Laughing, I obliged and learned that I wasn’t a bad dancer. Catching the beat easily, I moved to the music, losing myself in the fast rhythm. A sense of familiarity crept over me and, with it, a twinge of guilt, but I shook it off in favor of just enjoying the moment.
When the song ended, we headed back to where we’d left the guys. I bumped into a small brunette in a black dress. “Sorry!” I yelled over the music.
She turned around, eyes widening with surprise. “Sammy? You came?”
“Lauren, you look great.” And she did. The dress fit her lithe body perfectly.
I expected her to hurl an insult in my direction, but she gave me a quick hug. “You do, too. Who did you come with?”
“Carson Ortiz.” Pride shot through me. I came with him.
She blinked, but her smile didn’t falter. “That’s really awesome.” Someone called her name, and she glanced away briefly before turning back to me. “Maybe we can get together soon? Catch a movie?”
“I’d like that,” I said truthfully.
“Great!” She gave me another hug. “See you around.”
Smiling, I headed back to Carson. I caught a quick glimpse of Candy grinding on Trey in a dark corner. Both looked a little tipsy. Ignoring them, I slipped my arm around Carson’s waist from behind. “Dance?”
He turned, leaving his group of friends without another word. We moved onto the dance floor, finding an empty spot. Then he slid an arm around my waist and pulled me against his chest. Our bodies molded together as I wrapped my arms around his neck.
“I’m glad you persuaded me to go,” I said.
Carson smiled. “Not as happy as me.”
Loving how he seemed to always know the right thing to say, I rested my cheek on his shoulder and closed my eyes. For most of the song, we stayed like that, lost in the slow melody and each other’s arms. I couldn’t remember any other dances that I’d attended, but it didn’t matter. This was my favorite, with him, when I felt as if I weren’t tied to a past I couldn’t remember.
“I have to tell you something,” he said, turning his head so his jaw grazed my cheek.
I lifted my head, meeting his gaze. “What?”
“I don’t want this to end tonight.”
My chest swelled. “What is ‘this’?”
Carson grinned, and I realized we’d stopped moving even though others danced around us. “You. Me. Together beyond tonight. As in I’ll take you to lunch tomorrow. Keep you around for dinner if you behave.”
Feeling light, I laughed. “If I behave?”
“Mmm-hmm.” He pressed his forehead against mine, his lips coming so intoxicatingly close. “And if you’re really good, I expect to see you after practice on Monday. Then maybe a movie on Tuesday.”
My eyes drifted shut. “What about Wednesday and going on forward?”
“That depends on if you’re good or bad.”
“What happens if I’m bad?”
“Good question.” His hands slid to my hips and a wealth of heat followed the movement. “We’d have to work out some kind of punitive system. Bad could be good.”
I started to smile. “Then what’s good?”
“Good is good.” He moved his lips over my cheek, and my breath caught. “See, I was kind of full of it a few seconds ago. You can behave or misbehave. I want a Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday with you. Several of them, back to back and so on.”
A flash of guilt threatened to ruin the moment like an uninvited guest, trying to dig its claws in, but I opened my eyes. “Are you asking me to be your girlfriend?”
“So it would seem.” His eyes glimmered.
“Well, I like the sound of that. Have for probably longer than I should admit.”
His lips parted, and his mouth lowered to mine. Air got hitched in my throat, and my pulse thrummed. This was it. He was going to kiss me. Finally. Every cell in my body waited in sweet anticipation because I knew that even though I didn’t remember all my other kisses, this one would so blow them out of the water.
Out of nowhere, Scott bumped into us. “I think there’s a rule about space between partners. Don’t make me enforce it.”
Julie hung her head in shame. “You’re so embarrassing.”
I scowled at my brother, but Carson chuckled. “Way to kill the mood, bro.”
“That’s what I’m here for.” He grinned cheekily, spinning Julie away from us.
Carson sighed. “Your brother…”
“Is a lovable idiot?” Mood ruined, I glanced around and cleared my throat. “I think I need to…”
He kissed my cheek. “I’ll get us something to drink.”
Reluctantly, I pulled free and headed toward the entrance. Our conversation had left me in a heady daze. My heart was doing little backflips, and I wanted to go find Julie and tell her that Carson and I were dating. There was definitely a squeal building up, demanding to be shared. Right now, it was a first for me and I floated as if I were walking on balloons.
I pushed on the bathroom door, and right away I wished I’d gone anywhere but there.
At the sink, Veronica grabbed a sheet of brown paper towel and scrubbed under her eyes, furiously wiping at the mascara. I started to hightail my butt out of there, but girl code demanded that I at least check on her.
Cursing myself under my breath, I let the bathroom door shut behind me. “Veronica, are you okay?”
Her lashes lifted. “What does it look like? I’m fantastic.”
And that was why I hated girl code. Shaking my head, I turned back for the door. There had to be other bathrooms around.
“I thought he actually liked me,” she said, voice cracking. “Wasn’t I stupid? I bet that just makes you so freaking happy.”
With a sinking feeling, I faced her. “Del?”
“Who else?” She laughed as she dabbed at the pink skin under her eyes. “He finally dumped you, and I had my chance. There wasn’t even Cassie to get in the way.”
I thought about correcting who broke up with whom but decided against it. “Seeing you cry doesn’t make me happy.”
She threw the towel on the floor and spun around, gripping the edge of the sink. The intricate curls atop her head bounced off her tear-stained cheeks. “All he’s done is talk about you. About how you guys were just taking a break—that you two will get back together. I’m so sick of it!”