“Trust me”—he shook his head—“it will. Just wait and see. And hell, act surprised, will you? But not too surprised. The normal amount of surprised. Not too much and not too little.”
I chuckled and nodded. “Will do. Did he tell you that he loved me during your confession-time game?”
James lowered his eyebrows, perplexed. “Confession-time game?”
“You know, the game you two play in the pens when cleaning them. To make time go faster.”
“Uh, I have no clue what you’re talking about.”
He seemed completely thrown off by my comment, and those butterflies came flying back to me in an instant.
Oh, Ian. You and your lies to get to know me.
People always said you’d miss home the minute you left it, but I didn’t believe that. I wasn’t going to miss that place—not for a minute. I wouldn’t miss working in the pigpens or going around town with small-minded people. I wouldn’t miss manure or moving hay. I wouldn’t miss the mosquitoes that were out for murder. I wouldn’t miss the things that made up Eres, but there were people I’d miss.
Three, to be exact.
I’d miss Grams and her homecooked meals. I’d miss how she’d still come over to my place and fold my laundry, even though I’d tell her I could do it on my own. I’d miss her hugs and comfort. Her wise words. Her positive persona. Her daily doses of love.
I’d miss Big Paw too. I’d probably even miss him chewing out my ass over stupid things. I’d miss his hard-knock style of parenting. I’d miss his almost smirks, when you did something to make him proud. I’d miss his attitude and tough love.
Then there was Hazel. I’d miss every single thing about her. Even the things I had yet to discover.
I sat inside the shed as I stared at the stars in the sky. A few hundred feet away was the barn house, where an energetic party was taking place. I’d told my grandmother that the boys and I hadn’t wanted a going-away party, so of course she and Big Paw had thrown us a going-away party.
“Are you going to sit in here all night reflecting, or are you going to come down to this party of yours and celebrate breaking free?” a voice asked.
I glanced up to see Hazel wearing one of my hoodies and black shorts. Her thighs looked smooth and thick, and fuck, I wanted to bury myself between them and stay for a while. She was wearing her favorite pair of lucky black shoes. My shoes. There was no denying that they looked better on her than they’d ever looked on me.
“You know I don’t give a damn about that party,” I answered. “I’d rather have my last night hanging out with the people I care about the most.”
I gave her a knowing grin. The color on her cheeks heightened as she returned the smile.
Those fucking kissable cheeks.
“How about you come outside and hang out with me. I feel like swinging on the tires.”
I did as she said and met her outside of the shed.
She started wandering off in the direction of the old tire swings set up against the two big oak trees on the ranch. Right behind the tire swings was a wishing well that had been out of commission since before I was born, but still people would come around and toss their coins into the well in hopes that their dreams would come true.
Hazel reached into her back pocket and pulled out two coins. “Do you believe in magic?” she asked.
“Ever since you, I’m starting to a little more each day.”
She handed me a coin. “Then make a wish. Make it a good one. I’ve heard about this wishing well. How people have wished for money and babies and marriage. Then all of their wishes come true.”
I went to toss the coin into the well, and Hazel leaped in front of me. “Wait, Ian! You can’t just toss it in. You have to take your time and make sure your wish is clear as day. You only get one shot at getting the wording right. Make your wish count.”
I gave her a sloppy smirk and flung my coin into the well.
She frowned and held her coin close to her heart, closed her eyes, and tilted her head up to the moon. It was a crescent moon. If you had asked me months ago if I knew the difference between a full moon, new moon, and crescent moon—both waxing and waning—I would’ve called you crazy.
But that was the type of crap I knew now, all because of Hazel and her intriguing mind.
She brought the coin to her lips before opening her eyes and tossing the coin into the well and then swung around on her heels to face me. “I bet my wish comes true before yours, since I took my time with it.”
“What did you wish for?”
“You can’t tell people your wish, otherwise it voids it out.” She narrowed her eyes. “What did you wish for?”
“Oh no. You’re not screwing up my wish.”
Once we reached the swings, we didn’t talk much. Hazel would look up to the stars with such wonderment in her stare. Sometimes she’d close her eyes, and I swore she was making more wishes.
“You hear that song, Ian?” she asked, swaying back and forth on her tire.
“Yeah, I hear it.”
“It’s one of my favorites.”
“Oh? What is it?”
She shrugged. “Don’t know, but I can tell it’s going to be a favorite from the beat.”