After the Game (Page 20)


I turned to tell him thank you and how much I enjoyed our day when he pulled to a stop, but his gaze was already locked on me. The look in his eyes was different, and I recognized it. Or at least my body did. My heart had picked up its pace, and I felt flushed from anticipation.

Before I could get too nervous or think this through, he leaned over and his right hand cupped my cheek just as he leaned his head down until his lips touched mine. It wasn’t controlling or possessive. It wasn’t like a hungry teenage boy trying to attack me. It was sweet. Like he wanted to savor this.

I moved my body closer to his and opened my mouth beneath his, hoping that wasn’t too much too soon. Although this was not how I expected this day to end. Not that deep down I hadn’t wanted it. Because I had. I knew that. It was just actually having it happen was different. It was exciting and terrifying. Reality had been much different in my head. I had even been debating giving him a hug earlier, not realizing he was planning on this.

His tongue touched mine, and I let out a sound that I hoped sounded as pleased as I was. A real kiss. The kind that meant something was new to me. What I had done before when I was younger had been learning and experimenting. Nothing more. It sure hadn’t made my heart flutter and my body tingle.

I wanted to remember this in case our end came sooner than expected. Although Brady wasn’t my first kiss, he would always be my first meaningful kiss. The first one to affect me.

Slowly he eased back, ending the connection.


“I’ve wanted to do that all day,” he whispered.

I hadn’t realized it, but I was blushing from his admission and thankful for the darkness.

“I didn’t know friends kissed like that,” I replied.

He pressed a small kiss to the corner of my lips. “They don’t” was his response.

“Oh” was all I could say. Brady was telling me this was more. It wasn’t just me feeling things beyond friendship. He was feeling them too.

“Can I call you tomorrow?” he asked, sounding unsure.


I wondered if Brady Higgens had ever been unsure about anything. “Yes.”

He moved away and climbed down out of his truck. I watched him as he walked around the front of his truck and came to open my door. He held out his hand to help me down, and I took it. Not because I needed it but because I wasn’t sure how well my legs were going to work now.

“Thanks for today,” I said, wanting to say more but so flustered I couldn’t seem to find the words.

“It was the best day I’ve had in a long time,” he replied.

I knew he wouldn’t kiss me out here. For the world to see. Even now, him walking me to my door was dangerous. If anyone drove by and saw him, he’d have to lie or tell the truth. I wanted him to lie. I wasn’t ready for this to end. Not yet.

“We will find some time tomorrow, then,” he said just as we reached the door.

I knew I couldn’t leave Bryony all day again, and I didn’t want to. “Yeah, I can get away for a little while. Maybe while Bryony naps.”


“Soon we can take her to the park together.”

I liked that he said that, but believing him was hard, so I just nodded.

“Good night,” he said reaching down to squeeze my hand before turning and leaving me there.

I opened the front door and stepped inside, even though I wanted to watch him until he drove away. I wouldn’t allow myself that.

“That looked like your day went well,” my mother said with her eyebrows up as I walked into the living room. She’d been spying on me. I hadn’t expected her to do that.

“I don’t know what you mean,” I replied, blowing that off.


She rolled her eyes. “It may be dark outside, but under the streetlamp the inside of his truck was perfectly clear from here. Don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t spying. I just heard his truck and decided to check to see who was here. Then I saw something I wasn’t expecting.”

Me either.

“Don’t read too much into it,” I replied.

“Momma!” Bryony called out, running excitedly into the room with her bath towel wrapped around her.

“Hey, baby girl,” I said, equally as thrilled to see her.

“Baff!” she stated the obvious.

“Then I’ll go bathe you,” I replied.


“Pay boat.” She loved her little pink boat that floated in the bathwater. Playing boat was her favorite part of her bath.

“Okay, sounds like a plan.”

“Ookies,” she said, pointing to the kitchen.

She nodded enthusiastically.

“He likes you. Trust him,” Mother called out as I followed my daughter down the hall.

“I’m trying” was my only response. “But I know how this ends.”


“You don’t know him. That boy is different. He always has been.”

I remembered him turning on me two years ago. He wasn’t different then. “He’s nicer, but in the end he isn’t all that different.”

I could hear my mother’s sigh, and I kept following Bryony to the bathroom. Spending time with my daughter and reminding myself what was important in life was what I needed after that kiss. I wasn’t a normal girl, and sitting around and dwelling on it was pointless.

“One day you’re going to have to trust again,” Mom replied, following us to the bathroom. She wasn’t ready to let this go.

One day I was. Today wasn’t that day.

“Did you save me some cookies?” I asked her.

“Of course. Bryony made you pink ones.”


I had heard her, but I wanted a subject change. That had worked.

“What all did you do today?” I asked Bryony.

“Ookies,” she told me again.

Cooking anything was the highlight of her day, other than going to the park. Especially cooking things she liked to eat.

“Did you play outside?”

She nodded. “Me duddy.” She beamed up at me as if being dirty was an accomplishment.


“Then you had a perfect day,” I reminded her.

She dropped her towel and ran to the bathwater that my mother had run for her. It was full of her toys and bubbles.

This was my enough.

I’ve Got This Under Control



West had woken me up at nine this morning. He was going for a run and wanted me to go with him. Maggie had turned him down, so I got up and went. It was good to work out the stiffness from Friday night. It also gave Mom time to fix breakfast.


The route he was taking us on went right in front of Riley’s house. My plan had been to text her this morning and find some way to see her. I’d lain in bed for hours last night thinking about our day. Her laughter, her smile, the feel of her lips on mine. All of it. I wanted to see her again. Now.

Looking toward the house, I wondered if she was awake and what she was doing. Did Bryony wake her up early? Did she fix breakfast at her house? Was her grandmother being difficult today? What did she normally do on Sundays? I had a million questions. I wanted to know everything about her. I just needed time and freedom to run up to her door right now and see her.

“What’s going on there?” West asked, and it snapped my attention back to the road we were on and the fact that I wasn’t alone.

“What do you mean?” was my response. Although I knew exactly what he meant.

“With Riley,” he replied.

West wouldn’t be on Maggie’s side about this. Sure, he’d offered to help find her grandmother, but he wasn’t about to become her friend.