The Wanderers

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chapter 9

“Did you decide yet?” Josie asked impatiently.

“I still don’t know.”

“Well they’re having a party tonight in honor of new members and I think you should go. Maybe that will help you make up your mind.”

I doubt it.

Josie had been on me all week about whether or not I decided to join Theta Kappa. And every day I told her my mind wasn’t made up. My classes didn’t seem too overwhelming and I was a champ at multitasking, but I still wasn’t so sure it would be the best idea.

I told Josie I would go to the party. It was just a welcoming party so I was sure it would be low key. She warned me we had to dress nice. I wear my purple sleeveless dress, with a black belt, and black cardigan. Josie wore a strapless green dress that ruffled from the waist down and a little black jacket. I drove us to the sorority house, even though it was only a few blocks; it was too far and too cold to walk in heels.

The exterior of the house had an ominous glow emanating from all the windows making the house appear haunted. Once inside, we discovered the place was lit from top to bottom with candles. “What’s with all the candles?” I asked Josie. “It’s very colonial.”

Josie rolled her eyes. “Didn’t you ever hear of soft lighting?”

I ignored her, too distracted by the interior design. The house itself was exquisite. It had beautiful art all over the walls and hardwood floors covered with very expensive area rugs. Designer furniture and lavish curtains made from the finest silks. I was afraid to touch anything. The place looked more like a museum than a sorority house. The only thing missing was the red velvet ropes.

“Welcome, ladies, to your new home.” Cadence announced coming down the stairs wearing a knee length gray and black cocktail dress. Her arms extended in a welcoming gesture. Most of the other sisters were dressed similarly making me feel a little under dressed in my plain purple dress. “Please, before we start tonight’s festivities, feel free to take a tour of the house.”

The whole place was like a showcase. They had one wall with all their achievements and awards. A glass case holding trophies of competitions different sisters had won. Down the next hall were pictures of all the sisters over the years.

“Hey Ella, look at this. This guy looks just like your dad.” I walked over to the picture Josie was standing by. I examined at the picture. It was a spitting image of my father, everything from his dark hair, to his piercing green eyes, and stern smile.

I read the caption underneath. Liam McCallister, Head founder 1935. Next to his picture was one of another man named, Robert McCallister, Vice President. I would have sworn it was my dad but knew that was impossible. My dad wasn’t born until the 1960′s and graduated from Stanford.

“He does have a striking resemblance,” I said curiously.

“Maybe he’s your great grandfather?” Josie suggested.

Maybe, I thought. I never did see any pictures of him. It was possible, or an extremely weird coincidence. I made a mental note to ask my mom about it later.

“You have his eyes.”

Startled, I turned around to see a very dressed up Tristan. He was wearing a suit and tie as opposed to his normal polo and jeans attire.

“You clean up nice,” I said, trying not to stare because he looked really, really good.

“So do you, but then again you always look beautiful,” he smiled. All signs of his earlier issues were gone. He was back to his usual carefree attitude.

“What are you doing here?” I asked, biting the inside of my cheek.

“As vice president of Theta Pi I’m required to be here for initiation,” he replied.

I narrowed my eyes at Josie. “Initiation? I thought you said this was a welcoming party?”

“Kind of the same thing, don’t you think?” she said sheepishly.

I rolled my eyes and turned my attention back to Tristan.

“So I’m guessing this means you decided to join?” He inclined his head as though I had somehow confirmed something he knew all along.

I was about to tell him that I was still on the fence about it when the sound of chimes interrupted me.

“I believe you’re being summoned.” Tristan held out his arm for me. I hesitated. “Oh c’mon, Ella. I won’t bite.” He winked and waited patiently for me to join him. I reluctantly took his arm and he escorted me into the meeting area.

All eyes turned on us as we approached. Girls started whispering to each other and made glances at Tristan and me over their shoulders.

“Ladies,” Cadence said, clearing her throat. Tristan bowed to me and walked up to the front taking a spot next to Cadence.

I turned to Josie. “What were they all whispering about?”

“I don’t know, but I’ll try to find out later.”

Cadence started speaking, bringing our attention back to the front. “Now, we will call everyone’s name one at a time. When your name is called, please come forward to accept your pin and light your candle from the sacred one. Tristan may I have the pins?” Tristan handed her a tray of bright, jewel encrusted pins, and turned his attention back to the crowd.

Out of all the people, I knew he was only looking at one person – me. He never took his eyes away from mine. He winked at me and a few girls swooned, thinking that was meant for them, but I knew differently. Clearly this whole plan of trying not to like him was more difficult than I thought.

“Josie McNaughton,” Cadence called as Josie squeezed my hand, a big smile on her lips.

I watched as Josie took her candle from Cassidy, was pinned by Bailey, then used the candle Cadence was holding to light her own. “Welcome to Theta Kappa sister Josie.” I didn’t have to see her face to know she was grinning from ear to ear.

“Ella McCallister.”

Crap.

I guess I’m doing this.

I let out a deep breath and reluctantly made my way through the sea of girls. When I reached Cadence, she leaned in close and said quietly, “I’m to assume this means you’ve accepted our invitation.”

I wanted to say, “Clearly you already assumed I would or else you wouldn’t have called my name,” but I bit my tongue. “Yes I have,” I replied instead, feeling like I might somehow regret every word.

“You have made a wise decision,” she smiled, lighting my candle.

I turned to Tristan next. He smiled graciously and bowed his head. As I stepped past him on my way back to Josie, Tristan smacked me hard on the behind. “Way to go.”

I froze as my cheeks turned bright red from embarrassment. Cadence gave Tristan a dirty look as his grin widened. Appalled, I quickly made my way over to Josie. There were looks of shock, distaste, and amusement amongst the girls. Cadence had to clear her throat to silence the giggles causing my face to burn even brighter.

Cadence called the remaining names, one by one, to come forward to receive their pins, until the last one was finished. “Those of you who have not been called, I’m sorry, but you did not make the cut this year. I will ask you to now leave and I thank you for your interest.”

A few girls with saddened expressions left the room; some crying and some cursing. I personally did not understand what the big deal was. I could have cared less, but to some I guess acceptance meant a lot.

Once all the non-members departed, Cadence started her speech again. “Ladies, Welcome to Theta Kappa. You may now blow out your candles.” The room slowly dimmed as we each blew out our candle. “Now it’s time to party. We’re going to head next door and please leave your candles in the box on the table.”

So much for a quiet evening.

I decided to stick to the nonalcoholic drinks, especially since I drove. The house next door was smaller than the sorority house. It didn’t have much furniture, only a couch here or there, and definitely not designer. The place was very low key compared to the sorority house. I later discovered this was where they held most of their parties and tonight was no exception. Even though tonight was just a private party for the new members of Theta Kappa and Theta Pi, there was no doubt it would be anything less than their typical wild, crazy parties.

Not being in the party mood, I wandered around the house, venturing upstairs to see if maybe there was a more private area with less people. The first door I tried had a half-naked couple rolling around on the bed. I quickly closed the door although I highly doubted they even noticed me. “Wow, some people don’t waste any time, do they?”

I walked down the hall and found another door. I knocked first this time. When I didn’t hear a response I opened the door slowly to find an empty room with a futon and some chairs. I turned on the light and closed the door behind me. I carefully sat on the futon afraid of what I might sit in. After what I just witnessed, who knew what could had happened on this couch. Letting go of the thought, I leaned back, closed my eyes and listened to the bass of the music vibrate through the walls.

I was instantly brought back to reality when I heard a toilet flush and a faucet running. I sat up, ready to leave, when Tristan appeared from the bathroom. “Sorry, didn’t know anyone was in here. I’ll leave,” I said, quickly getting up.

“Don’t go.” I paused. “Sit, relax, I promise I’ll be good,” Tristan said innocently.

I sighed and turned around. I knew the only way I was going to be able to get through this was to be myself. “What are you doing up here? I thought you’d want to be downstairs drinking and taking some poor girl as your next victim.”

“Ella, Ella, Ella,” he said, shaking his head. “When are you going to realize I’m not that guy?”

“Really, then how come every time I see you, you have your arm around a different girl?”

“I can’t help that I’m loved,” he smiled, reminding of the guy he was the first time we met. I turned to walk out. “Ella, wait...sit.” He pointed to the futon. I hesitated until he started to beg me with his eyes, causing me to give in. He padded the spot next to him, but I chose to sit at the opposite end to be safe.

He leaned back casually, one arm resting on top of the couch, watching me intensely. I waited for him to say something, anything, but knew I would have to be the one to break the silence. “Okay, you have five minutes to prove to me you’re not an arrogant, stubborn, chauvinistic pig.”

“Arrogant yes, stubborn yes, a pig...sometimes, but that’s just what’s on the surface.”

“Oh so it gets worse?” I quipped.

He smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “Everyone has layers Ella. I happen to have a lot and so do you.” I saw his cocky smile start to play on his lips. “Now, how about we start taking away some of those layers, starting with your sweater.”

“God, Tristan!” I stood up to leave. “You can’t even be serious for one second.”

Tristan got up to stop me from leaving. “I’m sorry,” he chuckled. “This time I promise I’ll be good. Cross my heart,” he said, making an X with his finger over his chest. I let him pull me back over to the couch, but kept my distance by sitting at the opposite end. “Why so far away? Don’t you trust me?” he asked innocently.

“No,” I said simply. But to be honest, I almost didn’t trust myself. Being alone with him made resisting him a lot harder. I was determined to hold my own.

A devilish smile danced across his lips and he slid closer to me. So close if I tried to move I’d fall off the couch. Not in the mood to deal with his shenanigans, I decided to try and hurry this along. “Last chance, no more jokes, and no more cheap, tawdry come-ons.”

“I am anything but cheap,” he retorted. I gave him a warning look and he put his hands up in surrender. “Look, I just like to have fun. What’s wrong with that?”

“I believe those girls you use for your own personal entertainment might think otherwise.”

“I never had any complaints.” I rolled my eyes. “What do I have to do to convince you to go on a date with me?” he asked hopeful.

“You would have to be someone else,” I replied.

“I see you’re into role playing,” he smirked. I stood up but he grabbed my wrist pulling me back down. His touch made my heart race. I pulled my hand away and placed it in my lap not wanting to let him know the strange affect he had on me.

His smile faded and he looked at me seriously. “Why do you pull away from me? Are you afraid of me?”

“Ha,” I laughed. “More like repulsed by you.”

“That hurts, Ella,” he said as if he was truly offended. “Do I really repulse you?” This time when he asked I could see a slight hurt in his eyes.

“No Tristan, you just, I don’t know...annoy me?” I offered, hoping it was a better choice of words and not actually a lie.

“Thanks,” he chuckled. “Because that is so much better.”

“What do you want to hear?”

“The truth.”

I bit the inside of my cheek and looked away. I had no idea what the truth was anymore. “Is it because of that Jack guy?” he asked.

“What, Jack, no,” I said, shaking my head. He picked a piece of lint of his pants refusing to look at me. “Are you jealous?” I asked, trying to hide my smile.

“Puh, of that twerp? I think not.”

“Jack is not a twerp,” I said a little more defensively then I intended. Neither of us said anything for what felt like an eternity. I tucked an unruly curl behind my ear “What do you want from me?” I asked, hoping for once he’d answer me honestly.

“Just one date, Ella. One date to prove to you that my intentions are only the purest of heart.”

I sighed, scared that I might give in. He reached over and placed his hand on mine and for a moment I lost all my nerve. I looked deep into his eyes and for the first time, I knew he was being sincere. But part of me was still unsure. The last thing I wanted was a broken heart and I had a hunch that was what Tristan would deliver.

I turned away, no longer able to look at him. “Tristan, I just can’t,” I said, finally facing him. He was so close to me our lips were only inches apart.

Suddenly the door swung open and Bailey stumbled in with some guy. I quickly pulled away. “Oops,” Bailey giggled. “My bad, didn’t know this room was taken.”

She grabbed her friend for balance, backing out. “No, it’s not. I was just leaving.” I stood up and left, avoiding eye contact with Tristan.

He caught up with me at the top of the stairs. “I’m not going to give up,” he said. “I will prove to you I’m not the guy you think I am no matter what it takes.”

“Whatever it takes, huh,” I smiled coyly and headed down the steps to distance myself from him before I did something I would regret. He managed to reach me before I descended the stairs. Leaning in closely, he whispered, “Just remember, I am a patient man, but I also have needs. Don’t leave me waiting too long,” he winked, passing me on the steps.

I just shook my head and worked my way back to the party. “Where have you been?” Josie asked practically attacking me.

“I was just wandering around checking the place out.”

“Excuse me?” Skylar said, tapping me on the shoulder. I turned around to face her. “I would appreciate it if you stayed away from my man.”

“Um...what?” I asked confused.

“You heard me. Keep your grubby paws off of Tristan.”

I looked at her wondering if she was serious. The scowl on her face told me she was. I started to bust up laughing. “You have no worries. He’s all yours.”

Skylar glared at me once more before walking away. I turned back to Josie. “What the hell was that all about? I didn’t even know they were together?”

“From what I heard it all started when she saw Tristan and you at some party. Which by the way since when do you go to a party without me?” Josie pouted.

“You were a little preoccupied that night.”

“Oh, yeah,” she giggled, obviously recalling her private soiree in our room the other night.

“She’s pissed because we hung out at a party?”

“Well that and when she saw Tristan escort you at the initiation earlier.”

“Is that why they were all whispering?”

“Yeah, plus him smacking you on the butt didn’t help and the fact that Bailey told her she saw you two upstairs alone in a room. What were you guys doing up there?” Josie asked suspiciously.

Boy, news travels fast.

“Nothing,” I said sternly.

Great, just what I needed. Some crazy sorority chick coming after me for something I didn’t even do. “You’ll have to excuse Skylar. When she drinks she forgets her manners,” Cadence said, coming up behind me.

“Can you please tell her I have no interest in Tristan whatsoever?” Not anymore at least, but I kept that last part to myself.

“I’m sure there’s no cause for alarm. She knows better.”

Someone started shouting and we all twisted to the sudden spectacle in the middle of the room. Skylar had a few choice words for Tristan. She was berating him, but from his carefree expression he seemed he could had cared less. He just shrugged his shoulders at everything she said. Not appreciating his lack of response, she slapped him right across the face.

My jaw dropped.

Tristan just smiled as Skylar stomped off. “Well, I guess problem solved,” Cadence said, walking away. I was ready to get out of here and quickly regretting my acceptance into sisterhood.

I found a quiet space off in one of the corners and decided to hide here the rest of the night. I’d been here an hour and so far things had not gone at all as planned. Apparently Tristan had failed to mention he was dating one of my new sorority sisters, who happened to notice all the attention he’d been giving me and decided to have a not-so-private chat with me about it. And to top it all off, let’s not forget about the strange picture of the man who happened to look just like my father. Yeah, this was turning out to be a great night.

“Psst...” I looked up.

Tristan peeked around the corner. “What do you want?” I asked exasperated.

“Is that anyway to talk to your future husband?”

“Tristan, go away. You’ve already caused enough trouble for me tonight.”

“Not yet,” he smiled cockily.

“You better leave before another one of your girlfriends catches us together.” He scrunched his brow. “Skylar apparently thought there was something going on between us and proceeded to threaten me,” I clarified.

“Did you defend our love?” Tristan asked. I glared at him then put my head in my hands exhausted. I was starting to get a headache from this little charade. When I looked back up, Tristan was gone.

Deciding I had enough excitement for one night, I found Josie and told her I was ready to go back to the dorms. One look at my face and there was no argument. I was never so happy to get back to our room and just sleep.

The next night I stayed in and spent time on my home work for Monday. Josie had a date with one of the boys from the fraternity. She was definitely making her rounds. I warned her she was not allowed to bring him back to the room tonight.

Around midnight I decided to take a break from my studies and go grab a soda from downstairs since Josie drank the last one and didn’t refill the fridge, again.

When I stepped out of my room some girl nearly knocked me over as she ran down the hall. She was dressed like Pocahontas and yelling, “Catch me if you can!” I looked down the hall to see who she was running from and saw Tristan come barreling out of his room.

“You can run but you can’t hide,” he called after her.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or feel a little disturbed. He was standing in the middle of the hall wearing only his boxers, a toy gun holster around his hips, and a cowboy hat on his head.

I just stared at him speechless. “What? You never played cowboys and Indians?” he asked.

“Umm...yeah, when I was five, and definitely not in my underwear.”

He smiled cockily and said, “My version is much more fun.”

“What happened to trying to prove to me you’re a nice guy? Because so far you’re failing miserably,” I said, crossing my arms.

“I gave her a head start. I find that to be very kind on my part,” he smirked.

I rolled my eyes. “You’re...I don’t even know what you are. There are no words to describe it.”

He smiled taking it as compliment even though that was the exact opposite of what it was meant to be. “I told you, I have needs,” he said, making me cringe with disgust.

“And this is why I will never date you,” I said, turning to walk down the hall.

He ran up to me and stopped me. “All you have to do is say the word and I’m all yours,” he said, looking deep into my eyes, causing my breath to catch.

“Tristan?” the girl called from around the corner. Tristan’s lips twitched slightly at the corners. He shot me in the chest with a rubber tipped dart from his toy gun.

“Gotcha,” he whispered and took off to catch the girl. “You better start running,” he shouted and I heard her squeal with excitement.

I turned and went back into my room totally forgetting I was on my way to get a soda and buried my face in my pillows to muffle the sound of my scream. I was annoyed, that for a moment, just a second, I let myself become vulnerable. Doped into thinking there was more to him then what meets the eye. I didn’t understand how he could make me feel so turned upside down and then the next minute angry and annoyed. He was everything I stood against, but when he dropped his act, when he showed me he could be vulnerable too, that was something I could admire. It never lasted though, and it wasn’t enough.

When I closed my eyes, I kept picturing him in his boxers. His tight, lean figure, his slightly cut abs, the way he smiled, and those deep, soulful eyes. I sat up quickly. “Stop it! God, Ella, get a grip! You are nothing more than his next conquest.” I got out of bed.

There was a knock at the door. I thought it was Tristan coming to ask me to join them in their twisted little sex game. “No I do not want to play cowboys and Indians,” I said, swinging the door open in a huff.

“Excuse me?” Jack asked confused.

I felt my face get hot with embarrassment. “Oh sorry, thought you were someone else. What’s up?”

“My roommate is entertaining a guest and I’ve been locked out. I was going to head to the library to do some studying and wanted to see if you’d be interested in joining me.”

I contemplated, biting my lip and looked behind me at the empty room where there would be nothing to distract me from thoughts of Tristan. A quiet library, no loud music from all the parties going on, and no running into Tristan. I knew the library would be the last place he would go. The idea was appealing. “You know what, that sounds perfect. Just let me grab my stuff.”

Jack and I spent the rest of the night at the library working on our assignments. Every now and then I’d catch him looking at me out of the corner of his eye. His brows were pinched tight like he wanted to say something, but wasn’t sure if he should. Too unfocused to concentrate I thought I’d pick his brain. “I need a break,” I said, stretching.

“So you’re a Theta Kappa now,” Jack said warily, catching me off guard.

“You heard about that,” I sighed, looking down at my notes.

“Yeah, it’s not exactly a secret. They like to make it known who their members are,” he said almost bitterly.

“I take it you’re not a fan?”

“I heard some stuff,” he replied, looking down at his hands.

“Like what?” I asked, concerned that I made a bigger mistake than I originally thought.

“They’re not the nicest people and they’ll stab you in the back first chance they get. Plus, they tend to frown upon sisters hanging out with people outside their group.”

“I think I can hold my own. And I’ll be damned if someone is going to tell me who I can and can’t hang out with.” Jack tapped his pen on the table and rubbed the back of his head. “Did someone say something to you?” I asked.

“One of the sisters approached me,” he started hesitantly. “They said I need to look elsewhere for company.”

“Who was it?” I demanded.

“I don’t what to say.”

“Jack tell me...please?” I bat my long lashes at him.

“It was Skylar.”

“Figures, you don’t have to worry, she won’t be a problem anymore,” I said, gripping my pencil so tight I thought it was going to snap in half.

“What are you going to do?” he asked worried.

“What I should have done in the first place. I’m going to have a chat with her.”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s no big deal.” He closed his books, piling his papers on top.

“Well it is to me.” I placed a hand on his. He gave me a shy smile. I quickly pulled my hand away and busied myself by cleaning up my notes.

Jack walked me back to the dorms where I said goodnight before I headed back to my room. “Hey Ella?” Jack called.

“Yeah,” I responded and turned around.

“I was wondering...maybe sometime if you weren’t busy, if I could take you to dinner?” he asked shuffling his feet nervously while he waited for my answer.

“Like a date?”

“Um, yeah.”

I smiled bashfully. “Sure Jack,” I said and turned back to the direction of my room. I sneaked a peek back at him and he was smiling that crooked smile, with revived confidence. He was happy I said yes. I wasn’t interested in Jack that way, but I thought maybe I’d give him a chance, you never know. Plus he be a good distraction form Tristan.

On Monday Jack waited for me and walked with me to all the classes we had together. By the time we got to art class there were only two seats left. One was next to Tristan and the other was on the end, next to some smelly kid no one liked to sit next to. I looked at Jack for direction. “I’ll sit next to smelly,” Jack said, taking a seat. I told him thank you and took my seat next to Tristan.

“Ella,” Tristan nodded.

“Tristan,” I said, giving the same reply and turned my attention to the teacher which was hard because I knew Tristan was staring at me.

“Class, today is the last day to finish your paintings. I will be collecting them whether they’re finished or not. You may get started,” the professor said, taking a seat at her desk.

I picked up my paintbrush and got to work. I could feel Tristan still eyeing me, but ignored him the best I could and he eventually started to paint. He would still look over at me every now and then, but I continued to ignore him.

We had about a half an hour before class was over and Tristan was already cleaning his brushes. “You can’t tell me you’re actually done?” I asked, looking at my painting, which was nowhere close to being finished.

He ignored my question. “You should let me paint you,” he said.

“If I want to see a stick figure version of myself, I’d ask Josie’s six year old brother to draw a picture for me.”

“You’re comparing my artistic ability to that of a child?” he asked incredulously.

I put my paint brush down and turned to him. “Okay, let me see your painting.”

“No, sorry, you don’t deserve to see it now.” He turned and blocked my view.

“C’mon Tristan, let me see,” I pestered.

“No. You believe that I have no talent better than a six year old. I am truly offended and for that you do not get to see.” He crossed his arms over his chest and bowed his head, sticking out his bottom lip. I stretched my neck to peek over his shoulders. He moved his easel so it was facing the opposite direction.

I leaned in closely, touched his shoulder gently, and whispered in his ear using my best seductive voice. “I’ll let you paint me, if you show me.” I felt his body stiffen as my warm breath caressed his ear. I slowly drew away and casually grazed his back with my fingertips. I knew it was wrong, but if he could play dirty than so could I.

I noticed him shiver as I sat back. He looked over his shoulder at me. “If I show you, you’ll let me paint you?”

“Yes,” I said even though I really had no intention of doing so.

He pivoted and then turned the easel forward. I swallowed, shocked, and surprised. It was one of the most beautiful paintings I’d ever seen. “Tristan...it’s...amazing. You actually painted this?”

“Don’t act so surprised.”

“It’s just...”

“What, because I’m an egotistical jerk means I have no talent?”

“No, I just thought...”

“Just thought because I slack off and don’t seem to follow the rules…”

“Okay Tristan, I’m sorry. I may have misjudged you, a little.”

He smiled knowing he got to me. “Let me see yours.”

“Um...it’s not finished,” I said quickly, embarrassed at my pathetic painting of flowers compared to his masterpiece.

“Let me see,” he said leaning over, but I blocked his way. “I showed you mine. I know we all can’t be an artistic prodigy like me.” I glared at him. “It can’t be that bad?” I sighed and moved out of the way. “I hope you’re not here on an art scholarship.”

I punched his shoulder and he just laughed. “I’m just kidding. It’s not bad, but you need to work on your brush strokes.” I looked at him confused. “Here.”

He stood up behind me. Leaning down, he slipped his arms under mine, taking my right hand. He smelled really good and I found myself wishing he would press himself closer to me so I could inhale more of his sweet scent. He smelled like mint and I thought it had to be his shampoo or body wash. Regardless of what it was, I wanted to keep it with me.

He lifted my hand with the paintbrush and showed me how to make better brush strokes. I was finding it hard to breathe with his close proximity. “Now see here, you want to create a longer stroke,” he said, bringing my hand down, guiding the paintbrush across the canvas. “And here, smaller strokes.” His warm breath trickled down my shoulders and across my breasts causing me to shiver.

I closed my eyes as his hand guided mine. “See you just need some coaching,” he said, abruptly dropping my hand and breaking the spell.

I opened my eyes as he returned to his seat. “Thanks,” I stuttered.

Just then, the professor announced the end of class.

“I could help you finish it, if you want?” he offered.

“That would be great, but it’s too late now.”

“No it’s not,” he winked at me, got up, and walked over to the professor. I couldn’t make out what he was saying. He looked back at me and then so did the professor. She nodded her head and waved her hand dismissing him.

Jack was already by my side waiting for me when Tristan came back over. I raised a brow at him. “She said we can come back here later after her last class so you can finish.”

“How’d you pull that off?” I asked surprised.

“Do you really even have to ask?” he smiled. “I’ll pick you up later.”

He was gone before I could say anything else.

I saw Skylar on our way out and thought now was as good a time as any to talk to her. “Skylar!” I called and Jack fell back a few feet while I caught up to her. She was with Bailey and Cassidy and they all stopped to turn around and face me. “Did you tell Jack he couldn’t hang out with me?”

“I was just looking out for your best interest. You’re a Theta Kappa now, and we don’t associate with losers,” she said with a smart ass smirk.

“Theta Kappa or not, I can hang out with whomever I want.”

“I told Cadence it was a mistake to bring you in,” she sneered.

“What is your problem?” I said, giving her attitude.

“You’re nothing more than a wannabe.” She crossed her arms and curled her lips.

“I see...you’re just mad because Tristan would rather be with a wannabe than a has been. I don’t blame him. I wouldn’t want to touch someone who’s been touched by everyone on campus.”

Cassidy snickered at my comment and Skylar glared at her. Then she turned back to me, her eyes growing dark with rage.

She tossed her books on the ground and shoved me so hard I dropped my books. I raised my head and narrowed my eyes before I shoved her equally as hard. She stumbled back making Bailey and Cassidy jump out of the way. Once Skylar regained her balance she came after me swinging. I dodged the first punch, but wasn’t quick enough for the second. I swung back, getting her right in the eye. Before she could retaliate I swung with my left, grazing her jaw.

We had started such a commotion all the students outside stopped to watch. Bailey and Cassidy just stood there, afraid of getting hit if they got involved.

Before it got any worse, Tristan and Josie showed up. “Stop it guys!” Josie yelled, trying to break it up and getting hit herself in the process. I turned to see if she was okay, giving Skylar an open mark. She got me good. One swift hit square on my jaw.

I staggered back, but quickly regained my footing. Just as I was about to even the score, Tristan grabbed Skylar and pulled her away. “Enough!” he yelled at her.

She glared at me from over Tristan’s shoulder than started to laugh, mockingly. I lunged for her, but Jack stopped me, wrapping his arm around my waist. “Whoa!” Jack said.

I watched Tristan carry Skylar away and then I hurried over to Josie. “Josie, I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”

She jerked, pulling away from me. “What the hell is wrong with you, Ella?”

“Josie, I...” She pulled her lips tight, giving me a disapproving look before she walked away.

Great. Just fan-flippin-tastic.

I collected my books from the ground. Tristan and Skylar were fighting very heatedly. Skylar tried to slap him, but he grabbed her arm before she had the chance. She cringed from his tight grasp. Yanking her arm away she stormed off. Bailey and Cassidy following close behind like her little henchman.

Tristan spun and looked down. There was no sympathy in his eyes, only anger and hostility. I crumbled under his unforgiving stare. Dropping my head low, I clutched my books closely to my chest and headed back to my dorm. I decided to skip my classes for the rest of the day, not wanting to face anyone.

“Ella, wait!” Jack called, running after me.

“You better go. You’re going to be late for class,” I said and kept walking, leaving Jack standing alone in the middle of the quad.

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