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“Are you kidding me? That is so cheesy! But also kinda sweet.” Taylor mentioned that they should probably get up since the guys were always on time.

“It is sweet, but Cooper Donovan on a picnic? Are you kidding me? Picnics, um, not very manly.” Katherine couldn’t for the life of her imagine either Cooper or Danny on a blanket eating out of a picnic basket. The thought made her laugh.

“We should definitely make fun of them,” Taylor suggested, “but not until after we eat.”

Katherine’s cell phone beeped and she looked down at the text from Cooper. “They’re here,” she shouted at Taylor, who had put her shoes on in the bathroom.

When they got outside, the guys waved at them from the Jeep. A few girls waited to see who Cooper Donovan was picking up. They looked Taylor and Katherine up and down and then stayed to watch. It was too much for curious girls to resist.

“You girls look so good walking over here to us,” Danny said loud enough for everyone around to hear.

Katherine’s eyes met Cooper’s and nerves shot down her spine. “Yeah, but my girl looks the best.” Cooper said as he hopped out and gave Katherine a huge hug and a quick kiss. “No offense, Taylor.” The crowd of girls started to whisper when he said “my girl” and Katherine knew it was about to start.

“Oh, please. We all know I’m ridiculously hot and you just don’t like blondes. Your loss,” Taylor remarked in her perfected sarcastic tone.

The foursome drove away from the crowd of gawking girls. “If I see so much as the hint of a picnic basket, I’m outta here,” Taylor informed the guys. “Like really. I’ll jump out of this Jeep, I swear.”

“We like you and everything but what kind of guys do you think we are?” Danny quipped in response.

“The kind that apparently take their girlfriends on picnics.”

“Well, as sweet and romantic as real picnics are, I’m sure...we have our own style of doing things. We just didn’t know what else to call it,” Cooper interjected.

Katherine was relieved. “So, where are we going?”

“Hold your horses, California. We’re almost there,” Cooper glanced at her and gave her a half smile. That simple look made her pulse race. She wondered if he’d ever stop having that effect on her.

Cooper pulled the Jeep into a parking spot and the group hopped out. Danny and Cooper grabbed bags and a small cooler out of the trunk. “Come on.” Danny threw his free arm around Taylor while Cooper grabbed Katherine’s hand and led her to a small patch of grass on the riverbank.

Danny started to throw down a blanket. He knew Taylor was going to make some sort of sarcastic comment about how wimpy this made them so he cut her off before she had the chance. “It’s either this, or we sit in the mud.”

“I’ll help you spread it out,” Taylor jumped up.

“It’s really pretty here,” Katherine commented as she watched the water rush over the rocks.

“Ah! You saw Dominic without us?” Taylor whined.

Katherine turned around and glared at the boys. “No fair!”

Cooper and Danny started taking out the deli sandwiches they had bought from Dominic’s restaurant. They pulled out a bag of fresh homemade potato chips with parmesan and truffle. Danny opened the cooler and took out some bottled waters, bottled teas, and soda.

“This is really nice you guys. Thank you,” Katherine said to both Cooper and Danny.

Cooper smiled, “But you still think we’re manly and tough, right?”

Katherine eyed Taylor before responding, “That’s a tough one.”

“Yeah, this isn’t really what tough manly guys do,” Taylor added.

“It is when they’re not jerks,” Cooper piped back in response.

“Yeah! Just because we’re manly doesn’t mean we can’t be nice!” Danny protested.

“You two make valid points,” Katherine noted.

“Agreed. You’re still tough and manly and this picnic is hot.” Taylor scrunched her face and closed her eyes as Danny kissed her cheek.

“So, how was practice?” Katherine asked Cooper.

“It was good,” Cooper scooted his body closer to hers.

“Coach is tough,” Danny added.

“Oh, wah,” Taylor pretended to wipe tears from her face.

“You are such a brat, Miss Taylor!” And with that, Danny jumped toward her, tickled her and pinned her down. “Now what are you going to do, little girl?”

“Ugh, get off me. I hate you,” she yelled at him playfully and tried to push his manly frame away from her.

“No, you don’t. You loooove me,” he kissed her nose.

“Dream on!”

“He is the toughest, but best, coach I’ve ever had,” Cooper backed up his teammate. “We have a practice game next Tuesday. Will you come?” He looked at her with puppy dog eyes.

“Only if you stop looking at me like that,” Katherine admitted.

Cooper leaned in and gently brushed his lips against her cheek. “You’re so beautiful. I want to look up from the ice and see you in the stands.”

Katherine struggled for a response, but no words came.

“Of course we’ll come,” Taylor said with excitement.

Katherine noticed Cooper still staring at her so she whispered, “I can’t wait to watch you play. I’m really excited.”

He squeezed her hand and brought it to his lips, “Me too.”

Danny stretched out on his back as Taylor placed her head on his stomach. “Ugh, it’s like laying on a rock,” Taylor joked.

“Nothing but steel, babe,” he joked back and played with her blonde hair.

Cooper stood and reached for Katherine’s hand. He gently pulled her up and led her to the edge of the river. He wrapped his strong arms around her from behind. She leaned into his body and felt the warmth he radiated. When he kissed the side of her cheek, her heart raced and she silently begged her body to not start sweating.

Suddenly, a golden retriever ran up to the couple and barked incessantly in Katherine’s direction. She immediately pushed Cooper away and looked around wildly for him. She hoped beyond all reason that the guy from her dream would run up to get his dog. She imagined what it would be like for them to see each other in person for the first time. Was this what her dreams had meant? Was she about to come face to face with him? The anticipation and hope gnawed at her.

Katherine scanned the distance when she heard a female voice yelling, “Sam? Sam!”

“He’s over here,” Cooper yelled in response.

The pretty girl ran over and grabbed the barking dog by the collar, “I’m so sorry. He never acts like this. Come here, Sam. You are such a bad dog!”

The girl leashed up her dog, “He never does that. It’s so weird.”

Katherine looked at the dog and felt her heart drop inside her chest. “It’s okay. He just startled me is all.”

Katherine sat down on the blanket and stared at the ground as the girl left. Cooper sat down next to her and asked with concern, “Are you okay? Are you scared of dogs?”

It seemed like everything he said made her laugh. “No, I love dogs. Not necessarily the ones you put in your purse, but…” her voice trailed off.

“Those are called oversized rats,” Danny chimed in and Taylor hit him in the arm.

“Hey! What if I want an oversized rat, mister?” Taylor asked him.

“Then I’ll buy you one. But my dinosaur dog might eat it and then you can’t get mad.”

Katherine thought about the dog, her dream, and her guy. Every time she started to get lost in her thoughts, Cooper would rein her back in. “Where do you keep going on me, California?” He asked her quietly, as he pressed his cheek against hers.

She looked up at him and said, “Nowhere. Just thinking is all.”


“Nothing much. Just that dog…and my dreams,” she glanced over at Taylor who gave her a look and shook her head.

“Am I in your dreams?”

“You’re so typical Cooper. I thought I already told you she can’t stop dreaming about you and all that crap. You think I was joking?” Taylor quipped and Katherine was thankful for her interference.

“I was just asking. Sheesh, Taylor.” Cooper kissed Katherine on the cheek and softly said, “I get it. No more questions.”

The group lay in the sun for a while longer before they packed up and headed back to the dorms. Taylor and Katherine both had papers to write and the guys had to work out with the team.

Once they were back in their room, Taylor cornered Katherine in the bathroom. “So, are you going to tell me what’s really going on?”

Katherine gave her a look, “It’s nothing. I just had another dream last night with him.”

“What? You dreamt of him again? How could you not tell me this? Kat, this is a big deal!” Taylor got excited again and Katherine wondered if she would regret telling her.

“It was a super quick dream. Nothing happened. Like literally, he was there and then I woke up.”

“Boring. But hey, if you dream about him any more, you have to tell me. Don’t leave me out.”

“Okay,” Katherine agreed begrudgingly.

Taylor narrowed her eyes, “Don’t leave me out. On another note, today was fun, huh?”

“It really was.” Katherine’s heart warmed as she replayed the day in her mind. “Danny is so into you. It’s really cute.”

“It’s nice to be adored,” she said, very matter of fact. “He makes me laugh. And you’ve clearly won over that Donovan kid.”

“It would appear so,” Katherine could admit that Cooper definitely liked her. “I like him too, don’t get me wrong. It’s just...”

“I know, I know. It’s just this mysterious dream guy,” Taylor understood. “Just promise me you won’t give up on Cooper because you’re haunted by these crazy dreams, okay?”

“Okay,” Katherine said reluctantly.

“I mean it, Kat. Don’t do it. Cooper’s great and you’d be an idiot to mess it up. Plus I live with you, so if you go screwing up Cooper Donovan, I’ll have to hear about it from the whole freaking state. I can only take so much.” Taylor walked over and gave her a hug, “I love you.”

Katherine was thankful that Taylor understood and she appreciated the fact that she didn’t have to hide anything from her. “I love you, too. Thanks for being here for me. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“You’d be lost and have horrible friends.”


Chapter Six

The sun set behind Katherine as the ocean’s waves crashed before her. She watched a group of dolphins jump playfully in the water from the bench she sat on. She couldn’t remember them ever being so close before. And then there was the moon. It rose to her left and was spectacular. She wished she had brought her camera.

“Next time,” she thought to herself.