“Taylor,” he says impatiently.
I blink, forcing my gaze back to his face. “Conor, hi. Sorry, what?”
“It’s been a week,” he says, with a strange eagerness about him. “You haven’t called me. I thought we had a good time together at the party.”
My mouth falls open. Is he serious right now? I mean, yeah, he technically said “call me” as he left Saturday morning, but that was part of the performance, right? He hadn’t even provided his phone number!
“Uh, sorry again?” I wrinkle my forehead. “I guess we got our wires crossed.”
“Are you avoiding me?” he demands.
“What? Of course not.”
He’s acting weird. And sort of whiny. Suddenly I’m wondering if this is some kind of personality disorder thing.
Or maybe he’s drunk? There have been a lot of free drinks at this thing. Hence why I’d been making a beeline for the restroom before he’d lunged from out of nowhere and ambushed me.
“I can’t stop thinking about you, Taylor. Can’t eat, can’t sleep.” He rakes an agitated hand through his hair. “I thought we made a connection that night. I wanted to play it cool, you know. Not come off too aggressive. But I miss you, babe.”
If this is a joke, it isn’t funny.
Clenching my fists to my sides, I take a step back. “Okay, I don’t know what this is, but for what it’s worth, I saw that Instagram post of you in bed with some girl. So I’d say you’re coping just fine.”
“Because you messed with my head.” He lets out an agonized groan. “Look, I know I screwed up. I’m weak. But only because I’ve been so hurt thinking that amazing night we spent together didn’t mean anything to you.”
Now I’m worried about him.
Exasperation has me stepping forward again. “Conor, you’re—”
He grabs me without warning. Envelops me in his arms, digging his big hands into my waist as he dips down to bury his face in the crook of my neck. I freeze, stunned, and honestly a little scared of what’s happening right now.
Until he whispers against my ear.
“I promise I’m not a weirdo, but I need your help and I won’t touch your penis. Just go with it, T.”
I pull back to meet his eyes, glimpsing a gleam of urgency and a twinkle of humor. I’m still not sure what’s going on, though. Is he trying to get back at me for what I did to him last weekend? Is it a joke? A silly callback?
“Con, man, leave the poor girl alone,” an amused voice remarks.
I turn toward the dark-haired guy who’d spoken—and that’s when I notice Abigail and Jules. My sorority sisters are sitting with their boyfriends and some of the Sigma guys and this is all starting to make more sense.
My heart melts a little. The world doesn’t deserve Conor Edwards.
“Get lost, Captain,” Conor drawls without turning around. “I’m wooing my woman.”
I swallow a laugh.
He winks at me and squeezes my hand in reassurance. Then, to my complete dismay, he drops to his knees. Oh God, everyone who wasn’t staring at us before is sure as shit staring at us now.
My good humor comes precariously close to evaporating. With his heart-stopping face, I’m sure Conor is used to being the center of attention. Me, I’d rather have wood slivers shoved under my fingernails than be on the receiving end of it. But I can feel Abigail’s eyes laser-beaming into me, which means I can’t convey weakness. Can’t show even a trace of the anxiety currently eating away at my stomach like battery acid.
“Please, Taylor. I’m begging. Put me out of my misery. I’m ruined without you.”
“What in the actual hell is happening?” another male inquires.
“Shut up, Matty,” the first guy admonishes. “I’m dying to see where this goes.”
Conor continues to ignore his buddies. His gray eyes never leave my face. “Go out with me. One date.”
“Um, I don’t think so,” I reply.
A shocked gasp sounds from the vicinity of the Kappa table.
“C’mon, T,” he pleads. “Just give me a shot to prove myself.”
I have to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing. Hysterical tears well in my eyes. When I hesitate for a long time, it’s not because I’m trying to create drama and tension. I’m worried if I open my mouth, I’ll either burst into laughter or sob from embarrassment.
“Fine,” I finally relent, shrugging. To appear even more aloof, I sort of gaze off toward the stage, as if I’m bored with this entire exchange. “One date. I guess.”
His entire face lights up. “Thank you. I promise you won’t regret it.”
I already do.
We don’t stay at the alumni banquet much longer after Conor’s big performance. Considering I hadn’t wanted to go in the first place, I’m more than grateful to leave.
Last year Sasha and I got tipsy and had a blast, but she couldn’t attend this time because she had a last-minute rehearsal for her spring showcase. Which means I’d just spent the past several hours smiling and mingling and pretending to be BFFs with Kappas who either hate me or are just indifferent. Not to mention this stupid cardigan I’m wearing; I’d thrown it on earlier after growing weary of all the ogling being directed at my cleavage, and I’ve been sweating like crazy.
Conor offers to give me a lift back to my apartment since we both live in Hastings, but turns out he’s some kind of sneaky mind-wizard because somehow we end up at his place instead. I don’t know what compels me to agree to dinner and a movie. I decide to blame the two glasses of champagne I drank at the banquet, even though I feel completely sober.
“Fair warning,” he says, as we stand outside a townhouse on a quiet tree-lined street, “my roommates can be a bit excitable.”
“Like trying to hump my leg excitable, or easily startled and afraid of loud noises?
“A bit of both. Just smack ’em on the nose if they get out of hand.”
I nod and square my shoulders. “Got it.”
If I can handle a classroom full of two dozen six-year-olds raging on a sugar high, I’m well up to the task of taming four hockey players. Although it’d probably be easier if I had pudding cups.
“Con, that you?” someone calls when we enter. “What do you want in your grain bowl?”
Conor takes my coat to hang on one of the hooks by the door. “Everyone put your dicks away,” he announces. “We’ve got a guest.”
“Grain bowl?” I ask, confused.
“Team nutrition rules. We’re all eating like mice. No wasted calories.” He sighs.
I know the feeling.
He leads me around the corner into the living room, where three men of imposing figures are spread out on the couches, two playing Xbox.
They’re still in their suits from the banquet, albeit in various stages of disarray, with ties undone and shirts untucked. Together they look like a GQ cologne ad that ostensibly attempts to portray the aftermath of a fashionable boys’ night out in Vegas or something. All that’s missing is disembodied female legs in heels draped over their shoulders, and maybe a pair of lacy red underwear elegantly slung over the armrest.