The Hazards of a One Night Stand (Hazards #2)

by Alyssa Rose Ivy

Chapter One

Field parties are about as much fun as they sound. It’s just a bunch of kids getting wasted in the middle of nowhere as a way to pass the time. They were lame in high school and even lamer after a year spent away at college. Yet there I was, drinking my third Smirnoff (it was that or crappy beer) waiting for my friend to finish messing around with her boyfriend so she could drive me home.

I sighed, turning my back on the line of cars illuminating the pasture that was, thankfully, devoid of cows at the moment. Someone was blaring really bad music that I knew would be stuck in my head for a week.

“Hey, sorry!” Annie, my best friend since childhood, grabbed my arm. “I didn’t mean to run off on you like that.” Her face was flushed, and I knew my earlier assumption about her whereabouts was spot on. She and her boyfriend still lived with their parents, so they used whatever alone time they could find.

Annie had made plenty of time for me while I was home, but I sensed that I was getting in the way of the new life she’d created since I’d left the previous fall. I never planned to go back to Gasden that summer. I wanted to find something to do in Charleston, but it didn’t happen. I needed a paycheck and a roof over my head, so I took my old job lifeguarding at the town pool for the fourth summer in a row.

“It’s fine. Where’s Greg?” I searched around the dense crowd for her boyfriend. Generally, he stayed pretty close to Annie when there were other men around. If Greg had a major fault, it was his over protectiveness.

“He ran into Jason.” She brushed some of her long light brown hair behind her ear. My hair was about three shades darker, the darkest brown you could get before you called it black.

I groaned. “He’s not going to bring him over here, is he?”

“I don’t think so. But he’s really not so bad. Didn’t you guys have fun at the movies?” Her tone was light but excited. She was still on a high from her stolen time with Greg.

“No. I already told you he spent the whole time bragging about how cool his frat was.” And going on about how many girls he’d been with. Why would that have made him seem more appealing to me?

“Maybe he’s just intimidated by you. Guys sometimes brag like that when they feel insecure. ” Annie smiled sweetly. That was the problem. It was impossible to be angry with a girl who smiled that way. Her whole personality was sweet as sugar. I tried to come off that way, but generally my true colors shone through. They weren’t as sparkly as hers. “And you’re in a sorority. Maybe he thought talking about his frat would impress you.”

“It didn’t work.” All his talk did was make me miss college more. I’d almost survived the summer, only one week remained before I got to go back to campus for rush. I was dying to move into my sorority house.

“He’s Greg’s friend, and I got to know him much better this—” She stopped suddenly.

I sighed, taking another huge swig of my drink.

“Hey, girls!” The president of our graduating class, Becky, hugged us like she hadn’t just seen us a few days before. She was just one of many people present at the party that I’d had no desire to see again after graduation. “How are you?”

“We’re doing well.” Annie smiled. Once again, she was the polite one.

“Have you heard from Jack at all?” Becky turned her attention to me, bringing up my ex-boyfriend like she was discussing the weather. Her low cut top left little to the imagination, and I wasn’t sure why she felt the need to annoy us.

I fought down the real answer I wanted to give and put on the biggest smile I could muster. I’d found that the more enthusiastic you were, the less likely a mean person was to strike against you again. You took away their fun that way. “No. Not recently.”

“Oh that’s too bad. He was always such a cutie.” She fluttered her eyelashes. I’m not kidding, she actually did that. “Ta ta, ladies. See you later.”

Annie put a hand on my arm as soon as Becky walked away. “Don’t let her get to you.”

“I’m trying not to.” I ignored the tightness in my chest that always developed when someone mentioned Jack’s name. Despite all the good times we had, those memories were overshadowed by the way he dumped me. Being told you aren’t good enough is the kind of experience you never forget.

Annie smiled sympathetically. “She’s just jealous, and you know it.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know.” I said the words Annie wanted to hear. After a year and a half, she was probably getting tired of me reacting so infantile every time Jack’s name came up in conversation. Too bad time didn’t seem to make the hurt and humiliation go away.

“Okay, and keep that positive thinking right now.”

“Why?” I followed her gaze. Greg and Jason were on their way over. Thankfully, at the last moment, Becky grabbed Jason’s arm and Greg continued on without him. The triumphant smile Becky shot us made me grin. She thought she was stealing a guy I liked. Too bad she was actually doing me a favor.

Greg put his arm around Annie. “Some of the guys are setting up a bonfire down on the other side of the property. We should probably make sure it doesn’t get out of hand, babe.”

“Yeah, sounds like a good idea.” She kissed him on the cheek.

“I think I’ll stay here.” I assumed the bonfire wasn’t just cover to go hook up again, but either way, I was tired of being a third wheel.

“Really?” Annie asked me skeptically.

“Yeah. I might try to find a ride home.”

“No. You can’t leave yet! I can’t have a party without you here.” Annie’s uncle owned the farm we were on, so in theory she was throwing the party. In reality, Greg was doing it all.

“All right. I’ll hang out for a while.”

“Yay! Text me if you need me.” She squeezed my hand before walking away.

“Fantastic.” I stood there by myself once again. The crowd had thinned down some, thanks to the bonfire, but luckily everyone was too drunk or too busy to notice me.

“Hey, pumpkin,” a low and warm voice whispered in my ear.

I jumped, spilling my Smirnoff down the front of my navy tank top. “Damn it, Colton!”

“Good to see you too, babe.” He picked me up and swung me around like I was a little kid or something.

I stepped back from him, taking in his muscular form. He was bigger than I remembered, but that sun tanned face and those killer blue eyes were exactly the same. Other than running into him over the holidays once, I hadn’t seen him since graduating. “What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be staying with your cousins this summer?”

“So you did ask around about me.” He winked. “I’m back for a few weeks.”

“Great.” I fought to keep a smile from slipping out. I’d been friends with Colton my whole life, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was kind of glad to see him. He had one of those personalities that was perpetually upbeat. Generally, all it took was a few minutes with him to find myself in a better mood. I’d had a crush on him for years, but considering I spent half of high school dating his older brother, I never did anything with those feelings.

“Did you get the package I sent you?” He stuffed his hands in his back pockets and watched me expectantly.

“Yeah. I did.” I thought about the large box that showed up on my doorstep two weeks before. It was full of the most random stuff, including magazines, figurines, and jolly ranchers. I loved jolly ranchers, especially watermelon. The gift wasn’t a complete surprise. He’d been sending little care packages to me occasionally since we were kids. It all started when he drew my name in this secret Santa exchange we did with some friends in middle school. He’d put together this awesome package of goodies for me, and I jokingly told him he should give me gifts more often. The care packages became a long running inside joke.

I tried to hold onto our friendship when I left, but like with most of my friends, we’d drifted. I think the fact that he was a grade younger and still in high school made it even harder to stay connected. Of course, there was also the little detail of his brother breaking my heart into a million pieces. “Thanks.”

“I was thinking about you.” He tilted his head to the side slightly.

“Yeah?” I finished off the part of my drink that wasn’t currently soaking into my shirt. “That was sweet.”

“I know.” He grinned. “I’m going to grab a beer. You want another drink?”

“Sure. You are the one who made me spill this one.” I held up the empty bottle.

“I could help clean up your top if you want.” He arched an eyebrow.

“I’m going to have to have a lot more to drink if you think that’s happening.”

“What happened to my light weight?” Thankfully, he spared me from having to listen to him detail all the times I got wasted off one or two drinks in high school. You’d never believe how crazy our 4H parties could get sometimes.

“She spent a year in college.”

“Ah, I forgot. You’re the cool, sophisticated sorority girl now.”

“Shut up. I love Delta Mu.” Just the mention of my sorority was exciting. I couldn’t wait to get back to it.

“Sure you do. And I bet you love the frat guys just as much.” He smirked.

“I dated a few.” A few was a slight exaggeration. I’d spent nearly all of freshman year single.

“Spare me the details.”

“If you insist.” I watched Colton’s retreating figure. He looked way too good in his jeans. Maybe I’d had more to drink than I thought. I couldn’t think about Colton that way. I wasn’t into guys from Gasden anymore, especially not that one.

Drinks in hand, Colton joined me again. He twisted off the top of a bottle before handing it to me. “I’m not sure how you drink these things.”

“I don’t know either, but it’s better than the beer.”

“What did you drink in college?” He walked toward the edge of the woods, and I followed. I was ready to get away from the crowd while I waited for Annie. Tucked in the near darkness of the trees, we escaped the loud music.

“Better stuff than this.” I took a long sip of the sweet liquid.

“Oh yes. Sophisticated sorority girls drink far better things.”

I pushed his shoulder. “Lay off, Colt.”

“Where’s your other half?” He didn’t have to mention Annie’s name. I knew exactly who he was referring to.

“Annie’s off with Greg making sure no one sets the field on fire.”

“She left you all alone to fend for yourself?” He took a big swig from his red plastic cup of beer.

“It looks like I’m not alone anymore… that is unless you’re here with someone.”

“I’ll tell my girlfriend to hit the road.”

“Girlfriend? I didn’t know you were dating anyone.”

“Is that jealousy I detect?” A smile lit up his face.

I shook my head. “Of course not.”

“I’m here alone. Geez, pumpkin. You still can’t take a joke.”

“Don’t call me pumpkin.” I grimaced.

“Why not?”

“Because I was eight when I won that competition. I’m nineteen now.” Even more than ten years later, the name made me squirm. Being named Little Miss Pumpkin of Johnson County wasn’t my shining moment. I blame my mother for signing me up for that one.

“You’ll always be my pumpkin.”

“Go bother someone else.” I looked around for Annie. She’d have to come back to look for me eventually.

Colt wrapped an arm around my waist and pulled me closer. “No. I’d rather bother you.”