My throat dries. That’s exactly how I feel. “Yeah.”
A hesitant expression crosses his face. “I fell in love with you at the bonfire, but I loved you with my whole heart in the meadow. I loved the girl I’d gotten to know, the girl with the quirks, the one who loves her family. You own me, Serena.”
He swallows. “This feeling… It isn’t the infatuation from freshman year, but real and so big that it blows me away. I should have told you that day, but I didn’t know if you’d, I don’t know, freak out.”
A determined glint flares in his gaze. “When I gave you that dandelion… I bought that charm two years ago at some arts festival at Waylon. I took one look at it, picked it up, and knew someday I’d give it to you. You were always my goal, yeah, to get you forever.”
His words resonate inside me, unfurling inside my heart.
He sighs. “I don’t deserve you, but life keeps bringing us together. Call it fate or some legend, hell, I don’t care, but there it is. Once, I told you I’d be down on my knees for you, and I am.” He kneels, right there next to a container of peanuts. He stares up at me.
I gasp. “Dillon…don’t…”
“I promise to never hurt you, to always be there, to tell my friends how in love with you I am, the whole world…” He pauses, his face uncertain. “Just tell me how to fix us, how to get you back.”
My lashes blink rapidly, holding back the tears welling up inside me. I want him, I need him, I love him.
More than my young, misguided devotion for Vane.
More than anything.
A long exhalation leaves my chest and clarity settles deeper inside me. Yes, I needed our time apart, but the moment I sent him his gift, I knew I could never let him go. The truth is, people are never free of baggage, but sometimes you have to take a chance and jump in feet first. I want this with him. I want him tracing hearts on my back, loving me. And I see who he is. Kind, intelligent, funny, loyal, and…mine.
“Oh my God! Are you asking her to marry you?” screeches the cashier girl.
I huff out a laugh as I wipe a tear from my eye. “You better get up. She’s getting her phone out.”
He rises, eyes never leaving mine as he stands. His forehead touches mine. “The night of the bonfire my heart picked you, and I’d do it again, a million times. Is there any way you could need me the way I need you?”
I brush my fingers over his face, my hand curling around his neck. There’s a small bump under his shirt, and I tug out the ribbon and see the charm around his neck. My eyes meet his and my chest hitches. Emotions tug at me, hope for a future with this warrior. “I love you so much,” I whisper.
Amazement washes over his face. His mouth parts. “Serena…Dandelion…” He kisses me, his lips slanting over mine, our mouths devouring each other. He tastes like home. He feels solid and real, the kind of love that grows in your heart and digs deep roots. When I was seventeen, my dandelion meant second chances in the face of adversity, and this with Dillon? He’s worth all the chances.
He hitches me up until my legs are around his waist. Without breaking our connection, he walks us down the aisle and through the store.
I laugh into his chest. “Aren’t we going to buy anything?”
“I’ve got what I came for,” he murmurs, elation in his voice. “You.”
I dip my head to his chest and inhale his scent. “Happy Birthday,” I say. “You’re only two years younger than me now.”
He clutches me tight as we step outside. “I want everything with you. I’m going to love you so good it’s going to freak you out, a lot. I’ve waited a long time for you, and I might go overboard…” A smile curls his lips as I laugh.
He stops at his Escalade and puts my back against his door. I kiss him slowly, relearning the way he feels. A car drives by and someone whistles. We laugh and pull apart.
His hand cups my cheek. “You need a ride, mystery girl?” he asks, taking me back to the night at the Pig.
“You’re slipping. You’ve already used that one.”
“Dillon McQueen, I know you,” I say softly. “You have my heart.”
“I will never break it, Dandelion.”
“I know.” I see the truth in his eyes, the solemn expression on his face.
He goes in for a quick kiss. “We’re going back to your place, and I’m going to show you some new moves.”
“Toujours. Always. Tell me you love me again.”
I gaze into his stormy eyes. “I love you, football player.”