Just a Little Crush (Crush #1)(3)By: Renita Pizzitola
“That’s the guy from class, right? Your friend?”
“Yeah. We’ve known each other since we were, like, fifteen.”
“Oh, cool.” He leaned against the wall and crossed his legs. “So do you have plans next weekend?”
Next weekend happened to be Valentine’s Day. “Um, yeah. I have some stuff going on.”
“Yeah. Big project, some volunteer stuff and then hanging out with friends.”
Maybe I was wrong about being alone at the party. At least by myself I wouldn’t have to make up excuses to get out of dates. It wasn’t hard to fib about one weekend, but if he inquired about the next or the one after that, I’d run out of reasons to say no. I sipped my beer. Being a lightweight, this one cup would help me endure this conversation or have the balls to just walk away. It seemed a win-win. I took a swig.
Noah eyed my cup.
I shrugged. “Really thirsty.”
A loud commotion drew my attention to the kitchen. Two guys had hoisted a girl over a keg, while a third pressed the tap to her mouth. Guys applauded as she fought to keep her shirt from falling over her head and balance at the same time.
“Not that thirsty,” I muttered.
A guy stood off to the side, leaning against the wall, arms crossed with a small smile on his face. He shook his head then turned.
I blinked. Squinted. Refocused.
My heart stopped. It couldn’t be. But it was.
Everything I’d left behind in high school—the nickname, the embarrassment, the emotional turmoil—came flooding back, embodied in a single guy standing less than ten feet away.
Ryder freaking Briggs.
The air swooshed out of the room and the walls seemed to close in on me as I was taken back four years to the night it took me seven minutes to fall in love with him, and only seven seconds to fall out.
Ready to leave, I searched the crowd for Mason but found no sign of him. I looked back at Ryder and froze.
He was staring right at me.
I felt fifteen all over again.
It happened at a party where I didn’t belong, with a bottle spinning around like the wheel of destiny. I’d followed Ryder, a sophomore and the hottest guy in school, to the bathroom to get my first kiss. Which my fifteen-year-old brain was convinced meant only one thing…I’d be popular. Little did I know, not only would that night confirm my status as a never-gonna-be-cool kid, it would also haunt me throughout high school. Or more accurately, the boy on the other end of the kiss would.
The crowd cheered, snagging Ryder’s attention back to the kegstand. I’d known he attended Sutton, but had managed to avoid him for the entire first semester, even began to think I’d never see him again. But, of course, fate was cruel like that.
He brushed his dark hair from his eyes and laughed at something a girl said, then pulled the corner of his lip between his teeth. A flash of silver disappeared then reappeared as he released it. He ran his tongue over the small hoop then took a sip of beer.
I turned to Noah.
He glanced toward Ryder then back at me. “I asked if you wanted to take a walk. It’s kind of loud in here.”
A walk? No way. “You can’t leave your party. I’d feel bad stealing you away.” I smiled.
“I don’t mind. Anyway, this doesn’t exactly strike me as your scene.”
It wasn’t, but neither were late-night walks with guys I hardly knew nor wanted to get to know. “Um.” I glanced back to the spectacle in the kitchen. Keg Girl had been lowered and stumbled her way, giggling, to Ryder.
She slammed her body into his and he chuckled. Something stirred inside me and I couldn’t look away.
His chest seemed hard under her hands as she ran them down and then walked her pink-painted fingernails back up. Fisting a handful of his shirt, she pulled him forward and brought his mouth to hers. The little silver hoop vanished as she sucked his lip into her mouth.
My stomach rolled with frustration and a warm tingling spread over me as I watched his tongue work its way past her lips. What was wrong with me? I was like some psycho voyeur. Why couldn’t I just turn away?
His gaze flicked to me and the corners of his mouth curved into a grin.