Nell’s To-Do List
• Finish studying for adv. biomech.
• Buy more coffee. Lots of coffee.
There’s a half-naked man in my kitchen.
Well, honestly, he’s more like 90 percent naked with just a pair of black boxer briefs that fit very snugly. So snugly in fact that I’m going to round up to 95 percent naked. I make an inelegant squeaking noise, and he starts to turn. Hastily, I try to step back into the shadows of the hallway, but my flip-flop catches funny on the carpet, and I end up dumping all of the books in my arms instead. A big one lands square on my toe, and I grunt while the rest tumble and splay half open at my feet. I close my eyes against the pain in my foot for a few moments, and when I open them again, Naked Man is there in front of me, and he’s just so . . . naked.
He’s got messy, golden brown hair that falls artfully around his face, and in an attempt not to look him in the eye, I drop to my knees to start gathering my books. But then, instead of looking him in the eye, I’m awkwardly looking him in the groin.
“Here, let me help.” His voice is deep, and too close, as he kneels beside me. I make a mad dash to pick up my things, and I get everything but my notes spiral. That’s already in his grip, and he holds it out to me.
“You must be Antonella,” he says.
I’m glad he said it because I’m not sure I would have been able to remember in the face of all that skin.
“Yeah, that’s me.”
A door opens in the hallway, spilling light toward us, and I hear my roommate call out, “Silas?”
I look back, and Dylan is rubbing sleepily at her eyes, a Rusk football shirt falling to the middle of her thighs. She sees me and blinks, then looks past me to her boyfriend.
“Silas! Where are your clothes?”
He smirks at her, and the look he gives her is smoldering and so better left in private.
“You’re wearing most of them.”
Dylan slips around me, and she looks like she’s trying to shove Silas back toward her room, but he doesn’t budge. She blows out an exasperated breath. “Sorry, Nell. I didn’t hear him get up, or I would have made him put on some clothes.”
“You could give me my shirt back now.” He grins. “If you’re really that concerned.”
She swats him, and the smack of flesh draws a ridiculous blush to my cheeks.
“Silas, stop it. You’re going to embarrass her more than you already have.”
“It’s six in the morning. I didn’t think anyone else would be up.”
I shrug, not that either of them is looking at me anymore. “I have a test today in biomech. Gonna cram in a little bit more studying this morning,” I say, giving the explanation for which neither of them asked.
She shoves Silas back toward her door, and this time he moves, catching her wrists and pulling her with him.
“Silas.” She drags his name out like she’s complaining, but she doesn’t put up much of a fight when he wraps her in his arms.
Over her shoulder, she calls out, “He’ll be gone in two minutes. I promise.”
“Fifteen,” Silas counters.
He groans, and then Dylan’s bedroom door closes with a quiet snick.
I breathe out slowly, and press my warm cheek against my shoulder since my hands are full. I can only hope that I just turned a subtle pink instead of my usual glaring red.
I cross to the living room sofa, and dump my books down on the coffee table. The pages of a few are bent and folded from the fall, and I spend a few moments righting them. When you find yourself wanting to apologize and soothe a book, that’s when you know you’re a nerd.
Back in her room, I hear Dylan squeal and shout, “Silas, don’t!”
Judging by the few thumps and then silence that follows, I’m betting Dylan didn’t win that particular battle.
I open my notes spiral and pick up the course textbook for my test this morning. The pages of the book are marked with sticky notes (because writing in books is pretty much my definition of evil). The notes have my thoughts and questions crammed into the smallest handwriting I could manage. I flip to where I left off studying last night, and then search for the corresponding chapter in the textbook, but even when I find it, I can’t seem to focus on the words in front of me.
My head is back in that bedroom that’s not even mine. Not in a creepy way, but just . . . curious. I’ve known Dylan for over two years now, lived with her half that time, and I saw her on plenty of occasions with her long-term boyfriend before Silas, but now . . . things are different. With her ex, I’d never really felt like I was intruding on intimate moments. But now there’s a hallway and a door between us, and I still feel like I’m too close.
I should have known based on how little I’ve seen Dylan so far this semester and the way she talks about him that this new guy is different, but even so, I never would have been able to predict the palpable chemistry between them. I think back to the moment when he pulled her into his arms. I’m not really one for emotional displays, and I don’t think I’m prone to jealousy, but looking at them was like flying too close to the sun. Like their gravitational pull is strong enough to disrupt everything around them, including my ability to concentrate.
I didn’t know that there actually were relationships like that. I’d thought it all some gross overexaggeration by writers and movie studios and marketing executives looking to cash in on people’s gullible need for affection. I live in a world of facts and figures and equations, but Silas and Dylan . . . as hard as it is to admit, something about them goes beyond logic. Together, they’re greater than the sum of their parts.