“Well…” His entire demeanor shifts. Eyes narrow. Breathing slows. Conor licks his lips. “If I weren’t a gentleman, I might try something like pushing your hair behind your ear.” He skims his fingertips through my hair. Then down the column of my neck. Just a gentle whisper of skin-to-skin.
My neck erupts in excited little bumps and my breath catches in my throat.
“And dragging my finger across your shoulder.”
He does so, quickening my pulse. An ache builds inside me.
“And skimming along until—” He reaches my bra strap. I hadn’t realized it was exposed with my V-neck sweater hanging off my shoulder.
“Alright. Down, boy.” Regaining my wits, I remove his hand and adjust my sleeve. Jeez, this guy should come with a warning label. “I think I get it now.”
“You’re ridiculously attractive, Taylor.” This time when he speaks, I don’t doubt his sincerity, if perhaps his sanity. I suppose someone like him doesn’t get around so much by being picky. “Don’t spend any more time believing otherwise.”
For the next few hours, I don’t. Instead, I give myself permission to pretend that someone like Conor Edwards is actually into me.
We lie there in the ridiculous cocoon of Rachel’s stuffed animal collection, talking as if we’ve been friends for years. There’s surprisingly no shortage of things to say, no lag in the conversation. We move from banal topics of favorite foods and our mutual appreciation for sci-fi movies, to more serious ones, like how out of place I feel amongst my sorority sisters, to hilarious ones, like the time his sixteen-year-old punk-ass self got drunk after a road game in San Francisco and dove into the bay with the intention of swimming to Alcatraz.
“Fucking Coast Guard showed up and—” He cuts himself off mid-sentence, yawning loudly. “Shit, I can barely keep my eyes open.”
I catch his contagious yawn and cover my gaping mouth with my forearm. “Me too,” I say sleepily. “But we’re not leaving this room until you finish that story because holy shit, you were one stupid kid.”
That triggers a wave of laughter from the Norse god beside me. “Not the first time I’ve heard that, and it won’t be the last.”
By the time he finishes the story, we’re yawning on a loop, blinking rapidly to try to stay awake. The stupidest, drowsiest discussion ensues as we attempt to find the strength to get up.
“We should head downstairs,” I mumble.
“Mmm-hmmm,” he mumbles back.
“Hmmm, good idea.”
“Or maybe in five minutes.” I yawn.
“Five minutes, yeah.” He yawns.
“Okay, so we’ll close our eyes for five minutes and then get up.”
“Just rest our eyes. You know, eyes get tired.”
“Tired eyes,” he’s muttering from beneath thick lashes, “and I played a game tonight, got a bit bruised up, so let’s just…”
I don’t hear the rest of his sentence, because we’ve both fallen asleep.
The last pound on the door jolts me upright. I squint and shield my eyes from the beams of light streaking across the room. What the hell?
It’s daylight. Morning. My mouth is dry, a bitter taste thick on my tongue. I don’t remember falling asleep. On a yawn I stretch my limbs, feel the muscles releasing. Then another sound stops my heart.
Snoring. Beside me.
Sprawled out on his stomach, Conor lies shirtless and in only his boxers.
“Hey! Open the door! This is my room!”
More knocking. Pounding.
Shit. Rachel’s home.
“Get up.” I shake Conor. He doesn’t stir. “Dude, get up. You need to leave.”
I don’t understand how he’s still here or when I fell asleep last night. A quick glance shows I’m still dressed with my shoes on, so why the hell is Conor practically naked?
“Get the hell out, assholes!” Any minute now Rachel’s going to start trying to kick the door down.
“Come on, get up.” I give Conor a stiff smack to the small of his back, which makes him jump in a bleary confusion.
“Mrrrmmm?” he mumbles incoherently.
“We fell asleep. My sister’s home and she wants her room back,” I whisper urgently. “You need to get dressed.”
Conor falls out of bed. He stands a bit unevenly, still muttering nonsense under his breath. Cringing, I unlock and open the door, where an irate Rachel stands fuming in the hall. Behind her, the entire house is awake, loitering in their pajamas and bed hair with mugs of coffee and cold Pop-Tarts. Sasha is nowhere to be seen, so I assume she wound up finding a concert in Boston and crashing with her friends in the city.
“What the hell, Taylor? Why was my door locked?”
I spot Abigail’s cruel smirk among the faces crowding the hall. “I’m sorry, I—”
Without letting me finish, Rachel shoves open the door and bursts inside, allowing everyone a good look at Conor shirtless, buttoning his jeans.
“Oh,” she squeaks. Her ire is quelled almost instantly by the sight of Conor’s immaculate body.
I don’t blame her for gawking. He’s exquisite. Broad shoulders and defined muscles. The perfectly smooth, inviting planes of his chest. I can’t believe I slept next to that and don’t remember any of it.
“G’morning,” Conor says with a smirk. He nods to the other sisters outside the room. “Ladies.”
“I didn’t know you had company,” Rachel talks to me but stares at him.
“My fault,” he says easily, then pulls his shirt over his sculpted chest. He steps into his shoes. “Sorry about that.” To me, he winks on his way to the door. “Call me.”
And just as suddenly as we became two unlikely allies, he departs. Every single gaze remains glued to the taut ass hugged by his jeans, until finally he’s out of sight, heavy footsteps thudding down the stairs.
I gulp a few times before speaking. “Rachel, I—”
“I didn’t think you had it in you, Marsh.” She looks surprised, of course. But also impressed. “Next time you slay a dragon in my room, be out before breakfast. ’Kay?”
“Sure. Sorry,” I say with relief. The worst is averted, I suppose. I live to fight better battles. And whether I courted it or not, whether this pries another thin sliver of my dignity from me in favor of my social standing, at least for today all these girls will live vicariously through my supposed exploits.
Then there’s Abigail.
While the others return to their morning cartoons and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, she lingers at the top of the stairs waiting for me. I want to push past her, ignore her, maybe trip her a little down the steps. Instead, like a dumbass, I stand there and meet her eyes.
“You must be pretty satisfied with yourself,” she says, arching one perfectly tweezed brow.
“No, Abigail, just tired.”
“If you think you proved something last night, you’re wrong. Conor would fuck a wet sock if it smiled at him. So don’t think this makes you special, Tay-Tay.”