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Virgin in the Middle

By:Penny Wylder

1

I stand outside my new home for the next year—an intimidatingly tall brick building, already teeming with life on this the first day of our freshman year. There are a few dozen people streaming in and out, some of them hugging their parents, others rolling their eyes as their moms cry and their dads lecture. I spot more than a few people I recognize from the orientation week slides that I’ve spent the last month poring over. Call me a nerd, but I like to know who—and what—I’m getting into in any new situation.

And what situation could be more important to prep for than college?

This is my first time out on my own. I made my parents leave my stuff on the curb before I bid them farewell because I want to move in on my own. The same way that I want to approach this year. It’s all on me now—to succeed, to finish my biology degree, hopefully at the top of the class the way I was in high school. After that, it’ll be a master’s program, and then a research position at one of the top labs in the country. I’ve already mapped out which one I want to wind up in. There are pictures of the building taped to my vision board to remind me to keep my head in the game.

I’m not going to fall prey to any of the usual freshman year dilemmas. Not me. I am here to get my degree, not to party or drink or hook-up.

After all, I’m still a virgin, so it won’t be hard for me to avoid that particular temptation. You can’t miss what you haven’t tried—and I sure as hell don’t think I’m missing out on random hook-ups. There’s no way I will let myself lose my focus (not to mention my mind) over some guy.

I smile and scoop up my bags, shouldering the first of what will be several rounds of lifting. But that’s fine by me. It’s good exercise.

Of course, when I find out my room is seven flights up, and the elevators are stuffed with people lugging furniture and TVs, I start to regret my choice to tell Mom and Dad they could go home early.

I’m sweaty and panting by the time I reach the top of the stairs, and I know there’s still at least 2 more loads of my crap waiting downstairs for me to carry up. Why, oh why, did I think I needed to bring so many clothes? Surely I could’ve made do with just one bag of sweatpants and a couple of hoodies. Why did I add professional dresses and pant suits into the mix?

Ridiculous, Cassidy, I scold myself as I stagger down the hallway to my room and fit the key into the lock. I shoulder it open, groaning as I heave my bag across the threshold. What a great first impression I’ll make on my new roommates. I wonder what the girls will be like as the door swings inward. After all, the school checked with me to be sure I’d be all right with a triple room, and I said, of course, I’m up for living with anyone. I wanted to play the roommate lottery, see who they picked for me because this year is also about expanding my own network. I want to meet other badass girls like me, working their way through this highly-acclaimed university.

So I paste a broad smile on my face in spite of my sweaty, tired posture, as the door finishes swinging open.

Then I freeze in place.

No.

No way.

There must be some mistake.

My mouth hangs open, making me look even crazier than I must already, lugging these bags in here, into what is clearly the wrong room.

“Sorry,” I stammer, looking back and forth from the occupied room to the key in my hand.

Because standing in the middle of this three-person room, the one the desk told me to go to, the one my key worked to open, are two half-naked guys.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re hot as hell, wearing sporty shorts, soccer cleats, and nothing else. Their sharply defined muscles glisten in the dim light of the dorm room. One is tan with dark hair and dark eyes. He’s halfway through chugging a bottle of Gatorade, but he freezes midway to sweep his eyes over me when I enter. The other is his polar opposite, blond and blue-eyed, your stereotypical white-bread American guy. From the bag slung over his shoulder, with its distinctive loop shape at the top, I guess they play for the lacrosse team. I’d heard the school has a really good team, top of the varsity leagues.

Finally, my face flushes as my brain kicks back into functioning. “There must be some mistake. I’ll just… Go… Ask the front desk…” I back out of the room, starting to ease the door shut behind me.

But one of them, the blond, launches across the room to catch it before I can shut it completely. “Cassidy?” he asks. “Cassidy Brown?”

If anything, my blush only worsens. Why does he know my name? “Yes?”

“Anthony,” he says, sticking out a hand. I accept it, if only because I don’t know what the hell else to do right now. His hand feels hot in mine, his skin flushed from exertion. They must have just finished practice—I can smell the sweat on Anthony, though it’s a good scent. Heady and masculine, all salt and pine and outdoors. I stare up into his deep blue eyes, unable to look away. That is, until he releases my hand, which feels suddenly cold without his touch, and points a thumb over his shoulder. “And that’s Vin.”

Vin, for his part, flashes me a cocky wink that does strange, twisty things to my stomach. I can feel a flutter behind my belly-button, and it makes me want to sprint out of here faster than ever. But I can’t because Vin is speaking now. Saying words that don’t make sense, not in English, not in a way I can comprehend. “We’re your roommates, Cassidy.”

Fuck.

I scowl. “Not possible,” I say, shaking my head.

“Here, let me take that for you,” Anthony offers, grabbing the bag from my shoulder before I can protest. Before I can even figure out what’s going on. He turns and tosses it onto my bed, across from their bunk beds on the far wall.

“We saved you the bigger bed since we’re used to sharing,” Vin adds, striding across the room to take my other bag.

“Stop, stop, stop,” I say, grabbing my stuff. They both look back at me, eyebrows raised, expectant. “This can’t be right. Aren’t we… I mean… Isn’t this… I didn’t think the rooms were coed.”

“You didn’t read the website?” Vin lifts an eyebrow. He’s still wearing an infuriating, cocky smirk. “It was right on the main page. A new change they’re trying this year. Progression, and all that.”

My face burns red-hot. Not only am I stuck rooming with two guys, but they somehow read something I missed? Even after all of my preparation… How could I have missed an update this big? “But…”

Anthony steps back over to me. He stands right in the doorway, just inches away from me, towering over me. And grinning down at me, his blue eyes infuriatingly clear and innocent-seeming. “This won’t be a problem for you, will it? After all, the administration said you put you were willing to share with anyone on your form…”

Shit. “I didn’t think—”

“Anyone didn’t include guys?” Anthony guesses, tilting his head as his blue eyes catch mine. “You don’t think we’ll get along?”

“It’s not… I mean. I don’t know you…” I shake my head, trying to clear my thoughts. “It’s nothing personal. This is just…”

“Unexpected?” Vin asks, joining Anthony beside me. He smirks still, watching me carefully. “That’s kind of the point of this year, though, isn’t it? College changes everyone in unexpected ways.”

Between the two of them, my head starts to spin. They’re both gorgeous but in opposite ways. Vin is all dark, bad boy looks, the devil on one shoulder brought to life, while Anthony is the angel on the other. Except this time, the devil and the angel have ganged up against me.

I scowl, hoping they’ll misread the hot flush on my skin as anger instead of what I fear it really is…

Attraction.

“There’s unexpected, and then there’s crazy.”

“What’s the matter? Do you think something else unexpected might happen if you room with us?” Anthony doesn’t move, doesn’t touch me, but he doesn’t need to. His eyes feel like a touch, that’s how closely he’s staring at my body, studying my curves. Making me hot all over.

I snort. “Of course not.”

“Well then, what’s the harm in sharing a bedroom?” Vin’s smirk widens. “If you’re so sure nothing will happen…”

“It’s just…” Shit. He’s got me there. I mean, what is the problem, truly? How is this different from sharing with girls? I already know myself—I am single-minded and determined. I’ve never been swayed by a hot guy before. Why would this be any different? I shake my head and shoulder between them into the room. My shoulders brush both of their chests at once—their bare chests—and it takes everything I have not to shiver in delight at the touch.

“Nothing. There’s no problem,” I say, striding over to my bed to unzip my bag. “It’s fine.”

“Good.” When I turn back around, Anthony is leaning in the doorway, studying me, as Vin goes back to changing.

When Vin strips off his shorts, down to his boxers, I flush bright red and turn back around. Though not before catching a glimpse of the bulge at his crotch, or his long, muscular, totally tanned legs.

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