I pull up to my new home and see some guy sprawled on the front porch.
He’s lying on his stomach, wearing only jeans, his forehead pressed into sagging boards.
Probably drunk. And blocking the damn door.
I close my eyes for a second and let out an exasperated sigh. All I want is to move in.
I left the Cooke Ranch just after dawn, eager to start my new college life. It's been a tense summer, under the same roof as my grandmother.
I was so wound up from my never-ending battles with her I barely got any sleep last night. As usual, it’s given me a hellacious headache.
I’m so not in the mood right now to deal with anybody, much less Mr. Drunk Mess here. But it doesn’t look like I have any choice.
As soon as I step out of my car, I hear him talking. To the porch, apparently.
“Max,” he’s saying, “c’mere, buddy. It’s okay. You can come out now.”
His voice is tender and deep; it’s a pleasant voice.
I close the car door, maybe a little harder than necessary, and walk toward the house. Even with my sunglasses on, the bright sunlight seems to magnify my headache.
I take a moment to focus, and when I do, I see the guy is now on his feet, his hands wrapped around two of the porch posts, his bare feet hanging over the edge.
He’s staring at me. And I cannot help staring back.
Because, drunk or not, he is easy on the eyes.
He’s tall and broad-shouldered, with dark hair and a square jaw. He’s got jacked-up arms and washboard abs.
And even several feet away, I can tell he’s got amazing eyes.
They’re light blue and make me think of the summer sky at the ranch when the sun has bleached the color from the horizon and it’s too hot to even think straight.
His eyes are mesmerizing. And I’m just standing here, gazing into them.
A slow, teasing smile climbs his face. “You our new roomie?” he asks as my mouth drops open.
Oh God. Does he live here?
I’d just assumed—like a lame, sheltered freshman—that everyone living at the house was a girl. I’d just assumed he was the boyfriend of one of the girls who lives here, or something like that.
“Um, yeah, I guess I am,” I mumble, feeling my heartbeat speed up.
He steps off the porch and walks toward me, sticking out his hand. “I’m Blue Daniels. Looks like we’re going to be housemates.”
And I say nothing. I’m freaking tongue-tied, my stomach suddenly doing calisthenics.
Because this gorgeous guy lives here, in the same house where I’m going to be living.
After a couple of moments where my mouth opens and closes like a fish, I whirl toward my old Nissan Maxima, yanking open a rear door and pulling out an egg crate stuffed with my things.
Then I turn back to Blue Daniels, my face burning.
He’s still got his hand out. But now, he’s also wearing an amused smirk. He can probably tell the effect he’s had on me.
“Oh, sorry,” I fumble as I shift the crate I’m holding to one hip and slip my fingers into his. “I’m. . .uh. . .Keegan.”
I sound like I’ve forgotten my own name.
“Keegan Crenshaw,” I add more forcefully, breaking into a sweat.
It is ridiculously hot, which is not unusual for an August day in Oklahoma. But I’m pretty sure I’m not sweating because of the weather.
“Keegan,” Blue says. “Cool name.”
“Thanks,” I murmur, wiping my face. “I like your name, too.”
He shrugs. “My mom was obsessed with Dylan when she was pregnant with me.”
Seeing my blank expression, he prompts, “You know. . .Tangled Up in Blue? Bob Dylan?”
It takes my stupid brain a moment to catch up.
“Oh!” I finally say. “Yeah, I know that song. That’s cool.”
“Yeah.” He’s nodding, and a fond smile crosses his face. “My mom loved everything Dylan did. She still listens to him a lot.”
Hearing Blue mention his mother makes me think about mine, and as usual, a wave of grief and guilt washes over me. I wonder if that feeling will ever go away.
We stand around for another moment. Over the daytime buzz of insects, I think I hear something moving under the front porch.
Scanning the house I’m about to move into, I wonder if this place has rodents or something. It sure looks more ramshackle in person than it did online, with rotting boards on the porch and siding that looks like it’s about to fall off.
No telling what my room looks like. I’m kind of afraid to find out.
It’s not like I had much choice about taking it, though. I waited too long to apply for campus housing at Ikana College. Even most of the off-campus housing was gone.
The only thing I could find was a room in this old house.
Blue dips his head to intercept my distracted gaze and again gives me his sexy smile. And I’m not thinking about the house anymore.
“I heard you’d be moving in today,” he says. “But we didn’t expect you quite this early. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one up.”
I guess I should have known not to show up before noon. The property manager told me the existing tenants sleep late on weekends.
“They’re college kids,” she explained over the phone. “I’ll let them know you’re coming, and I’ll be by in the afternoon with the key.”
I don’t know how to answer Blue’s comment.
I suppose I could have dawdled longer this morning, stayed in my room, and avoided my grandmother. She wouldn’t have come looking for me.
But I was desperate to drive away from the ranch and all its memories.
So I headed a hundred miles south, to the little college town of Hickory Flat. I’ve spent the last couple of hours just killing time, driving around and getting to know the place where I’m going to spend the next four years.
The clock in my car said it was 10 a.m. when I pulled up. That ought to be late enough.
“Look at me,” Blue bursts into my thoughts, “just standing here chatting while you’re holding that.”
He reaches for my heavy crate. “Let me help you unload.”
His arms rub against mine as he pulls the crate from me. I feel my heart speed up even more.
Blue sets my crate on the front porch, wiping an arm across his forehead as he straightens. “Fuck, it’s hot,” he complains.
And my eyes, with no permission from my brain, fixate on his defined abs.
Blue steps back to my car and pulls out one of my boxes as I rush over to yank open the other rear door and slide another box across the seat.
It feels weird to have this guy I don’t even know helping me. And I’m freaked out at the way I’m reacting to him.
I mean, it’s normal, I guess. He is seriously sexy.
But I’m pretty sure I don’t want to start off my college career by falling into bed with my roommate. Pretty sure that would lead to complications I don’t need.
I just want to get up to my room and unpack. Alone.
“Come on, new roomie,” Blue pipes up, moving toward the porch again. “I’ll show you around.”
After a moment’s hesitation, I follow him up the steps.
But then I come to an abrupt halt a few feet away, gasping as I take in the web of thickened scars fanning across Blue’s back.
There must be a dozen of them. They look like burn marks. Or like he got a severe beating.
Maybe he was in a car accident or something. Or maybe it happened when he was much younger. Maybe he’s a victim of terrible abuse.
My heart flips over at the thought. How could anyone do that to a child?
“Old war wound.” Blue interrupts my speculations, seeing the way I’m staring at him.
He’s looking away from me, toward the quiet, sun-soaked street, and I can see his jaw tensing.
“I don’t like to talk about it,” he adds, and I nod.
I’d like to ask him what happened. But we just met. And his words, not to mention the closed-off look on his face, keep me quiet.
It’s none of my business.
Blue shifts the load he’s carrying to free up a hand and pushes open the front door, then gestures for me to go ahead of him.
“Welcome to your new home,” he says with a version of the affable grin he wore earlier.
It makes my stomach flutter again to see it.
I walk through the door and look around in amazement.
Thanks for starting Tangled Up in Blue, a steamy and searing college love story! Lots more to come... :)
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