“Laugh at what?”
“Oh, Lola, you’re so funny.” Anna burst out laughing and played with her hair as she pretended to double over in a fit. I stared at her in confusion, and she glared at me as she continued laughing.
“Oh, Lola.” Her laughter became even louder, and she took two steps backwards and bumped into the tall blond. “Oh my, I’m so sorry. I didn’t see where I was going.” She turned around and gave him a huge smile.
“No worries.” He smiled back at her and then looked over at me. “What’s the joke?”
“I’d like to know that my—” I started, and Anna started coughing.
“I’m Anna.” She batted her eyelids up at him. “I’m from Florida, which is in the United States of America, and this is my best friend, Lola.”
“Hi, girls. I’m Jason, from Brisbane, Australia. Not to be confused with Jason Donovan.”
“Who?” Anna and I both asked at the same time.
“Oh, sorry, mates. He’s an actor. I guess the Brits love him. All I keep hearing about is Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue. I’m like, I’m in my twenties. They ain’t popular where I’m from.”
“Oh.” Anna smiled at him again, and I looked at him blankly. I had no idea what he was talking about, and I could barely understand what he was saying.
“I know Florida, though. I’ve been surfing in Cocoa Beach. Went to a contest put on by Ron Jon’s Surf Shop.”
“Oh, awesome!” Anna flashed a brilliant smile at him. “Are you a surfer?”
“I used to be.” He shrugged and his blond hair fell in his face. “Now I play rugby.”
“I love rugby,” Anna lied. I knew for a fact that Anna was lying because we had had a conversation the previous year about sports that were sexy but that we didn’t understand and rugby was at the top of the list. “And cricket.”
“Cricket.” He nodded. “I used to play in school. I was plenty rubbish though.”
“Oh, that sucks.”
“That’s okay.” He shrugged. “Want a breadstick?” He handed us the plate, and I thought Anna was going to burst from happiness as she took a limp piece of bread from the offered plate.
“No, thanks.” I shook my head.
“You girls studying with the program?”
“That’s what the party’s for, right?” I mumbled, and Anna glared at me.
I figured she deserved my being a bitch for dragging me away from Sebastian. Not that I really cared about Sebastian. In the back of my mind, all I could think about was my night with Xavier and the way his lips had kissed me all over.
“What are you studying, Jason?” Anna asked him as if it were the most important question in the world.
“Really?” I looked at him in shock. He didn’t look like the sort of guy who knew anything about art.
“Yeah. I want to own my own gallery when I grow up.”
“Wow, me too.” I looked at him consideringly. I had to stop judging people by their appearances. “I’m in the art history program as well.”
“I’m in the literature program,” Anna sighed. “Though it seems like I may be in the minority.”
“No, there’s a cool dude in that program.” He pointed to a skinny guy who was sitting on a chair playing with his phone. “That dude. I forget his name—Mike or Paul or something. He’s in the lit program as well.”
Anna looked over at him. “Figures,” she muttered as she took in his nerdy appearance.
“I heard that they are going to make us all take a lit and art class this year, though.” He made a face. “They’re trying to expand the vision and learning experience of the program.”
“But what if we’re not interested in the other stuff?” I frowned, slightly upset at the news. I had come to learn about the great art pieces of Europe, not about books.
“They think it’s all connected. At least that’s what that professor said on Friday.” He shrugged. “He seemed like he was all about it. This way, art and books can infiltrate every part of our lives. They’ll be like the air we breathe. That’s what he said. Or maybe that’s what he hopes.” Jason shrugged. “Didn’t you hear him?”
“I kinda missed the actual talk.” My face flushed. Damn Anna and Max!
“Oh.” Jason grabbed another breadstick. “You didn’t miss much.”
“Yeah, just the fact that the whole program is changing.”
I turned away to look at the other people in the group. It looked like everyone had already formed their own cliques. There were a bunch of obviously rich girls. I could tell from their clothes that they didn’t shop at Target and Forever 21 like Anna and I did. There were some obviously nerdy girls, all wearing glasses and standing around, barely talking. Most of the guys were with the rich beautiful girls, aside from the nerdy lit guy, who was sitting down, and Sebastian, who was chatting with a very obviously drunk Henrietta.
“It’ll be cool, Lola. We’ll get to take classes together.” Anna smiled and then leaned towards me, whispering in my ear, “Now scat. You’re bringing down the mood.”
“Oh, now you don’t need me.” I rolled my eyes, and she laughed.
“Go find your Prince Charming.”
“I’m not looking for a Prince Charming,” I retorted and flushed as I thought of Xavier and how mad he had made me.
It had been a day since our night together, but I couldn’t stop thinking about our passionate lovemaking. I should hate him for the words he had said to me, but I’d always been a glutton for punishment. I wondered where he was at that very moment. Maybe he was on a date with a model or something. Only this time, he’d be whispering sweet nothings in her ear and telling her how beautiful she was. He wouldn’t be offering her money for her time.
“Ass,” I muttered to myself as I thought about him again.
“What?” Anna looked at me in confusion, and I shook my head.
“Nothing. I’m going to the bar to get a drink. Do you want anything?”
“No.” She shook her head. “I’m good.”
“Okay.” I walked away and wondered how long Anna was going to keep up her new no-drinking policy. I made my way to the bar and looked up at the list of beers and lagers they had available.
“What’s your poison?” a voice whispered in my ear, and I felt a warm hand on my back. I jumped and turned quickly to see who was being so familiar with me.
“Oh, hi, Sebastian.” I blushed as I looked into his handsome face. It really was unfair how beautiful he was, with his clear luminescent eyes and long lashes.
“I saw you come over for a drink. I figured I would come as well.”
“Oh, okay. That’s good.”
“I’m boring you, aren’t I?” He laughed heartily, and I wondered if he had issues since I had no idea what was so funny.
“Not really.” I smiled and turned back to look at the drink menu.
“Let me buy you a drink.”
“Oh, no, that’s okay.” I shook my head.
“But come on. I want to. What would you like?”
“I think I’ll have a Guinness.”
He looked at me in surprise. “Really?”
“I didn’t know girls liked Guinness. I thought you all preferred the fruity drinks.”
“The fruity drinks? Really?” I smiled at him, hiding my annoyance well. What was with these guys in Europe?
“You know, Sex on the Beach, Cosmopolitans, Long Island Teas or whatever they’re called.”
“I think that I’m going to ignore that you said that.” I laughed.
“I put my foot in my mouth, didn’t I?” He looked mad at himself. “I know that I have the propensity to be an ass because my brother is the king of jackasses.” And then he smiled to himself.
“Well, he’s a prince, but yes, he’s a jackass.”
“He’s a prince of jackasses or he’s a prince?” I asked, confused.
“Lola, there you are.” Anna came running up to me. “Jason just asked me out on a date. Oh, my God, can you believe it? I have a date already. A real date!”
“Anna, I’m talking.” I was astounded by how rude she was being tonight.
“I’m sorry.” She looked at Sebastian and smiled at me. “He’s cute.”
“Sorry, but I didn’t want you to miss out.” She made a face. “Not after that ass from last night.”
“Anna, I think we should leave now.” I grabbed her arm and squeezed hard.
“No. We just got here.”
“You’re acting crazy,” I hissed.
“But I need to get to know Jason better.”
“I thought he already asked you out on a date?”
“Well, not really. He asked me if I wanted to go and smoke pot with him.” She paused and made a face. “Okay, maybe he really asked me if I had any pot to smoke with him.”
“Oh God, that is not a date.”
“I know,” she whined.
Sebastian interrupted us. “I know where to get some if you need some.”
I froze in embarrassment. I had completely forgotten he was there.
“Oh, no. We don’t smoke.” I turned back to him and gave him a small smile. “We’ve both got enough problems without adding drugs to the mix.”
“Weed is not drugs,” Anna stated, but I decided to ignore her. I was pretty sure she was only saying that because she had a crush on a guy who wanted to go and get high with her. Sometimes she became a real idiot when she had a crush on a guy.
“Is my Guinness almost here?” I smiled at Sebastian, and he grinned back at me in delight. I felt my stomach flip at the eagerness in his eyes. I hoped I wasn’t giving him the wrong impression. I mean, he was definitely cute, but I was still feeling pretty horrible about my encounter with Xavier, King of Assholes.
“What’s so funny?” Sebastian’s eyes twinkled at me and then he gave Anna a wide smile. “Would you like something to drink?”
“I’ll have a White Russian, please.” She smiled back at him and I gave her a look. “Hey, when in Rome.” She shrugged and looked back at the table. I was pretty sure she was checking to see if Jason was checking her out, which he wasn’t. She looked disappointed as she turned back to me.
“Your ‘no alcohol policy’ lasted for how long?” I shook my head.
She grinned at me and then looked back at Jason. “I don’t think I’m going to settle for Jason just yet.”
“Yeah. I mean, he’s hot, but what’s hot at the end of the day?”
I smiled to myself at her words. How quickly she had turned on and then off. She was like a guy like that, always wanting something or someone badly and then letting some small thing distract or annoy her and forgetting about it. I wasn’t sure how she was able to move on so quickly. I had the opposite problem; I tended to dwell on things for far too long.
“Maybe we should have stayed home and watched EastEnders.”
“Anna, we’ve watched that show once.” I laughed, thinking about the English soap opera that had enraptured us a few nights before. “We don’t even know who anyone is.”
“I just feel bad that I dragged you out.” She made a face, and I could see the disappointment in her eyes. This wasn’t about me, this was about her and the fact that Jason didn’t seem to be as interested as she had hoped.
“Excuse me please, Sebastian.” I gave him a small smile as he looked at us both in concern. “We’ll be back inside in a moment.”
“Take your time, ladies. I will have the drinks ready and waiting for you.”
“Thanks.” I grabbed Anna’s hand and dragged her outside with me. “Okay, you need to relax.”
“What?” She looked at me with a blank expression and red cheeks.
“Relax. We just got here. We’re just meeting this people. We have six months to get to know everyone. If Jason is the one, you’ll end up with him. Don’t stress out.”
“I really like him,” Anna sighed. “I just feel like a fool.”
“You were excited only five minutes ago. Literally five minutes ago, you said he asked you on a date.”
“Well, we both know that was a bit of an exaggeration.” Anna giggled and placed her arm through mine. “You know how I can get.” She sighed and then smiled at me widely. “I’m glad we decided to do this together, Lola. I’m not sure what I would have done if you hadn’t come too.”
“That’s what best friends are for.” I smiled back at her. “Now let’s go back inside and meet everyone else. Then we can leave early and go and pig out on ice cream.”
“That sounds like a plan.”
We walked back inside arm in arm, and I was glad that I had been able to calm her down before she’d gone crazy. I loved Anna like a sister, but she had one of those manic personalities when it came to guys. She just lost her mind and acted like a total psycho—many times after only one date. She was so obsessed with falling in love that she fell for every guy she thought was cute, and if he didn’t seem interested right away, she either fooled herself into believing he was or she fell into a deep funk. I was always having to talk her off of the edge. Which was fine, because I was the boring one.