Chapter One I saw Evelyn coming from a mile away. It was the scowl on her pretty face that caught my attention. She was known in our sorority house for her unpleasant demeanor, which had only gotten worse since her boyfriend up and dumped her at the beginning of the year, but even at a party like this, Evelyn let loose like the rest of us. So the fact that she was headed straight for me, looking as though someone had spit in her shot of tequila, had me alarmed. She held my gaze as she cut through the crowd of partygoers at the Zeta Omega Beta fraternity party and, curious, I started toward her. “Hey, Evelyn,” I said loudly enough that she’d hear me over the pounding bass of the hip-hop that blared on the stereo. I was pretty sure I hadn’t done anything to piss her off. We weren’t close enough friends for that. “Great party, huh?” “Come with me.” “Excu—” She took me firmly by the arm and led me back in the direction from where she’d come. “What is it?” I asked. “Did I do something?” She didn’t speak until she’d dragged me about fifty feet, to the entrance of the kitchen. “There.” She pointed into the room. “Shandra. All. Over. Your. Man.” My eyes searched frantically through the throng of guys and girls milling about. And then I got the shock of my life. There was Shandra James, dressed in a slinky, barely-there red dress. She had a hand on Henry’s chest in an intimate gesture, and her smiling face was upturned to his. “Thought I’d let you know,” Evelyn said. “I’d have a little chat with her if I were you. Before she steals your man like she did mine.” “Uh-huh,” I mumbled, feeling sick as Evelyn walked away. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d already had a talk with Shandra about my fiancé just a couple of weeks before. About two weeks before that, it became obvious to me that Shandra was attracted to my man. The way she’d look at him when he walked into a room. How she’d try to get close to him at a party. Head down to the field to see him after a football game. And I’d already heard the rumors about her last year when she was a freshman—how she went after guys for sport. The way she did with Evelyn’s boyfriend. This year she was pledging my sorority—Alpha Sigma Pi, Incorporated. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but it was to be expected since she was a legacy. Her mother and aunts held high positions on the sorority’s national board. Shandra had to know that Henry was my man, and for the most part I ignored her lustful looks at him, but when I found her down on the football field after a game, trying to get up close and personal with him, I knew I had to talk to her. I kept the talk upbeat rather than accusatory, even though I knew what she was up to. I impressed upon her that Henry was my longtime love and current fiancé, and how much he meant to me. Shandra said she understood, and as far as I knew, she had heeded my warning. Until tonight, apparently. I was too far away to hear what they were saying, but even a deaf person could figure it out. Shandra was no doubt telling Henry how hot she thought he was, how much she wanted him. Fucking bitch. She kept angling her head, doing this “I’m so coy” act. And she was smiling and laughing as if Henry was the funniest person alive. Leaning in close to him, even as she took a long pull from her bottle of beer. And Henry—he stood there as though he didn’t have the brains God gave him. What the hell was wrong with him? As well as having a chat with Shandra about him, I’d made sure to tell Henry to be wary of her. It’s not that I’m superparanoid, or even abnormally jealous, despite Shandra’s drop-dead gorgeous looks. With honey brown skin, she was slim and had a booty like Beyoncé’s, as well as the long, blond-brown hair Beyoncé sported. And I’d heard more than one guy compliment her bright hazel eyes. But the fact that most guys couldn’t help gawking at her when she was in a room wasn’t what bothered me about her. My issue with her where Henry was concerned was that she had a reputation in the sorority house—the kind guys appreciated but girls did not. Henry wasn’t stupid. He had to know that about her even before I told him. And yet there he was, letting her slobber all over him like a bitch in heat. I could hardly keep my anger under control as I watched them. This was a respectable fraternity party, not some low-life ghetto affair. But you wouldn’t know it by the hoochie outfit Shandra was wearing. From all I knew about her, she came from a good southern family, and I doubted she had been a wild child while under her parents’ care. Not that she was the first person to turn into a freak at college—boozing all the time and having tons of sex—but she was definitely the worst I had seen. She was the kind of girl who thought because she was slim and gorgeous, she was entitled to everything her heart desired. “I do not want to have to go over there, Henry,” I muttered to myself. “Walk away.” Shandra whispered something in Henry’s ear, then laughed loudly. Henry laughed, too. Then suddenly Shandra was wobbling on her designer stiletto heels, and Henry was wrapping his arm around her waist to keep her from falling. “One, two . . .” I waited for Henry to extricate himself from Shandra once again. But instead of moving away, Henry placed a hand on Shandra’s shoulder as they shared a laugh. “What’s that bitch’s problem?” The question stopped me from marching across the kitchen and wrapping my hands around Shandra’s neck. I turned to face Camille, found her standing there with Miranda. My two best friends. Lord, did I need them right then. “That little heffa is all over your man like white on rice,” Camille added, her thick arms crossed over her large bosom. “Like she doesn’t know you’re engaged,” Miranda said. I scowled. “It’s obvious she could care less about that.” Not that I could fault the pledge’s attraction to him—Henry was a definite pretty boy with his flawless dark skin, muscular body, and six-foot-one-inch frame—but I couldn’t excuse Shandra’s blatant disregard for our relationship. A relationship that dated back to high school. As soon as I laid eyes on him during my freshman year, I knew that Henry would be my husband someday. “Damn, I hate when Henry drinks at these parties,” I went on. “He can’t hold his liquor. Look how he’s swaying.” But the words were as much to assure me of my fiancé’s fidelity as they were for my friends. “I hear you,” Miranda concurred. She shook her head, her long black braids swaying from side to side. “I mean, I’m standing right here, and if he were sober, he would have moved away from her by now. But he’s got booze clouding his brain.” It was the only excuse I had for Henry’s blatant disrespect, and I was going to cling to it. “Shandra’s no fool,” Camille said. “She knows what she’s doing.” “I ought to knock some sense into her right here in front of everyone.” I glanced down at my left hand and the two-carat rock Henry gave me when he proposed in the spring. A ring that all my sorors had fussed over in a sorority ritual when I announced my engagement. Now it felt like a dead weight on my finger. “I can’t stand this anymore.” I started off. “I’m going over there.” “Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Camille took hold of my arm before I could take more than a few steps. “Wait one second.” “Wait?” My insides were twisting, and my fingers had started to quiver from my anxiety. “Why the fuck should I wait?” “Because you’re better than that skank-ass ho,” Camille answered. “Yeah, and I’m gonna show her how much better I am.” “But if you march over there right now, you’re gonna give her exactly what she wants—which is to get under your skin,” Camille pointed out. “Don’t you see how she’s been glancing over here, checking for your reaction?” I drew in a deep breath and stared at Shandra. True enough, when she glanced my way, she was smirking as if she knew she’d pissed me off. “Damn that stupid whore.” The last thing I wanted to do was give Shandra any type of leverage over me—like letting her know she’d gotten under my skin. “I still ought to smack her. She knows good and well that Henry is off-limits.” “And give her the sense of power she craves?” Miranda asked. “Uh-uh. She’s a trifling, ghetto-minded whore.” I raised an eyebrow, staring at Miranda in shock. As petite and as cute as she must have been in kindergarten, she rarely said an unkind word about anyone. She was known in our sorority as Big Sister Hugs and Kisses because she always had a hug and kiss for everyone and always gave out encouragement. Miranda shrugged nonchalantly. “I have to speak the truth. Just because her father is some big-time senator in Mississippi doesn’t mean she’s not ghetto. She’d love nothing more than for you to head over there and prove she’s getting to you.” “Miranda’s right,” Camille agreed, running her fingers through her short black hair. “You know good and well that Henry isn’t fool enough to fall for trash like her. When he sobers up, you give him a good talking-to. But I’m with Miranda. Don’t let Shandra see she’s bothering you.” Camille and Miranda had a way of calming me down when I was about to lose it. They were the two women I trusted with my life. “Y’all are right,” I conceded. “That’s exactly what she wants—for me to cause a scene.” So as much as it killed me, I would stay where I was and play like she wasn’t getting to me. “And until Henry comes to his senses, why don’t you talk to Morgan?” Miranda suggested. Her eyebrows lifted hopefully, like the romantic she was. As far as I was concerned, she was a great catch for any guy, but she tended to scare them off by falling in love way too fast. Which made me remember the current drama in her life. “Where’s Damon?” I asked. “Is he still giving you the cold shoulder, or have you two worked things out?” Miranda’s quick roll of the eyes answered my question. “Don’t change the subject. You know Morgan wants you. And he is one fine brother. Go spend some time with him. That’ll give Henry something to think about.” “Tall, dark, and looks like Michael Jordan.” Camille grinned. “What’s not to like?” Morgan. My stomach fluttered a little as I thought of him. He’d been a friend of mine for a couple of years and when I went through a mini-crisis right before Henry proposed, he was there for me in more ways than I can count. No one knew it, but Morgan and I came very close to sleeping together once during that time. Somehow we came to our senses before crossing the line. We had still remained friends, for which I was glad, because I really liked his friendship. But I couldn’t help thinking that Miranda was right, that maybe it was time I turned up the charm on Morgan, gave Henry a dose of his own medicine. At the very least, it would take my mind off how big a jerk my fiancé was right then. “Where is he?” I asked. “Right over there.” Miranda turned and pointed a long red fingernail toward the area where the kegs of beer were set up. Earlier, people had taken turns chugging as much beer as they could through a fat straw. The corners of my lips lifted as I checked Morgan out. Even dressed in black sweats, he looked hot. Yeah, it was time to turn up the charm where Morgan was concerned. I was about to head over to him, but then I turned for one last glance at Henry. I reeled backward, feeling as though someone had kicked me in the gut. Shandra was on her tiptoes, her mouth pressed to Henry’s cheek. I couldn’t help it—I saw red. “Fuck that bitch.” I charged through the crowd. No way was I going to let Shandra and Henry make me look like a fool in front of my sorority sisters. Shandra’s shrill cackle pierced the air just as I neared her. I caught the bitch off guard by grabbing hold of her forearm and yanking her away from Henry. The cackle faded and died. Shandra fought for balance, spilling her beer all over her front. Then she shot me a murderous look. “What the—” “I already talked to you once about Henry,” I said, cutting her off. “I’m not going to talk to you again. Stay the hell away from my man!” “Ph—” “And you!” I whirled around to glare up at Henry before he could finish saying my name. “What are you doing? What are you thinking, letting this skank hang all over you?” “Skank? Yo, bitch. Who you calling a skank?” “You,” I replied, both hands on my hips as I faced her. In her heels, she was eye level to my five-foot-eight height. “Everybody here knows you’re a skank. A ho. A puta. You need to stay away from Henry. I’m not going to warn you again.” Shandra’s eyes narrowed with hatred. I bet she wanted to slap me silly. Let her try. I was angry and humiliated and had something to prove. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that all eyes were suddenly on us, I probably would have lunged at her and beat her to a pulp. Ultimately, Shandra glanced down at her wet dress, assessing the damage. She muttered under her breath as she walked away. Wise choice, whore! With her gone, I stared at Henry. His eyes were red and glazed, and I had to shake my head. After a beat I said, “Let’s go.” “What?” “We need to leave.” Copyright © 2007 by Kayla Perrin. All rights reserved.