King of Campus

By: Jennifer Sucevic

“I’m glad to be back, too.” Even as the words automatically spill from my mouth, I realize that I don’t necessarily mean them. There’s a fairly large part of me that wishes I were still living my life in Paris. With an ocean between me and my dad, I didn’t have to dwell on him and the new family he created for himself so quickly after my mom died.

My dad’s life carried on while mine fell apart. And even though it’s been five years since she died, the ache still feels painfully tender. What being back here at Barnett means is that I no longer have an excuse not to visit them.

Shaking those thoughts away, I realize I’m still sprawled out on the carpeted floor. I blink my eyes a few times as a handsome face peers down at me before crinkling into a large friendly smile. But I don’t bother hoisting myself up just yet. Instead, I say in my most formal tone, “Mr. Sullivan, I presume.”

His grin intensifies, making him appear even more striking than I’d originally thought. Lexie had, quite naturally, gushed about how gorgeous her new guy was. And it’s not like I didn’t believe her, but… it’s quite obvious she wasn’t exaggerating.

Like at all.

Because Dylan Sullivan is seriously hot.

Golden blond hair, deep brown eyes, sculpted jaw, and athletic body.

And according to Lexie, he treats her like a total princess. Which is exactly how it should be. Lexie deserves someone who appreciates just how smart, loyal, and gorgeous she is. She’s a damn good friend and I’m lucky to have her in my life.

“The one and only,” he beams in response, throwing a flirty little wink in for good measure.

Oh, this guy is totally dangerous all right…

Could they be more perfectly suited to one another?

I absolutely love it.

“Umm, isn’t your father Dylan Sullivan the first?”

He shrugs his big broad shoulders at Lexie’s question. Self admittedly, I’m kind of a shoulder and arm girl myself. And Dylan Sullivan certainly has nicely chiseled ones.

“Shhh, you’re ruining the moment, babe.”

That being said, Dylan offers me a big hand, which I grab hold of, before being immediately hauled off the floor and set back onto my sandaled feet. I dust my backside off before my gaze slides back to Lexie. The unexpected glassy sheen of tears shining in her big brown eyes has my own widening in confusion.

“Lex, why are you-”

I don’t even get a chance to wrap my lips around the last word before she’s once again hurtling herself in my direction. Her arms slip quickly around my body before tugging me close.

“I missed you, Ivy-Girl,” she whispers fiercely against my ear, “so damn much! Fifteen months is a long time to stay away. Don’t ever leave me like that again.”

I’m not normally an emotional person, but her heartfelt words have me suddenly choking up. I squeeze her to me, feeling just as happy to be back here with her as she is to have me.

Pulling back to search my eyes, she quietly admits, “I was afraid you might decide to stay over there.”

That just goes to show you how well Lexie knows me. What I don’t mention is that I tried my damnedest to make that happen. To finish out college, find a permanent place to live, a dance gig, all so I could postpone coming home indefinitely. Because being back here, even though this is a new apartment, still reminds me that my mom is dead and my dad has moved on and I no longer have a home to return to.

Not one that feels like home used to feel.

“I’m just so glad you’re finally home.”

“Me, too,” I whisper as hot licks of emotion prick the back of my eyes. I hug her tightly one last time before finally releasing her.

Lexie and I have been best friends since fourth grade when her family moved in down the block from mine. We made it through middle and high school with our friendship intact and decided to apply at some of the same colleges so we could room together. Luckily Barnett was on both of our short lists. It has a highly regarded fashion design program for Lexie and a kick ass dance program for me.

There’s absolutely no one in this world I can count on like Lexie Abbott. I’m actually a little ashamed of myself for failing to remember that. I guess in trying to escape all the painful memories, I forgot about the good stuff too.

Lexie backs up until she’s standing directly in front of Dylan. As soon as she’s close enough, he wraps those huge arms around her before pulling her flush against the front of his body. Looking ridiculously contented, he settles his chin on top of her head like he’s done it a hundred times before.

Like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

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