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Morehouse College, 1995
Anna Jacobs was already a little tipsy when she arrived at the Kappa Psi Kappa fraternity house. As usual on a Friday night, the place was jam-packed and the music booming from the mega-speakers could be heard three blocks away. It didn't matter. No one complained because they were all either at the party or headed to the party.
After a night of celebrating her passing Mr. Gallagher's brain-crushing calculus class, Anna and her roommate Roxanne decided to check out the frat house that had the reputation on campus for throwing the best parties. Anna was starting to look at the Kappa house as a second home since she and Charlie Masters had become fast friends. It was a Twilight Zone phenomenon since Anna wasn't particularly popular and didn't belong to any sorority herself at neighboring Spelman College.
Charlie Masters on the other hand was not only popular, he was gorgeousor maybe he was popular because he was gorgeous. Then again, most, if not all, the Kappa Psi Kappas were delectable eye candy. And the small crew that Charlie ran with were at the top of the heap.
She waltzed through the frat house door in her itty-bitty black minidress that showcased her long legs and boosted her C-cups so that they looked like double Ds to the casual observer. Men paused and a few women eyed her up and down to determine her threat level. That never really happened to her before, mainly because she normally didn't dress like a hoochie.
Anna's gaze swept across the crowd until she spotted Charlie and his crew in the middle of a step performance in the main room. Everyone was hyped as they watched the complex hand- and foot-work the frat brothers had coordinated for the step show. To Anna there was just something about watching such strong and powerful brothers stomping, yelling and sweating that served as an incredible aphrodisiacespecially Charlie.
She smiled when her eyes landed on him.
Charlie, a tall, golden-skin-toned god with seductive hazel-green eyes was technically just a good friend of hers. But secretly, she'd hoped that one day they could be much more than that. Why not? All the signs were there. Lately, he kept coming up with all these lame excuses to call or come by her dorm the last couple of weeks. Wasn't that a clear sign that he was feeling her?
It was possible. She was reasonably attractive. She wasn't the overtly here-look-at-my-titties kind of attractive like her roommate Roxanne, but more of a conservative-good-girl kind of prettyexcept for tonight.
Anna was just shy of six feet with thick, long black hair that hung to the center of her back. Again, it was a rarity that she even wore her hair down. It was usually pulled up into a ponytail and twisted around into a tight bun. But she was hoping this self-made makeover would help her stand out more.
The step-show ended to thunderous applause. Derrick Knight, Randall Jarrett, Charlie Masters, Hylan Dawson, Taariq Bryson and Stanley Patterson all took a deep bow before blending into the crowd for drinks and a few excited ladies.
Stanley Patterson spotted Anna and made a beeline straight for her. She smiled. Stanley was sweet, but was pretty much a tall, goofy redhead. In her opinion he sort of tried too hard to fit in, which she sort of understood, since he stuck out as the only white member of the Kappa Psi Kappa fraternity that she knew of. Anna cut him a little slack because she knew what it was like to be a bit awkward.
"Hey, Anna," Stanley cheesed, sliding his hands into the front of his jeans and shifting his weight from side to side. He had a curious look, especially for a white boy. Sagging pants, gold chains and a box fade haircut that had been out of style for at least three years. "It's good seeing you here tonight."
"Well, you know.. I was just passing through," she lied and glanced around. Charlie had disappeared. She stood up on the tips of her toes and scanned the crowd.
"Would you like for me to get you something to drink?" Stanley asked eagerly. "What's your pleasure?"
As usual, Anna didn't have the heart to hurt Stanley's feelings, especially when he looked at her with those large, blue puppy-dog eyes. "Sure, um I'll just have a rum and coke."
"I'm on it!" He tossed her a wink and then took off like a shot.
"You know that he has the hots for you, don't you?" Charlie said, from behind her.
Anna's smile broadened as she turned on her heels. It was a miracle that she didn't melt under his green-eyed stare. "You're not jealous, are you?"
Charlie's expression twisted while he pressed a hand against his chest. "Me? Jealous?"
Now he's going to act all innocent.
"Hey, if you like Breadstick we can hook it up."
"Breadstick? Why do you call him Breadstick?"
Charlie chuckled. "Because that's what he looks likea long, skinny breadstick. That and an older Howdy Doody."
"Minus the freckles," she added.
"So you've noticed. Maybe you do like him." Charlie turned up his bottle of beer and drained the rest of it. "I didn't say that."
"You haven't denied it either." He winked.
Anna folded her arms. The last thing she wanted was for Charlie to think that she had a thing for Stanley. "Then let me officially deny it. Stanley is sweet and all, but"
"Hey, he's cool." Charlie shrugged. "I know I give him a hard time, but that's my dog. For real. He has a good heart. You'd probably be a good match for him."
Suddenly, she was confused by the mixed signals. Is he really trying to push me off on his boy?
Just then a girl with a whole lot of junk in her trunk sauntered by and Charlie did a quick rubberneck for a second look. Miffed, Anna glanced down at her enhanced breasts and tried to push them out a little more.
"I, uh, noticed that you came with your roommate tonight," Charlie added casually. "I thought you two didn't get along?"
Anna's hackles rose. Why was it that lately every time she talked to Charlie, he always brought up Roxanne? Had she totally misread his intentions? Had he been hanging around her in order to get closer to her roommate? "We get along all right," she said, shrugging even though she was slowly starting to feel like a desperate idiot. "We went out to celebrate my acing my calculus test."
"Oh, yeah. I forgot about that." He smiled, causing his dimples to wink at her. "Of course I wasn't worried. You're like the smartest woman I know."
Anna blushed. "I am?"
"I know I wouldn't have been able to get through that French class last quarter without you." He held up his beer bottle in a silent toast.
She shrugged again. "Ah. That was easy. I have family that lives in France. I go there every summer."
"Mmm." He nodded his head while his eyes roamed over her slim figure. Sucking in her flat stomach, Anna pulled her shoulders back so that he could get a good look at all she had to offer. She hoped she measured up. Sure, she was trying to look like some video-ho, but it was only because that was usually the kind of chick that the Kappa men went for. Charlie was no different. He dated the hottest girls on campus. It stood to reason that if she wanted to break out of the friend zone, then she needed to take drastic measures. He never stayed with them for long, but she was sure that she had what it would take to keep his interest.
For a few seconds, they held each other's gaze. Anna wished that she could read his mind, but it was an amazingly hard thing to do. Did he just like her as a friend or was there truly a chance for something more?
"I'm back," Stanley announced, smiling.
Anna quashed the urge to shoo him away and accepted the rum and coke. "Thanks, Stanley."
"Not a problem." He stretched his arm and attempted to brace it against the door frame directly behind her. But instead he missed it completely and went sailing to the floor, taking the coat rack down with him.
Anna and a slew of party-goers jumped out of the way. Stanley landed hard, but surprisingly bounced right back up like a jack-in-the-box. "I'm all right. I'm all right," he announced holding up his hands so that everyone could see for themselves.
A few people snickered and laughed.
"Real smooth, Slick," Charlie said, giving Stanley a playful elbow to the ribs.
"Yo, Charlie." Taariq Bryson threaded his way through the crowd. "Randall and I are about to make a beer run. You want to ride shotgun?" His eyes swung toward Anna. He lifted a curious brow and smiled. "Well, well. I didn't know that you were busy." His gaze caressed Anna's tall frame as if she was standing there naked. Embarrassment flushed her cheeks while Anna's gaze shifted from Charlie's twinkling green eyes to Taariq's smoldering dark ones. There was no need to try and guess what was on his mind since pure carnal lust was written over every inch of his handsome face.
The heat Charlie generated was reduced to a candlelit flame compared to the inferno Taariq generated. He was also at least two inches taller than Charlie with a smooth milk chocolate complexion, compared to Charlie's caramel. She loved milk chocolate. Absently, she licked her bottom lip and noticed how his eyes lit up when she did so.
Stanley cleared his throat and put his arm around Anna's shoulder possessively. "Actually, I was hollering at li'l shawty."
Anna's neck swiveled. Li'l shawty?
Taariq chuckled. "Oh. Is that right?"
Stanley's chest grew bigger. "Yeah, that's right."
Anna opened her mouth to respond, but Charlie quickly cut her off. "Yo, T. C'mon, man. Let's head out and let Red here handle his business." He winked.
This was getting out of hand.
Stanley held up his fist. "Good looking out, dog."
Charlie exchanged dabs with Stanley while Anna looked on with horror. Say something. But what? Stanley looked so proud of himself that she was afraid hurting his undersized ego in front of his boys would be tantamount to kicking a box full of puppies. "I, uh"
"Let's go, T," Charlie said and then winked at Stanley and Anna. "And you two, don't do anything that I wouldn't do."
Stanley's chest puffed out even farther. "C'mon, man. You know how I do."
If Anna wasn't mistaken, she would've sworn that she saw a flicker of disappointment in Taariq's eyes. But in the next breath, he said, "You two play it safe."
Stanley waved them off.
Taariq cast another look in Anna's direction and then headed out the front door behind Charlie. The moment he walked out of the fraternity house, her body suddenly seemed to need oxygen. She sucked in a deep breath. But when that didn't steady her nerves, she remembered the drink in her hand and downed its contents in one gulp.
Stanley blinked in stunned silence.
"Ahh. I guess I needed that." Anna handed her empty glass back to him.
"Um. Okay." He cleared his throat. "Would you like another one?"
"No. I'm good," she told him, allowing the awkward silence between them to drift and expand, while everyone else in the frat house was bumping and grinding to Shaggy's "Bombastic." More than a few rocking hips and butts bumped her closer to Stanley, so much so that he got the wrong idea.
"Would you like to dance?" he asked, setting her glass down on a table.
"I don't know. Maybe I should be getting back to my dorm room." She gave her best apologetic smile.
"What? But you just got here." He grabbed her hand. "C'mon. Don't be a party pooper. You can share one dance with me. I swear I won't embarrass you."
Anna dug her heels in a bit, hoping that it would buy her brain enough time to come up with another excuse. It didn't.
"C'mon," Stanley urged again with another tug. "Show me what you're working with." He started popping his hips and surprisingly had pretty good rhythm for a white boy. "Ah. You didn't think I knew anything about this here, did you?"
Damn. He's a better dancer than I am. The realization made her laugh.
"See? I told you that I wasn't going to embarrass you." He moved in close then busted out a few more slick moves.
A few partiers peeped his style and started pointing and egging him on. After a few dance songs, Anna realized that she was actually starting to have a good time.
The crowd chanted. "Go, white boy! Get busy! It's your birthday! You know it!"
Stanley looked as if he was on top of the world with the adulation. A little later with his confidence sky-high, Stanley decided to make his move and lure Anna into a corner of the crowded house. No sooner did he get her over there did Charlie and Taariq throw open the door, lugging in a keg of beer.
"Everybody ready to get their party on?" Taariq shouted.
The crowd responded with a thunderous, "Hell, yeah!"
Someone jacked the music even louder. Anna could barely hear herself think. Oddly enough, her gaze didn't initially stray to Charlie, but looked over to Taariq and his infectious smile. She also noticed that there were at least a dozen or so women smiling and batting their eyelashes at him.
However, Taariq glanced over at her. The heat started up again and her stomach looped into knots as if she was about to bungee jump off the side of Stone Mountain. What the hell was going on with her?
"I'm glad to see that you're having such a good time," Stanley said, handing her another rum and coke.
"Uh? What?" Anna forced her eyes to swing back toward Stanley. Guilt inched up her spine. It's time, she told herself. She couldn't continue to give the man false hope. Shakily, she drew in a deep breath. "Stanley, we need to talk."
Instantly, his smile melted. "Uh, oh. That's not a good sign."
"Well, I just think that we need to get a few things cleared up.about you and me."
"Definitely not a good sign." He reached for his own beer and took a quick swig. "Let me guess. You don't like me."
Stanley's shoulders slumped. "Damn. Really?"
"I mean I like you," she rushed to get her foot out of her mouth. "I just don't like you in the way that you want me to." She winced and held her breath, hoping that she didn't completely destroy Stanley's fragile ego. "I mean.I look at you like a brother."
"Oh." He dropped his gaze and stared at his bottle of beer. "A brother. Great."
"I'm so sorry, Stanley." Anna placed her hand on his shoulder. "You're a nice guy."
"Oh, God. Not the nice guy routine," he moaned. "That's starting to be the story of my life."
She cupped the bottom of his chin and tilted it up. "There is nothing wrong with being a nice guy. We just don't have that kind of connection. You know what I mean?"