Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 84
“Don’t worry,” he says, taking my hand in his own.
He clearly misinterprets my disappointment as worry. As he squeezes my hand though, seeming concerned, I relax a little bit, and squeeze it back.
“I know I was scared shitless of your dad at the lake house, but I’m not going anywhere.”
I nod. I wasn’t really thinking he was going anywhere, but it had felt to me like we were getting closer to being together for real. There’s no way I’m going to tell him that now, though. I’d sound ridiculous.
“I don’t mind staying your dirty little secret,” he says, squeezing my hand again, but I don’t reciprocate this time. “I don’t want any more trouble during training and I’d like to keep seeing you of course. And I’m starting to think it’s pretty hot.”
“Yeah. A forbidden relationship. Off limits affair with the coach’s daughter. Both of us purposefully going totally out of bounds, but not getting caught.”
He smiles, and I do my best to smile back. But all I feel is confusion. He said “relationship,” but he also said “affair” and made it sound as if what we’re doing is something dirty and wrong.
I wasn’t exactly thinking we should approach my dad together and let him know we like each other, but I thought maybe we should at least start thinking about a direction for the future. I’d thought maybe we could go public after the football season is over, although it sure would be fun to hang out as a couple before and after home games and while traveling at away games.
I guess we’re not going to be able to do that now. And maybe not ever, from how Wesley’s making it sound.
I’m definitely not going to ask him about the other cheerleaders back at his old school that he supposedly jilted and mistreated. Since we’re not even officially dating, it’s not any of my business.
Chapter 20 – Chelsea
“So, what are you reading?” Wesley asks me, nudging my leg with his and cocking his head at the book that is open in my lap.
I’d thought our unsuccessful conversation was over, but apparently Wesley wants to hang out awhile.
“Oh, just a… book,” I say, realizing how stupid my answer sounds.
But I don’t want to get into why exactly I’m reading Pablo Neruda’s poetry right now, or why I always re-read it so many times.
“I’m not a big reader,” he says, and I’m not sure whether to be happy or upset that he changed the subject.
“What do you like to do?” I ask him, trying to turn the conversation around, into something more pleasant and casual.
“Just more active stuff, I guess,” he says, with a shrug. “I’m not one to sit in one place for long, and reading kind of requires that.”
“I see,” I tell him.
“Why?” he asks. “Are you trying to figure out where I should take you on a secret date?”
“Ha!” I laugh, but I blush at the same time. “Where you should take me ? Maybe I should take you on a secret date!”
“Fine,” he says. “But it had best be to some place really cool.”
“Well, have you been out and about town much?” I ask him, excited about us going on a date, even though I’m still not happy about how our conversation has turned out. “I know you just moved here.”
“Not really,” he says. “Practice and games have taken up most of my time.”
“Now that you’ve learned to fish in the country, I think it’s time you see more of our fine city, then,” I tell him.
He raises his my eyebrows in interest. “Oh really. Is that a challenge?”
“More like an invitation,” I tell him. “Have you been to the amusement park?”
It’s one of my favorite places in the world, but I don’t tell him that. I decide to take it slow, tame my emotions a little and not let them hang so far out on my sleeve. If he just wants an adventurous time, I know how to show him that.
“I have not,” he says.
He looks a bit hesitant.
“I know it’s nothing like the big chain amusement parks in other cities,” I tell him, apologetically. “It’s rather rinky dinky and old. But it’s still fun.”
“Well then,” he says. “Challenge accepted. Or invitation accepted. Or… whatever.”
He still seems a bit reluctant, as if he’s trying to talk himself into it. I wonder if his feelings for me have already faded. Or if they had never really been as strong as I’d thought they were in the first place.
But then he stands up suddenly, as if having convinced himself.
“How about now?” he asks, looking like he’s ready to leave immediately.
I feel the sudden urge to play it cool. If I’m just his dirty little secret that he has to hide away from my dad the coach, I shouldn’t always be so available to him. It’s almost as if I hear Taylor’s voice in my head, giving me that advice that Wesley calls “motherly.”
Don’t be so eager , the voice says. Play harder to get. Make him do the chasing.
“I have a lot of studying to catch up on,” I tell him, shrugging slightly. “I didn’t get anything done all weekend, thanks to a certain someone.”
Just the memory of his hands on my skin is enough to make me blush, so I hurry to continue the current topic of conversation.
“And the park opened hours ago anyway. We wouldn’t have a lot of time there if we went now. If we’re going to go to an amusement park, we’d best get an early start.”
“True,” he says, as if unfazed. “I should study the playbook tonight anyway, because your dad claims I don’t know how things are traditionally done, and that I’m not allowed to switch things up or try anything new until I master the basics.”
I give a half-hearted laugh, but my dad is the last thing I want to talk about. All he does is ruin things for me when it comes to relationships and Wesley is turning out to be no exception.
“Well good luck with that,” I tell him, standing up to walk back to campus.
He gets up to follow me, and then he says, “Since an early start is required for amusement parks, how about Sunday morning? It’ll give us both time to rest up after the big game Friday night.”
I do my best not to smile. My plan had worked. Now he is chasing me.
I’m not sure whether I’m supposed to say yes or no now. But I decide to ignore the advice of the voice in my head, and make sure we have something lined up. Otherwise I’d just die of anticipation not knowing when I get to see him again.
“Sure,” I tell him, too fast, too eagerly.
I want to kick myself for putting myself out there this far, but I’m not able to reign myself back in for some reason.
“I’ll see you Sunday morning then.”
“I’m not sure what you’ll tell your dad you’re doing,” Wesley says.
I realize he’s still afraid of getting caught. Well, at least that’s not as bad as the alternative: not wanting to go with me at all.
“You let me figure that part out,” I tell him. “I know how to handle my dad.”
“Okay, I’ll meet you at the stadium,” he says, as if knowing it’s a bad idea to pick me up, like regular guys can do for regular girls when they take them on a date.
“Be ready to experience the most fun amusement park ever,” I tell him as we leave the pool area.
“And you be ready to be an amazing tour guide on this super duper secret date you’re taking me on,” he says.
I can’t say I like the “secret” part, but I definitely like the “date” part. And even the dorky way he says “super duper” turns me on, for some strange reason.
For someone who comes off as such a bad boy, he certainly has his soft spots.
As I sit in classes all day long, I wonder how I’ll be able to hold myself together until this weekend arrives. I’m proud of myself for making him wait until Sunday to see me again, but I’m not sure that waiting until then will be an easy task.
Chapter 21 – Chelsea
I’m lonely though, and could use some conversation. I also want to let him know that I have plans on Sunday, since he’d mentioned perhaps taking me on a fishing trip. My birthday is coming up soon, and he likes to do father/ daughter weekends to celebrate.
I’m not sure what to tell him about who my plans are with, since I don’t like to lie to him. But I’m also not about to ruin what I have going with Wesley. Even if we just meet up in secret for some fun on the side, I’m still excited about being with him.
And Taylor’s right that my dad hides things from me, too. So I decide to say I’m going to the amusement park, which is true, but leave out who I’m going with. He’ll probably just assume it’s Taylor, since we often went together in the past.
I approach his bedroom door and knock on it.
“Umm, come in,” he says, and it isn’t until I’ve opened his door that I realize he sounds embarrassed and in a hurry.
He’s turning around and shoving something into his pocket. And it really looks like a little blue box. The kind that engagement rings come in.
“Dad?” I ask, feeling half guilty for barging in on him and half mad at him for clearly not wanting me to know something.
And I suppose that 100% of me feels scared about whatever is in that box.
“Hi Sweetie,” he says, taking his hands out of his pocket as if everything is completely normal. “What’s up?”
“Dad, what are you doing?”
I didn’t want to ask him, but I can’t help it. I feel like a little kid again. My lower lip is even trembling.
Stop it , I will myself.
“Chelsea,” he says, as he sits down on the bed. “You may want to sit down. I have something to tell you.”
Oh my god .
This is it. He’s going to tell me that Taylor’s mom is going to be my new step-mom…
I brace myself.
“I’m fine standing here, Dad.”
Just get it over with. Just tell me this crazy thing I never thought would happen. And especially not like this.
“Well, okay. If you’re sure. I know this is going to sound pretty surreal…”
“Dad, just tell me.”
I ball up my fists and scratch at my palms, a nervous habit leftover from when I was younger.
“Okay. Well.” He chuckles, awkwardly. “Taylor’s mom and I… Miss Hudson…”
“Sherry?” I ask, nonchalantly.
Don’t call her Miss Hudson. It makes her sound like an old librarian rather than Taylor’s mom, whom I’ve known ever since I can remember.
“Yes. Of course. Sherry. We’ve been… seeing each other.”
I let out a huge sigh of relief.
“Oh. I know that, Dad.”
He leans back a bit on the bed, as if relieved himself.
“Yes. Obviously. I know a lot more than you think I know.”
Why didn’t you tell me sooner ? I want to ask him. Taylor’s mom told her. She tells her everything. Unlike you.
But I don’t say anything. I’m just glad it isn’t worse. Apparently he just got her a gift. I remind myself that it’s not unheard of for a guy to give a woman he’s seeing some jewelry.
“You’re smarter than I give you credit for,” my dad says, laughing nervously again.
“I mean, I was kind of surprised when Taylor and I first figured it out,” I admit. “But it’s a rather small city with a small selection of…”
I pause, not knowing how to say it.
“Attractive, older single people?” he jumps in, helping me out.
“Ha. Something like that,” I laugh, grateful that he’s not taking offense. “I should have figured that sooner or later you guys would make your rounds to each other, before you’re both onto the next flavor of the month, or whatever it is that you do, and she does.”
“She does?” he asks.
He blinks, as if he’s disappointed to hear this.
I roll my eyes.
Guys. They’re so oblivious.
Even after years of dating a lot of women, my dad still thinks he’s the only one any of them have ever dated.
“Well, honey, this is a little different, I think, than…”
“Dad, gross.” All I can picture is my dad making out with Taylor’s mom. It’s not a pretty sight. “Keep your personal life private, will you?”
“Of course, Sweetheart. I didn’t mean to overshare. I was just…”
“I mean, I’m glad you told me, and I want to know what’s up,” I clarify, remembering how just a minute ago I was mad that he hadn’t let me in on this news sooner. “But no need to get into specifics.”
“Okay, honey. I’ll try my best to walk that fine line.”
I don’t need to know how you think Taylor’s mom is the hottest thing since sliced bread for a whole day or two, until the bread goes stale and you decide it’s time to buy some new fresh bread from the bakery.
It dawns on me that maybe my dad is the reason I’ve never been too interested in dating guys until I really liked one of them. I don’t see the point in having a merry go round of partners.
Sure, for my dad it makes sense because he’s grieving the loss of my mom and he needs some company. But for me, I’d rather just wait until I found that special someone.
Have I found him ?
No, he’s just a secret side piece. That’s all we are to each other, mutually.
As if reading my mind, Dad asks, “So, what were you coming to tell me?”
“Oh yeah,” I say, my head still spinning from his revelation. “Just that I’m going to go to the amusement park this weekend, so it’s probably not the best time to go to the lake.”
“That’s okay,” Dad says, looking as if he’d forgotten the lake was even a possibility. I bet he already made plans with Taylor’s mom. “I mean, it’d be better to go to the lake closer to your birthday, or even on the weekend of your actual birthday, if you’d like. And it’s good that you and Taylor are reliving your youth.”
“What?” I ask him, confused.
“Oh, you know. Heading back to your old stomping grounds. The amusement park.”
“Oh. Yeah. Ha ha.”
Of course I don’t correct his misconception. And I make a mental note to clue Taylor in on the fact that she’s now officially my alibi.
He’s looking at me suspiciously now, so I realize I might not have covered it up very well. It dawns on me that normally I wouldn’t have even told him what I was planning to do with Taylor. I’m in college, after all. Not a little girl anymore.
“I know I don’t have to tell you all my plans,” I quickly tell him. “But it’s just that you had mentioned maybe going to the lake. In general, though, like you, I really should keep my personal life private.”
“You don’t really have that option, when it comes to some of my rules,” he says, and winks at me. “You’re still living under my roof of course, and I’m funding a portion of your college education, and I don’t need certain things flaunted in my face.”
He says it in a jesting manner but my mouth still drops open a bit.
How could he possibly know about…?
“I know more than you think, too,” he says. “Your old dad is smarter than you give him credit for as well.”
“Umm. Okay,” I tell him, feeling tongue-tied.
“I want to trust your judgment, Chelsea. I just want you to be careful.”
“Okay Dad,” I say, hurriedly backing out of his room before I give myself away. “Nice talk. Thanks a lot.”
“You too,” he calls out after me.
How does he expect me to be careful when I’m knowingly walking into a risky situation?
I don’t know how much he knows— or thinks he knows— or how, but I’m no
That should be a simple task.
Anyone could do it.
Anyone except those cheerleaders at his other school.
But I’m wiser than they are. I know exactly what I’m getting into, and I want to.
And there’s no way I’m spilling my guts to my dad and ruining it just when it got started.
Chapter 22 – Wesley
“You’re going to love this place,” Chelsea says as we approach the amusement park. “I know… at first you’ll think it’s such a cheesy old amusement park compared to what you’re used to in the big bad city.”
I gulp, feeling as if my stomach is practically tied in knots. I’m more nervous than I usually get during a big play-off game. But I try not to let it show.
I’m not about to tell Chelsea that I’ve never been to an amusement park. That I’ve never ridden a roller coaster.
“And I know it’s not super big or glamorous,” she continues. “But it has an old fashioned charm.”
My stomach lurches so I don’t say anything. Plus, it’s kind of cute to hear her chatter on about this place, which she obviously likes a lot. It’s touching that she wanted to bring me here, even though it would definitely not be my choice of places to go with her.
“If you’ve ever wondered what a ‘quaint’ amusement park might look like, this is it,” she rambles on. “And even though it doesn’t have many roller coasters, the few that are here are actually really fun. They don’t have a lot of bells and whistles like all the new rides at all the big parks, but that’s part of what makes them fun. They’re just made well, you know? They stand the test of time.”
“Uh huh,” I answer, without really answering.
I don’t want to give away any sense of my fear.
I’m Wesley Reynolds, fucking fearless football leader. And I intend to stay that way in everyone’s mind, most importantly Chelsea’s.