By the Numbers (Love Logic #3) by K.M. Neuhold



“Of course, you are. You’ve never shied away from hard work. Some people with your gifts might have tried to skate through life, but that’s not you.”

“No, Mom,” I agree, trying not to sound too wary of the same old motivational speech about how Monroes earn what they have and about how my intelligence is a gift I can’t waste. Considering I’m nineteen and an aerospace engineering PhD student, I’m pretty sure I’m living up to my potential. But the way she and my dad talk, you’d think I was walking through life with a needle in my arm. “I have to go. I need to study.”

“Oh, of course,” she agrees in a hurry. That line never fails to get her off the phone. God, that sounds bad. I love my parents, I really do. They’re loving and supportive, and they didn’t blink an eye when I told them I was gay a few years ago. Sometimes I just wish they wouldn’t push so hard.

We say our goodbyes, and I put my phone away, taking a second to shake off the distinct weight on my shoulders that always follows a phone call from her or my dad, and then I put on a smile and head inside to see if today will be the day Alfie can get all the way through the tens on his multiplication drills.



Theo

The sound of the oven timer beeping pulls my attention from my Adolescent Psychology textbook. The smell of vegetable lasagna and garlic bread fills the kitchen as I grab my favorite oven mitt that says Dear Freud, your mom on it, and pull dinner out. A quick glance at the time tells me Alex should be home anytime now, and as if summoned by my thoughts, the buzzer sounds. I chuckle, guessing that he forgot his key, again. We’ve been living together a grand total of two weeks, and I’m about ready to have the thing surgically attached to him, so he won’t keep forgetting it. I shudder to think what he had to do when he lived alone. Maybe left his window open so he could scale the building to get inside?

I’m still smiling at the mental image of Alex pulling a Spider-Man as I walk over to the door to buzz him in, making sure the door is unlocked too so he won’t have to knock.

When a knock sounds anyway a minute later, another involuntary smile curves on my lips. That’s not Alex.

“I keep telling you to use the key I gave you,” I tell my best friend, Elijah, as I pull the door open. He shuffles his feet, his cheeks turning a soft shade of pink and his glasses slipping just a tad down his nose. I told him to stop and get them adjusted so they’ll stay on better, but he either keeps forgetting or he feels too awkward to go and ask someone to do it at the Target Vision Center.

“I don’t want to barge in if you’re busy,” he reasons, stepping inside. He runs a hand through his wild curls, and my heart gives an affectionate flutter, urging me to wrap my arms around him.

If I’d have known how things would turn out, I might not have called Pax last year to ask him to take Elijah under his wing and show him around Pasadena.

That’s not fair.

As much as it sucks to have lost him to my brother, I can’t deny how happy he seems to be.

The front door swings open again. I grab Elijah’s arm, yanking him out of the way just in time before Alex comes barreling through the door, no doubt completely lost in his own head as usual. Aside from the key issue, in the past two weeks I’ve learned three important things about my new roommate: he loves math puns, he’s scary smart, and he walks into things at least twice a day because he’s never paying any attention to his surroundings.

“Oops, shit. You okay?” Alex checks, doing a quick eye check of Elijah.

“I’m fine.”

“Perfect timing from both of you. I just pulled dinner out.”

Before we can all head into the kitchen, Elijah gets a call, I’m assuming from Pax, and slips into the living room to take it. Alex follows me to the kitchen, a bounce in his step that’s not typically present when he gets home from class.

“Good day today?” I guess.

“The best,” he answers, nodding emphatically. “This kid I’ve been tutoring, Alfie, was feeling really discouraged when we started today, and by the end of our session, it was like all the tricks I’ve been teaching him for the past few weeks all started to click, and he was multiplying like a pro. It was just, ugh, such a good feeling.” He’s practically glowing, his mood so infectious it puts a smile on my face as well.

“That’s so great.”

“It really is,” he agrees, still bouncing a bit as he dishes up his food, not even waiting to sit down to start digging into his lasagna. “It’s like, I can’t even describe how amazing it is. I’ve never felt more accomplished in my life.”