Prescott College 1: Mark Cooper versus America

J.A. Rock & Lisa Henry

Mark Cooper is angry, homesick, and about to take his stepdad’s dubious advice and rush Prescott College’s biggest party fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi. Greek life is as foreign to Aussie transplant Mark as Pennsylvania’s snows...
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Mark Cooper is angry, homesick, and about to take his stepdad’s dubious advice and rush Prescott College’s biggest party fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi. Greek life is as foreign to Aussie transplant Mark as Pennsylvania’s snowstorms and bear sightings. So, when the fraternity extends Mark a bid, Mark vows to get himself kicked out by the end of pledge period. But then he’s drawn into Alpha Delt’s feud with a neighboring fraternity.

Studious Deacon Holt is disappointed to learn Mark’s pledging Alpha Delt, his fraternity Phi Sigma Kappa’s sworn enemy. Mark is too beautiful for Deacon to pass up an invitation for sex, but beyond sex, Deacon’s not sure. He wants a relationship, but a difficult family situation prevents him from pursuing anything beyond his studies.

Mark and Deacon’s affair heats up as the war between their fraternities escalates. They explore kinks they didn’t know they had while keeping their liaison a secret from their brothers. But what Romeo and Juliet didn’t teach these star-crossed lovers is how to move beyond sex and into a place where they share more than a bed. That’s something they’ll have to figure out on their own—if the friction between their houses, and between Mark and America, doesn’t tear them apart.

Excerpt
Rush week.

Deacon hated it. Working at a bar this close to campus meant that sooner or later some little asshole with a fake ID would saunter up to the bar, trying his best to look casual, and attempt to order a shitload of beers for his buddies--who would be clustered around a table in the darkest corner they could find, also trying to look casual.

Except this guy didn’t look casual.

He looked pissed.

He narrowed his eyes at Deacon like Deacon had already personally offended him. Okay, Deacon wasn’t one of those now-tell-me-all-your-problems bartenders who existed mostly on TV, but he wasn’t used to copping hostile stares like this one. Not this early in the afternoon.

The guy, all five feet eight of him, strode up to the bar, slapped down an ID, and issued a challenging look that fell just short of belligerent. “Can I get a beer?”

Deacon looked at the ID. Mark Cooper. An out-of-town address, but that accent was from farther away than Bedford. And then he saw the date of birth. Most useless fake ID ever. He slid the ID back to the guy. “Sorry.”

“No, look.” The guy’s forehead creased with a frown. He shoved the ID back. “It’s my birthday today.”

“Happy birthday,” Deacon said. “Come back in three years, and I’ll buy you a beer myself.”

“Un-fucking-believable,” Mark muttered. “In a country where they let embryos drive cars, I have to wait until I’m twenty-one to buy alcohol. What sort of place lets you drive and vote and fuck before it lets you drink a beer?” He glared at Deacon accusingly. “Well?”

Angry little bunny was angry. Deacon folded his arms over his chest and looked back at him. Couldn’t help the smile that turned up the corner of his mouth. “Um...happy birthday and welcome to the United States?”

“Fine,” Mark said. “Can I buy cigarettes, or do I have to be exactly thirty-eight and a half?”

Deacon ignored the sarcasm. “Sure.”

“Can I get a pack of Winfield Blue?”

“There’s a gas station down the street.”

“I can’t get cigarettes in a bar?”

Deacon shook his head. “You can smoke ’em here, though. Be glad for that.”

Mark sighed. “Seriously unbelievable.” He headed for the door.

Deacon watched him. Nice ass, clad in expensive jeans. A T-shirt that rode up and showed a band of flesh as he dropped a coin and bent to retrieve it. And a pair of shoulders squared rigidly as he shoved his money back in his pocket.

Angry little bunny was very angry.

Deacon wiped down the bar. He looked up when he heard Mark’s phone ring, blaring out some song Deacon didn’t know. Mark stopped a couple of feet from the door, next to the pinball machine, and answered.

“Hi, Mum.” He angled himself toward the corner. “Can I call you back later? I’m pretty busy.” He dragged the toe of his sneaker across the worn carpet. “Yeah, I got it. Thanks. Yeah, Jackson’s been good. He’s throwing me a party. Yes, right now.”

Liar. Deacon felt a stab of sympathy for the kid.

“It’s fun, yeah.” In the dancing lights of the pinball machine, his expression was suddenly achingly wistful. “Okay, I’ll talk to you later. ‘Bye, Mum.” His shoulders slumped as he shoved the phone back into his jeans.

“Hey, Mark.”

The kid turned.

“Let me buy you a Coke for your birthday,” Deacon said.

He saw the moment the refusal was on the kid’s lips, but then Mark shrugged and came back and sat at the bar. “Thanks.”

Deacon put the Coke on the bar, then reached behind the register and found Bill’s pack of Newports. Figured Bill wouldn’t mind. Flipped it open and held it out to Mark. Mark withdrew a cigarette, looking slightly less angry. “Thanks,” he said again.

Deacon took out his lighter and offered Mark the flame. Mark leaned forward, the cigarette dangling from his lips, his chin inches from Deacon’s hand. Then he pulled back, the tip of the cigarette glowing.

“So how come you’re not partying with Jackson?”

Mark blew out smoke. “You really want to know?”

“Sure.”

Mark stabbed at the ice in his drink with his finger. “Because he’s my stepfather’s nephew, and I’ve met him twice, and he doesn’t want to look out for me just because Jim said he had to.”

Deacon slid an ashtray next to the glass. “You don’t have any other friends?”

“Plenty,” Mark said. “They’re just all at home.”

Home. He said the word like it hurt.

“It’s hard when you first start at college,” Deacon said. “But it gets easier, once you put yourself out there and meet people.”

“I’m supposed to be rushing this week,” Mark said. “I don’t even know what the fuck that is.”

Deacon laughed. “Then why are you doing it?”

“It’s Jim’s old fraternity,” Mark said. “Alpha Delta Phi. It’s a tradition.” Air quotes. “Jackson says I’ll for sure get a bid on account of him being in the frat, and Jim, but I dunno. Wouldn’t some prick trying to get in on his family name just make you not wanna take him?”

“Worked for George W. Bush, didn’t it?”

Mark snorted. “I don’t care if I get in or not. Jim’s not my real family--and I don’t mean that in a whiny-little-kid way. Just, it’s true. But Mum says I ought to give it a go, as a kind of peace offering to Jim. I guess I haven’t been great to him lately.”

“So, where are you from, Mark Cooper?”

“Australia.”

“I guessed that.” Deacon poured himself a Coke as well. “Where in Australia?”

“Place called Bundaberg,” Mark said. “It’s famous for its rum, which is another fucking thing you can’t get here.” He grimaced. “It’s not like I miss it, you know, but I miss my mates. I’m not usually... This isn’t how I imagined my eighteenth, I mean.”

“How did you imagine it?”

“We’d go surfing in the morning at Bargara,” Mark said. “Me and Baz and Richo. I had the best board--a Rip Curl DHD Pistol Whip.” He frowned. “Jim got it for me when he started going out with my mum. I gave it to Baz when I left.”

“You probably wouldn’t get much use out of it around here,” Deacon said.

“No, I wouldn’t.” Mark showed him a rueful smile.

“Good skiing here, though. And snow tubing.”

“Snow tubing?”

“Yeah. You get on a big inner tube, and you slide down a snow-covered mountain.”

“I hate snow.”

Deacon grinned. “It’s not so bad. Hope you have tire chains. Or do you have a car?”

“Not me. Not here. Jim’s letting me drive one of his around town.” He wrinkled his nose. “I’m not driving in snow, though. No fucking way. You ever see those World’s Craziest Drivers? It’s always snow.”

Deacon raised his eyebrows. “Not always, surely. Anyway, who hates snow?”

“Always,” Mark said. “And snow, God! We moved here in February, and it was supposed to be all nice and Christmas-cardy, you know? Instead we got that massive fucking blizzard, so I was stuck inside for a week with Mum and Jim, and no power. And then when it finally cleared or melted enough or whatever it does, I went for a walk into town to check the place out, and--” He shivered at the memory. “So there I was in, like, twenty-six layers of clothing, somehow still soaking wet, and my balls were screaming and trying to climb back inside my body.”

Deacon laughed, the sound filling the near-empty bar.

“Don’t laugh,” Mark said, fighting his own smile. “Mate, I nearly died!” Then, losing the battle, he flashed a grin at Deacon. “Fuck my life, right?”

“Sucks to be you,” Deacon agreed.

Angry little bunny had needed to vent. And maybe just needed someone to talk to on his birthday to take his mind off his homesickness. Laughing at his own misfortune seemed to be a step in the right direction.

“You want another Coke?”

“Sure.” Mark looked down at his glass like he was surprised to find it empty. “My shout this time.” He pulled his wallet out of his pocket and set it on the bar, as though he was settling in for a while.

Deacon didn’t mind that. The place was empty except for a couple over at one of the corner tables who’d been sitting on a pitcher of beer for ages now, and Bill, who was a part owner in the bar and usually just helped himself anyway. Tuesday afternoons were hardly pumping, and it wasn’t every day that someone as cute as Mark Cooper brightened the place up.

Scruffy light brown hair with sun-bleached twists, hazel eyes framed by dark lashes, and a smattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose. A crooked grin, when he showed it, that was utterly free of artifice.

“My advice?” Deacon said, setting the second Coke on the counter. “Don’t rush Alpha Delt if you’re not really into the idea of fraternity life. They’re, like, in it to win it.”

“What do you mean?”

“They’re the frat boys you see in movies. Parties, girls, Hell Week, the whole deal.”

Mark furrowed his brow. “What’s Hell Week?”

Deacon braced himself on the bar. “Seriously? You have no idea what you’re getting into, do you?”

Mark stared at him, long enough that Deacon’s stomach fluttered. Then Mark’s phone rang, a different ringtone this time, and Mark’s gaze snapped down as he fished in his pocket.

“Jackson,” he said, looking at the screen. “He’s gonna meet me here and take me back to the house for some rush thing. The fuck is frozen-turkey bowling?”

“Just what it sounds like.”

Mark set his cigarette in the ashtray and began typing. “I don’t know what it sounds like.”

“It sounds like it’ll involve a Slip ’N’ Slide, Crisco, ten two-liter-size bottles of pop, and a frozen turkey.”

“Great,” Mark muttered, finishing the text and putting away the phone.

Deacon took in Mark’s jeans and shabby T-shirt. “No offense, but you’re not exactly dressed for rush week, are you?”

Mark took a long sip of Coke. “I said I’d rush to make Jim happy. Didn’t say I’d put any effort into it.” Another sip. “God, have you seen all the wankers in polos?”

“I’m told girls can’t resist a man in a polo. Especially with the collar popped.”

Mark barked out a laugh. “Not really the girls I’m here for, mate.”

Deacon tried not to feel too hopeful. Mark could just mean he was here to study. Speaking of which...

“What are you studying?” he asked and immediately regretted it when Mark rolled his eyes. “Sorry, you must’ve heard that a million times during orientation.”

“It’s all right. I haven’t decided yet. Just signed up for some required courses now. Maybe biology?”

Deacon laughed.

“What? Is it called something else here?”

“No. Just trying to imagine an Alpha Delt bio major.”

“Okay, look, all I know about Alpha Delt is Jim liked it, and it’s, like, they do community service or something. So maybe it looks good on job applications.”

Oh boy. Secretly-not-so-angry misguided little bunny. “How long ago was Jim at Prescott?”

“Uh...I dunno. He’s maybe fifty.”

“Okay, well. A lot has changed since then. Alpha Delt used to be pretty service oriented, but now it’s a lot of rich kids, foam parties, pig roasts, and date-rape cover-ups. And I’m not just saying that because they’re Phi Sig’s sworn enemy, all right?”

“Is that...?” Mark trailed off as the door swung open and a tall kid in a dark polo and perfectly pressed khakis walked in.

Jackson Phillips. Deacon had seen him around before, but he’d never put a name to the face. Jackson was one of the less offensive Alpha Delts. Maybe because he didn’t look like a bro. He had an expression that managed to be chilly and slightly anxious at the same time. His shoulders stooped a little, and he had a long, thin nose and dark circles under his eyes that were noticeable even in the dim light of the bar.

Jackson nodded at Deacon, and Deacon might have been imagining it, but he thought Jackson’s eyes narrowed.

“Hey,” Jackson said awkwardly to Mark.

“Hey,” Mark said.

“You ready?”

“Uh, yeah. Just lemme pay.” He opened his wallet and thumbed through the bills. “All your money is the same color, you know.”

“Yep,” Deacon agreed.

Mark extracted a ten and slid it across the bar. “It’s fucked-up.”

“Well,” Deacon said, ignoring Jackson’s stare, “I’m sure we didn’t do it just to confuse you.”

Mark showed him that crooked grin again. “Okay, then. As long as you’re sure.”

Jackson frowned at Mark’s clothes. “You’ve got to change.”

“I know,” Mark said. He glanced at Deacon and popped an imaginary collar on his T-shirt.

Deacon laughed. Jackson looked toward the door.

“See you later,” Mark said, pocketing his change.

“Good luck.”

Mark made a face. “Thanks, um...?”

“Deacon,” Deacon said. “Deacon Holt.”

“Thanks, Deacon,” Mark said and, squaring his shoulders back into angry-bunny stance, walked with Jackson out of the bar.

Copyright © J.A. Rock & Lisa Henry

Reviews

Customer Reviews

sexy kinky snarky Review by mishy
Quality
I loved this book. Mark was one of the most engaging MCs I have encountered in a long time. The book had plenty of substance but was totally entertaining as well. (Posted on 11/7/2014)
An wonderful read Review by Cassandra
Quality
This was a really heart warming story, with more than enough steam to fog a window. I'm not big on contemporary romances, but this one kept me reading.

Mark and Deacon are adorable together and I'm glad it turned into a story that had drama between the two frat houses and not the star cross'd lovers.

Can't wait to read Brandon's story.
(Posted on 10/31/2014)
Enjoyed more than I thought I would Review by Christy
Quality
4.5 Stars ~ I'm not sure exactly what attracted me to this book. I mean, I was not a member of the Greek organizations in college. In fact, I thought the entire thing was a giant waste of time and just an excuse for kids to be even more pretentious regarding their popularity rating. Definitely not my thing. But I empathized with someone living in a different country and not liking it at all, where everything was so different and the customs were strange. Plus, I had a feeling that Mark was going to be pretty sarcastic and rude which I knew I'd love. So, all things considered, I jumped straight into 'Mark Cooper versus America'.

The first time Deacon met Mark he thought "that's an angry bunny" and Mark really was. His mum married an American and they moved from Australia to Pennsylvania. In February Mark hated snow and cold and wet. Now he's at Prescott University and rushing (what is that?) the fraternity his stepfather was in and Mark is miserable. His only highlight is meeting Deacon who unfortunately belongs to a rival fraternity, and Brandon who is a nice, sweet, very sincere kid trying to become a pledge to make his dad proud. Mark decides he'll do whatever he can to get the Alpha Deltas to throw him out. Unbeknownst to him, they seem to like his obnoxious, sarcastic, rude, and unapologetic self. Huh. Soon the joke between Deacon and Mark is that they are Romeo and Juliet with their rival fraternities.

"So, uh...." Mark swallowed. "I can't promise you much. I'm not a hopeless romantic, and sometimes I forget that people generally like it when you do nice things for them. I've never been anyone's boyfriend. And I probably could, in my own way, out-douche a lot of the Alpha Delts...... But you don't have to be afraid to tell me anything. Because I won't judge you for it. And you don't have to worry about not seeming like a good guy in front of me. Because I guarantee I've been a worse guy. And if you need anything from me, just ask. I'm not the best at figuring out what people need on my own. But if you tell me, I'll try to give it. That's what I can promise you."

About halfway through this book I realized that, jokes and sarcasm notwithstanding, this story was about so much more than just two guys falling in love and a fraternity war. It's about learning how to let go of your fears, your defensiveness, your anger, and allow yourself to be vulnerable and to love. Mark hid so much of himself behind a wall of bitterness while trying to convince himself that he was rebelling against the powers-to-be instead of letting go of his anger. Deacon had his own problems dealing with a mother with psychological issues and his battle with trying to be understanding. Between the two of them, they found something in the other which they each desperately needed. Mark found stability, goodness and a guy he could be himself with and let go. Deacon found a joy in life, a playfulness, and a guy he could explore his limits with. And, they each found love.

I so enjoyed this story way more than I thought I would. I can most definitely recommend it as a wonderful read.

NOTE: This book was provided by Loose Id for the purpose of a review on Rainbow Book Reviews
(Posted on 2/24/2014)
Kinky College Boy Fun Review by Debra E
Quality
I love it when I see there is a new book from the team of Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock because I know I'm going to get a great read with darkness and a healthy dose of kink. We've gotten glimpses of their lighter side in The Boy books with Brin and Mr. Zimmerman and in this book the darkness is gone, but the kink remains and I enjoyed every bit of it.

Underneath the veneer of snark and hot, kinky sex, there is an unexpectedly touching story of Mark trying to find his place in a new situation while dealing with his own insecurities. He is pledging a frat he doesn't want to, is trying to figure out his place in his new extended family, and is desperately in need of some help when it comes to American Literature. Deacon is a few years older, obviously very intelligent and is dealing with his own family issues, an escalating frat war and his growing feelings for Mark. Deacon and Mark are also exploring some kinks neither one knew they had.

I felt for both Deacon and Mark trying to make sense of so many changes at once. I enjoyed the secondary characters, especially Mark's fellow pledge Brandon and his "big bro" Blake. Whether this book truly reflects Greek life, I have no idea since all my knowledge of that comes from the movie Animal House and Anne Tenino's TAG books, but I did enjoy seeing the two vastly different approaches of the two frats involved.

Whether this is the first in a series or a one-off, I'm not sure. I did have some open questions at the end, but I would happily spend more time at Prescott College in the future.
(Posted on 2/2/2014)

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