Someone to Love, page 2
He nods into me. “You’re going to have to crash here a few nights, just until I get everything squared away with the housing department. Turns out I didn’t get your name in on time.” He rolls his eyes as if little details like that were annoyingly unimportant. “But you’re on a waiting list—put you there myself.”
“What?” A thread of panic spikes through me. “I’m homeless?” It comes out more of a whimper than a question.
“No.” He begins to sway because clearly, he’s wasted out of his irresponsible mind. “When school opens up again, we’ll get this whole stupid thing straightened out.”
“This whole stupid thing?” I’m so ticked I’m ready to douse him with the contents of his bright red Solo. “School doesn’t open for another three weeks,” I squawk. “I was supposed to get settled, not arrested for trespassing. I can’t stay here.” I fan my arms out at the debauchery just as a dark-haired boy pukes in the center of the room.
“Suit yourself.” He starts walking away. “Hey, my mom invited you to dinner Christmas eve.” He gives a thumbs up before melting into the crowd. Pennington Thurston Alexander the Third is an ass of the highest order. And with a name like that, who could really blame him?
What to do?
What to freaking do!
I guess there’s always Aunt Jackie. She’s not my real aunt and I’ve yet to see or speak to her. All I know is that she and my mother were besties growing up and kept in touch over the years. They both went to Garrison and now her unreliable spawn and I are following in their footsteps. I guess I could shake Pennington down for her number. I’m sure she wouldn’t want me seeking shelter on park benches or vomit-riddled frat rooms. Although, I’m not too enthused with the idea of shacking up with the elders, either. I’ve been dreaming of having the full collegiate experience ever since I received my acceptance letter back in May. Having to wait until winter seemed bad enough already.
I scan the room for Lauren and Ally. Surely they have a couch I can crash on tonight and maybe the next three weeks—at this point, I’d take the next three days. I pick up my pace and begin circling the room. Lauren cackles from the entry, and I catch them heading outside.
“Wait!” I bolt for my suitcase before maneuvering toward the door, but navigating my way out of this human maze is like moving boulders.
I make it to the porch, and the cool dew baptizes me with the scent of night jasmine. My suitcase bounces out of the house from behind and slices a nice, clean gash into my ankle.
“Pennington!” Somehow shouting his name as an expletive makes the situation a little more bearable.
I look up in time to see a black Jeep pull away with Ally in the passenger’s seat.
“Great.” I let out a hard sigh and clop down the rest of the stairs like I actually have someplace to go. In the distance an owl gives an eerie cry. The wind licks the wound at my ankle with its iced tongue and I shiver. I’ve never been alone like this before, in a strange town with nowhere to go. It’s as though I laid myself in a steel jaw trap and the cruel world were closing in on me with its nefarious arms.
A couple to my left laughs while locked in an embrace. It’s not until they pull away do I see it’s Cruise and a tall redhead wearing thigh-high boots and a miniskirt violating more than its fair share of public indecency laws.
He catches my eye and holds it a second before glancing down at my suitcase. My stomach explodes with heat at the sight of him. Cruise whispers something in her ear, inspiring me to turn away as if I were at a bus stop waiting for my invisible ride—only I’m not. I’m stuck at Garrison, at Alpha Sigma Phi no less—tomorrow is Christmas Eve, I’m homeless, and hungry, and my feet are pissed off and bleeding.
“Hey, Kenny.” Cruise swoops in and gleams a boastful smile.
I glance over in time to catch the girl in the thigh-highs making her way back to the party.
I give a private smile at the thought of Cruise striking out so close to midnight.
“I would have pegged her for a homerun,” I say.
“She was.” He gives a lopsided grin and takes a hold of my suitcase. “But I’d rather grab a bite with you.”
The moon glows overhead clear as a streetlamp, making the clouds look like black paper cutouts against the navy expanse. The sky threatens us with rain, but since the heater is out at my place, with my luck, I’m betting on snow.
But, for whatever reason, my run of bad juju seems to have temporarily halted because a goddess by the name of Kendall Jordan is sitting in my truck with one hell of a banging hot bod. And, holy shit, would I ever love to bang that body. But she’s not the banging type. She made that abundantly clear when she accused my dick of having a “road show.” She’s funny as hell, though, I’ll give her that.
We pull into the Johnny Burgers lot, and I slow down as we pass the front.
“Drive-thru or dine in?” I ask, hinting at the game of Questions from earlier.
She leans over and inspects the place. Her hair drapes over her shoulder like a long black scarf, and her pale grey eyes glow like those of a cat. Instinctively, I want to reach over and touch her but resist the effort. I have a feeling I’ll be doing a lot of resisting around Kenny in the very near future. She’s not the type to voluntarily fall on her knees, and that alone makes me want her twice as bad.
I look over to the burger joint. The windows are painted with a snowy scene of Santa making his way down a chimney with burgers and fries bursting from his sack. Miles of holly garland outline the doors. I look for the mistletoe—no such luck.
Kenny blinks into the place with her long dark lashes, and the lights go out in the establishment before she can answer.
“I guess that’s drive-thru,” I say, pulling in and we place our orders. Kenny hasn’t said much, other than filling me in on Pennington’s housing botch up. I’m not used to quiet girls. Moaning girls—screaming girls, now that I’m used to. Quiet worries me, makes me feel as if I’m doing something wrong.
She reaches for her purse.
“No, I got it.” I pay the girl in the window before Kenny can mime the offer. I catch her inspecting me with what I’m hoping to God is lust but can just as easily be regret for ever setting foot in my truck, so I busy myself with putting away my wallet. “You’re so damn good-looking it borders on illegal.” I say it calm, more as a fact than something engineered to land her in bed. I think both me and my dick have come to terms with the fact Kenny Jordan isn’t choosing in tonight.
She blushes a severe shade of pomegranate, and a sharp bite of heat cuts through me. I can’t remember the last time I made a girl blush. Hell I didn’t know they could blush, at least not the man-eaters I associate myself with.
“Thank you, I think.” She averts her gaze out the blackened window.
I take in her pale skin, her perfect full lips and my heart pounds against my chest, telling me to knock this shit off or I might accidentally break it again.
The food comes through the window, so I hand Kenny the bags and drinks before heading to the overlook across the way. We can eat in peace on the cliff side with nothing but the Atlantic to distract us from ourselves.
“Where we going?” Her voice spikes as if she suddenly fears for her limbs.
“Just across the street.” I pull into the lot and land square in front of the wooden fence that separates us from a two hundred foot drop. “You can see the beach from here.” I take a quick swig of my soda. “So, where you from?”
“California. I love the beach. I practically grew up on one.” She plays with the thin gold chain around her neck while stretching her gaze over the waterline. “I’ve never been to Massachusetts before. It looks nice from what I can see of it.” She nods toward the windshield. “My mom really wanted me to get into Garrison.” She unbuckles her seatbelt and dips into the bag, handing me a burger. “You know”—she averts her eyes—“work on that M-R-S. Degree.” She gives a sexy gurgle when she says it. “At least that’s what she wants.”
“M-R-S, huh?” A tremble of laughter rattles through me. “Good luck with that.” I take a giant bite of the artery buster in my hand and wash it down with my drink. “Standing at the altar is the last place you’ll find me. I’m pretty sure I’m not getting married.” A knot twists in my gut as if maybe I shouldn’t have been so quick to shoot down any false matrimonial fantasies she might be entertaining—especially not if they involve me. I’m pretty sure I’d be happy to star in any damn fantasy she’s willing to put me in.
She plucks out the fries and offers me one, so I accept. There’s not a whole lot I wouldn’t accept from Kenny at the moment.
“No altar for you, huh? That’s because you’re a player.” She says it as fact.
I tick my head back a notch. “Who says I’m a player?”
I’m a player? Shit. I stare dumbfounded out the window a moment. That’s what I’ve become. I guess bedding my way through the Greek alphabet, by way of sorority girls, will do that to a person.
“Yes, you’re a player.” She looks up at me from under those I-double-dog-dare you-to-get-me-in-bed lashes as she sips from her shake.
My gaze dips for a moment, taking in her fully formed, round, incredibly soft-looking cleavage, and my dick perks to attention. I shift and place the bag over my lap in the event things decide to get viral in my Levis.
“I don’t need a roadmap.” She purrs it out low—all vixen and hell on heels. “You had ten girls hanging all over you tonight. I think one of them digested your left ear.”
I catch a glimpse of my slightly singed earlobe in the rearview mirror. “I think her name was Gina, and in her defense, she was offering a demonstration of what she could do with her mouth.” I tuck a smile in the side of my cheek, enjoying the color as it blooms over her face and makes her skin glow. “How about you? You play the game?” I ask mostly to see if I can get her to blush ten shades deeper, see if the color would bleed down her neck and light up her boobs like a pair of Christmas ornaments. Getting Kenny to emit an afterglow has become my mission in life. Besides, I already know that Kenny Jordon is far from a player, and unfortunately for me, that pretty much takes her out of the running for playmate. Too bad I’m not in the market for a girlfriend, if I were, I’d battle to the death to make sure it was her. “On second thought, don’t answer. There’s no way in hell you’d even know what to play with.” This time I bury the smile and go for the cardinal-coated gold. My body ignites with heat just watching her light up a deep velvet crimson.
Her mouth falls open. “No, I’m not a player.” She says it drawn out, incredulous at my taunt. “But I could be.” She crimps a smile, and a tiny dimple implodes in her left cheek. “If I wanted to.”
Hot fucking damn.
Her cleavage magically enlarges as she leans in, and suddenly I’m finding the need to readjust the bag over my lap.
“Although”—she touches her lower lip with her finger, sending my penis in full scale erotic assault mode—“I haven’t really even kissed anybody except for the time I was drunk at my senior graduation.”
“Really?” What the hell is wrong with the guys in California?
“Yeah, really.” She traces the outline of her lips with her finger.
I’d like to do that for her—with my tongue.
“So I guess that means you’re a virgin.” Shit. Did I just go there? Looks like it’s all systems go to make sure Kenny stays the hell away from me. Nothing like a little self-sabotage coupled with a jab at her virginity to make sure she’s safe from my “road show.” Kenny needs some nice kid to sweep her off her feet, not me. I’ve got chains dangling from my bedposts for God’s sake. Nope. There’s not one nice thing about me these days.
“It’s not a death sentence,” she scolds. “Besides, maybe I will take my mother’s unconventional advice. I could hang out with Pennington and see what happens.” She makes a face as if it’s the last thing on the planet she wants to do.
I swallow a laugh. “I’m pretty sure Pennington isn’t the one for you.”
She postures seductively as her hips grind into the seat. “Well, I have to start somewhere if I’m going to become the female version of you, don’t I?” She bites down on the smile waiting to take over as if she’s taunting me.
“Female version of me?” Intriguing concept, but I’m not buying it. I doubt she is either.
“Maybe I should turn things around for myself”—she gives an impish grin—“start taking advantage of all the fresh meat Garrison has to offer. You know, a social experiment.”
“Social experiment?” I hold back a laugh. If I didn’t know better I’d think she read my thesis. Has she read my thesis?
“Yeah, I can document my findings on what it feels like to become a female predator. They do exist, you know. The male species doesn’t own exclusive rights to sexual domination.”
“You want to sexually dominate.” I find this doubtful. Although if she’s hell-bent on diving into a cesspool of STDs, who am I to stop her? In fact, I might even introduce her to the chains a little sooner than anticipated. “And, by all means, I volunteer to do the documentation around here.” I’ll be published by fall.
“I could be the next big player at Garrison.” She says it, stunned by her own admission. “I bet I can give you a run for your money.”
“No you can’t.” I take a quick swig of my soda. No use in placating her with false ideals. A kitten like her would be eaten alive in the most extravagant sexual fashion if left to the rabid bears on campus.
“Well then, I’ll just have to prove you wrong.” Her neck arches in a seductive manner, paper-white and long like a pillar.
She accepts the challenge as if I just issued a dare. I should set her straight, release her from the bondage of ever becoming anything like me, but my mouth takes a U-turn.
“So, I guess you’ll need some pointers.” I start up the car and back out of the lot without giving my conscious a chance to weigh in on the matter.
She leans as the car moves and her chest swells out of her T-shirt, making me hungry for far more than food.
“Where we going?” she whispers, worried by my sudden interests to offer assistance, I’m sure.
“To my place.” I’ll have her running for the nearest convent by the time I’m through with her. “It’s time to get to bed.”
I watch as the moon lies over the water like a lover, the waves lapping the shore with their strange luminescent glow. Cruise weaves us down a deserted black highway with curtains of evergreens erect on either side. He’s driving me to a yet undisclosed location to which he gleefully confessed happens to house his mattress. And, I’m pretty sure after he has his way with me, there’s a good chance he’ll dismember my body.
I can’t believe how stupid I am to get in the car with a stranger. They say never let an abductor take you to a second location—not that I’ve technically been abducted since I willfully entered the vehicle. Although in my defense, plenty of abductees have crawled into the passenger’s side under the pretense of a burger and fries.
We drive out of civilization, just as I suspected, and into a black hole that eventually leads to a sign that reads, Carrington County, then another less prominent sign reading, Elton House, Bed and Breakfast.
“My mom runs the place,” he volunteers as we pull in. “It was passed down from my grandfather.” The muscles in his jaw tighten as he inspects the tall yellow structure. We turn down an offshoot and land in front of a small brick house tucked behind the B&B. “I have an extra room. The bathroom doesn’t have a lock, but I promise, I’ll knock up a storm before barging in—maybe.” He gives a devilish grin before killing the engine. “The room is yours if you want it, for as long as you need it.”
“Thank you.” I think. “But I don’t have any money for rent,” I confess. And I’m pretty sure my scholarship doesn’t cover shacking up with abnormally good-looking
“That’s all right. I’ll let you cook me breakfast in exchange for room and board.” He gravels it out as if he’s the meal in question. “We’ll call it even.”
I follow him to the tiny porch as he lugs my suitcase. The air is icy as an Arctic breeze, causing a cloud to form around our heads from the simple act of breathing.
Cruise glows with the powder-white halo surrounding him, and I give an impish grin at what might happen tonight.
He opens the door and flicks on the lights before taking a step back onto the porch.
“Ladies first.” He waves me in.
It’s clean inside. A large living room opens up to a kitchen filled with stainless appliances and dark hardwood floors. Truthfully, I expected to find a colossal bong centered on the table like a vase, or possibly a meth lab sprouting from the sink. But to my surprise there’s no evidence of criminal activity.
“Nice,” I say, making my way toward the U-shaped sofa. “Thanks for letting me crash on your couch.”
“You won’t have to. I have a bed with your name on it.” His brows arch with an air of seduction as he leads me to a small room with an oversized bed. A maple dresser is set in the corner. It looks harmless enough. Nothing to imply deviant behavior—no sign of rope or duct tape, so already I feel better.
“I’m in this one.” He turns on the lights next door, revealing an unmade bed with a river of socks migrating onto the floor. There’s an abandoned pizza box on the nightstand with a bevy of candy wrappers strewn over it.
I see his nightly conquests leave him famished, and his need for handy snacks outweigh any concerns he might have for nutrition.
A pair of chains dangle from his bedpost, and my stomach lurches with an unnatural level of excitement—or fear—maybe both.