Leaning back against one of the many trees littering the lawn of Parkland University, I pull the brown-eyed bombshell towards me. Wrapping one arm around her waist, I tuck her hair behind her ear and cup the back of her neck.
“Dean . . .” Her moan causes a rush of blood to leave my brain and head down south, and I smirk as she leans into me, her eyes hooded in arousal.
I’m about to kiss her when a sudden movement to my left catches my eye. I watch, stunned, as a guy runs up and snags a girl’s backpack. She doesn’t even move from where she types on her laptop, her head bobbing to the music flowing through her headphones.
What the hell?
Shoving the brunette away from me, I take off after the jerk who just stole that chicks bag.
“Hey! Drop that bag!” I chase after him, shoving some poor guy out of my way.
He runs faster, but not fast enough. I pick up speed and when I’m just out of arm’s reach, I lunge and tackle him to the ground. Pinning him down with one hand, I wrestle the bag out of his grasp.
“Don’t you know it’s wrong to steal?” I quip. He struggles beneath me, cursing me out. He sags to the ground, growing limp when he sees campus security coming towards us.
I stick around long enough to explain what happened before slinging the backpack over my shoulder and sauntering to where the girl still sits, feeling like quite the hero. The smirk falls from my face when she continues to work away on her computer. How could she have possibly missed all of that?
I stop in front of her, waiting for her to look up from her laptop. She completely ignores me. My ego deflates a little. I’m not used to being ignored by the opposite sex.
Sighing, I crouch down and push her headphones off her ear, falling back on my ass when she jumps and screams.
“Holy shit. What’s your deal?” I stare at her, observing as she clutches a hand to her chest, breathing heavily.
“My deal?” She cocks her head, her accented voice soft and sweet. I don’t recognize her accent, it’s not quite English, but close. “What do you mean?”
As I gape at her, I look into her blue eyes and it finally dawns on me. She’s blind.
Backtracking, I set her backpack next to her. “Sorry, I didn’t realize you couldn’t see me. Some guy took your backpack, I got it back. It’s on your right.”
She reaches next to her, opening it and feeling around inside. As she searches, I take the opportunity to observe her. It feels weird, voyeuristic almost, but now that I’m actually looking at her I can’t seem to stop.
Her shoulder length hair looks silky, the strawberry blonde color shining in the sun. A light smattering of freckles stands out on her pale skin.
“I may be blind, but I can feel you staring at me.” She closes her laptop, zips it in her backpack, and stands up turning towards my voice. “Thank you for returning my bag.”
“You’re welcome—” I wait, hoping she will fill in the blank.
“Ripley.” She smiles, slinging her bag over her shoulder.
“I’m Dean.” I smile in return, only to feel it fall when a hand runs over my arm.
“Dean baby, aren’t you coming back?” Her voice is a low whine, and it makes her become less attractive. I hate whining.
Turning to—oh crap, I don’t remember her name. “Umm—sorry. How about a rain check?”
She pulls her hand away, crossing her arms and staring at me with a disgruntled look. “Only if you can tell me my name.”
I can’t help but glance at Ripley, who’s lips are twitching as she listens in. I can’t tell if it’s in amusement or disgust, but for the first time since Morgan and I ended things, I feel ashamed of my behavior.
Instead of attempting a guess at her name, I just stand there, silent. The brunette huffs and storms off. I watch her for a moment before turning back to Ripley who has been joined by another blonde. I’ve seen her friend at parties before, but I can’t remember her name either. I’m really on a roll today.
“Are you ready?” She asks Ripley, looking between us.
Ripley nods, before cocking her head again. “Thanks again.”
They walk away, arms linked, as her friend glances back at me talking. I know exactly what she’s saying and it’s not good.
I feel someone come to stand beside me, but I don’t look away from Ripley until they disappear into one of the campus apartment buildings.
Finally, I turn to Lucas and grimace at the knowing look on his face.
“Who was that?”
“Just some girl. Some jerk tried to steal her backpack, I was just returning it.” Shrugging, I scroll through my phone trying to act nonchalant. There was something about Ripley that stands out from the other chicks around campus. I can’t quite put my finger on it, she just has a—quality.
He nods, his eyes on his phone as he rapidly types out a text. “Andie wants to know if you’re joining us for game night, or if you’re ditching us for another conquest. Her words, not mine.”
Rolling my eyes, I look back to the apartments and note which building Ripley entered before falling into step alongside Lucas. Game night with my friends sounds better than hanging out in my apartment, zoned out on the couch.
After my brother died, I’ve felt a little lost. Then Morgan got an amazing job opportunity on the other side of the country, so we ended things. It was all very amicable.
Life just doesn’t feel the same. Everything is blah and I have no interest in the things I used to enjoy. I try to force myself, but it’s exhausting putting on a front day in and day out.
“Yeah, tell her I’ll be there.” I try to infuse some excitement into my voice and by the time Lucas leaves my side, I feel a little of that excitement actually flare up. Maybe this will be good for me, doing something with the people who know me best. Doing something that might actually fill the void in my chest.