Home > The Frat Boy (Nashville Neighborhood #4)

The Frat Boy (Nashville Neighborhood #4)
Author: Nikki Sloane




My heart beat erratically, too fast one moment and too slow the next. Sweat trickled down my back. The boy I loved was leaving, and there was nothing I could do to stop him.

I’d had plenty of chances over the summer to ask him to stay . . . but instead I’d encouraged him to go. It was a tremendous opportunity, I’d told him. Jack had been accepted into the international business program at Davidson University, which only took a handful of students each year. This would open doors and set him up with a job once he graduated.

And it included a semester abroad.

When his passport arrived last month, God, he’d been so excited. Jack had always yearned to travel, to see the world, but he’d have to do it without me. There was no way I could take a semester off when I only had three semesters of college left, and I certainly couldn’t afford to go to Germany with him.

So, even though it killed me, I pretended to be thrilled. I wasn’t going to let him give this up, and I loved him too much to hold him back. Plus, if I made him stay, eventually he’d resent me.

He had to go.

My gaze followed Jack as he wove through the line for security, his passport and plane ticket in hand. There was a curved neck pillow clipped to his backpack, and I watched it bounce with each step he took, rather than look directly at him.

Because that was too hard. Too painful.

Just the shape of him moving toward the TSA agent made my eyes blurry and my chin quiver. I’d held it together when we’d said goodbye, but my insides were made of glass—and now they were breaking.

We’ll talk every day, he’d assured me. It’s one semester. I’ll be back before you know it.

There was no way that was true.

But I’d nodded and attempted to squeeze out a smile. I didn’t want to be sad and ruin this day for him, plus I didn’t want his last memory of me to be a crumbling face, streaked with tears.

It felt like the end when he kissed me goodbye. He could swear up and down we’d be fine with five thousand miles between us, and I desperately wanted to believe . . . but I just couldn’t.

There were too many people who’d let me down in my past for me to stay optimistic. I’d learned the only promises I could count on were the ones I made to myself.

Jack handed his passport over to the agent, who waved him through after a quick evaluation. I sucked in a breath and held it as he followed the roped off section that briefly turned him back toward me.

He slowed, and alarm washed through his handsome face as he saw how stricken I must have looked.

“Madison,” he said, lifting his voice over the noise of people waiting for security. “It’s okay. Don’t cry.” He delivered a comforting smile as he began moving again. “I promise, we’ll be fine. I love you.”

I pressed my lips together, swallowed the stone in my throat, and nodded.

I wasn’t able to speak, wasn’t able to tell him I loved him, too. But at least it meant I wasn’t able to tell him not to make promises he might not be able to keep.

He held my gaze all the way until he reached the corner, lingered for a final moment, and then disappeared around it.

I stood utterly still, holding the crushed pieces of myself together. I didn’t know what else to do. How was I going to walk out of this Nashville airport, go back to the car I’d borrowed from a friend, and carry on like a small part of me hadn’t just died?

I was so in love with him.

Oblivious people moved around the busy ticketing area, hurrying to get where they were going. They were starting a journey, not ending one, and God, how I envied them. I wanted to have that excitement about what came next, instead of this crushing fear.

Jack was going to come back a changed man; that much I was sure of.

And I dreaded I wouldn’t fit into his new life when he returned.





Dark clouds loomed on the horizon, and Jenn—my sorority little sister—looked worried.

“They said it wasn’t supposed to rain today,” she muttered as she glanced down at her pristine sneakers.

I kept my tone light. “We tried to warn you.”

It was April, which meant spring showers, and it had rained every day this week. My gaze shifted from her to the obstacle course in front of us, where brown puddles dotted the field. Had there ever been grass on it? It was all dirt and mud now.

Every time Lambda Theta Chi had made it to the finals and competed for the Fidelity Cup, the race had been a slog. If anything, the muck had made the final race more fun. In our house, there were pictures in the front hall from previous years where the sisters were cover head-to-toe in mud.

This year, the base of the course was worse than I’d ever seen. The rope nets, climbing walls, and beams rose over a giant mud pit. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone had run a hose to the course to increase the slop.

“It’ll wash out,” I offered Jenn, trying to be helpful. Worry abruptly sliced through me. “You’re not thinking of backing out, are you?”

She looked at me like I was talking nonsense. “Of course not.” Her focus swung to the group of guys across the way, and her expression solidified. “We’re going to crush them.”

Atta girl. She was only a sophomore, but she understood what was at stake.

I peered across the field to the boys of Sigma Phi Alpha, who wore matching blue t-shirts with their letters printed in gold across their chests. I straightened my shoulders and narrowed my gaze.

During Greek Week, there was a week-long tournament between the sororities and fraternities, which might have been friendly back when it began fifty years ago, but it was entirely serious now.

In addition to the Greek-wide blood drive, every house battled for the chance to win the Fidelity Cup. There were different events each day, where only the winning houses advanced, all the way until the head-to-head finals.

We’d survived. After the dance-off, the tug of war, trivia, and chariot races, we Lambdas were still standing. We’d made the finals a few times before . . . but hadn’t ever won the cup.

Not in fifty years.

It was what our competitors, the Sigs, had been throwing in our faces ever since we’d arrived at the obstacle course this afternoon. Plus, they were the returning champs, which—yeah. This was another thing they fucking loved to point out.

“This is the year,” I said, “Lambda Theta Chi gets its name etched on the cup.” Winning it on its fiftieth-year anniversary would be all the sweeter.

Jenn nodded in total agreement and began to stretch, warming up for her leg of the relay race. The rest of the Lambdas who were competing today stood nearby, and Yasmin jerked her head toward the group of guys who looked like they were either half asleep or nursing a raging hangover.

Maybe both.

Her smile was downright evil. “Just look at them. They have no idea what’s coming.”

“I know. I almost feel bad for them,” I said, even though it was a complete lie.

Some of the obstacles in the course favored strength, historically giving the men an advantage, but we’d planned for this.

The monkey bars? Carrie was a pole dance instructor. She had the upper body and grip strength to easily stay competitive.

The log jump section? Luciana had been a track star in high school, and her best event was hurdles.

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