Hiding the scars of her past up her sleeves, Olivia transfers her enrollment from Columbia University to The College of Charleston, determined to pursue her own dreams for the first time in her life.
She intends to allow herself a bit of alone time to heal… that is, until she meets Preston.
Preston is best friends with her roommate, completely hot, and off-limits. But the chemistry between them is instantaneous—and as the pair begins to spend more time with one another, their feelings for each other build into something undeniable, something powerful enough to heal Olivia’s deepest scars.
Olivia tries to put her own past behind her and trust Preston, but she discovers that his past might be more present than she ever bargained for…
“What’s in the box?”I glanced down at the box like it was poison in my hand.
“Rose gave me homework.”
“Oh yeah? What is it?”
“I don’t know. I’m afraid to look.” I closed my eyes slowly, hating the pathetic girl I was becoming in front of him, but somehow with Preston, I didn’t feel that natural urge to cover up my fears and insecurities. I could be myself around him, because I knew he would see through the lie. Like he already knew what I would say even before I thought of my response. Preston reached out and took the box from my hand, tucking it under his arm. “Come on. I’ll drive you back to Liberty.”
“What about London?” The words were out so quickly that I didn’t have time to register what they suggested.
Preston stuttered, clearly taken off guard. “Uh, what about her?” He cocked an eyebrow at me, his lips angling up a fraction of an inch. But that was enough. He knew what the question meant. Damn it!
“I don’t know. She seemed . . . uncomfortable. You know, on Thursday.” God. Was he drunk at the party? Maybe he didn’t remember what happened. Or maybe he didn’t think the way we were, pressed together, his palms cupping my face, was unusual or intimate.
“Oh, right. She’s fine.” My eyes narrowed. He was being intentionally shady, which meant they
were still doing whatever it was he did with girls. I felt my resolve falter at the thought and peered behind me to see Rose giving me two thumbs up. I closed my eyes and shook my head, defeated.
“Fine. I’ll ride in your damn truck.”
Preston grinned and started to reply, but then his gaze travelled past me to Rose’s office, his eyebrows shooting up. “Is that your therapist?”
I walked around him toward his truck. “Yes.”
“She’s waving at me.”I sighed. Of course she was. Thank you, Rose. If I ever speak to you
again, I’m going to turn you into one of those ghosts you love.
“Are we going or not?”I slipped into the truck, waiting as Preston stopped outside his door to see if Rose was still watching him. He raised his hand to wave, and I buried my face in my hands. I was going to need heavier medication to survive this humiliation. Damn Rose and her deliberateness. I knew she just wanted me to trust other people, to step outside my “safe zone,” but we were
going to have to talk about her methods.
Preston finally slid in beside me and passed over the box. “It’s light.”
“The box,” he said, nodding toward it. “Have you guessed what’s inside?”
“No. But I’m pretty sure I know what it has to do with.” I pictured things from my bedroom or items from each of my friends or newspaper clippings about the fire.
He eyed the box. “I’m betting it’s empty. She seems a little out there. Maybe she’s messing with you.”
“I’m not that lucky.”
“Then, I bet it’s . . .” He tapped his long index fingers against the steering wheel, drawing my attention over, making me remember the feel of them against my skin. “Fake spiders.”
“What? She isn’t going to give me a box of fake spiders. Who does that? That’s stupid.”
Preston laughed. “Okay then, you take a guess.”
I shook my head. “I don’t know.”
“I can’t. I don’t know.”
“God, stop being such a girl and take a damn guess.”
“Testy! And I take offense. I’m not being a girl.”
“Then put your money where your mouth is and guess. Make it a good one.”I shook my head again, but this time I was smiling.
“Fine. I bet the box is full of worms, the squishy kind with glitter in them.”
“What brand? Because if we’re talking Strike King, then maybe I’ll just . . .”
He reached for the box and I swatted his hand away, laughing.“Hey! Find your own crazy box.”
Preston grasped my hand as I was swatting his away, his fingers gliding over my knuckles then fingertips before he released. Suddenly, the air in the truck felt thick, the space between us
small. I swallowed hard, wishing I could ask him what was happening between us, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear his answer. For now, I felt safe in the dream world, where I could imagine Preston wanting me without having to risk my heart. I knew I would eventually have to date again, feel again, but for now I’d rather play out the dream, which I guessed was exactly what Rose had meant by her stupid safe zone.
We reached Liberty and said goodbye, all the while my heart jumping in my chest, begging me to stay a little longer. I could avoid reality. I could pretend. But I couldn’t deny the truth to myself any longer.
I had fallen for Preston Riggs.
She holds a B.A. in Communication Studies and a M.S. in Graphic Communication, both from Clemson University. Yeah, her blood runs orange.
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