I’m on my tiptoes when the question comes, trying to reach a book on the top shelf in the bookstore at the student center.
My heart does a nosedive off a cliff as that familiar gruff voice washes over me, his accent a smooth drawl that’s reminiscent of hot summer nights and slow kisses—kisses we never had…well, except for that one time freshman year.
I ignore him and try to grab the book.
“You’re too short. Let me,” Blaze says, this time closer, his voice soft.
I ease back on my feet and whip around, internally wishing I’d worn something more I hate you and don’t you wish you still had me, but sadly, I’m not in my kickass shoes and itchy dress. Today it’s flat-soled red Converse, black joggers, and a Yankees sweatshirt. I blow at a piece of hair in my face. Shit.
Of course, he looks magnificent in a tight long-sleeved black shirt that clings to his broad chest and tapered jeans molded to those leg muscles. His face is unshaven, the darkness on his jawline adding a broody look.
Curse him and his hotness.
I stare at him a little too long, until I snap out of it.
“I don’t need help,” My voice is strangled as I move to brush past him—forget the textbooks—but he reaches out and takes my elbow.
His fingers are a hot brand on my skin—it’s the first time we’ve touched in three months—and I pull away. A tremble starts in my legs. How dare he? It was one thing to see him in a social setting and pretend I was fine, but when we’re face to face without people watching… “Don’t put your hands on me. I’m not your hookup anymore, football player.”
His face reddens, and he drops his arms. “I didn’t mean—” he stops, not finishing as he studies my face.
I wonder what he sees. You know what he sees, Charisma—someone who wasn’t up to his usual standards.
Everything I didn’t say last night rushes out. “Didn’t mean to what? Dump me in the middle of my own sorority’s party in front of all my friends and half of campus? And you know, that’s totally fine. We both knew I wasn’t enough to keep your attention.”
His jaw clenches and he frowns, his brow furrowing. “I didn’t plan for things to happen that way.”
“How did you want to break up with me? Over candlelight? A text would have worked just fine,” I bite out.
The silence builds between us, and he watches me intently, as if trying to figure me out. He starts at my hair and works his way down to my feet, then comes back to my face. Just when I think I might combust from the intensity of his eyes, he looks away.
“What?” I cock my hip. “You look like you want to say something.”
He taps his hand against his leg. Ice-blue eyes, ones I used to stare into and get butterflies from, glitter down at me. “You just can’t handle that I ended things, sweetheart.”
“Not your sweetheart.”
Shit…shit…my heart feels like an anvil just landed on it, heavy and hard, and I can’t breathe for a second at his words, part of me pissed, the other part devastated. I wanted to be his sweetheart, I did, but he…
You’re not my type.
“Thanks for the reminder,” I say quietly, my anger folding away piece by piece and slipping into that horrible self-pity I despise.
He closes his eyes and scrubs his face with those talented hands, strong and big and capable, skillful with a football.
He steps in front of me, much like he did last night, and I tilt my head back to take him in. At my height of five feet, three inches, it’s hard to glare at a guy who towers over you and not look ridiculous, but I manage—until his eyes flicker with lingering emotion.
I dart my eyes around the store, searching for a way out, but I’m stuck between him and a bookshelf. “You’re blocking my path.” I focus on his legs. No sexiness there—well, except for the tight muscles under that denim.
“This is what I know,” he says in a low voice, ignoring my statement. “You told me we were just messing around. You set all the rules. Isn’t that how you operate? So why does me ending things with you even matter?”
“You never asked for more. You could have.” The revealing words fall around us, tinged with hurt, and I want to pull them back.
The silence between us crackles, yet I’m aware of other people around us. There are a few girls on another aisle, and I glance over as one of them pulls out her phone. No doubt she’s taking a picture of him. Part of me retreats, anxious she’ll get me in that photo—a girl who clearly doesn’t belong. He doesn’t notice. Everyone knows who he is, and they’re probably wondering why he’s talking to me.
“No, I didn’t,” he finally says, the words taut as if pulled from him unwillingly. He taps his leg, his tell that he’s anxious or angry. We weren’t together long, but every moment we spent together, I studied him like a wine connoisseur given a glass of rare cabernet. I know what makes him laugh, usually random things that make no sense. I know that groan he makes deep in this throat when he slides inside me, like he’s home. I know the feel of his hand when he cups my face and stares at me, a hesitant expression on his face—
“You can’t even look at me anymore. I wonder why,” he says, his voice a challenge.
Steeling myself, I face those baby blues. “You know why. I wish we’d never met up last fall. I wish you’d never flirted with me. I wish I’d never fucked you that first time in the library—”
“Same page. Same fucking page, Charisma.” And then he’s walking away, broad shoulders swaying as he stalks down the aisle…
Sunny Shelly’s Review: 4 Stars
After hooking up for three weeks, football star Blaze dumped Charisma because she “wasn’t his type.” It cut her deep, but she didn’t know that Blaze was hurting as well. It’s now a few months later, the start of a new semester, and Charm is determined to not let him affect her anymore. But when they are partnered in a class, she can’t escape the guy who broke her heart.
Blaze is so terribly broken as a result of his childhood, and everything he does is tainted by thoughts that he doesn’t deserve good things, isn’t worthy of happiness. Football is the only constant in his life, the only thing that hasn’t let him down. But as the NFL draft approaches, Blaze begins to doubt everything about his future.
I loved how real Charm is. She’s a northern, Italian spitfire in the Deep South, and she’s not afraid to speak her mind. Like when she calls Blaze our for being a coward. There’s a lot of growth on his part over the course of this story, and Charm remains a constant in his life, proving to him that he is worthy of being cared for and loved.
IM-M has created a wonderful universe with this series of books, and I loved the journey that this couple took from hating one another (but not really!) to the HEA they get in the epilogue.
I received an advanced copy and voluntarily left a review.