Thirty minutes into my first college party, and I’m ready to smack someone in the face with a shovel. My first problem is that I’m wearing the most ridiculous shade of pink. Madison’s doing, of course. Tugging at the hem of my hideous shirt, I plaster a fake smile on my face and try to act as if I own this new look.
Compared to Madison in her tight jeans, low-cut black top, and sexy three-inch heels, I look cute in my pink outfit. And I hate that word. Cute is what you use to describe a teddy bear or a three-year-old, and it only demonstrates that I don’t belong at this frat party filled with gorgeous half-dressed girls grinding on the dance floor. Fuck my life.
Sighing, I push a chunk of hair behind my shoulder and take another sip of the now warm beer in my hand. Madison thrusts her arm around my waist, bumping her hip against mine in time with the music. I smile at her attempt.
“Need more to drink?” she asks above hip-hop music so loud I can feel the beat vibrating in my chest.
I look into my still full red plastic cup. “I’m good.” I hate the taste of beer, but manage to take another sip. Tonight is all about blending in. And something tells me being the stone-sober girl with a perma-frown etched into her face isn’t the way to do it.
Madison and Noah are convinced this will be my year. They have grand visions of me loose and carefree, thriving in the college social scene despite the contrary evidence I’d presented them as a freshman last year. When they’d dressed me in this pink top earlier – which Noah claimed was actually rosy coral – they’d declared me a ripe peach, ready for the picking. I’d barely kept the scowl off my face at the euphemism.
“Mancandy, two o’clock,” Madison announces over the music.
I take my time, subtly turning in the direction she indicates. A group of three guys stands talking near the DJ and, honestly, they’re all cute. Either that or my mind won’t let me distinguish individual features since my body has no plans of getting involved with anyone. Ever.
“Which one?” I ask, playing along with Madison so I don’t disappoint her yet again. I know I make a terrible wing-woman. Noah fills the role a heck of a lot better than me. A fact he’s super proud of.
Madison glances at the group of preppy college boys. “The pretty one.”
Noah steals a glance at the group of guys too. “Damn, that boy is f**king delish.” He shakes his head.
“Major player, though.” Madison rolls her eyes.
“The pretty ones always are,” Noah adds.
I can’t resist looking again for this so-called pretty boy, and when I do, icy blue eyes meet mine and he zeroes in on me with a smirk. His lingering gaze rakes boldly over my body, and I feel the nervous lurch of my stomach. The sights and sounds of the room fade away. Yeah, he’s pretty. That’s the only way to describe him. He’s roughly six-feet tall and lean, but with a hint of muscle. His hair is a warm mix of brown and blond, and his eyes are such a striking blue, it shouldn’t have been possible without colored contact lenses. Not to mention the ridiculously long eyelashes that I’d happily murder him for in his sleep.
A warm tingle creeps up my chest. It’s a decidedly unwelcome feeling and I swallow a large gulp of beer hoping to extinguish whatever the hell that sensation was. I want to look away, but I can’t. He has on dark jeans that fit his lean frame perfectly – slouching a bit on his hips but held in place by a worn leather belt. His T-shirt is plain and navy blue. I like that he isn’t overdressed for this thing, like some of the other gel-haired, button-up-shirt-wearing guys circling us. His hair is unruly and rumpled like he’d been in a fight with his comb. I have the urge to brush the strands out of his face. Or use it to tug him in to kiss me. Where did that thought come from?
Pretty Boy’s eyes stay locked on mine. One corner of his full mouth pulls upward. Crap. He caught me staring. I can feel my fake smile wavering. As my cheeks heat up, I look down at my feet that are squeezed into Madison’s heels. He has to know how gorgeous he is. Guys like him always do. And he is firmly in male-model territory, so he can’t fault me for looking.
“C’mon, Avery, dance with us. You’re being a downer,” Madison whines. When I blow her off a second time, she gives up and drags Noah to the center of the living room. She sways and grinds to the beat, obviously hoping Pretty Boy will notice. They gesture for me to join them, but as much as I love them both, this is so not my scene. Noah and Madison are both theater majors, so to say they are dramatic is an understatement. Sometimes I wonder if I cling to them because their flamboyant personalities mask my non-existent one. I watch them shimmy and shake for a few minutes before sneaking another glance at Pretty Boy in the corner.
He’s still watching me, so I give him my best attempt at a smile. I’m pretty good at hiding that I’m wounded, that my life blew up in a spectacular scandal my senior year, and that I still walk around fearful what happened that night will be uncovered. I hold the I-could-care-less-smile in place. I’m just a regular college sophomore in a hideous pink shirt. Move along folks. Nothing to see here.
My cheeks still burn and my heart pounds in time with the music. It’s too damn hot in here. Too hot to be wearing jeans and a three-quarter sleeve top. Pushing a damp tendril of hair from my face, I pull a breath into my lungs. It only confirms what my body already knows. Even with the show going on in front of him, Pretty Boy is still closely watching me.