The Hook Up
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How does my body know? Why does it instantly perk up when he’s near? It’s like I have internal Drew Baylor radar. I ought to be studied by the NSA or something. At the very least have my head examined. Because this has to stop.
My only consolation is that he’s looking at me too. Maybe before I even noticed him, because our gazes instantly clash. A buzz goes through my body, a low, warm hum that has my lower belly clenching.
Maybe it is a simple matter of fascination that he keeps looking at me. And even though I know I’m not a toad, I can’t help but wonder why. Why stare at me when he’s surrounded by girls who are, by anyone’s standards, gorgeous. God, he’s probably thinking the same thing: she keeps looking at me. Only he’s probably not wondering why. Everyone looks at Baylor.
They’re looking now. He’s at the far side of the hall with a hulking group of football players, and all heads are turned his way. I’ve always thought Baylor was big and tall, but one of the guys next to him looks like he eats screaming villagers for breakfast. A linebacker, if I had to guess. He even has a beard, full and bushy. Hagrid’s younger brother maybe.
The guys are laughing, talking to other friends who come up to see them. A group of girls head straight for them as if they’ve been waiting. And their arrival is greeted with appreciation.
But not by Baylor. He’s still watching me, his expression almost grim and so intent that my heartbeat speeds up. I want to look away. I ought to, but I just stare back like an idiot.
“Do you know Drew Baylor?”
The question jumps out at me, loud and in my ear, and my pen clatters to the table.
“Jesus, Iris,” I say as my best friend slips into my side of the both. “You scared the shit out of me.”
“I can see how you’d be distracted.” Her dark eyes shine with an evil light that I know means trouble. “What with you eye-fucking Battle Baylor and all.”
My face is likely pink because it burns. “I’m not ‘eye-fucking’ anyone.” It’s a mumble. And there is absolutely no way I’m looking back at Baylor now, even though I’m dying to.
Iris snorts and grabs a drink of my iced coffee. “Eye-molesting doesn’t have the same ring to it, though.” When I open my mouth to protest again, she waves me off. “Don’t bother denying it. I know what I saw.”
“How do you even know what I’m looking at anyway?” I slap my notebook closed and take back my drink. “I could have been checking the time.” There’s a big clock hanging on the wall behind Baylor, so I’m hoping that excuse is believable.
Iris’s smirk tells me it’s not. “Because he was eye-fucking you back.”
I nearly choke on my drink. “Would you please stop using that phrase?”
Iris laughs a little. “Sorry, but it was kind of hot and obvious, you know.”
Hell. Was it?
Her eyes narrow. “You haven’t answered my question, and it’s clear that you know him in some way.”
When she shifts like she’s about to glance in his direction, I react like I’m five, and pinch her thigh in a panic.
“Shit, Anna!” she squeals.
“I’m sorry. But don’t look at him.” The last thing I want is for Baylor to know we’re talking about him. I’d expire of mortification on the spot.
She glares, rubbing her thigh. “Drama Mama. I’ve never seen you so flustered. He’s gone, by the way.”
“I’m not flustered.” I run a hand through my hair. “It’s just… Don’t make it something that it’s not. We have a class together, and we happened to make eye contact just now. That’s all.”
God, I feel like I’m in junior high again. I hate it, and I hate myself for reacting the way I do. I’ve worked for years to harden myself, to no longer care what others think of me, to not need to care. My walls cannot crumble.
Thankfully, Iris shrugs. “That’s too bad. He’s totally hot.”
“And he knows it,” I mutter.
“How can he not? I mean, like, damn. That face. Those brooding eyes. Those pouty, kiss-me lips. I swear to God, he’s like Captain Freaking America.”
“I was always more of a Tony Stark kind of gal.” I absolutely do not think of the animated gif I have on my computer of Captain America’s fine ass rippling as he pounds a punching bag. Over. And over.
Ignoring me, Iris fans herself in dramatic fashion. “God, that body. You just know he’s cut. Like a freaking diamond.”
I try not to smile as I take another sip of coffee. “I need a nap.”
“Oh, right, he’s so boring to you. Or maybe you shouldn’t stay up reading all night long. Which reminds me,” she slaps my thigh, “we’re so going out tonight.”
“No.” Usually I like going out, but lately I haven’t had the desire.
“Don’t you ‘no’ me.” Iris leans in, her silky black hair sliding over her shoulder. “You haven’t been out in weeks. Being a homebody is one thing. Turning into a hermit is just wrong.”
“You pay way too much attention to my social life.”
Her lips purse. “Kind of hard to ignore when we live together.”
Freshman year, I started off living in a dorm, but that was a bit too much like high school for my liking, and the public bathrooms flat-out sucked. Then I met Iris, who also had a dislike of cinderblock walls and wearing flip-flops in the shower. We decided working to pay for an apartment of our own was worth it and moved out by the end of the year. Because we got along so well, we kept the place year round rather than go home during the summers.
Iris sighs, her slim shoulders lifting high before dropping. I bite my lip to keep from smiling, but she sees and plays on my weakness. “Come onnn, Banana.” Like a kid, she taps her feet on the ground in an impatient dance. “I don’t want to go alone. I need a girlfriend with me tonight.”
I snort. “Where do you want to go anyway?”
Her white teeth flash, a sharp contrast against her bronze skin. “A party.”
“Anna! You haven’t even heard me out.”
“You know I hate parties.” With the passion of a televangelist on Sunday morning. I suck at small talk and mingling. Give me a booth in a bar and a few good friends, and I’m a happy girl. But parties suck.
Slouching back, Iris picks at the edge of my notebook. “I’m not going to leave you alone. We’ll hang out.”
“We can do that anywhere.” I eye her with suspicion. “Why this party?”
She starts paying undo attention to the condensation on my cup, tracing patterns over it with the tip of her finger. “Well… Henry—”
“You have the filthiest mouth, Anna.” This isn’t a new complaint. She makes it constantly. Not that she’s wrong. I curse when I’m stressed. Or annoyed. Okay, I curse all the time.
“No shit?” My cussing also tends to increase when Henry Ross is mentioned. Henry and Iris have been going out for two years, so you’d think I’d accept his presence in Iris’s life. But I have to grit my teeth every time I see him. He’s a smarmy ass**le who treats Iris like window dressing. He doesn’t so much talk to her as talk at her.
And though my friend is smart, funny, gorgeous, and independent, Henry is her kryptonite. He weakens her, rending her blind to his many faults. Sure, he’s good looking, dark-haired and dark-eyed with a nice smile. He’s also the captain of the lacrosse team and makes sure everyone knows it. But I’m fairly certain he cheats on her. There are too many times when he doesn’t answer her calls or has “important team meetings,” you know, on Friday nights or holidays such as Valentine’s Day. Yeah, right.
As much as I wish I could tell Iris to ditch him, experience with my mom tells me that I’d only strengthen her resolve and drive a wedge between us.
“I know you don’t like Henry,” Iris says now.
While I’m able to keep my mouth shut, pretending to like him is more than I can take. The sleaze always, always, eyes my boobs and ass. Not in the normal way a guy might make a note of them, but in a way that makes me feel covered with slime.
“But he asked me to bring you,” Iris continues.
Of course he did. He knows I don’t like him. Which he takes as a challenge to piss me off. Henry might be a dick, but he’s a smart dick. He knows I’ll look like a jerk if I resist his attempts at polite interaction.
“Why would he do that?” I ask.
“Because he wants me to be happy.” She says this like it’s obvious. “And he knows I want to have a friend with me at his parties.”
Because he’ll ignore her within five minutes of getting there.
“This isn’t one of his team parties, is it?”
“No.” Her eyes are wide and pleading. “It’s just a party, Anna. Geesh.”
“Fine,” I snap. “I’ll go.”
Instantly, Iris hops up and down in her seat. “Yes! We’ll have fun. And then we’ll go dancing.”
Iris is my opposite in all ways small. She loves reality TV, finds movies too long, and only reads when it’s for an assignment. Her idea of fun involves a credit card and an open mall, and she has harbored a massive crush on Justin Bieber, despite all his WTFuckery, since her junior year of high school. Her continuing love of The Bieb is evident by the fact that her favorite nightshirt is a My World concert tee. And while the image of his face plastered over her boobs is more than creepy, I hate that she hides the shirt whenever Henry comes around. Or rather, I hate that Henry makes her feel like she should to hide it for fear he’ll make fun of her.
Despite myself, I glance at the spot where Baylor had been. He’s gone and is probably making plans of his own. I suddenly feel restless. Wrong. Like I don’t know who I really am anymore. Which makes no sense. Maybe I’m coming down with something.
AS I RARELY go to parties, I have no idea what to wear. Jeans and a t-shirt will just get me sent back to my room by Iris. She is definitely of the “if it ain’t tight you ain’t wearing it right” school, especially if she’s planning to hit up clubs afterwards. However I am just as definitely of the “I refuse to be uncomfortable in the name of fashion” school of thought. So where does that leave me?
After forty minutes of cussing and general clothes throwing, I’m in a black camisole with a built-in bra, which is fairly daring for me, considering the size of my boobs, and a soft, A-line skirt that hugs my h*ps but swishes around my thighs and ends a few inches above my knees.
Not wanting to leave my room, I procrastinate by peering into the mirror. My hair has a fuzz factor of three, which is acceptable, and my skin is clear. I apply a sweep of smoky-lilac shadow to make my eyes appear greener and dab a berry lip stain on my lips. So then, I’ve done all I can.
I tromp out to the living room for inspection time. Iris, as usual, looks fantastic. I don’t even know how she does it; she’s wearing tiny black leather shorts and a silky indigo top that hangs over one toned shoulder and is open in the back. If I wore something like that I’d look horrible, but she’s so lean and small, perfection on platform stiletto ankle boots that remind me of horse hooves for some reason.
Her dark eyes narrow as I stand there.
“What’s with the boots?” she finally asks.
“You’re wearing boots.”
“Ankle boots. Totally different.”
“These are Fluevogs,” I protest. “Victorias.” Black-rubbed emerald green leather, they lace up to mid-calf and have an ornate heel that resembles the legs of Victorian furniture. They are quirky, and the most expensive shoes I own. My mother gave them to me for my twenty-first birthday, and I kissed her for it.
Iris lets out a long-suffering sigh. “You look like you’re going to a vamp ball in them.”
“Watch it, Little Miss Belieber. I can still stay home.”
She cringes. “Sorry. You know how I get before going out.”
Yeah, crazy. Because she might disappoint Henry the Dickhead.
She strides over to me, taller now in her insane shoes, and gives me a kiss on the cheek. The light, flowery scent of her perfume surrounds me. “You look gorgeous,” she says. “God, I wish I had your curves.”
“We can do an exchange, because I’d love to rock those shorts without terrifying the populace with my thighs.”
“Fine, my thighs in exchange for your boobs.”
“Deal.” We both laugh, having made this deal numerous times before.
We take Iris’s car because I don’t trust Henry to drive me home, and I have a feeling she might go off with him later. So I’ll drive hers back. I’d take my Vespa, but Iris doesn’t like to drive to parties alone, and frankly, I’d get helmet head if I did.
Iris taps nervously on her steering wheel as we drive along listening to Adele.
“Why are you so worked up?” I finally ask. “More so than usual, I mean?”
Her eyes are wide as she glances at me. “No reason.” And then she turns down a street.
Frat houses line the block. “Iris! You said this was an off-campus party.”
But it’s clearly one of Henry’s horrible team bashes. Which involves beer bongs, guys pissing on the lawns—among other lovely locations—and basic imbecilic behavior. I was suckered into going to one once before and vowed never again.