Mia's Heart


Page 21



I pause here and take a breath.

Reece stares at me. Her eyes are wide and blue and I can see empathy in them, even though it’s dark.

“Don’t feel sorry for me,” I tell her. “Seriously.”

“I don’t,” she answers. “I just sort of know how you feel.”

I raise an eyebrow. “You’ve had amnesia?”

She laughs. “No, but I’ve had an identity crisis. When Dante and I first got together, I felt a little lost. There I was, in love with Caberra’s ‘prince’, but I was- and still am- a farm girl from Kansas. I’m not from a big, fancy family. I didn’t even know how to act at those black tie functions that Dante always has to attend. If it weren’t for you, I would’ve been totally lost. But I eventually figured out that no matter what situation I am in, I am always me. And that will always include the fact that I am a Kansas farm girl, born and bred. I will always eat steak sauce on my steak and wear cowboy boots and I will always feel more comfortable in worn out jeans than a ball gown. But that’s okay- because that’s what makes me, me. Your feisty spirit makes you, you. You will always be witty and slightly rebellious. No matter how you choose to act, or who you choose to be, you will always be that sassy person that we all love.”

“I do feel sassy,” I tell her. “So that must be an innate trait of mine.”

“Yes,” she smiles. “It is. Now, where did our boys get to?”

Our boys?

I turn with her and search out the crowd. Quinn is sitting next to Elena and they are deep in conversation. He doesn’t see me watching and that is fine. Dante and Gavin are standing together on the edge of the crowd. Gavin instantly catches my eye and grins. And I am instantly reminded that his grin is knee-weakening.

“He’s got a gorgeous smile,” I remark offhandedly to Reece.

“Yup,” she agrees. “And he knows how to use it.”

“Yup,” I answer. Because he so, so does.

Dante motions to Reece to come join him and Gavin makes his way to me. He grins as he approaches, and I feel a little like a lion and its prey. Gavin doesn’t look away the entire time he is walking. His dark eyes are fixed on me.

“So,” he drawls as he stops next to me. “About that skinny-dipping thing? I honestly think you’ll feel more like yourself if you start doing things that you used to do. I’m no doctor, but it makes sense. Don’t you think?”

I smile. “Maybe,” I say playfully and Gavin’s eyes instantly fill with hope.

“Really?”

I shrug and decide to throw caution to the wind.

“Sure. Why not? Everyone else is back over that way and it’s just you and me here. And apparently, we used to do this all the time. So, it’s not like it’s anything you haven’t seen before.”

I know as well as he does that we’ve never skinny-dipped. And he looks a bit startled now, but then he masks it and returns to his ultra-cocky self.

“Great,” he tells me. “I’m glad you’re up for it.”

What he really means is, Challenge Accepted. He’s not going to back down.

And neither am I.

I smile.

“Great,” I say. I walk down to the water and start unbuttoning my shorts. The moonlight hits the water in ripples and makes it seem black, instead of the blue that I know it is. It’s chilly and as I shrug out of my shirt, the breeze sends goose bumps forming down my arms. I rub them as I turn to Gavin.

“Why are you still dressed?” I ask. I know the answer is because he was watching me undress. But I pretend to not know that.

“Um, no reason,” he says as he kicks off his shorts and unbuttons his shirt. He peels it off and then we’re left staring at each other in our underwear. He’s very muscular in a tall and slender way. Probably from swimming so much. I’m still wearing my bra and I suddenly feel exhilarated- although I don’t know if it is from standing in front of Gavin in my panties or whether it is from all the rippling muscles on his abs.

It’s one or the other, though.

“Come on,” I tell him. I turn for the sea and strip off my underwear and bra at the water’s edge, tossing it behind me into the sand. I dive into the water headfirst, allowing the cold water to rush over my naked skin.

I love this feeling. It’s like I have no restrictions, no inhibitions and I’m totally free. I splash to the surface and turn to find Gavin right in front of me. His wet arms slide against mine and my breath freezes on my lips.

His gaze is dark.

His smile is wicked.

And so is mine.

“Come here,” he tells me, pulling me to him. I slide against him, and every inch of us is naked and pressed together. Every inch.

My heart pounds as he kisses me. His hands are pressed into my back, pushing me closer into his chest. His fingers are warm while the rest of us is cold from the sea. The moon shines onto us, making our skin seem silver in the dark.

His lips slide away from mine, leaving my breath ragged and panty.

“Kiss me again,” I instruct him, wrapping my arms around his neck.

“Done,” he whispers. He lifts me up and I wrap my legs around his waist and he’s pressing against me there. And I like it. I don’t take the time to wonder what that makes me. Instead, I just kiss him again and again.

An image of Quinn pops into my head, but it is quickly overshadowed by an image of Quinn with Elena. Quinn made the choice, I didn’t.

Gavin is right for me. I can feel it. And I’m pretty sure it’s not the wine-coolers talking. I only had two. He knows me. Really knows me. And that’s got to be right for me in a time when I don’t know myself.

His breath is ragged now, his heart pounding against my chest. His gaze is inky black in the night.

“Mia,” he whispers. And he opens his mouth to say something else, but we are interrupted by flashing lights. White pops of light.


What the hell?

I’m disoriented for a minute, looking around to see where the light is coming from.

“Go,” Gavin yells to me, pushing me toward the shore. And then he’s gone. I can’t even see where he went. I’m confused and then I see dark shadows moving on the shore with the white light.

Cameras.

Someone is taking our picture.

I’m astounded. Everything is happening in blurs and I don’t even know what to do but sink into the water so that whoever it is can’t see me naked. It’s all so disorienting.

And then Quinn is striding toward me. His face is grim and set and he is taking off his shirt as he plows into the water. He doesn’t even slow down.

When he reaches me, he stares down at me.

“Oh, the messes you get yourself into,” he says quietly.

He scoops me out of the water and drapes his shirt around me. And then he carries me out of the sea. Men in suits have chased away the people with cameras. Dante’s security detail, apparently. And I see Gavin on the beach, pulling his clothes on.

He starts to talk to me, but I interrupt, still ensconced in Quinn’s arms.

“You left me!” I snapped. Gavin looks surprised.

“What would you have me do?” he asks, still clearly surprised. “They wanted our pictures. If our parents saw those pictures, we’d be in serious trouble.”

“Who are they?” I ask, still aware that Quinn hasn’t set me down. I can feel his strong arms encircling my naked body. His heat is scorching. Or that might be my temper. I can’t tell.

“They are trying to get our pictures for their gossip sites,” Gavin tells me. “They like to sneak out here when they think we might be having a party to catch unruly behavior on film.”

And it dawns on him that these are things that I don’t remember.

“Oh, god. Mia, I’m so sorry. I forgot that you wouldn’t know what was going on. I’m sorry. I thought you would know to run for cover. I guess I did leave you.”

He is genuinely apologetic. But that doesn’t change the fact that he left me. And I’m fairly certain that when I was standing there like a deer in the headlights, they got many pictures of me. Naked.

OhLord.

“Can you take me home?” I ask Quinn. He nods.

“Of course.”

He doesn’t put me down, he just turns and walks over the sand dunes with me in his arms. I ignore Gavin’s shouts from behind us as I look up at Quinn.

“You can put me down,” I tell him. “I should get my clothes. They’re on the beach.”

As if on cue, Reece jogs up with my clothing in her arms.

“I’ve got her, Reecie,” Quinn says before she can even speak. She nods.

“Okay. I just thought Mia might want to get dressed before you go back to the house.”

Of course I do.

I can’t imagine the look on my mom’s face if I walk- or get carried- into Giliberti House as naked as the day I was born.

“Thank you, Reece,” I sigh. “I guess some things don’t change. I’m still getting myself into messes.”

She shakes her head. “Gavin shouldn’t have left you. He feels terrible though. I’ll see you at the house. Here’s Dante’s keys. You can take his car. I’ll find Dante and then meet you there. I’ll have Gavin drop us off.”

I nod. “Thank you- take your time.”

She ducks back into the night and I see her blonde hair fading into the dark.

Quinn still hasn’t put me down.

“There are bath houses up ahead,” he tells me. “You can go inside and change without worrying about someone else taking a picture. I’ll guard the door.”

I am instantly relieved and indebted to him and impressed with his consideration. I am all of these things at once. And because there are so many things, I don’t even know how to express them.

So I just nod and say, “Thanks.”

Quinn grins down at me. “Sure thing, tiny tot.”

He puts me down in the doorway of one of the little bath-houses and I very quickly pull on my clothes. When I walk back out, he is still alone, leaning against the wall of the building. He’s so big, but he’s got such a big heart, too.

“I will always remember you plunging into the water to save me,” I tell him quietly. “Especially because you don’t know how to swim.”

He shakes his head.

“It wasn’t that big of a deal,” he tells me. “Seriously. The water was only chest deep. I saw you out there looking so confused and I knew I had to come get you. I had clothes on,” he reminds me. “You didn’t. That made it a little easier for me to walk in front of everyone. What possessed you to go skinny-dipping, anyway? You had to know that you guys are constantly watched for photo ops. If Dante’s there, there’s going to be photographers.”

“I forgot,” I told him. “I didn’t remember that.”

And I feel deflated.

I feel the total opposite of how exhilarated I felt when I was in the water.

I still feel naked, though—just in a different way.

“Of course you didn’t remember,” Quinn says. “Someone should have reminded you.” He’s sympathetic now. And I hate that. But I don’t say anything.

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