#Chapter 39: Study Date
I didn’t want to admit that it broke my heart to tell Enzo we couldn’t be together, but it was the right thing to do. We would be toxic together, and besides there was just too much drama surrounding the pseudo- relationship we already had for a real relationship to be able to blossom.
Admittedly, I didn’t know if I even wanted to go on this date with James after everything. Was it even a date, or were we just two friends meeting up to study? Either way, I didn’t know if it was a good idea, especially so soon after I told Enzo that we could only be friends.
I told Jessica everything, however, and she convinced me to go.
“Aw, come on, Nina!” Jessica said
when I told her about James and Enzo.”
Are you really gonna let a guy who you hooked up with once stop you from going on a date with a really sweet guy who clearly likes you?”
I wanted to explain that it wasn’t just a’hookup, that Enzo had saved my life multiple times now and that he possibly even thought I was his mate, but I didn’t. Jessica would think I had. gone totally bonkers,
Lori chimed in then with a smile on her usually-stoic face. “James sounds like your type, anyway,” she said. ” Plus, you know how bad of an idea it is to get involved with hockey guys. And you know what they say…”
“The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else,” Jessica said with a grin and placed her hands. on her hips.
Lori rolled her eyes. “That wasn’t what I was gonna say, but I guess that works, too,” she grumbled, returning to her book.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Alright,” I said, throwing my hands up in surrender. “I’ll meet up with him. But I’m not having sex with him or anything like that. We’re just studying.”
Despite the fact that I told myself James and I would just be casually studying, I still got a little dressed up the next day. I put on a flowy dress with a turtleneck layered underneath, along with a pair of thigh high socks and ankle boots. Aside from a bit of mascara, I didn’t put on any other makeup or do my hair in any way that was out of the ordinary, I didn’t want to seem too dressed up.
After class that morning, I headed to the quad, where I was supposed to meet up with James. He was sitting at the fountain and reading a book, wearing
his usual sweater vest and button- down ensemble, when I approached.
“Hey,” I said as I walked up to him. He looked up and shut his book with a smile and stood.
“Hey,” he replied, briefly glancing at my outfit — I could tell that he was trying not to be obvious, but I knew he checked me out and it made me blush a bit. “You look nice.”
I blushed even harder and nervously
tucked a strand of hair behind my ear.”
Thanks,” I said sheepishly. “Ready for
studying at the coffee shop?”
As James and I walked to the bus stop, I felt eyes on the back of my head and glanced over my shoulder.
Was that Enzo I saw storming away?
We made it to the coffee shop and sat down at a window table with our
drinks, where we set up our laptops and notebooks to get some studying done.
Over time, as we got more comfortable, we started chatting while studying. James was incredibly smart and wound up helping me a lot with my research, but we also got to know each other a bit better.
“So, what’s your research topic as a PhD student?” I asked, taking a sip of my coffee.
“I’m actually really interested in biomedical genetics,” he replied. ” That’s what my dissertation is gonna be on; why we have certain genetic dispositions, mutations, disorders… All of that stuff really fascinates me.”
I stopped for a second, thinking about Enzo’s werewolf DNA; I wondered if James would know anything about something like that, or at least have some sort of interest in the subject, “So let’s say…” I said, choosing my words carefully so as not to sound like a total crazy person, “…let’s say, hypothetically, someone had… DNA that shared traits with certain animals,” I said. “Just hypothetically. Would that be possible?”
James furrowed his brows, making my face turn red. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I probably sound like a lunatic.”
“No, no!” James interjected, reaching out and touching my hand for a moment, then quickly pulling away with an embarrassed look as he realized what he did. “I mean… It’s not that unlikely. We all share DNA with most mammals. Like monkeys. We did come from the same ancestors, after all.”
“What about… wolves?” I asked.
“Oh,” James said, furrowing his brow again. “Well, we do share 84% of the same DNA with canines, and it’s the same with all mammals… But it’s only basic connections, like physical structure. Put a head here, put some legs there, give us a womb, you know. Stuff that would separate us from, say, a jellyfish or a flower.”
I nodded, deciding not to ask any further. It was silly of me to think otherwise; humans didn’t have any close links to wolves. If werewolves truly were real and I wasn’t at the center of a circle of crazies, it was supernatural. Not genetic.
A few minutes later, James looked at his watch and sighed. “This was fun, but I have to go meet with Tiffany,” he said, shutting his laptop. “Would you wanna study again sometime?”
I blushed, glad at least that I hadn’t scared him away with my wolf question, and nodded. “Sure,” I replied. “I’d enjoy that.”
James smiled and stood. “Want me to walk you home?”
I shook my head. “I think I’m gonna study here for a while longer,” I said. ” It was nice hanging out with you.”
As I watched James walk out of the coffee shop, my heart skipped a beat. For some reason, even though our study “date” had been mostly platonic and only minimally flirty, the thought of what it would feel like to kiss him crossed my mind.
Did I have feelings for James already?
I sighed quietly and went back to my studying, only to feel a tap on my shoulder a little while later. Maybe James had forgotten something and came back for it-
But it wasn’t James.
It was Justin.
“Oh… Hey,” I said, setting down my pencil. “What’s up?”
Justin smiled down at me, his face and eyes soft. It was a stark contrast from his usual look, which was generally aloof and careless. I couldn’t explain it, but he seemed… different. He wore a relaxed outfit that consisted of a flannel, jeans, and boots, which felt familiar — like he had practically borrowed clothes from Enzo’s closet. He was also holding a coffee, which seemed out of character for him. I had only ever seen him drink water and alcohol before.
“Fancy seeing you here,” he said. ” Can I sit with you?”