His lifted eyebrows acknowledged the obviousness of her statement. “I know. It was a stupid thing to do. It was two years ago, not one. Illinois, not Michigan. I was underage too. “
“Whoa, that’s bad.” Her hand covered her mouth before she could make any more stupid remarks.
“Yeah.” He shoved his hands in his pocket and began walking looking down at the ground. “Every month that goes by and I’m that much closer to graduating, I think it won’t catch up with me. How did Cam find out?”
Stella shrugged her shoulders. “He didn’t say.”
Large trees shaded the sidewalk the closer they came to campus. The root system buckled the sidewalk tripping the less alert walker. They both kept their eyes trained on the ground. Stella more to save her toes, but Mitch probably because he saw his future slipping away.
“I was at my cousin’s wedding, my favorite cousin, Annalise. She always treated me like a brother she liked, as opposed to the ones she had.”
“Go on,” she urged. Mitch had never spoken of his cousin.
“It was a big deal wedding. All the stops pulled out. Even had an open bar and a champagne fountain.”
No secret how the story would turn out, but there were missing pieces. “You aren’t a drinker. When everyone is partying hard, you’re at the computer lab working.”
He looked up at her. The misery in his eyes touched her, froze her and caused her to hate Cam more than she ever hated any human being. Mitch continued talking, pulling her from her self-loathing mode.
“I thought I was a big deal too. Annalise asked me to be a groomsman. I thought I looked like a player in my black tux.” He laughed. “Make that better than usual. I even had a date, a girl I’d started seeing. We’d been out a few times, and I thought it might be serious, especially since she accompanied me to the wedding.”
Weddings, unrealistic expectation, and free alcohol, yep not a good combination. “What happened?” she prompted when he looked reflective.
“Yeah, that.” He cleared his throat again. “Trina must have heard that weddings were a great place to pick up guys because she left with a different guy.”
A swell of anger at the unknown girl’s perfidy resulted in her stomping her foot. “Ow!” Not the best idea when barefooted.
Mitch immediately bent to examine her foot. “It’s not bleeding.” His thumb tenderly brushed the leave debris from her foot. “Wiggle it.” Her toes all flexed, as did her foot. “Not broken.”
Passing students threw them speculative glances. “Get up, please.” By the time, she reached her dorm there would be gossip that Mitch proposed to her. Not something, she wanted Cam to hear. It might force him to his next step, which wouldn’t be good.
“So you got drunk because she left you?”
“My intention wasn’t to get drunk, but in the end, I guess I did. My mother had left the reception with her sister. I was supposed to help break everything down. What I ended up doing was climbing into my cousin’s car, when I shouldn’t have. I promised to drive it back to her house since she left in the limo.”
Stella stole a glance at him. With his shoulders slumped forward, hands in pockets, his chin down, he could have modeled for dejection.
“It’s weird the DUI never came out. How long do those things stick on your record?”
“Depends on the state. Usually eight years, sometimes twenty. I got pulled over by a deputy who had been at the wedding. He recognized me. I think I babbled about my date dumping me. Didn’t matter, though. I blew over the legal limit. My mother came and picked me up, which was another disappointment in her life. The next morning we picked up the car and drove it to my cousin’s house making up some excuse about it being too late the night before. My mother didn’t want anyone to know what happened. I figured it would come out then, but never heard anything. Maybe being in a different state had something to do with it. I thought it was behind me. After that, I was super straight, no alcohol, no partying, no weed, nothing.”
No partying? Her brows knitted together. “Um, I never took you for an off the chain type.”
A rueful smile greeted her remark. “Yeah, with good reason. Bad results. I couldn’t afford anything else. The earlier charge could resurrect similar to a zombie with a new one. Still, it puzzles me how Cam Winters would know.”
The hum of the riding lawn mower in the distance provided the scent of fresh cut grass. Walnuts littered the sidewalk. Some of the nuts sported a solid green covering while the majority had black splotches rather like Cam’s soul if he had one. Stella’s foot intentionally connected with one before, she remembered her bare toes. Sucking her lips in, she kept silent. Complaining about doing a stupid thing would only make her sound like a diva.
Mitch looked at her reddened toes and merely raised an eyebrow. Of course, he had enough on his mind and probably hated her a little right now. Association with her brought him into Cam’s manipulative sphere of power, never a good place to be. Her nose crinkled as she remembered her breathless reaction to her initial spotting of the narcissistic man.
Student Life Agency hosted a mixer for the incoming freshmen complete with an inflatable obstacle course and free pizza. Most of the freshmen males showed for the pizza while the upperclassmen concentrated on rating the incoming females. The long shadow of a tree had hidden Stella as she watched Cam work his magic. A ray of sun broke through the clouds serving as a celestial spotlight. At the time, she giggled, thinking even the sun wanted to touch him. Luckily, he hadn’t seen her or her reaction.
Meeting two weeks later, didn’t smarten her up. It only made Cam more inaccessible. He’d already burned through all the popular girls, not even stopping long enough to catch his breath. No wonder she blew him off initially, unable to believe someone like him would be interested in her. Now it seemed his interest came from her work-study position as opposed to her personality. “Do you think Cam asked me out because of my job?”