Read The List Online

Authors: Kate L. Mary

The List

“Have a first date, a first kiss, smoke a cigarette, get a fake ID, go skinny-dipping. Have sex.”
When I opened my eyes, Ryan was staring at me. My heart pounded. He was so close I could feel the heat radiating off his body. It made the blood sizzle in my veins.
“All that before you turn twenty?” he whispered. I nodded and his eyes went over my face, lingering on my lips. “How long do you have?”
My heart pounded in my ears, drowning out the ocean and the wind. Even the music from the party. “A year. I turn nineteen on September fifth.”
“Seems doable,” he said, scooting closer. “How many things have you marked off?”
“Four before tonight.” My heart pounded even faster, and I inhaled sharply. His eyes were still on my lips and it made my brain even fuzzier than the alcohol. “Now I can cross off getting drunk, and Cami says we're going to stay out all night.”
He pulled back a fraction of an inch. “How drunk are you?”
I shook my head and blinked a few times when my temples pounded. “I don't have anything to compare it to.”
He frowned, then his eyes went to my lips. “We can cross something else off, if you want.”
Kate L. Mary
Kensington Publishing Corp.
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
For Erin, Lauren and Casey, my partners in crime while
living in Charleston. Having you as friends made an
already amazing city even more memorable.
I have to take a moment to thank the many people who helped shape this story and make it what it is. If I forget anyone, I am truly sorry.
To my wonderful friends Erin, Sarah, and Tammy, who have been the first readers on most of my projects. Your enthusiasm and support for all my books, even when the genre isn't exactly what you usually read, have been truly inspirational. There were definitely moments over the last couple years when all the rejection got to me, and without your constant cheerleading I'm not sure I would have been able to keep moving forward. I also want to throw out a special thank-you to Tracy Camara for reading
The List
and giving me your opinion; thanks for taking time out of your busy life to support an aspiring author!
A huge thank-you to my beta readers! First and foremost, Lisa Terry. If we had not found each other on She Writes, I know my writing would not be where it is today. Your tough critiques taught me so much, and I'm so grateful you were willing to keep reading my stuff when I know those first few things I sent you were not stellar by any standards. I'm so glad you were able to see something in all the mess and help point me in the right direction. To Diana Gardin and Collette Ricketts, my beta readers and New Adult junkies, thanks for being super-pumped about Annie and Ryan's story.
Thank you, Erin, Lauren, and Casey for making my time in South Carolina so amazing. You helped shape a setting that was worth writing about, and I look forward to the day when the BWC can be reunited in Charleston.
Thank you to Alicia Condon, my editor, for being so enthusiastic about
The List
. Talking to you on the phone that first time and hearing you praise the story is definitely one of the highlights of my life. I cannot tell you how grateful I am that you were willing to wait while I made a decision about what to do!
I also want to extend a thanks to Donaghy Literary Group. Thank you, Valerie Nobel, for reading
The List
and loving it, and Stacey Donaghy, for being both enthusiastic about the story and working so hard to find it a good home.
As always, a huge thank-you to my husband and kids for all your love and support and patience through the hours and hours of writing and editing and revising! Writing is such a long process and I know there are times when I let things slip through the cracks, so thank you for loving me despite all my flaws.
weat trickled down my back and my stomach tensed when the cab pulled away. I inhaled and the air was thick and sticky. The South Carolina humidity was going to take some getting used to. My skin was moist just from standing on the sidewalk for a few minutes, and I could practically feel my hair curling. So much for straightening it before I left California.
I adjusted my backpack and my legs were so wobbly that the weight of it almost knocked me down. There was a knot the size of a softball in my shoulder. All I wanted was to get to my room and unload my stuff.
The exterior of College Lodge was bright, although a little outdated, and the multicolored panels should have helped eased the knots in my stomach. How could anything so cheerful-looking be scary? But I was alone and facing the daunting task of getting my stuff up to my room on the third floor. All I had was my backpack and two large suitcases, but it was going to be a hassle.
I chewed on my lower lip while other students hurried by. Most were moving in like me, but everyone else seemed to have help. Parents, siblings, boyfriends or girlfriends. I had no one. I'd sworn to my dad it was no big deal, but the thought of walking into the building alone made me want to throw up. My insides clenched and the back of my eyes stung with the tears that normally threatened whenever I was faced with the unknown. Dammit. Why couldn't I control my emotions? Just suck it up and lug my crap in like everyone else? I couldn't be the only person alone on the first day.
Swallowing down the tears, I raised the handles on both suitcases and pulled while keeping my eyes focused on the front doors. Thank-fully, they were propped open. Getting through wouldn't be an issue, and the building had an elevator. All I had to do was make it there, then I'd be golden.
The wheels on one of the suitcases hit a snag right after I made it through the door. The suitcase came to an abrupt halt. A bead of sweat slowly made its way down my spine and the muscles in my arms ached. It had been a long day and the suitcases weighed about eighty pounds each. I gritted my teeth and tugged harder.
The suitcase thumped forward just as the roadblock I'd run into said, “Whoa!”
I looked up to find a guy grinning at me. He hopped on one foot and rubbed his toes. I'd run into a person. A person wearing flip-flops.
I blew the sweaty hair off my forehead. “I'm sorry,” I huffed. “Did I hurt you?”
He grinned even more and put his foot down. “No. I was just trying to make you feel bad.” He winked.
Why would he want to make me feel bad? “Um . . . okay.”
His eyes—which were big and brown and smooth like chocolate—moved down to my bags. He tilted his head. “You need some help?”
I totally did, but I've always been stubborn, so I shook my head. “No. I'm okay.”
He frowned and scratched his head. It reminded me of a monkey on the Discovery Channel. A very cute monkey, but still a monkey. He shook his head and his brown hair swished back and forth. Then he stepped forward and pried my hand off the suitcase nearest him. The one that had just run over his toes.
“You need help.” He lugged it toward the elevator and I rushed to keep up. “What floor are you on?”
“Um . . . three.” Did I want some strange guy knowing where I lived? It was a coed dorm and he could be my next door neighbor for all I knew, but . . .
“Me too,” he said over his shoulder. “My roommate is unpacking as we speak.” There was a line for the elevator. He parked my suitcase at the end of the line and turned to face me. “Have you met your roommate yet?” I shook my head and he crossed his arms over his chest. “Hopefully, you have better luck than I did. Mine is dressed completely in black, and when I left he was hanging up posters for metal bands I've never heard of. I'm pretty sure he's going to kidnap me and sacrifice me on Halloween.”
I giggled and covered my mouth.
His lips turned up into an adorable grin. “So you
smile.” I shrugged and he grinned even more. “I'm Chris Presley—no relation to Elvis. Believe me, I've tried to find one.”
My smile got bigger and a little bit of tension eased in my stomach. He seemed nice enough. “Annie Roth.”
“So where are you from, Annie Roth?”
“All over. My dad was in the Air Force.” I sighed without meaning to and my cheeks grew warm. “California most recently.”
Chris tilted his head and his eyes swept over my face. “That's a long way to go for college. Why Charleston?”
I shrugged and twirled my white-blond hair around my finger to distract myself from his intense gaze. How was I supposed to act when boys looked at me like that? “We were stationed here when I was a kid and I loved it. I always wanted to come back.” He kept nodding while the line moved forward, and my insides started to squirm. “What about you?” I needed to take the attention off me. “Where are you from?”
“West Ashley, just up the road a bit.”
We were next in line, but I'd run out of things to say. I wracked my brain for something—anything—that would keep the conversation going, but I came up blank.
The longer the silence stretched on, the more my cheeks burned. I shuffled my feet and twirled my hair faster, and Chris's smile got even bigger. He was really cute, but I was at a complete loss. Maybe I was at a loss
he was so cute.
Chris chuckled like he was enjoying some private joke. “So you're a freshman?”
I nodded and chewed on my lip while the people in front of us disappeared into the elevator. We were next, and I couldn't wait to get it over with.
“I'm a sophomore.” He leaned forward and elbowed me playfully. “So if you need any help, just let me know.”
“You're a sophomore, but you're rooming with someone you don't know?”
Chris's mouth turned down at one corner and his eyes moved to the elevator. Then his lips twitched and flipped back up, like a switch. “I was supposed to room with a buddy of mine, but he bailed and got an apartment downtown. Which left me screwed. I'm considering flooding his apartment as payback.”
My eyebrows shot up and my mouth dropped open just as the elevator door did.
Chris smirked and pulled my suitcase forward. “I'm kidding.” He tilted his head when he walked by me. “Come on.”
We squeezed in and the elevator lurched up as soon as the doors were shut. My heart pounded and I tapped my toe on the ground.
Come on, Annie, think! There has to be something you can ask him. Isn't this why you're here? Why you've come all this way? Keep the conversation going!
“Do you play any sports?” I blurted out just as he said, “Are you always this quiet?”
My cheeks burst into flames and he laughed. “No. I played some soccer in high school, but I wasn't good enough to keep going. Not that I really had any desire. College is supposed to be fun.”
The elevator stopped on the third floor with a sudden lurch and the door slid open.
Chris grinned and motioned for me to go first. “What about you? Sports?”
“Um, volleyball,” I mumbled. “But not anymore.” After his comment about college being for fun I wanted him to know that I wasn't playing anymore. I guess being in a sport would have meant I wasn't fun?
“I'm not surprised.” His eyes swept over me, starting at my feet and traveling up my long legs to my torso. Ending on my pink face. “How tall are you?”
A shiver ran down my spine and I crossed my arms over my chest. As if it would somehow control my pounding heart. It didn't. “Five ten.”
His brown eyes twinkled like he knew exactly what he was doing to me. He took a tiny step closer. “You play basketball too?”
I shook my head and swallowed, but I didn't move. There was less than half a foot of space between us, and we were standing right in front of the elevator. My heart pounded and I wiggled my toes like that would make my feet work. I could barely breathe.
“Which way?” Chris asked.
We could go either right or left. The dorm looked like an old motel—which was exactly what it was—and a balcony/catwalk ran along the outside of the building.
I glanced at the sign mounted on the wall next to us. “My room is three fifteen, so right, I guess.”
Chris's grin got even bigger. “I'm three ten, so you're just a couple doors down from me.”
If I said my heart didn't do a very intricate series of somersaults, I'd be lying. Chris was fun and cute, and actually seemed to enjoy being in my company. The idea of seeing him around was more than thrilling.
“That's nice,” I somehow managed to get out.
Of course, as soon as I said it, I started to sweat. Did I sound too needy? Not interested enough? Too dismissive? I had no idea. Chris had started walking already and his back was to me, so it was impossible to read his reaction. I needed to think of a way to make him know I was interested in seeing him around, but that I wasn't crazy clingy or overly enthusiastic. Just that I wanted to get to know him better. How did other girls do that?
We passed three ten and Chris tilted his head toward the door. “This is me,” he said, but kept walking.
My insides buzzed. He'd pointed his room out. That had to be a good sign.
Just a few doors down Chris stopped and gallantly swept his arm toward the already open door of room three fifteen. “Your quarters,” he said with a dramatic bow.
It was cheesy but cute, and I couldn't help giggling. Which totally wasn't me. I wasn't the giggly, peppy, girly type. I was the athletic, jeans and t-shirt type. The kind of girl guys were buddies with, not the kind they asked out on dates. This whole flirting thing was new to me.
“Thanks, Chris,” I said, crossing my arms over my chest and shuffling my feet.
He shrugged and stuffed his hands in the pockets of his khaki shorts. “Well . . . I guess you'll want to get unpacked?” I nodded and his head bobbed in return. “Okay. I'll catch you later then?”
He chuckled and his shoulders straightened. “Cool. Later.”
I stood frozen in place, watching him walk away. He didn't even pause outside the door to his room. He disappeared around the corner and I finally allowed the smile I'd been holding back to break through. It was so big it hurt my cheeks, but it was amazing. This was a good start! I'd met a guy, I'd managed to have a somewhat coherent conversation, and he didn't look at me like I was one of the guys. I could do this after all.
My new roommate was already unpacking when I dragged my stuff through the door. Her face was red and she barely looked up from trying to shove clothes into the small wardrobe.
“This is ridiculous!” she grunted. “I picked this dorm because it's supposed to have bigger rooms than the others.” She paused long enough to brush a handful of dark hair out of her eyes. “I thought that would mean more storage!”
She was nothing like me. Her hair was long and styled in dark ringlets that went down the middle of her back. It was weightless when she moved, bouncing with every step. She was tan and wearing a tiny sundress that barely covered her backside—a very shapely one too. She had the kind of face and body guys stopped to drool over. Innocent, but sexy at the same time. There were clothes everywhere, waiting to be put away. And shoes! More than three people could possibly need.
I could barely walk through the room, let alone pull my suitcases in. I settled with shoving them against the wall. Then I just stood there, awkwardly playing with the hem of my San Francisco 49ers t-shirt while I waited for my roommate to acknowledge me.
After managing to get a few more hangers stuffed into her wardrobe she huffed and stood back, eyeing it with her hands on her hips. “That's all I can do. I'm going to have to buy something to put under the bed that I can store clothes in. Thank God there's room!”
Then she spun around and gave me a huge smile, revealing the whitest teeth I've ever seen outside a toothpaste commercial. “You must be Annie!”
I nodded and she rushed forward, throwing her arms around me. It took me so off guard I stumbled back and bumped against the wall, knocking my suitcase over and nearly falling on my butt.
“Oh!” she said, grabbing my arm and pulling me upright with a laugh. “Sorry, I get carried away sometimes. I'm Cami!”
Cami stood in front of me with that big smile on her face and I bit my lip. What did she want me to say now?
“So you're from California? You must be tired and dying to unpack. I hope you have better luck than I did. I couldn't fit even half of my stuff.”
“I'll probably have some extra room. I don't have a lot.”
Cami's eyes—an odd mixture of brown and green that really jumped out against her tan face—went down to my suitcases. “Is that all you have?” I nodded and she laughed. “Wow! I guess Ryan's right. I am high-maintenance. He bitched the whole time he and Dad moved me in, like I can help that I need a lot of stuff!”
It was the most ridiculous statement I'd ever heard, but it made me laugh. Cami seemed nice and easygoing, which was a relief. At first sight I'd been sure we would never get along. Girls like her didn't typically understand girls like me. Why I didn't wear makeup or dresses or heels.
“Is Ryan your brother?”
Cami blinked like she didn't understand the question, then smiled. She shook her head and shrugged at the same time. “Yes and no. He's my cousin, but he's like a brother. He lived with us growing up.”
I didn't ask anything else even though I was curious. If she wanted to share the story, she would in her own time. If not, it was none of my business.

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