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Definitely, Maybe in Love: Part 1 – Chapter 3


I waved to Julia as I strolled by, but she didn’t notice. She appeared natural in the arms of Dart, and dancing to what was sure to be her new favorite song. Mel’s entire left arm waved to me, flailing over some frat guy’s head like a castaway signaling to a rescue plane. I wiggled my fingers at her as I passed, continuing my solo meander around the perimeter of the party.

A tall, red Hawaiian shirt stepped into my path, practically walking right over me. “Dude,” I growled. “If I bruise, you’re so dead.”

“Sorry.”

“Alex?”

Hawaiian Shirt spun around, looked down, and blinked, trying to place me. But I would’ve known those lazy blue eyes with pink-hooded lids and that lanky frame anywhere. “Spring?” he said at last, his face brightening. “Hey. Wow.” He actually did a double-take. “You look amazing.”

“Oh, well, thanks.” I gestured at him. “You, too. I didn’t know you were back at Stanford.”

Freshman year, Alex Parks and I had had a class together. There’d been a mild flirtation, but nothing much. Couldn’t remember why. As I looked up at his smiling, carefree face, his sun-streaked hair falling across his forehead, I kind of regretted not going out on at least one date with him.

“Took a couple semesters off,” he said, sliding his hands into the pockets of his khaki shorts. “But it’s good to be back.” His eyes kind of slid up and down my body, not a very subtle check-out. “And it’s great to see you. Really. That hair is crazy cool.”

I toyed with the end of one braid. “Thanks.”

He ran a hand through his surfer-boy hair. “So, what’s—”

His words were cut off by a thunderous clash of cymbals and a drum roll. When tropical music blared through the speakers, cheers broke out. From the ripple effect of the crowd, I knew something was happening to the left of the dance floor.

“They’re starting a limbo contest.”

“Is that where you’re headed?” I asked, trying not to sound disappointed.

“I was.” He pulled back a slow smile. “Not anymore.” Seeing all those teeth made me wonder what his breath smelled like. If it was anything like his aftershave, I was already wanting to be a little closer. He grabbed a drink and chugged half the cup. “Want one?” he asked.

“Not right now,” I said.

“Yeah, I’m done, too.” He handed his cup to some guy who was walking by.

“So, you took time off?” I asked. “Where’d you go?” Our heads naturally drew together as we moved off to the side, away from the center of revelry.

Alex was two years ahead of me in school and should have graduated last year, but he explained that he’d decided to defer his senior year to travel. As information poured out, I decided that such a decision—to just take off like that—was a pretty gutsy move. It made him intriguing, probably because I didn’t have that kind of freedom in me.

“Hi, Spring,” Julia said, appearing from behind us. Dart was at her side, their shoulders touching.

“Having fun?” I asked her.

“Yes, we are,” Dart answered for the both of them.

Oh, brother.

Alex’s muscular arm reached out as he and Dart shook hands while I briefly introduced them. Neither Dart nor Julia seemed to hear a word I was saying after that, so the four of us settled into two comfortable yet separate conversations.

But it didn’t last, as something hard and sharp jabbed me between the shoulder blades, knocking me forward, right into Alex’s chest. It wasn’t completely unfortunate, and we both laughed as he steadied me.

“Didn’t see you standing there, dear,” Lilah’s acidy voice apologized. One of her thin arms was looped through Knightly’s as she perched herself at her brother’s side. She combed her fingers through her ashy hair and prattled on about some band she’d seen over the summer.

Knightly stood silent, his dark eyes staring down at his cell. For ignoring Lilah, I gave him two points. With no one willing to add anything to Lilah’s line of conversation, she flung herself toward my guy, asking him about ten questions in a row.

“Yep, LA’s my home,” Alex answered, after she’d asked where he was from. “The sun, the beach, the babes. Home sweet home.”

“Well, isn’t this so cozy,” Lilah said over the music, applying another layer of red lipstick. “We should hang out together like this all night.”

No one replied.

“Right?” She turned her chin over her shoulder. “Henry?”

From the slight jerk in his jaw, I could tell her date heard but didn’t reply, his eyes still stuck on his phone. I mentally gave him another two points.

“Henry?” Jeez. Lilah would not give up.

Upon hearing his name repeated, he lowered his phone and took a step in our direction, then he froze. “Parks,” he muttered, although his parted lips had barely moved.

I looked from him to Alex, who was mid-way through asking Lilah to dance. They were gone before I had the chance to take another breath.

Knightly remained frozen right where he was, watching them leave. Behind him, Julia and Dart had missed the subtle yet tense exchange between he and Alex.

When I shifted my weight, Knightly’s eyes shot in my direction. A mixture of shock and indignity stared back at me, like he’d caught me listening in on a private conversation. The way his deep brown eyes weighed me down made my knees feel like they might buckle.

A moment later, his eyes snapped shut, and a little notch of stress appeared between them. When they opened again, they were right on me, as steady as before. He took a step toward me, his mouth opening.

“We’re going out again,” Dart called in our direction, cutting off whatever Knightly was about to say.

I turned to see Julia and Dart heading toward the other dancers. Alex and Lilah were along the outskirts. I could even make out the back of Mel’s head, her brown curls bobbing as she boogied. By the time I turned back, I was alone.


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