I opened my eyes when the song ended and realized he had danced us out of the living room away from his family. We were staring at each other hungrily.

Then he stepped back and shouted, “Ma, can you finish dinner for me?” He was hastily untying the apron from around his waist and tossing it on the ground.

“Yeah, sweetie, see y’all later!” she shouted back from the living room.

He hauled me out the front door into the night faster than my shorter legs could handle. We got all the way to the car and he opened the door and sat me inside. When he had my seat belt buckled, he went around to the driver’s side.

I jutted out my bottom lip, “I was looking forward to eating a dinner you actually made.”

“Mom’s probably throwing it out right now and starting all over again. You weren’t missing anything, I promise,” he laughed.

I enjoyed watching him as he drove. He didn’t drive off of their property. Instead, he drove off the dirt road into the fields. I was surprised this car was taking the bumps so well. When it was pitch black and it looked like we were in the middle of nowhere, he parked the car. His fingers switched the high beams on that illuminated a beautiful pond. It was fairly large with boulders and tall grass surrounding it like a hidden gem. In the night, the surface of the water looked like black glass.

“I had one more thing to show you,” he said quietly. “Jace and I use to live here in the summers. It might be a little cold right now because it’s January, but it won’t be too bad.”

I got out of the car and walked in front of the headlights. Jaxon came around the opposite side to meet me. Taking advantage of our moment of solitude, I pulled my shirt over my head and then slipped my jeans down over my ankles. I smiled up at Jax, who was watching me with wide eyes. I pulled my panties off next. When I reached behind and unsnapped my bra, I threw it up onto the hood of the car.

The look in his eyes screamed that he wanted to own me and I didn’t know how to comprehend that look. I walked over, stood directly in front of his hood, and stretched out on top of it.

“I think I promised you all kinds of trouble on this.” I patted the hood, while eyeing him seductively.

I raised my hands above my head, almost reaching the windshield. He stepped in between my thighs, reached out to palm my breasts, and ran his tongue across them. My back arched at his touch.

“Fuck, baby, you lying on this car… I’m pretty sure I had wet dreams about this kind of thing when I was sixteen,” he whispered on my skin.

He nipped his way down my stomach until he hit the spot he was looking for. I was so revved up from listening to him sing to me, from being wrapped up in his arms while dancing, and from watching him drive that car earlier; it only took a couple of minutes until I was screaming his name, thankful we were out in the middle of nowhere. He quickly removed all of his clothes and then slid his hands up my backside, picking me up. He walked us down to the water. I gave him a worried look when he stood up on a high rock above the water. My fingers clenched into his bare shoulders.

“Too bad, Beautiful,” he said, right before he jumped into the water with me in his arms. This pond was deeper than it looked. We sank down below the surface and it took us a second to swim back up to the top. It was absolutely freezing.

When I came out of the water, I ran my hands over my face and hair to get the water out of my eyes. “JAXON, IT’S FREEZING!” I shouted.

He came up laughing. “Aw, babe, it’s not that bad.” I swam over to him to wrap around his body for warmth. “I’ll warm you up,” he said, nipping my ear.

With one swift thrust, he was inside of me, and I cried out instantly. If I had more time to think about it, I would have been impressed with his accuracy in the water, but before I could be amazed, he was pushing me up and down on him. The water had me out of my element and I had no control over our movements. I decided then just to relish this moment with him and all the power he has over me. I threw my head back with my hair in the water, enjoying his thrusts. His forearms were cradling my back and his hands were laced through my hair, holding me as close as he wanted. He sucked on the hollow point of my neck down to my breasts.

All of a sudden, he started to thrust into me and then stopped. He slowly drew my body back up him and quickly thrust back in. I dug my nails into his back with this new delicious rhythm. I needed to hear that groan that I love so much, so I started clinching around him. Clinch. Release. Clinch. Release.

“I love when you do that, baby,” he groaned into my ear, as I made him temporarily lose his rhythm.

“I love everything you’re doing to me right now.”

The water between our bodies and his movements were creating a wonderful friction building in between my legs. I wanted to hold this off as long as possible, and I never wanted this moment to end.

“Emerson, you’re amazing. I still can’t believe I found you. Promise you’ll stay.”

“I promise,” I breathed. “Promise you’ll stay patient with me.” I trailed kisses down his jaw.

“I promise,” he replied. “I need you in my life.”

“I love you.” When I tensed up, he started slowing his movements to provide comfort for me.

I placed my forehead down onto his shoulder, silently telling him I felt the same way. I was afraid that if I said it out loud, I would be jinxing myself. I feel like I’ve been doing so well, and I’ve become an actual girlfriend. If I take this next step too soon, somehow I’ll end up failing him. I need to find a way to tell him though. I just need more time.

Shortly after, he started speeding up his movements. I’d never felt him this deep before and it was heavenly. I couldn’t help but to focus on his handsome face. The lights of the car were shining on us in the pond. The shadows contrasted against his high cheekbones perfectly. I couldn’t believe a guy this gorgeous could be so thoughtful and understanding. I began feeling that wonderful sensation of completion spiraling through me. When I called out his name, he followed behind me two seconds later.

When we finally walked back through the front door of his house, my teeth were chattering. We didn’t have a towel to dry off with so we had to put our clothes back on our wet bodies and my hair had drenched everything that my body hadn’t.

“Jaxon Riley! Tell me you didn’t take her into the pond?” Julie yelled at him right when we walked in. “Look at her, she’s freezing!”

“Don’t worry, Ma, I kept her warm,” he chuckled. I turned and smacked him in the stomach. “Umph!”

“Get up stairs, you two,” she laughed and smacked Jaxon on the back of the head on his way up.

“Geez, ladies, go easy on me!” he joked.

The next day we were at the airport saying sad good-byes to Julie. I felt at home here and I absolutely didn’t want to leave. Now I understand why both of them wanted to come home on every holiday break. When the guys went to check their luggage, Julie came over to hug me and I had tears in my eyes.

“I’m sorry, I can’t help it. I just like it here so much.”

“Please come back, I’ve never seen Jaxon so happy.”

“I really hope I don’t screw it up,” I whispered into her hair.

She pulled back but kept a grip on each of my arms. “Guess what, love, you will. So will he. It’s what you do with it once you’ve screwed up that matters.” She smiled at me.

“Thank you.” It was all I could say.

She grabbed my phone from my hand. “Here, have my number, and call me anytime you need to talk or vent. Jaxon told me your parents passed away. Don’t hesitate to call me if you need a mom’s ear. I won’t take his side, promise.” Then she gave me one more long hug that really had the tears streaming down my face. Besides Ellie, I’d never met someone so open and loving. I squeezed her back just as tightly.

“What the hell, Ma, I leave for two seconds and you have her crying?” His words were harsh, but his tone was playful. He reached over and pulled me into his body while kissing my temple. Jaxon and Jace each gave her a kiss on the cheek and a hug, and then together, we walked through security to go back to the real world.

Our classes had all started back up. I had two classes with Jaxon, one class with Cole, and surprisingly, one class with Jace. We had an English class that both of us had been putting off. I was excited about that; I never got to hang out with Jace by myself, so this class had provided the perfect opportunity. We would often hang out afterward and study together. It was also nice to have someone save me a seat.

The school was getting hyped up over the upcoming championship game that the team had made it to. The campus was littered in spirit posters and everyone wore the school colors daily. Jaxon and Cole were practicing with the team twice a day now to prepare for the big game. They both came home exhausted and cranky every night. Quinn and I always tried to have food ready for them when they finished practice. It didn’t take us long to notice a connection between being hungry and extreme crankiness. I was excited for them, but I would also be glad when this game was over.

Honestly, I’ll be glad when this whole week is over. February 2nd is tomorrow, the six-year anniversary of my parents’ death and my twenty-first birthday. The closer it had gotten to this date, the more I had become agitated with everything and with nothing at all. I’ve been trying to hide my restless behavior from everyone, but I don’t know how well I have been doing with that. I figured Jaxon and Cole were too busy with practice and by now, Quinn has learned not to bring up my birthday. A couple of years ago, I believe she honestly just forgot about it. I think that’s for the best.

The football players all decided to have a party tonight. They claimed they needed to blow off a bunch of steam, even on a Tuesday. Apparently, the coach has been exceedingly rough on them at practice. Since half of the players are in fraternities as well, the party ended up being on Frat row. I didn’t really want to go; it honestly sounded like a bad idea with my mood. On the other hand, maybe I could blow off some steam as well.

When we returned from winter break, Quinn complained to Jaxon and me that we were becoming an old married couple, not going to parties anymore. I freaked out when she said that, and ever since then, we’ve been going to most of them. It’s nice to go and have a good time with my boyfriend. Originally, I thought it would be stressful, with guys thinking they could touch me or with the way girls are still always hitting on Jaxon. We eventually found our groove though, and have been having a good time.

By the time Quinn and I had finished getting ready, I was completely on edge and fidgety. For some reason, I just couldn’t stop thinking about what tomorrow was. I heard the tail end of my cell phone ringing from in the kitchen, but I figured I had already missed it, so I’d check it when we started to head out.

“You’re acting so weird. Sit down and breathe, Emmy.” Quinn looked at me through the mirror while she reapplied her eyeliner.

“I’m not acting weird. I think I just really need to drink tonight,” I said while shaking out my hands.

“Uh-oh, what’s wrong? Did you and Jaxon have a fight?” She turned to face me.

“Quinn, he’s not around enough lately for us to fight. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a college student just wanting to go out to drink.” I shrugged my shoulders at her.

“Are you upset that he hasn’t been around? It’s almost over,” she responded quietly.

“No, it honestly doesn’t bother me. I’M OKAY, Quinn,” I said the last part deliberately slow so she would understand and at the very least, recognize that I wasn’t going to talk about it.

I really wasn’t okay, but the last thing I wanted to do was have a therapy session. Tequila doesn’t ask you to talk about your problems. Tequila and I have always gotten along. When I heard her sigh, I knew she wasn’t happy about my response, but I also knew I had at least gotten her off my back for a little while longer.

There was a short tap on the front door and then it opened and closed. It had to be one of the guys, although they usually didn’t even bother to knock. I heard boots shuffling on the carpet in the living room.

“Girls!” Jace called out down the hallway.

When Jace came into the room, he was dressed to go out in a short-sleeve, black, button-down shirt; his dark faded blue jeans fit him perfectly. His hair was styled in the Riley boy signature messy style and he was carrying his leather jacket, which meant he was probably riding the bike to the party tonight. I think he liked the option of being able to escape if he wanted to, instead of having to ride with us.

“Geez, Em, stop checking him out so noticeably.” Quinn elbowed me.

I watched as Jace’s cheeks turned red. Oops. “Sorry! It’s just so hard. I mean he’s my boyfriend’s identical twin. Obviously I like this brand.” I gestured with my hand up and down, indicating Jace.

Jace and Quinn both started laughing at me, “Anyways,” he started, with a shy smirk on his face, “I just left the field a little while ago and Coach was still running some of them. Apparently, a couple of guys got in trouble so they’re being punished. Jax and Cole included. When they stopped for a water break, they told me they could just meet us all at the party later. I’m sure half the team is already at the house.”