If you’ve read Tasting Red, you know that for once I actually gave my chapters titles.

I still have mixed feelings on the move since the process felt like being a chaos gremlin loading a shirt cannon with a bunch of random yet somehow chapter related ideas and POW POW POW, shoot them at the chapters and there are my headings.

But all I’ve heard from readers is “SHOOT ON CHAOS GREMLIN! WE LOVE THE TITLES.”

Well today, I am absolutely a trash troll like Red was in her introduction of Chapter 2.

Because I took handsome, lovely l’husbun to the airport yesterday at 5:30am for a business trip, came home and worked from then until 2am straight.

…cause apparently I have no self respect when he’s not around.

So today, all the words out of my mouth are blergh, incoherent outbursts or grumblings.

I’m sitting here with my cappucino at a coffee shop, EXTREMELY salty they don’t have bucket size.

whines profusely Whhhhhy don’t they have bucket size?

As I mimed to my friend over facetime, I was planning on dunking my face and motorboating the coffee like an immature twenty-something boy in a pair of large boobs.

pouts at tiny cappuccino I can’t motorboat this.

Holy shit, am I still writing? nervous laughter alright well that’s enough of that. Let’s throw our attention FAR away from me and back onto the original trash troll.

Intro to Red – Chapter 2
Trash Troll

“Hey, I know you,” someone exclaims, cutting through the music in my ears.

My combat boots drop off the table and slam into the ground as I jackknife up in the chair, my heart taking off like a shot. Sweat immediately pools in my palms, and I swipe them down my rumpled black rock band sweatshirt.

I pull out my earbuds with clumsy fingers. A guy hovers over me in the library, excitement and recognition sparking in his eyes. His friend stands next to him, watching me with curiosity.

Witchtits, I knew I should have receded into the depths of the university stacks. Curse my dependence on mochas. They only allow students to drink cafe drinks in the study room. Here, people talk quietly and work in groups.

I traded my usual solitude for four shots of espresso to cure my trash troll state. I love working nights, but I’m getting only about two hours of sleep before my nine AM class. And right now, I feel like absolute garbage.

Which begs the question, how did this guy recognize me in trash troll mode, and why would he bother me?

Because he knows who you really are.

My heart pounds like a jackrabbit’s at the nasty little thought.

The guy adjusts the strap of his backpack over his shoulder. “You’re that redheaded girl who works at the Poison Apple. Aren’t you a bartender?”

His shorter buddy chimes in. “Oh yeah, that’s your name, Red.”

Of course. My hair is a bright fucking beacon, announcing me everywhere I go. Vibrant red, most people assume it’s a dye job, but it’s pure genetics. And right now, it’s a shaggy mess, in a haphazard bun.

I almost sag in relief. “Yeah,” I force the word out, though I feel shaky to my core.

“Well, shit. I’m Alan and this is Jimi. Think you could hook us up with free drinks sometime?” he asks, before shooting me a flirtatious look that comes off more like a leer.

Rolling my shoulders backward, I regain my balance. I’m used to this kind of coercion, but usually it’s after midnight, and I’m behind a bar. Right now, I’m too exhausted and on edge to deal with entitled little boys thinking they can charm something out of me today.

“Sorry, they don’t let me do that,” I coolly lie, readjusting my textbooks on the long, shared table.

People start to take notice from a few seats down and look up with interest.

“Of course they do,” Alan says with a cheerful scoff. “I’ve heard you can be a lot of fun.” He leans in and traces his fingertip down my neck.

Goosebumps immediately rise and race down my entire body at the touch, and it’s like a switch is clicked into the “on” position.

“I can be a lot of fun,” I purr, despite myself.

My legs instantly press together as I think about first taking Alan and then Jimi on the ride of their lives. The images come almost violently, as they are unbidden. Heat rushes through my body as I glance up through my lashes in a way that I know is pure seductress.

Calm down, I order my hormones. You can control yourself.

I scoot my chair back with a loud metal shriek. The second he’s out of reach, my body dramatically wails, wanting to be touched, wanting more touch everywhere. But I’ve cooled it, and I regained control.

Wiping away the sultry vixen trying to muscle her way out, I shoot the two boys a stony look. “But I’m not interested in having fun with either of you.”

The playful air evaporates immediately and Alan scowls. He leaves with his friend in tow, but not before muttering an audible, “bitch.”

I pull the hood of my sweatshirt up over my head, covering my bright red hair, trying to disappear. I could dye it to a less noticeable shade, but I’m too vain. Plus, it’s one of the only things that makes me feel connected to my mom. I don’t remember much about her, but I see a little piece of her every time I look in the mirror.

Embarrassment and arousal still run hot inside me, and I can already hear Goldie in my head.

Have a little fun, Red. It doesn’t hurt to try a few boys on for size.

But I’m definitely not up for another round of Red’s spectacularly unfulfilling one-night stands that make her feel like garbage after the fact. Goldie may not mind the bang and bye, but it’s never settled well with me.

Besides, she doesn’t know the full extent of how I turn into a woman possessed. And I have no plan on telling her about how it’s almost that time of the month. If only I could down a bunch of Midol and hunker down with some ice cream, but no. This is my other monthly problem. This beast has a whole other set of needs that are difficult to satisfy.

Something nudges my shoulder. I turn to see the girl next to me holding out a box of mini muffins. A familiar blue-haired lady smiles at me from the box. Again, a spark of panic ignites in my chest before evaporating.

“Guys can be such dipshits,” she says dryly. The girl is in similar trash troll mode. Her books are about anatomy, and I know she’s got it even worse than me.

I manage a half smile. “No joke.”

She gives the box a shake, still offering me one of the pre-packaged baked goods.

“I’m good, thanks,” I beg off.

“Have you had this kind before?” she asks, not letting it go in the name of friendliness.

“Uh . . . ”

Before I can answer, she goes on, pulling out a muffin for herself. “This is the newest kind of Magic Morsels. I love the mini brownies that make you feel like you’ve gotten a hug from grandma herself.”

I keep it to myself that I’ve actually received real-life hugs from the grandma she speaks of. And the treats she offers have zero effect on me.

“But these are blueberry and make you more confident. It’s a godsend when you’re pre-med.”

“Yeah . . . ” I trail off. There are at least a dozen similar boxes littering the study tables. More than usual as we creep up on finals. And it’s probably what’s got me so paranoid. I’m surrounded by my secret.

“I’m so glad we have Magic Morsels. Can you imagine being in college, away from home and feeling like a mess and not having a little magical pick me up?”

“Totally,” I say, trying to seem pleasant, but I’ve got to get the hell out of here.

Thankfully, the girl finally pops the muffin into her mouth, ending the conversation.

Downing the last of my mocha, I grab my books and flee, chucking the cup in recycling along the way. I have to study, but my focus is shot.

If I don’t pass Dr. Langley’s class, I’ll hurl myself into the ocean. I need this credit for my major. If I fail, I’ll have to repeat the course, and the dragon is the only one who teaches Finance 201. I’m already three years older than the students in my class, and I feel behind as it is.

“Rogers,” a voice calls out.

My head whips around. Speak of the damn devil herself.

“D-dr. Langley,” I acknowledge with a stutter. Dammit. Why do I have to admire and fear her so much? Oh right, because Langley is a she-dragon powerhouse.

Students practically dive out of her way. Her dark brown skin is visibly moisturized, though I’ve never seen her crack a smile to threaten that implacable face with lines. Today’s navy suit is perfectly pressed, and her thick, curly hair is pulled back into a tight poof. Heels click along the pavement like gunshots as she strides toward me.


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