Home > Easy (Contours of the Heart #1)(7)

Easy (Contours of the Heart #1)(7)
Tammara Webber

I raised my chin, ignoring my physical reaction to him, and the fear causing it. “It’s Jacqueline.”

He cocked one eyebrow, confused. “Huh?”

Erin grabbed my elbow. “Come on, hot stuff. Don’t you have art history in like five minutes?”

I stumbled slightly as I turned and followed her, and he issued a soft, taunting laugh as I passed him. “See you around, Jacqueline,” he teased.

My name in his mouth sent a tremor through me, and I trailed behind Erin into the sea of students. Once I could move, I couldn’t get away from him fast enough.

Chapter 6

Erin: Do you still have your coffee cup?

Me: Yes?

Erin: Take the sleeve off

Me: OMG

Erin: His phone number?

Me: How did you know???

Erin: I’m Erin. I know all. ;)

Erin: Actually, I just wondered why he wrote on your cup if he was going to make your drink.

If Erin hadn’t texted me during class, that cup, and his number, would have been pitched into the hallway wastebasket.

So… Lucas wasn’t writing an unnecessary drink order onto my cup, he was giving me his phone number. I entered it into my phone, wondering what I was meant to do with it. Call him? Text him?

I thought about what I knew of him: He’d come out of nowhere the night of the party. After putting a stop to the attack, some further protective trait had obliged him to see me safely back to the dorm. He’d somehow known my name that night—my nickname—but I’d never noticed him before.

He sat in the back row in economics, sketching or staring at me instead of paying attention to the lecture. Saturday night, the firm touch of his hands as we danced made my head swim, before he disappeared without explanation. He’d undressed me with his eyes, Erin said, in the middle of Starbucks—where he worked. He was cocky and self-sure. Tattooed and too hot for words. He looked and acted like the Bad Boy Erin and Maggie believed him to be.

And now, his number was programmed into my phone. It was as though he knew all about Operation Bad Boy Phase, and he was as willing and eager to fill that role as my friends believed he’d be.

But I didn’t know him. I didn’t know what he thought of me. If he thought of me. The girl talking to him after class last week wanted him. In the club, girls had openly stared as he passed, some of them turning around in his wake to assess him further. He could have danced with any of them, probably gone home with most of them. Why me?

***

Landon,

I’ve attached an outline of my research paper. If you have a chance, could you make sure it’s not too broad, or too focused? I’m not sure how many economies outside the US to include. Also, the J-curve is a little confusing. I get that we can see it after the fact, but isn’t economics based on prediction, like the weather? I mean, who cares if we can only see what happened after the fact - if the weather guy can’t predict what’s going to happen tomorrow, he’s probably going to get fired, right?

I did the worksheets, too. Sorry I’m sending you so much at once, and on a Monday. I should have sent it earlier, but I went out with some friends Saturday and didn’t get it done.

JW

Jacqueline,

No problem. I’m either working, studying or in class practically every waking hour. I hardly notice what day it is. I hope you enjoyed your night out.

I know I initially said I didn’t need details of your breakup (if that was rude, I didn’t mean it that way); it must have been bad to make you ditch class for two weeks. I can tell skipping is atypical for you.

I’ve attached a WSJ article that explains the J-curve better than the text. You’re exactly right, without the ability to predict, economics isn’t economics, it’s history. And while history has its place in the predictable probabilities of both economics and meteorology (clever analogy, btw), it’s hardly useful if you need to know whether or not to invest in foreign currency or bring your umbrella to school.

LM

I stared at the email, trying and failing to compare Landon to Lucas. They seemed as opposite as night and day, but I only knew half of each of them. I didn’t know much about Lucas beyond his striking looks and his ability to beat the shit out of someone. During art history, I’d found myself wondering what would have happened in that interaction with Buck, if Lucas had been with me. I wondered if Buck would have dared to look at me like that. To say what he’d said: Lookin’ good. The thought of Buck’s cold eyes examining me made my stomach turn.

Feeling shallow for caring, I speculated again what Landon might look like, and how much impact that might have on what I thought of him. His compliments made me stare at my laptop and smile. He’d said my ex was a moron, and now he seemed to be interested in our breakup. In me. That, or I was reading too much into it.

Landon,

We were together almost three years. I never saw it coming. I followed him here to school, instead of trying for a performing arts school. My orchestra teacher nearly had a stroke when I told him. He pleaded with me to audition at Oberlin or Julliard, but I didn’t. I can’t blame anyone but myself. I trusted my future to my HS boyfriend, like an idiot. Now I’m stuck somewhere I’m not supposed to be. I don’t know if I just believed that much in him, or that little in myself. Either way, pretty freaking stupid, huh? So there’s my weepy little story.

Thank you for the article.

JW

Jacqueline,

Not stupid. Overly trusting, maybe, but that reflects on his lack of trustworthiness, not on your intelligence. As for being somewhere you’re not supposed to be – maybe you’re here for a reason, or there is no reason. As a scientist, I lean toward the latter. Either way, you’re off the hook. You made a decision; now you make the best of it. That’s all you can do, right? On that note, I’m off to study for a statistical mechanics quiz. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to prove scientifically that your ex isn’t worthy of you, and you’re exactly where you should be.

LM

***

When Erin came through the door, I was half-asleep and surrounded by conjugated Spanish verbs printed on colored index cards. I scooped most of them up just before she bounced onto the edge of my bed.

“So? Did you call him or text him? Did you use the stuff we went over? What did he say?”

I sighed. “Neither.”

She lay back on the bed, flinging her arms wide dramatically as I snatched up cards before she creased them. “You chickened out.”

I stared at the cards in my hand. Yo habré, tú habrás, él habrá, nosotros habremos… “Yeah, maybe.”

“Hmm. You know, this is better. Don’t call. Make him chase you.” She laughed at my creased brow. “Guys like Chaz are so much easier. Hell, I could tell him to chase me and he would.”

We laughed at the visual that produced, because it was probably true. I thought about Kennedy. About what kind of guy he was. He’d chased me in the beginning, but he didn’t have to try very hard to catch me. I was swept off my feet by him, swept along in his dreams and plans, because he’d made me part of them. Until a few weeks ago.

“Aw, shit, J. I know what you’re doing. Don’t think about him. I’m gonna make some cocoa. Get back to—” she sat up, picking up a card I’d not grabbed hastily enough, “—ugh, Spanish verbs.”

Erin filled mugs with tap water in the bathroom and stuck them in the microwave to heat. I stared at the blurry cards in my hand. Damn Kennedy. Damn him, damn him. It would serve him right to see me with someone like Lucas. Someone so different, but equally hot. More so, if I started calculating details.

Operation Bad Boy Phase was on. But I wasn’t calling Lucas, or texting him. If Erin was right—if he was a chaser—he’d not done enough chasing, yet.

When she handed me the mug, I took a deep breath and smiled. She’d piled mine with marshmallows from the little stash of them we both occasionally dug into without bothering to make cocoa. “So if I don’t text him, what’s next?”

She smiled and squeaked a triumphant little squeal. “He must be digging the good girl thing you’ve got going on…” Her eyes widened. “Jacqueline—maybe he’d noticed you in class before the breakup. You changed seats, right? Making it obvious you two broke up. This is perfect.” I was back to confused and she was laughing. “He’s already chasing you. Now all you have to do is keep running. Just not too fast.”

I licked chocolate from my upper lip. “Erin, you’re dangerous.”

She smiled wickedly. “I know.”

***

Wednesday, I got to the classroom before the 8:00 class let out. As soon as most of the students had filed out the door, I slipped in and took my seat, determined not to pay attention to Lucas when he came in. To that end, I flipped through my index cards, though I was more than ready to ace the quiz in Spanish.

When Benji slid into his seat on my left, I didn’t pause in my review. I refused to be distracted from not paying attention to Lucas’s seat, and whether or not he was in it.

“Hey, Jacqueline.” That wasn’t Benji’s voice.

The seats were bolted to the floor, with right-handed desktops. Lucas leaned slightly over the side of Benji’s, pushing into the very margin of my space. My breath caught, and I focused on letting it out, appearing unaffected. “Oh, hi.”

He bit his lower lip once, briefly. “I guess you didn’t notice the phone number on your coffee cup.”

I glanced at my phone, sitting on the edge of my textbook. “I noticed.” I watched his reaction, knowing I was practically telling him to chase me.

He smiled, his light eyes crinkling slightly at the corners, and I tried not to swoon visibly. “I see. Turnabout is fair play. How ’bout you give me yours?”

I arched a brow at him. “Why? Do you need help in economics?”

He bit his lip in earnest that time, stifling a laugh. “Hardly. What makes you think that?”

I frowned. Could I be attracted to a guy who cared so little about doing well in class? “I guess it’s not my business.”

He leaned his chin into the palm of his hand. The tips of his fingers were tinged with gray, probably from drawing with that pencil sitting over his ear. “I appreciate your concern, but I want your number for reasons completely unrelated to economics.”

I picked up my phone and found his number, and sent him a text that said: Hi.

“Dude, you’re in my seat.” Benji’s tone was matter-of-fact, but unperturbed.

Lucas’s phone vibrated in his hand, and he smiled as my text popped up, giving him my number. “Thanks.” He unfolded himself from the chair and addressed Benji. “Sorry, man.”

“No prob.” Benji was one of the most easygoing people I’d ever met. His attitude said slacker, but I’d gotten a look at the midterm crammed into his notebook—he’d made a high B, and for all his talk about skipping class and sleeping in, he’d yet to miss one. After Lucas sauntered back to his seat, Benji leaned over the edge of his desktop, closer than Lucas had. “So what was that about?” His eyebrows rocked up and down and I tried not to grin.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” I replied, fluttering my lashes in my best Southern belle impersonation.

“Careful, little lady,” he drawled. “That fella seems a bit dangerous.” He shook a too-long curl out of his eyes, smiling. “Not that there’s anything wrong with a bit of danger.”

My lips pinched into half a smile. “True.”

I congratulated myself for taking a singular peek over my shoulder, halfway through the fifty-minute class. Lucas wasn’t looking at me, so I couldn’t help staring. Pencil in hand, he was sketching intently, first shading and then carefully smearing with his thumb. His dark hair fell around his face as he concentrated on his work, the lecture and the classroom disregarded as though he was alone in his room. I imagined him sitting on his bed, knees up, pad balanced on his thighs. I wondered what he was sketching. Or who.

He glanced up and caught my gaze. Held it.

His mouth pulled into that ghost of a smile and he stretched his neck and rolled his shoulders, returning my stare. Glancing at the pad, he tapped the end of his pencil against it and sprawled back in his seat, lashes fanning down as he examined his work.

Dr. Heller finished the chart he was free-handing onto the whiteboard, and the lecture resumed. Lucas tucked the pencil over his ear and picked up a pen. Before shifting his attention to our professor, he smiled at me again, and a jolt of excitement shot through me.

At the end of class, a different girl than last week intercepted him on his way out the door, and I bolted without a backward look. My adrenaline kicked in, my body sensing my need to escape and giving wings to it. Glancing over my shoulder, I ducked through the side exit and slowed down, feeling silly. Erin and Maggie insisted that I should elude his grasp for a few days more, and make him pursue me—but he wasn’t going to literally give chase.

I texted Erin that I’d be getting crap coffee in the cafeteria before my afternoon class instead of going by the Starbucks. She texted back: GENIUS. I’ll meet you there. Sisters in solidarity and all that shit.

***

By the end of art history, I was beginning to doubt Erin’s notion that Lucas wanted to play this game. Maybe he wasn’t a dog. Or I wasn’t a cat. Or I was just really bad at this. I sighed, stuffing my phone into my bag. I’d clicked it to check for a message at least thirty times during class.

I’d always disparaged the games people played in pursuit of love—or the next hook up. The whole thing was a competition to see who could get how far, and I could never figure out if there was more luck or skill involved, or some unknowable combination of the two. People rarely said what they thought, or revealed how they felt. No one was honest.

Easy for me to say, from my high horse of the perfect relationship with Kennedy. Erin had called me on that months ago, when I told her she was being ridiculous over a guy—plotting to decipher what he wanted from a girl before systematically breaking down his defenses. I had to admit she was right. I had no idea what it was like to be a young, single adult, so I wasn’t entitled to judge.

Until now.

This angst was absurd, but I couldn’t shake it. He’d stared at me in class. I felt confident when I left economics, and miserable now. Why? Because he hadn’t shoved the redhead out of his way at the end of econ to come after me? Because he hadn’t texted me at some point during the barely three and a half hours since I’d seen him? That didn’t even make sense.

Recommended
» I Am Legend read online
» Never Too Far (Rosemary Beach #2) read online
» Fallen Too Far (Rosemary Beach #1) read online
» New Moon (Twilight #2) read online
» Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) read online
» Forever Too Far (Rosemary Beach #3) read online
» Eclipse (Twilight #3) read online
» Easy (Contours of the Heart #1) read online
» The Darkest Seduction (Lords of the Underwo read online
» Unseen Messages read online
» Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies #1) read online
» Insurgent (Divergent #2) read online
» The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) read online
» Allegiant (Divergent #3) read online
» Twilight (Twilight #1) read online
» Breaking Dawn (Twilight #4) read online
» Divergent (Divergent #1) read online
» Rush Too Far (Rosemary Beach #4) read online
» Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) read online
» Midnight Sun (Twilight #1.5) read online
» Breakable (Contours of the Heart #2) read online