Like Lacey, Rachel was going for business and design but, unlike Lacey, Rachel was quiet and very OCD. It was cute, and Lacey loved how Rachel was the yin to her yang. Falling into the seat beside her, Lacey’s book fell on the desk, knocking the pencils Rachel had lined perfectly straight onto the ground.
“Ugh! Lacey,” she complained. Standing, she rushed to the pick them up.
“Oops, my bad! My hands are frozen!”
Rachel sent her a lopsided grin, retrieving her pencils and falling back into her seat. Wearing a pair of jeans with boots up to her knees and a large Cats sweatshirt, her dark brown hair fell in curls around her face. Her brown eyes were framed with darker lashes as she focused on getting her pencils right in line again. They hadn’t been friends long, but, from the beginning, Lacey had known that she and Rachel were going to be friends for life.
“No biggie—did you go watch your brother play this morning?”
Lacey nodded. “I sure did. It was nice. I missed the sounds of the ice and the smell. I was about ten seconds from rushing down there and putting my nose to it.”
“’Cause that’s normal.”
“Yeah, it is,” Lacey said with a laugh, opening her business book.
“I’m glad you went,” Rachel said after a few minutes. “That’s it, right? You are completely back to normal now.”
Lacey smiled as she bit into her lip. “Yup, completely normal Lacey now.”
“Awesome, now all you need is a hot boyfriend to make life a little interesting.”
“This coming from my single best friend,” she teased, causing Rachel to laugh.
“That is true, but I am on the prowl. All I need is a man who is clean and knows what he wants, and my life would be complete.”
Lacey laughed. “Good luck with that.”
They shared a smile before returning to their books. They had a quiz that morning. Lacey wanted to refresh herself, but she couldn’t focus. All her thoughts kept floating back to number sixteen.
Lacey looked up, leaning against her hand. “And that is?”
“Wanna go to the Cats’ team party tomorrow?”
Her brows shot up as she laughed. “What? Who are you, and where is my best friend? Cause the Rachel Wise I know doesn’t go to frat parties. They are dirty, remember?”
That made Rachel dissolve into giggles, and soon Lacey joined in. “I know, but I think we need to be proactive here. We’ve been here for six months and haven’t been to any parties. We study and we go to the movies. We are nerds, Lacey!”
“I like being a nerd,” Lacey said with a nervous laugh. Her heart kicked up in speed, and everything went cold inside her. She was pretty sure she knew where her best friend was going with this.
“I do too, but I want to get laid, and no one has caught my eye. I need to broaden my boundaries, and hockey players are hot.”
Yeah, they are…especially Karson King, Lacey thought as she slowly nodded. Even with that fact, there was no way she was getting involved with anyone.
“Plus, it wouldn’t be weird for us to be there because Grady is your brother,” she added. She was right, but Lacey wasn’t sure it was a good idea. People didn’t go to those parties to play Scrabble. They went to hook up, and hooking up wasn’t in Lacey’s vocabulary anymore.
“Yeah,” she agreed as she shrugged her shoulder. “But maybe we can go to a movie; guys are at the movies.”
“I don’t know,” Lacey said, letting out a breath.
“No, it’s something. Tell me.”
Biting into her lip hard, she looked away and muttered, “Karson King was staring at me this morning during practice.”
Lacey moved her hands, rubbing her thumbs together in a nervous way. “He was looking at me like I was naked, like he wanted me, and I don’t want to give him a reason to flirt with me by showing up at the party he is hosting.”
Rachel held her gaze for a second before laughing hysterically. “Lacey Martin, are you crazy? Who in their right mind wouldn’t want Karson King to flirt with them?”
“I guess me,” Lacey breathed. “He’s trouble.”
“Oh yeah, he is, the best kind of hot trouble, which would be right up your alley. Get you right back on the horse. You need a little romance; you need to feel like a woman again.”
Having a guy reject her wasn’t going to make her feel like a woman, but she couldn’t say that. Rachel might know her condition, but she didn’t know what it was like. She thought it was nothing to worry about, when it was actually life-altering. So instead of telling Rachel the truth, Lacey shook her head and said, “I don’t want trouble.”
Reaching out, Rachel cupped Lacey’s shoulder as she gave her a look. “Trouble is fun. Come on, let’s go to the party.”
Working her lip, Lacey let out a breath. With one look into Rachel’s eyes, she knew there was no backing out. She knew it was a bad idea, but she also knew Rachel was right. She wasn’t in the hospital anymore. She wasn’t dying. She was alive, and she needed to embrace that. She needed to push her insecurities to the side and enjoy her second chance at life. So, with a slow nod, she said, “Fine, yeah, I’ll go.”
Bundled up in her trusty Cats sweatshirt, Lacey watched as the Cats sailed up the ice toward the goal. Grady had the puck and deked around two players before passing it to another, who shot but missed. NYU got the puck and went to pass it up, but out of nowhere, Karson came, stealing the puck and spinning around a player, backhanding it into the goal with ease. Along with the rest of the Cats’ side, she and Rachel flew up, screaming and cheering for the home team.