Sarina Bowen

USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance

Sarina Bowen is the author of contemporary romance and new adult fiction, including The Ivy Years Series, The Year We Fell Down, The Year We Hid Away, and also the Gravity series.

Other spellings: Sabrina Bowen, Serena Bowen

First Chapter: Blonde Date

A blind date. A nervous sorority girl. A mean-spirited fraternity prank. What could go wrong?


As a sorority pledge, there are commandments that Katie Vickery must live by. One: thou shalt not show up for the party without a date. Two: the guy shall be an athlete, preferably an upperclassman. 

Unfortunately, Katie just broke up with her jerkface football player boyfriend. Even worse, her last encounter with him resulted in utter humiliation. She’d rather hide under the bed than attend a party where he'll be. 

Yet staying home would mean letting him win. 

Enjoying herself tonight was out of the question. She could only hope to get through the evening without her blind date noticing that he was spending the evening with a crazy person. 

Andrew Baschnagel is living proof that nice guys don’t finish first. He’s had his eye on Katie since the moment her long legs waltzed into his art history class. So when her roommate sets Andy up to be Katie’s date, he’d be crazy to say no. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a lot of practice with either girls or parties. Yet.


Chapter One

Andy

With a growing sense of panic, I pawed through the clothes in my narrow little dorm room closet. For five long minutes I’d stood there inspecting my shirts, tossing them one by one on the bed. That was four more minutes than I’d ever spent before trying to decide what to wear. But I still didn’t have a freaking clue.

It was time to call in the big guns.

Luckily, my older sister answered on the first ring. “I need a consult,” I said. Delia was in med school, and you got further with her if you spoke in medical terms.

“Where does it hurt?” she asked.

“I have a date, and I don’t know what to wear.”

Her laughter was so loud that I had to hold the phone away from my ear. “How old are you?”

“Old enough to ask for help when I need it.”

“Fair enough. What’s the occasion?”

“That’s the tricky part. First there’s a charity bit, where I’m helping a bunch of sorority girls with their community project. Setting up a Christmas tree, or something.”

Delia laughed again. “What do you know from setting up a Christmas tree, Jew boy?”

“How hard could it be? But there’s also a tree lighting, and, like, cocktails.”

“Hmm,” my sister mused. “And where does this event take place?”

“In their preppy white sorority house with the big columns on the front.”

“Well… This really could go either way. Casual or dressy.”

“That’s what I was afraid of. How should I play it?”

“Who’s the girl? Anyone special?”

Why yes. But I wasn’t going to tell my sister that just hearing this girl’s name gave me a thrill. Katie Vickery. When she’d called to invite me to this thing, she’d opened with “you don’t know me…”

But she’d been wrong. Very wrong. I knew exactly who she was.

In the first place, if you were a lonely junior at Harkness, noticing the frosh girls was like your job. And she made my job easy. I’d picked out those long legs the very first time they’d walked into my art history lecture. And — lucky me — summer’s warmth had held on an extra week or two this year, treating me to a steady parade of Katie’s short skirts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning.

The most attractive thing about her, though, was her laugh. It was deeper and huskier than you’d expect from someone so slight and fair. I loved the sound of it. Whenever I heard her laugh, my brain took a short trip around the block.

God, she was hot. But she also had unattainable practically stamped on her forehead. Because Katie was the sort of girl that everyone noticed. And I wasn’t even a little bit surprised when she started sitting with the football crew during lectures.

I didn’t dwell on this. Girls like Katie Vickery were out of my league, and I didn’t bother to sit around wondering why. Some things just were.

As the fall semester wore on, Bridger, my next-door neighbor, started spending a lot of time with Katie’s roommate, Scarlet. So I sometimes overheard updates about Katie. Scarlet mentioned that they sometimes went jogging together. After that, Katie’s long legs began loping through my dreams in spandex shorts.

But that wasn’t a premonition, or anything. It was just the work of a shy guy’s subconscious. In a million years, I’d never thought I’d be standing here, dressing for a date with her. And if she hadn’t invited me out of sheer desperation, I wouldn’t be.

“Um, earth to Andy!” my sister prompted. “I asked you a question. Is the girl anyone special?”

“We don’t really know each other,” I admitted. “She dumped her football player boyfriend a few weeks ago and needed a date for this thing. Enter me.”

“So this is a date of necessity. But how did you get the nod? She must not know your track record with women. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” My sister snickered.

“Come on, now, D. If I wanted to be mocked, I would have called my other sister.” Our younger sis was kind of a bitch. “You remember Bridger?”

“Who could forget him?” Delia asked. My neighbor was kind of a stud with the ladies.

“Well, this whole thing was his girlfriend’s idea.”

“I knew I liked that guy,” Delia said. But of course she did. All the women did. “And his girlfriend has good taste, too.”

“In me? Or in Bridger?” I teased.

“Both. And this sorority girl is going to love you. You’re pretty cute for a skinny guy.”

I didn’t have time to argue with her. But even if it was true, pretty cute for a skinny guy probably wasn’t going to be enough to win me Katie’s undying affection. I’d been invited on this junket because the newly single Katie was apparently done with football players. “And jerks of all stripes,” Scarlet had explained. “I told her, ‘Andy is absolutely not a jerk.’”

For a second I’d felt awesome about that. But then I’d realized that being absolutely not a jerk also wasn’t enough of an endorsement to fill the utter void that was my love life.

Oh, well.

“Are you going to help me or what?” I prodded.

“Of course. So you want to impress her, but you don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard,” my sister said.

“Exactly. So tell me what to wear. While I’m young, if possible.”

“Well, when the Jew boy goes to the Christmas tree lighting at the WASPy sorority house, he should always wear nice pants. You have some wool trousers, right?”

I looked at the three pairs I’d draped over my desk chair. “Won’t that be too dressy?”

“Not if they’re khaki-colored. How about the ones you wore when we saw that show in Boston?”

How did she even remember that shit? If Delia asked me to name three items of clothing that she’d ever owned in her lifetime, I couldn’t do it.

I lifted the pants off their hanger. “All right. What else?”

“The shirt should be a dark color. Dark blue, maybe? With the collar open. Whatever you do, don’t button that sucker all the way up. Wear a t-shirt underneath, and it’s okay if the t-shirt is visible at the collar. That takes you one notch back toward casual. And no tie.”

See? This was why a guy called his sister. I hopped into the pants using one hand. “And the shirt is tucked in, right?”

“Tuck it in! Absolutely. Unless you really don’t want to get laid.”

I laughed and had to grab the phone to keep it from hitting the floor. “That’s not happening.”

“Are you saying that because you’re talking to your sister? Or because you really believe it?”

“Uh, why? Are you doing a psych rotation at school, or something?” I pulled a clean t-shirt over my head.

“I was only teasing about your record with girls. You know that right? You’re a catch, Andy. As long as you tuck your shirt in.”

“That must be what I’ve been doing wrong.”

My sister laughed. “Your only real problem is confidence.”

I stuffed my feet into a pair of shoes. “Am I wearing a jacket, too? Or just my coat?”

“Your plain black sport jacket. It still fits, right? God, I hope your arms aren’t getting any longer. Because you’re already kind of like an orangutan.”

“And you wonder why I don’t have any confidence,” I mumbled.

“Kidding! But seriously, if the jacket sleeves are too short, then skip it. And you need to shine your shoes.”

“I don’t have time.”

“What? When is this date?”

“Ten minutes.”

“Andrew Isaac Baschnagel! Did you shower and shave?”

“Yes, Mom.”

“Hang up and go meet your girl. Crap. I wanted you to send a picture before you left. In case you need tweaking.”

“No time for tweaking. Bye, Delia! Thanks.”

“Bye, orangutan.” Then she clicked off. Delia loved getting the last word.

But never mind. I put on exactly what she’d told me to. I hung up the pants that hadn’t made the cut. Then, shoving my keys and my wallet into a pocket, I ran out the door and down the entryway stairs. Checking my phone, I saw that I had plenty of time. It was a two-minute walk to Katie’s dorm, and I had twice that.

My phone buzzed with a text from Delia. Good luck with the WASPs, string bean.

Holding up my phone and grinning like a dork, I took a selfie and sent it to her.

The clothes look great. But UR hopeless, she replied.

That was probably true. And I’d never admit it to my sister, but she wasn’t totally off base with her remark about my confidence. Some guys just had a kind of swagger that worked for them. My neighbor Bridger? All he had to do was walk into a room, and the girls hurled themselves at him, like moths at a window screen on a summer night.

But what was swagger, really? It came from the belief that hot girls wanted to take you to bed. So, to acquire it, you’d need at least a little evidence that this was true.

Yeah. I didn’t have that. All I had was evidence that a hot girl needed a date for a party. But that was better than nothing, right? And I’d have a couple of hours in the company of the lovely Katie Vickery.

Life could really be worse.

Apparently Delia wasn’t done with me, though. When my phone buzzed again, she’d written: Ask her out on your way home 2nite. Don’t chicken out.

I hadn’t thought that far ahead. But my sister was a smart girl. Okay. If things go well, I’ll do it, I replied.

If U do, I’ll buy you a sundae at Lou’s. If U chicken out, I win a sundae.

That seemed like a perfectly good incentive to do something that I already wanted to do. Deal, I replied.