Ruthless Sinner by Ivy Blake

1

GRACE

“Leave that one. I’ll come back for it in a second.” Dad pointed to the suitcase that I was having a hard time picking up. I let it rest against the car. I would not fight him on that one.

“I always forget how lovely this place is,” Mom said as we walked towards my new accommodation building, her eyes roaming my bougie looking college campus.

Even though I’d spent a year at Oakwood Academy already, I still found it overwhelming how I got to see the beautiful campus every single day. The fact that I got to call it my home for most of the year was a massive bonus, too.

My eyes cast over the tall red brick buildings, glad that I now lived closer to them than I did the year before. I’d been adamant about getting an apartment closer to campus for my second year, because trekking to lectures and seminars when it was cold and dark lowered my motivation to go.

I’d assumed that I was going to keep living with my friend Violet, but when she found a place of her own that allowed her to stay all year round, I knew I had to get on with my application quickly so that I didn’t miss out on the good apartments. I was happy that Violet had a place that she could call home, which meant that she didn’t have to put up with her mom back home if she didn’t want to, not to mention the fact that it was absolutely gorgeous. That didn’t stop the fact that I knew I’d miss seeing her in the kitchen in the mornings and hearing her sing in the shower.

“In you go.” Dad used the electric key card to hold open the door for Mom and me and let us walk in ahead of him. I noticed my parents exchange an unfamiliar look, but I was too excited to move in, so brushed it aside.

We walked up the stairs, passing other students with parents that were also helping them move into their new apartments. I knew it was going to be the busiest day for arrivals, but I wanted to settle in as soon as possible before the semester started. I also really wanted to meet my new roommate and get to know them so that we could start off the new academic year on the right foot.

Oakwood Academy randomly appointed roommates and no matter how many times I’d tried to get the accommodation service to give me a clue or idea about who I was going to share with, they wouldn’t budge.

That’s just how the system works, the woman on the other end of the phone had said.

We walked past a blonde family who smiled at us politely as we walked up the steps. I wanted to take the lift, but Mom was adamant about us all getting our steps in wherever possible. The heavy bags in my hands did not agree, but Mom wouldn’t hear any of it.

He’s a handsome fellow, isn’t he?” Mom hissed.

I was practically sweating as I hauled the bags up the stairs and was so focussed on not missing a step that it took me a moment to realise who she was talking about. I looked up to see a flash of tattoos and dark hair that made my heart flutter.

Elijah.

He was stalking down the hallway towards us, a stormy expression on his face, his eyes dark and intense. My breath caught in my throat as I took in his height and his muscly build. The darkness that he exuded was both intriguing and intimidating. I only knew him because Violet had started dating his roommate and friend, Nate. The one and only interaction we’d had together last year had been brief and cold, but the one thing that had stuck out most was how he’d been shirtless when he’d answered the door. Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed that he wasn’t shirtless as he walked towards us.

Elijah drew nearer to us and my face broke into an involuntary smile. It was nice to see a familiar face, even if it was a scowling one.

I hope I wasn’t staring.

“Hey,” I said as I caught his eye.

Elijah looked down at me with a disdainful expression on his face and brushed past me without saying a word. Ouch.

“That was… awkward,” said Dad.

I love it when he’s so helpful and points out the obvious.

“Maybe he didn’t hear you?” Mom offered. “He looked like he was in a bit of a rush.” Mom and Dad exchanged a look that made my stomach pang. I shrugged in an attempt to detract from the discomfort I felt.

“Yeah, it’s probably something like that,” I said.

How fucking embarrassing.

As I lead Mom and Dad to my apartment, I couldn’t shake the look that had been on Elijah’s face. It had felt deeply personal. All I could hope was that I wouldn’t have to experience it again. I hoped we wouldn’t cross paths again or that Elijah would lighten the fuck up the next time I saw him. To be fair, Violet had told me that he’d given her the cold shoulder every time she was over visiting Nate, so at least I knew it wasn’t a me problem.

“This place looks even nicer in person,” said Dad once we’d walked into the apartment.

The living room and kitchen were wide and perfect for hosting parties. The furniture was new and in neutral colours that pulled the place together, making it look chic and cosy. My parents helped carry my things into my bedroom, which was a lot bigger than the one I’d had the previous year. I really had hit the jackpot.

I can finally put my Pinterest board to good use!

Once all of my things had been unloaded from the car, Mom and Dad said their goodbyes after making me promise to keep in contact.

“Don’t forget to tell us all about your new roommate once you’ve met them,” Mom said before she and Dad started their journey back home.

I was just as excited and curious as them to find out who I’d be spending the next year with. There was one box sitting on the kitchen counter when I came in and I had to fight against every nerve in my body that wanted me to dive in and find out something about my new roommate.

Instead, I busied myself with unpacking my belongings so that I could start making my new room my new home. At the bottom of one of my boxes, I pulled out a picture of me and Violet that we’d taken when we’d been at the fair over summer. The massive balls of candy floss that we held out in front of us partially shielded our smiles. My chest felt warm as I looked at the picture and remembered how long it had taken us to get one that we both liked and looked good in. I made a mental note to give Violet a call later.

I made my way to the kitchen and began unpacking my pots and pans. I’d brought fewer things than I had last semester, after learning that I simply didn’t have the time, while studying medicine, to cook all the fancy things that I’d planned to in my head.

I took out my favourite mug, a nice teal one that I’d picked out at a charity shop, and was grateful that it hadn’t broken on the car ride to Oakwood.

“Oh, fuck no.”

I nearly dropped my mug at the sound of the deep, gravelly voice behind me. When I finally got the courage to turn around, I saw Elijah standing in the kitchen, an annoyed expression on his face that matched the tone of his voice.

The sight of his chiselled face and muscly physique threw me off guard again, and I struggled to keep my wits about me as I tried not to stare. Besides, Elijah did not look happy to see me at all.

“What are you doing here?” I asked weakly, even though the big gym bag slung across his front told me everything that I needed to know.

“Apparently, I’m the unlucky motherfucker who has to share an apartment with you.” Elijah grimaced. “I specifically said I wanted to live in a single sex apartment.” He shook his head as he looked me up and down.

I tried my best not to buckle under his intense gaze. We were going to be roommates? There had to be a misunderstanding somewhere. I tucked my mug in the cupboard before I could break it.

“Maybe there’s been a mistake,” I said. I watched as Elijah scrolled through his phone, his dark brows knitting furiously as he tapped away at the screen.

What were the fucking chances that the two of us would be stuck together?

“Nope, it’s fucking here in black and white,” he growled. “Whatever.”

Elijah stormed off down the hallway before I could say anything. My chest tightened when I heard him slam his bedroom door behind him.

I’d expected some awkward small talk over a cup of tea with my roommate to be the worst-case scenario. I’d certainly not expected that.

Interacting with Elijah twice in one day had really rubbed me the wrong way, especially because I felt like he was being unnecessarily unfair.

People didn’t just not like me. Especially when I first met them. I was notoriously great at first impressions, but apparently Elijah was the outlier.

I took a deep breath, gathered up any semblance of courage I had left, and marched down the hallway to Elijah’s room. Even if he was less than pleased about our living arrangement, there was nothing we could do about it. At least for the time being. I wanted to make the environment as pleasant as possible and that started with having a relationship that was, at the bare minimum, civil.

“Elijah,” I called as I knocked lightly on his door.

I didn’t know if he hadn’t heard me or if he was ignoring me. Either way, I was met with silence and knocked again.

Elijah’s heavy footsteps sounded out as he crossed his bedroom and flung the door open, a stormy expression on his face.

“What the fuck are you banging on my door for?” he growled. His dark eyes were barely slits and the tension in his shoulders was visible for all to see.

I took a step back, but not before I caught a whiff of his sweet, masculine scent. Focus Grace, focus.

“Do you want a cup of tea or coffee, by any chance?” My voice was barely a squeak, but I forced myself to smile and laugh politely.

Elijah clearly didn’t appreciate my politeness.

“No.” Elijah looked me up and down again before his lips curled into a sneer. Even as he made the cruel expression, my heart pounded in my chest.

“But do you know what would be great?” he said.

“What?”

“If you left me alone or found a new place to live,” Elijah growled before he slammed the door in my face.

“Oh,” the word collided with Elijah’s door, and I stood still for a moment, taken aback by his unwarranted rudeness.

“I was just trying to be nice,” I shouted through the wooden door.

“Well, nobody likes a try hard, so I suggest you stop,” Elijah shouted back.

I scoffed and crossed my arms over my chest. I guess Elijah didn’t get the memo that manners were free. Plus, I wasn’t a try hard.

I understood being unhappy with the apartment situation, especially if he’d specifically requested to share with another guy. But I wasn’t as bad as he was making me out to be.

Maybe he’s just had a particularly bad day?

Even though Elijah’s words stung and lodged themselves in my brain, I would not let them get to me. I was going to show him what a great roommate I could be. I was going to prove Elijah wrong.