“So what did it? What made you change?” I already know the answer but I want to hear his explanation. We sound like a couple of chicks, talking about our feelings and shit but damn it, I need some advice. Some guidance.
Shep’s expression turns serious. “The right girl. I can’t even tell you what exactly possessed me. Only thing I can tell you, is that it was Jade. She possessed me. More like I had to possess her.”
I completely understand. That’s how I feel about Lucy. The need to make her mine is just…it’s there. Bubbling up inside of me, threatening to take hold and never let go until I conquer my goal.
And my goal is…Lucy.
“Bro, you are way too quiet.”
I shrug. “I’ve got a lot on my mind.”
“Like how to make that girl yours? Easy. Chase after her.” Shep shakes his head. “Another one of us has fallen. Looks like Tristan is finally on his own. Wonder if he can create a poon monsoon all by himself?”
“That’s fucking disgusting. Why do you keep having to say it?” If he says those two words one more time I might walk out. Leave him with the breakfast bill.
Shep starts to laugh in earnest and I scowl at him in return. Lately I feel like I’m a big joke at his expense. I know Tristan and I thought it was pretty fucking hilarious—and strange—as we watched Shep do stupid things to make Jade his. That our best friend was falling for a girl when he could have any and every girl he could ever want confused the hell out of us. I didn’t understand it.
Now, I get it. I’m the idiot trying my best to win over a girl and no doubt I’m also about to make an ass of myself.
Hell, I’ve already made an ass of myself. Passing out in the middle of kissing Lucy? Thank God no one knows about that beyond the two of us.
“So you’re telling me you’re so gone over this girl, you can’t even handle the words poon monsoon anymore?” Shep snickers.
He said it again, the bastard. I jump to my feet. “Gotta go.”
Shep’s laughter dies. “I thought you were buying breakfast.”
“Sorry bro, when you keep saying shit like that, I can’t stick around.” I throw a couple of dollars onto the table. “I’ll cover the tip though.”
“Asshole,” Shep calls as I exit the diner, making me laugh.
The smile stays plastered on my face the entire walk back to campus.
He sits by me in class. Like, literally sits by me, in the desk next to mine, his arm brushing against my arm as he settles in. The physical contact with Gabe makes my skin tingle, makes me blush and stutter and when he flashes that easy grin in my direction and says hi in that sexy, low drawling voice, it’s like he zaps all of my brain cells with a mere bearing of his perfectly straight, perfectly white teeth.
How am I going to survive an entire semester with him in this class? I’m on the path to fail I’m sure.
No. I refuse to let my reaction to Gabe cause me to fail. Mama would freak out if she knew there was a man in this class who could distract me. They’re the devil. Men are sent straight from hell to tempt a woman to sin. She told that to me once when I was sixteen and hot to go out with Ricky Torres. Oh, he’d been adorable. Seventeen, tall with black-as-night hair and flashing dark brown eyes, with a smile that promised all sorts of things, things I couldn’t begin to comprehend, I was so sheltered. He’d asked me out to the movies and I’d said yes.
Mama had immediately squashed that date with Ricky by letting me know not so nicely that he was the spawn of Satan. At first, I thought she was joking. But no, she was serious. And frightened—seriously frightened that I would go out to the movies with Ricky and return home knocked up, scared and all alone.
She put all of her past fears on me. I know it was unfair but she couldn’t help it and I forgive her. But by putting her fears on me, she kept me back. Kept me from experiencing things like…getting a quiet thrill out of a boy sitting next to me in class and smiling at me like I’m the only thing he ever wants to see.
Sort of how Gabe is smiling at me right now.
The man is in serious pursuit of…me. All that talk of wooing me on Saturday night, I admit to being a total girl and letting it go completely to my head. I’d entered my tiny apartment like I was walking on a cloud that night. He’d followed me home to ensure I got there safely and with that one gentlemanly gesture, I’d found myself hooked all over again.
What woman doesn’t like the idea of a man going after what he wants? And being the sole object of that man’s desire?
Every other female in the room is straining her neck trying to get a look at Gabe but he doesn’t even notice. He smiles at me, reaching out to tuck a stray hair behind my ear, his fingers brushing against the top of my earlobe and I shiver at his touch.
“Missed you Luce,” he says in this low, sexy murmur that plucks at my nerve endings and turns them into jelly.
I smile and glance down at my desk, trying to figure out what to say next. He wanted to see me last night but it was a Sunday and I had a few assignments to work on. It’s my one day off from work and school and I needed to play catch up. That’s also Mama’s main day to call and drill me—ahem, ask me questions to ensure I’m alive and well.
Plus, as Gina told me yesterday afternoon when I lamented over whether I made a mistake in telling him I was busy, there’s nothing wrong with playing a little hard to get…
“What did you do yesterday?” I ask him, not acknowledging his missing me. Let him think I wasn’t affected by his saying that, though I was. It’s not like me to play games.
But then again it’s not like me to blatantly lie either so…
“Hung out with my friends. Worked a little.” He shrugs, his gaze zeroing in on my face, noticing my shock no doubt. “Yeah, um, I haven’t told you yet, but I run a…” His voice drifts and he glances around the room to ensure no one’s paying attention to us before he leans in closer, his mouth right at my ear. “A sort of casino in my living room.”
I rear my head back. “A what?”
He smiles, looking faintly embarrassed. “An illegal gambling house. We have tables there and dealers. Me, Shep and Shep’s cousin Tristan, we all run it. All three of us invested in it too, and the entire operation is run out of my place.”
My jaw drops open. I’ve heard rumors about this gambling house around campus and I’ve only been here a week. I had no idea Gabe and his friends were behind it all. That’s crazy. “Isn’t that risky?”
“Yeah, but wouldn’t life be boring without a few risks involved?” He grins and taps his finger on the tip of my nose. “You should come over sometime and check it out.”
“To your place? Um, how often are you open for business?” Okay, that just sounded weird. He’s running an illegal business in his house. Who does that?
Oh, I know. Gabriel Walker does.
“Only a few days. Wednesday through Saturday, though eventually if business picks up again, we’ll reopen on Sunday too.”
“That probably keeps you extremely busy.” Do his parents know what he does? I can’t imagine those stuffy, beautiful people approving of their only son participating in illegal gambling. Couldn’t he go to jail for something like this? Does his sister know? I bet Sydney would shit if she found out.