The Studying Hours Page 1


Some days I stay home to study, but not very often.

The library is my solace.

My refuge.

Where I come to listen to the sound of pages being turned, the faint sound of laptop keys clicking, the light treading of footsteps padding across the worn hardwood floor. The building is one hundred and three years old, one of the oldest landmarks on campus, and full of history. Full of carved wood and dark corners. Full of knowledge and the secrets of scientists, philosophers, and students.

Really. It’s the only place within a five-mile radius where I can be alone with my thoughts.

The only place without roommates, their music, their phones, and the constant flurry of activity at our off-campus rental. I never know when there’s going to be a strange guy chilling on our couch, strangers in and out, or flirtatious giggling before bedroom doors get slammed shut.

The uncomfortable echoes of your roommate’s bed squeaking, followed shortly thereafter by frenzied moaning in an otherwise silent house is…


And that’s putting it mildly, because honestly, how do you get that sound out of your head?

You don’t.

Instead, you escape to the library.

I don’t worry about the distracting sounds of shouting or teasing or interruptions. Or the smell of overcooked Ramen noodles. I don’t usually have to worry about being distracted, either.

Except for today.

Today I’m focused on a table full of disturbances near the entry in the form of four very large, very athletic-looking guys. Loud guys. Arrogant guys.

Relatively attractive guys.

Today, I can’t concentrate.

I spot them long before they spot me, allowing myself a brief study respite to watch the largest one with a critical eye. With shocking dark hair and darker eyebrows, he hasn’t looked down at the open book in front of him once. Rather, he’s been glancing around the library’s reading room.

Just as I’m doing.

Arms folded across a broad chest, his legs are spread, his expression impatient—almost as if he can’t be bothered with homework.

As I conclude he must be waiting for the sky to open up and the universe to do the work for him, our gazes clash; those severe, ruthless slashes over his eyes shoot into his hairline while the lips surrounded by five o’clock shadow curl. Discriminating eyes so pale I can’t discern their color from here begin their gradual descent down the column of buttons on my sweater before settling on my chest.

I shiver.

He smiles.

The sadistic creep knows his stare is making my skin crawl.

He relishes the fact.

Guys like him? Surely college will be a short blip on the roadmap of his life, a pit stop on the way to bullying co-workers, business partners, and probably women.

This guy? He’s a douchebag—one with a capital D.

Blinking myself out of our stare-down, my blue eyes travel around the table, mooring on the hulky blond guy tapping away on his keyboard, head bobbing to whatever music is bumping through those shiny black Beats. Then they land on the Latino slouched deep in his chair, staring at the ceiling and chewing on a yellow number two pencil.

Last but not least? The guy with the thick neck and thicker tattooed arms.

Fascinated, I lower my head to peer coyly from beneath my long lashes; he’s clearly trying to focus on his work, aggravation with his rambunctious tablemates marring his handsome face and causing his shoulders to strain. Every so often, he shifts restlessly in his seat before giving his head a shake.

Blows out a puff of frustrated air.

Shifts in his seat. Shakes his head. Puffs out air.

Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat.


The entire table is interrupted by a pretty co-ed with light brown hair. It’s tossed akimbo on her head in a casual, messy bun, but even from here I see the heavily lined eyes and bright red lips. The smoky-eyed look doesn’t necessarily go with her black leggings and Iowa sweatshirt, but who am I to judge?

She slithers up to them brazenly, hip resting on the edge of the table, dragging one fingertip across the smooth surface, up and over that tattooed arm. Skims her nail across the bare skin of his forearm.

His head flies up, startled. Focuses on her.

I suck in the breath I didn’t know I was holding at the sight of the grin he gives her.

Leans back, crosses his solid arms.

Spreads his legs.

She’s cute.

And obviously his type.

I watch the show, riveted as he rises, muscled arm sliding around her slim waist…remove an earbud in time to hear a forced, enthusiastic giggle erupt from her throat…catch the the low timbre of his voice as he leads them deeper into the library, toward the last row of backlogged magazine and newspaper periodicals…suck in another breath when he smacks the girls’ rear end with a sexually charged palm…sigh, disappointed when they turn the corner, disappearing from view.

Well then.

Removing my black-rimmed glasses, I rub the sight from my tired eyes, wondering for a brief moment what it would be like to be that kind of girl—the carefree kind who lets boys lead her into dark rows of books.

For funsies. Because it feels good.

Not the kind of girl who spends all her waking time studying because her grades suck and she can’t afford not to.

I replace my glasses, the hairs on the back of my neck prickling with awareness as I pat a dainty yawn away, shifting my gaze.

Meet cold, intimidating gray eyes.

They crinkle knowingly at the corners as if to say, I see you watching, but sweetheart, don’t hold your breath—he’d never date someone like you.