I hadn't really been surprised to get the letter from the university's headmaster the week before term started. Since the last semester had ended with a spectacular fistfight between Donnie Masters and me, it was pretty expected that we'd have to answer for our actions that day.
We'd hated each other since the first time we'd spoken to one another. Donnie came from wealth and was a spoiled brat. When he found out I was at school on a grant that had nothing to do with academic excellence and everything to do with being from a poor family, he'd made it his mission to torture me about it.
I'd done my best to avoid Masters for weeks before term ended, but sometimes, it felt as if he sought me out and tried to pick fights with me. There was only so much insulting any man could take, and Donnie pushed me to my limit.
A few scathing comments thrown around about my mother while I was loading my luggage into our van were all it took to send me swinging wildly in Donnie's direction. It had taken both of my parents and three of his friends to pull us apart. I'd been shoved into the car and had the door slammed violently behind me in an attempt to keep the fight from starting all over again.
As the car had pulled away from the curb, I'd looked back to see Donnie glaring after me, shouting something that fortunately I couldn't hear. A bruise had already begun to blossom around my left eye, and I'd known I'd be reminded of him for weeks as it healed. Not how I'd looked forward to spending the beginning of my summer vacation, to be sure.
It had been silly to think that news of the brawl wouldn't reach the school administrators just because term was officially over. That was how I found myself sitting in Dean McTavish's office on the first day of September, waiting for him to show up and dole out punishment three months after my offense.
The door opened behind me, and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I didn't need to turn around to know that it was not the headmaster who had stalked into the office, but Donnie Masters.
"James," he said stiffly as he walked around to sit in the chair next to me. "Have a nice summer?"
I stared at him for a moment, not sure what to say. Of the millions of things I would have expected him to say or ask, that was not even on the list.
"Uh, it was fine, yeah," I said finally. "You?"
"It was nice, thanks. Glad to be back though. I was staying with my parents, and that got tiresome rather quickly." He sighed. "Listen, about last year--"
"Gentlemen," Dean McTavish's voice from behind us made us both jump. We stood and waited for the man to walk around his desk and sit before we dropped back into our chairs. "I think you both know why you're here. The animosity between the two of you has always concerned the staff, but last year's violent outburst was alarming. After much discussion, we've decided not to expel you, though you must both be aware that fighting is not tolerated here. You especially James, need to watch yourself. If we had decided to take action against you, your grant would have been voided and you would not be able to use it for another university."
I nodded solemnly. My parents had said pretty much the same thing to me on our drive home after the fight had happened. As much as Donnie irritated me, I couldn't allow him to ruin my only chance at college. He wasn't worth that.
"Sir," Donnie said, his tone less pompous than I'd ever heard it. "The fight was my fault. I goaded James into it and I am sincerely sorry. I can assure you that this term will be different."
"That's good to hear, Mr. Masters." Dean McTavish smiled cautiously. "Now, we must talk about your... I hesitate to call it a punishment, perhaps your recompense would be a better word. The point is we must find a way to ensure that the two of you learn to at least coexist while you're on campus."
I glanced over at the bleach-blond sitting next to me. He looked different than the last time I'd seen him. Older, stronger, the expression on his face was not that of total arrogance. With a start, I realized that Donnie Masters looked like a man. I wondered if he meant what he'd said, that this term would be different. Had he matured along with his looks?
"Sir, I agree with Donnie. I don't think this semester is going to be like the last few." Looking back at the Dean, I saw a genuine smile on his face.
"That's great. I feel much better about the arrangements I've made knowing that you're both willing to try for some civility."
"Arrangements, sir?" I looked quizzically at Donnie then back at the Dean.
"Yes. The living arrangements," he said. "You two will be sharing a dorm room this semester."
I stared at McTavish in disbelief. It was a giant leap for Donnie and me to go from not punching each other in the face anymore to living together. I felt Donnie's cool gaze on me but couldn't turn away from the headmaster to meet it.
"Thank you, sir," Donnie said after a moment. "I appreciate that you were able to keep us both here, and we'll do our best to live up to your expectations. Won't we, James?"
"Yes," I said quickly. "Of course. Yes. Thank you, sir."
Donnie and I stood, each shook the Dean's hand then turned and walked out of the office. When we reached the hallway, I stopped and stared at the blond. He'd grown quite a bit over the summer. He'd always been shorter than me, but now, we were eye to eye. His pale blue irises shone with amusement as he looked back at me.
"Should be an interesting term," he said after a minute. "Shall we go get settled?"
"I need to find my stuff," I said with a shrug.
"It's taken care of," he said, smiling almost shyly. "Your parents were unloading your boxes as I pulled up, and I had my butler take your things to the room. I hope that's all right."
"You already knew we were sharing a dorm?" I asked in surprise.
"Yes, my father told me. The Dean called him over the summer to make sure I wouldn't put up a fight about it." Donnie started walking, glancing back to make sure I was following him.
"Really? He didn't call my family." I kept stride with him, letting him lead the way since I didn't even know which dorm we'd be living in, but Donnie apparently did.
"Well, he probably knew that you'd go with whatever he decided. After all, you have a lot more to lose than I do."
"Of course, you can go to any school you want. If I fuck up here I'm just screwed." I tried to keep the anger out of my voice but knew I'd failed.
"Please don't start," Donnie said with a sigh. "I wasn't trying to be rude. I was just stating a fact. It's not my fault that I come from money, James."
"No, but it's your fault you're an asshole about it." I glared at the back of his head.
"I suppose that's true," he agreed. "But I promise to try to keep that in check. I don't want a repeat of last year." He stopped and turned to look at me. "I really am sorry, James. About everything. I had no excuse to treat you the way I did."
"Well, thanks. I'm sorry, too." I laughed at the look of disbelief on his face. "I am. You're the only person on Earth who has ever gotten me fired up enough to throw a punch. But the weird thing is I don't hate you. Hell, I don't even really dislike you. I just can't stand the way you talked to me and about my family."
"I know it was only a few months ago, but I was a child then. I've grown up a lot this summer. I'm glad I'm going to get the chance to prove that to you." He turned and started walking again.
My eyes drifted toward his ass of their own accord, and I couldn't help but agree that he'd grown up. His body was not just taller, but bigger. Muscles had developed in places I'd never seen them on him. His shoulders were broader and the tight T-shirt he wore showcased them well. I shook my head, trying to push away the thoughts. It wouldn't be good for me to start lusting after him again now that we were going to share a room.
The very first time I'd seen Donnie Masters, I'd wanted him more than I'd ever wanted anyone. I think that was where all my anger stemmed from. He'd done nothing but insult me and make fun of my family, but I'd just felt the need to throw him down and ravish every inch of his body. When I'd realized he would never be interested in me, it had pissed me off.
Looking at him now, the boyish good looks I'd grown accustomed to replaced by handsome lines and hard angles, I wondered how I would keep my hunger for him at bay.