The night Robert Q and Darlene meet, the attraction is immediate. The Big Man on Campus uses all his charm to sweep Darlene off her feet - and then dumps her a few weeks later. After all, he's just playing around.
Poor Robert Q. He doesn't realize that Darlene is playing for keeps.
He may think it's over. But he's wrong. Dead wrong.
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By Diane Hoh
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1993 Diane Hoh
All rights reserved.
Hailey kingman, a freshman at Salem University, was at Burgers Etc., a popular campus hangout, on the chilly night in early November when Robert Q Parker met Darlene Riggs.
Robert Q, blond and smooth, in his letterman's jacket, was a sophomore and a B.M.O.C.—a Big Man on Campus—at Salem. Darlene wasn't a student at Salem, but she'd grown up in Twin Falls. She was cute, with short, dark, curly hair and a round but too heavily made-up face. Her uniform of black shorts and white T-shirt fit her curves nicely, bringing a glow of appreciation to Robert's eyes. Those eyes followed Darlene's every move with relish as she dashed, tray and order pad in hand, from booth to booth in the noisy, crowded diner. Robert Q's friends seemed amused by his interest in the waitress.
Hailey and her friends found their attention drawn to Robert Q's table. "Look at him!" Hailey's roommate, Nell Riley, declared in disgust. "He's practically drooling!"
"He is drooling," Hailey said, reaching up to smooth her wavy, shoulder-length, strawberry-blonde hair. "But then, so is she. She knows he's watching her, and she loves it."
Nell nodded. "I heard he broke up with Gerrie Northrup. Or vice versa. I see her over there in the corner, looking very cozy with Richard Wentworth."
"I thought Richard was Robert Q's best friend," Hailey said.
The dark-haired girl sitting beside her shrugged. "Share and share alike," Jessica Vogt said. "Or maybe Robert Q is slavering over that waitress in hopes of making Gerrie jealous."
Ian Banion, Jess's boyfriend, laughed. "Am I imagining things, or is no one at this table a member of the Robert Q Parker fan club?"
"You're not, are you?" Hailey asked. She had only recently met Jess and Ian, residents of an off-campus dorm, Nightingale Hall, and didn't know them that well.
Ian's long, dark hair swept his shoulders as he shook his head. "No way. The guy's a jerk. Always tossing money around as if he owned his own bank. He talks too loud, drives like a maniac, and gives new meaning to the term pushy."
Hailey nodded. "Yeah, but I guess it works for him. He's a star on the tennis team, he manages the campus radio station, he belongs to the best fraternity on campus, and look at the crew of fans surrounding him." Robert's booth was crowded with "beautiful people."
"I still say he's a pain in the butt," Ian said firmly.
They all watched as the waitress, whose name tag read DARLENE RIGGS, approached Robert Q's table. They heard her say eagerly, "May I take your order?" and heard Robert Q's laugh and his, "Honey, you can take anything you want. Help yourself."
Hailey and Nell rolled their eyes heavenward.
The girl answered with a coquettish smile. She looked pleased.
"She's flattered," Nell said, revulsion dripping from her words. "Can you believe it?"
"She definitely looks interested," Jess said calmly. "But then, why not? He's a Big Man on Campus. And you know how smooth he can be when he lays on the charm."
"B.M.O.C. or not," Hailey grumbled, watching Darlene taking food and drink orders while Robert Q openly leered at her, "he's got the perception and sensitivity of a Q-Tip. He's turning that poor girl on just to rattle Gerrie's cage. It's repulsive."
But the waitress didn't seem to mind. Her smile as she served the table was radiant. Her short hair bobbed energetically around her fair-skinned face as she hurried back and forth from table to kitchen and back again, carrying loaded trays.
"I have to admit, she sure does fill out that uniform in all the right places," Nell said. There was more than a trace of envy in her voice. Nell was pretty: dark-haired, with fine, even features in an oval face and beautiful, thickly-lashed dark eyes. An accomplished gymnast, she was rail-thin and, as she herself regretfully put it, "When I stand sideways, I look like a door."
"I can't believe the way Robert Q is ogling her," Hailey said, irritably tapping the laminated table top with her metal spoon. "Like he's ready for dessert and she's a double-fudge brownie."
"He's going to ask her to meet him after her shift," Jess said matter-of-factly. "And she's going to say she'd love to. Just look at her face! She's in heaven."
"Well," Hailey responded, "if that waitress is looking for a knight on a white charger, someone should warn her that Robert Q's shining armor is slightly tarnished."
"More than slightly," Jess agreed.
"Before he and Gerrie got together," Hailey said, "he dated and discarded girls like used tissues. His little black book must be the size of an unabridged dictionary."
"Yeah, with his name in place of the definition for jerk," Nell said. After a moment or two of silence, her eyes on Darlene, she added, "One of these days, maybe he'll get dumped. I'd love to see that. Think that waitress is the right candidate?"
"Definitely not," Jess said. "She looks like she just won the lottery."
They sat in silence, sipping their drinks. Hailey couldn't take her eyes off the mini-drama centering around Robert Q's table. The waitress Darlene? seemed so happy, so delighted by Robert Q's outrageous flirting. Couldn't she tell what he was?
I'm not being fair, she scolded. Robert Q is good-looking, well-dressed, and he must have some charm or he'd be sitting in his dorm room alone nights instead of tooling around all over Twin Falls in his little Miata with a gorgeous female at his side.
Maybe I'm jealous, she thought, sighing. I've only had four dates since I hit Salem University's campus, and none of them made my toes tingle.
Hailey loved college. Salem University's campus was beautiful, green and rolling and wooded, the old but solid buildings stone or brick, some festooned with lush green ivy. Her roommate, Nell, was the best, and most of her classes were interesting. After years of being raised by a strict grandmother following the death of her parents in a car wreck when she was eight years old, she was especially happy to be living on her own.
But it would be nice to have someone special to share all of this with. Those years in her grandmother's big, empty house had been lonely ones.
What is it with me, anyway? she wondered. Does my appearance shout B-O-R-I-N-G? Why is it that guys I go out with want to know what I think about the Middle East or if I consider global warming a serious threat? Couldn't I, just once, go out with someone who tells me jokes and laughs at my jokes? Someone like like that guy over there, leaning against the wall talking with Pete Torrance. "That guy over there" was tall, thin, with dark hair and a strong, angled face. His eyes, Hailey decided, were probably brown, maybe with a touch of green. Pete, a sophomore who lived in Hailey's dorm, was shorter, with powerful shoulders and chest, and blond hair cut very short. They were both watching the unfolding scenario involving Robert Q and the waitress. Both looked thoroughly disgusted.
Good. That meant that neither of them was an insensitive pig.
Ian, noticing where Hailey's eyes were, said, "That's Finn Conran with Pete Torrance. He's a lowly freshman, too. Works here. Clean-up, fix-it, that kind of stuff. The guy is pretty sharp. Pete might hang out with Robert Q's crowd sometimes, but I'll bet Finn doesn't. That crowd wouldn't be his type." Ian grinned slyly and said, "I don't think he's dating anyone."
Hailey flushed, wishing Ian hadn't noticed who she'd been watching. "I don't even know the guy," she said defensively.
But she thought she might like to.
As they all turned their attention back to Robert Q's booth, it was clear to everyone at Hailey's table that Darlene was mouthing the words, "See you later" in Robert Q's direction.
"Oh, no," Nell groaned, "she fell for it! That's another notch on Robert Q's belt."
Ian shrugged. "Short of lassoing her and holding her prisoner in the Dungeon at the Quad, I don't think anyone could have stopped her. Robert Q may be a jerk, but he's a smooth jerk. She's not the first girl to fall for his act, and she won't be the last."
"No," Hailey said reluctantly, "but from the look on that girl's face, I'll bet she hopes she'll be the last."
So, when Darlene came to their booth, Hailey was especially nice to her, asking her name, introducing her to everyone at their table. What she really wanted to do was warn the girl away from Robert Q. But she knew that was hopeless. It was too late.
As they were leaving, Hailey glanced toward the spot where Pete and the dark-haired boy—Finn—had been. They were both gone. She was very annoyed with them for disappearing.
And even more annoyed with herself for caring.
I don't even know Finn. He could be more of a creep than Robert Q.
No. Not possible.
That poor girl Darlene. Did she have any idea what she was getting into?CHAPTER 2
Two nights later, Hailey had just finished blow-drying her hair in the second floor bathroom at Devereaux Hall, when Darlene came into the room. She was wearing tight jeans and a form-fitting, too-bright yellow sweater. An excess of blusher and several thick coats of mascara gave Darlene's round, pretty face an unnatural mannequin look.
She doesn't need so much makeup, Hailey thought.
"Hi!" the girl said brightly, setting a thick red clutch bag on the shelf beneath the mirror.
"I'm Darlene Riggs. And you're the girl who was so nice to me the other night at the diner. Hailey?"
"Hailey. Right. I'm here with Robert Q Parker," she said, beaming. "He doesn't live here. He lives at the Sigma Chi house. We're just visiting one of his friends." Darlene smiled dreamily. "Isn't Robert Q something? I can't believe he asked me out."
"Yeah, he's something, all right." Hailey had to bite her tongue to keep from adding exactly what she thought that something was.
Darlene began to add yet another coat of mascara to her lashes. "I know the girl Robert Q was dating before me. Well, I don't know her, but I've seen them together. They came into the diner a lot." She sighed. "She's very sophisticated."
"Right," Hailey snapped, annoyed with Darlene for admiring Gerrie, who had the depth of a pancake.
"I wish I could do my hair like yours, in that French braid kind of thing." Darlene aimed a face of disgust at her mirror reflection. "I don't suppose you'd have time to give me some tips? On how to look more chic?"
Hailey often wore her strawberry-blonde hair in a French braid because of its natural curl. If it wasn't restrained, it frizzed around her face like coiled wire.
"I wouldn't ask," Darlene added shyly as she teased her hair into a thick froth, "but you were so friendly the other night."
Meaning, Hailey thought, that I didn't snub her. Which probably meant that Robert Q's crowd wasn't exactly embracing Darlene. No surprise there. Susan Grossbeck, Lindsey Kite, and Puffy Wycroft weren't known for their generosity of spirit. As for Lyle Sutton and Richard Wentworth, Robert Q's best buddies, they'd think this whole thing with Darlene was hilarious.
While she was trying to figure out how to warn Darlene away from Robert Q, Darlene rambled on. "My old boyfriend, Bo Jessup, wasn't anything like Robert Q. We went together all through school. Bo was quarterback on the football team, and I was a cheerleader. Bo was so good, he almost got a scholarship to Salem. But," her voice flattened, "he didn't. Now he works in his father's garage. He was pretty upset when I broke up with him a couple of weeks ago."
Hailey tossed her damp towel into the laundry hamper. "Then he must be pretty ticked at you for going out with Robert Q."
Darlene nodded. "That's for sure. He thinks I belong to him, like I'm his personal property. That jealousy of his always made me crazy. If I so much as talked to another boy, Bo would go after him." She shrugged. "So yeah, he's pretty mad right now. But I told him, I have to think of my future. Bo's never going to get out of that garage. We both know that. And washing oil-stained coveralls for the rest of my life is not what I want." Darlene turned toward Hailey. "So, what do you say? Could you give me some pointers on how to look more sophisticated?"
"I'm not so sure I know very much about sophistication," Hailey said. "But I'd be glad to help. I'm in room 242. Just knock on the door if you want to talk. You'll have to pound. My roommate believes a stereo is worthless if it's not at full blast. Stop in any time."
In the hallway, Hailey immediately regretted her offer. She didn't even know Darlene. Besides, look who the girl was dating. Robert Q!
But were they really dating, as Darlene clearly thought they were? Or was Robert Q just using Darlene to make Gerrie Northrup jealous?
And what about Darlene's ex-boyfriend? She'd said he was the jealous type, who "went after" boys Darlene had only talked to. What would he do to someone she was actually dating?
Hailey shuddered. The newspapers and television were full of stories about ex-boyfriends doing terrible things to estranged girlfriends.
"That girl is going to get hurt," Hailey announced as she entered a cramped but sunny room 242, where Nell was stretched out on her bed, quietly studying. The stereo was, surprisingly, silent.
Nell lifted her head, and regarded Hailey with dark eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses. "What girl?"
"Darlene Riggs. Remember? The waitress at Burgers, the one Robert Q was making a play for the other night." Hailey filled Nell in on the bathroom encounter.
When she'd finished, Nell shook her head sadly. "Can you imagine the number Puffy and Susan and Lindsey are going to do on that girl? Making fun of her clothes and hair and her makeup? They'll reduce her to cracker crumbs."
"That's why I said I'd help her." Anticipating Nell's reaction, Hailey studied her fingernails.
Nell's jaw dropped. "You did what?"
Hailey retreated to her bed and sat, cross-legged, on the colorful quilt. "She asked me if I'd give her some pointers, help her look more sophisticated as if I know! But I said I'd try. She seems very nice, Nell."
"You're going to help the girl who's dating that slime, Robert Q?"
"Well, that's just it," Hailey said, spreading her hands helplessly in front of her, "Is he really dating her? I mean, does he even like this girl, or is he just using her? She also said her ex-boyfriend is pretty crazed over their breakup. So she could use someone on her side. Why not us?"
Bolting upright, Nell jabbed an angry finger in the air. "How do you do that? How do you go from your offer of help to the word 'us' without blinking an eye? I, Ellen Marie Riley, was not present in that bathroom when you so generously offered your services, remember? I offered nothing zilch, nada!"
With that, Nell returned to her textbook.
Some thirty minutes later, Hailey opened the door to a knock and found Darlene standing in the hall. "Okay if we talk now?" she asked, and Hailey nodded.
"I know who you are," Darlene told Nell, who was feigning a lack of interest in the new arrival. "You're the gymnast. I've seen you perform. You're really good."
Hailey grinned. If that didn't win Nell over, nothing would. And Darlene wasn't just jerking Nell's strings—she was totally sincere.
"So," Nell said, sitting up, "what can we do?"
The three of them spent nearly an hour crowded together on Hailey's bed. Darlene talked nonstop about Robert Q, in a rushed, breathless voice, as if she'd known him forever, while Nell and Hailey, armed with brush, comb, hot rollers, and curling iron, experimented with Darlene's hair. Using every can and bottle of mousse and gel they possessed between them, the roommates managed to tame the brown curls into a smooth, more natural style.
Then they got to work on Darlene's makeup. First, she washed her face. Then Hailey bunched Darlene's hair into two silly little pigtails to pull it out of the way so she could work with blusher and mascara and the tiniest bit of eye shadow. The new makeup was applied with a very light touch.
The result was a fresh, very appealing, natural look.
"But," Nell joked, "those pigtails have got to go!"
They were still laughing when Robert Q suddenly opened the door and stood there, an annoyed look on his face. When he saw Darlene's hair arranged in pigtails sticking up behind each ear, his frown deepened. "What is that!" he cried.
"Some people are incredibly rude," Nell said in a haughty voice. "Didn't anyone ever teach you to knock?" As she spoke, she smiled sweetly at Darlene, who was struggling to remove the rubber bands from her hair.
"The door wasn't locked," Robert Q said, striding over to yank at Darlene's head. She winced in pain as a rubber band, and with it several strands of dark brown hair, came off in his hand.
Excerpted from Deadly Attraction by Diane Hoh. Copyright © 1993 Diane Hoh. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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