Chapter Three: Flashback
University of Connecticut: Winter, 2011

"Maddy, why is it I never see you without a book in your hand?"

Madeleine glanced up, a grin touching her features as she recognised the speaker. She leaned over to move her folders out of the way, indicating the empty seat.

"Hi, Santi." She said amiably. "What brings you to the library? Isn't it kinda foreign territory for you?"

"I was looking for you." Assanti dimpled. "Though why you choose to come here when there's no exams or major assignments due is beyond me. What's your deal, girl? You work way too's not like you need to! You're already on a 4.0."

"I'm not doing anything for class." Madeleine said with a shrug. "Listen, Santi...I've been doing a whole lot of reading about student government and you know, the Union and all of that. Student activities and everything else. Since the debacle that was Clay and Luca's attempt to organise a proper concert venue for us to play, I decided to take it on myself next time - and I've found all this interesting stuff out. Did you know that...?"

"Spare me." Assanti rolled her eyes expressively, holding up her hands. "Student activities are fine, but I don't need to know how they run them. Besides, speaking of which, did you nail yourself a date to the sorority party next weekend? Because if you haven't, you should. You know that we can't go Greek without having someone truly cute hanging on the arm - and I am so not going to let you talk your way out of this one."

"I'm not really interested in the sorority party, Santi." Madeleine said mildly. "It's all a popularity contest, people vying for invites and whatever. You know the only reason Ruby invited you and me is because without my help she'd have flunked her last midterm and her Dad would have taken away her porsche. No other reason. Except maybe to show us what we're not missing in the world of Greek life."

"You're too harsh." Assanti scolded. "You did her a favour, so what? It got us into a party. Who cares who's throwing it? Did you forget about having fun? Yeesh, girl, we're only juniors. Plenty of time to burn braincells when we hit senior year."

She settled herself more comfortably in her chair. "If you don't find yourself a date, I may be tempted to find one on your behalf. I'm going to this party, and so are you - like it or not. So there's your choice, Mad. Find a guy else I'm playing blind date with you."

"I wish I thought you were kidding." Madeleine pushed her book shut, casting her friend a look of consternation. "But I know you're not. And I know your taste in men, Santi. Last time you tried to hook me up with someone, it was an unmitigated disaster. I'm just not blind date material. I'm not looking for a guy."

"Sure you are." Assanti grinned, not noticeably crushed by her friend's reaction. "You're just too much of a wimp to ask him out. That's all. Honey, everyone in our floor knows you've been crushing on Luca Ranieri since freshman year. You've been in this wretched band of his for what, two and a half years now...snails make more progress than that!"

Madeleine blushed.

"Keep it down." She begged. "I know. But it's tricky. We're friends now...which makes it almost wrong to cross the line. And I like the band. I like singing. Hell, I even like Clay, now he's stopped throwing his sarcasm at me. It's a cool hobby to have. I enjoy it. I don't want to screw it up by, well, flunking the front man."

Assanti giggled appreciatively.

"Well, he's had three girlfriends since you started with Diablo, and he's not stuck with any of them." She reflected. "So maybe he isn't looking in the right places either. Come on, Mad. You gotta get real here. He'll graduate in the summer. Then God knows when you'll see him again. It could be never...don't you think?"

"Doubtful." Madeleine shook her head. "His family are in Hartford. He's pretty much a local."

"Yes, hun, but you ain't." Assanti raised an eyebrow. "And there's only so much time you can pretend to be working in Connecticut before people start to wonder why you're not going home for the summer."

"All right, already." Madeleine sighed. "I know. You're right. I just haven't found the nerve. He's really cute, Santi, but he's more than that. He's a genuinely nice guy, too. And that's the trouble. Why would he settle on me?"

"Well, if you have no luck in the Luca department, I know there's a brother or two out there who'd love to hook up with you." Assanti wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. "Or haven't you paid attention to the fact Kurt Lincoln sits behind you in the lecture theatre so he can ogle your back?"

"Shut up!" Despite herself, Madeleine laughed. "I am not interested in Kurt Lincoln, or any more of your daydreamed soulmates, all right? I'm fine. Really. And I don't need a sorority party to make my life complete. It's not like it matters if I go. You go. Take Gabe. Don't worry about me. I've a lot to do anyway. I'm really interested in getting involved in all this Union stuff."

"Maddy, I already told you. You're going to this party." Assanti said firmly. "Whether you care about Greek life or you don't, you're coming because you were invited and you didn't even have to beg. Not going would be social suicide. Going without a date even worse. Just think about it, huh?"

She tapped the booklet.

"Those things are as much popularity as they are skill." She said simply. "Use your head."

She got to her feet.

"I haveta run." She added. "I'm meeting Gabe for lunch...don't work too hard."

With that she was gone, and Madeleine frowned, reaching slowly for the booklet and flipping it open once more.

"Heavy reading."

A fresh voice startled her and she turned, surprised.

"Hi, Mad." Luca cast her a grin, dropping his bag down on the table and sinking into the seat beside her. "I thought Lit was your thing. Not student politics."

"I'm looking to branch out." Madeleine admitted. "I really love doing Lit, Luca, but I've been doing a ton of thinking about other stuff of late. You know. Beyond college. There was the debate last semester and I got into that...and all of this, well, it looks really neat. Actually being hands on in the college and stuff. I never realised how much was involved."

"So you're going to run for student office now?" Luca raised an eyebrow. "How many hours are in your week, Maddy?"

Madeleine laughed.

"Not enough." She admitted ruefully. "And considerably less, now Assanti is bullying me to go with her to the sorority bash on Saturday. I'm kinda lukewarm about the idea - especially since she thinks she's choosing me a date - but apparently I can't back out. Thrills, huh?"

"Clay dated a sorority chick once." Luca looked amused. "I've heard talk of a hot tub...but not much else."

"Yeah, I can imagine." Madeleine looked rueful. "Why does everyone think the world revolves around the sorority and fraternity people anyhow?"

"Dunno." Luca shrugged. "Never had time for it myself. Too preoccupied with making an ass of myself in other areas." He grinned at her. "Including organisation."

"Well, that's where you have me." Madeleine told him sweetly. "You play the guitar, I'll see to the scheduling."

"So who does Assanti want to send you to this party with, then?" Luca sat back in his chair. Madeleine pulled a face.

"Not sure." She owned. "The name Kurt Lincoln did come up."

"Don't know him."

"Basketball scholarship." Madeleine sighed. "And if you believe Santi, he comes to my lectures so he can ogle me. Or something. Blech. And I thought I left that behind in High School."

"You've been at college for two and a bit years, Mad...didn't it sink in yet that college is an extension of High School?" Luca laughed. Madeleine grinned.

"Guess not." She admitted. "Oh well."

"You know, I got invited to the party this weekend as well." Luca said thoughtfully. "I was gonna blow it off...but if you liked, we could go together. That'd save you from Assanti's matchmaking, surely?"

He grinned.

"Unless you consider going with me worse?"

Madeleine stared. Then she laughed.

"No. Definitely not worse." She said ironically. "But are you sure? No cute seniors you want to take?"

"Not that I can think of." Luca replied. "So? Is it a date, then?"

Madeleine was silent for a moment. Then she shook her head.

"I don't think it's a date, exactly, if we go with each other to make sure there's someone sane there to talk to." She said, amused. Luca nodded.

"Guess that's true." He admitted good-naturedly. "But I was going to ask you anyway, Mad. So on those grounds, I guess it is."

Madeleine stared.

"You were what?"

"Going to ask you to the Sorority party, if you can put up with my company all evening long." Luca shrugged his shoulders. Madeleine's eyes became huge.

"But why?"

"Because you're a damn fine chick and I'd like to spend some time with you outside of the band?" Luca offered. "I'm not kidding, you know. I've just had a tirade from Clay on the subject of when I'm going to get a grip on myself and actually ask you out. So I decided this would be a good opportunity. I didn't know you also had an invite...but you know, I figured it can't hurt to ask."

Madeleine stared at him again. Then she dissolved into helpless giggles. Luca frowned.

"What?" He demanded. "What did I say?"

"Oh, nothing." Madeleine gasped out, struggling to regain her composure. "Except I've just had the exact same lecture from Assanti about asking you out. Do you think there's something going on behind our backs here that we don't know about?"

"Wouldn't be the first time." Comprehension flooded Luca's expression. "So you wanted to go with me?"

"And you wanted to go with me, clearly." Madeleine swallowed her giggles. "So I guess that does make it a date. Doesn't it?"

"I guess it does." Luca acknowledged. "Then I'll come meet you at your dorm around eightish, okay?"

"Sure." Madeleine's eyes sparkled. "And don't be late, huh?"

"Maddy, after two years playing music with you, I know how to turn up on time." Luca said wryly. "I'll be there."

Prologue: Flashback: University of Connecticut, Winter 2009
Chapter One: Starcrossed
Chapter Two: Tante Regine
Chapter Three: Flashback: University of Connecticut: Winter 2011
Chapter Four: The Poem
Chapter Five: A Shock
Chapter Six: Nancy Confesses
Chapter Seven: Flashback: Break Up
Chapter Eight: Blackmail
Chapter Nine: Conflict
Chapter Ten: Flashback: Assanti Meddles
Chapter Eleven: Pay Off 
Chapter Twelve: Stefana Gambles
Chapter Thirteen: University of Connecticut: Finals Week
Chapter Fourteen: Cracks
Chapter Fifteen: A Tiny Piece Of Truth
Chapter Sixteen: Flashback: Forever Changed
Chapter Seventeen: Secrets Will Out

Chapter Eighteen: Fall Out

Chapter Nineteen: Flashback: A New Life

Chapter Twenty: Darren Admits

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