Authors: Kara Leigh Miller
"Things are far from right. If things were right, we'd be together."
"Stop it! If you care about me so much, why did you disappear, huh? You take off to who the hell knows where. You don't text me. Not even a call or an email to let me know you were okay." That was another thing. The summer after high school, after she'd broken up with him, he took off without a word. She didn't know where he was, and she hadn't been able to say goodbye to him before she left.
"You broke up with me, Teghan!" He raised his voice. "Being near you wasn't an option. I needed to get away."
"You're so selfish."
selfish?" He laughed. "You've got a lot of nerve. Tell me again why we broke up. Oh, that's right." He snapped his fingers. "
wanted to be single while in London."
His words stung. "That's not why and you know it."
He hung his head. "After dating for three and a half years and being best friends for most of our lives, I just don't understand why you feel the need to experience life and college without me." Alex looked up at her. "We should be doing this together, Teghan. Me, you, Annie, and Trevor. That's how it's supposed to be."
That was the problem with Alex. He was a planner to a fault. He had their entire lives planned out: college, marriage, kids, he would work at her father's law firm while she stayed home and raised their children. It wasn't the life she wanted. Teghan stared at him. "That's how it
to be, Alex. But that's not how it is now. Face it; we're not in high school anymore." A small part of her wished they were though, because she did miss how the four of them used to do everything together. Now they were all so far apart. Alex and Trevor were college sophomores and she and Annabelle were freshman. And all of them were at different colleges. Alex was going to the California Institute of Technology, which was a little over two hours from where they grew up. Trevor was going to Rygard, which was close to a five hour drive. Then her and Annabelle were here, at Hayden Falls University.
"I shouldn't have come here," he admitted, a pouty look on his face.
"Don't be like that." Teghan crossed her arms over her chest.
"Like what?" He pushed himself off the wall and stood up straight. "Hurt? Pissed off? Frustrated? So damn heartbroken I don't want to breathe?"
"Alex," she whispered. The tears she'd kept locked in the brims of her eyes spilled free. The truth was she missed him a lot more than she'd realized. But saying so would be leading him on, and she couldn't do that. She wouldn't do that. It'd been almost a year. Wasn't he over this by now?
"Oh, man, Teghan. Don't cry." Alex hugged her. "You know I hate it when you cry."
Teghan sniffled but kept her arms at her sides. "You should go," she whispered.
"I'm not leaving until we fix this."
"Fix what?" Teghan pushed him away. "There's nothing to fix, Alex. We're over."
"Well, why can't we try to be friends?"
"Now really isn't the time to be making jokes."
"Damn it, Teghan. Just because you decided you don't want me in your life, doesn't mean they don't." He pointed to her closed door. "Those people in there are my friends. They are family to me. You have no right to take that away."
Teghan's mouth hung open in surprise. This wasn't the Alex she knew. "I can't do this with you anymore." She turned to walk away.
The commotion in the hallway stilled briefly. Teghan looked around, embarrassment coloring her face. "Go home, Alex."
She headed for the closest exit, unable to get outside fast enough. Teghan closed her eyes and inhaled the scent of freshly cut grass and pine trees. It was a perfect August day. Well, almost perfect. She took a few deep breaths, wiped the tears from her face, and walked down the steps of her dorm.
The dormitories were positioned in a half moon on the west side of campus. In the center was a lush patch of green grass, wooden benches, Monterey pine trees, and bright yellow and white flowers. She'd give Alex enough time to say goodbye and leave. Then she'd go back to her room. In the meantime, she'd take a few minutes to calm down and collect her thoughts. She started toward the benches then stopped. They were all taken. Of course, that's her luck. Teghan sighed in frustration when she realized the only empty seat was next to a super hottie.
Great! First cute college guy I meet, and I look like hell. Oh, well. It's not like I'm looking for a boyfriend anyway. I'll just ignore him.
She sat beside him.
"Having a bad day?"
Teghan looked at him. The most amazing pair of green eyes greeted her. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and licked her dry lips. "You have no idea."
"It can't be that bad." He smiled. She noticed the dimple in his left cheek.
"Really, you have no idea," she repeated.
"I'm Donnie." He extended his hand.
"Teghan." She gave his hand a weak shake.
Her gaze moved from his large hands up his muscular arms, across his solid chest, and landed on his face. A light breeze tousled his dark brown hair, causing it to become disheveled. A mixture of sexy scents washed over her. It was cologne she knew well--Acqua Di Gio by Giorgio Armani. Alex wore it and she loved the smell of it. Alex. Tears threatened to break loose again. She took a deep breath and fought them back.
"Nice to meet you, Donnie." She stood and hesitated. There was no way Alex would be gone yet. But sitting here next to Donnie wasn't something she wanted to do any longer. He made her nervous in a way she hadn't felt since the first time she went out with Alex. "I really should get back to the crazy party." She laughed.
"I'll try," she said. Her heart raced as she walked back toward her dorm. That guy was absolutely gorgeous, and if she got lucky, he'd be in some of her classes. Or at the very least, she'd run into him on campus. Teghan paused at the door of her dorm and looked over her shoulder. Donnie still sat on the bench, watching her. He smiled. She considered going back and talking to him some more. Maybe asking for his number, but then she remembered Alex and decided against it. Things were complicated enough. She didn't need to make it worse by hitting on the first guy she meets. She smiled back at him.
Moving day wasn't a total disaster after all.
After some creative convincing--or rather demands made by her father--Teghan had no choice but to have dinner with the family. It was the last thing she wanted to do even though she was starving. Eating pizza in her dorm with Annabelle was a much more appealing idea, but she was here so she might as well eat up.
"I'm so glad you and Annabelle decided to join us," Rachel said as they each took a seat at the large round table inside Romero's Italian Restaurant.
Romero's was the fanciest restaurant in Hayden Falls, with a strict dress code--no blue jeans, no sneakers, no hats, and a jacket required for all men. However, Rob had called ahead and reserved a private dining room in the back. He'd also managed to convince the management to allow him some leniency on the dress code. Teghan knew that meant her father offered them a generous gratuity.
"So, why did we get a table for eight when there are only six of us here?" Teghan asked.
"I invited Alex to join us," Rob said.
"Seriously, Dad?" Teghan groaned. "You do remember I broke up with him, right? Besides, Alex only makes seven."
"Dumbest thing you've ever done too," Rob snapped. "Alex is a good boy, and he would've made a nice addition to this family."
"I'm only twenty, Daddy. Stop trying to marry me off." An odd thought struck her. She was a twenty-year-old college freshman. That didn't seem right. Then again, her birthday was in July, and her mother had held her back a year from starting kindergarten, so she turned eighteen right after graduation. She'd turned nineteen while in London and now it was August. So, yup, the math was right. It still seemed strange to her though. She also found it strange that she was sitting here thinking about that of all things.
"Be nice, Teegy," Trevor said with a smirk.
She glared at her brother. "
call me that," she said before turning back to her father.
"Stop being so dramatic, Teghan. I'm not trying to marry you off," Rob said. "And Alex mentioned that his roommate would be coming along."
She didn't have the ambition to argue with him. Instead, she faked a smile and turned her attention to Annabelle. The two hadn't had a chance to talk at all that day. Teghan lowered her voice to a whisper. "So, I met a guy today."
"You did? When?" Annabelle whispered.
"When I left the dorm after arguing with Alex." Teghan paused and looked around the table. She was pleased to see everyone was immersed in private conversations. The last thing she wanted was for Trevor or her father to overhear. Neither one of them would go easy on her if they knew she had met someone. "Oh my god, Annie. He was so friggin' hot! His eyes were...and his smile. Oh, and he has this dimple that you could just dive into."
Annabelle giggled. "Did you get his number?"
Teghan felt the smile fade from her face. She wanted to kick herself in the shin for not getting his number. "No," she mumbled.
"Why not?" Annabelle asked.
Teghan shrugged. "I don't know. Things with Alex are just so complicated."
Patting her on the arm, Annabelle said, "We'll talk about this later?"
Teghan nodded before turning in her chair and staring, first at the door, and then about the room. Grand arched windows, and the scene beyond, were painted in a breathtaking "trick of the eye" style. Adding to the effect, tables on either side of the door supported short, fat, bronze vases with sunflowers spilling over the rims. The scene was so realistic that she squinted from the Mediterranean light and could almost smell the water. Sailboats floated in the water, birds fluttered through the air, and mountains loomed over stucco and brick villas. She became lost in the fantasy of observing it all from a lofty Italian villa. She had to consciously remind herself it was just a very elaborate painting.
"You feeling alright, Teghan?" her mother asked.
"Yeah, just tired. It's been a long day," she said, bringing her attention back to the table. Maybe she would ask her father to send her to Italy for Spring break. He had promised to let her go anywhere she wanted as long as she got a 3.8 GPA or higher during her first semester of college. It wasn't a promise she was going to let him out of either.
"The fun is about to begin," Trevor said, tucking his cell phone in his pocket.
Teghan gave him a dirty look. "What?"
"Alex is on his way in." Trevor grinned.
"Wonderful." Teghan picked up the menu and flipped through it. She didn't know why she was bothering to look at it. She always got the chicken Alfredo with broccoli here, and the odds were good that tonight would be no different. Folding it closed, she set it down and looked up. She blinked several times. It had to be a hallucination brought on by the stress of the day. There was no way
was coming toward her. She reached over and clutched Annabelle, her nails digging into the soft flesh of her friend's arm.
"Ouch," Annabelle said, prying Teghan's fingers away. "What was that for?"
"That guy." Teghan's eyes were focused straight ahead.
"Hey, everyone," Alex said. "I'd like you to meet my roommate, Donnie Marks." Alex made a quick introduction to everyone at the table before taking the seat next to Trevor.
"The guy you met is Alex's roommate?" Annabelle whispered.
She groaned. "Oh, God. Please tell me this isn't happening." Teghan flashed Alex a wry smile, wondering what he was up to. Was he trying to prove his delusional theory that they could be friends?
It was never going to happen.
There was no way Alex would be able to handle it. Hell, she didn't know if she could handle it. Teghan tucked a strand of hair behind her ear as Donnie sat down next to her. He smelled more inviting now than he had before.
"Hello, again," he said, smiling at her.
"Small world, huh?"
"That's an understatement," Teghan said.
"I already ordered drinks for you and your roommate, Alex," Rob said as the waitress entered the room. "Okay, let's order."
In sequence, they each placed their order. When it came around to Teghan, she said, "I'm fine, thanks."
"What? Don't be ridiculous." Her father glared at her before turning his attention to the waitress. "Bring her the chicken Alfredo with a side of broccoli."
"Daddy, I'm really not that hungry," Teghan protested. Truth was she had a phobia about eating in front of people she didn't know. And she knew squat about Donnie. She still couldn't believe he was Alex's roommate. What were the chances? Life was so unfair sometimes.
"That sounds good. I'll have the same," Donnie said. Once the waitress left the table and the multiple conversations resumed, Donnie leaned over and whispered, "I'm not really hungry either, but it's rude to watch people eat."