Romance University Sneak Peek

Chapter 1

Grace

      “A wise man by the name of Nelson Mandela once said, “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

      For centuries, America has been a safe-haven for innocent men, women, and children caught in a war zone with no escape. We call them refugees, but the term seems to come with a bad rap. They are harmless and frightened people who want nothing more than our help to survive. You would think that as such United, American people, we are capable of—”

      “Good morning, Grace.”

      My head whipped up and I dropped the pencil in surprise. The rough draft temporarily abandonedmy train of thought derailed and off the tracks. My boss and newspaper editor, Gavin, was staring at me with his eyebrows raised. He didn’t look pleased, but he rarely did.

      “Sorry,” I said. “I was working on a draft.”

      “It can’t possibly be a story for this paper because I haven’t given anyone their assignments yet. We’re you off in your little world again?” Gavin asked, and the rest of the room chuckled. This wasn’tthe first time I’d been called out for fantasizing during a lecture, and it most certainly wouldn’t be the last.

      “Yes,” I said. “But I digress.”

      “Do you need some coffee?” He pointed at the ghetto machine in the corner that was brewing a large pot of something I wasn’t even positive could pass as edible. It was making a strange gurgling noise, spitting partially brewed coffee grounds into the pot.

      “I‘m all right,” I said. “But I think it’s time we invested in a new coffee maker.”

      “Talk the Dean about cutting the Chess Team’s ridiculously enormous budget, and then come speak with me,” Gavin said.

      Despite my boss’s delight in giving me crap on a daily basis, I liked Gavin quite a bit. Like me, our editor took his job at The Bengalseriously. I mean, as seriously as one could take writing an article about the cheerleading team’s new outfits, or how the University’s coffee shop was now offering iced beverages and not just hot ones. While most the work we did for the school’s paper at times seemed minuscule and irrelevant, it was a foot in the door to future opportunities. I would do well not to complain. Regardless of the subject, there was something about putting words down for the world to enjoy that gave me such a warm feeling inside. I loved to feel absorbed in my work, relished in the rare moments of bliss that came from creating something from nothing.

      “How much do you want to bet he’s going to give me more assignments on the stupid Chess Club?” Shawn Pinkman leaned over and whispered to me. A good friend and fellow staff writer, Shawn was the kind of person that had very few acquaintances, even if it wasn’t necessarily his fault. He was a bit like me in the lack-of-social-skills department, and every time he met someone new he’d end up passively-aggressively insulting them without meaning to. That was usually all it took for every potential new friend to bail. Not that I could blame them.

      “You like the Chess Team,” I reminded him. “You’re just bitter because when you tried out last year, they told you that you were too competitive to join.”

      “That girl in the competition was cheating, and no one else would call her out for it,” Shawn said. A frustrated flush was rising on his neck, the ugly vein on his forehead expanding.

      “She was fifteen,” I said. “Throwing the Queen piece at her probably wasn’t the way to go.”

      “Like the new dent in her face even made a difference from before,” Shawn said. Before he could go into excruciating detail as to why people were, indeed, stupid, Gavin spoke up. Our editor glanced down at the yellow legal pad cradled in his arms and then looked back up.

      “Sports,” he said to the room. “It’s football season.”

      At the mention of the word “sports,” I found myself starting to tune him out again. Gavin said something about the teams this year, and there were some murmurs of agreement and nods throughout the room. I didn’t catch much of it, a few words here and there that didn’t grab my attention. I was in the middle of trying to pick up where I’d left off with my article when I realized Gavin was looking at me again.

      “You’re okay with that, right, Grace?”

      I sat there for a moment like a deer in headlights, mentally trying to determine what it was that I was supposed to be okay with.

      “Sports?” I repeated. I hoped that’s what we were still talking about, anyway. “I don’t do sports.”

      “Grace.”

      “Gavin, I do anything but sports. Put me on something else. Please?”

      Everyone was looking at me now, probably wondering how long and hard I’d try to fight him on this before I had to forfeit. Arguments with Gavin were ineffective and usually ended with said student forced to write about the school’s refusal to hand out condoms in the counselor’s office. (I wasn’t positive there was even a rule about that, but Gavin managed to rile things up just to stroke his own ego, even if it wasn’t true.)

      “You’re just bitter because you don’t know anything about football,” Shawn said. He was grinning in the seat next to me, but he certainly didn’t raise his hand and volunteer.

      “Neither do you,” I said, and that shut him up quick. For some reason, I was the only staff writer who hated sports. In fact, I despised sports. And even more than I despised sports, I despisedthe people who played them. Okay, not all of them, but it seemed like a prerequisite for some athletes that you had to possess a certain amount of douchiness to try out for the team, and I simply wasn’t fond of the douchiness.

      “It’s our golden boy’s last year,” Gavin said as if I cared. “I need you to go to the games, interview him, and write about it. Easy.”

      “Him?” I repeated. “Him as in Jackson Tate?”

      Of course, everyone knew who Jackson Tate was; star football quarterback of the University. He truly was the golden boy—and he was also a total jerk. A womanizer. If I never heard the name Jackson Tate again, it would be too soon. I turned in my seat to look at Shawn.

      “Trade me?”

      “Nope,” he said. “I want homecoming.”

      “Moving on then,” Gavin said brightly. I dropped my head onto the desk and pursed my lips to keep from saying something stupid. So much for a fabulous start to Senior year. If there was anybody on the planet that could single-handedly demolish my entire life, it was Jackson Freaking Tate.


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