The Longest Ride. Занятие 20

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And then what?” Marcia asked. She was standing in front of the mirror and applying a second coat of mascara while Sophia recounted her day at the ranch. “Don’t tell me you slept with him.” As she said it, she examined Sophia’s reflection in the mirror.


“Of course not!” Sophia said. She crossed one leg beneath the other on the bed. “It wasn’t like that. We just kissed and then we talked some more, and then when I left, he kissed me again at the car. It was… sweet.”


“Oh,” Marcia said, stopping in her attempt to dab on some mascara.


“Don’t hide your disappointment. Really.”


“What?” she announced. “The way you looked just now makes me think you wanted to.”


“I barely know him!”


“That’s not true. You were with him, what? More than an hour last night, and six or seven hours today? That’s a lot of time together. That’s a lot of talking. Horseback riding, a couple of beers… if it was me, I might have grabbed his hand and just dragged him inside.”




“I’m just saying. He was seriously hot. You noticed that,




Sophia really, truly, didn’t want the whole “hot” thing to start up again. “He’s a nice guy,” she said, trying to head it off.


“Even better,” Marcia said, giving her a wink. She applied a glossy coat of lipstick before reaching for a hair clip. “But okay, I get it. You’re different than me. And I respect that—I really do.


I’m just glad you’re done with Brian.”


“I’ve been done with him since I broke up with him.”


“I could tell,” she said, gathering her rich brown hair into a sleek ponytail and securing it with a glittery hair clip. “You know I talked to him, right?”




“At the rodeo, when you were off with Mr. Hottie.”


Sophia frowned. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“What was there to tell? I was just trying to distract him. The Duke guys hated him, by the way.” She adjusted a few strands that she had artfully loosened from the ponytail, then met Sophia’s gaze in the mirror. “You have to admit, I’m the best roommate ever, right? Convincing you to go out with us? If it wasn’t for me, you’d still be moping around our room all day. All of which makes me wonder when I’m going to get the chance to meet your new stud.”


“We didn’t talk about getting together again.”


Marcia’s face was incredulous. “How could you not talk about it?”


Because we’re different, Sophia thought. And because… she didn’t really know why, other than that the dizzy way the kiss made her feel obliterated all practical thought.


“All I know is that he’s going to be out of town next weekend. He’s going to be riding in Knoxville.”


“So call him. Invite him over to the house before he leaves.”


Sophia shook her head. “I’m not going to call him.”


“And if he doesn’t call you?”


“He said he would.”


“A lot of times, guys just say that and you never hear from them again.”


“He’s not like that,” she said, and as if proving her point, her cell phone began to ring. Recognizing Luke’s phone number, she grabbed it and jumped up from the bed.


“Don’t tell me that’s him, already.”


“He said he would call to make sure I got home safely.”


Sophia was already bounding to the door, barely noticing her roommate’s surprise or the words she muttered to herself as Sophia slipped into the hallway. “I’ve really, really got to meet this guy.”


On Thursday evening, an hour after the sun had gone down, Sophia was finishing up her hair when Marcia turned toward her. She’d been standing at the window and watching for Luke’s truck, making Sophia feel even more nervous than she already was. She’d vetoed three of Sophia’s outfits, had lent her a pair of gold, dangly earrings and a necklace that matched, and as she skipped toward Sophia, she didn’t bother to hide her excitement.


“He’s here. I’m going downstairs to meet him at the door.”


Sophia let out a long breath. “Okay, I’m ready. Let’s go.”


“No, you stay in the room for a few minutes. You don’t want him to think you were watching for him.”


“I wasn’t watching for him,” Sophia said. “You were.”


“You know what I mean. You need to make an entrance. He needs to see you coming down the stairs. The last thing you want is for him to think you’re desperate.”


“Why are you making this so complicated?” Sophia protested.


“Trust me,” Marcia said. “I know what I’m doing. Come down in three minutes. Count to a hundred or something. I’ve got to go.”


She fled, leaving Sophia alone with her nerves, her stomach feeling topsy-turvy. Which was strange, since they’d talked on the phone for an hour or more the last three nights, picking up each conversation exactly where they had left off. He would usually call around dusk, and she’d talk to him from the porch, trying to imagine how he looked at that moment and replaying their day together endlessly.


Spending time with him at the ranch was one thing. That was easy. But seeing Luke here? At the sorority house? He might as well be visiting Mars. In the three years she’d lived here, the only guys who’d ever come to the house—aside from brothers or fathers or boyfriends from back home—were either frat boys, or recently graduated frat boys, or frat boys from other colleges.


She’d gently tried to warn him but wasn’t sure quite how to tell him that the girls in the house would probably regard him as an exotic specimen, a subject of endless chatter as soon as he left. She’d suggested meeting him off campus, but he’d said he’d never been to Wake and wanted to walk around. She fought the urge to race downstairs and hurry him out the door as quickly as possible.


Remembering Marcia’s insistent advice, Sophia took a deep breath and gave herself the once-over in the mirror. Jeans, blouse, pumps: pretty much what she’d worn the last time they’d been together, but upgraded. She turned first one way and then the other, thinking, That’s all I can do. Then she gave a coy smile and admitted, But not bad at all.


She checked her watch and let another minute pass before exiting the room. During the week, men were allowed entrance only to the foyer and the parlor. The parlor, which boasted couches and a gigantic flat-screen TV, was where a lot of her sisters liked to hang out. As she approached the steps at the end of the hall, she could hear Marcia laughing in an otherwise silent room. She walked a bit faster, praying that she and Luke could escape without being noticed.


She spotted him right away, standing in the center of the room next to Marcia, hat in hand. As always, he was wearing boots and jeans, his outfit completed by a belt with a shiny, oversize silver buckle. Sophia’s heart sank as she realized that he and Marcia weren’t alone in the parlor. In fact, it was more crowded than usual, but eerily silent. Three frat boys, dressed in cargo shorts, Polos, and Top-Siders, gaped at Luke in the same way Mary-Kate did from the opposite couch. Likewise Jenny, Drew, and Brittany. Four or five more girls huddled silently in the far corner, all of them trying their best to figure out the unexpected stranger in their presence.


But as far as she could tell, their scrutiny had no effect on him. He seemed at ease, listening as Marcia chattered on, her hands gesturing flamboyantly. As she reached the entrance to the parlor, he glanced up and saw her. Breaking into a grin, his dimples flashing, he conveyed the impression that Marcia had vanished and that he and Sophia were the only two people in the room.


Sophia took a deep breath and stepped into the parlor, feeling everyone’s attention swing to her. On cue, Jenny leaned toward Drew and Brittany and whispered something. Though they’d naturally heard about her breakup with Brian, it was clear that none of them had heard about Luke, and she wondered how quickly Brian would find out that a cowboy had come to pick her up. On Greek Row, word would get around fast. She could already imagine any number of them dialing their cell phones, even before she and Luke reached the truck.


Which meant that Brian would find out. It wouldn’t take much for him to guess that it was the same cowboy who’d humiliated him the weekend before. He wasn’t going to be happy about it, nor would his frat brothers. And depending on how much they’d been drinking—on Thursdays, everyone started early— they just might get it into their heads to exact revenge. Suddenly queasy, she wondered why she hadn’t thought of it before.


“Hey there,” she said, doing her best to disguise her anxiety. Luke’s smile deepened. “You look fantastic.”


“Thank you,” Sophia murmured.


“I like him,” Marcia chimed in.


Luke glanced at her, startled, before turning back to Sophia.


“Obviously, I had a chance to meet your roommate.”


“I was trying to find out if he had any single friends,” Marcia admitted.




“He said he’d see what he could do.”


Sophia motioned with her head. “You ready to go?” she asked.


Marcia was already shaking her head. “No, not yet. He just got here.”


Sophia glared at Marcia, hoping she’d pick up on her cues.


“We really can’t stay.”


“Come on,” Marcia cajoled. “Let’s get a drink first. Thursday night, remember? I want to hear about riding bulls.”


Off to the side, Mary-Kate’s expression was pinched as she put the pieces together. No doubt Brian had returned to the table last Saturday, regaling everyone with stories about how he’d been jumped by a gang of cowboys. Brian and Mary-Kate had always been friends, and when Mary-Kate grabbed her phone and rose from the couch and left the parlor, Sophia assumed the worst and didn’t hesitate.


“We can’t stay. We have reservations,” she said firmly.


“What?” Marcia blinked. “You didn’t tell me that. Where?” Sophia blanked, unable to think of anything. She could feel Luke watching her before he cleared his throat. “Fabian’s,” he suddenly announced.


Marcia swiveled her attention from one to the other. “I’m sure they won’t mind if you’re a few minutes late.”


“Unfortunately, we’re already running late,” Luke said. Then, to Sophia: “Do you have everything?”


Sophia felt a surge of relief and adjusted the purse strap on her shoulder. “I’m ready,” she agreed.


Luke took her elbow gently as he led her toward the door. “Nice meeting you, Marcia.” “You too,” she said, bewildered.


Opening the door, he stopped to put his hat back on. He wore an amused expression as he adjusted it, as if to acknowledge their confusion about the whole thing. With a grin, he stepped out with Sophia on his arm.


As the door swung shut behind them, Sophia heard the burst of excited chatter. If Luke heard it, he appeared to pay it no attention. Instead, he led her to the truck and opened the door, then walked around the front to his side. As he did, she noticed a row of eager faces—including Marcia’s—at the parlor windows. She was debating whether to acknowledge them with a wave or simply ignore them when Luke crawled in, closing the door with a thud.


“I’m guessing you’ve made them curious,” he said.


She shook her head. “It’s not me they’re wondering about.”


“Oh, I get it,” he said. “It’s because I’m skinny, right?”


She laughed, and with that, she realized that she no longer cared about what the others were thinking or doing or saying about them. “Thanks for covering for me in there.”


“What’s going on?”


She told him about her concerns about Brian and her suspicions about Mary-Kate.


“I wondered about that,” he said. “You mentioned that he’d been watching you. Part of me was expecting him to burst through the door any minute.”


“And yet you came anyway?”


“I had to.” He shrugged. “You invited me.”


She leaned her head back against the headrest, liking the way he sounded. “I’m sorry that I’m not going to be able to show you the campus tonight.”


“No big deal.”


“We can do it another time,” she promised. “When he doesn’t know you’re here, I mean. I’ll show you all the cool places.”


“It’s a date,” he said.


Up close, his eyes were a clear, unalloyed blue, striking in their purity. She plucked at an imaginary piece of lint on her jeans.


“What would you like to do?”


He thought about it. “Are you hungry?”


“A little,” she admitted.


“Do you want to go to Fabian’s? I’m not sure we can get in, since we don’t really have a reservation. But we can try.”


She thought about it, then shook her head. “No, not tonight. I want to go someplace a little off the beaten track. How about sushi?”


He didn’t respond right away. “Okay,” he offered.


She regarded him. “Have you ever had sushi before?”


“I might live on a ranch, but I’ve left it every now and then.”


And? she thought. “You didn’t answer my question.”


He fiddled with the keys before slipping the right one in the ignition. “No,” he admitted, “I’ve never had sushi.” All she could do was laugh.


Following Sophia’s directions, they drove to Sakura Japanese Restaurant. Inside, most of the tables were occupied, as was the sushi bar. While they waited for the hostess, Sophia looked around, praying she wouldn’t bump into anyone she knew. It wasn’t the kind of place regularly frequented by students—burgers and pizza were the favored foods of college students everywhere— but Sakura wasn’t totally unknown, either. She’d come here occasionally with Marcia, and even though she didn’t recognize anyone, she nonetheless requested a seat on the outdoor patio. Heat lamps glowed in the corners of the patio, casting a blanket of warmth that took the edge off the evening chill. Only one other table was occupied by a couple finishing their meal, and it was blissfully quiet. The view wasn’t much, but the soft yellow glow from the Japanese lantern overhead gave the place a romantic feel.

About the Author

Диана Семёнычева

Диана Семёнычева