I Bet You (Page 47)
“Once you ring a bell, you can’t un-ring it.”
He closes his eyes briefly. “I’m sorry. So f*****g sorry.”
Emotion tugs at me, pulling at my chest.
“Sometimes sorry isn’t enough. Good night, Ryker.”
I shut the door in his face.
Margo sits across from me at the student center. Her face is pale, and she looks like she might hurl.
“Hangover?” I ask as we eat lunch together.
“Ughhhh,” comes from her as she sucks down her second glass of water.
“I should have told you to hydrate last night. Champagne headaches are the worst.” I grimace. I was smart and took a Tylenol before I went to bed; plus, I guzzled a Gatorade.
She nods and looks down at her pizza. “I don’t think I can eat this.”
“It’s barely edible anyway,” I say as I munch on my slice that has pepperoni, sausage, and mushrooms.
“I ended up going back to Connor’s place last night.”
My ears perk up. “Oh yeah?”
“We had a few more drinks. We might have played strip chess.” She gulps. “Then I woke up on his couch wearing his shirt and my underwear.”
“And…did anything happen?”
She groans. “That’s the bad part. I have no idea. I got up before he did, grabbed my s**t, and left.”
She said s**t. I bite back a grin.
“Well if you were on the couch, probably nothing happened.”
She sighs. “I guess.” Giving herself a shake, she tightens her sweater around her shoulders and crosses her arms. “So, what’s the latest on the party? We all ready for tomorrow?”
I set down my pizza, flip my notebook page, and run my gaze over my list. I feel as if I’m moving in slow motion. All I can think about is Ryker and what he said. I shove it down and bury it deep. “Yes. We’re meeting the pledges here and walking over to the game together. Then we’ll head to the house. Everything’s all set.”
“And the players? Did Charisma take care of uninviting them?”
I nod. Charisma eagerly volunteered to be the one to text Blaze. Her message said, If any football players show up, we will pull your nipples off. Really. We will.
“She’s got it covered.”
Margo nods. “Good.” Then she frowns and gives me an odd look.
“What’s up?” I say.
“You recall the day I was with Ryker in the science building and you showed up?”
Her chest leans in over the table, and there’s a glint in her eyes. “I just remembered something Archer said to him. They didn’t know I was standing there, and it was hard to hear, but I caught the gist of it.”
“What?” My lips tighten.
“No, it’s not bad. I recall Archer giving him grief about a bet and Ryker saying he wasn’t doing any bets.” She squints. “I really think Archer was referring to you, because you had just walked past us.” Her teeth chew on her bottom lip. “Does that make you feel better?”
I shrug. The truth is he told them he won.
I sigh. “Are you saying you want Ryker at the party?”
She waves her hands. “No, no! I don’t care about that anymore. That whole thing was stupid, and I never should have put my own issues with the Thetas over everything else…” She stops. “I’m just trying to be a good stepsister, I guess, and help you figure this out.”
I smile. Something good has happened. We’re friends.
Her eyes go past my shoulder and land on something. Her expression hardens. “There’s Archer. Don’t look, but holy moly, his face.”
Of course I look. I turn around, and he’s coming out of the bookstore. There’s no Sasha next to him and no other players. He’s wearing a black hoodie with the top up, but it doesn’t hide that he now has two black eyes. His gaze darts around the student center and then he hurries down the steps and out to campus.
My hands clench around my notebook. S**t.
Margo grimaces. “He looks like someone beat the poop out of him.”
“Again,” I say.
Charisma has come in from getting her pizza and takes a seat across from me. “Yep. I heard about it in class this morning. Apparently Ryker showed up at his door, pulled him out in the hall, and pummeled him. Took four RAs and the house director to get him off Archer.” She chews on a slice. “None of his buddies helped him either. Not one single player on the defense.”
My face is grim. “What’s everyone saying about me and Ryker? Does everyone know?”
She gives me a pat. “No one is saying anything, and I’ve been pressing. There’s nothing on social media. Only assholes will talk it up anyway.”
“What did Ryker say last night? Maybe he’s the one squashing this?”
I’m just so…done.
Just talking about him makes my chest ache.
I’m walking out of my writing class when I pass by my dad’s office. I see it two times a week as I walk this hallway and never once have I stopped to see if he’s there.
Something’s different today. I feel different. Raw. Emotional.
Hitching my backpack up on my shoulder, I ease over to the sign posted next to his door to check out his office hours. He doesn’t have a class scheduled right now, and when I knock on the beveled glass door, his gruff voice says, “Come in.”
I open the door and step inside. It’s a spacious office with a big window, dusty potted plants, and a few shabby armchairs—typical professor. A large oak desk dominates the room with a line of heavy bookshelves behind it. My gaze lands there and stays.
“Have a seat, please. Got to get these grades in before I lose my place.” He’s got readers on and is staring down at his desktop.
“Okay.” I settle into one of the roomy green armchairs across from him.
At the sound of my voice, his head pops up and he takes off his glasses, setting them on the papers in front of him. “Penelope! What a pleasure. I wasn’t expecting you. How are you?”
“Classes going well?”
I nod. “Of course.”
He stands up and comes out from behind his desk to give me one of his hugs. He pats me gently on the back.
He looks down at me and smiles then frowns, giving me some space as he goes back to his desk. “How’s the job at Sugar’s?”
It’s our typical run-through of questions. Just like we always do.
“I’m still at the library too.”
He nods, looking perhaps a little excited that I’m here but also uncertain. His voice is careful. “Is everything okay?”
Not exactly. My heart’s been crushed by a football player.
But I don’t think that’s why I’m really here. I’m here because this has been a while coming. He’s worked here for three years, and I’ve never once visited.
My eyes rove over the room and I see pictures of me in various places. One of a piano recital, another of me on a horse at camp, one of me in choir. My high school graduation is front and center on his desk. Mom took them all, and they’re copies I’ve never seen. I suppose she sent them to him. The only event he attended was my graduation. I take in the family photo of all of us this past 4th of July at his pool. He even had a special timed camera and arranged us altogether, me, Margo, Cora, him holding Cyan.