“Can I trust you two to behave yourselves?” my mom asked, as she set a big bowl of popcorn on the end table. “Or should I send your brother and sister back here to watch the movie with you?”
“Mrs. Jamison,” Aiden said with a straight face. “You should never trust a seventeen-year-old boy with your daughter.”
“That’s great advice, Aiden.” Mom stifled a laugh. “Good thing you turned eighteen last week.”
“I know, right.” Aiden made a show of wiping his brow as if he’d dodged a bullet.
Mom winked at me as she left the game room and I snuggled into Aiden’s arms, kicking my feet up onto the ottoman at the end of the overstuffed sofa.
“Do you ever wish we were all grown up and could just close that door and turn the lock?” Aiden’s soft voice close to my ear was a stark contrast to the playful way he’d been teasing my mom.
“Every time I kiss you,” I whispered, wrapping my arms around him so that my right arm was being crushed between him and the sofa back.
“Probably best if you don’t kiss me tonight.” He sighed and pulled me closer. “Darn it. Why’d you have to get me thinking about that?”
“You started it,” I said, smacking him on his stomach, which had zero give. “Dang, you been doing crunches? You have abs of steel all of a sudden.” I left my hand on his stomach, tracing the definitions of his six pack.
“Ever since I started dating you, I work out a lot more than I used to.”
“You do?” I looked up at him. “Why?”
“The same reason I’m not going to kiss you,” Aiden said through clenched teeth.
“Oh…” I chuckled lightly. “Sorry. Is this bothering you? Having me in your arms?”
“Do you want me to move?”
“You gonna behave yourself?” I asked.
“I’m gonna try,” I said. “And when I’ve tested my own limits, I’m gonna call up Jonnie and we’re gonna go for our nightly run, and then I’m gonna go home and take a cold shower and pretend we never had this conversation.”
“Y’er funny, Aiden.” I laid my head on his shoulder, still wrapped completely around him and hoping he didn’t ask me to move anytime soon. We both took a deep breath and sighed at the same time.
“You said on the phone that you wanted to talk to me about something,” Aiden said quietly. “What’s on your mind?”
“The future,” I said. “Our future.”
Aiden pulled away and looked down at me with creased brows. “What’s got you concerned?”
“How do you know I’m concerned?” I asked, pulling my gaze away and resuming tracing patterns on his stomach.
“Let’s see, your tone of voice, your pursed lips, the way you’re avoiding eye contact.”
“Why didn’t you tell me scouts were talking to you and that you were considering going pro right out of high school?”
“I actually did tell you that,” he said.
“When?” I searched my memory for any time he’d mentioned the possibility.
“During our first date.” His playful voice was toying with me.
“Which first date?” My mind flashed scenes of kissing at the end of the pier and having the frigid waters of Lake Michigan attacking us. Nope, nothing about baseball.
“In the drive through line at McDonalds when you weren’t hungry, and I was—”
“And I asked you what college you wanted to play for?”
“And do you remember my answer?” Aiden asked.
“You asked which major league team…”
“And have you chosen one yet?” he asked me.
“What?” I sat up a little further to get a better look at him. “Why would I choose where you were going to play?”
“Because I’ll want you there beside me.” Aiden searched my eyes and reached up to tuck a lock of hair behind my ear.
I gulped, my heart racing. “Like… forever?”
“I mean… I don’t wanna be presumptuous, but, yeah, kinda.” He stammered.
“Really?” I smiled, suddenly shy and unsure.
“You’ll probably want to go to college and stuff, right?” Aiden cleared his throat as if gathering courage. “I don’t want to put any pressure on you to make forever kind of decisions, but you should know where my heart is leading me.”
“There are colleges, like, everywhere, right?” I bit my lower lip.
“Everywhere.” Aiden nodded.
“So, it really wouldn’t matter which team we chose, as long as we were together.”
“As long as we’re together,” he affirmed, nodding again.
I forgot about my need to keep my distance and threw myself back into his arms, kissing him with all the passion and relief I felt at knowing he wanted a future that included me.
“Dang it, woman!” Aiden pulled away suddenly and gently pushed me away. “You are going to be the death of me.”
I giggled. “Sorry. Would you like me to call Jonnie for you?”
He sat up and put his elbows on his knees, leaning forward as if he was going to stand up from the couch. “You’re lucky I have super-human willpower.”
I leaned closer and rested my chin on his shoulder, kneeling on the sofa and hugging him from behind, thankful he had super-human willpower and at the same time wishing he didn’t.
Aiden turned his face toward mine so that our foreheads were touching. “I love you,” he whispered.
“I love you too.”
“One more kiss and then I’m leaving,” Aiden said. With care and control he closed the distance between us and kissed me gently with just a hint of passion blanketed by his superhuman willpower. Before pulling away he closed his eyes and took one long breath as if memorizing my scent. “Goodnight, Amberlyn.”
“Goodnight, Aiden,” I whispered back.
“I look forward to the day when I can whisper that to you as we’re turning off our bedroom lights,” he mumbled.
“Have a nice run,” I teased in a sing-song voice. “Bundle up. It’s cold out there.”
He grumbled something unintelligible as he pushed himself off the sofa, then called to me as he left the game room and headed down the hall. “Tell Jonnie to meet me outside in two minutes.”
“I’m already dialing her number,” I answered, choosing the top number on my contacts list. The person whose name had been in my contacts list longer than my own parents. Before she even said hello, her sympathetic voice came through the line.
“Let me guess,” Jonnie said. “I need my running shoes and a pair of mittens.”