I ended up spending the whole day in my dorm room, unpacking what bags I had. It was the next day before I went in search of the library. The moment I opened my door, I found a plain, white box wrapped with a red ribbon just outside my door, my name written in pretty script on the tag. Paranoid, I picked it up by the ribbon with two fingers, holding it at arms length as I opened it. When nothing happened, I pulled it closer to examine the contents.

Inside, a not sat on the top. I opened it to read the note written there in the same script as my name.

Dear Aurora,

In case you have need of my guidance. My number is already programmed into it.

-Dominic

There in the box was the latest iPhone.

Nope.

Not a chance.

I put the phone and note back into the box, sat it on the floor and simply nudged it to the side with the toe of my sneaker. I then locked my door, hiked my bag up on my shoulder, turned my back on the box, and walked away without a second look over my shoulder.

I was not some rich boys charity case, and I wasn going to be treated like one. He could waste that pity on someone else because I wasn going to have it. I certainly wasn going to need any kind of ”guidance ” he could possibly offer. I had a map of the campus and a pretty good sense of direction. I was sure I could figure it all out on my own. I was a big girl, after all. Even if I wasn able to figure it out, something inside me told me I would be better off not trusting Dominic.

I saw no one even as I stepped out the doors of the buildings into the overcast day. Looking up at the sky, I wondered if they ever had a sunny day here in Colorado Springs. Pulling my map from my pocket, I found my location, matched up where I needed to go and turned right. The library, I found, was a huge building located at the back of the campus in the deep shadows of the mountain that the campus backed up to. Thanks to the rocky cliffs above, I had a feeling that the building never saw direct sunlight. I let myself into the huge building…and instantly fell in love.

The library was two floors of floor-to-ceiling shelves, each and every shelf packed with books of all shapes and sizes. I was in heaven! Add in that there seemed to be no one else in sight and no Dominic, and I might as well be in the Garden of Eden. I didn know where to start, so I headed up the stairs and started with one of my favorite subjects…computer programming. I pulled a few related books from the shelves, found a comfortable corner and sat down to bury my nose as far into my books as I could.

Time passed by me without me knowing and soon I was almost through the thickest of the books I had pulled. It was just a few pages shy of the end when a voice spoke. ”Well, you look very invested. ”

Stiffening at the chuckling purr, I lowered the book to peer over the binding. I had been expecting Dominic, instead another young man stood before me. He was just as tall as Dominic, but was bulkier, more muscled. His skin was a light caramel brown, his hair dyed a dark purple, and his twinkling eyes were a bright gold. Not brown, oh no, gold. Like shiny, freshly smelted gold. He looked like someone had painted one of those old Roman statues and it made me wonder if all the guys I would meet at that school would look like him and Dominic.

The only difference between the feeling I got from the two…was this one only set off warning bells.

Tensing up in defensiveness, I leveled him with my most convincing I-don -care look. ”I was. ” I didn even bother with trying to hide my annoyance with being bothered. ”And you are? ”

”Jasper Howell, sweetheart. You must be the new slice I heard about. ”

Sweetheart?

Slice?

Okay, this guy had just earned himself a one-time course in Miss Sawyers Knocking a Guy Down a Peg class. My books could wait if it meant educating a fellow academic enthusiast. Marking my place and close my book, I gave him my full attention. ”I have a name. Its not sweetheart, its Rory, and no, I am not the new ”slice ” around here, Im the new student. If you
e looking for entertainment, look elsewhere. I assure you…you won be able to entertain me. Have a pleasant day. ”

I turned back to my books, knowing it wasn the best of my burns, but not really caring because his gawking made me feel successful. When he finally broke the silence, though, that feeling of success washed away in the wake of his laughter. I lifted my book higher to hide my face, determined to ignore him.

Bad choice.

”You
e a little spitfire…and with such an adorable accent. ”

I didn bother to peer over the book. ”Its a dialect, not an accent. An accent is when a non-native speaker speaks the language. My twang is a dialect. ”

Another chuckle left him. I heard his quiet footsteps on the hardwood floors as he approached my little table, but I didn look at him, hoping he would just leave. Then he was perching himself on the tabletop right next to me, boxing me into a corner where I couldn escape. He snagged the end of my waist long braid, idly playing with the white-blonde strands. I looked up at him as he threaded his long fingers through the loose plait so I couldn pull it from him.

”Hmm…you just might be worth my time. Ive never had a cowgirl princess before. ”

I froze as he leaned towards me, lightly tugging on my braid to pull my head back at an angle. All my thoughts of what I should do in that kind of situation flew out the window in the face of his approaching smirk. I wasn sure what he was intending to do, but the moment he pulled harder on my braid, forcing my head all the way back, his nose pressing against the pulse in my neck, I felt every instinct in my body scream at me to run the hell away.

”What are you doing? Stop! ” I pushed against his chest, trying to shove him away, but he only angled his body closer, and I froze when I felt the jagged edge of a tooth snag in the sensitive skin of my throat.

Dear God, Almighty, hes biting me!

”Let go! ” I scrambled to grab one of my books as I tried to fight his grip on my braid. Maybe one of those thick books upside the head would get him off me. My finger finally found the spine of one of the thicker books when Jasper was suddenly yanked away from me.

With his grip gone, and my scalp sore from where his fingers were ripped free of my hair, I shot to my feet, hand going to my neck. I could feel the warmth of a trickle of blood welling up from the bite. Anger boiled up inside me and I swore I could commit murder. I rounded on Jasper, to hit him with all the force of my thin arms and sharp tongue, but it all died away when I found Dominic standing there before me, holding Jasper by the scruff of the neck. He shoved the other male away from him and into the hands of two others.

”Causing trouble again, Jasper? ” Dominic demanded. Though there was a smile on his face, it certainly did nothing to warm the icy in his tone.

”Well, well, good morning to you, too, Nico. ” Jasper greeted with a grin, licking a drop of my blood off his lips.

Dominic ignored the greeting. ”What do you think you were doing? ”

”What can I say…she was delicious, so I took a bite. Im not one to let a darling blue blood get away, like you. ”

Blue blood?

Did he think I was rich? Oh, boy was he in for a rude awakening if that was the case. Dominic, however, didn seem amused.

”We don harass fellow students, Jasper. I especially don appreciate you messing with someone under my sponsorship. Keep your hands, and mouth, to yourself, least you wish to be punished. Parker, Jaxon, ” Dominic turned to the two men holding Jasper by the shoulders. ”Can you show him the way out? ”

I leaned around Dominic to watch the two guys give Jasper nudges towards the stairs. Only once they were down the stairs and out of sight did Dominic turn to me. I stiffened, expecting him to be annoyed with me, too, but there was no anger or annoyance in his expression. Instead, he looked down upon me with a strange look in his eyes as he zeroed in on my neck, but he quickly replaced it with a look of tender concern.

”Are you alright, Aurora? ”

I don know why, but his use of my name rather than my nickname, made my back stiffen. ”Im fine, thank you. I believe Ive told you to call me Rory. ”

I honestly don really have a problem with certain people calling me Aurora, its just that Im not a big fan of the name. I really don know what my mother was thinking when she named me. That being said, hearing him call me Aurora just kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I guess I was really dead set on disliking him.

Dominics smile, though, shifted to one of relief and amusement, as if my sharpness assured him that I would be just fine. ”Aurora, ” His lips twitched when I frowned. ”Where is the phone I left you? Why didn you call? Jasper Howell has a reputation around here for not being very considerate of women he takes an interest in. ”

”I was fine. Another second and I would have gotten him away from me. ” I retorted.

”Yes, I saw. You were going to hit him with a book. ” Another twitch of his lips.

I was so glad I amused him. If the sarcasm wasn obvious, I would have to work harder on it. I ignored his mirth at my intention to knock sense into Jasper with a library book. ”And another thing…I don need you buying me a phone. Im perfectly fine without it. ”

”Sure, you are. ” Dominic pulled a neatly folded handkerchief out of his pocket. ”Here. You
e still bleeding. ”

He leaned forward, like he was going to press the cloth to the bite, but stiffened for a moment, his hand hovering. I could have sworn I saw him sniff the air, his pupils expanding to eat up almost all the blue-green of his irises. I yanked back, skirting around him to put the table between us, inching closer to the stairs.

”I can handle it myself, thanks. ”

Im not proud to admit it, but…I ran.

I turned my back on Dominic Davenport and ran like a frightened, little girl. I didn know what was up with these guys, but it had my heart hammering in my chest, my blood running cold and ever instinct in my body clamoring in my ears. I was not sticking around to find out why being close to me made them act weird.

As I flew down the stairs, though, I could have sworn I heard Dominic swear behind me. I hurried past his two friends at the front door and hit the walkway outside running. My pace never slowed as I raced back to my dorm, and, by the time I reached the door to my room, I was out of breath. The box with the phone still sat to the side of my door. I ignored it as I let myself in, throwing all the locks behind me. Feeling just a little bit safer, I went to the bathroom to check the bite in the mirror. One perfectly round hole sat, red and angry, against my pale skin, still sluggishly bleeding. I was sure it would bruise.

”Stupid boy. What girl would find this hot? ” I muttered to myself as I cleaned the wound and bandage it. Next time I saw that Jasper, I was seriously tempted to plant my size eight boot in his family jewels, the jerk.

I decided to spend the rest of the day in my room, arranging things to suit me best. It was a bad habit of mine, rearranging things and reorganizing things when I was feeling angry, annoyed or anxious. I was in the process of rearranging the furniture in the living room when there was a knock on my door. I peered at the clock to find the time to be about twenty minutes after six. Keeping the security chain on the door, I opened the door and peeked out to find Dominic standing on the Beware: Blonde Bitch Resides Here doormat outside my door, smile on his face.

”What do you want? ” I asked, still unwilling to open the door any wider.

”To invite you to join me and a few others for dinner. Have you found your way to the café, yet? They serve a wide array of delicious food. ” he offered, no pressure to accept in his voice.

I still would have turned down the offer if my traitorous stomach hadn growled at the mention of food. I had yet to buy groceries to stock in my room. ”Jasper isn one of those others, is he? ”

”Absolutely not. ” Dominic was quick to assure me of that. ”We do not entertain the same company, him and I. No, all the others are Moon dorm inhabitants like yourself. ”

I was seriously tempted. My stomach battled with my instincts to stay away from Dominic. In the end, my stomach won out, but I had to make my stance very clear. I unchained the door to open it fully. ”This doesn mean I like you. ”

Dominic chuckled at my tart tone. ”I am well aware. I did not make the best of first impressions. It doesn mean I am willing to let you go hungry. Shall we go? ” He offered me an arm, but I refused it, stepping around him and pulling my door closed to lock it.

”Why do I feel like theres more to this then that? ” I asked, turning the lock.

”Perhaps because Im also hoping to convince you to accept the phone. ”

I frowned, freezing, and then I was turning the lock once more. ”Im going back to my room. ”

Dominic laid his hand on mine, keeping me from unlocking it again. ”Please, allow me to state my case. ”

Granny had always told me that I needed to hear others out and then make an educated decision. I wasn about to give him another reason to call me uneducated. My eyes cut to the side to look up at him. ”Fine. ”

”To be fair, Dean McWell wanted you to have a cellphone so you could contact your family and they you. He gave your grandmother one as well. The number is already programmed into the phone. Not to mention, this campus is large. Having a phone to call someone or simply to use GPS is invaluable. Im just the one who was asked to get the phone to you. ”

Damn it, I thought. Hes reasonable…and right.

It took all I had not to growl in annoyance. Boys weren this good at stating their cases back home. It was, as Millie would have said, ”Totes annoying ”. I did heave a sigh though, before I held out my hand for the pone. ”You win this time. ”

”I knew you were a reasonable young woman. ” Thankfully, there was no smugness in his voice as the placed the phone in my hand, or I would have shoved it back in his pretty boy face.

”Yeah, well…sometimes I feel like thats not always a good thing. ” I replied, shoving the phone in the back pocket of my jeans.

”It is always a good thing, Aurora. Without reason, we are little better than beasts. ” Dominic gestured down the hall before leading the way to the elevator.

”There is a difference between reason and sound reason. ” I argued as I followed.

”Oh? Enlighten me, please. ”

”Reason is just what is reasonable to you. It can be subjective because what is reasonable to you, might not be reasonable to another. Sound reason is something that a majority of people can agree upon. Like saying its safer to look both ways before crossing the street because of the cars instead of saying its because an adult said so. Some will find it perfectly reasonable enough just because its adults say so, while others will question it, but no one will argue that crossing a street with oncoming traffic is unsafe. ”

Dominic looked down at me in surprise as we rode the elevator down. ”That is what we would call a lawyers response. Or just splitting hairs. ”

”My grandmother says the same. She thinks I would have excelled at being a lawyer. ”

”And you don ? ” We arrived at the bottom, both exiting to head for the front door, which Dominic politely held open for me.

”I don see the point in doing something I have no passion for, no matter how good at it I am. ” An age-old response I had given my grandmother, time and again. It had driven her crazy every time I said it, and still did.

”Then tell me, what is Aurora Sawyer passionate about? ”

I didn see how the information could hurt me. After all, when the term started, my major would be pretty obvious to all. ”Programming with an emphasis in video game development. ”

There was no laugh, no snort of derision, nothing. I had kind of half expected him to laugh at me or something. Instead, when I glanced at him, I found him eyeing me thoughtfully. It made me a little curious as to what he was thinking behind those sea-colored eyes.

”Interesting. I never was much of one for computers pass the basics. That wasn really my field of expertise, so I applaud you for being so passionate about it. ”

”Huh… ”

Dominic turned a questioning look on me. ”What is it? ”

”Nothing. I said nothing. ”

”No, but you made a sound. ”

”A sound is just a sound. There was no hidden meaning there. ”

”You
e female, Aurora…theres always a hidden meaning. ”

That wasn quite true, but I was content to let him think so. At least he would never take my reactions or words at face value. That could come in handy. ”Honestly, there was no hidden meaning behind that. ”

”If you say so. ” He obvious didn believe me, which was fine.

By this point, we had reached the café. It was smaller than the library, but no less impressive. Inside was divided into several different types of sitting areas, the main three being a traditional school cafeteria setting, a section with plush armchairs circling around low-sitting tables, and a formal dinning area with actual white glove service.

Good Lord, these rich people would kill me with extravagance.

It was to the third of those main areas that Dominic led me. I mean, of course it was. The table he approached already had four people at it: the two guys from earlier that day and two girls.

”Nico! ” The peppier of the two girls called cheerfully to Dominic as we drew near. She was pretty, really pretty. Like Barbie meets super model, pretty. Beautiful tawny hair was painstakingly curled and pinned to the back of her head with bejeweled hairpins. She was perfectly made up with a smokey eye that made her emerald eyes shine and full lips perfectly glossed to sparkle in the light. Just looking at her made me feel like the ugly duckling.

The other girl was more natural, but no less stunning. Her hair was a pretty, dark brown like melted chocolate, her skin somewhere along the lines of honey with cream. She wore no makeup, but her blue eyes were a stunning sapphire blue, her lips naturally pink. Unlike the other girl who wore flashy, designer clothes, her dress was far more simplistic.

Both girls looked at me, green eyes with judgment and blue eyes with mild interest.

”Who is this? ” Green Eyes asked.

”This is Aurora Sawyer. She won the full scholarship position. ” Dominic replied, one hand coming to a rest on my lower back. My skin tingled, instantly coming to life with goosebumps. I barely kept from flinching away from his touch. ”Aurora, this is Blanche Summers, ” Dominic gestured to Green Eyes. ”And the other lovely lady is Serenity Strickland. ”

I nodded in greeting, getting one back from Serenity. Blanche, on the other hand, picked me apart. ”Bargain bin sweater and jeans, those shoes are so on their last leg, chipped nail beds, lackluster hair, no makeup or jewelry…I bet youve never even heard of La Mer Crème da la Mer. ”

Uh…what now?

It had to be some kind of superficial bull. In fact, it sounded like someone kind of beauty product and I had no experience with any of that. Makeup had never been all that interesting to me. I just felt weird with all that stuff smeared on my face.

”If thats some beauty product, then no. I had not the time nor the money to learn anything about that. ” Might as well be honest and up front about it. If they didn accept me for who I was then it was pointless. Im not sure if it was the fact that I had no judgment in my tone or if she just saw the opportunity to play dress up with me, but a smile spread across Blanches face.

”Oh, well, we can teach you that! What do you think, Serenity? Green, navy, maybe a few bold shades of blue? ” Blanch asked, eyeing me.

”Pink and red, the right shade of course, would look good, too. Honey and peach for her skin. Or a matte red and muted oranges. ” Serenity agreed.

”Don worry, sweetie, well go shopping before term starts. ” Blanch promised, much to my horror.

I was not a shopping spree type of person.

I wasn sure how to feel about it, or what to say to them. Dominic saved me by ushering me to an empty chair that he pulled out for me. ”Now, now, ladies, let her breathe. ”

”Yeah, she had a nasty enough run in with that creep, Jasper, earlier. ” I believed it was Parker who was the one that spoke.

”Jasper? ” Both girls snapped to attention then. ”What happened? ”

”He cornered her in the library. ” Dominic sat next to me. ”Lets just say he was less than cordial of her. ”

”Less then? He bit me. I don know about here, but back home thats just plain beastly. ” I retorted.

”He bit her!? ” Blanches cheeks turned a light shade of red. ”I hope you boys gave him a right proper kick in the ass. ”

”We handled him…for now. ” Jaxon said simply.

There wasn much difference between Parker and Jaxon, which led me to believe they had to be related. Parker was taller, blue-eyed and had an easy smile. Jaxon was brown-eyed and serious looking. Both had the same dirty blonde hair, same blade of a nose and square jaw. Jaxons cheekbones were less angular than Parkers, though.

”I would have handled him fine on my own. I already had a book in hand. ” I argued.

”Oh, we saw. ” Parker grinned at me as he leaned back in his chair. ”He wouldn have been pleased, though, I would have laughed to see little, old you hit Jasper Howell with some dusty, old book a couple of times. ”

”Would have been the highlight of the day. ” Jaxon agreed with a nod.

”I can say I don agree, but a lady shouldn have to deal with issues like that at all, let alone on her own. ” Dominic declared as he waved a waiter over. ”No worries, Aurora. We will watch out for you. ”

That sentence had dread filling me even as a thrill ran up my spine. The way Dominics eyes fixed on me in that moment, had me wanting to run right then and there. I hated to break it to him, but I wouldn be relying on any of them for anything. I was not damsel in distress and could navigate this college like I had the rest of my life…on my own merit and with my own judgment.

Neither had failed me before, I doubt it would now.

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