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Cocky Score: Chapter 30

Briggs

It’s been a fucking day today when I finally pull into my parents’ driveway.

Visiting hours were over a couple of hours ago, but I drove around after I left the hospital.

It’s after eleven when I walk through my parent’s front door. The smell of home and my childhood hits me instantly. It’s been years since I’ve been home—my parents visit me in Orcas Island for holidays instead, because I’ve wanted to use the home I spent millions of dollars on and only get to use in the off-season. They’ve always agreed and never given me flack for it, but now I’m starting to feel the stomach-turning that typically follows regret.

I walk through the entry and then into the kitchen, which runs along the back of the house. The ambient lighting of the solar garden lights my dad installed when I was a kid illuminate enough of the backyard that my eyes latch onto the back fence.

Something in me forces my legs to keep moving. I grab the flashlight off the counter where my dad has always kept one, and before I know it, I head out the back steps of my parents’ back patio and I climb over the six-foot wooden fence. I don’t scale it as easily as I did when I was a hundred pounds lighter and fifteen years younger, but I jump over into the field from the top of the fence and head straight for the pond. It’s the place that has always brought me the most peace when I was stressed during playoffs in high school or during my SATs.

I find a spot to sit and stare out over the pond. If today was a long day, tomorrow will be longer. I can only hope that when we show up tomorrow, we get good news, and I’m a match because I don’t like the idea of putting Autumn through the process. I can’t protect my dad from this, but I can protect someone else I love.

I love…

It hits me hard when I realize it.

I love Autumn… and she doesn’t want to be with me. But she did show up for me today. If all she’ll give me is her friendship, I’ll take it. I can’t blame her after what she’s seen from me. The partying, the drinking… Dixie… even if the Dixie situation looked worse than it was.

I haven’t given her the best reasons to count on me… to believe in me.

An hour passes, and my attention catches on movement on the fence by my parents’ house. When I realize it’s not a cat but instead a beautiful Autumn struggling to climb out of the backyard, I jump up and race to her before she falls flat on her face.

“My shirt’s caught on a nail,” she says, frustrated as she struggles to hold onto the fence while balancing a plate full of cookies wrapped in saran wrap and a throw blanket that looks like it came from the back of my parents’ couch over her shoulder. She sways a little as she tries to keep her balance. “I don’t have any hands to get myself unstuck.”

“I got you,” I tell her, reaching up over the other side of the fence and feeling for the nail since I can’t see it from the side of the fence I’m on.

I get it loose and free her.

“Here,” she says, attempting to hand me the cookies so she can figure out how she’s going to get down.

“You hold on to the cookies,” I instruct, putting my hands on her hips and then lifting her up and off the fence.

A little squeak comes across her lips, and I chuckle again.

Yep, I’m fucking in love with this girl.

“How did you find me?” I ask with amusement.

“When you didn’t call to let me know you got home safe, I got worried, so I went for a little walk and was planning on leaving the cookies for you on the doorstep so you had some when you got home, but then I saw your car in the driveway.” I set her down, and then she hands me the plate of cookies, and it takes all my willpower not to consume every last bite in seconds.

“Thanks,” I tell her, and then we both start for the pond.

“The door was unlocked, and then I saw that the back door was left ajar. Your flashlight flicked against the big willow tree in the field.”

“Oh.” I nod and glance over at the tree as the wind blows softly through its dangling branches.

Then I watch as the wind blows through her chestnut color hair, a shiver rolling through her. We’re both in jackets, but the wind is adding to the chill in the air.

I click off the flashlight, not wanting anyone else to see us and join our twosome. I want Autumn all to myself tonight now that she’s found me out here. The moon is bright enough outside with the lack of overcast skies, which is unusual for Washington but its timing couldn’t be more perfect for some star gazing with the only woman I care to do it with.

We get to the pond, and she pulls the blanket from her shoulder and pulls at its folded edges. Once she has the blanket pulled apart, she goes to lay it on the ground.

“What are you doing?” I ask quickly, stopping her.

“I thought we could sit on it. The ground is probably wet.”

“Yeah, but you’re cold. You should wrap it around you,” I say as I sit back down in the spot where I was before she showed up.

My jeans are wet, and so is my ass, so there’s no point in saving it now. Not when she’s cold. And I’m used to being in cold environments. Blame it on the career choice.

“Here, give me the blanket,” I tell her, while I pull off the down vest I have over my hoodie. I don’t need both.

She looks down at me in question but does as I ask.

“Come here,” I instruct, laying out my waterproof vest between my thighs and opening my legs wider for her to sit between them.

She does as I ask again, without question, stepping between my legs and sitting against my crotch.

Maybe I should have rethought this since my cock twitches at her nearness.

I whip the blanket out over her and cover her up to her neck with it, pulling her against me for more warmth.

“How’s that?” I ask.

“Better, thanks, but are you warm enough without your vest?”

“I’m fine, but if you’re too cold, we can go back inside.”

“Nope, I’m right where I want to be,” she says, settling her head back against my shoulder.

I’d stay here all night if I thought I could keep her against me like this.

I pull her even closer and set my cheek against the side of her head.

“How was your meeting today?” I ask.

She seems to hesitate to tell me. Does she not want to tell me that she got the promotion? Does she not believe that I’d be anything other than proud of her, even if it is one of the reasons keeping us apart? Or, at least, I think it’s one of the things keeping us apart. I don’t want to consider the idea that she kept quiet in that garage because external forces aren’t the reason we can’t date. Maybe she really isn’t interested in me, and she’s only here because she’s a good person and I asked her to come.

“It went well. She offered me the promotion,” she says, still looking straight ahead.

“That’s amazing. You deserve it.”

I wrap my arms around her a little tighter to emphasize my sentiments and to seem sincere. It’s true, she deserves the job even if it means I can’t have her.

“Thanks,” she says with a lack of enthusiasm and lifts her head off my shoulder.

I don’t like that small gesture of pulling away. She thinks I’m not happy for her, and that stings a little. Of course, I’m happy for her, and if the plans I’ve set in motion follow through, her promotion and her brother will no longer stand in our way if she’ll give me a shot.

“I’m proud of you, Autumn. I hope you know that.”

She cranes her neck back and looks at me. Her lips are so close, and with the moonlight casting a glow across her cheek, I do everything I can not to dip my head down and kiss her.

Her eyes cast down to my lips, and she sucks in her bottom lip. She’s wavering on self-control just as I am. She turns back to face the pond to break the moment, but at least there was a moment… a string of moments all day. Between holding my hand and baking me cookies. Climbing over the fence and bringing a blanket to sit with me. Gazing longingly at my mouth like I am at hers. There’s more than physical attraction and more than friendship here, and that’s all I need to know to push forward with my plans.

The last piece of the puzzle is to find out if she wants the same things I want.

“Can I ask you something?” I ask.

“You have my undivided attention.” She finally leans her head back against my shoulder.

“Is there any reason other than the promotion and your brother that has you unsure of giving us a shot?”

She goes silent, but she doesn’t tense like she did in the garage. I hope this is a good sign.

“You never noticed me before this. I’ve always been your best friend’s nuisance of a sister. Then I walk back into your life, and it’s all different.” She takes a deep inhale and then blows it out. “I want to believe you when you say you want me, but…”

“You’re worried we don’t want the same things like your brother keeps telling you. You think I’ll change my mind when the new wears off?”

She nods. “I guess… yeah.”

“Okay, so you don’t trust me then?” I ask.

“That’s not exactly what I said. I’m just not sure why you’re now willing to have a committed relationship after living like an aged-out frat boy living in a sorority.”

“Hey. I’m no saint, but I’ve never been that bad.”

She looks back at me and gives me a “don’t insult my intelligence” look.

“Okay. How about I haven’t been that way in a while. The drinking and partying though… yes, I’ll admit that it’s been a recent couple of years of mistakes.”

“And now, all of a sudden, you want a woman you forgot even existed until one month ago, and you want to give all of your freedom up to date me.”

“I think that’s what you’re stuck on. You think I’m giving something up?” I hope to God this is her biggest hesitation because this one is easy to solve. “There is nothing about the life I was living before you that held any appeal to me, Autumn. Losing you is the only thing I’d consider a loss. The other shit is trivial… unimportant, things I used to pass the time or fill the empty parts of me.”

She looks back up at me, her eyes darting between mine to gauge my sincerity.

“You fill the parts of me that were void. And the parts of me that I thought were already full, overflow when we’re together. There is no scenario in which my mind changes about us or that I feel I’m giving up anything to be with you.” She looks back at me over her shoulder. I have her attention. “And there is nothing I’m not willing to give up to be with you… nothing.”

“I…”

“Don’t say anything… please,” I stop her. I’m not ready to hear her turn me down. I want to spend tonight believing I still have a chance with her. Tomorrow is going to be a long day, and the potential of losing her is too much on top of everything else. “Take the night and think about everything I said before you answer.”

She nods and then responds, “Okay.”

“Let’s get you inside. It’s cold out here.”

“Only if you’re ready to go in.”

“I am,” I say, pulling her up and then standing next. “I can walk you back to your parents’ house if you want…”

Even though the thought of her leaving guts me a little.

“It might seem weird to them that we’re living together in Seattle, but we won’t stay together in your old room in an empty house,” she says, looking down at the ground as we walk.

“You want to stay?”

Please say yes.

“Is that okay?”

“Hell yeah,” I say, practically pulling her across the field and heading for the fence.


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