Read Patch Up Online

Authors: Stephanie Witter

Tags: #Romance

Patch Up (5 page)

BOOK: Patch Up
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“Be careful, little Skywalker. The Force won’t be happy with your behavior,” the thinner one retorts, laughing like what he has said is the epitome of funny. Really, sometimes I wonder how these people were able to get into college.


“How old are you?” another voice interrupts before I can comeback with something feisty. I look past them and see Duke, taller than both of them, a glare plastered on his face.


“What?” the thin guy says. He is way too lanky even for someone of college age. It’s like he never left the bad period of the early teenage years.


“I’m not surprised you don’t understand a simple question, since your bad jokes would suit kindergarten rather than college.”


I bite my tongue, stifling a laugh. He’s good at crushing these guys. He’s almost frightening with his dark eyes sending a warning, his tall frame obviously tense and his arms tightly crossed over his well-muscled chest. With just a glance, you know that you don’t want to fight with him. I shiver, and I don’t know if it’s from fear or from something else.


“We’re nineteen,” the other one replies with a scowl on his face, but he refrains himself from saying anything else when he realizes that Duke is one of the TAs. He taps on his friend’s bony shoulder and they walk away, but not without looking back at me with fury in their eyes. Like I did something wrong.


I shake my head and turn on my laptop without saying a word to Duke, who sits in the seat next to mine. I know we have over ten minutes before the beginning of the class, but it’s disturbing to have him so close to me, to feel his strong arm brushing against mine and to have several girls’ gazes zeroing in on us, on him.


“Since we’re friends, I suppose I should ask how you are today,” Duke says closer to my ear than I want.


I try to push away some of my crazy, frizzy hair and shrug. “I’m fine, I guess.” I don’t look at him. Instead, I lock my eyes on my laptop’s screen where there’s a picture of Seattle and the Space Needle by night.


“I know that you’re not exactly eager to be friends with me, but don’t you think that it would be better if you could look at me when we talk?” He taps on his knees where his jeans have a big hole. “It makes me nervous when you behave like I’m not really here.”


The vulnerability in his voice startles me. Of their own accord, my eyes find his and I can’t find it in me to look away. The gentleness in them is not something I’m used to, and I don’t know what to do with it.


“I should thank you for earlier, I guess,” I say in a weak voice, unsure of why I’m not experiencing the usual fear I feel whenever I’m around a guy. Around him I feel nothing other than wonderment.


“Only if it’s genuine.” He entwines his hands on his lap, his eyes never leaving mine. Despite the fact that my eyes are intently looking for something, anything that could make me understand him or just conjure the anxiety that follows me everywhere, he doesn’t move or try to escape my scrutiny. He may have secrets, but he’s ready to be open with me and help me to have confidence in him. Enough at least to be able to start a real friendship.


“Thank you,” I say, breaking the silence between us.


He nods and smiles at me, his dazzling smile making a girl giggle three rows above us. In my opinion, it’s pretty pathetic. Then again, this girl must have a normal life, full of friends and social events when all I do is my homework. I’m not in a position to judge anybody.


“Well, it’s nothing really. These guys think they are hilarious when in fact they should realize that they’re not in high school anymore. It’s getting old.” He clenches his fists and sighs. He is angry … over something they did to me.


“Why is it bothering you so much?” I cock my head on one side, my body slowly relaxing, warmth taking residence in my chest and making me squirm in my seat. It’s so weird to have someone looking after me besides my parents. Sean wasn’t like that when we were together, not at all. Pain eradicates the warmth from my chest. I shouldn’t think about him. It’s over now and probably for the better.


“Friends look after each other.”


“If you say so,” I reply absentmindedly, tension resurfacing. When I’m around Duke, my emotions are all mixed up. Usually, I’m in a sort of dull state or angry, but it’s quite stable. However, when Duke is around me or even in my mere sight, I tend to be angry one second and calm the next before I go back to being just cold. It’s difficult to even follow myself.


“Do you have any plans this weekend?” he asks me, ignoring my cold tone.


My insides do a weird thing. My breath catches in my throat. I swallow with some difficulty and give him a warning with my bluish-green gaze that I hope is menacing enough. I don’t like the sound of his question.




“Calm down, I just wanted to know. There’s a party Friday night and I wanted to know if you’d like to go with your roommate.”


I want to slap myself hard. For a second I thought he was about to ask me out, which is a crazy thought. I mean, this guy must have high standards when he’s interested in girls and I obviously don’t match them. Why do I even care?


“I’m not a party girl. I’ll ask Kate, though. She’ll probably meet you there,” I finally answer evenly, able to mask the wheels turning in my head. I even contain the cringe that was about to creep on my face at the thought of Duke and Kate together.


“You don’t have to be a party girl to go to a party.”


I cross my arms and my eyes flare. “Are you always this patronizing?”


“Never, actually.”


“I bring out the worst in you then, I guess”


He smiles softly at me and waves at another TA walking in. “You sure bring something out in me, but I still don’t know what it is.”


I sigh and glance around us. Almost every seat is now taken. Dr. Dills won’t be long. I think about Kate and how she didn’t even hesitate for a second to leave the party last weekend and to follow me to our dorms. She didn’t say anything, and somehow I feel indebted to her because I ruined her night out.


“Give me the stupid address and we’ll be there,” I mumble without looking at him. I don’t want to see the triumph in his dark gaze. No need to feel even more ridiculous from letting him lead me like the weak girl I don’t want to be anymore.


“Do you have any paper?” His voice sounds upbeat and I cringe.


I put my hand in my jeans pocket and give him my phone. “Just type the address in there and I’ll text it to Kate.”


His long fingers brush mine as he takes my iPhone. Quickly, too quickly to be unnoticed, I escape his touch. He frowns heavily and I don’t like that. How many more signs does he need to understand what happened, what I let happen to myself without doing anything for so long?


He types the address fast, his long and strong fingers agile on the screen, and he puts my phone back on the desk, careful to not touch me. “Don’t forget that I know where you live now, so if you and your roommate stand me up I’ll come and drag you to the party,” he says, his voice openly teasing.


I briefly glance up as he stands and shrugs. It’s my signature move around him apparently. Lame. “We’ll be there, but I won’t stay long.”


“Fine by me.”


Then he walks down to talk with the other TAs while we’re all waiting for Dr. Dills to make his huge entrance for the lecture. My eyes wander around the room, but I often find myself gazing at Duke, really observing his tall frame, which is both intimidating and reassuring. 


As Dr. Dills walks in, I receive an enthusiastic answer from Kate apparently delighted about our plans for Friday. At least she’s eager; I’m already thinking of a way to cancel.  All I want is to be left alone, to be invisible.


*  *  *


“You should have changed, Skye,” Kate says for the third time as she parks in front of a typical house outside of campus. Some people are milling around on the lawn in front of the wraparound porch, nursing red cups of alcohol while smoking and laughing. This party doesn’t seem as wild as the one at the frat house. Which, when you think about it, is not that surprising.


I glance down at my old blue jeans that hang tight on my hips, hips now more generous than they were when I was a freshman in high school and I bought these jeans. On my feet, plain black flats assured me to be at ease, not that I plan to dance. And under my old leather jacket I’m wearing a simple V-neck sweater that hides my boobs. I’m not going to this party to be hit on, nor do I want to make any effort. I didn’t change after my last class, I didn’t put on more make-up, and I’m perfectly fine with my choice.


“Listen, Kate,” I sigh and stop her before we walk in the house, “if you’re ashamed of me because I’m not wearing anything trendy or something, it’s okay, but just leave me alone about my outfit.”


She bites her lush lower lip and shakes her head, her eyes widening. “That’s not what I meant! Skye, believe me! It’s just that you’re cute and you should use your assets instead of just trying to be unseen. Maybe that TA or another sweet guy would be good for you.”


“What? You want me to date?” I ask, stunned.


She smiles anxiously and nods, her blonde hair flying around her heart shaped face in the night wind that sends a chill all over my body. “It would be fun, don’t you think? I’m sure your ex would be annoyed and he deserves to regret dumping you last semester.”


“You don’t even know why he dumped me. For all you know, maybe I did something wrong.”


“I met the guy once and he gave me the creeps. I’m sure he didn’t deserve you and you should rub it in his face.”


“Why are you so kind to me?” I ask with curiosity.


“Because we’re roommates and I like you. One day you’ll see me as your friend and then you’ll be the closest thing to a sister I’ll ever have. That’s how this roommate thing works.” Her genuine smile and sparkling eyes make me smile, too.


“Okay, but one thing though,” I begin, not wanting to turn her down about all her friendship talk because she’s too sweet and kind for me to act like a cold bitch. “I don’t want to date anybody and Duke is not interested in me that way. He’s just determined to be my friend.”


“Such determination must hide something,” she replies as she opens the door to the party now in full swing, with bodies grinding into each other over the heavy beat of the music.


I don’t tell her that he wants to know why I’m depressed, nor that it’s because he understands perfectly what it feels like to be crushed beyond repair. She knows I’m not exactly happy, but I’m pretty sure she just thinks it’s because I’m not over Sean. If only it was just that.


The worse thing is, even if he was a real monster, I spent three years with him and forgetting three years with someone is not easy. It’s like throwing away three years of my life and I’m still not able to do that.


“I think that’s your TA over there,” Kate yells to me over the music, her hand pointing to the living-room where Duke is leaning against the wall with a pretty brunette talking to him. “That girl is so obvious. She plays so much with her hair that I wonder how it’s not already tangled with her hand caught in it.”


I laugh, a real belly laugh that attracts the attention of many people around us as I pull off my leather jacket. Kate laughs with me, delighted to see me in a good mood. A guy nods at me passing by and Kate elbows me. That’s the thing with my laugh, it always attracts attention. With my voice all naturally breathy sounding, when I genuinely laugh like I just did, it sounds all husky and always attracts guys.


“You should go see Duke and put him out of his misery,” Kate adds when she sees me sobering up.


“And what should I say? Hi Duke, I’m here. Now, can I go back to my place and actually enjoy my Friday night with my textbooks?”


“Oh, Skye! Live a little! He invited you, and if he’s just a friend and you don’t want anything more I don’t see what the big deal is.”


I nod and walk toward him, just to prove a point. I don’t want Duke to be anything to me, and Kate should understand that. I turn around once and see her already surrounded by two good looking guys.


Just before I walk up to him, his eyes find mine and I stop in my tracks. The girl is still openly flirting with him, but he’s not paying her much attention anymore. I wave a little and resume my walk, leaning against the wall next to him, careful to not brush against his arm. I nod to the girl who’s glaring at me.


“I was wondering if I would have to go to your dorm,” Duke says in greeting, taking a sip from his cup that looks like beer to me.


“I told you I’d come,” I reply evenly, ignoring the glare from the girl as she crosses her thin arms over her chest, pushing her little boobs together. Weak tactic to use her boobs to attract Duke’s attention.


“Duke? Dance with me,” the girl says, her high-pitched voice making me cringe. I hate those girly-girl voices that sound more like a twelve year old than the voice of a nineteen or twenty-something girl.


“Sorry ... hum, what’s your name?” he says, blushing deeply enough for me to see it on his naturally tanned skin in the dim light.


The girl humphs and leaves, not bothering to answer. At least she takes a hint quite fast. Despite myself, I laugh loudly, my stomach and my cheeks hurting me. Duke elbows me and laughs too, but he’s embarrassed.


“Stop it. It’s embarrassing enough without you laughing at me.” When I catch my breath, he says, “But I must say that I like your laugh.”

BOOK: Patch Up
6.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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