He glared at the loudest of the hooting offenders, then looked back at me. Just imagining him walking away from me, I could feel the damn tears returning.
“I wish I could go with you,” I whispered, before I knew what I was saying.
His eyebrows touched the sky. “You can, you know,” he said quickly, already setting his sights on the ticket counter.
“I’ve got a couple weeks of school to finish,” I offered just as quickly, turning his head before he started making his way to the counter.
“Then come the day school is over,” he said. “I’ll send you a ticket and you can spend the summer at the beach while I work my ass off on the field.”
“Exactly. You’ll be so busy with training, I’d never see you.”
“But at least I’d be able to crawl into bed with you every night,” he said, setting me back down on the ground. Oddly enough, my feet on firm ground felt less natural than when they were wrapped around Jude.
“And fall into a coma after your daily doubles,” I argued.
One corner of his mouth curled. “I might be bushed every night, but I’d never be too tired for that.” I sighed in exasperation. “You’d just have to be the one on top.”
I shoved him, earning nothing more than a laugh.
“Getting my ass beat on the field by day, enjoying a round of cowgirl-style sex by night.” His eyes darkened. “Sounds like my kind of summer.”
I glowered at him, not impressively, but it was a wonder I could look at his beautiful face with anything but awe, even now.
“Come on,” he said. “Come with me.” I was already opening my mouth to object when he cut me off. “Once you finish classes.”
“I’m taking a summer class, Jude,” I said, looking away. I might have forgotten to mention that.
“What?!” He gasped. “When did you decide to do this?” He looked equally pissed and hurt.
“When I decided I wanted to be the best damn dancer I could be,” I snapped right back.
Jude paused before answering. “Skip it,” he said at last. “You don’t need to go to school. You can just dance.”
I could feel the tips of my ears starting to heat with the blood pumping through me. “Without a degree, I’d be lucky to be dancing across a community theater stage as an understudy,” I said, each word an emotional tidal wave. “I need to do this. I need to blaze my own path just like you have yours.”
“Yeah, but my path’s making us millions, so why don’t you cross over to mine?” he said without a sliver of remorse.
“It’s not about money, Jude,” I said, a notch below a shout. Why was he not getting this? Money was money, nothing else, nothing more.
He shifted, looking like he wanted to rub his temples in frustration. “Then what’s it about?” he asked. “Because you’ve admitted it’s not about the money. It’s not about me. It’s not about marriage.” His voice was rising. “Then what the hell is this whole ‘blaze my own path without you’ shit about, Luce? Because I thought we were a team now. I thought we made decisions that were the best for us as a couple.”
I opened my mouth to reply back with something, but it would have been a lie. When I failed at everything else, when the shit was really hitting the fan, I made it a priority never to lie to Jude. I bit my lip while I stalled for an answer. Jude’s shoulders slumped as the rest of his body loosened. “Come on, baby, What’s it about?”
Shaking my head, I sank a few more teeth into my lip. “I’m not sure,” I admitted, and while I knew it was a suck-ass answer, at least it was the truth. I wasn’t sure why it was so important for me to make my own way in the world, but it was.
I didn’t think Jude could look any more frustrated. Clearing his throat, he cupped my elbow and pulled me close again. “Marry me, Luce,” he whispered, his eyes begging mine to meet them.
Dammit. He wasn’t doing this again. He knew my weakness for him ran deep, and coupled with that pleading tone and those tortured eyes, he did one hell of a demolition job on my resolution.
“I will,” I said, still refusing to look him in the eyes.
He didn’t let the air settle with my words. “Right now?” So much hope it was sacred. And I was going to kill it with a swift slit to the throat.
“Right later,” I whispered, forming a half smile that was more frown than grin.
He was silent for what felt like an hour, like he was waiting for me to take it back, or processing the words and the meaning behind them. Finally, he sighed—long, deep, and one that pricked new tears to life in my eyes.
“Love you, Luce,” he said, pressing a kiss into my forehead. “You change your mind, you know where to find me. I’ll marry you in the middle of the night in some crummy wedding chapel in Vegas if that’s the only option we have. Whatever you want, whenever you want it. I’ll be there.” Burying his face in my hair, he inhaled deeply before turning and walking up to the security gates.
My throat was too tight to let words slip through, and my eyes were so glazed over with tears that I saw nothing but a tall shadow walking away from me. Two seconds had gone by since his last touch, and my body was already quaking with withdrawal.
It was going to be a long two weeks.
Two weeks—fourteen days—hadn’t just gone by slowly. It had been like living a year in hell every passing second. Jude had called every night, sounding as beat as you’d expect a rookie NFL player to sound after a grueling daily double in eighty-degree heat. I lived for those calls, but I kind of dreaded them, too, because I knew we’d be hanging up shortly after and the clock would reset until we got to talk again. Another twenty-three and a half hours on the clock, please.