Jesus. Hacking up a lung. “Ow!”
I stepped back into the same attack holly bush I’d run into twice already, but the lawn of the ALA house was so crowded with people, it was hard to avoid. My too-thin-for-January-in-Wisconsin sleep pants now sported a rip while I was suffering a serious shrinkage factor.
Who the fuck set our house on fire?
Firefighters in bright-yellow uniforms pushed into the front door of our house, and the lawn was covered with my Alpha Lambda Alpha frat brothers and their dates in various stages of undress. It’d been a date night. Well, not for me, but still.
Coughing, I sidled over to Tray. “Hey. What the hell happened? Was it Bubba?” God knows it wouldn’t be the first time Bubba’d decided to dry his jock in the oven.
Traynor Blackstone, my best friend on the campus, shook his head. “No clue.” He turned his handsome face and really looked at me. “What happened to you? One minute, I handed you a beer and then poof.”
“Had to study.”
“Come on, my man. I know you’ve got tough-ass classes, but football season’s over, and date night’s sacred.”
I shrugged and stared at the sneakers I’d managed to rummage from under my bed before I ran out the door. “Got an exam.”
He barked a laugh. “One of these days, Mr. Running Back, we’ll hook you up with a female so fine you’ll turn in your texts for sexts.”
“Could happen.” I smiled. But not in this life.
“We’ve got to get you out of your ivory tower somehow, my man.”
I just shrugged. Not much I could say. Tray was my friend. I loved the guy, but no one, even him, had ever gotten me to tell the truth.
He shook his head, but it was friendly. “Come on.” He pushed through the masses of coughing people and trip-hazard hoses to Rand, the president and all-around phenom of the human kind. Rand was so perfect he made me antsy. I liked and respected him. Hell, he was the only ALA who’d ever had the nerve to come out as gay, and he was still so admired, the chapter put him in charge. Maybe I just couldn’t stand the comparison. Tray, however, saw everyone as his equal. One of the best qualities in a friend.
“Rand, what the fuck up?”
“Not sure yet, but I’m getting a damned clue.” He spoke from the corner of his mouth and never took his eyes off the SMT house across the street. Like all the other frat houses on the block, their guys were out on the lawn staring at the chaos that was ALA. I’d never tell my brothers, but some of those dudes were seriously cute.
I crossed my sneakered feet.
But then I’d never tell my brothers I thought any dude was cute.
Tray thrust his chin toward Rand. “Share.”
Rand turned and lowered his voice. “JC and Rex say they saw a couple of the Poins sneaking out from behind our house like forty-five minutes ago.”
The Poins were what we called the frat bros at Sigma Mu Tau. Short for Poindexters, aka nerds.
The words shot out of my mouth. “The Poins set fire to our fucking house?” I bit my tongue because Rand really looked at me, and that made me want to go back to the holly bush. But damn, ratfucking with practical jokes was one thing. Burning down a frat house—my frat house—was way beyond. Just the thought made me breathe hard, and I had to suck air in through my nose. Hell, the cost of living in the frat house was doable for me—barely. If I had to move? I shied away from the thought.
Rand said, “I don’t know. But if they did it, Dean Robberts is going to eat their balls for breakfast.” He grinned evilly. “I’ll make sure of it.”
All three of us stared across the street. The SMT president, Jax, stared back. He was kind of a hipster with a beard and wool beanie permanently attached to his head. Rand hated his guts. Next to him was that skinny guy, Dobbs, who was so obnoxious there should be a restraining order on his mouth. Our rivalry with the SMTs was tradition and kept the ALAs on their toes. But when it came down to it, I had way bigger things in my life to worry about than those douchebags. If the rivalry fucked with my house and my scholarship, then, hell yeah, the SMTs and I had a significant problem.