Mia's Heart

Page 19

I head over in their direction.

“Mia, you have to keep in mind, Gavin is different than us. He’s so easy-going. He pretty much goes with the flow in any situation. I’m sure he’s thinking nothing of this.”

Reece has found her tongue now. I nod, but I’m not really listening. Instead, I march up to the table next to them and set my tray down. Gavin is startled and then surprised and I can tell that he is really wishing now that Elena wasn’t on his lap.

Tough crunch.

She is, so he needs to answer for it.

Okay. Maybe I’ve changed my mind. I guess I do want an answer.

But I don’t ask for it. Instead, I smile cheerfully at them.

“Hey, guys. What’s up?”

Gavin doesn’t push Elena off, but instead, he leans around her to talk to me.

“I like the hair,” he tells me with a grin. “I just bumped into Elena and she decided to sit with me.”

“You mean, on you?” I correct him. His smile falters. He can see that I’m annoyed.

Elena chooses to move now and she smiles at me. I can’t see anything malicious in her smile, although I might be wrong.

“Hi, Mia,” she tells me. She completely ignores Reece.

“Hi,” I answer.

But honestly, I’m not really interested in anything she has to say. She looks gorgeous today, as usual. She’s got a revealing tank top on that plunges to a low V in the front and in the back. I love the shirt. I just wish that she didn’t look so perfect in it while she was on Gavin’s lap. Her hair and make-up is perfect, as always, and truly, you can barely see the scar on her cheek now.

Gavin hands me a little boutique bag.

“I got you a gift. I hope you like it,” he says.

And his voice is hopeful. I’m not sure if he’s hopeful that I’m not mad for finding Elena on his lap or if he’s hopeful that I’ll simply like his gift. And Reece might actually be right. He doesn’t seem unsettled at all that I found them like this. Maybe he really didn’t think anything of it.

But that’s a little unsettling to me.

Because I don’t like it. It’s okay to be friends with members of the opposite sex. But if you like someone else, you really shouldn’t have other girls sitting on your lap.

That’s just my opinion.

However, I don’t voice that right now. Instead, I peer into the bag and see a white oblong box. I lift it out and pull off the box top and find a silver watch. It is relatively simple and slender, with a feminine band and a diamond on the 12 and the 6. It’s gorgeous.

“It’s inscribed,” Gavin tells me. I flip the watch over and on the back it reads It’s always Gavin Time.

I forget my agitation with him momentarily and laugh. I can’t help it. He’s so completely arrogant, but charmingly so. He makes it so hard to stay mad.

“It’s beautiful,” I tell him. “Thank you.”

I start to put it on, but Gavin shoves my hand away and fastens it for me. And then he lifts my hand to his lips and kisses it. He lets his lips linger on my skin, warm and soft. And he’s staring into my eyes and anyone in the vicinity can feel the atmosphere change around us. It’s sexually charged.

I know it.

Reece knows it.

And Elena certainly knows it. I can see the interest on her face now and I doubt that’s a good thing. She has a strange smile pasted on her face as she watches us. But I’ll worry about that later.

For now, I’ve got other things to worry about.

Like how to stay mad at Gavin.

But that turns out to be an exercise in futility. He has me snapped out of my anger within ten minutes and we sit and chat with him for at least an hour more. Elena pretends that Reece doesn’t exist, and Reece keeps her back to Elena. But other than that, everything feels normal.

Gavin has the ability to make anyplace feel like a party. We’re laughing and joking and talking to the strangers sitting around us and I feel infinitely at peace.

That is, until Elena gets up to leave. She tells me goodbye, ignores Reece and then she bends to kiss Gavin on both cheeks in the normal European fashion. But her kisses linger. And her hands brush over his chest. Then she pushes her boobs against him. And when she turns, her eyes meet mine and I see something unsettling there, lurking beneath the fake friendliness and sparkling emerald depths.

A challenge.

Chapter Sixteen

“I don’t know what to do,” I tell Reece on the way home. “I just don’t know what to do. I love so many things about Gavin. I love how he knows me. I love how he gets me. I love how he makes everyone feel so comfortable at any given time. But that same exact thing is a curse, too. Look at this episode with Elena. Rather than push her off his lap, he rolled with the punches and ate it up. Would he be that same way if we dated? Because I wouldn’t be okay with random girls sitting on his lap.”

Reece glances at me. “Okay, is it time for me to answer you now? Because I’ve tried four times and you haven’t stopped talked long enough for me to get a word in edgewise.”

I smile sheepishly. “I know. I think I must chatter when I’m nervous.”

“You do,” she confirms. “But in answer to your monologue, this is just what Gavin is like. You’re right about all of the traits that you just named. And he is very loyal to his friends. That’s something else positive about him. And honestly, I have no idea what Gavin is like with a girlfriend. He’s always been a player- or ever since I’ve known him, anyway. He’s never been serious enough to get involved with a girl for any amount of time. He’s accidentally left a long trail of broken hearts behind him.”

I slump against the seat. “This isn’t helping.”

Reece stares at me sympathetically for a minute before she watches the road again. “I’m sorry. It’s a hard choice. They’ve each got pretty great qualities.”

“Can you tell me more about Quinn?” I ask. “I mean, something that you haven’t told me yet?”

Reece thinks about it for a minute.

“Well, he’s loyal, too. He dated my friend Becca for years. And even though most of the girls in school had it bad for him, he never cheated on her. Ever. He’s good at everything he does. He rides bulls in competitions with Becca’s brother, Connor. And he wins. And of course, he’s a good football player. He’ll probably go to college on a football scholarship. He loves animals, also. He wants to be a veterinarian.”

“So, he must have a big heart,” I muse. Reece nods.

“Very big,” she tells me. “I remember our freshman year. We had this really small kid in our freshman class. He was always getting picked on by the upperclassmen football players. They kept shoving him into trashcans in the locker room, or closing him in lockers. You know, stupid Neanderthal jock crap. Well, one day, Quinn found the kid, Mike, in the office getting an ice pack from the nurse. Apparently, when the older boys shoved him into a locker that day, they had broken three of his fingers. Quinn took care of it the next day.”

“How?” I ask.

“Quinn started walking everywhere with Mike. Through the halls, sitting with him at lunch, etc etc. And when the upperclassmen still tried to give Mike crap, Quinn told them they’d have to go through him first if they wanted to keep messing with Mike. And they didn’t want to. Quinn was a big bruiser even as a freshman.”

“What happened to Mike?” I ask.

Reece smiles.

“Well, Mikey is now Quinn’s best friend in the world. He actually had a growth spurt so he’s a bit taller than he was. Quinn got him playing ball and now he’s our quarterback, actually. And he never bullies the freshman the way he was bullied.”

“That’s a nice story,” I tell her. “I bet Mike will pay it forward. He’ll probably do nice things for other people because he’ll always remember how nice Quinn was to him.”

Reece nods. “He’s already paid it forward, tons of times. He’s a good guy. Just like Quinn. Quinn is the kind of guy that makes you want to be a better person. He’s got such a… good soul. I don’t know how else to describe it. He’s got a pure heart, through and through.”

“I can see that about him,” I admit to her. “I really can.”

“So, please, Mi. Don’t hurt him. I know he seems like a player. And he’s inadvertently broken a few hearts, but he didn’t mean to. I would really hate to see him get hurt, even if it was on accident.”

“What should I do?” I whisper to her as we turn onto the Giliberti property. She shakes her head.

“I don’t know.”

“What would you do?” I ask.

She shakes her head again. “I don’t know. I’m horrible at this stuff.”

I sigh. “What good are you?” I tease. She shrugs.

“Well, I always know when to bring you chocolate.”

“True. That’s a good enough reason alone to keep you.”

As we pull up into the circular drive in front of the house, I see Quinn sitting on the huge wrap-around porch with Dante. They appear to be deep in conversation and they are laughing. That’s a good sign. And truly, there should be a law or something against two such good-looking boys being in one spot. They make it hard to concentrate.

As we cross the lawn to them, they look up and see us and both grin at the same time. I think the heavens open up and the angels sing.

Okay, that might be an exaggeration. But that’s definitely what happened in my head. Their smiles are just that gorgeous and bright. And Quinn’s is sexily crooked.

“Hey girls!” Dante calls out. “Did you leave anything in the stores or did you buy it all?”

We are carting a lot of bags. I am woman enough to admit that.

The boys get up and help us carry it into the house. As they do, Quinn turns to me.

“You look really pretty,” he tells me. “I’m glad the stripes are back.”

His eyes are sparkling mischievously, but his expression is sincere.

“Thank you,” I tell him. “I feel more like myself. I think.”

He laughs. “You’ve definitely got your swagger back,” he tells me. Dante turns around in front of us.

“I was just saying that we should have a beach party tonight to try and forget about our stress for a bit. What do you think?”

“I’m all for it,” Quinn chimes in. Reece laughs.

“Quinn, you’ve never met a party yet that you didn’t like,” she accuses laughingly. He doesn’t deny it. Instead, he helps me carry my bags to my room.

As we walk in, he looks around. I’m thankful that I didn’t leave any panties lying around.

“See something you like?” I ask teasingly. He grins.

“Maybe,” he answers. “What do you think about the beach party tonight?”

Short pause. He stares at me. I have no idea what he’s waiting for.

I shrug as I drop my bag on the bag.

“It sounds fun,” I tell him. “You’re going, right?”

He grins. “I’ve apparently never met a party that I didn’t like,” he tells me charmingly.

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