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The idea that I might be losing her as a suitemate gave me a sharp pain in the chest. I rubbed at my sternum as if I could rid myself of the feeling. It was selfish of me. I should only be happy for her.

The night was quiet as I passed the quad. A white blanket of snow stretched across the lawn. Students, eager for the sun—and girls eager to show off their bikinis—would be sunbathing there in late spring regardless of the lingering chill in the air.

“Hey! Em!”

Looking up, I spotted Annie walking toward me. She was dressed to go out in a miniskirt and thigh-high boots. Her overcoat was open at the front to reveal a sweater that exposed her belly and a winking belly button piercing.

“Hi,” I greeted.

She wiggled her fingers at me like nothing was amiss between us. Like she hadn’t abandoned me at a biker bar. “Guess where I’m going tonight?”

I looked her up and down and resisted saying something snarky. Instead I settled on civil. “Where?”

“I happened to get an invite . . .” Her voice trailed off. She wiggled her eyebrows at me in a clear attempt to entice me to take a guess.

I stamped down my impatience. “Where?”

She leaned forward and held a hand up to her mouth and whispered loudly, “The kink club.”

I blinked. “You got an invite?” I didn’t know why this surprised me. I guess it was a hit to my ego. I had a reputation as being a wild party girl. How was it no one thought to invite me?

“Well. I met someone who is a regular. I’m headed to her dorm now. She can bring a guest. Who knows? Maybe they’ll let me join and then I can bring a guest.” She waved a finger at me suggestively.

A few months ago I’d be all over the suggestion of this. Now? I forced a smile. “Well, have fun tonight.”

“Oh, you better believe I will. I’ll give you a full report. What are your plans? Seeing that sexy beast from the bar again?”

I smiled weakly. “Uh, no.”

“No?” She shook her head, waiting for me to elaborate.

“I’m just staying in.”

She giggled. “No, seriously.”

I nodded. “Seriously.”

“Oh. Well. That’s different. Have . . . fun.”

“Night.”

She sashayed past me. There was no other word for what she was doing with her hips.

For once, I didn’t care that staying in was in direct opposition to the image I had created for myself. Even party girls needed a night off now and then. My phone buzzed in my pocket. I fished it out and frowned at the message staring back at me from an unknown number.

What are you doing?

I hesitated and then typed.

Who is this?

A single name popped up on the small screen.

Shaw

My heart jumped to my throat.

Me: How did you get my number?

Shaw: Pepper

Traitor. Of course. Shaking my head, I typed back.

Me: I have plans

Shaw: Break them

My fingers locked, poised over the keys, heart hammering at his words—at this connection to him through this little box in my hands. I shouldn’t have been so surprised to hear from him. He’d said I would. But he hadn’t even waited a day, and that only made my heart trip even harder.

Me: I can’t

Okay. So the word won’t would be more accurate, but the end result was the same. Suddenly, my phone rang in my hand. I jumped a little, staring at the number I knew was his. He was calling me?

I answered the phone and brought it to my ear. “Hello?”

“Have you eaten yet?”

No greeting. Just straight to it. That was him. Direct. No games. Most girls would love that. Except me. I was a girl who played games. Who counted on them for protection.

“N-n-yes.”

“You’re a terrible liar.”

I sucked in a breath, walking slowly, freezing my butt off. I was almost to my dorm, but I couldn’t walk any faster. It was like my brain couldn’t walk and talk at the same time. At least not when I was talking to him.

He continued. “You got to eat, right?”

Not with you. “I have plans.”

“I’m sure you do, but you can still eat with me before you head out for your wild night.” I rolled my eyes at his assumption. “Where are you?”

I frowned. He said that like he knew I wasn’t home at my dorm.

And then I understood why as I rounded the corner of my building. I stopped dead in my tracks. Shaw was leaning against the front of the building just near the front door. Talking on his phone. Talking to me. He hadn’t spotted me yet. He wore a small, sexy smile on his face as his voice rumbled in my ear.

“C’mon. I know this great burger place. Let me take you there.”

Was he asking me out? A shiver rolled through me. Excitement? Dread? Maybe a bit of both. I didn’t do dates.

He looked up then and caught sight of me. And then more shivers. He lowered his phone as I walked up to him. There was no choice. He was in front of my building.

“What are you doing here?”

Smiling, he reached across the space separating us and tapped my phone. Realizing I was still talking into it, I fumbled to put it away, feeling like an idiot.

“I came to take you to dinner.”

“Like a date?” I couldn’t help it. I said the words as if he’d just declared he was taking me on a safari or something equally outrageous.

“If going out for food with me is a date, then yeah.” He studied me closely, the building’s perimeter lights hitting the angles and hollows of his face and making him look only hotter. “But if you don’t like that word, then f**k it. Call it something else.”

A smile flirted on my mouth. “Look, Shaw, you’re a really nice—”

He threw his head back and laughed, and that only made him look sexier. And not nice at all. He looked delicious and dangerous in the best way. A bad boy who would know how to make a girl scream. Again, in the best way.

I stopped and glared. “What’s so funny?”

“You’re about to give me the same tired brush-off you give every guy who trails after you.”

A pair of girls I vaguely recognized from my floor approached the door. They looked us over—well, they looked Shaw over. Their eyes heated with appreciation and speculation as they gave him the once-over. A sudden possessive urge to touch him, mark him as mine, seized me.