Unexpectedly Yours (Page 11)
“Nice?” I repeat it like a curse word. “Damn woman, cut my balls off right here why don’t you?”
“What?” she laughs. “It was a compliment!”
“No way. Call a man magnificent, or strong, or the best lay you’ve ever had, but for God’s sake never call him nice.”
Sophie shakes her head. “Believe me, it’s underrated.” She tucks her arm back through mine and keeps walking. “Too many men make out like they’re nice guys, when really, they’ll take the easy way out the first chance they get. No matter who they hurt.”
Her voice is sad again. “Your ex?” I ask gently.
“My ex.” A determined look comes over her face. “Fuck him.”
I laugh with surprise. “That’s the spirit. He’s the one missing out right now.”
Sophie suddenly gives me a smile, warm and bright enough to turn the night to day, melt all this snow away. “Yes. He is!”
I know I’m supposed to be the one keeping her upright, but for some reason, I’m the one who feels unsteady.
Everything about this girl is unexpected. Intriguing. A breath of fresh air.
“So where are we going?” Sophie asks again. I pull myself together and look around.
“This is it. We’re here.” I nod to the gates marking one of my favorite places in the city. “Gramercy Square Park. One of the last private parks in town,” I explain, “You have to live in one of these buildings to get a key.”
“So how do we get in?” Sophie frowns. She takes a couple of steps closer, peering through the iron bar fence that surrounds the whole park.
“Easy,” I say. I check that there’s nobody around. The street is dark and quiet, only people in the distance on their way out for a Christmas Eve drink. “We hop the fence.”
When I turn around, Austin is bent over with his hands cupped together like he’s ready to boost me over the top.
“You can’t be serious!” I gasp.
“I never joke about breaking and entering.” He flashes that heart-stopping smile at me, and despite everything, I feel a pulse of excitement.
“We’ll get caught.”
“By who?” He makes a show of looking around. “Everyone’s off getting drunk—or setting out milk and cookies for Santa,” he adds, a teasing note in his voice.
I blush. I know my fantasy Christmas must have sounded so naive to him, but I can’t help it. I spent my childhood with the holidays hanging over me like a dark storm cloud, full of guilt and sadness and rejection. I’ve wanted to make new traditions, and I thought that this year with Matt would be my chance. To wipe the slate clean and make new memories; happy ones.
So what are you waiting for? A voice whispers. This is already the most memorable night of your life. Just think what else might happen if you take the chance.
Suddenly bold, I take a step towards him and place my gloved hand on his shoulder. “If I spent Christmas in jail, you’re going to owe me big-time,” I promise, lifting my foot and placing it in his hands.
“Anything,” he laughs.
“Like next Christmas in Lapland,” I tell him, shifting my weight. “With real, live reindeer and snow, and a tour of Santa’s factory.”
“You’ve got it.” Austin grins at me, so enthusiastic, I can’t help but feel my pulse skip. “You ready? On the count of three. One…two…three!”
On cue, I step up onto his hands, reaching for the top of the fence as he boosts me up high. I grab the top bars easily and haul myself over the top, sliding to the ground on the other side. I steady myself and brush down my coat, looking around.
The park is a block wide, with trees and bushes thickly planted around the edge. Inside, old-fashioned streetlamps cast a glow over the shadows; snow blanketing the ground in a powder-perfect layer of white. A path winds deeper into the shadows, inviting.
It’s silent. Still.
Austin’s voice cuts through my thoughts, and a moment later, he drops down beside me with a heavy thud. He straightens up, brushing snow from his heavy winter jacket. “You know there’s no Santa Claus, right?”
I hit him lightly on the arm. “I’m not a kid!”
“Just checking.” He looks around, then falls silent a moment. “Wow,” he breathes.
I reach for his hand. Even with my gloves on, I swear, I can feel his touch. “Wow,” I echo quietly.
We take the path and slowly delve deeper into the park. Here, the bushes and trees grow thickly, dusted with their coating of snow. The traffic and noise of the city seems to fade away, until we’re the only people in the world. Our own private winter wonderland.
And Austin is the one who’s showing it to me.
“I don’t know anything about you,” I realize, glancing over at him.
“Besides how handsome and charming I am,” he replies. “And a great kisser.”
I laugh. “Besides that. Tell me something,” I urge, curious. “What do you do? What do you love to do?” I correct myself, knowing that someone’s day job usually doesn’t say much about who they really are.
Austin hesitates. “I’m…a musician,” he finally answers. “In the music industry. I was just in the studio, recording for…this new singer-songwriter.”
“That’s great,” I say, impressed. “It’s really competitive, right? Not many people get to make a living from music.”