Authors: Jennifer Duffey
LOVE AND LIES
Cover design © Arijana Karčić, Cover It! Designs
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k with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual persons, events, or locales is not intended by the author.
I took a deep breath as I opened the door to the
Beaux-Artiste University. Only a year ago I’d walked through the same heavy oak doors with wobbly knees, unsure and afraid of what lay ahead. Now, I sashayed in with my shoulders back and chin high.
My confidence wavered when my phone played
“The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” the ringer I'd assigned to my parents’ number.
What?” I snapped.
Good morning to you too, Carissa.”
I guess. What is it, Mom?” Okay, I was being rude, but I had good reason. Mom never called me unless she wanted something. They didn’t care enough about me for anything else. After all, what parent actually let their eighteen-year-old daughter run off to Luling, Louisiana from New York without much of a fight? Mine. That’s who.
I wanted to make sure everything was ok.”
I paused, recognizing the quiver in her voice. Mom was a master of emotion, the queen of putting on a smile and hiding any sour feelings.
“Umm...yeah, everything's fine. Why wouldn't it be?”
I just got a call. I mean I wanted to check on you. Wanted to make sure you were okay.”
Mom paused, the silence dragging out. I tapped my foot against the tile floor just inside the main entrance. Starting out the new
semester late to my first class wasn’t a good idea at all.
Well, I suppose I should be going now. Good—”
Wait, you got a call? From who?”
A call? What are you talking about? I didn't say anything about a call.” Her words tumbled out. She was lying to me. First she tried to backtrack and now she spoke so fast I barely understood. Fabulous. Not only did she not actually want to talk to me, she was going to lie as well.
Like I said, I wanted to make sure you were safe. Your dad and I will talk to you later. I love you, sweetheart.”
The line disconnected. Sweetheart. Right.
Another lie. Mom never called me anything but my name. And that was usually said with contempt and disappointment. That’s what I was to my parents, a disappointment. The daughter they never wanted. I’d heard them say those words more than once.
My dad’s parties were their favorite place to go on about how surprised they’d been that their only child hadn’t taken more of an interest in making something of herself. They wished I would do more
than hang out in my room or with my
Of course the friend they referred to was Alec, and he was gay. Another strike against me.
I had no idea what Mom meant
by she'd “received a call”, but something was up. She and Dad called religiously on the fifth of every month. They paid my room and board, tuition, and deposited a monthly allowance. But only if I checked in with them every month. That was the biggest fight they put up. Today was the ninth. We spoke—if you can call a three-minute conversation speaking—four days earlier.
The best way to find out what was up was to call back and demand answers, but class
started in three minutes, and I needed to run. It didn't matter anyway. If she didn’t want something specific, then she wanted to scold me about my poor grades. Because, you know, a B is considered failing. Never good enough.
I ran down the hall, m
y brand new Jimmy Choo wedges not slowing me down at all. I barely made it to class, sliding into the very uncomfortable, stiff-as-a-board desk with seconds to spare. Logan leaned back in his seat, fingers intertwined behind his head, and laughed at me. I took a deep breath and let out a puff of air to blow my bangs out of my eyes. Logan was my long time friend. He wasn't supposed to laugh at me.
“Ms.Stein.” Professor Jurgensmeyer, our world lit professor, lowered his chin and flicked his tongue against his teeth spraying me with spit. “Made it by the skin of your teeth. You are walking a very thin line.” He had a history of failing students who were constantly late to class. Said it was an interruption or whatever. As if anyone actually paid attention to his monotone, repetitive lectures.
This was my second semester with Jurgensmeyer. It seemed he hadn’t found a way to fix the spittle problem
since last time I had him as a professor. I hated that I couldn't wipe off his fluid discharge until he turned his back to me. “I'm sorry, it won't happen again.”
Professor Jurgensmeyer shook his head before finally turning around. He sauntered to the front with his hands behind his back like he owned the room.
Logan’s shoulders shook with amusement. I wiped the Professor's saliva off my cheek and dried my hand on the back of Logan’s shirt. Teach him to laugh at me.
Hoping to make him pay after class, I packed my books and chased
him into the hall, prepared to smack him around a little. Too bad for me I wasn’t paying close enough attention and came to a halt against the brick wall of someone’s chest. “Damn it.”
You know, if you'd slow down, you wouldn't have run into me.”
The guy’s voice was deep and vibrated all the way through me. He
steadied me with strong, callused hands. My legs suddenly felt like Jell-O. As if I’d been working out for the last few hours and they no longer had the strength to hold me up.
Well, if you wouldn’t have been standing in the middle of the hall I wouldn’t have run into you.” Okay, okay. It wasn’t his fault. I wasn’t paying attention. But that was embarrassing. Not to mention the way my body reacted by his simple words and touch. All heated and tingling. I had to defend myself somehow.
I see you’ve met Eric.”
voice floated to me from the left. His tone was slightly higher pitched than the stranger in front of me. I wanted to ask the guy’s name, but Logan was too busy talking, pulling the attention away from me and the new guy.
Well at least now I knew his name.
“Not formally.” I took a step back and held my hand out to Eric. “Nice to meet you. I’m Carissa.”
Pretty name. Just like you.” He winked, and then moved to lean against the brick wall next to Logan. Both of them stood in the same position, one ankle crossed over the other, their arms folded across their chests. Menacing and relaxed all at once.
Why didn't you help me out today?” I asked Logan.
Things on my mind, I guess.” He shrugged, but offered no other explanation.
never left me hanging in class. He was my eyes and ears. I had a habit of pissing people off with my quick to talk rather than think reactions, that and my consistent tardiness. It was a well-known fact you could count on me being late. Professor Jurgensmeyer only let me slide on the tardiness when he was in a good mood. I knew how to manipulate him on those days—a flip of the wrist, bat of the eyes, and a guilty “sorry” worked every time.
First Mom and now
Logan. Add in the new, mysterious, hot guy Eric and today was shaping up to be one full of surprises. To think the semester just started. There had to be some unwritten rule that all problems started on the second day. New beginnings and all that crap. Why were my new beginnings strange events?
shoved off the wall and headed to his next class, leaving Eric and me alone. My heart started racing.
What the hell?
Why was I reacting this way to a guy I met minutes ago? Sure he had that deep, sexy rumble of a voice. He was tall, and muscular.
I watched as his black as night hair fell down over his eyes. When he pushed it back to reveal the most mesmerizing eyes I’d ever seen
, I gasped. He had one hazel and one blue eye. Staring at his dark hair and bright eyes made me think of a full moon in the middle of a starry, midnight sky. Light in the midst of black. His face was stoic, but the harsh lines of his cheeks and jaw said he wasn’t someone to mess with.
You’re new.” It had to have been the lamest thing I could have said. My face heated another degree.
, and once again, the vibrations rocked through me, sending shivers down my arms. Goose bumps rose as evidence.
Yep. Moved here from New York. How about you?”
New York as well. How do you know Logan?” Of all the questions I could have, should have asked, that one weighed the heaviest on my mind. This stranger shows up from my home state, and Logan is already comfortable with him. Logan didn’t trust people easily. His dad was the top music producer in the country. He’d had more experience with people using him than most. So how did Mr. New York know Logan, who came from California?
offered a noncommittal shrug. “We’re in the same apartment complex. I got here a couple of weeks ago.”
Oh yeah? How come I haven’t seen you around?”
The hall, which was full of people a few minutes earlier, thinned as students headed off into the direction of their next classes or to the commons area for more coffee.
I checked the time on my phone. I had ten minutes before my next class. Just enough time to get a few more questions answered.
Been busy. There’s a lot to do to get settled. Surely, you can understand that.”
What’s your major?”
My phone buzzed in my hand. I glanced down to see a text from Logan.
Don’t grill the guy too much, Riss. He’s okay. Promise. Passed an intense background check and everything.
I tried to keep from laughing, but Eric noticed my attempt and tilted his chin in question. His eyes focused on the phone in my hand.
Dance,” he answered. “Contemporary mostly, but I’ve got some experience in ballet. What’s so funny?”
I ignored his question about what had made me laugh. We didn’t know each other well enough for me to share my conversation with Logan. That’s not to say I didn’t want to get to that point.
“Dance, huh?” I gave him an inspecting look once again. With his tall, well-defined build I could see him as a hip-hop dancer. Not so much ballet though. Then again, his experience could be from when he was a kid. Not necessarily recent. Good lord, this guy was amazing. His black T-shirt stretched across his broad shoulders; his arms were big enough to make you think protective. The jeans he wore hung loose on his hips, hugged his thighs just enough to give me a sneak peek of how much strength they held.
I can see you as a dancer. Are you any good?”
Eric shook his head, looked at his watch, and pushed off the wall.
“I can hold my own. Listen, I should probably get to my next class. You think there’s a chance we can hang out later? Maybe grab lunch?”
Sure. I eat with Logan and another friend of mine. You find us, and you’re more than welcome to join.” I lifted my bag a little higher on my shoulder then walked off in the opposite direction. With a quick look behind me, I got a delectable view of his back. Just as fine as the front. I licked my lips and shook my head. Getting involved with a guy wasn’t a good idea. Not at all.
My dating history was short, but the few guys on the list had turned out to be jerks. They reminded me of home
, and I didn't like it. For most people, thoughts of home meant shopping trips with Mom and helping cook for Thanksgiving. Maybe even a day of slumming around the house in pajamas. When I thought of home, I thought about bodyguards disguised as assistants and surveillance, a detached kind of living. After moving to Luling for school I vowed to never let that happen again. The guys I dated threatened to make me break that vow with their possessiveness. If someone had told me that guys could be as possessive as my father, I would have laughed in their face. These days, I knew better. Breaking up with them was easy, being single was easier.