When Andy takes over the lease on her friend Ethan’s apartment, he warns her about his roommate, Tragan. According to Ethan, Tragan Barrett is self-centered and often inconsiderate, caring more about hanging out with his friends and hitting the local casino than straightening the living room or keeping up with his laundry. Andy isn’t too concerned, though, because she isn’t moving in to make a friend.
Intended as a short-term living arrangement, the apartment is close to the hospital where Andy is participating in a drug study for a rare disorder she was diagnosed with when she was twenty. Now, fresh out of college, she is trying to figure out her life–and also how to live with the uncertainty of her condition. Figuring she’ll go one way and he’ll go another, Andy is surprised to learn that Tragan is not exactly the way Ethan painted him. In fact, there’s a whole other side to the darkly sexy construction worker…especially when it comes to Andy.
Can an unlikely friendship turn into something much more?
To celebrate the release of Constructing Us, the author is giving away a $50 Amazon gift card! Open to U.S. residents only.
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“All right, Andy, if you’re really not going to let me have any cupcakes, then I’m gonna get going,” Tragan told her with a grin. “Later.”
“Okay–oh, wait–real quick. Could you hand me that lid over there?” Andy said, pointing to the cake cover resting on the opposite counter.
When Tragan lifted it up, he froze–then turned his head toward her, his dark eyes narrowing. “What’s this?”
“Hmm…let’s see…” Playfully, Andy held back a smile as she ambled closer. “A jumbo-sized cupcake–set apart from the others–with a T scrawled in blue icing…”
“For me?” Tragan said, breaking into a full smile.
“Of course! I’d never forget about you,” she said with a little laugh.
“Yes!” he said, messily pulling the cake right out of the ramekin cup and assailing it with his mouth. “Awesome!” he mumbled, totally un-self-conscious about the frosting on his lips.
“You’re such a guy,” Andy said, shaking her head, and then without thinking, reached up to wipe the underside of his lip with her thumb.
The second she made contact, she realized what she’d done. Her hand was on his face. More than that, she was touching his mouth. Something so intimate–too intimate for friends–and yet, her fingers lingered. She couldn’t seem to stop touching him, grazing her thumb over his lower lip, as if there was still frosting there. As if she didn’t have an impulsive desire to slide her thumb inside his mouth and to feel his hot tongue on her flesh. Her breath became shallow as her eyes traveled up–and she found Tragan watching her. His gaze was intense, fully aware of her–and then she panicked.
Self-consciously, she swallowed and pulled back.
Trying to act natural, Andy snatched a dishtowel off the counter and handed him that instead. “Here, you can do it,” she said awkwardly, as hot embarrassment flooded her cheeks. If people saw this now, would they really be surprised that Brad was her only boyfriend ever? As much as she wanted Tragan, she was inexperienced enough to fear rejection and nowhere near confident enough to be a seductress.
Wordlessly, Tragan took the towel and wiped his mouth.
“Better?” When she nodded, he tossed the towel and said, “Actually, it’s just as well I get cleaned up. I’m supposed to meet some girl later.”
At that, Andy’s mouth fell open. “W-what girl?” she asked, feeling her brow crease with concern.
“Pellican’s sister’s friend is supposed to be there today, helping out,” he told her.
“Oh.” Andy swallowed down a hard lump. Suddenly she started to feel queasy, and it had nothing to do with the drug trial. This was 100% anxious jealousy, churning in her stomach. Why hadn’t she considered that Tragan could be interested in other girls, too?
“And you, um, like her?” she asked, attempting to sound pleasant and unaffected–as if she were simply taking a friendly interest in the topic, as his roommate.
He gave a one-shouldered shrug, while his face remained noncommittal. “Never met her. But Pellican thinks we’ll hit it off.”
The painful ball of jealousy in Andy’s belly swelled, then ballooned to her chest, making it hard to breathe normally. Still, she forced a smile that felt brittle, but it was the best she could do. Then nodded maybe a bit too vigorously. “That’s great, Tragan. I really hope it works out,” she lied.
“You do?” he asked, never taking his eyes off her face, as though studying her reaction.
“Sure. If it’s what you want.” She quickly turned away from him and walked back to the counter where she’d been frosting cupcakes and tried to think of what she could busy herself with until he left the kitchen.
Mere seconds later, she felt Tragan come up behind her. Her whole body stilled, as her pulse began to pound. She could feel how close he was to her. “Andy…” he said softly, and came even closer. The heat from his body spread across her back, igniting every nerve ending in her body. “What if that’s not what I want?”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Lake is a storyteller who is passionate about art, surfing, and skiing/snowboarding. Residing near the coast of Massachusetts, C.J. is working on a new book that will feature Tragan Barrett’s friend, Matt Winter. Readers can get in touch via email (email@example.com), or follow C.J. on Twitter @brightbluesurf.