A damp towel hits my face, and I jolt back to the living. Lo raises his eyes accusingly. “Dream of me?”
My arms flush. “Maybe.” Hopefully I’m only transparent with Lo.
“You’re supposed to say yes.” His eyes twinkle in amusement.
“Yes,” I say with a smile. “Can we do it now?”
He swings his legs off the bench and grabs his Gatorade. Excitement swells inside my body and instantly extinguishes when he stays seated. “It’ll be better if it’s spontaneous, Lil.”
I frown. “Are you…are you scared to do it in public? We won’t get caught. I’ll make sure of it and—”
“I’m not scared,” he assures me. Just to prove his point, he kneads his hand in my hair and then kisses me aggressively, full of eagerness and promise of something more. His tongue slips into my mouth, and a small noise escapes me.
He pulls away with a satisfied grin. “Soon.” Yes.
He walks towards the lower body machines near Connor but stops when he notices me permanently frozen to the floor. His kiss has turned me to stone.
“Are you coming?” Soon apparently.
“Shouldn’t I let you have boy time?” I’m the intruder, the needy girlfriend who hangs around. It’s hard to know the proper protocol for moments like this since we’ve always been each other’s only friend.
Lo considers this for about two seconds before he grimaces. “Fuck that. Come on.” He motions for me with two fingers. I don’t think he’s being overtly sexual, but good God, he can’t do that to me right now.
I look up, just as he spins around, and glimpse a fragment of a smile.
Lo takes a machine next to Connor, and I grab a yoga mat and spread it on the ground near them but far enough away that I’m not smothering Lo.
I’m not a complete idiot. I notice the way he’s dragging out hav**g s*x with me, and a part of me wonders whether it’s to heighten the tension or to limit me, to try to see if I can have less sex throughout the day, to help me fight my addiction.
I have no idea which, but I lean towards the latter.
The guys in the gym are transfixed by a soccer game on the flat-screens. I vaguely pay attention to it, but boredom sinks in. My gaze drifts to a golden skinned man on a forty-five degree machine. He holds a bar above his head and brings his legs up in a “crunch” position.
I lie on the yoga mat, staring at the ceiling and shut my eyes. He rests a hand beside my head, hovering. His body weight suspends above me. He peels down my pants with my panties and kneels between my legs. His hands creep towards my thigh and he cups the place between…
My body shudders and my eyes snap open. Oh my God.
“YESSSS!” The whoops and hollers cause my face to flame, even if it’s because a soccer team scored another goal.
Connor’s gaze transfixes to Bloomberg Television, a business channel. At least he missed me zoning out like a freak. But Lo has his eyes set on my body. How long has he been staring? Does he know I’m not dreaming about him anymore?
I spring to my feet, unable to wait any longer. He’ll either have to follow me into the locker room or I’ll find a way to appease myself without cheating.
“I’ll be back,” Lo tells Connor. He races after me.
I relax. Maybe this isn’t easy, but we’ll have to make it work.
It’s inhuman to require a general science credit for all majors. In two years, I’ll forget everything I learn anyway, and my plans don’t involve going into business for some pharmaceutical company. When will I ever need to know about mitosis? And if I have to read one more case study about Drosophila—the fancy word for fruit flies—I may seriously consider switching to Fungi, Foes, and Friends.
But the ingeniously named course has a horrible rating on RateMyProfessors.com. A student review called the instructor a hard ass for making everyone memorize the scientific names of all fungi discussed in class. And my brain can barely retain the names of my neighbors. Now I’m stuck in another ring of hell: Biology 1103 for Non-Bio Majors, meaning the scientifically challenged. It doesn’t make the class any easier; it just allows more students to share misery.
Library lights dull as time ticks on, tugging my eyelids down and down and down. I yawn, about to employ Connor’s study technique and buy a Red Bull. Maybe I should make flashcards.
So far I’ve only been distracted once, and it wasn’t even to fantasize about the cute guy with glasses two tables away. Some student beat a Fizzle machine to death when it refused to deposit his Cherry Fizz. He gave up after realizing the big plastic box is indestructible—at least against a pair of Vans.
Lo texted me twice. The first to ask if I’m going to be home to drive him to the liquor store. The second to tell me to pick up condoms. I almost choked on my Diet Fizz with that comment, never believing we’d be so intimate and comfortable about it.
At the end of my long table, a girl in a navy Penn sweatshirt leans across to whisper to her friend.
“Do you see him?” she hisses. “He’s walking this way. Oh my God.”
The tiny, muscular blonde with a Gymnastics hoodie cranes her neck, trying to look past the eight foot bookshelves.
“Don’t be so obvious, Katie,” the girl hyperventilates.
Who the hell could be good looking enough to incite such dramatics? Now I’m curious. I bite the end of my pencil and glance around, not seeing what they do. Damn. Less subtly, I lift my butt from the uncomfortable wooden chair and angle my body to peek around the bookshelf. Unless this guy is a ghost, he’s acquired my favorite superpower and literally vanished from thin air.
“Who are you looking for?”
I jump, my spine hitting the wood slates with a thunk. Uh…I lean back and look up as he towers above me. They cannot be talking about him.
Ryke, aka Green Arrow, has a hand on my table, a smug look plastered to his face. He must know I was trying to spy on him—but that was before I knew the hot mystery guy was the same one who carried my boyfriend into my apartment.
The athletic girls press their noses to their notebooks, taking pretty obvious glances at him. He follows my gaze and bridges the gap between our chairs, but turns his back on them. They shoot me the worst looks imaginable.
“I think your friends want you,” I tell him, staring at my textbook.
To appease me, he actually rotates. “Katie, Heather.”
Katie acts surprised. “Oh. Hey, Ryke! I didn’t notice you there.”
“You guys have practice today?”
“Yeah, conditioning. Will you be in the gym?”
Ah, yes, they know each other through athletics; it all makes sense now. Since I don’t necessarily belong to any group at Penn, especially one that involves bouncing balls or tumbling in the air, Ryke’s allure is quite lost on me. Maybe he dazzles them when he stretches his quads.
I glance at his calf muscles, sadly hidden beneath jeans. I will not cheat on Lauren Hale, especially not with him. I really need to stop thinking about other guys. It’s not as if Lo isn’t enough. He is, so far, but when there’s someone else lingering, my mind starts wandering to sinful places.
“I’m running outside today.”
“That’s too bad. Well, if you ever want to work out together, you know where we are.”
He nods and then shifts back towards me. No. Go away. He skirts around to the other side of the table, and for some reason, I think he may obey my mental order. Instead, he scrapes a chair and sits down. He leans in, setting his elbows on the wood.
And I lift up my textbook to block his view.
Seconds pass and he puts his hand on it, the spine thudding to the table. “I need to talk to you.”
“And I don’t want to talk to you.” I go to lift the book again as a blinder, but he slides it towards his body, taking my textbook hostage.
“I have to study,” I say in that screechy tone.
“Do you always whine?”
I glare. “Do you always insult people when you want something?” I wish Lo was here. He’d be able to shoo this guy away without a problem. Why don’t my words have the same effect?
“Only you,” he muses, flipping through my book and shutting it closed. “Biology? Are you a freshman or something?”
I blush. “I put off some of my core credits.” I reach out to snatch the book, but he jerks it away from me again.
“I’ll give this back to you after you hear me out.”
“Is it about alcohol?”
“Is it about Lo?”
“Are you going to be mean?”
He leans back, his chair creaking, and lets out a short laugh. “I don’t know. I could be depending on the direction of this conversation. How’s that?”
Good enough. “Fine.” I motion for him to continue and then cross my arms over my chest.
He catches the haughty movement and manages to stifle a smartass comment, cutting to the point. “When I was at your apartment, I saw your posters from Comic-Con. I’m a freelance writer for The Philadelphia Chronicle and they’re paying me to go to the convention. Thing is, I have no idea what to expect or what it entails or even what to do.”
I figure out the rest. “And you thought we may know?” I didn’t expect him to ask me that.
“I was hoping I could talk with Lo about it.”
My eyebrows shoot up. “You want to talk to my boyfriend? About Comic-Con?” That’s not weird. “Is this really about comics, Ryke?”
“You think I’m lying?”
“Kind of, yeah.”
He rolls his eyes. “Look, I’m a journalism major. I’d rather talk to a primary source about Comic-Con than quote from Wikipedia and blogs.”
“I thought you said you needed help learning what Comic-Con entails, not a quote.” Ha! I caught him in his lie.
Ryke doesn’t even flinch. “That too.” He rubs his lips in thought. “Look, maybe I can at least borrow some of his comics and he can give me some highlights of characters and conflicts.”
I stare at him, still skeptical. “You said this wasn’t about Lo’s problem, right?”
“You mean his alcohol addiction.”
I glower. He’s pushing it. I go to stand up and leave. Screw the bio book—he can have it. Ryke quickly extends his hands to stop me.
“I’m sorry. I can be insensitive sometimes.”
I stay in my seat, waiting.
“This isn’t about alcohol.”
“Do you have a crush on him or something?”
Ryke jerks back in surprise and cringes. “What? Why the hell would you think that?”
“I don’t know,” I feign confusion. “You keep asking about his comics. His advice about Comic-Con. You do realize, I have comics too and I went to Comic-Con with him.”
He groans. “Why do you have to make this so difficult? I’m asking for help. From you, from Lo, from whomever knows the difference between whatever costume you were wearing and Wolverine.”
“There are a lot of other people that can help you.” I will continue to distrust Ryke. Literally, his responses grate on every nerve in my body. It’s impossible to be attracted to someone that shrivels my insides.