Page 68 of Don't Look Back

Brown, smoky eye shadow covered my lids, accentuating the green flecks. Opting for a faint shimmer instead of blush, my cheekbones looked higher, more defined. A glossy coat on my lips gave them that ready-to-be-kissed look. As Julie had suggested, I’d had my hair done with her earlier in the day. Curled into thick ringlets, my hair was twisted up by the stylist and artfully arranged. A few tendrils hung loose, framing my face.

A throat cleared, and I turned. Mom stood in the doorway of my bathroom and smiled a little. “You look beautiful, honey.”

“You think?” I ran my hands down the sides of the dress.

She nodded. “You really do.”

I smiled back at her. “Thank you.”

Mom turned her head, but I saw the wetness gathering in her eyes. “Your date is waiting downstairs, getting interrogated by your father as we speak.”

My eyes widened, and the butterflies took flight, trying to claw their way out. “He’s here?”

She backed up, letting me slip past her. I grabbed my clutch and made it to the door before she stopped me. “Carson looks very nice, Samantha.”

Surprised, I glanced over my shoulder. There were no words. Hell was having a snowball fight.

“Have fun,” she said. “You deserve it.”

“I will.” I blinked back tears. No way was I ruining all this makeup. “Thank you.”

Mom ushered me out of the room. Nerves taking over, I almost didn’t go down the staircase, but she whispered words of encouragement and down I went, feeling like one of those girls in the cheesy teen movies.

Dad had Carson cornered in the sitting room off the foyer, and I grinned. Both of them had their backs turned, but what I could see of Carson in a tux so far, I liked.

I liked a lot.

Carson must have heard my heels clacking on the floors, because he turned around, a small, plastic box in hand. Our gazes locked, and the look in his eyes curled my toes. Then his gaze dropped and the naked approval in his expression had me wishing we were alone.

But we weren’t.

Dad cleared his throat. “You look lovely, princess.”

“Wow,” Carson murmured, his eyes drifting slowly back to my face, leaving scorching heat behind. “Sam…”

“Hey,” I said, my gaze dropping to the box. “For me?”

Carson swallowed as I moved to his side. His fingers shook slightly as he slipped a beautiful lily corsage that must’ve cost a small fortune out of the box and onto my wrist. I lifted my lashes, and found him staring back at me, his eyes an intense cobalt.

“You look beautiful,” he said.

I flushed. “Thank you. So do you.” And he did. The tux fit his broad shoulders and looked good against his sunbaked complexion. Magnificent.

Surprising me again, Mom actually wanted to take pictures. We posed for a couple of shots, and the small of my back tingled from the slight pressure of his hand. Through the whole process, I felt as if I were floating.

We escaped after Dad gave my cheek a quick kiss and Carson another hard look. Stepping out into the early-evening spring air, Carson found my hand and squeezed. “I’m not sure I want to go to prom.”

“What?” I let him lead me over to his father’s truck. “You don’t want to go?”

He opened the door for me. “I’m not sure I want to share you with anyone.”

I laughed. “I’m all yours.”

“I’m going to hold you to that.” He waited until I climbed in and then bent, kissing me softly on my cheek. “I’m really, really going to hold you to that.”

A fine shiver danced over my skin as I watched him close the door. He flashed me a quick, almost wicked grin before he jogged around the front of the truck. Once behind the wheel, he turned to me.

“I can’t believe you’re actually here,” he admitted, the tops of his cheeks flushed. “That you are with me.”

A good kind of burn moved up my throat. “I can’t believe it took me this long to be here with you.”

Chapter twenty-four

We met Scott and Julie at the Cashtown Inn for dinner. Reservations for the place had to have been hard to come by, but Dad had apparently pulled some favors and got the four of us a table in the packed dining room. Over a candlelight dinner, everything that had been going on faded into the background.

I hadn’t laughed so hard in so long, and I don’t think I’d ever felt this good before, sharing a way-too-fancy meal with my brother and his girlfriend, Carson’s hand around mine under the table.

And none of the other kids at the inn said or did anything that indicated there’d be any problems. If anything, most seemed shocked when Carson and I headed out, hand in hand.

“You ready to do some dancing?” Julie asked, looking sexy in her shimmery dress and bob.

I nodded, grinning up at Carson. “How about you?”

He moved behind me, wrapping his arms around my waist. Lowering his cheek to mine, he smiled. “I’m going wherever you are.”

Scott glared at us. “I’m not sure I like this.”

“Oh, shut up.” Julie grabbed his arm, tugging him toward the car. “It’s time to party.” Grumbling, Scott let her pull him away. She looked over her shoulder, mouthing “Hot” before she smacked my brother’s butt.

I laughed, leaning into Carson. He made a sound that caused a deep flutter in my chest, and his arms tightened around me. “If we don’t leave right now for the dance,” he said, his lips brushing my ear, “I’m pretty sure we’re not going to make it.”

My cheeks were flushed the entire way to the hotel holding our senior prom. With my arm wrapped securely in his, we headed through the back entrance, following the steady beat of music and laughter to the ballroom.

I tightened my grip on his arms once we stepped inside. Chandeliers hung from the ceiling, casting the only light over the pack of moving bodies. Lilies adorned the small round tables; what looked like garlands of roses decorated the stage under the banner. Small bushes and indoor trees were decorated with twinkling lights. The place was beautiful, surreal.

Almost immediately, friends greeted Carson. I smiled, loving the ease with which Carson dealt with people, the casualness and open friendship. People gravitated to him and, through him, to me. Several shocked looks greeted us, but I didn’t care. There wasn’t anything that could ruin this.

Julie and Scott reappeared, and before Carson and I could share one dance, she tugged me onto the floor. “Dance!” she demanded, throwing her arms up in the air.