The Deal (Off Campus #1)(2)

By: Elle Kennedy


“I can’t believe it either,” I whisper back. “Seriously. Read my answers. They’re ramblings of nonsense.”

“Actually, can I?” She sounds eager now. “I’m curious to see what the Tyrant considers A material.”

“I’ll scan and email you a copy tonight,” I promise.

The second Tolbert dismisses us, the lecture hall echoes with let’s-get-the-hell-outta-here noises. Laptops snap shut, notebooks slide into backpacks, students shuffle out of their seats.

Justin Kohl lingers near the door to talk to someone, and my gaze locks in on him like a missile. He’s beautiful.

Have I mentioned how beautiful he is?

My palms go clammy as I stare at his handsome profile. He’s new to Briar this year, but I’m not sure which college he transferred from, and although he wasted no time becoming the star wide receiver on the football team, he’s not like the other athletes at this school. He doesn’t strut through the quad with one of those I’m-God’s-gift-to-the-world smirks or show up with a new girl on his arm every day. I’ve seen him laugh and joke with his teammates, but he gives off an intelligent, intense vibe that makes me think there are hidden depths to him. Which just makes me all the more desperate to get to know him.

I’m not usually into jocks, but something about this one has turned me into a mindless pile of mush.

“You’re staring again.”

Nell’s teasing voice brings a blush to my cheeks. She’s caught me drooling over Justin on more than one occasion, and she’s one of the few people I’ve admitted the crush to.

My roommate Allie also knows, but my other friends? Hell no. Most of them are music or drama majors, so I guess that makes us the artsy crowd. Or maybe emo. Aside from Allie, who’s had an on-again/off-again relationship with a frat boy since freshman year, my friends get a kick out of trashing Briar’s elite. I don’t usually join in (I like to think gossiping is beneath me) but…let’s face it. Most of the popular kids are total douchebags.

Case in point—Garrett Graham, the other star athlete in this class. Dude walks around like he owns the place. I guess he kind of does. All he has to do is snap his fingers and an eager girl appears at his side. Or jumps into his lap. Or sticks her tongue down his throat.

He doesn’t look like the BMOC today, though. Almost everyone else has gone, including Tolbert, but Garrett remains in his seat, his fists curled tightly around the edges of his booklet.

He must have failed too, but I don’t feel much sympathy for the guy. Briar is known for two things—hockey and football, which isn’t much of a shocker considering Massachusetts is home to both the Patriots and the Bruins. The athletes who play for Briar almost always end up in the pros, and during their years here they get everything handed to them on a silver platter—including grades.

So yeah, maybe it makes me a teeny bit vindictive, but I get a sense of triumph from knowing that Tolbert is failing the captain of our championship-winning hockey team right along with everyone else.

“Wanna grab something from the Coffee Hut?” Nell asks as she gathers her books.

“Can’t. I’ve got rehearsal in twenty minutes.” I get up, but I don’t follow her to the door. “Go on ahead. I need to check the schedule before I go. Can’t remember when my next tutorial is.”

Another “perk” of being in Tolbert’s class—along with our weekly lecture, we’re forced to attend two thirty-minute tutorials a week. On the bright side, Dana the TA runs those, and she has all the qualities Tolbert lacks. Like a sense of humor.

“’Kay,” Nell says. “I’ll see you later.”

“Later,” I call after her.

At the sound of my voice, Justin pauses in the doorway and turns his head.

Oh. My. God.

It’s impossible to stop the flush that rises in my cheeks. This is the first time we’ve ever made eye contact, and I don’t know how to respond. Say hi? Wave? Smile?

In the end, I settle for a small nod of greeting. There. Cool and casual, befitting of a sophisticated college junior.

My heart skips a beat when the corner of his mouth lifts in a faint grin. He nods back, and then he’s gone.

I stare at the empty doorway. My pulse explodes in a gallop because holy shit. After six weeks of breathing the same air in this stuffy lecture hall, he’s finally noticed me.

I wish I were brave enough to go after him. Maybe ask him to grab a coffee. Or dinner. Or brunch—wait, do people our age even have brunch?

But my feet stay rooted to the shiny laminate floor.

Because I’m a coward. Yep, a total chicken-shit coward. I’m terrified that he’ll say no, but I’m even more terrified he’ll say yes.

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