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© 2021 Lex Martin

 

CHAPTER ONE

Gabby

With a few taps on my iPad, I pull up the interview questions I prepped over the weekend.

A quick glance at my roommate Ramona tells me she thinks this is a waste of time, but she just needs to trust the process.

I smile at Ramona, who doesn’t smile back. But that’s her style. She’s Wednesday Addams in adult form, complete with black clothes, a love of heavy eye makeup, and an undying affection for The Cure. Basically the opposite of the girl sitting across from us. 

Our potential new roommate gives us the basics: Her name is Sienna Cruz, from California, non-smoker, a junior. 

“So, Sienna, on a scale of one to ten, how messy are you? Because Ramona and I try to keep this place as organized as possible.”

Sienna pops her gum and nods with a smile. “I’m totally neat. No worries there.”

I wonder what she’s doing in Charming, Texas, but don’t ask the question. Our rental isn’t very big, and there’s nothing I hate more than stumbling over someone’s shoes when I’m racing out of the house in the morning. A potential broken ankle takes precedence over what brought her to the Hill Country. 

Not many West Coasters venture this deep into Texas just to attend Lone Star State, especially when UT has the advantage of being nestled in Austin while Charming boasts of nut festivals and weiner warmers. As in, for weiner dogs. Although I’ve heard sometimes students order extra-small warmers for personal use. Like the meatheads across the street. 

With an internal eye roll, I concede football is likely a draw too.

Don’t get me wrong, Charming is small-town quaint with a side of quirk. I love it, in fact, but it’s not for everyone.

I check the box and scroll down to the next question. “What about noise level and parties?” My eye twitches at the thought, and I surreptitiously rub it beneath my glasses. “Ramona and I are seniors and really need to concentrate sometimes. Are you okay if we don’t let things get too rowdy?”

Like, ever.

Because I could go a lifetime without another kegger breaking out on my front lawn.

I’m not trying to be condescending, but I’ve seen completely sane students lose their minds, not to mention clothing, when faced with the party scene on this campus. But who knows? Sienna is a junior, so she might appreciate peace and quiet at night.

She waves her hand at me. “Not a prob. I don’t drink much.”

Excellent. 

Not that I have a problem with a glass of wine once in a while or a beer on a Friday night, but I’m not a fan of people indulging until they’re blackout drunk and puking in my bushes.

For the first time, Ramona pipes up. She holds up a finger. “Now, for the most important question. How do you feel about football?”

My lips tug up. She loathes football almost as much as I do.

“Not a fan.” Sienna shakes her head. “I prefer surfing and hiking.”

Glee. That’s the only way to describe this feeling.

At this school where the football player is king and the entire town pays homage, this girl is a rarity. A gem, in my opinion.

“Sounds like we’re going to get along great!” I reach for the rental agreement. 

Too many students around here become roommates without any legal parameters, and before you know it, one person bails and everyone else has to scramble to pay the rent. I can’t afford to make that kind of mistake right now.

Sienna skims the agreement. I’m about to ask if she wants to take more time to consider the contract when she signs at the bottom. A few minutes later, I have her rent check and I’m handing over a set of keys.

And Ramona thought my interview questions were a waste of time. Ha!

 

As I walk Sienna to her car, she squeals. “Holy crap, is that Rider Kingston?”

Without my permission, my gaze slides across the street to the oversized man-child, who has the gall to be moving furniture shirtless while flexing his stupid abs. Judging by the other sweaty minions pouring out of the two-story, Rider’s getting new roommates too.

My eye twitches again, and my focus snaps back to Sienna. “I thought you said you weren’t a fan of football.”

“Oh, I’m not. I can’t sit through an entire game. But I am a fan of football players.” Her gaze turns ravenous as she scans my neighbor’s front lawn. Or, likely, the glistening eight-pack Rider’s put on display. “All that testosterone. Those bulging muscles. That deep, masculine grunting. Oh, yeah. Get me one of those!”

She cackles, and Rider hears it.

Of course he does.

Shockingly, he deigns to speak to me.

“Hey, Gabby,” he shouts. “How was your summer?”

I’m not sure when he decided to stop ignoring me, but that’s better than pretending we’re friends, which we’ll never be.

I close my eyes because I don’t need any reminders of his masculine beauty. And I definitely don’t need to see that sexy smirk, the one more powerful than his cannon that took the team to the playoffs last year. 

No, I’m not interested in the star quarterback. Not anymore. 

Turning on my heel, I wave my middle finger and march back to my house.

Laughter is all I hear as I slam the front door shut behind me.

Audio coming soon!

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