I pop the cap on my beer with the ring I wear on my right middle finger. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Way I hear it, you spent the night with a Kappa last Friday and jumped right into bed with a Tri-Delt on Thursday.”
It sounds crass when he says it that way. But yeah, I suppose that’s how it looks. He doesn’t know, of course, that Taylor and I shared a lovely platonic evening of conversation. And I can’t defend her honor without also blowing her cover. I trust these guys, but it’s inevitable that anything I say gets back to their girls and, well, people talk.
“Who told you about the Delta hookup?” I ask curiously, because Natalie’d snuck me into the sorority house after midnight. Apparently the Delta house has some ridiculous rule about dudes sleeping over.
“She did,” Foster answers, snickering.
I furrow my brow. “Huh?”
Bucky slides his phone from his pocket. “Oh yeah, we all saw that pic. Hold on.” He taps the screen a few times. “Yeah, here it is.”
I peer at Bucky’s Instagram feed. And yup, there’s Natalie in a selfie giving the camera a thumbs-up while I’m in the lower corner of the frame, sound asleep. Below it, the caption reads, Look who scored. #Briarhockeyhottie #StickIt #BuzzerBeater #Goooaaalll
“I give it high marks for lighting and composition,” Foster says, laughing. Jackass.
“Hashtag puckbunny,” Bucky adds. “Hashtag—”
I take the gin and tonic from the bartender and head back inside to deliver it, shooting a middle finger at the guys as I leave.
It’s not the ribbing that bothers me. Or even the picture, really. I just feel kind of…cheap. Someone’s fuck for likes. I might be a little promiscuous, but I don’t treat women like conquests. A simple exchange of physical pleasure, where everyone gets what they want and no lies are told, is perfectly healthy. Why go and make the other person feel like a piece of meat?
Then again, I guess it isn’t any more than I deserve. Act like a fuckboy, get treated like a fuckboy.
When I return to the ballroom, the concert jazz band is playing and the plates from lunch have been cleared. Most of the guests have taken to the dance floor now, including my bejeweled cougar. I set the drink on the table and have a seat, praying that nobody comes over to force me to dance. So far, so good. I sip my beer and people-watch. Soon, a conversation a couple tables away catches my ear.
“Oh please. Don’t give her so much credit. It was a dare, okay? It’s not like he was hitting on her or something.”
“Trust me,” a girl’s voice answers, “I heard what was going on in there. He saw those porn star tits and ass and probably figured as long as he fucked her from behind, he wouldn’t have to look at her butter face.”
“I’d bang Taylor’s body with your face,” a dude responds.
My fingers tighten over the beer bottle. These asshats are talking about Taylor?
“Are you kidding me, Kevin? Say that again and I’ll put your balls in my flat iron.”
“Damn, Abigail, I’m kidding. Down, girl.”
Abigail. Taylor’s sorority sister who made her take that stupid dare?
I spare a quick peek over my shoulder. Yeah, that’s her. I remember her standing in the hall at the Kappa house when I made my walk of shame that morning. She’s sitting with a group of Kappas I recognize from the party, and a few other guys. Taylor was right; she’s a grade-A bitch.
Assuming she must be here somewhere, I scan the room for Taylor, but I can’t find her.
“You know she wants to be a teacher?” another girl says. “She’ll totally end up like one of those chicks who gets pregnant banging their students.”
“Oh, dude, she should do teacher porn,” one of the guys responds. “Those double Ds would make mad money.”
“How does anyone still make money on porn? Isn’t that shit free now?”
“You should see the stuff we have on video from pledge week. It would crash your spank bank.”
It isn’t until the cougar returns for her gin and tonic and leaves a smudged lipstick print on my cheek that I realize my fists are clenched under the table and I’ve been holding my breath. I’m not entirely sure what to make of that. These people suck, yeah, but why I am getting all bent out of shape about a girl I knew for one night? My teammates always joke that nothing ever fazes me, and normally they’re right—I’m very good at letting shit slide off my shoulders. Especially when it doesn’t directly pertain to me.
But this entire conversation is pissing me off.
“You see that Delta’s post on Insta? Conor wasn’t even coming back to Taylor for seconds.”
“Some girls are just made to be one-night stands. That’s her place,” Abigail says, her tone smug. “Landing a guy like Conor is an unattainable goal for Taylor. The sooner she realizes that, the happier she’ll be. It’s sad, really.”
“Omigod! I bet she’s already doodling Taylor Loves Conor on her notebooks.”
“Writing Taylor Edwards in blood in her diary.”
They laugh, rolling all over themselves. Assholes.
It crosses my mind to go over there, confront them. Taylor didn’t do anything to deserve this shit. She’s a cool chick. Smart, funny. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually wanted to spend a whole night talking to a total stranger. And not because she was a pity case or I needed an alibi. I had a legit good time with her. These assholes aren’t allowed to talk smack about—
Speak of the devil.
My shoulders stiffen when I catch sight of Taylor walking in my direction. Her head is bent, engrossed with her phone. She’s wearing a knee-length black dress, a short pink cardigan buttoned up to her neck, and her hair in a messy bun at the nape of her neck.
I remember the way she’d lamented about her curves, and I honestly don’t get it. Taylor’s body is a thousand times more appealing to me than, say, Abigail’s scrawny one. Women are supposed to be soft and curvy and squeezable. I’m not sure when they were brainwashed into thinking otherwise.
My mouth goes a bit dry as Taylor approaches. She looks really fucking good tonight. Sexy. Elegant.
Undeserving of these people’s scorn.
Something compels me. A sense of justice, maybe. The triumph of good over evil. I get a tickle on the back of my neck, the one that says I’m about to have a stupid idea.
As she passes the table beside mine, unaware of me sitting here, I jump to my feet to catch her.
“Taylor, hey! Why didn’t you call me?” I say loud enough to draw the attention of Abigail and her group two tables away.
Taylor blinks, stunned and rightfully confused.
Come on, babe. Play along.
I implore her with my eyes as I repeat myself, my tone extra forlorn. “Why didn’t you call me?”
I’m trying to listen to what Conor is saying to me, but the sight of him in a suit is affecting my concentration. His big shoulders and broad chest fill out that navy-blue jacket like nobody’s business. I’m tempted to ask him to do a little spin so I can assess the butt situation. I bet his butt looks amazing.