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Unbound (Forbidden Bond Book 1)(6)

By:Cat Miller

"I'm sorry you were in my way, Stripes," Liam teased as he ran from the  room before the woman could catch him. She glanced at Dani  apologetically while Olivia stood by the window looking mortified.

"Hello, I'm Olivia's mother, Kelly. Sorry about my boys. They're a  little rambunctious, to say the least." She greeted Dani with a motherly  hug.

"It's nice to meet you, ma'am. I'm Danielle Vaughn, and, honestly, I've  been teased about my hair my whole life, so it's really no big deal."  She hoped Olivia's mother wouldn't be too hard on the kid. She looked  like she could back up her threats.

"How embarrassing is this?" Olivia moaned from the corner.

"Walk me out, Olivia. We'll go and let you girls get settled." Ms. Kelly  put her arm around Olivia, and the look on her face telegraphed the  tears that were about to flow.

"I just can't believe I'm leaving my baby girl here to fend for herself.  Are you very sure you don't want to go to school closer to home?" She  sniffled.

"Please don't cry, Mom. We've had this discussion a hundred times now.  Let's go before the boys make this day worse." Olivia wrapped an arm  around her mother and ushered her out to the hall, mouthing apologies to  Dani on the way out.

So, Dani's roommate was a pleasant Asian-looking Hispanic-Irish girl  with three crazy brothers. Cool. Dani hoped her new roommate would be so  used to sharing she'd give her some space in the fridge.

Running out to grab another box from the car, Dani remembered the little  white gift box from her mom. She jumped in the front seat to open it  and found a delicate gold chain with an intricate sunburst charm  shimmering in the midday light. Removing it from the box, she noticed  the back of the charm had an inscription reading, "The center of my  universe."

It looked like an antique, and she loved it. Whipping out her cell, she  called her mom. Tessa answered on the first ring. "Oh, thank goodness  you made it safely. How is it? Did you find your room yet? Did you meet  your roommate?" She fired off questions so rapidly Dani couldn't get a  word in at all.

"Wow. I'm beginning to think your calm behavior this morning was all a show."

"I knew saying good-bye to Lucas was hard on you, sweetheart. I figured I  could take one for the team and keep myself composed," she admitted.

"Thank you for the necklace, Mom. It's beautiful."         



"I knew you would like that old thing. It's about time somebody got some use out of it."

"How old is it? Where'd you get it?" Dani was curious.

"You answer my questions first," she said after an oddly long pause.

"Okay. My room is nice but small. My roommate seems friendly. Her family  was there, so we didn't really talk, but she did wait for me to pick a  bed. I thought that was nice. She has three little brothers, so the room  was crowded for a few minutes." She spilled all of the details.

"That all sounds very encouraging. I wish I had come with you. What are you doing now?"

"I'm about to carry in the rest of my stuff. There are so many people  here roaming around. It's hard to imagine what it will be like after the  parents leave." Dani watched the masses of people crossing the  courtyard and parking lot on their way to the dorms.

"Why don't you give me a call later after you're all settled? I'll be  working on turning your bedroom into a lounge for all the wild parties  I'm going to have now that you're gone," she teased.

"Alright, Mom, you do that while I go hang out at a frat party with some of these hot guys," Dani teased back.

"That is so not funny! That's it. I'm coming to get you. I wonder if I  could find a program for college homeschooling." They both laughed  aloud.

"I love you, Mom."

"Love you more, Dani. Call me later."

"Oh, wait! You didn't tell me about the necklace," Dani reminded her.

"There isn't much to tell. An old boyfriend gave it to me. I've had it  in my jewelry box for so many years I'd forgotten it was there. I just  thought you would like it," she explained with a heavy sigh.

"He must have been a serious boyfriend, given the inscription on the  back." Her mother never spoke of her past, so this was a revelation.

"I guess so. It didn't last long, though, and he moved on very quickly.  Men are fickle that way. You're the whole universe one day and nothing  but a memory the next day." There was an uncomfortable silence where  Dani wanted to ask for details but she didn't want to push her mom to  talk about something painful.

"I have to get going, honey. I have a job today." They said good-byes and hung up.

Dani clasped the chain around her neck and checked her reflection in  the rearview mirror. It was beautiful. The etching in the gold made it  shimmer like the sun itself. After grabbing a box from the trunk, Dani  crossed the courtyard with an exhilarated rush of hope at this new  beginning.

The first week of school went by quickly. Adjusting to the schedules,  teachers, and the workload had been kind of tough, not to mention  missing her mom and Lucas so much. Dani called them both every night.

Lucas was enjoying his classes too, but he said it just wasn't the same  without her. She wanted to tell him everything, but the tension in his  voice when she spoke to him about new friends and study groups made her  wary. She began to edit some of the information she gave him. Not that  she was doing anything wrong, but she didn't see the sense in causing  him undue stress. The separation had been hard on them both, and Lucas  really regretted their last night together and promised to replace that  memory with a happier one over the Thanksgiving holiday. Dani thought  Lucas was feeling insecure about their relationship after his rejection  of her. It had hurt, but she was over it now.

Dani and Olivia were getting along very well. They had similar  schedules, went to the library together, and had made a lot of the same  friends. Oddly enough, not many people had commented on Dani's hair. The  girls who had mentioned her odd coloring liked it. Maybe her white  highlights would start a new trend. Several guys also had admired the  combination of her hair and light eyes. She supposed what everyone said  about kids being cruel was true. Her new, more mature set of classmates  didn't seem to think it was a big deal.

Dani was late for study group. She rushed down the stairs of her dorm  heading across campus to meet Olivia and the rest of her study group at  the library.

It was really beautiful walking through the trees that seemed to bend  over the walkway to meet each other and hold hands. They created a  natural, arching tunnel of green, backlit by evenly spaced lamps that  cast a warm glow all over campus. She imagined the effect would be lost  when the leaves turned colors and fell, but for the moment, it was  breathtaking.

It seemed more like a social hour than a study group in the overly full  library, and the people at her table were making plans for the next  evening without a single open book in sight.         



"Are you coming out with us tomorrow night, Dani?" asked Steve and  Jared. They were roommates, and both of them were juniors. Jared  reminded Dani a little of Lucas with his shaggy blond hair and  all-American good looks, but he had a more mature air about him. He  exuded a confidence that belied his age and had the girls on campus  clamoring for his attention. His light-green eyes reached out and  grabbed attention, and drew her into conversation. Steve was the  best-looking redhead she'd ever seen. Even his freckles were cute. His  look leaned more toward a skater boy, and his frisky personality could  win a girl over without effort.

"Of course she's coming," answered Olivia as she put an arm around  Dani's shoulder and raised an eyebrow in question. "Aren't you, Dani?"

"Where are we going?" A table full of expectant eyes peered back at her.

"We're going to a club downtown called Thirst. You're gonna love it." Olivia squealed.

"I don't know." Did she really want to explain this to Lucas?

"Come on, D! It'll be fun!" Jared pressed. "What else are you gonna do?"

She thought about that for a moment. Dani had only recently turned  twenty-one. She'd imagined her first trip to a club would be with Lucas,  but they hadn't gotten around to it yet. What would she do while her  friends went on an adventure without her? She would likely mope and wish  she had gone.

"Alright, I'll go with you." The table erupted into cheers. The whole  group was going, and hopefully there would be strength in numbers. She  couldn't spend her whole college career hiding in her room. She could  have saved her mom a lot of money and gone to community college if that  was her goal. Her mom always told her to enjoy herself, but to also  think of the consequences of her actions and be herself. Tessa believed  that new experiences were a huge part of college and growing as a  person. So here was Dani's first chance to jump in and start expanding  that limited horizon.