Yeah, we were escaping. Behind a locked door and under the guise of getting a shower, but we deserved it.
I rubbed her back in circles, remembering how she’d fought tonight. How she’d fought for me.
Other than Jared, no one had ever done that.
I had set out to turn Juliet’s world upside down—draw her out—but in the end, it was me who had his world flipped on its side. I’d fought for her, but she’d fought for me, too, and even though I’d been scared to let her in, it was all worth it.
Nothing mattered without her. She nuzzled her lips into my neck, and I tightened my arms around her waist.
“I want to stay here forever,” she said, sounding calmer.
I smiled, liking the sound of that.
I kissed her temple. “Forever.”
We didn’t stay in the shower forever. Three days later, we had our bags packed and plane tickets in hand.
“You’re not wearing any makeup,” Tate observed as I threw my new hiking backpack into Jared’s trunk.
I stuffed the bag down, trying to fit it next to Jax’s. “I know.”
“And you’re wearing a baseball hat.” She pointed this stuff out as if waiting for an explanation.
I slammed the trunk closed and smiled at her knowingly. “It’s not the end of the world, Tate. I still have red toenails.”
She crossed her arms, looking uncertain. She was worried about me.
Or she was going to miss me. Either way, it felt good.
After the police had taken Thomas and his friend to jail, Jax and I didn’t leave the house for two days. It was the best two days of my life.
We slept, I cooked, we talked, I found out he was ticklish on the inside of his elbows, and there was hardly a time when I could leave the room without him following me.
We were in love.
And Jax decided he wanted time away without distractions.
So he’d gotten online the other night while I was asleep and scheduled a trip. To New Zealand.
I freaked out, and not in a good way.
When I’d woken up, he’d already hit a Bass Pro Shop and gotten us gear. The living room looked like a campsite that had exploded. Backpacks, water bottles with the built-in purifiers, sleeping bags, first aid kit, clothes, and shoes. He’d even picked out my clothes and shoes!
“Chicks take too long to shop, and we don’t have time. I like this stuff. You’ll wear this.”
The only problem was I had a job I was supposed to be starting!
“I called them. You can start in the fall. Everyone loves me, so don’t worry.”
And two round-trip tickets to New Zealand, not to mention the money spent while there? I couldn’t let him pay for that!
“Nonrefundable tickets, babe. If we don’t use them, they go to waste. And that will piss me off. Don’t piss me off.”
And after he’d unrolled a sleeping bag and spent the next hour helping me test it out, I finally gave in.
Oh, God, did I give in! I fanned myself with my hand, walking around the car to Tate. Jared was driving us to the airport
“So, when do you get in?” she asked.
“We have a lengthy layover in Hong Kong,” I said. “I’ll call you from there.”
We’d be gone for three weeks, and by the time we got back, the fall semester would be about ready to start. Jax got me into school with him at Clarke, but I’d insisted on taking out loans. And I wasn’t sure yet where I was living, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t have to worry about it.
When I’d gone to check on my mom—who was at least back to showering and eating—and collect my passport, I’d packed up some more clothes and brought them to Jax’s house.
Tate reached out and hugged me. I wrapped my arms around her, enjoying her tight squeeze.
“New Zealand,” she mused. “You always wanted to go there. I remember your National Geographics.”
I laughed a little, pulled back. “I wanted to hike, actually,” I pointed out. “I told him a road trip to Yosemite would be awesome, too, but he …”
“Yeah, he’s Jax.” She nodded. “He has a mind of his own. Good luck with that.” But then she shook her head, amazed. “I’m so happy for you.”
“I’m scared.” I let out a nervous breath. “But I’m crazy about him.”
“I know.” Her face fell a little, looking thoughtful.
I narrowed my eyes, picking up on the sadness in her voice.
“Tate?” I leaned in. “Are you okay?” I asked quietly. “I mean, you and Jared. The barbecue the other day. Is anything wrong?”
She blinked, looking uncomfortable, but then plastered a grin on her face. “Still worrying about me, huh?” she joked. “Relax. It’s not high school. Jared and I are fine.”
I was about to press her more, but then I jumped, seeing arms come over my head, snapping a belt right in front of my face.
“Jax!” I laughed, my heart leaping into my throat as he walked for the other side of the car with a self-satisfied smirk on his face.
He’s bringing the belt. Shit.
“Okay, yeah, don’t tell me everything about your trip, okay?” Tate teased. We both hugged again, and she followed me as Jax held the back door open.
“So, you’re both registered for your classes, right?” she asked. “Because you’re cutting it close when you return.”
“All set,” Jax answered, but then my smile fell.