Home > I Promise You

I Promise You
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills




There’s a universal truth at Waylon University: the first girl you kiss freshman year at the annual bonfire party is the one you’ll never forget. She’ll crawl under your skin and make her way into your heart. She’ll spark a passion so fierce you’ll burn the world down to possess her.

You might even put a ring on it.


As in all things with fate, the caveat is timing. That kiss can go horribly wrong. She might not want you. She might run in the opposite direction.

And because you kissed, you are screwed.


The ridiculous legend—the warning—swirls around in my head as I saunter around the crackling fire, my eyes surveying the party in the meadow. The September night is crisp with autumn, the scent of leaves and smoke from the fire wafting in the air. The crowd of students is thick and mostly drunk, some headed to the barn for games, others dancing as a band plays on a stage. My gaze snags on a couple as they sit under a giant oak tree and make out. Here’s some truth: I’m kissing no one tonight. I’m not the superstitious sort, but I’ll admit to a good sense of self-preservation.

Sorority girls follow me as I shoulder my way through the crush of people. I shake off an insistent blonde in a Theta jersey who’s been tailing me since I got here.

“Not tonight, sweetheart,” I tell her with a lazy smile when she latches onto my arm again. She’s hot, all long legs and big tits. “Find me tomorrow.” After this legend crap is null and void.

“Sure, baby. Call me. I stuck my digits in your back pocket.”

Of course she did.

She gives me a blinding smile, strokes my arm, and flounces off.

Some of the guys from the team call my name, motioning me over as they stand next to a keg. I head that way and am almost there when—


I stop and my body tenses when I see her.

This girl.

I do a double take.

What the…

An unseen hand strokes down my spine.

She dances alone in the midst of a crowd. Flickering light from the nearby fire glitters over her body, half of her in a dusky shadow, the other draped in glowing illumination. Tanned, slender legs bend as she twirls in a short red mini skirt and black military boots. Swinging her hips, she holds her long hair up as she sways. There’s a dandelion tattoo on her nape.

A silver piercing in her belly button glints under the lights. Closing her eyes, she undulates her body in a hypnotic body roll, her arms stretched toward the sky as she moves to the bass of the guitar.

Her face is heart-shaped with high cheekbones, her lips bee-stung full. Dark eyebrows frame eyes with a slight tilt at the corners. Her breasts are small but pert as they push against a white crop top with suspenders that snap to her skirt. “Not my type,” I murmur to myself, taking in her petite frame.

“Get over here, rookie!” comes from one of the guys, and I wave them off, still watching the babe. From a few feet away, a dude with a red Solo cup in his hand also checks her out. His buddies slap him on the back, urging him on. He takes a deep swig of his drink, hands it off to a friend, and pushes his way through the throng toward her. Dancing behind her, he grabs her hips and leans into her. She shoves him away, and I smile. That’s right, sweetheart. Be you. Dance alone.

Or not, I muse.

Screw that legend. It can’t be real, and my type or not, I’d like a taste of her.

I maneuver her way, moving through the crowd—

“Dillon! Let’s go, man. The guys are asking for you,” comes from Blaze as he grabs my shoulder and drags me to the group of football players. He hands me a beer and grins broadly. He’s a sophomore, and we just met at summer camp. I have a good feeling about him; in fact, the whole team is like a dream come true. I know I’m not the best player—yet—but it’s the happiest I’ve been since my brother died.

“We’re gonna get a group together to enter the rope pull contest. Those Kappa guys are built like tractors, but we can take ’em. You in?” He pops an eyebrow at me.

“Mhmm,” I reply, my gaze back to the girl as yet another guy approaches her. She’s like a damn magnet. She gives him a withering glare then prances off and settles closer to the stage. Off limits, her body language declares.

Vicious girl.

She knows what she wants, and it isn’t those guys.

“I thought this kid was focused. He looks dazed,” Ryker murmurs. He snaps his fingers in my face. “Freshman, get your eyes off the girl.”

“Done,” I say, looking at him. Ryker’s our starting quarterback, and I have a ton of respect for him.

Ryker chuckles. “It’s your first bonfire, but don’t be fooled. Remember: if you see a girl you like—”

“Run as if there’s a three-hundred-pound linebacker on your ass. Don’t engage. Do not get leg-shackled,” I repeat, recalling the warnings the upperclassmen gave us at their dorm room before we piled into cars and drove to the party.

A deep laugh comes from Maverick, another sophomore and our best defensive player. “No joke. There’s weird juju in this part of the woods.”

I let my gaze drift back to her. “Meh, she looks harmless to me.” And what would be wrong with talking to her? Getting a name and number? “Starting to think you tell all the freshmen that so you guys can pick out the hot girls for yourselves.”

Maverick looks at me, and whatever he sees on my face makes him smirk. “Let me tell you a story, kid. I kissed a girl freshman year at this party, and the next time I saw her, she was dating our kicker. Weird, man, just strange how she’s always in my head. I’m telling you, don’t get sucked in. Not worth the headache.”

“Uh-huh. Sounds like she found something better.” I grin.

Maverick barks out a laugh. “Tell him, Blaze.”

“The legend got me by my balls last year, man,” Blaze says ruefully as he shakes his head. “I kissed this chick and we ended up in the loft of the barn making out hot and heavy. Poof. She disappears on me. You see a girl with pink hair, call me.”

“Sure.” I’m barely listening, my eyes darting back to the dancing girl, trying to be covert but also not really caring what they think right now.

Ryker guffaws. “Kid, you’re wearing a hungry look. If you wanna go talk to the girl, go on—”

“Says the guy who hasn’t kissed anyone at the bonfire,” Maverick interrupts tersely.

Ryker laughs, waving him off. “But as the legend says, it will come back to haunt you, Dillon, somehow, someday. Wiccans used to live on this land, and they specialized in love spells. The ground we’re standing on is where they lived, where they did their sacrifices. Some say they’re buried in the woods—”

Someone snorts in the background, and I roll my eyes. “Seriously? Come on. There’s no legend, is there? This is a prank and you pull it on all the freshmen.”

Maverick mimics dusting his hands off. “Alright, why don’t you test it and we’ll find out? Just remember, once you kiss her, it’s branded on your heart, some kind of soulmate thing.”

“I call bullshit,” I say on a scoff.

He nods. “Swear. Go to the library on campus. It’s in the history books about Magnolia. They called themselves the Daughters of Venus. You know who Venus is, right? Roman goddess of love, desire, and fertility.”

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