“So what’s your major?” he asks.
“Social work. What about you?” For some reason I expect him to say undecided, but he surprises me.
“Psychology. Mostly because it pisses my dad off.”
“What do you mean?”
He grins. “He’s a mayor and wants to make a run for congress. He’s always been obsessed with politics…so of course he wanted me to major in political science, or at least business.”
I nod. My dads didn’t really care what my major was. And when I told them I wanted to work in the adoption field, they helped me research the social work program.
“It was either that or something artistic, and since I’m shit at art and just okay at music, I figured psychology was a safe bet.”
“Do you at least like your classes?” I ask.
“Yeah, turns out I love it. People are the most interesting thing to me anyway, so it worked out.”
“Did you succeed in pissing off your dad?”
He nods. “Oh yeah. He blew a gasket.”
We both smile. Why do I get the feeling that Jase is letting me in on things he doesn’t normally share? And why do I like it so much? I focus on my book for a few minutes, but reading about attachment disorder is pretty dry, and Jase’s mouthwatering goodness is right there on display. It’s hard not to sneak glances at him from time to time. A tiny crease marks his brow as he concentrates, and his lips move when he reads – something he makes look both adorable and sexy at the same time.
“So, Stacia’s really your ex?”
“Yeah. But she doesn’t act like it. And of course my frat brothers give me shit about it all the time.”
It’s clear she’d like to take a ride on Jase, ex or not. Hell, maybe she still does, like she implied. I force my eyes back to my book and relax into the inviting bedding. After a few moments of trying my damnedest to read this textbook, I feel Jase’s eyes on me again.
“Do you ever think about meeting your…um, the lady that gave birth to you?” he asks, his brows pulled together.
“My birthmom?” I was used to teaching people the correct terminology. He nods.
“Yeah. All the time, actually.”
“So why don’t you?”
I shrug. Lots of reasons. I’m not sure how much I should tell him, or how much he really wants to know, but Jase is leaning forward on his elbows, like he’s genuinely interested. I don’t typically talk about this stuff. But I trust him enough to let him in, which is odd given that I’ve only known him such a short time and everyone has warned me about him. “Now that I’m nineteen, I can go and get the records from my adoption without my dads needing to sign off …” I release a slow sigh. It’s something I’ve thought about doing so many times, yet some unknown force holds me back.
“It’s not a big deal. I’ll figure out what to do eventually,” I add, hoping to lighten the moment.
“Well, let me know if I can help,” he says softly.
“Why would you do that?”
He shrugs. “Why not?”
I’m genuinely baffled by his interest in helping me. I know I’m not the best company, only Jase doesn’t seem to mind. That’s probably because he doesn’t know much about me. I duck my head at this realization, drawing my chin to my chest. “You wouldn’t like me if you knew more about my past.”
He doesn’t press for details. He just remains quiet and reaches for my hand. “I doubt that could be true. And besides, I have waaay more baggage than you, so we’re good.”
Yes, but his reputation is out in the open. He isn’t hiding behind a curtain, waiting for some horrible big-reveal like I am. Jase is still watching me and his soft expression sends a warm tingling through my chest. I have no idea why it is that Jase Owens – reported manwhore – would have this effect on me. Yet I can’t deny that he does. Which is exactly why I’ll need to be extra careful around him.
* * *
I blink my eyes open to find Jase standing above me. “Avery, wake up. You fell asleep.” His hand on my shoulder gently rouses me. What? Noooo. I shoot up in the bed, stunned and bleary-eyed. I fell asleep? This is so not me. “I should go.” I leap up from the bed and grab my backpack, hefting it up over one shoulder. “Do you have class?”
Jase casually looks at his alarm clock. “My psych class started twenty minutes ago. I didn’t want to wake you.”
Oh. “Jase, don’t skip class for me.”
Jase steps closer, closing the distance between us. I have to crane my neck to look up at him, and my pulse spikes at the sudden closeness. “It’s okay.” He straightens the backpack straps, his hand lingering on my shoulders. “This was more fun.”
What is okay about any of this, I have no idea. His gaze lingers on mine. I should move away, but I won’t. “Can you afford to miss class?”
He lets out a short laugh. “I’m not dumb, Avery. I had a near perfect grade-point average last semester. And it’s only the second week of class. It’s fine.”
My surprised expression gives me away.
“What? Not what you expected?”
I turn and flee without another word, needing to use my body for something useful like descending the stairs so I don’t do something stupid like lift up on my toes and kiss him like I want to. Once we reach the front door, Jase grabs my backpack, halting my escape.
“Hey, stay out from behind dumpsters, okay?” He brushes the loose strands of hair back from my face, tucking them gently behind my ear.
When I get back to the dorm, Madison shoots me a suspicious glare. “Where were you all afternoon?”
I casually set my backpack on my bed, my mind grasping at a possible explanation. Knowing I’m horrible at thinking on my feet, I break down and admit I was with Jase, making it sound like we casually ran into each other – which we did. And going home with Jase then was just a no-brainer.
When I spotted Marcy Capri earlier, I knew I needed to get out of there before a panic attack took over. She didn’t look dangerous, with her frizzy blond hair and faded black yoga pants, but she was. She held a link to my past. She knew the secret that I’ve worked hard to ensure didn’t follow me here, didn’t own me. And I know, given the chance, she’d open her fat mouth and blab. It’s too juicy a secret not to. I couldn’t have that, so I dove behind the nearest obstacle I could find – which happened to be a dumpster. I was shaking when Jase found me.