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    The rest of the time, I spend at the gym training and helping others train. I’m going to see how far I can take this...how far I can go.

    Haley reaches back and produces a letter from her back pocket. “It’s my answer on the scholarship. The one we did the videos for.”

    “What did it say?” I wrap my arms around Haley and I sit up so that she’s straddling me.

    Haley and I discussed Dad’s offer to pay for her education. I even brought her to the house and Dad talked to her as well as my mom. She won’t accept our money. She’s hardheaded and stubborn and I love her more than my own life.

    Haley’s enrolled both at the University of Louisville and the community college. This scholarship will answer where she’ll spend at least the next year.


    She loses her spark. “I don’t know. I haven’t opened it yet.”

    Adrenaline pours into my veins. I’m more nervous about this than she is. “Are you going to?”

    Haley slides off me and I immediately miss her warmth. She and I are like two separate halves to a whole. Separate in that the two of us could live life apart and be successful, but when we are together—when we are whole—that’s when the magic happens.

    She tucks the letter into the crevice between the bed and the wall. “I’ll tell you what. Kiss me and when we’re done, I’ll open it.”

    I know her. Haley doesn’t think she won. I slip my hand around her waist and pull her back into me. My lips roam her neck and my fingers lift the soft material of her tank top. “No matter what, you’ll be okay.”

    Haley melts into me. “I know.”

    She lays a hand over mine and I stop, giving her a moment to collect her thoughts. It’s hard for her to not live in her head and the time to process those thoughts is all she really needs.

    “I’m scared of the rejection, but more...” She inhales deeply and I urge Haley onto my lap. With her head resting on my collarbone, she traces the spot on my chest where I had been bruised for weeks. “I want to be a sports trainer. Sort of like John, but not. I want to help athletes recovering from injury. Watching your sister learn how to walk again...personally learning how to battle through emotional injury... It’s what I want to help people do for life.”

    I tip Haley’s chin so her eyes meet mine. “Okay.”

    Her head shakes against my fingers. “No. I need someone to know this before I open that letter. When I applied for it, I was looking for money and I would have majored in kinesiology because that’s what I had money to go to school for. I need someone to know before I get my answer that I’m choosing this degree...that it’s not choosing me.”

    Of all the people in the world, she knows I understand. I lower my lips to hers and kiss the soft part between. She presses back and her hands move along my chest—a tickle, a caress and it’s enough to set me on fire.

    We roll and soon her tank joins my shirt on the floor. I explore her curves, enjoy the taste of her skin and memorize each hitch of breathing and soft sigh that escapes from her mouth. My mind reels when her body responds to me and the fierceness of the heat created.

    Time loses meaning and the only thing left is her touch and her love. Soon we are gasping and holding and whispering words that will only be said between us. Then everything stills as colors burst into the world.

    I edge Haley so that she’s lying beside me. Her hair tickles my chest and I rub her spine, half awake, half reliving kissing her in a dream.

    A crinkle to my right causes my eyes to shoot open and I snatch the letter held prisoner by the bed. I hand it to her and kiss her temple.

    With her head resting on my arm, Haley stares at it for a moment before ripping the back seal open with her finger. The envelope falls away as she unfolds the letter. I search her face for any sign of frustration or hope. Every ounce of me tightens as I pray for a miracle.

    With a short release of air from her lips, Haley refolds the letter and lets it drop to the floor. My head hits the back of the wall. Just f**k. How could they deny her?

    I tighten my hold on her. “It’s okay.”

    Haley runs a fingertip along my cheek and a smile forms on her lips. “Yeah, actually, it is. I won.”

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