Change My Game (North Haven University #2) by Kelsey Clayton

I used to find something eerie about the darkness. After all, the bad things come out to play when the sun goes down—or that's what I was always told as a kid. But when that same darkness started to consume me from the inside out, I learned to appreciate the peacefulness of it all: The way the moonlight shines down with a delicate touch, allowing you to look directly at it without burning your eyes. It's calming.

The campus of North Haven University is devoid of life at this time of night, with everyone either at some unsanctioned party they shouldn't be attending, staying up late to cram all the information they need into their brains for their next exam, or sleeping to prepare for another day full of classes. Classes that don't teach you anything important, mind you.

Everyone always makes it sound like college is so important. “Your education is one of the most vital tools you will wield in life, son,” my father used to tell me. Personally, I think it's bullshit. No amount of math or history classes could ever make the shit I've gone through any easier. There’s no lecture from some professor that could numb the pain.

No. There are other things for that, and they don't involve books.

I walk across the empty courtyard, making my way back to my dorm, and find comfort in the way the cold January air nips at my skin. At least it makes me feel something, right? It may not be pleasant, but it tells me I'm still alive. Still breathing, despite feeling dead inside.

Swiping my keycard against the door, I take the stairs slowly and remember a time when dorm rooms and living on campus weren’t a thing for me. When I was living the high life in a beach-view penthouse in Florida. When I was up above the city, it felt like nothing could touch me. Nothing could bring me down. Oh, how wrong I was.

I unlock the door and step inside. All the lights are off except for the one over the kitchen stove, but my roommate is wide awake. He stands in the doorway to his room with his arms crossed over his chest and looks at me expectantly.

“Where were you?”

The urge to roll my eyes is instantaneous, but I hold back. “Went for a walk.”

“Just a walk?”

“Just a walk.”

Carter Trayland has been my best friend since we were in elementary school. Our dads grew up together, and when my family moved back to the area, we started hanging out with his family every weekend. I'll be honest; at first I didn't like him. I thought he was arrogant and a pain in the ass, which he is, but he grew on me. At least until now, when he's coming toward me like I'm about to once again be interrogated.

“So, if I asked you to empty your pockets...”

This time I can't stop myself, and my eyes practically roll down the hallway. “What are you, my fucking dad? I'm not six and leaving the candy store with a guilty look on my face.”

He chuckles dryly. “Maybe not, but you've sure as hell been acting like it lately.”

I go to walk past him, not in the mood to deal with his shit right now, but he steps in front of me.

“Get out of my way.”

“No.”

“No?” My brows raise.

He stands firm. “No. Not until you tell me if you were out buying more drugs or not.”

Having enough of this crap, I reach into my pockets and pull out everything in them, including my phone and wallet, and throw it all onto the ground. Carter jumps back before it hits his bare feet and sighs. I'm not sure if it's an exhausted sigh or a relieved one, because there is nothing he was worried about in the mess, but I don't stick around to find out.

“There. Have a fucking field day,” I tell him. “I'm going to bed.”

This time he doesn't stop me as I walk around him and into my room, closing and locking the door behind me.

It's not that I don't understand his concern. I do. The choices I've made lately, the things I've done, they're dangerous and something I never expected for myself, but they're mine. He can't just dictate my life like some ruler on high just because he's known me the longest.

People thought after everything happened that he and I would lean on each other. It's what we've done since we were kids, why would now be any different?

Spoiler alert: they were wrong. The two of us drifted apart slowly, while still clinging to every ounce of the friendship we've found salvation in for years. But how can you stay so close when you're both in your own downward spiral?

Memories of the tragic event that changed my life and everything since start running through my head and before I know it, my breathing becomes heavy and my chest starts to tighten. The pain is just too real, too crippling. It haunts me constantly—robbing me of the ability to think rationally.