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The Breakup Plan






Jennifer

USA Today Bestselling Author

Sucevic




Copyright 2019 by Jennifer Sucevic

Smashwords Edition




All Rights Reserved. This book is licensed for your enjoyment only. This e-book may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in critical articles or reviews.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, places, businesses, characters and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, actual events or locales is purely coincidental.



Cover by The Reading Ruth





Also by Jennifer Sucevic


Claiming What’s Mine

Confessions of a Heartbreaker

Don’t Leave

Friend Zoned

Hate to Love You

If You Were Mine

King of Campus

Love to Hate You

One Night Stand

Protecting What’s Mine

Stay

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Epilogue

Love to Hate You

Hate to Love You

About the Author

































Chapter One

Whitney




Out of nowhere, a brawny arm slides around my shoulders and hauls me close, anchoring me against a muscular body. Without looking, I know exactly who the culprit is pinning me in place. The woodsy scent is a dead giveaway.

The deep voice confirms my sinking suspicions.

Grayson McNichols.

“Miss me, baby?” he growls against my ear as his warm breath sends shivers skittering down my spine.

There’s an edge of humor simmering in his voice that thankfully kills the unwanted attraction that has leapt to life at his proximity. No matter how much I fight against it, he affects me like this every time. It’s why I’ve made it my mission in life to steer clear of Mr. Hellcat Hockey himself.

Needing to create distance before I get sucked any further into his orbit, I ram my elbow into his ribs. It’s not nearly hard enough to do any real damage or even separate myself from him so I can make a quick getaway.

Gray sticks to me like glue.

“Sure did. Almost as much as I’d miss a particularly nasty case of herpes.” I brace myself before flicking my eyes in his direction. “No matter what I do, you keep making an unsightly appearance at the worst possible time just like an incurable STI.” I bare my teeth, so he won’t think I’m being flirty.

My acid-filled comments are like water off a duck’s back.

It’s annoying.

Just like him.

“So, what you’re really trying to say is that I’m persistent.” He waggles his dark brows in a comical manner. “And you find that oddly appealing.”

Please…

As if…

Nothing could be further from the truth. Gray McNichols could eat shit and die as far as I’m concerned.

He flashes me his trademark smile.

Dimples and all.

Ugh.

Those dimples are a real killer. If I have one weakness, it’s for a guy with Eddie Cibrian dimples. And Gray has them in spades. Now that I think about it, he kind of resembles Eddie Cibrian, circa early 2000’s. I try not to let the smile or—God help me— the dimples affect me, but it’s no easy feat.

I’ve spent years trying to steel myself against his magnetism and charm. To this day, I’m just barely able to hold on to my composure. Most of my behavior is sheer bravado. If he ever pushed me hard enough, the straw house I’ve built around myself for protection would collapse.

Not only is Gray ridiculously handsome, but he’s captain of the Hillsdale Hellcat Hockey team which only ups his hotness factor around campus. My guess is that he’s slept his way through half the female population at Hillsdale. All he has to do is smile and girls drop their panties before falling on their backs and spreading their legs wide.

How do I know this?

Here comes the embarrassing part…

Once upon a time, I was one of those girls.

Yup, it’s sad but true.

I know exactly what it’s like to have all that charismatic attention aimed in my direction. It happened second semester of freshman year. I’d seen Gray around campus and was a smitten kitten. And then, one night at a party, we hooked up.

Needless to say, it was a fuck-and-flee situation. The kind that is chock-full of regret in the morning. I blame alcohol for my poor judgment.

Surprise-surprise, I never heard a peep from Gray again.

Was I stupid enough to expect more?

Guilty as charged.

He fed me all the lines that are hot guy kryptonite to stupid girls like me, and I fell for it. Hook, line, and sinker.

I know, I know…

Total.

Idiot.

Trust me, I won’t dispute the title. It may have taken a while, but I’ve come to a place of acceptance. Now, does that mean I’m dumb enough to fall for his easy breezy charm for a second time?

Hell to the no.

Those memories are all it takes to strengthen my resolve.

“What do you want, McNichols?” I hasten my step as we navigate the path that cuts through the heart of campus, but it does no good. I can’t separate myself from him. He keeps me trapped at his side.

People wave and shout Gray’s name, trying to capture his attention. His celebrity status is annoying. I seem to be one of the few students at Hillsdale who wants no part of him. Like a man who’s at-ease with his station in life, he acknowledges his clamoring fanbase with a chin lift and a practiced wave of his hand.

What a pompous jerk.

Not that I pay attention to idle gossip, especially when it pertains to Gray, but it’s impossible to ignore. Hillsdale is a Division I hockey school. Every year there are a handful of players drafted to the NHL. There’s no question that the muscular defensemen will get snapped up by the pros.

How could he not?

He’s the lead scorer three years running.

And yeah, that would be on the ice as well as off of it.

Everyone at this school loves him.

Hell, the whole town worships him.

It’s nauseating.

He could have accepted a full ride from any top-notch university in the United States, everyone was vying for him, but he chose Hillsdale.

Lucky us.

You’d assume with over ten thousand students on campus, the chances of running into him on a nearly daily basis would be astronomically low.

Think again.

I wasn’t joking when I likened Gray to an incurable STI. Every time I turn around, there he is, in my face, acting like we’re BFF’s.

We don’t live by each other.

We’re not in the same major or have any classes together.

I make it a habit to avoid parties that I suspect he’ll be gracing with his esteemed presence. There are a ton of puck bunnies around these parts. But I’m not one of them.

And yet, I can’t get away from this guy to save my life.

Thank God this is our senior year. Once we graduate in May, I’ll never see Gray again. It’s that knowledge that makes it possible for me to get through moments like this.

“Just checking to see if you’ve changed your mind about us getting together.”

I snort at that little bit of ridiculousness. “Umm, I’m sorry. Did hell happen to freeze over, and I’m the last one to find out?”

He squeezes my shoulder and a jolt of unwanted electricity zips through me. I gnash my teeth against my body’s natural response to him.

“You know how much I love it when you play hard to get.” He punctuates that sentiment by nipping at my neck.

My heart flutters and it takes everything I have inside to keep my voice level and not betray the attraction roaring violently through my veins. “I’m not playing hard to get. What I’m playing at is I-don’t-want-to-talk-to-you-ever-again. If you weren’t such a meathead, you’d realize the difference and act accordingly.” Before he can sweet talk me into a situation I’ll end up regretting, I fire off a pertinent question. “And when was the last time you actually took a girl out on a date?”

I’m not a moron. I know the answer, but I want to hear him say it. It’s my ace in a hole, sort to speak. Which is a far cry from the ace in a hole he’s hoping to get.

That won’t be happening.

“Never,” he admits cheerfully. “But I’d be willing to make an exception for you, Winters.”

See what I’m talking about?

Hot guy kryptonite for sure.

But I’m way too smart for him. Plus, I’d like to think that I learn from my mistakes which is a far cry from some of the girls around here.

We’re about a block away from Thorson Hall, the business building on campus where I’m headed. At this point, I’m practically speed walking. The sooner we get there, the sooner I can ditch Gray.

“It’s a tempting offer,” I lie. “But I’ll be taking a hard pass.”

His face falls as he presses his hand against his chest.

And what a magnificent chest it is.

With gritted teeth, I shove that errant thought away before it can worm its way into my psyche and do permanent damage.

“You wound me, Winters. All I want is one date and you’re shooting me down without considering the offer. Aren’t you the least bit curious where I’d take you?”

Nope.

Not even a little.

“Sure,” I snicker. “Let me guess.” I tap a finger thoughtfully against my chin. “Would it be a little place called bonetown? I’m willing to bet it is.” I force my voice to fill with boredom. “Been there, done that, have the T-shirt to prove it.”

His laugh is rich and low. It strums something deep inside me.

He tugs me closer. “Have I mentioned how much I love your sense of humor?”

“Please,” I scoff, uncomfortable with the intimacy. My left breast is squashed against his side. All I need is for my nipple to pebble and him to feel the physical evidence of my desire. That would only encourage him to pursue me more fervently than he already does.

And that, I couldn’t withstand.

I hold my breath, not wanting to inhale anymore of his decadent scent. I need to get away from him before I melt into a puddle.

This flirtation is nothing more than a game. It’s what Gray is known for.

Why does he insist on messing with me when I’ve gone out of my way to make my disinterest clear?

Doesn’t he realize that there are puck bunnies crawling out of the woodwork who would be more than happy to shower him with adoration? He could easily score with any number of them. Probably at the same time.

I glance around, noticing quite a number of girls staring in our direction.

It’s enough to make me shake my head in disgust.

Get a grip, ladies! This guy is toxic to the female population!

“Have you ever considered,” he says, breaking into my thoughts. “That what I need is the love of a good woman to change me for the better?”

Laughter wells inside me before bursting free. “You’re so full of shit!”

The love of a good woman, indeed.

Ha!

As if…

Gray grins and his dimples pop in tandem. “Maybe.”

“Oh, there’s no maybe about it, McNichols. You’re definitely full of shit.”

I didn’t think it was possible for him to tug me closer, but he manages to do it before whispering against my ear. “Don’t you remember how good it felt when I was buried deep inside you? Come on, Winters. Admit it, you want me.”

And there you have it.

It’s just as I suspected all along.

The extent of his interest goes no further than him dipping his wick.

I need to get away from Gray before he destroys every shred of my resolve. Deep down, I know that he’s the worst possible guy for me, but my lady parts are clamoring for his attention.

And that, my friends, is my cue to leave.

Without warning, I stop and jerk out of his arms. People grumble as they’re forced to walk around us.

“Let me make this perfectly clear.” I harden my voice, refusing to be taken in by his good looks and easy charm. When it comes down to it, this guy is a predator. If he senses a moment of weakness, he’ll take me down before I realize I was being hunted in the first place. And then I’ll be lost. “You’re the last guy on campus I would sleep with. Your stroke game was mediocre at best and our encounter was entirely forgettable.”

Instead of taking offense, he tilts his head and rubs his chin with his fingers. “Is that so?” He steps closer, his big body invading my space. “I find that hard to believe. I’ve never had any complaints about my,” he smirks, “stroke game.” His finger finds its way to the curve of my cheek. “But I’d be more than happy to give you an encore performance, so you can reevaluate your verdict.”

My body sizzles with the contact. I gulp and step away until his hand drops to his side and I can breathe again.

Oxygen rushes to my deprived brain.

Seriously?

How am I supposed to get through to this guy when he refuses to listen to a word I say?

Unwilling to waste another moment on him, I throw my hands up and stalk toward my one o’clock class.

“So,” he shouts after my retreating figure, “you’re going to think about it and get back to me, right?”

In answer, I flip him the bird and keep walking.

Chapter Two

Gray



Weak stroke game, my ass.

If I squint hard enough, I can almost make out the smoke escaping from her ears. I have a real knack for pissing that girl off. It’s not even like I have to try, it just happens naturally.

Does it make me a complete asshole if I admit that I enjoy watching her dark eyes flash with anger?

I’m thinking that it does.

I’m fairly certain that me poking at Whitney is derailing my efforts to get her back in my bed. Maybe one of these days, I’ll resist the sick temptation I have to torment her and actually make some headway where she’s concerned.

Then again, maybe not.

For just a moment, I enjoy the view of her storming away. The sway of her ass is one sight I’ll never tire of.

“Hey, McNichols. What’s going on?”

I snap out of my Whitney Winters induced fog and glance at my friend and teammate, Collins O’Brien. We share a house off-campus with three other guys from the team. We’re notorious for hosting the most outrageous parties at Hillsdale. Although this year, I’m looking to take it down a notch. I’ve got enough shit going on with graduation and the draft in the spring. This upcoming season will be my final one playing hockey for the school. Not only do we need to have a winning record, we need to bring home the Frozen Four Championship.

Goals. You gotta have them, baby. And I do.

It goes a little something like this—I crush the upcoming season, staying laser focused on hockey. I get snapped up in the first or second round of the draft, play in the pros for a solid decade, nail all the pussy I can, and rake in the money.

Sounds pretty sweet, right?

You bet your ass it does.

Right now, I’m so freaking close to making it happen that I can almost taste it. I spent the last decade focused on hockey and clawing my way to the NHL. When you have doctors tell you that you’ll never achieve your dreams, you dig deep and make those dreams a reality for the sole purpose of shoving their prognosis right down their egotistical throats while you tell them all to fuck off.

Not that you’ll hear it from me, but I’ve already attained the impossible by being out on the ice. I don’t like talking or thinking about the accident. It took years to work my way back to a place I’d always taken for granted. It’s almost amazing how life can change in the blink of an eye. It’s like playing a game of Chutes and Ladders. One minute you’re on top of the world and the next you’re sliding down a chute and back to square one.

I shake my head, needing to clear away those ugly memories.

I don’t make a habit of looking backwards.

Only forward.

So, playing at Hillsdale is the sweet buttercream frosting on a triple chocolate cake.

And the NHL will be the fucking cherry on top.

A whole goddamn jar of them.

“Not much,” I respond.

He glances in the direction I’d been focused in and smirks. “Looks like you and Monroe have your eye on the same girl.”

I straighten to my full height.

What the hell does that mean?

My eyes snap back to Whitney just in time to see her flash a smile at the guy standing next to her in front of Thorson Hall.

Well, fuck me.

Looks like Collins is right.

Why haven’t I notice this?

Evert Monroe is one of my roommates. He’s a decent enough guy. Solid hockey player. I’ve never had any problems with him.

At least I didn’t before.

Now?

I’m not so sure. We’ll see how this situation shakes out. It’s always possible that they’re just shooting the shit before class.

Although my instincts tell me otherwise. Whitney is hot as hell. Long, inky black hair that hits the middle of her back. Dark chocolatey eyes that dominate her face and are tipped at the corners giving her an exotic look. And she has a slim build. Which I will fully admit is not my usual type. I like a girl with nice round titties. Whitney doesn’t have much of that going on.

But there’s something about her.

I haven’t been able to get her out of my head since we—

Best not to think along those lines. I’ll end up getting a chubby and who needs that? Especially when I’m standing around with another dude.

Collins shifts his weight and grins in her direction. “So, Whitney Winters, huh?”

I scowl and grumble, “Fuck off, O’Brien.” I’m embarrassed to be caught ogling a girl. Chicks pant after me. Not the other way around.

But Whitney isn’t your typical girl. I think she’d be thrilled if I never acknowledged her presence again. Yeah, that’s not going to happen. I couldn’t stay away from her if I tried.

He chuckles, realizing that he’s found a tender spot to poke me in. I don’t have too many of those. I usually keep my feelings tightly under wraps.

With one last look in Whitney’s direction, I head off to my next class. Collins falls in line with me. “Well, this is an interesting turn of events. Can’t say I saw this one coming.”

I groan. “You’re not going to let this go, are you?”

“Hell, no! I’m just getting started.”

Chapter Three

Whitney



Dad answers the call on the third ring. He hasn’t been as available as he used to be. I’m not sure what’s up with that. Normally, he picks up on the first ring or texts back within thirty seconds of me messaging.

But the last couple of months?

Not so much.

I keep chalking it up to him being busy at work.

What else could it be?

“Hey, buttercup!” His voice booms over the line. “How’s it going?”

The sound of my childhood nickname sliding off his lips makes everything in me settle. Maybe my Spidey senses are off and there’s nothing to be concerned about.

My eyes are drawn to the apartment door as my roommate, Katelyn, walks in. She smiles when she spots me curled up on the couch. I wave in greeting before pointing to the phone and mouthing the word dad to her. Wanting to have this conversation in private, I head to the balcony off our living room. There’s just enough space for a small café-style table with two chairs tucked beneath it.

It’s early September and the weather is seasonal. At eighty degrees, I can close my eyes and almost pretend that it’s still summer. This is the kind of weather that needs to be savored. It won’t last long. Pretty soon autumn will be here, and the leaves will be falling, covering campus like a brightly colored carpet. Instead of shorts and T-shirts, we’ll be bundled up in jackets, scarfs, and fuzzy boots. I plunk down on an aluminum chair and kick my feet up onto the railing.

“Everything’s good.” My eyes settle on the setting sun which is just beginning to dip beneath the horizon. The sky looks like it’s been painted with red and orange brush strokes. “I tried calling last night but you didn’t pick up.”

Those words are greeted with a moment of silence. “Oh, right! I had a meeting that ran late and then I met up with a few colleagues afterward to discuss an acquisition we’re working on in China. There’s also a merger…”

My eyes glaze over as he continues rambling about whatever the hell he’s doing in China. The talk of mergers and acquisitions makes me want to knife myself in the head. I may be a business major, but I’m more interested in personal finance, portfolios, and the stock market.

When I can’t take another moment, I cut him off. “Wow, sounds like you’ve got a lot going on at work.” Which is just as I’d suspected.

See?

There’s absolutely nothing to be worried about.

“I was concerned when I couldn’t get ahold of you.” I’m not going to mention it on the phone, but I had almost jumped in the car and drove home to check on him. What if he had fallen and couldn’t reach his cell phone to call 911?

Who would help him?

For the last nine years, it’s been just the two of us. Mom died in a car accident when I was twelve years old. At first, I was scared he would rush out and replace her, but that never happened. Not once has he shown any interest in dating. Maybe it’s selfish to admit, but I’m secretly glad. I’m not ready for another woman to step into Mom’s shoes.

Obviously, Dad feels the same way.

It’s one of the reasons I decided to stay local for college. With Hillsdale being only a thirty-minute drive from the house, I’m able to pop home for visits as often as I want. But I’m still far enough away to be on my own.

It works out perfectly.

“Sorry, Whit,” he says quickly, sounding apologetic. “I didn’t see your call until it was after midnight, otherwise I would have gotten back to you.” Concern fills his voice. “Is everything all right? Did you need something?”

Even though he can’t see me do it, I wave a hand. “No, it’s all good. I just wanted to talk.” The conversation flows easily between us like it always does, but still…something feels off. Although I’m not able to put my finger on what it is. I’m about to dig a little deeper when he says—

“I’m looking forward to brunch tomorrow.”

“Yeah, me too.” Dad and I usually meet up for brunch once a month. It’s our thing. I always look forward to sitting down and catching up since we don’t get to spend much time together. He keeps reminding me that I can bring Katelyn along and there are times when I do, but most of the time, it’s just us.

The line goes silent.

Just when I’m about to say his name and make sure we haven’t been disconnected, he blurts, “I have news to share, but I’m going to wait until tomorrow to spill the beans.”

“Dad!” I gripe.

Ugh! I hate when he does this. And he knows it which is why he chuckles.

My mind immediately cartwheels with possibilities.

What if he’s decided to sell the house after all these years?

Or…maybe he got a promotion. Didn’t he mention about six months ago that there might be an opportunity for him to move to China? I mean, he has been doing a lot of work with them lately. This summer, he was there for two weeks.

Could that be the big surprise?

Lately, he’s been putting in a ton of extra hours. And he’s been so distracted. The more I think about it, the more sense it makes.

Ha! He thinks he’s so clever, but I figured out the surprise in less than two minutes.

“I think you’re going to be excited,” he adds, breaking into my thoughts.

I gnaw my bottom lip in contemplation. Him moving isn’t necessarily a good thing. Maybe for his career, but not for our relationship. What am I going to do if he leaves for a year or two? I’ll be stuck here all alone. I might be twenty-one years old, but the possibility is a frightening one. Dad is the only family I have.

“How about you just tell me now,” I cajole impatiently. “I’m pretty sure I’ve already figured it out.”

“You think so?” His voice turns cagey.

“Yup. So, you might as well spill it now. I really don’t want to wait.”

“Nope,” he says with humor simmering in his voice. “I’ll tell you everything tomorrow over brunch. I want to see the look on your face when you find out.”

“Dad!” I growl. “Come on!” That’s so unfair!

He laughs again, sounding lighter and happier than he has in years. Maybe he’s excited by the prospect of moving to China.

“Nope.” A nervous edge enters his voice. “The cat will be out of the bag soon enough.”

Cat?

“Don’t you mean panda?” I cut in slyly, hoping to knock him off balance.

“Huh?” He sounds genuinely confused.

“Nothing,” I mumble, feeling peeved. “I’m hanging up on you now.” I’d much rather he tell me what’s going on so we can talk about it instead of making me wait until tomorrow.

Seriously, what’s the point of that?

Why is he so intent on torturing me? Has he forgotten that I’m his only kid? Who does he think is going to take care of him in his elderly age?

I should probably remind him of that fact.

Just as I open my mouth to try and wheedle information out of him one more time, he says, “Whit?”

“Yeah?” I sit up a bit straighter.

His voice softens. “I love you, buttercup.”

My shoulders slump and I fall against the chair. “Right back at you, Dad.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning at ten sharp.” Then he adds, “Be there or be square.”

He can be so corny sometimes. But it makes me smile. “I’ll be there, and you’ll be the one who’s square.”

He chuckles, and I click off the phone and set it on the glass table as I contemplate our conversation. I’m all but certain that Dad is moving to China.

A few seconds later, the sliding door opens, and Katelyn joins me on the patio. She sets a bottle of water in front of me.

“Thanks.” I twist off the cap and take a gulp as Katelyn slips onto the chair opposite of me. She nips her bottom lip between her teeth as she eyes me.

Uh-oh.

I know that look.

“I have a favor to ask,” Katelyn says.

Yup…that’s exactly what it means.

Do I even want to know what the favor is? After the convo I just had with my dad, I’m almost afraid to ask. My best friend has a hesitant look on her face as if she knows I’m not going to like what she has to say.

“So…” She shifts on her chair and clears her throat. “Any chance you would be up for a party tonight?”

A party?

Everything in me relaxes. A night out would definitely take my mind off this whole Dad’s-moving-to-China surprise he has planned for tomorrow’s brunch.

“Sure,” I agree easily. “I’m down with that.”

Her eyes widen as she unleashes a grin. “Really?” Thrilled doesn’t even begin to describe the look on her face. “I thought for sure I’d have to twist your arm.”

I wave off her concern. “I had three tests this week. If anyone could use a night out, it’s me.” And tomorrow, after dad drops the bomb about taking off to China, my whole world is going to be rocked. If I’m going to enjoy myself with careless abandon, tonight’s the night to do it. I take another sip from my bottle. “Where’s the party?”

Maybe we can party hop. I’m sure there’s more than one happening. Hillsdale is a well-known party school. Not that it slacks where academics are concerned, because it’s a rigorous university. At the end of every semester, people drop like flies.

“Oh, didn’t I mention that?” Averting her eyes, she picks at the label on the plastic bottle with her thumbnail.

“No, you didn’t.”

“It’s at an off-campus house,” she says evasively.

I chuckle. “Where else would it be?” Freshman year, I did hit a few dorm parties. They’re the worst. Space is limited, and they never end well. Unless your idea of a good time is spending the evening getting personal with campus police.

Been there, done that.

Not interested in a repeat performance.

We’re in the thick of football season and the Hillsdale Hellcats won this afternoon’s game, which had the entire campus—not to mention the town—going crazy. How much do you want to bet that Katelyn is dragging me to a victory party?

“It’s a football party, isn’t it? Those guys are a bunch of meatheads.” Now, I’m not saying they aren’t a bunch of hot meatheads, because a number of them are quite swoonworthy. But, for the most part, their idea of fun is chugging beer and smashing aluminum cans against their foreheads. It’s amusing to watch for about five minutes, then I’m bored.

“Nope, it’s not a football party.” She brightens. “That’s good, right?”

“Sure.” I shrug as my brows slide together. What other possibilities are there? “Greek?” Hillsdale has a massive Greek system. Fraternity and Sorority row read like alphabet soup.

“Ummm…No.” Katelyn shakes her head. “We’re not going Greek tonight.”

I sit up a little straighter on my chair as the edges of my lips pull down. “If it’s not the football players or the Greeks, then who—”

That’s when it hits me like a ton of bricks.

Oh hell no.

My eyes narrow and I mutter a quick prayer that I’m wrong. “Please tell me that I didn’t just agree to a party at the hockey house.”

A guilty flush stains her cheeks.

Son of a monkey!

“Katelyn!” I snap. “I hate going there!” Honestly, it’s not the there part that bothers me so much. It’s the who’s going to be there part that drives me nuts.

“I know, I know,” she says hastily, throwing her hands out in a placating manner. “But Evert will be there, and you know I have a serious thing for him.”

Ugh!

Even though I make it a rule to steer clear of hockey players, I’ve always made an exception for Evert. We met freshman year and since we’re both in the same major, he usually turns up in one of my classes each semester. I’ve offered to introduce them a ton of times, but Katelyn always ends up chickening out.

She’s such a baby!

Those two would be a match made in heaven. If I could get them talking, they’d realize how much they have in common. And if it were at any other house, I’d be on board with the idea. No questions asked.

But…

“Spending the evening with Gray McNichols is definitely not on my to-do list,” I grumble.

Her face falls. “Awww, come on, Whit,” she whines pleadingly. “He’s not that bad.”

Ha!

“Actually, he’s much worse,” I accuse. And we both know it.

Katelyn steeples her hands in front of her as she begs, “Pleeeeeeease. I’ll do anything—whatever you want—if you agree to come with me!” Her tongue darts out to moisten her lips. “I’ll clean the bathroom for two weeks.”

It’s a tempting offer. Although, as much as I hate scrubbing toilets and showers, that’s not enough of an incentive when it comes to that hockey playing manwhore. I shake my head. “Sorry, no.”

A prick of remorse stabs at me when her face crumbles.

“You know how much he bugs me.” The guy is a total nuisance. It wouldn’t be so bad if we could just ignore each other. But he refuses to play along. No matter where we are or what we’re doing, he takes a ridiculous amount of pleasure in tap dancing on my very last nerve. It’s aggravating as hell. “Tell you what, I’ll clean the toilets for two weeks if you don’t make me go to this party.”

That’s how much I don’t want to see Gray.

Whitnnnnney,” Katelyn wails. “If there were anyone else I could drag with me, I would. But Allie went home for the weekend and Tasha has a mandatory sorority thing she can’t get out of.” She gives me her most pathetic, blinky-eyed look.

God, but I hate when she makes that face. I have a hard time saying no to that expression and she damn well knows it. Which is completely unfair. When I can’t stand another moment of her puppy dog eyes, I fold like a cheap house of cards.

“Fine, I’ll go.”

“Yay!” She jumps up from her chair and rushes around the table. Then she throws her arms around my body before trying to squeeze the very life out of me. “You’re the best!” she squeals. “And don’t let anyone tell you different!”

“I have one condition,” I wheeze because she’s wrapped herself around me like a tightly coiled python.

Katelyn stops mid-bounce. “What? I’ll do anything. Just name it!”

My lips lift knowing that she’s not going to like my caveat one damn bit. But that’s too bad, because I’m not going to like having to endure Gray’s obnoxious presence for the evening.

“If you insist on forcing me to attend this party, then I’m definitely introducing you to Evert.” I pause as her breath catches. “And there’s no chickening out this time.” I give her a hard-edged look. “Got it?”

“You want me to talk to him?” Looking uncertain, her lips twist into a grimace. “What if I can’t do it?” she whispers, sounding as if she’s the one being choked.

“Listen, this little stalker crush you have on him has gone on long enough. If you’re dragging me there tonight, then you’re going to make it worth my while.”

“Do I have to?”

“Yup. Otherwise there’s no way I’m stepping foot anywhere near that house.” I wave a hand in the air. “The choice is yours.”

My lips tilt up at the corners with every grumble and groan that escapes from her. One of Katelyn’s biggest hurtles in life is her shyness. I don’t expect her to get over it in one night, but she’s liked Evert for a long time. She’s constantly bitching and moaning that she’s too shy to go up to him and start a conversation.

Tonight, whether Katelyn likes it or not, I’m going to help her break out of her shell.

When she doesn’t respond, I ask, “Well? What’s it going to be? Because we can always hit a different party.”

“No,” she mutters unhappily. “I’ll do it.” She stabs a finger in my direction. “I don’t want to, but I’ll do it.”

“Are you sure?” I raise a brow, aware of how difficult this step is for her to take. “You don’t have to.”

Katelyn presses her lips together and nods her head, looking like she’s gathering every bit of courage she possesses to dive headfirst off a skyscraper. “I’m sure.” She straightens her shoulders and adds, “God help me, I’m going to talk to Evert.”

“Excellent.”

If I can get these two together, then something good will have come out of this night.

I stand up and drag her inside. “Come on, let’s find an amazing outfit for you to wear.” I’m thinking low-cut and cleavage bearing. Katelyn has big boobs. She usually wears loose fitting tops that conceal what a nice shape she has.

Tonight, the girls are coming out to play.

Come hell or high water, Evert’s going to notice her.

Chapter Four

Gray



I lift the bottle of beer to my lips and take a swig while scouting the vicinity. It’s Saturday night and I’ve got my arm wrapped around a pretty girl who’s more than willing to spend a little quality naked-time with yours truly. I glance down at the strawberry blonde-haired girl who is busy pawing at me like a kitten. When our gazes collide, she flutters her lashes and makes a mewling noise.

Savannah is one of my go-to girls.

We have a strict no-strings attached policy.

I’m thinking about taking her up to my room when I catch a flash of dark hair from the corner of my eye. My head snaps in that direction and I’m surprised I don’t come away with whiplash.

My brows shoot up.

Well, I’ll be damned.

I never thought I’d live to see the day that Whitney Winters willingly graced one of our parties with her presence. I’m tempted to check and see if pigs are flying out of someone’s ass because that’s the only reasonable explanation I can come up with.

I narrow my eyes, watching her while she’s unaware of my scrutiny. I’ve never been able to figure out what it is about Whitney that I find so damn attractive. And trust me, I’ve tried. More times than I care to admit. It’s aggravating as hell to be into a girl who wants absolutely nothing to do with you. It’s like having an itch I can never quite scratch. No matter how many chicks I fuck, I can’t evict this particular one from my brain.

“Gray?” Savannah purrs, trying to reclaim my interest. “Do you want to get out of here?” She walks her fingers up my chest.

“Huh?” I hate to say it, but I almost forgot she was there. That’s what Whitney does to me. I watch the slim brunette maneuver through the crowd. She’s yet to spot me. And when she does, it’s highly doubtful she’ll be dancing for joy.

More like the opposite.

I have no idea why that should turn me on, but it does. Everything around me falls away as I continue to watch her with undisguised interest.

“I asked if you wanted to get out of here,” she murmurs again, her voice laced with impatience. Savannah isn’t used to being ignored. She’s a girl who commands attention.

When I don’t immediately shoot back with an answer, the fingers that had been trailing over my chest settle under my chin and manually turn my face so that I have no other choice but to meet her eyes.

Seriously?

My forehead furrows.

I’m not into bossy chicks.

“Why don’t we take this little party upstairs for a while?” The sly look in her eyes reveals all the dirty tricks she’s got planned for me. I’ve been with Savannah enough times to know that she’ll make good on those silent promises.

The girl is an absolute beast in bed.

As piqued as my interest had been a few moments ago, I’m going to take a hard pass on what she’s offering. She thrusts out her lower lip in a sexy pout when I pry her hand away from my face.

My eyes dart to Whitney as she stops and takes in the chaos unfolding around her. People are drinking and dancing. The bar has been stocked and shots are being passed around. There’s a group in the corner playing beer pong and if the skunky scent permeating the air is any indication, there’s more than just alcohol being served. Clothing has yet to be shed, but it’s only a matter of time before that happens.

Whitney’s gaze continues to slide around the room until it collides with mine. That one look sends a bolt of electricity shooting through my body. Which is fucking ridiculous, but still…

That’s exactly what happens.

Every damn time.

Until I can figure out what it is about her that fascinates me, there’s no way I can move on. Been there, done that. Nothing works. Besides, quitting isn’t in my nature and I love a good challenge. And Whitney is nothing if not a challenge. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I was willing to throw in the towel when shit got tough. That thought is enough to have my lips bowing up at the corners.

Making a calculated move that’s sure to piss her off, I hold up my beer and tip it in her direction. The girl doesn’t disappoint, not that I thought she would. Whitney’s lips flatten as her glare morphs into a scowl. Instead of turning away, she continues to glower in my direction.

It’s like we’re engaged in a silent game of chicken from across the room. The longer she holds my eyes, refusing to back down, the more my cock stirs with interest.

Or challenge.

Take your pick.

My attraction for her is seriously perverse. Don’t think I’m not aware of it. I just don’t give a damn.

“Gray,” Savannah whines. “I’m bored. Let’s get out of here.”

There’s no way in hell that’s happening.

I lift the beer to my lips, draining it before shaking the empty bottle. “Hey, would you mind getting me another one of these?”

“Sure.” She nips the bottle from my fingers and disappears through the packed living room. Now that she’s gone, I consider my game plan. Before I can take off in Whitney’s direction, Collins sidles up to me with a couple of guys from the team.

“Hey,” he says by way of greeting.

“What’s up?” I ask without taking my eyes off Whitney. It would be just my luck to lose her in this jam-packed crowd. I’ll be damned if I allow that to happen.

When he elbows me in the side, my gaze shoots in his direction. Once he has my attention, he grins and waggles his brows like the asshole that he is.

Obviously, the object of my interest has not gone unnoticed.

Great.

The last thing I need is an audience waiting with bated breath for me to crash and burn. Especially with this girl. She’s liable to wipe the floor with my ass before handing it back to me. Then I’d never hear the end of it from these jokers.

“Damn, but that girl is hot with a capital H,” Mike, a sophomore defensive player, says before lifting the beer to his lips and draining half of it. The way he looks her up and down sets me on edge.

And it shouldn’t.

I’ve never cared enough about a chick to feel jealousy where one was concerned. Hell, I’ve boned a good number of the same girls as my teammates. Which is exactly why my number one rule is to wrap it up tight. God only knows what gets passed around.

“Yeah, that’s definitely one ass I’d like to tap.” Justin Tinley gyrates his hips like he’s in seventh grade and has no idea what the hell he’s doing. “All night long.”

My jaw locks as I glare. “Shut the fuck up, Tinley.”

Justin glances at me in surprise and shrugs. “What?” he says, too clueless to understand why I’m jumping down his throat. “I’m just saying that I would do her.”

Collins smirks. He gets it. “That doesn’t mean much, Tinley,” Collins laughs. “Show me a girl you wouldn’t do.”

His words break the tension that had been gathering in the air like storm clouds and I roll my shoulders before making a concerted effort to relax them. I’ve never had a girl jack me up like this. Whitney is an anomaly. Most of the time, chicks are interchangeable. One pussy is as good as the next.

“Can’t.” Justin glances around the crowded first floor of our house. “I’d do all of them.”

“Yeah, but the real question is how many of them would do you?” Collins shoots back.

Justin gives him the finger in response. “I’m getting another beer.” Then he stumbles off toward the kitchen.

On his way, he makes the mistake of grabbing a girl’s ass. Before he can move on, the chick in question whirls around and slaps him squarely across the face. Tinley’s mouth falls open as Collins and I collapse in laughter.

Fucking Tinley…

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to discover he’s a virgin. In fact, I’d be shocked to learn that he actually gets some.

As if reading my thoughts, Collins shakes his head. “That guy is never going to get laid.”

“I don’t see it happening anytime soon,” I agree. Which is funny as hell because most of the guys on the hockey team are drowning in pussy. Girls throw themselves at us. And yet…Justin Tinley can’t get laid to save his life.

There’s definitely no clitty pity for that guy.

Now that the crowd has dispersed, my gaze darts back to Whitney.

My brows snap together.

What the fuck?

Evert Monroe.

Goddamn that guy.

Already he’s homed in on Whitney. I think Collins is right about Evert being interested in her. Normally, that’s not something that would bother me. There’s nothing I love more than a little competition. Especially when it involves a chick.

Hell, bring it on.

But Whitney is different.

I’ve screwed the pooch where she’s concerned.

Whitney’s been on my radar from the moment I stepped foot on campus. She’s not one to hang out at the games or parties where we congregate. And she hasn’t slept her way through the Hellcat team roster like some of the jersey chasers around here.

If I’d been thinking with the right head when we hooked up, I would have steered clear and found a different chick to blow my wad on. But that’s not what happened. A shit ton of shots later, hooking up had seemed like the best damn idea I’d ever had. I wanted to get Whitney out of my system and screwing her had seemed like the easiest solution.

Unfortunately, that plan backfired spectacularly.

After experiencing the best damn orgasm of my life, I didn’t know what to do. There was no way in hell I was ready to jump into a relationship. And Whitney had monogamy written all over her. Instead of talking to her about it, I pussied out and avoided her like a little bitch.

Sure, I can admit it now.

Young, dumb, and full of cum.

That’d been me.

So, do I necessarily blame her for hating me?

Hell, no.

I totally get it.

It’s just that most chicks would have softened their stance over the years. I would have been able to wear them down with my charm. But not Whitney.

The thing is, I’m not the same guy I was freshman year.

I’ve grown and matured.

Sort of.

Do I still love to dip my wick?

Guilty.

I won’t even try and deny it. But nailing a different woman every weekend gets old. I never thought I’d hear myself say that, but it’s true. And the one girl I’m interested in getting to know on a more personal level wants nothing to do with me.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is called irony.

Sure, I can appreciate it.

Even if it does suck balls.

Chapter Five

Whitney



With Katelyn hot on my heels, I shove my way through the packed party. Unsurprisingly, the place smells like a brewery. Everyone has at least one red Solo cup in their hand. Some have two, which seems like overkill in my opinion. Apparently, the beer gods have smiled down upon this party and blessed it with an abundance of alcohol. There’s an ocean of glassy-eyed stares.

As if to punctuate that thought, a guy staggers over and leers. “Hey, baby,” he slurs incoherently.

Sheesh…The things I do for friendship.

If I could spin around and walk out of here, I would in a heartbeat. The debauchery is even worse than I imagined.

“Not interested,” I snap, pushing past him and moving further into the living room.

As much as I want Evert and Katelyn to get together, I’m already regretting this decision. The hockey house is the last place I thought I’d spend my Saturday night. The only thing I can say is that I’ve secured an agreement from her to converse with Evert. So, if that means I have to put on my game face and deal with Gray, then so be it.

Hey, who knows?

Maybe I’ll get lucky and our paths won’t cross.

Looking for Evert, I scan the crowd until my gaze collides with bright blue eyes. It might be dark in here, but they still pop. A little sizzle of awareness skitters across my spine before I lock it down tight. The last thing I need is for this attraction to settle in my core. That’s exactly what landed me in this mess in the first place.

And we all know how that ended. With me flat on my back and him moving on to the next piece of ass before I could blink my eyes.

Gray raises his bottle in my direction and I scowl in return. The corners of his lips quirk and I grit my teeth in silent aggravation.

Why does he take so much pleasure in messing with me?

What the hell is wrong with him?

He could have any girl he wants. Even now, Savannah Mitchell is clinging to him like a baby rhesus monkey. By the looks of it, baby monkey doesn’t appreciate his attention being drawn elsewhere.

Whatever.

It’s not like I care.

As far as I’m concerned, the girl with the overinflated boobs can have him. I have zero interest in tangling with Gray for a second time.

The moment Savannah forces his attention back to her, the unwanted energy humming through my body dissipates. In all the years I’ve been at Hillsdale, no other guy has ever made me feel this way.

It’s disconcerting.

It just goes to show you that you can’t help who you’re attracted to. Apparently, my type is dark-haired, blue-eyed manwhores with muscles galore. I wonder if there’s a twelve-step program for that. Lord knows I need it. The attraction I feel for a guy I can barely tolerate is all kinds of wrong.

Ignoring Gray, I rip my gaze from him and continue searching the throng of people partying their asses off until I lock eyes on my target.

Bingo!

The sooner I get this over with, the quicker I’ll be able to get out of here. With a smile on my face, I turn to Katelyn. “I hope you’re ready for this.”

“Huh?” Her brows draw together. “What are you talking about?”

I’m sure Katelyn was hoping to down a drink or two before we did this, but opportunity has presented itself and there’s no time like the present. Not bothering to explain, I wave my hand and shout Evert’s name to snag his attention.

Katelyn screeches in mortification as she yanks on my arm. “What are you doing?”

“Making good on our agreement,” I shout over the music. “You promised to talk with Evert and I’m about to make that happen.” I glance over my shoulder and give her a quick once-over. “Tits out, girl, lover boy is on his way.”

Her eyes go a little wild as she glances around for an exit strategy. “I really hate you right now,” she hisses.

I shrug and keep moving through the drunken crowd. “Hey, you’re the one who wanted me to come along.”

“That’s a decision I now regret,” she grumbles.

My shoulders shake just as Evert makes his way over to us. His eyes flit from me to Katelyn before settling on me again. Katelyn tries her best to scooch behind me, but I step aside and pull her next to me. Then I loop my arm through hers, so she can’t escape.

“Hey,” Evert says with a smile directed at me. “I didn’t expect to see you here tonight.”

He slides his fingers through his long blond hair and pushes a chunk out of his eyes. Katelyn sighs and I press my lips together in an effort not to laugh. But it’s difficult. She is so in lust with this guy.

Trying to play it cool, I say, “You’re always inviting me to your parties, so Katelyn and I thought we’d check it out.”

“I’m glad you did.” His smile broadens and his bottle green eyes twinkle.

It’s easy to see why Katelyn is crushing hard on this guy. He’s a real cutie.

Step one of this plan was to snag Evert’s attention. With that accomplished, we can move on to the second step which is to get him to take notice of her.

Even though this is going well, Katelyn is slowly trying to inch away from me. I tighten my grip on her, so she can’t move.

Not gonna happen, girl. Don’t even try skedaddling away.

“Evert, have you met my friend, Katelyn?”

His gaze slides to my roommate. He tilts his head and his hair shifts over his eyes again. “I don’t think so.” He gives a slight chin lift in greeting. “Nice to meet you.”

Katelyn freezes, looking like a deer trapped in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. When she says nothing in response, I squeeze her hand and she startles to attention. “You, too!”

Silence descends, and I clear my throat to keep the conversational ball rolling. “Katelyn is a huge hockey fan.” I glance at her expectantly, hoping she’ll loosen up and jump in. This interaction is nosediving into painful. We’re a few steps away from tortuous. Maybe I should have plied her with liquor beforehand. “She attended all the home games last season.”

“Oh, yeah?” His brows rise with mild interest.

I wait a beat. When Katelyn remains unresponsive, I dig my nails into her hand. Her breath catches and she bobs her head.

Sheesh.

Getting these two together is way more challenging than I suspected. Maybe I’m the one who should have downed a drink or two. But still, I’m going to give this introduction everything I’ve got. “In fact, not only does Katelyn enjoy watching hockey, she played in high school.” I nudge her shoulder with my own. “She was really good.”

My roommate’s cheeks flood with color.

Evert perks up at the comment and smiles. “Really? My sister played hockey, too.”

Dare I say there’s more than just mild curiosity shining in his eyes?

I think we might have actually sparked some genuine interest.

Katelyn draws in a shaky breath and says in a rush, “We’re a hockey family. I grew up at the rink.”

He nods as if he knows exactly what she means by that before taking a drink from his bottle of beer. “What position did you play?”

“Right wing.” The nervousness threading its way through her voice begins to ebb as she warms to the subject. “I played travel until high school.”

My eyes bounce between them as a cautious smile spreads across my face.

“Huh.” His eyes light with more interest. “Wow. You must have been pretty good. How come you didn’t play at the college level? There are so many scholarship opportunities for women’s hockey.”

Success!

Houston, we have liftoff.

I repeat- we have liftoff!

I’m tempted to pump my fist in the air but refrain as Evert asks questions about hockey and Katelyn answers them easily, even managing to throw out a few of her own for him to field.

Awww, look at that. My baby is finally taking a few wobbly steps on her own.

Pride fills my chest.

Not wanting to disturb them, I point to the kitchen. “I’m going to hit the bar and grab a drink. I’ll be right back.”

Not waiting for a reply, I extract myself from the situation.

A drink is the last thing on my mind, but I needed an excuse to make myself scarce. At least for a few minutes. Then I’ll pop back over and make sure everything is going smoothly between them.

My goal is for Evert to secure Katelyn’s number by the end of the night. Anything more than that is gravy, as far as I’m concerned.

With a smile on my face, I fight my way through the throng of people to the kitchen. This is what it must feel like to be a salmon swimming upstream. Halfway there, I decide to make a pitstop at the bathroom. That should give Katelyn and Evert more than enough time alone. We’re taking baby steps here, I don’t want to toss her to the wolves just yet. I swing around and slam into a hard body. Losing my balance, I stumble back a step. Large hands shoot out and grab hold of me before I can crash into those unlucky enough to be standing in my vicinity.

I’m just about to apologize and thank the guy who has saved me from making an ass out of myself when my gaze slams into bright blue eyes that are brimming with undisguised humor.

The apology dies a quick death on my lips as I frown.

Of all the people at this party I could have run into, it has to be him.

Chapter Six

Gray




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