Stay with Me (Wait for You #3)(2) by J. Lynn

Goals were good. Boring. But good.

“You’re awful quiet tonight, Calla.”

I tensed up, unable to help myself, and then I felt heat seep across my face at the sound of Brandon Shiver’s voice. Lowering the bottle between my knees, I forced the muscles along my shoulders to relax. It wasn’t like I’d forgotten that Brandon was sitting next to me, to my left. How could I forget that? I was just currently pretending he wasn’t there.

I wetted my lips as I shifted my head so a sheet of my own blond hair fell over my left shoulder, shielding my cheek. “I’m just taking it all in.”

Brandon chuckled. He had a nice laugh. And a nice face. And a nice body. And a really nice ass.

And then there was Brandon. Sigh. Like an extended sigh felt around the world. He would also be a close second to the lieutenant of the Hot Guy Brigade with his brown hair and broad shoulders.

“With Ollie here, it’s always a lot to take in,” he commented, eyeing me over the rim of his bottle. “Wait until he starts talking about the turtle roller skates idea he has.”

I laughed, relaxing a little more. Brandon was hot, but he was also a nice guy, somewhere in between Cam and Jase. “I can’t even imagine turtles on roller skates.”

“Ollie’s either bat-shit crazy or a pure genius.” Brandon shifted on the ottoman. “Jury’s still out on the verdict.”

“I think he’s a genius.” I watched Ollie scoop up the turtle and head back around the couch to the pretty extravagant habitat the little green man lived in. “The way Brit talks, he’s acing all of his courses. Med school can’t be easy.”

“Yeah, but most really smart people are totally insane.” He grinned when I laughed under my breath. “So, has the epic battle for next-semester classes ended?”

I nodded as I grinned again, settling back in the moon chair. With only a semester and a half left before I graduated with my BSN in nursing, getting into classes was like arm-wrestling Hulk Hogan. Everyone who knew my name, or was within earshot, knew I’d been battling my schedule for what felt like an eternity. We were currently a week away from the end of the semester and almost a month since academic advisement for next semester had closed up.

“Yeah, finally. I think I had to give up my right leg to get my classes, but I got all I needed. I have to meet with someone in financial aid on Monday, but I should be good.”

His brows knitted as I glanced at him. “Is everything okay with that?”

“I think so.” I couldn’t think of any reason why it wouldn’t be. “Any plans for this summer?”

One broad shoulder rose. “Haven’t really thought much of it since I’m taking summer classes.”

“Sounds like fun.”

He snorted.

I started to say something else ridiculously not clever since I was doing pretty good with this one-on-one convo with Brandon, but I lost track of what I was about to say when there was a knock. My gaze tracked Ollie to the door. He answered like he’d lived here.

“What up, pretty lady?” he said, and I sat up, my fingers tightening around the neck of the beer bottle.

A pretty, little brunette cruised on into the apartment, a red Sheetz bag dangling from her fingertips. She smiled at Ollie and gave Brit a little wave.

I didn’t know her name.

I sort of refused to learn it, because after the last two semesters of knowing Brandon, I didn’t put the effort into knowing any of the girls he “hung out” with because there were many and they never stuck around long.

But this girl—with her tiny brown pixie cut and ballerina body—was different. They had a class together this semester and they’d started hanging out in March, but this was the first I’d seen her with Brandon outside of campus.

Actually, I’d never really met her. I’d never really met any of his frequent flyers, just seen them around school and sometimes at parties, but Brandon hadn’t been on the party scene since . . . well, since March.

“There she is.” His green eyes lit up.

Oh shit.

I was a slow learner.

I inhaled through my nose and smiled as she made her way around the couples, coming to Brandon as he straightened from the ottoman and opened his arms. She went right into them, easing onto his knees and looping her arms around his neck. The Sheetz bag bounced over his back, and her mouth was like a Brandon-heat-seeking-missile, and I couldn’t blame her for that.

They kissed.

A big, wet, and deep kiss—a real kiss. Not the “we’re getting to know each other” kind of kiss or “we’re just hooking up” kiss, but a “we’ve already swapped lots of body fluids” kind of kiss.

And God, I watched them kiss like they were trying to eat each other’s faces up until the moment I knew I was upping my creeper status to a whole new level. I forced myself to look away, and my gaze collided with Teresa.

A sympathetic look crossed her pretty face as she turned in Jase’s arms, because she knew . . . oh lawd, she knew I’d been harboring a big gushy crush on Brandon.

“I brought you a cheesy pretzel,” the girl announced when they came up for air.

Brandon loved cheese-stuffed pretzels like I loved double fudge brownies.

“She brought you a pretzel?” Ollie asked. “Man, you put a ring on that.”

Brit rolled her eyes as she looped her arms around Ollie’s waist. “Does not take much to impress you.”

Twisting in her arms, Ollie dipped his head to hers. “You know what it takes to impress me, baby.”

I kept waiting for Brandon to fly out of the chair and run away from the idea of putting a ring on the finger of a girl he’d known for only a couple of months, but since I didn’t get the lovely view of his ass heading for the door, I glanced at him when I knew I shouldn’t. But I was a glutton for punishment.

Brandon was staring at the girl, grinning in a way that said . . . that said he was absolutely happy.

I swallowed my sigh.

And then he looked over at me, and before I could freak over the fact that he caught me staring at him like a stalker, his smile went up a blinding notch. “You haven’t gotten a chance to meet Tatiana yet.”

Damnit. I didn’t want to learn her name, but Tatiana was such a cool freaking name.

Tatiana shook her head as she turned brown eyes toward me. “No, we haven’t.”

“This is my friend, Calla Fritz,” he said, smoothing a hand up her back. “We had music class together last semester.”

That was who I was—Calla Fritz, always and forever the friend of the Hot Guy Brigade. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I blinked back the stupid sudden rush of tears as I wiggled my fingers in Tatiana’s direction. “It’s nice to meet you.”

That wasn’t a lie. Not really.

On Monday, I left my dorm early enough to head down to Ikenberry Hall, which was all the way down a huge hill my ass so did not appreciate. It was early May, but the temps were already cracking into the eighties, and even with my hair pulled up into a hasty knot, I could feel the humidity cloaking my skin and threading its annoying fingers through my hair.

Soon, before the end of my finals today, I’d look like a frizz ball.

I cut down the side path outside of Ikenberry and winced when I had to open the door and dip inside before a spiderweb of epic proportion dropped from the little roof over the door and onto my head.

Cold air was cranking in the building as I pushed my sunglasses onto my head and walked down the hall, entering the financial aid offices. After giving my name, the overworked and frazzled looking middle-aged woman motioned me to take a seat.

I only had to wait five minutes before a tall and slender older woman with silvery hair cut in a fashionable way came out to get me. We didn’t go into one of the cubicles where aid advisers worked. Oh no, she led back into one of the closed offices farther down the hall.

Then she closed the door behind us and walked behind her desk. “Please have a seat, Miss Fritz.”

Knots formed low in my belly as I sat.

This had never happened before. Usually, when I got called down here, it was due to information being missing from the file or a paper needing to be signed. After all, it couldn’t be a big deal. I only used financial aid for living expenses that weren’t covered by the crappy waitressing job I had, and it came in really handy when I quit at the beginning of the semester to focus more fully on my studies.

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