Chord, p.1
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       Chord, p.1

           Chelsea M. Cameron
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Chord


  Dedication: For all the girls who think they might like girls. This one’s for you.

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  One

  Two

  Three

  Four

  Five

  Six

  Seven

  Eight

  Nine

  Ten

  Eleven

  Twelve

  Thirteen

  Fourteen

  Fifteen

  Epilogue

  About the author:

  Chord is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are use fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, business establishments or locales is entirely coincidental. | No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. All rights reserved. | Copyright © 2018 Chelsea M. Cameron | Editing by Laura Helseth | Cover by Alessandra Morgan

  One

  Chase

  “When’s your roommate getting here?” my younger sister, Kate, said, flopping on the empty bed on the other side of my dorm room with a squeak. The beds looked like they’d been here since my parents had been in school in, and that was a while ago.

  “Not sure. The girl I was supposed to be with dropped out at the last minute, so they assigned me someone new, like, two days ago,” I said, pulling my dark hair off the back of my neck. It had grown out a little from when I’d gotten it chopped earlier in the summer and I needed a trim.

  “It’s not very big,” Kate said, glancing around the room.

  “It’s fine,” I said, kicking a box of books across the room so I wouldn’t have to bend down and lift it.

  Mom and Dad came through the door, both huffing and puffing.

  “Don’t you have an e-reader, Chase?” Mom said, groaning as she dropped a box of books with a thunk. Dad set my microwave down on the floor and stretched his back.

  “Yeah,” I said. “Your point?” Mom crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes. Her patience with my sass was running thin today.

  “That’s supposed to replace the need to carry around a million heavy books. And thus save our backs.” I rolled my eyes. My parents were both in their mid-forties. They weren’t that old.

  “How much more?” I asked. We’d thrown everything in the back of Dad’s SUV, but it seemed like a lot of stuff in the tiny room. Maybe it was just the boxes of books. Oops. But I couldn’t leave any behind. Who knew what Kate would do with them while I was gone? Probably use them to blow her nose just to spite me.

  “One more trip, I think. If we all help,” Dad said, with a pointed look at Kate, who rolled her eyes and let out a sixteen-year-old huffy sigh.

  “Good,” I said, but my stomach flipped over a few times. When we finished unpacking the car, that meant my parents and Kate were leaving me here. At college. Alone.

  Well, except for a complete stranger, which I was now expected to share a very intimate space with. Yeah, sounded like a great idea. I might have been an adult on paper, but in reality, not so much. I still felt like I needed supervision.

  I just hoped she wasn’t, like, weird. Didn’t sleep all day and stay up all night staring at me while I slept kind of weird. Or wanted to be my VERY BEST FRIEND EVER five seconds after meeting me.

  There were so many potential awful possibilities.

  I should have roomed with someone I knew, but I wasn’t smart and by the time I tried that, everyone had already paired up and I was the odd girl out.

  And now here I was, waiting to meet the girl who could make my life a living hell. Why did I agree to this again?

  THE FOUR OF US GOT the rest of my stuff up the elevator and down the hall to my room, and I said goodbye with a minimum of tears. After they left, I shut the door and sat on my new bed. The mattress was just one of those thin wafer things and not very comfortable. Good thing I’d brought a memory foam topper for it.

  I was just trying to get up the energy to start unpacking when the door banged open.

  “Is this it?” A booming voice said. All I saw was a box and a set of heavily-muscled legs before a female voice said “Yeah, this is it” and the walking box entered the room.

  The person carrying the box set it down on the other bed and I nearly gaped at him. Standing in front of me was one of the tallest men I’d ever seen. He was also ripped, and had a shock of red hair on his head and a beard on his chin. He wouldn’t have been out of place next to some Norse or Roman god.

  He beamed at me, flashing white teeth.

  “You must be Chase,” he said, holding out a hand that could crush two of mine with little effort.

  “Uhhhh,” I said, and then turned to see who else had walked in.

  “Dad, stop it.” Standing in the doorway with a duffel bag must be my new roommate.

  Cordelia Scott. She was just as striking as her father, but she was definitely on the more petite side. Cute. With red hair a few shades darker than her dad and pale skin that was peppered all over with freckles. I’d never seen someone with so many. I realized I was staring and blinked a few times. My eyes traveled south. She was more well-endowed than I, and I couldn’t help but be jealous at the way she filled out her V-neck shirt.

  “Sorry about him,” Cordelia said, dropping the duffel with a thunk. “He likes to make an entrance.” I still didn’t know what to say.

  “It’s okay,” I finally got out.

  “It’s nice to meet you. Finally. I’m sorry we couldn’t have hooked up during orientation, but we’re here now.” She smiled at me and my stomach did this little flippy thing.

  I was so nervous about this living-with-a-complete-stranger deal.

  “Nice to meet you too,” I said, my face turning red. “Do you, um, need any help?”

  “No, we’ve got it,” she said, pointing at her dad. “He’s a one-man moving crew.”

  “Okay. Cool,” I said, still feeling painfully awkward. She stepped by me and winked before heading out of the room, her giant dad following in her wake.

  Whoa.

  LESS THAN AN HOUR LATER, Cordelia had all of her stuff in our room and she was giving her dad a hug goodbye. He lifted her off her feet and held her hard. I almost thought I was going to hear cracking ribs.

  “You call me, got it? Or else I’m going to come up here and break the door down. And you carry your pepper spray.” She rolled her eyes and nodded. He turned to me.

  “You look out for each other, okay?” I said I would and then he left, nearly having to walk sideways to make it through the doorway.

  “So,” Cordelia said, turning to me. “Need some help unpacking?”

  “No, I’m okay,” I said, clutching two books, one in each hand. Being in this confined space with her was freaking me out.

  “Okay, well, let me know.” She turned away and started unpacking some of her boxes. I tried not to watch her as I loaded up my bookcase.

  “Oh, I love that one,” A voice said behind me. I jumped and nearly crashed into her when I whipped around.

  “Sorry!” She put her hands up so we didn’t collide. Despite being several inches shorter than me, she was just so ... vibrant. I guess that was the right word. The hair and the freckles and her energy was too much to be contained by her body. She’d put her hair up on top of her head in a sloppy ponytail and there were wisps around her face.

  I was staring again.

  “It’s okay,” I said.

  “It’s cool that you have so many books. I mostly read on my phone, but it would be fun to swap books back and forth. Looks like we have a lot of the same tastes.”

  I didn’t want to do that, and I was quickly realizing that whichever algorithm had paired us together had made a terrible
mistake.

  And I’d only lived with her for less than six hours.

  CORDELIA

  I couldn’t tell if she was just shy, or had a hard time with new people, or what. I was trying. Probably trying a little too hard. Dad would probably be telling me to reel it in if he were here. I missed him already.

  Chase moved around the room and kept giving me darting glances. Surprise, surprise, she was taller than me (most everyone was) and had the cutest long bob I’d ever seen. She also had widely-spaced brown eyes that made her look like a doll. Chase was definitely not going to have any problem finding a boyfriend, if she didn’t have one already. She probably did. I wanted to ask, but she was being so squirrely that I didn’t want to spook her on the first day.

  So I tried to keep my mouth shut for the most part and unpack my shit and stay on my side of the room.

  “I’m going, to, um, go ... walk around,” Chase said after putting some of her books on the shelves.

  She paused in the doorway, as if she wasn’t sure she was allowed to or not.

  “I could come with you. If you want,” I offered. She pressed her lips together and nodded. Nice. Maybe if we got out of the room and away from the stress of moving in she’d open up. I really wanted us to get along, since we were going to be living together. Plus, it would be nice to have a friend.

  Chase didn’t say anything as we walked down the hall, dodging other people moving in. The floors were filled with hazards and I nearly got bowled over by a guy carrying an enormous TV. I stumbled back against Chase and she caught my upper arms.

  “Sorry,” I said as she let me go, looking a little stunned.

  “It’s fine,” she said and looked straight ahead.

  Okay, then.

  “WHAT’S YOUR MAJOR?” I asked. We hadn’t exchanged any information like other roommates might have ahead of time, so I didn’t really know anything about her, which I was actually kind of excited about.

  Dad always called me his little “social butterfly.” I guess I was pretty good at talking to people.

  Well, under most circumstances. I was kind of striking out with Chase.

  “English,” she said in a tone that dared me to make fun of her.

  “That would make sense with all the books,” I said, nodding as we walked down the hill from our dorm. I didn’t know where we were going, but I was following her lead.

  “What about you?” she said after a second.

  “I’m not sure yet. I have a bunch of things I’m interested in, so I want to try a few classes and see first, you know? I mean, I think it’s a little stupid to ask people to choose a major and a career before we even know what that involves.” I was rambling, but she might as well get used to it because I did it all the time.

  “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” she said. I hoped we were getting somewhere.

  “I’ve thought about English, but then I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it,” I said, and then realized that was probably insulting.

  “I want to work in publishing. Either as a writer or an agent or editor or something. I’ll have to get a master’s degree, but this is the first step.” She said it in a rush and I was thrilled I’d finally started cracking through her outer shell. I had a good feeling about her.

  “You have to become a famous author so I can say I knew you when,” I said, bumping my shoulder against her arm. I couldn’t exactly reach her shoulder with mine because of our height difference. Reel it in, Cordelia.

  She gave me a nervous smile and then we were silent again.

  “Can I ask you something?” she said after we’d walked a few more steps.

  “Sure! We should probably get to know each other since we’re sharing a room.”

  “Have you read Anne of Green Gables?” YES. We were going to get along just fine.

  I beamed at her.

  “Are you asking about my name? It was my dad’s idea. When I came out with a full head of red hair like his. He thought ‘Anne’ was too common, but Cordelia worked since it was the name Anne Shirley always wanted. So there you go.” I was so happy she understood the reference. Not a whole lot of people did.

  I glanced over at her and saw a real, genuine smile on her face.

  “It’s a pretty name,” she said. “Even without the awesome reference.”

  “Thanks!”

  We made it down to the main part of campus and I asked her where she wanted to go.

  “Well, I thought I would check out the bookstore and see how many books I’m going to need, and then maybe figure out where my classes are,” she said, pulling out a piece of paper from her back pocket.

  Oh, how cute. She was probably going to get all her syllabi on the first day and plan out a schedule too.

  “Sure, I’m cool with that. Although, I’m starving. Do you want to get something to eat at the Student Union first?”

  “Um, okay,” she said, and we walked up the steps toward the Union. I remembered taking my first tour here with Dad. It felt like a million years ago.

  Chase held the door for me and I got a little flustered for some reason.

  “Thanks,” I said, walking through before her.

  “Yeah,” she said, looking down and blushing a little. Crap, I was busting out of my shirt. I wished there was a subtle way to tuck the girls back in, but there really wasn’t. I’d only grabbed this shirt because the rest were packed away.

  We didn’t really know how to interact with one another, so we just sort of walked around the Union, looking for whatever struck our fancy. I ended up in front of the premade pizzas that were steaming on paper plates.

  “Score,” I said, grabbing a tray and a plate of plain cheese. They also had little salads, so I grabbed one of those. Might as well try to be healthy somewhat. Chase grabbed pepperoni and a salad as well. We went through the line, swiping our ID/meal cards.

  “Can you believe it? We’re really here in college. I keep wanting to pinch myself or something,” I said, looking around.

  “Yeah, I know what you mean,” Chase said. “I’m really afraid I’m gonna get homesick. That’s probably stupid, but I don’t care.” I shook my head and swallowed.

  “No, I totally know what you mean! My dad and I are like best friends.” Something twinged in my stomach when I mentioned him. Ugh, I missed him already. Hopefully I was going to be able to get through this like millions of other people had.

  “That’s sweet. Is it just the two of you?” she asked. Finally, we were getting somewhere.

  “Yup. Mom bailed and it was just the two of us. I think I was definitely better off. You?”

  “Mom and Dad and one younger sister. She’s a pain in the ass.” I giggled because she rolled her eyes. Cute.

  I asked her more about her family and got a little bit more out of her. Maybe it was knowing the origin of my name that helped grease the conversational wheels. Maybe it was something else. But I had the feeling that Chase and I were going to have a big impact on each other’s lives.

  She was a meticulous eater, rotating her plate as she finished her small slices of pizza. For some reason I found that really adorable.

  I had to stop myself from staring at her too much. I was always doing too much. Being too loud. Being too invasive. I had made the deal with myself that I was going to tone my shit down. Starting now. With Chase.

  Two

  Chase

  I’d never gotten to know someone that fast before. College seemed to make everything go at warp speed. By our second day together, Cordelia and I had a few inside jokes and had already figured out a chore schedule and when we wanted to go to bed each night. It was like I’d known her for years instead of hours.

  “Okay, this one is important,” she said as we lounged on our beds/couches. We were tossing a bag of Skittles back and forth. She was eating the purple and green ones and I was eating the yellow and red ones. Neither of us liked the orange ones, so those were in the bottom of the bag and would probably end up in the trash where they belonged.
>
  “Okay,” I said. We were currently seeing how much we had in common when it came to food.

  “What kind of popcorn is your favorite?” I popped a red Skittle in my mouth and cracked off the coating with my teeth before tossing the bag back to her.

  “Movie theater butter. Followed closely by kettle corn.” I looked over to find her slowly narrowing her eyes. Uh oh. I wondered if I’d said the wrong thing. Another thing I’d learned about her was that she had strong opinions on a lot of topics. Including popcorn, apparently.

  “Is that the wrong answer?” I asked. But the she broke out with a smile that made me want to look away. Something about the way she smiled made me feel weird.

  “No, that is the exact right answer. Congratulations. I won’t murder you in your sleep.” She munched a Skittle and then tossed the bag back at me.

  I caught it and sat up.

  “So, you’re saying if I’d answered, ‘with just salt’ you would have had grounds for murder?” She nodded, her curls bouncing.

  “Of course!” I cracked another Skittle in my teeth.

  “You know, you’re kind of scary,” I said. Her grin got really wide and I had that weird twisty feeling again.

  “Thanks for the compliment.” I shook my head at her and ate the last Skittle in the bag (with the exception of the offending orange ones).

  “Are you scared?” I asked as I tossed the bag in our shared trashcan (which we had already made agreements about who would empty it each week).

  “About what?” she asked, pulling her feet up on her bed and sitting cross-legged.

  “About this,” I said, waiving my hand around. “And classes and everything?” So far, I was doing okay with being here and Cordelia was a huge part of that. We were both pretty close with our families, so it was nice to have someone to talk to who felt the same way.

  “I mean, not really? I guess I don’t really think about it. I try not to worry too much.” I wished I was like that. I worried about everything and anything. It was a real problem sometimes. I couldn’t help it.

 
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