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Authors: Victoria H. Smith

Found by You

BOOK: Found by You
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Found by You

A Novel

by Victoria H. Smith

To all my VC Peeps, for helping me give this story life.

Table of Contents

FOUND BY YOU

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Epilogue

Chapter One

Roxie

I instantly knew the moment he was in the room with me. How? Because that was when it suddenly became hard to breathe. The air of the laundry room, already thick with heat from the dryers, grew scarce, my lungs constricting and my heart drumming a new intense beat. The feeling quite frankly annoyed me. I’d become one of
those
girls. The ones that succumbed to his draw despite hardly knowing him.

Did I say hardly? I meant to say not at all. Like a teenager at a boy band concert, I was all hot faced over a guy I didn’t even know. Despite my opposition of my body’s emotional responses to
him
, they still occurred. And they came guns blazing. They partially influenced my reasoning for coming to the laundry room on this exact day at this exact hour to get my laundry done. Okay, that’s a lie.

They very much influenced my reasoning.

At first, our run-ins were purely coincidental. I was here and then suddenly he was. It was so odd he even was. I did my laundry quite late. Between one and two a.m. most nights. On this particular night a few weeks ago, I was running late and ended up in my housing complex’s laundry room around three thirty, and there he was.

Griffin Chandler.

Today was just like that day. The time three-thirty pretty much on the dot.

I turned only slightly to get a glance at him over my shoulder. That was all I allowed myself. Anything longer than a glance and I would look like a creeper for staring, and anything less, I’d seem rude for not acknowledging I was no longer the only one in the room.

Like our previous encounters, he wore his basketball shorts, his team colors hanging low on his hips and cladding a set of thighs that had to be just as muscular as his calves. His legs went on for days, long like the rest of his frame. At six foot six inches in height, he made tall men look small. I knew those specs just like every one else around campus. I could probably recite his weight too if asked. Griffin Chandler was the it-guy, the name on everyone’s lips. Hell, I think I already saw his face in a Nike ad somewhere.

He definitely had the body of a player. Maybe in more ways than one, but that would be wrong of me to judge whether or not he fell into the typical college basketball star cliché. The one where the athletes went through girls like sweat rags. He did live in my building, so his partying lifestyle wasn’t unknown to me. Perhaps that’s why I only looked from afar. Kept my distance. Well that and I knew who I was and where I would most likely stand in regards to someone like him. He’d never once been seen with a woman of color, let alone a black girl. There was that, and then the obvious physical differences I had to the chicks he usually dated. He definitely had a specific…
type
would be a good word to describe them. Let’s just say those girls were on the lower end of the JC Penney’s catalog size chart, and I the upper. I didn’t consider myself massive by any means, but I did have some extra fluff, mainly hips and an ass.

I wasn’t ignorant. I knew the odds of someone like me being on the radar of someone like him were more than slim. That didn’t mean I couldn’t look at him or be led into his draw and the way he filled the air with his masculine presence. Succumb to those broad shoulders and large biceps trained for performance and not physique. Be distracted by his choppy, dirty blond hair and crystal blue eyes…

His sun kissed lashes flashed my way for only seconds as he made his way further into the laundry room, but the action was long enough for me to realize I let my gaze dance the line between appropriate glance and creepy stare.

Before my staring could cross the inappropriate line, I turned back to separate my whites from my darks for the wash. The familiar song of the laundry room’s change machine turning a bill into quarters sounded into the air, and I couldn’t help but give a small smile.

I wonder if he’ll…

My question was answered before I could finish the thought. His scent wafting in the air indicated he was getting closer to me, that spicy smell of amber with a hint of something sweeter.

His arm crossed in front of me, his reach long and his body emanating warmth as his bicep was only inches from my shoulder. He dropped a single quarter into the area reserved for three quarters in
my
washer; the one I was separating my clothes on top of, then just as quickly, he was gone, his heat moving away from me. He went a few washers down and placed his clothesbasket in front of a free washing machine.

I quickly moved my lips to thank him for something he’d done before. “Um, thanks.”

He opened his washer, giving me a quick wink. “No problem. I don’t like the extra change in my pocket.”

He went on to prepare his laundry, and I did the same, all the time knowing it was that quarter. That damn quarter had me here over an hour later than I usually did my laundry. I could curse his name. If it wasn’t bad enough that Griffin Chandler was gorgeous, he had to be nice, too. I knew I was naive. I mean, how many others had he probably given his extra quarter to? I wasn’t special. I knew that, but sometimes it was nice to just have the really good-looking, big man on campus pay a girl some attention. It just was.

I grunted at the ridiculousness that was me and shoved my whites into one washer. Griffin finished before me. He always did since he didn’t separate his clothes into two loads… not that I was paying attention.

He placed his basket on his hip and he was gone, no other words spoken between us. And that was our weekly exchange. I’d come in, he’d give me his extra quarter if he had to break change, and that was it until the next week.

Shaking my head—at once again, myself—I finished up preparing my washers, then sat at the folding table and got on my laptop. It was only thirty minutes to wash so I didn’t bother making the trip from the laundry room back to my building. There was only one washing facility for all the buildings, and my apartment was pretty much on the other side of the complex. It would take me a good five to ten minutes to get there so there wasn’t a point in going all the way there if only to come back.

I hit up all the usual places on the net. Social media and whatnot. I didn’t bother with my emails, knowing it was close to Valentine’s Day. There would be a lot of requests coming in the next few days, and I didn’t want to deal with that until I got back to my place.

My thoughts flashed at what I might be asked to do, to wear…

Inadvertently, my fingers went to my hoodie, zipping it up as if it was a security blanket. As if it would cover me from the potential reality that swam within my head.

The telltale buzzer of the washers summoned my thoughts back to the small campus laundry room, and I changed my loads over to dryers. I wasn’t surprised I didn’t see Griffin come back and switch his own things over. I never saw him do the switch. I assumed he was one of those that left his laundry overnight and then dried it in the morning. I probably should start doing that too since it really is late.

My eyes grew heavy as they always did before the dryers could finish. I never needed all the time anyway. So with twenty minutes left on each dryer, I pulled my things out and stuffed them into my hamper. I tossed its sling and my laptop bag over the same shoulder and left the laundry room.

“I bet a lot of money on that game, man.”

I froze as I came upon the corner of the laundry building.

“And what does that have to do with me?”

I didn’t recognize the first voice, but I definitely did the second. That was Griffin. I snuck a look around the edge of the building. Griffin stood there, his laundry basket on his hip, and two black dudes were in front of him. They had their fists together, and the proximity they had to Griffin was really close. Almost like they were trying to intimidate him.

One of the guys cracked his fists, popping his large fingers. “I think you know exactly what that means. I bet for you guys to win, kid.”

Griffin’s lips turned up. “Well, I guess it’s good we won then.”

He attempted to pass him, but the small guy put his hand out, stopping him from passing.

Griffin stiffened immediately, turning his shoulder away from the guy he had a good foot of height on. “You don’t want to put your hands on me, man. Now, I suggest you let me pass.”

The little guy lifted his hands as if to say no threat. “We ain’t trying to start nothing. We’re just trying to get to the bottom of this. You see, my friend and I bet a lot of money on the game you ‘won,’ and we’re all but happy with the outcome. We lost, and we lost hard. Y’all should have smoked Stevenson-U with your season so far and their poor stats, yet you only won by four points. We bet you to win by at least ten and that was being safe. Your team should have pummeled them.”

I frowned. I didn’t even know you could bet that way. I shrugged. I didn’t know a lot of things about sports, so whatever, but I still didn’t get why these guys were giving Griffin a hard time.

Griffin remained stone faced. “Everyone has an off day.”

He attempted to pass the guys again, but the big guy interceded this time, stepping in front of him. “Seems to be a little more than that going on. Perhaps you need to be reminded why you shouldn’t have off days.”

He pushed Griffin’s chest, and my heart leaped.
What the hell?

Griffin barely stumbled at the push. In fact, he had his footing back so quickly I didn’t have time to blink. The next thing I knew, he tossed his clothesbasket to the ground and he was stepping up on the guy.

“Hey!”

Both men stopped with their fists still in midair. Their gazes shot my way, and I froze.

Shit. Did I just say that?

Chapter Two

Griffin

The voice halted what was quickly escalating into something that would most likely get me suspended a few games. Coach had a zero tolerance policy for his players fighting on or off the court, so if word got back to him, I was as good as benched. Perhaps the assholes who approached me knew that so they egged me on with their bullshit claims. I couldn’t help but be led into them, though. I may have been a country boy, but I never backed down when challenged—by anyone. I never started a fight in my life, but if I got dragged into one I sure as hell made sure it ended in my favor. Trailer park living and having three brothers had a way of toughing up a guy real quick. It was eat or get eaten where I came from, and this dude and his short-ass friend weren’t going to intimidate me.

The voice stopped all that though. At least for the time being. I didn’t lower my fists and neither did the other guys. Since their focus was on the person who interceded, I figured it was okay to loosen up and look as well.

I’d seen her before. This girl. I gave her my extra quarter when I broke a dollar for my laundry tonight, as well as a few other times… I think.

I said I think because, like tonight, she didn’t really look at me. Well not directly anyway. She never did. She just accepted the quarter, thanked me with a quick glance, and went about her business like I did.

How I knew it was her in front of me right now, and those other times, was by her clothes. She usually wore black with splashes of color. Purple and black stripes or pink with those same stripes like her hoodie tonight. Kind of a punk/urban style.

I guess if I was going to be real I actually noticed her because of how she
looked
in the clothes. I mean, I usually only saw the backside of her as she was bent over a washer, and well, I wasn’t blind. I never stared. I didn’t want her thinking I was some kind of pig, but I definitely noticed I wasn’t ever alone in the laundry room. I kind of wished she would stare at me sometimes, which was weird because all people did was stare at me because of who I was. Guys. Girls…

BOOK: Found by You
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