Luanne looked around nervously as she entered her first class of the semester. Nothing was familiar and she searched the students already sitting down for anyone she knew or even recognized. A waving hand caught her attention and she smiled as she started walking toward Sterling. Laila’s boyfriend smiled back at her but then his attention was diverted to the person sitting next to him. Luanne’s mouth nearly fell to the ground as she looked at Sterling’s new friend. His eyes were dark and his brow and jaw were strong. His lips were a prefect shade of pink and his hair was a dark mess of brown locks. Luanne was so busy staring at this gorgeous stranger that she didn’t even pay attention to where she was walking and before she could catch herself, she had tripped over the foot of a desk, her books spilling from her arms as she fell.
Her face flushed bright red and she kept her head down as she collected her things, pretending not to hear the snickers and giggles of the other students.
“Did you hurt yourself?” She heard a seductive British voice ask her.
Luanne raised her head just slightly and her eyes locked with her mystery boy. “Um…I…uh…no,” she stuttered before finding her voice. “Just embarrassed myself.”
The boy smiled and handed her the last book. “I’m Christian. You must be Luanne.”
Luanne felt her pulse begin to race. He knew her name. “Hi, yeah, I’m Luanne.”
Christian stood up and guided Luanne to her feet, his hand on her elbow. “Sterling and I have been saving you a seat. Would you care to join us?”
Luanne could only smile and nod as Christian led her to the desired row. Her chair was pulled out for her and she found herself feeling light as a feather as she took her seat. Christian was still smiling, a warm and friendly smile, as he took the chair next to her.
“Hey Luanne,” she heard Sterling say, a certain taunt in his voice.
“Oh! Hi Sterling!” Luanne turned to her other side and blushed as she saw her friend grinning at her. “How are you?”
“Fine,” he answered in a teasing tone. “How are you?”
“I’m good,” she answered quickly, completely aware that Christian was leaning across her desk so he could hear their conversation. “How’s Laila?”
“I’m glad to hear it.”
“I see you’ve met Christian,” Sterling said, nodding toward his friend.
“Um, yes…” Luanne answered, her head turning toward the gorgeous boy to her left but then quickly sitting back in her chair when she realized how close his face was to hers. “How do you two know each other?”
“Just met, actually. I saw Sterling’s jumper and had to come make fun of him for supporting such a crap football team.”
Luanne heard Sterling laugh but couldn’t take her eyes off of Christian.
“First of all, they weren’t crap. Second, my family is Dutch so I have a legitimate reason to support the team,” Sterling defended himself.
“I’ll have him wearing a Manchester United jersey by the time he goes back to the states,” Christian said, winking at Luanne.
“It’s so easy to like Manchester United…” Sterling was saying but Luanne wasn’t paying attention. She honestly had no idea what they were talking about but that didn’t really matter. She was in heaven as long as Christian was speaking. She stared at his lips, willing him to say something, smiling when they finally moved and formed a beautiful sentence with his perfect accent. She sighed and waited for him to speak again but felt a quick jab to her side which brought her back to reality.
“What?” She turned around and glared at Sterling who was giving her an evil smile. He nodded toward Christian and Luanne realized his words must have been intended for her.
“Sterling said he was from the Boston area,” Christian repeated himself, smiling as Luanne sat back in her chair and blushed. “Is that where you are from as well?”
“Um, no. I’m from Birmingham, Alabama.”
“Alabama? I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone from Alabama.”
“I’m probably the only one worth knowing,” she said with a smile. What was that? Did she just flirt? It sounded pretty lame, even in Luanne’s opinion, but she had never flirted with someone before. This feeling was completely new for her and she had to admit that she liked it.
“Then I’ll consider myself lucky to have the privilege of sitting next to you,” Christian responded with a bright smile and a chuckle.
Oh, God. Was he flirting back? Luanne suddenly panicked, not knowing how to respond. She looked down at her books on the desk and started to fumble through her bag for a pencil. She could feel Christian’s eyes on her, see him smiling in her periphery. To her other side, Sterling was shaking his head, no doubt amused by her flustered antics. Darn it. If Sterling could see her attraction for Christian, she knew he would tell Laila who would in turn tell Piper and Luanne would never hear the end of it.
But luckily class started and the attention of both boys turned toward the teacher. Luanne did her best to concentrate, she really did, but she found it an incredibly difficult task to accomplish with Christian sitting so close. He wasn’t making things any easier for her either. He would tease her by pushing her hand away from her notes with his elbow, lean over her desk so he could pretend to read what she was writing, mimic the teacher with adorably irritating noises whenever he would clear his throat – a habit which would have annoyed Luanne to no end had Christian not made light of it.
Luanne sighed in relief as class ended. She started to collect her things, trying not to focus on the conversation Christian and Sterling were having about playing soccer that afternoon.
“Will you join us, Luanne?” Her name coming from Christian’s lips returned her focus to the boys.
“I don’t think so,” she said with a smile. “Thanks, though.”
“Not much of a football player then?”
“Um, no,” Luanne laughed. “Growing up it was strictly piano lessons and ballet classes for me.”
Christian’s face lit up at that statement. He clearly found something entertaining about it. “Were you a debutante, Luanne?”
She blushed bright red. She had hated the fact that her parents forced her through cotillions and pageants as a young girl. She was never one to rebel and had actually learned some very useful life skills from her debutante days, but the other girls had always been so mean to her that she had never taken any pleasure in the events.“Not a very good one, I assure you.”
Christian grinned, his eyes dancing over her face, and Luanne smiled back. She could feel it happening, the butterflies in her stomach, her heart pounding nearly out of control – she was falling for him. Was this what being in love felt like? Luanne always assumed that she would fall in love gradually, it wouldn’t hit her like a freight train, completely knocking her off her feet. But this feeling inside was almost overwhelming. She barely knew this guy, but the emotions bubbling inside her head and her heart were stronger than anything she’d felt before.
“Luanne, where’s your next class?” She heard Sterling behind her and was forced to break eye contact with Christian.
“It’s just downstairs.”
Sterling nodded and gave her a look which she didn’t quite understand. It almost appeared encouraging. “Mine’s a couple blocks away. I’ll see you tomorrow?”
Luanne smiled at him. “Bye.”
She watched as her best friend’s boyfriend walked around the desk and joined the flow of students out in the hallway. “I’ll see you later, Christian,” Luanne said as she started to follow him, surprised at how soft her voice sounded.
“May I walk you to class?”
His request caught her off guard but was pleasantly accepted. “I’d like that.”
Christian smiled again and Luanne wondered if he had ever frowned a moment in his life. She didn’t like to think about Christian frowning. His smile was dazzling and she felt as if she could look at it forever.
“So tell me more about Alabama. What’s it like down there?”
“There’s really not that much to tell. Birmingham, at least where I lived, still feels like a small southern town. My grandma makes the best sweet tea, everyone sits on rocking chairs out on their porches during the summer, my grandpa and his friends get drunk off of moonshine and still talk about the Confederacy rising again. Stereotype the South and you pretty much have my life.”
Christian laughed out loud and Luanne smiled at the sincerity of it, though she hadn’t meant to be amusing. “I can just imagine you in a Scarlet O’Hara dress, teasing all the boys at the picnics.”
It was Luanne’s turn to laugh now as they started walking down the stairs. She had never, ever, teased anyone at neighborhood picnics, much less in large gowns with yards and yards of fabric. But if Christian wanted to compare her to Scarlet O’Hara, who was she to ruin that image for him? She could be Scarlet – if Scarlet was what Christian wanted.
“Oh, Christian! You know a girl would hardly admit to doing such a thing,” she giggled, batting her eyelashes at him. That sounded pretty good! She could get used to this whole idea of flirting.
Christian laughed again and the two slowed to a stop outside of Luanne’s next class.
“Is this you?” Christian nodded toward the door.
“Yes. Political Science,” she informed him.
He smiled at her and reached for her hand, bringing it to his lips and kissing her lightly on the knuckles. Luanne felt her face flush and she lowered her eyes so he couldn’t see her pleasure.
“Are you sure you won’t come with us this afternoon?” Christian asked again. “You don’t have to play. You can just cheer me on.”
“I’ll think about it,” Luanne promised him, already knowing there was nothing that could keep her from that soccer pitch.
“I very much hope to see you there,” Christian said slowly, waiting until Luanne’s eyes had met his again and then holding her gaze for a moment before dropping her hand.
Luanne couldn’t think of anything else witty to say so she remained quiet, hoping that her silence would add some mystery that Christian might find appealing. She smiled at him coyly and then turned toward the classroom door, pulling it open and then hurrying inside. The smile which she had given him remained on the corner of her lips for the rest of the day.
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