Stupid Girl

By: Cindy Miles

I looked at him. “I kicked you out five minutes ago.”

The whites of his teeth gleamed as his smile widened.

Despite his bold acknowledgment of my supposed virginity, and blatant expression of pursuit, he was … more than charming. But I’d been warned of that, too, and I knew behind his charisma and witty comments and sexy Southie accent and too-sly smile, demons lurked. Scary ones. I wasn’t sure he was as dangerous as Tessa warned me about, but I did feel he was just passing time with me. Fascinated, more than likely, because I wasn’t twirling my hair, fake-sighing and throwing myself at him. Plus, he thought I was a virgin. That’s a novelty to any guy. Something off limits, forbidden. It’s like a red flag to a bull. A green flag to a race car driver.

I’m sure he thought that fact alone was intriguing about me, especially since so many girls my age had lost their virginity in high school. Some before that. But I wasn't here for anyone's entertainment. I didn’t want to be his or anyone else’s novelty. And … I wasn’t at all what Brax thought I was.

Yet a thrill shot through me at the thought of him not wanting to share me. At the way his presence crowded my room. And at the way he looked at me with those almost all-knowing eyes. That split-moment kiss and the energy it’d left behind lingered in my head way longer than I wanted it to. I didn’t understand it, but there it was. I’d not had a boyfriend, or even a friendly date, since that awful night with Kelsy Evans. The thought made my palms clammy, and my insides jittery.

How had he affected me so fast? Now that was a real talent. Day one with Brax Jenkins, and I was already thoroughly kissed, charmed … and nauseated at the same time? Someone needed to smack me right in the forehead. I’d never confess it to anyone, being affected by him. I’d take it straight to my grave.

Brax gave me a wide grin and straightened. “Lucky for you I’ve got practice in thirty minutes, or I’d argue with you. I’ll show you a shortcut through campus to the observatory.” Ahgue.

I stood, and grabbed my truck keys and small patchwork slouch bag that was my purse. “I can find it.”

Brax’s dark brows drew together in a frown. His black hair swung over his forehead. “Come on, Gracie. I know the way through campus. You’ll end up going the long way.” He grinned. “Trust me.”

I regarded him. Eyes completely zoned in to mine. Eyes that carried a hint of … something dark. Something forbidden. Something promising. A small smile pulled at his lips, and I caved. “Okay. Thanks.”

“No problem.” He ran his hand over the bookcase. “You put this together yourself?”

“I did.”

He gave me an appreciative nod. “Nice job.”

I looked at him. For a second, the man slut was gone and he seemed truly impressed. I ducked my head, a little embarrassed. “Thanks.”

I’d completely forgotten that Brax had pushed the door to my room wide open, and he stepped aside to let me pass through first. He'd managed to put me at ease—well, as much at ease as I could be put—after all. He pulled it closed, I locked it, and we started down the hallway. A couple of girls passed by, and their stares were first, of course, on Brax. Then they quickly turned to me. Their whispers were audible as they continued by, their words not.

“Not virgins,” Brax leaned over and said in my ear.

I just shook my head, and he laughed.

Outside, we crossed the parking lot and at least half a dozen people spoke to Brax. Some girls. Some guys. They all regarded me with suspicion or at least extreme curiosity. I couldn’t blame them. I looked about as far from someone Brax would be hanging out with that anyone could look. Which made me want to pull a blanket over my head while I walked. Or better yet, run to my truck, throw myself in, and speed away.

I also noticed how Brax’s presence seemed to crowd not just my dorm room, but the very space I walked and breathed in. All around me at once. It astounded me and made me feel jittery. And curious. Which I ignored.

“So when do you start work?” he asked.

“You ask a lot of questions,” I answered. When he continued to look at me, waiting for an answer, I sighed. “Monday. Five to nine, I think. The professor works around my classes and lab.”

Brax looked down at me. “What lab do you have? Aren’t you a freshman?”

We reached my truck and I wasn’t at all surprised to see a motorcycle parked beside it. “I am, yes.”

Brax’s ghostly stare locked onto mine for several seconds before answering. “What classes are you taking?”

I noticed then that the letter R simply didn’t exist in Brax’s vocabulary. I avoided directly looking at him, fiddling with the truck keys instead. “Intro Astronomy and a lab, Physics 301, Literature Humanities, and American and Texas Government.” I finally glanced at him. “I … have to go. Thanks again.”

Brax lifted a brow. “Well then, Gracie, we might bump into each other after all, then.” He nodded toward his bike. “Follow me.”

I climbed into my truck, partly relieved to be out of Brax’s direct stare path, and started the engine. I watched Brax as he straddled his bike and braced it with his legs on the ground. The make and model was foreign to me, since I didn’t know bikes all that well, but it was older, with a silver tank and black leather seat. When he started the engine, it rumbled and roared like some loud, pipeless beast. Pulling a black half-helmet down over his head, he tightened the straps under his chin, pushed his shades on, threw me a lop-sided grin, and waved me on.

I followed behind Brax, through the school’s many avenues and magnolia-lined streets. Students were everywhere, and Rush stations lined the sidewalks. After making a few turns, we ended up at the back lot of the Science complex and observatory. I parked and got out, and Brax pulled up beside me. His eyes were hidden behind his shades.

“Thanks again,” I said. “For the help, the phone, and the route.”

Brax’s lips pulled back into a full-blown grin. “Anytime, Sunshine. Talk to ya later.”

I watched him pull out of the parking lot and leave the way I had followed him in.

Talk to you later. Which meant he planned on talking to me. Later. As I walked along the paved path that led to the observatory’s wide front entrance steps, I considered my weird, extraordinary day. From the moment Braxton Jenkins knocked into me, nothing else afterward made a bit of sense. Why me? What could a baseball playing, fraternity brother, tattooed Southie sophomore who got into frequent fights and could keep company with any number of gorgeous leggy college girls, want anything to do with me? A plain, no make-up wearing, star-searching scarred-up in more ways than one cowgirl Geek?

Oh yeah. He thought I was a virgin.

Guys were douchebags.

As I rounded the walkway and climbed the steps, I pushed through the side-by-side front glass doors, and left behind the sweet, humid August air. With an inner determination and vigor, I set aside the silly giddiness Brax Jenkins had managed to stir inside me, and in a very short time. I was pretty sure I hated that. And I probably wouldn’t have to worry about it, either. Once the virginity ring novelty wore off, I’d drop right off of Brax’s radar. Which was fine with me.

The cool, air-conditioned interior of the observatory’s main entrance swept over me as I entered the foyer and walked up to the help desk, situated in the center. I looked up to the domed building’s painted tiled ceiling. It was beyond spectacular, and speckles of light filtered in and glittered against the walls like so many chipped diamonds. After glancing around, I noticed a, well, really cute guy, early twenties if I had to guess, seated behind the horseshoe desk. He wore a long sleeved white shirt, buttoned up the front, sleeves rolled over his tanned forearms. Plastic boxes sat before him, filled with free flyers and maps of the building. A donations jar also sat, half full. I walked to the desk, and the guy looked up. “Hi, I’m Olivia Beaumont. I’m here to meet with Professor Callander about a job?”

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