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“I can’t believe we’re actually going to college.” Stacia squealed as we drove along in the car, heading to Freshman move-in day at the University.
“I know, right?! I have dreamt of this day for so long!” I squealed along with her.
Stacia and I had been friends for at least six years. Like a sister to me, Stacia was my best friend, and I couldn’t imagine doing this part of life with anyone else. Raised by a single mother, who was unstable at best, I spent some time in and out of Foster Care homes. Thankfully, after meeting Stacia and being friends for a while, her parents decided to take me in. I worked my ass off to get to this point, graduate despite all of the drama that came with my Mother, and to be on my own basically; I worked hard to get the grades to get a scholarship to even go to college. I skipped parties, no boyfriends, or even hanging out with friends, every minute was preparing for this, and I was so ready.
“Hello? Earth to Avery!” Stacia sang.
“Sorry, got lost in my head for a minute.” I laughed.
“Well, stop it! You did it, you made it, and we’re going to have so much fun. You are going relax and let that hair down and have fun, okay?” She fussed at me.
Stacia was almost opposite from me. She was wild and crazy, partied all through high school, and was seldom at home. I loved her, though, and that was what I loved about her, the ability she had to embrace life and go for it. Lucky for her, she had parents who could support her into college, and I suppose fortunate for me to be her friend, as they were putting us both up in an apartment close to campus.
“I’ll try, but I have to keep my grades up to keep the scholarship so I can’t go too crazy,” I stated, in all seriousness.
“Oh my God, Avery! Chill! You’re so old in such a young body.” Stacia groaned, playing with her phone.
We drove for a few more hours, attending a college in the state but a few hours away from home. We pulled into the apartment complex, which sat right next to the college dorm campus area. There were tons of cars and young people milling about. Some carrying boxes into the apartments, some unloading their vehicles, some just socializing. Music was blaring, everyone seemed to be excited and having a good time.
“This is gonna be good!!” Stacia rubbed her hands together, smiling from ear to ear.
* * * *
“I think that was the last box.” Stacia plopped down onto the floor, taking the box down with her.
“It should be; I don’t remember filling the car with all this stuff.” I giggled, handing her a soda.
“Todd, text me; he wanted to make sure we made it okay,” Stacia said, looking through her phone, speaking about one of her many male friends. I couldn’t call him a boyfriend as Stacia refused to commit to just one guy. She liked playing the field as she put it.
“0 people have texted me.” I teased, looking at my phone.
“Seriously, Avery?” She grabbed my phone out of my hand.
“It’s not even on!” She threw it back at me.
“I know, the battery died. Guess I should get it charged in case someone might want to contact me.”
“Get it charged up cause we’re going out tonight! Celebrating our first night of freedom!” Stacia cried out.
“No, c’mon. We just got here. We need to put stuff away and get everything settled.” I groaned.
“Avery, we are not going to start like this, and I refuse to live like this.” She started, talking firmly. “You will enjoy yourself; you will have fun, and I promise, you’re going to get laid finally.” She cackled.
“Stacia!! All you think about is sex.”
“Once you have it, it’s all you will think about too.” She teased. “Seriously though, we can finish the unpacking and crap over the weekend. Tonight, we celebrate, okay?” She pleaded with her big brown eyes.
Stacia was such a beautiful girl. She had Tall, long legs, wit naturally tan with long blonde hair and big brown eyes. No wonder she had her choice of guys; she was gorgeous and with such a fun personality. I couldn’t help but be a little jealous of her. Not that I was ugly myself, I suppose I was alright. My 5′5" frame was small, with nice curves. I had olive skin and emerald green eyes with long, wavy brown hair. I definitely had a few guys hit on me here and there, but always keeping my head down and in the books, I never showed them interest, and eventually, I got left alone. Maybe Stacia was right though, as an adult now and on my own, perhaps I needed to let loose and have some fun, for a change. I’ve always had to be serious and responsible; maybe now it was my turn to have fun first.
“You have to wear this dress; it’s going to hug you in all the right places!” Stacia threw another dress at me as we worked to get ready. She was wearing a red number, strapless that showed way more than I would comfortably wear. She had curled her hair and worked on make-up while I clumsily tried on dress after dress.
“Why can’t I just wear jeans and a t-shirt?” I groaned. Stacia rolled her eyes at me. “Where are we even going?”
“I’ve done my homework; I’ve asked around and found out where the college kids go, so we’re going to hit up this place called Froggies.”
“Froggies?” I wrinkled up my nose, slipping the black dress on as she commanded.
“Mmhmm.” She nodded.
The black dress she threw at me was snug on my hips and fit perfectly around my chest, showing off more cleavage than I’d prefer, but I had to admit I looked good. It had thin straps and velvet-like material. I straightened it out and turned toward her. “Well?” I raised my eyebrows.
“Oh, man!! You are hot!!” She cried, clapping her hands together. “Let me do your make-up and hair too, girl... you are gonna get laid tonight, or at least be hounded by the boys!” She giggled. I rolled my eyes at her; as I said, all she thinks about is sex, it seems. Worse than any guy I’ve known. I sat still, letting her fix my hair and put on some light make-up. She added some curls to my hair, then styling them into beach waves. She kept my make-up light, per my request.
“You ready for this?”
“If I say no, can we stay home?” I teased.
“No way. Come on.” She dragged me by the hand, out of the apartment and down to the car. Stacia drove us into what appeared to be the downtown area, not too far from the college campus. She parked in a paid parking lot, and we walked, despite my groans, to the place called Froggies. Wearing heels was not my thing; walking along these sidewalks wasn’t fun either, especially with the honks and whistles we were getting just trying to get to the place. Stacia ate it up, waving and blowing kisses like we were in a parade of some kind. We entered the club/bar; it was crowded and dark, music blasting. Of course, being underage, we got the lovely black X on our hands before being permitted inside.
“Okay, stay close, we’ll stay together; if we get separated, keep your phone on hand, got it?” She explained; I rolled my eyes. I knew the dangers. Just because I hadn’t been out much didn’t mean I was an idiot.
Stacia went straight to the bar, getting sodas for us both. Immediately she struck up a conversation with the bartender. She was throwing her head back, laughing, flirting hardcore.“This is my best friend, Avery. Avery, this is Derrick.” Stacia pulled me over to introduce me. I nodded, smiling at him. He was certainly cute, with a few tattoos covering his arms, dark spikey hair, tight shirt: Stacia’s type, a bad boy vibe.
“Damn, you both are beautiful!” He smiled. Stacia laughed. “We’re gonna go dance; I’ll see you again, I hope.” She blinked her eyelashes at him before turning to me. “What a hunk, right?” She laughed.
I shook my head at her, laughing. We made it to the dance floor; a live band was playing. The dance floor was packed, but we managed to squeeze our way in; we danced together, giggling the whole time. I had to admit, it was fun, and I could already feel myself letting loose. After a few hours of dancing and mingling, we had made a few new friends. A couple of girls also lived in our apartment complex, Hailey, a Sophomore, and Faye, a Freshman. We all hung out together, sipping our waters and soda. Stacia was off dancing with the bartender while I sat by myself, people watching.
“Hi.” I looked up at the deep voice to see the Greek god of a man staring down at me, with a smile on his face. He was muscular, obviously taking great care of his body. He had dark hair and piercing blue eyes, and slight stubble on his soft face with gorgeous plump lips; I was speechless. He chuckled as I sat there just staring, willing myself to speak.
“Hi.” I finally stuttered out.
“I’m Liam.” He reached his giant hand out. I took it, his fingertips rough but his hand soft.
“Avery.” I smiled, trying to hide the blush that is forming on my cheeks.
“I’ve never seen you around here before, newbie?” He asked, sliding into the chair next to me.
“Ugh, yes. Freshman. We just arrived today.” I spoke, barely above a whisper.
“We?” He raised his eyebrows, questioning.
“Oh, my best friend, Stacia. She’s over there.” I pointed her out on the dance floor.
“Oh, yes. I met her a few moments ago. That’s my brother, Derrick.” He pointed.
Geez, what kind of genes are in that family gene pool? I thought to myself.
“Ah.” I clicked my tongue.
“So, where you ladies from?” Liam smiled at me. I could not figure out why such a handsome man was seeking my attention out of all the girls in this place.
“Oh, just a few hours south, Medford. In-state tuition is much cheaper, plus I have a scholarship.”
“Yes, it is. My parents wanted us to stay close, so being the good boys, we are we attended the college here at home.” He laughed with a laugh that was beautiful and smooth. I was entranced.
“What year are you?” I asked, thinking he had to be a year or two older than us.
“Junior. Derrick graduated already; he’s studying for the Bar exam now.” Liam nodded toward his brother, who was still dancing with Stacia.
“Wow, that’s impressive. What are you studying?” I asked, intrigued.
“Law as well.” He smiled at me warmly.
We sat in silence for a few moments before Stacia and Derrick came over.“Having fun?” She smiled, grabbing her soda.
“Sure.” I smiled, shrugging.
“I see you’ve met Liam; how hot are these two?” She asked, pointing back and forth from them both.
I laughed at her; she was so blunt. I nodded at her claim of them both being hot.
“Would you ladies like to grab a bite to eat?” Liam asked, smiling at us both.
“I can’t get out of here, man; the boss will kill me.” Derrick groaned at Liam.
“Ah, sorry, brother. Perhaps Avery will join me for a bite?”
I started to say no, I didn’t want to leave my friend. I also wasn’t sure about going with someone I’d just met. But she nodded excitedly, answering for me. Liam must have sensed my hesitation.
“We’ll just go next door; it’s a 24-hour diner.” He smiled.
“Okay, sure. You staying here?” I asked Stacia.
“Yes, I’m gonna guard this one at the bar.” She winked at Derrick. I glared at her; she had latched on to this one. She just shrugged her shoulders at me. I grabbed my bag and followed Liam out the door; he was right; the diner was right next door. We walked the few steps over quietly. He put his hand on the small of my back, ushering me in, and we found a booth. It was relatively quiet, as most were still at the bars or clubs.
“Well, hey Liam, How are you, hun?” The waitress smiled, walking up to our table.
“I’m good, Ma’am. Yourself?” He replied ever so politely. I couldn’t help but be completely confused by him. Liam was such an attractive man, polite, obviously intelligent to be a pre-law student, and here he was sitting in a 24-hour diner, with me.
“I’m doing fine. Who’s this beautiful young lady?” She gestured to me.
“I’m Avery.” I reached out my hand to introduce myself. She smiled warmly. She was probably in her late 50′s, blondish hair with some grey, a few wrinkles but not many.
“Nice to meet you, Miss Avery. I’m Lucy, and I’ll be your server. What can I get you guys to drink?” She winked at me.
“Just water for me, please, with some lemon.”
“I’ll have the same. Thanks, Lucy.”
I raised my eyebrows at Liam, curious how he knew her but unsure if I should ask. Once again, it was as if he read my mind.
“Lucy is my Aunt.” He shrugged.
“Oh. Your Aunt seems very sweet.” I spoke softly.
“She is. I forgot she was working tonight, though, so please forgive anything embarrassing she may say or do.” He rubbed the back of his neck. I couldn’t help but admire the way his muscles in his arms flexed when he did so. I noticed a tattoo peeking out from under his sleeve as well. I tried my best not to ogle the poor boy, but man, it wasn’t easy.
“I think it’ll be fine.” I giggled nervously.
Lucy brought our drinks, and we ordered; he got hash browns and sausage while I chose an omelet.
“This may not be flattering on my part, but I have to ask, why me?” I asked between bites.
“Why you?” Liam looked confused.
“To talk to, to bring over here to the diner... why me?” I repeated.
“Seriously?” He chuckled. I shrugged. “Well, honestly, you just looked kind of lonely and different from the other girls in Froggies.”
“So, you took pity on me?” I laughed; Liam didn’t seem to find it funny, though. My awkwardness and insecurities were not attractive attributes.
“No, not at all. I’m sorry if it seems that way. I was only hanging out at Froggies tonight because my friends wouldn’t let up; when I was scanning the room just people watching, my eye caught you.”
“It’s okay. I’m sorry. I just, I mean you are...” I stopped myself, mental note to Avery, STOP.
“I’m what?” He leaned back with an adorable smirk on his face.
“You’re seriously hot,” I exclaimed, then covered my mouth, surprised at myself. This situation is why I stay home, I thought to myself. I looked up at Liam, and he was blushing! He was seriously blushing!
“Well, Thank you. I’m not sure why that means I can’t speak to you, though?” He laughed.
“Plain jane here.” I pointed to myself before taking a sip of my water.
Liam looked genuinely shocked. “You’re joking. I mean, I saw you and thought how beautiful you were, now after talking with you, well honestly, I find you to be just adorable.” Now it was my turn to be shocked. Thinking this had to be some dream or something. My first night out, and one of the hottest guys I’ve ever seen, think I’m adorable? Okay, yeah, a dream, I thought. I put my hand under the table and pinched myself to test my theory; sure enough, it hurt, so not a dream.
“Oh my God! You just totally pinched yourself!” Liam cried out with laughter.
“I did not!” I was so embarrassed! I could feel the heat rising to my cheeks.
“You so did! You are too cute.”
“Okay, I appreciate that, but it’s starting to make me feel like a puppy or something.” I smiled.
“Okay, okay. Do not mean it like a puppy.” He held his hands up in defeat.
Lucy interrupted our little banter. “Now, that is a smile and laugh I have missed.” She patted Liam on the back. “You guys need anything else?”
“No, Lucy,” Liam said quietly.
“Okay, here’s the check. You guys stay safe and have fun.”
“She misses your laugh and smiles?” I questioned. I swear I might as well just keep a foot in my mouth at this point.
“Ugh, yeah, I guess so.” He shrugged uncomfortably.
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t pry. Lucy is lovely, though.” I tried to change the conversation.
“It’s all right. You ready to go?” He stood, reaching out his hand for me. I happily took it, walking with him to pay. I grabbed my wallet, but before I could, he had already swiped his card. “It’s on me, silly girl.” He shook his head, smiling.
We walked hand in hand out the door and ever so slowly back toward Froggies.
“So, would it be possible to get your phone number?” He asked, smiling down at me. I hadn’t taken in just how tall he was, at least 6′1"
“Of course.” I pulled my phone out of my bag and handed it to him; he took it and quickly added his number.
“Good. As much as I don’t want to, I should probably head out soon. I have work early.” We stood outside the entrance to Froggies.
“Ouch. Yeah, you should get some sleep. I’ll have to pull Stacia out kicking and screaming.” I laughed.
“Come on, and I’ll go in with you and help you out.” He offered, again placing his hand on the small of my back. I felt myself shiver at his touch. We entered to find Stacia, Hailey, and Faye gathered around Derrick at the bar and a few other guys. The guys were doing shots as the girls cheered them on. When we walked up, Liam cleared his throat to get the attention.
“I’ve returned her safe and sound.” He laughed, nodding at me.
“Aw, so cute!” Stacia purred. I shook my head at her.
“Hi, Liam.” Hailey smiled; her eyes were full of lust. I looked back and forth between the two.
“Hailey.” He nodded with a half-smile. I couldn’t help but wonder what the story was there. I felt a twinge in my gut and knew this all had been too good to be true.
“I’m taking off, work calls early. I’ll talk to you soon?” He asked me. I nodded with a smile, and off he went.
“Where did you two take off to?” Hailey asked hatefully. I suddenly felt so uncomfortable and ready to leave.
“Um, we just went over to the diner.” I shrugged.
“Oh. Well, that’s nice.”
“Hey Stacia, I’m about ready to head out too. Are you ready?” I asked, pleading with my eyes. Hailey walked off with one of the guys to the dance floor. Faye gave me a knowing look.
“Don’t worry about her, she’s crushed on Liam for the last year or so, he always turns her down, so she’s just jealous.”
“It’s okay.” I looked back over at Stacia, who was tongue-deep in Derrick’s mouth.
“Stacia! Come on!” I groaned, she finally complied. As we walked back to the car, she was a giggling fool.
“Avery, he is just so hot and amazing. I’m so crushing on him, hardcore.”
“It’s our first night here, our first night out,” I stated realistically.
“I know! So how lucky was that for me to meet him?” She laughed. The ride back to the apartment was quiet, we made it inside, and both got into our pj’s and met back up in the living room to watch some TV.
“It’s only 3 a.m.” Stacia spoke, shocked.
“Only?! This time is the latest I’ve stayed up since finals!” I groaned.
“You’re such an old woman.” She teased. “How was the diner with Liam? He’s pretty hot too.”
“It was nice. We ate, talked. I met the guys’ Aunt.”
“You met their Aunt?”
“She was our waitress.” I laughed.
“Interesting. Did you get Liam’s digits?”
“What? No way. He said he had work early; he’s probably sleeping. He seems to be smarter than the rest of us.” I chuckled.
“Or an old man to compliment your old woman ways.” She threw a pillow at me.
Our furniture was going to arrive on Monday. For now, we had makeshift piles of pillows on the floor. The TV was sitting on the floor, and our boxes were all piled around us. It was going to take some adjusting, but so far, our first night was pretty fun. Stacia was snoring before the first season of The Office was finished; I soon felt myself drifting off with Liam’s smile in my mind.
*Just a heads up that this book does contain scenes of abuse and rape and mention of these events throughout. The flashback scene relating to the rape is graphic and could be an issue for anyone sensitive to that type of material, read with caution!*
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