Bring Down the Stars (Beautiful Hearts Duet #1)(9)

“Here we go again,” Ruby said, greeting me with a smile. “Same Bat-time, same Bat-place. Same same-same. Are we in a rut?”

I folded my dress under me as I knelt beside her. “It’s the first day of class. We can’t be in a rut already.” My smile slipped. “And not everything is the same.”

Ruby frowned, and dug into her bag for her lunch. “You’re right. That cheating asshole is out of the picture. Can’t say I’m sorry.”

“I can,” I said, smoothing my skirt.

“Hey,” Ruby said, touching my hand. “I’m no good at saying the right thing to make you feel better. This we know. But in a month, my thoughtless commentary will be just what you want to hear.”

“I know. I wish I could fast-forward.”

“Fucker,” Ruby muttered, and leaned back on her elbows to survey the activity on the quad. “On the bright side, Amherst has no shortage of fine-ass men to distract you from your problems.” She jerked her chin to a group of guys tossing around a football. “Mmhmm. No shortage at all.”

I rolled my eyes and drew out my own lunch—a salad with dried cranberries and feta cheese, and a bottle of iced tea. “Pass.”


“Ruby, please,” I said. “It’s only been three months.”

“I’m not suggesting anything serious. I’m talking purely sexual encounters of the meaningless kind.” She smiled gently. “I know, I know. Not your thing. I just hate seeing you hurt. Mark’s a damn fool and you can quote me.”

I took a bite of salad and let my gaze follow Ruby’s to the guys throwing a football. My eyes kept landing on a tall boy with broad shoulders and a wide, charming smile. Even at a distance, something about that flashing smile was comforting. Like one of Edmond’s scones. A smile that made it seem like all was right in the world.

My astute best friend caught me staring. “On the off-chance you’re wondering, that’s Connor Drake. Junior hottie. Baseball player, player-player, and all-around beer pong champ two years running.”

“I don’t think I’ve seen him before.”

“No, of course not,” Ruby said with an eye roll. “I’ve only mentioned him, like, a dozen times since we started here. Then again, kind of hard to notice other guys when you’ve been sucking face with Mark.”

“Not to mention, working hard at my classes,” I said pointedly.

“True.” She swiveled her gaze from Connor to me. “You like?”

I shrugged. “I like his smile. And his eyes. He seems…friendly. Easy-going. Happy.”

“In other words, he’s a babeshow.”

I gave my best friend a playful shove. “What? I’m not allowed to look?”

Just then, Connor laughed loudly at something one of the other guys said as he effortlessly caught an errant throw one-handed. The same pure joy in his laugh as in his smile.

“You should do more than look,” Ruby said. “He’s all kinds of hot.”

I shook my head. “If he’s a player, then I’m not interested. And I’m done with relationships, anyway.”

“You sit on a throne of lies,” Ruby intoned in a deep voice. “You’re an incurable romantic. It’s in your blood.”

“I know. But Mark made a fool of me, Ruby. He made me believe in something that wasn’t there. Like everything we had was a lie or a joke. Or that I was the joke. The butt of a terrible joke he called us. Feeling like this sucks and I’m not going to get hurt like that again.”

On cue, the pain squeezed my heart. Mark Watts hadn’t been my first serious boyfriend, but I’d fallen more deeply for him than anyone else. After two years, I’d begun to envision a future together. We were young, but we both wanted the same things from life: to travel, to find a worthy cause and champion it, to spend a life of activism, helping.

Or so I thought.

“I’ll never understand why he couldn’t have been honest with me,” I said, my gaze following Connor Drake. “Don’t want to marry me? Fine. We’re only twenty-one. But don’t tell me all kinds of romantic, intense things that make me feel like you want to build a future life together, and then cheat on me.”

“You can date without getting emotionally involved,” Ruby said around a bite of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “You can have fun with a guy without getting attached for life.”

Connor stood with his friends now, talking and laughing. His laugh was booming and infectious. The other guys loved him; giving him their full attention, keeping him the center of their universe.

“I always get attached,” I said. “I can’t help myself. I don’t want casual, I want electricity. I want someone I can talk to for ages, someone who sets my blood on fire. And not just physically, you know?”

Ruby pursed her lips. “Gee, don’t expect much, do you?”

“Only everything,” I said. “And why not? That’s exactly what I have to give.” I sighed and rested my chin on my drawn-up knees. “I have one year to figure out an emphasis for my post-grad Harvard project. Maybe the universe is telling me to try being single for a change.”

“Mmhmm,” Ruby said. “Is the universe also telling you to keep your eyes glued to Connor Drake? Because if that’s the case: mission accomplished.”

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