And—praise the Lord!—now I have a party to go to. There’s nothing better than a party after a shitty day. I need this badly.
I check the time. It’s one p.m.
I quickly do some mental math. The Briar campus is about an hour away from Boston. From there it’s a three-and-a-half, four-hour drive to Manhattan. That means I won’t arrive in the city until the evening, which won’t leave me much time to get ready. If I’m seeing my unicorn tonight, I plan on dolling myself up from my head down to my toes.
That boy isn’t going to know what hit him.
“Dance with me?”
I want to say no.
But I also want to say yes.
I call this the Summer Dilemma—the frustrating, polar reactions this green-eyed, golden-haired goddess sparks in me.
Fuck yes and hell no.
Get naked with her. Run far, far away from her.
“Thanks, but I don’t like to dance.” I’m not lying. Dancing’s the worst.
Besides, when it comes to Summer Di Laurentis, my flight instinct always wins out.
“You’re no fun, Fitzy.” She makes a tsking noise, drawing my gaze to her lips. Full, pink, and glossy, with a tiny mole above the left side of her mouth.
It’s an extremely hot mouth.
Hell, everything about Summer is hot. She’s hands down the best-looking girl in the bar, and every dude in our vicinity is either staring enviously or glowering at me for being with her.
Not that I’m with her. We’re not together. I’m just standing next to her, with two feet of space between us. Which Summer keeps trying to bridge by leaning closer to me.
In her defense, she practically has to scream in my ear for me to hear her over the electronic dance music blasting through the room. I hate EDM, and I don’t like these kinds of bars, the ones with a dance floor and deafening music. Why the subterfuge? Just call your establishment a nightclub, if that’s what you want it to be. The owner of Gunner’s Pub should’ve called this place Gunner’s Club. Then I could’ve turned right around when I saw the sign and spared myself the shattered eardrums.
Not for the first time tonight, I curse my friends for dragging me to Brooklyn for New Year’s Eve. I’d way rather be at home, drinking a beer or two and watching the ball drop on TV. I’m low-key like that.
“You know, they warned me you were a curmudgeon, but I didn’t believe it until now.”
“Who’s they?” I ask suspiciously. “And hey, wait. I’m not a curmudgeon.”
“Hmmm, you’re right—the term is kind of dated. Let’s go with Groucho.”
“No-Fun Police? Is that better?” Her expression is pure innocence. “Seriously, Fitz, what do you have against fun?”
An unwitting smile breaks free. “Got nothing against fun.”
“All right. Then what do you have against me?” she challenges. “Because every time I try talking to you, you run away.”
My smile fades. I shouldn’t be surprised that she’s calling me out in public. We’ve had a whopping total of two encounters, but that’s plenty of time for me to know she’s the type who thrives on drama.
I hate drama.
“Got nothing against you, either.” With a shrug, I ease away from the bar, prepared to do what she’s just accused me of—run.
A frustrated gleam fills her eyes. They’re big and green, the same shade as her older brother Dean’s eyes. And Dean’s the reason I force myself to stay put. He’s a good friend of mine. I can’t be a jackass to his sister, both out of respect for him, and for fear of my well-being. I’ve been on the ice when Dean’s gloves come off. He’s got a mean right hook.
“I mean it,” I say roughly. “I have nothing against you. We’re cool.”
“What? I didn’t hear the last part,” she says over the music.
I dip my mouth toward her ear, and I’m surprised that I barely have to bend my neck. She’s taller than the average chick, five-nine or ten, and since I’m six-two and used to towering over women, I find this refreshing.
“I said we’re cool,” I repeat, but I misjudged the distance between my lips and Summer’s ear. The two collide, and I feel a shiver run up her frame.
I shiver too, because my mouth is way too close to hers. She smells like heaven, some fascinating combo of flowers and jasmine and vanilla and—sandalwood, maybe? A man could get high on that fragrance. And don’t get me started on her dress. White, strapless, short. So short it barely grazes her lower thighs.
God fucking help me.
I quickly straighten up before I do something stupid, like kiss her. Instead, I take a huge gulp of my beer. Only it goes down the wrong pipe, and I start coughing like it’s the eighteenth century and I’m a tuberculosis patient.
When the coughing fit subsides, I find those green eyes dancing at me. Her lips are curved in a devilish smile. She knows exactly what got me flustered.
“Fine,” I croak, just as three very plastered guys lumber up to the bar and bump into Summer.
She stumbles, and the next thing I know there’s a gorgeous, sweet-smelling woman in my arms.
She laughs and grabs my hand. “C’mon, let’s get out of this crowd before it leaves bruises.”
For some reason, I let her lead me away.
We end up at a high table near the railing that separates the bar’s main room from the small, shitty dance floor. A quick look around reveals that most of my friends are drunk off their asses.
Mike Hollis, my roommate, is grinding up on a cute brunette who doesn’t seem to mind in the slightest. He’s the one who insisted we make the drive to Brooklyn instead of staying in the Boston area. He wanted to spend New Year’s with his older brother Brody, who disappeared the moment we got here. I guess the girl is Hollis’ consolation prize for getting ditched by his brother.
Our other roommate, Hunter, is dancing with three girls. Yup, three. They’re all but licking his face off, and I’m pretty sure one has a hand down his pants. Hunter, of course, is loving it.
What a difference a year makes. Last season he was uneasy about all the female attention, said it made him feel a bit sleazy. Now, it appears he’s perfectly cool taking advantage of the perks that come with playing hockey for Briar University. And trust me, there’re plenty of perks.
Let’s get real—athletes are the most fuckable guys on most college campuses. If you’re at a football school, chances are there’s a line of jersey chasers begging to blow the quarterback. Basketball school? The groupie pool doubles and triples in size when March Madness comes around. And at Briar, with a hockey team that has a dozen Frozen Four championships under its belt and more nationally televised games than any other college in the country? The hockey players are gods.
Except for me, that is. I play hockey, yes. I’m good at it, definitely. But “god” and “jock” and “superstar” are terms I’ve never been comfortable with. Deep down, I’m a huge nerd. A nerd masquerading as a god.
“Hunter’s got game.” Summer is studying Hunter’s entourage.
The DJ has switched the beats from electronic garbage to Top 40 hits. Blessedly, he’s also turned down the volume, probably in anticipation of the nearing countdown. Thirty more minutes and I can make my escape.
“He does,” I agree.
“Definitely. Greenwich boys are usually secret prudes.”
I wonder how she knows Hunter is from Connecticut. I don’t think I’ve seen them exchange more than a few words tonight. Maybe Dean told her? Or maybe—
Or maybe it doesn’t frickin’ matter how she knows, because if it did matter, then that means the weird prickly sensation in my chest is jealousy. And that, frankly, is unacceptable.
Summer does another visual sweep of the crowd and blanches. “Oh my God. Gross.” She cups her hands to create a microphone, shouting, “Keep your tongue in your own mouth, Dicky!”
Laughter sputters out of me. No way Dean could’ve heard her, but I guess he possesses some sort of sibling radar, because he abruptly pries his lips off his girlfriend’s. His head swivels in our direction. When he spots Summer, he gives her the finger.
She blows a kiss in return.
“I’m so glad I’m an only child,” I remark.
She grins at me. “Naah, you’re missing out. Tormenting my brothers is one of my favorite pastimes.”
“I’ve noticed.” She calls Dean “Dicky,” a childhood nickname that a nicer person would have stopped using years ago.
On the other hand, Dean’s nickname for Summer is “Boogers,” so maybe she’s right to torture him.
“Dicky deserves to be tormented tonight. I can’t believe we’re partying in Brooklyn,” she grumbles. “When he said we were ringing in the New Year in the city, I assumed he meant Manhattan—but then he and Allie dragged me to horrible Brooklyn instead. I feel duped.”
I snicker. “What’s wrong with Brooklyn? Allie’s dad lives around here, doesn’t he?”
Summer nods. “They’re spending the day with him tomorrow. And to answer your question—what isn’t wrong with Brooklyn? It used to be cool, before it got overrun by hipsters.”