“No, just hoping you like the view.”
“It’s not so bad,” I hedge, not wanting to stroke his ego. But then I immediately think of all the things on him I’d like to stroke.
Jesus, get it together, Summers. Focus. He broke your heart.
“I’ll take what I can get,” he says as we come to a spot under a canopy of trees that has lanterns hung all around it.
“Do you do this for all your dates?” I blurt out, unable to stop myself. “Never mind, don’t answer that.” My cover-up is terrible and I wish I could take the words back.
“I don’t date.” His words aren’t teasing, but instead firm and true. “You’re the only woman I’d do this for, Kory.”
“You don’t know me.” It’s the only defense I have, and I think maybe if I say it enough that I’ll start to believe it. “You thought you knew me a long time ago, but people change.”
He hooks the oars to the side of the boat and leans forward with his elbows on his knees. “You’re right, people change.” His agreement is a painful truth, but one I think we both need to hear.
I look away from him, because if I keep staring into those blue eyes of his, I won’t be able to hold back the tears.
“Look at me, Kory.” I take a breath and then turn back to him, unable to deny him what he wants. “I grew up and I became a man, but my feelings for you never changed. I may not be the same person I was when I was eighteen, but my heart is stuck in that library where you smiled at me for the first time.”
“Henry,” I whisper, feeling a lump form in my throat.
“Just listen, baby,” he says, getting on his knees in front of me. “I’ve spent the past ten years trying to convince myself that what we had wasn’t real. Tried to deny the fact that the first time I held your hand I knew I didn’t want to hold another for the rest of my life. That when I had you in my arms on the dance floor, I never wanted to dance with anyone else but you. We had one day together and it changed everything I knew to be true. I made myself believe that you didn’t feel the same way, and that’s how I made it through.”
He reaches forward and takes my hands in his. His hands surround my fingers, and he brings them up to his mouth, grazing his lips across my knuckles.
“Three thousand seven hundred and twelve,” he whispers, then stares into my eyes. “That’s how many days I had to tell myself that it wasn’t real. And then today, I kissed you, and I knew it was all a lie.”
A tear slips down my cheek. I’ve done the same thing he has, trying to make myself believe something that every part of my soul fought against. But I gave my heart to him once, and the second he had it, he ripped it in two. I can’t go through that again.
I pull my hands from his grasp and place them in my lap.
“Do you know what’s gotten me through all these years?” I ask, straightening my spine. “Every time I thought about giving in and picking up one of your calls, I remembered what you did to me. Even years later, when a moment of weakness would make its way in, I would conjure up the image of you in that bathroom with your pants around your ankles and Cassie Springer naked and on her knees in front of you sucking your cock. Then I’d remember the sounds of everyone laughing at me and how stupid I was to trust you. That’s what got me through it, Henry.”
Tonight was perfect. Kory and I went to have our pictures taken with my family, and my parents loved her, just like I knew they would. Afterward we went to dinner with everyone and we laughed the whole time. I held her hand under the table and kept seeing her blush anytime I would look at her. God, she’s so beautiful.
We danced until she said her feet hurt and then we sat in the corner of the ballroom and talked for most of the night. I’d never felt happier in my life just being with someone. It was crazy. It was like we were instant best friends, but there was something more. Standing near her somehow calms something inside me, and I don’t want it to stop.
After they shut the ballroom down, some of the guys from my soccer team were headed to a lake house for an after-party. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go, but when I asked Kory she said she wanted to. I felt like maybe she was saying yes because that’s what she thought I wanted to do, but I didn’t push it. I was driving and I hadn’t been drinking, so we could leave anytime she wanted.