Page 29 of I Promise You

“What else?” I ask softly.

He inhales a deep breath and glances away from me. I picture walls going up around him. “What does it matter? Wishes aren’t real.”

I study him as he avoids my eyes, taking in the sharp jawline, the straight nose, the proud stance of his shoulders.

I keep coming back to the fact that we lost loved ones the same year.

Is that why I feel this attraction to him? This kinship?

No, girl, you’d like to kiss him, admit it. It’s been eighteen months!

“I’d like to write a story about you. Everyone already knows your stats and how good you are, but I want to focus on who you really are, what makes you tick. Would you want to talk about your brother?”

He lets out a heavy breath. “No. It’s too…” He shakes his head and lifts his hands in an expression of I don’t know.

“Painful?”

“Yeah.” He scrubs his face as he takes a step back from me. Several moments tick by as we stare at each other. I can feel him retreating from the topic of his brother.

He smirks. “I’ve got something interesting. You believe in legends?”

“People find them fascinating. ‘Bigfoot Marries Coed in Mississippi’—I wrote that short story for the World Enquirer, freelance, and it paid for last year’s tuition.” It also helped with a small portion of my sister’s private school. I danced around my apartment with that check in my hands for an hour. It was my first real success.

“Jesus, and now you’re doing sports?”

“Scary, right? In 2014, a study showed that more people believe in Bigfoot than the Big Bang theory.”

“Bigfoot is a myth, Serena.”

“Maybe he’s just a really tall, hairy guy who’s forsaken society for the forest. It could happen.”

“Weird.” He huffs out a laugh and walks away, tucking the first aid kit inside the cabinet as I slip my boots back on. Returning to me, he takes my hand and helps me off the table. “Give me your number.”

My breath hitches. “For?”

He gives me that lazy grin from the Pig, the one he gave his posse and the checkout girl. “You’ll need to talk to me if you want a story. Do you want to stop by the house? Practice is done and the night is mine, sweetheart.” His voice has deepened, his gaze lowering as he rakes it over me, lingering on my chest before coming back to my face.

I sigh. I prefer the other Dillon, the melancholy one who wishes for his brother.

“Real subtle. Phone is fine.” Which sucks. Normally, I would like to sit across from him, get a feel for him, but he’s more than I can handle.

I recite my digits and he adds them to his phone.

“When will you call?” I say. “I’m usually free after seven at night.”

“Looking forward to it, sweetheart?”

And here we go…

“Egotistical jock. You aren’t used to girls not being into you, are you?”

“Ah, if you only remembered… You are into me.” His eyes glitter like jewels.

“You don’t even like me,” I say, putting my hands on my hips. “Wouldn’t I be just another notch on your bedpost?”

“I notch my belt.”

“Classy. I won’t be on it.”

“You sure?”

“Positive.”

“Too bad.”

“Yeah, too bad, Dominick.” I really suck at comebacks.

He smiles and a tingle dances over my skin.

Ugh. What is it with him and my body? Must resist! (Alexa, play “Womanizer” by Britney Spears.)

He holds my eyes for several moments, until I can feel the blush on my face.

“I’m not interested in you like that,” I say. Liar, liar pants on fire.

He blinks, a resigned expression settling on his face. “I seem to never say the right thing in front of you.” He dips his head, then looks back up at me. “Honest? You make me a little nervous.”

I don’t believe him. “Right.”

“It’s true.”

“Why?”

Someone out in the hall calls out, breaking into our silence. He tucks his hands in his jeans and fidgets. “Your ankle should be good with the bandages. You need anything else?”

A ride home, but I’d never ask him.

“No.”

He hesitates, watching me, looking like he might say something else, then… “See you at the games, Serena.”

Before I can respond, he’s gone without another glance at me.9“You’re a real bastard, Grandpa,” Sinclair pants noisily as he runs next to me, his feet slapping the road. “And why the hell are we running in the burbs? Wouldn’t campus be better? Or a treadmill with air conditioning?”

“Ah, Mississippi, I love you.” I inhale humid air.

“It’s a hundred degrees,” he snarls.

“Hold up…” I stop and stretch, easing some of the tension out of my shoulders, although it feels impossible. Day by day, the closer we get to our first game, the stress continues to build and escalate.

He jogs back to me, sweaty and tired, and I smirk at the memory of the first day I dragged him out of his dorm room and made him run. He bitched and moaned the entire way then vomited in the bushes at mile five.


Tags: Ilsa Madden-Mills Romance
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