The horrible voice that threatened to kill me a few hours ago is still scalding my eardrums when I pull up to my new home and see some shirtless guy sprawled on the front porch.
He’s lying on his stomach, wearing only jeans, his forehead pressed into sagging boards, his body blocking the front door. He’s got a beer bottle hooked over one finger. He’s got a great ass.
Even though I’m staring at him through the windshield, I can tell he’s got a great ass. And beautiful, sculpted arms.
Why am I even noticing? I’ve already been driving around for hours, and I'm dead tired.
Kendra, the only one of my new roommates I’ve actually spoken to, told me not to show up too early. The clock in my car says it’s exactly 10 a.m. Surely, that’s late enough.
It's got to be, because I can't stand it any longer. All I want to do is move my stuff into my room and quietly go to pieces.
But here's Mr. Hot Drunk Mess, blocking my way.
Maybe he's the boyfriend of one of my new roommates. Whoever he is, I'm so not in the mood right now to deal with him. Or with anybody else.
I hear his voice as soon as I step out of the car.
“Max. C’mere, Max. It’s okay. You can come out now.”
He doesn’t sound drunk. His voice is tender, deep, melodious. It’s a nice voice.
I close the car door, maybe a little harder than necessary, and stand there squinting as I walk toward the house. Even with my sunglasses on, the bright sunlight seems to magnify my hellacious headache. Lack of sleep always gives me a headache, always makes me miserable.
It takes me a minute to focus, and when I do, I see that, whoever this guy is, he's now on his feet, his hands wrapped around two of the porch posts. The beer bottle is on the railing.
He's looking at me, only a couple feet away, squinting into the sunlight.
Then he gives me this warm, mischievous smile that moves from his lips through his five o’clock shadow to cobalt blue eyes. Seriously, his eyes are cobalt blue.
I know the shade well from the painting class I'm taking, a concession I made this semester to what my roommate Megz insists is my “insanely hard” schedule.
My ex-roommate Megz.
It makes me sad to suddenly realize that, as of today, I'm no longer living with her.
I don't have time to linger on my sadness, though, because I'm distracted by the way my stomach is flopping around like a fish out of water.
“You our new roomie?” Blue Eyes asks, and my mouth drops open at his words.
He lives here. Oh, God.
I hadn't even bothered to ask about the other roommates. I'd just assumed they were all girls.
“Um, yeah, I guess I am.”
I can’t stop staring at him. Besides the amazing eyes, my new roommate is all washboard abs and jacked-up biceps. He's seriously sexy.
And he lives here.
The grin deepens. He steps off the porch and walks toward me, sticking out his hand.
“I’m Blue. Blue Danube.”
I stand there, freaking tongue-tied as my stomach keeps doing calisthenics, not moving until I finally force myself to whirl around and yank open the rear car door. I pull out an overstuffed egg crate and turn back around.
He's still standing there with his hand out, an amused expression on his face.
“Oh, sorry,” I fumble. “I’m Keegan.”
My face is burning, and my brain seems to only be working at half-speed, so his words are just now registering.
“Did you say your name is Blue Danube?” I stutter. “Isn’t that a dance or something? Is that your real name?”
I guess I sound kind of rude, but my inner skeptic has kicked into gear: His name is Blue, and he’s got these ridiculously blue eyes? He’s got to be wearing colored contacts. It's got to be a phony name.
For some reason, I feel a stab of disappointment at the thought.
“It’s a song, actually, one that people used to dance the waltz.”
His smile fades a little, and I stare at the muscle twitching in his jaw.
“And, yeah, it's my real name,” he adds. “It was my old man’s idea. I guess he figured if naming his son after an 18th-century ballroom dance didn’t toughen him up, nothing would.”
Blue Danube startles me by leaning forward and tucking a stray piece of hair behind my ear. My ponytail is barely hanging on, but I don’t have a free hand to fix it.
“Kendra said you’d be moving in today, but she probably didn’t expect you quite this early. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one up.”
“Oh. Sorry. Should I come back later?”
Why did I say that? No way I want to come back later.
“No, no. You’re good.”
He smiles disarmingly, and I break into a sweat. Even though it’s the end of October, I’m wearing shorts and a tank top because it’s hot outside. But that's not what's making me sweat.
I feel his eyes sauntering over my body, obviously checking me out.
He’s not even trying to be subtle. But it won’t do him any good. I’ve got enough craziness in my life. No way I’m adding falling into bed with a horny roommate to the list. Even if he's a smoking hot horny roommate.
“Geez, look at me just standing here like an asshole. Let me help you.”
Blue reaches for the crate, rubbing his arms against mine as he pulls it away, and I start tingling in places people don’t talk about at parties.
He sets my crate on the front porch. Some of the porch’s boards are rotted through, and the siding on the house looks like it is about to fall off. The place doesn’t look anything like the online ad. No telling what shape my room is in.
I’ve heard of the house, of course. Everybody on campus knows about the Canadian Embassy. Embassy parties are legendary, which is why it’s so ludicrous that I am moving in. If I'm not studying or in class, I'm working at the newspaper. I'm pretty much a party virgin.
Pretty much a regular virgin too, if you don’t count that one time.
But I’d been so desperate to move out of the dorm on the spur of the moment that I would have taken anything. Off-campus housing is notoriously hard to find at Ikana. I didn’t have much choice in the middle of the semester.
So, here I am. Party House meet Party Virgin.
“I assume you have more stuff in your car?”
Blue ignores the steps and jumps the short distance from the porch to the bricked-over front yard.
“Man, it’s so damn hot. You’d think it was August instead of October.”
He wipes an arm across his forehead, and my eyes, without any permission from my brain, register the way his abs move up and down. For a boy named after a waltz, my new roomie sure has a rockin’ body.
Stop it, Keegan.
That tingly place inside me flares up like it’s been splashed with gasoline.
I can barely get those two words out of my mouth.
My old Nissan Maxima has all my worldly possessions inside. I’d just thrown everything into it in the middle of the night, frantic to get away before another threat sent me right over the edge.
I only had one egg crate and no time to get boxes and pack up my dorm room. I figured I could organize everything once I got to the Embassy. I hadn’t counted on a swoonworthy guy wanting to help carry my stuff over the threshold.
Blue opens the passenger door, and a whole embarrassing pile of stuff—including the 50-page police report I’d wasted time printing—spills out on the ground.
Blue draws back for a moment.
“Whoa, you, uh, don’t believe in boxes, I guess.”
“I had to leave in a big hurry,” I stammer. “It’s a long story.”
I rush over to where he’s standing, then crouch down and begin picking things up, avoiding his eyes.
Blue squats besides me and puts his hand over mine. He’s so close I can smell his aftershave or whatever it is that’s giving off this musky, citrusy scent that makes me want to bury my face in his chest and breathe deeply.
Dear God, just stop.
“Hey, roomie,” he is saying, quietly, “it’s cool. I was just kidding. Boxes are overrated.”
Then he scoops up an armful of my stuff and gives me a smile that sends a shiver through my soul. At least that's how it feels.
Blue’s face, so close I could reach out and touch it, gets a little blurry.
Don't you dare start crying.
I’m making a fool of myself before I even set foot in the house.
“You still with me, roomie?”
He's giving me a curious look.
I shake my head, then start nodding rapidly.
“Oh yeah, yeah, I was just, um…”
He hits me with that smile again, and I can’t even finish my sentence. Then he stands and turns toward the porch.
“Let me introduce you to your new home.”
I grab as much as I can carry and follow him up the porch steps, shaking my hair out of its ragged ponytail as I go.
As Blue bends down to add my crate to the other stuff in his arms, I notice the scars—dark, thickened skin in long lines, intersected by pale patches that look like burns—all across his shoulders and narrowing like an arrow to the small of his back.
Holy crap. What on earth happened to him?
I also notice the tattoo on his right shoulder: dog tags, with something written on them.
And then I hear what sounds like a dog whining.
Blue stops short and looks down at the hole in the porch where he’d been lying when I first pulled up.
“There you are,” he says to the hole, and I twist my head to see who he’s talking to.
A long black snout sticks up through the boards, and a pair of brown eyes look up at me.
“Oh. Is that who you were talking to when I first got out of the car?”
“Yeah, that’s Max.”
His voice is tender again.
“I forgot to lock him in my room last night, and all the noise from the party scared the shit out of him.”
He whistles and raises his voice.
“It’s okay, Max, come out of there.”
The dog disappears.
Blue chuckles. “He has to go back out the way he got in there. He’ll show up in a minute.”
He shifts the load he’s carrying to free up a hand, then opens the front door with a flourish.
“Welcome to the Canadian Embassy.”
He waits for me to go in first. But then, he holds up his hand to stop me.
“Wait. I just realized I don’t know your name. I need to announce you properly.”
Playful voice and another adorable grin. This guy is trying to make me break my brand-new No Hookups with Roommates Policy.
“Keegan,” I manage to answer. “Keegan Crenshaw.”
“Keegan. I like that.”
“It’s the name of the bar where my mom and dad met.”
He laughs, then tries to bow as he ushers me in, dropping about half of what he’s carrying.
“The Canadian Embassy welcomes Keegan Named-After-A-Bar Crenshaw.”
Copyright 2016 © J.D. Brick
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Tangled Up in Blue is the first book in the Ikana College series by author JD Brick. Want to get the first two books in the series FREE? Subscribe to JD's newsletter at JDBrick.com