“Anything,” was his response.
“Why me?” Her question was innocent enough. Hadn’t she witnessed girls literally throw themselves at his feet in the past? She just wondered what it was about her that made him like her so much. Plus, part of her really wanted to hear it. If he had to think about an answer, formulate it into words and then say them out loud, then it would be real.
“California, I wish you could hop into my head and see yourself through my eyes. Then you wouldn’t have to ask. But for the record, I’m extremely attracted to you. I have been since the first day I laid eyes on you.”
“Speckled eyes,” Katherine commented, as she laughed.
“Yes, since the first time I laid my speckled eye on you,” he laughed.
They continued to walk and his thumb gently caressed her hand as he held it. “You’re different from the girls out here. You’re honest and that’s rare. I don’t feel like you’re trying to be someone you’re not…and you don’t apologize or make excuses for that. You are who you are, end of story. You don’t treat me the way other people do and I really like that.” He brought her hand up to his mouth and kissed it softly.
“You don’t know anything about hockey, which is great ’cause then you won’t be able to tell if I suck or not. Plus, you’re nice and funny and…”
She cut him off mid-sentence; she couldn’t take any more. “Okay. No more. I know I asked, but please stop. It’s embarrassing.”
“All right then, why do you like me?” he asked her in return.
“Who said I do?” she said and then smiled devilishly at him. He stopped, and took her face into his hands. He leaned down and kissed her slowly and tenderly. She nearly fell this time. “You can’t just do that to me…my knees can’t take it. One of these times, I will fall.”
“And I will catch you. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m kinda strong,” he informed her.
“Oh no, I didn’t notice,” she added. They weren’t far from Katherine and Taylor’s dorm and she was partly disappointed that the night was about to end so soon, and partly relieved. She could only take so many of those kisses from Cooper in one evening.
“I’m sorry I’m bringing you back so soon, but I have to be on the ice at five tomorrow.”
“In the morning?” she asked him, horrified.
“On the rink with the roosters!” he told her enthusiastically, as he mimicked someone, but she didn’t know who.
“It’s what my coach always says.”
Katherine scrunched her face, “I’d tell him I’d rather be on the rink with whatever gets up later.”
“Eh, I’m used to it. Just part of the job,” he winked at her when he said it.
“Thank you for an incredible evening, Cooper. I had a great time.” She didn’t know if she was supposed to hug him, or kiss him again, or what. So she just sort of stood there. She didn’t want to seem too eager and she wanted him to make the rules.
“No, thank you. Thanks for moving here and coming to my school and falling head over heels for me.”
She interrupted his speech with a sarcastic, “Uh-huh,” but he continued to talk. As he spoke, he got closer and closer to her lips.
“Thanks for being gorgeous and smart and fun. And thanks for...” He leaned in and kissed her one last time before he finished his sentence. He made sure to wrap one arm around her waist. He knew that if her knees did give out he could catch her one-handed. His other hand was on her face, and it brushed the side of her cheek.
Katherine’s pulse sprinted just as quickly as it did with the first kiss. But then it happened. An image flashed in her mind and she realized it was the guy from her dream. It happened so quickly, but she recognized him instantly. He looked hurt, or confused. It made her stomach flip and her chest felt like it had collapsed inside of her. She gasped and pulled back from Cooper.
“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” He held on to her tightly.
“Yeah. Sorry, that was weird. I thought I saw someone.”
“Wait, wait, wait. You were kissing me with your eyes open? This isn’t a good start to our relationship, California. I think open-eye kisses mean we’re doomed.” He said it like a joke, but there was an air of concern in his voice.
“No, no. My eyes were closed. It was in my head. I mean, I thought I saw someone in my head.” Katherine knew if she tried to explain this would sound as crazy as she felt at that moment, so she just stopped. “Never mind. I’m sorry. I’ll talk to you tomorrow?”
“I’ll call you after practice.” He gave her a quick kiss goodbye and she turned to walk into her building. Just then a group of girls walked out and squealed when they saw Cooper. Katherine stood there for a minute to watch the display. She could tell this sort of thing made him uncomfortable.
“Hi, Cooper!” said one of the girls.
“Where are you going?” asked another.
“Yeah, Cooper, where are you going? Can we come along?” the prettiest of the girls asked. Cooper told them he had to go so he could be ready for practice in the morning.
“We can help you be ready.”
“Yeah, Cooper, let us help you.” The girls were relentless. They begged and pleaded and said the kinds of things that girls shouldn’t say. Cooper was nice, but firm. He told them goodnight and continued to walk.
One of them pulled out a camera and it flashed in Cooper’s direction. Katherine heard the faint conversation about “his butt” and “how hot” he was and then a lot of giggles. She couldn’t believe the way girls treated him. She looked in his direction one last time and he looked at her. She gave him a quick wave before she turned around and headed into her building. Right before she walked through the door, her cell phone beeped. It was a message from Cooper.
“Thanks again for the great evening. Sorry about the girls. Call you tomorrow.”
Katherine walked through the door and wondered if Taylor would be home from Danny’s yet. She heard Taylor’s voice yell excitedly, “Ahhhh! Tell me everything! Did you kiss? Do you love him? Does he love you back? Dur, of course he loves you. Where did he take you? What did you do? WHY AREN’T YOU ANSWERING ME YET?”
Katherine loved Taylor’s craziness. When she got this excited about something, it was really hard not to get excited with her. Katherine looked at Taylor’s face, which beamed with excitement and said, “He really is amazing. And those lips!”
“So you did kiss! Who kissed who...tell meeeee!” Taylor whined.
“He kissed me. It was perfect. His kiss was perfect…the moment was perfect...everything was…perfect.”
“Is there anything this guy does that isn’t perfect?” Taylor asked her, but it wasn’t really a question. It was definitely more of a statement.
“Seriously,” Katherine said in response.
“So…what did he want to show you? I asked Danny what he thought it was, but he said he had no clue.”
“Oh! He took me to the hockey rink. He told me all about it and why he loves it. He brought me on the ice and everything. It was really sweet.”
“He brought you on the ice? Interesting,” Taylor said in a different tone.
“What?” Katherine asked her nervously.
“That’s kind of a big deal, Kat. He took you to the rink. He showed you where he lays his heart on the line every day. He took you on the ice. Hockey players don’t bring girls on the ice, Kat!!!”
Katherine just shrugged her shoulders and gave her a funny look. Taylor started again, “Ugh! Let me put this in terms you’ll understand. It’s like if you were dating a baseball player and he brought you onto the field. Guys don’t bring just any girl onto the field, Katherine. Don’t you get it?”
“I get what you’re saying, but I don’t get what you mean.”
“Cooper Donovan is totally falling for you. Can I spell it out any more clearly?”
“And you can tell that because he brought me on the ice? You’re crazy, Taylor.”
“Fine, but you’re doomed. He’s going to love you and every girl on this campus is going to hate you for it.” Taylor smiled at her. Katherine laughed out loud, but she knew there was an air of truth to what Taylor said.
“If that isn’t motivation to start dating the guy, I don’t know what is,” Katherine smirked. “I’m tired, Tay. I’m gonna get ready for bed.”
“Me too!” Taylor joined her in the bathroom and the girls washed their faces and brushed their teeth.
Katherine fell asleep quickly, but not before she thought about the flash of the face she saw when Cooper kissed her. She couldn’t quite figure out why this strange guy wouldn’t leave her thoughts. She hoped that if it meant something deeper, he’d come back to her and explain it. She kept to herself the hope for him to reappear. Hadn’t she promised Taylor she’d get over him? Didn’t she just have an incredible evening with Cooper? She fell asleep as she replayed every moment of that first kiss.
Katherine walked along the beach. The air was warm and the waves crashed at her feet. She glanced in front of her and saw a short silhouette running toward her. Before she knew it, there was a golden retriever that playfully jumped at her and wagged his tail. She bent down to pet him and he started to lick her face. “Come here, Brody! Brody, come!”
Her heart instantly started to hum and her mind raced to place the familiar voice. She glanced up and saw him smile at her. His muscular body was silhouetted by the sunset. Her hazel eyes immediately found his blue ones and her heart literally skipped a beat. “Sorry about Brody. He’s a really bad dog. His owner must be a schmuck.”
She laughed, “It’s okay. I love dogs.”
He reached out his hand. She grabbed it and electricity shot through her with a force so strong, she almost let go. Scenes suddenly flashed through her mind. Glimpses of life, but she wasn’t sure whose. He gave her a smirk, and chills raced down her spine. She knew that smile, but she couldn’t remember where from.
She was jolted out of slumber by the sound a cell phone ring. “Hello?” she answered before she looked at the caller ID.
“Perfect, you’re up!” Cooper said happily in her ear.
“Well, I am now,” she whined.
“Get Taylor and meet us outside in twenty. We’re taking you girls on a picnic!” He was so damn cheery that it made her want to punch something.
“Do I have a choice?”
“Ha!” he laughed loudly into the phone. “See you in a bit!” He hung up and she looked over at Taylor who sat up in bed and wondered what was going on.
“That was Cooper and Danny. Apparently, we’re going on a…picnic?” Katherine was tired. She wanted to tell Taylor that she had dreamed about the guy again but she decided to keep it to herself, for now.