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The first time I met Hunter Zaccadelli, I punched him in the face. Granted, he completely and totally deserved it. He also asked for it, in so many ways.
When our fourth roommate bailed on us three days before school, Darah, Renee and I assumed housing would take care of it and shove some poor unfortunate in with us. Probably some poor girl who had decided to switch colleges at the last minute to follow a boyfriend, or someone who had their apartment plans fall through. We weren't sure what to expect, but come move-in day, I did not expect who was waiting outside when I opened the door. I knew the upper-class housing was coed, but never in my wildest and craziest dreams did I think it would actually happen to us.
Instead of a desperate and frazzled girl, he showed up with a footlocker, a backpack and a guitar. It was so beyond cliche that I didn't say anything for the full three seconds it took for me to assess him. Dark hair buzzed so short his head was almost shaved, purposeful five o'clock shadow, piercing blue eyes and at least a foot on my five feet. And a cocky smile to top it all off. He might as well have had Trouble tattooed on his forehead. Speaking of ink, I could just make out some on his arm, but I couldn't see what it said. His thin T-shirt hugged his chest in a way that didn't leave much to the imagination. Maybe he'd borrowed it from his little brother.
"Are you Darah, Renee or Taylor? You look like a Taylor to me," he said, looking me up and down.
I wasn't at my best, considering I was dressed for moving heavy objects in a blue UMaine T-shirt and black soccer shorts, and I had my light brown hair in a haphazard bun against the back of my neck. His eyes raked up and down twice, and for some reason the way he assessed me made me blush and want to kick him in the balls at the same time.
"There must be a mistake," I said.
He adjusted his bag on his shoulder. "That's a creative name. What do you shorten it to? Missy?"
"That's not what I meant."
His grin somehow got wider. Either his dad was a dentist, or he was really into flossing because those teeth were pretty perfect. I noticed things like that, having gone through my own dental saga between three years of braces and night headgear. I still had to wear a retainer every night.
"Is that her?" Darah called from her room, where she was arranging her photo frames so they were exactly level. She was neurotic like that.
"I'm Hunter, by the way. Hunter Zaccadelli."
Of course his name was Hunter. The only Hunter I'd ever known had been a complete douche. Looked like this guy was going to carry on the tradition.
He pointed to his footlocker. "So, should I bring my stuff in or
My brain wouldn't stop misfiring.
"Who's that?" Darah finally emerged. Our other roommate, Renee, was still unloading stuff from her car. "New roommate, hey," he said.
"You're the new roommate?" Her eyebrows migrated so they were nearly hidden under her dark bangs. She gave him the same up and down as I did, but he didn't do the same to her. He was still looking at me.
"Yeah, my housing plans fell through at the last minute. My cousin was going to let me live at his place, but that didn't work out, so here I am. Do you mind if I come in now?"
"You can't live here," I said, crossing my arms.
"Why? This is a coed living facility, last time I checked." He flashed his grin again and shouldered his way into the room, completely ignoring me as his chest brushed mine, and I got a whiff of cologne. It wasn't that cheap crap that punches you in the nose. It was spicier, almost like cinnamon. I stood my ground, but he had height and weight on me. But I had surprise on my side.
"Well, it's better than sleeping on my cousin's couch," he said, plunking his bag on the floor and surveying the room. The suites were small, with a kitchen and tiny nook for a dining table on one side and a tiny living room for an apartment-size couch and a recliner on the other. The bedrooms were the worst, with two lofted beds crammed perpendicular to each other along the wall, the desks crammed underneath, and room for only two small closets.
"Can I see some identification?" Darah said, propping her hands on her hips. "How do we know you're not some random creep?"
"Do I look like some random creep?" He spread his arms out, and I finally saw what the tattoo on his left biceps was.
A number seven in curling intricate script. My eyes moved up to his face.
"How are we supposed to know?" Darah moved closer to him, using her stature. They were almost the same height.
"Look, all I know is that I submitted an application and they sent me an email with a room number and your names. Here, I printed it out. Do you treat all your guests like criminals?" He drew out a many-times-folded sheet of paper and handed it to Darah. She glanced at it, sighed and handed it to me.
"Why wouldn't they have notified us?" I said once I'd read it. There it was in black-and-white.
"Who knows?" Darah said, still eyeing him warily.
"Oh my God, I swear I'm never moving again," Renee said from the top of the stairs, her arms full of boxes and two bags dangling from her arms. "Who left their crap in the hallway?" She stepped over the footlocker and guitar case, giving them a look of disgust. "Has our new roommate showed upoh, hello." Her voice changed from irritated and dry to sweet and sugary the second she saw Hunter. "I'm guessing that's your guitar in the hallway." She dropped her stuff and proceeded to pop her hip out and lean to one side. Oh, please.
"This," I said, pointing to Hunter, "is our new roommate, according to housing."
"No way." Renee's eyes got wide in her tiny face. Renee looked like a blond-haired, blue-eyed china doll you plucked off a shelf and put in a Victoria's Secret tank top. "Are you shitting me?"
"What a reception," Hunter said.
"Shut up," I said. He just smiled again. God, I wanted to smack that smile right off his face.
"I should probably get my junk out of the hall," he said, going and picking up the footlocker as if it weighed nothing more than a shoebox. Show-off.
Hunter had to navigate boxes and random pillows and crap that littered the rooms, which he did with grace. He found a spot and set the footlocker down, looking at us.
"So, who am I sleeping with?" he said, leaning against the door to my bedroom.
The agreement had been that since Darah and Renee had already been roommates last year, and I was joining their little group, that the new girl would live with me. But that was so not happening now that the new girl wasn't a girl.
"Did you seriously just say that?" I said.
At the same time Darah said, "The only free bed is in Taylor's room."
"There is no way he's staying with me," I snapped, readjusting my arms so they covered my boobs better. He'd been staring at my chest since he'd made the sleeping-with comment. Not that I had much of one to speak of, but that didn't stop his eyes from traveling there.
"No, we're calling housing right now and straightening this out," I said, pulling out my cell phone.
"Tay, they're not open on Monday," Renee said.
"I don't care. There must be someone there. It's move-in day."
I grabbed the campus phone book that had been on the doormat when we'd gotten there that morning and thumbed through it until I found the number for housing.
"Aw, c'mon, Missy, you don't want to live with me?" Who did this guy think he was? I'd known him all of ten minutes and he'd already given me a nickname and propositioned me.
"Call me that one more time
" I didn't finish as I furiously typed in the number. Darah and Renee whispered to Hunter, but not quiet enough so I couldn't hear them.
"It's best to let her go when she gets like this," Renee hissed.
"I wouldn't mess with her," he said as I listened to another ring.
Finally, a message picked up, telling me what the hours were and giving me some extensions I could try. I punched in the first one. No answer, but a message machine picked up. I left a short message, explaining the situation in the most urgent of terms, and then called back the original number. I didn't stop until I'd left messages for all five of the contacts on the housing voice mail list. I slammed my phone down on the counter.
"Feel better?" Hunter said.
"No." I chucked the phone book on the couch. Darah and Renee were looking at me like they were worried I was going to explode. I was on the verge. "If you were a gentleman, you'd offer to sleep on the couch," I snapped.
"Well, Missy, you'll come to find out that I'm not a gentleman. I plan to take full advantage of this situation." My mouth dropped open in shock. No guy had ever talked to me that way.
"Is it hot in here? I think I'll open the window," Renee said, scurrying over to our one window, located at one end of the couch.
Darah looked at me and then Hunter and back. "Well, there's nothing we can do right now. Let's get his stuff in, and then maybe we can go down and see if anyone is at housing," she said. Darah was always the peacemaker.
"Sounds good to me," Hunter said, walking right into my bedroom as if he owned the place.
"I can't believe this is happening," I said, closing my eyes.
I heard "Back in Black" by AC/DC coming from my room. Hunter's ringtone.
"Hey, man. No, I just got here. Room 203. Yeah, that would be great
" He nudged the door shut, and I glanced at Renee and Darah.
"I didn't think we were going to have to do this so early, but I think we need a roommate meeting," I said. We'd agreed that we would have weekly roommate meetings to air our grievances. I was all for getting that shit out in the open so we didn't end up hating each other. I'd had a horrible roommate last year, and I didn't want to deal with that again.
I listened, but it sounded like Hunter was still on the phone. I could hear him rummaging and prayed he wouldn't break anything. Then I would kill him.
"I don't see what the big deal is," Renee said. "I mean, it would be the same if one of us had a boyfriend staying over. Paul stayed over all the time when Darah and I lived here last year."
"But that was because you were sleeping with him," I said.
"Maybe I'll sleep with Hunter," she shot back. Renee had broken up with Paul extremely recently and was on the prowl for a rebound. We all knew she and Paul were meant to be and that they would eventually realize that, but Renee was still in the anger stage.
"Are you uncomfortable with staying with him, Taylor? It's okay if you are," Darah said.
"I can't imagine why I would be uncomfortable about sharing an extremely small room with a guy I've known all of a half hour who keeps making creepy comments. Can't imagine why I'd have a problem with that."
"If you want, Renee and I can switch. I'll stay with him, and Renee can stay with you," Darah said.
"Why can't he stay with me?" Renee whined. "Because you'll rape him in his sleep," I said. "You can't rape the willing, Tay," she said, winking. "You're disgusting."
"How about we draw straws?" Darah said.
"Do we even have straws?" Renee said. "How about we do numbers or something? Here," she said, grabbing a UMaine notepad that someone had left on the kitchen counter, along with a pen. "I'll write our names down and we'll put it in
" She grabbed the baseball cap I'd discarded earlier. "And Hunter will pick. There you go. Problem solved."
My door opened and Hunter emerged, another grin on his face.
"You weren't talking about me, were you?"
Like he didn't know. I rolled my eyes as Renee wrote each of our names on little bits of paper and tossed them in my hat. She put her hand over the top and shook it up.
"Pick one," she said, shoving the hat in his face.
"Okay," he said, sticking his hand in and pulling out a folded slip of paper. Renee slowly unfolded it. We all waited as she paused dramatically.
"Taylor," she said, turning it around so we could all read my name in black-and-white.
"Shit," I said.
"What's with all the peacock stuff?"
It was an hour later, and I was just as stuck with Hunter as I was when he'd walked in the door. I'd even gone down to housing, which was right down the hill from our dorm, but no one was there. Too busy making sure the freshmen didn't collapse under the weight of their massive electronics when they carried them down the hall, no doubt.
I was doing my best to ignore Hunter, but he wouldn't shut up. Clearly, he was one of those guys who liked to chat.
"Don't you know peacock feathers are bad luck?" Out of the corner of my eye, his biceps with the seven tattoo flexed as he pulled a couple of shirts out of his footlocker.
Yes, I did know they were bad luck for most people. It was none of his business why I had them everywhere, including on my comforter, hung in frames on the wall and strung on a dream catcher my sister had given me. It was none of his goddamn business.
I wished Tawny was here. My sister would have known exactly what to say to Hunter to get him to leave. She couldn't get out of her work as a paralegal, and Mom couldn't get off work, either. I guess they figured since I was a sophomore, moving wasn't such a big deal. Still, I missed Tawny. "You pissed at me, Missy?"
The nickname was the last straw. I whirled around and glared at him. "Look, I don't know you. You don't know me. As soon as humanly possible, I'm getting you out of here, got it? I'm not your baby. I'm not one of those girls you can smile at and crawl into bed with. Got it? Stay the fuck away from me."
Those blue eyes seared into me. He was the kind of guy who could see things that other people couldn'tthings that I'd spent my entire life covering up and hiding from the masses. I'd only met a few people who could see past my carefully cultivated facade. I'd dropped most of them like a bad habit, with the exception of one. I'd have to squash this ASAP before he decided he might want to see what the world had done to piss me off so much.
"It's kinda hard to stay away from you when we're living in the same place," he said.
"I. Know. That," I said through gritted teeth.
He held up his hands. "Don't be mad at me. Fate picked your name."
"I don't believe in fate."
He laughed. "Me neither. I just believe in luck." He pointed to the seven on his arm. "Never can be too careful."
"I don't believe in luck, either."