Hate to Love You, Page 2Tijan
heard a, “Well, damn” from him.
Becs inclined her head toward me. “Are you saying I don’t have a real opinion?”
“I’m not saying it to be mean, but that’s what you said. And that’s my opinion on what you said.”
“Excuse me?” Her lips thinned.
“You’re pro-life because your family’s religious.” I held my hands out toward her. “You said it yourself.” I looked at Aby, but she already knew what was coming. She started to shift back in her seat. “You said the same thing. Your dad is a pastor, and you can’t think a different way. I’m not sure about the whole boyfriend thing, but you still used your dad as your defining point.” I leaned back in my seat.
See. I still had some of the lawyer spark in me. Not enough to keep going with these classes, but it was there.
Linde started laughing.
I turned to him. “How about you? What’s your opinion since Mr. Reporter is pleading the fifth?”
“Uh.” His laughter dried up, and his eyes shifted among all of us. “I guess,” he tugged at his shirt’s collar, “I’m pro-choice.” His head dipped just slightly to the right, as if to say, “There, I said it.” Then he turned to the other girls. “My sister was raped. She didn’t want to have his kid when she was fourteen. So, yeah”—his eyes flicked to mine again—“I’m pro-choice, because there’s no way I’m going against my little sister and the guilt and torment she feels every day because some dick decided to force his inside her.”
I didn’t spare a look at Becs or Aby. I felt a flash of remorse for forcing the matter, but the professor called time. We had to go around and present our discussion. When it came to us, Shay stood. “We came to a deadlock.”
The professor folded his arms over his stomach. “You have five members. How could there be a deadlock?”
Shay glanced to me before saying, “Two for life. Two for choice. And one person who doesn’t have an opinion yet.”
I felt surprise from the two girls, but for some reason, I wasn’t surprised he was pro-choice. I glanced at Linde. I never would’ve imagined what his opinion had been just by looking at him.
As if feeling my attention, he looked over and dipped his head in a nod.
There it was.
I got what so many guys coveted from a starting football player at Dulane University. The nod of respect.
I grinned back, and he matched it.
My chin lifted an inch higher.
I just made my first friend in poli-sci, but my enjoyment was short-lived.
The professor announced, “Okay. Good discussion. Now exchange numbers and information with your group members. This is the group you’re going to be doing your final presentation with at the end of the semester. It’s one-third of your grade.”
I groaned and let my head fall to my desk.
Shay’s laughter fell down on me. He leaned close to my ear, whispering, “Look at that. More to look forward to.” He patted my back. “Thanks, Clarke. I knew this class wasn’t going to be boring.”
I suddenly had a bad taste in my mouth.
My reservations were up the day I met my roommate. Again—bad memories from high school, but the initial meeting went fine.
Her name was Missy.
She had a round, pimply face with a large forehead. Almost coarse-like black hair hung down past her shoulders. She was a couple inches shorter than me and quiet. Good gracious, she was quiet, but she laughed when she found out I had never watched Titanic.
She could quote the entire thing. And shocker, her bin of movies were chick flicks.
We looked at mine: all action-adventure.
She turned her nose up at Gladiator.
The similarities ended there—the fact that we both liked some (I’m being generous with that word) movies.
Her best friend and the best friend’s cousin also lived in our dorm. I went once to an ice cream shop with them and saw the pity in their eyes when Missy relayed the lack of Titanic in my life. I was put in the help category. Meaning, they thought I needed help and I was no longer in their group because it’s obvy I’m weird.
Dirty Dancing, A Walk to Remember, Hope Floats, and so many other movies were the repertoire of their conversation. I wasn’t allowed in. There were inside jokes, inside quotes, even a weird inside-type of laugh.
The one friend I did have was Kristina. She was a gift from above, though she lived two floors below, and I always jumped at her movie night invite.
Sometimes, I was tempted to ask how high, but I refrained. She wouldn’t have gotten the joke.
See, I could have my own inside jokes. Take that, snotty roommate and two friends.
Insert karate chop here.
Kristina had a heart-shaped face and short, auburn hair. She was nice, really and truly nice, and she was gorgeous. A small chin under plush lips and hazel eyes, mixed with an infectious laugh, and if she hadn’t come to college with a steady boyfriend, she would’ve been “wifed up” real quick.
Even now, after leaving poli-sci and seeing her standing by the post before the food court, there was a handful of guys giving her the double look. They looked, turned away, and had to look back. A couple narrowed their eyes, saw the ring on her finger, and turned back to their friends.
I shook my head as I drew abreast. “That promise ring Abram gave you was a stroke of genius.”
She lifted her head from her book and frowned. “What?”
Reaching into my backpack for my ID, I gestured to her finger. “You would’ve got hit up if it wasn’t on.”
“Oh.” She rolled her eyes before ducking her head down. “I’m sure it didn’t. And it isn’t a promise ring. It’s just—” Her finger fiddled with it. “I don’t know. It was an ‘I love you’ gift.”
I nodded. “And it works. Everyone knows someone loves you.” I coughed into my fist. “I.e., you’re taken.”
She laughed. “Stop, Kennedy.”
Then her eyes trailed behind me and rounded. She sucked in a breath.
It was like I knew.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood, though not from fear. From a different emotion, and I ignored it. I ignored the delicious shiver that wound down my spine because that didn’t make sense, but I knew who had come up behind me. I felt him, and because of that, I was on edge right away.
A low and smooth chuckle. That voice was a caress in and of itself. I was sure a few panties were melting in our close proximity.
I rotated around. Instead of the smirk I assumed would be tugging at his lips, he wore a serious expression. It made his eyes even more smoldering, if that were possible.
He held out a hand.
I looked at it, saw it was empty, and brought my eyes back to his. “Yes?”
“Give me your phone.” His hand didn’t move. “You didn’t exchange numbers with anyone.”
I moved back a step. “Why?”
“I live off-campus. You’re not going to be able to look me up in the school directory.”
He had a point.
“I’ll look you up on Facebook or Snapchat.”
“No, you won’t. Give me your phone.”
I felt it being pulled out of my pocket, and I was too late. Kristina wore a smug grin as she quickly coded in my password and then handed it over. “Here. It’s all ready for you.”
“Hey!” I tried to grab it, but Shay moved in, blocking me with his back. I ended up pressed against him and bit back a growl. It was as if he was an athlete or something in how quickly he moved. My hands rested against his back, and I felt his muscles tense there, shifting under his shirt. He typed in his information, but paused to grin over his shoulder. “Feel free to explore more. I won’t turn down a quick grope.”
I pulled my hands back as if I’d been burned. I shifted to the right, but he moved with me. He continued to block me as he finished and then handed the phone back to Kristina. “Thank you for the ass
“You’re welcome.” She held her hand out. “Kristina Collins.”
He shook it, starting, “Shay Co—”
“—Coleman.” She laughed. “Trust me. My roommate and friends are fully aware of who you are.” She looked at me. “I wasn’t aware you were friends with Kennedy, though.” She made it sound like I’d been holding back tickets for the Super Bowl.
“Oh.” Shay shifted back, coming aside me again, and threw his arm around my shoulder. A girl gasped a few feet away. He pulled me against his side. “We’re good friends. You’ll be seeing more of me. Trust me.” He released me, but not before his hand skimmed down my back and rested on my ass. He patted me, leaning in and whispering, “A grope for a grope, right?” He swatted me there and headed off, chuckling under his breath.
I ignored the attention we had garnered.
Kristina hit me on the shoulder. “Kennedy! You know Shay Coleman?”
I grimaced, turning for the food court. “No. I technically don’t.”
“That didn’t look like you were strangers to me. He touched your ass.”
I repressed a shudder. “Don’t remind me.” A line had formed for the cafeteria, and we stood at the end. “And I meant it. Today’s the first day I’ve ever talked to him. We got put in a group for discussion.”
“Why’d he give you his number?”
“Because we have to do a final presentation at the end of the semester.” I saw the excitement forming. “The whole group, not just us two.”
“But still.” She reached for my arm. “Sarah, Laura, and Casey are going to go nuts over this. Casey, especially. She’s been fawning over him since the first football game.”
I didn’t need to be reminded about that, either.
Casey was Kristina’s roommate, and the other two were friends from Kristina’s school. Where Kristina was more reserved, she didn’t drink (that much) and had a steady boyfriend—the others were not. Casey was another “it” girl. And she was single. After the first day of orientation, she had guys calling at all hours of the day. She, Laura, and Sarah divided their time between their own dorm and the guys’.
We had a no-boys-sleeping-over policy in our dorm, but Sarah and Laura had already broken that four times that I knew of. Casey stayed with them those nights. And I only knew of those four times because I’d been watching a movie with Kristina when Casey came in for booze reinforcements. She always smiled and offered an invite to party with them, but I was too chicken shit to risk being caught.
We hadn’t even gotten to homecoming yet.
The four formed a clique, and while I wasn’t really in the clique, I hung out with them on occasion. I was Kristina’s friend, but she was the type who was friendly with everyone. If this had been high school, I would’ve given up because Kristina would’ve had thirty other friends. I was lucky. I got her the first week of college when she didn’t have umpteen friends already. Besides the other three, I knew Kristina considered me one of her closest gal pals at college.
I needed it. I needed her. My other option was my stuffy roommate and her friends.
I frowned. Maybe I was the problem?
I shook my head and moved forward with the line. That couldn’t be the case. I oozed warmth. I drew people to me like sap to bears. Come and eat me, animals.
My lip twitched.
Even my own jokes were pathetic.
“Wait a minute.” Kristina had been watching me. Her eyes narrowed. “You’re not going to tell them, are you?”
I glanced back, the same incredulous look on my face that she’d given me when Shay first walked away. “You’re kidding, right? There’s no way I’m telling them.”
They’d want his number. They’d want me to call him. They’d want me to talk to him.
They’d want to use me. This was not going to be high school all over again.
I had rules: no hot boys and no drama. This was a new year, new school, and a new me.
I was going to study my ass off and not get swept up in everything extracurricular.
I clipped my head side to side. “I’m not using his number, and he’s right. I’m not answering if he calls.” That made me look like a brat, but I had alarms going off. Big, huge, red alarms and there’s a reason I instantly didn’t like Shay. I was listening to those alarms. The last time I hadn’t, well, it hadn’t been pretty. It’d been a disaster.
“How are you going to get in contact about meeting for your project?”
“Linde.” I’d already formed my plan as I was walking out of the classroom.
“Raymond Linde. He’s an offensive lineman.” Thank you to my brother for that random fact. “And he’s also in the group. We’re pals.” He nodded at me. Same thing. “I’ll train Shay so that if he wants to talk to me, he’ll have to go through Linde to do it.”
Her eyes narrowed, and she stepped behind me as we entered the cafeteria. “Shay Coleman doesn’t strike me as the type to be trained. He’s the type who would do the training.”
I handed my card to the clerk, and as it was swiped, I said to Kristina, “Well”—I took my card back—“he’s never met me before.”
Then I stepped forward.
My stomach growled at the first smell of that ice cream bar, and I headed right for it.
My priorities were in place.
I had to see Shay twice more during the week since our classes fell on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, but both of us escaped alive. We weren’t forced into group discussions, and the one time we had to pair up with someone, Linde signaled for me right away.
See, we were friends.
It was around three that Friday afternoon when I was heading back to my dorm. I was passing along behind the art building, going down the sidewalk where it curved to the right and would pass through a bunch of trees, and then into my dorm. The whole campus was set up like that. There were trees everywhere. They hid most of the buildings, so you constantly felt like you were walking in a forest until your sidewalk dipped into whatever building was your stop.
I was six feet from my clearing when I heard my name being called.
I tensed, but no. That wasn’t Shay. That wasn’t his voice, and an instant scowl formed because I did recognize that voice.
My brother was standing behind some trees, waving at me.
I hurried my pace. “Gage. What are you doing here?” I pushed him deeper into the trees and looked over my shoulder. The walkway was clear. My shoulders sagged in relief. I gave his chest a good whack. “First rule of Clarke Club. We don’t know each other.”
He rolled his eyes, running a hand through dark brown hair, which was the same shade as mine. We had the same dark eyes, too. He was a year older, but people thought we were fraternal twins. Gage liked to joke he was the smart one, and I was the dumb one who got held back a year. I smacked him in the back of the head whenever he said that, and I was considering doing the same thing here. He knew not to come to my dorm. I’d been adamant about that.
Being used in high school was out of my control. I did ask my mom when I was in eighth grade if I could switch my high school, but the only other one within driving distance was a private one, which got a big, firm nope. Her lips popped saying that word. We didn’t have the money for even a semester, much less the uniforms and all the other expenses that would’ve come with it.
But I had control now, and the first rule of being Gage and Kennedy Clarke: we pretended we didn’t know each other.
It was a subset of rule number two: no drama.