“That’s all going to change, Jess Michaelson. I’m going to get to know you. Very well.”
“I told you I’m seeing someone,” I reminded him.
“For now,” he said, his confidence oozing out of him as easily as breathing. “I’ve gotta go. See you in class.”
With those words ringing in my head, he took off toward the small group of guys clustered in front of the student store.
That was hands down the single most confusing, exciting, and weird conversation I’d ever had. And I loved almost everything about it.
“Rachel, are you home?” I shouted as I walked through our apartment door, hoping to hear her Latina accent fill my ears. Silence greeted me instead and I groaned, dying to share today’s happenings with her.
I had ninety minutes between classes and instead of hanging around school, I decided to come home, grab something quick to eat, and hopefully talk my roommate’s ear off. I was too excited to stay on campus with no one to talk to.
Scanning the fridge for something to eat, I fired off a text to Rachel, asking when she’d be home. She responded immediately that she was on her way.
I made a grilled-cheese sandwich for each of us while I waited. Right as I stuffed a gooey cheese-filled bite into my mouth, she burst through the door, a smile on her pretty face as her long dark ponytail swung back and forth.
Rachel was a little thing, only five foot two, but filled with more piss and vinegar than should legally be allowed to fit into one person’s body. She always claimed it was her mother who made her so feisty, so she couldn’t be held responsible. All I knew was that I loved her for whatever it was that made her a force to be reckoned with.
“What’s up? Get lost yet?” she asked before tossing her bag onto the couch.
“No, smartass, but you’ll never guess who was in my first class.”
She pursed her lips, glancing up toward the ceiling as she pretended to think. “Hmm, Julio Cavanaugh? Jacob Styler? David Wescott?”
“No, no, and no,” I said before taking another bite of my sandwich. I pushed the other sandwich across the counter toward her as she made her way into the kitchen.
“Ay, dios mio!” She groaned, already sounding exasperated with me. “I could go down the entire list of GIMS by class, but it will save time if you just tell me. Thanks for the sandwich, by the way,” she said as she refilled her water bottle, then took a big swig.
“Nick Fisher,” I said, trying not to smile.
She choked and spit the remaining water into the sink. “But he’s a senior. Shit, Jess, tell me you sat in full view of that body all class. And next time, take some pictures so I can get through mine.”
Laughing, I shook my head at her craziness. “He sat next to me. There were a ton of empty seats, but he plopped his happy ass right next to mine.”
Rachel grabbed me by both arms and turned me to face her, her expression shocked and serious. “Shut the hell up. Are you lying to me?”
“Why would I lie to you?”
“He sat next to you? Did he talk to you? Tell me everything right now.”
This was exactly why I couldn’t wait to tell Rachel about my encounter. I knew she’d be more excited than I was. I filled her in on our little whatever it was, all the while waiting for the redness in her cheeks to fade.
“Are you holding your breath?”
“I can’t help it. You’re blowing my mind right now.” She shook her head quickly before exhaling.
“What do you think it means? You’re the stalker, so you tell me. What does he want with me?”
“Want with you? Duh, Jess. You’re obviously going to be the next girl he dates. I thought that much was obvious.” She reached for my hands and clasped them in hers, releasing a high-pitched squeal that only dolphins should be able to hear.
“I told him I was seeing someone,” I blurted.
“You what? Why would you tell him that?” She dropped my hands and eyeballed me like I was insane.
Hell, maybe I was.
“I don’t know, it just came out,” I said about the lie I’d told. “He said something about kissing me at one of his parties, and he was so cocky about it that I just—” I blew out an irritated breath. “I told him I was taken. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.”
“So now he thinks you’re dating someone. Might not be a bad thing.” She tapped a finger against her lips as fear filled me from the inside out.
Did I want to date Nick Fisher? Hell yes, of course I did. At least, I think I did.
But did I want to completely wreck myself and my heart in the process? Absolutely not.
I was conflicted, torn between wanting to be chosen by him, but not wanting to be tossed away like all the others. The tossed-away part was probably the real reason why I told him I was dating someone. My subconscious was clearly all about my sense of self-preservation, even if the rest of me wasn’t.
“I don’t know if I can do it,” I said in a low voice, filled with self-doubt.
“What don’t you know if you can do? Go out with Nick Fisher?” Rachel frowned, clucking her tongue at me. “Are you dead? No, you’re not. So of course you can.” She pinned me with her brown eyes, seeing right through me.
“I’m already stupidly crushing on him, no thanks to you. But if I go out with him, he’s going to break me. I’m sensitive, Rach. I want the guy I go out with to actually like me back.”
“Who says he doesn’t?”
“He doesn’t even know me.”
She rolled her eyes and took another sip of water before groaning. “That’s the whole point, gringa. How else will he get to know you if he doesn’t take you out? Stop reading into this and just have some fun. We’re in college; it’s not like we’re looking to get married.”
“Definitely not looking to get married,” I repeated. “So I’d date Nick for fun?”
“Yes, for fun. Don’t go into it with any expectations. You know his reputation. He doesn’t tend to date anyone for very long, but nobody knows why. And when Nick does ask you out—and trust me, he will—say yes and then we’ll work on convincing you that it’s no big deal. That you’re just going out as friends and nothing more.”
I nodded along with her crazy train of thought, my brain doing its damnedest to agree with her. “I like it. Just friends. I can do that.”