“No,” Lucas repeated for at least the fifth time in the last half hour. Olivia had been following him around the party, relentless in her pursuit to destroy Professor Pierce. He didn’t want anything to do with it.
“Come on, Lucas. It’s not that big of a deal. Just ask the girl out on a date or two and then you can break up with her in public. You do it to girls all the time. One more shouldn’t matter.” Olivia sat next to him on the arm of a chair in his fraternity house.
“I don’t get it.”
“What’s there to get?”
“Why do you want to hurt her? What did she do to you?”
“That’s not the point. I want to ruin his reputation.”
“Professor Pierce’s wife filed for divorce. He didn’t walk away from this mess unscathed, either. Let it rest.”
“I was suspended from the dance team. Do you know what that means?” Olivia held her hand over her chest as though she were mortally wounded.
Lucas fought the urge to roll his eyes at her drama-filled performance. Olivia would throw a tantrum if she knew he agreed with the suspension . As much as she wanted to pretend otherwise, she didn’t have clean hands in the whole Professor Pierce shit show. He didn’t recognize Olivia anymore . Their families had been friends since before either of them could walk and she had become a permanent fixture in his life, their childhood memories so intertwined that she was an extension of his family. “Yes. Dancing is your life, but you should have thought about that before you tried to seduce Professor Pierce for a passing grade. Better yet, you should have shown up at the midterm and then you wouldn’t have had to worry about your grade in the first place.”
Her eyes desperately searched his. She probably wanted to find an inkling of sympathy, but she wouldn’t. The Olivia he remembered from his childhood was shy, considerate, and one of his best friends. In the last two years, she’d become jaded, cold, and impulsive, and unfortunately, he had crossed out of the friend zone and into something else more than a few times. He couldn’t even say why he did it. Having sex with her strained their friendship to the breaking point. Now, they constantly danced the line between childhood friends and something more. He hadn’t touched her since school ended last year, but the awkwardness hadn’t subsided. It bubbled underneath the surface of every conversation and every touch.
She clutched his wrist in her hand and he barely resisted the urge to pull away. Only tears forming at the corners of her eyes stopped him. He hated seeing her like this— helpless and vulnerable. “Don’t you think I get that now?” she whispered, her voice hoarse and shaky, her nails digging into the underside of his wrist. “I would give anything for a do over.” She cleared her throat as she shook her head from side to side. “Do you know what my dad said?”
He nodded. He’d heard. Her dad wouldn’t win father of the year, but that wasn’t a new revelation. Rather than being upset about what happened to his daughter, he focused his efforts on insuring that neither he nor his baseball team could be linked publically to the scandal. “I was in the other room when you talked to him. I heard enough to know your dad won’t change. You need to stop caring what he thinks. Let this mess go. Learn from your mistake. Don’t compound it by orchestrating some ploy to take out your anger on Professor Pierce’s daughter. His wife is leaving him. Isn’t that enough?”
“He barely cares about her. He’s probably relieved she’s leaving him and he still has his career.”
“What makes you think he cares about his daughter? Maybe they’re both an inconvenience.” Lucas’s eyes darted around the party to make sure no one could overhear their conversation. Originally, he had intended to spend the night self-medicating with alcohol to relieve his boredom, but Olivia cornered him with this ridiculous idea the minute he left his bedroom. Just his shit luck. An hour later and he still hadn’t taken one sip of alcohol.
“Because he has pictures of her all over his office and he’s always talking about how smart and perfect she is.”
He looked away and pinched the bridge of his nose . “She sounds like a good kid. Leave her alone. I’m sure the gossip traumatized her enough.”
“Look.” She tapped her hands on her thigh just below the hem of her skirt. Olivia always had beautiful dancer legs, but he had a hard time seeing anything about her as beautiful these days. “I’m not asking you to destroy her, just pretend you like her and then break up with her.” She shrugged as her eyes drifted toward the entrance to the room. “She’s here,” she whispered.
“Regan, Professor Pierce’s daughter.”
“Why? She’s not in your sorority.”
“No, but two of her friends from the dorm are, and when I saw them on campus with her, I suggested they bring her along tonight.”
“Are they mixed up in your stupid plan, too?”
“No.” She frowned. “I told them she might be a good candidate to rush our sorority second semester.”
“Jesus, Olivia. This is fucked up.”
“Look at her. She’s kind of cute in a homely sort of way.”
Lucas looked around the room through of sea of faceless women, some he recognized, others he probably should recognize after three years of being part of the monotonous Greek scene that strangled him centimeter by painful centimeter every day. “Which one?”
Olivia elbowed him. “The redhead near the entrance looking like a lost puppy.”
Slowly, he let his field of vision drift toward the entrance. Her impossibly green eyes met his and he couldn’t look away. There wasn’t a homely bone in that girl’s body. Flowing dark auburn hair and all that pale, flawless skin and lips that made him think of all kinds of things that should happen behind closed doors. Damn, he wished he never saw her face because now he wanted to talk to her. Olivia’s hand coasted up his arm, drawing his attention back to her.
“I know she’s not your type, but she’s conversation-worthy, don’t you think?”
He smirked. “That girl is everyone’s type.”
“You’re such a bag of shit.”
Olivia’s lips compressed into a tight line and he laughed, finally finding amusement in something. “I know, but you still love me.”
She flipped her hair behind her shoulder. “You wish. I only tolerate you because I’ve known you for so long. I don’t have a choice.”
“Uh huh,” he murmured, watching Professor Pierce’s daughter flee the room like she couldn’t get away from them fast enough. He stood up. “I need a drink.”
“Are you going to talk to her?”
Yes. Regan intrigued him, and not because of Olivia’s interest in her, but because he wanted to get a better look at the girl without Olivia breathing down his neck. “If I see her, I might.” He shrugged as he rubbed his hand along his jaw. “I haven’t decided.”
He took a few steps when Olivia’s hand snaked around his forearm. “Just ask her out and maybe she’ll talk about her dad or me. You don’t have to decide whether you want to help me yet, but I’d like to know her perspective. Getting a little inside information won’t hurt her or anyone else.”
“I don’t know.” His eyes darted to the side. He wanted to talk to her, but fuck, he didn’t want to get sucked into Olivia’s chaos. “What’d you say her name is again?” He hadn’t forgot, but he didn’t want Olivia to realize how much he actually wanted to talk to Regan.
Olivia searched his face. “Regan,” she spat out, her voiced laced with disgust.
He pulled his hand out of her hold. “I’ll talk to you later, Liv. Have a good night.”