Authors: Chanel Cleeton
Tags: #College Students, #New Adult Romance
Maggie Carpenter is ready for a change—and to leave her ordinary life in South Carolina behind. But when she accepts a scholarship to the International School in London, a university attended by the privileged offspring of diplomats and world leaders, Maggie might get more than she bargained for.
When Maggie meets Hugh, a twentysomething British guy, she finds herself living the life she has always wanted. Suddenly she’s riding around the city in a Ferrari, wearing borrowed designer clothes and going to the hottest clubs. The only problem? Another guy, the one she can’t seem to keep her hands off of.
Half French, half Lebanese and ridiculously wealthy, Samir Khouri has made it clear he doesn’t do relationships. He’s the opposite of everything Maggie thought she wanted…and he’s everything she can’t resist. Torn between her dream guy and the boy haunting her dreams, Maggie has to fight for her own happy ending. In a city like London, you never know where you stand, and everything can change in the blink of an eye.
This is a New Adult romance recommended for readers 17 and up.
I See London
I couldn’t find my underwear.
Knickers, as the British called them.
It should have been easy; there wasn’t much to them. They were black, lacy…and shit, I was going to miss my flight home if I kept looking.
“Start by thinking of the last place you had them,” my grandmother would always tell me when I lost something. The bed seemed like the best place to start. Or had it been on top of the dresser? Or against the wall by the window?
I’d been a busy girl.
I stared down at the boy lying in bed. His voice was heavy with sleep, the sheets tangled around his naked body. The sight of all that skin sent a flash of heat through me.
I wasn’t ready to handle the morning after. Screw my underwear.
“Don’t worry about it.” I leaned down, pressing a swift kiss to his lips, barely resisting the urge to climb back into bed with him. “See you next year,” I whispered, grabbing my shoes and heading for the door.
I paused in the doorway, wondering how the hell I’d gone from spending my Friday nights studying to doing the walk of shame sans underwear.
I blamed the Harvard admissions committee.
Ten months earlier
I was going to die and I wasn’t even wearing my best underwear.
My Southern grandmother loved to tell me a girl should always look like a lady—even down to her “unmentionables,” as she liked to call them.
“But no one’s going to see them,” I would insist.
“It doesn’t matter. You could be in a car accident and then what? Would you want people to see you in
” (Cotton, black, perfect for fat days.)
I wasn’t sure if the underwear rule applied to plane crashes. But if it did? I was about to die in the world’s ugliest pair of black cotton underwear
“Are you okay, dear?”
I loosened my grip on the armrest, turning slightly to face the woman in the seat next to me. My head jerked.
“It’s just a little bit of turbulence. Perfectly normal.” She looked to be about my grandmother’s age; unlike my grandmother’s smooth Southern drawl, though, her voice had a clipped British accent. “Is this your first flight?”
I cleared the massive, boulder-sized knot of tension from my throat. “It’s been awhile.”
“It can be scary at times. But we’re only about an hour away.”
The plane hit another bump. I gripped the armrests, my knuckles turning nearly white.
“What takes you to London?”
“I’m starting college.”
“How exciting! Where?”
I loosened my grip on the armrest, struggling to focus on her questions rather than the plane plummeting from the sky. The irony of my fear of flying wasn’t lost on me.
“The International School. It’s an American university in London.”
According to the glossy brochure I’d conveniently received the day my dreaded thin-envelope rejection letter from Harvard arrived in our mailbox, the International School boasted a total of one thousand undergraduate students from all over the world.
“Do you know anyone in London?”
I shook my head.
“I’m surprised your parents let you move over there by yourself. You can’t be more than what, eighteen?”
I was a little surprised, too. My dad hadn’t been a big fan of the whole London idea.
could travel the world, heading to exotic locations. I just couldn’t go with him. I’d heard all the reasons before. He couldn’t be a fighter pilot and a single parent. It was too difficult for him to predict when he would be sent away on another mission. If my mom were still around—It hung between us, the rest of the words unspoken.
I could fill in the blanks. If my mom were still around, we would be a family. But she wasn’t. When she left my dad, she took our family with her, dooming me to life in a small town in South Carolina, my dad’s elderly parents assuming the role of my legal guardians. I loved my grandparents and they tried the best they could.
But it wasn’t the same.
“You must be awfully brave to come to London by yourself. Especially at such a young age.”
Brave? I wasn’t sure if it had been bravery or desperation spurring my sole act of teenage rebellion. But ever since I’d received that rejection letter in the mail, my thoughts had been less than rational.
It was all I’d ever wanted—Harvard. It was the best. I’d imagined my dad beaming with pride at my high school graduation, the one he’d ended up missing anyway. Harvard had been my chance to change everything. It was the reason I didn’t date and skipped parties in favor of doing SAT prep on Friday nights, the motivation behind me joining every student organization known to man. In the end, none of it was enough.
She nudged me. “We’re nearly there.”
I turned toward the window, peering through the glass. Fog filled the sky, the air thick and heavy with it. I pulled back, disappointed.
“It’s hard to see anything.”
“Just wait for it. Keep looking.”
I turned back to the window, my eyes trained downward, waiting for the exact moment when—
Lights. Scattered throughout the fog were lights. Hundreds, thousands of lights. Like a Christmas tree. Beneath us was a carpet of lights.
“Welcome to London.”
* * *
I peered out the taxi window, watching as the city passed me by.
The ride from the airport took a little under an hour. As we drove, we crossed into more urban areas where the landscape of little houses disappeared, replaced by large blocks of multistory apartment buildings and small shops on street corners. Little by little the traffic increased, the driver laying on the horn several times and shouting out the window. BBC Radio blared through the car speakers. The announcers spoke of things like “cricket” and I felt the weight of being in a foreign land. At least I understood the language—for the most part.
The sidewalks were filled with people, their strides long and confident. Everyone looked as if they were in a hurry, as though wherever they were going was the most important place in the world. And it was noisy. Even over the radio, I heard the sounds of the city, so different from anything I’d ever experienced.
When the cab passed by the infamous Hyde Park and then Kensington Palace, only to turn onto what the cab driver referred to as Embassy Row, the reality of my new life began to sink in. We passed rows of expensive buildings—mansions, really. Some had guards stationed out front and flew flags of various countries, no doubt how Embassy Row got its name. Others were private residences, each one large and imposing. The taxi pulled through a set of enormous gates, traveling down a long gravel driveway. The driver let out a low whistle.
I stared out the window, barely resisting the urge to panic.
The school was huge. The grounds were perfectly manicured; large trees dotted the landscape. Security buzzed around as students gathered in small groups, greeting each other and joking around. Ridiculously expensive cars, the like of which I had only seen in movies, passed by.
Thank god for my scholarship.
I stepped out of the cab on shaky legs, offering a quick smile for the driver before sliding three crisp twenty-pound notes into his hands. I rolled my two black bags up the drive, ignoring the group of boys lounging in front of the school’s wooden doors.
“Yo, Samir, check out the new girl.”
I turned. I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t resist. I came face-to-face with a short boy dressed in a Gucci baseball cap, dark jeans, and a sweater. He flashed me a cocky smile.
“American. Not my type,” an accented voice, smooth and rich, called out behind me.
I stiffened, turning to face the speaker. And froze. For one spectacularly awkward moment, all rational thought fled my brain, save one—
They didn’t make boys
like this in South Carolina.
A boy stared back at me, lounging against the railing leading up to the school steps like he owned the place. He was average height and lean, dressed casually in jeans and a black sweater. His hair was an inky black, curling at the ends, his skin a deep tan the likes of which I’d never seen before. His eyes were a rich chocolate color, his lashes full and thick—a girl’s dream. His lips were lush, his mouth curved in an ironic tilt.
I couldn’t tear my gaze away.
He was hot, but more than that, he carried himself differently than anyone I’d ever met. He looked comfortable in his skin, in a way I couldn’t help but envy.
The boy—Samir, I guessed—flicked a cigarette butt onto the ground, a fancy black loafer rubbing it into the concrete. His gaze did a once-over, starting at my long brown hair, drifting down my body, lingering on my boobs—my eyes narrowed—before coming back to rest on my face. There was something appraising in his gaze—a flicker of interest—followed by a smile that had my heartbeat ratcheting up a notch.
For a moment he just stared, his expression taunting me, his eyes searching.
Something sparked in the air between us. Something electric that sent a thrill running through my body.
All it had taken was one look. This one was pure lust and desire—sex on a stick, as my friend Jo would say.
He flashed me another cocky smile. That smile was lethal.
He looked anything but.
I wanted to say something clever, wanted to say
. But like always, words failed me. I’d never been good with guys—in high school I was prone to what I not so lovingly referred to as deer-in-the-headlights syndrome. If a guy I liked showed any interest in me, I would freeze, standing there awkwardly, all clever thought evaporated. It was a spectacularly effective way to ensure I never had a boyfriend.