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Breaking the Rules: Ridgemont University Short Read

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Breaking the Rules

Ridgemont University Short Read

Meredith Taylor

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Copyright © 2016 by Meredith Taylor

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher at the address below.

 

Meredith Taylor Books

29 Postnet Suite

PO Box X04

Kuils River

Cape Town

South Africa

7479

 

The characters, locations and events in this book are entirely fictional. Any similarities to actual persons, locations or events is coincidental and unintentional.

 

Twitter: @RidgemontUni

Email: [email protected]

Facebook: facebook.com/ridgemontuniversity

 

 

Meredith Taylor Books

meredithtaylorbooks.com

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Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Bonus: Ridgemont University #3 – All-Nighters

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

About Ridgemont University

Join the adventures and MM romantic exploits of the students at Ridgemont University in this exciting new series.

 

Ridgemont University is one of the most prestigious educational institutions in South Africa, with a reputation for academic excellence. It is set in a picturesque, sleepy college town, next to the famous Ridgemont Valley and a fifteen-minute drive from Sandy Shore, where students often laze in the sun and swim in the crystal-clear waters of the many world-class beaches.

The university has highly respected sports teams and cultural groups, and a range of student societies. Many of the academic buildings are more than 100-years-old, and are inspired by both Greek and French architecture. The University Gardens and the local nature reserves also offer magnificent sights for those who love the outdoors.

Once the academic day ends, the town of Ridgemont has a thriving nightlife, and even a healthy gay scene. Most students can find something to keep them stimulated in Ridgemont.

For the latest on Ridgemont University, and to learn more about the guys who are featured in the books, visit meredithtaylorbooks.com.

Breaking the Rules[
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Chapter 1

Connor stared out of the window of his dorm room, his face in a forlorn grimace. What had he gotten himself into?

The bed he was sitting on was hard and uncomfortable. He had already covered it in his dark blue sheet and duvet, trying to make the room feel more like home. But it wasn’t working. He felt terribly out of place. His stomach was in knots and his jaw was clenched with anxiety and frustration. This was not what he thought moving into a prestigious residence hall at Ridgemont University would be like.

Connor’s light blond hair glistened in the sunlight that was streaming through the window. His slightly bronzed skin, tanned from endless days at the beach over the summer break, already felt like it was starting to dull. His dark brown eyes and heavy eyebrows were straining in the bright sunlight. Connor pulled at the tight white sleeveless t-shirt that he was told to wear by the third-year students who were coordinating first-year activities. The shirts would be painted later that day, Connor was told. He felt exposed in the outfit. He wore his faded blue jeans and red sneakers, careful to keep his shoes away from his bedding as he sat on the bed in the corner of his dorm room.

Through the window he could see the many guys of his residence hall bustling about, carrying their luggage to their rooms and blaring music on the quad. A few trees littered the quad that separated the various sections of Connor’s residence. The name of his residence, Initia Nova, was painted onto a colorful banner that hung over the front of the dining hall across the quad from Connor’s room, and a group of rowdy, shirtless guys were drinking just underneath the banner, their bulging muscles beaded with sweat from the hot summer sun. Connor had been looking forward to moving into the dorm and studying at Ridgemont all summer. He had hardly slept a wink over the past week, so excited to meet new people and to finally be free.

Connor had always been someone who followed the rules. He wanted to be a good grandson to his grandmother, who had cared for Connor since he was a young boy growing up in Saldanha Bay. His grandmother was getting older, and the small fishing village they lived in on the West Coast was not really the place for people who were… different, like Connor was. But Connor had decided that when he got to Ridgemont, he would let loose. He had always been curious about trying new things and taking some risks in life, but he had never gathered up the nerve to do it. The most excitement he could manage to have when he was growing up was going to town bazaars after church on Sundays or spending afternoons in the park with his girlfriend.

Yes, Connor had a girlfriend all throughout high school. He cringed slightly as he thought of Emily. He had rather unceremoniously dumped her only a few days before coming to Ridgemont. Connor and Emily had met in church when they were only fourteen and had become inseparable almost instantly. Everyone had just assumed that they were dating, and eventually Connor and Emily were convinced of this fact as well. But Connor had always felt like something was missing. The most he could manage in the way of affection was kissing Emily on the cheek. He had always used the excuse that he was saving himself for marriage. But this wasn’t true at all. He saw Emily as a friend, nothing more, even though he tried to convince himself that he wanted to be her boyfriend. She was the quintessential small town good girl: brunette plaited hair, tall, plain looking, excellent grades, and of course she knew the Bible by heart. On paper, she was everything that Connor should have wanted. He was always in second place academically at their school, just behind Emily. But when Emily told him that she had received a scholarship to study at a university in Johannesburg, and that she wouldn’t be able to join Connor at Ridgemont, he internally gave a sigh of relief. Connor used this as his excuse to dump Emily. Long distance relationships never work out. We’ll only be delaying the inevitable. He wished that he could’ve told her what he really wanted, what he really desired…

Coming to Ridgemont would be Connor’s moment to find himself. He wanted to color outside of the lines for once in his life, and be a bit reckless. But his first morning at Ridgemont was nothing like he had anticipated.

There were so many people, all with different accents, different clothing styles and different ways of treating people. Connor had never been so overwhelmed before. He had tried to be friendly to everyone, but most people just clammed up or gave him strange looks, and some of the older students even laughed at him. A particularly rude guy even called Connor a “country-bumpkin.” If this was the way city people acted, Connor wasn’t so sure that he was cut out for life at Ridgemont.

He came to his room immediately after these initial encounters, carrying up all of his bags from his beaten-down old Mazda that he had parked in the front lot (more awkward stares and giggles). He just wanted to escape from it all for a while.

Connor stared over at the empty bed across the room from where he was sitting. His roommate had not arrived yet. Connor felt the anxiety well up in him. Would his roommate be as unfriendly as many of the other people he had met that day?

Connor jumped suddenly when he heard a knock at his door. The roommate, perhaps? He looked over at his half-unpacked luggage and scurried to look like he had been busy unpacking. “Come in,” he called out as cheerfully as he could manage.

The door opened and Connor was almost floored by what he saw. There, standing in the doorway, was one of the most unbelievably gorgeous guys he had ever seen. Granted, there wasn’t much to look at on the West Coast, but Connor was still amazed at just how hot the guys of Ridgemont were. The guy standing in the door was wearing a tight black t-shirt, his arms bulging from the sleeves. His short crew cut hair was dark brown, and his eyes were a shade of olive brown that made Connor’s knees weak. The guy was taller than Connor and had an arresting square jawline that made him look like he belonged in the military. All Connor could manage to say was a muted, “Hello…”

The guy in the doorway smiled at Connor and reached out his hand. “Hi! You must be Connor,” he said, his smile disarmingly dazzling. “I’m Adam. I’m a second-year student here at Nova and I’ll be your mentor this term. Help you settle in to life at Ridgemont.” Connor shook Adam’s hand, the grip so firm it took Connor by surprise.

“Nice to meet you,” Connor said lamely, wishing that he could be more articulate and suave around handsome guys. This was why he was so excited to come to Ridgemont; he wanted to see whether the feelings he was having towards guys meant something. And Adam was making those feelings fire up stronger than ever.

“Where are you from, Connor?” Adam asked, the olive eyes staring straight into Connor’s and the black t-shirt straining against his muscles as he moved into the room.

“I’m from Saldanha,” Connor said in his West Coast accent, rolling his r’s. “It’s my first time in Cape Town on my own. It’s still a bit scary for me.” As soon as the words crossed his lips, Connor wished that he hadn’t given so much away so quickly. How was he ever supposed to impress guys if he acted like a scared little boy?

Adam gave a slight giggle and walked over to Connor’s bed, sitting down. Connor was amazed at Adam’s confidence. Is this what city guys are like? Connor knew that he had to start being bolder so that he could fit in with the other Ridgemont guys. He walked back to his bed and sat down next to Adam.

“You’ll be fine. The guys here are a bit brattish at times. Most of them come from the top schools in the country and they’re used to getting what they want. But once they warm up to you, they’re like family. Trust me, you’ll get really close to these guys in no time. Soon you’ll be having all sorts of fun with them.”

All Connor wanted to do was get close to Adam. He had butterflies in his stomach already at the thought that Adam would be his mentor and that they would get to spend a lot of time together. Connor gathered up his courage and said, “If they’re as nice as you are, I think I’ll feel right at home.”

Adam smiled broadly, scratching at his short hair. “Well, I don’t know if I’m all that nice. I’ve had my problems at Ridgemont… Maybe a bit of advice: our resident head can be very strict if you break the rules. He’s a great guy, but just try and stay on his good side.”

Connor inched slightly closer to Adam, feeling his heartrate increasing. “What are the rules I should be following?”

Adam’s eyes narrowed. He gave a sly smile and raised his eyebrow. “You don’t look like a rule breaker to me. I’m not sure you need to worry about it at all.”

Connor tried to emulate Adam’s confidence, even though his heart felt like it was ready to burst out of his chest. “I might surprise you, Adam,” Connor said, leaning forward.

Adam laughed out loud, seeming uncomfortable with Connor’s sudden boldness. Connor’s cheeks flashed bright red. Had he gone too far? He wanted to have fun at Ridgemont and flirt with hot guys, but he didn’t want to scare Adam off. Adam seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and Connor hadn’t met anyone friendly so far at Ridgemont.

Adam stood up from the bed and moved towards the door. His eyes shifted nervously around the room, and he was no longer making eye contact with Connor. “We have a campus tour first thing tomorrow morning, Connor. You’ll get to meet a few more Nova guys. Don’t be late, okay? I’ll tell you all about the rules when I see you tomorrow. We meet in the quad at 8 a.m. sharp”

“Thanks, Adam,” Connor said, feeling dejected. “I won’t be late.” Connor felt a sinking sensation and was silently chastizing himself. Had he scared Adam away for good?

“Oh, and Connor,” Adam said, “it really was nice meeting you.” Adam gave a playful wink and flashed his brilliant white smile again, and Connor’s spirits lifted. Maybe Ridgemont had more to offer than he had initially thought.

Chapter 2

Adam had woken up with thoughts of the flirtatious first-year, Connor, swimming in his head. He couldn’t shake the electricity of their first meeting. Connor had set off something in Adam that made him crazy with excitement. The first-year was unmistakably sexy and was clearly making a move on Adam. All Adam wanted to do in that room was kiss Connor’s enticing lips. But he had to resist. Making out with a student that he was supposed to mentor would definitely land Adam in trouble. He was skating on thin ice as it was, and if the resident head, Professor Steyn, found out that Adam was having extracurricular fun with first-years that he was supposed to be guiding through their first few days at Ridgemont, he would definitely be expelled.

Adam had signed papers with Prof Steyn at the beginning of the week declaring that he acknowledged that he was on probationary re-admittance to Ridgemont and to Initia Nova, and if he had one more infraction, he would be expelled. Adam had spent way too much time the previous year breaking the rules, and he couldn’t allow his attraction to a first-year student to cost him his entire academic career. Adam loved being at Ridgemont. He loved the fun and excitement of summer days in Donovan Square, the late nights at Percy’s Pub and Hunters Bar, and rooting for the swimming and rugby teams at the intervarsity games. He couldn’t give up on all of that.

Of course, there was also his studies to worry about. Adam had barely managed to scrape through his courses the previous year, and he had to focus all of his energy on being a good student. His parents would definitely stop paying his tuition if he began failing courses left and right. He had to limit his time around distractions like Connor Olivier. He had to make sure that he got through the next two years without incident.

Adam got dressed in a hurry and waited on the quad at 7.50 a.m. Two bleary-eyed first-year students were already waiting for him, and another was pulling on his backpack as he ran to the center of the quad. “Am I late?” the student asked, and Adam responded, “You’re still early. Don’t worry about it.”

All of Adam’s first-year mentees were present except for one: Connor. Adam looked at his watched and looked up to the second floor window where Connor’s room was. The sun was already beating down and Adam held his hand across his forehead to shield his eyes from the harsh morning rays. “Has anyone seen Connor Olivier?”

The three first-year students stared at Adam blankly, and one shook his head. “Is he the shortish blond guy? Haven’t seen him yet,” the student said, turning his attention to his map of Ridgemont which was spread out in front of him.

Adam tapped his foot at a steady rhythm. “We’re still a bit early. We’ll give him a few minutes. We have to leave at eight or else we’ll be late for the library orientation.”

They waited together for a few minutes, the three first-year students awkwardly making small talk with one another. Adam watched as other small groups of students headed out of Initia Nova on their campus tours, and he felt his frustration rising. One of the other second-year mentors, Vernon, turned to Adam on his way out with his group of first-years and said, “Losing your students already, Adam? I thought you were going to change your ways this year. Looks like I need to pay a visit to Prof Steyn later today.” Vernon sneered at Adam, his thin lips and beady eyes making him look like a mouse who had just found his cheese. Adam sighed. Vernon was the one who had reported Adam the previous year after the… incident. Vernon would have liked nothing more than to see Adam expelled. Adam shook his head and turned back to his group of first-years.

Adam was getting increasingly impatient. It was his job to keep the first-years in check, and he didn’t want to have to be a disciplinarian on the very first day mentoring them. But Connor was making them all late. “Wait here,” Adam said to the students in front of him. “I’m going to check on Connor. If he’s not ready, we’ll leave without him.”

Adam marched over to the hall where Connor’s room was and climbed the stairs to the second floor. He knocked on Connor’s door, and when there was no answer, he opened it, calling Connor’s name. The room was empty, but Adam could hear the sound of running water coming from the showers nearby. Was Connor still getting ready? Adam felt his annoyance reach boiling point and went to the showers, his face locked in a scowl.

He entered the communal showers. The showers were completely open, with only a row of four shower heads against a wall and no dividers or curtains. At the far shower, Adam saw a lone figure under hot, running water. The room was filled with steam, and Connor’s entire body was red from the heat. He was washing his blond hair, facing towards the shower head with his back to Adam. His arms were well-defined, his back slightly tanned and muscular. Adam’s eyes followed the contours of Connor’s body as the water streamed down it. He saw the curves of Connor’s slight frame, the bulging of his hips and the soft hairs along his arms and legs. And the magnificent shape of the prominent protrusions that immediately took Adam’s breath away. Connor was incredibly sexy. His tight, strong naked body was magnificent under the flowing water. Adam walked closer to Connor, trying to take his eyes away from the first-year’s body and directing them only to the back of his head. “Connor! It’s four minutes past eight. Why are you still showering?” Adam’s expression was still stern, but he felt weak in the knees.

Connor turned his head to look at Adam, shock written all over his face. His hair was plastered on his forehead, the beads of water falling on his lips. “I… I overslept. I’m so sorry.”

Adam was having none of it, and simply said, “Be outside in five minutes or we’re leaving without you.”

Connor closed the faucet and turned around to grab his towel which was hanging over the railing on the far wall. Adam froze. He took in the sight of Connor, naked in front of him. There was a lot more to Connor than Adam had initially thought. Adam wanted to divert his eyes, but he couldn’t help but stare at Connor’s compact body. His flat stomach showed the outline of his abdominal muscles, and a gentle tuft of hair led down to his manhood. Adam suddenly turned on his heels and stormed out. But the image of Connor was burned in his mind. It would be even more difficult to ignore the intriguing first-year after seeing so much of him.

Chapter 3

Connor was dragging his feet and trailing behind the other guys in his group of first-years as they walked around campus. He felt ashamed that he had been late for meeting Adam that morning. Adam was leading the group, telling the first-years about the beautiful buildings they passed as they made their way around Ridgemont. It truly was a magnificent campus. Donovan Square was large and bursting with bright greens, with students sitting in the shade of the tall trees and enjoying the sun as they chatted on the many benches scattered throughout the park. The academic buildings that Adam had shown them looked regal and stunning, especially the Natural Sciences building where Connor would spend most of his time as an undergraduate majoring in Biology. There were tall, Grecian columns along the entrance and a beautiful, multicolored garden in front of the building. It was all surreal. But even though Connor was amazed at how stunning Ridgemont was, he couldn’t shake the thoughts of how Adam had found him, still taking a shower when he was meant to be down in the quad with the rest of the group of first-years that Adam was mentoring.

Connor’s roommate, Quinton, had decided that it would be funny to play a prank on Connor that morning by setting his alarm to go off an hour later than Connor had intended. Connor awoke with a start, seeing that it was already five minutes before eight, and rushing into the shower to get ready for the tour of campus. Quinton was laughing as Connor rushed around his dorm room grabbing his towel and clothes. It was definitely not a bonding moment, and Connor’s initial feeling that Quinton didn’t like him was only getting stronger.

There was one little piece of consolation in all of the chaos: the way Adam had looked at Connor in the shower, scanning his naked body, had turned Connor on. There was clearly an attraction between them, and Adam’s glazed-over expression in the bathroom that morning was confirmation of that. Connor was definitely feeling shy about his exposed body, but he wanted to keep up his new confident demeanor. He was determined to flirt with the hot guys of Ridgemont, especially Adam, no matter how scared he was. Even though Adam had been stern with him, the look in his eyes as he took in Connor’s body was enough to make Connor feel slightly better.

On the tour, however, Adam was completely different. He was hardly paying attention to Connor at all. Perhaps Connor was only imagining things, and Adam wasn’t even interested. Connor felt completely dejected as he strolled behind the other guys, hardly noticing all of the sights and sounds of Ridgemont University that surrounded him.

Connor’s eyes were glued to the ground, and he vaguely heard Adam say that they would be heading to the Social Sciences Building next. Connor absentmindedly turned to look around him. He could see the guys on the rugby team standing at a stall on Donovan Square, waving a sign-up sheet for tryouts and chanting the Ridgemont anthem. Connor was amazed at seeing how good-looking the guys were in their tight rugby shorts and the green jerseys they wore. They were all ridiculously muscular, with chests and arms so large they looked like they would burst through the jerseys. The guys were throwing a rugby ball to one another and joking around, when one of the guys suddenly spotted Connor. The guy had a high fade hairstyle with wavy, dark hair, and his skin was a rich cocoa-brown tone. The rugby player flashed a smile in Connor’s direction and motioned for him to come over. Connor was taken aback, and simply shook his head before turning back to look at the path he was walking on.

As he turned back to the bath, panic immediately overtook him. He could feel his breathing quicken and his blood froze. None of the other guys were in front of him anymore. Connor scanned his surroundings, worried that the rest of his group had left him behind. He didn’t see them anywhere. He tried to remember where Adam had said he was taking the group, but his thoughts were too scattered. The Social Sciences Building! That was where Adam had said they were headed next. He pulled out his map of Ridgemont, desperate to make some kind of sense of it, but he had no idea how to find his way to the Social Sciences Building or back to Initia Nova.

Connor decided that he would try to ask for directions, and went up to a girl with pink hair. “Excuse me, I’m looking for the Social Sciences Building. Can you help me?” he asked her meekly, panic in his voice.

The girl looked uncomfortable, her face in an annoyed frown: “Sorry. I’m a first-year too. No idea.” She walked away before Connor could ask her another question.

He decided to retrace his steps; perhaps something would look familiar and he could at least find his way back to his dormitory. Connor was feeling frustrated with himself. Why had he not simply stayed with the group and paid attention? He was too busy looking at hot rugby players and getting distracted.

Connor spun around frantically and finally noticed a large building that he remembered: the student center where they had stopped after their library tour. He went inside, hoping that he could find his way to the library and back to his dorm from there. Inside the student center, hundreds of excited faces were walking in all directions, visiting the many stalls that were set up to advertize the student societies on campus. Connor had to push his way through many groups of students who had their faces in maps or were carrying large stacks of newly-bought textbooks. He arrived at the middle of the student center and saw three exits on different sides of the hall. It was useless; Connor wasn’t even sure which entrance he had used to get into the student center mere minutes earlier. He was beginning to feel the sinking realization that he was completely lost.

At that moment, a voice called out behind him. Connor spun around to see a brightly colored table with a large rainbow flag hanging on the wall behind it. A warm, velvety voice greeted him: “Hello! Are you lost?” The guy standing behind the table had a large smile on his face. His hair was styled in a big afro, and he had smooth brown skin with warm, honey-colored undertones. He was wearing an African print t-shirt which was filled with just as many colors as the rainbow flag behind him. “Can I help you find something? You look so sad just standing there like a lost sheep! What’s your name?”

Connor walked over to the guy at the table, happy that he had found someone friendly in the crowd. He noticed the wording on the sign with the rainbow flag: Ridgemont Rainbow: LGBT Society. “I’m Connor, a first-year student. I’m staying at Initia Nova, and we’re doing a campus tour, but I lost my group. I’m trying to find the Social Sciences Building.” Connor tried to hide his frustration, but his face was warm with nervous energy.

“Nice to meet you, Connor. I’m Zuko.” Zuko held out his hand and shook Connor’s enthusiastically. Zuko’s smile was reassuring, and Connor felt just a bit of his nerves start to fade away. “Don’t you worry. I’ll help you find the Social Sciences Building. It’s easy to spot if you go through Donovan Square. I’ll just wait for my friend Jeremy to come back to man the stall and I’ll walk with you, okay?”

Connor noticed the many pictures of guys and girls at parties and events that were neatly arranged all over the table in front of him. “Is this a group for… gay people?” Connor asked, feeling uncomfortable even saying the word. Connor had been so scared of his attraction to guys that he had never even spoken about it with anyone before. Now, at Ridgemont University, there was a whole student society dedicated to LGBT students. Connor could never imagine something like that existing in Saldanha Bay.

Zuko nodded, his eyebrow raised: “Gay, straight, bi, trans… everyone’s welcome! Ridgemont Rainbow is a great place if you’re questioning or curious. We have support groups, parties, pride festivals, and a lot more. Why don’t you take a brochure and come to our opening function?”

Connor was astonished. He couldn’t believe that people were so open and accepting at Ridgemont. He took the brochure from Zuko and put it in his backpack, and tried to maintain his brave face. It was really overwhelming how different Ridgemont University was. Connor was just hoping that he would feel like he fit in eventually. At that moment, he felt like a fish out of water.

Zuko could clearly notice Connor’s discomfort, and said to him: “Listen, you’ll be okay. You’ll find your feet in no time. I struggled for a bit when I first came to Ridgemont too. I even had to deal with some bullies who made my life a living hell for a while. But you know what? When you’re here, you can be whatever you want to be. Just be yourself, Connor, and you’ll find your way quickly. Trust me.”

Connor was so comforted he felt like he wanted to go over and hug Zuko. He was getting choked up. It was a major adjustment to leave Saldanha and come to Ridgemont, and it was nice knowing that someone seemed to understand what Connor was going through.

“There you are, Connor!” a voice came from behind him. Standing behind Connor with his arms folded in front of him was Adam, his face covered with the same stern expression as when he had found Connor in the shower that morning.

Connor responded nervously, “Adam! I’m sorry, I got lost and I couldn’t find my way to the next stop on the tour. I’m so sorry.” Connor could feel that he was getting overwhelmed with emotion, but he didn’t want to cause a scene by breaking down. Besides, he was supposed to be a grownup now. He couldn’t show weakness, especially not in front of Adam.

Adam’s stern expression changed suddenly. Perhaps he could see how lost Connor was feeling. Adam’s strong, square jaw and piercing olive eyes became softer. He walked over and quietly said, “Don’t worry about it, Connor. I know I was a bit hard on you earlier, but everyone gets a bit lost when they first get to Ridgemont. I don’t mean to be so tough on you.”

“It’s not your fault,” Connor said, still fighting off emotion. “I’m such a doofus. I’m making a fool of myself by being late and now getting lost. Maybe I’m just not cut out for any of this.”

“What do you mean?” Adam asked. Hundreds of students were streaming past them, but it felt like they were the only two people in the hall.

“I’m not used to any of this. Ridgemont is just so different from where I grew up. And I know that I’m making your life difficult, too.” Connor’s eyes sank to the floor.

Adam put his hand on Connor’s arm and said, “Don’t worry about it. It’s my job to look out for you and to make sure that you’re happy and settling in. Tell you what: why don’t we grab a drink together later tonight, just the two of us. Then I can show you how much fun Ridgemont can be. It’s not all about just structured tours and classes. There’s a lot of fun to be had, too.” Adam winked at Connor, and suddenly all of Connor’s fears dissolved.

Adam was asking him out! Was it a date, or was he just being friendly? Either way, Connor immediately responded: “Yes, please!”

He waved goodbye to Zuko, who had been watching him and Adam with keen interest from behind the table. Connor walked with Adam back towards where the rest of the first-years were waiting. He felt better about himself. He resolved to go to the opening function of Ridgemont Rainbow and make some friends. Maybe he would find his place at Ridgemont University after all.

[]Chapter 4

It was a warm summer night and Ridgemont was swarming with students eager to take advantage of the good weather and the opening specials at all of the local hangouts. Adam and Connor walked across Donovan Square towards Percy’s Pub, one of Adam’s favorite spots to start a night of partying. Adam felt bad about the way he had treated Connor before, and he realized that Connor was a lot less confident than he gave on. Adam had misjudged him: the way Connor had flirted with him on Connor’s bed when they had first met, and the way he had been so fearless in the shower, seemed to suggest that Connor was cocky. But Adam had seen a different side to him when he found him in the student center earlier that day. Connor seemed scared, like he was struggling to adjust to life at Ridgemont. It was Adam’s duty to make him feel at home. That was his job as a mentor, and Adam had to honor that. Showing Connor how much fun Ridgemont could be would be Adam’s way of making up for losing sight of the fact that Connor was still just a nervous first-year who needed some guidance.

But there were other reasons why Adam had invited Connor out that night. He couldn’t shake the effect that this first-year was having on him. There was something intoxicating about the way Connor moved, carrying himself with broad, sensual steps, but his blond hair and soft features betrayed his sensitive nature. Adam had to get to know him better.

Adam knew that it would be dangerous spending time with Connor. He had a weakness for guys who were sweet and innocent. And if Adam ever let anything happen between the two of them… it would mean the end to his time at Ridgemont. There was no way Prof Steyn would overlook Adam hooking up with a first-year that was put under his guidance as a mentor. It would look bad if anyone found out about it; it would seem like Adam was abusing his influence over an impressionable freshman. Being on probation was no fun at all.

There were hundreds of students moving across Donovan Square, all dressed up and hitting the town hard. Food stalls and carnival games were set up on the square during the annual welcoming week, and Adam relished in the excitement. The year before, he would be up to mischief as soon as evening fell during welcoming week. But he had to stay on the straight and narrow.

“There’s so much going on,” Connor said, turning his eyes shyly towards Adam as they strolled along the path. “It’s nothing like Saldanha. So many people…”

Adam giggled. “Life is definitely fast-paced at Ridgemont. But you’ll get used to it. Soon you’ll be partying with the best of them.” Adam winked again, and noticed the discomfort in Connor’s face at the flirtatious gesture. It was strange seeing Connor so nervous when he had seemed completely comfortable around Adam before. “I’m sorry I had to act so tough on you this morning,” Adam added. “There are just too many eyes watching me this year. I need to make a good impression.”

“Why?” Connor asked, a naughty glint in his eye. “Did you do something wrong?”

Adam winced, scratching at his square jaw. He didn’t know how to explain his probation to Connor. “You could say that… Anyway, just know that if I act tough on you in front of the other guys, it’s nothing personal. There’s this guy from res, Vernon, who is on my case. He’s watching me like a hawk, just waiting for me to slip up so that he can report me to the resident head.”

Connor gave a pensive smile, taking in what Adam said to him but clearly preparing a flirtatious comeback. “Why does this guy have it out for you? What did you do to him?”

“He’s just sour because I had a bit too much fun last year. I got involved in some things that I shouldn’t have. He fancies himself the protector of Ridgemont’s image, and he thinks I’m bad news, so he’s waiting for me to slip up. But I’m turning things around this year. I’m just a regular old good Ridgemont boy now.”

“I hope you’re not too good,” Connor replied, his smile broadening. “Everyone needs to be a bit… naughty sometimes. That’s why I came to Ridgemont. I’ve been good my whole life. I need a bit of fun for a change.”

Adam was caught off guard again by Connor’s boldness. He was intrigued, and said, “Well if it’s fun you’re after, Ridgemont is definitely the place for you.” Adam pointed across the road from where they were standing, to the dimly-lit pub that was overflowing with students. “In fact, this place might just be where you have a lot of fun.”

They walked into Percy’s Pub. The lights were low and a rock anthem was thumping in the pub, with the throng of students moving their heads to the beat. There was hardly room to move. The place held a cacophony of chatter, music and drunken singalongs. There were bright, multicolored lights on the dancefloor, and a small bar in the corner where handsome bartenders in tight black shirts were serving customers. Adam took Connor to a booth in the garden area out back, where the music was not as loud. He saw the look on Connor’s face, like a small animal caught in the middle of a busy highway, not knowing where to look or what to think. Adam smiled. This country boy, with his charming, innocent ways, was refreshing. They sat down at the booth and Adam ordered two beers from the waiter who came to their table.

“What do you think?” Adam asked Connor over the music. “Do you like it?”

Connor’s eyes darted around the room. “It’s… different. Exciting.” His expression seemed tense, and Adam felt the need to put him at ease.

“It’s a lot to take in. But this is a place where you can be yourself. Do you see any guys you like?”

Connor’s eyes shot open and he stared at Adam like a deer caught in headlights. “What do you mean?” Connor asked, trying his best to restrain his shock at Adam’s question.

“I saw you standing at the Ridgemont Rainbow table today. I just figured… Or do you like girls? Do you have a girlfriend?” Adam tried to remain composed, but he dreaded the answer to his question.

“I had a girlfriend, back in Saldanha.” The words stung Adam as they passed Connor’s lips. “But we broke up.”

“I see,” Adam said, feeling dejected. He had thought that there was chemistry between the two of them, and it was disappointing to find out that Connor was into girls.

Connor spoke again, clearing his throat as he leaned in so that Adam could hear him over the music: “But I’m looking for something… different now. I’ve been feeling like I need to expand my horizons for a long time. Now, I think, I have the chance.” Connor’s face broke into a sly smile, and he and Adam both giggled at the shared, unspoken acknowledgement of what Connor was implying.

“Looks like you’re definitely in the mood for fun,” Adam responded, unable to wipe the smile off his face.

Someone at the entrance caught Adam’s eye, and his expression brightened as he recognized the familiar face approaching his table. “JP!” Adam called out, waving his hand at his friend. Adam’s handsome, rugged friend from the swim team approached them. JP Terreblanche was one of the most talented swimmers at Ridgemont, and he had just recently started moving in Adam’s circles. Adam got up to hug his friend, and for a brief second he could see a flash of jealousy cross Connor’s face. “Come and sit down with us. How are you?” Adam asked JP, motioning for JP to sit next to him at the booth.

JP was very good looking, with short, spiky blond hair and sharp features, and a five-o’clock shadow covering his jaw. Adam had become good friends with JP when Adam tried out for the swim team, but sadly he wasn’t good enough of a swimmer to make the cut. That didn’t stop him from making friends with the wild partiers on the team, which was the reason Adam landed in such hot water the year before…

“Another year of raucous partying ahead of you, Adam?” JP asked as he sat down at the table. He reached out his hand and introduced himself to Connor, who was still looking apprehensive.

“I’ve changed my ways,” Adam responded playfully. “Connor here is a first-year at Nova. He’ll take over from me since I’m retiring from partying.”

JP laughed and slapped Adam on his back jovially. “I don’t think you could ever give up on the wild life, Adam. I’m practically old and boring compared to you.”

“That’s not true. You were the one who taught me how to party, remember?” Adam and JP both laughed and clinked their drinks together.

JP turned to Connor, his intense blue eyes scanning Connor’s face, and he asked Adam: “So, am I interrupting a date or something? You two looked very intimate when I walked in.” Connor averted his eyes, his cheeks turning bright red.

Adam shifted in his seat and responded to JP: “I’m showing Connor everything that Ridgemont has to offer. It’s completely innocent, I swear. But first, I think we all need fresh drinks.” Adam got up to get another round of drinks for everyone at the table, leaving Connor alone with the handsome stranger.

***

Connor swallowed hard, intimidated by the tall, confident guy sitting across from him. JP was watching Connor closely, looking like he was trying to figure out a puzzle where the pieces wouldn’t fit. Finally, JP said: “Adam’s a great guy, you know. We’ve become really close over the past year. We both had some problems in the past, running with the wrong crowds, but we’ve turned things around.”

Connor tried to steady his voice as he said: “He mentioned something about an… incident, last year. What happened to him?”

JP seemed guarded, biting his lip, and said, “You’ll have to ask Adam yourself. Let’s just say he’s learned his lesson and he’s trying to stay focused on his studies this year. What about you, Connor? What are you focused on this year?”

Even though JP was clearly suspicious of Connor and trying to figure out whether something was going on between Connor and Adam, Connor felt a strange closeness and respect for JP. He seemed like someone who could be trusted. Connor responded, “Honestly, I’m struggling with all of this. Where I’m from, I never quite fit in, and I tried to be something that I’m not so that people wouldn’t look at me funny. But here, I want to be myself. I don’t want to be scared anymore.”

A smile broke out on JP’s lips, and he seemed to soften a bit more towards Connor. “I can relate. Last year, I was trying to be someone that my family wanted me to be. It took me a long time to finally learn to let go of all of that. But that’s a story for another time. The point is, you should go for what you really want. If something, or someone, makes you happy, don’t hold back.”

Connor saw Adam saunter back to the table with three drinks, and when he reached the booth Adam said: “You two look way too serious for such a happy night. What are you talking about?”

Connor looked up at Adam, the strong features of his face reflecting the dim lights, his deep olive eyes catching Connor’s eyes in a glance. Connor was determined to follow JP’s advice. He would go for what he truly wanted.

JP finished his drink with the two of them, chatting about life and his and Adam’s mutual friends. When he took the last sip he said goodbye to Connor and Adam, promising to see them around. Adam turned to look at Connor when they were alone, his eyes serious. They stared at each other in silence for a few seconds, communicating something that they weren’t allowed to put into words just yet. Finally, Connor said: “Your friend gave me some good advice.”

“Oh yeah?” Adam asked. “What did he tell you?”

“He said that I should put myself out there and go for what I want.”

Adam laughed and said, “That definitely sounds like solid advice. Just be careful. You might get more than you bargained for.”

“I’m tired of being careful,” Connor said, and reached his hand across the table, touching his fingertips to the back of Adam’s hand. “Being careful is no fun.”

Adam’s eyes were glued to Connor’s. Connor’s thoughts were running at a mile a minute. “Maybe we should get out of here?” Adam said. Connor nodded in agreement. They stood up together and walked through the horde of students into the warm summer’s air outside. Campus was still bursting with activity, and as they walked down the path through Donovan Square Connor could feel his insides contract. He was excited about getting to know Adam. There was a powerful attraction between them that was palpable even as they walked side-by-side. Connor felt blood rushing through his body, anticipating his next move. They reached a dark patch of the square, where the lights from the stalls and pubs were drowned out by trees, and Connor grabbed Adam’s hand, pulling him off the path towards a tall oak tree.

“What are you doing?” Adam asked, his voice high and sharp. Connor could practically feel his heartbeat in his throat.

“Trust me,” Connor said, pushing Adam against the tree. Connor pressed his body against Adam’s, running his hand over Adam’s strong chest, their hips grinding together. Connor’s eyes were tracing the line of Adam’s square jaw, all the way to his lips. “I’ve wanted to do this ever since I first saw you in my room.”

“Connor, I…” Adam started to say, but in an instant his lips were locked with Connor’s. They kissed passionately, and Adam’s hands started to explore Connor’s body, running down his back and onto those curves he had seen in the shower that morning. All of Adam’s apprehensions melted away as he explored Connor’s body with his hands. Connor tasted the masculine saltiness of Adam’s skin, savoring every second of the kiss. He ran his hand under Adam’s shirt, his fingers warmed by the heat of Adam’s skin. He was in ecstasy.

Suddenly, Connor heard the sound of clicking behind him, and a bright flash surrounded the scene. “Got it!” someone shouted, and Connor turned around to see what was happening.

Adam called out in horror, “Vernon! What are you doing?” A lanky, beady-eyed guy was standing on the path a few meters away from them with his phone pointed right at Connor and Adam.

Vernon responded: “I’ve got just what I need now, Adam! Isn’t this one of the students you’re supposed to be mentoring? Let’s see what Prof Steyn thinks of this!”

Before Adam could even think of giving chase, Vernon was gone. Adam’s face fell and Connor began to feel queasy. This was exactly what Adam was worried would happen.

Adam spoke after a few seconds of thought, his voice quiet and deflated: “I don’t know what he’ll do. He’s been out to get me since last year. Since we broke into the swimming stadium. Some of the other guys vandalized the place, and because I was with them I was put on probation too. Vernon’s been on my case ever since.”

“Maybe he won’t show it to anyone,” Connor said, trying to reassure Adam. Just as he said it, both his and Adam’s phones’ message tones sounded, and Connor took his phone out of his pocket to read the message. It was a message from an unknown number with a picture attachment; the picture of Adam and Connor kissing!

When Connor looked up to face Adam, Adam was staring at his own phone with his mouth open. “He must’ve sent it to the entire Nova call list! He’s trying to ruin me!” A look of anger came over Adam’s face, and he demanded: “What was I thinking?”

Connor was mortified. He felt panic pulsing through him, and said, “Adam, I’m so sorry! If there’s anything I can do to help…”

Adam shot back, “You’ve done enough, Connor! I should’ve known this would happen. What was I thinking? I should never have let this happen. Just let me deal with it.” Adam’s eyes were brimming with anger, and he barely looked at Connor as he stormed away. Connor was left reeling. The one time he took a chance and went for what he wanted, he messed everything up.

Chapter 5

The next day, Adam was awoken by loud, incessant knocking at his door. He groggily looked over at the clock on his wall; it was only 7 a.m. Adam felt a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach. He had managed to sneak into his room the night before without any of the other Nova guys spotting him, but he knew that everyone had seen the picture of him kissing Connor. He would likely have the eyes of the entire dorm on him whenever he was brave enough to leave his room again. Adam got out of bed and pulled on a t-shirt, adjusting the boxer shorts that he had slept in. He opened the door to be greeted by Vernon’s sneering face. “Good morning, Adam! Looks like you’ve had a good night’s rest.”

“What do you want, Vernon? I’m not on mentoring duty today, and I really don’t feel like seeing anyone right now. Especially not after the stunt you pulled last night.” Adam rubbed his hand over his short hair as he gave Vernon a contemptuous glare. Vernon was already dressed in his Initia Nova committee jacket and neat chinos, with his name badge straightened over his jacket pocket.

“I was only doing my duty as an ambassador of this university, Adam. People like you think you can get away with anything. After you and your friends vandalized the swimming stadium’s lounge last year, all you had to do was bat your eyelashes and they let you off with nothing more than a warning. I just want you to get what’s coming to you. If you can’t follow the rules, you shouldn’t be here, and you definitely shouldn’t be a mentor for Initia Nova.” Vernon seemed to be taking pleasure in every word he uttered. He spoke slowly and deliberately, driving home his resentment towards Adam.

“Just leave me alone, Vernon,” Adam shot back, and he motioned to close the door, but Vernon put his foot in the way to stop it.

“Not so fast. Prof Steyn sent me to let you know that he wants to see you first thing this morning. He was very disappointed to see that you were abusing your position as a mentor. He’s expecting you at 8.” The words were uttered through a satisfied smirk. Adam felt his shoulders sink. There was no way out of it. Adam would have to face the music.

He closed the door and sat on his bed in the darkened room. Why had he asked Connor out for drinks? He should’ve known that it was a recipe for disaster. Connor was very cute and very flirtatious, and Adam knew that he was incredibly attracted to the first-year. But he couldn’t resist. The magnetism between them was immediate and intense, and Adam couldn’t get Connor off his mind.

He took a shower and got dressed with a sense of dread. Luckily, he could sneak around the hallways without anyone seeing him, since most of the Nova guys were still asleep or taking showers, but that would all end as soon as he had to walk across the quad towards Prof Steyn’s door. He would definitely be seen walking out in the open like that. It would be excruciating, and Adam tried to steel himself for the oncoming embarrassment.

He finally made his way out of his room and stepped out of his section’s door onto the quad. He could feel the eyes on him. Many guys were standing at their windows, silently watching Adam cross the quad. They had all received the message from Vernon the night before, and they all knew that Adam would be in trouble for making out with a first-year that he was supposed to be mentoring.

Adam finally arrived at Prof Steyn’s door and hesitated for a second before knocking. He heard the heavy, commanding voice of Prof Steyn call for him to enter, and he slowly turned the handle.

Prof Steyn was sitting at his desk in the small office where he often met with students. He had been the resident head of Initia Nova for years, and his strict demeanor was legendary. Adam greeted him with a groggy voice. Prof Steyn was in his early fifties, his hair greying, and his frame large and intimidating. His spectacles were perched on his nose. “Sit down, Adam,” Prof Steyn said, no emotion in his words.

Adam walked over to the desk and sat across from Prof Steyn. He could feel beads of sweat around his neck and his breathing was shallow. What had he gotten himself into?

“I trust that you know why I called you here this morning.”

Adam’s eyes sank to the ground. “Yes, Prof.” He couldn’t manage to say anything more than that. He hated the feeling of disappointing Prof Steyn, especially since Prof Steyn was the one who had fought for Adam to be readmitted into Initia Nova.

“Adam, you’ve put me in a very difficult position. The university was ready to expel you last year along with all of those students who thought it would be fun to destroy university property. But I told them that you showed great potential, and since you were not involved in the vandalism, they agreed to give you a second chance. Do you know how bad it looks that you are taking advantage of that generosity?”

Adam felt tears welling in his eyes. He was so determined to turn things around after all of the mistakes he had made the year before. He couldn’t believe that there was a chance it could all slip away. “Prof, I know that what I did wasn’t… appropriate. I know I’m supposed to be a mentor to Connor. Trust me, I tried to change the way I feel about him. I tried to push it aside.”

Prof Steyn’s expression softened, and he said: “You feel that strongly about him?”

Adam nodded. “I’ve gotten to know him a bit over these past few days. There’s something really special about him. But I know I should’ve gone about it differently. I’m sorry, Prof.”

Prof Steyn slowly stood up from his desk chair and walked over to his bookcase. He scanned through a few books and found a stack of pictures that he brought over to Adam. “Let me tell you a story, Adam. I fell in love with someone a long time ago. I was an officer in the army during apartheid. It was not only against the rules for us to fall in love, it was illegal.” Prof Steyn put down a picture of two young men in army uniforms. One of the men was clearly Prof Steyn as a young man, and the other was a dark-skinned, handsome man who looked slightly older. “He was a lieutenant of Indian heritage. We had to break the rules to be together, but we couldn’t tell anyone about it. Not for a long time. That was a lifetime ago.” Prof Steyn turned around a framed picture on his desk, facing the picture towards Adam. In the picture was Prof Steyn, looking about a decade younger, with the same Indian man. Both of them were wearing suits and holding hands. “Now, Vijay and I are married and we are raising two beautiful children. I know how sometimes you have to break the rules, especially for love.”

Adam could feel tears rolling down his cheeks. He looked up at Prof Steyn, whose face had lightened into a smile.

Prof Steyn spoke again, his voice as heavy and stern as before: “Unfortunately, I need to take some serious action as a result of what you’ve done. There are some other students who are willing to report this to the dean of students if we don’t handle it internally. You understand, Adam?”

Adam nodded, feeling a mixture of admiration and shame in Prof Steyn’s presence. “I understand, Prof.”

“So, for that reason, I’m assigning Connor to a new second-year mentor. We can’t have a mentor dating a mentee. That will be all, Adam.”

Adam looked up, his eyes wide: “You’re not expelling me?”

Prof Steyn laughed and went back to his seat across the desk from Adam. “There’s no need for that. It was just an innocent kiss, after all. Your probation stands for the next six months, and you’ll be assigned a new first-year student to mentor in Connor’s place.”

Adam was so happy that he almost got up to hug Prof Steyn. “Thank you! Thank you, Prof! I won’t disappoint you.” He stood up and shook Prof Steyn’s hand and rushed out of the office in one quick motion, running towards Connor’s room. He had to tell Connor the good news immediately. Adam ran up the stairs, ignoring all of the other guys that he passed as he finally arrived at Connor’s door. He knocked and waited, anxious to see Connor. Adam knew that he had been too blunt with Connor the night before, but in his frustration with Vernon he had lashed out at Connor. Adam wanted to apologize and see if Connor would give him another chance.

There was finally an answer at the door, but it wasn’t Connor’s face that greeted Adam. Connor’s roommate, Quinton, the unpleasant first-year with a mushroom-cut hairstyle, greeted Adam with a knowing smile. “Connor’s not here,” Quinton said immediately.

“Where is he? I need to speak with him,” Adam said, barely catching his breath.

“Didn’t anyone tell you? Connor packed up and went back to Saldanha last night. He said that he wasn’t cut out for life at Ridgemont.” The gleeful smirk never left Quinton’s lips.

Adam stood frozen staring at the door as Quinton closed it in his face. What had he done? Adam knew that Connor was struggling to fit in at Ridgemont, and it was his job to make Connor feel at home. Instead, he had made Connor feel so unwelcome that he had packed up and left.

Chapter 6

Connor stood in front of the sink doing the dishes in the small kitchen of his grandmother’s house in Saldanha. The smell of the ocean was strong in the air, and Connor could hear seagulls just outside of the kitchen window. It felt like a strange dream being back home, but Connor couldn’t imagine staying in Ridgemont. Not with the way that everyone stared at him when he walked into Initia Nova the night before. Not with Adam possibly being expelled for breaking the rules.

Connor knew that he needed to be home for a while. Perhaps he would try to find another place to live in Ridgemont when he returned for classes. He couldn’t face being back at Nova.

Connor’s grandmother walked into the kitchen, her hair tied back into a tight bun and her face lined and weary. She spent most of her days running the shop that Connor’s grandfather had opened in Saldanha many years before, but her age was catching up with her. She had saved money for many years to be able to afford to send Connor to Ridgemont, and he was determined to make sure that he could give her a proper retirement once he got a job after his studies. Now, all he wanted to do was crawl up into a ball in the safety of home.

His grandmother sat down at the small kitchen table, giving a deep sigh, and said, “Connor, you have to tell me why you came back here in such a state last night. I’m your grandmother. I’ve looked after you since you were a young boy. You know there’s nothing you can’t tell me.”

Connor’s face was pulled in a tight frown, and he couldn’t even look his grandmother in the eye. “I’ve just caused too much trouble and I haven’t even been in Ridgemont for three days. I was trying to be a different person, but maybe I should just go back to being the same Connor I’ve always been. The one who follows the rules.”

“You’ve got a good head on your shoulders, Connor. Maybe you made a few mistakes, but that’s all part of growing up. You’ll land on your feet. I know one thing: you won’t accomplish anything hiding here in Saldanha. You have to go back and face your challenges. I always wanted more for you than just living in this small town and working in the shop with me.”

Connor put down the dish he was cleaning and dried his hands on a cloth nearby. He sat down at the table with his grandmother and rested his head in his hands. “I was trying to follow my heart for once. I’ve always been so careful and guarded. I just wanted to be free. But I ended up ruining everything.”

Connor’s grandmother had a concerned look on her face and said, “I’m sure it’s not that bad, Connor. You’ve always been way too serious for your own good. You need to loosen up. I was hoping that being at Ridgemont would be fun for you, not cause you more worries. I want you to follow your heart, not overthink things so much.”

Connor swallowed hard. He felt his heart beating fast, but pushed aside his fear and said: “What if my heart leads me to… a guy?”

His grandmother seemed unfazed as she responded: “Then you need to trust it. If this boy makes you happy, you need to go to him. I always knew that you wouldn’t be able to live the kind of life that you wanted in this town. You need to be somewhere where you can be yourself and be with someone that makes you happy.”

Connor felt emotion well up in him. He walked around the table to his grandmother and hugged her tightly. “Thank you, Ma. Thank you for always believing in me. I just wish I had been a little bit more cautious during my first few days at Ridgemont. I might’ve messed things up with this guy for good.”

“Connor, if there’s one thing I know from experience, it’s that if it’s worthwhile, it’s worth fighting for. If this boy feels the same way about you, then go back there and fix things.”

Connor and his grandmother both turned their heads with a start when they heard a knock at the door. They hardly ever had visitors. Connor got up and walked through the small living room towards the front door, and his grandmother watched him from the kitchen table. He opened the door immediately took a step backwards; he couldn’t believe what he saw. Adam stood in the doorway, his olive eyes lighting up at the sight of Connor.

“I found you!” Adam exclaimed excitedly. “All of these streets look the same! I thought I’d never find the right house. Prof Steyn gave me your home address and I drove over as soon as I could. It took me a few hours, but I’m here. I’ve come to take you back to Ridgemont, Connor. And to apologize.”

Connor stared at Adam with his mouth slightly open, unable to form a coherent thought. “You came all the way out here to get me?”

“I couldn’t let you leave. I couldn’t just forget about you, Connor.”

Connor’s grandmother walked over from the kitchen and put her hand on Connor’s arm as she smiled at Adam. “This must be the boy you told me about, Connor. I’m heading back to the shop. I’ll give you some time to talk. Don’t leave without saying goodbye, okay?” She craned over to kiss Connor on his cheek and turned to shake Adam’s hand. “Nice to meet you, young man. Please look after my grandson at Ridgemont. He’s very precious to me, and it’s hard for me to think of him all alone out there.”

“Don’t worry,” Adam said, “he’s not alone. He’s got someone there who cares about him.”

Connor led Adam into the kitchen as his grandmother walked out the door. They sat at the table staring at each other, both of them overjoyed but restraining themselves.

Adam broke the silence first: “Your grandmother is lovely. And this town is very charming.”

“Nothing like Ridgemont, is it?” Connor smiled.

Adam averted his eyes. “I’m sorry, Connor. I’m sorry for making you feel like you did something wrong when I wanted to kiss you so badly. I’m sorry for not making you feel at home at Ridgemont like I was supposed to. I hope you let me make it up to you.”

Connor looked around the room before turning back to Adam. “This is all I’ve known for my whole life. Ridgemont is like another world to me. I wanted to act like it was no big deal leaving this all behind, like I wasn’t scared of anything. But inside I was frightened. I’ve never kissed a guy before. It was all so new to me. But I couldn’t resist. I couldn’t keep myself away from you.”

Adam smiled broadly. “Come back with me to Ridgemont. Let’s start over. Prof Steyn assigned you to another mentor. He’s actually a really cool guy.”

“I don’t know,” Connor said, sighing. “I’m not sure I can face everyone right now. The entire Nova saw a picture of us making out. And Vernon will be out to get both of us now.”

“I don’t care about any of them,” Adam said. “Vernon is jealous that he can’t have as much fun as the rest of us do. He’s too busy sucking up to the higher-ups, trying to keep me in check. But I can handle him. And the rest of the guys in Nova will forget all about the picture in a few days. We’ll be old news in no time.”

“Good,” Connor said, feeling a sense of calm descend on him. “To be honest, my grandmother has already convinced me to go back. But it’s nice having you come all the way out here to get me.”

Adam feigned indignance, and walked around to where Connor was sitting. He put his hand gently behind Connor’s neck, bent over, and pulled Connor’s face close to his own. “I’m just glad you’re coming back with me. I didn’t want to lose you.”

Connor stood up and faced Adam. They kissed deeply, slowly, holding each other around the waist. Connor said, “I’ve got a feeling we have many adventures ahead of us at Ridgemont University.”

They went to Connor’s room and began to carry his bags into his car, eager to get back to Ridgemont. Connor felt optimistic as he watched Adam carrying one of his bags. He was lucky to meet someone like Adam, someone who cared enough to come all the way to Saldanha to make sure that Connor was okay and to bring him back to Ridgemont. Connor was looking forward to getting to know Adam better. He was ready to go back, more confident than ever that Ridgemont University was where he belonged.

_______________

A final request from the author

Thank you so much for reading Breaking the Rules. I hope you enjoyed it! Don’t worry – there’s more to come with Connor and Adam.

I love writing these stories and I appreciate any feedback on what you liked or what can be improved.

As independent authors, we rely on reviews in order to get readers to invest in our books. Most readers won’t take a chance on a book like this without many reviews to tell them the good and bad of what they’re investing in.

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There are many more adventures from the boys at Ridgemont University to come! Follow my author page to get updates whenever a new novel or short story is released, or to see all of the books already released: http://author.to/meredithtaylor

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Thanks for spending some time with me and the characters I love to bring to life!

*
p={color:#000;}. Meredith

__________________

You can read more of Zuko’s story in Hot Off the Press: Ridgemont University #1.

You can read JP’s adventure with Darryn in Against the Tide: Ridgemont University #2.

Connor and Adam will return in future Ridgemont University stories. For the latest updates and to be the first to know when new novels and short stories are released, sign up for my mailing list at www.meredithtaylorbooks.com

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Ridgemont University Book 3

All-Nighters

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Get it now at getbook.at/allnighters

Read the first chapters on the next pages!

Chapter 1

The small King Air plane was darting through the sky, the sound of the engine a mixture between a muffled scream and a dinosaur’s roar. Luke Brennan sat inside, his palms sweaty but his breathing surprisingly steady. His ice-blue eyes were scanning the clouds through the goggles he wore, and he repeated his mantra in his head: The thrill lets you know that you’re alive. His eyebrows were stuck in a frown on his forehead, and his vision was slightly blurry in the rush of adrenaline. He felt like he was drowning in all of the safety gear and equipment, but he forced himself to focus on the mantra: The thrill lets you know that you’re alive.

“Don’t look so scared, Luke! We’ve done a lot worse than this before!” the strained voice of his friend Blair was barely audible over the rumble of the engine. Blair’s long hair was tied back into a ponytail and her expression was one of complete calm. Somehow, Blair’s total immunity against fear was always calming for Luke, and he was glad that he had his friend along for his first time skydiving.

Luke turned to face Blair again, and let out a loud, wolf-like howl which she dutifully joined in on. They laughed raucously and looked over at the skydiving instructor who would be joining them on the dive. He gave them a thumbs up with the broadest smile Luke had ever seen. Luke wasn’t sure who the man was trying to convince. Despite the regular flutter in his stomach that Luke encountered when he went on these crazy adventures, he was never really scared anymore. He hadn’t been scared of anything in over a year… since then, he had gone white-water rafting, parasailing, rock climbing and deep-sea diving. His friends often admired his wild, thrill-seeking nature. The only person who could keep up with him was Blair, and that’s why she was sitting next to him on his biggest adventure yet: skydiving over the Ridgemont Valley.

Luke took a deep breath, and as he exhaled he felt the entire plane take a dip through the sky. His heart stopped and his stomach felt like it was being yanked out through his throat. Blair grabbed his shoulder as the plane dipped forward and immediately pulled up, throwing them both off balance. Luke wanted to let out a frightened holler, but he tried to hold it together in front of Blair. As the plane steadied again, Luke saw that Blair was completely enjoying the moment, her large, expressive mouth breaking into a guttural laugh. Blair’s sharp features, prominent cheekbones and honey complexion made her very popular with men, and her infectious laughter and spirit for adventure were sure to get her attention wherever she went. Luke enjoyed being around attractive, confident people, especially those who seemed like they didn’t give a damn about what people thought of them. He admired Blair’s features for a moment and joined in her laughter. “That was a close one,” he shouted above the sound of the engine. He turned his pale blue eyes towards the skydiving instructor whose smile had only grown. Was there something he wasn’t telling them? Luke shook away the thoughts of doom and gloom and enjoyed the moment. The thrill lets you know that you’re alive.

The curly-haired instructor walked over to them, still smiling his oafish smile, and patted Luke heavily on his shoulder. “Okay, time to fasten the parachutes. Make sure that you remember where the emergency cord is. I will be right there with you so you don’t need to worry about anything.”

Luke sharpened his gaze at the door, his plump, ample lips filling with blood from the cold of the wind rushing into their cabin. His lips had always been his most prominent feature, something that guys commented on when they were flirting with him. The full lips gave his face a feminine, earthy quality that contrasted with the cold blue eyes that might have been enough to scare people away. His sharp jawline and jet-black Caesar cut hair always got him noticed when he walked into Percy’s Pub on campus, or one of the other gay nightclubs in Cape Town. But the lips betrayed something more vulnerable, often flaring bright red in contrast to his pale skin. As he stood up from the seat in the small plane and walked towards the jump doors, his lips were redder than ever.

Blair fastened her skydiving goggles over her face and made sure that her parachute was secure. The instructor stood behind them as they moved closer to the doors. Luke could feel the chill draining all feeling form his cheeks, and the wind blowing through his hair in all directions. His jumpsuit was loose and heavy on his frame, and even though it was freezing cold, he could feel a light sweat on his chest. He saw the clouds and blue sky turn into the horizon as he walked towards the opening. Blair was in her zone, Luke noticed, her stare vacant as she walked beside him. She turned to him suddenly and said, “I heard a story about someone’s parachute that wouldn’t open on one of these dives. Splat!” She gave a mischievous smile and winked at Luke through her goggles, and he laughed half-heartedly in response.

“Here we go! We’re right above the landing zone! Are you ready?” the instructor hollered. Luke could finally bring himself to look down and appreciate the scene in front of him. There was a stunning landscape of green and gold as he looked down at the farmlands of the Ridgemont Valley. The area was famous for its wine farms, and the neat rows of vines below them offered a spectacular view. In the distance Luke could see the tall towers of Ridgemont University, where he was a final-year undergraduate student majoring in Psychology. He tried to take a mental picture of all of the beauty in front of him, and just as he was deep in thought savoring the magnificent sight, the instructor yelled out, “Jump!”

For a moment Luke felt complete weightlessness, like the world around him had shifted into the realm of nonreality. His head was completely clear; he didn’t even feel the cold anymore. Then, like being jerked down by a giant fist at his collar, he was falling through the sky. His mind raced uncontrollably, an exhilarating rush overcoming him. It felt as if his blood was pumping through his veins at ten times the normal rate. He felt that same feeling of being alive that he felt every time he went on one of his wild adventures. The same feeling he sometimes felt when he met a new guy at a bar. For a few minutes at least, he was invincible.

Luke tried to concentrate on the scene around him, seeing the ground approaching and feeling the push of air against his body as he fell. He could see Blair in the distance, her mouth wide open as though she were screaming euphorically, but he couldn’t hear her at all. The buildings looked like children’s toys on the horizon, and the roads around the Ridgemont Valley looked like the tiny trails of an anthill. Below him were the dazzling colors of the Ridgemont farms at autumn time. He wanted to take it all in and make the moment last.

But he couldn’t keep his mind on the moment. He had flashes of all of the things he was trying to forget. He remembered how he felt when he got the message from his sister Stephanie that morning, asking him to meet her. He remembered the anger he felt as he threw his phone across the room. He thought of how much pain he endured one year before, and how hard he was fighting to forget his past. Why did it creep up on him even in these moments of pure abandon? Luke closed his eyes tightly and felt lightheaded. He knew that it was almost time to pull the cord so that his parachute would open. He reached up and held his hand over the cord, regretting that the moment would soon be over. In the distance he could see the instructor moving towards him. Blair had already released her parachute and seemed to be shooting up into the sky as her parachute countered the force of her fall. Luke pulled the cord, and… nothing happened.

The parachute didn’t release. He suddenly felt his throat become dry and his eyes were filled with tears. His blood, just seconds before rushing wildly through his body, seemed to run cold. He tried pulling the cord again, but nothing happened. He fumbled around, reaching for the emergency cord, but for a second his thoughts were frozen and he felt calm descend over him. He hesitated. His grip on the emergency cord loosened and he focused his attention on the ground that was approaching rapidly. The thrill lets you know that you’re alive. For a brief moment, he remembered a loving image of his sister Stephanie.

Before Luke even knew what had happened, the instructor was behind him and had fastened himself to Luke’s safety harness. The instructor pulled his own cord and both of them were suddenly frozen in the sky as the parachute opened. Luke heard the instructor’s voice in his ear: “Struggling with your cord, eh? Don’t worry, I’ve got you.” Luke didn’t know what to make of his feelings. He smiled nonchalantly and whispered a “Thank you” which the instructor probably couldn’t hear. He looked around for Blair, who was well above him. He felt himself descend back into reality, seeing the ground approaching at what still felt like a rapid pace. The instructor’s body was pressed tightly against his back, making him feel smothered. Finally, they reached the ground and Luke and the instructor synchronized their movements to catch the force of the landing with their feet and roll on the ground. Luke took a moment to gather his thoughts and felt the instructor unfastening the harness which had kept them locked together. “It happens sometimes,” the instructor said. “People just freeze up there. You must’ve forgotten about the emergency cord. Luckily you have me to catch you.” The instructor gave a hearty smile and patted Luke on the shoulder.

“My cord was caught or something, and I was just about to pull the emergency cord. But thanks anyway,” Luke said, half-heartedly. He saw Blair land a few meters away and ran over to her, leaving the instructor to gather the parachute.

Blair shouted out to Luke once she found her feet: “I didn’t know my story on the plane would be a premonition! Didn’t you listen during our training, Luke?” Her voice was hoarse from the dive. She laughed her raucous laugh, her sharp features seeming almost unpleasant in the moment.

“I think our instructor was just being overcautious. I could handle myself,” Luke said, running his hands through his messy hair. His lips were bright red and he could feel heat returning to his body.

“Wasn’t that amazing, Luke?” Blair exclaimed, hugging him enthusiastically. “What a rush! We should definitely do it again. Only this time, get your ’chute double-checked beforehand.”

Luke was shaken from the whole experience. Why had he thought of his sister, the person who had betrayed him so callously, when he was hurtling through the sky? And why had he felt so calm when his parachute wouldn’t open? He decided that he didn’t want to think about any of it. Clearly, skydiving wasn’t for him, but there were other ways to get excitement and have fun in life.

“Why don’t we head out to Percy’s tonight to commemorate our first skydive? I can give Busi a call later to join us,” Luke said, forcing a smile.

“Sounds great! I’m in. You know I’m always up for a party. Maybe I’ll even ask our instructor to join. He’s kind of cute, don’t you think?” Blair winked. Luke felt his mind finally come back into his body. He walked towards the hangar where their bags were, noticing a car in the distance already heading out to get them, and tried to focus on the fun they would have at Percy’s Pub that night. He would flirt with the hottest guy there, and make sure that he didn’t have to think about Stephanie or any of the thoughts that flooded his mind during his dive. He looked over at the towers of Ridgemont University, determined to have fun.

Chapter 2

The air was rich with the smell of damp earth. The gentle rustle of the river could be heard in the distance. Jesse Montgomery felt contented, walking with his dog, a bearded collie named Scampers, through the Yvette Uys Nature Reserve, a few kilometres from Ridgemont University. Jesse lived on the edge of campus so that he could easily escape to the nature reserve and go up the mountain trail whenever he needed to. He loved the isolation and the time he spent with Scampers enjoying nature.

He wore his heavy blue windbreaker, the chill of autumn finally descending after a long, hot Summer. Jesse loved the cold weather; it was a great excuse to stay home with a good book rather than have to make excuses for why he didn’t want to go out. Besides, spending time with Scampers was so much more fun than suffering through loud nightclubs with the boisterous and brash Ridgemont students.

The hiking trail up Yvette Uys Mountain was lined with evergreen trees. Scampers ran ahead of Jesse, sniffing at each one. His long, black and white coat of fur was a bit damp from running through the gentle streams along the trail. Scampers would look back at Jesse from time to time to seek his approval and to make sure that he wasn’t getting too far ahead, and Jesse would smile and tell him: “You’re okay, Scamp. I’m right behind you.” Scampers was almost seven-years-old, and was a bit slower and less energetic than he had been in his younger days, but he still had an adventurous spirit and relished the walks Jesse would take him on. He had been a loyal companion to Jesse throughout high school and Jesse had taken him along when he got his own flat at Ridgemont. He was happy that he could have his dog with him; spending time with Scampers was often when Jesse was happiest.

Jesse pushed his medium-length, slightly curly, dark-blond hair from his brow, his deep coffee brown eyes surveying the scenery. Jesse had full cheeks that gave him a boyish look, but his eyes showed a certain seriousness that counteracted his youthful features. His broad shoulders helped to make sure that people didn’t mistake him for a teenager; he had just turned twenty-one-years-old. He sometimes wished that he didn’t have such attractive features, that he could just disappear into the background, but his face had the innocent and friendly quality of making most people instantly trust him, and for that reason he often had a lot of unwanted interactions with strangers. Out on the hiking trail, he could be alone and enjoy his own thoughts. He had always been quiet and shy, and his slight stutter didn’t help matters, so being alone suited him perfectly.

Scampers suddenly rushed down the trail away from Jesse, barking furiously. Jesse ran after him, shouting his name and feeling his breathing quicken. Scampers was very obedient most of the time, but when he saw another dog he often couldn’t contain his excitement. Jesse finally caught up with him and found him sniffing a dachshund whose tail was wagging excitedly. “Scampers, come back here,” Jesse called out, but Scampers was too happy with his new friend to pay any attention to Jesse. Jesse took the leash out of his pocket and walked over to Scampers to fasten it to his harness, and noticed an older woman approaching him.

“Oh, I see your dog has taken a liking to my Daisy,” she smiled, her face lined and friendly. She had her greying hair tied into a ponytail, and looked like the type who loved the outdoors.

Jesse smiled back at her, and responded, “H-h-he seems to l-l-like her.” Jesse chastized himself silently. Couldn’t he have one normal interaction with a stranger without the damned stutter acting up?

The woman looked over at Scampers. “He’s a beauty,” she said. “I’ve always loved collies. The most loving and loyal dogs.”

Jesse smiled down at Scampers, who was sitting patiently at his side and watching the dachshund. “He means a lot to me, yes. We’ve walked a long road t-t-together.” Dammit, stutter!

The woman waved a goodbye and continued along the trail, and Jesse came up to where his car was parked. Scampers jumped into the passenger’s seat as Jesse opened the door, and they drove back to Jesse’s flat together. The sky was a clear blue but the air felt heavy and ominous, like it would rain in the near future. Jesse reflected on how much he loved the walks in the mountain. It was the perfect way to relax before test season really kicked into gear.

The car pulled up in the flat complex and Jesse could see a familiar red Jeep in the visitor’s parking next to his flat. He felt his stomach sink and shrugged his shoulders. “Looks like Phillip’s over for a visit again, Scamp,” Jesse said to the patient passenger sitting next to him. “Let’s just hope he’s not trying to get me to be a regular, outgoing student again.” Jesse knew that Phillip had good intentions, but his constant desire to get Jesse to be a social butterfly could be annoying at times.

Phillip sat in his Jeep looking at his phone, and gave a jovial smile when he noticed Jesse pulling up. He stepped out of his car and walked over to Jesse, waving his arms dramatically as he spoke: “I’ve been trying to call you. Where have you been? Luckily I haven’t been waiting too long, but you need to answer your phone, Jess. You can’t just disappear off the grid like that.” Jesse had been friends with Phillip since their first year at Ridgemont together. Jesse was attracted to Phillip’s confidence, since Jesse had always been too shy to make friends and Phillip had come right up to him on their first day in Psychology class and started talking to him. Phillip hadn’t stopped talking since then.

Phillip walked across the parking area and gave Jesse a hug, his long, bony arms poking into Jesse’s side. Phillip was tall and lanky, with large, protruding ears and a prominent nose. His dark brown skin was accentuated with light make-up. Despite his oversized features, Phillip still managed to be handsome and charming, his bubbly personality making him instantly likable. His hair was perfectly quaffed with short sides, and his outfits were color-coordinated and styled to a T, making Jesse always feel underdressed around him. Jesse broke the hug and said, “I’m sorry, buddy, I was just out on a hike and left my phone at home.”

Phillip pursed his lips, barely looking at Jesse in his frantic haze. “Well, you can’t do that to me. Don’t you know how stressed out I am about test season? I haven’t been studying enough for Professor Ndlovu’s assignment. You know I’ll probably end up getting the most difficult topic when he announces them on Friday. I just wanted to come and get your notes so I can make sure I study everything beforehand. There won’t be enough time if I only start next week.” Phillip’s was practically cross-eyed from worry, and Jesse tugged at his arm so that Phillip followed him into his flat.

“You’re going to worry yourself into a tailspin, Phillip. Come inside and get a cup of tea and I’ll find my notes for you.” They stepped into the flat and Phillip settled on Jesse’s couch in the small one-bedroom flat, exhaling loudly.

“What would I do without you, Jess?” he beamed.

Jesse found his notes in his bedroom and gave them to Phillip. “You won’t have to find out. Don’t worry. Just make sure you have these notes back to me by Monday. I need to make sure I do well in this assignment. Professor Ndlovu has been a hard-ass with me all semester. He knows how much I want to get into graduate school so he’s really pushing me to do well.”

Phillip smiled: “Jesse, if there’s anyone who’s getting into the Clinical Psychology course, it’s you. Trust me. The rest of us are just clamoring to keep up and you’re miles ahead. You have nothing to worry about. You were born to be a psychologist.”

Jesse smiled contentedly. He walked to the small kitchen area to make some tea, and handed Scampers a treat from the cupboard. Jesse smiled at the dog who took the treat to his bed in the corner of the living room. Jesse’s full cheeks were rosy from the effort of the hike.

Phillip started reading through all of Jesse’s notes and looked up, his eyebrow raised. “These are excellent, Jesse. I’m understanding it better just from looking through your notes than I did when Professor Ndlovu explained it to us. You’re going to do so well in this course.” A look of concern suddenly flashed over Phillip’s face and he whispered to Jesse: “But aren’t you a bit concerned with doing the presentation as part of the final assignment for the course? Won’t you struggle with your stutter if you’re too nervous?”

Jesse felt his cheeks flush with embarrassment. Phillip was a good friend, but he could be a bit insensitive at times, and bringing up Jesse’s stutter was sure to make him worry about it even more. “I’ll just have to push through. If I practice enough the stutter shouldn’t be that bad. And it’s a small class so I’m not too worried about being that nervous anyway,” Jesse lied. His stomach was in knots just thinking about it. Jesse had been studying for the assignment for weeks, and had even practiced some possible topics for the presentation component, but each time he had tried to get through it he felt overcome with nerves and his stutter was out in full force.

“You know what,” Phillip started, “I just realized that this will be our last chance to have some fun before we have to start working non-stop on our assignments and studying for tests. Why don’t we go to Percy’s Pub tonight just for a short while? It will really help me to unwind, and I know you could use some fun in your life too. What do you say?”

Jesse frowned as he handed the cup of tea to Phillip. He pushed his blond hair out of his face, feeling flustered. He knew that this request would come up; Phillip was always up for a party. “You know it’s not really my scene, Phillip. It’s the last Wednesday before test season and it’ll be chaos in town. Why don’t we just stay here and watch a movie or something?”

“Come on, Jesse. You’re my best friend. I have no one to go out with and if I don’t have a little bit of fun tonight I’ll collapse from all of this stress. Just come out with me for a few hours. We can go and meet some cute boys, flirt a bit.”

Jesse’s face sank as he took a sip of coffee. His deep brown eyes were more serious than usual as he looked over at Phillip. “You know I’m not ready to date yet. I just don’t have it in me.”

Phillip responded dismissively, waving his arm above his head: “It’s been almost six months since the whole incident with Martin. Believe me, every guy isn’t like him. He was a dirty, cheating, lying dog, but there are some good guys out there. You can’t still be hung up on Martin after all this time.”

Jesse sat down on the couch across from Phillip, a shadow falling over his face. “You know it’s hard for me to let people in,” he said, his voice low. “I’m not ready to meet a guy right now.”

Phillip cocked his head from side to side: “Okay, we can just go and have fun. If you happen to meet a cute guy, that’s just a bonus, but come and be a young person for once in your life. And promise me you won’t think about Martin again. If I never see his face again it’ll be too soon!”

Phillip finished his coffee and took Jesse’s notes as he left. Jesse didn’t even remember agreeing to go out with him, but it seemed like he had been overruled again. He felt conflicted about what Phillip had said to him. He was keeping a secret from Phillip, the friend who had been so loyal to him throughout their time at Ridgemont. He hated keeping things from Phillip, but Phillip made it quite clear how he felt about Martin.

Jesse walked to his room to take a shower and wash off the effects of the hike. He undressed and checked his phone. There was a text message from Martin. He opened it: I’m glad we decided to spend time together again. All of the nastiness is behind us now. I miss you, Jesse. M. xxx.

Jesse and Martin had been together for a year and a half, and Martin had made some mistakes, but he was a good guy. Jesse knew he was a good guy, deep down, no matter what other people thought of him. Everyone deserves a second chance, he thought. Besides, you can’t invest so much into a relationship just to give up. Jesse knew that he couldn’t tell Phillip that he was considering dating Martin again until he was sure that it was something real. In the meanwhile, he just needed to go out and pretend like everything was okay.

Chapter 3

Percy’s Pub was brimming with students enjoying the last week before test season officially started. The entrance of the pub had a small step towards a terrace, where groups of young people were surrounding tables with pizzas and tall glasses of beer. Girls with elaborate hairstyles were sipping cocktails and watching guys walk through the door. Guys were flirting relentlessly and smelled of too much Axe deodorant. It was a typical crazy Ridgemont Wednesday night.

Jesse was feeling apprehensive, but had decided that the only way he could appease Phillip was to go out for an hour. He would feign some or other illness later in the evening, he reasoned, and he could escape to his flat. He walked through the swelling crowd at the entrance into the dim, smoky interior of Percy’s. There were people everywhere; all of the seats were filled with loud, excited groups, cackling and counting down until they all took shots together. The dancefloor had students stacked like sardines, waving their arms around idiotically. Jesse bit his lip and stood against a wall.

“Isn’t this great?” Phillip asked, wearing a tight brown jacket and a blue shirt that accentuated his slender frame. His hair was gelled into place, glistening in the multi-colored lights from the dancefloor.

“It’s okay,” Jesse managed to offer. He had pushed back his blond hair and straightened out all of the curls as best he could, and he wore a tight, striped red t-shirt that showed off his large chest and shoulders. He had been doing pushups since Martin told him he was too skinny.

“Cheer up, Jess,” Phillip said, nudging Jesse with his shoulder. “Look, those people are leaving over there. Go claim the table for us and I’ll get us a drink.”

Jesse sauntered over in his too-tight pants. His eyes darted around, not wanting to see anyone he knew. He waved awkwardly at the group of people leaving their table, and the two girls giggled at him as they left. Jesse sat down in the corner of the booth and tried to remain inconspicuous.

He watched Phillip over at the bar. Phillip was in his element. He was a born socialite, able to talk to anyone like they were the best of friends. He was flirting with the bartender, running his fingers over the bar suggestively. Jesse shook his head and rolled his eyes. For all of Phillip’s flirting, he had been very unlucky in love. He always seemed a bit jealous of Jesse’s relationship with Martin, and Jesse suspected that Phillip secretly enjoyed the fact that Martin had left Jesse for someone else. He shook away the thoughts; Phillip was a good friend to him, and he had been there to support Jesse after Martin dumped him. There was no reason to doubt his loyalty.

A loud cheer came from close to the dancefloor, and Jesse turned to see what all of the commotion was about, furrowing his brow to glance through all of the smoke. There were three people dancing on a table, two guys and a girl. One of the guys was strikingly handsome, his pale blue eyes visible even in the half-light. He had jet-black hair and a mouth that looked incredibly kissable, with thick, luscious lips that he pouted for effect. There was something about the way the guy carried himself that was at once alluring and off-putting. He seemed incredibly arrogant, dancing with his two attractive friends and throwing his shoulders and head from side to side. His shirt was undone down to below his chest, exposing fine, masculine hairs. He wore a pair of tight black jeans and a belt with a large buckle over his flat stomach. As he danced, a chorus of people around the table were cheering him on, and even the bartenders and bouncers didn’t seem to care that he was doing something that was surely against the rules. Jesse stared at him, entranced. He could never be that confident. He would never be comfortable with so many eyes on him.

Phillip came back to the table and said: “We know him! He’s in our Psych class with Prof. Ndlovu, right? Luke… something. He looks so much hotter tonight than he ever does in class!”

Phillip was right. Jesse had noticed Luke before in some of his classes, and this semester they were sharing Psychology. Who wouldn’t notice those handsome features? Luke was always speaking with an affected tone and posh accent in class. He was never afraid to speak up, even if he gave the wrong answer. He was exactly the type of person that Jesse avoided at all costs.

“He’s not that hot,” Jesse lied. “Looks arrogant to me.”

“You must be ill or something because you’re speaking complete nonsense,” Phillip said, and put his hand theatrically on Jesse’s forehead. “You are feeling a bit warm. You might be having hallucinations. You have to be if you don’t think that Luke is the hottest guy in here tonight.” Jesse knew that Phillip was right, but he couldn’t bring himself to admit that he was attracted to someone so confident. Martin was confident too, and look where that had led.

Jesse’s phone suddenly vibrated and he checked to see who it was. Speak of the devil, he thought. Martin had left him another message: I’m thinking of you, handsome. In a year and a half of them dating Martin had never been this attentive to Jesse. Jesse wanted to take it as a sign that Martin had changed, but he was being cautious. He couldn’t allow himself to be taken for a fool again. He looked up to where Luke and his friends were dancing, and saw that Luke was staring directly at him!

Luke wouldn’t break his stare, and gave a small, flirtatious smile with his full lips, raising his eyebrow. Jesse tried to look away, but he could feel Luke’s eyes boring into the side of his face.

Phillip squealed excitedly: “He’s looking at you! What are you going to do? This can’t be happening!”

Jesse looked down at the glass of beer in front of him. “I’m not going to do anything, okay? In fact, I’m feeling a bit weird tonight. Might be a stomach bug…”

“Oh no you don’t!” Phillip exclaimed. “It’s hardly been fifteen minutes and you usually give me at least an hour. You’re staying right where you are!”

Jesse sighed and turned to look at the table where Luke and his friends had been. The chanting had died down. They were not dancing on the table anymore, and Jesse scanned the room to spot them.

“Looking for me?” he heard from right behind his line of sight. There, smiling at him with his eyebrow still raised, was Luke.

Jesse almost jumped out of his skin. He didn’t know what to say, and just stared at Luke dumbfounded. Phillip jumped up and reached out his hand to greet Luke. “I’m Phillip and this is my friend Jesse,” he shouted excitedly. “I need to go and get another drink,” he added, pushing his half-full beer to the side of the table. “Do you mind keeping Jesse company while I go to the bar?”

Luke shook Phillip’s hand and continued to smile at Jesse. “Not at all, Phillip. I’d be happy to spend some time with Jesse.”

Phillip rushed off and left Jesse alone with Luke. Jesse swallowed hard, hoping that his voice wouldn’t betray him. He felt his eyes start to water and his round cheeks were flushed. He wanted to shout at Phillip for leaving him alone with a strange guy, but he calmed himself down by doing his counting exercises. They always seemed to help him when he became panicked.

“I’m Luke Brennan. You’re in my Psychology class, right?” Luke said, sitting down and taking a swig of Phillip’s beer. Jesse winced at the sight, but decided to do his best to ignore it.

“J-J-Jesse M-M-M-M-Montgomery,” Jesse said, and reached out his hand. He wanted to punch himself in the gut.

“Well, Jesse, I’ve noticed you around in class. You’ve got beautiful brown eyes that I couldn’t miss,” Luke said, seeming not to miss a beat at all. He must have had a lot of practice with picking up guys, Jesse thought.

“Thank you,” Jesse said, and looked away. He felt his heartbeat accelerating. He could hear it clearly in his own ears, and was worried that Luke would see how nervous he was.

Luke stood up and walked over to Jesse’s side of the table, sitting down next to him. “I hope you don’t mind,” he said, and put his arm over the back of the seat behind Jesse’s back. “I just can’t hear you too clearly from all the way over there.”

From up close Luke’s eyes were incredible. They seemed to pierce right through Jesse’s defenses, and Jesse could clearly see why every guy was so taken with him. There was something magnetic about Luke, and he could have his way with anyone he wanted. Jesse was determined not to let Luke get the better of him, although he could already feel himself shrinking in Luke’s presence. That type of cockiness is just too much to resist.

Jesse could feel the heat of Luke’s arm behind his back, electricity flowing between them. His shirt was slightly clammy from perspiration, and Luke’s scent was intermingling with his. For a moment, the entire room disappeared and it was only the two of them. Luke reached up to touch Jesse’s hair, pushing a curl behind his ear, and moved in close, his full, inviting lips only inches away from Jesse’s face. Jesse felt his phone vibrating again, but in that moment he didn’t care. He was under some sort of spell, and he was willing to completely capitulate to it.

The spell was broken by Phillip’s jovial squeal as he returned to the table. “Boys, I’m sorry to interrupt the precious moment here, but I just got the bartender’s number! I had to let you know as soon as possible, Jesse,” Phillip said, holding out a piece of paper with one too many digits on it.

Jesse came back to reality very quickly, realizing how foolish he was to almost make out with a guy in a club. He pulled away from Luke. “That’s great, Phillip. I’m glad the night is working out so well for you.”

Without a word Luke stood up and walked straight back to the dancefloor. He turned around when he got there and looked at Jesse again, full of the same confidence he had exuded before, and waved for Jesse to join him on the dancefloor. Jesse was confused, and he could feel his anxiety returning. He shook his head at Luke to indicate that he didn’t want to dance, and Luke gave a small frown before shrugging and finding his friends on the dancefloor.

“What are you doing?” Phillip demanded. “He clearly likes you! I only interrupted because I wanted to talk you through it all before you made a move. You can’t be moving too fast, you know?”

“You did me a favor. He’s nothing but a playboy. I don’t need a guy like him in my life.” Jesse buried himself in his drink. “Let’s get out of here, please.”

Phillip had a stern look on his face and cocked his head to the side, assuming the pose that he always took when he wanted to give Jesse serious advice. “Listen, Jesse, not every guy is like Martin. Not every guy is going to cheat on you. If you can’t open yourself up to something new, you’ll just end up in exactly the same place you’ve always been. I’m not saying that you should do anything stupid, but at least see where things go with this guy. Put yourself out there. The worst that can happen is he’s not the guy for you, or he’s not looking for anything serious, and either way you’ll have a fun night with a hot guy. I’m going to go over and talk to the bartender again and I expect you to go dance with Luke. Okay?”

Jesse reluctantly nodded, biting his lip. He watched Luke and his two friends dancing wildly and enjoying themselves. Phillip got up and walked back to the bar, and Jesse thought about his options. He stood up and his legs took charge. He ended up walking right out of the pub.

Jesse felt his head swirl with confusion and a heaviness descend on his shoulders. He wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. He pushed through the wild hordes of students at the exit and finally emerged into the cool autumn air. He took a deep breath in relief and stood watching the street in front of Percy’s Pub. He was disappointed in himself, but glad that he could get out of that place. Why couldn’t he just enjoy the company of an attractive guy like everyone else? Why did his anxiety make him such a klutz? The only guy who ever looked past those things was Martin. Even though Martin didn’t treat him that well, at least he understood that Jesse wasn’t very social and just wanted to spend his time quietly at home. Martin would often go out to bars and clubs without him, and that suited Jesse just fine. Jesse checked his phone and saw the message from Martin that he had ignored earlier: I hope you’re having a good night. Would love to talk to you soon. Jesse wanted to believe that Martin had changed. Martin was the safe, comfortable choice, and Jesse didn’t have time or patience for the drama of dating someone new. Especially not someone who could knock him off his feet the way Luke Brennan could.

Jesse began to walk into the night towards his car, tired and dejected. As he took a step forward, he felt a hand on his shoulder and he heard the words: “And where do you think you’re going?” He turned around to see Luke, pouting playfully. There was no escaping now.

To find out how Jesse and Luke’s story continues, get the full novel at http://getbook.at/allnighters

 

 


Breaking the Rules: Ridgemont University Short Read

Gay M/M sweet romance standalone short story in the interconnected Ridgemont University series. Focus is on character development and sweet romantic moments. Medium heat, medium angst. Connor Olivier is a freshman at Ridgemont University, living in Initia Nova, one of the newer residence halls on campus. He has always lived by the rules: head prefect in school, straight-A student, and a bit of a stick in the mud. His small-town background and strict, religious upbringing always made him feel stifled, and the fact that he had steadily dated a girl all through high school never quite felt right. Studying at Ridgemont University is his chance to finally let loose and find himself. Suddenly, everything makes sense when Connor is assigned a second-year student, Adam, as a mentor. Connor is instantly head-over-heels, and realizes that it won’t be easy to resist Adam. Adam Scholtz is a reformed bad-boy. He partied too hard in his first year, and he is on thin ice with the university administrators after one wild night led to a very public and embarrassing scene. Adam is determined not to be led astray again and to complete his degree in peace. Nothing could be less convenient than the irresistibly hot first-year student who he has been assigned to mentor as part of his probationary re-admittance to Ridgemont. Adam is tempted to break the rules, but doing so might risk his future at Ridgemont University. How will Connor and Adam deal with their overpowering attraction? Will they stick to the script, or will they end up breaking the rules? Find out in this first Ridgemont University Short Read. This is a standalone story within the fictional Ridgemont University series by Meredith Taylor. The Ridgemont University series follows the M/M gay romances of students at the fictional Ridgemont University in Cape Town, South Africa. The books are crammed full of flirty, fun and sweet romantic moments and complex characters that will make you care about them deeply (and maybe even have them tug at your heartstrings). The romances are organic and realistic, and even though the books are mostly light reading, they have enough substance for you to really dig into and think about long after you turn the last page. Give Ridgemont University a try; the boys might just steal your heart.

  • ISBN: 9781370222704
  • Author: Meredith Taylor
  • Published: 2016-08-01 11:05:12
  • Words: 18494
Breaking the Rules: Ridgemont University Short Read Breaking the Rules: Ridgemont University Short Read