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The Ex Games (The Ex Games #1)

By:J. S. Cooper

had been bright eyed, with minimal makeup and no hair products taming my normally wild hair. Thinking back, it should have been obvious to Brandon that I had been lying, but I knew it was hardly his fault that I had deceived him. I hadn't meant to. It had just been one white lie. I hadn't expected him to ask me out. I hadn't expected to fall in love with him.

I sighed as I remembered the first time I saw Brandon Hastings outside the bar. That night was one of the best in my life. Meg and some other girls had convinced me to join them at a bar in the Lower East Side that they knew didn't card minors if they wore short enough skirts and red enough lipstick. I remembered the day clearly. It was a beautiful, warm August day, not too hot, and we were all excited to be starting college. None of us had lived in New York before, and we were all pretty naïve and green. I don't think that any of us had really had boyfriends in high school because we'd all been too busy studying, trying to earn our way into an Ivy League school. And it had paid off for all of us – we were incoming freshmen at Columbia University, and I think the giddiness that had taken over our lives came to fruition that night.

It was a Friday, the weekend before orientation classes were going to start, so one of the girls had the bright idea of christening our first week before classes started. I had never had any alcohol before and was as eager as the rest to go out and party. We were in New York, so why shouldn't we party it up? We'd all dressed up in the shortest skirts and the tightest tops we owned. I'd borrowed high heels from Meg and a bunch of makeup, and we took the 1 train to 42nd Street and then caught a cab to Doug's.

Doug's was everything I had imagined it was going to be: dark and musty, with bright lights and lots of cool-looking people. I was amazed that we had been able to walk right in without even a second glance from the bouncer. Our plan had worked. None of us were carded, and we walked quickly to the bar to get some drinks. Felicity, who was the one who told us about the bar, ordered us our first round of drinks. Scotch on the rocks. It tasted awful, and I thought my stomach was on fire as it burned slightly.

"That's just to get us buzzed faster," she grinned before ordering a round of Sex on the Beaches. "These will taste better, girls."

And she had been right. I guzzled two glasses down within half an hour, not thinking anything of it, as they hadn't tasted alcoholic at all. We were all just standing around when the DJ started playing some old Madonna songs and Meg grabbed my hand and we ran to the dance floor, giggling. The other girls followed quickly and we danced around as if we were on Dancing With The Stars.

We danced all night, and even though different guys came up to us, we turned them down. That wasn't a night for us to look for guys, but a night for us to bond with each other. It was the first of many memories we were going to make together.

We stumbled out of the bar at about one a.m. I remember that Meg and Felicity went to look for a cab while the other girls went to the bathroom. I stood there waiting outside the club and leaning against the wall, feeling dizzy and sick. The evening air was cool, and I shivered in my lack of clothing.

"Are you okay?" The voice was deep and husky, and I remember feeling comforted even though I hadn't been able to look up. "Do you need me to take you somewhere?" The voice was closer this time, and I felt warm hands on my shoulders as he forced me to look up at him.

"I'm fine." I giggled and looked up at him through my fake eyelashes. "Just waiting on my friends."

"You're drunk." He frowned and looked around. "It looks like your friends have left you."

"No, they're in the ladies' room." I pointed toward Doug's. "I'm just waiting on them to come out.

"I see." He stared down at me and there was concern in his blue eyes. "I'll wait with you."

"Thank you." I smiled at him and then started laughing.

"What's so funny?" He frowned as he looked at me and I pointed at his face. "My face is funny?" He gave me a wry smile and I shook my head.

"You look like Clark Gable."

"You think so?"

"Yes." I grinned at him. "You're handsome."

"Why, thank you." He looked at his watch then back at me. "We will give your friends a few minutes then see about getting you home."

"Are you trying to seduce me?" I wiggled my eyebrows at him and giggled. He was handsome and I was enjoying flirting with him. His blue eyes were bright and had a wise look. His hair was jet black and contrasted well with his olive skin. He was tall and muscular and smelled like some expensive cologne I didn't know the name of. It certainly wasn't the same cologne my dad or any of my high school boy friends used.

"No, dear." He shook his head. "I don't take advantage of young women."

"You wouldn't be taking advantage of me." I licked my lips slowly. I'd read an article in Cosmopolitan that said the way to seduce a guy was to show him your tongue. "I'm twenty-two. I make my own decisions," I lied easily.

"Well, maybe we can go out when you're sober, and if you still want me to seduce you then, I'll see what I can do." He put his arm around me and his fingers felt like heaven against my skin. "You're cold. Why don't you have a coat?"

"I didn't realize how cold it would get."

"You girls these days don't know how to take care of yourselves." He looked at me disapprovingly, and I wondered how old he was. He definitely wasn't a college student like me. There was no boyish look to him. He was all man, and 100% hunk at that.

"I don't feel good." All of a sudden my head felt like it was going to explode and my stomach was swirling like a hurricane.

"My apartment is just a couple of blocks down if you want to come."

"I don't know," I mumbled as I grabbed his arm. I didn't want to think abou