There were two things in life that scared the ever-loving crap out of me. Waking up in the middle of the night and discovering a ghost with its transparent face shoved in mine was one of them. Not likely to occur, but still pretty damn freaky to think about. The second thing was walking into a crowded classroom late.
I absolutely loathed being late.
I hated for people to turn and stare, which they always did when you entered a classroom a minute after class started.
That was why I had obsessively plotted the distance between my apartment in University Heights and the designated parking lot for commuter students over the weekend on Google. And I actually drove it twice on Sunday to make sure Google wasn’t leading me astray.
One point two miles to be exact.
Five minutes in the car.
I even left fifteen minutes early so I would arrive ten minutes before my nine-ten class began.
What I didn’t plan for was the mile long traffic back-up at the stop sign, because God forbid there was an actual light in the historical town, or the fact there was absolutely no parking left on campus. I had to park at the train station adjacent to the campus, wasting precious time digging up quarters for the meter.
“If you insist on moving halfway across the country, at least stay in one of the dorms. They do have dorms there, don’t they?” My mom’s voice filtered through my thoughts as I stopped in front of the Robert Byrd Science Building, out of breath from racing up the steepest, most inconvenient hill in history.
Of course I hadn’t chosen to stay in a dorm, because I knew at some point, my parents would randomly show up and they would start judging and start talking and I’d rather punt-kick myself in the face before subjecting an innocent bystander to that. Instead, I tapped into my well-earned blood money and leased a two-bedroom apartment next to campus.
Mr. and Mrs. Morgansten had hated that.
And that had made me extremely happy.
But now I was sort of regretting my little act of rebellion, because as I hurried out of the humid heat of a late August morning and into the air-conditioned brick building, it was already eleven minutes past nine and my astronomy class was on the second floor. And, why in the hell did I choose astronomy?
Maybe because the idea of sitting through another biology class made me want to hurl? Yep. That was it.
Racing up the wide staircase, I barreled through the double doors and smacked right into a brick wall.
Stumbling backward, my arms flailed like a cracked-out crossing guard. My over-packed messenger bag slipped, pulling me to one side. My hair flew it front of my face, a sheet of auburn that obscured everything as I teetered dangerously.
Oh dear God, I was going down. There was no stopping it. Visions of broken necks danced in my head. This was going to suck so—
Something strong and hard went around my waist, stopping my free fall. My bag hit the floor, spilling overpriced books and pens across the shiny floor. My pens! My glorious pens rolled everywhere. A second later I was pressed against the wall.
The wall was strangely warm.
The wall chuckled.
“Whoa,” a deep voice said. “You okay, sweetheart?”
The wall was so not a wall. It was a guy. My heart stopped and for a frightening second, pressure clamped down on my chest and I couldn’t move or think. I was thrown back five years. Stuck. Couldn’t move. Air punched from my lungs in a painful rush as tingles spread up the back of my neck. Every muscle locked up.
“Hey,” the voice softened, edged with concern. “Are you okay?”
I forced myself to take a deep breath—to just breathe. I needed to breathe. Air in. Air out. I had practiced this over and over again for five years. I wasn’t fourteen anymore. I wasn’t there. I was here, halfway across the country.
Two fingers pressed under my chin, forcing my head up. Startling, deep blue eyes framed with thick, black lashes fixed on mine. A blue so vibrant and electric, and such a stark contrast against the black pupils, I wondered if they were real.
And then it hit me.
A guy was holding me. A guy had never held me. I didn’t count that one time, because that time didn’t count for shit, and I was pressed against him, thigh to thigh, my chest to his. Like we were dancing. My senses fried as I inhaled the light scent of cologne. Wow. It smelled good and expensive, like his…
Anger suddenly rushed through me, a sweet and familiar thing, pushing away the old panic and confusion. I latched onto it desperately and found my voice. “Let. Go. Of. Me.”
Blue eyes immediately dropped his arm. Unprepared for the sudden loss of support, I swayed to the side, catching myself before I tripped over my bag. Breathing like I’d just ran a mile, I pushed the thick strands of hair out of my face and finally got a good look at Blue eyes.
Sweet baby Jesus, Blue Eyes was…
He was gorgeous in all the ways that made girls do stupid things. He was tall, a good head or two taller than me and broad at the shoulders, but tapered at the waist. An athlete’s body—like a swimmer’s. Wavy black hair toppled over his forehead, brushing matching eyebrows. Broad cheekbones and wide, expressive lips completed the package created for girls to drool over. And with those sapphire-colored eyes, holy moley…
Who thought a place named Shepherdstown would be hiding someone who looked like this?
And I ran into him. Literally. Nice. “I’m sorry. I was in a hurry to get to class. I’m late and…”
His lips tipped up on the corners as he knelt. He started gathering up my stuff and for a brief moment I felt like crying. I could feel tears building in my throat. I was really late now, like no way could I walk into that class and on the first day. Fail.
Dipping down, I let my hair fall forward and shield my face as I started grabbing up my pens. “You don’t have to help me.”
“It’s no problem.” He picked up a slip of paper and then glanced up. “Astronomy 101? I’m heading that way, too.”
Great. For the whole semester I’d have to see the guy I nearly killed in the hallway. “You’re late,” I said lamely. “I really am sorry.”
With all my books and pens back in my bag, he stood as he handed it back to me. “It’s okay.” That crooked grin spread, revealing a dimple in his left cheek, but nothing on the right side, though. “I’m used to having girls throw themselves at me.”
I blinked, thinking I hadn’t heard the blue-eyed babe right, because surely he hadn’t said something as lame as that.
He had and he wasn’t done. “Trying to jump on my back is new, though. Kind of liked it.”
Feeling my cheeks burn, I snapped out of it. “I wasn’t trying to jump on your back or throw myself at you.”
“You weren’t?” The lopsided grin remained. “Well, that’s a shame. If so, it would have made this the best first day of class in history.”
I didn’t know what to say as I clutched the heavy bag to my chest. Guys hadn’t flirted with me back at home. Most of them hadn’t dared to look in my direction in high school and the very few that did, well, they hadn’t been flirting.
Blue Eyes’ gaze dropped to the slip of paper in his hand. “Avery Morgansten?”
My heart jumped. “How do you know my name?”
He cocked his head to the side as the smile inched wider. “It’s on your schedule.”
“Oh.” I pushed the wavy strands of hair back from my hot face. He handed my schedule back, and I took it, slipping it into my bag. A whole lot of awkward descended as I fumbled with my strap.
“My name is Cameron Hamilton,” Blue Eyes said. “But everyone calls me Cam.”
Cam. I rolled the name around, liking it. “Thank you again, Cam.”
He bent over and picked up a black backpack I hadn’t noticed. Several locks of dark hair fell over his forehead and as he straightened, he brushed them away. “Well, let’s make our grand entrance.”
My feet were rooted to the spot where I stood as he turned and strolled the couple of feet to the closed door to room 205. He reached for the handle, looking over his shoulder, waiting.
I couldn’t do it. It didn’t have anything to do with the fact that I plowed into what was possibly the sexiest guy on campus. I couldn’t walk into the class and have everybody turn and stare. I’d had enough of being the center of attention everywhere I went for the last five years. Sweat broke out and dotted my forehead. My stomach tightened as I took a step back, away from the classroom and Cam.
He turned, brows knitted as a curious expression settled on his striking face. “You’re going in the wrong direction, sweetheart.”
I’d been going in the wrong direction half my life it seemed. “I can’t.”
“Can’t what?” He took a step toward me.
And I bolted. I actually spun around and ran like I was in the race for the last cup of coffee in the world. As I made it to those damn double doors, I heard him call out my name, but I kept going.
My face was flaming as I hurried down the stairs, out of breath as I burst out of the science building. My legs kept moving until I sat down on a bench outside of the adjacent library. The early morning sun seemed too bright as I lifted my head and squeezed my eyes shut.