---        ---        ---        ---        ---

            "Oh my gosh, Elise, did you see that guy? Was he not the most gorgeous thing on the face of this planet?" Rachael whispered loudly to her blond best friend with an erratic wave of her hand as they sat in the college's cafeteria. Her large, brown eyes followed the rather good-looking specimen of masculinity with obvious admiration. The intense gaze drew the young man's attention and he smiled flirtatiously at Rachael who squealed as she flashed him a bright smile before he walked away.

            "No, Rach, he was not. You already know who I think is the most gorgeous 'thing' on this earth," Elise answered dryly, raising an annoyed eyebrow and slowly turning her head to gaze at the tall brunette who was making yet another spectacle of herself. Rachael was always loud, cheery and bouncy. Her tall, lanky and athletic form so greatly juxtaposed her personality and pretty face that the entire effect was rather comical, making her an overall flamboyant and appealing personality and person.

            "Yes, I know and you know I think so too, but you have to realize, Cale is completely oblivious to the fact that you like him. You have to tell him Elise," Rachael whined, as she never spoke in a normal voice. They'd been friends forever and Rachael knew from the moment Elise saw Cale in bible study three years ago that she was completely smitten. Truth be told, Rachael would love a shot at Cale herself because he was so completely gorgeous and sweet, but Elise liked him so she wouldn't' even entertain the thought. The only problem with him was that he was so aloof. She'd heard he'd had a hard childhood but she wasn't completely sure because he didn't really talk much.

            Elise laughed, a rather harsh noise of self-mockery. "When would he ever look at me even if he knew I liked him? I'm no one special. I'm not overly pretty, I'm short and the only thing I have going for me is my intelligence and God," Elise said with a self-deprecating wave and a glitter of hurt in her blue eyes. She'd always considered herself as one of the guys because that's how she thought they treated her.

            Rachael rolled her eyes and merely patted Elise's arm. They'd had this discussion before. Yes, she was only average looking. But her personality and her quick mind made up for it. She was a fascinating person with much to say.

            "You already know what I'm going to say to that. But you know, one day, I'm going to tell him," Rachael said with a serious undertone.

            "You wouldn't dare," Elise shot back, putting her hand on her friend's arm, feeling her heart begin to race with fear. Rachael would really do something like that. This Elise knew from experience.

            "Wouldn't dare what, guys?" a deep voice asked and Elise froze as a blushed crawled up her neck, ears and cheeks.

            "Wouldn't dare ask that cute guy over there on a date," Rachael replied smoothly as she waved at an empty chair beside Elise.

            "Ah, sounds like you Rachael," Cale lightly teased her, pushing a lock of his light brown, slightly long hair out of his eyes as Elise laughed nervously.

            "Shut up, man," she shot back with a small smile and secretly watched her shy friend out of the corner of her eye.

            "So, what brings you here Cale?" Elise asked softly, as butterflies had a field day in her stomach. All her quick remarks left her tongue for greener pastures leaving her defenseless in her in a nervous and agitated state.

            "I wanted to see if you guys wanted to come and help out tomorrow. We're promoting the Walk for Children tomorrow through the church. I remember you saying that you were interested?" Cale asked, taking a seat and smiling softly at Elise, completely oblivious of her feelings and only focused on the task at hand. That's how much of his life was conducted, in a serious manner with no thoughts of future happiness. He basically lived in the moment, for God and smiling occasionally, worked very hard and tried to think about life as little as possible.

            "Ya, we did it last year so I can help you organize…if you want that is," Elise stuttered, mentally berating herself for being so stupid. Rachael on the other hand, had to hide her face in order to keep herself from laughing at how adorable her friend was.

            "That would be awesome, Elise. I'll see you guys tonight and we can talk after bible study. You too, Rach, if you want," Cale added before rising.

            "No problemo, amigo," Rachael replied waving goodbye.

            "Tonight then?" Cale asked, shouldering his bag as he turned his brilliant blue eyes on Elise.

            "Tonight," she agreed and looked down at her tray, not willing to watch him walk away.

            "You have it so bad," Rachael finally allowed herself to giggle before Elise smacked her arm.

---        ---        ---        ---        ---

Cale readjusted the worn strap of his hunter green book bag and made his way back towards his dormitory from his weekly bible study. As he passed a large, white frat house, the booming bass of the DJ's voice could be heard over the loud screech of his turn table.

"Ladies and gentlemen, lemme see you get low!" the DJ cried as he put on another sultry R&B hit. People were pouring out of the light green frat house and Cale could see the sweat glistening on the dancing bodies of the partying college kids. Girls wore outfits that declared anything but decency. Every sense of morality in Cale told him not to stare, but some were so…appealing.

He glanced over the back of one girl with nearly black hair who could dance incredibly well. Her voluptuous body moved with sinuous grace and perfectly in time to the hard beat of the music and her partner was obviously in male heaven as she pushed her body against his. Wandering hands found their way over the girl's backside and Cale wished for a moment he was that guy, because the girl was extremely hot, even though he could only see the back of her. But, he quickly shook his head and moved on. The strong smell of beer and alcohol followed him and he wrinkled his nose. That was one of the things he was glad he didn't indulge in, religious morals or not: alcohol. He hated the thought of not being able to control his own thoughts or actions.

"Whatever," he muttered under his breath, before casting one last glance at the party and moving on.

---        ---        ---        ---        ---

Renée gazed at the guy she was dancing with from under her long, thick lashes and smiled slowly, noting with pleasure how he tightened his grip on her ass as his own mouth curled into a smile of unadulterated male delight.

"Hey, uh…Pete?" Renée asked, snaking a hand around his neck as her body moved expertly against his to the music.

"Roger," he corrected her with a languid smile, too trashed and too content with his current position to care about her slip up. He'd never seen someone with such green eyes before. The emerald orbs seemed to shine and were as beautiful as the rest of her…which he couldn't wait to see without the skimpy clothes.

"Ya, whatever. Do you think you could get me another shot of absolut?" she asked, allowing her fingers to tickle the back of his neck and she felt him shiver.

"Whatever you want, baby," he purred, reluctantly pulling away and weaving through the crowd to get her the drink.

Renée was already happily buzzed as she liked to be, but she figured one more wouldn't hurt. Who liked to be able to think anyway? With her life, she sure didn't.

A pair of strong arms wrapped around her from behind and she turned her head with a flirtatious grin. When her eyes alighted upon a rather cute face her smile widened.

"Why hello there," she said huskily, not bothering to hide the fact she was very happy with what she saw. He visibly reacted.

"What do you say we find somewhere else to party, sweet thing?" he asked, pulling her closer to his hips so she could feel what he meant. Without hesitation she turned and pushed her ample chest against his, taking his head in her hands and kissing him long and hard.

"Sure thing," she whispered when she pulled away and he stared at her with wide-eyed surprise. He was now wrapped around her little finger and they both knew it. "Let's go."

Guiding him to an upstairs room, she proceeded to give him the time of his life, drowning herself in the pleasure of wild sex with an obviously experienced partner, and hoping that the guilt wouldn't plague her the morning after.

---        ---        ---        ---        ---

            "Uhhh," Renée moaned, as she shifted in an unfamiliar bed and felt a warm weight on her stomach. Opening her eyes, she groaned and grabbed at her throbbing forehead. As her blurry vision cleared she began to remember snippets of the night before. Glancing at the handsome man lying beside her, a hard knot of guilt tightened in her stomach. It always happened after a careless night of partying and it happened a lot.

            "How did I get myself into this?" she asked the quiet room, while folding her hands behind her head. She couldn't remember when this lifestyle started. Somewhere between the broken home she'd grown up in and falling in with the wrong crowd in high school and college.

            "Whatever," she muttered, rising awkwardly from the bed as the sheet fell away from her naked body. Her partner from the night before woke up and stared tiredly at her, his half-lidded eyes full of admiration.

            "Where are you going?" he asked hoarsely, reaching out to grab her arm. She maneuvered away from him and began to get dressed.

            "I have class. It was fun, see ya around," she rambled quickly, grabbing her shoes and stumbling out of the room with an immense hangover. The guy stared after her with a raised brow of satisfaction before falling back on the bed for more sleep.

            Renée hurried as quickly as she could in her state back to her dorm room, showered and changed into some ripped jeans and a tight, light blue tank top. The only make up she put on was some cover-up to hide the circles under her eyes. Her face needed no other make up because she was absolutely gorgeous and she knew it. She took no joy in that fact, however, because every time she used her beauty to make her happy, it always ended in disaster and guilt.

            Grabbing her books and a purse she hurried out of her dorm room. Tired and completely hung over she made her way across campus and passed a couple of student sponsored organizations promoting whatever events they felt so compelled to organize. The smell of coffee caught her attention and she glanced over a small table where a blond girl was instructing another girl on what to fill out. A few other people sat behind the blond but Renée was too hung over to focus on them. At that moment she stumbled and dropped a book on the ground. Turning, she bent to pick it up with a loud moan as her head began to spin.

---        ---        ---        ---        ---

            "Yes, it starts at the church on Sunday after service," Elise replied to the question a young lady had asked as she filled out an application to walk for the children the church was sponsoring.

            "Thanks," the girl said as Elise pointed out the coffee and donuts there were serving as well. The girl took a tonight and some coffee before she walked away leaving Elise smiling after her.

            "Hey guys," she said turning to Cale and Rachael as a few others worked with the next person interested in the Walk. "I can't believe how well this is going."

            "Ya, it's pretty amazing," Cale agreed, glancing around. His eyes alighted on a familiar figure as a woman stood up, every curve apparent in her tight outfit. An image of long, straight nearly black hair from the night before flashed in his mind's eye. He stared, fascinated to see the front of a woman who was so attractive from the back. For some reason, his heart rate sped up and when she did turn around, his eyes widened and he sucked in a quick breath.

            "Yup, for sure, El," Rachael agreed and frowned when she saw Cale's attentive stare. She followed his gaze and her brows furrowed. A beautiful woman, who looked as though she wasn't all there, was heading their way and Cale appeared to be captivated.

            'Wow,' Cale thought as he took in the beauty of the woman. Her heart-shaped face, pink bowed mouth, and dazzling green eyes all made for an absolutely lovely visage and along with her curvy figure he found that for a moment, he couldn't stop staring. Rachael quickly elbowed him.

            "What are ya staring at?" she asked with a bit of annoyance.

            "Uh, that girl…she looks, um, hung over," Cale stammered and Elise turned to look at him with surprise. Usually he was very collected and aloof. Rachael pursed her lips and crossed her arms over her chest. Studying him skeptically, she scoffed, flipped her hair over her shoulder and went to help another person who'd walked up to their table. Elise followed her friend with her eyes and wondered what was going on. Glancing at Cale, she noticed how he was nervously peeking out of the corner of his eyes before he suddenly just stopped. She could feel his hard mask come down and wondered at his odd behavior.

            "You okay, Cale," she asked him and his head jerked towards her.

            "Ya, ya, I'm cool," he replied, annoyed with himself and how easily he'd let himself become out of control of his emotions. Now, he'd forced himself to put on his cool façade, the one that'd kept him sane for most of his life.

            "Oh okay," Elise said quietly and feeling a bit rejected. She'd never gotten used to how aloof he was. She knew he meant no harm and she wished she could be like Rachael and brush it off, but she couldn't.

            Cale glanced up and watched her walk away to join Rachael, wondering what had just happened.

            "Hello," a hoarse voice said and Cale jerked his head towards his end of the table and his jaw almost dropped in surprise.

            "Hi," he replied coolly, letting none of his emotions show. Rachael saw how hard he tried to stay cool and felt badly for Elise who also noticed the newcomer. A frown grew on her face and her blue eyes studied the newcomer with sadness.

            'She's so beautiful,' she thought and felt a twinge of jealousy grow within her as Cale helped the beauty.

            "Are you guys giving out coffee?" the woman asked slowly, as though she struggled with her speech.

            "Yes, to promote our Walk for Children," Cale replied, studying her more closely. She looked as though she'd partied pretty hard the night before and he mentally berated himself for being so intrigued by her without even learning about her first. He'd promised himself a long time ago that he wouldn't get involved with women just for lustful desires and one night of fun and she completely seemed like that kind of woman from what he'd seen then night before and now. But, he wouldn't' just blow her off. He wanted to think it was because of his morals and that he was open to help and associate with anyone, but he had a feeling he was continuing to speak with her because he was attracted to her.

            "Oh, okay," Renée said, trying to act interested, but only focused on the smell of the coffee and the fact that the man before her was very handsome. But, she'd had many good-looking men and knew that looks usually meant that they were assholes.

            Cale was annoyed by her flippant attitude towards his cause, but that didn't stop him from getting her the coffee. He allowed his emotions to feed off the annoyance, in order to make sure that he didn't think anymore about how gorgeous she was. Both Elise and Rachael were now listening to the conversation and watching the two, mindful of the fact that this interaction was different from all the others they'd had all morning.

            "Here you go," he said with hostility, handing her the cup which she took with an unsteady hand. Renée's head jerked upwards and her eyes narrowed.

            "Thanks," she said staring intently at the handsome man with the icy blue eyes. "Although I don't know why you have such an attitude."

            Elise started at the stranger's bold tone but Rachael put a hand on her arm with the shake of her head. A strangled noise came out of Elise's throat but she listened to the silent command of her friend

            Caleb was taken aback by her rudeness and his eyes jumped open in surprise.

            "Well, listen green-eyes," Caleb shot back with growing disgust. Beauty sure disguised the heart! "It would be nice if you were here to actually help the kids we're sponsoring instead of just thinking of your own needs and how you can get free coffee."

            "The name's Renée," she retorted as a hand shot out and grasped the edge of the table to balance herself as her world began to spin.

            "Well, Renée," Caleb said coldly through clenched teeth, letting his anger take over him and override his embarrassment and shame. "Would you like to sign up for our walk? It begins at the church after service on Sunday."

            Renée glanced up at him and his face began to swim.

            "Um, sorry, hun, I can't…" she rasped as she took a large gulp of the hot liquid.

            "Hey, um, Renée, do you need to sit?" Elise asked from the other side of Rachael, surprising them all.

            Renée glanced over at the petite blond with worry on her face. "No, I'm…" she began when her tall form began to waver. "Well, maybe for a sec before class."

            She rounded the table and sat in Cale's chair and Elise sat beside her. Despite the jealousy she felt, she also felt bad for the obviously misguided girl.

            "Are you okay?" Elise asked, putting a hand on Renée's arm.

            "Do I look okay?" Renée retorted and Rachael stormed up to her.

            "Why you little…" Rachael fumed.

            "Be quiet, Rachael, I can handle it," Elise said softly as Renée shrugged Elise's hand off her arm.

            "You want a donut, too?" Elise asked her gently, grabbing the box and holding it out to Renée. Elise was the polar opposite of her friend Rachael. While Rachael was a firecracker, Elise's temper seemed to not even exist at times.

            "I really can't," Renée replied.

            "Why is that?" Rachael asked derisively and Elise shot her best friend a pointed look.

            "I don't eat sweets," Renée replied with a venomous glance and unconsciously rubbed her free hand across her flat stomach.

            "Riiiight," Rachael said and took another breath to say something else, but another student came up to sign up for the Walk. "I'll be back."

            Rachael turned on her heal and went to help the student while Cale watched Elise work with the little viper.

            "Have you had breakfast?" Elise asked kindly, noticing how out of it Renée actually was, although her tongue showed no signs of wear.

            "I need you 'till at least 12 Elise," Cale interjected before Renée could reply.

            "I don't think I could eat right now," Renée replied with a weak smile Elise's way.

            "Hang over?" Cale asked snidely, not understanding where his bad attitude was coming from. He didn't want to act this way, it was against his beliefs and how he knew he should behave, but he couldn't help it.

            Renée gave him a wry smile and nodded, taking another long draught of her coffee.

            "Cale, someone else is here to sign up, go help them," Elise ordered him, giving him the first direct look in the eye she had in a long time. He was not acting like himself and she wasn't sure that she liked the new him.

            "I'm sorry, he's usually not like that," Elise apologized.

            "I'm just offending his 'oh-so-Christian' morals, I know," Renée replied before glancing at Elise's slightly hurt face. "Oh, I'm sorry…Elise?"

            "It's okay, I know you weren't thinking. After this you want to get something to eat with me?" Elise offered, feeling compelled to help the lost woman.

            "Maybe some other time 'cause I have to get to class," Renée replied, standing carefully and tossing her empty coffee cup into the trash. "Thanks for the coffee."

            "Hey, no problem. Nice to meet you Renée," Elise called after her.

            "Ya whatever," Cale mumbled from where he was helping another guy.

            Elise walked back over to him and waited for him to finish with the young man.

            "What's your problem, Cale? Why were you so rude to her?" Elise asked a bit angrily, also trying to overcome her embarrassment over being jealous of the beauty.

            Cale sighed and looked at her. "Just leave me alone, Elise. Stop trying to make me into you," he snapped and walked away leaving a hurt Elise in his wake. Tears filled her eyes and she felt hands on her shoulders.

            "You know he didn't mean it right?" Rachael asked softly.

            Of course Elise did, but it didn't make it hurt any less.

---        ---        ---        ---        ---

            "Hello beautiful, how are you this fine day?" a better than average looking blond ask Renée as she entered the classroom.

            "Hungover," she told him rather sullenly before he grabbed her wrist and pulled her outside and pushed her against the wall.

            "Can I come over tonight?" he whispered, bending to trail a few kisses down her long neck. She wanted to pull away, but the attention men showered on her made her feel loved, even though she knew it really wasn't love. The men she had relations with showed her more affection than she'd ever received in her childhood, even if it was selfishly given. So, acting on more than adequate experience, she leaned into his light caress.

            "I can't tonight, Jack…tomorrow?" she breathily suggested while running a few fingers over the sensitive skin of his lower stomach under his shirt.

            "I can't wait," he whispered before kissing her hard and releasing her. He sauntered back into the classroom with a smug grin. Their illicit relationship was pretty spontaneous but she indulged him, as well as herself. She used to think he loved her, but had long since gotten over that petty hope and came to the conclusion that she was not worth loving.

            A moment later she followed him and spent the next hour taking a test. She was glad that her intelligence was way above average or else she would have completely bombed it. When the professor dismissed the class, Renée felt an intruding hand on her backside and knew it was Jack. A few girls looked at her with a mixture of envy and disgust. It used to make her feel terrible, but Renée had gotten over those emotions a long time ago. The only thing that never went away was the guilt.

            "Why can't you do it tonight?" Jack asked, following her outside and back passed the tables where Cale and a few other guys were still promoting their charity event. He glanced up at the question and noticed that a tall, blond guy was questioning Renée who looked very aggravated.

            "Because I actually have to rest tonight, Jack," Renée said shortly, stopping a few feet away from Cale's table without even noticing. She was getting annoyed by his constant pestering for sex. "I have a biochem test tomorrow and I have to get an A on it to get an A in the class."

            'She's in biochem...that class is hard…and get an A?' Cale thought incredulously, not thinking that such an…immoral party animal could also be such a good student.

            "But," Jack said, wrapping his arms around her waist and Renée put her hand on his chest to keep him at a distance. "I can help relax you."

            He bent to kiss the delicate curve of her neck and she pushed him away.

            "No, Jack. I can't tonight. I told you. Tomorrow. I didn't even want to go out yesterday," she snapped at an obviously indignant Jack whose face was turning red with anger.

            "Dammit, Renée. I thought you were my girl?" Jack asked loudly, grabbing her arm.

            "Oh ya, I'm your girl. Sure, you left me last night…you don't even care that I danced with like five other guys while you were off flirting with that skanky blond or that slept with some guy I've never met before. Ya, that sure makes me your girl," Renée growled, shaking his hand off.

            Cale had stopped what he was doing and listened to the conversation with a slightly open mouth. Jack was a huge jerk and treating Renée like crap while Renée's behavior and morals were less than admirable.

            "You know what bitch? I don't need you. You're just some slut who I kept around 'cause you're good in bed," Jack retorted nastily with a sneer, knowing that Renée had virtually no self-esteem and just ask he expected, she broke.

            "B-but," she stuttered, looking shocked and very hurt.

            "Nah, get out of my life," Jack spat with an evil half grin before turning on his heel and walking away, knowing that she was eating out of the palm of his hand.

            Cale just stared after Jack and wondered how he could be so cruel. Not that Renée didn't deserve it for indulging in such a lifestyle but… He watched as she hung her head for a long moment before she took a deep breath, rubbed her aching temples, and straightened up, looking more like a beautiful, cold, ice statue than a living woman. Before he knew what he was doing, Cale had rounded the table and approached her.

            "Hey, uh, are you okay?" he asked softly and her piercing green eyes turned on him and for a moment he wondered how the woman who possessed such an intense stare could be so easily be broken by a jerk like Jack.

            "I'm fine," she said coldly, straightening her shirt and standing up to her full 5'7. Even then, she only came up to Cale's shoulder and it irritated her.

            "Well, you just made a huge commotion so I thought I'd do the gentlemanly thing and check up on you," Cale said with a tight rein on his flaring temper.

            "Well thank you, sir, I'm fine," Renée said, emphazing the word 'sir' and bowed her head a bit.

            "Why are you so sarcastic?" Cale asked hotly.

            "Why are you so nosy?" Renée shot back.

            For a moment they glared at each other, not understanding what was going on between them, but unable to break the other's gaze. Renée saw something in his brilliant blue eyes that made her heart ache. She didn't know what it was, but she knew she wanted it. Cale saw how empty she was…and how lost she was and his heart went out to her. He just couldn't seem to keep a tight rein on his tongue.

            Finally, Renée couldn't handle the intensity of the moment and cracked a sultry smile, feeling the need to be in control. The only way she knew how to do that was to use her feminine charms. Stepping closer, she allowed a hand to run up Cale's chest and over his shoulder, feeling a shiver run up her arm at how built he was. Cale's eyes widened and for a moment he could only watch her hand as it moved along his body, eliciting emotions he knew he didn't want to feel for her.

            "What are you doing?" he asked softly, afraid his voice would crack if he spoke louder and somehow mustered the strength to remove her hand from his shoulder.

            "You must know how incredibly attractive you are?" Renée breathed, feeling odd acting like this in front of this particular man, although she'd never had a problem doing it before.

            "Whatever, Renée. I'm not interested in you," Cale said icily and then, frustrated by his lack of control over his emotions he lashed out. "I don't dabble with whores."

            Renée immediately dropped her act and her brows furrowed over her green eyes which began to glisten with tears.

            "Right, well, I'm not going to waste my time on the only prude, virgin guy on campus," she hissed although she was not very convincing with her anger. Then, she turned on her heel, making her long black hair fly about her head, and stalked away, looking about as tame as a caged lion, but sadder than someone her age should ever be.

            Cale watched her, resisting the urge to go after her and turned back to his table where the other guys gave him odd looks and raised a few brows at him.

            "Don't say a word," Cale warned with a cool glance and the rest of the church members quietly nodded and did as he said, wondering what was going on.

---        ---        ---        ---        ---