False Assumptions is coming on July 17!  Be sure to preorder while it’s on sale for only $2.99.  In the meantime, enjoy the first chapter.

 

“Layla Caldwell, you’ll be working with Evan Coopman.”

Covering her face with her hands, Layla bit back the groan threatening to escape, no longer paying attention as Dr. Rankin continued to pair off the students in her Survey of Twentieth Century World Literature class for their midterm project.  Evan Coopman was the last person she wanted to work with.

And what was this—junior high?  Why was the professor assigning who they had to work with?  Hadn’t she escaped those days when she made it to her upper-level literature classes?  This was going to be a nightmare.

“Find your partner, and I’ll come around and give you the title of the book you’ll read and present to the class.  This is more than a simple report.  You’ll need to pull out the themes and research the cultural backdrop.  Because books influence culture as much as the other way around, be sure to discuss both the impact of the culture on the story and the story’s impact on the culture after publication.  Each book should be available at the library, but you are, of course, welcome to purchase it in your preferred format.  Once you’ve received your assignment, you may go to the library to get started if you wish.”

The rustle of clothes and scooting of desks made Layla lift her face, brushing back her long, dark hair and glancing around at the other students finding their partners.  She was confronted with sapphire blue eyes gleaming with mischief and the perpetual flirty smirk of Evan Coopman.  He sauntered over.  Yup, sauntered.  Like he was the hottest thing around.  Gag.

It didn’t help that he actually was hot.  The brightest blue eyes she’d ever seen not boosted by contacts or Photoshop, dark brown hair that flopped over his forehead, high cheekbones, and a square jaw framing luscious lips that were almost always smirking or smiling, causing females in the vicinity to lose their minds.  As if that weren’t enough, his body was all muscle that flexed and bulged every time he moved.  All that time in the gym and on the football field obviously paid off.

She’d had classes with him before and always made sure to sit far away so he wouldn’t ask her for notes when he missed class for away games.  She had no desire to be the target of all that flirtatiousness after seeing him in action.  Seeing him give all his attention to one girl for a day or a week or however long until he got what he wanted and then move on to someone else.

He knew he was hot.  He knew chicks couldn’t resist him once he turned on the charm.  And he used it to his advantage.

She’d been the target of that kind of attention before.  In high school.  And she’d ended up brokenhearted and feeling like a fool in the end.

Never again.

So she had no desire to be another one of his conquests.  He could just take his charm and flirty smiles and—

“Layla?”  He dragged the desk next to her closer, sliding into the seat, all muscles and grace, turning the full magnitude of his smile in her direction.  “I’ve seen you around, but I don’t think we’ve met before.  I’m Evan.”  He held out his hand.

She stared at it for a second, her eyes going back to his face.  “Hi.”

His smile dimmed, and he pulled his hand back to his desk, clearing his throat.  He gave her a quick scan, down and up, taking her in.  She shifted in her seat under his scrutiny, aware of her Old Navy jeans and clearance T-shirt from Target  the same way she used to be aware of her thrift store clothes and hand-me-downs when she was in elementary and middle school.  Her parents worked hard, but couldn’t afford much when she was a kid.  At least now, thrift store chic was a thing.  And she rocked that often enough, but she still preferred new clothes, even if she could only afford them when they were on sale.

Evan probably wore all name-brand clothes.  And didn’t have to worry about sales or thrift store discount days to fill out his wardrobe.  She’d seen the kind of girl he normally went after—all perfect and primped and made up, not a hair out of place.  The kind of girl who wore heels to walk around campus despite the uneven brick walkways and ice and snow in the winter.  Girls that were nothing like her, with her preference for functional shoes—though she did try to find cute ones—and her desire to spend more time in the woods than at a salon or the mall.  Even if she could afford that kind of thing, she wouldn’t dress much differently than she did.

Sitting back in his chair, his name-brand denim clad legs spreading in that  obnoxious alpha-guy way where they take up almost all the space available, he opened his mouth, but Dr. Rankin’s approach cut him off before he could speak.  Thank God.  It was probably going to be a lame pickup line, because she was female, after all, or a criticism of her appearance, since she’d so obviously rebuffed his handshake.

Dr. Rankin handed each of them a piece of paper.  “You’ll be presenting The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende.”  She gave them both a warm smile.  “I’m looking forward to hearing your take on it.  I hope you two can work well together.”  With a nod that had her auburn bob brushing the shoulders of her jacket, Dr. Rankin turned to the next set of students to hand them their assignment.

Layla swallowed.  Ugh.  Why did she have to get paired up with the womanizer jock?  She’d end up carrying the whole presentation.  Meeting his eyes, she decided she’d take control right off.  It would be easier that way.  “Let’s go to the library and see if we can both get a copy.  Then we can set up a time to discuss the presentation.  Once I’ve read it, I’ll outline each of our parts and let you know what you’ll need to do.”

One of his eyebrows lifted and the corners of his mouth twitched, but he just nodded.  “Sure.  Sounds good.  Let’s go.”

She didn’t know if she should be happy or irritated with his easy acquiescence.  If he wasn’t a dumb jock, wouldn’t he object to being ordered around by her?  But if he was, then at least he was content to let her be in charge.  He must recognize that they’d get a better grade that way.  Hopefully he’d be able to do what she assigned him.  Maybe she could give him stuff to read aloud for the presentation and not give him any of the research responsibility.  Less chance he’d screw it up and screw her over that way.

Gathering her things, she looked up to find him looming over her.  His eyes moved from the area of her chest, slowly wandering to her face.  She couldn’t stop her eyes from rolling even if she wanted to.  Seriously?  He was checking out her chest?  Just proving her point.  Womanizing douche used to getting whatever girl he wanted.

She stood, and he gestured toward the door.  “After you.”

Sure.  Of course.  He probably wanted to check out her ass.  She’d read somewhere that pickup artists did that for the double reason of appearing like a gentleman and having a better opportunity to check out a potential mark from behind.  Seemed like a likely explanation in this case.

With a little extra sway in her step, she made her way around the desks toward the classroom door.  May as well give him a show.  It was the best he’d get out of her.

A low whistle sounded behind her, pulling her head back around and drawing the attention of the people she passed.  Evan winked at her, his blue eyes amused, and followed.

This was going to be the worst.

 

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