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Twenty things every girl must do before she turns twenty...
But thanks to her crazy, over-protective father, Annie Roth is way behind schedule. Good thing it's her first semester of college, because Annie is more than ready to start checking off items...
Where it gets complicated? Ryan and Chris. Best friends. Both sweet, funny, totally hot, and totally into Annie.But there are some things on The List that Annie only wants to do with Ryan...
Get heart broken
Fall in love
***Originally published in 2015 with a different cover, but the content remains unchanged.
Release date: July 5, 2019
Publisher: Twisted Press, LLC
Print pages: 226
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Kate L. Mary
Sweat trickled down my back and my stomach tensed when the cab pulled away. I inhaled and the air was thick and sticky. The South Carolina humidity was going to take some getting used to. My skin was moist just from standing on the sidewalk for a few minutes, and I could practically feel my hair curling. So much for straightening it before I left California.
I adjusted my backpack and my legs were so wobbly that the weight of it almost knocked me down. There was a knot the size of a softball in my shoulder. All I wanted was to get to my room and unload my stuff.
The exterior of College Lodge was bright, although a little outdated, and the multicolored panels should have helped eased the knots in my stomach. How could anything so cheerful-looking be scary? But I was alone and facing the daunting task of getting my stuff up to my room on the third floor. All I had was my backpack and two large suitcases, but it was going to be a hassle.
I chewed on my lower lip while other students hurried by. Most were moving in like me, but everyone else seemed to have help. Parents, siblings, boyfriends or girlfriends. I had no one. I’d sworn to my dad it was no big deal, but the thought of walking into the building alone made me want to throw up. My insides clenched and the back of my eyes stung with the tears that normally threatened whenever I was faced with the unknown. Dammit. Why couldn’t I control my emotions? Just suck it up and lug my crap in like everyone else? I couldn’t be the only person alone on the first day.
Swallowing down the tears, I raised the handles on both suitcases and pulled while keeping my eyes focused on the front doors. Thankfully, they were propped open. Getting through wouldn’t be an issue, and the building had an elevator. All I had to do was make it there, then I’d be golden.
The wheels on one of the suitcases hit a snag right after I made it through the door. The suitcase came to an abrupt halt. A bead of sweat slowly made its way down my spine and the muscles in my arms ached. It had been a long day and the suitcases weighed about eighty pounds each. I gritted my teeth and tugged harder.
The suitcase thumped forward just as the roadblock I’d run into said, “Whoa!”
I looked up to find a guy grinning at me. He hopped on one foot and rubbed his toes. I’d run into a person. A person wearing flip-flops.
I blew the sweaty hair off my forehead. “I’m sorry,” I huffed. “Did I hurt you?”
He grinned even more and put his foot down. “No. I was just trying to make you feel bad.” He winked.
Why would he want to make me feel bad? “Um…okay.”
His eyes—which were big and brown and smooth like chocolate—moved down to my bags. He tilted his head. “You need some help?”
I totally did, but I’ve always been stubborn, so I shook my head. “No. I’m okay.”
He frowned and scratched his head. It reminded me of a monkey on the Discovery Channel. A very cute monkey, but still a monkey. He shook his head and his brown hair swished back and forth. Then he stepped forward and pried my hand off the suitcase nearest him. The one that had just run over his toes.
“You need help.” He lugged it toward the elevator and I rushed to keep up. “What floor are you on?”
“Um…three.” Did I want some strange guy knowing where I lived? It was a coed dorm and he could be my next door neighbor for all knew, but…
“Me too,” he said over his shoulder. “My roommate is unpacking as we speak.” There was a line for the elevator. He parked my suitcase at the end of the line and turned to face me. “Have you met your roommate yet?” I shook my head and he crossed his arms over his chest. “Hopefully, you have better luck than I did. Mine is dressed completely in black, and when I left he was hanging up posters for metal bands I’ve never heard of. I’m pretty sure he’s going to kidnap me and sacrifice me on Halloween.”
I giggled and covered my mouth.
His lips turned up into an adorable grin. “So you can smile.” I shrugged and he grinned even more. “I’m Chris Presley—no relation to Elvis. Believe me, I’ve tried to find one.”
My smile got bigger and a little bit of tension eased in my stomach. He seemed nice enough. “Annie Roth.”
“So where are you from, Annie Roth?”
“All over. My dad was in the Air Force.” I sighed without meaning to and my cheeks grew warm. “California most recently.”
Chris tilted his head and his eyes swept over my face. “That’s a long way to go for college. Why Charleston?”
I shrugged and twirled my white-blond hair around my finger to distract myself from his intense gaze. How was I supposed to act when boys looked at me like that? “We were stationed here when I was a kid and I loved it. I always wanted to come back.” He kept nodding while the line moved forward, and my insides started to squirm. “What about you?” I needed to take the attention off me. “Where are you from?”
“West Ashley, just up the road a bit.”
We were next in line, but I’d run out of things to say. I wracked my brain for something—anything—that would keep the conversation going, but I came up blank.
The longer the silence stretched on, the more my cheeks burned. I shuffled my feet and twirled my hair faster, and Chris’s smile got even bigger. He was really cute, but I was at a complete loss. Maybe I was at a loss because he was so cute.
Chris chuckled like he was enjoying some private joke. “So you’re a freshman?”
I nodded and chewed on my lip while the people in front of us disappeared into the elevator. We were next, and I couldn’t wait to get it over with.
“I’m a sophomore.” He leaned forward and elbowed me playfully. “So if you need any help, just let me know.”
“You’re a sophomore, but you’re rooming with someone you don’t know?”
Chris’s mouth turned down at one corner and his eyes moved to the elevator. Then his lips twitched and flipped back up, like a switch. “I was supposed to room with a buddy of mine, but he bailed and got an apartment downtown. Which left me screwed. I’m considering flooding his apartment as payback.”
My eyebrows shot up and my mouth dropped open just as the elevator door did.
Chris smirked and pulled my suitcase forward. “I’m kidding.” He tilted his head when he walked by me. “Come on.”
We squeezed in and the elevator lurched up as soon as the doors were shut. My heart pounded and I tapped my toe on the ground. Come on, Annie, think! There has to be something you can ask him. Isn’t this why you’re here? Why you’ve come all this way? Keep the conversation going!
“Do you play any sports?” I blurted out just as he said, “Are you always this quiet?”
My cheeks burst into flames and he laughed. “No. I played some soccer in high school, but I wasn’t good enough to keep going. Not that I really had any desire. College is supposed to be fun.”
The elevator stopped on the third floor with a sudden lurch and the door slid open.
Chris grinned and motioned for me to go first. “What about you? Sports?”
“Um, volleyball,” I mumbled. “But not anymore.” After his comment about college being for fun I wanted him to know that I wasn’t playing anymore. I guess being in a sport would have meant I wasn’t fun?
“I’m not surprised.” His eyes swept over me, starting at my feet and traveling up my long legs to my torso. Ending on my pink face. “How tall are you?”
A shiver ran down my spine and I crossed my arms over my chest. As if it would somehow control my pounding heart. It didn’t. “Five ten.”
His brown eyes twinkled like he knew exactly what he was doing to me. He took a tiny step closer. “You play basketball too?”
I shook my head and swallowed, but I didn’t move. There was less than half a foot of space between us, and we were standing right in front of the elevator. My heart pounded and I wiggled my toes like that would make my feet work. I could barely breathe.
“Which way?” Chris asked.
We could go either right or left. The dorm looked like an old motel—which was exactly what it was—and a balcony/catwalk ran along the outside of the building.
I glanced at the sign mounted on the wall next to us. “My room is three fifteen, so right, I guess.”
Chris’s grin got even bigger. “I’m three ten, so you’re just a couple doors down from me.”
If I said my heart didn’t do a very intricate series of somersaults, I’d be lying. Chris was fun and cute, and actually seemed to enjoy being in my company. The idea of seeing him around was more than thrilling.
“That’s nice,” I somehow managed to get out.
Of course, as soon as I said it, I started to sweat. Did I sound too needy? Not interested enough? Too dismissive? I had no idea. Chris had started walking already and his back was to me, so it was impossible to read his reaction. I needed to think of a way to make him know I was interested in seeing him around, but that I wasn’t crazy clingy or overly enthusiastic. Just that I wanted to get to know him better. How did other girls do that?
We passed three ten and Chris tilted his head toward the door. “This is me,” he said, but kept walking.
My insides buzzed. He’d pointed his room out. That had to be a good sign.
Just a few doors down Chris stopped and gallantly swept his arm toward the already open door of room three fifteen. “Your quarters,” he said with a dramatic bow.
It was cheesy but cute, and I couldn’t help giggling. Which totally wasn’t me. I wasn’t the giggly, peppy, girly type. I was the athletic, jeans and t-shirt type. The kind of girl guys were buddies with, not the kind they asked out on dates. This whole flirting thing was new to me.
“Thanks, Chris,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest and shuffling my feet.
He shrugged and stuffed his hands in the pockets of his khaki shorts. “Well…I guess you’ll want to get unpacked?” I nodded and his head bobbed in return. “Okay. I’ll catch you later then?”
He chuckled and his shoulders straightened. “Cool. Later.”
I stood frozen in place, watching him walk away. He didn’t even pause outside the door to his room. He disappeared around the corner and I finally allowed the smile I’d been holding back to break through. It was so big it hurt my cheeks, but it was amazing. This was a good start! I’d met a guy, I’d managed to have a somewhat coherent conversation, and he didn’t look at me like I was one of the guys. I could do this after all.
My new roommate was already unpacking when I dragged my stuff through the door. Her face was red and she barely looked up from trying to shove clothes into the small wardrobe.
“This is ridiculous!” she grunted. “I picked this dorm because it’s supposed to have bigger rooms than the others.” She paused long enough to brush a handful of dark hair out of her eyes. “I thought that would mean more storage!”
She was nothing like me. Her hair was long and styled in dark ringlets that went down the middle of her back. It was weightless when she moved, bouncing with every step. She was tan and wearing a tiny sundress that barely covered her backside—a very shapely one too. She had the kind of face and body guys stopped to drool over. Innocent, but sexy at the same time. There were clothes everywhere, waiting to be put away. And shoes! More than three people could possibly need.
I could barely walk through the room, let alone pull my suitcases in. I settled with shoving them against the wall. Then I just stood there, awkwardly playing with the hem of my San Francisco 49ers t-shirt while I waited for my roommate to acknowledge me.
After managing to get a few more hangers stuffed into her wardrobe she huffed and stood back, eyeing it with her hands on her hips. “That’s all I can do. I’m going to have to buy something to put under the bed that I can store clothes in. Thank God there’s room!”
Then she spun around and gave me a huge smile, revealing the whitest teeth I’d ever seen outside a toothpaste commercial. “You must be Annie!”
I nodded and she rushed forward, throwing her arms around me. It took me so off guard I stumbled back and bumped against the wall, knocking my suitcase over and nearly falling on my butt.
“Oh!” she said, grabbing my arm and pulling me upright with a laugh. “Sorry, I get carried away sometimes. I’m Cami!”
Cami stood in front of me with that big smile on her face and I bit my lip. What did she want me to say now?
“So you’re from California? You must be tired and dying to unpack. I hope you have better luck than I did. I couldn’t fit even half of my stuff.”
“I’ll probably have some extra room. I don’t have a lot.”
Cami’s eyes—an odd mixture of brown and green that really jumped out against her tan face—went down to my suitcases. “Is that all you have?” I nodded and she laughed. “Wow! I guess Ryan’s right. I am high-maintenance. He bitched the whole time he and Dad moved me in, like I can help that I need a lot of stuff!”
It was the most ridiculous statement I’d ever heard, but it made me laugh. Cami seemed nice and easygoing, which was a relief. At first sight I’d been sure we would never get along. Girls like her didn’t typically understand girls like me. Why I didn’t wear makeup or dresses or heels.
“Is Ryan your brother?”
Cami blinked like she didn’t understand the question, then smiled. She shook her head and shrugged at the same time. “Yes and no. He’s my cousin, but he’s like a brother. He lived with us growing up.”
I didn’t ask anything else even though I was curious. If she wanted to share the story, she would in her own time. If not, it was none of my business.
“He’s a sophomore here,” Cami continued.
She turned away and started clearing the floor, presumably so I could get through the room. Every time she bent over to pick something up, her dress went so high I was sure I was going to get a shot of her underwear. How did girls walk around in such short clothes? Of course, on me that dress would be obscene.
Cami chattered away while I unpacked. She told me all about her mom and dad and her cousin Ryan, who reminded me a lot of my own brothers. I didn’t say much, and Cami didn’t seem to notice at first. By the time I had my stuff put away, she was frowning.
“You haven’t told me a thing about yourself!”
“Um…what do you want to know? I, um…I played volleyball in high school. I got enough academic scholarships to cover tuition, so I don’t have to work. I have four older brothers. Two are in college, one is at the Air Force Academy. The other is married and lives in Georgia.”
Cami crossed her arms over her chest and frowned. She didn’t look satisfied. “Boyfriend?” I shook my head and she pursed her lips. “What do you do for fun?”
“I told you, volleyball.” I squirmed while I tried to figure out exactly what she wanted from me. No matter what I said, her lips got tighter and her eyes more narrowed until they were nothing but tiny slits.
She exhaled and puckered her lips before saying, “What else? I like to go shopping and to the beach, hang out with friends.”
“That sounds like fun.” What did she want me to say?
She was staring at me like I didn’t speak English, shaking her head. “Are you shy?” I shrugged again and Cami nodded. “We’ll work on that. I plan on having an awesome time in college, and I’m taking you with me. Got it?” She tilted her head and grinned at her plan. Then went back to organizing her things, which were still strewn all over the place.
My stuff was neatly put away, and it suddenly occurred to me how grungy I was. I’d taken the red-eye from California. Spent the whole night either on a plane or scrunched up in airport chairs.
“I think I’m going to take a shower.”
Cami shrugged, but didn’t look up from organizing her massive earring collection. “Just be ready in two hours. We’re going out.”
My heart jumped and my stomach dropped, but I kept my mouth shut. The idea terrified me, but at the same time I was more than ready to do something. For once.
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