The Chase (Briar U Book 1)
by Elle Kennedy
A sexy standalone novel from New York Times and international bestselling author Elle Kennedy
Everyone says opposites attract. And they must be right, because there’s no logical reason why I’m so drawn to Colin Fitzgerald. I don’t usually go for tattoo-covered, video-gaming, hockey-playing nerd-jocks who think I’m flighty and superficial. His narrow view of me is the first strike against him. It doesn’t help that he’s buddy-buddy with my brother.
And that his best friend has a crush on me.
And that I just moved in with them.
Oh, did I not mention we’re roommates?
I suppose it doesn’t matter. Fitzy has made it clear he’s not interested in me, even though the sparks between us are liable to burn our house down. I’m not the kind of girl who chases after a man, though, and I’m not about to start. I’ve got my hands full dealing with a new school, a sleazy professor, and an uncertain future. So if my sexy brooding roomie wises up and realizes what he’s missing?
He knows where to find me.
Excerpts The Chase by Elle Kennedy
I won’t lie. Having an angry, squirming Summer wriggling in my arms is just the teeniest bit of a turn-on.
Okay fine. I’m rock hard.
In my defense, I didn’t start this argument off with a boner. I was genuinely pissed at her. I still am. Only now I’m also aroused.
So sue me.
“Put. Me. Down.” Summer snarls out the words, and each sharp sound sends another bolt of heat to my cock.
Something is really wrong with me. I just spent the past three hours with a girl who dolled herself up for me, who batted her lashes and touched my hand and all but held up a cardboard sign that said FUCK ME, COLIN!
I didn’t experience so much as a dick twitch.
And now here I am with Summer, who’s wearing baggy plaid pants and a long-sleeve shirt, who’s shouting obscenities at me, and my dick is raring to go.
“You thought I was a bitch before?” she says threateningly. “Well, how about now!”
She resorts to her go-to move: pinching my butt.
But the sting of pain only turns me on. I kick her bedroom door open. “Did anyone ever tell you you’re a brat?”
The moment I set her down, she takes a swing at me.
Startled laughter lodges in my throat. I easily block her fist before it can connect with my solar plexus. “Stop that,” I order.
“Why? Because it makes me a brat? Oh, and a bitch too, right? And a drama queen…and a sorority girl…what else…” Her cheeks redden with what appears to be embarrassment. “Oh, yes. I’m surface level. That’s what you think, right? That I’m fluff?”
My stomach sinks like a stone.
Dick’s not doing great, either—one look at Summer’s stricken face and my hard-on says “peace out.”
Her fingers, which were clenched so tightly before, slowly uncurl and go limp. Noting my expression, she gives a bitter laugh. “I heard everything you said to Garrett at the bar that night.”
Aw hell. Guilt ripples through my entire body before settling in my gut, an eddy of shame. “Summer,” I start. Then stop.
“Every word,” she says quietly. “I heard every word you said, and not a single one was very nice, Colin.”
I feel like such an asshole.
Most of my life I’ve made it a point not to be cruel to others. Not to talk trash about anyone—to their face or behind their back. Growing up, all I saw from my parents was negativity. Nasty jabs directed at each other. Your father is a piece of shit, Colin. Your mom is a lying bitch, son. Over the years they’d calmed down, but it didn’t happen fast enough. The toxic environment they’d created had already done its job, teaching me the hard way how damaging words can be. That there’s no taking back the poison once you’ve spewed it.
“Summer,” I try again, and stop again.
I don’t know how to explain my actions without revealing just how badly I’d craved her that night. I’d been looking for negative traits because I was having a good time with her. Because she was making me laugh. Turning me on. I wanted her, and it was messing with my head, so I started picking apart everything I perceived to be a flaw.
“I’m sorry you heard all that,” is what I finally choke out.
And I know immediately that it was the wrong thing to say. Sitting on the edge of my bed, she peers up at me with sad green eyes.
Jesus. Her expression. It’s like an arrow to the heart.
“You have a thing for Dean’s sister.”
“Naah,” I say, but it’s a halfhearted denial at best.
“Really? ’Cause it sounds like you’re trying to convince yourself that she’s not right for you.” He grins. “Is it working?”
I sigh in defeat. “Kind of? I mean, I’ve managed to keep my hands off her all night.”
That gets me a laugh. “Look, Colin—can I call you Colin?” His jaw drops. “I just realized I’ve never called you Colin.”
Garrett literally shocks himself into silence, until I let out a growl of impatience.
“Sorry,” he says. “That just blew my mind. Anyway. Fitzy. On paper, Wellsy and I don’t seem like we’d work, right? But we do, don’t we?”
He has a point. When I first saw them together, I couldn’t make sense of it. Hannah was an artsy music major. Garrett was a smartass jock. They’re opposites in so many ways, and yet they really do click as a couple.
But Summer and I… We’re not even on the same piece of paper. From what I’ve seen and what Dean has told me, she’s drama-llama at full force, all the time. She craves the spotlight. I shy away from it. It’s bad enough that our games are televised every Friday night on the local New England network. And the major games make it to ESPN. Makes me cringe to think of strangers watching me skate and shoot and brawl on some huge screen.
“All I’m saying is, keep an open mind. Don’t fight it.” He claps me on the shoulder. “Just let it happen.”
Let it happen.
And, well, it absolutely could happen. All I’d have to do is smile in Summer’s direction, and she’d be in my arms. She’s been sending out interested vibes left and right. But…
I think what it boils down to is that she’s out of my league.
I play hockey. I’m fairly intelligent. I’m good-looking, if we go by my success in the chick department.
But at the end of the day, I’m that nerdy kid who would hole up in his bedroom playing video games, trying to pretend his parents weren’t fighting like cats and dogs.
In high school I had a brief moment where I tried expanding my horizons. I started hanging with a nihilistic crew who got a charge out of rebelling against any cause. But that came to an abrupt end when they got into a brawl with some kids from a neighboring school, and half the group was arrested for assault. I quickly reverted back to my loner state after that, not just to save my place on the hockey team, but to keep from giving my parents new fighting ammunition. I listened to them scream at each other for two hours about which one was to blame for me running with a “bad crowd.” It was easier just being a loner.
Needless to say, I didn’t have girls like Summer throwing themselves at him. And I didn’t party with my teammates after hockey games, so not even the puck bunnies wasted their energy on me.
In college, I’ve made more of an effort to be social, but deep down I’m still the guy who wants to remain invisible.
Summer is the most visible person I’ve ever met.
But Garrett’s right. I’m being a judgmental bastard. She might come off as a bit spoiled and superficial at times, but she deserves a chance. Everyone does.
Hannah’s already back at the table when Garrett and I return. “Cutting it close!” she scolds, pointing at the big clock. It’s two minutes to midnight.
I frown, because Summer’s not with her. Where is she?
I’ve decided to take G’s advice and stop fighting it. I’m going to give in, kiss the hell out of her when the clock strikes midnight and see where it goes from there.
“One minute to go, boys and girls!” the DJ’s voice thunders.
I give the room a visual sweep. Summer’s still nowhere to be found.
I want to ask Hannah where she is, but Hannah’s got her arms looped around G’s neck, and they only have eyes for each other.
“Thirty seconds!” shouts the DJ.
All around me, people are coupling up or gathering with their group of friends. Allie and Dean are already making out. Hollis has reunited with the brunette he was dancing with earlier. Hunter must have tracked down one of the girls he’d been dancing with earlier.
Still no Summer.
“TEN!” everyone yells.
The red numerals on the clock tick down in time with the crowd’s screams.
Each passing second brings another jolt of disappointment.
And then I spot her. Or at least I think it’s her. The strobe lights are going off now, zigzagging over the sea of bodies crammed in the bar. Each burst of light helps me form a clearer picture of the girl against the wall.
White dress. Red ballet flats. The ponytail.
It’s definitely Summer.
But she’s not alone.
I wrench my gaze away the moment Hunter’s mouth hungrily collides with Summer’s perfect lips.
“HAPPY NEW YEAR!”
I wake up the next morning without a hangover. That’s what happens when you only drink three beers and are back in your hotel room before one a.m.
On New Year’s Eve.
Aren’t I the poster boy for good behavior?
My phone informs me of a dozen messages and missed calls. Dragging a hand through my messy hair, I roll onto my back and sift through the notifications.
My parents each texted at precisely 12:00 a.m. I can just imagine them sitting in their respective houses at 11:59, hands hovering over their phones like they’re preparing to slap the buzzer on Family Feud, each one desperate to be the first to get a message through. They’re so frickin’ competitive.
MOM: Happy New Year, sweetie!! Love you so so soooo much! This is going to be the best year ever! YOUR year! Woot woot!
Oh dear God. Mothers are not allowed to say “woot woot.” My dad’s text isn’t much better.
DAD: Happy New Year. We got this.
We got this? Got what? Parents trying to sound cool is a whole other level of secondhand embarrassment.
My friends’ messages are more entertaining.
HOLLIS: Where da eff r u?? Patty’s just getting started
HOLLIS: Party!!!!!! EFF THIS PHONE
GARRETT: Happy New Year!! Where’d u run off to, Colin?? (Still feel weird calling u that)
My old teammates Logan and Tucker send their New Year messages to our various group chats. Tuck and Sabrina include a picture of their baby, which prompts about a million heart-eye emojis from our friends.
Pierre texts something in French.
My teammates blow up our team thread with well-wishes and random videos, grainy and impossible to hear, of the various parties they attended.
One teammate’s name is noticeably missing from the group chat and my phone in general. Shocking. No word from Hunter.
I bet he was too busy to text anyone last night.
Busy, busy, busy.
I ignore the sharp clenching in my chest and force all thoughts of Hunter and his busy, busy night out of my head. I continue scrolling through my phone.
A girl I knew in high school sends a generic note. For some reason, she still has me in her contacts list, so any time a holiday rolls around I get a message from her.
Hollis sends a few more texts that make me chuckle.
HOLLIS: Yo. bar’s closing. where u at. assuming getting it on or sumthin?
HOLLIS: after patty at Danny’s house. new buddy. u’ll luv him
HOLLIS: OK then
HOLLIS: gunna assume u ded
HOLLIS: hope ur not ded, tho!!! I < 3 u, bro. new year, new us. word.
Oh man. Someone needs to confiscate that dude’s phone when he’s wasted. Still laughing, I click on the next message in my inbox. It’s from Dean.
My humor fades the moment I read it.
DEAN: Happy New Year!! Was hoping to talk to u before u took off. I need a huge favor, bro.
DEAN: Are u guys still looking for a 4th roommate?
I sling my duffel over my shoulder and wait for Hollis to unlock the front door. Inside, I drop the bag with a thud and kick off my boots. The others do the same.
“Honey, we’re home!” Hollis shouts.
Laughter echoes from upstairs.
My pulse speeds up when her footsteps approach the landing. She appears at the railing in fleece pants and a Briar sweatshirt, her hair up in a messy twist.
Hollis’s eyes glaze over. There’s nothing indecent about Summer’s outfit, but this girl could make a burlap sack look sexy.
“Hey. Welcome home!” she says cheerfully.
“Hey,” I call up to her. My voice sounds strained.
Hunter shrugs out of his coat and tosses it on the hook. “Blondie,” he drawls. “Glad you’re here.”
Hollis nods. “For real.”
“Aw, thanks. I’m glad to be here.”
“Hold on. You need a proper hello.” Grinning, Hunter bounds up the stairs.
Her cheeks go a little pink as he draws her into his arms for a hug.
I wrench my gaze away and pretend to be really focused with the task of hanging up my jacket. I don’t know if he kisses her or not, but Summer is still blushing when I force myself to turn back.
“Gonna get changed,” Hunter says.
He ducks into his room, and Hollis wanders off to the kitchen. Which means Summer and I are alone when I reach the second-floor landing.
She watches me warily. “Did you guys have a good time?”
“Cool.” She edges toward her open bedroom door.
I peer past her slender shoulder and spot a perfectly made bed with a white duvet and about a hundred throw pillows. There’s a neon-pink beanbag chair on the floor, along with a shaggy white rug. An open laptop sits on a small corner desk that wasn’t there when Dean inhabited the room.
She’s made herself at home.
This is her home, a voice reminds me.
“Thanks for letting me—” She corrects herself. “—for agreeing to have me as a roommate.”
I shrug. “No prob. We needed a fourth.”
She’s still inching away, as if she doesn’t want to be near me. I wonder if she’s remembering how she practically threw herself at me on New Year’s Eve and then ended up playing tonsil hockey with my teammate.
Not that I’m bitter or anything.
“Anyway…” She trails off.
“Yeah. I…” I start traveling backward too. “I’m gonna grab a shower. We got one last run in—ah, round of Monopoly,” I amend, “before we left and I’m all sweaty.”
Summer raises her eyebrows. “I didn’t realize Monopoly was so strenuous.”
Hunter snickers from his doorway.
I turn to glare at him, because he’s the one who came up with the Monopoly alibi in the first place, but he’s not there. He’s moved past the doorway as he shrugs into a shirt.
“Board games are intense,” I answer lamely. “At least the way we play ‘em.”
“Interesting. I can’t wait for roomie game night, then.” Her shoulder bumps the door as her backward journey ends. “Enjoy your shower, Fitz.”
She disappears into her bedroom, and I lumber into mine. When my phone buzzes, I almost fall over with relief. I need the distraction before I start thinking too hard about how fucking awkward that whole encounter was.