She isn’t happy—it’s plain as day in the tight lines on her forehead and the dark shadows under her eyes.
“Hello, everyone.” Her smile is brief. “Before we begin, I’d like to remind everyone to please dress appropriately when you attend our meetings.”
“Oooo, she’s talking about you,” Charisma says while wiggling her eyebrows at me.
I laugh and Margo swivels her head in my direction, her eyes like lasers as they find mine. Great.
Charisma mouths, Sorry.
Margo inhales a deep breath. “Penelope, is there something you’d like to share with the group?”
I clear my throat. “No. I’m sorry for the disturbance.”
“Good.” She continues and levels her eyes at each fresh new face. “Let’s discuss the first matter of business. It’s recently come to my attention that one of our sisters has gotten caught up in the football betting hoopla. While we love the football players and want them at our parties, it only demoralizes a Chi Omega girl if we’re the brunt of the joke. Please be aware of this danger.”
My heart drops.
She’s talking about me.
Charisma, who’s been scrolling on her phone, puts it down and looks at me, her face flattening.
Some of the girls are whispering and looking around the room.
“…who was it…”
I inhale a sharp breath, embarrassed all over again that he almost had me convinced he really liked me. Just thinking about that stupid bet makes my face redden. Plus, I’ve been on pins and needles for the past few days wondering if the video Charisma said one of the players took would materialize and go all over campus, but it never did. Blaze swore to her he would make sure it was deleted, and I was just beginning to think the incident hadn’t gone any further—but now…ugh.
Margo exhales. “Since there are no secrets in Chi Omega, I feel compelled to tell you it was Penelope Graham.” Her gaze is flinty as she focuses on me.
Compelled my ass. She couldn’t wait to tell them.
My teeth grit as I hear more whispering from the girls around me.
I glare at Margo.
“Would you like to share the story with us and be our cautionary tale?” she asks, her lashes fluttering.
I push my legs to standing and scan the room. “Everything Margo says is true, but I beat him at his own game. My name won’t be on their tally board again.” I give them a smile. “Be vigilant this fall. Go Chi O.”
Margo studies me for a moment. “Indeed. Let’s move on.”
I want to shove her indeed up her ass.
“The next matter of business is the homecoming party. The Thetas will be hosting their own party, and as Chi Omegas, we must own Sorority Row and beat them. I want to make their party seem like a preschool outing.”
Several agreeing murmurs come from our sisters. There’s no love lost between us and the other sorority, and I imagine it pricks at Margo the most—since she lost her long-term boyfriend to a Theta last semester. Gossip runs rampant at our university, and it’s no secret she walked in on him screwing their president, a jersey chaser named Sasha.
Margo continues. “Our party will be the hottest ticket, and that means, first of all, invite the most popular guys.” She’s leaning over the podium and whips out a legal pad. “Personally, I’ve made a list of suggestions of people to invite, and I want us to ask as many as possible.” She gazes around the room. “If you’re willing, I’d love to have you pledge tonight to invite at least one A-list student from Waylon.”
I frown, annoyed about the A-list student comment. Connor probably isn’t on that list, but he’s a nice guy, and I want to ask him.
First, I’d have to talk to him, of course.
I raise my hand.
“Yes?” Margo grudgingly nods.
I stand again. “Who are you asking?” We all know it won’t be Kyle, her ex.
Margo’s lips compress and her hands tense as she folds them into a steeple. “Why, the most important person on campus when it comes to homecoming—the quarterback.”
Ryker? The jerk who made me the brunt of the joke?
Anger flies over me. “Football players go to the Tau house for homecoming. Everyone knows that.”
Margo, who usually sports infallible confidence, seems to falter as her hands flutter around her notes. She clears her throat. “Which is why it will be a great coup for us to get him.” She pauses. “I can convince him to come.”
I scowl. “We should invite people we want to spend time with, not ones we don’t know.”
She stiffens. “Maybe I’ll get to know him.”
That shut me up. I didn’t think he was her type.
She calls on one of the other girls who has her hand raised, and I plop back down in my seat.
Charisma levels me with a serious look. “If you don’t want him here, I can take care of that real quick. I have connections.”
I arch a brow and can’t help the grin. “Mobsters?”
She rolls her eyes. “Just because I’m Italian and from New York doesn’t mean I’m John Gotti, but one well-placed word in Blaze’s ear and Ryker will never grace our party with his presence.”
She shrugs, playing it off. “He likes me. I’m sure I can get him to encourage Ryker to stay at the Tau house.”
I whip out my red lipstick and reapply, my mind churning. “Hold off on that. I’ll get back to you.”
After dinner out at the local pizza place with some pledges, we pull up at our house, the one I grew up in, a rambling cottage-style bungalow built in the 50s. In the light of the streetlamp, I eye the late summer azaleas in the flowerbed, the ones Mom and I planted before she passed away.
A heavy feeling settles on my chest. God, I miss her. Sometimes I forget she’s gone and half expect her to be inside, waiting on me so we can have one of our long chats. She’d know exactly what to do about Dad and Margo and Ryker.
“What’s that next to the door?” Charisma asks me as we step onto the stone porch. She’s ahead of me and bends down to pick it up. Turning to face me, she holds up a bag of suckers with a note stuck to it. “Oooo, it has your name on it,” she says, waving it at me.
I take the note from her and read the sloping masculine scrawl.
I came by at 8:00. I guess you stood me up. Makes sense. I hope we’re even now. Anyway, I thought of you when I saw these.
The R is prominent and dominates his signature, big and cocky just like he is.
“Why is he leaving you your favorite candy?” Charisma ponders, an inquisitive look on her face. “Have y’all talked and you didn’t tell me?”
“No.” My brow wrinkles, a memory tugging at me, and then it dawns on me and I groan. “Oh my God, he texted me earlier, but I didn’t know who it was…” I whip out my phone and reread the messages while she takes them in from beside my shoulder. I recall the phone number he tossed down on my serving tray at Sugar’s, but it got dumped out along with everything else. Then I remember giving him my number. “These must be from him.” I rub my forehead.
She chuckles. “WTF? You told him you wanted him.”
Mortification flies over me. “Shit, shit, shit. I didn’t know it was him. I thought he was some lonely guy pining after some girl.” My face reddens. “I thought I was helping someone out with his relationship woes.”