The Outlaw’s Back Story Part 8
It felt like a fucking eternity to get to Trophy Night. And despite the secret alliance he and Elise had formed, despite the stolen kisses they’d gotten away with here, there, and everywhere, sleep still only came after Jesse did. This thing with Elise had gone to his head, to his heart, and to his stupid dick, which liked to remind him who (or what) exactly was in charge at the most inconvenient moments.
His body was desperate for Elise’s and they’d yet to have their first official date. There was no way he was getting at Elise before he had to shove off to Princeton, no matter how many dates he managed to squeeze into a week’s time. Who knew how long it would be before he’d see her again after that? The bad thing about summer romances? There was always a timeline—beginning, middle, and end. And yeah, he’d pushed his personal timeline up on this undertaking one full summer, but now that he had, and it was going so well, man, he just wanted more.
“Well, you can’t have more,” he told himself. Elise was going into her junior year of high school, and he’d be hours away killing himself academically and athletically at Princeton. Sure he could come home for a weekend or two, but he didn’t know if she’d want that. And fuck, he was getting ahead of himself on all this. Tonight. Focus on tonight. Tonight was what they’d both been waiting for, and tonight was all they really had.
Tonight was going to rock.
He’d make sure of it.
And then he saw Elise come into the dance hall dressed in a pretty white sundress like all the rest of the second-year senior girls, and his heart just stopped.
God. Elise in white. Her auburn hair curling around her shoulders. Gold hoops dangling from her tiny earlobes. An arm full of bubbly gold bracelets. He was done.
Just … done.
Or undone, as the case may be.
He’d liked a lot about Elise before now. Had always thought she was cute as could be. Her happy demeanor was a soothing balm to his occasionally disgruntled spirit even before he’d become desperately attracted to her. And now, well … shit.
So caught up in the awareness of Elise, his body was just going through the motions of Trophy Night. Shaking hands and handing out trophies to his boys. Watching the rest of the age groups’ trophies be distributed. Swimming, diving, archery, track and field, tennis, badminton, ping-pong, high point, and the award for the all-round trouper for each group—the Field Medal. The ceremony went on and on.
Thank the living fuck Elise did not win the prestigious Girl of the Year award because if she had, he would have had to share her with everybody else for the rest of the night. As it stood, he was able to sneak the two of them out of Girl of the Year Charlotte Billingsly’s home a half hour after the party started, into his granddad’s golf cart, and off they headed toward the river.
The balmy evening was less humid than most with a close-to-full moon floating high in the clear night sky, giving off a lot of light. When Jesse arrived at the beach, he pulled them into the farthest corner, hiding his cart as best he could behind a lone weeping willow. He’d prepared for their date with a blanket and a small, inconspicuous cooler which he grabbed from the rear-facing seat as Elise hopped off the vehicle.
“Over there,” she said, pointing to the exact place he’d been planning to lead her. To the left of a rock jetty, shadowed and sandy, secluded from the rest of the beach. In all likelihood they wouldn’t be alone all night down here. But they might be able to get away without being spotted for long enough.
Elise helped him lay out the blanket and then stepped out of her sandals. Plopping herself down near the end of the blanket with her back to the dark river, she left plenty of room for him. She sat with her legs crossed as if she was were preparing to meditate, her hands were clasped in her lap. Her attention completely on him.
He grinned. “You don’t want to look at the river?”
“No,” she said quietly. “This is the view I’ve been waiting for.”
God. Seriously. This girl.
Jesse pulled a tall can out of the cooler and dangled it before Elise as he stepped out of his docksiders and onto the blanket. He folded his lanky body into a mirroring position, popped the top, and handed her the White Claw.
“You didn’t.” She giggled, grabbing up the can and taking a quick sip.
“I did.” He grinned at her. “It seemed fitting.”
She passed the can back to him and he took a sip. He passed it back to her and reached behind him pulling the cooler closer. “I also brought a candle,” he said as he presented it. “Didn’t realize the moon would be so bright.”
“A candle is romantic,” Elise said, taking it from his hand and setting it on the blanket between them.
Jesse clicked a lighter and set it to flame. “That’s what I was going for.” Then he pulled out two plastic, stemless wine glasses and proceeded to pour half the White Claw into each. He got rid of the can before he turned his attention to Elise and they clinked glasses. “To our first date. May there be many more.”
Elise just grinned at him. That truly happy and contagious grin of hers that had pulled him in so long ago. He watched as she joyfully shivered into herself. Taking a sip from her glass, all the while looking him in the eye.
Man this girl is something.
“I toyed with the idea of wine, which is considerably more romantic, but I wasn’t sure you liked wine. Since I am well aware you like White Claw and the can is easier to ditch if we get raided, I went with that.”
“Good choice, but for future reference, I do enjoy wine.”
Jesse raised a brow.
“My parents are partiers and allow me and my sister wine with fancy steak dinners.”
“It is widely known your parents are partiers.” He gave her a sly wink. “My parents are rule-followers.”
“Did you know your grandparents and my grandparents grew up summering here in the Forest together?”
“I did know that.”
“Did you know that my grandmother is five years younger than my grandfather?”
“I did not know that.”
“Did you know that my aunt dated your dad when they were in camp together?”
“I’ve heard the rumors.”
“It probably wasn’t hot and heavy. I think they were in middle school at the time.”
“And they are still good friends to this day,” Jesse claimed. “What’s crazy is your aunt is one of my mom’s favorite people. I don’t know if they bonded because of Dad or in spite of him.”
“That’s what’s insane about this place. So many of us are interconnected by past generations.”
“I like it,” Jesse said, shifting so he could straighten his legs. “I like being connected to most of the Forest’s families through my parents and grandparents. I mean, it can get crazy with all the dating that’s gone on within the same families summer after summer. But since I’m the youngest in my family and you’re the oldest in yours, unless I decide to really rob the cradle and date your sister at some point, I think we’re good.”
“You think you’re robbing the cradle?”
Jesse sat forward, leaning over the candle toward Elise and responded quietly. “Yep.” He touched her beneath her chin, bringing her face close to his. Their first kiss of the evening was a mere brush of lips over the candle between them. While still holding her chin, he whispered, “I haven’t told anyone about us. Afraid of what they might say.”
“Afraid?” She pulled back and began to move the candle and rearrange herself so she was sitting closer, directly in front of him.
“You’re going into your junior year of high school,” Jesse pointed out.
“I’m already in college.”
She leaned forward and kissed his chin. “Eventually I’ll be in college, too.”
“Once we’re both in college I won’t be as worried about what my parents are going to say.”
“Your parents don’t like me?”
“They don’t know how I feel about you. That I’ve had my eye on you. Waiting on you to grow up.”
She pulled a face.
“There’s an age difference,” he consoled. “My mother’s a judge. It’s going to raise her eyebrows.”
“Your mother the judge should know that the age of consent in Maryland is sixteen. But fine. We won’t date. I’ll tell my parents we’ve had a conversation and decided to wait until next summer to date.”
Oh, fuck. Not date? He did not see that coming.
He couldn’t find words. Here he’d fallen head-over-heels for this girl and she was putting them on hold like it was an easy, no-brainer decision. And it was his own dumb fault.
“Jesse,” she whispered, while leaning her face in close to get his attention.
“I’m not down with that,” he confessed.
“You aren’t down with keeping us a secret until next summer?”
He blinked. “What?”
“Let’s just not tell people.”
“Not tell people what, exactly?”
“That we’re dating.”
Elise snuggled into his lap, straddling his legs, wrapping her arms around his neck lightly. Then she kissed him softly, moved back, and smiled. “If you’re worried about your parents dealing with our age difference, then let’s not have them find out until this time next year. Doesn’t mean we can’t secretly have a relationship,” she whispered.
“I’m going to want to see you over the winter,” he said, throwing himself headfirst into oblivion. “Any time I come home from college.”
“I’d like that.”
“I’m not interested in dating other people.”
“Yeah, the guys I know back home aren’t really your caliber, so not gonna be a temptation for me.”
At that exact moment, Jesse’s better judgment downloaded a fully formed thought. As if someone spoke into his brain, falling for a seventeen year old and waiting for her to grow up is a really bad idea.
But when the bad idea looked like she did, and felt this damn good sitting in his lap … fuck it.
The White Claw spilled, the candle was snuffed out by flying sand, but the blanket he brought got put to very good use.