“What’s it gonna be, Serena?” Troy says.
Bambi elbows me in the ribs. “When I won at Monopoly, I asked him to watch The Notebook. Sawyer managed to stay awake. Dillon didn’t.”
“I saw enough. Saddest movie ever,” comes from Dillon.
“I made him watch Pride and Prejudice. He played Candy Crush on his phone,” chirps Chantal.
“I love that movie!” I exclaim. “Not the Colin Firth one, but the Matthew Macfadyen version.”
Dillon groans. “Boy meets girl, they butt heads, he falls for her, she misconstrues his motivations, they work it out, and live happily ever after. Bah.”
“Nailed it. You sure you didn’t watch it?” I ask.
“Call me Mr. Darcy if you want.” He does a weird bow, then puts his hand over his heart. “‘You have bewitched me, body and soul.’”
I burst out laughing. “Nice quote, but your curtsey needs work.” I straighten my posture, fix my feet in the correct positions, and execute one, dipping my knees. I place my hand over my heart. “‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a fortune, must be in want of a wife.’”
“That opening line is actually ironic. Jane Austen had a great sense of humor,” Dillon adds.
“You did watch it! Or read it?” I ask.
“I’ll never tell,” he says as our gazes cling. His face softens. “Okay, I might have read it in prep school.”
I get warm all over. A stupid smile is on my face. My family loves Pride and Prejudice.
“Y’all are weird,” Chantal says as she cocks her head, eyeing me and Dillon.
“Serena’s fault,” Dillon muses. “She brings out the cheesy in me.”
Sawyer clears his throat. “Whatever you request, Serena, we’ll do our best.”
Hmmm, decisions, decisions. Dillon wants a kiss, and maybe I do as well.
I plant my hands on my hips and look at Sawyer. “This Theta tradition… Normally the winner would ask for something from Dillon, but could I ask any football player?”
“Hey now—” Dillon mutters.
Sawyer gives me a wary look, cutting him off. “I guess that would be fair since you aren’t officially part of the contest. You’ve got me and Troy here. Zane and Sinclair are at the bar. What do you want from us?”
Doing the unexpected is part of my personality, a side of me I’ve banked since Vane, and the minx within is roaring to be let off her leash. (Alexa, play “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys.)
I take a tiny sip of the tequila Chantal thrusts in my hands then press my fingers to my lips, pretending to think.
“Spit it out,” Ashley snips. “We all know you’re going to pick Dillon.”
I ignore her, my eyes on the wide receiver. “Sawyer, I want you to kiss Bambi.”
I’m greeted with silence.
Bambi sputters, Sawyer blinks, and Chantal grins. Troy looks confused.
I throw my head back and chuckle, catching Dillon’s eyes, and we have a weird moment when he pauses, a slow smile of appreciation growing on his face as he stares. I feel tingles, as if he’s brushed his fingers over my skin.
He lifts his glass in my direction. “Touché.”“You didn’t have to walk me to my car,” I tell Dillon as we maneuver through the crowded lot to my Highlander.
“Let me follow you home.”
“No. I’m not buzzing, and I have work to do.”
‘“Bigfoot Is A Pool Shark?”’
“Nice. It’s in the queue.”
He threads his fingers with mine. “I’m good at several things.”
We reach my car. “I have a feeling where this will go…”
His hand tightens. “Nah, get your head out of the gutter. First, I can cook. My chili is the best. Sawyer begs me to make it. My omelets are ugly but good—I use the good cheese. I’m a good friend, loyal. I’m tidy. My room is the cleanest at the house. I, uh, like the stars. There are so, so many stars in the sky at night.” He exhales and closes his eyes briefly.
“So many,” I can’t help but deadpan.
He mutters, “I swear, I’m not this awkward.”
I bite back a smile as he continues.
“And running, yeah, it helps me figure things out. I dig nature, like mountains and stuff. There aren’t any mountains here, of course, just flat plains. Jesus, I suck!”
I’m entranced by his struggle.
“Anyway, um, long story short, I enjoy giving presents.” He holds out a package and sets it in my hands slowly, as if it might explode.
“What…” I stop and look up at him. “You got me a gift? Why?”
He dips his face. “Um, no reason, uh, just saw it and thought it suited you. It’s not a big deal, I don’t know…” He rakes a hand through his hair. “Just open it.”
I tear at the delicate tissue paper, tugging on the pink bow around it, and out falls a small dandelion charm. It’s sterling silver with a slightly bent stem, the seeds on one side fading away.