I pull into the parking lot of my apartment complex with a smile on my face. I love this time of year. Summer is almost over, which is a bummer, but those final days before the new semester starts, when people have returned to campus but classes haven’t started yet, are filled with lazy afternoons and epic parties. It’s a time for catching up with old friends and making new ones.
The Fall semester starts next week, and with it will come routine and responsibilities. I’m pre-med and on the hockey team. I work hard to keep up with classes on top of a grueling practice and game schedule. Of course, there will be some partying and kicking back with friends, but not like this week, where one day stretches to the next in a hungover fog.
For a few more days, my worries are only how much fun and booze I can soak up. Tonight, the party is at our place. The back of my Jeep is crammed with so much beer and liquor that it’ll take several trips to get it all up to the apartment.
My mind is preoccupied with all of this, which is why I’m so slow to notice her.
Because this girl? She’s the kind you notice as soon as she walks into a room. Long golden blonde hair hangs down her back. It’s thick and wavy. The type of hair you want to fist in your hands. The jean shorts and white tank she’s wearing hug her curves in ways that make my mouth go dry. She’s a fucking eleven. If I were grading on a curve, she’d be the top score ruining the average for everyone else.
She’s wrangling a large box as she stands behind a car with the trunk open. A box!
“Moving in or moving out?” I mutter as I continue to watch her.
She clutches the cardboard box against her chest and then carefully raises a foot to close the trunk. Moving in! I pump a fist. Hell yeah.
I hop out of my Jeep, leaving the booze for now. She readjusts the box and blows out a breath. That’s when she sees me staring at her. Aware I probably look like a creeper, I lift a hand in what I hope is a friendly and non-threatening wave.
She glances from side to side like she’s searching out some other person I’m waving to.
It’s you, gorgeous.
Finally, and a little hesitantly, she lifts three fingers from the side of the box.
I start toward her, still unable to tear my eyes away. She gets more beautiful with every step closer. How is that even possible?
“Hey.” I’m surprised I’m capable of words. I feel like I swallowed my tongue. “Can I give you a hand?”
“With what?” She adjusts her grip around the box, and the cardboard slips.
Stepping closer, I steady the box and take the weight off her.
“Oh right. Thank you.” She pushes her hair away from her face and glances down.
My heart hammers in my chest as I fall into step beside my new neighbor.
“Moving day, huh? Coming from the dorms?”
She nods before hitting me with a smile complete with dimples. As if she could get any hotter. This fucking girl is unreal. “Yeah. You? I mean, do you live here too?”
“Yeah.” We come to the sidewalk, and I realize I have no idea where I’m going. “You wanna lead the way?”
This box is fucking heavy. Not that I mind. I’ll carry every item she owns for a chance to keep talking to her.
I can read the confusion on her face as she scans the buildings. The apartment complex is massive, and they all sort of look the same. When she figures out which way to go, she takes off up the closest stairway to the second floor.
“You live here?” I ask.
“Umm… yeah,” she says, looking at the door again, not sounding entirely sure.
Day made. No, year made.
“I live just there.” I shift the box and point to the apartment across from hers. “We’re neighbors.”
“No way.” Those dimples pop out again as she smiles.
“I’m Adam, by the way.”
Reagan. It suits her somehow.
“This is awesome. I’d invite you over to meet the guys, but we’ve got training in thirty minutes.” And our place is a disaster and smells like dirty feet. Enjoying the last days of summer has not included cleaning.
I wonder if I can call the guys and reschedule? I came back last week with a few buddies to get in some workouts before the new rookies show up. We have a couple of incoming freshmen that have already been drafted. My plans don’t include the NHL, but I’d like to keep my first line spot. They’ll be pissed if I cancel. And I guess I’m going to be seeing more of her. Still, I don’t want to walk away.
“We’re having a party at our place tonight. You should come.” I try for casual, but I’m pretty sure she can see the desperation on my face.
“I wish I could.”
My stomach sinks. I know that look. I’ve given it to girls before. It’s the look when you meet someone you might like, but you already have plans with someone else. Fuck. Of course, she’s not single. “Hot date?”
Reagan says nothing, but her mouth falls into a sympathetic smile.
“Got it. Of course. Makes sense.”
“Another time.” Hope surges through me at her words. “You can meet my roommate Dakota, too.”
We stand awkwardly, taking the other in. She looks away first and glances at the box I’d completely forgotten I was holding.
Reluctantly, I give it back to her and then open her apartment door. I don’t want her to go. “Guess I’ll be seeing you.”
“Yeah.” She doesn’t move as I take the few steps away from her to my apartment. It takes everything in me to go inside. You can’t rush things with a girl like that. The timing has to be perfect.
My teammate and best friend Rhett is sitting on the couch. He looks up from his phone as I shut the door.
“Hey man,” he says, then his gaze narrows. “You okay?”
“Better than okay.”
One brow lifts in question. “I thought you were picking up the alcohol for tonight.”
“I did.” I rest my back against the closed door as I replay the entire interaction with Reagan in my head.
“Where is it?”
“In the Jeep.” I finally shake myself out of it. “I was helping our new neighbors move in.”
“Oh yeah? Do they seem cool?”
“They do.” I open the door to go back out to the Jeep and hopefully run into her again. Rhett still looks mildly confused by my actions. Couldn’t explain it if I wanted to. I smile at him. “It’s going to be a great year. I can feel it.”