Hate to love you, p.4
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       Hate to Love You, p.4
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           Tijan

  it’d make the situation better.

  No, that wasn’t true. I did care, but then I thought about how the night would’ve gone. I’d take them there. They’d probably ditch me. Then I’d be expected to be around in case they needed a ride home.

  If I had to come off as a bitch, then so be it. It was better than getting walked all over. No one was there for you when that happened.

  “Did you finish all your studies this weekend?”

  “No. We’re going to the library. I was going to ask if you wanted to come.”

  I didn’t say anything, waiting for her to explain who else was going.

  She chuckled, shaking her head. “Casey’s going to be there, and she’s probably going to have a few words to say to you.”

  I was going to decline, but then I heard someone coming to the door. Both Kristina and I turned, waiting for the door to open. It didn’t. Instead, my roommate’s muffled voice said to someone else, “I don’t know. I think she’s in the computer lab downstairs.” She laughed as the doorknob started to twist. “It isn’t like she has a life.”

  She opened the door and took one step inside.

  Her eyes went to Kristina first, and then her head rotated like a robot’s to me.

  I narrowed my eyes. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t heard that before.

  Holly stepped behind Missy, and my roommate’s face drained of color. “Uh . . .”

  I stood and spoke stiffly, “I’m going to the library.”

  She seemed to be holding her breath. The air was strained and awkward. Kristina moved around them as if she were tiptoeing past a mouse, one that scared the crap out of her. Holly’s hands rested on my roommate’s shoulders, and I could feel both of them share a look as I stuffed my backpack with my laptop and books.

  “Um.” Holly coughed, an uneasy laugh stuck in her throat. “Kenz, hey—”

  I pulled on the bag’s zipper harder than I needed, cutting her off. Slinging it on my shoulder, I turned back around and narrowed my eyes. I ignored Holly, only having words for my roommate. “I don’t have to explain myself to you or why I’m alone at times, but if you think you can laugh at me, you’re delusional. Tell me one thing. How’d you be if you didn’t come to the same college as your best friend and her cousin? My guess is that either you’d scurry back home or you’d find someone else to latch on to. Now, excuse me. I have to go to the library because I don’t have a life.”

  I swung past, purposely clipping Holly in the shoulder with my bag. Missy was too short.

  Kristina was waiting in the hallway, and we started down the back stairs, which were the closest exit. I could feel the weight of the atmosphere around us, her sympathy piling on top of it. After going through the door to her floor, she gave me one of those pitying looks.

  “I’m sorry—”

  I shook my head. “She just proved what my gut has been saying the whole time.” I gave her a tired grin. “She’s a weak bitch.”

  She laughed, opening her door.

  Casey, Laura, and Sarah were inside, and they stopped laughing as we walked in.

  “I have a bone to—”

  I cut her off, too. I was on a roll. “Would you have asked me to go with you if Sarah had been here?”

  She stopped, and her face twisted up.

  The answer was her silence. “That’s why I didn’t go with you.” I dropped my bag onto the floor and slumped down on the edge of Kristina’s bed. “I’m not a backup.”

  Her mouth shut with an audible clicking sound, and she hung her head. “I see.” She swallowed, glancing to her friends, neither of which seemed to know what to say.

  Just like upstairs and just like walking back with Kristina, the air was heavy. Too heavy. I grabbed my bag and stood. “Maybe I’ll just see you guys there?” But it wasn’t really a question as I breezed past Kristina.

  “Wai—”

  She started to follow me down the hallway, and I turned around. I held my hand up. “I’m worked up, and I might say something I don’t want to regret later. It’s better if I go now. Trust me. I’ll be on the second floor if you want to come find me. If you don’t”—I lifted my shoulders—“that’s fine, too.”

  The front desk attendant, Shay’s friend, was there, but I didn’t feel like talking. Thankfully, three girls were talking to her, so she was busy, and I slipped past them.

  The library was busy.

  That was normal for a Sunday evening. Friday and Saturday were for fun. Sunday was for last-minute studying. After going through the main door, I went through another small hallway that housed a small coffee cart, and then through another set of doors. Four detectors were set up for everyone to walk through. The large front desk was immediately to my left. There was a large computer lab across the main floor with glass doors that separated it from the rest of the library. People could be louder in there, and it was where a lot of people met to work in group projects. The rest of the library was a mishmash of computers, individual studying nooks and crannies, and bookshelves everywhere. There were a bunch of tables set up on the main floors, and each floor held study rooms lined against the walls with similar glass doors separating them from the rest of the library.

  When Casey, Laura, and Sarah came to the library, they picked a table in the large computer lab or a table out in the middle of the main floor. It was still the rule to be quiet, but there was leeway given to those tables, and that was why they only sat there. They came to the library to somewhat study, but mainly to socialize or see if they could get answers from any of their party friends.

  Kristina was prone to seek out a quiet place for studying, so thirty minutes later when she found me at my own table on the second floor, I wasn’t too surprised.

  “Let me guess.” I grunted, grinning with a pen between my teeth. I took it out. “They’re talking more than studying?”

  She sighed, sliding into a seat across from me. “They’re still at the dorm.”

  “What?”

  She rolled her eyes. “Casey felt bad. They were going to stop and get food to bring to you as a peace offering, but some guys showed up, and they went downstairs to study instead.”

  My grin was back. “And they wouldn’t shut up so you decided to come without them?”

  “I was coming anyway. It isn’t your fault Casey was insensitive, and she does feel bad.” She leaned closer. “I know my friends come off a certain way, but they can be really sweet sometimes. They don’t mean to be mean.” She waited a beat. “Most of the time.”

  I laughed, was hushed by someone we couldn’t see, and clamped my mouth shut. “Thank you for coming,” I whispered before picking my pen back up and returning to my notes.

  Kristina and I fell into an easy routine.

  I was caught up for the week, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t get ahead, and poli-sci was a class I really needed the help. The boringness of it wasn’t exaggerated. Even my eye sockets wanted to be ripped out if I had to go over any more laws.

  We studied for an hour before Kristina got up for a bathroom break and to get coffee. When she returned, I went for a walkabout. That was what I called it when I just needed to get up and stretch my legs. I was doing my walkabout past the front entryway, considering if I wanted to get some soda or just go straight for the coffee cart. It was around nine at night, but I had a feeling I’d be up late anyway. My mind made up, I stepped through the detectors when I noticed someone standing just beyond the outside doors. There was a girl there, reading a book. No, wait. She was pretending to read a book. Her eyes were on someone else near her, but when she saw I noticed her, her head lowered back to her book. I looked at whomever she’d been watching. They were on the other side of the library doors, their back to me as they talked to someone else.

  Shit.

  I averted my eyes instantly. I knew who the girl had been watching, and I started counting down the seconds while I had to wait for my coffee.

  I wanted to get it, pay for it, and be gone before Shay came past me
.

  There were other students behind me in line, so if anything, I hoped to blend in with the crowd, and he’d walk right past.

  He was still outside talking when my coffee was handed over to me. I took it, having already paid, and was about to head back into the library when a hand grabbed my free wrist.

  “Hey!”

  Shay ignored me, dragging me outside at a clipped pace.

  “What are you doing?” I asked once we were out there and looked around for whomever he’d been talking to. I was surprised to see no one. “Whom were you talking to?”

  He ignored that question and pointed into the library. “You have your books and stuff close by?”

  “No. Why?”

  “We have a pop quiz tomorrow.”

  He wasn’t joking. His face was dead serious, and that smoldering effect was back in place. I ignored the twisting of my stomach. “How do you know?”

  “Because the girl I was just talking to saw the quizzes. She was in Professor Muller’s office just now.”

  “But that doesn’t mean it’s tomorrow.”

  He held his hands out. “Who the fuck cares? Let’s study, just in case.”

  “Let’s? As in you and me?” Uh-uh. No way. I turned to go back inside.

  “Yes. You and me.” He grabbed me and hauled me back. “And Linde and some of the other guys. We’re all doing a round robin study thing at the house.”

  “What house?”

  My stomach dropped to my feet. He couldn’t be talking about the football house, not where he and some of the players lived. Where I knew Casey wanted to party because she wanted to seduce Shay. Where I knew she’d keel over in jealousy if she found out I was going there to study, because that was quality time. That wasn’t drunk time. That wasn’t party and less-than-meaningful time.

  I swallowed. Oh, Lord.

  I wasn’t normally nervous about being around guys, and I was nervous now.

  “I’m here with a friend.”

  “That girl from the food court?”

  I nodded.

  “Ask her to come with.”

  My neck was so stiff. Why was I doing this? But on wooden legs, I went back inside. I ignored the curious looks of those still waiting at the coffee cart and made the trek to our table. Kristina looked up, saw my near-state of panic, and asked, “What’s wrong?”

  I began packing my stuff. “Um.” The computer had to be turned off first. “I ran into Shay.”

  “What?”

  It was stuffed into the bag. My books were next. I reached for my notebook last. “Yeah. He said we have a surprise pop quiz tomorrow.”

  “Surprise?”

  “I guess.”

  She cocked her head to the side. “Why are you sweating?”

  “Shay wants me to go to his place and study with him and the guys.” My throat was parched, too. “Would you come with me?”

  Her eyes rounded to ovals, and she laughed to herself as she began to pack her own things. “You’re inviting me to a place that my roommate is almost stalking because she wants to be invited to one of their parties, and you’re acting like I’m doing you a favor?”

  “You can’t tell her you went.”

  She finished and stood, pulling her backpack on. “If I did, she’d be up my ass asking how I got an invite. I don’t even know if she’d believe me.”

  I gave her a grateful smile. “Thank you.”

  She shook her head, laughing wryly. “You really don’t have to thank me. For real.”

  Shay was lounging against a bike lock post when we came out. The girl who’d been watching him was gone, too. His legs were stretched out and his hands were in his pockets. He straightened and gave Kristina a nod. “Thanks for coming.” He gestured to me with his head. “I don’t think she would’ve come, otherwise.”

  That same laugh slipped from her, softer. “You’re both thanking me. This is classic, just . . . classic.”

  His eyes found me, growing wary again. “My car is parked around the corner in the library parking lot. Do you trust me enough for a ride? Or are you going to follow me to the house?”

  I glanced to Kristina, but she shook her head. It was my decision to make.

  If we took my car, I’d have to go back to my dorm room. Kristina would go with me. We could run into Casey or the others, and they’d want to know where we were going. Not to mention that I’d have to see my roommate if she was in the room.

  For once, Shay was the easier choice.

  I motioned ahead. “Lead the way.”

  Shay drove a black Jeep Wrangler. I didn’t know what I was expecting him to drive, but I stopped short when he unlocked the doors and the lights flashed. It was a two-seater so Kristina was able to climb into the back seat. I had an irrational urge to pull her back and slip back there myself.

  I did not want to go to Shay’s house, but he said Linde was there. And it was a smart idea to study with others. I did need all the help I could get. There wasn’t a case where someone could get too much help.

  Shay opened his door, but when I didn’t move to follow Kristina inside, he paused, irritation flashing for a brief second in his smoldering eyes. “What’s the verdict, Clarke? Having second thoughts? Thinking maybe this is all a ruse to kill you?”

  I gulped. “I didn’t till now.” My mind was going to race with that thought. I groaned, tipping my head back and marching past him to the passenger door. “If you try to kill me, I will gut you and rip your balls off, Coleman.”

  His low and smooth chuckle followed me as I passed him, and I swear that it got inside me. I could feel it under my skin. I climbed in, gritting my teeth, and shut the door closed with a little more oomph than was needed.

  He got in and watched me from the corner of his eye as he started the engine.

  As he drove out of the parking lot, I looked out the window, but only one thought kept racing through my mind.

  Why did I feel this guy inside me so much?

  I didn’t know what to expect from the football house.

  It was an older house, three stories tall, and Shay parked in the front. We walked around to the back, and we went in through the back door, Linde raised an arm. A loud cheer filled the room.

  “Clarke’s in the house!” He came over, bent down, and hoisted me over his shoulder. “Now we can really study!”

  I lifted my head and saw Kristina. She had a dazed expression on her face.

  Shay moved around us, rolling his eyes before slapping me on the ass. “Okay. Put her down. We know you’re ripped up and ready to memorize. We don’t want to scare off the girls.”

  “Oh.” Linde was breathing heavily as he set me back down. His eyes were glazed as he smiled at me. “Sorry about that. Just excited to have my pal here.” He blinked a few times, and then realized I wasn’t the only girl present. He stuck his hand out. “I’m Raymond Linde. Who are you?”

  “Uh.” Kristina was slower to shake his hand, but she did. “Kristina Collins.”

  He turned to look at me and then back to her. “You’re friends with Clarke here?”

  She nodded, some nervous laughter slipping from her.

  I scoffed, going to the end of the table where there were open chairs. “Why do you sound surprised?”

  Shay snorted, going by me to the kitchen.

  “Uh.” Linde scooped up his books and joined us at the end. He plopped down across from me, pulling out the empty chair by him and patting its seat for Kristina. She sat, moving slowly, as he said to me, “You’re not the friendliest, Clarke.”

  I couldn’t—no, no, I could. I shrugged, giving that to him. “Yes, I’ve been told.”

  Linde added, “We know better. We can tell you’re a chill chick, but other idiots won’t see through your whole charade.” He waved his hand in the air, motioning toward me. “They’ll actually think you’re a bitch, but we know better. You’re all soft inside, aren’t
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