by Coleen Lahr
Publication date: November 4th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult
Ashley Smith spent her life being shipped from one family member to the next. When Ashley’s estranged father dies, she finally has the money to go to college and the chance to find a place where she belongs.
Within days, Ashley has found the one thing she’s always longed for – a family. She may have even found love. There’s only one problem. Ashley likes Colin…a lot, but so does Randi, and everyone likes Randi. Randi’s approval is the single easiest way to belong. Falling in love with Randi’s crush is the single easiest way to find oneself on the outside for the next three years.
When Ashley arrived at college, she never dreamed she’d find this kind of happiness. Will she allow herself to hold on to this happiness, and Colin, or will her fear of losing her friends, the only friends she’s ever known, dictate her actions?
As I sat next to Colin in Organic Chemistry, I wondered if having classes together was actually a good thing.
Unlike my first professor, the Organic Chemistry professor comprehensively explained the syllabus, including course requirements, objectives, policies and assignments. All things I was sure were going to be important in the grand scheme of the course.
And I didn’t hear a word she said.
Once again, I was completely distracted by the man sitting next to me.
We were in another massive classroom dominated by stadium seating. We would, over the course of the semester, split our time between this room and the chemistry lab. There were no spaces between the seats, just a thin metal arm rest jutting out from the spot where the seat backs met each other.
Every time Colin moved — to grab his notebook, to turn off his cell phone, to turn the pages of the syllabus we were reviewing — his body brushed some part of mine. By the time we were on the third page of the syllabus, he had brushed me three times with his arm and once with his leg.
And I was frozen.
Every time he touched me, albeit accidentally, my stomach dropped, and my cheeks flamed. My entire face was on fire within the first twenty minutes of class, and I couldn’t concentrate on anything but the boy to my left. I was afraid to move even a quarter of an inch for fear that I would inadvertently shift myself too far away for his unintentional brushes.
To make matters worse, my mind, which never wanders in class, began to drift away and I, the girl who rarely loses focus on a task, drifted with it.
As I sat frozen in my seat, waiting for the next time Colin brushed against me, I wondered what it would be like if his brushes weren’t accidental — if he was touching me on purpose…leaning his leg against mine casually as he relaxed in his seat, running his fingers down my arms, holding my hand in his, entwining our fingers together…
And as I imagined this, I felt myself smiling, my fantasy becoming so detailed that I could actually feel his warm hand, his long fingers, wrapping around my wrist. I could hear him saying my name again and again, the concern in his voice growing each time he repeated it…
Oh no. I looked over at him. His face was filled with concern. I cringed.
“Sorry.” I smiled sheepishly. “I’m just…” I closed my eyes and rubbed my face, which was on fire, in my hands. “…You know, taking it all in. E-everything’s a little o-overwhelming,” I stuttered. I hoped that being overwhelmed was a good excuse for acting like a lunatic.
He smiled. “Don’t worry, Ash. I’ll help you.” And as he stood, he put his hand under my elbow to help me up.
Thank goodness next class is in the lab.
By the time we were halfway through reviewing the second chapter, I was fully engrossed by the disparity between the two sides of my body and had completely and utterly lost focus on Organic Chemistry. All of my focus was on the parts of my body that pressed against Colin. I only hoped Colin wouldn’t notice.
“You alright, Ash?”
And, of course, he did.
“Huh?” was my brilliant answer.
“Are you okay? You’re kind of out of it.”
I needed an excuse. I didn’t think, "Oh, I was just daydreaming about having your body pressed against mine," would cut it.
“Oh, um, I’m sorry.” I shook my head, trying to dispel the fog. “I was just trying to figure out where I was going to sleep tonight. Becca went home, and I didn’t think to borrow her key.”
Awesome save, Ashley.
“Rookie mistake,” he joked and nudged his shoulder into mine, pushing his body harder against my side. “I forget that this is your first semester here. It’s strange. I feel like I’ve known you so much longer than just a couple of months.”
Then, he turned his face to mine—it was just a couple of inches away—and smiled warmly. I looked into his eyes, and the heat that had been just in my right side spread through the rest of my body.
Colin’s expression suddenly changed, and he looked away.
“You could, you know, sleep in here.” He shrugged.
He looked so nervous that I actually smiled.
“I’d sleep in Brett’s bed, of course.” He looked up at me and continued, more confident now. “I won’t try anything funny.”
I don’t know how it slipped out, but all of a sudden, I heard myself reply in a husky, flirtatious voice, “It’s not the funny stuff that I’m worried about.” Then, I felt the corners of my mouth tip up.
I had no idea where it came from. As soon as the words came out, I knew I shouldn’t have opened my mouth, and now that they were out there, I couldn’t take them back.
Suddenly, the entire atmosphere of the room changed. The air was thicker somehow, and I was even more aware of Colin next to me, as if that were possible.
Our eyes locked, and he leaned toward me, closing the inches of space between us.
I knew he was going to kiss me. I also knew I wasn’t going to stop him.
I closed my eyes and tilted my head back, knowing this may be a bad idea and that it may change things—and not in a good way—but also knowing that right then, at that second, and in that moment, I couldn’t stop it.
And as I waited for Colin’s lips to touch mine, I realized that there wasn’t anything either of us could do to stop it. There wasn’t anything anyone could do to stop it.
After lunch, Colin finally decided he was tired and went to his room to take a nap. I tried to get some sleep too, but found I wasn’t able to. Instead, I laid around my room, reading, and enjoying the quiet.
Around seven that evening, Colin came to my room to see what I was doing and if I wanted dinner.
“I’m not really hungry. I’m actually still full from lunch.”
“Okay. I think I’m going to heat up some of our leftovers from yesterday and then watch a movie. You in?”
The events of the past two days were beginning to catch up with me, and I was starting to feel a little loopy from lack of sleep. Laying down in front of a television to watch a movie did not sound like a bad idea at all.
“I’m definitely in. I’m just going to get changed real quick. I’m freezing.”
Our dorm seemed to get progressively colder as the weekend wore on. I wasn’t sure if there was a problem, or the school was just trying to save money while most of the students were away, but it was starting to get really cold.
I put on my warmest, comfiest sweats, grabbed my comforter and headed to the lounge to meet Colin.
“What are we watching?” I asked when I got there. He was sitting at a table eating what looked like turkey and mashed potato sandwiches on the dinner rolls I made.
“I haven’t quite figured that out yet. Any suggestions?”
I walked over to the cabinet that housed the dorm’s meager collection of movies. “I probably haven’t seen any of them, so it’s really up to you.”
Colin put his sandwich down and walked to where I was standing.
“What are you in the mood for — funny or scary?”
I looked up at him. “Never scary.”
He laughed. “Funny it is.” He plucked a movie from the shelf and put it in the DVD player.
I sat on the sofa, waiting for Colin as he finished his meal and cleaned up. He turned off the lights in the room before coming over to sit beside me.
“Good call with the comforter. It’s freezing,” he said as he sat down.
“Here.” I offered him part of the blanket. “We can share.”
He moved closer on the sofa, covering his legs, and we settled in to watch the movie.
I’m not actually sure how or when it happened, but sometime during the movie, Colin and I shifted. No longer were we sitting next to each other with space between us. Instead, we were wrapped together in my comforter, my head on his chest and his arms around me, tucked into his side.
I didn’t want to move. I was afraid even to breathe, fearing if I moved at all, he’d move and somehow I wouldn’t be here anymore with his arms wrapped around me.
I had planned on going to bed early that night, but not quite like this. Before I knew it, I felt myself dozing off in Colin’s arms. I was so warm and comfortable, and as I was nodding off, it registered in my brain where I was, and I thought there really was nothing better than falling asleep in Colin’s arms.
And I realized, just a short time later, that I was wrong. There was one thing better than falling asleep in Colin’s arms and that was waking up in them.
I heard a voice gently say my name, and when I opened my eyes, they were looking directly into Colin’s.
I blinked up at him, still unwilling to move.
“It’s getting late, Ash. Let’s get you to bed.” He gently unwrapped his arms from around me and helped me up. I was still in a fog.
Colin took my hand and walked me to my room. When we got to the door, I turned to look at him. He had such a tender look in his eyes that it left me speechless. He reached up and brushed my hair, which had become unruly, away from my face. Then, he leaned down and kissed my forehead and said quietly, “Good night.”
His gentleness took me by surprise — so much so that I just stood there, watching his retreating body as he walked back toward the lounge.
That night, I slept fitfully. Even though I’d been dozing comfortably in Colin’s arms, out of them, I was restless. When I did sleep, he was in my thoughts. He invaded more than one of my dreams that night.
Coleen writes young adult novels, loves running, rock music, the shore, daisies and bread.
When Coleen's not plotting or writing her next book, she can be found making sandwiches in her family's restaurant, running (but mostly walking) Disney marathons, reading any book she can get her hands on and playing with her adorable kid. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, daughter, two dogs and lizard.
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