The Learning Hours Page 3

Gratuity was included since it was such a large party.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Unload all my frustration in the parking lot, cursing up a motherfucking blue streak loud enough to wake my dead grandmother and scaring the shit out of an old couple walking inside. The woman clutches her little red purse to her chest while her husband ushers her inside, both of them staring like I’ve lost my damn mind.

“Motherfucker!” I yell, punching the air with my fists. “Motherfucking assholes!” I kick the curb then let out another string of curses when the concrete stubs my toe. “Fuck. Fuck. Putain de merde. Fuck my life!”

The expletives roll off my tongue like a tidal wave but do nothing to ease the rolling storm inside me. I tally off one shitty demerit after the other: at the end of today, I will owe my parents four hundred dollars—tick. I’m getting hazed by my goddamn teammates—tick. I’m at a college in the middle of nowhere—tick. I don’t know a single soul except for the assholes that just dicked me—tick.

They also left me without a ride.

Tick. Tock.

I yank the phone back out of my pocket to shoot my idiot roommates a text.

Me: Get your asses back here and pick me up.

Gunderson: LOL have you calmed down yet?

Me: Come back and find out.

Gunderson: Not if you’re going to start a fight.

Me: Just tell me one thing—whose idea was it?

Gunderson: I’m not going to say.

Me: Then I can only assume it was yours.

Gunderson: It wasn’t. Dude, trust me.

Me: Why don’t I believe you?

Gunderson: Why would I pull that shit when I have to LIVE with you?


Gunderson: Yeah, because the last thing I need is the team doing the same shit to ME.

Me: Thanks a lot asshole

Gunderson: Anytime man. Let me put my pants back on. Be there to pick you up in ten.


“Hey, did you see those guys?”

I’m sitting at a diner going over the syllabus for English Lit, making sure I’m not missing any bullet points for this paper I’m supposed to be writing; I can’t afford to lose any gimme points.

Leaning back in the vinyl booth, I set down my highlighter and lift my head, raising a brow at my roommate, Donovan.

“What guys?”

“If you tell me you haven’t noticed, I’m going to call you a liar.” He laughs, spooning a chunk of waffle into his mouth. Whipped cream sticks to his bottom lip, and he licks it before taking another bite. “Lord knows I have.”

“I’m not here to find a date.”

“Right, but sometimes dates find you. Guys can’t help but trip all over themselves over you.” He winks, shoving more waffle into his mouth. “That is one hunky group of heterosexual males if I ever did see one.”

“Aww, poor Donovan,” I tease. “Drooling over a group of straight guys.”

“Story of my life.” He pushes a dramatic sigh out of pouty lips, twirling the straw in his cup of water. “But that’s not going to stop me from ogling.”

“You don’t even try.”

“Preach.” He pauses to shove more food in his mouth. “Oh damn girl, shit is about to get real.”

My head is still bent, highlighter flying in bright strokes across my syllabus. My roommate commentates like a sports broadcaster, giving a full play-by-play of the events happening on the other side of the room.

“There they go folks, ten—no, twelve strapping lads, bolting out the door. Bringing up the rear is number seven, a slow starter with impeccable thighs. Brown hair, this champ is an all-star, but can’t stay on his feet.”

I glance up, amused. Watch as some guy in a red shirt trips in the doorway, stumbling into the entryway. Caterwauls at the gumball machine. Slams into the parking lot.

“There they go, ladies and gentlemen, and I bet by the way they’re bailing, they either owe the tax man or they didn’t pay their bill. Which one could it be…”

I crane my neck, glancing across the now empty diner, out the window, to the parking lot, where the large guys—all athletes—are piling like circus clowns into three cars. They peel out, leaving nothing but dust.

My red brows rise. “Dine and dash?”

“Oh yeah, totally.”

I tap the yellow highlighter cap on my chin. “I’ve never seen anyone actually do that.”

“Really? You’ve never ditched out on paying a bill?”

I stare at him, disbelieving. “Are you serious? No! Have you?”

“Once.” He laughs. “Okay, twice, but I was young and stupid and didn’t have any money. I also stole the menu and utensils.” Chuckle. “So dumb.”

I can’t argue with that, so I concentrate on my meal before it gets cold: short stack of pancakes, breakfast links, hash browns, and iced tea, extra ice.

I peel open a pat of butter wrapped in gold foil, stick it between a layer of pancakes, and wait for it to melt.

“Shit.” Donovan’s fork is poised above his plate. “Now what’s happening?”

I twist in the booth, flipping my long russet hair over a shoulder before resting my arm against the back of the seat. Together, my roommate and I watch as a guy comes out of the bathroom at the far end of the restaurant.

Scans the room, hands on his hips.

Tall and yet somehow stalky, he stuffs his hands in the pocket of an Iowa Wrestling hoodie as he surveys the room, severe brows bent in a frown. Approaches the tables cautiously, halting when the cute little waitress approaches him with a tap to the bicep. Holds out what is obviously the bill, hands gesturing around the room. Points toward the windows and the parking lot where his friends have disappeared.

“Holy shit.” Donovan chokes on his waffle, swallowing a difficult gulp. “Do you think those jocks left that dude with the tab?”

“Oh, it definitely looks like they did.”

“What a bag of dicks.” His eyes have a hint of sparkle, most likely at the mention of dick. “I’m pretty sure that was the wrestling team.”

“How do you figure?”

Donovan does a quick onceover of the guy, dragging his bright blue eyes up and down the guy’s built frame. His head is bent as he scrawls his signature onto a receipt and shoves it back at the waitress, scowling.

Stalks to the door and pushes through it before standing outside. Glancing around, the goliath surveys the parking lot with his hands on his hips—looks left, looks right.

“Well, for starters, almost all those dudes were wearing some form of Iowa Wrestling garb.”

“Garb, Donovan?”

“Shhh, don’t interrupt my musings.”

“In that case, please don’t let me stop you—proceed.”

“That’s it. Those were my musings.”

I roll my eyes, attention shifting to the parking lot. The muted sounds of cursing tickle my ears; I strain to hear them. The words might be muffled by the double-paned windows, but from where I sit, I can read the words on his lips perfectly: “Fuck, fuck, fuck. Fuck. Fuck my life.”

Amused, I chuckle to myself, hiding the smile behind a water glass. God, I am such a jerk sometimes.

The guy takes a deep breath. Balls his fists at his sides.

I watch as his wide, hulky shoulders hunch over his phone, tapping furiously on the screen. Then he shouts some more, arms flailing, fists punching the thin air. He really should calm down—the whole red-in-the-face thing is not a good look for him.

“Think we should we offer him a ride? It looks like they left him here, too.”

Donovan looks so hopeful, I start laughing. “Oh my God, no! Look at how pissed off he is—there’s no way I’m letting him ride in a car with us. He could be a rager.”

Donovan quirks a manicured brow. “Relax. He’s not going to murder us.”

I cut a sliver of pancake, pop the buttery goodness into my mouth. Chew. Swallow. “Yeah, no. Not giving him a ride.”

“You are such a bitch.” He laughs, going back to his waffle. “You know you’d totally give that guy a ride home if he was hot.”

My neck moves of its own accord, and I find myself staring at the kid through the window, at the narrow hips and out-of-style jeans riding a little too high on his waist. The baggy sweatshirt. The shaggy hair he keeps brushing out of his eyes, the angry slashes he calls eyebrows.

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