I Bet You (Page 44)
I watch as the brown-haired hottie takes the steps two at a time, a gleam in his eyes as he reaches our table. He gives me a nod then focuses on Charisma. “Hey babe. Whatcha doin?”
She tucks a chip in her mouth, chewing loudly. “NOT A BABE.” Her voice carries over to several tables.
She ignores me and looks at Blaze, who’s sat down next to her. “I told you last night—”
I interrupt. “You said you were helping the pledges.”
She blinks at me. “Uh, I was going to do that, but when I drove past the athletic dorm, Blaze was—”
Blaze’s eyes widen. “She texted me and asked to see me under the pretext of studying. Then she took advantage of me.” He sighs. “It wasn’t the first time.”
She throws her hands up. “You both need to back off—”
“Hello, cher,” a low voice says from behind me.
Our table goes silent, and we turn to see Archer with Sasha on his arm. Her blonde hair is swept up on either side with sparkly lion clips, the mascot for the Thetas, and her pink-tipped nails are curled around Archer’s bicep. A couple of the defensive players I don’t know linger around them, and I suppose it’s Archer’s posse.
I’m relieved Margo isn’t here yet to see Sasha.
“Hello,” I say with a brief dismissive nod, only because Southern social etiquette demands a response.
“You guys studying?” Sasha asks.
Charisma glares at her as if she’s an idiot. “We’re planning our massive homecoming party—which is going to be way better than yours.”
Sasha’s eyes harden. “Is that so?”
“I’ll be at the Theta house,” Archer says, giving me a smile, his teeth sharp, the light from the overhead florescent bulbs glinting off the diamond studs in his ears. I grimace. If he were a vampire, he’d be one of the creepy, unsexy Stephen King ones.
“Perfect,” I say sweetly. “Please carry on then. There are plenty of open tables tonight.” I wave my hand at the entire empty section in the area to our right. I don’t have time to deal with Archer and his machinations.
But the duo lingers. “Haven’t seen you around in a while,” he says to me, and I look up from my to-do list.
“Good,” I say.
He snaps his fingers. “Oh, yeah, that’s because you’re doing Ryker on the regular now. How’s that going?” He smirks at me. “You finally caved and gave it up. I really thought you hated him. Turns out, you’re just like all the rest.” His lip curls. “Come see me when he’s done with you. I’ll hook you up with something better.” He grabs his crotch.
My first reaction is horror. Awful, mind-numbing horror. Then rage makes me go white-faced. My fists curl, and before I know it, I’m standing. “Go to hell, a*****e.”
Archer laughs and Sasha’s eyes widen.
Blaze jumps to his feet and stalks over to where Archer stands. “Hey now, watch yourself. Nobody wants to hear your bullshit. Leave.”
“I don’t want to leave,” Archer says.
“Come on, girls, let’s move downstairs.” Blaze’s hand is on my shoulder, but I shake him off.
“No.” Out of my peripheral vision I see indecision on his face as he gives me space. With one step, I’m in Archer’s personal space. I take in the bruise under his eye, the split lip. “Looks like someone beat the s**t out of you,” I say.
His hands clench. “Your boyfriend got in a sucker punch.”
“You better run along before Ryker shows up,” Blaze says from behind me.
“I don’t give a s**t about Ryker,” he mutters, narrowing his beady eyes. “But maybe she needs to know the truth.”
“Stop f*****g with our team,” Blaze tells him quietly. “You’re the problem. Not Ryker.”
Archer smirks. “You’re just his little lapdog.”
Blaze takes a menacing step forward. “I said leave.”
My chest is rising rapidly. How does he know about me and Ryker? It’s possible he’s just throwing out guesses. “Wait a minute,” I say. “I want him to explain himself.”
An expression of glee flits across Archer’s face.
And I feel trapped, as if I’ve reacted exactly the way he wanted me to. I straighten my glasses. Charisma is next to me, bristling like a mother hen. “Yeah. Speak, jerk face,” she says.
Archer sighs, a pleased smirk on his face. “By the look on your face, I guess it’s true then.”
“What?” I bite out.
“Ah, cher, did you think Ryker was into you?”
Blaze lets out a groan. “F**k.”
I don’t say a word. But my face is on fire. My hand clings to the back of my chair. Whatever he’s going to say…I think my heart already knows.
He tsks. “See, you’d think you would have figured it out after the bet at Sugar’s. I was counting on you holding a grudge, but you went and gave it up anyway.”
My lips are numb. “Stop beating around the bush and say what you came to say, Archer.” My words are controlled, tight, and surprising cool, considering I’m flopping around like a dying fish on the inside.
“Well, it wasn’t a bet we put on the board, but every player knew the stakes. Offense against defense.”
“A bet. I see. What were the stakes?” I hold my breath.
He looks at his nails. “I bet Ryker he couldn’t screw you by homecoming—and the b*****d went and did it early.”
“And how do you know he accomplished the task?” My words are cold.
Archer’s eyes gleam. “Why, he told everyone at practice this week. That’s why we got in this little fight. I was offended for you. Ask Blaze. He was there.”
I look at Blaze’s face and it’s white.
An anvil lands on my chest. A small breath of air escapes my mouth and all the air in the library is gone. The spacious room feels tiny and tight and…
I blink and swallow. Get yourself straight, Penelope.
But I can’t. It’s too much, and all my mistrust and insecurities come roaring back to the surface. I take a step back and collapse down into the chair.
Blaze is up in his face now, his fingers pushing at Archer’s chest.
Nausea washes over me but I hold on. My head tries to process everything I thought was real between Ryker and me.
Sasha laughs and looks around, confused. “Like, it’s not even a big deal. At least you got to sleep with Ryker, right?”
It’s doubtful she knew anything by the surprised look she gives me, and I throw my gaze around the library, searching faces, wondering if others know the intimate details of my sex life.
Charisma is next to me, gathering my things together and tucking them inside my backpack. I let her, my gaze on the table. I stare down at my list. Feeling frozen. Sick. I want to scream. I want to puke. I want to die.
But it’s a library and I can’t do any of those things here.
Blaze is arguing with Archer when one of the librarians comes over and asks them to be quiet. I feel disassociated, as if I’m floating up at the ceiling above the scene, watching everything play out.
My hand holds my chest as I swallow down emotion and focus my attention on Charisma. “Get me out of here.”
She nods and takes my arm then we leave the group behind. She escorts me down the staircase, and I feel her eyes look over at me, gentleness there. “You’re white as a sheet, Pen.”