Tonight was, Morgana Girancelli thought, a veritable recipe for disaster.
She shifted the cup of warm beer to her other hand, smiling and nodding mechanically at the guy in front of her. What was his name again? Jason? James? Justin? Hell, for all she knew, it probably didn't even start with a 'J.' Didn't really matter anyway. She was getting rid of him at the first opportunity.
"Uh-huh," she interjected. Brilliant.
It was probably the wrong way to go about this, but he looked so earnest she couldn't quite bring herself to shoot him down. It would have been kinder in the long run, but she was such a sucker for a pathetic face. Besides, she knew how they felt, and it never gained anyone anything to be mean.
That said, as soon as he'd launched into a fascinating explanation about pain-receptors in damaged nerve cells, she'd tuned him out. He was obviously in the wrong place at the wrong time. If there was a right time for this guy. She'd be willing to bet that this scene - a bar crowded with drunken sorostitutes and guys who'd never learned to keep their hands to themselves - was as alien to him as an antibacterial wipe was to a germ.
There was a good reason for that. He seemed sweet, and sweet guys didn't last a second in the university's proverbial social jungle.
She nodded again when he paused, hoping her timing was appropriate. Sadly, she was a pro at faking interest and attention. This was nothing to brag about, she knew, but it still came in handy. When she'd been about twelve, she'd realized that one of her talents lay in being able to carry on three completely separate conversations at once and to manage them without actually paying attention to any of them. The major downside to this was that later, when people insisted that they'd told her some inane detail or the other, she couldn't exactly refute it, because chances were, they had.
Luckily, she also had a terrible memory, which gave her the excuse she needed most of the time.
Careful to keep the smile plastered on her face, she finally spotted her roommate, Amarissa, out of the corner of her eye. Help! she thought, sending out a mental cry of distress. If Reese so much as looked over at her, she'd recognize the blank politeness on Morgan's face for the cry for help it was.
She nearly sighed in relief when Reese spotted her and started heading toward her. If only her parents had raised her to be rude, this wouldn't be necessary. But alas, she took after her mother and so it was not to be.
Reese cut off Jason/James/Justin in the middle of his sentence. Thank God. Morgan had slept through Biology her freshman year and Anatomy in high school, so anything he said to her probably wouldn't have made sense anyway. Well, it might have. She just didn't care.
Her smile widened, for real this time. Good, because her face had been starting to feel like it was going to freeze in that position. "Hey, Reese," she said, careful not to sound too relieved. "I was wondering where you went off to." She turned to the poor guy who'd been doing his best to impress her. "Do you know Amarissa Stark?"
She was hoping he did, because if not, it was going to be awkward trying to introduce him when she didn't even know his name herself.
Fortune, it seemed, was smiling on her tonight.
"Hey, James," Reese said. So that was his name. "What have you been up to?"
In Reese's presence, James was suddenly shy. Reese tended to have that effect on people. She just screamed self-confidence. And no wonder. She was pretty and smart, and she was going to be a doctor. Which, in retrospect, was probably how she knew James.
He shuffled his feet uncomfortably and turned a brilliant red. Morgan almost felt like she should be offended. Why didn't she inspire this kind of reaction?
"We have that-" Words failed him and Reese looked amused.
"Yeah," he mumbled, flushing magenta, "that project."
Watching them, Morgan was torn between being entertained and being appalled. The poor guy. And Reese just took it in stride.
"I'm glad you got a chance to get out tonight," Reese said cheerfully, before switching her attention to Morgan. He probably didn't even realize he'd been dismissed. "Hey, Mo, there's someone I want you to meet."
She smiled at James again. "It was nice to meet you," she offered and escaped with the sound of his agreement trailing behind her.
Neither of them said anything until they were well out of earshot. Then Reese shook her head and laughed. "James is a really sweet guy, but you just can't get him out of the classroom."
"He seems nice, but... He started going on about lab rats and peripheral receptors and chemical compounds and I just got lost," Morgan confessed. "And when I didn't stop him, it just encouraged him."
Weaving through the crowd of people, Reese changed the subject. "Iago came after all, and he brought some friends."
Juan Santiago Rodriguez Inez was one of Reese's brother's oldest friends. Reese, her brother, and Iago were all townies - they'd grown up in and around the university. In Iago's case, it was because his father was a professor. In the Starks,' it was because their parents both worked at a major pharmaceutical research facility nearby. They'd all grown up together, gone to the same high school, and eventually ended up attending the university together.
"You pulled me away from James to introduce me to Iago?" Morgan wasn't quite following.
Reese rolled her eyes. "I know it's hard, Mo, but don't be an idiot. I told you, Iago brought friends."
And with that ambiguous statement, Reese yanked her into the thick of the crowd. Morgan took an elbow to the head, a blow to the stomach, and a hit to her shoulder all before moving five feet. There was a reason she hated going to clubs and it wasn't just because she had better ways to spend her Saturday evening than being grabbed. Speaking of that... She smacked a wandering hand away from her hip, glaring behind her.
Someone apparently wanted to lose a hand.
She was so busy glaring behind her - a preemptive measure she took very seriously - that she didn't realize they'd come up on Iago and his friends until she stumbled straight into Reese's back. She swallowed a mouthful dark brown hair before she could even gasp in surprise.
Luckily, it seemed that no one had noticed her unintentional snack or her usual clumsy lack of grace. No one, except a tall gorgeous guy who also appeared to be laughing at her. Most girls would have died of mortification. Morgan was used to such occurrences.
Iago grabbed her hand and yanked her out from behind Reese. "¿Qué haces?" he demanded. "¿Estás borracha?"
"No, I'm not drunk," she answered him, going up on her toes to give him an air kiss on either side of his cheek. She thought the custom was charming. He was drunk enough that he didn't even make fun of her, just reciprocated like he was supposed to. "I thought you were going to a party tonight?"
"Sí, sí. Ya fuimos-" he stopped, frowning in mid-sentence. He must have suddenly realized he was speaking Spanish. When he resumed in English, his words had no accent. "We're going back."
"And you girls are coming with us," interrupted another voice. Morgan looked up in time to see Braden Jacobs reaching to snag the warm beer out of her hand. "In a minute. First, let me buy you a real drink."
Reese and Morgan shared a brief but panicked look. "No, that's okay, Braden, I'll keep my beer." She tried unsuccessfully to swipe it out of his hand. He jumped away before she could.
Oh, no. The feeling of imminent disaster loomed ever nearer as she watched him walk over to the bar. She hurried after him. "Braden, give that back! I don't want anything else."
The last time she'd let Braden buy her a drink, she'd ended up dancing on the pool table and trying to preach about the virtues of straight whiskey. It was not an incident she wanted to repeat.
"It's not going to kill you, Morgan," Braden said mildly, his dark brown eyes twinkling at her.
She made a noise that sounded somewhere between a snort and a cough, but didn't say anything to refute his statement. "No tequila," she warned.
He grinned down at her. "But you're so much fun when you've been drinking tequila." Turning his attention to the bartender, he said, "A Jack and Coke and a vodka and cranberry. With lime," he added almost as an afterthought.
Well, at least he'd remembered the lime. This was so very much not a good idea. How did that saying go? Liquor before beer... "Braden, really, I don't want another drink."
Tugging at a strand of her hair, he asked, "Did you drive?"
Wordlessly, she shook her head. She never drove when she planned on drinking. Which might have something to do with why she usually ended up being the designated driver.
He tossed a twenty on the bar as the bartender set down their drinks. Keep the change. He didn't say it, but the way he waved his hand at the girl was all too understandable. Note to self, Morgan thought, if I ever decide to bartend, show as much skin as possible and work the skanky vibe. That girl must make a hell of a lot of money.
Accepting her cranberry and vodka from him, she allowed him to slip an arm around her waist and propel her toward their friends. She leaned against him and rested her head against his shoulder, taking a sip of her drink.
Iago's new "friends" were standing near him, but off to the side and not quite as part of the group. Morgan perused them idly. They were good-looking, she guessed. The tall one to her right was intriguing -and exactly the opposite of her usual type. Still, she straightened a bit, her interest piqued.
He had that sort of rough bone structure that looked delicate and yet strong at the same time. High cheekbones, deep set eyes, stunningly lush long lashes. And, dear God, that mouth. Reese wouldn't think he was attractive at all, but Morgan wanted to throw him down on the nearest table and do every lascivious thing she could think of to him.
Even his coloring was perfect. Chestnut hair jutted forward and up, almost like it had tried to be spiky, but didn't quite have the ambition. Fair skin looked incredibly pale against the reddish-brown darkness. And when she noticed that his eyes were an incandescent green like you might see at the core of a fire, she realized that the only way she could know that was if he was looking at her.
Morgan flushed. She willed herself not to, but she could feel her skin heating anyway. Intellectually, she knew he wasn't her type. Her body didn't care. She clung tighter to Braden and took another gulp of her drink. She couldn't even taste the vodka, thanks to the lime.
Maybe if she had a few more of these, she wouldn't mind that he was staring at her. "He" being the tall, sexy male in the corner. She downed the last of her drink and smiled up at Braden, who chose that exact moment to return his attention. "D'you think you could get me another one?"
He disentangled himself carefully. Her brow wrinkled, she ducked under his arm, knowing exactly what he was doing. He was checking to make sure she wasn't weaving on her feet. Unlike Reese and her absent roommate Mika, it took more than one drink to get her drunk, and especially more than one drink from here. This particular club catered to the nearby sororities, which meant they could get away with watering down their drinks. If there had been even a whole shot in that cranberry and vodka, she'd be surprised.
"Wait here," he said. He eyed her warily for a minute before he finally shook his head and moved back toward the bar.
A quick glance around told her it was probably a good idea to put herself in Iago's close vicinity, or at least not stand like an island in the middle of the bar. Unfortunately, moving closer to Iago also put her closer to the new IR students and hence closer to the one who'd been staring at her like he was about to start bidding on her. She weighed the sanity of this decision, but her mind made itself up the second she saw James approaching determinedly out of the corner of her eye.
Iago and the lecherous one it was. She'd take her chances.
She slipped between two guys she didn't know until she was standing at Iago's side. He smiled down at her. "Conoces a mis amigos? Son estudiantes nuevos en nuestro programa."
Frowning, she followed that as best she could. She'd caught the word "amigos," so he'd been talking about friends... Something about students?
Slinging one arm across her shoulders, he waved vaguely in the direction of the three guys. "Marco, Roberto, y Quinn."
Well, that sort of helped. At least she was sure he'd been introducing her now.
Robert, Marc, and Quinn. But which one was which?
She studied them curiously, not even bothering to be covert about it. The guy to her left - the tallest of the three - had skin the dark color of coffee. He looked pleasant and rather harmless. The one in the middle was the shortest of the three, with strawberry blond hair, boyish features, and extremely polished black shoes. For some reason, that bothered her.
The one on the right she barely skimmed a glance over. After the way he'd been looking at her earlier, the last thing she wanted to do was encourage him. She directed a tentative smile at the other two instead. "Hi, I'm Morgan Girancelli," she said.
"I'm Rob," the tall black guy said, sticking out his hand. She shook it firmly. "Nice to meet you."
"Likewise," she responded, smiling at him. Had Iago been paying attention, he would have said, "igualmente."
The shortest of the three was next, his polished black shoes screaming the words "anal retentive" before she ever had a chance to learn his name. When he introduced himself, he did one of those head jerk things guys were so fond of. His hands were still in his pockets, so she could only assume that when he lifted his chin in acknowledgment, that was supposed to serve as the replacement.
"Name's Marc," he said. She nodded back at him and tried not be impolite. Or giggle, which was essentially the same thing.
That meant the last one had to be Quinn. She turned toward him reluctantly, waiting for him to introduce himself to her breasts instead of her face, because after the way he'd checked her out, she wouldn't be surprised to learn that was where he was looking.
She was more than a little pleasantly surprised to find that her assumption was wrong.
That green gaze was trained on her face, not notably lower like she would have expected. He wasn't even smirking. He offered her a hand, one corner of his mouth twisted in a half smile. "Quinn Carter." His lashes dropped, shielding his emotion from her, and she had to wonder if he was hiding an offensive leer. "Nice to meet you, Morgan."
A brief and insincere smile in his direction served as a response to his equally insincere civility. "You, too," she lied. She shifted uncomfortably for a minute while debating whether to ignore them or continue the conversation. "So," she said finally, "how do you like it here?"
She could have smacked herself on the forehead as soon as the words came out; she might as well have asked them about the weather.
Marc didn't seem to notice her question's inanity. "Could be worse," he shrugged. "You have to drive everywhere, but at least the city's got pretty much everything you could need."
"My last university was in a small town about an hour away from any decent stores," Robert agreed. "This place seems to be a decent size city but still have that small town feel."
It was a fair description, Morgan conceded. She just happened to be biased against it because she was from a much larger city. "It's not bad here," she said carefully. No reason to give them bad ideas about the place before they'd found out for themselves. And besides, the university made it a little easier, since events and amusement were hardly scarce.
Quinn must have caught her reticence, because he grinned at her. She could feel a blush creeping up her cheeks.
Iago, meanwhile, rolled his eyes. "No le prestéis atención. Don't listen to Morgan," he instructed. He wrapped her in a quick, affectionate hug. To take the sting out of his next words, maybe? "She reputedly did her wild child phase when she was still in high school and now we can't get her jaded self to find her inner childlike wonder and awe."
"Shut up, Iago." She couldn't even muster dignified outrage at him anymore, especially since her cynicism was well-documented. Robert and Marc looked uncertain about the lack of heat in her tone, as though they weren't quite sure this was really banter and not the beginnings of a verbal battle.
Much to Morgan's irritation, Quinn simply continued to look amused.
"Pero es verdad, guapa."
"I don't speak Spanish," she reminded Iago.
He grinned at her. "No importa."
Braden saved him from imminent physical abuse by returning, nearly dropping one of the drinks, and swearing loudly. Lucky for Iago, she thought darkly, that Braden had chosen exactly that moment to come back.
He handed her two ruby red cocktails garnished with limes the color of Quinn's eyes. "I brought you two," he said, once he'd transferred them into her hands. Apparently he'd noticed how quickly she'd sucked down the last one. Iago glared menacingly at him, but Braden waved him off. "She's not driving."
"Who is, then?" Iago demanded.
Morgan tuned them out, taking advantage of their distraction to take a large gulp of her drink. This one tasted even more like lime than the last, she observed happily. She swirled the liquid carefully in the cup. Normally she didn't drink like this, but she had the feeling it was going to be one of those nights. And for once, she wasn't driving, so what did it hurt to take advantage of it?
Glancing back up, she saw that Robert and Marc had involved themselves in the argument over who was getting them where and how. Now where was Quinn?
She nearly jumped out of her skin when he materialized beside her. From the corner of her eye, she quickly took the opportunity to look him over while she didn't have to ogle him. He wore a blue and white striped, button-down shirt and European-style jeans that normal American males usually couldn't quite pull off. It was untucked and casual, but surprisingly crisp and ironed. That probably should have bothered her more than Marc's freshly polished shoes, yet for some reason it didn't.
"I know you're not in International Relations like the rest of us," he said.
His hands were in his pockets, his posture relaxed, and she realized just how much she liked the sound of his voice. A slight accent tinged his words, although she couldn't place it. Maybe New York?
"No, I'm not," she confirmed finally.
He raised an eyebrow. "So how do you know all these kids?"
"Reese was in most of my classes freshman year and they were friends in high school. They're all townies." He was too damned pretty. It made her suspicious. She took another sip of her drink. "Iago was in Reese's brother's class."
Quinn nodded thoughtfully, one corner of his mouth turning up. She was surprised to note that he had dimples curved into his angled cheeks. "Reese is the girl you're here with?"
"Yeah, she-" Morgan let her voice trail off, frowning. Where was Reese, anyway? She'd disappeared after dragging her towards Iago. A quick survey of the room showed that she was nowhere to be found, at least in this section of the club. "She's around here somewhere."
He'd moved around to stand so that he was facing her while she was talking, but it was loud enough in here that in order to hear him, he had to stand extremely close. She didn't like it. "So are you in grad school, too?"
He was tall enough that he towered over her, not that it took all that much. Morgan couldn't even consider herself average height if she were stretching the truth and standing on her toes. The end result was that when she looked up at him, her gazed focused on his mouth. And while it was hardly the most distracting thing about him, it was distracting enough in its own right.
She took another sip of her drink. "No, I'm a senior," she admitted.
Blinking at her, Quinn said, "And you hang out with grad students." It was more of a question than a statement.
Everyone wondered that. She couldn't count on two hands the number of times people had asked. But why do you hang out with the grad students if you're still an undergraduate? Normally, as an undergraduate, she wouldn't have the opportunity - or the inclination, but she and Reese had been grandfathered into the group thanks to their past history with Iago. And she knew Braden through Iago and then subsequently from an International Relations class she'd had her junior year.
Morgan decided not to dignify that with a response. Waving vaguely at him, she swallowed the last of her drink instead, sucking one of the ice cubes into her mouth, and set the empty glass on the nearby table. It was one of those tall, skinny tables that everyone crowded around instead of actually sitting and the top was already teeming with finished glasses. The second drink, still full, she shifted to her right hand.
"So where are you from, Carter?"
Perfect. A nice, impersonal topic that steered the conversation away from her. She beamed in the general direction of his face, although she refused to throw her head back quite that far. The use of his last name had been intentional, and from the amused twist of his lips, he knew it, too.
"Near Buffalo," he answered. Then, almost as an afterthought, he added, "That's in New York."
The smile still firmly plastered on her face, she said, "Oh, you mean like outside of Seattle? Near that lake?"
Iago's back was to her, but she knew he heard her comment because he went suddenly still. She could imagine his eyes crinkling in laughter and his face turning purple as he tried to hold it in, his lips pursed and the corners tilted up. His shoulders were suspiciously straight, which she knew meant he was waiting for Quinn's response.
Quinn, meanwhile, seemed unsure whether to take her seriously or not. Finally, he shrugged. "It's in the same hemisphere," he offered. "And sure, it's close, if you're comparing it to the distance between Chicago and China."
That was apparently too much for Iago, who burst into laughter. Quinn looked bewildered. Morgan merely took a sip of her drink and waited for him to calm himself.
"Deja de hacer el tonto, guapa," he managed eventually. She didn't bother to remind him yet again that she only understood half of what he said. Turning to Quinn, he said, "Es una broma. Realmente no piensa eso."
She expected Quinn to stare at him blankly, but instead he and Iago shared a conspiratorial moment charged with amusement. "Ya lo sé," he said. And while he sounded like an American, his accent as thick as old oil, Iago understood him. "I thought she was serious at first, but I knew it was a joke before you even said it. Or at least I hoped she wasn't that stupid."
Iago pulled her into a choking hug. "Muy bien," he said after he'd let her go. Very good. "Finish your drink. Rob's going to drive us back to Angie and Sarah's."
As if on cue, Reese did an amazing impression of a Jack-in-the-Box. Morgan jumped, coincidentally sending her bumping into Quinn. A scowl crept over her face involuntarily. "Don't do that," she snapped.
Reese's soft giggle cued her into the fact that she'd been drinking as well. Probably not much more than Morgan, but Reese was a lightweight. "You're too jumpy," she accused. Her olive skin was flushed.
"Finish your drink, guapa."
Still scowling, Morgan tossed back the rest of her cranberry and vodka, quickly disposing of the glass. It fit nicely inside one of the others on the table. "Well, let's go then."
Iago executed a sweeping gesture toward the door. After you. She shook her head. Three drinks in a little over half an hour, and she was barely feeling it. She'd nursed the original beer out of habit. She twisted around until she found Robert. He was ahead of her, so she hurried to catch up to him. "Hey," she said, tugging on his sleeve. "Are you okay to drive?"
He grinned down at her. "I guess you were too busy flirting with Quinn to pay attention to the conversation, weren't you?"
"I wasn't flirting with Quinn." Even Morgan could hear the self-righteous indignation in her voice. They both knew she was protesting too much.
"I haven't had anything to drink in the last hour," he said instead of responding to that. "I'm good."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Morgan," he said patiently. "I'm fine. Reese seems pretty trashed, though."
They both watched Reese stumble out into the fresh night air, her light laughter floating back to them. She wouldn't be able to walk a straight line with a handrail and a personal guide. "Yes, she drove, before you ask."
"Someone needs to take-"
His voice trailed off as Braden teasingly snatched away her keys and tossed them to Marc, who apparently was the next most sober person in the group. Come to think of it, she hadn't seen him drink anything at all.
"Braden did," Morgan said cheerfully.
Robert's car was close to the door and a quick push of the buttons unlocked it. She crawled into the backseat. She suspected Braden and Amarissa would ride in Reese's car, driven by Marc, which left Iago and Quinn to take the remaining seats. To Morgan's dismay, Quinn took the other side of the backseat, even though he was the tallest of all of them.
"Shouldn't you sit up front?"
He smiled charmingly at her. "I'm fine."
She narrowed her eyes on him suspiciously before deciding he probably wasn't worth it. Her seatbelt fastened with a click. Resting her head against the door, she decided to ignore him. He made that impossible, poking her just as Iago and Robert slid into the car.
"So what's your major?"
Sighing, she rolled her eyes and pretended she hadn't heard him. Like he really cared anyway. Honestly.
Unfortunately, he didn't take the hint. "Morgan?"
She sighed again and lifted her head so that she was looking at him. "Sociology. I'm also an Aries and I like long walks on the beach. Is there anything else you need to know?"
"Your bra size?" Iago suggested from the front seat.
She sent him a scathing glare and flipped him off, which only made him laugh.
Quinn persisted despite the interruption. "What do you want to do with that?"
"Get a job?" She glanced up to see Iago hanging around the seat. "Put your seatbelt on, Iago."
Iago grimaced. "What are you, my mother?" Nonetheless, he faced forward and buckled his seatbelt. "I can't hear you flirting this way," he complained.
"We're not flirting," they snapped in unison. Frowning at each other, they lapsed into silence. After laughing openly at them until he realized it got no reaction, Iago made use of the quiet to sing loudly and off-key (almost) along with the radio.
Morgan was ecstatic when they pulled into Angie's house. Robert had barely parked the car before she was unbuckled, out the door, and traipsing through the yard. She hoped she mumbled something about seeing them later. Bypassing the keg in favor of the bar she knew Angie would have stocked inside, she made her way into the house. People greeted her as she went, and she was surprised by just how many people she knew.
Reaching the bar quickly, she was unsurprised to see Angie behind it pouring shots.
"Hey, Ange," she said.
"Mo!" Angie exclaimed, handing her a shot glass in greeting. "How was your summer?"
"Decent," she answered, peering at the amber liquid she was holding. She looked at Angie and raised an eyebrow.
Good, Morgan thought. Better than normal rum and not tequila or whiskey, both of which made her sick on a good day. She raised her glass with Angie and another girl she didn't know and then downed the shot. As she was setting the shot glass back on the bar, she felt more than saw someone come up behind her.
Angie squealed. "Quinn! I didn't know you were coming! Have you met Morgan?"
"Unfortunately," Morgan smiled sweetly at Quinn. Her enthusiasm couldn't have been any more fake if she'd tried. "Can you pour me another one, Angie?"
Morgan nodded. "Sure." She pointedly avoided looking in Quinn's direction. Still, she couldn't quite stop herself from remarking acidly, "There are plenty of other girls here. If you're going to ogle someone, I suggest you go find someone who will appreciate the attention."
He didn't look away from her. "I'll take one, too, Angie. Thanks." He waited until Angie had poured all of them another shot and wandered off before he addressed her statement. "I don't want to stare at all the other girls in the room. Look, I'm sorry I was 'ogling' you or whatever. I wasn't trying to be an ass."
Oh, yes, brilliant Morgan. Still, the best she could do was blink in surprise for several seconds. She was starting to feel warm all over. Then, belatedly, she started to feel guilty for snapping at him. He probably wasn't nearly as bad as she'd thought at first, but he'd touched a nerve with the ogling.
She squinted at him, considering, then said, "Apology accepted." She could be magnanimous about that and still not want to spend any more time with him, right? He was hot; that didn't mean he was nice, even with the apology. Just as she was about to make her great escape, he ruined it for her.
"Can I make you a drink?"
Briefly debating, she finally acquiesced. After all, if she said, "no," he'd probably get offended. What would it hurt?
"Any preference?" he asked.
Morgan shrugged. "Something blue and exciting."
That gave him pause, but not for long. "Okay." He drew out the syllables, a clear indication that he thought she was nuts. Oh, well. "Something blue and exciting coming right up."
The drink, when he handed it to her a few minutes later, was quite definitely blue. Shockingly so. She peered at it suspiciously before cautiously taking a sip. Despite the freakish color, it tasted fabulous. "Thanks, Carter."
"Yeah, no problem. Do you want to-?"
She nodded, following him in the direction of Iago and Robert, sucking down her drink through a straw he'd found her somewhere as they went. That was about the time everything started to blur together.
Amazing how fast the alcohol can hit you, she mused hazily, surprised at how super-nice Quinn was being and leaning against him as they stood talking to someone she didn't know. At least she didn't think she knew them. Nope. Didn't look familiar. She swayed even though she was practically propped against him. Her drink - what was this? Her fourth? Fifth? - disappeared from her hand.
Yawning, she burrowed closer to his side and swayed. She was going to fall asleep on his shoulder if she didn't have some caffeine... She blinked and realized she was sitting on the couch. How had that happened?
She squinted and swayed, trying to bring the digital clock into focus, but all she saw was a big aqua blur.
"Dude, I think Morgan's had it."
"Yeah, someone needs to get her home."
Finally she managed to focus on the clock. 3:47. Had she passed out?
"I'll take her. Just give me an address."
Frowning at the now familiar voice, Morgan was too tired to protest.
Good God. What in the hell had happened last night?
Morgan slowly and reluctantly came to her senses. It was light outside; she knew that much because it was burning the back of her eyeballs painfully. She was lying on satin sheets, meaning she was in her bed...
But why was she pressed up against the wall? Usually she woke up sprawled across the bed, not hunched in a corner of it. She cracked open one eye, the dirty white of her ceiling filling her vision. Too bright. The lid slid shut again. Yawning, she stretched, letting her arms uncoil lazily from beneath her body and her back arch. She twisted away from the wall, wiggling her fingertips and reaching-
-and hit solid, warm skin.
She froze. And in that second, several elusive memories from last night washed over her. Sitting in Angie's overstuffed couch, coiled against a muscled body. Wandering slowly home under the moonlight, steps punctuated by groping hands and hasty kisses. Surprisingly muscled shoulders beneath her hands, a searing mouth on her neck. How had she gotten home? And more importantly, how had someone else ended up here with her?
A low moan escaped her. She didn't want to look beside her and confirm the sudden suspicion lurking behind her eyelids. She had a sinking feeling she knew exactly who was sleeping in the bed next to her. Please, she thought, please let this just be a bad dream. When I make myself look, no one will be in the bed beside me.
She must have pissed off someone higher up. Either that or no one was listening.
She opened her eyes to a sleeping Quinn Carter.
Enjoy... I am going to do my best to update this relatively frequently, but I don't know how well that's going to work. It's going to be a very busy semester for me, as I am taking two classes, teaching two classes, and working full-time. I have a bit of the later chapters (and the second chapter!) already written, so that will help. I'm relying on you all to motivate me. :)
I've recycled the title from a previous story I didn't finish, because I kind of outgrew that one. I am sorry for that, but I am in a different place now, and couldn't continue it. The characters sort of grew with me. That said, I am going to finish this one if it kills me. It might just take awhile... Translations to follow.
-"Qué haces? Estás borracha?" "What are you doing? Are you drunk?"
-"Si, si. Ya fuimos--" "Yes, we already went--"
-"Conoces a mis amigos? Son estudiantes nuevos en nuestro programa." "Do you know my friends? They're new students in our program."
-"No le prestéis atención." "Don't pay attention to her."
-"Pero es verdad, guapa." "But it's true, beautiful."
-"No importa." "It doesn't matter."
-"Deja de hacer el tonto, guapa. Es una broma. Realmente no piensa eso." "You need to stop kidding around, beautiful. It's a joke. She doesn't really believe it."
-"Ya lo sé." "I know."
A note on "guapa": While the literal translation is "beautiful," it is often used as an affectionate term in Spain and a reference to a person's personality, not necessarily their outward physical appearance. This often happens among friends. However, when you see a hot guy on the street, it is appropriate to use it as, "Qué guapo!" or, "What a hottie!" ;)