My One Night
Book 1 in the On My Own Series
A one-night stand is supposed to end once the sun rises. Only it doesn’t always work out that way in this opposites attract and tortured hero romance.
Elise Hoover never expected this. She didn’t want to go to another party, but when her friend pulls her in, she somehow finds herself hiding in a corner with…him.
The smirking, so-called good guy with the shadows in his eyes. A single glance, a sweet smile, and she lets herself have one night of giving in.
Only she has to promise herself not to fall in love. No matter the cost.
My One Night
The house was packed to the rafters, people dancing to the music, some in corners, laughing, making out, or just talking. And most of the group had drinks in their hands. After all, it was a college party, and our place happened to be party central for the evening.
This was the fourth gathering my roommates and I had put together since school had started for the semester, and I was already tired of it. The other houses on college row held more parties than we did, and that meant most of the people currently under this roof went to one of those places, or to a bar if they were over twenty-one or had a decent fake ID. Others would head to dorm rooms or random apartments around the city for the night if there wasn’t a college row party. There was always a place to gather, and even more areas to study—not that I thought most people currently drinking in this house even cracked open their textbooks.
My roommates and I did—we made sure of it. We were all trying our best to graduate on time, so we each studied to various degrees.
The rest of the people in this house? The ones drinking? Partying? I wasn’t sure they’d ever actually been to class. I didn’t know if they knew how to study.
As I had already almost fucked up my chances the first time I slacked off, even trying to get into college, I wasn’t about to make that mistake again. At the last college I’d attended, I’d studied hard, made good grades, and had gotten into Denver State University with a partial scholarship. If I kept up with my classes this semester, I was on track to get a full scholarship. That would mean no more loans, no more saying “no” to my big brothers every time they tried to help me.
Not that I didn’t love them, I did. I was grateful for everything that they were doing and had done. I just didn’t want them paying for my schooling. Especially when I knew they were all either working on babies or already pregnant—well, their wives anyway. The next generation was coming, and that meant college funds for the new kids.
I didn’t need them paying for me. Although it wasn’t like our parents would pay.
I shivered at the thought.
No, my mom wouldn’t have dropped a cent for me, had rarely done it when she was alive and had been so-called raising me. As for Dave, the man who was, apparently, my dad? I wasn’t even sure I knew who he was beyond a druggie who scared the crap out of me. So, no, I’d pay for my education and hope to hell that I kept up with my grades to get that scholarship.
“Why do you look as if you are off in another world, all serious-like?” my roommate, Pacey, asked as he came to my side.
I looked over at Pacey and smiled. He shoved his hand through his hair, pushing the blond strands back from his face. They were forever falling over his eyes, and I knew from listening in on many conversations, including those of my ex-girlfriends, that that look sent women and men alike into shivers. And Pacey knew it.
“I’m fine. I don’t know why you think I’m acting weird or thinking too hard.”
Pacey just raised a blond brow, looking all stiff and upper-crust British. Since he was, it only made sense to me.
“I’m not making up that look. You’re thinking hard, and I’d like to know why.”
I shrugged and downed the rest of my beer. “Just thinking about exams coming up.”
“They are always coming up. That’s what happens when you have some classes working on a three-exam schedule, some a midterm schedule, and a…you know what, let’s do a surprise exam that’s going to scare the shit out of your students schedule.”
I laughed outright at that, and the two of us headed over to the keg. I wasn’t sure where we’d gotten it other than Sanders usually had connections. I just hoped to hell the cops didn’t show up since none of us were of age.
A girl with tight jeans, a low-cut shirt, and bright red lips operated it.
“Hello, boys,” she said, reminding me of a character from Supernatural as she said it.
“Hi there, Alexa,” Pacey said, practically purring. The man was good at that.
“Oh, welcome.” She giggled, actually giggled and blushed. “Can I get you something?” she asked and held up the tap. “I can get you exactly what you need,” she said, and I barely resisted the urge to roll my eyes.
“Just a beer for my mate here, for now, Alexa darling,” Pacey answered, grinning.
I had a feeling that Pacey would be leaving me soon for the red-lipped co-ed, and I didn’t mind. I’d seen her around a few times. She was friendly, smart, and didn’t treat people like crap. That counted for a hell of a lot in my book.
I took the beer from Alexa and had to be careful not to drop it as she only had eyes for Pacey. I shook my head, a smile playing on my lips as I moved away. Pacey nodded ever so slightly, all debonair and magnetic. He was like a spiderweb. Most people got stuck in his wake. However, he wasn’t exactly the spider. More like one who convinced those caught in his web that they wanted to be there and were excited by the prospect. I hadn’t seen a person walk away from Pacey’s bed disheartened, angry, or in any way acting as if they hadn’t gotten what they wanted.
“Okay, now I need to know what that look was about,” Pacey said as he stared at me.
I snorted and took another sip of my beer. “I was just thinking that you’re not an asshole when it comes to sleeping around.”
Pacey’s brows shot up, and then he threw his head back and laughed.
More than one person turned our way to stare at Pacey—and I supposed at me, as well—but there was just something about my roommate. If I was in any way attracted to Pacey, I figured the two of us might be a decent match for a relationship. Although we were too busy and focused on school to worry about anything else. Besides, there wasn’t even a flicker of a buzz between us. And I was just fine with that.
“Well, that is kind of you. And I do try to satisfy my lovers.”
“Dear God,” a man said from beside us, practically fainting into another guy’s arms.
I met Pacey’s eyes, rolled mine, and left to go back to my corner, which was thankfully still empty. Pacey followed me with his gaze, a curious look on his face. “Now, do you want to tell me exactly what you were thinking about before?”
I shrugged. “Just school, focusing on things. About the fact that the cops haven’t come in here yet.”
“Stop it. Why would you say something like that?” Pacey asked and knocked on the wood beam beside us.
Miles, one of my other roommates, popped out of nowhere and knocked, as well. “I was four feet away and I heard you. You do not call out to the universe for things like that.”
I held up my free hand and winced. “Sorry. I’m having an off evening.”
“I’d say,” Tanner mumbled as he came forward. Tanner was one of my other roommates, and I honestly didn’t have a good lead on him. From what I could tell, he was smart but tended to brood in his room or at his desk. He shared the library with Miles for their study area. I shared with Pacey in the actual study. The house was set up like that kids’ murder mystery gameboard, and I always found it a bit weird. Our other roommate, Paul, who went by his last name—Sanders—had his little desk area in the foyer. It was a bit more out in the open so we could tell when he was studying or not—mostly not these days—but he had the biggest space. We had all chosen our rooms and study areas courtesy of a bag of Twizzlers the first day we met, in lieu of drawing straws. The Twizzlers were usually in Pacey’s hand, as the guy was addicted to them. I didn’t see them on him now, but I figured they were probably in the pantry, beckoning him like always.
That brought a smile to my face, and Pacey once again glared at me. “Why are you off in your head again? Now what are you thinking?”
“Just about Twizzlers.”
Miles’ eyes widened, and Tanner winced.
“What?” I asked.
Pacey straightened, his eyes narrowing. I thought I saw a little humor there—at least I hoped—but I wasn’t sure. “Sanders and Mackenzie ate the last Twizzler, and I haven’t been to the store to replenish. I was a little busy taking my exam this afternoon and setting up for the party. Therefore, I have not had a Twizzler all day. Let’s not discuss it.”
I looked between all of them, my jaw dropped. “Sanders and his girlfriend ate the Twizzlers?” That offense was a literal Code Red in this house.
“I cannot blame Mackenzie,” Pacey said, holding up a hand. “She didn’t know. She will, though, because I will make sure she does. And Mackenzie is usually nice enough to replenish whatever she eats here.” Somehow, I had a feeling this was all Sanders.
“Did you put the Twizzlers on the common shelf?” I asked, knowing I was treading on dangerous ground here.
Pacey’s eyes narrowed even more. “It shouldn’t matter. We all know I’m the one who buys my favorite candy.”
“I’ve never actually heard you sound so haughty before,” Miles said, holding back a laugh.
“Very, very British,” Tanner said deadpan.
Pacey looked between all of us and lifted his lip in a small snarl. “I hate you all. And I would do better if I had my favorite crutch to get me by. Sadly, I do not.”
“Hi,” a bright voice said from beside us. I turned to see Sanders’ girlfriend, Mackenzie, standing there, her long, brown hair hanging in curls and waves down her back. “I didn’t realize they were yours when Sanders offered them to me,” she said, and I met Pacey’s gaze.
He winced and then did his best to school his features. “It’s okay, I understand.”
“Well, then I hope this will help.” She reached into her large bag, the one that all the girls around here seemed to carry with them these days, even to house parties like this, and pulled out a family-size bag of Twizzlers. “It’s the least I can do. I’m so sorry,” she said.
Pacey looked down at the candy and then at her, a smile slowly crawling over his face. “I do believe you’re my favorite.” He took the red licorice from her and winked.
“Oh, well, I was kind of a jerk to help finish it. And I felt bad. However, here you go.”
“You macking on my girl?” Sanders said as he put a proprietary hand on Mackenzie’s waist. She rolled her eyes but leaned back against him. According to Mackenzie, the two had been dating since the cradle, and Sanders usually went along with that idea. I didn’t know how someone could be with another person for so long, but I thought it was kind of nice. The two seemed to suit each other and got along. Mackenzie was a little uptight sometimes. Things always had to be a certain way, and her making sure of that could come off as kind of rude, a bit stuck up, but then she did things like this. I didn’t really understand her, but I liked her. That seemed to be my go-to these days.
Sanders was a bit of an oaf sometimes, kind of a jerk, but he did his best not to act like one with us. He was considerate and didn’t keep music too loud at night when we were studying. I liked all of my roommates. I just happened to get along with Pacey the best. Maybe because he reminded me of a British version of my brothers for some reason—not that I would ever tell him or my brothers that.
“Who uses the word macking?” Tanner asked, rolling his eyes.
“It’s probably back in the new slang,” Miles said, defending Sanders. Tanner didn’t really get along with Sanders, and Miles was always the mediator. I usually stayed out of the way. I had enough family drama when it came to mine. I didn’t need to add the cross-section of five guys who didn’t know each other, trying to live with one another.
“Anyway, it was none of the sort,” Pacey remarked, his tone formal. “She was just replenishing the stores you seemed to have forgotten were mine,” he said, holding up the bag of Twizzlers.
Sanders blushed and then shrugged. “Sorry about that. I would have taken care of it tomorrow. Thanks, babe.” He kissed her hard on the cheek, and she just smiled.
“It’s what I’m here for. I have lists of lists. And I’ll be sure to bring my own snacks next time. Again, sorry.” She tugged on Sanders’ hand. “Now, come on. There’s someone I need you to meet. Bye, boys.” She waved at us and then sauntered off, Sanders right behind her.
“I have a feeling those two are going to be married by the end of the semester, and we’re going to be one roommate short,” Pacey said dryly.
“I hope not,” Tanner grumbled, and I looked up at him.
“Really? I didn’t think you liked Sanders.”
Tanner shrugged. “It’s not that. I don’t mind him. I don’t mind any of you guys,” he added, and we all laughed. “It’s more that I don’t know if you need to get married when you’re twenty years old. And I’m pretty sure the only people they’ve ever slept with are each other.”
“That could be something they like, though. If you find the right person, why do you need to keep searching?” I asked.
“I never took you as a romantic,” Pacey said, studying my face.
I quirked a lip. “I’ve watched my brothers fall in love, one after another, and in spectacular fashion. I can’t help it.” I looked down at my beer and took a sip.
“Well, that’s nice to know,” Miles said. “And I’m sorry that Mandy wasn’t it for you.” Tanner slapped Miles upside the back of the head, and Miles just grinned. “What?”
I laughed. “Mandy was never going to be forever. Remember? She told me flat-out that I wasn’t her forever and that she wanted fun. I like fun.” I guess.
“I have a feeling you’re going to like a whole lot of fun,” Tanner said as he looked over my shoulder.
I followed his gaze and narrowed my eyes at the girl across the room. There was something familiar about her that I couldn’t quite place. “Why do I feel like I know her?” I asked.
“Oh, you don’t know her, but she and her roommate know you.”
I gave Tanner a look. “What?”
Tanner grinned, looking as if he were having more fun than he had in years, and leaned forward. “Quick, that one right there? She’s on her way over here to talk to you. I have a feeling you’re going to like what she has to say.”
I looked over at Tanner. “Why are you acting so weird? Like the man behind the curtain.”
He shook his head. “Don’t look at the man behind the curtain.” He laughed. “But they seemed interesting when I met them a few weeks ago at the coffee shop. You should talk to her.”
Coffee shop? And why did that sound familiar? “Talk to who?” I asked but looked over at the girl with the light eyes, the pointed chin, and the soft face. I swallowed hard.
Suddenly, the guys were gone as if shadows and ghosts had swallowed them up.
The girl in front of me couldn’t be taller than my chin, even in heels, and she had her shoulders hunched forward for a moment. She met my gaze, but nearly tripped over her feet as she rolled her shoulders back.
“Hi,” she squeaked and held out a hand. She blushed and nearly lowered her proffered palm, but I quickly reached out and took it. Her hand was warm, a little clammy, but I squeezed it before letting go.
“Hi,” I said, confused yet intrigued by this girl with her wide eyes and pouty lips.
“I didn’t mean to try to shake your hand just then. I’m not very good at this.”
I looked around, wondering if anyone was paying attention. I couldn’t see my roommates, but her friend was watching us, warmth in her eyes—not abject terror or snarkiness so I had to count that as a win.
“Well, hi. I’m Dillon.”
“Oh, I know,” she blurted before groaning. “At least, that’s what my roommate said. Anyway, I’m here for a reason.”
“And that reason would be?” I couldn’t keep my gaze off her.
“I am on a dare. I’m not good at them, but I’m going to do my best on this one.”
My brows shot up. “What on Earth could I have to do with your dare?” I asked, fascinated.
“I need you to kiss me,” she said quickly. “Preferably without everybody watching. Is that okay?” she asked. I looked down at her and then up at her friend, only to see that she wasn’t alone anymore. No, Tanner was there with her, along with Pacey, all three of them smiling and raising their drinks in cheers.
“What?” I asked, confused.
“My friend thinks I need to get out more. And she dared me to kiss you. I thought I would ask first because…hello, consent.”
“Yeah, consent is good,” I said, truly confused.
“Anyway, my name is Elise by the way. It’s nice to meet you. I guess. I sort of saw you around the coffee shop before. Well, not like today before, but before-before.” I felt like I couldn’t catch up, and she kept rambling. “Anyway, this is the most insane—insanest?—thing I’ve ever done in my life. But I came up to you, I told you about my dare, and now I’m going to go home and hide under a blanket. That would probably be good. I’ll be back after the semester’s over.”
She turned on her heel, and I reached out and gripped her hand before she could leave. She froze and then turned to me slowly, looking like a deer in headlights.
“It’s nice to meet you, Elise.”
She blinked. “Oh, it’s nice to meet you, too.”
“So I take it that you consent?” I asked, not knowing why I was doing this but knowing I needed to.
Her eyes widened. “Consent? You mean for the dare?”
“Yes,” I said slowly.
Her mouth parted, her eyes getting even wider, if that were possible. “Oh. Well, yes.”
I didn’t let her say anything else. I simply lowered my head and kissed her, living in the moment for the first time in a long while.
My One Night
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Grief, loss, death, emotional abuse (not by MCs)