Jesse didn’t leave Princeton hanging. He immediately found the right person to carry on the Current Insights into Human Sexuality symposiums for the following year. Though he demanded his name be accredited to the program and Princeton demanded their name be in the title for any and all universities adopting the program. It was a win for Jesse and a win for Princeton.
Due to his extensive pre-planning, and the dozen or so phone calls he made in order to drum up interest, Jesse arrived on the University of Colorado at Boulder’s campus for his first visit to see Elise all set up to meet with a team of academics who had the power to green-light his program. The meeting took all morning and went exceedingly well. Jesse felt confident he’d be on their payroll come the following fall.
That afternoon while Elise was in class, he introduced himself to the lacrosse coach hoping to be hired as an assistant coach the following season. He told Coach Ford he was an All-American defenseman and had a lot to offer. (The fact that he wasn’t a first-string All-American was left out of the conversation.) He and the coach hit it off, and Jesse felt good about his prospects there as well.
If he was planning to be in Boulder for three years waiting on Elise to graduate, he considered it’d be cool to have a weekend job in the fall doing something involving the great outdoors. Get all that fresh air and activity out of his system before succumbing to the inevitable desk job. He’d look around while he was here and try to find the adult equivalent of a camp counselor. That made him grin. But when he looked up and spotted Elise across the quad laughing with some dude, all his gaiety fell away.
She was standing right where they’d agreed to meet after her classes. Jesse wasn’t late, he was right on time. And Lord knew Elise had made a ton of new friends. It was her nature after all.
The scene appeared innocent enough. They weren’t standing too close. There wasn’t any touching going on. But the thought Jesse couldn’t shake, the one that hit him right between the eyes, was that Elise Thompson had a type.
Because for all intents and purposes, this dude looked a lot like Jesse. Tall. Athletically built. Slicked-back hair that was thick and long. He wore flip-flops, Jesse’s shoe of choice. He had a backpack from the same manufacturer as the one Jesse carried. Maybe his face wasn’t exactly doppelgänger material, but it definitely wasn’t turning the ladies off.
“Holy shit,” dropped out of the guy’s mouth as Jesse approached. He laughed. “Don’t tell me this is the boyfriend.”
Elise spun, squealed, and did what she always did when they’d been apart for a while, took two running steps and leaped into his arms, wrapping herself around him like a spider monkey. “This is most definitely the boyfriend,” she said with a big grin and a big kiss to his lips. Then she scampered down, turning to face the unwanted guest. “Jesse, this is Jamie, the guy I’ve been telling you about.”
Ah—there was no guy she’d been telling him about. He definitely would have remembered.
“Jamie?” he asked, slightly annoyed at her vocal enthusiasm. But Elise was nothing if not enthusiastic.
“Hey, man.” Jamie stuck his hand out in greeting. “Jamie Love.”
Jamie Love? Love? That’s this guy’s last name?
“Jesse James,” he replied, shaking hands.
Jamie Love had the audacity to snicker. “Seriously? Like the outlaw?”
“I’m the fifth child. My parents had to find ways to entertain themselves.”
“I come from a large family myself. Only, like Elise, I’m the oldest and very happy to be in college, where I’m not roped into babysitting duty any longer.”
“His siblings are sweet. I don’t think he has all that much to complain about,” Elise shared.
Jesse’s brows rose. “You’ve met his siblings?”
“Uh-huh. The day we moved in. He’s on the floor above me and had all these little eager beavers carrying his boxes, and you know, it was just me and my dad—”
“And she had way more crap to move in than I did, so my family helped them out. That’s how we met.” The way Jamie Love slanted his eyes and his grin at his girlfriend pissed the shit out of Jesse.
“That’s how you met,” he repeated because, as his grandmother always said, if you can’t say anything nice …
“And then we ended up in the same communications class,” Elise added, “so we’ve sort of become best friends.”
“Best friends.” Shit.
“It was the best we could do since I explained to him that boyfriend status was already taken.” She wrapped both arms around Jesse’s waist and squeezed. “He’s been eager to meet you ever since.”
“Well it’s not every day you meet someone who has hung the moon,” Jamie chuckled. “You got a great girl. And she thinks the world of you.”
“I’m happy to hear it.” He was. He was truly happy to hear it.
“The Zeta house is having a party tonight. I’m just a pledge but I’m sure it’d be fine if you two wanted to show up.”
“Thanks,” Elise said cheerfully. “But we have dinner plans and you know … other plans.”
“I bet you do,” Jamie muttered before waving a hand and taking his leave. “Good to finally meet you.”
“Yeah. You, too.”
Elise intertwined her fingers with his and came around to face him. “How did the meeting go?”
All Jesse could do was stare down at her, trying to get his bearings. “You are best friends? With a guy who looks like me? A guy named Jamie Love? Who you have never once mentioned to me.”
“I know,” she said, exasperated. “That was really all to protect Jamie’s ego. He’s a nice guy. His family is spectacular. But he wouldn’t stop hitting on me after we first met until I told him about you. He’s the one that’s declared us best friends. But it’s not really like that. Between rush and pledging and trying to keep up with my studies, I don’t have time for anybody who isn’t in my pledge class. Now some of those girls truly are my new best friends.”
“Thank God,” Jesse breathed.
“You aren’t worried are you? About Jamie?” her voice went up like him being worried was the most outlandish thing.
“Elise. The guy looks like me.”
“He does not.”
Jesse’s eyes widened. “We are practically twins.”
“His eyes are brown.” She said it like it was a sin. “His hair isn’t as thick. The shape of his face is round. Ewww. He looks nothing like you.”
That had Jesse laughing. The ewww part. “Fine. Great. Very happy to hear you aren’t attracted to him.”
“How could I be attracted to anyone else when I have you?”
“Music to my ears. Let’s go fuck.”
“Oh my God, you’re vulgar,” she admonished, slapping him on the arm.
“I know. But seriously”—he leaned down and whispered into her ear—“let’s go fuck.”
“Well, when you say it like that …”
To be continued.