“A bit more EVERYTHING, Kat! Jeez, don’t you know anything about hockey players?” Kylie growled.
“Not really. I don’t think I even know anyone who plays hockey. But if you want to talk baseball players, I’m your girl.”
“Baseball? Ugh. Could a sport be more boring?” Kylie grumbled and then looked toward Taylor for approval.
“Yeah, it could be golf.” Taylor piped back and shot her a look to behave. “I’m a hockey girl. Always have been. Don’t know what it is about those boys that get me all hot and bothered.”
“I do,” Kylie laughed and then gave her a shove. “Taylor’s only dated hockey players.”
“Only? Every one of them?” Katherine asked through a laugh.
Taylor shrugged, “What can I say? I like hockey.”
“I don’t know anything about it. Like, at all,” Katherine admitted.
“Don’t worry, I’ll teach you.”
They rounded the corner and Katherine smiled to herself when she heard the chaos of music and voices mixed together. She noticed a crowd of people drinking out of red plastic cups in the front yard and a long line at the front door.
“I do not wait in lines,” Kylie announced and headed straight for the door.
“What is she doing?” Katherine asked nervously.
“Getting us in. Watch,” Taylor laughed.
After whispering something seductively into the guy at the door’s ear, Kylie waved them over. Katherine put her hand out for a stamp and rushed inside the house. Taylor pulled Katherine through the crowds.
“Come on, Kat. Keep up,” Taylor yelled over the music to her.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“We’re going to get a beer and then we’re going outside where we can scope out the situation and make our move,” Kylie responded.
Katherine cracked up at the words “make our move” and suddenly found herself locked onto a very familiar pair of green eyes. His eyes alone stopped her in her tracks. Without even a thought, her lips formed a smile.
He smiled back and she felt herself blush. She tried to force her eyes away from his, but it was useless. They wouldn’t cooperate with her brain.
She felt a rough tug at her arm. “What are you doing, Kat? Come on!” Taylor yelled. But then she saw where Kat looked, “Oh, the green-eyed hottie from class. Go get him!” Taylor tried to quickly walk away.
“No, Taylor! Don’t leave me.” She refused to let go of Taylor’s hand.
“What’s your problem? He’s gorgeous! Go talk to him!” Taylor gave Kat a little shove in the guy’s direction.
Kat shot Taylor a look that said she’d kill her later, but it was too late. He was right in front of her now. She hadn’t realized in class how good looking he was. He was built like someone chiseled him out of stone. His body screamed athlete. His arms were incredible. She wanted to reach out and squeeze them just to feel his muscles, but she resisted the urge. Plus, she thought it would be weird to grope a stranger.
She could tell he was well over six feet tall because even in her three-inch wedges, he towered over her. He wore a baseball cap that covered his short, dark brown hair, low across his forehead. In Kat’s opinion the hat was way too low, but for whatever reason, it looked good on him.
“I’m Cooper Donovan,” he said, stretching out his hand.
“Cooper? Cool name. I’m Kat...or Katherine,” she fumbled and tried to hide her nerves.
“Katherine. Nice to meet you. Sorry about the thing in class,” he mentioned.
“Class?” She struggled to remember and then shook her head, “Oh. It’s okay. I mean you didn’t do anything except turn around and stare at me and my friend.”
“To be fair, I was just staring at you,” he informed her with a smirk.
Her legs started to shake. She wondered why he made her so nervous. She was around attractive guys all the time in Southern California, why was this one throwing her all out of whack? His voice interrupted her self questioning.
“Where are you from anyway? I mean, no offense, it’s just that you don’t seem like you’re from around here.”
She found herself mesmerized by the curves of his mouth. “California. What gave it away?” she questioned.
“The accent, first of all,” he chuckled.
“I do not have an accent. You guys have the accent, not me!” She tried so hard to act normal, but he threw her off balance. Her eyes lingered on his lips and she wondered what it would be like to kiss them.
Kylie and Taylor watched the interaction from the other room. “He looks like a nice guy,” Taylor said out loud.
“A nice, hot as hell, guy,” Kylie answered. “Enough with watching this romance blossom. What about us, Tay? Who will be my victim tonight?” Kylie looked around with intent.
“I’m sure anyone you choose would be more than happy to oblige.”
“How can you say no to this body?” Kylie waved her hands up and down.
“You’d have to be blind,” Taylor agreed before glancing back at Katherine.
“So, California, how do you like living out here?” Cooper asked with genuine interest.
Before she could answer, a vivacious brunette bounced in between them and wrapped her arms around Cooper. “Hi, Cooper. What do you say we ditch this party and go somewhere else?”
Cooper unwrapped the girls arms from around his neck and placed them firmly back at her side before saying, “Let’s not. I’m in the middle of a conversation and you’re being very rude.”
The girl glared at Katherine before huffing out some comment and storming off. “Happen to you often?” she wondered.
“Sort of,” his jaw unclenched, “I’m sorry. I hate it when girls act like that.” He took a breath to regain his composure. “Anyway, back to the question. How do you like it out here?”
“I love it so far. I mean, it’s not winter yet, so I’ll probably cry when it snows, but so far, it’s been amazing.”
“I won’t let you cry when it snows,” he told her with a smile.
“Oh, is that so?”
She could feel the connection between them. It wasn’t as intense as what she felt for the guy from her dream, but there was something unexplainable between her and Cooper Donovan. There was a quiet spark of recognition that burned inside her. It was as if she already knew him on some level, but that didn’t make any sense to her.
“Yep. I’ll have you loving the snow by the time it’s gone,” he informed her.
His confidence was a turn-on. It made her wonder if he ever questioned or wasn’t sure of anything in his life. “So, what about you?” Katherine asked.
“What about me, what? Do I enjoy going to college a mere three hours away from my parents’ house?”
“Sure, I guess.”
“It’s nice, actually. It’s far enough away that they can’t just pop over unannounced, but it’s close enough that they can come to my games if they want to.”
“Games?” she asked hesitantly, but assumed what came next.
“I’m on the hockey team,” he said with such pride that she couldn’t help but feel proud of him herself.
“Of course you are,” she laughed.
“What’s wrong with hockey?” he shot back.
“Nothing. I don’t know anything about the sport. But my roommate Taylor is completely obsessed with it.”
“Oh, maybe I should be talking to her then,” he joked.
“Sure, if you’re into perfectly gorgeous girls with amazing personalities, then go for it. I understand.”
“You’re funny, California.”
Katherine smiled at him before glancing around the crowded party. “I’d better go find my friends.” She couldn’t see Taylor and Kylie any more and that made her uneasy.
“I think your roommate—Taylor, right? She’s with my buddy Danny. They’re talking in the corner outside over there.” He pointed in their direction. “Do you see them?”
Katherine spotted Taylor with a tall, muscular boy with really dark hair. The guy towered over Taylor’s 5-foot-4-inch frame. She happened to glance up as Kat looked in her direction and gave a wave that let her know all was well.
“Hockey player?” Katherine asked.
“Yep. He’s damn good too.”
“Well, Taylor will be pleased.” Cooper smiled and she realized how perfect his teeth were. “I thought hockey players were supposed to have messed up teeth or something? Don’t you get hit in the face a lot?”
“If you don’t get out of the way. But I actually like my face, so I don’t want it all smashed up. Because then pretty girls like you wouldn’t talk to me.”
Katherine’s heart raced against her ribcage. He thought she was pretty? She understood cute, but pretty? She was so busy talking herself out of the compliment that she almost forgot to thank him. “Uh, thanks,” she fumbled, “for…saying I was pretty.”
“Don’t thank me. Thank your parents.”
“Oh my gosh, really?” she laughed.
“What? It’s not my fault that you can’t see what I see.” His eyes softened as he looked into hers.
Katherine’s pulse raced. “Do you see Kylie anywhere?”
“Your other friend, right? The other blonde? I’m sure she’s here somewhere. She looked like she was on a mission.”
“I’d feel better if I just knew where she was. Do you mind?” Katherine turned to walk away.
“Of course not. But I’m coming with you.” He hurried beside her.
They walked together searching for Kylie. It was the first time that Katherine wasn’t completely consumed by thoughts of her dream guy. Although she wasn’t sure why, being around Cooper made her feel completely safe.
They finally found Kylie making out with some guy and Katherine breathed a sigh of relief.
“You worry a lot, don’t you?” Cooper asked.
“Don’t make fun. I’m not a worrywart or anything. I just like to know that the people I came to a strange party with are safe and not missing or anything. Don’t be a jerk.” She hit him in the arm playfully.
“I’m not. It’s sweet. And smart. So I’ll just remember that you’re the smart one when it comes to your friends.”
They shared a glance and she sighed, “Your eyes are gorgeous. I love the little speckle thing you have in this eye.”
She touched the side of his face and flinched as electricity jolted through her entire body. Her pulse raced and she got entirely too sweaty for a girl. All she could think about was how nervous he made her and how it felt like her heart was trying to escape.
“Which eye is it? This one?” He pressed her hand tightly against his face.
“Yeah,” was about all she could muster. She found herself memorizing his eyes. She took in the exact color of green...and how they changed to almost yellow at the pupil. She thought it looked like a sunflower but didn’t want to tell a guy he had sunflowers in his eyes.