Page 17 of I Promise You

My usual route takes me through a quiet campus, the sky dusky, just a hint of the sunrise peeking over the horizon. It’s my time to think, to assess, to focus, to work out this elephant that sits on my chest.

When I get back, Sawyer’s in the kitchen, scrambling a skillet of eggs. Wearing his practice gear, he’s got a frilly, pale pink apron tied around his frame. Grandmas Never Run Out Of Cookies Or Hugs is stitched on the bodice. It’s faded with yellowed lace trimming the bottom. His granny passed last year, and it belonged to her.

“Got breakfast for us.” His skin is dark brown, his voice a slow Southern drawl, a testament to his small-town Georgia roots.

“Where’s Troy?”

“Still recovering from the party. I knocked on his door.”

“He better get up if he doesn’t want to be late.” I grab a Gatorade from the fridge, my heart coming down from the adrenaline as I suck it down. He grabs us plates and divides the eggs while I get the oatmeal ready in the microwave, mixing in protein powder for both of us. We move around each other in a coordinated synchrony, our routine the same since we moved into the house at the beginning of summer camp. He pours the orange juice and grabs napkins. I get us forks and spoons. He unties his apron and drapes it over the oven handle, his fingers lingering on the worn fabric for a few beats before he takes his place across from me.

“You disappeared last night,” he comments a little later as he sticks a spoonful of oatmeal in his mouth. “Dude, what a mood you were in—at your own party. Those poor girls…” He chuckles. “Ashley kept knocking on your door.”

“I slept with ear plugs.”

“You’ll be glad to know I drove Bambi home after she had too much to drink.”

“Nice of you,” I grunt and shovel eggs into my mouth. “Would be nicer if you were the prize in the contest and not me. Thank you again for nominating me. Asshole.”

He smirks. “Cry me a river.”

When we got back from dropping Serena off, my mood had soured, and I roamed the party for an hour before claiming a headache and going to my room. Before I escaped, Chantal was talking to Troy, Bambi was on her laptop, probably researching stats, and Ashley shadowed my every step, pouting.

“I saw her last night at the Pig.” My words are flat, and he pauses mid sip of orange juice.

“Her?”

I jerk up from the table, rinse my plate and bowl, and stick them in the dishwasher. “Freshman year, bonfire party, the girl I never found. Remember?”

There’s silence from him as he figures it out. He gives me a wide-eyed look. “Wait… Nah, you don’t still believe in that legend, do you?”

I shrug. “Maverick mentioned witches. He straight-up told me about Delaney, and now he’s wrapped around her finger. Take Blaze—he met Charisma the night of their freshman bonfire and now they’re living together in New York.”

He sings “Witchy Woman” by the Eagles.

I flip him off, and he stutters to a stop.

“Dude.” A gasping laugh comes from him. “You’re serious.”

I throw my hands up. “I know! She doesn’t remember me, and I dreamed about her last night. Again. She wore a white dress and was standing on the football field, right at the fifty-yard line, and I was…” I exhale and grip the top of the chair. “On my knees in front of her asking her to…”

“Yeah?”

“Marry me…” I stop.

“Shit.”

“You were a zombie, by the way.”

“Hope I was badass.”

“I killed you with a sword.”

“Zombies and swords at a wedding—pencil me in.”

I lean against the fridge. “I know the legend is just a bunch of frat boy mumbo jumbo…”

“But?”

“She got in my head and then she ran away—from me.”

“The nerve.”

“It’s not like that.” I’m not being cocky. It just bugs me that she didn’t feel the same for me that night. And Sawyer? He doesn’t know everything. It’s embarrassing to admit the torch I carried. “It feels like everything Maverick warned me about came true… That she’d haunt me.”

He belts out the chorus to “Haunted” by Taylor Swift and I throw a dishtowel at him. He stops, a maniacal grin on his face. “So what if you saw her? She’s just a girl. There are five thousand more on campus.”

“I didn’t know who she was at first, but as soon as we got close and I smelled her scent—”

“Smelled? What are you, a wolf?”

“—something niggled at me, like a ghost ran its hand down my back. It’s like that whole destiny thing at work.” I throw him an impatient glare. “Don’t discount scent. Pheromones are no joke. They’re behavior-altering chemicals you emit, and once you smell the right one, it triggers your instincts, and you’ll want to mark your territory—”


Tags: Ilsa Madden-Mills Romance
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