He chuckles as we continue walking down the cement pathway. A few people call out and wave as we pass. They congratulate him on Barnett’s winning season and ask how he thinks the Bulldogs will fair against Bowling Green. He’s always courteous, thanking them for their support.
It’s almost hilarious how I thought he was such a conceited jackass. Because honestly, now that I know him, Roan is the furthest thing from a jerk. I can’t help but watch him out of the corner of my eye as we reach his truck. Like always, he opens the door for me. Then he moves around the hood before sliding in besides me. Starting up the engine, he pulls out. Once again I find my eyes settling on him as he focuses on the road.
Somehow Roan has turned out to be one of the best things in my life. I love being with him. Just hanging out or talking. Being held in those huge arms of his. Just his presence makes everything better.
My breath catches as I’m struck with the realization that I love him.
Truly love him.
Thinking about auditioning in Cincinnati and leaving school in December, maybe even sooner, has only brought these feelings into sharper focus. Sucking in a surprised breath, I suddenly realize I don’t want to leave him. I don’t want this to end between us. I’m not ready for that. I’m not ready to let him go.
But I don’t want to give up on something I’ve worked my entire life to achieve either. Just like I wouldn’t expect Roan to give up on his dream of playing professional football for me. I wouldn’t want him ever making that kind of choice.
Before I even realize it, we’re pulling into our apartment complex. Roan cuts the engine before turning towards me. He winces just a bit as he twists his torso. Dance can be hard on your body, especially your feet, but football seems to be brutal on everything. Especially when it’s the job of some gigantic dude to tackle you to the ground. The two games I watched him play, I sat nervously up in the stands, biting my nails the entire time he was out there, praying he wouldn’t get hit. That he wouldn’t suffer from a concussion or some other type of serious injury.
Because it happens.
All too often.
“You’ve been awfully quiet, Ivy.” Reaching out, he gently caresses my cheek before cradling it in his big palm. “You gonna tell me what’s on your mind?”
My shoulders sag knowing that if I was going to sit on the news of my audition, it isn’t going to happen any longer. I don’t want to hold back or lie to him about what’s going on. When I don’t immediately answer, his thumb strokes just under my chin and I can’t help but close my eyes in pleasure as a sigh falls from my lips. I love when he runs his fingers over me.
“What’s wrong, baby?”
My insides pinch because honestly, this audition is wonderful news. A chance to dance professionally.
My eyelashes sweep up again. “There’s nothing wrong. Everything is fine.”
Cocking his head, it feels as if his eyes are carefully sifting through mine. Combing through them for the truth. Before I can say anything else, his expression hardens. “Someone giving you a hard time?”
“What?” My brows pinch together before I remember the website and some of the not-so-nice conversations I’ve had with a few of the women on campus. Although, thankfully, it happens less and less now. I think people are finally getting used to seeing us together. Even the photographs on that stupid website haven’t been quite so bad. Because in the beginning, they were almost always unflattering. Me without an ounce of makeup on. Or bending over. Or in the midst of saying something so I would be making a weird face. There was even one of me snapped in the studio when I was adjusting my boobs. So I pretty much look like I was feeling myself up.
Yeah… that one really pissed me off. You can just imagine what kind of comments that photo received.
I shake my head. “No, nothing like that.” Taking a deep gulp of breath, I force out the words. “Eric told me about an audition for the Cincinnati Ballet in two weeks. They’ve lost two dancers. He thinks it would be an amazing opportunity for me.”
For a long moment, Roan doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t even blink. It’s as if he has to give himself a little mental shake before his deep voice booms, “That’s wonderful news, Ivy!” Then he’s pulling me to his chest, his lips pressing against my forehead.
I can’t help the huge smile that curves the edges of my lips upwards. It feels like such a relief to tell him and he seems so thrilled for me. “You really think so?”
He pulls away just a bit so our eyes can lock. “Of course it is! It’s absolutely amazing news. When’s the audition?”