Home > Nothing But Trouble (Malibu University #1)(7)

Nothing But Trouble (Malibu University #1)(7)
Author: P. Dangelico

I fall in an empty chair next to Dallas and eyeball a clip of last weekend’s UCLA Bruins game on the television over the bar.

“Well?” Cole starts. Uncrossing his arms, he holds them open and makes a face that says get on with it. “We’re waiting to hear what happened with phone-tree girl.”

Cole and Brock Peterman are fraternal twins, two of the best defensive specialists in the country, and as opposite in every way as two brothers could possibly be. I’ve known them since elementary school, their father being the minister of the church my parents attend.

Brock is twenty-one going on eighty, quiet, and laid-back. I’m almost one hundred percent certain he has never in his life strayed from the righteous path. At least, I’ve never witnessed it and I’ve been around the guy most of my life.

His brother, to put it nicely, is a machine. Competitive to the point of being obnoxious, and completely untrusting of any human that was not born with a dick––a mystery I have yet to solve.

I assume it’s the handywork of the girl he dated in high school, but he’s never spoken of it to me. He’d throw down for any one of us, though. The stories of his loyalty are legendary. Which is why we all put up with his bullshit.

Blowing out a deep breath, I stretch my neck side to side. “Shut down, man. She shut me down.” I’ve never met a girl so desperate to be rid of me.

A bunch of snickers come from the peanut gallery. One comedian shouts, “Crash and burn, Mav?”

“Man––” Cole shakes his head, presses down a smile. He crosses his arms again, jams his hands under his pits, thumbs over his pecs. His chair tips back, balancing on two legs. “Never thought I’d live to see the day. What happened to always be closing?”

“This isn’t about my dick, bro. I’m just trying to help the girl out.”

“So says you.”

Whatever Cole thinks he’s onto, he’s dead wrong. As soon as I correct the damage I’ve caused, I’ll put this entire business––including Alice Bailey––behind me. This is the last year that belongs to me and only me. To do as I wish. Next year there will be medical school, and my father riding my ass for the following eight to ten. It’s not like I’m planning to burn through co-eds like Dallas and Cole, but I’m also not about to squander the time on a relationship that won’t last.

I level him with an irritated stare. “Yeah.”

The attention leaves me when highlights of the Bruins game show their star running back, a projected first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft, fracturing his leg. The injury gnarly as he hyperextends it in the wrong direction. That guy’s whole world just ended.

Welcome to the glamorous world of college sports.

Most people have no idea the sacrifices we make. Of our time. Our bodies. All the injuries. Most of which do have long-term effects. Then again, it’s the only means of escape some of us have.

Dallas leans in. “What are you going to do now that Penny’s gone?”

Penny was last year’s convenience lay. Over the summer she moved to New York to get married. She said she was sure her fiancé had a piece on the side too. Whoever tells you long-distance relationships work has never been in one.

We met when she was the TA for my advanced biology class. Hot, uncomplicated, smart enough not to give a single shit about me with the exception of my body, and career driven. My favorite type of woman. I’m already missing the hell out of Penny.

“I don’t know.” But I better figure it out fast because Bailey’s dark gaze has been invading my dreams lately. The little I’ve had, since I’m not sleeping all that much.


I pry up the top of the page I’d slapped facedown the minute they handed them out, and stare at the big fat D on my Film Theory and Criticism exam. No, I wasn’t hallucinating. It’s still a D for dumbass.

I’m not one of those people that breezes through school. I’m more of an abstract thinker. Unless it’s visual information it’s receiving, my mind tends to move sideways, in tangents. Which means the linear mental process needed to accumulate knowledge and regurgitate it in test form is, bottom line, a struggle. I need to apply myself to keep my grades up and sometimes I need extra help.

I knew I hadn’t aced it––we took it the day after the ankle incident so I didn’t get much studying done because I was distracted and in pain––but I didn’t think I bombed it, either.

“How’d you do?” the girl next to me asks. Morgan’s piercing, the one on her eyebrow, glimmers under the floodlights. I wonder if it hurt. Why did she get it? Does she regret it? Does it have meaning to her? See what I mean about tangents?

Exhaling a deep, frustrated breath, I run a hand over my head. My bangs stand up so I shake them out. “Horrible. How ’bout you?”

She tugs on the ends of her short, pink hair. “B plus. I don’t know how, I barely studied. I hate Bertolucci. Such a misogynistic pig.”

I don’t care either way about Bernardo Bertolucci. What I do care about is my average. I can’t afford to do poorly in any class. My scholarship demands I maintain a B plus, and everything I’ve ever worked toward is at stake if I can’t do that.

Chewing on the tip of my thumb, I glance around and find Simon staring back at me. He sends me a coy smile. Which forces me to return one that lacks sincerity. God, I hope he doesn’t ask me how I did. That would be twice as mortifying.

“Last Tango In Paris. Classic,” he says with a leer.

Morgan turns away from him and mimes a gag, drawing a dry burst of laughter out of me. I’m definitely with her on this one. The movie is basically cheesy soft porn peddled as an art house think piece. And the profound moral of the story? Women are incapable of handling sex without an emotional attachment. They become hysterical, maniacal, and ultimately resort to murder.

See, I know my stuff. I just don’t do so well on tests unless I put in a lot of extra time.

“I rarely do this, but since quite a large number of you did poorly on this one I’m going to offer an elective make-up exam,” Levine, the professor, announces.

A bunch of murmured “Thank Gods” circulate the room. The tension in my shoulders eases a fraction.

“Come to study group and I’ll help you out,” Morgan says. I glance over and discover a flicker of apprehension on her round face. I don’t think she has many friends here. She only ever speaks to me in class.

“Where is that again?”

“Tomorrow night at the library. Study room B.”

“I’ll be there.”

A brief smile lights up her face and the butterfly tattoos on her neck flap their wings.

The following evening I’m sitting on the toilet in the communal bathroom, in the middle of gingerly rewrapping my ankle after soaking it in Epsom salts for half an hour, when my stepmom calls.

“Hey, sweets. How’s the ankle?”

“Getting better. I’ve been soaking it every day and it’s helping.” It’s marginally better. She doesn’t need to know that, though. She’s worried enough as is. “Are you taking arnica?”

“Not yet. I haven’t been able to get to the store.” I’ll have to rectify that tomorrow, ask Zoe to drive me when she has time.

“I still think you should get an X-ray.”

“Button? It’s me, Dad.”

As if anyone else on this planet calls me Button. He does that, steals my mom’s phone when she’s in the middle of a conversation. Yeah, she loves it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they find him bludgeoned to death by iPhone one of these days.

“Hi, Dad.”

“How are those California fruits and nuts treating you?”

“Awful. They say hello all the time. Like, for no reason. Even strangers. And smile. They even have the audacity to make eye contact. I’m a little freaked out.”

His deep chuckle comes through the phone and a sharp pang hits my heart. I miss them. One of the downfalls of being an only child is that you develop an unhealthy attachment to your parents.

“What happened with the car?”

“It cost me a couple hundred bucks to have it donated.”

“You live and learn, kiddo.”

“Please don’t say I told you so again.”

“Okay, okay. Here’s your mother. Love you. And I told you so.”

“Love you too.”

“Sweetheart?” my mother cuts in a moment later.

“I have to get going if I’m going to make it in time for study group.”

“At this hour??” she exclaims.

“It’s only seven thirty, Nance. Chill.” Though it will be late by the time I get out. “If it makes you feel better, I’ll take an Uber home.”

I won’t. Can’t afford it. But I can’t have her worrying about me walking around in the dead of night on crutches.

“I don’t know, Alice. This is making me increasingly uncomfortable. Maybe I should come out for a few days. Until you’re better.”

“Mom, stop. I’m fine. Gotta go. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Despite seeing blood and guts on a nightly basis at one of the busiest hospitals in Newark, New Jersey, Nancy Bailey is a fretter when it comes to her only kid. She’s also repeatedly said that she didn’t fret a day in her life until she met me and fell in love.

“Call me tonight. I mean it. Call me or I won’t sleep.”

“Fine,” I grumble. “Love you, bye.”

We’re big on the I love yous in my family. After my birth mom died, Dad started to say it all the time. Then I started saying it all the time. And then he met Nancy who says it more than me and Dad combined.

“Love you more.”

An hour later I’m cursing my stupidity. Sweaty and in pain, I’m in a foul mood by the time I reach the library. Only to find a note on the door of study room B explaining that it’s been moved off campus, an address attached, due to a broken pipe that flooded the room.

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