“Of course you can,” she said, obviously more sure of me than I was.
“Yeah. Friends don’t break friends’ hearts because you’re just a friend, and it’s just friendly feelings there,” I said, trying to convince myself.
“Exactly,” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand. “Friends. Because a heart has no place in dates with Nick Fisher.”
My heart pounded inside my chest.
Shit. I was doomed before we even began.
Lucky for me, the class I shared with Jess met three times a week. Unfortunately, today wasn’t one of those days.
I found myself scanning the campus while I walked through it, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. I realized that I left her sort of abruptly yesterday, but I really did have to go, and leaving people wanting more was always a good game to play.
Hearing her say she was dating someone annoyed the crap out of me. Not that I couldn’t handle a little healthy competition, but I definitely wasn’t used to it.
So I wasn’t ashamed that I cyberstalked the hell out of Jess once I got home, but batted zero because she had all her social media accounts set to private.
I then made it a point to ask a few of my fraternity brothers about her, trying not to arouse too much suspicion. But when they were a little too intrigued for my liking, I backed off and pretended I only needed to find her to ask a question about class.
Who knew what those knuckleheads would do if they thought I was into her. One of them would probably try to get to her before I could, just to say they did. And then I wouldn’t be able to date her at all, and the thought of that pissed me off.
You see, I might have certain rules when it came to my personal life, but that didn’t mean that the rest of the guys in my fraternity followed suit. In my opinion, being a jerk to girls sometimes was one thing, but being a dick to my brothers was another thing entirely. I didn’t want to be someone the other guys didn’t trust or couldn’t put their faith in.
All through the day, I looked around for Jess. Admittedly, I might have stayed on campus a little longer than necessary in the hope of running into her, yet I never did. But not seeing her gave me more time to come up with a game plan for the next day in class.
A plan that flew right out the window the second I saw her.
Jess sat down first and I moved to sit next to her again, knowing she’d be surprised. I watched as she flinched slightly, no doubt assuming that the last time had been nothing more than a fluke.
“You again,” she said, trying not to smile.
“It wasn’t so bad last time, was it?”
“Depends on your definition of bad.”
“I think you secretly like when I sit near you, Jess Michaelson,” I said, saying her full name so I could watch a blush spread over her cheeks.
One shoulder lifted in a small shrug. “I might like it a little.”
I leaned close, my lips almost grazing her ear as I whispered, “Go to lunch with me today.”
She jerked away and turned to face me. “I can’t.”
I knew she was lying. What I didn’t know was why. “Why not?”
“I have plans,” she said, then turned away as if she was in control of the conversation.
“What kind of plans?”
Her lips flattened as her gaze met mine. “Plans that are none of your business. I can’t go to lunch with you. I’m sure you’ll survive.”
Releasing a long breath, I slumped back into my chair. “I’m not.”
She smiled, shaking her head and focusing her attention on our professor.
Inside, I reeled with questions. Why she was trying to stay away from me? I knew when girls were interested in me, and Jess Michaelson was definitely interested. I remembered her mentioning that she was seeing someone, and wondered what the lucky bastard was like and if I knew him.
“Is this because of your boyfriend?”
She leaned closer to whisper without turning to look at me. “No, why? Can’t fathom a girl actually not being interested in you?”
I held back a laugh. “No, I can fathom that,” I said, mimicking her word choice. “But you are interested. So what I can’t fathom is why you’re pretending like you’re not.”
“Anyone ever told you that you’re arrogant?”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” I raised my eyebrows at her, trying my best to flirt as the professor cleared his throat and glared at us.
Shit. This girl was going to get me in all kinds of trouble. I shut my mouth and decided I’d leave her alone.
The next time Jess walked into class, she was wearing a sweet little blue dress, and I had to tamp down the hormones that raged at the sight of her. If I didn’t know any better, I would almost think she was dressing this tempting on purpose just to wind me up.
Fingering the poker chip in my pocket, I watched her from our regular seats, which I’d commandeered in the hope that she’d willingly come and sit next to me. She glanced around the room before drawing in a long breath that made her chest rise. Rolling her eyes at me, she headed my way. When she sat down, I resisted the urge to rest my hand on her exposed thigh, as if she were my girl and I had every right.
Staring at the dusting of freckles across her nose, I thought how they only added to her attractiveness, and again, I had to stop one of my body parts from brushing against one of hers. I wanted to touch her, longed to know what her skin felt like under my fingertips.
But when class ended, she practically sprinted out of her seat. No doubt trying to get away from me, but I was quicker than her escape plan.
“Jess, wait up.”
When she slowed her pace but didn’t stop, I hurried to catch up. “Where you headed?”
“The student union.”
“Me too. Maybe we could go together?”
Jess stopped walking altogether and turned to face me, forcing the other students to dodge and weave around us as they poured out of the classroom.
“What do you want, Nick? With me, I mean? Why this sudden interest?”
Shit, she was direct.
And then I knew why she’d tried so hard to stay away from me—she’d heard about my reputation and didn’t trust me.