I pull up to my new home and see some guy sprawled on the front porch, blocking the damn door.
He’s lying on his stomach, wearing only jeans, his forehead pressed into sagging boards. Probably passed out.
I let out an exasperated sigh.
All I want is to move in. I’m so not in the mood to deal with some drunk mess.
I left the Cooke Ranch just after dawn, eager to start my new college life.
It’s been a tense summer under the same roof as my grandmother, and I was so wound up from battling with her I barely got any sleep last night.
As soon as I step out of the car, I hear Mr. Drunk Mess talking. To the porch, apparently.
“Max. C’mere, buddy. You can come out now.”
His voice is tender and deep; he doesn’t sound drunk.
I close the door, maybe a little harder than necessary, and walk toward the house.
Even with my sunglasses on, the bright sunlight makes it hard to focus. When I do, I see the guy is on his feet, his hands wrapped around two of the porch posts, his bare feet hanging over the edge.
He’s squinting into the sun, staring at me.
And I cannot help staring back. Because, drunk or not, the guy is easy on the eyes: tall and broad-shouldered, with dark hair and a square jaw. He’s got jacked-up arms and washboard abs.
And even several feet away, I can tell he’s got amazing eyes. They’re light-blue, and they remind me of the summer sky at the ranch when the sun has bleached the color from the horizon, and it’s too hot to even think straight.
His eyes are mesmerizing. And I’m just standing here, gazing into them.
A slow smile climbs his face. “You our new roomie?” he asks as my mouth falls open.
Does he live here?
I’d just assumed—like a lame, sheltered freshman—that everyone living at the house was a girl.
“Um, yeah, I guess I am,” I mumble as my heart speeds up.
He steps off the porch and walks toward me, sticking out his hand.
“I’m Blue Daniels. Looks like we’re going to be housemates.”
And I say nothing.
I’m freaking tongue-tied, my stomach suddenly doing calisthenics. This gorgeous guy lives here, in the same house where I’m going to be living?
After a couple of moments where my mouth opens and closes like a fish, I whirl toward my old Nissan Maxima, yanking open a rear door and pulling out an egg crate stuffed with my things.
Then I turn back, my face burning.
Blue Daniels still has his hand out. But now he’s wearing an amused smirk.
He can probably tell the effect he’s had on me. I’m probably feeding his ego right now.
“Oh, sorry,” I fumble, embarrassed, as I shift the crate I’m holding to one hip and slip my fingers into his. “I’m...Keegan?”
I sound like I don’t know my own name.
“Keegan Crenshaw,” I add more forcefully, breaking into a sweat.
It is ridiculously hot, which is not unusual for an August day in Oklahoma. But I don’t think I’m sweating just because of the weather.
“Keegan,” Blue muses, his smile widening and those sky-blue eyes warming. “Cool name.”
“Thanks,” I murmur. “I like your name, too.”
He shrugs. “My mom was obsessed with Dylan when she was pregnant with me.”
Seeing my blank expression, he prompts, “You know...Tangled Up in Blue? Bob Dylan?”
It takes my stupid brain a moment to catch up.
“Oh!” I finally manage to say. “Yeah, I know that song. Wow, that’s…um…cool.”
Why do I sound so lame?
He’s nodding as a fond smile crosses his face. “My mom loved everything Dylan did. She still listens to him a lot.”
Hearing Blue mention his mother makes me think about mine, and as usual, a wave of grief and guilt washes over me. I sometimes wonder if that feeling will ever go away.
We stand there awkwardly for another moment. Over the daytime buzz of insects, I think I hear something moving under the front porch.
Scanning the house I’m about to move into, I wonder if the place has rodents or something.
It sure looks more ramshackle in person than it did online, with rotting boards on the porch and siding that’s threatening to fall off in places.
No telling what my room looks like; I’m kind of afraid to find out.
It’s not like I had much choice about taking it, though. I waited too long to apply for campus housing at Ikana College; even most of the off-campus housing was gone.
The only thing I could find was a room in this old house. It supposedly comes with a bed and a dresser.
Blue dips his head to intercept my distracted gaze and again gives me that sexy smile.
And suddenly, I’m not thinking about the house anymore.
Good grief. Get yourself together.
“I heard you’d be moving in today,” he says. “But we didn’t expect you quite this early. Pretty sure I’m the only one up.”
I guess I should have known not to show up before noon. The property manager told me the existing tenants sleep late on weekends.
“They’re college kids,” she explained over the phone. “I’ll let them know you’re coming, and I’ll be by in the afternoon with the key.”
I suppose I could have dawdled longer this morning, stayed in my room, and avoided my grandmother. She probably wouldn’t have come looking for me.
But I was desperate to drive away from the ranch and all its memories.
So, I headed south, to the little college town of Hickory Flat.
And I’ve spent the last couple of hours just killing time, driving around, and getting to know the place where I’m going to spend the next four years.
The clock in my car said it was exactly 10 a.m. when I pulled up. That ought to be late enough.
“Look at me,” Blue’s voice bursts into my thoughts, “just standing here chatting while you’re holding that.”
He reaches for my heavy crate. “Let me help you unload.”
His arms rub against mine as he pulls the crate from me, and my heart speeds up even more.
“Fuck, it’s hot,” he complains, setting my crate on the front porch and wiping an arm across his forehead as he straightens.
And my eyes, with no permission from my brain, fixate for a second on his well-defined abs.
Blue flashes a grin, like he knows what I’m thinking, then steps back to my car and pulls out one of my boxes.
I rush over to yank open the other rear door and slide another box across the seat.
It feels weird to have this guy I don’t even know helping me.
And I’m freaked out at the way I’m reacting to him.
I mean, it’s normal, I guess. He is seriously sexy.
But I don’t want to start off my college career by falling into bed with my roommate. Pretty sure that would lead to complications I don’t need.
I just want to get up to my room and unpack. Alone.
“Come on, new roomie,” Blue pipes up, moving toward the porch again. “I’ll show you around.”
After a moment’s hesitation, I follow him up the steps.
But then I come to an abrupt halt a few feet away, gasping as I take in the web of thickened scars fanning across his back.
There must be a dozen of them. They look like burn marks.
Maybe he was in a terrible car accident. Or maybe someone did that to him. My heart flips over at the thought.
“Old war wound.”
Blue’s terse words interrupt my speculating. Obviously, he noticed the way I was staring.
He looks toward the sun-soaked street, his jaw tensing.
“I don’t like to talk about it,” he adds, and I nod, awkwardly.
I’d like to ask what happened to him. But we just met.
And his words, not to mention the suddenly closed-off look on his face, keep me quiet; it’s none of my business.
Blue shifts the load he’s carrying to free up a hand and pushes open the front door, then gestures for me to go ahead of him.
“Welcome to your new home,” he says with a version of the affable grin he wore earlier.
It makes my stomach flutter again to see it.
I walk through the door and look around in amazement.
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