Hazy Florence is on track to graduate top of her class but she’s determined to have a little fun along the way.
As soon as she lays eyes on her mysterious and swoony new neighbour – Godric Hawthorn – Hazy knows he is just what she needs and they instantly fall for each other.
But this is no quintessential college romance. Godric has a secret . . . he’s a vampire.
Dating a vampire comes with its own messy complications. And then there’s Hazy’s jealous ex-boyfriend who’s dangerously close to the truth.
Can Hazy protect her boyfriend’s blood-sucking secret?
Or could there be more at stake than Hazy and Godric’s hearts?
“These textbooks must weigh a hundred pounds.” I adjust my backpack, but there’s no relief from the one digging into the base of my spine.
“You could get the ebook version and save your back,” Satya says.
“I know, but the reading experience is different. I feel like I retain the information better when I read from a hardcopy.”
“I get what you mean, but even paperbacks are infinitely lighter than those bricks you’re carting around.” Satya pats her own backpack.
“Think of it this way, you’ve gotten your cardio and your weight training in one shot,” Alyssa says brightly.
The three of us are seniors, all in our final year of our undergraduate degrees. Although I’m in it for the long haul since I’m pre-med. Satya is planning to start her masters next year and Alyssa is still deciding what’s next. We met in the dorms as freshman, rented an off-campus house during sophomore year and have been inseparable since.
We make a left down Frat Row and I fight with myself not to reach into my pocket and retrieve my phone, but lose the battle after we pass the first house with a shirtless, half-lit guy lounging on the front porch. I pretend to check my messages when really I’m looking at my reflection in the black screen.
“So transparent, Hazy,” Satya says with a roll of her eyes.
“More transparent than a mesh football jersey,” Alyssa agrees.
“I’m not giving in to bad decisions this year. I’m just making sure I look good while making excellent, non-toxic ones,” I reply defensively.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” Satya grumbles.
“I bet a fully loaded meat-za from Bobby’s Bestest Pizza that you fold tonight. There will be alcohol and Blaine will invariably be shirtless, and you’ve proven yourself to be a sucker for lanky guys with sort-of-abs,” Alyssa says.
Satya’s eyes light up. “Ohhh, I raise that bet and add two dozen wings that Hazy doesn’t make it down the street without ending up in his bedroom.”
“You two are the literal worst. I’m not sleeping with Blaine this year. Not even once. I’ve learned my lesson.” Although they are correct about the alcohol-shirtless-lanky guy attraction, and Blaine happens to fit that bill perfectly. He’s also good at providing orgasms, but only when he’s on top and he does this angle thing with my left leg. Still, a college guy who takes the time to provide an O before he gets his own is sort of like a four-leaf clover, hence the reason I keep falling back into bed with him once a year. And then I remember all the reasons we don’t work. Usually once he opens his mouth post sex and reminds me why we broke up in the first place by being his tactless self.
“You said that last year,” Alyssa reminds me.
“And the year before that,” Satya adds.
“I know, I know.” I hold up a hand to stop Alyssa. “And the year before that, but seriously, I mean it this time.” Last year we hooked up during the first week. Then I had to deal with the awkward aftermath of having slept with my ex, who is also the co-editor in chief at the school paper, for which I work.
“Has he texted yet?” Satya asks.
“Yes, but I haven’t responded.” The texts started two days ago, neatly corresponding with his return to college. He spent the summer abroad, doing what, I have no idea. I haven’t spoken to him since the spring semester ended. I apply fresh lip gloss, though, in case I happen to run into him. I do want to look my best when I invariably turn him down for a frolic between the sheets.
“Holy crap,” Alyssa stops walking and because I’m preoccupied with my lips, I run right into her backpack.
“Am I high?” Satya asks and rubs her eyes.
“Not unless the campus cafe is serving special cookies this year.” I stop checking myself out and follow their gaze. “What the fuckballs?” I glance at our surroundings to make sure we’re on the right street.
“The haunted house,” Alyssa mutters, “It doesn’t look haunted anymore.”
“It wasn’t like this yesterday.” I blink hard a couple of times, but the mirage in front of me doesn’t shift or change. “I swear I couldn’t see it through the freaking forest in the front yard.” I stare up at the majestic three-story brick home.
The bushes that line the perimeter have been trimmed to waist level, revealing a beautiful umbrella tree. There’s a lattice archway covered in lush green vines dotted with purple and white flowers. The path leading to the front door is made of natural stone and is punctuated with lovely pink rose bushes. It looks like something out of a fairytale instead of a horror movie. The only thing that needs some TLC is the front porch and the faded shutters.
“Are you sure?” Satya asks.
“Positive. I was talking to Alyssa when I passed it.” I went to the store to grab chips and salsa for our Mexican night, which consisted of nachos and margaritas. On the way back I came up Frat Row because I have a fascination with the derelict house. I always call Alyssa or Satya when I pass the house, though, in case a ghost tries to kidnap me. Not that I believe in ghosts, but the house is extra creepy.
The front door opens and a guy wearing a plain white t-shirt, khaki shorts and a pair of running shoes steps onto the porch.
I swear all the air is sucked out of my lungs as I take in the rest of him. He’s tall and lean with sun kissed skin, chestnut hair that’s styled in such a way that he looks like he could fit into the hipster crowd, but he’s clean shaven with high cheekbones, a rugged jawline and full lips that have a natural pout. In short, he’s gorgeous.
“Hey there!” A head pops out from behind a huge bush in the middle of the yard that looks like it’s being shaped into . . . something I can’t yet identify.
Satya screams and Alyssa startles. I’m still busy staring at the hot guy so my gasp comes three seconds later.
“So sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you.” He steps out from behind the bush, and sets the electric hedge trimmer on the ground, then wipes his hands on his shorts. “I’m Hunter. We just moved into the neighborhood.” He extends a hand and Satya, who is closest to him, takes it.
He looks like every jock I’ve ever met. Huge shoulders, massive biceps, legs as thick as tree trunks. He’s also sporting a full beard and his hair is a month past needing a trim. It curls around his ears and at the nape of his neck.
“Hey. Hi. Hello. I’m Satya, this is Alyssa and Hazy, short for Hazel.” She thumbs over her shoulder at us then motions to the front yard. “You’ve really transformed the place.”
“Yeah, things were out of control. We took care of the inside first, now it’s just getting the exterior to look as pretty as my bush clover.” He pats the bush he’s standing beside. “You all live on the street?”
“One block over,” Alyssa says.
“Nice. Do you go to Burnham College, too, then?”
“Yeah, we’re all seniors, I’m an English major, Alyssa is taking Classics and Hazel is our resident brainiac and pre-med.”
“Oh yeah?” He peeks around Satya to get a look at me. “My brother is pre-med, too.” He brings his fingers to his lips and whistles shrilly. “Hey God, come meet our neighbors.”
He’s hidden behind one of the ornate, peeling columns. His head appears and then the rest of him as he sets his paint can near the stairs and ambles down the stone pathway.
“This is Godric. Godric, this is Satya, Alyssa and Hazy, short for Hazel, who is also pre-med.”
Godric’s gaze moves to me, and I forget how to speak. His eyes are a rich deep brown that reminds me of delicious, dark maple syrup and I can’t stop looking at him. He’s ridiculously beautiful in a way that’s difficult to process.
He holds out his hand and I stare at it for half a second longer than I should before I reach for it. He has long slender fingers. The kind that would be perfect for delicate surgery. They wrap around mine and for reasons I don’t understand, my lady parts start tingling. Similar to the kind of tingles I get when I’m reading one of my steamy romance novels, or when I’m taking care of my personal needs before bed, or in the shower, or whenever I need some stress relief.
I need to stop thinking about self-gratification.
“Hi, I’m Hazy.” I don’t know if it’s in my head or not, but I worry that sounded more like a moan than actual words.
“Yeah, I caught that.” One corner of his mouth tips up in a wry grin.
I’m being all awkward.
Hunter coughs into his fist.
Godric drops my hand and runs his through his hair, then tucks his thumbs into his pockets.
“What fraternity are you guys part of?” Alyssa asks, thankfully breaking the awkward silence I’ve created.
“Beta Epsilon Delta,” Hunter says.
“Huh, I’ve never heard of it,” Satya plays with the end of her ponytail.
Alyssa arches a brow. “BED for short?”
“Better than Theta Iota Theta.” I point across the street. The symbols are painted on the front of the house. At least it’s not the initials.
“TIT for short,” Hunter snorts, then schools his expression. “Not that it’s funny or anything.”
“It’s totally funny. My personal favorite is Delta Iota Kappa. They’re down the other end of the street.” Satya motions in the direction we came from.
“So are you three part of a Sorority?” Hunter seems to be the chatty one.
I keep trying to steal glances at Godric, but every time I do his gaze shifts back to me. There’s something about him, beyond the fact that he looks like he stepped out of the pages of a magazine. I have the desire to drag him into a dark room and have my wicked way with him, but at the same time my gut churns with anxious energy.
I catch movement in my peripheral vision, followed by tapping. I drag my gaze to the stunning house behind Godric and Hunter in time to see a figure standing in the window before the curtain falls shut.
“Uh.” I point to the house. “Is it the two of you living here? There are rumors that this place is haunted.”
Hunter chuckles. “Nah, that’s our younger brother, Laz. He’s got bad social anxiety, so he keeps to himself a lot, but you’ll meet him eventually. Maybe.”
“Right. Well, it’s good that you don’t have ghosts living in the house with you.” Why aren’t me and words friends today?
A door slams from somewhere close by and everyone but me turns to look in the direction of the noise. I’m too busy trying to check out Godric again. And the tingles are back, not just in my nether regions, but also in my nipples. What the hell is going on with my body?
Godric’s brow furrows, his gaze homed in on whoever is across the street and his upper lip curls slightly.
I finally drag my eyes away from his lovely face in time to see Blaine sprinting toward me, one side of his cocky mouth quirked up in a salacious grin. “Hey new dudes! Welcome to the neighborhood. Party tonight at my place.” Blaine drops to one knee, grabs me around the waist and tosses me over his shoulder. My backpack slides off my arms and lands on the ground. “Hazy, baby, why you ignoring all my messages?”
Obviously, he’s been working out a lot this summer.
“Blaine! Put me down! I was in the middle of a conversation.” My forehead hits his back and I reach out a hand, which Alyssa tries to grab, but Blaine is quick, rushing across the street with me slung over his shoulder like a giant sack of potatoes.
Satya looks unsurprised and Alyssa looks resigned.
Godric’s lips pull down at the corners and he takes a single step forward as I hear him ask, “Does your friend need help?”
Alyssa or Satya’s responses are cut off as Blaine carries me up the steps to the front porch and into the house. I’m immediately hit with the stench of dude-bro; a combination of takeout food, dirty sneakers and a general lack of cleaning.
Blaine’s roommate and friend Justin is sitting on the couch, a bag of Doritos propped against his leg. He’s wearing a lemon-yellow Speedo, and that is all. His legs are spread wide, giving me an eyeful of the outline of his twig and berries. Justin plays on the football team. He’s not unattractive, but his incessant need to wear banana hammocks in public and scratch his balls and then rummage around in a bowl of chips for the folded ones speaks to his entire personality.
“Hey Hazy, have a good summer?” Justin asks before he shoves a chip into his mouth.
“Yup. Got to work at a lab for most of it, so that was fun. You?” I grab onto the doorframe as Blaine tries to carry me through the kitchen.
“I washed cars. It was boring as fuck.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” I lose my grip on the doorframe and we’re on the move again.
“Put me down, Blaine! You are not carrying me up the stairs like this! If you drop me something will break and that’s not how I want to start my year!” I punch him in the side of the thigh without thinking.
“Ah! Shit!” His leg buckles and his hold on me relaxes.
I put my hands out to stop my face from hitting the floor as I slide down his back, landing on the filthy linoleum. I suppress a gag as I get a load of dust bunnies living under their stove.
I do a graceless tuck and roll and scramble to my feet, then try to make a run for it, but Blaine has been on the track team for years, so he’s fast and agile. He spreads both his arms and then backs me into the corner of the L-shaped counter.
“Why are you so intent on avoiding me?” He settles a palm on either side of me to box me in.
This is Blaine’s go to move when he wants to entice me into bed. I am loathe to admit it’s worked more than once.
I cross my arms so he can’t get any closer. “I’ve been busy.”
“Not too busy to flirt with the new guys across the street.” His expression darkens. “There’s something going on over there. Yesterday it was a forest and today that house looks like it belongs on an HGTV show.”
I roll my eyes. “Everything is suspect to you. And I wasn’t flirting with the new guys. We were saying hi and welcoming them to the neighborhood. It’s called being polite, you should give it a try sometime.”
“I’m always polite.”
“Is that what you call throwing me over your shoulder like some kind of caveman while I was in the middle of a conversation?”
“You’ve been ghosting my messages.” He slides a finger between my crossed arms and tugs. “I missed you this summer.”
“You could have texted any time prior to the last two days.” Not that I wanted him to.
“I was giving you space.” When it becomes apparent that I’m not going to uncross my arms, he switches tactics and pushes my hair over my shoulders, his hands get tangled in the overly long, dark waves. I needed to cut it about a year ago and now it nearly reaches my waist. It’s a lot, but I’m kind of attached to it. Once his fingers are free, he strokes along the edge of my jaw with his thumb. “Come upstairs so we can talk in private.”
He leans in, as though he’s planning to kiss me, and I tip my head back to escape the nearness of his mouth.
My hormones are already firing, nipples peaked under my shirt, but not because of Blaine’s lame attempt to get me into his bed. Again. It’s bizarre that less than ten minutes ago I was worried about the possibility of repeating history and now all I want to do is get another eyeful of his new neighbor so I can figure out why my body is going all haywire.
I bat his hand away. “I’m not getting naked with you, Blaine.”
He smirks. “Come on, Hazy. You know I always make you feel good.”
Ugh, he’s so cocky. The inevitable orgasm no longer seems worth the ego inflation.
Thankfully the front door opens and closes with a slam, providing the distraction I need to shove on his chest and slip around him.
“Lys! Babe, you finally come to your senses? You gonna let me take you on that date this year?” Justin asks, his mouth clearly full of Doritos based on the garbled quality of the question.
“Not even if you were the last man on the face of this planet,” she replies, her eyes firmly locked on me as I move toward her.
“Come on.” Alyssa extends a hand and I take it as Blaine grabs my other arm.
“Don’t go, Hazy,” Blaine whines.
They pull on me from both directions, like I’m a tug of war rope.
“Hey, Blaine, what is this? Victory lap number two?” Satya inspects her nails. Blaine was supposed to graduate last year.
“I’m trying to improve my grades so I can apply for programs overseas. Leave Hazy here, she wants to hang out with me.”
He’s still holding my hand, but no longer yanking on it.
Alyssa gives me her disapproving mom face. “We’re trying to save both of you from making the same mistake for the fourth year in a row.”
“The only mistake Hazy keeps making is breaking it off again before we even have a chance to find out if we’d work.”
This line, coming from a different guy might melt my heart, but Blaine always wants what he can’t have, and currently that’s me.
“You’re like gasoline and a lit match in the middle of a dry forest. Never a good combo.” Alyssa tugs on my hand. “Didn’t you say something about needing to wax before the party tonight?”
“Yes!” I pull my hand free from his and slide between Alyssa and Satya. “Gotta roll.”
“Alyssa, I liked you. Why you doing me dirty like this?” Blaine’s frown reminds me of an unimpressed Kermit the Frog.
“I’m trying to save you both from drama. And myself. And Satya.”
“Preach.” Satya brings up the rear, mostly to prevent Blaine from getting close to me.
“Party starts at eight. It’s only a matter of time, Hazy.” His certainty irks me more than a toilet paper roll with one sheet left.
“I’m turning over a new leaf this year, Blaine and it includes not ending up under you,” I call over my shoulder as Alyssa and Satya hustle me toward the door.
“Later Hazy, Satya,” Justin says while cupping his balls through his Speedo.
Satya and I say bye in unison.
“Lys, I love you.”
“You love your ball sack.” Alyssa fires the bird over her shoulder.
I drag in a couple of deep breaths once we’re outside.
That entire house smells like the inside of a gym bag.
Godric and Hunter are both on ladders holding paint brushes and cans of paint, freshening up the shutters. I check out Godric’s butt. I wonder what the jiggle factor would be if I gave it a hearty smack.
Maybe I’m getting my period. That could explain all this hormonal nonsense. “Thanks for saving me from that mistake. Again.”
“No problem,” Alyssa and Satya say in unison.
“That Godric guy couldn’t take his eyes off of you,” Alyssa glances over her shoulder before we round the corner. “And I’m pretty sure he’s staring at you right now.”
“Seriously?” I’m halfway to looking over my shoulder but Alyssa pokes me in the ribs. “Ow.”
“Don’t look.” She threads her arm through mine. “He’ll probably be at the party tonight. You’ll get to see him again soon enough.”