Authors: Heather London
Tags: #Contemporary romance
“Um, yeah, I’m
here,” she says, her voice is so soft and sweet that just hearing it causes my
chest to ache. “I’ve got a class starting in about twenty minutes, but I’ll
have a break around noon for a couple hours.”
when my Thermo class starts
it, I’ll skip it. I need this more. “That’ll work. Do you know the coffee shop
across from the administration building?”
“Yeah, I’m familiar
with it,” she says finally.
“Okay, so I’ll meet
you there around noon then?”
She hangs up and I
can’t help feeling like a huge weight has been lifted off my chest, my heart,
and my mind. I realize that it’s not just seeing her smile that gives me that
release; it’s the sound of her voice, too. Then, I can’t help wondering if I’m
the biggest, most selfish asshole on the planet.
later, I’m showered and back downstairs. Josh is lying across the couch,
flipping through channels on the T.V., even though I can swear that he has a
class this morning.
“Hey, man,” I say,
falling in the chair beside the couch. His right eyebrow rises and he glances
at me like he’s never heard me speak before. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me,
I pretty much told him to fuck off earlier with the silent treatment I gave
“Hey, yourself,” he
says. His voice is muffled since half of his face is buried in a pillow.
“I’m an asshole.”
“Tell me something
I don’t know,” he responds.
“Okay, how about
I’m a huge asshole that’s been nothing but a dick to his best friend.”
“Still not news,
man.” He sits up, clicks off the T.V., and then walks into the kitchen. I stand
up and follow him.
“Okay, how about
that I’m a huge asshole that’s been nothing but a dick to his best friend, but
is going to try and stop being an asshole.”
“And?” he asks,
glancing back to me.
“And try to stop
being a dick.”
He shrugs. “It’s
not perfect, but I can live with that. Apology accepted.”
The clock on the
wall is moving too fast and I’ve convinced myself that it’s broken. There’s no
way class is almost over. I pull my cell phone out of my purse and see that it
matches the clock on the wall. Damn, then it’s true. Twenty-five minutes until
I’m supposed to head across campus and meet Carter for coffee. Twenty-five
minutes until I’m forced to stare one of my fears in the face. Twenty-five
minutes left to breathe without feeling like I’ve been punched in the stomach
with an iron fist.
That’s all for today, but don’t get used to getting dismissed early. Today I
just feel like being a nice guy; however, it doesn’t happen very often,”
Professor Henley says and the class begins to stir.
My stomach twists
as the chatter from students grows louder. Sounds of books slamming shut and
zippers closing fill the room. I was on the verge of having a meltdown at the
thought of only having twenty-five minutes left.
It doesn’t mean you have to
go there right away, Holly. Get a hold of yourself.
Slowly, I stuff my
book and notebook into my backpack and decide to take the long way across
campus, trying to prolong the inevitable.
“Hey, Holly!” a
shrill voice screams for me and, for once, I’m more than happy to hear it.
Truthfully, I’m hoping Becca says that she needs help and it’s an emergency,
giving me a perfectly valid excuse to cancel on Carter. God, that is so
Turning around, I
see Becca smiling as she approaches.
“Hey,” she says,
breathing heavily like she’s just run to catch up to me. “I was going to see if
you wanted to go grab some lunch before our class this afternoon.”
Damn, not the
emergency excuse I’m hoping for. “I’m sorry, but I made plans to go have coffee
“Oh, okay.” She
shrugs. “Some other time, then.” It seems like the last few times she’s tried
to talk to me and hang out, I’ve totally blown her off. Until a few months ago,
we were pretty close.
“Do you want to
study together sometime? Maybe this weekend?” I ask and her face brightens. “We
have the first test in Dr. Langford’s class next week and it would be nice to
have a study partner.”
would be great.” She smiles.
“Okay, I’ll call
you,” I say, returning her smile.
When I pull into a
parking space at Java Hut, I notice an old FJ Cruiser parked next to me with a
mountain rescue team sticker on it. Instantly, my insides turn to mush. I sit
there, staring at the sticker and can’t seem to peel my eyes away from it. As
much as I try to push the memory away, a very alive, happy and smiling image of
Adam pops into my head. He’s kneeling down in the parking lot of his apartment
complex and cleaning off a spot on the back of his Jeep.
“What do you
think? Is it straight?” He turned and flashed a wide grin at me.
straight,” I told him, not understanding why he was making such a big deal
about a sticker.
“Are you sure? I
can’t tell from this angle. You need to be sure ‘cause if it’s not straight,
then it’s going to bug the shit out of me.”
I laughed at his need for everything to be perfect. He turned back around and
placed the round Alpine Rescue sticker on the bottom left corner of his window.
The vision of him
dissolves from my mind, but I still can’t take my eyes off the sticker.
Seconds later, a
horn honks, distracting me. If it wasn’t for the disrupting sound, I’m not sure
how long I would have sat there, staring.
When I walk into
the small shop, I immediately spot Carter. His tall frame is pretty much
impossible to miss. He’s leaning back in his chair with his arms crossed over
his chest. One of his long legs is stretched out beneath the table and the
other is folded back under his chair while his head is covered up with a
baseball cap, sitting backwards on his head. There’s a cute brunette leaning
against the table and she’s smiling, looking at him like he’s the most
interesting thing on the planet. For a moment, I don’t move, I just stand there
in the entrance, staring at them, not wanting to ruin the intimate moment
between them. There’s a second or two where I actually play with the thought of
turning around and running out the door, back to my car. He hasn’t even seen me
yet and I can always come up with an excuse for why I can’t meet him. Feeling
like the biggest chicken shit on the planet, I shake the stupid idea from my
head and try to keep focused, knowing that I’ve come too far to turn back now.
As I’m still
standing there, watching him, I study his expression a little more carefully.
It takes me a moment to realize it, but I finally see that he’s uncomfortable…
or maybe it’s annoyed. I don’t know him very well, so it’s hard for me to read
the exact expression his face is making. All I know is that he doesn’t look
happy or interested.
Shifting in his
seat, he anxiously starts to glance around the small coffee shop. When his eyes
find mine, a look of relief appears on his face and a smile breaks across his
lips. He sits up a little straighter in his chair and, without even having to
try too hard, a small smile tugs at my lips, too. I make my way over to him and
it doesn’t take the woman long to follow his gaze, assessing me as I approach
“Hey, Carter,” I
say, taking a seat across from him.
“Hey.” He’s still
smiling. I notice that his grin is getting bigger and bigger by the second.
“What can I get for
I look up and see
that it isn’t just some random girl leaning over and flirting with him, it’s
the waitress. “I’ll have a cappuccino, thank you.”
“One coffee and one
cappuccino, coming right up.” She glances back over to Carter, winks, and then
smiles again before walking off. Unable to stop myself, I smile—mostly at how
hard the poor waitress is trying and how disinterested Carter seems to be. Poor
“Wow, thanks,” he
says, relaxing back in his chair. “You saved me just now. I thought I was
actually going to have to ask her to get off the table. A few more seconds and
I’m scared she would’ve mauled me or something.”
I chuckle and purse
my lips, trying to hide my smile. “Sorry, that’s rude,” I say, shaking my head.
“What? To smile?”
He looks at me with confusion.
“No, it’s rude to
laugh at someone.”
“Ah… I see. So
you’re laughing at me?” A tiny smirk appears on his face. “Here I was thinking
that you were laughing with me.”
Unable to stop it,
my smile comes out again. “It was pretty sad to watch. You looked like you were
in pain and the poor girl was only talking to you.”
try too hard to flirt and it makes things awkward. She’s just a freshman so I
guess there’s a reason she’s so bad at it. Maybe I should’ve been more of a
gentleman and given her some pointers or something.”
I can’t help being
thankful to the flirty waitress, she helps ease the awkwardness between us that
I feared was inevitable. My mind had been spinning at what I was going to say
to him when I first saw him. The silence that’s between us right now is what
I’ve been dreading.
Suddenly, my body
feels warm and I realize that my scarf is still wrapped tightly around my neck.
It’s only mid-September, but the weather has already started to turn chilly. I
yank the scarf off and shove it in my purse. The flirty waitress returns,
setting our drinks down in front of us and my hands immediately cling to the
“So, how are your
classes so far?” he asks when she walks off.
questions are also something I dreaded.
I shrug as I take a
sip of my cappuccino. “So far, so good. I’m finally starting to settle into a
routine now. It always takes a few weeks, you know?”
He nods. “Yeah, I
know what you mean.”
major?” I ask, licking the foam that I can feel lingering on my lips.
“Really? Do you
have Dr. Langford?”
It surprises me
that he actually knows my professor by name, especially since he’s not a
Journalism major. “Yeah, how did you know that?”
He shakes his head
as if it’s no big deal. “He’s just an old family friend. He and my dad were
college roommates. I hear he gives some killer tests, though... or that’s his
reputation at least.”
“Yeah,” I sigh and
my stomach turns. “I’ve heard that, too.”
“Maybe I can put in
a good word for you.”
“No,” I shake my head
and force out a laugh. “Please don’t. I would prefer to blend in as much as
possible. No need to draw unwanted attention. The first test is next week, so
I’ll be able to tell you if the rumor is true or not.” I swallow hard and take
another sip of my cappuccino, knowing that another bad grade will send my GPA
even farther down the tubes. Last semester, with what happened with Adam, my
grades suffered terribly. I should’ve failed most of my classes, but I think
the pity from my professors is what saved me.
“So what are your
plans this weekend?” I ask, hoping to change the subject.
studying or something,” he says. “You?”
“I’m going to take
Jenna out... it’s been awhile since we’ve done anything with just the two of
He nods and relaxes
more into his chair. “That’s cool. I hear there’s a new club or something on
“Yeah, I heard some
girls in class talking about it, too, but I’ve got something different in mind.
Something a little more exciting.”
“Really?” He seems
I smile. “We’ll
see. She may hurt me when I tell her what we’re doing.”
He eyes me
suspiciously. “This is supposed to be a nice thing, right? Why would she hurt
I fumble with the
napkin in front of me, not able to meet his eyes, and not able to wash the
smile off my face. “If I tell you, you’ll have to promise to keep it to
yourself and especially don’t tell Josh. I don’t want to give her too much of a
head start in strangling me.”
He raises an
eyebrow. “I’m really confused now, but definitely intrigued. You don’t have to
worry; I’m good at keeping secrets.” He leans forward across the table and his
face comes within a few inches of mine. Slowly, I lean away from him, feeling
my whole body break out in a small sweat. From the look in his eyes, it’s clear
he notices my retreat.
“Skydiving,” I tell
him, my voice barely above a whisper. “We’re going skydiving on Saturday. Or at
least, I’ve made us an appointment.”
A smile tugs at his
lips as he leans back in his chair. “Wow, and she doesn’t know? I’d pay money
to see the look on her face when you tell her.”
actually something I’ve always wanted to do. She may not be too thrilled with
it at first, but I know she’ll love it.”