“Brainwashing,” Tommy told Nick. “That’s all it was.”
“Dude, like Andy really had a need to brainwash AJ.”
“I’m not saying she did. Maybe it was the other way around.”
“I told you. SHE approached HIM. How could he do the brainwashing?”
“You know him. You tell me.”
Nick sighed. “Tommy, you’re being stupid.”
“No. This, what you just told me, is stupid. AJ’s trying something with Andy again, I can feel it.”
“And you’re just not gonna let this be, are you?”
“Not while AJ’s involved. Nick, I’m sorry, but this isn’t exactly good news. I think something’s going on here, seriously, and I won’t accept it as easily as you did.”
“All right. All right. Fine. Let’s change the subject now,” Nick said suddenly. “I don’t think I wanna tell you the rest.”
“Rest? There’s more?”
“They’re out. Together. Spending the day who knows where, having FUN.”
“Well, I never thought you’d be the type, AJ.”
“Do I have THAT bad a reputation?” he groaned mockingly. “I swear, there’s no escaping it!”
“Look at you!” Andy pointed out. “You just SCREAM ‘Party Animal.’ I didn’t think you had this in you,” she waved a hand out to the tranquil setting surrounding them. “Peace and quiet in the great outdoors? That’s just something I wouldn’t have thought to find in ya.”
“Uhh, don’t judge a book by it’s cover?” He offered, shrugging his shoulders slightly while chuckling. “I guess I didn’t think I had it in me, either, but it sure is nice, isn’t it?”
“It is,” Andy agreed, taking in the fresh air. “I always loved camping out here as a kid; no one has time for it anymore.”
“So make time.”
“It’s not that easy,” she smiled at him. “You should know that better than anyone.”
“True,” he sighed. “Sometimes I wish it was easy... like now.”
“But we have time right now,” she argued.
“We do,” he began. “But we have to head back soon, and I’d really like to spend more time with you today. Damn it, you really ARE a nice person!” he laughed.
“I can be when I wanna,” she joined him in his laughter. “You’re not so bad yourself, McLean.”
“I aim to please,” he told her, looking her in the eyes. “Whatever you want me to be, I’ll be.”
“Is that so? You’re really asking for trouble with that, J.”
“I’ll take whatever you give me.”
“You’ll regret it.”
“I like you.”
Andy stopped her teasing. He’d declared the inevitable. He liked her. It wasn’t something she didn’t already suspect; their whole argument months ago was because of this. He had feelings for her, and she didn’t. This time, however, there was a slight difference.
She was liking what she had in front of her. Perhaps a little too much.
“I may get shot for this,” she sighed. “But I feel the same way.”
AJ’s deep gaze was burning into hers and while she should have grown uncomfortable with the intensity, she was surprised to find herself enjoying it, and returning the stare with equal intensity. Her eyes darted all over his face, memorizing it, and, without thinking, uttered a phrase that stunned them both... if only momentairly.
“I’d really like to kiss you right now,” she whispered, feeling her heart skip a beat at the mentioning of the thought.
AJ’s eyes widened in surprise, but the expression was quickly replaced with one of consent. He’d nodded only briefly before closing the pace between them in a soft, warm kiss.
Breaking apart, he half expected her to jump up and yell at him, but another part of him told him she wasn’t doing anything of the sort. She’d smiled at him, ran a hand gently across the side of his face, and kissed him briefly a second time. Her way of telling him she’d made the right decision.
All but their experience that day was forgotten as the couple drove back into the city, and forgetting those that were part of their lives would prove to be a mistake with harsh consequences.
[chapter list | chapter twenty two]