Parties, pranks, and frat politics—college life has never been sweeter.
Until I meet Bailey Prince.
He has the face of a goddamn angel. I don’t know where he came from or why I’m so obsessed.
But I do know he’s a Kappa.
And our houses have a rivalry that’s written into legend.
It’s a lot of pressure, but I’ve always been responsible, never had that rebellious need to rock the boat, and I like it that way.
But after a party at Sigma—the jock frat—I meet Chad Doomsen, and for the first time in my life I want to step outside my square.
Our houses have always had a rivalry, but some of the guys seem to hate Chad specifically, and I don’t know why.
He’s surprisingly sweet and kind. At least to me.
I need to stay away. A relationship with Chad would be betraying the very legacy that brought me here.
But I can’t help myself. And it seems, neither can he.
“No, bit higher. Yeah, there you go.”
I watch as the pledges seal the black contact paper over the windows at Rho Kappa Tau. I can already imagine the look on the face of their prez, Charles, when he realizes we’ve outsmarted them.
One day a week, they have their chapter meetings on campus at West Haven University since their house isn’t big enough for all the members to attend, and they always leave some dumbass pledge in charge of watching the house.
Well, he can watch it from where we’ve zip-tied him to the kitchen cabinet.
“This is the shittiest prank ever,” Carter scoffs from his place on top of Raymond’s shoulder.
“Less talk, more focus, pledge.” I smirk. “You’re getting bubbles in it. Have some pride in your work.”
Even though I can’t see his face, I know he’s rolling his eyes as he pulls back the contact paper and reapplies it.
“Seriously though,” Raymond says. “Why this? We could piss on their grill or leave roadkill in their air ducts.”
“First up, both those things are gross. Second, we wanna keep operating on this campus. What did the rules say?”
“No serious fuckery.”
“And?” I prompt.
“Misconduct of a serious nature will result in the suspension of Sigma Beta Psi.”
“Exactly.” I stuff my hands in my pockets as I admire their work. “Plus, we’re not total assholes. We might wanna piss off these guys, but we don’t actually want to go too far.”
“But they’re Kappas,” Carter says like that explains it all.
I grin. “Yeah, but we don’t hold it against them.”
Mostly. One of the first things I learned being initiated as a Sigma was our long-standing rivalry with the Rho Kappa Tau house. It used to be bad, well before rules were brought in on campus about how fraternities could behave. There’re rumors of some really nasty shit like actual assault and sexual abuse, which I don’t want to believe but have a bad feeling might be accurate. Especially if the back room at the Sigma house is anything to go by. It’s only maybe two decades old, whereas the rest of the house was built sometime in the twenties, and our president, Zeke, swears it’s because the Kappas set dynamite to one of the back posts.
Some of the more hard-core brothers long for those days.
But I prefer not having to fear physical injury.
“This will piss them off,” I say, giving more information, since I’m a nice guy. “Ever tried to get sticky shit off a surface? It’ll leave crap all over the windows, and they’ll have to spend hours cleaning that off too.”
“As if,” Raymond says. “The rich bastards will pay someone else to do it instead.”
“Know thy enemy. They might be richer than God, but they believe in hard work, and I’d put my next week’s wages down that they do the cleanup themselves.”
That’s the thing about the Kappas—I want to hate them, but they make it hard.
Our frats couldn’t be more different. They’re the future leaders. Bankers and managers and politicians. Their idea of a good time is an intellectual gang bang, whereas Sigmas don’t count it a weekend unless we’ve done something stupid. They have Beemers; I’m driving a beat-up old station wagon.
Our chapter members are all here on sports scholarships, and nearly all of us are holding down a part-time job on top of coursework and training and frat duties.
Kappas aren’t bad people. They’re just different people.
Carter finishes covering the last window, and I check the time on my phone.
“All right, pack this shit up. They’ll be back any minute.”
I was planning to toss the poor pledge inside some scissors, but his brothers can deal with him when they’re back, which …
The sound of a car pulling up out the front makes me stop. I creep up the side of the house to check, and yep, they’re back early.
“Shit.” I laugh as I jog back to where Carter has jumped down from Raymond’s shoulders. “Back already, let’s go.”
I run for the fence separating Kappa House from the frat next door and hoist myself up over it. The pledges beside me do the same, and as soon as we drop to the other side, we bolt. I fly past two Betas relaxing in a blow-up pool, and neither of them looks shocked to see us.
“Fucking Chad,” one of them calls right before I round the side of their house and make for the street.
Shouts start coming from the Kappa house as I hit the street and take off. The Sigma Beta Psi house is on the complete opposite side of Greek Row to the Kappas. Our houses bookend the street with other frats and sororities in between.
The pledges should easily keep up, but if they can’t, it’s not my problem—they knew what they were getting into. Everyone always wants in on my dumbass ideas until we almost get caught. I swear the Kappas will report us one of these days, but until that happens, I’ll keep having my fun. This is my last year of school, and no way am I going to spend it holed up in my room studying.
Cs still get degrees.
I self-five as I jog across the grass and up the steps at Sigma Beta Psi. I’m panting by the time I reach the porch, and I bend to catch my breath before glancing up at Zeke, who was clearly watching the whole time.
“Done stealing my pledges?” he asks. He’s smiling, which takes the bite out of his words.
Carter and Raymond thunder up the steps behind me, and Zeke immediately drops the smile. “Get your asses inside. We have work to do.”
They hurry to apologize and head inside, way more respectful of Zeke and his authority. As the president, people listen to Zeke. I’m just the shithead VP.
As soon as they’re gone, he laughs. “Wait until they find out it’s their turn to stay sober tonight.”
“I do not miss those shitkicker days.”
Zeke and I rushed together as dumbass freshmen. We’ve been through the ritual of being bottom rung in the house, so I have no sympathy for those guys. We’ve all gotta pay our dues—literally and metaphorically—and if they end up initiated, they’ll be where we are one day.
Living out the best days of our lives.
Before it all goes downhill from here.
Who knows where I’m going to be this time next year? Probably back at home, drowning in student debt that my partial scholarship doesn’t cover, while I struggle to get a job. I’m not good or interested enough in football to go pro, and while I thought studying business would cast my net wide, I still have no goddamn clue what I’m going to do with it.
So until then, head, meet sand.
We walk inside and join the others. The large living room has been almost cleared of furniture. We have thirty people living in the house and another fifty members spread out between off-campus housing and the dorms.
Almost all eighty of us are here, filling out the one room.
“Shut up, you animals,” Zeke calls, making his way over to a spot in front of the fireplace. For some reason, that’s always been considered the head of the room by unspoken agreement.
It takes a minute, but slowly everyone falls silent.
“In a minute, Robbie is going to take you through how the night will run and who’s in charge of what,” Zeke says.
A hum of excitement ripples through the guys waiting. This is our first big party of the semester, and everyone expects that Sigma House will go epic or go home. It’s a good thing Robbie is our social chair this year. He might dress like a dad and have the kind of loud voice that borders on obnoxious, but he’s friendly and fun, so people give him a pass on just about everything.
Being six foot four with two hundred and thirty pounds of fat and muscle probably helps too.
“Yeah, yeah, it’s exciting, but shut up a minute.” Zeke gives everyone a few more seconds. Unlike our president last year, he’s laid-back and only takes the job as seriously as he needs to. “Tonight, pledges, you’re on dry duty. Not a single lick of alcohol, and if your Big catches you breaking the rules, you’re out. No second chances.” Some of the Big Brothers—guys in charge of looking after our pledges and teaching them the ropes—puff out their chests and try to look intimidating. They take this shit seriously. “Because when we party in Sigma House, your job is too important. First, you’ve got to keep people from fucking shit up and getting the dean’s attention—that goes without saying. Second, you keep an eagle eye on those Kappas. See, the rivalry isn’t just a rivalry. It’s a competition. Every year Kappas and Sigmas engage in a game called King of Thieves, and we’re on a three-year winning streak. I’d like to end my time as a Sigma completely undefeated.”
Him and me both. And after spending the whole week before the semester started by helping Zeke go through the house and relabel every item that wasn’t attached, I’ll be pissed if they screw this up for us.
“Everything in the house has a number of points.” He picks up a vase on the top of the fireplace that’s probably been there since the stone ages and points to the number on the bottom. “The small, easy-to-take things have a low score. The big things—like our beds—have an insanely high number. Basically, the harder it is to get something out, the more we reward for it. At Harmony Week in six months’ time, we return what we’ve taken, tally the points, and whoever has the most wins. Got it?”
The pledges hurry to agree, because if they’re still lost, their Bigs will catch them up to speed.
“So tonight, you make sure nothing gets past you. That’s it.”
“No worries, Zeke,” Carter says. “We’ll pat them down on the way out if we have to.”
I can’t see a reason that’ll be necessary, but hey, I appreciate the dedication.
Robbie takes over, and the energy in the room jumps up to a thousand. “Okay, assholes. Rick and Miles—kegs. Get them out back and hooked up. Pledges, start scrubbing, I want this house spotless. It’ll be good practice for the morning when you get to do it all again.” He finger guns them. “We’ve got to get the soundproofing up in the windows and a sweet backdrop for the sorority sisters to snap some pics. You know the rules. The more hotties posting about our party, the more people through the doors at twenty a head.” He points at Brandon. “Once you guys are done, run everything past this killjoy and get his sign-off. We good? Good. Get to it. Oh, and if you’re not costumed the fuck up, you can sit on the front lawn in your briefs all night.”
Brandon shakes his head as he approaches Robbie. “You’re an asshole.”
“Guilty. What’s your point?”
“I’m not a killjoy. I’m the risk manager. If I didn’t put a halt to half the idiotic things you want to do, we’d be shut down by now.”
I’ve heard this argument a million times from all the people who held their roles before them. Social chair and risk manager somehow work together while being completely at odds. Robbie and Brandon have always been complete opposites—from their opinion on the correct length of shorts, to whether elbows on the table should be called in beer pong—and these roles have made the divide between them even deeper.
“Just get it done,” Zeke says. He walks over to me. “Think they’ll be up to it?”
“All we can do is wait and see.”
He rakes a hand through his sandy hair and nods.
“Hey, it’s not like this year is riding on tonight, right?” Except it totally is. If tonight isn’t crazy and word gets out that Sigma House is throwing subpar parties, no one will come to any of the others. Parties are the way we make money and keep the membership dues down. Unlike Kappa, no one here can afford paying any more than we need to, which is why, year after year, we’re known as being the house that knows how to have fun.
It’s the thing that keeps us running.
Zeke groans. “Thanks for that reminder, Doomsen.”
“Hey.” I nudge him. “We’ve got this. The frat’s ours this year, and no Kappa douche is going to make us look stupid.”
Frat first, everything else second.
That will never change.
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