Read My Lips (A College Obsession Romance)

By: Daryl Banner

First and foremost, thank you, the reader, for picking up this book and giving it a try. I hope you enjoy getting to know Dessie & Clayton.



I’m a proud alumni of the University of Houston with a degree in Theatre and Psychology, and I want to dedicate this book to all the other actors, techies, designers, and dreamers who created art with me and shared in some cool-ass experiences during my time there.



While writing the second half of this novel, I experienced the very sudden loss of a friend who was also a fellow Theatre U of H alumni. His name was Timmy Wood. He was a hilarious and caring comedic actor whom everyone knew and loved—and I do mean everyone. Timmy was involved in freakin’ everything. He was always in a play or working on some new project. Simply put, he was a creative machine who just couldn’t be stopped. Every memory I had with him rushed forth as I finished this book. So I dedicate this to you, Timmy. Tell Doc, Lanford, and Jenny hi for me, and I hope you’re all partying hard up there!



And to my witty, proudly deaf professor with whom I took four eye-opening semesters of American Sign Language, and to the friends—both hearing and not—who I met along the way, this is for you too.



With so much love & Happy Reading,

Daryl





I went to college to find myself. I didn’t expect to find him.

My whole life was a delicate, artful plan set in place by my delicate, artful family. From my mother, the famous actor of stage and film, to my world-renowned lighting designer father and insufferably perfect sister, I was doomed to a life in the Theatre spotlight.

And the Lebeau family name was forever tainted with average, unremarkable, untalented me.

After graduating high school, I enjoyed a few years of disappointing my parents. Thirty-three bad auditions and two private academies later found me begging them for one last favor: a normal college experience.

And it was at that totally normal small-town Texas college that I met him, the muscular, tatted bad-boy who would soon become my obsession.

His eyes smoldered me with just one look. His touch awakened the woman inside me. His breath drew out the inspiration deep in my soul that I did not know was there.

And through his lips, his perfect, plush, kissable lips, I would find my voice at last … the voice that would someday fill a New York City stage, the voice that would set me apart from my tragically perfect family, the voice that would finally break me free …

If only he could hear a word of it.





“I can’t hear you!”

The noise that fills the courtyard of the Quad is deafening. Families bustle about carrying belongings to the dorms. A group of frat boys play Frisbee, their shirtless torsos sweaty and lean. A guy shouts orders from a window up above to his parents below, who can’t make out what he’s saying. A circle of girls chant some sorority thing over and over nearby. Two dudes who look like they haven’t bathed since Daylight Savings began stand on the rim of a fountain with guitars as they serenade the masses, their lyrics lost in the cacophony of shouting and laughter.

And standing before all that mess is little excited me, a heavy bag hanging at my side, a massive case of luggage-on-wheels by my feet, and a phone pressed to my fast-reddening ear.

“What? I can’t hear you!” I shout again. “Mother?”

The call cuts off. I stow my phone away in a pocket. Besides, the whole reason I’m here is to get away from my nauseatingly arty, weird, fame-whoring family. “Please,” I begged my mother two months ago when she was between photo shoots. “All I want is a normal college experience. I don’t want the expensive schools and the private lessons and the pretentious crap.” To that, she hiccupped, raised her martini glass, and sweetly replied, “Doll, the Theatre world is pretention.” It was my father who caved and said he knew a person down in Texas who could pull a string or two to get me into a school this late in the summer.

And here I am—and excitedly so. This is it! I only have a battlefield of frat boys and Frisbees to wade through before I’m safe in the comfortable confines of my very own dorm room.

“What do you mean I don’t get my very own dorm room?” I ask half an hour later when I’ve finally made it to the front of the line at the reception desk.

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