Home > The Chase (Briar U #1)(2)

The Chase (Briar U #1)(2)
Author: Elle Kennedy

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“Gosh, who knows. You might’ve run off to Miami with some hitchhiking wannabe rapper you picked up on the interstate—or what I like to call a recipe for becoming a serial killer’s skin-suit. Oh wait! You already fucking did that.”

“Oh my God. First of all, Jasper was an aspiring country singer, not a rapper. Second, I was with two other girls and we were driving to Daytona Beach, not Miami. Third, he didn’t even try to touch me, let alone murder me.” I sigh. “Lacey did hook up with him, though, and he gave her herpes.”

Incredulous silence meets my ears.

“Dicky?” That’s my childhood nickname for Dean. He hates it. “You there?”

“I’m trying to understand how you think your version of the story is in any way more palatable than mine.” He suddenly curses. “Aw fuck, didn’t I hook up with Lacey at your eighteenth birthday party?” A pause. “The herpes trip would’ve happened before that party. Dammit, Summer! I mean, I used protection, but a warning would’ve been nice!”

“No, you didn’t hook up with Lacey. You’re thinking of Laney, with an ‘N.’ I stopped being her friend after that.”

“How come?”

“Because she slept with my brother when she was supposed to be hanging out with me at my party. That’s not cool.”

“Truth. Selfish move.”

“Yup.”

There’s a sudden blast of noise on the line—what sounds like wind, car engines, and then a barrage of honking. “Sorry,” Dean says. “Just leaving the apartment. My Uber’s here.”

“Where are you off to?”

“Picking up our dry-cleaning. The place Allie and I go to is in Tribeca, but they’re awesome, so worth the trek. Highly recommend.”

Dean and his girlfriend Allie live in the West Village in Manhattan. Allie admitted to me that the area is way fancier than she’s used to, but for my brother it’s actually a step down; our family’s penthouse is on the Upper East Side, making up the top three floors of our hotel, the Heyward Plaza. But Dean’s new building is near the private school where he teaches, and since Allie has a lead role on a television show that shoots all over Manhattan, the location is convenient for both of them.

It must be so nice for them, having a place to live and all.

“Anyway, are you nice and settled at the Kappa house?”

“Not quite,” I confess.

“For fuck’s sake, Summer. What did you do?”

My jaw falls open in outrage. Why does my family always assume that I’m in the wrong?

“I didn’t do anything,” I answer stiffly. But then defeat weakens my voice. “They don’t think someone like me is good for the sorority’s reputation. One of them said I was an arsonist.”

“Well,” Dean says not so tactfully. “You kind of are.”

“Fuck off, Dicky. It was an accident. Arsonists intentionally set fires.”

“So you’re an accidental arsonist. The Accidental Arsonist. That’s a great name for a book.”

“Awesome. Go write that.” I don’t care how snide I sound. I’m feeling snarky, and my nerves are shot. “Anyway, they kicked me out, and now I have to figure out where the heck I’m going to live this semester.” My throat catches on a lump that appears out of nowhere, and a choked almost-sob squeezes past it.

“Are you okay?” Dean asks immediately.

“I don’t know.” I swallow hard. “I… This is ridiculous. I don’t know why I’m upset. Those girls are awful and I wouldn’t have enjoyed living with them. I mean, it’s New Year’s Eve, and they’re all on campus! They’re doing some charity fundraiser thing instead of partying! That’s so not my scene.”

The tears I’ve been holding at bay are no longer controllable. Two fat drops slide down my cheeks, and I’m so glad Dean isn’t here to witness it. It’s bad enough that he can hear me crying.

“I’m sorry, Boogers.”

“Whatever.” I angrily swipe at my wet eyes. “It doesn’t matter. I’m not going to cry over a few mean girls and an overcrowded house. I won’t let it get to me. Would Selena Gomez let it get to her? Absolutely not.”

There’s a confused beat. “Selena Gomez?”

“Yes.” I jut out my chin. “She’s a symbol of class and purity, and I try to model myself after her. Personality-wise. Obviously, when it comes to style, I will forever strive to be Coco Chanel, and I will forever fail because nobody can be Coco Chanel.”

“Obviously.” He pauses. “Which era Selena Gomez are we talking about? Justin Bieber or The Weeknd? Or Bieber part two?”

I frown at my phone. “Are you for real right now?”

“What?”

“A woman isn’t defined by her boyfriends. She’s defined by her achievements. And her shoes.”

My gaze lands on my new boots, courtesy of Nana Celeste. At least I’ve had smashing success in the shoe department.

The rest of it, not so much.

“I guess I can ask Dad to call the housing people and see if there’s availability in any of the dorms.” Once again, I feel defeated. “I really don’t want to do that, though. He already had to pull strings to get me into Briar.”

And I’d rather not live in a dorm if I can help it. Sharing a bathroom with a dozen other girls is my worst nightmare. I had to do it in the Kappa house at Brown, but the private bedroom made the bathroom situation easier to swallow. No way will there be any singles left in the dorms this far into the school year.

I moan softly. “What am I supposed to do?”

I have two older brothers who never, ever pass up an opportunity to tease or embarrass me, but sometimes they display rare moments of compassion. “Don’t call Dad yet,” Dean says gruffly. “Let me see what I can do first.”

My forehead wrinkles. “I’m not sure you can do anything.”

“Just hold off on calling him. I’ve got an idea.” The squeal of brakes fills the line. “One sec. Thanks, bro. Five-star ride, for sure.” A car door slams. “Summer, you’re coming back to the city tonight anyway, right?”

“I wasn’t planning on it,” I admit, “but I guess I don’t have a choice now. I’ll have to grab a hotel in Boston until I figure out my living arrangements.”

“Not Boston. I meant New York. The semester doesn’t start for a few weeks. I figured you’d be staying at the penthouse until then.”

“No, I wanted to unpack and settle in and all that crap.”

“Well, it ain’t happening today, and tonight is New Year’s Eve, so you might as well come home and celebrate with me and Allie. A bunch of my old teammates are driving up too.”

“Like who?” I ask curiously.

“Garrett’s in the city for a game, so he’ll be here. And the current Briar brigade is coming. You know some of them—Mike Hollis, Hunter Davenport. Actually, Hunter went to Roselawn Prep, think he was a year behind you. Pierre and Corsen, but I don’t think you ever met them. Fitzy—”

My heartbeat stutters.

“I remember Fitzy,” I say as casually as I’m capable of—which is not casual at all. Even I can hear the excitement in my voice.

Who can blame me, though? Fitzy is short for Colin Fitzgerald, and he just happens to be THE UNICORN. The tall, sexy, tattooed, hockey-playing unicorn of a man who I might have a teeny-weeny itsy-bitsy crush on.

Okay, fine.

A big motherfucking crush on.

He’s so…magical. But he’s also out of reach. Dean’s hockey friends are usually all over me when they meet me, but not Fitz. I met him last year when I visited Dean at Briar, and the guy barely glanced my way. When I saw him again at a birthday party for Dean’s friend Logan, he said about ten words to me—and I’m pretty sure half those words were hello, how are you, and goodbye.

He’s exasperating. Not that I expect every male in my vicinity to fall at my feet, but I know he’s attracted to me. I’ve noticed the way his brown eyes smolder when he looks at me. They frigging smolder.

Unless I’m just seeing what I want to see.

My dad has this super-pompous saying: perception and reality are vastly disparate. The truth is usually found somewhere in between. Dad used that line in his closing arguments for a murder trial once, and now he busts it out any time it’s even remotely applicable to a situation.

If the truth lies somewhere between Colin Fitzgerald’s outward aloofness toward me (he hates me), and the heat I see in his eyes (his fiery passion for me), then… I guess split the difference and say he views me as a friend?

I purse my lips.

No. Absolutely not. I refuse to be friend-zoned before I’ve even made a move.

“It’ll be a good time,” Dean is saying. “Besides, it’s been ages since we were in the same place on New Year’s Eve. So get your butt to New York and text when you’re here. I’m at the drycleaner’s now. Gotta go. Love you.”

He hangs up, and I’m smiling so broadly it’s hard to imagine I was in tears five minutes ago. Dean might be a pain in the ass most of the time, but he’s a good big brother. He’s there for me when I need him, and that’s all that really matters.

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