“Uh-oh.” She comes to stand behind me, watching us in the mirror with a mocking pout. “What’s wrong? Come on, we’re your sisters, Tay-Tay. You can tell us.”
“He did stand you up, didn’t he?” Jules says in a condescendingly sweet voice, as if she’s talking to an animal. “Oh no! And your mice slaved all day making you a pretty dress for the ball.”
“Joke’s on you,” I snap back dryly. “We broke up.”
Abigail laughs, then gives me a sarcastic grin. “Well, of course he dumped you. I mean, after a month it stops being funny and then it’s just sad. You should have listened to me, Tay-Tay. Could have saved yourself the embarrassment.”
“Oh my God, Abigail, fuck off.” My last thread snaps. The bathroom goes deathly silent and I become aware everyone is staring at us. “We get it, okay? You’re a miserable cunt who mistakes bitchiness for a personality. Get a fucking life and get off my dick.”
I stride out of there, skin buzzing. A sort of delirious high overwhelms me as I return to the banquet hall. I’m dizzy from the lights pulsating to the music, the bodies thrumming on the dance floor. God, telling her off was so good I want to go back for seconds. If I’d known unleashing on Abigail would feel this amazing, I would’ve been doing it six times a day.
After nearly half a bottle of champagne, my taste buds feel fuzzy and maybe my head does too, so I head for the bar and ask for a club soda with lime.
“Taylor,” a voice says from behind me. “Hey. I almost didn’t recognize you.”
A guy slides in next to me. Tilting my head back to look at him, it takes a few inches before I realize it’s Danny, one of the skyscrapers from Malone’s the other night. He cleans up nicely in a sharp tux.
“Do me a favor, then,” I say, taking my drink from the bartender, who I think was in my elementary mathematics class last semester. “Don’t blow my cover. I’m in disguise.”
“Oh yeah?” Danny orders a beer and moves in a little closer. “As what?”
“Haven’t figured that out yet.”
He laughs for lack of anything better to say. Truthfully, I don’t know either. Lately I’m not sure what’s actually me and what’s a role I’m trying to play to please everyone else. I feel like I’m trying to live up to some expectation that becomes a little harder to define every day. Never quite achieving the image I set for myself and having a harder time remembering where I got the idea in the first place.
People always say we come to college to find ourselves, and yet I’m becoming less recognizable each morning.
“You look nice, is what I meant,” he says shyly.
“Who are you here with?” I ask him.
“Oh, no, no one,” he tells me. “My parents were invited by their friends, Rachel Cohen’s parents, so I kinda got told to come.” He takes an awkward swig of his beer and I can almost see the moment he convinces himself to go for it. “You know, I wanted to say something the other night. I mean, I should have, but I got the impression you were seeing someone?”
Oh. “Yeah, no, it was just…a casual thing.”
“So then it’d be okay if I wanted to ask you out sometime?”
Sasha and I catch each other’s gaze across the room, and her eyes are alight with approval. She gives me a nod that says you should hit that. Then she grabs Eric and they make their way to us.
I don’t know how to answer his question without sounding like I’m committing to something, so I stall and take a long sip of my drink while Sasha approaches.
“You found each other,” she says with too much excitement. Then smirks at me like I’m being punished somehow. “And neither of you have dates, so it all worked out.”
“Actually,” I start, “I was thinking I’d go—”
“You still owe me a dance,” Eric reminds Sasha as she puts an arm around me to stop me from running away.
“Taylor loves to dance.”
I’m going to kill her in her sleep.
“Dance with me?” Danny. Sweet, shy Danny. He holds his arm out like they do in the movies and I know he means well. And since I can either go willingly or have Sasha make a scene, I accept his invitation.
The four of us make our way onto the dance floor. It’s an up-tempo song, thankfully, so Danny doesn’t feel compelled to hang on to me. We start out in a loose foursome until it becomes apparent that Eric and Sasha have been looking for an excuse to get all up on each other all night and then I’m left with the awkward moves of a skyscraper who can’t judge his own foot size. To be fair, I’m not giving him much to work with.
“Dance with him,” Sasha leans in to hiss at me, only halfway pulling herself from Eric’s grasp.
“I am,” I snap back.
She shoves me at him, which forces him to catch me. Danny’s smile says he thinks it’s my coy way of saying, please, hold me closer, to which he obliges. I tense up but he doesn’t seem to notice. Sasha meets my eyes again with an insistent look that says TRY, DAMMIT!
But I can’t. My head’s stuck on wondering what’s happening with Conor and Kai. Has he made the drop? Is he safe? Not that I think Conor can’t handle himself, but what if something went wrong? Ten grand is a lot of money to be carrying around. He could’ve gotten stopped by police, or worse. There are a hundred ways tonight might have gone wrong for him, and I can’t even find out if he’s okay. He’d just ignore my call and then I’m right back where I started—worrying about him, afraid for him.
It occurs to me I could have done more. I should’ve told his roommates or Hunter to stop him. Or to watch his back at least. Damn it, why didn’t I do that?
If something happens to Conor, I’d never forgive myself.
I’ve just decided I have to make a call when I hear a low growl of warning and Danny and I are suddenly yanked apart.
“What the hell, man?” Danny shoots forward to confront the intruder, while I stand there blinking in confusion.
What the hell indeed. What is Conor doing here?
“You’re done here,” a tuxedo-clad Conor answers, his tone cool and efficient.
“I’m sorry, what?” Danny frowns. Takes another step. Although he stands a few inches taller, his build is slight compared to Conor’s more muscular frame.
“You heard me.” Tension pours off of him, and there’s a barely contained fury in his eyes as they burn through mine. “Thanks very much, but you can go now.”
“Hey.” Eric steps beside his teammate. “I don’t know who you are, but you can’t be—”
“I’m her boyfriend,” Conor snaps, but his intense stare remains fixed on me.
“Taylor?” Danny prompts. “He your boyfriend?”
I glance at Danny, then back at Conor, and I’m momentarily startled. Conor standing there under the flashing lights in a tailored black tuxedo, his hair combed back from his face…it’s like meeting him again for the first time.
I’m struck by the pure sexual magnetism of this man. For the last week I’d been so busy being mad at him that I’d forgotten how hot he is. Enough to turn the heads of nearly every female in the room. Even a few alumni are peeking over their shoulders, while their middle-aged husbands take a turn at feeling inadequate after leering at twenty-year-olds all night.