You’re welcome. Glad to see you make it to class this time.” I scooted down, kicking my feet up on the seat in front of me. “Though, I kind of missed the whole running-into-each-other thing. Provided a lot of excitement.”

  “I don’t miss that.” She started digging around in her bag, pulling out a pristine notebook. I couldn’t remember the last time I bought a new notebook for class. I believed in recycling them. “That was really embarrassing.”

  “It shouldn’t have been.”

  “Easy for you to say. You’re the one who got plowed. I was doing the plowing.”

  My mouth dropped open as a laugh caught in my throat, but then my brain took the word “plowing” to the gutter, and I had to spread my thighs a little to get comfortable. There were so many things I could do with that comment. They all rushed to the tip of my tongue. Some would burn the ears off of strippers, but one look at Shortcake told me that would not go over well.

  Her face was as red as the cover of the notebook she was currently staring at. The chick . . . damn, she was so awkward—endearingly awkward. I wondered if she was homeschooled through high school.

  While her awkwardness was damn cute and entertaining, I searched for something way off topic to say. “Raphael is doing great, by the way.”

  A small grin appeared on those pretty lips. “That’s good to hear. Did he pee on your hand?”

  “No, but it was a close call. Brought you something.”

  “Turtle pee?”

  I laughed, amused by her quickness as I pulled out the syllabus, spying the cookies I’d brought with me. “Sorry to let you down, but no. It’s a syllabus. I know. Thrilling shit right here, but figured since you didn’t come to class on Monday, you’d need one, so I got it from the professor.”

  “Thank you. That was really thoughtful.”

  “Well, prepare yourself. I am all kinds of thoughtful this week. I brought you something else.”

  She started chewing on the edge of her pen as I pulled out the napkin. “Cookie for you. Cookie for me.”

  Slowly lowering the pen, she shook her head. “You didn’t have to do that.”

  I didn’t bring her a gold ring. “It’s just a cookie, sweetheart.”

  Her head shook again as she stared at me. You’d think I was handing her crack or something. Sighing, I covered one of the cookies with the napkin and unceremoniously dropped the cookie on top of her notebook. “I know they say you shouldn’t take candy from strangers, but it’s a cookie and not candy and technically, I’m not a stranger.”

  She stared at me.

  Watching her from under my lashes, I took a bite of the other cookie and closed my eyes. I tipped my head back as the chocolate-covered walnuts danced over my taste buds. I moaned, knowing exactly what I was doing. My cookies were damn good, so the next sound I made wasn’t an overexaggeration.

  “Is it really that good?” she asked.

  “Oh, yeah, this is the shit. I told you that last night. Be better if I had some milk.” I took another bite. “Mmm, milk.”

  In the following silence, I opened one eye and fought a grin. She was watching me, lips slightly parted. “It’s the combination of walnut and
chocolate. You mix that together and it’s like an explosion of sex in your mouth, but not as messy. The only thing better would be those teeny tiny Reese’s cups. When the dough is warm, you plop those suckers in. . . . Anyway, you just need to try it. Take a small bite.”

  Her gaze dropped to the cookie in her lap and she let out a low breath. Picking up a cookie, she took a bite.

  I couldn’t stop watching her. “Good? Right?”

  She nodded.

  “Well, I have a whole ton of them at home. Just saying . . .” My gaze was riveted on her. Who knew watching a girl eat a cookie could be so interesting? As she wiped her slender fingers off, I moved without thinking.

  The warmth of my knee brushing hers traveled up my leg as I twisted in the seat, reached over, and took the napkin from her. “Crumb.”


  With my empty hand, I smoothed my thumb along her bottom lip. A jolt of something zinged up my arm and went straight to my cock. She stilled, her chest rising sharply and eyes widening. My hand lingered longer than it should have, but not as long as I wanted. Her lip was soft under my finger, her chin smooth against my palm. I forced myself to pull away.

  There hadn’t been a damn crumb on her lip. I was a liar. But I wanted to touch her.

  “Got it.” I smiled.

  She looked flustered. Not upset, but unnerved. I tried to feel some level of guilt for touching her but couldn’t. I wasn’t sure what that said about me.

  But then Professor Drage finally entered the front of the classroom. Drage was an odd fella. The green polyester suit was a staple. When I took this class the first time around, he used to mix up his wardrobe with an orange one. The checkered Vans and bow tie hadn’t changed in years.

  I shifted in the seat, glancing over at Shortcake. The look on her face was priceless. I chuckled. “Professor Drage is a very . . . unique man.”

  “I can see,” she murmured.

  Professor Drage launched into a lecture. I wasn’t sure what it was about. Honestly, I wasn’t paying attention. Most of this stuff I already knew and hearing the shit again reminded me of my freshman year, something I didn’t like to dwell on.

  One night had completely fucked up the path of my life.