“Not much longer,” Ryder Fierce said to his girlfriend Marissa. They’d been dating for a few months now and he was head over heels for her.
He’d never in a million years thought he’d be struck by Cupid’s arrow this soon in his life, but when it was right, it was right. And this was as right as his mother’s apple pie that he’d steal and hide in his room to eat by himself so his brothers couldn’t have any.
“Easy for you to say,” she said back. They were sitting on a couch in the lounge of her dorm. There weren’t that many people around, but enough. “You’ve got a job all lined up. You’re going home to work for your father’s firm.”
He was in his fifth and final year and he’d busted his ass to get his degree in Architecture. Just because he had a job to go to when he was done didn’t mean he had everything handed to him or took the easy way out in life. No one in their family did and it drove everyone nuts when people made that assumption.
“It’s not like I didn’t earn my place there,” he argued.
“I didn’t mean it that way,” she said, patting his leg. “I’ve been sending out resumes myself. No one is biting just yet, but I’ve got a phone interview set up for next week.”
Marissa was in her fourth and final year as an economics major. She was going into financial planning and investments. She was from Greenville, not far from them at Clemson right now.
“You don’t want to look for a job in Durham?” he asked. “My family knows a lot of people. I’m sure they could put a good word in for you and get you some interviews.”
“No,” she said quickly. “I don’t need a handout.”
“No one said anything about a handout.” She always got defensive when he brought this up. Or brought anything up about his family compared to hers. Like she was self-conscious or something. He’d told her again and again he wasn’t comparing anything and hated that she did.
“I’m sorry,” she said again. “My mind is just on finals next week. I’m so happy to be done, but this semester has just kicked my butt. If it wasn’t for the English elective we both had, I’d have six econ and finance courses.”
Marissa loaded her semesters the last two years since she’d changed her major. He knew that because he knew a lot about her. What they had, what he wanted in the future—it was everything he’d hope to find at some point in his life. He didn’t expect to find it at twenty-three though. And he was positive she felt the same way, if he could only get her to take the wrench and go lefty loosey instead of righty tighty on the bolts connecting her spine and take a chance and go back to Durham with him.
“I understand,” he said.
“Marissa, the room is yours if you need some peace and quiet,” Jody, Marissa’s roommate said. “Kayla is in the library doing a group project and I’m going to dinner now.”
“Thanks,” Marissa said. “Guess we can go to the room if you want.”
He ran his hand up and down her leg. “You know I do.”
They stood up and made their way to the third floor. Between her two roommates and his two roommates, they didn’t get a lot of time alone and, knowing they only had a few weeks left together, he wanted to make the most of it. He’d have to work on her more to look in his hometown for a job, but for now, all he cared about was getting her naked once again.
The hometown sweetheart. The girl next door. The type he’d never thought he’d fall for.
He’d always been the loud annoying one in the family. The one his cousins busted on and had told him to get lost half the time for being a pest.
But Marissa didn’t think any of those things of him. She understood him. She got along with him. She loved him. The first person he’d ever said those words to.
She was the calm in his crazy energetic world. She grounded him. She brought him down a few pegs so that he wasn’t so cocky.
Once they were behind closed doors, they were reaching for each other’s clothes and shedding them fast, knowing their time might be limited.
The next morning, he rolled out of bed in his own room, showered and then decided to walk over and surprise Marissa and take her out to breakfast. Neither of them had class for a few hours and he knew she’d be up early studying.
He waved to plenty on his trek to her dorm; many knew him. He had a reputation as a partier here. Maybe even one with the ladies, but he didn’t think it was anything nearly as bad as his brother Sam or his cousins Wyatt and Cade had at Duke.
When he got to Marissa’s dorm, he climbed the stairs to her floor and turned the corner to see Bryan, Marissa’s ex, ahead of him. What was he doing on this floor and moving toward Marissa’s room?
He went to another wall and hid behind it, then waited to see where Bryan was going. Before he could get to Marissa’s room, the door opened and Marissa came out. She looked surprised to see Bryan there. Ryder couldn’t hear the words being said, but he saw the kiss.
That was enough, forcing him to turn and leave without confronting them. No reason to. He wasn’t blind, but he was obviously stupid.