(Charleston Haven #1)
Published by: Intermix (Penguin)
Publication date: July 15th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Olivia Warren used to be a normal girl with a bright future.
But on one fated night, everything changed.
Hiding the scars of her past up her sleeves, Olivia transfers her enrollment from Columbia University to The College of Charleston, determined to pursue her own dreams for the first time in her life.
She intends to allow herself a bit of alone time to heal… that is, until she meets Preston.
Preston is best friends with her roommate, completely hot, and off-limits. But the chemistry between them is instantaneous—and as the pair begins to spend more time with one another, their feelings for each other build into something undeniable, something powerful enough to heal Olivia’s deepest scars.
Olivia tries to put her own past behind her and trust Preston, but she discovers that his past might be more present than she ever bargained for…
Someone should warn you that move-in day at a college is the last day you should actually try to move into your dorm. I stared down the line of girls waiting to get on the elevators, all of them with stacks of suitcases and boxes and microwave-refrigerator combos, which should have already been in our rooms, but evidently there was a shortage this year. I eyed my own set of suitcases and the line again. I could drag them up the three flights of stairs to the third floor faster than I could get there waiting in that line.
I tilted the heaviest one on its wheels, tossed the second on top, and started for the stairwell door around the corner. There was no line there, surprise-surprise, so I took my time pulling my suitcases through the door and lifting them one step at a time up the stairs. By the time I reached the third floor, my face was dripping with sweat and I found myself wishing I’d taken my parents’ offer to help me move in.
At the time, all I could think about was their sad expressions as they asked me for the hundredth time if I was sure. Sure I wanted to ditch Columbia for the College of Charleston. Sure I wanted to live in a dorm on campus (forget that all freshmen were required to live on campus). Sure I wanted to have a roommate in said dorm instead of living alone. The list went on and on and on. They didn’t understand. I couldn’t live that life anymore. Every part of it brought back memories I couldn’t handle. I needed a change. And not just a change in geography. I needed a complete change—different town, different people, different me.
I needed to be able to grab bananas from the produce section without running into someone who knew and getting that sad look as he or she asked how I was doing. I mean, how did they think I was doing? I hated pity. I hated the long look people gave you and the slow headshake that said poor little you. I knew sadness. It was a longtime friend of mine now. I didn’t need reminders of how closely it clung to me every time I went to the grocery store.
I heaved my suitcase through the third-floor door and glanced around for room numbers. I was 3-F and my roommate was some chick from Gator Town: Gainesville, Florida. I pictured a surfer girl, complete with sun-bleached blond hair and bronzed skin, who used words like totally and awesome as though they were worth gold each time you said them.
I tugged on my UPF 55 shirt, glad that I’d been smart enough to pick up a few. Long sleeves at the beach in August would cause a few looks, and I wasn’t prepared to explain the real reason for them. But with UPF shirts, I could just claim a crazy interest in sun protection. Plus with the tiny shorts I paired with them, I felt sure I could go about without too many questions. Or so I hoped. Thank God my legs weren’t scarred. Otherwise I’d have had to go to college at some snow lift in Colorado, and I hated cold weather.
I reached the hall for rooms 3-A to 3-H. Most of the doors were open, and I tried not to peek inside them as I passed. The hall was completely alive with excitement and commotion. I wondered if it would always be like this or if there were study hours or something. I finally came to the door for 3-F, which was closed, no sounds coming from inside. I grabbed the knob and turned, relieved that Gator-girl wasn’t there yet, until I flicked on the light and heard a grumble from across the room.
“Damn, shut the light. I’m working off a buzz here.”
I turned around to see a guy in the bed on the left side of the room, a white sheet tangled around him, exposing his bare chest. My eyes roamed over him, and for the first time, I understood how Bella could be attracted to Edward’s paleness. This guy’s skin could rival a vampire’s for sure, but instead of looking like it belonged to a hospital patient, it was startlingly creamy with just a hint of a golden undertone. His shaggy brownish-red hair scattered in a mess across the pillow, and although I knew I should ask a myriad of questions, I just found myself staring.
His eyes peeked open and he tossed one of his arms over them to block out the light. “You must be Olivia,” he said, his voice thick from sleep. I waited. Hot or not, I didn’t know this guy. He could be here to steal my virtue . . . or the virtue I had two years ago, but still.
He climbed out of bed, a pair of low-hanging navy pajama pants with little yellow characters the only thing on his flawless body. I took them in before glancing back at his face. “Tweety Bird?” “Goldfish. It’s an inside joke.”
I nodded. “Ah.”
He brushed his hair out of his eyes. It was the sort of hair you wanted to touch just to see if it felt as perfect as it looked. “So . . .”
“So . . .” I smiled. “Are you going to tell me who you are and why the hell you’re in my dorm room?”
He smirked. “I see you’re not as small town as you look. Where are you from?” He reached behind him for a T-shirt thrown across a desk chair. He had that deep Southern drawl that reminded you of warm syrup on pancakes, slow and delicious and entirely too tempting.
I considered lying, but that would only delay the inevitable. “Westlake,” I said, bracing myself for his reaction. What happened never made national news—thank God—but everyone in a two-state radius knew and felt inclined to ask as soon as they heard where I was from.
He glanced up at me before slipping the shirt on, and I prepared for the question, the change in his tone, but instead he said, “I take it back. You are small town. Rich. But still, small town.”
For a moment, I was too startled to respond. I had yet to meet anyone who heard where I was from and didn’t launch into questions too personal for a friend let alone a stranger. I opened my mouth to remind him that (a) Charleston wasn’t exactly New York City and (b) he still hadn’t answered my question, when the door behind me burst open and a tiny girl rushed in. She had the look of one of those flyers on a cheerleading squad—five-foot nothing, blond hair in loose pigtails that hung over her shoulders, and dressed in just a tank top and jean shorts.
Jean shorts. Trisha. My chest constricted as memories poured in, and I had to take a step back so I could breathe. Trisha hated jean shorts.
“I’m so sorry! So sorry!” the girl said, her tone entirely too high for such a small space. Gator-girl, I presumed. “This isn’t what it looks like.” Then she turned on the guy. “I told you eight a.m. exit, dude. It’s twelve-thirty!”
I started to tell her I didn’t care regardless. I hated that stereotypical bullshit, where guys could hook up with whomever and be cool, but when a girl did the same thing, she was a slut. I decided it wasn’t the time.
The guy shrugged. “What do you want from me? I was drunker than I thought. Happens to the best of us. Besides, look at her. She’s cool with it. Aren’t you?”
Both of their gazes fell on me. “Um . . . should I come back later? I can just . . .” I started for the door when the girl reached out to stop me.
“Don’t go! Please. I’m Kara. And this asshat is Preston Riggs, my best friend. Well, he used to be my best friend.” She glared at him. “He was supposed to be out this morning before you arrived, but clearly”—she motioned to him—“he’s got issues with time. Among other things.”
Preston slid into a pair of Rainbow sandals and ran his hands over his face before stretching his arms out wide. “I take offense. I pride myself on punctuality. If there was ever a—”
“Out. Before I call your mom.”
Preston looked at her. “Like I’m afraid of my—” Kara pulled out her cell, and he threw up his hands. “Okay, okay. I’m gone.” His eyes swept from her to me, giving me a slow once-over, before winking and heading for the door. “Nice meeting you, Small Town.”
And just like that, he was gone.
Melissa West writes young adult and new adult novels for Entangled Teen and Embrace and Penguin/Intermix. She lives outside of Atlanta, GA with her husband and two daughters and spends most of her time writing, reading, or fueling her coffee addiction.
She holds a B.A. in Communication Studies and a M.S. in Graphic Communication, both from Clemson University. Yeah, her blood runs orange.
Connect with Melissa at www.melissawestauthor.com or on Twitter @MB_West. And for sneak peeks at upcoming works, prizes, and more, join The RES Spies at Mel's Madhouse: https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheRESspies.
An ecopy of the book + $25 Amazon gift card (INTL)
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