The Deal (Off-Campus #1)(7) by Elle Kennedy

I set my toiletry case on the dresser, rifle through my bag until I locate my cell phone, then scan the message on the screen.

Hey, it’s Garrett. Wanted to hammer out the deets re: tutoring sched.

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

I don’t know whether to laugh or groan. The guy’s tenacious, I’ll give him that. Sighing, I quickly shoot back a text, short and not at all sweet.

Me: How’d u get this number?

Him: Study grp signup sheet.

Crap. I’d signed up for the group at the start of the semester, but that was before Cass decided we had to rehearse on Mondays and Wednesdays at the exact time the study group meets up.

Another message pops up before I can respond, and whoever said it isn’t possible to detect a person’s tone via text was totally wrong. Because Garrett’s tone is full on irritable.

Him: If u just showed up to study grp, I wouldn’t have to text u.

Me: U don’t have to text me at all. Actually, I’d prefer if u didn’t.

Him: What’ll it take to get u to say yes?

Me: Absolutely nothing.

Him: Great. So you’ll do it for free.

The groan I’ve been holding slips out.

Me: Not happening.

Him: How bout tmrw night? I’m free at eight.

Me: Can’t. I have the Spanish Flu. Highly contagious. I just saved your life, dude.

Him: Aw, I appreciate the concern. But I’m immune to pandemics that wiped out 40-mil ppl from 1918 to 1919.

Me: How is it u know so much about pandemics?

Him: I’m a history major, baby. I know tons of useless facts.

Ugh, again with the baby thing? All righty. Clearly it’s time to put an end to this before he gets his flirt on.

Me: Well, nice chatting with u. Good luck on the makeup exam.

When several seconds tick by and Garrett doesn’t respond, I give myself a mental pat on the back for successfully getting rid of him.

I’m about to walk out the door when a picture message meows out of my phone. Against my better judgment, I click to download it, and a moment later, a bare chest fills my screen. Yep. I’m talking smooth tanned skin, sculpted pecs, and the tightest six-pack I’ve ever seen.

I can’t help but snort out loud.

Me: FFS. Did u just send me a pic of your chest?!

Him: Yup. Did it work?

Me: In icking me out? Yes. Success!

Him: In changing your mind. I’m trying to butter u up here.

Me: Ew. Go butter up someone else. PS—I’m posting that pic on my-bri.

I’m referring, of course, to MyBriar, our school’s equivalent of Facebook, which ninety-five percent of the student body is on.

Him: Go for it. Lots of chicks will be happy to have it in their spank banks.

Me: Lose this number, dude. I mean it.

I don’t wait for a response. I just toss my phone on the bed and go take a shower.

4

Hannah

Briar University is five miles from the town of Hastings, Massachusetts, which has one main street and only about two-dozen shops and restaurants. The town is so miniscule it’s a miracle I managed to land a part-time job there, and I thank my lucky stars for it every day because most students are forced to make the hour-long drive to Boston if they want to work during the school year. For me, it’s either a ten-minute bus ride or a five-minute drive, and then I’m at Della’s, the diner I’ve been waitressing at since freshman year.

Tonight I’m lucky and get to drive over. I have an arrangement with Tracy, one of the girls who lives on my floor. She lets me use her car whenever she doesn’t need it as long as I return it with a full tank of gas. It’s a sweet deal, especially in the winter when the whole area turns into a snow-covered skating rink.

I don’t particularly like my job, but I don’t hate it either. It pays well and it’s close to campus, so really, I can’t complain.

Scratch that—tonight I’m definitely allowed to complain. Because thirty minutes before my shift ends, I find Garrett Graham in one of my booths.

Seriously.

Does this guy ever give up?

I have no desire to go over there and serve him, but I don’t have much of a choice. Lisa, the other waitress on duty, is busy tending to a group of faculty members at a table across the room, and my boss Della is behind the baby-blue Formica counter dishing out slices of pecan pie to three freshman girls sitting on the tall swivel stools.

I set my jaw and march up to Garrett, making my displeasure obvious as I meet his twinkling gray eyes. He runs a hand through his cropped dark hair and flashes a lopsided grin.

“Hey there, Hannah. Fancy meeting you here.”

“Yeah, fancy,” I mutter, yanking my order pad out of my apron pocket. “What can I get you?”

“A tutor.”

“Sorry, that’s not on the menu.” I smile sweetly. “We serve really good pecan pie, though.”

“You know what I did last night?” he says, without acknowledging the sarcasm.

“Yep. You were text stalking me.”

He rolls his eyes. “Before that, I mean.”

I pretend to think it over. “Um…you hooked up with a cheerleader? No, you hooked up with the girls’ hockey team. No, wait, they’re probably not ditzy enough for you. I stick with my original guess—cheerleader.”

“Sorority sister, actually,” he says smugly. “But I’m talking about what I did before that.” He raises one dark eyebrow. “But I’m very intrigued by your interest in my sex life. I can give you details about that another time if you want.”

“I don’t.”

“Another time,” he echoes in a dismissive tone, folding his hands on the blue-and-white-checkered tablecloth.

He’s got big hands with long fingers, short nails, and knuckles that are slightly red and cracked. I wonder if he’s been in a fight recently, but then I realize the busted-up knuckles are probably a hockey player thing.

“I was at study group yesterday,” he informs me. “There were eight other people there, and you know what the highest mark in the group was?” He blurts out the answer before I can hazard a guess. “C-plus. And our combined average was a D. How am I supposed to pass this makeup if I’m studying with people who are as dumb as I am? I need you, Wellsy.”

Wellsy? Is that a nickname? And how on earth does he know that my last name is Wells? I never told—argh. Damn sign-up sheet.

Garrett notices my surprised look and cocks his brows again. “I learned a lot about you in study group. Got your number, your full name, even found out where you work.”

“Congratulations, you really are a stalker.”

“Nope, just thorough. I like to know what I’m up against.”

“Jesus Harold Christ! I’m not tutoring you, okay? Go bug somebody else.” I point at the menu in front of him. “Are you ordering? Because if not, then please go away and let me do my job in peace.”

“Jesus Harold Christ?” Garrett snickers before picking up the laminated menu and giving it a cursory glance. “I’ll have a turkey club.” He sets the menu down, then reaches for it again. “And a bacon double cheeseburger. Just the burger, no fries. Actually, I changed my mind—yes to the fries. Oh, and a side order of onion rings.”

My jaw almost hits the floor. “You’re seriously going to eat all that?”

He grins. “Of course. I’m a growing boy.”

Boy? Nuh-uh. I’m only noticing it now—probably because I’ve been too distracted by how insufferable he is—but Garrett Graham is all man. There’s nothing boyish about him, not his chiseled good looks or his tall frame or that ripped chest of his, which suddenly flashes to mind as I remember the picture he sent me.

“I’ll also take a slice of that pecan pie and a Dr. Pepper to drink. Oh, and some tutoring.”

“Not on the menu,” I say cheerfully. “But the rest is coming right up.”

Before he can argue, I abandon his booth and head to the back counter to place his order with Julio, our night cook. A nanosecond later, Lisa rushes over and addresses me in a hushed voice.

“Oh my God. You know who that is, right?”

“Yep.”

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