CHAPTER TWO. pig

Familiar faces filled the seats of our favorite lunch table. America sat on one side of me, Finch on the other, and the rest of the spaces were picked off by Shepley and his Sigma Tau brothers. It was hard to hear with the low roar inside the cafeteria, and the air conditioner seemed to be on the fritz again. The air was thick with the smells of fried foods and sweaty skin, but somehow everyone seemed to be more energetic than usual.

“Hey Brazil,” Shepley said, greeting the man sitting in front of me. His olive skin and chocolate eyes offset the white Eastern Football hat pulled low on his forehead.

“Missed you after the game Saturday, Shep. I drank a beer or six for ya,” he said with a broad, white grin.

“I appreciate it. I took Mare out to dinner,” he said, leaning over to kiss the top of America’s long, blonde hair.

“You’re sittin’ in my chair, Brazil.”

Brazil turned to see Travis standing behind him, and then looked to me, surprised. “Oh, is she one of your girls, Trav?”

“Absolutely not,” I said, shaking my head.

Brazil looked to Travis, who stared at him expectantly. Brazil shrugged and then took his tray to the end of the table.

Travis smiled at me as he settled into the seat. “What’s up, Pidge?”

“What is that?” I asked, unable to look away from his tray. The mystery food on his plate looked like a wax display.

Travis laughed and took a drink from his water glass. “The cafeteria ladies scare me. I’m not about to critique their cooking skills.”

I didn’t miss the appraising eyes of those sitting at the table. Travis’ behavior piqued their curiosity, and I subdued a smile at being the only girl they had seen him insist on sitting by.

Ugh …that Bio test is after lunch,” America groaned.

“Did you study?” I asked.

“God, no. I spent the night reassuring my boyfriend that you weren’t going to sleep with Travis.”

The football players seated at the end of our table stopped their obnoxious laughter to listen more closely, making the other students take notice. I glared at America, but she was unconcerned with any blame, nudging Shepley with her shoulder.

“Jesus, Shep. You’ve got it that bad, huh?” Travis asked, throwing a packet of ketchup at his cousin. Shepley didn’t answer, but I smiled appreciatively at Travis for the diversion.

America rubbed his back. “He’s going to be okay. It’s just going to take him awhile to believe Abby is resistant to your charms.”

“I haven’t tried to charm her,” Travis sniffed, seeming offended. “She’s my friend.”

I looked to Shepley. “I told you. You have nothing to worry about.”

Shepley finally met my eyes, and upon seeing my sincere expression, his eyes brightened a bit.

“Did you study?” Travis asked me.

I frowned. “No amount of studying is going to help me with Biology. It’s just not something I can wrap my head around.”

Travis stood up. “C’mon.”

“What?”

“Let’s go get your notes. I’m going to help you study.”

“Travis….”

“Get your ass up, Pidge. You’re gonna to ace that test.”

I tugged on one of America’s long, yellow braids as I passed. “See you in class, Mare.”

She smiled. “I’ll save you a seat. I’ll need all the help I can get.”

Travis followed me to my room, and I pulled out my study guide while he popped open my book. He quizzed me relentlessly, and then clarified a few things I didn’t understand. In the way that he explained it, the concepts went from being confusing to obvious.

“…and somatic cells use mitosis to reproduce. That’s when you have the phases. They sound sort of like a woman’s name: Prometa Anatela.”

I laughed. “Prometa Anatela?”

Pro phase, Meta phase, Ana phase and Telo phase.”

“Prometa Anatela,” I repeated, nodding.

He smacked the top of my head with the papers. “You got this. You know this study guide backwards and forwards.”

I sighed. “Well…we’ll see.”

“I’m going to walk you to class. I’ll quiz you on the way.”

I locked the door behind us. “You’re not going to be mad if I flunk this test, are you?”

“You’re not going to flunk, Pidge. We need to start earlier for the next one, though,” he said, keeping in-step with me to the science building.

“How are you going to tutor me, do your homework, study and train for your fights?”

Travis chuckled. “I don’t train for my fights. Adam calls me, tells me where the fight is, and I go.”

I shook my head in disbelief as he held the paper in front of him to ask the first question. We nearly finished a second round of the study guide when we reached my class.

“Kick ass,” he smiled, handing me the notes and leaning against the door jamb.

“Hey, Trav.”

I turned to see a tall, somewhat lanky man smile at Travis on his way into the classroom.

“Parker,” Travis nodded.

Parker’s eyes brightened a bit when he looked to me, and he smiled. “Hi, Abby.”

“Hi,” I said, surprised that he knew my name. I had seen him in class, but we’d never met.

Parker continued to his seat, joking with those sitting beside him. “Who’s that?” I asked.

Travis shrugged, but the skin around his eyes seemed tenser than before. “Parker Hayes. He’s one of my Sig Tau brothers.”

You’re in a frat ?” I asked, doubtful.

“Sigma Tau, same as Shep. I thought you knew that,” he said, looking beyond me to Parker.

“Well…you don’t seem the…fraternity type,” I said, eyeing the tattoos on his forearms.

Travis turned his attention to me and grinned. “My dad is an alumn, and my brothers are all Sig Tau’s…it’s a family thing.”

“And they expected you to pledge?” I asked, skeptical.

“Not really. They’re just good guys,” he said, flicking my papers. “Better get to class.”

“Thanks for helping me,” I said, nudging him with my elbow. America passed, and I followed her to our seats.

“How did it go?” she asked.

I shrugged. “He’s a good tutor.”

Just a tutor?”

“He’s a good friend, too.”

She seemed disappointed, and I giggled at the fallen expression on her face.

It had always been a dream of America’s for us to date friends, and roommates-slash-cousins, for her, was hitting the jackpot. She wanted us to room together when she decided to come with me to Eastern, but I vetoed her idea, hoping to spread my wings a bit. Once she finished pouting, she focused on finding a friend of Shepley’s to introduce me to.

Travis’ healthy interest in me had surpassed her ideas.

I breezed through the test and sat on the steps outside the building, waiting for America. When she slumped down beside me in defeat, I waited for her to speak.

“That was awful!” she cried.

“You should study with us. Travis explains it really well.”

America groaned and leaned her head on my shoulder. “You were no help at all! Couldn’t you have given me a courtesy nod or something ?” I hooked my arm around her neck and walked her to our dorm.

 

Over the next week, Travis helped with my history paper and tutored me in Biology. We stood together scanning the grade board outside Professor Campbell’s office. My student number was three spots from the top.

“Third highest test grade in the class! Nice, Pidge!” he said, squeezing me. His eyes were bright with excitement and pride, and an awkward feeling made me to take a step back.

“Thanks, Trav. Couldn’t have done it without you,” I said, pulling on his t-shirt.

He tossed me over his shoulder, making his way through the crowd behind us. “Make way! Move it, people! Let’s make room for this poor woman’s hideously disfigured, ginormous brain! She’s a fucking genius!”

I giggled at the amused and curious expressions of my classmates.

 

As the days went by, we fielded the persistent rumors about a relationship. Travis’ reputation helped to quiet the gossip. He had never been known to stay with one girl longer than a night, so the more times we were seen together, the more people understood our platonic relationship for what it was. Even with the constant questions of our involvement, the stream of attention Travis received from his co-eds didn’t recede.

He continued to sit next to me in History, and eat with me at lunch. It didn’t take long to realize I had been wrong about him, even finding myself defensive towards those that didn’t know Travis the way that I did.

In the cafeteria, Travis set a can of orange juice in front of me.

“You didn’t have to do that. I was going to grab one,” I said, peeling off my jacket.

“Well, now you don’t have to,” he said, flashing the dimple on his left cheek.

Brazil snorted. “Did she turn you into a cabana boy, Travis? What’s next, fanning her with a palm tree leaf, wearing a Speedo?”

Travis shot him a murderous glare, and I jumped to his defense. “You couldn’t fill a Speedo, Brazil. Shut the hell up.”

“Easy, Abby! I was kidding!” Brazil said, holding up his hands.

“Just…don’t talk about him like that,” I said, frowning.

Travis’ expression was a mixture of surprise and gratitude. “Now I’ve seen it all. I was just defended by a girl,” he said, standing up. Before he left with his tray, he offered one more warning glare to Brazil, and then walked outside to stand with a small group of fellow smokers outside the building.

I tried not to watch him while he laughed and talked. Every girl in the group subtly competed for the space next to him, and America shoved her elbow in my ribs when she noticed my attention was elsewhere.

“Whatcha lookin’ at, Abby?”

“Nothing. I’m not looking at anything.”

She rested her chin on her hand and shook her head. “They’re so obvious. Look at the red head. She’s ran her fingers through her hair as many times as she’s blinked. I wonder if Travis gets tired of that.”

Shepley nodded. “He does. Everyone thinks he’s this asshole, but if they only knew how much patience he has dealing with every girl that thinks she can tame him…he can’t go anywhere without them bugging him. Trust me; he’s much more polite than I would be.”

“Oh, like you wouldn’t love it,” America said, kissing his cheek.

Travis was finishing his cigarette outside the cafeteria when I passed. “Wait up, Pidge. I’ll walk you.”

“You don’t have to walk me to every class, Travis. I know how to get there on my own.”

Travis was easily sidetracked by a girl with long, black hair and a short skirt walking by that smiled at him. He followed her with his eyes and nodded in the girl’s direction, throwing down his cigarette.

“I’ll catch up with you later, Pidge.”

“Yeah,” I said, rolling my eyes as he jogged to the girl’s side.

Travis’ seat remained empty during class, and I found myself a bit aggravated with him for missing over a girl he didn’t know. Professor Chaney dismissed early, and I hurried across the lawn, aware that I was to meet Finch at three to give him Sherri Cassidy’s Music Appreciation notes. I looked at my watch and quickened my pace.

“Abby?”

Parker jogged across the grass to walk beside me. “I don’t think we’ve officially met,” he said, holding out his hand. “Parker Hayes.”

I took his hand and smiled. “Abby Abernathy.”

“I was behind you when you got your bio test grade. Congratulations,” he smiled, shoving his hands in his pockets.

“Thanks. Travis helped, or I would’ve been at the bottom of that list, trust me.”

“Oh, are you guys….”

“Friends.”

Parker nodded and smiled. “Did he tell you there’s a party at the House this weekend?”

“We mostly just talk about Biology and food.”

Parker laughed. “That sounds like Travis.”

At the door of Morgan Hall, Parker scanned my face with his big green eyes. “You should come. It’ll be fun.”

“I’ll talk to America. I don’t think we have any plans.”

“Are you a package deal?”

“We made a pact this summer. No parties solo.”

“Smart,” he nodded in approval.

“She met Shep at orientation, so I haven’t really had to tag along with her much. This will be the first time I’ve needed to ask her, so I’m sure she’ll be happy to come.” I inwardly cringed. Not only was I babbling, I’d made it obvious that I didn’t get asked to parties.

“Great. I’ll see you there,” he said. He flashed his perfect, Banana Republic-model smile with his square jaw and naturally tan skin, turning to walk across campus.

I watched him walk away; he was tall, clean shaven, with a pressed pin-striped dress shirt and jeans. His wavy, dark-blonde hair bounced when he walked.

I bit my lip, flattered by his invitation.

“Now he’s more your speed,” Finch said in my ear.

“He’s cute, huh?” I asked, unable to stop smiling.

“Hell yes, he’s cute…in that preppy, missionary position kind of way.”

“Finch!” I cried, smacking him on the shoulder.

“Did you get Sherri’s notes?”

“I did,” I said, pulling them from my bag. He lit a cigarette, held it between his lips, and squinted at the papers.

“Fucking brilliant,” he said, scanning the pages. He folded them away in his pocket, and then took another drag. “Good thing Morgan’s boilers are out. You’ll need a cold shower after getting ogled by that tall drink of water.”

“The dorm doesn’t have hot water?” I wailed.

“That’s the word,” Finch said, sliding his backpack over his shoulder. “I’m off to Algebra. Tell Mare I said not to forget me this weekend.”

“I’ll tell her,” I grumbled, glaring up the antique brick walls of our dormitory. I stomped up to my room, pushed through my door, and let my backpack fall to the floor.

“No hot water,” Kara mumbled from her side of the desk.

“I heard.”

My cell phone buzzed and I clicked it open, reading a text message from America cursing the boilers. A few moments later there was a knock on the door.

America walked in and plopped onto my bed, arms crossed. “Can you believe this shit? How much are we paying and we can’t even take a hot shower?”

Kara sighed. “Stop whining. Why don’t you just stay with your boyfriend? Haven’t you been staying with him, anyway?”

America’s eyes darted in Kara’s direction. “Good idea, Kara. The fact that you’re a total bitch comes in handy sometimes.”

Kara kept her eyes on her computer monitor, unfazed by America’s jab.

America pulled out her cell phone and clicked out a text message with amazing precision and speed. Her cell phone chirped, and she smiled at me. “We’re staying with Shep and Travis until they fix the boilers.”

“What? I’m not!” I cried.

“Oh, yes you are. There’s no reason for you to be stuck here, freezing in the shower when Travis and Shep have two bathrooms at their place.”

“I wasn’t invited.”

“I’m inviting you. Shep already said it was fine. You can sleep on the couch…if Travis isn’t using it.”

“And if he’s using it?”

America shrugged. “Then you can sleep in Travis’ bed.”

“No way!”

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t be such a baby, Abby. You guys are friends, right? If he hasn’t tried anything by now, I don’t think he will.”

Her words made my open mouth snap shut. Travis had been around me in one way or another every night for weeks. I had been so occupied with making sure everyone knew we were just friends, it hadn’t occurred to me that he really was interested only in friendship. I wasn’t sure why, but I felt insulted.

Kara looked at us with disbelief. “Travis Maddox hasn’t tried to sleep with you?”

“We’re friends!” I said in a defensive tone.

“I know, but he hasn’t even…tried ? He’s slept with everyone.”

“Except us,” America said, looking her over. “And you.”

Kara shrugged. “Well, I’ve never met him. I’ve just heard.”

“Exactly,” I snapped. “You don’t even know him.”

Kara returned to her monitor, oblivious to our presence.

I sighed. “All right, Mare. I need to pack.”

“Make sure you pack for a few days, who knows how long it will take them to fix the boilers,” she said, entirely too excited.

Dread settled over me as if I were about to sneak into enemy territory. “Ugh…all right.”

America bounced when she hugged me. “This is going to be so fun!”

Half an hour later we loaded down her Honda and headed for the apartment. America hardly took a breath between ramblings as she drove. She honked her horn as she slowed to a stop in her usual parking space. Shepley jogged down the steps, and pulled both of our suitcases from the trunk, following us up the stairs.

“It’s open,” he puffed.

America pushed the door and held it open. Shepley grunted when he dropped our luggage to the floor. “Christ, Baby! Your suitcase is twenty more pounds than Abby’s!”

America and I froze when a woman emerged from the bathroom, buttoning her blouse.

“Hi,” she said, surprised. Her mascara-smeared eyes examined us before settling on our luggage. I recognized her as the leggy brunette Travis had followed from the cafeteria.

America glared at Shepley.

He held up his hands. “She’s with Travis!”

Travis rounded the corner in a pair of boxer shorts and yawned. He looked at his guest, and then patted her backside. “My company’s here. You’d better go.”

She smiled and wrapped her arms around him, kissing his neck. “I’ll leave my number on the counter.”

“Eh…don’t worry about it,” Travis said in a casual tone.

“What?” she asked, leaning back to look in his eyes.

Every time!” America said. She looked at the woman. “How are you surprised by this? He’s Travis fucking Maddox! He is famous for this very thing, and every time they’re surprised!” she said, turning to Shepley. He put his arm around her, gesturing for her to calm down.

The girl narrowed her eyes at Travis, and then grabbed her purse and stormed out, slamming the door behind her.

Travis walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge as if nothing had happened.

America shook her head and walked down the hall. Shepley followed her, angling his body to compensate for the weight of her suitcase as he trailed behind.

I collapsed against the recliner and sighed, wondering if I was crazy for agreeing to come. I didn’t realize Shepley’s apartment was a revolving door for clueless bimbos.

Travis stood behind the breakfast bar, crossed his arms over his chest and smiled. “What’s wrong, Pidge? Hard day?”

“No, I’m thoroughly disgusted.”

“With me?” He was smiling. I should have known that he expected the conversation. It only made me less inclined to hold back.

“Yes, you . How can you just use someone like that, and treat them that way?”

“How did I treat her? She offered her number, I declined.”

My mouth fell open at his lack of remorse. “You’ll have sex with her, but you won’t take her number?”

Travis leaned on the counter with his elbows. “Why would I want her number if I’m not going to call her?”

“Why would you sleep with her if you’re not going to call her?”

“I don’t promise anyone anything, Pidge. She didn’t stipulate a relationship before she spread eagle on my couch.”

I stared at the couch with revulsion. “She’s someone’s daughter, Travis. What if, down the line, someone treats your daughter like that?”

“My daughter better not drop her panties for some jackass she just met, let’s put it that way.”

I crossed my arms, angry that he made sense. “So, besides admitting that you’re a jackass, you’re saying that because she slept with you, she deserved to be tossed out like a stray cat?”

“I’m saying that I was honest with her. She’s an adult, it was consensual… she was a little too eager about it if you want to know the truth. You act like I committed a crime.”

“She didn’t seem as clear about your intentions, Travis.”

“Women usually justify their actions with whatever they make up in their heads. She didn’t tell me upfront that she expected a relationship anymore than I told her I expected sex with no strings. How is it any different?”

“You’re a pig.”

Travis shrugged. “I’ve been called worse.”

I stared at the couch, the cushions still askew and bunched up from its recent use. I recoiled at the thought of how many women had given themselves away against the fabric. Itchy fabric at that.

“I guess I’m sleeping on the recliner,” I grumbled.

“Why?”

I glared at him, furious over his confused expression. “I’m not sleeping on that thing! God knows what I’d be laying in!”

He lifted my luggage off the floor. “You’re not sleeping on the couch or the recliner. You’re sleeping in my bed.”

“Which is more unsanitary than the couch, I’m sure.”

“There’s never been anyone in my bed but me.”

I rolled my eyes. “Give me a break!”

“I’m absolutely serious. I bag ‘em on the couch. I don’t let them in my room.”

“Then why am I allowed in your bed?”

One corner of his mouth pulled up into an impish grin. “Are you planning on having sex with me tonight?”

“No!”

“That’s why. Now get your cranky ass up, take your hot shower, and then we can study some Bio.”

I glared at him for a moment and then grudgingly did as he commanded. I stood under the shower entirely too long, letting the water wash away my aggravation. Massaging the shampoo through my hair, I sighed at how wonderful it was to shower in a non-communal bathroom again — no flip flops, no toiletry bag, just the relaxing blend of water and steam.

The door opened, and I jumped. “Mare?”

“No, it’s me,” Travis said.

I automatically wrapped my arms over the parts I didn’t want him to see. “What are you doing in here? Get out!”

“You forgot a towel, and I brought your clothes, and your toothbrush, and some weird face cream I found in your bag.”

“You went through my stuff?” I shrieked. He didn’t answer. Instead, I heard the faucet turn on and the sound of his toothbrush against his teeth.

I peeked out of the plastic curtain, holding it against my chest. “Get out, Travis.”

He looked up at me, his lips covered in suds from his toothpaste. “I can’t go to bed without brushing my teeth.”

“If you come within two feet of this curtain, I will poke out your eyes while you sleep.”

“I won’t peek, Pidge,” he chuckled.

I waited under the water with my arms wrapped tightly across my chest. He spit, gurgled, and spit again, and then the door closed. I rinsed the soap from my skin, dried as quickly as possible, and then pulled my t-shirt and shorts on, slipping on my glasses, and raking a comb through my hair. The night moisturizer Travis had brought caught my eye, and I couldn’t help but smile. He was thoughtful, and almost nice when he wanted to be.

Travis opened the door again. “C’mon, Pidge! I’m gettin’ old, here!”

I threw my comb at him and he ducked, shutting the door and laughing to himself all the way to his room. I brushed my teeth and then shuffled down the hall, passing Shepley’s bedroom on the way.

“Night, Abby,” America called from the darkness.

“Night, Mare.”

I hesitated before landing two soft knocks on Travis’ door.

“Come in, Pidge. You don’t have to knock.”

He pulled the door open and I walked in, seeing his black iron-rod bed parallel to the line of windows on the far side of the room. The walls were bare except for a lone sombrero above his headboard. I half-expected his room to be covered in posters of barely-clothed women, but I didn’t even see an advertisement for a beer brand. His bed was black, his carpet gray, everything else in the room was white. It looked as if he’d just moved in.

“Nice PJ’s,” Travis said, noting my yellow and navy plaid shorts, and grey Eastern tee. He sat on his bed and patted the pillow beside him. “Well, come on. I’m not going to bite you.”

“I’m not afraid of you,” I said, walking over to the bed and dropping my biology book beside him. “Do you have a pen?”

He nodded to his night table. “Top drawer.”

I reached across the bed and pulled open the drawer, finding three pens, a pencil, a tube of KY jelly, and a clear, glass bowl overflowing with packages of different brands of condoms. Revolted, I grabbed a pen and shoved the drawer shut.

“What?” he asked, turning a page of my book.

“Did you rob the health clinic?”

“No. Why?”

I pulled the cap off the pen, unable to keep the sickened expression from my face. “Your lifetime supply of condoms.”

“Better safe than sorry, right?”

I rolled my eyes. Travis returned to the pages, a wry smile breaking across his lips. He read the notes to me, highlighting the main points while he asked me questions and patiently explained what I didn’t comprehend.

After an hour, I pulled off my glasses and rubbed my eyes. “I’m beat. I can’t memorize one more macromolecule.”

Travis smiled, closing my book. “All right.”

I paused, unsure of our sleeping arrangements. Travis left the room and walked down the hall, mumbling something into Shepley’s room before turning on the shower. I turned back the covers and then pulled them up to my neck, listening to the high-pitched whine of the water running through the pipes.

Ten minutes later, the water shut off, and the floors creaked under Travis’ steps. He strolled across the room with a towel wrapped around his hips. He had tattoos on opposite sides of his chest, and black tribal art covering each of his bulging shoulders. On his right arm, the black lines and symbols spanned from his shoulder to his wrist, on the left, the tattoos stopped at his elbow, with one single line of script on the underside of his forearm. I intentionally kept my back to him while he stood in front of his dresser and dropped his towel to slip on a pair of boxers.

After flipping off the light, he crawled into the bed beside me.

“You’re sleeping here, too?” I asked, turning to look at him. The full moon outside the windows cast shadows across his face. “Well, yeah. This is my bed.”

“I know, but I….” I paused. My only other options were the couch or the recliner.

Travis grinned and shook his head. “Don’t you trust me by now? I’ll be on my best behavior, I swear,” he said, holding up fingers that I was sure the Boy Scouts of America had never considered using.

I didn’t argue, I simply turned away and lay my head on the pillow, tucking the covers behind me so there was a clear barrier between his body and mine.

“Goodnight, Pigeon,” he whispered into my ear. I could feel his minty breath on my cheek, giving rise to goose bumps on every inch of my flesh. Thank God it was dark enough that he couldn’t see my embarrassing reaction, or the flush of my cheeks that followed.

 

It seemed like I had just closed my eyes when I heard the alarm. I reached over to turn it off, but wrenched back my hand in horror when I felt warm skin beneath my fingers. I tried to recall where I was. When the answer hit me, it mortified me that Travis might have thought I’d done it on purpose.

“Travis? Your alarm,” I whispered. He still didn’t move. “Travis!” I said, nudging him. When he still didn’t stir, I reached across him, fumbling in the dim light until I felt the top of the clock. Unsure of how to turn it off, I smacked the top of it until I hit the snooze button, and then fell against my pillow with a huff.

Travis chuckled.

“You were awake?”

“I promised I’d behave. I didn’t say anything about letting you lay on me.”

“I didn’t lay on you,” I protested. “I couldn’t reach the clock. That has to be the most annoying alarm I’ve ever heard. It sounds like a dying animal.”

He reached over and flipped a button. “You want breakfast?”

I glared at him, and then shook my head. “I’m not hungry.”

“Well, I am. Why don’t you ride with me down the street to the café?”

“I don’t think I can handle your lack of driving skills this early in the morning,” I said. I swung my feet over the side of the bed and shoved them into my slippers, shuffling to the door.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“To get dressed and go to class. Do you need an itinerary while I’m here?”

Travis stretched, and then walked over to me, still in his boxers. “Are you always so temperamental, or will that taper off once you believe I’m not just creating some elaborate scheme to get in your pants?” His hands cupped my shoulders and I felt his thumbs caress my skin in unison.

“I’m not temperamental.”

He leaned in close and whispered in my ear. “I don’t want to sleep with you, Pidge. I like you too much.”

He walked past me to the bathroom, and I stood, stunned. Kara’s words replayed in my mind. Travis Maddox slept with every one; I couldn’t help but feel deficient in some way knowing he had no desire to even try to sleep with me.

The door opened again, and America walked through. “Wakey, wakey, eggs ‘n bakey!” she smiled, yawning.

“You’re turning into your mother, Mare,” I grumbled, rifling through my suitcase.

“Oooh…did someone miss some sleep last night?”

“He barely breathed in my direction,” I said acerbically.

A knowing smile brightened America’s face. “Oh.”

“Oh, what ?”

“Nothing,” she said, returning to Shepley’s room.

Travis was in the kitchen, humming a random tune while scrambling eggs. “You sure you don’t want some?” he asked.

“I’m sure. Thanks, though.”

Shepley and America walked in, and Shepley pulled two plates from the cabinet, holding them out as Travis shoveled a pile of steaming eggs onto each one. Shepley sat the plates on the bar, and he and America sat together, satisfying the appetite they more than likely worked up the night before.

“Don’t look at me like that, Shep. I’m sorry, I just don’t want to go,” America said.

“Baby, the House has a date party twice a year,” Shepley spoke as he chewed. “It’s a month away. You’ll have plenty of time to find a dress and do all that girl stuff.”

“I would, Shep…that’s really sweet…but I’m not gonna know anyone there.”

“A lot of the girls that come don’t know a lot of people there,” he said, surprised at the rejection.

She slumped in her chair. “The sorority bitches get invited to those things. They’ll all know each other…it’ll be weird.”

“C’mon, Mare. Don’t make me go alone.”

“Well…maybe you could find someone to take Abby?” she said, looking at me, and then to Travis.

Travis raised an eyebrow, and Shepley shook his head. “Trav doesn’t go to the date parties. It’s something you take your girlfriend to…and Travis doesn’t…you know.”

America shrugged. “We could set her up with someone.”

I narrowed my eyes at her. “I can hear you, you know.”

America used the face she knew I couldn’t say no to. “Please , Abby? We’ll find you a nice guy that’s funny and witty, and you know I’ll make sure he’s hot…I promise you’ll have a good time! And who knows? Maybe you’ll hit it off.”

Travis threw the pan in the sink. “I didn’t say I wouldn’t take her.”

I rolled my eyes. “Don’t do me any favors, Travis.”

“That’s not what I meant, Pidge. Date parties are for the guys with girlfriends, and it’s common knowledge that I don’t do the girlfriend-thing. But I won’t have to worry about you expecting an engagement ring afterward.”

America jutted her lip out. “Pretty please, Abby?”

“Don’t look at me like that!” I complained. “Travis doesn’t want to go, I don’t want to go…we won’t be much fun.”

Travis crossed his arms and leaned against the sink. “I didn’t say I didn’t want to go. I think it’d be fun if the four of us went,” he shrugged.

Everyone’s eyes focused on me, and I recoiled. “Why don’t we hang out here?”

America pouted and Shepley leaned forward. “Because I have to go, Abby. I’m a freshman; I have to make sure everything’s moving smoothly, everyone has a beer in their hand, things like that.”

Travis walked across the kitchen and wrapped his arm around my shoulders, pulling me to his side. “C’mon, Pidge. Will you go with me?”

I looked at America, then at Shepley, and finally to Travis. “Yes,” I sighed.

America squealed and hugged me, and then I felt Shepley’s hand on my back. “Thanks, Abby,” Shepley said.

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