Chapter 1



I can’t believe Lou talked me into doing this. At one point she’s saying how even Rapunzel had kissed a boy by my age and she had spent most of her life locked in a tower. And the next thing I know I’m yelling at her about how that’s not what college is supposed to be about. She then tells me that that is exactly what college is supposed to be about. And, what is even worse is that she is right, at least for me.

It took a long time for me to decide to go to college. It’s not that I didn’t believe in higher education. I’m all about it. It’s that I didn’t go to a traditional high school. At our school, we explored our interests, devoured it like a box of Oreos, and then hosted a class where we taught it to those who weren’t as passionate about the topic.

Whenever I explain it to others, they can’t wrap their head around it. But at my school, it worked. Mine was a special school for kids who caught on very quickly and I was at the top of my class. By the time I was 18 I had the equivalent of advanced degrees in multiple subjects, so what would going to college get me?

After I graduated high school, I took a gap year where I consumed everything I could find on everything that interested me. And when I realized that I was becoming a bit of a shut in, I spent a couple of weeks in Africa and Asia and then finished off my trip backpacking through Europe.

The trip helped put things in perspective. Yeah, I had a lot of theoretical information on a lot of topics. But, at its peak enrollment, my high school had only 50 students. More than that, they were all like me. We all learned information quickly and we all came from the same New York penthouse background.

I was smart enough to figure out that there was more to life than that. Yes, the three months I spent traveling the world gave me some perspective. But the perspective was that I didn’t know anything about the things that mattered and that I wasn’t good at human stuff.

I had never been in love. I had never kissed a boy. I hadn’t even had a best friend. And, I didn’t know how to talk to people to get any of those things. What type of life had I been living?

So, instead of thinking I could reinvent the wheel, I did what everyone else my age did, I found a school as different from my high school as I could and enrolled. There isn’t anywhere more different to New York than Tennessee. And to contrast with the 50-foot high-rises and concrete jungle, I chose East Tennessee University where your walk through campus was practically a nature hike.

I then filled out my roommate compatibility questionnaire and got Louise who prefers to go by Lou and is the most boy crazy girl I’ve ever met in my life. She has been on more dates than boys whose name I know. I don’t know how she does it. She can get a date in a gay bar.

Yet, I’ve been at East Tennessee University for months and no one has asked for my number. Lou claims it’s because I never leave our room. I told her that she was just trying to get me out so that she could bring guys back to our place. She said, “Of course,” and then threw what I told her about the reason I was here in my face.

“You can’t meet new people locked up in this room. And, as much as I love you, Quin, you’re not going to get what you want from me. Don’t get me wrong, if I was into girls, I would sooo put a ring on that. But, I’m not. Which means that the one place you spend every waking minute of your life is the only place you shouldn’t be.”

“I go to class,” I countered.

“Ugh! Look, you wanna prove that you didn’t just come here to observe the common folk until your father makes you an executive at his billion dollar electric car company or his billion dollar rocket company, or whatever else? Then, I want you to march out those doors and have some fun, young lady,” she said pointing.

“Ouch, Lou!”

“If it isn’t true then go do it. Mingle with the people.”

“Stop it!”

“Prove me wrong! Don’t just talk about wanting to have a life. Get a life.”

“I will!” I said furious.



“And I want proof. When I get back here tonight, I want to see an awkward guy rushing to put on his clothes and I want to see some shame, Miss Thing. Plenty of it.”

“There will be! There will be plenty of shame, for you. Because of how wrong you were… and stuff.”



“I mean it, Quin.”

“Me too.”

So now, here I am marching across campus to the only party that my last-minute research turned up. East Tennessee University’s football team won against West Tennessee University their cross-state rivals earlier in the day and the football fraternity was throwing a party. Nothing about any of that sounded fun, but I’m going… because Lou tricked me into it. So much for me being the smart one.

Fine. I’ll go. I’ll get proof that I was there. Then I’ll go to a coffee shop and read a book on my phone.

I know she mentioned that thing about finding me making out with a guy or whatever, but there’s no way that’s going to happen. Believe me, I’ve tried. I don’t know what it is about me that no one wants to be with, but no one does.

Did I just bum myself out? I think I did. Now I’m really not in the mood for a party.

Rounding the corner, I could hear the music before the fraternity house came into view. It was intimidating. I had to tap into my anger at what Lou had said to keep me going.

Face-to-face with my impending doom, I almost froze. I’m just not good at this stuff. There is no way I was going to be able to mingle or cohort or whatever it was that people my age did.

New plan. I wasn’t going in. I would get my proof that I was here, though. I was going to walk up to one of the half dozen people standing outside, ask to take a selfie with them and then get out of there as quickly as I could.

Looking around, I saw people smoking, people talking in a circle with red cups, and one guy standing by himself. That made the selection easy. All I had to do was walk up to him, ask to take a selfie, snap it, thank him and go. I could manage that. I wasn’t a complete freak. I could talk to one person.

Tightening my lips, I hardened my resolve and charged over. I wasn’t going to overthink it. I was just going to do it and be done.

“Excuse me, can I get a selfie with you?” I asked the guy with his back to me.

“You want a selfie with me? Why?” The guy said with an edge to his voice as he turned around.


Do you know that feeling when you see something that takes your breath away? Warm prickles start at the back of your hands and shoot up your arms before settling in your face as the heat makes you lightheaded? That was what happened when our eyes met. The guy was beautiful.

 His creamy skin contrasted with his jet black hair and pool-blue eyes. His jawline was carved out of marble. There were dimples, so many dimples, in his cheeks, underneath his bottom lip, on the tip of his chin. They were everywhere.

More than that, he was big. He was inches taller than me and twice as wide. That isn’t saying much considering how slight I am. And don’t even get me started on how stingy the boob fairy was to me. But his rippling muscles looked like they had muscles. God, was he gorgeous.

I couldn’t speak and he was clearly waiting for me to. He had asked me a question. What was it? Oh yeah! It was why I wanted a selfie with him, and he seemed upset about it.

Had I made him angry? Was it weird to ask to take a selfie with a complete stranger? It probably was? What was I thinking?

“Sorry,” I sputtered before forcing my legs to move in the opposite direction.

I got two steps away before he spoke again.

“Wait! Don’t go.”

I stopped.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude. If you want a selfie, I’ll take one with you.”

“No, that’s okay,” I said wanting to look at him again but scared that if I did I wouldn’t be able to breathe.

“No, really. It’s fine. You can get one. I don’t know why anyone would want one. But, it’s fine. I’d be happy to take one with you.”

That was when I looked at him again. I recognized what he was saying. He was talking like a guy who was used to people asking to take pictures with him. I knew a little about that. That was in part why I chose a university in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to be where I wouldn’t be recognized as Harlequin Toro, the weird daughter of two of most famous geniuses in the world.

That was me, though. Why did people ask him for selfies? He was the most amazing-looking guy ever. Did random strangers approach him dazzled by his beauty? It wouldn’t surprise me if they did.

“I, um, wasn’t asking for a selfie because I know who you are. I don’t recognize you. I don’t know who you are,” I explained.

The guy jutted his head back startled. As I stared, his fair skin turned pink.

“Oh! Okay. Then…” he shook his head as if trying to shake something loose. “I’m sorry, why do you want a selfie with me?”

“It wasn’t you. It was anybody,” I told him.

“You wanted to get a selfie with anybody? Why?”

I huffed as my predicament reentered my mind.

“It’s my roommate. She told me that I needed to get out and have fun. She said she needed proof…”

“And the selfie was going to be the proof?”


“So, after you took the selfie…, what? You were going to go?”


The gorgeous guy looked at me like I was the freak that I am. A smile crept across his face. It would have made me feel bad about myself if it didn’t make me want to melt into a puddle in the grass.

“This is going to sound crazy, but you’re here. Why not go in and actually have fun?”

“I’m not good at this type of thing. You know, the social thing.”

“Luckily, that’s something I’m very good at. How about we make a deal? I’ll give you your selfie as proof for your roommate, but you have to come in and actually try to have a good time. I’ll introduce you to a couple of people. That way, when your roommate asks you about the night, you won’t have to lie,” he said his face exploding into dimples.

I stared at him. “Why would you do that?”

He looked at me twisting his head in confusion.

“Maybe I’m just being nice. Maybe I think you’re cool and that it would be cool to hang out. Maybe I’m flirting.”

A chill shot through me upon hearing the word “flirting”. What was going on? Did this guy like me? Was there something happening between us? Was there going to be a guy awkwardly putting on his clothes when Lou got home after all?

“Um, okay,” I said sure that I was turning beet-red.

“Cage, by the way?”


“My name.” He stared at me. “And your name is?”

“Oh. Quin.”

“Cool. I like that name.”

“Thanks. My parents gave it to me,” I said losing control of my tongue.

Cage laughed.

“I mean, of course my parents gave it to me.”

“Not of course. My parents didn’t give me the name Cage.”

“Who did? An uncle or somebody?”

“No, I did.”

“So, what’s your birth name?”

Cage looked at me with thoughts rushing through his head. “How about I take you inside and show you around?”

“So, I guess we’re going to let that question go?”

Cage chuckled uncomfortably.

As he led me up the stairs, onto the porch, and then into the frat house, it was hard to take my eyes off of him. When I did I was surprised by what I saw. I didn’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this. The large living room was sparsely furnished but full of people. Everyone had red cups in their hand and they spoke to each other like they were friends.

“It’s still pretty early,” Cage explained.

“What do you mean?” I said raising my voice over the country-pop music.

“There’ll be more people later.”

“More than this?” I asked looking around at what felt like a horde.

Cage chuckled. “Yeah.”

“Cage!” A thick guy said throwing his arms around Cage spilling some of his drink onto Cage’s shirt. “Oh, did I get you?”

“That’s okay,” Cage said casually. “Dan, this is Quin.”

Dan turned to me and stared. “Quin!” he finally said ending the awkwardness. “Is he trying to recruit you?”

“What?” I asked confused.

“Is he trying to get you on the football team?”

I stared at him unsure what was happening. Was he being serious? Did he think I was a boy? It’s not like that mistake hasn’t happened before. But, even if he did think I was a boy, I’m clearly not built like one who ran full speed into 200-pound men.

“Football team?”

I turned to Cage confused.

Cage smiled. “Don’t pay any attention to Dan. He’s taken a few too many hits.”

“You’re welcome, by the way,” Dan said defensively.

“You two are on the football team?” I asked putting things together.

Dan dropped his clueless jock act and threw his arms around Cage. “No. I’m on the football team. This man is the team.”

I looked at Cage for an explanation.

He smiled with humility. “I’m the quarterback.”

“He isn’t just the quarterback,” Dan said mockingly. “He’s the guy who’s gonna lead us to a national championship, and then he’s going pro.”

“Ohhhh! Now I get it. The selfie. You thought I was asking for a selfie because you’re a famous football player.”

“I’m not a famous football player,” he said quickly.

“Hell yeah, he’s famous. There ain’t anybody who doesn’t know who he is,” Dan said proudly.

I looked at Cage for his reaction. Cage looked back at me and chuckled uncomfortably.

“Not everyone knows who I am.”

“Name me one person who doesn’t,” Dan challenged.

He gave me a knowing smile. “Quin, you want a drink? I think you need a drink. Follow me.”

“Good meeting you, Quin,” Dan said before wandering off.

“So, you’re a quarterback?”

“Didn’t you hear? I’m not just a quarterback, I’m the team,” Cage said with self-deprecation.

I laughed. “I heard. Are you going to go pro?”

“Sure,” Cage said half-heartedly before turning to pump beer into two red cups.

“You don’t sound excited.”

“No. I’m excited. I can’t wait to play for the NFL. It’s, ah, everything I’ve been working towards,” he said handing me a cup and holding up his to cheers with mine. “To new friends.”

I touched his cup and took a drink. “This beer is awful,” I said looking down at my cup.

Cage laughed. “No, tell me what you really think.”

“I mean that it’s not very good,” I explained.

Cage laughed louder. “You don’t have much of a filter, do you?”

I froze. That wasn’t the first time I had heard that. The previous time was with the last guy I fell for.

“I guess not. Is that bad?”

“Actually, it’s kind of refreshing.”

“Oh. Okay,” I said falling for him more.

“You have a nice smile.”

“I didn’t realize I was smiling,” I told him.

“You are,” he said looking at me with a smile of his own.

“You too. It’s very nice,” I said feeling my heart thump and not knowing what to do about it.

Cage stopped laughing and looked into my eyes. God did I want to kiss him.

“I suppose if I ask you if you’re having fun yet, you’ll tell me the truth.”

“I’m having fun,” I said moving closer in case he did want to kiss me.

Cage watched me with a devilish look in his eyes. I could have sworn that he was about to move his lips towards mine when he said, “Why don’t I introduce you to a few more people.”

“More people? I’ve already met two. How many more people can a person meet in a night?”

“Haha. A few more than that,” he said slipping his hand around my shoulders and leading me away.

Feeling his touch made every part of me tingle. I felt small in his arms. He was so big and strong. I couldn’t believe that I had met someone like him. I couldn’t believe that he was acting like he was into me. Could a guy like him be into someone like me? The possibilities made my chest clench.

Cage led me around the party introducing me to one person after another. He wasn’t kidding about being good at social stuff. Everyone he introduced me to hung on his every word. And, when it was my turn to speak, they hung on my every word, too.

I couldn’t tell if they were all just being nice, or if being with Cage had turned me into a more interesting version of myself. Whatever it was, I loved the feeling. These types of interactions had always been so hard for me, but at Cage’s side, I was a different person.

What was even better than that was how he took every opportunity to touch me. He touched my shoulder when he introduced me. His pointing finger lightly rested on my forearm when he was emphasizing a point. And, standing shoulder to shoulder as if we were already a couple, he would bump his shoulder against mine when he laughed.

I was a helpless ball of putty by the time he was done with me and I couldn’t stop thinking about the other thing Lou had suggested. What would it feel like to be wrapped in Cage’s arms and to kiss him?

With one of his teammates waving his arms around telling a story, I couldn’t take my eyes off of Cage. With his full attention on his friend, Cage subtly retrieved his phone from his pocket and peaked down. Slipping it away quickly, he waited for the arm waving to die down and then looked between his friend and me.

“I hate to say this, but I have to head out,” he said lightly placing his large hand on the back of my arm.

“Yes, me too,” I said quickly.

“Yeah? Where you headed?” He asked enthusiastically.

“Back to my room.”

“Where’s that?”

“Plaza Hall?”

“Really? I’ll go with you,” he said squeezing my arm.

My heart stopped. He was coming with me? Was this it? I couldn’t believe it might finally happen. I swallowed and forced myself to speak.


After saying a few goodbyes, the two of us exited into the night. I was giddy from terror and excitement. As the silence between us drew out, I wondered why he wasn’t saying anything. Wasn’t he the one who was supposed to be good at stuff like this? I was about to mumble something when he finally spoke.

“It’s a clear night.”


“You can see all of the stars,” he said turning to me. “You cold?”


“You’re shivering.”

I was shaking. “I guess I’m nervous,” I admitted.

“What are you nervous about?”

My face got hot. “I don’t know.”

Cage stared at me. “You’re really pretty. Do you know that?”

“So are you. I mean, you’re good-looking not pretty,” I told him shaking even more.

Cage chuckled. “Thanks. Are you happy you came out tonight?”

“Yeah, definitely,” I told him as my gaze fell to the ground.

“We’re here,” he said as we approached the door of my building.

“We’re here,” I repeated my heart pounding. “Do you want to come in?”

“Come in?” Cage asked caught off guard.

“Yes,” I replied shyly.

“Ahhhh,” he murmured before the door popped open and a girl came out.

“Cage!” She said before wrapping her arms around him and standing on her tiptoes to kiss his lips.

My mouth dropped open in shock. What was going on? What had just happened?

The petite, blonde with angular features turned towards me. “Who’s this?”

“Ah, this is Quin. Quin this is Tasha.”

Tasha looked at me suspiciously while Cage became uncomfortable.

“Tasha is my girlfriend.”

“How do you know Cage?” Tasha asked me.

I was too shocked by everything to speak.

“Quin had asked me for a selfie.”

Tasha turned to Cage surprised. “Oh. Did you give her one?”

“Not yet,” Cage said with a smile.

“I can take it,” Tasha volunteered. “Give me your phone,” she said approaching me with her hand out.

Still speechless, I handed her my phone and stood next to Cage.

“Say cheese,” she said.

“Cheese,” Cage replied while I stared back stunned.

“Here you go,” she said handing me back my phone. “Check it.”

I looked down and saw my full humiliation on display. “Yes.”

“Okay. Let’s go. I’m hungry,” Tasha said entwining her body with Cage’s and pulling him away.

“It was nice meeting you, Quin,” he said looking at me as he left.

“Yes. It was nice meeting… you,” I mumbled sure that he could no longer hear me.

I watched as the perfectly suited couple walked off. Of course, he had a girlfriend. And, of course, she looked like that. My heart hurt watching them go.

I can’t believe I thought he was interested in me. No one’s ever interested in me. How could I have been so foolish? How could I think a guy like him could be interested in a girl like me?

Once the two had disappeared into the darkness, I entered the building. Ascending the stairs in a daze, I wanted to cry. Why didn’t anyone ever like me back?

“Don’t tell me that you went to a coffee shop and read a book,” Lou said snapping me out of my haze.

“What are you doing here?” I asked not expecting to see her.

“Ugh! The date was not worth it. But don’t change the subject. I don’t see a guy. I don’t see shame.”

I took out my phone, pulled up the picture of Cage and me, and handed it to Lou.

“Who’s this?”


“Why do you look so heartbroken, Buttercup?”

“He has a girlfriend,” I told her before looking into her eyes and crying.

“Ahhh,” Lou said before wrapping her arms around me and holding me tight.

“What’s wrong with me, Lou?” I asked before she guided me to my bed, climbed in beside me, and held me while I cried. 



Chapter 2



Wow! I have never felt anything like that in my life. Looking at Quin I could barely contain myself. I couldn’t keep my hands off of her. I could have stayed with her at the party all night. For the first time in a long time, I felt alive.

Returning to reality was a hard pill to swallow. When I got Tasha’s text, it felt like the rug had been ripped from under me. I wanted to stay there with Quin. I wanted to see how far it would go. But, I had promised Tasha that I would take her to dinner whether or not we won the game. I always keep my obligations and I had made one to Tasha.

“So, I wanted to talk to you about something,” Tasha said breaking the silence as we walked.

“What’s that?”

Tasha looked at me excitedly and blushed. Seeing her display of emotion was an unusual sight. A dark cloud usually followed Tasha infecting everyone around her.

I had to assume she wasn’t happy with her life. I was clearly a part of her dissatisfaction. But whenever I tried to talk to her about it, she accused me of trying to ruin the good thing we have going.

What good thing was that? She wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy. And our love life was nonexistent.

“You know Vi, right?” Tasha asked bubbling.

“Your best friend Vi who you spend all of your time with. Yeah, I know her.”

“You don’t have to say it like that.”

“You asked me if I knew the girl you always talk about.”

“Why are you trying to start a fight? I’m trying to do something nice for you.”

I caught myself and took a breath. I was feeling tense. I hadn’t want to leave Quin, but I did because of Tasha. That was probably for the best, though. The way she made me feel could only lead to me making decisions I would regret.

I had larger things to consider. I had worked my whole life to play for the NFL. Being with a girl like Tasha helps sell the pack of me as the face of a franchise. At least, that’s what my father says. And it had been his dream that I play professional football longer than it had been mine. I couldn’t let him down.

“I’m sorry. I guess I’m still feeling beat up from the game. It’s making me a little cranky.”

Tasha smiled. “You’re forgiven,” she said wrapping her arms around mine. “And, I think I have something that will make you feel better.”

“Okay,” I said mustering a smile. “What is it?”

“Well, remember how we’ve been talking about spicing things up in… the bedroom?”

I looked at Tasha suspiciously. Spicing things up was something she had brought up and when she did, it felt like she had something very specific in mind that she wouldn’t mention.

“I remember.”

“So, I talked to Vi…”

“Okay,” I said confused.

“I spoke to Vi and asked her if she would be interested in joining the two of us when we were… together. And she said yes,” Tasha said crackling.

I stopped walking and stared at her. It took a second to wrap my head around what she was saying.

“You mean, like together together?”

“Yeah,” she said turning bright red.

“Tasha, why would you do that?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why would you invite someone else into our love life like that… and without talking to me first?”

“I thought you would like it. Doesn’t every guy want to be with two beautiful women at the same time?”

“Not every guy. And, if you would have asked me, I would have told you that I’m a one-guy, one-girl sort of man… if you would have asked me.”

“I thought you would like it,” she said heartbroken.

“Well, I don’t. And, I don’t know why you would even suggest it.”

“Maybe it’s because we don’t have a love life anymore.”

“And that’s my fault? You’re the one who spends all of her time with Vi.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that I’m not the one who looks like they don’t want to be there whenever we spend time together.”

“Well, you could have fooled me.”

“Then, if you’re so unhappy, maybe we should breakup.”

Tasha froze staring at me. “Why would you say that? Why would you say that?”

“Isn’t that what’s obvious?”

“No. We were meant to be together. I would make you the perfect wife. You know that. You’re going to get drafted and become the starting quarterback for a big NFL team and I’ll take care of the house and start a charity. We talked about this, Baby. Our futures are set.”

She was right. We had talked about it and that was exactly what we had said. But now that I was in my senior year and I couldn’t put off entering the draft any longer, I was starting to have my doubts. That wasn’t her fault, though. And I shouldn’t be taking it out on her.

“You’re right. I’m sorry, Tasha. I’m just in a mood today. But, please, no more talking about… what you suggested, okay?”

As soon as I said it, I saw the light in Tasha’s eyes blink out.

“Okay,” she agreed before the two of us continued our walk to the restaurant in silence. 


“I told you not to take that class, Rucker.”

“Coach, it was something I was interested in,” I tried to explain for the thousandth time.

“Intro to Childhood Education? What does a starting quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys or L.A. Rams need with a class on childhood education?” my coach asked more than a little pissed off.

“Look,” I said finally losing my cool. “I took every class you told me to whether I wanted to or not. I attend every practice you schedule and I work hard enough to puke…”

“And look where you are because of it. A top prospect in a competitive draft class. You should be thanking me for how hard I’ve pushed you.”

I caught myself and took a breath. “And I am. But Coach, I needed to take at least one class that was for me.”

“But why that one?”

“It’s what I’m interested in.”

“Yet you haven’t attended a single class since the beginning of the year?”

“That’s because it starts 20 minutes after the end of practice. I thought I could just run over when I was done. But sometimes practice runs late, or I have to take an ice bath. Sometimes I’m just too tired.”

“Well, you should have thought about that before you chose the class because this professor isn’t as sympathetic to the challenges of student-athletes as the others are. This one thinks you should have to attend and take the tests to pass. And if you don’t pass this class, you won’t be allowed to play spring quarter. That means this team won’t win and no one will scout you.”

“I got it. I’ll start going to class.”

“Not just that. You’re getting a tutor. I’ll have one of my people find you someone. When’s your next class?”

I looked up at the clock on the wall of Coach’s office.

“Right now.”

“Then get your ass over there.”

“Coach, it’s across campus. By the time I get there, there will only be five minutes left.”

“I guess that means you’ll have to run, doesn’t it?”

“Coach, we just did 20 minutes of wind sprints.”

“Don’t talk back, just run. I mean it. Go, go, go!”

Backing out of the office, I did what I was told and ran. I had taken off my chest padding, but I was still in my cleats, compression shirt, and padded pants. The class was on the third floor of a building clear across campus. I didn’t have time to change if I was going to make it.

  I didn’t know how I had gotten into this mess. Actually, I kinda did. It was my act of rebellion. Yeah, I knew that it would butt up against practice, but I thought it would give me an excuse to leave practice early. I was wrong. And now my entire future hung in the balance.

Entering the building and the stairwell, I was completely out of breath. Luckily no one could hear my panting over the thunderous noise of my metal cleats echoing off the concrete. There was no quietly sneaking into the back of the class. By the time I had opened the classroom door, everyone had already turned to look. There were 50 students and one angry professor all staring at me.

“Sorry. Please continue,” I said between struggling breaths and plenty of humiliation.

Taking the first open seat, I rested my head on the desk to quietly catch my breath. I again felt like I wanted to throw up, but that wasn’t happening here.

Gathering myself I sat up realizing that I hadn’t grabbed my book bag from my locker. It wasn’t like I had the notebook for this class in it or anything. I had given up on attending a long time ago. But it would have been nice to have something in front of me so I didn’t look like an idiot.

Pulling out my phone, I did my best to seem like I was taking notes on it. I wasn’t because I had no idea what the professor was talking about. It looked like everyone else did, though. They were all laser-focused on the woman standing in front of us. That is, everyone was paying attention except one person. And when I saw her, I couldn’t breathe.

It was Quin, and she was looking up at me. Our eyes connected for a second but then she looked away. Everything inside of me tingled. I could immediately feel myself breathing harder.

Just seeing her did something to me. I had been given a second chance with her. I wasn’t going to let her slip out of my life again.

“And, that’s it. Next class will be a quiz on what we covered over the past two weeks. Be ready,” the professor said before turning her attention to me. “Mr. Rucker, can I see you a moment?”

I wasn’t expecting that. Worst still, Quin was seated on the opposite side of the room which had a different exit. She wasn’t looking my way and she would be gone before I could ask her to wait for me.

“Mr. Rucker,” the grey-haired, Asian woman called again.

“Coming,” I told her keeping an eye on Quin as she approached the door.

 Quickly swimming upstream past the flood of people, I approached the professor as she erased the board. She was taking her time with it and it was killing me. When Quin disappeared, my heart sank. She was gone again and I was heartbroken.

“Coming in five minutes before the end of class isn’t considered attending. At least not in my book.”

“I know. And I’m really sorry about that. I ran over from practice. But I promise I won’t be late again.”

“I’m told you need to pass this class to remain eligible to play next season.”

“That’s correct, Ma’am.”

“Then I would think you would take this class a little more seriously.”

“And I promise, I will… moving forward.”

“If you don’t want to be here…”

“I do want to be here.”

“Why?” She asked sincerely.

“Because it’s a subject I’m really interested in. Teaching kids is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

“What about football? I hear you have a promising professional career.”

“Football is what I’m good at. It’s a blessing. But it’s not…”

I didn’t finish the sentence. That was a box I didn’t want to open right now.

“Well, if you are serious about this class, you’re going to have a lot of catching up to do.”

“I realize that, and I’m willing to work. I’m getting a tutor.”

“Are you?”

“Yes, Ma’am. In fact…” I said suddenly getting an idea. “Could we pick this up next class? I promise I’ll be on time for it.”

“You better be. Remember, attendance is mandatory.”

“I got it. I’m on it. I’ll be here. Promise,” I said clomping my cleats on the carpet as I trotted to the door.

As soon as I was in the hall, I scanned both directions looking for her. She wasn’t there. Where had she gone so quickly?

Most of the students were entering the stairwell headed downstairs. I jogged over and joined them. Craning my neck, I couldn’t see her. I was about to hate myself for not leaving sooner when I saw the back of someone who could only be Quin exiting the stairwell onto the main floor.

“Excuse me. Excuse me,” I said squeezing past everyone.

It only got me down a few seconds sooner and by the time I was there, she was again nowhere to be seen.

Looking into every classroom as I ran past them, I didn’t see her. I was about to give up hope when I popped open the door to the building and spotted her walking away. Warmth washed across me. It felt like a spot of sunshine on a cloudy day.

Jogging towards her, I slowed when I was a few feet away. I couldn’t lose my cool just because I was about to talk to the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. I had to at least pretend like kissing her wasn’t the only thing I could think about since the moment we met.

“Quin?” I said trying to be as casual as I could.

She stopped and turned around. She did not look as happy to see me as I was to see her. It triggered a twinge in my chest but I pushed past it.

“I thought that was you. How have you been? Hit up any big parties since I saw you last?” I said with a smile.

When she didn’t reply, I said, “Cage. Cage Rucker. We met at the Sigma Chi party.”

“I remember,” she said coldly. Ouch! There was that twinge of pain again. “How’s Tasha? That was your girlfriend’s name, right?”

“Tasha? Oh, yeah. She’s good. She’s fine. Ah, did I do something to upset you? If I did, I’m sorry,” I said desperately wanting to see her smile.

Quin stared at me with a look of frustration and then relented.

“No. You didn’t do anything wrong. Don’t mind me. I’m just being stupid.”

“You? Being stupid? I find that hard to believe,” I said with a smile.

She stared at me again. This time she looked like she was searching my soul.

“Why would you say that?”

“I don’t know. I guess you strike me as being someone really smart.”

She softened the intensity of her gaze.

“I’m not smart about anything that matters,” she said before continuing her walk.

I caught up to her.

“I don’t think that’s true. In fact, I’ll bet you’re pretty smart at Intro to Childhood Education. I bet you’re at the top of the class.”

Quin looked at me when I said that.

“You are, aren’t you?”

Quin looked away.

“I’ll be damned. Okay. Then that will make the next thing I say less awkward. It turns out that I need this class to stay eligible for football and ultimately, the NFL draft. And, since I haven’t been attending classes, I’m a little behind. I kind of need a tutor. The football program is willing to pay you for your time.”

“I can’t tutor you,” she said dismissively.

“Why not?”

“I just can’t. Sorry.”

“Okay. Then how about if I make the pot a little sweeter?”

“What do you mean?”

“When we were at the party you said that you weren’t good at being social, which I don’t understand because you seemed perfectly comfortable with it.”

“I was only comfortable because…”

“Because of what?” I asked hoping she would say, because of me.


“Well, if you’re willing to tutor me in what you’re good at, I can tutor you on what I’m good at.”

“You mean being a football star that everyone wants a piece of.”

“First of all, ouch. Second of all, there’s a little more to me than that.”

“I know. I’m sorry. See, I’m not good at this,” Quin exclaimed.

I took her hand as casually as I could. I tried to pretend like this was just something I did when I talked to people, but the truth was I had been dying to hold it.

“You are good at this. At least, you can be. Let me help you. I know I can help you with this. And once you’re done, you’ll be a star football player who everyone wants a piece of like I am,” I said with a smirk.

Quin laughed. I tingled so much I thought my teeth would fall out.

“So, what do you say?”

Quin pulled her hand from mine. She wasn’t subtle about it. I think she was trying to send a message about boundaries. Fair enough, I could respect that.

“Okay,” Quin said with a smile.

“Okay?” I repeated melting in her eyes.

“Okay,” she confirmed to my absolute joy.

“I hear there’s a quiz in the next couple of days.”

“It’s in two days and it covers two weeks of material.”

“That sounds like a lot.”

“It is,” she confirmed.

“It sounds like your tutoring should start right away,” I suggested wanting to spend every waking moment with her.

“How about tonight? I’ll set up a lesson plan and we’ll go from there.”

“A lesson plan? You don’t play around.”

“I don’t. You can’t either if you want to pass the quiz.”

“I won’t.”

Quin hesitated. “And you don’t have any plans with your girlfriend or anything, do you?”

Being reminded of Tasha was a bucket of cold water on my runaway excitement about spending the night with Quin. My smile diminished.

“Even if I had something, I would cancel it. Passing the class and playing football comes first. She would understand.”

“Okay. Then I’ll see you tonight.”

“Should I get your number?” I asked her not missing the opportunity.

“Yes. Give me your phone.”

I handed it to her and she typed it in. A second later I heard a phone ring in her backpack.

“You know where I live. I’ll text you the time and my room number,” Quin said professionally.

“So we’ll be doing this at your place?”

“Unless you have somewhere better. I guess we could go to a library but I don’t know how much talking they’ll allow.”

“No, your place is great. I look forward to it.”

“You look forward to studying?” She asked reminding me that this wasn’t a date.

“Of course. Intro to Childhood Education is what I live for. Ask anybody.”

Quin laughed. It melted my heart.

“See you then, Dimples,” she said with a smile before turning and walking off. Man, was I in trouble.



Chapter 3



‘See you then, Dimples?’ Did I actually say that? What was I thinking? What was I thinking agreeing to any of this?

There was no way I was going to be able to resist him. When he looked at me, he made me feel like I was the only person in the world. Time stopped when I spoke with him. How was I going to be alone with him long enough to help him pass his class?

I should have continued to refuse to help him. But, his offer had been pretty great. I had come to college for one thing, and it wasn’t the formal education. It was to learn the things I hadn’t and couldn’t learn from books. It was all of the subtle back and forth that went on during conversations.

To me, life would be more efficient if everyone just said what they were thinking and got on with stuff. But, I get it, that wasn’t the way things worked. There was a dance to it and I had to learn the steps.

I couldn’t ask for a better dance teacher than Cage, though. What he offered was the one thing I had come to college to learn. How could I refuse his offer of help?

I just had to keep reminding myself that he had a girlfriend, and no matter what I thought was going on, it was only in my head. He would never love me back. Ours was a union of convenience. That was it. And once we got from each other what we wanted, we were going to go our separate ways.

A wave of pain washed through me thinking about it. This had clearly been a bad idea. There was no way I was going to survive this. But there was no backing out of it now. And, I had to admit, I couldn’t wait to see him again.

“Lou, you can’t be here tonight,” I told her when I got back to my room.

“Buttercup, I told you, if you’re going to be making out with some boy, just put a sock on the doorknob.”

“What type of sock?”

Lou looked at me shocked. “Wait, what?”

“Like, is it supposed to be a gym sock or one of those ankle socks? Because the ankle sock would probably stay on the doorknob better.”

“Wait. Wait! I was joking. But what are we talking about? Are you bringing a boy here tonight?”

“Cage is coming over.”

Lou’s mouth dropped open. “The boy from the sad-Quin photo?”

“Yeah. But it’s just to study. I’m tutoring him in a class.”

“You have a class with him. How are you just telling me this now?”

“He didn’t show up to the class until today. And he was wearing his football gear,” I said with a smile creeping across my face.

“You mean the very tight ones that football players wear.”

“Ah-uh,” I said feeling my face heat up.

“Oh! He’s not just coming over to study, is he?”

“No, he is,” I said bringing things back down to earth. “He needs to pass the class to play football next semester, and he asked me to tutor him.”

“So, you’re holding his life in your completely irresistible hands?”

I looked down at my hands wondering how hands could be irresistible.

“I mean, not really. But, kind of.”

“Oh my god, you two are so gonna make out.”

“We’re not. He still has a girlfriend. That hasn’t changed.”

“Maybe he wants you to join the two of them.”

“Ah, no,” I said firmly.

“So, we’re going to have to break the two of them up?” Lou asked with a devilish look in her eyes.

“No! I’m not doing that either. If she is who he wants to be with, then… fine. I’m okay with that.”

“How much did that hurt to say?”

“A lot. But, it will have to be true. I don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with me.”

“You’re a better person than I am,” Lou said giving up.

“I don’t know about better, but I am a lot more alone.”

“Ahhh!” Lou said getting up and hugging me. With her arms still wrapped around me, she said, “This boy is going to devastate you, isn’t he?”


“Don’t worry, I’ll be here to pick up the pieces, Buttercup. I’ll always be.”

“Unless you have a hot date?”

“Unless I have a hot date. But, other than that, I’ll be right here,” she said pulling away and giving me a comforting smile.



Chapter 4



I can do this. I can spend a little time with Quin, not fall head over heels for her, and not blow up my entire life to be with her. I’m sure I can. Although, the closer our meeting time got, the clearer it became that I wasn’t going to have a say in the matter.

How is it that every guy doesn’t see what I see in her and snap her up? I don’t understand it. The girl is gorgeous and awkwardly adorable. I could push my fingers through her dark, wavy hair until I was lost in it.

Oh, and her eyes. Don’t get me started on her eyes, those vulnerable, heart-melting eyes. Just thinking about them did things to me.

It’s like… what is that thing that animals release to attract a mate? Pheromones? It’s like she’s releasing pheromones and there is nothing I can do to resist it.

I really shouldn’t have asked her to tutor me. She was probably the last person I should have asked. How will I be able to concentrate with her in arms reach of me? It was such a mistake. But, I can’t wait. And time has never moved slower in my life.

I waited at The Common for our meeting time instead of driving home and driving back. Staying with Tasha might have also been an option considering she lived on the floor above Quin’s. But odds were that Tasha was hanging out with Vi.

The two of them were inseparable. It was no wonder Tasha had suggested what she had. They did everything else together. Why not that?

Once the painfully long wait for me to head over had passed, I hurried across the quad. Slipping into the building as someone exited, I ran up the stairs two at a time and knocked on her door. I heard some scrambling inside before an unfamiliar voice said, “I just want to see,” and the door opened.

“Hello,” I said to the puckish-looking girl standing in front of me.

“Lou. Nice to meet you,” she said neither offering me her hand nor inviting me in.


“The football star?” Lou said with a smile.

“I guess. Is Quin here?”

“She is. And what intentions do you have with my friend?”

“Lou!” Quin yelled from behind her. Pushing past Lou and placing her body between the two of us, Quin said, “I’m sorry about that. She was just leaving.”

Quin’s body was so close to mine.

“That’s Okay. Lou, I would invite you to stay and hang out, but we have two weeks of classwork to go over… Unless Quin thinks we could do both?”

“We can’t do both and Lou was just leaving. Bye, Lou.”

“Toodles,” Lou said pushing past me allowing Quin to invite me in.

“I’m sorry about that. Lou means well.”

“It’s always good to have a friend who’ll look out for you.”

“It is. So, welcome to my room.”

I looked around. “Is this how the other half live?”

“What do you mean?”

“The Plaza dorms are pretty fancy.”

“Doesn’t your girlfriend live in here, too?”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. Besides, she has two roommates and has to share a bedroom. Your place is better decorated than my house.”

“You live at the fraternity?”

“No. I’m not a member. I know, a football player who doesn’t belong to Sigma Chi, unthinkable. But, fraternity life was a little outside my price range.”

“Where do you live?” Quin asked ushering me to the couch in their living room.

“At home with my dad.”

“Not your mom?” Quin asked gathering books and sitting next to me.

“My mom died when I was born.”

Quin froze. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“No need to be sorry. It happened a long time ago.”

“So, it’s always just been you and your dad.”

“Yep. And sometimes just me.”

“What do you mean?”

“Nothin’. We should get to studying. I have a feeling there’s a lot we have to cover,” I said changing the topic.

Although I never knew my mother, the topic was still a sore spot for me. Mostly because of my dad. He would never say it, but I think her loss hit him hard. At least, that was my guess.

Quin started by showing me the most organized flow chart I had ever seen in my life.

“Here’s what we’re going to have to cover by Thursday,” she said getting right to business.

Her assertiveness was almost enough to distract me from her knee hovering inches from mine as it supported the textbook. Or, the whiff I got when she leaned over to point out something on an opposite page. Her sweet scent was intoxicating. I couldn’t resist it. I needed more.

“You keep leaning forward, is your back okay?”

“My back? Yes. That’s why I keep bending over, because of my back. I need to keep it stretched. You know because of practice.”

“If you want, we can move to the dining room table? The chairs have a little more support,” Quin suggested sweetly.

“Yeah, maybe that would be best.”

I was about to get up when I realized there was a problem. She was doing more to me than I had thought.

“Um, maybe in a second.”

“Your back’s really hurting, huh?”

“Yeah, it’s hurting really bad.”

“I’m so sorry. I wish you would have said something sooner. This might sound weird, but I can give you a massage if you’d like. I taught myself a few years back. I haven’t had many opportunities to practice, but I think I’m still pretty good.”


“I’m sorry, is that weird? Offering to give you a massage is weird, isn’t it?” Quin said wilting before my eyes.

“No, it’s not weird at all. I’d love to have one. It would really help… my back.”

“You sure?”

“You don’t know how much,” I said with a smile.

“Okay. Then…”

Quin looked around. “My bed would probably be more comfortable.”

There was no way I was going to be able to get up now.

“I think the couch will be fine.”


Quin got up and began stretching her fingers.

“Undress to your level of comfort and lie down.”

Heat flashed across my cheeks. Did she just tell me to undress to my level of comfort? Only God knew what would happen if I were to take off my pants. There was no way I could do that. But, I could take off my shirt.

Slowly pulling it off, I peeked up at Quin. The way she stared did all sorts of things to me. I was going to have to think of a lot of baseball if I was going to get through this. It was worth the risk, though. I needed her hands on me. And when I lied down and she got on top of me, I was in heaven.

With her pulling and kneading my muscles, I lost myself in bliss. Her touch felt better than anything ever. I could have rolled over, pulled her into my arms, and kissed her like the last person I would ever kiss. I was willing to walk away from everything to have her. I…

“I need to go to the bathroom,” I said tossing the small girl onto the couch.

Throwing the door closed behind me, I paced with my head in my hands. What I was doing? I had to pull myself together. I had a girlfriend and plans. I had obligations to keep.

My thoughts spiraled until I became lightheaded. I needed to steady myself. Reaching out for support, I found it. But then there was a snap and

I hit the ground with a thud.



Chapter 5



“Are you alright in there?” I asked hearing what sounded like the towel rack break and then someone falling to the floor.

“I’m fine,” Cage shouted back. “But, I think something broke. Sorry about that.”

“Don’t worry about it, whatever it is. Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yeah. I just need a second.”

Sitting on top of him freaked him out. I know it did. That’s why he threw me off of him and sprinted to the bathroom like his hair was on fire.

Why did I offer to give him a massage? How weird was that? I’m ruining everything.

But he said his back was hurting and it just slipped out. If someone says their back is hurting, you offer to give them a massage, don’t you?

Agh! I don’t know. I don’t know anything. Why am I so bad at this?

“Are you sure you don’t need any help in there?”

“I have everything in hand,” Cage said before turning on the faucet and eventually coming out.

Damn, did he look good standing there with his shirt off. How did he have abs without flexing? He was just standing there. How?

Staring at me with the most heart-melting puppy dog eyes, he said, “Sorry about that?”

“No, I’m sorry,” I told him feeling bad for crossing the line.

“Why should you feel sorry,” he asked me as if he didn’t know.

“You know, because…”

“…Because you were willing to tutor me in a subject I need to pass to have any sort of life, and I made things weird?”

“You made things weird? I’m the queen of making things weird.”

“You might be the queen of something, but this is on me. Look, why don’t we get back to studying.”

“How’s your back?”

“It’s much better now, thank you,” he said grabbing his shirt and putting it on.

Continuing from where we left off, we covered a lot of material by the time Lou came back.

“Still at it? You two can just keep going and going, can’t you?” Lou said playfully.

Lou was clearly making Cage uncomfortable.

“Yeah, I should go.”

“Don’t let me stop you,” Lou said. “You won’t even know I’m here.”

“Or, we could just go to my room,” I suggested.

“No!” he said abruptly. “I mean, maybe we can pick it back up tomorrow. There are a lot of things swirling around up here and I need to process it all,” he said circling his hands around his head.

“Oh, yeah. Sleeping helps you retain information. Tomorrow, then. If you want to start earlier, my last class ends at four.”

“That sounds great. How about we meet at the study hall next time? That way we don’t disturb Lou.”

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about me. You two can do it wherever you’d like,” Lou added as she stood watching the two of us.

“Yes, we could study here,” I confirmed.

Cage fumbled his words. “I think study hall would be better. I mean, if it’s okay with you.”

I was disappointed that I had screwed things up so badly that he didn’t want to come back to my room, but I understood.

“No, that’s fine. We’ll be covering the rest of the material, so you might want to bring some snacks.”

Lou added, “Sounds like it will be a long, hard session. You like it that way, don’t you Quin?”

“Alright, I’m gonna go. Text me,” Cage said escaping, and glancing at Lou as he did.

“What was that all about?” I asked Lou upset.

Lou looked at me with a smile. “You said he has a girlfriend?”

“Yes. He has a girlfriend!”

“Very interesting,” she said smirking at me like she knew everything and I knew nothing. “Very… interesting,” she continued before slipping into her bedroom and not returning.

I didn’t get much sleep that night. If I wasn’t trying to figure out what Lou was seeing that I wasn’t, I was thinking about how I had made things weird with Cage, or what it would be like to touch him again.

I was a complete mess. That man did things to me. And after only the third time seeing him, I couldn’t get him out of my mind.

Why did he have to have a girlfriend? Why did he have to be so perfect? And, why did he have those dimples? Someone explain to me why he had to have so many adorable dimples.

The next day at study hall was less weird than the night before. For the most part, we stuck to the course material and only veered away when we took our dinner break.

“I brought an extra sandwich if you want one?” I told him pulling it from my bag.

“You brought an extra sandwich?” He asked more surprised than I could have guessed.

“Yes. Do you want it? I figured you would have a lot swirling around up there and might not remember to bring something.”

“Wow! I’m not used to people being so thoughtful.”

“What? Come on. You’re a famous football player. You must have people doing things for you all of the time.”

“It’s not the same,” he said taking the sandwich. “Thank you, by the way. Yeah, there’s a difference between someone doing something for you because they’re getting something from you, and someone doing something just to be nice.”

“I get that. There are a lot of people who can see you as a stepping stone on their path to getting what they want. You’re just an object to them. They forget that you have feelings too. And, maybe your desires don’t line up with everyone’s expectations for you.”

“Wow! Exactly,” he said staring at me and once again turning me into a heaping pile of girl-crush.

“What?” I asked when his gaze became too much.

“How would you know that feeling so perfectly?”

What was I supposed to say to that? I liked Cage. I liked him a lot, maybe more than I should. So, I didn’t want to freak him out. At least not yet.

Besides, I chose a school in the middle of nowhere for a reason. Coming here was the best shot I had of fading into the background. I just wanted someone to see me as a normal person for once. Was that wrong of me? I couldn’t tell.

“I guessed.”

“You guessed? You’re incredibly smart, aren’t you? I mean, even smarter than you’re letting on,” Cage said with another of his charming smiles.

I shrugged. What was I supposed to say to that? Luckily, he dropped the topic before I had to decide.

Finishing our sandwiches, we got back to work. By midnight, we had covered everything.

“So, that’s all of it?” Cage asked.

“All that’s going to be covered in the quiz tomorrow. Do you think you have it?”

“You’re a very good tutor. If I’ve missed anything, it wouldn’t be your fault. By the way, I spoke to my coach. He told me you have to contact his office to get paid.”

“Oh. Don’t worry about it,” I told him.

“You put so much work into helping me. No one could have made everything clearer than you have. Not even the professor. You deserve to get paid for your hard work.”

“Okay,” I said relenting.

Cage looked at me strangely and I couldn’t figure out why.

“Since you’re not excited about getting paid, how about the other thing I promised you?”

“Oh right, ‘How Not to be so Awkward’ classes.”

Cage laughed. “I don’t know about all of that. I was just thinking that we could play some flag football at the park.”

“On your time off from football, you play more football? You must really love playing.”

 Cage gave me a muted smile. “You would think.”

“So tell me, Mr. Expert, how is playing flag football in the park supposed to help me not feel like a freak at a party?”

Cage became pensive. “I’ve been thinking about this. The reason why I feel so comfortable in social situations is because I know that, no matter what happens, I’ll be able to handle it. Also, I know that if I do say something stupid, which I do… often, everything will be fine. The world’s not going to implode. I’m not going to be sent into the desert to live alone. My life will most likely go on unchanged.

“And, the only way I got to that realization is because I have been put in many comfortable and uncomfortable social situations and have worked my way through them. You need to be in those situations. You need your own opportunities to work your way through it.

“Then, when you’ve gotten familiar with all of the most common situations that come up, and you’ve figured out what to do and say when they do,” he held up his hands, “I’m done.”

I stared at Cage with my mind blown.

“That’s kind of genius. You’re absolutely right. Social comfort is experientially based. Familiarity breeds comfort. So, the answer is being willing to be uncomfortable. I’m not sure I could have thought of that.”

“I guess I’m good for something after all,” Cage said proudly.

“Although, I’m not exactly a football player. So, I’m not sure being stampeded by jocks will fill me with the confidence you think it will.”

“I guess you’ll have to trust me on that,” Cage said with a wink.

Why did he have to wink? Didn’t he realize I was doing my best to see him as a friend? Why did he have to remind me how irresistible he was?

Offering him a lingering goodbye which turned into an awkward hug, I headed back to my room and bed. Tucked away, I heard Lou enter the apartment and approach my door.

“I know you’re not asleep,” she said without knocking. “I know you’re hiding in there because you don’t want to tell me how it went. Or, is he in there with you? He’s rushing to put on his clothes right now, isn’t he?”

“Goodnight, Lou!” I told her needing the teasing to end.

“Night, Buttercup,” she replied smiling as she left.

The thought Lou had planted ran through my mind for the next three hours. By the time I woke up, I was already late for class. Sprinting across campus and bursting through the auditorium doors, I learned how Cage had felt.

As everyone turned to look at me, the only one I cared about was Cage. Was he there? Had he made it?

When I saw him my heart fluttered. He was smiling at me. It was five cups of coffee all at once.

Professor Nakamura held up a handout and pointed me to an open spot. It was on the other side of the room from Cage. Maybe that was for the best. I wasn’t sure I could look him in the eyes considering all of the things I made him do in my fantasies the night before.

With my brain moving slower due to the lack of sleep, I wasn’t close to being done by the time the class ended. I figured I would keep answering questions until I was told to stop. Keeping one eye on the professor I didn’t miss when Cage handed in his paper and said something to her. She looked at me immediately after and then Cage winked at me again as he headed out.

When I was the only one left, Professor Nakamura said, “Cage told me you were up late tutoring him, so I’ll give you an additional 20 minutes.”

“Thank you, Professor,” I said gratefully.

The 20 minutes were barely enough. I did get it done, though, and it was thanks to Cage. The guy was doing something to me that I wasn’t going to be able to come back from. I could barely wait for our flag football date to roll around so I could see him again. He was all I could think of until I did.

When I saw him park his truck and approach me at the entrance of the park, I couldn’t help but smile. He was smiling too. God, did I love the way he smiled. It almost made up for the stress I felt about what was going to happen next.

“You ready for this?” Cage asked looking confident and gorgeous.



“Petrified might be more accurate.”

“There’s nothing to worry about. Be yourself. If you say something that feels awkward just push through it. Remember the world isn’t going to end, and no one here will be any less awkward than you.”