Dangerous to Know & Love by Jane Harvey-Berrick

Prologue

Silence.

Beneath his window cars were driving, bikes pedaling, people jogging, dogs walking – the world passing by. Each activity with its own unique set of actions, an orchestra of noises: tires, brakes, talking, barking. None of the sounds penetrated.

He felt a presence behind, and turned to see his brother’s concerned eyes watching him.

“Today’s the day, College Boy.”

Daniel grinned and shrugged. “I guess.”

Zef held out his hand and they shook quickly, before he pulled Daniel into a tight hug.

“I’m proud of you, bro,” he whispered. “Mom and dad would have been proud, too.”

Then he pulled away and thumped his brother on the shoulder.

“Don’t f**k up.”

Daniel grinned.

“Not making any promises.”

Chapter 1

When Lisanne stumbled into the lecture hall with Kirsty clinging to her arm, there were already a number of students spread out across the room. It was too early in the semester for many cliques to have been formed, but a few girls were sitting in groups for comfort, giggling nervously. The boys were too cool for that, and sat in glorious isolation.

Lisanne cast an eye over the assorted examples of humanity. Most looked average, like her, dressed in jeans and t-shirts, but there was one guy who was wearing a button down shirt and a tie. Good grief! Lisanne made a bet with herself that he had a copy of the Wall Street Journal in his backpack. She was only surprised he wasn’t carrying a briefcase. Why on earth had she agreed to take ‘Introduction to Business 101’? Oh yeah, because her parents didn’t think majoring in music was going to lead to any great career opportunities.

The response from her new roommate had been to look on the bright side.

“That sucks,” said Kirsty. “But, you never know, you might meet some cute guy who’ll turn out to be the next Mark Zuckerberg.”

“What, short, with bad taste in clothes?”

Kirsty laughed. “No, dummy: brilliant and filthy rich!”

Lisanne sighed.

“Hey, Lis! Get your head in the game!”

Her head snapped up, away from Mr. Big Time, then her expression cleared as Kirsty winked at her and kicked off her shoes.

“I’m surprised you can even walk in those – oh right, you can’t.”

Kirsty raised her eyebrows.

“Hello! They’re Manolos! They’re meant to be seen – not walked in.”

“Of course. Silly me.”

Kirsty sniggered. “Yeah, whatever. Okay, seriously – which of these guys would you hook up with?” and her arms swept out to indicate everyone in the lecture hall.

Lisanne laughed. “None of them for any of that.”

“No? You don’t think the guy with the red t-shirt is cute?”

Lisanne craned her neck. “He’s okay, I guess. Not really my type.”

“What is your type?” asked Kirsty, curiously. All cute guys were Kirsty’s type.

Lisanne shrugged. The truth was, she hadn’t dated much in high school. Okay, make that never, unless she counted her junior prom and the non-date fiasco. How a non-date could be a complete disaster remained a mystery to her, but it had been one of the worst, most humiliating nights of her life, involving vomit – someone else’s – and... No, she didn’t want to think about that. It definitely didn’t count.

“Come on, Lis,” said Kirsty, encouragingly. “What about that guy you were chatting with on Facebook last night?”

“Rodney? No, he’s just a friend from high school.”

“So he’s not…?”

“Ugh, no! I’ve known him since kindergarten – that would just be… weird.”

“So you’re available?”

Lisanne was very available. She just hadn’t seen anyone she liked that way.

“Well, tell me what you’re looking for – in case, you know.”

“Oh, I don’t know: somebody different. Somebody…”

“Like him?” said Kirsty, nodding her head at the guy who’d just walked in.

He was different alright. In fact, Lisanne was pretty sure that he’d wandered into the wrong classroom by mistake. No way someone like him was taking the Introduction to Business class.

All eyes, male and female, swiveled in his direction as he sauntered into the lecture hall looking like he owned it. He slumped into a seat in the second row, oozing arrogance, pulling off his Ray Bans as he did so. He was tall and slim with short, spiky black hair. He shrugged out of his leather jacket, and even from that distance Lisanne could see that he had a broad back and strong, muscular arms with swirls of red, gold and black tattoos drifting down them. He turned to scan the hall behind him, and Lisanne couldn’t help noticing a small silver ring piercing his left eyebrow.

Without speaking to a soul or making eye contact with anyone, he tossed his jacket onto one seat and his backpack onto the other side. Surely there was a law that all the cool kids sat in the back row? But no, not him.

Lisanne felt her eyebrows pull together in a frown.

“Ugh, no, I can’t stand guys like that,” she said. “All emo, and thinking they’re better than everyone else.”

“Yeah, but he’s cute,” said Kirsty, licking her lips. “That boy is fine. I’m going to find out who he is.”

“Definitely not my type,” said Lisanne, with a note of finality.

Professor Walden marched into the room and immediately the light chatter quieted, and everyone started pulling out paper and laptops, ready to take notes. Everyone except the guy with the eyebrow ring. He didn’t move. He didn’t even get out a notepad to doodle on.

Lisanne felt unreasonably irritated with him. Her parents had paid good money for her to attend college, and losers like that guy were just there for the ride. Lisanne couldn’t stand people like that – people who were fake.

She realized that she’d already spent entirely too much time staring at ‘Eyebrow Ring guy’ and that the lecture had started.

But every now and then, her eyes were drawn back to him. She’d half expected him to fall asleep, or play with his iPod, but his eyes were trained on Professor Walden, hardly blinking during the entire 50 minutes. It was weird. Maybe he was stoned? Even though it was only nine o’clock in the morning, it seemed the most likely answer.

At the end of the lecture, Mr. Big Time asked several questions, and even pulled out his copy of the Wall Street Journal to illustrate his point. Lisanne gave herself an internal fist pump: she prided herself on reading people well.

As the lecture hall started emptying, she couldn’t help noticing that Eyebrow Ring guy didn’t speak to anyone, still not making eye contact with any of the people who shared his class. And he was wearing his sunglasses again. Indoors. What a jerk.

But she had to admit that Kirsty was right about one thing: he was a cute jerk. His hair was so black it was almost blue, and his clear skin carried a golden tan. From what she’d seen of his eyes, they were a light hazel color, framed by long lashes over perfect cheekbones and full, kissable lips. Kissable? Where was the real Lisanne Maclaine, and who the hell was having these thoughts?

With a huff, aimed at the unfairness of the world where beautiful people could get away with being jerks, Lisanne went straight to the practice rooms for her one-on-one with her violin professor.

As she hurried across the quad, she couldn’t help wondering why such a beautiful boy would want to desecrate what God had given him by covering his body with tattoos, and pushing a piece of metal through his eyebrow. True, she had pierced ears, but that was different. Obviously. She didn’t really get why the girls at school were so into tatted up guys. Lisanne just didn’t see the point, and she certainly had no intention of getting one herself. It was only going to look weird when she was forty.

She sighed, wondering why she’d been born so damn sensible.

The morning went quickly after that, and Lisanne forgot all about Eyebrow Ring guy. Her violin tutor, Professor Crawford, turned out to be amazing, and Lisanne thought they’d really hit it off. He’d given her some tips on how she could improve her bowing, and it had helped immediately. So she was in a good mood when she bumped into Kirsty again in the cafeteria.

“Hey roomy!” came the loud voice. “Sit your ass over here.”

Kirsty was slumped in her seat at a table with three girls Lisanne didn’t know. She was amused to see that Kirsty’s feet were bare and propped up on the seat next to her.

“What happened to the Manolos?” Lisanne asked, with a knowing smile.

“Let’s just say I’ll save them for an evening out where I’m going by limousine,” snorted Kirsty.

Lisanne raised an eyebrow. “I was impressed you even tried to wear them. I’d have broken my neck.”

Kirsty laughed loudly, and several guys glanced her way, checking her out. From the looks on their faces, they obviously approved. Well, there wasn’t anything to disapprove: Kirsty had wheat colored hair that curled in ringlets almost to her waist, with perfect curves, a pixie doll face and huge blue eyes. If she’d been taller, she could have been a model.

Lisanne was plain by comparison although, to be fair, most girls were when compared to Kirsty. Her own face was too square, her jaw too heavy, gray eyes ordinary, straight brown hair featureless, and even though her figure was decent, it was nothing special. Nothing special at all.

Part of Lisanne, the bitchy part that she wasn’t very proud of, would have really liked to dislike Kirsty – but the girl was just too damn nice. Ugh.

Kirsty introduced her to the other girls at the table: Trudy, Shawna and Holly. They were all fashion majors like Kirsty. Not that Lisanne would have needed the introduction to figure that out – their clothes screamed ‘designer’ from half a mile.

“How were your other classes this morning?” said Kirsty.

“Yeah, pretty good. My violin professor is awesome.”

“Violin?” sneered Shawna. “That sounds majorly lame.”

Kirsty laughed, but said briskly, “Not the way Lisanne plays it.” She smiled and winked at her roommate, but then her attention was distracted and her eyes flicked across the room.

“Check out Mr. Tall Dark and Deliciously Dangerous!” said Shawna, licking her lips, as she followed the direction of Kirsty’s gaze.

Lisanne saw Eyebrow Ring guy making his way through the cafeteria. He was still wearing his sunglasses. He was still alone.

“Oh, him,” she snorted. “He’s in our Introduction to Business class. He’s a real jerk.”

Even as she said the words, they felt awkward in her mouth. Rationally, she knew he hadn’t done anything specifically to annoy her. It was just the way he’d sat there, without taking any notes, like he was above it all.

Shawna smiled in a superior way. “For your information, his name’s Daniel Colton. He’s a local, and he’s got a rep – that’s what I heard.”

“What sort of rep?” said Kirsty, eagerly.

“He’s gotten into two fights already this week,” said Shawna, pleased to be the one to deliver the news. “Went postal on some grad student for no reason.” Then she dropped her voice. “They say he’s the go-to guy if you want anything extracurricular. You know, weed, booze, coke, speed – the guy’s got it. I wouldn’t mind spending some extracurricular time with him, if you know what I mean. I heard he’s a freak between the sheets.”

Lisanne’s lips curled down in disgust, and not just at the glazed expression on Shawna’s face. How on earth could that guy get away with being so blatant as to sell drugs on campus? It fit in with her low opinion of him, which had taken a further nosedive. But then again, if people knew about him in the first week, it wouldn’t be long before the college authorities heard about it, too. In all likelihood, he wouldn’t even make it to the end of the first semester.

“He’s certainly got the bad boy vibe going for him,” agreed Kirsty.

“Mmmhmm,” murmured Shawna. “Hot, definitely hot.”

“Mad, bad and dangerous to know,” said Kirsty, smiling. “What do you think, Lisanne? Got a thing for bad boys?”

Lisanne shook her head so hard she could have sworn her brain rattled.

Kirsty laughed, and started to talk about plans for the weekend.

Irritated with herself, Lisanne put all thoughts of Eyebrow Ring guy out of her head. Some people just didn’t know their luck.

* * *

Lisanne’s first week away from home had been hard, to say the least. She missed her family. She missed being able to talk to her mom, who was also her best friend. Sure, they talked on the phone every night, but it wasn’t the same. She missed her dad’s bad jokes and his strong, quiet presence – the feeling that whatever problem she had, he’d sort it out. Lisanne even missed her little brother Harry who, at 13, was not so little, and a real pain in the butt. Still, she missed them all.

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