The Mistake (Off-Campus #2)(2) by Elle Kennedy

I love spending my summer as a grease monkey in my dad’s shop. It’s great pocket money!

I’m not lusting over Hannah. She’s dating my best friend!

Lies, lies and more lies, because in every one of those instances, the truth is a total bummer, and the last thing I want is for my friends and teammates to feel sorry for me.

“Save that bullshit for G,” Tucker retorts. “And by the way? You’re lucky he’s distracted with all this lovey-dovey stuff, because if he wasn’t? He’d definitely notice the way you’re acting.”

“Yeah, and what way is that?” I can’t stop the edge in my voice or the defensive set of my jaw. I hate that Tuck knows I have feelings for Hannah. I hate even more that he finally decided to bring up the subject after all these months. Why can’t he leave it alone? The situation is already shitty enough without having someone call me on it.

“Seriously? Do you want me to list it off for you? Fine.” A dark cloud floats through his eyes as he begins to recite every fucking thing I’ve felt so guilty about. “You leave the room whenever the two of them enter it. You hide in your bedroom when she stays over. If you guys are in the same room, you stare at her when you think nobody is looking. You—”

“Okay,” I interrupt. “I get it.”

“And don’t get me started on your manwhoring,” Tucker grumbles. “You’ve always been a player, but dude, you’ve hooked up with five chicks this week.”

“So?”

“So it’s Thursday. Five girls in four days. Do the fucking math, John.”

Oh shit. He first-named me. Tucker only calls me John when I’ve really pissed him off.

Except now he’s pissed me off, so I first-name him right back. “What’s wrong with that, John?”

Yup, we’re both John. I guess we should take a blood oath and form a club or something.

“I’m twenty-one years old,” I continue irritably. “I’m allowed to hook up. No, I should be hooking up, because that’s what college is all about. Having fun and getting laid and enjoying the fuck out of yourself before you go out in the real world and your life turns to shit.”

“You really want to pretend all these hook-ups are just some rite of passage in the college experience?” Tucker shakes his head, then lets out a breath and softens his tone. “You can’t screw her out of your system, man. You could sleep with a hundred women tonight and it still wouldn’t make a difference. You need to accept that it’s not going to happen with Hannah, and move on.”

He’s absolutely right. I’m well aware that I’ve been wallowing in my own bullshit and bagging chicks left and right as a distraction.

And I’m equally aware that I need to stop partying myself into oblivion. That I need to let go of the tiny little sliver of hope that something might happen, and simply accept that it won’t.

Maybe I’ll get started on that tomorrow, though.

Tonight? I’m sticking to my original plan. Get wasted. Get laid. And to hell with everything else.

*

Grace

I started my freshman year of college as a virgin.

I’m beginning to think I’ll be ending it as one, too.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being a card-carrying member of the V-Club. So what if I’m about to turn nineteen? I’m hardly an old maid, and I’m certainly not going to be tarred and feathered on the street for still having an intact hymen.

Besides, it’s not like I haven’t had opportunities to lose my virginity this year. Since I came to Briar University, my best friend has dragged me to more parties than I can count. Guys have flirted with me, sure. A few of them straight up tried to seduce me. One even sent me a picture of his penis with the caption “It’s all yours, baby.” Which was…fine, it was super gross, but I’m sure if I’d truly liked him, I might have been, um, flattered by the gesture? Maybe?

But I wasn’t attracted to any of those guys. And unfortunately, all the ones who do catch my eye never even look my way.

Until tonight.

When Ramona announced we were going to a frat party, I didn’t have high hopes for meeting anyone. It seems like every time we go to Greek Row, the frat boys just try to sweet-talk me and Ramona into making out. But tonight I’ve actually met a guy I kinda sorta like.

His name is Matt, he’s cute, and he’s not giving off any douchebag vibes. Not only is he somewhat sober, but he also speaks in full sentences and hasn’t said the word “broski” even once since we started talking. Or rather, since he started talking. I haven’t said much, but I’m perfectly content to stand there and listen, because it gives me time to admire his chiseled jawline and the adorable way his blond hair curls under his ears.

To be honest, it’s probably better if I don’t talk. Cute guys make me nervous. Like tongued-tied total-brain-malfunction nervous. All my filters shut off and suddenly I’m telling them about the time I peed my pants in the third grade during a field trip to the maple syrup factory, or how I’m scared of puppets and have mild OCD that could possibly drive me to tidy up your room the moment you turn your head.

So yeah, it’s better if I simply smile and nod and toss out the occasional “oh really?” so they know I’m not a mute. Except sometimes that’s not possible, especially when the cute guy in question says something that requires an actual answer.

“Wanna go outside and smoke this?” Matt pulls a joint from the pocket of his button-down and holds it in front of me. “I’d light it up here but Mr. President will kick me out of the frat if I do.”

I shift awkwardly. “Ah…no, thanks.”

“You don’t smoke weed?”

“No. I mean, I have, but I don’t do it often. It makes me feel all…loopy.”

He smiles, and two gorgeous dimples appear. “That’s kinda the point of weed.”

“Yeah, I guess. But it makes me really tired, too. Oh, and every time I smoke it I end up thinking about this Power Point presentation my dad forced me to watch when I was thirteen. It had all these statistics about the effects of weed on your brain cells, and how, contrary to popular belief, marijuana actually is highly addictive. And after every slide he’d glare at me and say, do you want to lose your brains cells, Grace? Do you?”

Matt stares at me, and in my head there’s a voice shouting Abort! But it’s too late. My internal filter has failed me once again and words keep popping out of my mouth.

“But I guess that’s not as bad as what my mom did. She tries to be the cool parent, so when I was fifteen, she drove me to this dark parking lot and pulled out a joint and announced that we were going to smoke it together. It was like a scene out of The Wire—wait, I’ve never actually seen The Wire. It’s about drugs, right? Anyway, I sat there panicking the whole time because I was convinced we were going to get arrested, and meanwhile my mom kept asking me how I was feeling and whether or not I was ‘enjoying the pot’.”

Miraculously, my lips finally stop moving.

But Matt’s eyes have already glazed over.

“Uh, yeah, well.” He clumsily waves the joint around. “I’m gonna go smoke this. I’ll see you later.”

I manage to hold in my sigh until he’s gone, then release the heavy breath and give myself a mental slap on the wrist. Damn it. I don’t know why I bother trying to talk to guys. I go into every conversation nervous I’m going to embarrass myself, and then I end up embarrassing myself because I’m nervous. Doomed from the start.

With another sigh, I head downstairs and search the main floor for Ramona. The kitchen is full of kegs and frat boys. Ditto for the dining room. The living room is packed with very loud, very drunk guys, and a sea of scantily clad girls. I applaud them for their bravery, because the weather outside is frigid and the front door has been opening and closing all night, causing cold air to circulate through the house. Me, I’m nice and toasty in my skinny jeans and tight sweater.

I don’t see my friend anywhere. As hip-hop music blasts out of the speakers at a deafening volume, I fish my phone out of my purse to check the time and discover that it’s close to midnight. Even after eight months at Briar, I still experience a teeny sense of glee every time I stay out past eleven, which was my curfew when I lived at home. My dad was a real stickler for curfews. Actually, he’s a real stickler for everything. I doubt he’s ever broken a rule in his life, which makes me wonder how he and Mom managed to stay married as long as they did. My free-spirit mother is the polar opposite of my stuffy, strict father, but I guess that just proves that the whole opposites-attract theory has some merit.

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