Three years into college, Tressa Oliver’s life is a nonstop party. She’s skating by in her classes, and there’s no shortage of drinking, dancing, and general hell-raising. The only aspect that hasn’t been much fun: She can’t shake the toxic jerks that always seem to gravitate toward her.
It will take someone totally wrong . . .
Trent James is the classic anti–bad boy: smart, boring, and way too serious. To a wild girl like Tressa, there’s no way in hell they’re compatible—especially since Trent seems to see straight through her defenses.
To set her right.
When a college prank goes terribly wrong, Tressa starts to suspect that her partying ways are leading nowhere fast. Now she has to turn to the last person she ever thought she’d ask for help—and quickly discovers that there’s more to Trent than meets the eye . . .
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
“Where’s Chuck?” Cameo asked, handing me a beer she had snagged from the coolers that lined the floors in the kitchen of the frat house we were hanging out in. The house was Gamma Phi something or other. Honestly, I couldn’t remember, and I didn’t care. They were all the same to me anyway.
“Who knows? Playing darts with the guys, I think.” Hopefully, they were using his head as the dartboard.
“You two make up?” she asked, raising her eyebrows.
“I think you misunderstood me, sweets. When I said, ‘who knows,’ I meant, who cares. I hope someone throws a dart that sticks right in his egotistical ass,” I corrected her, not feeling very appreciative of the guy who was supposed to be my current boyfriend. Of course, after only two dates, it didn’t seem right to fall into that trap, as far as I was concerned.
She laughed, taking a long drink from her beer before answering. “Another one bites the dust,” she continued, holding up her bottle to toast.
“Cheers,” I answered, clinking my bottle to hers without further comment. I twisted the cap off my beer as I surveyed the rowdy crowd around us. The decibel level at frat parties was always nothing less than near deafening. Not that I was complaining. I was in my element—the louder it got, the better. This was the kind of scene I didn’t see when I still lived at home and went to community college near Woodfalls. Going to an actual university was like stepping into another world. A world that I took to immediately. I was loud and raucous, so what?
Cameo and I left the kitchen and headed outside to the patio, which gave us a front-row seat to all the action. The guys were entertaining the crowd by trying to one-up each other with one crazy stunt after the next. We’d already seen some idiot jump from the balcony on the second floor, hugging a mattress. Cheers erupted on the front lawn as people hooted and hollered, yelling scores for his landing. He stood up with his arms raised in victory before bowing at the waist and tossing his cookies splendidly on two unsuspecting girls who stood off to the side. Both girls shrieked with disgust, which only invited more cheers from the onlookers.
Not to be outdone, a group of girls decided to get in on the action when the guys initiated a girl-on-girl mud-wrestling tournament. Within minutes of being soaked by hoses spilling water at full blast, the front lawn of the fraternity house was a sopping mess. Judging by the steady line of participants that had quickly formed, the nominated contestants seemed to be too drunk to care about being subjected to male gawking, or the fact that it was too cold to be rolling around like pigs in shit.
“You going?” Cameo asked.
“Hell no,” I answered, choosing to keep my seat on the sidelines.
I’d been there, done that, and I didn’t relish taking an elbow in the nose or having a handful of my hair pulled out to entertain drunken college guys. Chuck, who had finally appeared from wherever he’d been hiding, couldn’t seem to get it through his thick head that I didn’t want to participate. It took me stomping on his foot and threatening to twist his junk into a knot before he finally stopped trying to pull me into the fray.
“Aw, you mean you don’t want to give your boyfriend a show and roll around and get all wet with another girl?” Cameo teased, breaking into my thoughts. She looked halfway past tipsy as she smiled at me.
We had been at the party for an hour and were nursing our third beer each. I could hold my liquor better than Cameo, who was a bit of a lightweight. Chances were I’d be dragging her ass home later since she’d barely be able to walk. She and I had made a pact when we first became roommates that we would never leave the other behind, unless of course a hot guy was involved. Little did I realize when I made the pact that it would be me shouldering most of the load.
Honestly, I didn’t mind. I loved Cameo to death. I had completely lucked out when I found her as a roommate after being accepted into Maine State College’s business program. I got in by the skin of my teeth since I wasn’t exactly what you would call an “academic all-star.” I had taken a full year off after high school because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Finally, my mom talked me into at least trying community college, and somehow, I managed to drill into my stubborn head that if I wanted to transfer to a state university, I would have to work hard. Not that I wasn’t still having fun at the same time. I wasn’t dead, after all. My acceptance letter came at the perfect time. My best friend, Brittni, had moved to Seattle, and I was feeling lost without her. She was the voice of reason I didn’t have myself that kept me in line for the most part. Without her, my antics in Woodfalls had hit an epic scale. After some of the shit I’d pulled over the years, I think the entire town let out a collective sigh of relief when I moved away for school. Even though MSC was only sixty miles away from Woodfalls, at least I was out of their hair. Now, in the almost two years that I’ve been on campus, I’ve managed to bring my reputation as a bit of a hell-raiser with me.
I pulled my thoughts back to Cameo, who was still waiting for my answer. “Please, you know I’d have no problem throwin’ down in there. It’s just too damn cold to roll around in the mud,” I said confidently. “Besides, Chuck’s been working to get in my pants. Little does he know, the Vagmart store is closed to his ass.”
“Ha, your vag-store,” Cameo snorted, setting her beer on an end table that was already overflowing with bottles. “Guys are so predictable. They think all chicks wanna get naked with each other and have pillow fights.”
“Well, I know that’s all I think about,” I said, wagging my eyebrows suggestively.
“Gross. You perv.” She slapped my arm and tried pushing me away.
“Oh come on. You know you want this,” I teased, running my hands down my curvy figure. I had to sidestep a couple who were too busy sucking each other’s faces as they walked to watch where they were going. “Hey, get a room,” I called after them as they stumbled into the wall.
“Where the hell do you think we’re going?” the guy asked, dislodging his lips long enough to answer.
“Sorry, shit, carry on then,” I said, grinning at Cameo.
“See, that’s why we will never have a party at our apartment,” she stated.
“What, you don’t want an orgy to break out on your bed?”
She held up her hand like a crossing guard. “Don’t even finish wherever your perverted mind was headed with that.”
I laughed loudly. Cameo was the perfect roommate in most aspects, but she did have a bit of an obsessive compulsive personality, much to my amusement. Not that I didn’t agree with her. I didn’t want drunken college peeps using my bed to get nasty in either.
“Could it be you’re just bummed that your bed hasn’t seen any action in how many days now?” I teased, wincing as I watched two girls in the mud pit go for each other’s hair. Why did girls always do that? Why couldn’t we fight like men? With fists and punching instead of hair pulling and scratching. I’d much rather take a punch to the gut than have a handful of my hair pulled out.
“Whatever, you whore. It’s been four days,” she answered, watching the fight with interest.
“Whoa, takes one to know one,” I laughed.
“Bite me, bitch. I just like guys.”
“And sex,” I added.
“Yes, so what, Mother Teresa?” She grinned, throwing out her beloved nickname for me.
It wasn’t like I didn’t enjoy sex. She knew that. Lately, I was just more selective about who I fell into bed with. Take Jockstrap Chuck for example. A few months ago, I might have caved and given it up to him. But I was getting sick of the games and acting like someone I wasn’t to keep a guy. I used to be a total boyfriend pleaser, especially back in high school, when I dated the same creep off and on for almost four years. I finally called it quits once and for all about a year ago. The relationship was toxic, to say the least. Years of scathing comments about how I looked or what I did, and then he would push to have sex, only to lay a major guilt trip on me when he felt remorse after we did it. Jackson suffered from a serious case of being a momma’s boy. We’d no sooner done the dirty deed than he would whimper about premarital sex and how disappointed his mother would be. Even after years of putting up with his shit, actually committing to break up with Jackson was difficult. He was my first serious boyfriend. The one I gave my virginity to, or my V-card, as I liked to call it. That was a big deal to me, despite my wild-child persona and the way people perceived me on the outside. It’s not like you can ever get that back, even when the guy turns out to be a douche. Jackson definitely became that and more, telling me when we broke up that I was worthless and that no other guy would ever want me. His words cut me deeply and made me feel like I was lacking. His mom actually threw a party when we were officially over.
After leaving the Jackson mess behind me, I eventually found the confidence to try my luck with guys again, but after a string of disastrous first dates, I began to believe that maybe Jackson had been right. He was as good as I deserved. If not that, then maybe the dating gods were punishing me for all my past sins. Like the time in seventh grade I talked Braxton Fischer into switching the video we were supposed to watch in Mr. Morton’s science class with a porno he had found hidden in his dad’s nightstand. Mr. Morton made the mistake of leaving the room for almost ten minutes before he came back to see two topless, big-breasted girls washing cars on the TV.
“What the hell?” a shocked Mr. Morton yelled as he turned several different shades of red. The class erupted with laughter, and although none of my classmates ratted me out, Mr. Morton knew better and immediately sent me to the office. I could have argued. He had no proof it was me, but my reputation had already been established.
The principal, Mrs. Jameson, called my dad to pick me up, which I thought was odd considering she knew my mom. I finally understood when he showed up and she handed over the video to my dad with a scornful look on her face, like she was repulsed to even be that close to something so unholy. She thought the video was his, but my dad didn’t skip a beat. He didn’t flush with embarrassment or stammer at being reprimanded. Instead, he thanked her and told her he was wondering where he had left it, leaving Mrs. Jameson looking utterly scandalized.
The only lecture I got on the way home was a reminder that some parents may not want their children to see movies about those kinds of car washes. That was the best thing about Dad. He always understood the person I was, never judging or scolding me. He would simply give reminders and pointers of what a better course of action may have been. I loved both my parents fiercely for their gentle restraints.
I wish I could tell you that was the last prank I ever pulled, but my reign of stunts continued into high school. I would pick a victim and execute my prank with the precision of a surgeon. Dad always said if I would learn to harness that power toward school, I would be a straight-A student. That would have been tragic and a complete waste of fun, in my opinion.
Eventually, I mellowed when I was dating Jackson. He reminded me countless times that his mom would never approve of me if I was always causing trouble. Little did he know, I didn’t want or need his creepy mom’s love.
For that reason more than any other, breaking up with Jackson had been necessary. Our relationship was like a runaway train headed for a brick wall. Unfortunately, none of my relationships after that turned out any better. My friends Brittni and Ashton said I had an uncanny gift of gravitating toward the only jerk in the crowd. I always shrugged off their comments. I dated guys who suited me, which usually meant they were as loud and wild as I was.
“Wow, did she seriously just push that girl’s face into her boobs?” Cameo asked, pulling me back to the present. She stepped closer to get a better look at the two mud-covered girls, who had grabbed the attention of most of the male population at the party. As the crowd cheered the girls along, I noticed everyone watching had their cell phones out to record the wrestling match, so I pulled out mine too.
“You’re not going to post that, are you?” Cameo asked as I moved in closer.
One of the girls shoved the other to the ground and straddled her. “Why the hell not? This is epic on a whole new level.”
“Damn, that’s hot,” a warm male voice said behind me.
I grinned as I turned around, recognizing the voice of my friend Derek. “Really? I can score their numbers for you if you’d like,” I joked.
“Honey, I’m talking about Tall, Dark, and Shirtless over there,” he answered, pointing to a well-toned guy who had removed his shirt so it wouldn’t get splattered with mud.
“Right, here I thought you had suddenly decided to bat for the other team,” Cameo teased Derek, looping her arm through his.
“Sweetheart, you could only wish,” he said, dropping a kiss on her forehead.
“Damn straight,” she giggled. “No pun intended,” she added before frowning up at him. “Why do all the good ones turn out to be gay?”
“So we can have marvelous friends like you two without the mess of a romantic relationship. Just think, if I was straight, we wouldn’t be friends.”
“That’s because we’d be lovers,” I cooed, snuggling up to his free arm.
“I love you, Tressa baby, but you’d scare me in bed,” Derek said, wrapping his arm around my waist.
“Oh come on, I’d go easy on you,” I answered, grinding my hips against his leg.
“Don’t believe her. I swear the wall looked like it was going to collapse the last time she had a guy over,” Cameo teased, sticking out her tongue at me as I swiped at her with my free hand.
“Whatever, Wonder Woman,” I said, reminding her of the last guy she slept with, who had a fondness for comic books. He showed up at our apartment one night with a costume from the Halloween store. Usually, I didn’t mind sticking around when Cameo had a guy over, but I had to leave for that one. The truth was, it had been months since I’d even considered being with a guy.
“Hey, what about the dude with the camera? I’m surprised you didn’t take him up on it,” she returned, talking about the last guy who almost made it into my bed until he wanted to record us. He had to go collect his camera and clothes from the yard after I threw his belongings out the window and kicked his ass out.
“Unlike you, I only do high-class porn,” I threw back.
“As stimulating as this conversation is, I’d rather be dancing,” Derek said, indicating the open door of the frat house where the music had been turned up.
Cameo and I agreed, following Derek toward the music we could feel pumping through our chests. Joining a crowd that seemed to be flowing as one, we let loose and lost ourselves in the music. Dancing came naturally to our trio, and it was something we enjoyed doing together. As in, just the three of us. Being in a large crowd, we would occasionally have to put up with some drunken dude trying to grind against Cameo or me, but Derek was good at stepping in. At six foot five, he was an imposing figure who could maneuver his body wherever he wanted to shelter us from unwanted advances.
After an hour, we were dripping with sweat, despite the nip in the nighttime air that circulated through the open windows and doors. Pulling my damp hair off the back of my neck, I indicated with a nod of my head to Derek and Cameo that it was time for a break. It felt like we needed a shoehorn to squeeze through the jumbled bodies, but eventually we made it out of the room.
“Holy shit, talk about a cardio workout. I should be a twig after all that,” I complained, snagging another drink. I glared at Cameo, who was practically a waif standing next to me. “I should effing hate you.”
“Don’t be an ass. I’d take your boobs any day over these.” She cupped her smallish breasts in her hands. “At least you’ve got curves. I’m like a stick.”
“Look, ladies, you can both be jealous of my perfect body,” Derek interrupted, making a point of tossing his imaginary long hair. “Some of us got it, and some of us don’t.” Cameo and I laughed. Derek was a bit of a showboat, which made him perfect for our group. “I’m going to get a drink,” he added, following Cameo, who was already headed in that direction.
I stayed behind, content with the beer I had pulled from a nearby cooler. It was nice to take a breather and observe the crowd a little. I became preoccupied watching a group playing a distorted version of Spin the Bottle when a pair of arms reached around my stomach, pulling me roughly against a hard chest.
“Are you ready to kiss and make up?” Chuck growled in my ear. He smelled like a distillery.
“Not really.” I shrugged my shoulders, stepping out of his grasp.
“Come on, girl. You’re gonna let a little fight ruin this?” He sounded as drunk as he smelled.
I wanted to laugh, but that would probably only egg him on further. I also wasn’t in the mood for a messy scene tonight, so I went with a softer approach and a little more tact than he probably deserved.
As I spun around to face him, I couldn’t for the life of me remember why I had gone out with him in the first place. He was a partier like I was and had seemed cool when I met him at Club Zero a couple weeks ago, but he was a meathead. I pretty much realized on our first date that we probably weren’t going to make it. Mostly because he was a perpetual nut scratcher. I don’t mean he would do the occasional subtle shift that some guys do with their junk. If that was all he did, I could have lived with it. He was an all-out ball scratcher, and didn’t seem to care who saw him do it. It could be the waitress who looked disgusted as she handed over our pizza, or Cameo, or basically anyone who was having a conversation with him. If you stood next to Chuck, at some point you would see him scratch his balls.
“Chuck, it’s not you, it’s me,” I said, cringing at my chosen cliché. How did you tell someone you would rather gouge out your eyes than see him play with his junk again?
“What the fuck? Who uses a bullshit line like that?” He grabbed my arm so I couldn’t move. I looked down at his hand that was wrapped around my wrist. Seriously? Why did it always come down to this? Did I have the words please manhandle me tattooed on my forehead?
I noticed Derek approaching from the corner of my eye. He was hard to miss because of his size, and judging by the look on his face, Chuck would want no part of what was coming. I held out my free hand to stop him before he could get involved. I may have an uncanny knack for dating assholes, but I also knew how to take care of myself when I needed to. I stepped on Chuck’s shoe and slowly rolled my weight so my platform heel sank down on the softness of his toes. “In case you’re too stupid to notice, we’re done.” He grunted in pain, making me smile. Sometimes it paid not to be a lightweight.
“Get off me, you bish,” he slurred. He wobbled to the point where I could have pushed him over.
Derek stepped between me and Chuck, pulling me snugly against his side. “Why don’t you go sleep it off?” His insistent tone made it clear he wasn’t merely asking. This was why Derek was the best kind of friend. He wasn’t a fan of violence, but you would never know it when it came to Cameo and me. Back home, I had always been the protector when it came to my friends. It was kind of nice to have a knight in shining armor. Not necessary, but still sweet. I found it endearing that even though he’d only known me for a year, he acted like we were lifelong friends. Derek was a perk that came with Cameo picking me to be her roommate last year. When I had transferred to Maine State, I knew I didn’t want to do the whole dorm thing. Living at home my first two years of college made me yearn for more independence. I wanted to let loose without so many restrictions. Living in an apartment with Cameo had provided the freedom I was looking for, and sharing her best friend, Derek, sweetened the deal.
Chuck looked like he wanted to retaliate, but in his drunken state, he was in no shape to attempt anything more. With a shake of his head and a look of bewilderment in my direction, he staggered off, scratching his junk the entire time.
“Honey, you sure can pick ’em,” Derek said, shaking his head with amazement before turning away from the train wreck to Cameo, who’d returned with a drink.
“You’re a fine one to talk,” I pointed out, punching him in his bicep. If it seemed like I was being picky at the moment when it came to guys, Derek was even worse. He claimed he didn’t feel like wasting time on meaningless relationships. I think he missed the memo on what college dating was supposed to be.
“I’m searching for someone who understands me,” he said dramatically, making us laugh. “Speaking of which, hello, Clark Kent,” he added, looking toward the front door. “He looks like he could understand everything I have to offer.”
Cameo and I pivoted around to see who had managed to snag Derek’s attention. He could be a bit of a snob when it came to man-candy. Anyone who caught his eye had to be worth seeing.
“Oh, hell no,” I muttered under my breath. He was the last person I expected to see at a party like this.
“I know him.”
“What? You bitch, you’ve been holding out on me,” Cameo said, giving a low whistle under her breath.
“Really? We’re construction workers now?” I said.
“Honey, sometimes an appreciative whistle is necessary,” Derek answered as he straightened his shirt and smoothed a hand over his hair.
“Hit the brakes, lollipop. That’s Trent, a guy I know from Woodfalls. Trust me. He’s as straight as they come.”
“Woo-hoo!” Cameo shouted, adjusting her top so her small but perky breasts were more visible.
“Down, horndog. He’s not your type either.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“She means maybe he doesn’t know what he’s missing on Team Derek.”
“No, God, you freaking sluts. I’m saying look at him. He’s straight out of The Big Bang Theory. Completely not our type.”
“Speak for yourself. I like the whole glasses thing,” Cameo said, making a move toward him. “Smart but sexy definitely works for me.”
“Chill,” I commanded her, grabbing the hem of her shirt. “Trust me. Trent isn’t for you.”
“Oh, now I get it. You have the hots for him.” Her eyes practically lit up with fascination in the darkness. “Why didn’t you just say so?”
I gritted my teeth in frustration. “Why don’t you suck it?”
“Sounds like that’s what you want to do,” Cameo returned.
“Ha, you two really know how to speak my language,” Derek chuckled.
Why was everyone so quick to push Trent and me together? I heard the same load of crap from my two best friends in Woodfalls, Brittni and Ashton. They were convinced Trent had some kind of thing for me. I never understood why they didn’t see what I did. Trent and I were complete opposites. He and his parents moved to Woodfalls during our junior year in high school, causing quite the stir. Trent’s grandfather was a respected town resident, having owned the local hardware store for nearly forty years, and Trent’s dad was a Woodfalls native who had moved away many years prior to start college. I couldn’t recall Trent and his family ever coming for visits during holidays or anything when we were kids, which was probably why everyone was so surprised when they suddenly moved to town. New people rarely moved to Woodfalls. Those who did were typically young couples looking for a small-town atmosphere in which to raise their families. Woodfalls was far enough from major cities to make you feel like you were part of a different lifestyle. I had just started dating Jackson when Trent’s arrival caused a ripple of gossip to spread through the school. I was too wrapped up in the newness of my first real relationship to give Trent much thought. Jackson, for some reason, seemed to dislike him from day one. He was always harping on the fact that he thought Trent was watching me. I dismissed his paranoia, telling him Trent could probably just sense a fellow troublemaker. One of the benefits of having Brittni as my best friend was that her mom was the first to get information. She was the town gossip queen and filled us in on the fact that Trent had gotten in some kind of trouble at his old school and his parents hoped a move to a small town would change things for him. After only a few months, I chalked up Trent’s bad-boy rumor as total bullshit. Brittni’s mom had to have gotten some bad info because Trent was boring with a capital B. He kept mostly to himself and was always either tinkering with some computer at school or reading graphic novels during class. And yet, he still managed to pull straight As. We all thought he was a shoo-in for valedictorian, but Suzy Braxton somehow got it. We speculated that whatever Trent had done at his old school must have affected his grades and trickled over.
“And he goes to Maine State. My, oh my, how the plot thickens,” Derek said, rubbing his hands together.
“Shut it. I think he’s in some graduate program. He’s a total brain.”
“I like my eye candy to have a little upstairs too. As long as he can match his abilities downstairs,” Cameo interjected. She eyed him like he was an all-you-can-eat buffet.
I glared at her. “You’re out of your league, honey,” I said, taking a sip of my beer as I watched Trent make his way into the main part of the living room. He had yet to notice me, which was fine with me. I knew when I transferred to MSC there was a chance I would run into him. The previous summer in Woodfalls we had spoken for a few minutes and he made a point of telling me he would see me around campus. Thankfully, our paths had not crossed until now.
“You seem to know an awful lot about someone you have no interest in,” Cameo pointed out.
“We live in a small town. People know when you take a piss in Woodfalls.”
“Maybe, but you seem to have a little sparkle in your eye. Just sayin’.”
Thankfully, Derek changed the subject to some reality show he and Cameo were completely obsessed with. I tried to watch it with them a couple of times, but it took lame-ass to a whole new level.
While they discussed the latest drama on the show—something about one of the girls getting it on with two guys in the hot tub on the same night—I watched Trent. He was stationed against one of the walls, surveying the crowd as if he was waiting for someone. Free to study him without detection, I tried to understand why Derek and Cameo seemed so fascinated with him. As far as Cameo was concerned, the fact that he was male was half the battle. Derek, though, was harder to please. Sure, if you removed his glasses and maybe messed up his hair a little, Trent wouldn’t be half bad. He had been blessed with blue eyes that were so clear they seemed electrified. And I guess I couldn’t deny he looked like he had a decent build, even though his nerdy Batman T-shirt made it hard to focus on anything beneath it. I was watching him so intently that I was caught off guard when he left his spot against the wall. Without thinking, I ducked behind Derek before Trent’s eyes moved in my direction.
“Babes, your hottie friend is heading this way,” Derek said blandly, turning to where I was huddled behind him.
“You can stop hiding. It looks like he found what he was searching for,” Cameo said with disdain. “No way. Is he seriously hooking up with Panty Muncher?”
“What?” I stood up so quickly I felt slightly dizzy. Quick movements were not the best idea when you were on your third or fourth beer. Trent had stopped not ten feet from us to chat with Patty Jones, who we had dubbed “Panty Muncher” since she always seemed to have her panties all up in her junk. She was also notorious for giving half the male population at Maine State College an all-access pass. “Oh, hell no. She’ll chew him up and spit him out,” I muttered, not sure why I even cared. I should have been pleased that he was on someone else’s radar. Maybe if it was anyone but twat-face Patty I wouldn’t have felt the insane urge to rush in and rescue him.
I watched from my vantage point as Patty ran a finger up his arm and leaned in close to whisper into his ear. The need to protect Trent from her roared through me like an angry lion. I practically pounced away from my friends and within a few strides forward, I was standing in front of Nerd Boy and Camel Toe.
“Tressa, hey,” Trent said, pushing his glasses back up the bridge of his nose. They only seemed to magnify the intense blue of his eyes, and I found myself momentarily distracted. “I didn’t know you were here,” he added, extracting his arm from Patty’s.
“What are you doing here?” I cringed at how bitchy I sounded, but seeing him on my turf was more unsettling than I expected.
“Tristan Wilder wants me to take a look at his laptop,” he answered, not breaking eye contact. This was one of the issues I had with Trent. He looked you right in the eyes, like he was studying you or something. The few conversations I’d had with him over the years made me feel like he was always digging for something more. It was like his mind needed to analyze everything that was said. Being more of a crowd-pleaser, I felt comfortable with lighter conversation and keeping things fun. I felt we didn’t need to take life so seriously. We were only young once. The time would come when we could put on our adult faces, but not now.
“Oh, so you’re not here for the party?” I asked, looking pointedly at Patty, who was still eyeing Trent like he was a hot Scottish man in a kilt.
“Why don’t you mind your own business?” Patty said.
“Why don’t you shut up, bitch, before I make you my business,” I returned sternly. “I’ll show you where Tristan is,” I said to Trent, grabbing his wrist to pull him away from Patty before she could corrupt him. It took me a few minutes to stop fuming. Trent offered no resistance as I dragged him away like a dog on a leash. The surge of protectiveness I felt disappeared the instant we stepped outside. What the hell was I doing? I avoided him like the plague back home, and suddenly I felt the need to swoop in and save him. I would have blamed it on the liquor I had consumed, but I knew that was a crap excuse. Hell, I wasn’t even tipsy. “You could have waited until morning to check out Tristan’s laptop,” I snapped at him.
“Why?” He put on the brakes, bringing us to a halt with my hand still wrapped around his wrist.
I dropped it like it was a poisonous snake. “Because this kind of party isn’t for you, especially during pledge week. Things get pretty wild.” As if to prove my point, someone hugging another mattress leapt from the second-floor balcony and landed no more than three feet from where we were standing. The fraternity pledge climbed off the mattress, grinning like a buffoon before staggering off. Between flying mattresses and the wrestling, which had escalated to an all-out mud-slinging war, the backyard was total chaos. The kind of chaos I would have enjoyed if I wasn’t babysitting “Clark Kent,” as Derek had called him. Normally, I would have been in the thick of things. I freaking loved pledge week. It was cheap entertainment to see what the pledges would do to get into a fraternity.
“What makes you think I can’t handle wild?” he asked, adjusting his glasses. I could tell by the way he shifted his weight he was uncomfortable. Yet another way we were so different.
“You’re joking, right? I bet your computer brain feels like it’s been invaded by a virus.”
The corners of his mouth quirked upward. “Who am I to judge? If killing brain cells is the theme of these parties, so be it.”
Despite myself, I grinned. “Damn straight.”
His eyes lit up at my words. It should be a sin to waste such beautiful eyes on someone so different from the guys I usually went for. The thought had barely materialized in my head before I gave it a mental bitch slap. I needed to keep my shit together. “He’s over there,” I said, pointing to the far side of the backyard where Tristan had two pledges showing their goods to a group of sorority girls holding up scores to vote in some sort of contest. I turned and walked back to the house, ready to put some distance between Trent and me. I was pretty sure I heard him call my name, but I ignored it. He could sink or swim here, but there was no way I was sticking around to be his life raft.
“What did you do with your cub, momma bear?” Derek teased as I joined him and Cameo, who were on one of the sofas.
“Bite me.” Sinking down on the couch next to them, I reached over and snagged the red Solo cup Cameo was clutching.
“Hey, that’s mine,” she complained as I sniffed the contents. Rum. That would do the trick. Ignoring her grumbles, I downed the contents in one gulp. The rum burned a path down to the pit of my stomach, numbing my teeth along the way. My eyes took on a slightly fuzzy view. Rum was definitely what I needed to forget about jerky ball-scratching ex-boyfriends and electric blue eyes on nerdy superhero look-alikes.
“Don’t mind me. Go ahead and have my drink,” Cameo said sarcastically.
“Thanks, sugar lips,” I said, giving her a smacking kiss. The rum had given me a nice buzz.
“Gross. I don’t know where those lips have been,” she complained, swiping a hand across her mouth.
Grinning, I reached for her again, this time giving her a spectacularly sloppy kiss on her cheek while Derek laughed next to us.
“If you two are done making out, I’d like to do some more dancing,” he said, bobbing his head to the music.
“I need another drink first,” I said, pulling Cameo to her feet. She accepted my help, though she was still rubbing her cheek where my lips had been. “Sheesh, it’s not like I have cooties.”
“As far as you know. You owe me another drink.”
“Ouch. Don’t bother to ask me when you decide you want to experiment with being a lesbian,” I said, pulling her to the kitchen to make us another drink.
The rest of the evening passed in a blur. I know we danced for several hours, and I’m pretty sure Cameo and I did an impromptu karaoke show when Justin Timberlake’s newest song came on. One thing was certain: Chuck and Trent became a distant memory.
I was jarred awake the next morning by an unmistakably male body pressed against me. Oh hell. How much did I drink last night? Opening my eyes a crack, my first instinct was to reach down to check whether I was still wearing panties before I spun around to see who was spooning me. I sighed with relief when it turned out to be Derek. His large frame was sprawled across my bed, trying to steal every inch of available space. Not quite ready to be awake, I shoved at him until he rolled over. This wasn’t the first time Derek had crashed with me. I didn’t mind, but you had to claim your space with him around—otherwise you’d end up on the floor. With more room for myself, I turned on my side and pulled the blanket up to my chin, drifting back to sleep in seconds.
The next time I woke, my bed was empty and I could hear the rustling noise of pans and plates coming from the small kitchen in the apartment I shared with Cameo. Rolling over on my back, I took stock of my hangover. On a scale of I need to throw up to I just need some coffee, I’d say I was more on the needing-coffee side. I had a slight pounding headache, which I could handle with Advil, but my mouth tasted like something had crawled in there and died. It felt like I would need a sandblaster to remove all the gunk from my teeth. Grabbing a clean pair of sweats and a Maine State shirt from my dresser, I staggered to the bathroom to shower. The mirror over the sink showed no mercy. Not that I was somehow expecting to look any better than I felt. I popped three Advil into my mouth before giving my teeth the long brushing they needed. My face resembled something out of a zombie movie. Both of my eyes were rimmed in a thick layer of black eyeliner and mascara. I didn’t remember being that liberal with the makeup, but the evidence was staring back at me. A dried patch of drool covered my left cheek. That was attractive. I looked like a hooker after a hard night at work. I reached around the shower curtain and turned on the water, leaving my freak show reflection behind. If a hot shower didn’t make me feel more human, I guessed I’d have to resort to a paper bag over my head for the day.
Derek and Cameo were cooking breakfast when I finally stumbled into the kitchen twenty minutes later. Derek set down a platter of crisp bacon and eggs on our small dining room table that would wobble slightly if not for the piece of folded-up cardboard under one of the legs. Classy, that’s the way we rolled. Cameo and I rescued the table from a Dumpster at the start of summer after the previous owner threw it out before heading home at the end of term.
Last year, our apartment had been pretty sparse when it came to furniture. We had nothing more than our beds and one futon couch, but when Cameo decided to take summer classes, we stuck around, keeping a sharp eye out for any furniture that would fill the gaps. We were shocked by what people would throw out, and in no time our apartment was filled with the treasures we had found. Most of it had seen better days, but we used strategically placed scarves to cover scratches and water marks. Nothing matched, but somehow it still looked good in a bohemian sort of way.
“She lives.” Derek greeted me in a booming voice that earned him one of my patented glares. He laughed, opening the cabinet to pull out more plates.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for Contradictions
“Tiffany King pours her soul into each book. She captures the hearts and minds of her characters perfectly, weaving tales of angst, hope, and redemption.”—New York Times bestselling author M. Leighton
“I absolutely loved this book...With quirky, unforgettable characters that will make you laugh and swoon, Contradictions needs to be at the top of your must reads!"— A.L. Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of Come to Me Softly
“If you are looking for a New Adult filled with fun, fandom, romance and the perfectly sweet kind of opposites attracting then Contradictions is the book for you.”—Jay Crownover, New York Times bestselling author of the Marked Men novels
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am such a fan of Tiffany King and her NA world but I sadly have to say that this book is my least favorite of Tiffany King. I liked the idea of the story but I didn't relate to the characters at all. While reading the book, I basically had my lip curled in aggravation for Tress throughout. There were a few brief moments that I saw something I could like, then once again the shallow Tressa reappears. Tressa is supposed to be free living fun loving party girl with insecurities, which is the reason why she parties instead of does anything with her life but she came across as more of a loser, shallow and rude than what she was supposed to come across as. Sadly one night she connects with someone which gives her the moment of a bit more likeable but than tragedy strikes which was sad but at least it got Tressa moving in a different direction as well as it made me want to read more from the book because at that point I was ready to DNF. "Okay, seriously. Tressa, I love you like a sister, but your dating snobbery is getting a little old. You've gone out with every dickhead who's ever asked you out. Meanwhile, when a nice guy comes around, you don't even want to give him a chance. It's time to pull on your big-girl pants and go out with someone who doesn't treat you like a doormat." From the beginning I liked Trent and at first even her friends liked him but then all of a sudden they made him more geeky than cool geeky and her friends and her were a bit rude how they treated him. And while this was happening they tried to make him sexy geek but his persona wasn't quite nailed so it was a bit all over the place and left me wanting something more concrete. Either he was too geeky, cool geeky or sexy geeky but they kept wavering back and forth between the three. They are supposed to be contractions to each other but instead I felt Trent was way to good for the likes of Tressa. Again I liked the idea of the party girl and the geek but not through out the whole book did I like Tressa or relate to her which left me hollow and not digging the story. The most exiting thing for me in this book was the preview to A Shattered Moment which is the first book in her new series fractured live series. Can't wait to read it.