"Ethan Russell?" The words were muffled by a mouthful of sweet and sour chicken. She swallowed and added in apparent disbelief, "You're thinking of living with Ethan. Freaking. Russell."
Isabelle and I were eating Chinese takeout curled up on the couch (aka, my bed). I scooped another bite of chow mein with my chopsticks and took a bite, nodding to verify that was what I'd said. She just gaped at me, lost for words, as I chewed.
I didn't understand why she was so worked up over the news. Finding a feasible option for my living arrangements had been a huge relief. I'd expected her to be relieved, too; it would be better for both of us if I could get moved and settled before classes started. Coexisting in a 400 square foot box- however luxurious it may be- would get old, fast.
"Yeah, so? He seems normal enough and the price is right. It's a really nice place, too."
To be fair, his condo was gorgeous. Floor to ceiling windows, hardwood flooring, a private ensuite attached to each bedroom. It even had a hot tub on the patio, which I hadn't known was possible in a condo. Ethan said something about it being permitted because he had the penthouse. I could be living in a penthouse.
If I was being honest, he was gorgeous too. But I told myself that didn't factor into my decision. And I definitely didn't admit that part to Iz.
Plus, as much as I loved her, I was nearly giddy at the thought of having my own personal space again. A bedroom with an actual door and my own bathroom, where I didn't have to fight for counter space with enough cosmetics to stock a Sephora.
"Are you sure this isn't some weird rebound reflex thing, Ry? Since... you know."
Was it? It hasn't really occurred to me. My attempts to forget about Harry must have been working, at least a little. A summer away had certainly helped.
"No. It has nothing to do with that. Or him," I said firmly. "At this point, it's just my best option. What's the big deal?"
She ripped open a packet of soy sauce, rolling her eyes as she doused her rice with it. "Come on, Ryan. Don't you read To The Letter?"
To the what now? "Uh, sure..." I said noncommittally, averting my eyes to my takeout container to hide the fact that I had no idea what she was referring to.
"You know, the gossip site about our school's athletes and all of their juicy scandals?" She explained slowly, looking at me like I was some kind of alien.
She continued, waving her chopsticks for dramatic effect, "Who's sleeping with who, who's failing their classes, who's doping. I mean, allegedly."
"Can't say I have," I admitted. As a communications major, things like that were more in her wheelhouse. Isabelle loved herself some gossip.
"Well, you should," she admonished me, adding, "If you did, you would know that Ethan is practically untouchable. In addition to being incredibly hot, he's the captain of the hockey team."
Ah. Thinking back, I had thought he looked a little bit familiar. I wasn't one to follow sports, but I had probably seen him before in some kind of campus publication. There were always ads plastered around campus promoting our sports teams, trying to encourage school spirit amongst the student body; often, they featured pictures of the more prominent athletes.
At our college, varsity hockey in particular was a Really Big Deal. Many of the graduates went on to be drafted by the NHL, AHL, or European hockey teams. Knowing our school, he probably had his own billboard somewhere on the quad. No wonder he'd expected me to know who he was. I thought that he was just stuck on himself.
"Okay. So, he's good looking and he's an athlete. Still not getting what the big deal is over this guy. Athletes really aren't my type," I reminded her. "They don't exactly have the best reputations when it comes to dating, either."
If anything, the whole hockey player persona was pa turn-off for me. In addition for their womanizing reputations, athletes always seemed to have an ego thing going on that rubbed me the wrong way. Arrogant cheaters? No thanks. Been there, done that already with my ex. And it didn't end well. You might say it was a disaster.
She said, "No, he's different. He's surrounded by groupies constantly, but he never hooks up with anyone. That's unheard of for a varsity athlete at his level. I mean, some of the guys have girlfriends and even half of them still hook up, but he doesn't. He is a total anomaly. It's fascinating."
I shrugged. I had nothing against other people hooking up but I also didn't see why that had to be considered the norm. "I don't see what's so crazy about that. I don't like casual sex either."
If anything, this sounded like a roommate selling point; then I knew he wouldn't hit on me and wouldn't be bringing a rotating parade of girls home all the time.
"Yeah, but you're not a 6'2, young, sexy athlete constantly surrounded by hot, willing babes." She paused, furrowing her brow in thought. "I think he had a girlfriend once. Some say he's on a celibacy kick. Others claim he's just extremely, extremely picky and that no woman has ever lived up to his expectations."
Well, that made him sound like a potential pain in the ass. I didn't want a control freak for a roommate. But as long as he wasn't as picky about roommates as he was about hookups, I figured we could probably make it work. Plus, he seemed pretty easygoing when we met.
"It's looking like this or the dorms for me, at this point. I think I'm going to take my chances and give it a shot," I said. "Worst case, I move back in with you. My couch bed will always be here, right?"
Text Message, 5:05pm
Ryan: Hey Ethan! I had a few more questions about the whole roommate thing.
Ethan: Sure, shoot.
Ryan: Well, without being presumptuous, it doesn't seem like you need a roommate to afford the place. So... why have one?
Ethan: Between classes and hockey, I'm not home much, but it's nice to have someone around when I am.
Ryan: Fair enough. But why don't you want to live with one of your guy friends? Someone from the team or something?
Ethan: They share a big house off-campus. It's party central. I need peace and quiet so I can study and focus on hockey.
Ryan: Right. Me too.
Ryan: Well, I mean, I need to focus on my classes. Not hockey.
Ethan: Lol yeah, I figured as much.
Ryan: And what's your policy on exotic pets? Specifically, boa constrictors? Say... 3 of them?
Ryan: I was totally kidding.
Ryan: Final question- are you a serial killer? Because that might be a deal-breaker for me.
Ethan: You're so weird.
Ryan: Admit it, I had you going on the boa constrictor thing.
Ethan: When do you want to sign the lease and move in?
Ryan: Let's say Friday.
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When nursing student Ryan Winters moves into hockey captain Ethan Russell's place, they both agree that they can keep things from getting weird. The only problem? Smoldering sexual tension that they both try to ignore. Ryan tells herself that all s...