1 Chapter 1: Sasha

Book One: Campus Flirt

"Have you given any more consideration to going out with my cousin?" my bestie asks as we trudge across campus to our nine o'clock class.

Of course she would hit me with this when I'm still bleary-eyed from lack of caffeine. I woke up late and didn't have time to make a cup of java before rushing out the door.

When I remain silent, she lifts a brow.

In all honesty, I'd been hoping Brooke would forget about her stint as matchmaker and stop trying to fix me up with her cousin, Ryder. I should have known better. My roommate isn't the type of girl to let anything go. She can be as tenacious as a terrier when the occasion calls for it. It's all part of her charm. She'll nip at my heels until she wears me down and I eventually give in.

Or I kick her in the ass. Whichever comes first.

"Well?" She nudges my shoulder with her own.

I huff out a breath before hedging, "Do you really think that's a good idea?" Because I think it's a terrible one.

"Absolutely. Why wouldn't it be? He's good looking. You're good looking. Voilà! It's a match made in heaven."

The only true part of that statement is that Ryder McAdams is smoking hot. And he has the puck bunnies to prove his popularity. I, however, am not interested in dating a jock. I've spent most of my life around them. Football players, to be specific. My best guy friend-the one I've known since we were in diapers-is a half-back for the Western Wildcats. I've seen firsthand how rabid the fangirls are for him and his teammates. I have zero interest in competing with a legion of jersey chasers in order to hold on to a boyfriend.

And the other downside to dating an athlete is that a lot of these guys aren't known for their fidelity.

Just ask Brooke.

She was dating Andrew-a football player-for about nine months. Little did she know that he had a few groupies on the side and was busy spreading around the love. An unfortunate clap diagnosis is what ultimately tipped her off. Or maybe I should say it was the painful urination and weird vaginal discharge that clued her in to the situation.


I'd thought she was going to wring his neck with her bare hands. Honestly, he deserved that and more. Brooke was the best girlfriend. And even though he keeps crawling back on his hands and knees, begging her to give him another chance, my girl has remained steadfast in her resolve. I couldn't be prouder of her. She's told him in no uncertain terms to go take a flying leap. So far, he refuses to take no for an answer. I'm not sure why he won't let it go. He obviously didn't care enough about their relationship to stay faithful in the first place.

So...no, I'd prefer to avoid the athletes at Western.

Along with the frat boys on campus.

They're just as bad.

Take out those two groups of potential candidates and it makes for an awfully shallow dating pool.

"I'm not really looking for a relationship," I tell her as we pass by the union. "I've got enough going on." Soccer and school take up a huge chunk of my time. I'm in my senior year of college and my schedule is jam packed with architecture classes. I'm also working on getting my resume together so I'll have a job secured by the time graduation rolls around in the spring. Life is changing. I'm both excited and scared at the prospect.

"Maybe not, but you need someone to take your mind off Easton. You gotta move on, girl."

The comment is so unexpected that I stumble in surprise. Before I can take out any of the unfortunate pedestrians within striking distance, Brooke grabs hold of my elbow and tows me along the walkway. It takes a moment to regain my balance.

Panic bursts to life inside me as I focus on staying upright. "What are you talking about?"

My roommate rolls her eyes and releases a long-suffering sigh. "I'm talking about the secret crush on E you've got going on." She pulls me closer before dropping the next bomb. "The one, I suspect, you've had for years."

I shake my head in silent protest.

Before I can deny her claims, she continues. "You can try to fool me all you like, but don't lie to yourself. You've had a major thing for that boy as long as I've known you. And hey-it's not like I blame you for it. Easton is gorgeous with all that thick, whiskey-colored hair. There's been more than a few times when I've wanted to drag my fingers through it." A faraway look enters her eyes as she stares off into space before abruptly clearing her throat. "Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that I get it. My problem with the situation is that you're unwilling to do anything about it. The best thing you could do is move on. And Ryder could help with that. It's not like I'm telling you to marry the dude. I'm just saying, let him take you out and show you a good time."

Even though she's right and I should come clean, I mumble, "I don't have a crush on him. We're just friends. That's it." It's hard to admit the truth-even to yourself-when you've spent years tamping down the emotion and pretending it doesn't exist.

Brooke spears me with a pitying look. "Oh, Sash. That's so sad."

My shoulders collapse under the weight of her disappointment.

Secretly, I can't help but agree. It is sad. Pathetic, even.

"Why don't you just tell him how you feel?"

Is she legit crazy?

"And ruin our friendship?" I blurt before I can stop myself. "Hard pass. Plus, he doesn't see me that way." He never has.

"How do you know? Have you ever asked?"

"Of course not," I mutter, desperate to change the subject. "Easton doesn't see me as anything more than a friend. His best friend. And I love having him in my life. I would never do anything to jeopardize our relationship."

Just as she opens her mouth to bombard me with more questions, a muscular arm is thrown over my shoulders and I'm hauled against a hard body. Even before his masculine scent can inundate my senses, I know exactly who I've been crushed against. And yes...it takes every ounce of self-control to resist burrowing against his comforting strength.

That's when I realize Brooke is right. I need to stop lying to myself. It's not helping the situation.

"Hey." He drops a careless kiss against the top of my head. "What are you two talking about?"

My face flames as the edges of Brooke's lips quirk with mischief.

I swear, if she takes matters into her own hands and lets the cat out of the bag, I'll kill her. I'm not even kidding. Brooke McAdams will end up being nothing more than a senseless statistic, and I'll walk away with zero regrets.

I shoot her a narrowed look that promises retribution.

"I'm trying to convince Sasha that she should go out with my cousin." She beams at him with an expression full of faux innocence. "Don't you think they'd be perfect for each other?"

He stares at her for a long moment. "Are you talking about Ryder?"

"Yup. That's the one."

His easy-going manner falls away as he frowns. "Actually, I think that's a shit idea."

"Oh?" She perks up like a bloodhound who's picked up a scent. "And why would that be?"

"Because he's a hockey player." He gives her a sharp look. "You know how those guys are."

Her expression turns icy. "Actually, I do. Kind of like the football players?"

Easton has the good grace to wince. "Yeah, I guess so," he mumbles, aware of the unfortunate circumstances surrounding her breakup.

"Anyway," she says before the moment can turn awkward, "Sash needs to get back into the dating game. It's been a while since her last," she pauses, and I'm almost afraid ‘hookup' will shoot out of her mouth, "boyfriend. Maybe you can help convince her that she needs to sweep out the cobwebs every once in a while."

Oh my god. Please tell me she did not just say that.

If only the sidewalk would open up and swallow me whole. Let's hope a mental image hasn't come to his mind of what that would actually look like.

Easton's brows pinch together as he eyes me with a frown. "If you're looking for a guy, there are some nice ones in my English class. I could check with a couple of them and see if they're interested." Before I can formulate a response, he continues, "But stay away from the hockey players." There's a pause. "And the football players. You know what? Just stay away from the athletes in general. Then we won't have any problems."

Is he really trying to fix me up with other guys?

Even though I steel myself against the onslaught, a tidal wave of heartache crashes over me. If I'd been secretly holding out hope that Easton might feel something romantic toward me, it's clear from this five-minute convo that's not the case.

When I remain silent, he reiterates for a second time, "Just do me a favor and steer clear of Ryder." He glances in Brooke's direction. "You don't need to worry about Sasha's dating life. She'll get out there when she's good and ready."

Before Brooke can react, he says, "All right, I gotta take off." His gaze cuts back to mine. "You want to grab lunch later?"

Under normal circumstances, I'm always happy to spend time with Easton. After this enlightening discussion, however, I'm going to take a pass.

"No, sorry." I make up an excuse on the fly. "I need to meet with one of my professors about an assignment."

He shrugs as if it doesn't matter to him one way or the other.

It's yet another nail in the coffin.

"All right. I'll text you later." With a quick wave, he disappears through the crowd of students moving across campus.

Always one to strike when the iron is hot, Brooke clears her throat. "So, about Ry-"

"I'll do it," I snap before I can change my mind.

Her eyes widen as if not expecting my easy capitulation. "Really? You'll go out with him?"

I press my lips together until they feel bloodless and nod. "Yeah."

It's most likely a decision I'll end up regretting in the not-so-distant future, but that doesn't negate the fact that Brooke is right. I need to move on and stop holding out hope that Easton will ever see me as anything other than a friend.

Next chapter