I frown. Was Jase a shark like they thought? After talking with him on the deck, I didn’t think so. But then I remembered the large-chested girl who planted herself in his lap just minutes later. Her br**sts weren’t bigger than mine, but she had no problem putting them out there in people’s faces. And Jase did nothing to remove her from his personal space.
Madison pats the top of his head. “Well said, tootsie roll.”
“Relax guys, it’s not like I’m gonna do anything about it.”
Madison’s eyebrows dart up. “Baby, you wouldn’t even know what to do with a guy anyway.”
I don’t argue. I don’t tell her she’s wrong. It doesn’t matter because it’s not like I’m planning on getting involved with anyone. Especially Jase. Getting close to people means running the risk of exposing my past. And that is not okay with me. Not even Madison and Noah know, God love ’em.
“Night guys.” I flick off my lamp, plunging us into darkness and curl onto my side, letting the numb feeling overtake me. I can’t believe I’d opened up to Jase tonight – thinking we’d shared some sort of moment, telling him about my adoption. That was dumb. No sense in getting my hopes up about Jase, I was safer alone anyway.
I hadn’t expected to see Avery again, which is why the flash of auburn hair leaves me momentarily stunned. Seeing her in the daylight, I realize she’s even prettier than I first realized. But as quickly as I spot her, she’s gone – diving for cover behind a dumpster. “Avery?” I round the corner and see her couched down, knees drawn up to her chest.
Her eyes dart up and meet mine and she lets out a soft groan. She doesn’t say anything, just remains hunkered down next to the dumpster. I hold out my hand, offering to help.
Her gaze lifts from mine, searching for something in the distance before she takes my hand.
“Why are you hiding?”
“I wasn’t,” she says quickly.
I lift one eyebrow. I can feel her hand trembling in mine.
“Can you just get me out of here?” Her voice has a raspy, pleading quality to it that I can’t refuse.
“Where do you want to go?”
Her gaze darts behind me. “Anywhere but here.”
Sadness flickers in her eyes and instantly I know I’d gladly f**k up whoever had hurt her. “Come on. If we cut through there,” I point to a trail at the edge of campus, “my house isn’t far.”
She nods, and glances behind her once more before following me.
I have no idea what spooked her, but she’s pale and jittery, like she might dart away from me at any second. I’m not sure why, but I can’t let her do that. I reluctantly release her hand, but she keeps pace beside me. “Do you have a class right now?” I ask, needing to break the silence.
She shakes her head. “I’m done for the day.”
Damn, only eleven in the morning and she’s done for the day? I don’t take classes that start before noon.
When we reach the Delta Sig house, she hesitates at the front door before stepping inside. It’s trashed, as usual.
“This is weird – being in a frat house during the light of day.”
I smile. “Come on, I’ll show you around.”
“How many guys live here?” She follows me through the living room. There’s a random dude sleeping on the couch, and Avery looks slightly concerned at this, but continues past him.
“Um, sixteen, I think. The house is just for the juniors and seniors.” We stop in the kitchen and say hi to Drake and Jared. I figure if I introduce her to a few of my roommates – witnesses – she’ll be more comfortable following me up to my room. Of course I don’t like the way their eyes travel over her sleek jean-clad hips, visually molesting her. “Come on.” I take her hand again, which has become a natural reaction to her even though I’ve always hated holding hands, and guide her to the stairs.
She stops cold at the bottom of the stairs, her eyes full of questions. I turn to face her, resisting the urge to brush the strands of hair back from her shoulders. “I pretty much only hang out in my room. The rest of the house is nasty.”
She smiles crookedly, unable to disagree that my house is disgusting. “Okay. But no funny business.”
“Right. Unless you initiate it, in which case I make no promises to stop it.”
She swats my arm. “I won’t be starting anything, so don’t you worry.”
She follows me upstairs, and I’m glad she can’t see the dumb-ass smile planted on my face. She’s not at all like other girls I hang out with, and I like that. We climb the three flights of stairs in silence and when I push open the creaky door to the attic, Avery steps around me to peek inside. Taking the unfinished attic meant I had my own room. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have heat or air conditioning, I had my own space.
I watch as she takes in the queen-sized bed, neatly made in cream and navy bedding, desk and chair in the corner, a tall dresser and my acoustic on a stand in the corner. The room is large and open, with dark plank-wood floors and beamed ceilings. It’s freezing in the winter and stifling hot in the summer, but its September, so for the time being, it’s perfect. “What do you think?”
She wanders over to my desk and looks at the corkboard above it where I’ve tacked various photos, quotes, and clips from magazines. There’s a photo from last summer of me and my mom at the beach – before she went cuckoo for Cocoa-Puffs – and another of Trey and me having an impromptu jam session.
Avery points to the one of my mom. “You look like her. Same eyelashes.”
“I know.” Everyone always freaks over my eyelashes for some damn reason. It’s embarrassing.
Then she turns to survey the rest of my room. “You make your bed?”
I nod. “Habit I guess. I had to every day growing up. It was the one chore I had to do, and my mom would freak if I didn’t.”
She bites her lip, trying not to smile.
“Come sit down.” I slide her backpack from her shoulders and set it on the floor. She sits on the edge of my bed, while I pull out the desk chair for myself. “So, are you going to tell me what you were hiding from?”
She looks down and the terrified expression on her face is back.
“Hey, I’m sorry. It’s okay.” I hold up my hands in surrender. “You don’t have to tell me.”