Page 5

“You survived a confrontation with Mia Catanna.”

Turning, I saw a random girl had watched the whole thing, and she came over now, adjusting her own backpack. It was slung over one of her shoulders. Blonde hair. Glasses. She was petite, and like me, she wasn’t wearing any makeup, but while some used it to highlight their beauty, this girl could’ve used it to not look like she was twelve.

“Her last name is Catanna?” For real? I grunted. “We had a Catanna Nursing Home back where I lived.”

Her lips twitched. “I’m Siobhan.”

Siobhan. Jesus. I waved. “My name doesn’t make me think of an Irish model. I’m Dusty.”

“Dusty?” Another lip twitch.

“Yep. Dusty Phillips, to be exact.”

“Gotcha. If it makes you feel better, my sisters are all named Silver, Sinead, and Shavonia.”

“Really? Shavonia?”

She laughed now. “Yeah. My mom liked cocaine during her child-birthing days. Not when she was pregnant. That was the only times she was sober, but don’t worry. No pity needed. She kicked all the habits when I was twelve, moved us to a sober/hippy camp, and I spent the rest of my formidable years eating mostly plant-based food.”


Yes. That was all I could manage at that time.

She nodded, shifting to stand closer as a group of students swarmed around us. “Need a fire started using only a paper clip and a match, and I’m the girl for you.”

“That’s good to know. Next time I go camping, I’m looking you up.”

She laughed. “You go camping a lot?”


“Yeah.” She waved that off. “That’s good because I was lying about everything.”

I raised an eyebrow. “You really don’t have a sister named Shavonia?”

“I do, actually. The names are the only thing I wasn’t lying about. My name really is Siobhan, and you’re going into the marine biology program?”

I tilted my head to the side. “You got that from me standing here?”

“No. I got that because I was three people behind you when you were in the administration building. Then I saw you leave the food office and figured I should introduce myself. I’m in the same program.” She held her hand out, and we did the formal introductions once more.

Both of us were grinning by the end.

“I transferred in, so I don’t know if we’ll have the same classes.”

She shrugged. “We’ll have a few and we’ll be in the same building. The higher-advanced classes take place at the marina. Who’s your academic advisor?”

I looked down at my schedule. “It says Anna Anderson.”

“Hmmm. She’s a bitch. Hope you transferred from a good college.”

My heart sank. “Community college.”

She grimaced. “Well. If you’re an independent student, the good news is that she’s not going to care much about helping you. Bad news, if you’re a student who needs a good relationship with your advisor, you might want to put a transfer in now.”

“Transfer to a new school?” My voice broke. I couldn’t have heard that right.

I just got here.

“No!” She barked out a laugh. “A new advisor. It sucks to say, but Dr. Anderson is one of those profs who only wants to mentor the brightest and most-promising students. If you’re coming in from a community college, she’s going to write you off as a D, maybe C student. She won’t waste her time.”

“Oh.” That sucked. “Good to know, I guess. Who’s your advisor?”

She grinned. “Dr. Anna Anderson. I’m her TA.”

I almost choked. “Are you kidding?”

“No, that’s how I know what I’m saying is true. She’ll smile in your face and make you feel appreciated, then she’ll hand off your folder to me and instruct me to draw up a generic letter of recommendation for you two years early. I’ve drawn up eight already for some summer students just last week.”


Yeah. That huge pile of feeling helpless and hopeless, it was building.

But no.

I hadn’t gone through what I went through, decided to go for what I really loved, only to be detoured by a jaded meal-plan office worker and a stuck-up academic advisor, or even mean roommates in a party house.

I would endure. That’s the one quality us Phillips’ had in abundance. We’d endured worse. This was just a blip in my life.

“Okay.” Decision made. “Where do I put in for an advisor transfer?”

“Come on.” She nodded back toward the building I just came out of. “I’ll show you. Susan Cord is really nice, and she has a soft spot for the underdog students since she considers herself one.”


An underdog.

I’d already been painted that way.

Guess it was better than what happened at my last college. I suppressed a shiver. Anything was better than what happened there.

Chapter Four

Someone knocked on my door the next night, and I knew who it was. Not because it was a soft knock or any other reason, but because there was literally only one person who’d knock on my door.

My first day of classes was overwhelming. I had genetics, biostats, intro to cell biology, and I indulged with one marine class. Fundamentals of marine biology, though, okay, it wasn’t a total indulge class. It was still the next level up from basic requirements, but I was getting close.

That meant something to me.

And finding out that Siobhan was in my genetics class, I felt a lot better. We planned to meet for lunch after class the next day, after all, I’d just paid for a meal plan I couldn’t afford, but I was looking forward to the company.

Since then, just classes, just me time.

The house had been quiet last night when I got back from campus. I heard people arrive late, around ten, but they settled down around one in the morning. When I got back from my two classes today, I’d been surprised to find Lisa studying in the basement, but that was it.

She was at the table, and seeing me coming out of my room, she cursed and shoved her books closed. Storming into her room, her door was slammed shut just as I got to the fridge.

Well, then.

I still wasn’t going anywhere, and I was just now figuring I should try finding a grocery store when that knock came.

Standing to open the door, I already had my polite smile on my face. “Hi, Savannah.”

It wasn’t Savannah.

A girl with brown hair, shoulder-length, and almond eyes, a smaller frame, but with meat on her was there instead. She tipped her head down, looking at me. “You’re the new roommate.”

I was guessing this was Nicole. “Hi. Your uncle owns the house?”

A short nod. “Yep.”

She observed me the same time I was observing her.

I’d dressed simply that night. Jeans. A Texas C&B tank top and flip flops.

She was dressed similarly, and both of us were trying to hide a grin.

She cleared her face, her eyes cooling, though I thought it looked like she needed to put in some effort to do that. “Look, the house is technically my uncle’s, I felt like I should properly introduce myself. Sav said you arrived Sunday night. I wasn’t around yesterday.”

She came in, noting my textbook out on the desk. “Genetics, huh?”

“Um. Yeah.”

I left the door wide and resumed my seat behind my desk.

She nodded, swinging her leg back and forth, her toe anchored on the ground. “That’s cool. Lisa had that class last year. She’s in the nursing program.” She flashed me a grin. “I’m not as ambitious. I’m in education. Gonna be a teach like my ma, but I am ambitious because I’m specializing in middle school. Gonna crack those adolescent pubescents one at a time.”

“What about Savannah?”

“Sav’s going into sports medicine. It’s how she met Noel, actually, and how most of us met any of the guys.”

“What do you mean?”

“Noel.” She waited, expecting a reaction.

I had nothing. “Oh. Oh, yeah! Noel.”

She cracked up again. “You have no clue, do you?”

Not a one. But I just shrugged. “Noel and Savannah seem nice.”

She snorted. “They’re the couple on campus. If we had royalty here, it’d be them. Noel’s starting quarterback for our school, and everyone loves Sav. She’s considered C&B’s princess, but Mia hates it. She likes to think she’s the school’s queen bitch instead.”

It was worse than I thought, and I was following everything she just said. This house wasn’t just a football-frenzy house. It was football. They were football.

“Are you kidding?” I was feeling the blood draining from my face. It was going to pool at my feet. There’d be a mess, and another reason they would hate me, and want to kick me out.

Nicole grinned. “Not a football fan? Sav mentioned you asked if we had a lot of football parties.”

I’d moved into my nightmare house. Straight up. I had to start looking for a new place to live. Stat.

“It’s okay.”

She burst out laughing. “Well, at least I know now you’re a shit liar. Good to know.” She took pity on me. “Wyatt’s one of the wide receivers. Nacho’s a halfback. Dent’s a defensive end.”

All these football terms. I was being pelted.

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