The Deal (Off-Campus #1)(9) by Elle Kennedy

She shoves my hand out of the way, slides into the driver’s seat, and shuts the door. A second later, the engine roars to life, and I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t stepped back in time, she would’ve run right over my foot.

I wonder if Hannah Wells was an athlete in another life, because she is one stubborn woman.

Sighing, I stare at her blinking red taillights and try to figure out my next move.

Absolutely nothing comes to mind.



Allie stays true to her word. It’s twenty minutes into the party, and she’s yet to leave my side, despite the fact that her boyfriend has been begging her to dance with him since the second we arrived.

I feel like a jackass.

“Okay, this is ridiculous. Go dance with Sean already.” I have to shout in order to be heard over the music, which, shockingly enough, is pretty decent. I expected shitty dance beats or vulgar hip-hop, but whoever’s manning the stereo system seems to have an affinity for indie rock and Brit punk.

“Naah, it’s fine,” Allie shouts back. “I’ll just chill here with you.”

Right, because lurking against the wall like a creeper and watching me cling to the bottle of Evian I brought from the dorm is way more fun than spending time with her boyfriend.

The living room is teeming with people. Frat brothers and sorority sisters galore, but tonight there’s a lot more variety than you usually find at a Greek event. I spot several drama majors near the pool table. A few girls from the field hockey team chatting by the fireplace. A group of guys that I’m pretty sure are freshman standing at the built-in bar. All the furniture has been pushed against the wood-paneled walls to create a makeshift dance floor in the center of the room. Everywhere I look, I see people dancing and laughing and shooting the shit.

And poor Allie is stuck to me like Velcro, unable to enjoy a second of the party she wanted to go to.

“Go,” I urge her. “Really. You haven’t seen Sean since midterms started. You deserve to spend some quality time with your man.”

She hesitates.

“I’ll be fine. Katie and Shawna are right over there—I’ll hang out with them for a bit.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive. I came here to socialize, remember?” Grinning, I give her a tiny smack on the butt. “Get outta here, babe.”

She grins back and starts to walk away, then holds up her iPhone and waves it in the air. “SOS if you need me,” she calls out. “And don’t leave without telling me!”

The music drowns out my response, but she catches my nod before she hurries off. I see her blond head weaving through the crowd, and then she’s at Sean’s side and he’s happily dragging her into the throng of dancers.

See? I can be a good friend too.

Except now I’m all alone, and the two girls I was planning on latching onto are chatting with two very cute guys. I don’t want to interrupt the flirt fest, so I search the crowd for anyone else I might know—even Cass would be a sight for sore eyes at this point—but I don’t spot any familiar faces. Stifling a sigh, I hunker down in my little corner and spend the next few minutes people-watching.

When several guys glance my way with unabashed interest, I have to curse myself for allowing Allie to choose my outfit tonight. My dress isn’t indecent by any means, just a knee-length green shift with a modest neckline, but it hugs my curves more tightly than I’m comfortable with, and the black heels I paired it with make my legs look a lot longer than they actually are. I didn’t put up an argument about the outfit because I’d wanted to catch Justin’s eye, but in my eagerness to make it on his radar, I didn’t think about all the other radars I might appear on, and the attention I’m getting makes me nervous.


I turn my head as a cute guy with wavy brown hair and light-blue eyes sidles up to me. He’s wearing a polo shirt and holding a red plastic cup in his hand, and he’s smiling at me as if we know each other.

“Uh. Hey,” I answer.

When he notices my quizzical expression, his smile widens. “I’m Jimmy. We have British Lit together?”

“Oh. Right.” I honestly don’t remember seeing him before, but there are about two hundred students in that class, so all the faces blur into each other after a while.

“You’re Hannah, right?”

I nod, shifting in discomfort, because his gaze has already lowered to my chest a dozen times in the five seconds we’ve been talking.

Jimmy pauses as if he’s trying to think of something else to say. I can’t think of anything either because I suck at small talk. If he was someone I was interested in, I’d ask him about his classes, or if he has a job, or what kind of music he’s into, but the only guy I care about at the moment is Justin—and he still hasn’t shown up.

The fact that I’m searching the crowd for him makes me feel like a total loser. Truth be told, Allie’s not the only one wondering what my deal is. I’m wondering too, because seriously, why am I so obsessed with this guy? He doesn’t know I exist. And he’s a jock, to boot. I may as well be interested in Garratt Graham, for fuck’s sake. At least he offered to go out with me.

And what do you know—the second I think about Garrett, the devil himself enters the room.

I didn’t expect to see him tonight, and I immediately duck my head so he doesn’t spot me. Maybe if I concentrate hard enough, I’ll chameleon into the wall behind me and he won’t know I’m here.

Luckily, Garrett is oblivious to my presence. He stops to talk to a couple of guys, then saunters toward the bar on the other side of the room, where he’s immediately swarmed by half a dozen girls who bat their eyelashes and thrust their boobs out to get his attention.

Beside me, Jimmy rolls his eyes. “Jeez. The big man on campus routine gets old, huh?”

I realize he’s looking at Garrett too, and the disgust on his face is unmistakable. “You’re not a fan of Graham’s?” I say dryly.

“You want the truth or the house line?”

“House line?”

“He’s a member of this frat,” Jimmy explains. “So technically that makes us brothers.” He air-quotes the word. “And a Sigma man loves all his brothers.”

I have to grin. “Okay, so that’s the house line. What’s the truth?”

The music swells, so he leans in closer. His lips are centimeters from my ear as he confides, “Can’t stand the guy. His ego’s bigger than this house.”

Look at that—I’ve met a kindred spirit. Another person who’s not a card-carrying member of Team Garrett.

Except the conspiratorial smile I give him is clearly taken the wrong way, because Jimmy’s eyes go heavy-lidded. “So…wanna dance?” he drawls.

I don’t. At all. But just as I open my mouth to say no, I glimpse a flash of black from the corner of my eye. Garrett’s black T-shirt. Crap. He’s spotted me and now he’s heading our way. Judging by his determined stride, he’s ready to do battle with me again.

“Sure,” I blurt out, eagerly grabbing Jimmy’s hand. “Let’s dance.”

A slow smile spreads across his mouth.

Uh-oh. Maybe I sounded a bit too eager there.

But it’s too late to change my mind, because he’s leading me toward the dance floor. And just my luck—the song changes the second we get there. The Ramones have been replaced by a Lady Gaga track. Not a fast one, either, but the slow version of “Poker Face.” Great.

Jimmy plants both his hands on my hips.

After a beat, I reluctantly hold onto his shoulders, and we begin to sway to the music. It’s awkward as hell, but at least I managed to evade Garrett, who is now regarding us with a frown, his hands hooked in the belt loops of his faded blue jeans.

When our gazes meet, I shoot him a half-smile and a what-can-you-do look, and he immediately narrows his eyes as if he knows I’m dancing with Jimmy just so I don’t have to talk to him. Then a pretty blonde touches his arm, and he breaks the eye contact.

Jimmy twists his head to see who I’m looking at. “You know Garrett?” He sounds more than a little wary.

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