Ugh. Why do I have to have feelings for Rip? My life would be so much easier if I wasn’t in love with him.

As Justin got closer, my heart sped up a bit. If he asked, maybe I should say yes.

The only problem was, I didn’t want to say yes to Justin. I wanted to say yes to Rip.

Rip

CHLOE STOOD ON the edge of the river, chanting for Alyssa to let go of the rope swing. Mike laughed as he came and stood next to me.

“Why does she do the rope swing when she is deathly afraid of it?” he asked.

“Beats me. It’s your girlfriend. Why don’t you ask her?”

He laughed. “I’ve long ago stopped trying to figure out Alyssa. I love her, weird quirks and all.”

I nodded.

“Listen, Rip, I know you say you and Chloe are friends only…”

“We are.”

“I know. I know. Just hear me out, okay. I heard Justin Rivers asking her to prom.”

I screwed up my face. “What? Why the hell would he ask her? He knows we always go to prom together.”

“Rumor has it, you asked Rachel.”

“Lewis?”

He nodded.

“No, I didn’t.”

“Well, Alyssa said Rachel was bragging in gym class to everyone that you were going to be asking her.”

I rolled my eyes. “Goddamn it.”

“Did you? Hint that you might ask her?”

“No! I was in her mother’s flower shop asking about flowers for my mother’s birthday. Rachel asked me if I had a date for prom and I… Oh, shit.” My entire body sagged.

“What?”

“I winked and told her not yet. I guess she could take that as a hint.”

Mike shook his head.

“What did Chloe say? To Justin,” I asked.

“She didn’t say anything, according to Alyssa. I think she was stunned he asked.”

“Asshole. We both know why he wants to ask her.”

“Yeah, he wants in her pants, like every other guy in Oak Springs. You know the only reason they’ve stayed away is because they’re afraid of you, especially after you beat up Mark for making that comment about Chloe’s ass during sophomore year.”

I laughed. “He deserved it.”

Mike chuckled, too. “He did, but that scared the shit out of everyone. I sort of feel bad for Chloe. I mean, maybe you should ask Rachel and let someone else take Chloe.”

I shot him a dirty look. “I’ve taken Chloe to all the school dances since middle school. She’s my girl, and no one else can have her.”

Mile’s frowned. “That’s what I mean, Rip. You want her all to yourself, but you won’t give her what you should. You.”

I rubbed the back of my neck in frustration. “You don’t understand. If something went wrong…”

He let out a gruff laugh. “What could go wrong? Everyone sees the way you two look at each other. Rip, you admitted it to me, you love her. Why can’t you tell her?”

“I can’t. I just can’t, Mike. If it ruined our friendship, I don’t think I could handle it. She means everything to me, and I’d fuck something up and hurt her. I can’t risk hurting her.”

Mike shook his head and looked around. “What if someday she gets tired of waiting for you and moves on? Finds someone? Hell, gets married? Then what are you going to do?”

I swallowed hard, not wanting to think of that day.

He sighed. “Well, you better do something soon. Justin’s here, and he’s walking right over to Chloe.”

My heart raced when I saw Chloe wave to Justin and smile. I pushed past Mike and started toward Chloe. She was up next on the rope swing and was about to walk away to talk to Justin. I ran and grabbed her, throwing her over my shoulder before launching us off the cliff together. Chloe screamed and all I could hear were a few guys calling out my name. I was sure Justin was going to be pissed, and I didn’t care.

When we landed in the water and came up, Chloe screamed again.

“Rip Myers! The water is freezing and I wasn’t ready!”

Laughing, I took her hand and made her swim out to the small rock we always sat on together. We’d been swimming out to this rock for as long as I could remember. After I climbed up, I sat down and she sat between my legs as we watched our friends jumping into the water.

“You excited about the baseball game next week?” she asked when she couldn’t take the silence between us any longer.

“Yeah. I guess so.”

“Have you made a decision yet?”

I’d been offered three football scholarships and two for baseball. All the schools were breathing down my neck to commit to them. I hadn’t told anyone yet, but I had chosen Texas A&M to play baseball for them.

“Yeah.”

Chloe turned and faced me. I could see the worry in her eyes. She was going to A&M, and although she had never come out and told me, I knew she wanted me to go there.

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