The Heartbreaker - Claire Contreras

Prologue

4 Years Ago

I walk into the frat house with my friend and teammate, Jill, at my side. My heart is beating so fast I can barely stand it. I don't know why I'm so nervous. I've been to a college party before, just not when I was actually in college. I look around unable to take the smile off my face.

"I'm going to the bathroom. Meet me in the kitchen?" Jill says.

"Sure." I start walking in the direction where I assume the kitchen is and come to a full stop just before I get there.

There are a lot of guys in there. A lot. Like too many for me to just waltz in and be all cool without also being insanely awkward. One simply cannot be both and it is a choice we make. Like right now, if I decide that I am cooler than I am, no one will think to question it. I know this because I've studied the art of cool from effortlessly cool people. Still, as I stand there, palms sweaty, I feel like I may need ten more minutes to give myself this pep talk. One of the guys laughs loudly, throwing his head back with it. He's blond and has a summer vacation tan, his cheeks and the back of his neck all pink. He's hot. Like really hot. In front of him, with his back facing me is a guy with impeccable crisped golden skin. He's wearing a black t-shirt, jeans, and a blacked-out Yankees ball cap that faces my direction, strands of his longish hair tucked beneath it. Blondie may be hot as hell, but he has nothing on this guy. I haven't even seen his face and I already know it. Then, he turns around, as if feeling my eyes on him. He's mid-sentence, his straight white teeth showing as he speaks, and then he completely stops talking and my heart completely stops beating when those toffee-colored eyes hit mine.

"Josephine?" He frowns, then smiles. "Josephine! Holy shit."

Jagger Cruz.

Holy shit.

Jagger Cruz, who's cool in an effortless, I own-my-shit kind of way. He's always been hot, but now that he's grown into his skin he's . . . beyond.

"I didn't know you were here," I say, stupidly. "I mean, mom mentioned you were coming to UNC like Mitch but I didn't know you were here already."

"Yeah. I went by the house the other day but you weren't there." He's grinning, eyeing me up and down, openly checking me out. My skin prickles. This is entirely too nerve-racking for me.

"I live on campus," I say. "With a roommate."

"Ah, I thought you'd stay at home since you're so close."

"I want the college experience." I smile.

"I hear that." He glances around, says bye to some of the guys he was just talking to as they pass by and fist bump him.

"You're not going to introduce me to your friend?" Blondie looks at me, then at Jagger, whose perfect jaw twitches just a bit, but manages to smile at his friend.

"Sure. Josephine, this is Lawrence. Lawrence, this is Josephine."

"Hi." I smile, feeling my cheeks turn pinker than they already are. He looks like an Abercrombie model. They both do.

"Josephine. I like that." Lawrence winks. "I hope to see you around."

"Uh, yeah. Sure. Me too." I wave as he walks away and looks back at Jagger. "College parties, am I right?"

"Right." He's quiet for a moment, his eyes assessing me. "You want a drink?"

"Sure." I shrug a shoulder and follow him.

"What's your poison?" He glances over at me when we make it to a foldable table with a lot of bottles on it.

"I think I'll go with the tequila."

"Tequila." He raises an eyebrow. "Ballsy."

"It's the only thing that doesn't give me a massive hangover."

"Said no one ever," he says with a chuckle that hits me right in the chest.

He starts pouring it for me the way I tell him I want it – on the rocks, with a wedge of lime. Fancy shit for a college party, but this is only my second college party, so I haven't gotten the memo on what to drink. Also, I barely drink, so I'm just having what my dad normally has. Lame. So lame, but I can't exactly act like I don't know what I'm doing in front of Jagger Cruz, who always seems to know what he's doing.

"Hey, Jagger," a girl says, smiling as she walks over with two friends in tow.

"Hey," he says, grinning at her as he finishes pouring