Slow Burn Part 51
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"Actually, I've been thinking about it for a while," he says, his expression cloudy. He starts to pace back and forth in front of us. "I've been such a screw-up my whole life-I don't wanna be that guy anymore. The dumba.s.s who had everything, and threw it all away because he was too much of an a.s.shole to appreciate it. I don't wanna be the guy that peaked in high school...I want to actually make something of myself, you know? It only took me losing the most important thing I ever had to realize it."
"Football isn't the most important thing in your life," I object. "You have so much going for you-"
"I wasn't talking about football, I was talking about you."
My eyes widen in shock, and I reflexively glance at Dean to gauge how violent he's feeling towards Johnny after that little declaration. But he's standing very still, with his cop face on. I almost want to check if he's still breathing.
I turn back to Johnny. He's staring at me, those cerulean blue eyes burning with intensity. I take a deep breath. "I'm not that wonderful," I say firmly. "In another year, you won't even remember my name."
"In another year, I'm going to try to become the kind of guy who deserves you." His gaze moves to Dean. "Then I'm getting you back."
"You can try," Dean says dangerously.
Johnny flashes his fierce wildly confident grin. "Try to stop me."
"Guys, I'm right here," I say, rolling my eyes.
I have to choose my words carefully, because what I say next is going to be more for Dean's benefit, than for Johnny's. I need to make this clear for all three of us.
"Johnny, we were a terrible couple." I meet his eyes, keeping my voice stern. "We're not good for each, you know that. I think we're a lot better off as friends. Besides, I'm with Dean now-and I plan on being with him for as long as he'll have me."
Without looking, I can feel the sudden release of tension from Dean. But Johnny is still smiling, unfazed. "I give less than a month before you get sick of seeing his fancy face," he declares.
I hear Dean give a little snort in return. "Go play in traffic, Parker."
Johnny chuckles, already starting to walk away. "Already did, man."
"He just doesn't give up," I mutter, shaking my head in disgust. I stomp towards Dean's car, but he grabs my hips, tugging me back, and turning me around to face him. I give him a curious look.
"I would never beg you," he says softly. "But I would fight for you with everything I've got."
"Well, you're stuck with me now. And did I tell you there a 'no return' policy?" I reach up to lightly trace the scar above his mouth. Then I give him a big smile. "Now let's get out of here."
"Stop right here," I say.
I tug on Dean's s.h.i.+rt to bring him to a halt in front of the old oak tree. I hope it's the right one. I've been navigating through the darkened park using my phone's flashlight-though I would have tripped and fallen several times if it weren't for Dean's excellent reflexes. I should have done this in the daytime, I belatedly think.
"What are we doing here?" He sounds amused, but that could be because I just tried to grab his hand-and grabbed something else instead.
"Hold on." Glad he can't see me blus.h.i.+ng, I fumble in my jacket pocket for the letter. I hand it to him with a flourish.
"What is it?"
Dean takes the paper from me, and I s.h.i.+ne my light down so he can read it. His expression is lost in the dark.
"You got in," he says finally. "Are you going to accept?"
I want to see his face, but I don't want to blind him. Really didn't think this through. "I did," I say with barely contained excitement. "I told you, you're stuck with me! Seriously, it's a beautiful campus, and they have an excellent physical therapy program-"
Suddenly, I'm crushed against Dean's chest. "You're incredible," he says into my hair.
"It was an easy decision," I say breathlessly. "I love you."
"I love you, Juliet." He kisses my forehead, and it's so unbearably sweet.
Before I embarra.s.s myself by crying happy tears, I pull back and clear my throat. "Okay, back to why I brought you here. Do you recognize this spot?"
"I might, if I could see it."
I hunch my shoulders sheepishly. "I know, not the best planning on my part. Um, I'll just tell you. This is the tree where we had our first kiss."
Dean chuckles. He braces a hand against the trunk, looking up into the branches. "This is where it all started, huh?"
"This is it. And to commemorate the occasion..."
I make a noise like fanfare as I s.h.i.+ne my flashlight on the big heart carved into the bark of the tree. Inside its borders reads: Gigantor + Fun Size 4eva.
Dean bursts out laughing. "When did you do this?"
"This morning. I was going to get it tattooed on my a.s.s, but then I came to my senses."
"Funny you should mention tattoos..."
I s.h.i.+ne the light at Dean's face, suspicious of the odd tone in his voice. He s.h.i.+elds his eyes with one hand, but there's a small smile on his face. My mouth drops open.
"You didn't. You did! OhmiG.o.d-where is it? Let me see!"
"Get the light out of my face, and I'll show you," he says, his voice laced with amus.e.m.e.nt.
When I lower my phone, Dean lifts up his s.h.i.+rt. I s.h.i.+ne the light on his torso-there, over his left rib cage, is elegant black script, slightly raised and red.
"Juliet is the sun?" I squint up at him. "Aren't you missing a few lines from that quote?"
He shrugs, letting his s.h.i.+rt fall back down. "I got the gist of it, without all the doth's and thy's."
I am floored. "Why did you do it? You said you never wanted anything as permanent as a tattoo, unless you were sure you'd mean it fifty years later."
His matter-of-fact reply affects me profoundly. When I finally find my voice, it's unsteady with emotion. "Dean...I...it's beautiful. I love it."
I grab fistfuls of his s.h.i.+rt, and pull him down to me. I don't need the light to find his mouth in the dark. A slow burn starts inside of me, warming my insides. It explodes into a wildfire of pa.s.sion and need that seems to rage on infinitely.
After, I rest my head against Dean's chest, listening to his racing heartbeat. "Who would have thought we'd end up together?" I muse comfortably.
"I knew the moment I accepted your challenge." When I give him a bewildered look, he grins and holds me tight.
"I let myself fall."
Slow Burn Part 51
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Slow Burn Part 51 summary
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