A stack of red cups sat on the kitchen counter beside the keg. I filled two and brought one to Abby. I leaned into her ear. “Don’t take these from anyone but me or Shep. I don’t want anyone slipping something in your drink.”

She rolled her eyes. “No one is going to put anything in my drink, Travis.”


She clearly wasn’t familiar with some of my frat brothers. I’d heard stories about no one in particular. Which was a good thing, because if I’d ever caught anyone pulling that shit, I would beat the shit out of them without hesitation.

“Just don’t drink anything that doesn’t come from me, okay? You’re not in Kansas anymore, Pigeon.”

“I haven’t heard that one before,” she snapped, throwing back half the cup of beer before she pulled the plastic away from her face. She could drink, I’d give her that.

We stood in the hallway by the stairs, trying to pretend everything was fine. A few of my frat brothers stopped by to chat as they came down the stairs, and so did a few sorority sisters, but I quickly dismissed them, hoping Abby would notice. She didn’t.

“Wanna dance?” I asked, tugging on her hand.

“No thanks,” she said.

I couldn’t blame her, after the night before. I was lucky she was speaking to me at all.

Her thin, elegant fingers touched my shoulder. “I’m just tired, Trav.”

I put my hand on hers, ready to apologize again, to tell her that I hated myself for what I’d done, but her eyes drifted away from mine to someone behind me.

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“Hey, Abby! You made it!”

The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. Parker Hayes.

Abby’s eyes lit up, and she pulled her hand out from under mine in one quick movement. “Yeah, we’ve been here for an hour or so.”

“You look incredible!” he yelled.

I made a face at him, but he was so preoccupied with Abby, he didn’t notice.

“Thanks!” She smiled.

It occurred to me that I wasn’t the only one that could make her smile that way, and suddenly I was working to keep my temper in check.

Parker nodded toward the living room and smiled. “You wanna dance?”

“Nah, I’m kinda tired.”

A tiny bit of relief dulled my anger a bit. It wasn’t me; she really was just too tired to dance, but the anger didn’t take long to return. She was tired because she was kept up half the night by the sounds of whoever I’d brought home, and the other half of the night she’d slept in the recliner. Now Parker was here, sweeping in as the knight in shining armor like he always did. Rat bastard.

Parker looked at me, unfazed by my expression. “I thought you weren’t coming.”

“I changed my mind,” I said, trying very hard not to punch him and obliterate four years of orthodontic work.

“I see that,” Parker said, looking to Abby. “You wanna get some air?”

She nodded, and I felt like someone had knocked the air out of me. She followed Parker up the stairs. I watched as he paused, reaching to take her hand as they climbed to the second floor. When they reached the top, Parker opened the doors to the balcony.

Abby disappeared, and I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to block out the screaming in my head. Everything in me said to go up there and take her back. I gripped the banister, holding myself back.

“You look pissed,” America said, touching her red cup to mine.

My eyes popped open. “No. Why?”

She made a face. “Don’t lie to me. Where’s Abby?”

“Upstairs. With Parker.”


“What is that supposed to mean?”

She shrugged. She’d only been there a little over an hour, and already had that familiar glaze in her eyes. “You’re jealous.”

I shifted my weight, uncomfortable with someone else besides Shepley being so direct with me. “Where’s Shep?”

America rolled her eyes. “Doing his freshman duties.”

“At least he doesn’t have to stay after and clean up.”

She lifted the cup to her mouth and took a sip. I wasn’t sure how she could already have a nice buzz drinking like that.

“So are you?”

“Am I what?”


I frowned. America wasn’t usually so obnoxious. “No.”

“Number two.”


“That’s lie number two.”

I looked around. Shepley would surely rescue me soon.

“You really fucked up last night,” she said, her eyes suddenly clear.

“I know.”

She squinted, glaring at me so intensely that I wanted to shrink back. America Mason was a tiny blond thing, but she was intimidating as fuck when she wanted to be. “You should walk away, Trav.” She looked up, to the top of the stairs. “He’s what she thinks she wants.”

My teeth clenched together. I already knew that, but it was worse hearing it from America. Before that, I thought maybe she’d be okay with me and Abby, and that somehow meant I wasn’t a complete dick for pursuing her. “I know.”

She raised an eyebrow. “I don’t think you do.”

I didn’t reply, trying not to make eye contact with her. She grabbed my chin with her hand, squashing my cheeks against my teeth.

“Do you?”

I tried to speak, but her fingers were now squishing my lips together. I jerked back, and then batted her hand away. “Probably not. I’m not exactly notorious for doing the right thing.”

America watched me for a few seconds, and then smiled. “Okay, then.”


She slapped my cheek, and then pointed at me. “You, Mad Dog, are exactly what I came here to protect her from. But you know what? We’re all broken some way or another. Even with your epic fuckup, you just might be exactly what she needs. You get one more chance,” she said, holding up her index finger an inch from my nose. “Just one. Don’t mess it up . . . you know . . . more than usual.”

America sauntered away, and then disappeared down the hall.

She was so weird.

The party played out as they usually do: drama, a fight or two, girls getting in a tiff, a couple or two getting in an argument resulting in the female leaving in tears, and then the stragglers either passing out or vomiting in an undesignated area.

My eyes drifted to the top of the stairs more times than they should have. Even though the girls were practically begging me to take them home, I kept watch, trying not to imagine Abby and Parker making out, or even worse, him making her laugh.

“Hey, Travis,” a high-pitched, singsong voice called from behind me. I didn’t turn around, but it didn’t take long for the girl to weave herself into my line of sight. She leaned against the wooden posts of the banister. “You looked bored. I think I should keep you company.”

“Not bored. You can go,” I said, checking the top of the stairs again. Abby stood on the landing, her back to the stairs.

She giggled. “You’re so funny.”

Abby breezed past me, down the hall to where America stood. I followed, leaving the drunk girl to talk to herself.

“You guys go ahead,” Abby said with subdued excitement. “Parker offered me a ride home.”

“What?” America said, her tired eyes lit like double bonfires.

“What?” I said, unable to contain my irritation.

America turned. “Is there a problem?”

I glared at her. She knew exactly what my problem was. I took Abby by the elbow and pulled her around the corner.

“You don’t even know the guy.”

Abby pulled her arm away. “This is none of your business, Travis.”

“The hell if it’s not. I’m not letting you ride home with a complete stranger. What if he tries something on you?”

“Good! He’s cute!”

I couldn’t believe it. She was really falling for his game. “Parker Hayes, Pidge? Really? Parker Hayes. What kind of name is that, anyway?”

She crossed her arms and lifted her chin. “Stop it, Trav. You’re being a jerk.”

I leaned in, livid. “I’ll kill him if he touches you.”

“I like him.”

It was one thing to assume she was fooled, it was another to hear her admit it. She was too good for me—damn sure too good for Parker Hayes. Why was she getting all giddy over that idiot? My face tensed in reaction to the rage flowing through my veins. “Fine. If he ends up holding you down in the backseat of his car, don’t come crying to me.”

Her mouth popped open, she was offended and furious. “Don’t worry, I won’t,” she said, shouldering past me.

I realized what I’d said, and then grabbed her arm and sighed, not quite turning around. “I didn’t mean it, Pidge. If he hurts you—if he even makes you feel uncomfortable—you let me know.”

Her shoulders fell. “I know you didn’t. But you have got to curb this overprotective big-brother thing you’ve got going on.”

I laughed once. She really didn’t get it. “I’m not playing the big brother, Pigeon. Not even close.”

Parker rounded the corner and pushed his hands inside his pockets. “All set?”

“Yeah, let’s go,” Abby said, taking Parker’s arm.

I fantasized about running up behind him and shoving my elbow in the back of his head, but then Abby turned and saw me staring him down.

Stop it, she mouthed. She walked with Parker, and he held the door open for her. A wide smile spread across her face in appreciation.

Of course. When he did it, she noticed.


Cold Bitch

RIDING HOME ALONE IN THE BACKSEAT OF SHEPLEY’S Charger was less than thrilling. America kicked off her heels and giggled as she poked Shepley’s cheek with her big toe. He must have been crazy in love with her, because he just smiled, amused by her infectious laughter.

My phone rang. It was Adam. “I got a rookie lined up in an hour. Bottom of Hellerton.”

“Yeah, uh . . . I can’t.”


“You heard me. I said I can’t.”

“Are you sick?” Adam asked, the anger rising in his voice.

“No. I gotta make sure Pidge gets home okay.”

“I went to a lot of trouble to set this up, Maddox.”

“I know. I’m sorry. Gotta go.”

When Shepley pulled into his parking spot in front of the apartment and Parker’s Porsche was nowhere to be found, I sighed.

“You coming, cuz?” Shepley asked, turning around in his seat.

“Yeah,” I said, looking down at my hands. “Yeah, I guess.”

Shepley pulled his seat forward to let me out, and I stopped just short of America’s tiny frame.

“You have nothing to worry about, Trav. Trust me.”

I nodded once, and then followed them up the stairs. They went straight into Shepley’s bedroom and shut the door. I fell into the recliner, listening to America’s incessant giggling, and trying not to imagine Parker putting his hand on Abby’s knee—or thigh.

Less than ten minutes later, a car engine purred outside, and I made my way to the door, holding the knob. I could hear two pairs of feet walking up the stairs. One set was heels. A wave of relief washed over me. Abby was home.

Only their murmuring filtered through the door. When it got quiet and the knob turned, I twisted it the rest of the way and opened it quickly.

Abby fell through the threshold, and I grabbed her arm. “Easy there, Grace.”

She immediately turned to see the expression on Parker’s face. It was strained, like he didn’t know what to think, but he recovered quickly, pretending to look past me into the apartment.

“Any humiliated, stranded girls in there I need to give a ride?”

I glared at him. He had some damn nerve. “Don’t start with me.”

Parker smiled and winked at Abby. “I’m always giving him a hard time. I don’t get to quite as often since he’s realized it’s easier if he can get them to drive their own cars.”

“I guess that does simplify things,” Abby said, turning to me with an amused smile.

“Not funny, Pidge.”

“Pidge?” Parker asked.

Abby shifted nervously. “It’s uh . . . short for Pigeon. It’s just a nickname, I don’t even know where he came up with it.”

“You’re going to have to fill me in when you find out. Sounds like a good story.” Parker smiled. “Night, Abby.”

“Don’t you mean good morning?” she asked.

“That, too,” he called back with a smile that made me want to puke.

Abby was busy swooning, so to snap her back to reality, I slammed the door without warning. She jerked back.

“What?” she snapped.

I stomped down the hall to the bedroom, with Abby on my tail. She stopped just inside the door, hopping on one foot, trying to take off her heel. “He’s nice, Trav.”

I watched her struggle to balance on one leg, and then finally decided to help before she fell over. “You’re gonna hurt yourself,” I said, hooking my arm around her waist with one hand, and pulling off her heels with the other. I pulled off my shirt and threw it into the corner.

To my surprise, Abby reached behind her back to unzip her dress, slipped it down, and then yanked a T-shirt over her head. She did some sort of magic bra trick to get it off and out of her shirt. All women seemed to know the same maneuver.

“I’m sure there’s nothing I have that you haven’t seen before,” she said, rolling her eyes. She sat on the mattress, and then pushed her legs between the cover and the sheets. I watched her snuggle into her pillow, and then took off my jeans, kicking them to the corner, too.

She was curled in a ball, waiting for me to come to bed. It irritated me that she’d just rode home with Parker and then undressed in front of me like it was nothing, but at the same time, that was just the kind of fucked-up platonic situation we were in, and it was all my doing.

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