Stupid Girl

By: Cindy Miles

“Come on, it’s just a name, Sunshine,” he continued, and glanced at the sky. “Not like I’m proposing to you or anything.” He shrugged. “It’s just a name.” His eyes drew back to mine, and his lips pulled back further, making his already-wide grin dangerous and wolfish looking. “And I’m not fuckin’ apologizing for that kiss. It was natural hot-blooded male gut instinct.” He shrugged. “Couldn’t help it.”

Couldn’t help it? So yes, to answer an earlier question to myself: He was kookoo. But if I simply gave him my name, maybe he’d just be satisfied and be done with it. He’d knocked me over and spontaneously kissed me; he’d make up for it by helping me. Done. Although I could easily unload the truck alone, I pinned him with a hard stare. “Only if you leave me alone afterward.”

He clapped his hands together sharply once and leapt into the back of the truck, and it bounced with his weight. “Sweet.” His gaze drifted over the contents in the bed, and then to the big black bag I’d shouldered. “What’s that?”

“Telescope,” I answered in a quiet tone. I noticed he hadn’t promised anything. I pushed another box closer to the tailgate with my boot, stepped off, and lifted it into my arms.

“So what are you, a weatherman or something?” His lips parted with another half-cocked grin. He grabbed a couple of boxes and balanced them, and jumped down beside me.

“Yes,” I answered in a quiet voice. “Or something.”

“Ah, I see,” he said. He walked close enough that our shoulders brushed.

I glanced at him but said nothing.

“You’re one of those wicked smart girls, aren’t ya? Like some foxy cowgirl Dexter’s Laboratory scientist or something?” He was smiling, looking down at me. Smaht.

Crude as he was, I couldn’t help the smile that pulled at my mouth. I shook my head and shrugged. Foxy? “Something like that.” I pressed my lips together hard, trying to make the grin go away. I didn’t want it to be there, and I didn’t want it to encourage Brax Jenkins. It was nearly impossible.

When we reached the dorm entrance, Brax caught the door as a group of girls filed out. They all slid me an odd look, and one said, “Hey there, Brax,” in a husky voice, and then stared hard at me as she passed. Almost … challenging me. Daring me to interfere. Daggers, even. It was always so noticeable when girls flirted, and it looked and sounded stupid and immature. They never really knew what might lay behind good looks. Or an arresting pair of eyes. No matter how jolting of a kisser. I knew that first hand.

“Ladies,” he said. They all walked away, giggling and whispering. He held the door open for me, his eyes never leaving mine, and I pushed through.

“Fan club?” I asked as we hit the stairwell. At least people knew him; maybe I wouldn't get shanked after all. Kissed, apparently, but not shanked.

He chuckled and turned that odd gaze on me. “Something like that,” he said pointedly.

A half hour later, Brax set the last box down in my room. He rooted himself in front of me, his tattooed arms folded over his chest. Those eyes regarded mine, determined. One of his brows lifted. “Name?”

“Olivia Beaumont.” I stuck my hand out to shake his, like I’d been raised to do. “Thanks for the help. You can leave me alone now.”

Brax took my hand but his gaze stayed on my eyes, and his strong fingers wrapped around mine. The jolt of excitement that shot through me at his touch surprised me, but it was accompanied by alarm. I pasted a grin on my face and prayed there were no tell-tale signs of either. He actually seemed a little stunned that I’d even offered a handshake. Although he didn’t squeeze too hard, I could feel his strength radiating in his grip. A smile lifted one side of his mouth as he regarded me. “You got a middle name, Olivia Beaumont?”

“Were the first two not good enough?” I asked. When he continued to silently stare, I shook my head. Strange request, I thought, but I answered. “Grace,” I said, and then remembered to drop my hand.

His smile was full-blown, and it transformed his harsh features of scars and crudeness into something … else completely. Something that made my blood surge within me. It took me off guard. It could also possibly be the origin of his fan club. “Well, Gracie, I’ll see ya around.”

Brax turned his swaggering, lean form sideways at my open door, allowing a curvy brunette with blonde highlights to pass through. He looked over her head at me, winked, and left. The girl just stared after him, then turned to me, wide-eyed. She wore hot pink shorts, a white tank, and wedge sandals. Her hair was super straight, parted in the middle, and fell nearly to her waist. She carried a big zebra striped purse that rested against her hip.

“You’re Olivia Beaumont, right?” A light, tinny voice fell from her mouth. “I’m Tessa Barnes, your new roomie.” She glanced out the door once more and pushed her palm to her forehead. “Oh my God, do you know who that was?”

I nodded. “Said his name was Brax Jenkins.”

Her big blue eyes, rimmed in dark liner, bugged. “You know him?”

I shook my head and sat on the bed I stood closest to. “No, I just met him about an hour ago. He knocked me down on the lawn then insisted on helping me carry my stuff in. Why?” I purposely left out the kissing part.

My new roommate slowly shook her head. “Oh, girl. Oh … girl.” When I didn’t respond to her exasperated remark, her eyes popped open even wider. Then she muttered what sounded like a stream of Spanish under her breath. “That’s Braxton Jenkins, my darling. Sophomore. Kappa Phi brother. Winston’s big dog starting pitcher. Total man slut.” Tessa shook her head. “Bad ass, and not in a good way. He’s dangerous. Trouble with a big fucking T. If you’ve got any sense at all, you’ll stay far away from him.”

I briefly wondered what my new roomie would think if I told her Winston’s numero uno man slut had kissed me on the lawn? It didn’t take long to decide that was something better kept to myself.

What a totally strange way to start an introduction with my new college roommate: a warning to stay away from Brax Jenkins. A warning which I really didn’t need. Tessa plopped down on the end of my bed. I looked at her and lifted a curious brow. “What do you mean by dangerous?” He looked it all right. I’d thought the same thing myself. Man slut? That much was completely obvious.

The serious expression on her face made her arched brows tug forward. She crossed her tanned legs. “He’s a total punk. From Boston,” Tessa began. “Has a short fuse and as you can tell, gets into a lot of fights.” She pointed to her own eye and made an air-circle around it, referring to his shiner. “Lots and lots of fights. Starts most of them, from what I’ve heard. It’s even rumored he killed someone when he was younger.” She rubbed her arms as though the mention of Brax chilled her. “And those eyes are so freaky creeping weird.” This time, she physically shuddered. “Scary.”

Funny, those eyes of his had been scary, but I’d also thought they were—

I regarded my roommate, who seemed to be a little on the dramatic side, and smiled. “He definitely looks like trouble, but being from Boston or anywhere else doesn’t make a person a punk or a murderer,” I said. “You can’t speculate on rumor.” I realized I was defending him, when minutes ago I’d been thinking him a thug, too. Grandpa Jilly would call that being a goddamned hypocrite.

Tessa leaned forward, unaffected by my subtle chastising. “Fair enough, girl. But he is a man slut. Certifiably sound sources have told me that much. Sincerely.”

I just stared at her and waited, knowing she’d give full disclosure. I wasn’t really sure why I wanted it, but I listened anyway.

Tessa sighed, as though irritated that I couldn’t just take her warning at face value. She cleared her throat pointedly. “Braxton Jenkins isn’t just Winston’s top dog starting pitcher for the Silverbacks.” Her slight Texas drawl was made even more dramatic by her intense storytelling of Brax. “He is top-dog over the dating pool. His ego is … epic. His female conquests? Legendary. He’s all about the hootch chase, Olivia. Once he’s caught his prey, stolen the goods, he releases, just like a pro-Bass wrangler at a fishing tournament. Bang ‘em and throw ’em back.” She scowled. “More than one reliable source claims to have heard him say those exact words, too. I mean, how sanctifuckingmonious is that? Bangs and dumps, and does it with no shame. Trust me, he’s heartless. Boy’s like a damned horny hound looking for a bitch in heat.”

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