Page 55 of I Promise You

“Dillon McQueen!” is the screech heard from the sidelines as Romy runs toward me. She’s wearing bright green booty shorts and a tight shirt with the Hornets Dance Team logo on it. “You came to my tryouts?” Her mouth gapes.

“Yeah,” I say, smiling. “Serena mentioned them.” In a random text—and here I am.

“Liam came too, but wow.” She juts her finger over her shoulder. “Those girls will never believe this!”

“We’ll show them,” I say.

She grins. “Tiffany’s cool—she’s the blonde—but Kari and Taylor are pure evil. Kari dates the quarterback. She thinks she knows everything about football and you… This is great for my street cred!” Her eyes glow, an earnest expression on her face.

Serena arrives and says a quick hi then hisses, “How did you know she attends here?”

“Chantal,” I say in her ear. She smells like cherries, so damn good.

“But… Why did you come?”

“Impulse. Want me to leave?”

“I didn’t invite you.”

“I know. Sorry.” This is me, babe, trying to pursue you the only way I know how. Giving gifts. Making sure you get home. Helping your sister with her street cred.

A group of girls in dance clothes encircle Romy. They lower their heads, whispering, sending me eager smiles. I catch a few words.

“…you know Dillon McQueen…”

“…so hot…”

“…why is he here…”

Serena glances over too. “Ugh. This is kind of a big deal. Now you have to go along and be the famous guy in the room who knows Romy.”

“I won’t embarrass you.” I arch a brow.

She sighs. “Dance is what keeps Romy going. Some of the other girls have wealthy parents, and the transition hasn’t been easy.”

The dog licks my hand and I wince. “Can you take this thing?”

“The thing’s name is Betty. Nana passed her off. You’re stuck.”

“You’re mad I came.”

“A little.” Her forehead furrows.

I pause, my head tumbling. I don’t know how to do this.

“Turo sent your Nana an orchid. Do you like those?” I never sent a girl flowers, except for my mother, but I’m willing. Anything.

“No.” She watches as Nana moves to sit next to a kid with bleached hair.

“Is that the kid who snuck out her window?”

She puts her hands on her hips. “Chantal talks a lot.”

I brush my lips against her temple, not able to stop it. Chantal also mentioned how worried Serena is about her sister fitting in. “She was drunk last night after I drove back to Caddy’s to pick up Sawyer. I asked a lot of questions.”

Romy approaches with the girls and one of them ventures forward, her face disbelieving. “So, uh, you came to watch Romy? Really?”

Is this the good friend or one of the not-nice girls? Either way…

“Yep. She’s a cool kid. She almost dances as good as her sister.”

“Hey!” Romy grouses.

“Can I have your autograph?” another one says.

“Please!” comes from another.

“Now look what you’ve done. They’re going to mob you. Stop being so handsome,” Serena mutters.

“Two minutes, girls! Time to get started!” announces one of the dance coaches on the sidelines.

I toss an arm around Romy in clear view of the others. “Go show ’em what you’ve got, sweetheart.” She squeals, hugs me, and runs off.

Betty and I take in the lingering hip hop students. “Catch me afterward, girls, okay? Right now, I’m going to sit in the stands with my…girlfriend.”

“Ooooooo,” comes from the girls, and I wink at Serena.

She rolls her eyes in return. “You are deluded.”

But she doesn’t send me away. I follow her as we find a place on the bleachers next to Nancy and the boy.

As the tryouts begin, her leg is pressed against mine and she keeps sneaking little looks at me. She laughs under breath when I catch her gaze.

“Come on, you’re glad I came, right?”

She pets the dog, currently in my lap. “Maybe.”

Score.

Maybe, just maybe, she wants me around.

I’ll take whatever she gives me.

Just…

Need me like I need you.

Let me in, Dandelion.16The sun is setting as I squat down to pull weeds out of the flower bed, a task I meant to do weeks ago. Mom took pride in her flowers, and look at them now: overrun with vines and grass. I huff out a breath and reach behind overgrown boxwood bushes to pull the Bermuda that’s inched in. It’s a clear attempt by the invasive grass to conquer new ground. If not for human intervention, half the world would be covered by Bermuda, the other by kudzu. “Grass Comes To Life And Overtakes Mississippi.” That would make a great story.

“You missed a spot,” a deep voice says.

Ass in the air, I let out a yelp while simultaneously hating that I’m wearing an ancient shirt tied at my midriff, cutoff shorts, and old gardening gloves. My hair is pulled back in a scarf like a fifties housewife.

I turn around and face Dillon. The last time I saw him was yesterday when he popped up at the tryouts. He’s pressing hard. He’s made it clear he wants me—any way he can get me.


Tags: Ilsa Madden-Mills Romance
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