Series: Sutton College #1
Published by Self-Published on January 20th 2015
Genres: New Adult
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Matisse Evans is determined to make her sophomore year of college successful after failing out of a prestigious art school and spending a horribly boring gap year at home. Despite her focus, time isn't on her side as she struggles to hold down three jobs so she can afford her first apartment while juggling course work. In the chaos of it all, Beau Grady moves in and shakes up her world. A college dropout and tattooed bad boy, the rumors about Beau mean one thing for Matisse—trouble. Paralyzed by the fear that she's missing out on life, Matisse discovers plans may unravel, but what rises in their wake can be worth the uncertainty.
After spending the summer couch surfing, Beau Grady moves into an empty room at his ex-girlfriend’s Portland bungalow, skipping his senior year of college to spend his days working at a Vietnamese food cart instead. Once a star hockey player and gifted student, he’s put his life on hold after receiving a life-altering diagnosis, complacent to live in the moment. Hiding behind false rumors and bad habits, Beau falls for Matisse, letting her believe the worst until their relationship blooms into something they both can’t ignore. Falling for her means having to face a future he’d rather forget, but loving her just might be worth it.
“I didn’t mean what I said the other night.” Mati spins around and tosses my T-shirt at my face. “And I guess I’m sorry for that.”
She glances over my shoulder, biting her bottom lip as I snap the folded T-shirt against my shoulder. I laugh in spite myself. I’m a fucking wreck, but something about me intimidates her. I can’t figure her out.
I stretch, pain radiating throughout my body as I do. I slip the shirt over my head and pull my shit together.
“It’s whatever,” I say with a shrug. I try to play it off, grabbing the ratchet from her hand. Truth is, she was right, even if I didn’t want to hear it.
Mati pads over to the tool bench I built with Noah. She pushes herself up to sit on it and places the giant sombrero from our party last weekend on her head. It swallows her up. It’s not that Mati is small—she’s tall and willowy—it’s just that I’ve always liked everything opposite before now. And I hate that it takes her wearing a stupid costume prop for me to figure that out.
“I feel like I need a margarita with this on.” Mati straightens it, adjusting the strings underneath her chin. “Maybe a piñata, too.”
“Straight tequila would be preferable.”
She swings her legs back and forth, humming along to the Black Keys. It’s a good thing she’s a painter; singing isn’t a strength of hers. But it’s cute and I hate myself for thinking so.
“How are classes?” I don’t really care about the answer. I just want to hear her talk.
“Oh, they’re fine, I think.”
“You don’t know?”
She stops swinging her feet. “Why do you care?”
“Making conversation, Mati.” I walk around to the bench. “Since we’re talking to each other again.”
A smile spreads across her lips, those red lips that I want to kiss.
“Why are you upset?” she asks quietly.
I swat my hand out and tip the sombrero over her eyes. “I’m fine.” It’s easier to lie when I don’t have to look her in the face.
She straightens the hat. “Classes so far are a lot like my classes freshman year two years ago.”
I skip the obvious question. Too many details and this impossible distance I’m trying to keep between us is going to be obliterated. “How’s that?”
“Do you remember? It’s been so long since you went to class.”
Her teasing washes away the panic seizing me again. “I wasn’t always a dropout. I remember fine.”
“Then you remember they’re pointless.” Her voice grows sad. “What was your major, Beau?”
I help her remove the massive sombrero instead of answering. I need exactly eight credits before I can graduate and start my masters for the accelerated program. I know my major—had a plan, even, had a purpose—but it’s not something I want to get into right now. It’s a far stretch ever imagining I could be a counselor responsible for guiding troubled teens on a hike when I can’t hold a damn wrench.
She taps her index finger over the tip of my nose. “Always Mr. Mysterious.”
I wonder if Mati has been drinking tequila because this isn’t like her. Usually her contempt toward me is blatant, not that I mind this Mati. This is who I was hoping the real Mati would be like if she ever paused for a minute from bowling over everything in her path. And that freaks me the fuck out—that today she’s quiet.
“Forestry sciences. I wanted to be a wilderness education counselor.” I move the hat off to the side and help her down, my hand curling over her hip. “What’s your major again? Being a pain in my ass?”
She rests her hand against my shoulder, not stepping away. “Charming as ever, too,” she whispers.
I tell my hand to let go, but I only hold on tighter because she sways closer and bumps against me, lost studying my face. I want to stay here, feel this, watch her watching me forever. “What would you do if I kissed you right now?”
Her eyes widen and shift focus to my mouth. They trace my lips until I have to fight back a groan. Mati gives the perfect fuck-me eyes.
“It doesn’t matter—” She pauses, her fingers pressing hard into my shoulder. “—because we both know you won’t.”
I slide my hand to the small of her back. My palm fits against the gentle curve there.
“I don’t have time for this.” Her words tumble out in an awkward rush. “I don’t want complications.”
My other hand slips up to rest against her stomach, cinching the fabric of her shirt in my fist. She slams her eyes shut at my touch, her breath escaping in staccato beats, mirroring my own.
The garage smells like damp earth and oil, but I swear we’re standing out in the dark, lost in the woods under the endless cover of stars.
Even though she’s right, even though I am a complication, I can’t shake the feeling in my gut that we’d be a good one. “You’re wrong,” I whisper. Her eyes pop open. “You’re exactly the type of girl who wants complications.” I rest my forehead against hers, her sweet coffee breath washing over my mouth. “And you have no clue what I want.”