“You are crazy.” Emily reached for his hands, her eyes skirting over every ripple of his sun-kissed abs. “Certifiably crazy.”
Gavin lifted a single brow and nodded. “Crazy in love,” he replied, slowly leaning in again to kiss her. Sliding his arm around her waist, he pulled her closer. “Hook ‘em.”
“What?” Emily breathed, her head tilting of its own accord as Gavin ghosted his mouth down her jaw.
“Your legs,” he said, draping her arms around his shoulders. “Hook ‘em around my waist.”
Emily flushed. “We’re on the side of a highway, Gavin.”
“I know. Kinky, right?” With a wide smile, he didn’t wait for her to do as he asked. He took it upon himself, curling his hands around her calves and wrapping them tight around his waist. “Ahh, there we go.”
Noticeably embarrassed, Emily bit her lip, her gaze shifting to the highway of speeding cars. Gavin laughed when her eyes widened as a car flew by, honking, with a passenger whistling out of the window.
Gavin lifted his hand from one of her calves and placed a finger under her chin. He brought her attention back to him. His eyes scanned over her lush, berry-colored lips, his pulse automatically thudding. “Move in with me, Emily. Fuck, we fell in love like this… Let’s crash the rest of the way.”
Staring into the sea of his blue eyes, Emily swallowed and clenched her hands around his bare shoulders.
Gavin leaned in closer, brushing his lips against hers. “I can’t promise you it’ll always be sweet and tender because you and I fight hard. But I’m pretty sure it won’t be a horror ride either because you and I love even harder. What I can promise is you’ll always mean more to me than my next breath, and it’ll always be you in my life. No one else.”
In that moment, everything Emily ever feared fell away, disappeared, muted along with every sound in the background except for her and Gavin’s breathing. Her heart, that was so empty just days before, felt as if it was about to bust at the seams. Pulling him closer, she nodded, the smile on her face rising in succession with tears falling from her eyes. “Okay, Mr. Blake. Let’s crash.”
Matching her smile, a hint of surprise flashed in Gavin’s eyes as he pressed his lips to hers. “Really?”
“Yes.” Emily giggled against his lips. “Really. Let’s fucking crash.”
With his infamous smirk, Gavin swept Emily off the hood. She squealed, her feet dangling over his arms. “That was pretty easy. I figured you’d fight me a little bit more. It was my strip tease, am I right?”
“Yes, Gavin,” she replied simply, but the hilarity in her eyes was tangible. “The strip tease did me in. Lord, help me.”
Gavin sank his lips to Emily’s, and it was there on a long stretch of highway in Mexico, he knew wholeheartedly they would get their do-over.
Emily looked up from her desk to the clock on the wall. “One minute left.”
Scurrying from their seats and into a jumbled line, fifteen first graders slung their backpacks over their shoulders, tripping over one another to be first to the door.
“Miss Cooper, will you be here tomorrow?”
Emily walked over to the wide-eyed girl, her dimpled smile waiting patiently for Emily’s answer. Emily knelt down in front of the child. “I sure will. Mrs. Nelson won’t be back until next week.” The little girl’s smile widened as she brushed wisps of blonde hair away from her face that’d made their way out of a tight braid. The bell chimed, and the race began. “Don’t forget to bring in your permission slips for the field trip next month.” Emily glanced down the line as each child hastily shuffled past her. A percussion of “Okays” erupted along with a rumble of chatter through the hall as they fled from the room, excitement dotting each tiny face.
On a sigh, Emily stood and made her way to her desk where she gathered papers she needed to grade. After shoving them into her canvas bag, she scooped up a novel she’d begun reading during her lunch break. Walking over to the door, she gave the classroom one last glance and exited the room. She’d barely turned the corner when she ran smack into Laura Fitzgerald, another substitute teacher who’d started a few weeks before. Native to New York and what Emily would consider a “Club-O-Holic,” Emily was pretty sure what she was about to say.
“Just who I was looking for. We’re going out tonight.” The tall, leggy brunette smiled, her brown eyes wide with excitement. “Webster Hall’s having ladies night this evening. Wanna come? Brooke, Cary, Stephanie, Angie, and Melinda are going. I know it’s a Thursday, but hey, you only live once, right? We’ll all snooze while they’re in library tomorrow.”
Clubbing assumption correct, Emily smiled and continued making her way past the front office. “I can’t. I’m going out to dinner tonight with my boyfriend.” Emily shrugged into her coat. “Next week?”
Laura frowned, then realization crossed her features. She raised a plucked-to-perfection brow, a curious grin sliding across her lips. “The new boyfriend?”
Smiling, Emily nodded and made a show of checking her watch. Wanting to pick up something to wear for the evening, she’d planned on trekking a few blocks over to a small boutique Olivia had showed her when she’d first moved to New York. Still needing to stop at the post office to drop off a change of address, she knew she’d be pressed for time to get ready.
“Maybe swing on by after dinner?” Laura asked hopefully, keeping pace with Emily as she pushed through the front doors.
“Yeah. Maybe. I’ll text you later.” As they stepped out into the frigid, mid-December air, Emily wrapped her scarf around her neck. “I have some papers to grade. If I can get them done early enough, I’ll come out for a while.”
“Shit,” Laura exclaimed, turning back into the building. “I forgot my keys. Sounds like a plan. We’ll be there after ten.”
Emily waved and watched Laura disappear into the school. After sliding on her gloves, she started down the stairs. The parking lot had mostly emptied, the school busses gone. A winter breeze plucked at the hem of her pencil skirt as she reached in her purse for the forms she would need to give to the post office. Her heart fluttered when she glanced at Gavin’s address. Still afraid they were possibly moving too fast, Emily soaked in the fact that when Gavin looked at her, his eyes moved over her face as though memorizing every line and curve. He’d easily led her through the maze of conflict they’d found themselves in with love and determination she’d never experienced. In difficult conversations, he’d mentally held her hand as though keeping her from falling off a cliff. He soothed her, loved her, and admired every flaw she had. But above everything, he’d never given up on her. Two magnets drawn together from the beginning, even when she’d threatened to tear them apart, Gavin was the one who kept them together. Emily simply cemented their fate when she showed up in Mexico. A trip she’d never regret.
Sighing with warmth from a future filled with the unknown, but one she was sure would bring them to where she and Gavin needed to be, Emily’s stomach fell away when she heard Dillon’s voice calling her name. Her pulse pounded, the sound of it loud in her ears. A small gasp left her lips as her eyes widened, her vision filling with darkness in the bright, late afternoon sun. She shivered and turned in his direction. Arms crossed, leaning against his car, he stood across the street, his eyes pinned to hers. Without a second thought, Emily pulled her phone out of her purse.