|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.54(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By A.J. Pine, Karen Grove
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 A.J. Pine
All rights reserved.
There is no such thing as overpacking. There is no such thing as overpacking. There is no such thing as overpacking.
Now all Jordan had to do was click her heels together three times and her suitcase would close, right?
"Finished!" Noah yelled from the kitchen/living room — the only other room aside from the bedroom and a sad excuse for a bathroom.
"Packing or grading?" Jordan asked before dropping down, butt first, onto the unzipped case. She blew a lock of hair out of her eyes, but it fell back as soon as the puff of air left her lips.
"Figures," she mumbled. She couldn't even contain her hair. How would she contain the contents necessary for a trip overseas where she would be a bridesmaid for the first time? She didn't know how to bridesmaid, let alone perform such duties in a foreign country. So she packed everything from a bathing suit to a parka. Maybe one of the two would have to go.
She looked up, sensing Noah's presence, expecting quiet condescension at her inability to embrace the whole less is more concept.
Instead, he leaned in the doorframe and quirked a brow, dark waves flopping over his forehead.
"Both." His brows furrowed. "I finished both. Grading and packing." Noah's eyes drank her in. "Nice outfit, Brooks." The left corner of his mouth hinted at a grin. Then he was squatting in front of her, lifting the strap of her camisole that had strayed from her shoulder.
Goose bumps peppered Jordan's skin at the soft graze of his fingertips. God, he could still set her on fire with the simplest touch, even after three years.
"I mean it," he continued, his lips trailing after his fingers, brushing her pebbled skin. "This is my favorite outfit of yours. You should wear it every day."
Butterflies danced in her belly at the low rasp of his voice. He dropped to his knees, resting a hand on her bare thigh and using the other to free her neck from its blanket of hair.
He nipped at the flesh below her ear, and she let out something between a sigh and a moan.
"This is what I wear every day ... unless I'm in class." She tried to sound annoyed, to assure the beautiful man doing beautiful things to her that she would wear more than pajamas at home — once grad school was over and she was done volleying between her own writing projects and grading those of her undergrad students.
"Do you remember what I look like in real clothes? Because I don't. I'm not even sure I can wear a dress to the wedding. My body may actually reject it, like a virus." She flailed her arms and added, "Danger, Will Robinson. Foreign object. Must destroy."
This didn't deter him. Jordan was ready to protest further, but then Noah's fingertips reached the hem of her boy shorts, and she forgot why she was so frustrated. That is, until Noah's lips found hers, and the two of them lost their balance, tumbling over the side of the still unzipped suitcase and into the frame of their bed.
"Shit!" she said.
Jordan rubbed her temple, and Noah massaged his shoulder.
He chuckled. "Loving you really is a contact sport, isn't it?" He kissed the spot where her head had greeted the metal frame. "You okay?" Jordan sighed. "You still love me? You do see the mess sitting in front of you, right?"
"Technically," he said, his grin widening, "you're more sprawled than sitting."
She reached over her head to grab a pillow, but Noah caught her wrist before she could whack him with it. This was good, the two of them finding a few moments to pretend like all they had on their list was getting her suitcase closed. It wasn't that things weren't good between them. They were perfect when they had time for little moments like this. But the whole being-an-adult thing — classes, teaching, the day-to-day stresses — often got in the way.
"You're so busy," she said. "We both are. And ..." Her voice broke a bit on that word, so she cleared her throat and tried to hold it together. "I feel like everything around us is so crazy. I just ... I miss you."
It sounded silly saying that when he was next to her in bed every night. But it was the truth. She thought back to the year they'd met studying abroad in Scotland, how it took them ten months to finally get things right. Despite how difficult the whole falling-in-love thing was, it seemed like a cakewalk compared to balancing her MFA with Noah's first years as a teacher. They just needed a small window of simple. A reboot. She wanted to remind him that someday it would be more like this — quiet time alone instead of the tornado that had been their lives for the past three years — maybe even with less physical injury.
"Your suitcase?" he said. "That's a mess. But you, Brooks?" He pulled her to him, scooping her up and depositing her onto his lap. "I'm so proud of you. You thought you had no direction when we met, and look at you now. You're a student, a teacher, and soon your passion for writing will also be your career." He kissed her softly on the forehead. "You amaze me. Every single day."
Jordan took in a sharp breath. Yes, his touch could still drive her crazy, but it was the things he said — ridiculous things like being proud of her when she still felt so directionless — that melted her heart.
"And I miss you, too," he said, his voice growing serious so she knew she wasn't imagining the strain. "We'll get through this — the hard stuff. And God, yes, I love you. Never question that."
She kissed him, teasing his bottom lip with her tongue and teeth as she felt his smile against hers. They would get past the hard part, wouldn't they?
"Run away with me to Greece," she whispered to him.
"Already got my passport," he answered, warm breath mingling with her own.
"And your kilt?"
Noah's smile widened, and she leaned back to see his blue eyes shine at her.
"And my kilt," he said.
With that he snuck a finger under the hem he'd teased before.
"We still have an hour before the taxi comes." His statement came out like a question.
"How long will it take you to fix my suitcase problem?" Jordan asked.
He lay her back gently on the floor, one finger still under the soft cotton, tracing the line where her thigh connected to her hip — following it down until Jordan wasn't sure she'd even bring a suitcase anymore, not if ditching the wardrobe meant more time for Noah to torment her until she forgot her own name.
His thumb brushed over the outside of her shorts, right between her legs, and yep — she might as well have been nameless at that point. But when he whispered Brooks, she knew without a doubt who she was.
She was the girl who fell for the boy and somehow managed to make it work for three years and counting. He was now the man she always knew he'd become, and together they were headed back to where it all began — to watch her former roommate, Elaina, and the boy in the kilt she swore she'd never fall for, Duncan, say, "I do." Then Jordan and Noah would trace their steps back to Scotland, where they'd met and where they'd gotten it all so wrong before finally getting it right.
"Screw the suitcase," she whispered, and Noah's lips traced the line of her jaw until they rested at her ear.
"As you wish."
Jordan strode past the skycap, and Noah followed her into the terminal.
"We could have checked the bags outside," he told her. He may have purged half her closet from her luggage, but that didn't mean he wanted to weave through an amusement park–length line with both their bags when they could have taken care of it outside.
Once in line, she turned to face him.
"This way we save a little extra cash."
She combed the hair off his brow, and, well, he couldn't argue with the logic of her touch — or the fact that this trip was already costing them money they didn't have. But for the next week, he didn't want her to worry about money or graduation or any of the normal, daily stressors.
He waggled his brows. "Means I can buy some shitty airplane headphones for the in-flight entertainment."
Jordan hooked a finger in the collar of his T-shirt.
"I thought I was your in-flight entertainment." She pouted, and Noah's pants suddenly grew tighter in the groin region.
"Jesus, Brooks. We're not even checked in yet."
She bit her lip, then unbuttoned her gray peacoat and unwound her scarf. Her V-neck T-shirt was pulled off center so he could see the strap of her bra. The short flight from Columbus to New York meant not much more than an hour of alone time before meeting up with the rest of the group, and then plenty of time for his pants to loosen up on their own.
"What?" Jordan asked, but her grin told him she knew what she did to him.
"Did you really seat us next to ..."
For fuck's sake. He sounded like enough of a dick without finishing the question, but the words were already out there. God, he hated Jordan seeing him like this.
"Griffin and Maggie?" Of course she finished the thought. "No, we're not next to them. We're one row in front of them. And, babe? It's been three years. We're past all that, right?"
The line was moving now, which gave him a reprieve from having to look her in the eye and tell her that yes, when he wasn't thinking about how he almost blew his chance with her three years ago, he was past all that, past her dating Griffin when Noah said they could only be friends despite how much he knew he was falling for her. But when all that was going to be sitting one row behind them for eleven and a half hours and spending the weekend with them, it was hard not to go back there in his head.
When Jordan hefted her suitcase onto the scale at the check-in counter, Noah gave his messenger bag, still slung over his shoulder, a safety pat, reassuring himself of the small velvet box inside. He would have a doover after their time in Greece, on the train ride from London to Scotland. As long as everything went according to plan — no unnecessary stress for the girl who never relaxed — he would leave the States with his girlfriend and return with his fiancée.
Jordan gasped, patted her pockets, riffled through her purse, and Noah's eyes grew wide.
"My passport!" she yelled. "Shit, Noah, my passport!"
He let out a long, shaky breath as he pulled both their passports from the back pocket of his jeans and lay them down on the counter.
Nervous laughter erupted from his girlfriend's lips.
"This trip is going to be the end of me, isn't it?" she asked as she steadied herself against the counter.
He looped his arm around her waist and drew her near as the airline attendant checked their bags to New York and through their connecting flight to Thessaloniki, Greece.
No, he hoped. This is only the beginning.CHAPTER 2
Griffin stared at the envelope on the counter. The envelope ... stared back.
Chickenshit, it said. He could hear the stupid thing judging him.
He ran a hand through his hair and laughed.
"It's a freaking envelope," he said to himself. "You open the mail every day." Yet he still hadn't touched the taunting piece of paper.
And with that, he ignored the thumping of his heart and the dampness of his palms, tearing it open before he could chicken out again.
Because he was a man of logic, Griffin held his breath as he began to read, deciding that nothing was real or official until he exhaled.
Dear Mr. Reed,
Congratulations. We are pleased to inform you that out of hundreds of applicants, you have been chosen for the AmeriCorps Eli Segal Fellowship ...
Griffin exhaled. He was sure there was more written on the document, but all his mind kept looping on replay was Congratulations.
This had been nothing more than a whim, applying for the fellowship. The same as ditching his father's job offer and joining AmeriCorps. Now he had two whims adding up to major life changes, which should be great. It would be damn near perfect if he hadn't neglected to tell Maggie he was doing it. But what were the chances of him winning the fellowship when only one person got it a year? It wasn't worth planting the seed of moving to D.C. when the odds were so not in his favor.
... After the terms of your current AmeriCorps post are served, we welcome you to Washington, D.C., for your thirteen-month position as the next Eli Segal fellow. We expect your confirmation of acceptance no later than January 14th. Congratulations on entering the next phase in your country's national service. We look forward to seeing you in Washington.
Excellent. Two weeks to make a decision that would affect not one life ... but two. And a trip to another country in between. No pressure.
The apartment door flew open, and he acted on instinct, hurriedly folding the paper and shoving it in his back pocket as Maggie beelined for the bathroom.
She knelt over the toilet and heaved, and in seconds Griffin was there with what he knew she needed: her emergency migraine medication injection.
"Hey, Pippi," he said, his voice gentle as she collapsed on her butt against the shower door. Tears streaked her face as Griffin pushed a tangerine wave behind her ear. "I got ya, sweetheart," and he held up the syringe for her to see.
Maggie nodded as he slid her long skirt up over her knee, rested the syringe atop her bare thigh, and pressed the button. He still winced when he had to do it, but Maggie didn't even flinch. She was a pro ... or more likely in too much pain to register the needle piercing her skin. She was now a three-year survivor of a brain aneurysm. Griffin hated that days like today would forever be a part of Maggie's life, yet he admired her acceptance. Her strength. She had to live her life differently than she did a few years ago, dealing with chronic headaches and short-term memory loss, but she was no longer living in fear of What if? He just thanked his lucky stars he was home to be here when she needed him.
He stood to wet a washcloth with cold water, then dropped down next to his girl, putting an arm around her and leaning her head on his shoulder.
"How's this?" he asked, his voice soft and low as he rested the cloth on her forehead. She closed her eyes, even though the light was off, and forced a small smile through the pain and nodded.
This wasn't the norm, but it also wasn't a surprise. Maggie had had a final exam this morning, an art presentation this afternoon, and then worked a shift at Royal Grounds. To accommodate her first year back with a full class load, two professors allowed her to finish her final projects during the holiday break. But sometimes too much was just too much, especially with her health history. So he held her and waited for the medicine to take effect. Fifteen or twenty minutes usually did the trick, and as much as he hated seeing her like this, he always appreciated a few quiet minutes with Maggie in his arms.
"Thank you, Fancy Pants."
Griffin stirred, apparently having dozed — lulled by her breathing and the crash from the adrenaline rush of the letter and Maggie's entrance.
"Look who's back," he teased, and then kissed the top of her head.
"Don't let your lips go any farther than that," she said as she maneuvered out of his arms and stood. "I need to brush my teeth, do the whole post-migraine cleanup."
She smiled weakly, and Griffin joined her where she stood.
"You need to lie down," he said. That was the drill. Migraine, meds, nap. Then she would be good as new.
"I need to shower," she insisted.
He raised a brow. "I can help you with that." The corners of his mouth turned up. But he was only teasing, expecting her to say no regardless of how much he'd love to be with her. Griffin always felt the need to reassure her in these moments, to show her that her health — any small setbacks — didn't scare him.
Maggie turned on the sink and splashed cold water on her face. Then she loaded her toothbrush with a decent helping of paste, and then pointed the toothbrush at him.
"Start the water, and make it hot, please. I want to burn away this day."
Griffin obliged while Maggie started to brush.
"That bad, huh?" he asked.
She held up a finger as she finished her routine, which always ended with a minute-long mouthwash finale.
"The school stuff was okay," she said. "Just draining. I mean, I couldn't have studied more for that final, you know? But the coffee house was nuts. And Miles took the night off to work on his dissertation, and ..." She let out a long breath and looped her arms around Griffin's waist. "And I'm just glad to be home with you, where everything is quiet, and normal, and I can finally breathe."
Excerpted from I Do by A.J. Pine, Karen Grove. Copyright © 2015 A.J. Pine. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.