Home > Once Upon a Sure Thing (Heartbreakers #2)(14)

Once Upon a Sure Thing (Heartbreakers #2)(14)
Author: Lauren Blakely

Miller helped me through my own grief when my sister died, and then he rose to the occasion over the years, helping Chloe whenever he could. All because we made a choice years ago to put friendship first.

Of course, I don’t know if he felt the same spark I did that night at the arcade, so perhaps it was easy as pie for him to keep me in the friend zone.

It’s mostly easy for me to keep him there, except for moments like this. Like now, when my heart races in overdrive, and my hormones remind me they want attention now and then.

But there’s too much on the line to give in. I have bills, and work, and a kid to raise. She’s my focus, and she’s why I wanted to do this in the first place.

We skate and review the plan to write and record, since Jackson will be shooting videos of our sessions for his documentary. All we have to do is not be jerks, we decide.

He holds out his hand and we shake. Happiness spreads through me, and I love how this day has worked out, so I spin around on my skates and issue a challenge. “Catch me if you can.”

I take off around the ice, but soon enough, he picks up speed and flies past me. His arm darts out as if he’s going to grab my waist, but I don’t fall.

He does.

Flat on his ass, the side of his head whacking the ice.

My heart hammers as I jam the blade of my skate into the ice, stopping in a spray. Quickly, I bend down next to him. He’s flat as a board, head against the ice, blades up.

“Are you okay?” I ask, visions of concussions and bruises haunting me.

“I’m wounded,” he mutters.

“What’s wounded?” I ask as I look him over from head to toe. He’s wearing jeans and a sweater and—wait.

His belly is moving up and down.

He’s laughing. The fucker is laughing.

He clutches his chest, moaning. “It’s my pride though. It’s never going to be the same.”

I straighten, shaking my head in amusement. “Male pride is so fragile.”

“You’re telling me. Can you see if I can get a new shipment of it?”

I tap my mitten against my lips. “I’m pretty sure all the stores are closed, and Amazon doesn’t offer Prime shipping for that product.”

His lips curve up into a grin, and that’s when I spot a slight bruise on his cheek. Instinctively, I reach out, yanking off my mittens and brushing my thumb across the wound.

When I touch him, he startles, but then sighs as I check out the small mark. “You do have a little scrape here. I think you hurt your cheek.”

“Will I live?” He turns his face to me, and his eyes pin mine. There’s something in those hazel eyes I haven’t seen before. A flicker of heat, perhaps. A wink of desire.

I shiver, forcing myself to look away, because his eyes are doing something to me. They’re sending my thermometer higher than it should be, like when we were in the studio singing to each other. I felt that spark then in my toes, in my fingertips, and in the center of my body.

“You’ll survive.” I reach for his hand. He looks down at my fingers, locking with his.

“Are you going to pull me?”

“Of course. You fell.”

He shakes his head, sitting straight up. “I will have zero manly pride then.” He wobbles slightly, then stands, holding his arms out wide. “See? Machismo restored.”

He grabs my palm and then skates with me, holding hands.

That shiver returns. And it’s not from the chilly air. It’s from Miller. From these naughty comments he’s always made, which feel a little different now. I do my best to talk myself out of it since we’ve always been a little flirty, a little playful.

But when we reach the skate stand and he slowly lets go of my hand, he looks at me that way again.

The trouble is there’s a new fire in my body that doesn’t feel particularly friendly either. I do my best to dismiss it.

But it’s under my skin.

Chapter 13

Miller

When it comes to nightmares, I’m familiar with the standard repertoire.

You’ve got “Teeth Falling Out,” a classic. Shudder.

There’s “Back in High School Having Forgotten Everything I Ever Knew about the War of 1812,” a horror that hits a little too close to reality.

And, of course, “Naked on Stage.” Though, oddly, considering the amount of time I’ve spent on stage, I’ve never had that one.

But nothing compares to the line at the Office of Public Records.

Jackson’s mom lost his birth certificate in an apartment fire a few years ago. He needs it for the scholarship application, so about a century ago, I brought him here to order a copy.

Fine, maybe we’ve been waiting more like twenty-eight minutes, but I’m eager to get back to songwriting, something I’ve been doing every night at my piano for the last several days—fine-tuning the songs I’ve had in my back pocket.

At twenty-nine minutes, we make it to the front, where Jackson requests the duplicate. The bedraggled clerk, strands of hair slipping from her bun, pops a Skittle between bubble-gum-pink-colored lips, then taps the details out on her keyboard. She reaches for another candy, then frowns, forlorn, at the empty bag.

“What’s your favorite color of Skittle?” I inquire.

She looks up and blinks in slow-motion, as if not sure who I’m asking. “I like the red ones best. But the purple ones are pretty tasty too.”

“I heard a story the other day that all Skittles actually taste the same,” I say. Jackson gives me a look like I’ve started talking to a houseplant. “Maybe”—I pause to read her name tag—“Beverly feels that way too.”

She tilts her head and scratches her jaw. “Huh. I always thought they tasted different.”

“So do I. But somebody did a test, and apparently, it’s really the same flavor.”

“That’s crazy. I know the green tastes like lime,” Jackson says.

I give him a serious look. “But do you really? Or do you just think it tastes like lime? That’s the question.”

Slowly, as if it’s the first time in ages, Beverly smiles. “Do you think it’s like the Matrix, and we’re all experiencing a programmed reality?”

I widen my eyes. “Maybe that’s why they don’t make blue Skittles, just red ones. So we have to stay in the Matrix.”

Beverly slaps the counter, cackling so loud that heads turn across the musty records office. “That must be it.” She returns to the computer screen and says, “I can have that copy ready for you on Monday.”

Jackson sighs. “We have to come back?”

She looks sympathetic. “Either that or I can mail it to you, and it’ll arrive in a week.”

He turns to me. “The application isn’t due until right before Christmas, but I need to get the preliminary paperwork filed next week to be eligible. Only, I have to take my grandpa to the doctor after school on Monday.”

“Can your dad pick it up for you?” Beverly suggests, meaning me.

I laugh. “I’m just a friend. But I can definitely pick it up for him if that’s allowed.”

“You can do that. We just need you both to sign a form, granting permission.” She slides a piece of paper to us that we both sign.

Jackson smiles. “Thanks, man. I owe you.”

I wave a hand. “It’s nothing.” I grin at Beverly. “I’ll bring the Skittles.”

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