It was funny because even as they looked at her, and their hands, she didn’t feel this need to let him go. Let them look. Let them see the two of them together. She had nothing to hide.
Her heart raced as they neared her friends’ place. June and Molly had been so good to her, and she felt bad for keeping this from them, but she didn’t know how to tell them her feelings for Max.
It had started out as some fun, and all too soon, something had changed. Max wasn’t the guy she remembered from high school. He was something more, and it kind of scared her when it came to her feelings for him.
She loved spending time with him. Even when she wanted to be mad, she found herself completely charmed and besotted by how he treated her. The way he always arrived to take her to work and home. How he’d sneak into the kitchen to kiss her when no one was looking. Even on the night they went out with the guys, he’d snuck closer to her, danced with her. His touches making her ache.
“We’re here,” he said, cutting into her thoughts.
Max wasn’t the staying kind of guy, and yet, so far, it had only been the two of them. No other woman was dating him or trying to catch him. She knew because she’d overheard Molly and June talking about it.
“Are you ready for this?” he asked. “If you’re not, we can wait.”
“Half of the town just saw us holding hands.”
“They’re crazy. Our friends will believe us.”
She looked up at the house and shook her head. “It’s time. It’s time for them to know the truth. I’m not going to hide anymore.”
Max didn’t bother knocking. They walked in together, and Aria tugged on his hand. “You should have knocked.”
“They invited us. They’re like my brothers, and I’m not going to knock for them.” Max kept hold of her hand as he walked through Trey and June’s house. They went right to the back yard, where their friends were and no one else.
The kids were playing out on the grass while Trey, June, Dale, and Molly looked toward them.
“Hey, guys,” Max said.
Aria watched them notice him holding her hand. There was a short silence, one that made her nervous, and wish she was one of those kids playing around. It would be a lot more fun than having to deal with grownup stuff.
“I told you,” June said.
“I figured you’d be the one to know,” Max said.
“So you know that we know about you?” Molly asked.
Aria stepped up to Max’s side so they were facing their friends. “It kind of became a little obvious to us.”
“Yeah, I want to know how you knew where we were and when?” Max asked.
“We followed you,” Dale said, speaking up. “You guys has been acting weird for a long time now. June put you two together, and then we wanted to see if she was right.”
“And I am. Score one for June.” June fist bumped the air, and Aria couldn’t help but smile.
“So, it’s official then? You two are a couple? You’re together?” Trey asked.
“It didn’t start out that way,” Aria said.
“How did it start out?” June asked. “That’s what I’m curious about. You both never seem to get along. Max felt guilty, and you wouldn’t give him the time of day.”
“The dating site. The loser who didn’t show up. We got close.” Max kissed her hand as he answered their friends, not once mentioning how he discovered she watched porn. “Since then, we haven’t wanted any interference from you guys, and just wanted to give this a try for ourselves.”
“And how is it working?” Molly asked.
“It was doing a lot better when you weren’t interfering with us, but now, we’re kind of at the end of our patience. Yes, we’re together. Aria’s mine, and I’m Aria’s. I don’t cheat on her or screw around. It’s why I’m not interested in dating other women or being with them. We don’t want you to tell us how we should or shouldn’t live our life. Let us make our own mistakes.” Max pulled her into his arms. “We’re happy.”
“Are you happy?” June asked.
“Yeah, I am.” For Aria this was what scared her. Max was supposed to be her enemy. He’d been so incredibly mean to her in high school. She should hate him, only he’d in some scary way managed to make her do the complete opposite, and it terrified her what it meant. Could she have fallen for him? Did she want to be his girlfriend? Were they doomed from the start?
She tried not to think about it, and instead, took a seat as Max joined her. The awkwardness slowly ebbed away, and they were able to enjoy dinner with their friends, especially as they knew by the end of the night, they were going to be able to share each other again without fear of interruptions.
One month later
Max was distracted. He finished the ink on the man’s hip, knowing this had to be some kind of bet. No one got a dolphin on their hip, especially not a guy. This was a new deal for him.
“So, if I ever want to change it, I can come back here and have it expanded?”