"Then behave and you can."
"Yes ma'am," I replied, bringing my hands back to wrap around her waist. I nestled my head into the crook of her neck, inhaling the sweet scent of her damp hair. As we started jostling over the bumpy road, I tightened my grip around her. When we got back to the stables, loud voices and laughter echoed back to us from the fire. In the twilight, I reached out to run my fingers over her tattoo. She sucked in a deep breath. "It's in Italian, right?"
"Yes," she whispered.
"What does it say?"
"The first line says 'Ciò che non ci uccide, ci rende più forte'-'What does not kill us makes us stronger'."
I rubbed my finger along the next line. "And this?"
"'Dal buio verso la luce'-'Out of the darkness and into the light'."
When I moved to the third, she said, "'La mia famigla e il mio Dio sono il mio rifugio e la mia forza' -'My family and my God are my refuge and strength'." I slid my finger down to rub on the fourth line.
"'Essere sinceri con se stessi'-'To thine own self be true'." Peering over her shoulder, she smiled. "I minored in English, and I kinda have a thing for Shakespeare."
I returned her smiled. "You and Jake will get along great. He's obsessed."
"The next one is Shakespeare, too. 'Non è scritto nelle stelle per tenere il nostro destino, ma in noi stessi'-'It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves'. You know, we Italian's take the stars and destiny pretty seriously."
Leaning over, I kissed along the dark lines. "It's beautiful, amorcito mio-the design itself, down to every last word."
After a few seconds of silence, I got off the four-wheeler and helped Mia off. "You ready for some s'mores now?"
Mia nibbled on her lip. "Can you give me a few minutes to freshen up?" At what I imagined was my confused expression, she said, "I don't want to show up all red-faced from crying."
"Oh," I murmured with a nod. "Sure. Come on." Placing my hand in the small of her back, I led her up the hill to the barn. Grabbing my keys, I unlocked the front door and held it open for her.
Mia stepped inside and gasped. She turned around several times-her expression one of awe. "Wow, the girls weren't kidding about this place. It's amazing."
I gazed around the massive open room. "Yeah, it is. Jake's contractors did a pretty amazing job transforming it."
"Can you get my bag from the car?"
"Yeah." I motioned over to the ladder. "The master bedroom and bath is upstairs. Go on up there, and I'll bring our stuff."
"Thanks, AJ," she replied, before leaning over and pecking me on the cheek.
I hustled down to the car and back for our bags. I was out of breath by the time I got back to the barn. After I lugged her suitcase up the ladder, I found her sitting on the edge of the bed with her head in her hands.
She jerked up her head up and gave me an apologetic look. "Sorry." She rose up from the bed and grabbed her bag. "I'll hurry."
"Take your time. I'm going to get out of these wet clothes
When Mia disappeared, I went downstairs to retrieve my bag. I changed into a dry T-shirt and shorts. After I finished, I began pacing around the bedroom, waiting for Mia to come out of the bathroom. Even over the music from down at the bonfire, I heard water running and then the buzzing hum of a hair dryer. After she had been in there a long time, I fought the urge to go check on her. Finally, after what felt like a fucking eternity, she came out. My heart kick started again at the sight of her. She'd totally redone her hair and makeup, and she'd changed into a strapless, red sundress. She looked so fucking beautiful, it made my heart clench. Her dark hair tumbled in waves over her bare shoulders. Her newly applied ruby red lipstick made her plump lips all the more kissable. And needless to say, my cock surged against my zipper.
Framed in the doorway, she stared at me. We stood unmoving and unblinking as the conversations from the guys floated back up to us along with a steady thumping bass. I knew in that instant that what had been discussed down by the river had deepened our relationship, or whatever the fuck it was we had going.
When the song changed over to Bob Marley's No Woman No Cry, electricity crackled in the air between us. I held out my hand. "Dance with me?"
Her brows rose in surprise. "Now? Here?"
"Okay," she whispered. She closed the gap between us and slipped her hand into mine. I pulled her flush against me, resting my other hand on the small of her back. Closing my eyes, I took in the delicious scent of both her shampoo and her perfume. We swayed in silence to the music. When it got to the part in the song about how everything was going to be okay, I pulled away to stare into her eyes. "It really is going to be okay. You know that, right?"
Her bottom lip trembled as tears pooled in her eyes. "Even though I shouldn't, I believe you."
"Believe in me, Mia. Believe in us."
A single tear slipped down her cheek, which I caught with my thumb. "Are we an 'us', AJ?"
"I'm down for it if you are."
She shook her head. "It's only been two weeks."
I snorted. "Fuck the amount of time. I know what I'm feeling."
"But I'm confused as hell. I've never fallen this fast," she admitted.
"Me either. You know, Jake and Abby were in deep after a few days, and look at them. Brayden and Lily knew each other since they were kids, and there's grew over time. Love is still love-it doesn't have a time limit."
Her dark eyes widened at the insinuation of love. "I do think I'm falling in love with you, AJ."
As pansy as it sounds, my heartbeat accelerated at her admission. I couldn't believe this amazing woman actually wanted to give me the time of day, least of all be falling in love with me. I'd never met someone who was my match in and out of the bedroom. "Good. Cause I think I'm falling right back."
The song ended, and Unchained Melody began playing in its place. I could tell Jake must've put some of his mom's old mix CDs on the stereo system.