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“Oh my gosh, how sweet is that,” I said, swooning. True romance.

“They dance to it every single night. On the good days and bad days. Especially on the bad days.”

“They’re what I want my love to look like,” I confessed. Oliver gave me a tight smile but didn’t say anything. I shifted around for a minute before looking toward him once more. “Do you want to dance with me?”

Butterflies filled my stomach, and maybe it was the liquid courage that had brought me to even asking Oliver to dance with me. Everything I knew about him told me that his answer would probably be no. From his shyness to his discomfort in certain situations. Yet, to my surprise, he took my hand into his and pulled me into his chest.

My heartbeats picked up speed as I fell into him the same way Michelle fell against Richard. As if we were missing pieces for one another.

My head rested against his shoulder as he swayed back and forth with me, holding me close. He smelled so good, like a smoky oak forest. It was in that very moment when I realized that one of my favorite things in the world was being that close to Oliver. He held me as if he wasn’t going to let me go. And after a few seconds of swaying, he mindlessly began singing the lyrics to the song he’d heard throughout his whole childhood. His voice was so smooth, the voice that I fell for at a young age. There was a reason he was my favorite musician. He sang so effortlessly. Sometimes when he spoke, his words became entangled, but that never happened when he sang. It was as if singing was his first language, and speaking was his second.

As he sang the words to the Spinners song, he held me closer to his toned body.

And I secretly pretended he was singing the lyrics to me.



“I hope these work,” I told Emery, handing her a pair of sweats and a T-shirt to wear for pajamas. We stood in the hallway, right outside her room for the night, where Reese was sleeping. Mom and Dad had headed to their bedroom for the night, and it was well past midnight.

“This is the second time I’m wearing your clothes,” she joked, taking them from me. “Soon I’ll just start shopping in your closet. Thank you, though. I really appreciate it. And I swear your kitchen will be spotless when I clean in the morning.”

“I’m not worried about that at all. I just hope you had a good night.”

“It was fantastic. Your parents are amazing. They are relationship goals. Honestly, they got me so lively that I’m not even tired yet.”

“Same.” I slid my hands into my pockets and swayed. “You want to exchange playlists until we get tired? Unless you wanted to be by yourself. I’m just curious about what some of your favorite songs might be.”

“I’d love that. I’m going to change, and I’ll meet you in the living room?”

“Sounds like a plan.”

I headed to the living room and gathered a few items for the impromptu listening session, including a couple of snacks, some drinks, and a deck of playing cards. I sat down at the coffee table, and the moment Emery turned the corner, my chest tightened. Even though she was drowning in my clothes, it somehow looked as if they fit her perfectly.

“Your clothes are more comfy than mine,” she said, cozying up against the fabric of the T-shirt I’d lent her.

Her locks were pulled up into a large messy bun on top of her head, except with two strays hanging on each side of her face. All the makeup had been removed from her skin, and somehow she looked even more beautiful than when she’d arrived that morning.

She took a seat beside me, and when her leg brushed against mine, I thought about what it would be like if her lips brushed against mine too.

She wiggled around a bit as she crossed her legs and grew comfortable; then she looked to the deck of cards and raised an eyebrow. “We’re playing games?”

“Sort of.” I picked up the deck of cards and started to shuffle them. “I used to do this with Alex when we were on the tour bus for hours. We set out a deck of cards, and each symbol stood for a theme. Then, we’d have to pick out a song for said theme based on what card we pulled. We can use our favorites list to pick out the song. All we need to do is pick four themes. But if you get the joker, it’s a wild card, and you can play whatever’s on your mind.”

“Oh, this is going to be amazing. Okay. Can I pick the themes?”

“Go for it.”

She rubbed her hands together with a devilish grin. “So, hearts will be love songs. Clubs will be songs that hype you up. Diamonds are songs that make you emotional. And spades will be wishes and hopes. How’s that?”

“Great.” I finished shuffling the deck and set it on the table.

“I’m going to add a rule to the game, though. We have to somewhat explain why we pick the song, and then at the end of playing, each person gets to ask one question during the game. It can be any kind of question. Nothing is off the table.”

The anxiety in me began to skyrocket at the idea of any type of question, but the bigger part of my brain wanted to ask her a question that had been passing through my mind over the past few weeks.

“Deal. Ladies first.”

Emery reached to the stack of cards and pulled out a card. Diamonds.

“Going straight to the emotions,” she laughed, and my God, I loved the sound. She picked up her phone and started shuffling through her playlist, swaying back and forth as she smiled at the songs in front of her. “Okay, got it!” She started playing the song, and I knew it right off the bat, probably because it was on my playlist too. “Trying My Best,” by Anson Seabra. “This one is for all the times I feel like I’m failing at being a mom. Reese looks at me as if I’m the best person in the world, but I fail her so many times. But at the end of the day, I really am trying my best.”

“You’re a great mom. And trust me, I know great parents.”

“I wish I could be half as good as your parents.”

“But you are. My parents’ love is loud when my own love for myself is quiet. That’s how you love Reese. You are her loudest love.”

Emery smiled, and I thought about kissing her. Leaning over, wrapping her in my arms, and tasting her lips against mine. “Well, we’re just trying to get me to cry now, aren’t we?” she joked, pushing the deck of cards my way. “You go before the tears flow.”

I picked up a club. First song that I noticed on my playlist: “Tha Crossroads,” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. I couldn’t hear that song without vibing to it. Clearly Emery couldn’t, either, because she tossed her hands in the air and started dancing to the beat.

“My dad introduced me and my brother to Bone Thugs when we were around ten. This was the first song, and still, it gets me.”

“Gosh, it’s a classic, that’s for sure. My parents would never let me play this music, though. Honestly, if they heard me listening to this, they would’ve flipped the house upside down and brought out the holy water. Funny how different we were raised.”

“My dad always thought music was a way to teach. Every song had a story—good or bad—and he thought that was a good way to teach us about human nature.”

“You officially have the coolest father.”

She wasn’t wrong.

We pulled more cards, and the realization hit that so many of our favorite songs were the same. Yet, the ones I didn’t know, I was happy to learn from her. “Two Ghosts,” by Harry Styles, for example. Worth the listen. When she brought up Jhené Aiko and HER, I knew I liked her more than words. My favorite thing about Emery was how diverse her playlist was. It went from Frank Sinatra to Erykah Badu without a moment of hesitation. You couldn’t box Emery Taylor. If you tried to, she’d just break out of the restraints.

Great personality, and great music choices.

“Spades,” she sighed, laying the card in front of me. “Wishes and hopes, eh? I’m going to mix it up and go with my country heart. ‘My Wish,’ by Rascal Flatts.”

“What’s a rascal flats?”

Her mouth dropped open and she swatted my arm. “Are you joking? Only one of the best country bands of the early 2000s. My sister was in love with them. When we would sneak in listening to music, she would always play this song or ‘God Bless the Broken Road.’”

I wrinkled up my nose. “A little too country for me.”

“It will grow on you, just wait and see.” She yawned, and it was clear that we were getting to the end of the game as true exhaustion began to settle into both of us.

“One more for me, and then our questions,” I said, reaching for the card. Diamonds. I’d been pretty lucky to avoid the emotional card for most of the game, but there we were on the last song of the evening.

Emery sat up straighter as she listened to the first chords of the song. “Oh, what is this?”