Shallow Page 27

“Don’t get smart with me.”

I used my best condescending voice and believe me, it was an awesome one. “Darlin,’ if I got smart with you, how would you know?”

“You, smart ass bitch.”

“Nicely played.” My words oozed with sarcasm as I under dramatically clapped my hands. “You’ve just killed at least a minute of my time I’ll never get back so run along because you’ve delighted me long enough with your presence.”

“I hope he screws you over like he did me.”

I looked at my watch. “Hmm. Give us about 15, maybe 20 minutes and we should be gettin’ right on that.”

Sarcasm, insult, and work here was done.

I faked her out and she thought she wasn’t getting to me, so she turned and stormed off. When I turned my attention back to the race, it was already over and I didn’t even know who won.

It looked like everyone was going out to congratulate Nick, so I guessed that was a good sign he had won. I hung back so his fans could talk to him, but I heard him calling for me over the crowd.

“Back here,” I called out from behind the crowd.

He pushed his way through the crowd to get to me, just like the first night we met. He wrapped his arms around me and lifted me for a quick spin. “That one was for you, Love.”

20 Surprise In An Elevator


Payton’s parents being home sucked. She told me she needed to be careful where they were concerned, but I hadn’t seen her since my race three days ago and 72 hours was too long for me to go without her. I needed to feel her in my arms, but tonight I would have her all to myself because I had something special planned after the banquet.

I stood in front of the mirror to my dresser and straightened my tie for the dozenth time as I thought about the fight Dad and I had about me asking Payton to come to the banquet. He was no less prejudice than her parents and I didn’t understand why he was so opposed to us being together.

There was a soft knock on my bedroom door and I knew it was Dallas because Jake always entered unannounced. “You can come in.”

Dallas opened the door and peeked in at me. “Need help with your tie?”

“I do. It won’t stay straight. It keeps slipping or something.”

She came to stand in front of me and she untied it completely so she could start from scratch. “I heard you and Dad arguing about Payton.”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with him? He acts like she’s the devil incarnate, but she’s not. She’s awesome.”

She made the first loop on my tie. “I know. I really like her and I think you two are great for each other. She grounds you.”

She made the next loop and pulled it through to make the perfect knot. “I love her, Dallas. I know it’s crazy and it’s so soon, but I do.”

She finished my tie and patted my chest as if to say, ‘all done.’ “Have you told her?”

“No. I’ve told her that I was falling for her, but I haven’t said ‘I love you.’ I have something special planned for us after the banquet and I’ve decided I’m telling her tonight.”

“She loves you, too. I’m certain of it. Even Dane says he’s never seen her so crazy over a guy before, not even that Cooper guy she dated for a while.”

Just thinking about saying those three words to her made me want to throw up, but in a good way. “I sure hope so because I don’t know what I’d do if she told me she didn’t love me.”

“Remember what Ginny says about love...have no regrets.”

“You’re right. I’m not worried about it. So, tell me how things are going between you and Dane.”

“Everything’s great. I like him a lot and he’s good to me.”

I never expected anything less from him. He seemed like a real standup kind of guy. “He better treat you right if he knows what’s good for him. I’ve got a can of whoop ass with his name on it if he doesn’t.”

Jake appeared at my bedroom door. “Miss Fancy Pants is in the living room waiting on you.”

Thanks a lot, Jake. Could you say that a little louder? I don’t think the neighbors at the end of the street heard. “Don’t call her that, especially loud enough for her to hear you.”

He thought he was being funny when he lowered his voice to a feminine whisper. “Okay, Miss Hot Piece of Ass is in the living room waiting on you. Wuss.”

“Don’t even say a word. He has every right to be like that with you after the way you’ve ragged him about Gabbi.”

“I guess you’re right.”

“Good luck with whatever you have planned for Payton tonight.”

“Thanks, Sis.”

I walked into the living room and Payton was standing with her back turned to me looking at my school pictures on the wall. “Cute little bugger, wasn’t I?”

She turned around and her beauty almost took my breath away. Her hair was swept up with a cream flower and there were loose curls hanging around her face. She was wearing a strapless, cream colored lace cocktail dress with a wide black tie around her waist. Her tanned legs were bare and their length accented by the tallest heels I’d seen her in to date, making her almost as tall as me.

“You just keep surprising me. I didn’t think you could be any more beautiful, but then you go and prove me wrong again.”

“Thank you. You look very handsome in your suit and tie.”

“I guess I clean up all right.” I walked over to her and put my hands on her waist. “You’re not gonna let me mess up your lip gloss, are you?”

“Nope. Not right now, but I’d be terribly disappointed if you didn’t later tonight.”

“Oh, I have plans for a lot of things tonight. Let me grab my keys and we’ll get going.”

“We can go in my car tonight if you want. That is if it won’t mess up any of those plans you’ve made.”

“Sure.” She held up the keys to her Lexus and dangled them in front of me. “Here, you’re driving.”

≈ ≈ ≈

We passed the car off to the valet and then walked through the hotel lobby to the banquet hall where we found a large room lined with tables covered with black table cloths and big fresh flower center pieces.

Payton looped her hand through my arm as I escorted her across the room to the table where I saw my family sitting. My dad looked up and saw her on my arm and was none too happy, but I didn’t care. He wasn’t the one I wanted to please.

I gave him a look that begged him to not be rude. “Dad, you remember Payton?”

“I do. Good to see you again, Payton.” I breathed a sigh of relief.

“And it’s good to see you again as well, Mr. Hawke. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your big night and congratulations on the award you’ll be receiving tonight.”

An announcer interrupted whatever my dad was about to say to Payton by tapping the mic and announcing that the awards ceremony was about to begin and would be followed by a meal and live music.

Payton’s eyes lit up. “I love live bands. Will you dance with me?”

“Of course. I wouldn’t miss dancing with you for the world.”

We finished the award ceremony and dinner within an hour and the band got started immediately. It was a slow song and I offered my hand to Payton. “May I have this dance?”

“Yes, you may.”

The band was playing their version of ‘Faithfully’ and it was actually pretty good. There were only a few other couples on the floor, but we could have been the only ones and I wouldn’t have cared. Having her in my arms felt so good, so right.

“So, what’s this surprise you have for me? Are you gonna teach me to shoot a shotgun?”

“No. Tonight’s plan doesn’t include guns.”

“You know, teaching me to shoot a pistol might not have been the smartest move on your part. If I ever caught you cheating on me, you’d stand a far better chance of surviving if I didn’t know how.”

“Baby, I’m not worried. I’m just like this song says. I’m forever yours. Faithfully.”

She was amused. “You can be nauseatingly sweet sometimes, did you know that?”

“I try.”

“You know you changed the subject on me.”

“Did I?”

“Yes, you did. Are you gonna tell me what the surprise is?”

I was nervous, but I had to tell her at some point so now was as good a time as any. “Promise me you won’t freak out because this doesn’t mean I’m asking for or expecting more. This is only about us having some alone time.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, but I promise I’m not going to freak out on you.”

I took the keycard for a hotel room out of my pocket and held it up for her to see. “I got us a room in this hotel. If you need to think about it or if you don’t want to go up with me, I completely understand.”

“Nick, I don’t have to think about it at all. I want to.”

We stopped dancing and she stroked her fingertips over my lips. “Like now.”

“Let’s tell everyone we’re leaving and then we’ll go up.”

After we told everyone goodnight, we were standing alone in the elevator as it rose to our floor. Being so close to Payton, I couldn’t resist the urge to touch her, so I stroked the back of my fingers down her bare arm and watched the chill bumps rise on her skin.

“Oh, Nick. I forgot my purse on the table. I’m sorry.”

“No big deal. It won’t take but a minute to go back down to get it.”

I reached over and pressed the button for the ground floor and we made a stop at the third floor on the way down so Payton and I moved to the side to allow the couple onto the elevator. The petite blond woman and tall dark haired man were laughing when the doors opened and they immediately went solemn when they saw Payton.

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