Enough about her.” His voice dropped again, back to that seriousness from earlier. “I was going to come find you tomorrow anyway, but we’re here. I know Mason wants you to call him if you see Sebastian, but I want you to call me instead.”
“Because Mason’s hands are tied behind his back.”
My eyes narrowed.
“He can’t do anything—at least, not in public. It could hurt his football career. As much as Mase hates to admit it, he’s like a freaking politician now. He’s gotta watch everything he does and says. Nothing can blow back on him.”
A shiver was winding its way down my spine. The consequences Logan was talking about became even more real to me. Fear started in my gut, building with urgency. I had to make sure nothing happened to Mason.
I nodded, feeling Logan’s gaze on me. He was waiting for my acknowledgment.
I gave it to him. “Yeah. Okay.”
“I mean it. Don’t call him. Call me. I can get kicked out of school. That’s no problem for me. I can go to the college across town. Whatever. It’s not a D League, but it’s still a good school. I can handle the blowback. I need to, for Mason. Nothing can happen to him. I can fight. He can’t. He has to be really careful, especially with this dickwad. He’s not a normal dickwad. He’s got some brains.”
I nodded, forcing my head to move up and down, as my neck muscles seemed paralyzed.
The serious moment was done. Logan added, his voice more carefree, “It’s like he’s a dick who has serious sperm in his wad, if you know what I mean.” His knee nudged mine. “Hey. Hey? You know what I mean? It’s like he’s extra fertilized, but we have to keep him from spraying all over us—”
I shoved back at his knee and hopped off the table. “We’re going back to the party, and I’m going to drink. You,” I pointed at him as he was trying to hold his laughter in, “stop talking to me about dicks, wads, and who’s fertile or not. Call Heather if you want to have that conversation. I’m sure she’s got her own theories for that stuff but not me. That’s gross.”
He laughed as he climbed off the table and started to follow me back inside. Right before we got to the door, he grabbed my arm, stopping me. The jokes were gone again. “This doesn’t have to do with Sebastian, but it’s about Jax.”
I waited. He never explained anything about Heather before. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know, but I kept quiet.
“Jax and I—it’s not a thing, and it won’t hurt your friendship.”
I studied him, looking up at him in the moonlight.
He shrugged and looked away. “That was the first ground rule Heather put down. Whatever happens, it won’t harm you. We promise. Both of us.”
I nodded. “Good enough for me.” I gestured over my shoulder to the house. “And can you kinda be a dick to the other two girls from my floor? I can see that they’re both already falling in love with you, and I don’t want to deal with that, especially when I go to the restroom. I don’t want some chick trying to hop into my stall, asking for a date with you.”
“Ah.” Logan’s shoulder straightened. His usual smirk adorned his face, and just like that, the serious Logan was gone and the womanizing one was back in play. He pretended to crack his knuckles, stretching his arms over his head. “I’ll see what I can do, but, Sam, I’m like a god among mortals. I can’t help who falls in love with this.” He gestured up and down his body and winked at me. “Girls are going to love what they can’t have.”
It was my turn to snort. “Please. You give plenty of yourself away.”
He barked out a laugh, catching the door as I pulled it open. His arm came over my head again, and he held the door for me. Going back inside, the music seemed even louder, and when we saw most of our crew was on the dance floor or on the couches, I knew all the serious conversations were done for the night.
It was time to have fun.
Summer saw me from the dance floor—her arms winding up and down above her head, her hips moving in rhythm with the music—and she motioned for me. With the bright smile she was giving me, I figured Logan hadn’t put too big of a wedge between us.
Making sure he saw where I was going, I headed to meet her on the floor. Kitty moved away, making room for me in their makeshift little circle. I spotted Nina on the couch. Blaze was sitting next to her, still wearing a toga, and he had the pony keg this time. She looked ready to launch into outer space. He put his arm around her, and I started to laugh. She grabbed her legs, as if forcing herself to stay on the couch.
I had a feeling things with this group of people were going to be okay.
Step one was done.
I made some friends.
“You’re dragging, Kade.”
I was doing sprints, and I stopped, heaving for breath, as Drew came over and lined up next to me. He was right. I was.
Sam crawled into bed with me the night before, and I’d loved every minute of it, but an hour later, we’d both decided she should wake up in her dorm room. The whole commitment to staying in the dorms for the first month was going to be taxing on both of us, and that meant another hour of being awake because I’d driven her back. I walked up with her, and for another fifteen minutes, we’d stood outside her door before she went inside. I was dragging, but I didn’t care.
Remembering Sam as she’d straddled me, leaning back and letting her hair fall down so that the tips of it grazed my legs, gave me enough of a boost, so when Drew and I both took off, racing each other now, I pulled ahead halfway.
I was waiting at the end as he finished his sprint. I drawled, grinning at him, “Who’s dragging now?”
He grunted, bent down, and tossed a towel at me. “You’re a smart-ass.”
I used the towel to wipe my face. “Someone has to be. Matteo’s gone.”
Drew sobered as we walked to the side bench for water. The first part of the morning was spent running around the track. Afterward, we were herded into the locker room for a quick talk with the assistant coaches, and then they’d let us back out to do individual drills. Mine had been sprints. Drew caught me at the tail end of doing thirty. I’d have to go back and do another thirty before calling it quits and going to class.
Walking with me around the track, he said, “Matt called last night. He said his dad was hit by a drunk driver.”
“Does he have to miss school?”
Drew’s mouth tightened. “I don’t know. He says so. He’s got to take care of the family until his dad is out of the hospital and rehabbed enough to start working again. They come from old values. The man takes care of the family and all that jazz. With his dad out of commission, it falls to his shoulders to take over and work for the family. He’s got little siblings still, and their mom’s a housekeeper somewhere.”
It sucked all around. It just sucked.
Drew glanced sideways to me. “Coach talk to you yet?”
I nodded. An anchor fell to the pit of my stomach. “I’m benched for the first two games.”
Drew cursed. “You serious?”
“I missed the first month of training.”
“That wasn’t on your part. That was the school’s decision.”
“But because of my involvement with Sebastian, the blame has to be on me.”
Drew didn’t know about the house. No one did, except for Nate, Logan, and Sam. I was innocent in everyone else’s eyes. That anchor turned inside of me, digging into my sides and making me feel some guilt. Drew’s tune would be different, but I didn’t regret what I had done, not after what Sebastian tried to take away from me first—my future in football.
Drew swore again. “Whatever. The whole thing is fucked up, but I am happy you put him in his place. When that fraternity fell, that was a big deal on campus. I know you made Matteo proud and Lane, too, with how Sebastian could’ve helped with his scholarship two years ago and didn’t, letting it get stripped from him after being injured. Sebastian’s a greedy bastard. He’s slime.” There was a warning i
n his voice. “Just watch your back. You know he’s looking for payback.”
My jaw clenched. Drew didn’t have to remind me. I more than knew the stakes at hand.
“Football, school, and my family—those are my priorities.”
“Good. We’ll watch your back. You know that.”
We were coming to the end of our first circle around the track.
“Kade!” a coach shouted from the bench. “Finish your sprints and take off. You got class to attend.”
Drew nodded to me, veering to the left, as I crouched back down for another sprint.
The smell of coffee woke me up, and I was greeted with the image of Summer coming in the door, dressed to the nines in a flowy, white top that slipped off one of her shoulders and hung past the middle of her thighs. It looked like a dress she could wear to a nightclub. She was wearing skintight jeans underneath with high heels. Her bracelets jingled against each other as she placed a cup of coffee on my nightstand.
“Ruby has a latte machine in her room.” She inhaled a whiff of her latte, and a dreamy smile came over her face. “I’m in love with our RA.” She pointed at me with her cup as she sat at her desk. “She’s in love with you. A little Blaze bird was gushing to her about your stepbrother sometime this morning, and she wants to meet his obsession.”
I cringed. “Really?”
She watched as I climbed out of bed.
I grabbed the latte first. My robe was second. I had priorities. Even before slipping on the robe, I had to take a sip. It was caramel heaven. “Thanks for this.”
“If you can’t find me, don’t be surprised if I’m camped out on Ruby’s floor. She knows the best way to make friends with freshman girls hoping to fight the freshman fifteen—feed our caffeine addiction.”
I grinned, putting the latte on my desk.
“So…” Summer took another sip, her eyes darting to my bed. “I couldn’t help noticing you this morning, right before I almost stepped on you.” She rolled her eyes. “Why I chose the top bunk, I’ll never know. Can I be a nosy roommate who’s hoping to be a good friend and ask about your change of heart last night? I thought you were getting a ride back with Logan?”
“I was.” I yawned, stretching my arms above my head. A little chill swept over me, and I finally pulled on the robe. “I went back with him and crawled in bed with Mason.”
A sigh left Summer’s mouth. “The football legend.”
I stopped. “Uh, yeah. Anyway, Mason brought me back. We’re doing the whole thing where I actually live in the dorm, at least for a month.”
“I don’t mean to sound all creepy, and I’m not lusting after your soul mate because he’s gorgeous, but I’ve had a thing for Mason Kade for years. I know almost all his records and stats since his sophomore year in high school. It’s a football thing for me. For real.” She blinked at me a couple of times. “Most girls would be thinking of eight different ways to kill you, so they could take your spot, but that’s not me. It’s the football. That’s all.”
I narrowed my eyes. She seemed sincere, and she had gotten wistful the night before when Logan and Nate were sharing old football memories. But she was a girl. And Mason was Mason. I frowned. I should’ve heard alarm bells clanging against my skull, but there was none.
I shrugged. “I’ve had girls go nuts and try to hurt me, but if you’re going to try, good luck.” I kept my eyes level as I stared at her.
Things were nice and demure between us. We’d been getting to know each other at a slow pace, but this was different. I let her see the hardness in me. She did, straightening in her chair, but she didn’t look away. That was a good thing.
As she held my gaze, I said, “I’m not being a bitch when I say this, but you’ll lose. If you do want him and you’re trying to lie to me here, trying to deceive me in any way, it won’t work. I’ve had tougher and more ruthless girls try to, and they never won. They never will, so if that’s your agenda, drop it, or move out. You won’t be fighting just me. You’ll be fighting Mason and Logan, too. The three of us are family. No one will get between us.”
A slow grin curved over her face. “There she is.” Her head went down, like she was staring at an approaching lion. There was no fear, no caution. There was just recognition and something similar to excitement. She put her latte on her desk but never broke eye contact with me. “I’ve been wanting to meet the real Samantha since I realized who you were.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It wasn’t just Mason and Logan that I heard about. You lit your dad’s car on fire. You put Budd Broudou in jail, and you got Brett Broudou to protect you. I mean, damn, girl. I get all hot and bothered by a sixty-yard touchdown run, but a lot of other girls get just as hot and bothered about whoever tamed Mason and Logan Kade.”
Her grin was a full smile now. “I know a few lesbians who’d love to get your number. When I go home, I’ll have to fight ’em off with a baseball bat when they figure out that we’re roommates.”
I cocked my head to the side. “Should I be alarmed that you knew about me and didn’t tell me until now?”
“Okay.” She tucked her hair behind her ears, her eyes eager. “Maybe I should’ve been up-front that I knew about you, but I didn’t want to sound like a creeper. When I found out who my roommate was, I almost pissed my pants. I didn’t know before coming here yesterday. The housing place sent me a letter saying my assigned roommate changed due to complications, and I was supposed to notify them if I was unhappy with my new assignment.” She snorted to herself, picking up her latte again. Her legs crossed at the ankle as she perched on the edge of her chair. She rolled her head back and forth before resting it against the wall, too. “Hell to the no. As long as you can put up with my football obsession and the fact that I think you’re awesome and I’m kinda wondering if I’m a lesbian, too. I think this year will be awesome.”
I shook my head, uncertain of how to take all of that in. Mason would go with his gut. That was what he’d tell me, so it was what I did. My gut was comfortable. It was only uncomfortable that I wasn’t concerned about her, so I shrugged, sipping from my latte.
I said, “Okay.”
She leaned forward. “Okay…as in, we’re good? As in, I didn’t scare you away?”
I nodded slowly. “I guess. Okay then.”
She whooped and thrust a fist in the air before covering her mouth with it. “Sorry. That’s the football nerd in me. You won’t want to sit with me at the first game we go to. Seriously, I’m nuts.”
I gripped my latte in front of me. “You know more about me than I know about you.”
Summer stilled. “Want to hear some embarrassing model stories? You think you’ve dealt with psychotic, catty bitches? You have no idea. I was at a shoot one day where one model mixed cream in with a girl’s fat-free milk, so she’d gain two pounds before another casting call the next day. Another girl changed the labels on cans of soup, so this other girl thought she was eating the light-calorie soup, but she wasn’t. She was eating the one loaded with calories. Ruthless, I’m telling you.” She shuddered. “I had one girl try to mess up my heel, so I would fall and break an ankle. She told me to ‘break a leg’ with such enjoyment that I knew she’d meant it literally.”
“Yeah. If you want tips and tricks on how to make a starving psychopath foam at the mouth, you’ve got an invaluable asset rooming with you. I’ve dealt with all of them.”
I could already hear Heather’s voice in my head. Do it. Get the info. One never knew when information like that would come in handy. I started to chuckle, but the laugh subsided.
I hadn’t brought up Logan to Heather before we left. We said our good-byes. It’d been awkward, but I knew most of that was because Heather was fighting back tears. I was already missing my afternoon shift at Manny’s. I knew Heather would want to know all about Summer. She would think it was hysterical tha
t I was rooming with a model obsessed with football.
Summer was standing in front of the mirror, picking at a seam in her shirt. She pointed to the ringing phone next to me. “You want me to get that?”
The phone was doing that.
I slumped back in my chair, but I jerked, almost spilling my coffee, as I reached for the phone. “He—” My coffee spilled over. I cursed, catching it and righting it before any more could get all over the desk. “Sorry. Damn coffee. Hello?”
I frowned. “Malinda?”