I cover my face with my hands. “Collins, I’m sorry. I’m a freaking mess.”
He picks up my discarded scrapbook and carries it over, sitting next to me on the bed. “Silly Gremlin.” He nudges me with his shoulder. “Always letting your imagination run wild.”
I cross my legs and turn to face him on the bed. “I can’t help it. Whenever we’re together, I guess I get a little carried away.”
He chuckles and takes my hand. The touch sends warmth all the way up my arm. “You aren’t the only one affected when we’re together.” He glances at my mouth, then meets my gaze. I lick my lips. He’s just inches away, and I think he’s about to kiss me. I want him to lean down and close the distance, but he forces his eyes closed and takes a deep breath. When he opens them, he moves a bit away from me, but doesn’t let go of my hand, squeezing it instead.
He waits a beat before he continues. “I’m sorry I kissed you in the water that day.”
“Why?” I ask, even though I know.
“It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the kiss.” His voice goes low, and I wonder if he’s reliving the moment. “I just don’t think it was fair to you. I’m with Tatianna.”
I feel a stab of pain as his words hit me. “I see.” I nod and let go of his hand. “You’ve got Tatianna now. I’m no supermodel, and if you want that, I can’t compete with her.” I stand up and begin to refold my clothes. It’s definitely time to go.
“Hey, stop packing.” He puts his hands over mine to stop me. “Where are you going?”
“I don’t know,” I say. But I stop packing.
“As for my relationship with Tatianna, I’m not sure if she and I still want the same things. We just had a talk about where things were heading with us.” He runs his hand along the back of his neck. “I need to take some time and think things through.”
I feel a glimmer of hope at his words. The idea of Collins breaking it off with Tatianna, of him being single, should be exciting. But as I search his eyes I see that this is hard for him. It could be that he’s not ready to leave her, or that he’s just frustrated because he’s not sure what he wants. Either way, his unhappy state doesn’t allow me to take pleasure in this news. At least not a lot.
“But about our promise.” His brow furrows and I hold my breath wanting to know, but also terrified. “I’m just not sure...” He trails off. But I don’t need him to finish the sentence. I know what he’s saying.
“Then why even bring it up again?” I ask. “What is there to talk about?”
He scoots closer and reaches for my hand, but thinks better of it. “You being here, Mia, suddenly back in my life. It’s a lot to process. And marriage…” He makes a cursing sound under his breath.
“It’s fine,” I interrupt. “It was a stupid childhood promise. It doesn’t mean anything.” My voice shakes over the last words and I suck in a quick inhale. I won’t let myself cry in front of him.
This time he does take my hand, pressing his palm against mine. “Gremlin?”
My eyes lift to his.
“I don’t want you to go anywhere. I lost you once when I was fifteen, and I’m not ready to let you go again. Stay. Please. As long as you want. As long as you need to.”
“But won’t it be weird with Tatianna? Doesn’t she think it’s weird?”
“You’re my best friend, Mia. There’s nothing weird about you being here. Besides, this is my house. I decide who stays and how long.” He narrows his eyes as he looks at me, and pokes me in the arm. “You stay as long as you want.”
“Fine,” I say. A smile finds its way to my lips. He can’t poke me like that, the way he did when he...
I’m not happy with the way our talk has gone, but the fact that he doesn’t want me gone is something. And honestly, I still don’t have anywhere else to go, so it’s also a relief.
“Good,” he says. “Don’t unpack. I want you to come to Paris with me Monday. Tatianna backed out, and I already made travel plans for two.” He explains that it’s a business trip he’s been planning and that she has a shoot. His eyes fill with irritation as he talks about her last minute cancelation. It’s frustrating to watch how little regard she has for him.
It only takes me a second to nod my assent. “Paris? Of course.” I’d do anything for him, and convincing me to go to Europe on a free trip wasn’t exactly a hardship.
“What’s this?” He pulls my scrapbook onto his lap and opens it. He chuckles into his fist, his eyes growing warm. “I can’t believe you still have The Gremlin Files. I’m so glad you brought this.” I blush at the silly name he has for my scrapbook. I sit down next to him and he leans in so that I can see as he leafs through the pages. His arm brushes against mine and I revel in the heat coming from his touch. I try to tell myself this touch is innocent. We were best friends as children, we could be just friends again. But as my body leans in next to his, I know there’s nothing just friends about the way I want to nuzzle my nose along his jaw line and inhale his scent.
At each new page, we gasp and laugh, remembering the past and all the wonderful memories.
He pauses on the page with the ticket stubs to our first concert. “This was the best show. This book is great. Can I borrow it?”