“That was really beautiful,” I said softly.

He relaxed. “Thanks,” he said, and flashed that sexy, charming grin.


I think it was the grin that broke the spell.

I went from seeing the magic and wonder of a child entranced by music, to seeing the incredibly good-looking guy who knew all the girls were into him.

I mean, I still felt like everything he’d said to me was real… but for the first time, I considered the possibility that it had also been a performance.

I gave him an impish little smile. “And you’ve never told that story to any other girl, have you.”

“No. Never,” he said solemnly, though he nodded his head ‘yes’ as he said it.

I laughed – at least he was honest (or semi-honest) about his bullshit.

Except… it wasn’t bullshit. And I knew it.

“I think you really meant it, though.”

He nodded, and he was serious. “I did.”

Suddenly, a giant, blatting noise split the air.

“SNNKKKZZ,” Shanna snored from where she lay on the bed.

“Wow, is she always that loud?” he asked incredulously.

“Only when she’s plastered. Too bad she missed your speech.”

“She wouldn’t have appreciated it.”

I looked at him, my head tilted slightly to the side. “No, she wouldn’t have,” I agreed softly.

We kept staring at each other in silence – until Shanna’s snoring started up again.

“Jesus, it’s amazing how something that loud can come out of somebody so small,” he marveled.

I laughed. “Yeah, maybe we should go outside in the hall.”

He looked at me. “Yeah?”

My heart suddenly thumped hard in my chest.

I had just spontaneously said it without thinking.

Not, Well, it was nice meeting you, or, Well, I’ve got to study.

No.

Maybe we should go outside in the hall.

Because I didn’t want him to leave.

11

Derek and I ended up talking for hours, about everything and nothing. We went out in the hallway and sat out there on the floor and drank Cokes and ate Little Debbie snack cakes and laughed as drunk club-goers and late-night partiers came stumbling back to their dorm rooms.

Finally I thought to check my phone.

It was 3:10 in the morning.

“Oh my God,” I gasped. “It’s after 3 – I’ve got a test in the morning – ”

“The Wife of Bath, right?” he asked, sprawled out lazily on the floor. Just totally relaxed, completely confident in his own skin.

“Yeah,” I said, trying not to look too long at his sleek, muscular body. “And I need to finish the story, so – ”

“Tell me what you’ve read so far.”

I looked him in his emerald eyes.

I really, really didn’t have time for this.

But…

…damn he was hot.

“Okay. So, there was this knight in King Arthur’s court who was really bad, and he basically raped a woman.”

“Fucking asshole,” Derek said.

“Total fucking asshole,” I agreed. “And King Arthur was going to have him killed, but Queen Guinevere gave him a second chance. If he could find out what women want most, she’d spare his life. So the knight goes out riding, and he asks every woman he meets, but they all give him different answers. Some want a rich man, some want a handsome man, some want somebody who’s dependable, some want somebody who’s quiet and won’t give them any problems… it’s all over the place.

“His time is running out when he meets an ugly old woman who says she’ll tell him if the knight will grant her any wish she wants. He’s kind of over a barrel, so he agrees… and they go back to Guinevere… and that’s where I stopped.”

“Do you want to know the ending?” he asked in a very self-satisfied voice.

A little too self-satisfied for my tastes.

“You know the ending,” I said, totally unconvinced.

“I told you I read some of the stories after I heard ‘Whiter Shade of Pale.’ This was one of them.”

I looked at him from the corner of my eyes.

Was he trying to impress me with his obscure knowledge of Chaucer?

Or was he just bluffing (and still trying to impress me)?

Hell… what did I have to lose?

“Seeing as I need to sleep, and the test is at 9AM… sure.”

“The old woman gives him the right answer,” Derek said serenely.

“Which is?”

“Women want power over their husbands.”

I gave him a look like You gotta be kidding me. “That’s stupid.”

“You don’t agree?” he asked with a lazy smile.

“Well, I don’t know what’s in the Chaucer story, but… yeah, I don’t really think that’s what women want.”

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