Home > The Third Best Thing (Fulton U #3)

The Third Best Thing (Fulton U #3)
Author: Maya Hughes







I tugged the drawstrings of my hood tighter around my face and crept across the street. My breath came out in small puffs in front of my face, and I prayed no one would see me. Each step made the note in my pocket crinkle, the sound so loud that I froze in the middle of the street, as though no one would notice me in black, creeping across of the road.

A door opened a few houses down. Fear shot through me. Some people came out onto a porch halfway down the block, laughing, and the bass from their music filled the silent air. Not everyone had gone home for the break. My heart skipped into overdrive.

My gaze darted to the house looming in front of me. The two-story townhouse was the nicest on the street by far. It was a former frat house that had been taken over by the Fulton U Trojans’ star players earlier this year when the frat had been kicked off campus.

Do it. Go for it and no one needed to know. Be quick, Jules. In and out. I snuck a glance over my shoulder and scurried to the other side of the street. The cold barely touched me with the liquid courage coursing through my veins.

Someone turned the corner, driving down the block. I dove for the bushes, hoping that with my black hooded sweatshirt and black jeans, they wouldn’t spot me. Not that it wasn’t suspicious tiptoeing around the neighborhood in my attempt at inconspicuous attire.

After a bottle of wine and way too many chocolate chip cookies, here I was with a dirty note in my pocket and liquid courage that waned with each second, standing at the foot of the steps leading up to the porch. What was I doing? What would I do if I got caught? If one of the football players came out and found me crouched in front of their porch? Would I play dumb? Run for my life? Drop out of school and start riding the rails?

The house had been dark for the past few days. I’d only managed at home through Christmas morning before I’d bolted back to campus. My gift of socks and a low-calorie cook book had been the last straw after a week of needling and snide comments. Mom had said I’m hard to shop for, but she knew what I needed. Thanks, Mom.

My sister had gotten a new Audi. Seemed comparable. I’d fled and immersed myself in the kitchen—baked until I thought the house might burn down from the oven being on for almost two days straight.

I was stalling. The longer I stood out here the greater the chance that someone would catch me. Someone like Berk. Elle would freak when she got back to campus and I told her. Was I going to tell her I’d done this?

Now or never. My hands clasped tighter around the envelope in my pocket.

It had taken me eight drafts to finally write out everything I wanted to say to him. Putting pen to paper and letting every dirty, naughty thing I wanted to do to him and have him do to me loose in all its inky glory. Dr. Schuller had said I should embrace my sexuality and take risks. I don’t think he thought getting shitfaced and writing raunchy notes was the best outlet, but, hey, I was improvising.

Darting up the stairs, I looked over my shoulder and slipped the note into the mailbox. Odds were, I’d chicken out and grab the note tomorrow morning once the booze and hangover wore off. A little of my anxiety ebbed away. I’d have my night of bravery and adrenaline, but I could take it back. The gold metal lid banged against the body of the box, making a loud clang. This was totally reversible.

The porch light flicked on and I slapped my hands over my mouth to hold back the yelp. Scurrying down the stairs, I dove for the bushes again, making the acquaintance of the leaves and twigs.

“Hey, no parties tonight.” The spine-tingling timbre of his voice cut through the night air. Oh god, it was Berk.

I buried my head in my hands. Why was he here? Not that he shouldn’t be in his own house, but why the hell was he there? Had he come back while I was drinking and baking? Why weren’t his lights on? I almost jumped up to shout those questions at him.

The creaking of the mailbox sent my stomach plummeting through the earth to its molten core.

Under his breath, he muttered a “What the hell?” Probably trying to figure out who wrote letters nowadays. The answer was drunk college juniors who barely had the balls to talk to you in person. “Who’s out there?” He leaned against the railing just over my head.

My heart pounded in my ears. I expected him to transform into Edgar Allen Poe and discover me under his porch. I peered up with my back glued to the brick.

He looked up and down the street with the note out of the envelope in his hand.

Every cell in my body screamed to run, tingling and firing all at once. If he looked down, I was dead. They could just bury me here. My mom and sister would visit—maybe.

“Fuck me.” The paper rustled and he turned it over. “I want to feel every inch of you inside me.” Oh god, he was reading it.

That meant he’d already read the part where I detailed what I wanted to lick off his body. If I hadn’t been petrified into stillness, I’d have slapped my hands over my face, which was glowing red with embarrassment.

“Is this a joke?” He came down two steps. “I’ve been working on my flexibility; would you like to put it to the test? Who in the hell?”

My fingers clawed at the brick behind me.

More paper rustled and the heavy thud of his footsteps retreated before the front door closed. Minutes stretched out for so long my thighs ached from my crouched position. I stood there until it was nearly sunrise before bolting back across the street and swearing off booze for the rest of my life. But I’d done it. He’d probably have a good laugh, throw away the note, and move onto the parade of women who strutted in front of him like peacocks whenever they had the chance.

But two days later, while in my kitchen scooping out the last of the brown butter and toffee chocolate chip cookies, I spotted movement on the other side of the street.

Berk stood on his porch staring at the mailbox.

I jumped over the kitchen chair and plastered my face against the glass. What was he doing out there? Was he dusting for prints? Oh god, he was going to know it was me, he was going to walk straight across the street and ban me from ever going near his house again. Was this what a panic attack felt like? Like my heart was going to explode?

He waved to someone who walked by. One minute went by and he slipped something into the mailbox. Another minute and he took it out. Tapping it against his leg, he glanced over his shoulder.

I flew back from the window, hiding behind the curtain. Oxygen became something I remembered breathing once.

He dropped the white piece of paper back into the mailbox.

Was that a note for me? Was he responding? Had he written me back? I yelped and did a happy dance for all of ten seconds before freezing with the dough-covered scooper in my hand.

I couldn’t wait to read what he had written to me. Was he telling me to leave him alone or was it a reply? Was it his response to everything I’d described?

I had to go get it.

Oh shit.






Jules – Three Months Later



I stared at the pole in front of me, daring the shiny brass not to cooperate. Bass from the speakers rumbled the floorboards under my bare toes. It was always better when I couldn’t hear anything other than the music, not even my own thoughts. “Let’s try not to split my shorts this time.”

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