Lo is quiet next to me, deep in thought.
“You okay?” I murmur into her ear, and smile to myself when she shivers.
“I’m fine,” she responds softly.
I tip her head back to look in her eyes. “You sure?”
She just nods and leans her head on my shoulder, and I shelve the issue, reminding myself to ask her about it later.
“Hey, y’all are coming to our place on Sunday for football, right?” Josh asks us all. “Seattle is playing San Francisco.”
“I’m there,” Zack confirms.
I glance down at Lo and watch the small smile form on her lips. “You down?”
“We’re in,” I confirm.
“I hate football,” Jillian says with her nose wrinkled.
“Oh, us girls will be eating snacks and gossiping while the guys watch football,” Cara assures her.
“Then I’m in,” Jill replies with a smile.
The tractor stops by the edge of the rows of pumpkins and we all disembark the wagon. Thor and Seth have run ahead into the rows and rows of pumpkins, playing fetch with a stick Seth found on the ground.
“Thor and I want to go into the corn maze!” Seth calls to Zack.
“In a bit! We’re going to look at pumpkins first.”
“Pumpkins are for babies,” Seth grumbles.
“Whatever, brat.” Cara catches Seth in a headlock and rubs her knuckles on his head, making him laugh. “Take it back!”
“Never! You’re a baby!” Seth giggles and tries to twist away from the small woman, who is clearly much stronger than she looks.
“I’ll make you eat those words!” Cara yells back.
“You don’t scare me!”
Thor barks and jumps around them, wanting to get in on the fun. Finally, Cara lets go, panting with exertion, and leans over, bracing her hands on her knees.
“I’m too old for this.”
Josh leans in and whispers in her ear, making her flush and grin at the same time.
I swear, they’re like rabbits.
Lauren’s face breaks out into a wide grin as she follows the others, picking through the vines to find the perfect pumpkin.
“Are you really going to carve these?” I ask her with a grin.
“Hell yes. I love Halloween.” Her smile dims for a moment, before returning as she squats by a large, oddly shaped pumpkin. “This one would be perfect.”
“That one looks heavy.” I eye it dubiously.
“I have faith in you.” She laughs and winks at me.
Cara, a few rows over, calls, “Lo! Come help me pick one!”
Lo points to her pumpkin. “That one’s mine, Sullivan!” Then she sets off in Cara’s direction. “I’m coming!” Lo calls out, and jogs through the vines and piles of dirt to Cara. “How big do you want?”
The girls set off, picking through the pumpkins and laughing with each other, while Josh and Zack play with Seth and Thor.
Watching Lo with my friends, the people I’m closest with in the world, rocks me back on my heels. She fits with them. The most I ever dared wish for was that they’d tolerate each other, given their history when they were kids, but Lo has come to be a part of our little group, and I couldn’t be happier.
Lo laughs at something Cara says, throwing her head back and tucking her thick, auburn hair behind her ear. Her smile is wide and happy, and her blue eyes are shining in joy, and it’s in this moment that I know without a doubt that I love this woman.
She’s it for me.
I stagger back a step and sit on a hay bale, rubbing my hand over my chest just as Jill steps up beside me.
“I definitely like her,” she comments casually, watching Lo and Cara.
Jill nods, then smiles down at me. “She’s good for you.” She turns her eyes back to the two women and tilts her head in thought. “And frankly, I think you’re good for her too.”
“Why do you say that?” I continue to rub my chest, unsure why there’s an ache there.
“Look at her, dude. She’s come out of her shell since she’s known you. She’s quick to smile now. I think you make her happy.” Jill nudges me with her elbow. “Not that I understand the attraction. You’re ugly and a complete jerk.”
“Obviously,” I smirk. “Did you pick a pumpkin?”
“I’m not getting one. I’m going into the maze.” She rubs her hands together in delight. “I’m gonna beat Zack through it if it kills me.”
“What’s up with you guys?” I ask casually.
“Nothing at all.”
“That’s a complete lie.” Jill shrugs and stands to march away, but I grab her arm, holding her close. “So, you can ask about my love life, but I’m not allowed to ask about yours?”
“I don’t have a love life, Ty.” Jill pulls her arm out of my grasp and walks away. “I like it that way,” she calls over her shoulder.
Lauren turns to me and waves her arm over her head to get my attention. As if I weren’t already aware of exactly where she is and what she is doing.
I’m always aware of her. I can’t get enough of her.
Jesus, I fucking love her.
“We’re ready for the maze,” she calls out to me. As I approach her, she links her fingers through mine and smiles at me, and I want so much to blurt out in front of all of our friends that I love her, but I know that this will have to be handled gently.
I refuse to have her run away on me now.
“Thor and I are going to kick all of your butts in the maze!” Seth taunts us all. Thor barks in agreement and they take off into the tall cornstalks. Josh and Cara jog in after them, and that leaves Jill and Zack eyeing each other dubiously.
“I’ll go alone,” Jill announces, and takes a step forward.
Zack pulls her up short. “Like hell you will.” He glowers at her. “You’ll go with me.”
“If I’m with you, I can’t beat you,” she reminds him, her hands on her hips.
I glance down at Lo, who is trying, and failing, to hide a smile.
“Come on, you’re with me.” Zack takes her hand and leads her into the corn.
“You’re such a damn caveman,” we hear her mutter at him scornfully, making us both laugh.
“So that leaves you and me.” Lo grins and takes a step, but I pull her back against me, into my arms, and brush my nose against hers. “You don’t want to go into the maze?”