International Relations

an excerpt

"Don't get nervous. Don't get nervous. Don't get nervous. For the love of all that is holy, don't get nervous." Delaney Carmichael paced back and forth in his dorm room, repeating his new mantra over and over even though he knew it was useless. His heart was ready to jump out of his chest, and he knew that if his window weren't open, blasting frigid late winter air into room, he'd be sweating.

"Del!" his neighbor shouted as he opened Delaney's door. "We're heading out to dinner." He dropped his voice to a whisper. "Sure you're going to wait on dream boy instead of fighting freshmen for the last slice of cold pizza?"

Delaney flushed and shook his head to say no. Jax had been his roommate freshman year, and the man knew all too well about Delaney's stupid, stupid crush on "dream boy" Connor Marino. Normally, Delaney didn't mind the teasing since Jax kept it to when it was just the two of them. He just didn't want to think about Connor.


In his room.


No, not naked, dumbass, he scolded himself. Jeez, what the hell was the matter with him today?

"Your loss."

"What?" Delaney blinked, returning from his mental side trip to stare at Jax.

"Dream boy over dinner. I was teasing." Jax studied him for a moment, then shrugged. "Catch you later."

"Yeah," Delaney murmured as Jax shut his door.

Shoving his hands into his pockets, Delaney walked over to the window and stared out at the quad. Most days, mindlessly watching other students milling about calmed his nerves. Too bad for him that never worked when it came to Connor.

Connor Marino had been a distraction since the seventh grade. The first day Connor had walked into Pre-Algebra and sat next to him, Delaney had been a goner. Even at thirteen, Connor was striking, and from the times Delaney had seen the Marino family, he could see why. Connor had his Italian father's curly black hair and sun-bronzed skin and his Irish mother's dark green eyes and quicksilver grin. The family had just moved from Cape Town, where Delaney later learned that Connor had lived for most of his life, so Connor's looks were coupled with a gorgeous South African accent. The guy was an international smorgasbord of hotness. Next to the almost exotic-looking Connor, it had been easy to see that Delaney was an uncoordinated, pale, short, acne-prone plain Jane - or John, as it were - too tongue-tied to talk to the world-travelling jock.

Seven years later, Connor's accent had faded somewhat, but the rest of his looks had only improved. Added to that, his muscles had filled out thanks to puberty and playing rugby. Delaney hadn't been so lucky. True, the acne was pretty much gone and a massive number of growth spurts in high school had fixed the height issue, but that was about all that had changed for him. Now he was an uncoordinated, pale, plain, lanky giraffe next to a friggin' stallion. And said stallion still tied Delaney up in knots. Thankfully, the guy was a Biology major, and Delaney was majoring in Political Science. Since they didn't exactly run in the same social circles, their interactions were pretty much limited to chance meetings, though even those were enough to set Delaney on edge.

Then Fate decided to be a bitch and put them in Model United Nations class together. Whether the thought was logical or not, Delaney considered it to be his bad luck that Connor had plopped himself down in the seat next to Delaney's the first day of Model UN…and every subsequent class thereafter. It was worse luck that the two of them had been paired together to be their country's representatives for the Commission for Sustainable Development. Model UN was a killer class, and Professor Wong, while highly regarded for his ability to make sure his students were the best delegation at the conference, could be a slave driver at times. At the moment, he was working them to the bone to make sure everyone was ready for the conference in April. Delaney was pretty sure he'd spent more one-on-one time with Connor this semester than he had for all the years they'd known each other.

Wasn't it just his luck - again - that the man was getting on his last nerve? Connor was constantly invading his space, teasing him about his serious attitude, and generally driving Delaney nuts. Delaney had figured that it was worth being thrown off balance by Connor to have him as a partner. The two of them worked at the same speed, and Connor took his fair share of the load. At least, he had until two weeks ago, when he began slacking off. Didn't that just figure? The conference was five and a half weeks away, and Delaney was stuck with an AWOL partner.

And if plaguing his waking hours weren't bad enough, Connor seemed to be present in his dreams now more than ever. Hot, sweaty, desperate dreams in which he and Connor were the stars of the show as they went at it on Delaney's bed…desk…floor… He was pretty sure there'd been a dream or two involving his dorm's common room and the quad as well. Apparently, he wasn't very picky about comfort or privacy when it came to doing Connor Marino. There just weren't enough quarters in existence for all the laundry he'd been doing lately.

A knock sounded, pulling him out of his all-too-disturbing thoughts. Using the walk to the door as a means to steady himself, Delaney took a deep breath.

Which promptly whooshed out of him at the sight of Connor standing on the other side of the threshold, his rugby cleats tied together and hanging over one shoulder and a banged-up gym bag dangling from his hand. He was somewhat disheveled and too damn sexy for a guy with dried mud flaking off his limbs.

"Sorry," Connor said, a dimple appearing in his cheek as he flashed Delaney a grin. "Practice ran over, and I didn't want to be late. Barely had time to change clothes. As it was, I missed out on a shower. Hope you don't mind."

Delaney blinked, trying to remember how to speak when all he could think about was Connor. In the shower. Wet. Naked.