Rival Page 69

Touching ground again, I kicked and kicked, my heart jumping in my chest as I tacked to the left, avoiding the stairs. Staying on the sidewalk, I continued kicking off and gliding on the sidewalk around the bowl, fireworks going off in my belly and brain.

Fucking amazing. This is what it felt like.

How did I ever give this up?

Digging into the ground, I pushed off hard and charged ahead straight for Lucas. Spreading out my arms, I dropped my back leg, bringing the front of the board up off the ground and skidding to a halt, circling Lucas until I stopped.

I squeezed every muscle in my body, wishing I could pinch up my face in a shitty-ass grin and jump up and down.

But that would be uncool.

Hopping off the board, my breaths fast and sharp against the afternoon cold, I got into Lucas’s wide-eyed face.

“Do I look scared to you?” I teased.

His mouth was hanging open. “I want to learn that.”

I stomped down on the tail of my board and caught the front end in my grasp. “Heel-draggers are way off. Let’s do some tic-tacking.”

Over the next couple of hours, Lucas and I exhausted ourselves with steering, bailing, ollies, and just plain practice. I showed him how to use his body, and how to fall with a smile. Because falling happens. A lot.

I promised him that we’d work on kick-flips next time, and then he spent some time practicing in the bowls while Madoc and I sat on the ledge to watch.

Laying my head on his shoulder, I closed my eyes and, for once, didn’t want to be anywhere else.

• • •

“Thank you,” I said in a raspy voice. “For today, I mean. I needed that.” I think I had laughed, shouted, and cheered more in the last few hours than in the last couple of years put together. Even though I’d be feeling the pain tomorrow, I was light-headed with happiness. Madoc’s smell enveloped me in the car on the ride home, I’d be cuddled next to him tonight, and every muscle felt loose from the release of stress.

He reached over and kneaded my thigh as he steered through the streets of town. We’d just dropped off Lucas in time for dinner and were heading home.

I sat back in my seat, my sleepy head lying sideways and looking up at him. “Don’t be freaked out by this question,” I started, “but did you have any relationships in high school? Like girlfriends?”

He snorted and flipped on the windshield wipers. “Women always have to ask questions they really don’t want the answers to.”

“But I do.” My voice stayed light. I actually did want to know. We’d missed years, and I wanted to know everything about him.

“Yes,” he admitted, nodding his head and not meeting my eyes. “A few.”

Jealousy spread through my brain like a disease. Who were they? What did they look like? What did he do with them? What were their names, Social Security numbers, and addresses?

It’s crazy how thoughts and suspicions can splinter your peace of mind.

“And?” I urged softly.

“And I never told anyone I loved them,” he shot back. “Only you.”

Then he turned to me, shutting me up with his serious, straight face.

The pulse in my neck throbbed, and it took a moment to realize my mouth was hanging open.

He tipped his chin at me. “So what does the Valknut tattoo mean?”

I inhaled an impatient breath and turned to look out the window. “Way to beat a dead horse,” I half-joked.

“You’re evading.”

Yeah, I am. But what the hell could I do? How do you tell someone who you want a future with that you got rid of his child without his knowledge? Madoc would care. I just couldn’t tell him exactly what the tattoo means. Not yet.

Why wasn’t he asking about my Out of Order tattoo or the script down the side of my back?

I narrowed my eyes, focusing on the rain on my window. “The tattoo means a lot of things to different people. For me it’s about rebirth.” That was partly true. “It’s about moving on. Surviving.” And then I turned to him and shrugged. “It looked cool, okay?”

There. Hopefully that’d be the end of it. For now, anyway.

I’d tell him everything. Eventually. As soon as I could. For now, I just needed tonight with him.

And that’s when I remembered one of the skills of a good talker.

Distract him with a change of subject.

Clearing my throat, I spoke up. “You never ask about the script on my back.” And I watched his eyes dart down to my hands as I lifted my shirt up and over my head.

Madoc’s round eyes were glued to my nearly na**d chest clad only in a hot-pink, lacy bra.

“Eyes on the road,” I reminded him in my sultriest voice.

He blinked and glanced back out the windshield. “Fallon, I’m driving. This is not cool.”

A grin tickled the corners of my mouth watching him squeeze the life out of the wheel.

“See?” I turned and showed him the writing that ran vertically from the back of my shoulder down my blade to just below. “‘Nothing that happens on the surface of the sea can alter the calm of its depths.’ It’s my father’s favorite quote.”

I felt my body sway with the swerve of the car, and I had the good sense not to laugh. I liked his eyes on me, and I liked that I distracted him.

“And then . . .” I lifted up my butt, ignoring the excited lump in my throat as I quickly shimmied out of my pants, taking my shoes and socks off with them. “I have another one right here.” I pointed to the shamrock on my hip.

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