Bring Down the Stars (Beautiful Hearts Duet #1)(10)

I laughed and leaned into her. “He really is hot. And that smile…”

“Go talk to him. This could be a good experiment for you. Talk to him, ask him out. See if you can keep it casual.” Her eyes narrowed. “I triple-dog dare you!”

“What are you, ten?” I asked, and watched her take another bite of her PB&J and wash it down with a swig of Yoo-hoo. “Maybe you are ten…”

“Kid food is the best food,” she said. “And you’re ignoring my challenge.”

I shook my head, stood up, and brushed the grass from my skirt. “Nah, it’s too soon. Players aren’t my type. He probably just wants to get laid, and that’s fine, but it’s not for me.”

“How do you know what Connor wants if you never talk to him?”

I shrugged, shouldered my bag. “Guess I won’t. He’ll remain a mystery. Something to admire from afar while I keep to my studies. On that note…”

“The library? Already?”

“I have forty minutes before my next class. Are you coming?”

Ruby shook her head and pulled a small bag of Fritos from her brown paper bag. “Italian majors don’t do any work until we’ve eaten. It’s in the syllabus.”

I laughed. “See you at home.”

“See you. But since you won’t give Connor the time of day, I might see if I can take the poor guy home with me. So you better knock first.”

I gave Connor Drake a final, parting glance. This time, he caught me.

Our eyes met and I felt a little thrill shoot up and down my spine before settling in my stomach. He gave me a mega-watt smile—his teeth were blindingly white—and raised his hand in a half-wave. As if we were old friends.

My cheeks warmed. I gave a quick, spastic wave before hurrying away, keeping my head down.

As I headed to the library, my romantic imagination couldn’t help but wonder if Connor was thinking of me the way I was thinking of him. If he linked me to his beautiful day on the quad, just as his effortless smile linked him to mine.

That feeling, I thought. That’s what I love. The first connection. A little uncertain moment that builds into something strong and real.

Except that I thought I’d had that with Mark. While I was busy building our future, he was knocking it out, brick by brick, until the whole thing came crashing down.

I glanced over my shoulder a final time at Connor Drake. He was laughing with his friends again, wearing that beaming, sunshine smile. I wondered what it would be like to bask in that smile, and then brushed the thought aside.

Gorgeous men with winning smiles were no longer on my list.


I took the cement stairs into the library and entered the cool, hushed confines of the main reading room. None of the long mahogany desks with green-shaded lamps were empty. One of the university clubs had taken over two-thirds of the space. The rest of the tables were filled with students like me, trying to get a head start on their course load.

I finally found an empty seat at the end of a table, opposite a blond guy engrossed in reading. His open backpack spilled books and papers into what I hoped could be my table territory.

“Excuse me,” I whispered. “Can I…?”

He looked up, his expression vaguely hostile. Piercing blue-green eyes set in a stunningly handsome, if angular, face met mine. High cheekbones, sharp chin and straight nose but for a small break along the bridge. He looked chiseled out of smooth stone at first glance. Then his features softened for a moment as his gaze swept over me. Something like recognition lit up his eyes, and I could see the gears of his brain turning as he studied, analyzed, and then came to a conclusion. Not a good one, I guessed, because his expression hardened again.

“Yeah, sure,” he muttered. He stood up, leaning his tall, slender frame over the table to corral the books back into his pack.

“Thanks,” I said, thinking if he wasn’t a basketball player or a runner, he was a model.

All right, girl, get a grip.

I sat, cracked my textbook and settled in to read. I wasn’t through two pages when the words blurred to nonsensical gibberish and my skin prickled with the sensation of being watched.

I glanced up, straight into the ocean eyes of the guy across from me. A million thoughts swirled in their soft depths before they quickly glanced down. He slouched lower in his chair, disappearing behind his book—the collected poems of Walt Whitman. Part of me wanted to melt. Good Lord, a hot guy reading poetry? I was only human.

And this is how you wound up with a broken heart in the first place.

I must’ve been frowning at the book because the guy held it up and said, “Not a fan?”

I blinked back to reality. “No,” I said. “I mean, yes. I love Whitman. And poetry in general. I just… Never mind.”

He regarded me a long moment, then slowly closed Whitman and picked up Atlas Shrugged from his short stack of books.

“Ugh, that’s even worse,” I muttered without thinking, and then shook my head. “God, sorry, I left my filter at home. Don’t listen to me.”

His lip curled. “Is there anything in my collection you approve of?”

A hot, smart asshole, I thought. Game on.

“Sorry,” I said. “I’m not in a good mood today and it’s making me forget my manners. I’ll leave you to read your capitalist propaganda in peace.”

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