The third book in Ginger Scott’s Waiting series is coming this week and I have a sneak peek for you! The series follows high school sweethearts Reed Johnson and Nolan Lennox—a tomboy named after a baseball legend—through football, life, love and everything messy that goes along with it, and one of my MOST TRUSTED fellow book reviewers (Jessica Sotelo of Angie and Jessica’s Dreamy Reads) tells me this series is a MUST READ. She also says the series should be read in order as “the detailed backstory truly makes it the heart-stopping love story that it is.”
We weave into the night around the cactus-peppered hills, the road only lit a few feet in front of us at a time. It could be pitch dark and we’d all still know the way. It’s burned in our fabric, and time hasn’t caught up with this part of our home yet. No homes built around here, other than the eastern stretch of property that now belongs to Reed and me.
“Do you remember when we walked home through this?” Sienna reminds us all. I hear her begin to explain the memory to Micah, not wanting him to feel left out, while Sean, Reed and I joke about it.
“It was always so much farther than you said it was,” Sean says, pushing the back of Reed’s seat. “You ass!”
Reed laughs and looks his friend in the eyes through the reflection in the rearview mirror.
“You were just lazy,” Reed says.
I remember that first walk, and I know Reed’s thinking about it now. I can tell by the way his smile softens just before he reaches for my hand, gripping it and pulling it to his mouth to kiss the back of my hand. He holds his lips to my skin for a few seconds and when he sets our tethered hands down on the center console, he flits his eyes to me to make sure I’m all right with this memory now, too.
Reed was dating Tatum then. It all seems so stupid and trivial now, which I suppose it was, but at fourteen, that night was my whole world. Feelings were bigger somehow, and things cut deeper. I was a girl with a crush, and he was a boy just figuring out how to deal with desire. And Tatum…well…she’s a stripper now, so I guess not much has changed.
“You know I saw her in Vegas, bro,” Sean says, drawing loud groans as Sienna and I fall back into our seats. I twist my head to make eye contact with my girlfriend, and we both jerk in a disgusted laugh.
“Becky know that?” Reed says over his shoulder.
“Not like that, dude. I mean I ran into her. I was there for business, and she was on the strip heading somewhere. She looked good.” Nobody speaks after Sean gives us that update. I think maybe we’re all glad she’s all right, even though she put us through hell when we were young—me more than most.
Tatum always wanted to perform, and I had heard during college that she spent some time in New York and L.A. trying to get gigs in theater or commercial work. She was on a soup ad for a while. It even aired during the NFL playoffs. Reed never brought it up, but I know he noticed. It was a year he was watching them next to me on the couch. My mom’s the one who told me she eventually started working in Vegas. She ran into Tatum’s parents just before they moved to some retirement place in Florida. They said she was starring in a show, but my mom had this feeling they were leaving out a few details. It only took her ten minutes surfing online to find out that show was topless.
“She always had great boobs.” Sienna’s quip is utterly sincere, and it breaks the thick silence as we all burst into uncontrollable laughter.
The dim lights start to reflect the dust behind the thick brush, and pretty soon Sarah’s car comes into view, her trunk already popped open with way too much alcohol dumped in the back for seven adults, two of whom won’t be drinking.
“I couldn’t decide what to get,” she says, already starting in with excuses as she cracks open a can of the cheapest beer in Coolidge for me. I wasn’t planning on drinking, but I take it in my hand knowing if I hold onto it over the next hour, she won’t harass me.
Reed reaches in and kills the lights on his Jeep, crawling up on his hood and stretching out a hand for me to join him.
“So much for date night, huh?” I tilt my head as guilt shrinks his smile a little. “It’s okay,” I shake my head, feeling bad.
I take his palm and plant my foot on the tire, letting him lift me. A little bit of my beer spills on my arm, so Reed takes it in his hands and sucks it off.
“I still can’t let you waste it,” he teases.
My back rests on his chest as he draws his knees up on either side of me and I hook one arm under his thigh. I take a sip of my beer, which is bitter and possibly stale if not a little warm, but I hope it helps me relax. He leaves in hours, and I want to soak up this last moment.
For the next hour, we all take turns warning Sarah that it’s a bad idea to cross the gulch where the actual teenagers are, but it doesn’t stop her from trying with every new song that blasts from someone’s stereo.
“Has she always been this crazy?” Reed speaks into my ear, his lips stopping at the edge of my skin long enough to dust a kiss. It still sends shivers down my neck, and I tilt my head inviting him to do it again.
“She’s actually tamer than she used to be. I’m just shocked she’s never been arrested,” I say, swallowing hard when his nose draws a line from my collar bone up to the space behind my ear.
He nuzzles me there for a few seconds, his breath hot and his chin scratchy, reminding me he’s a man now and that this is not twenty years ago. This is now. I lean into him more, feeling the heat of his chest against my back, the rise and fall of his wanting breaths. I can’t remember the last time we’ve been together—really together.
“I miss you,” he finally says, his hands running along my arms as he folds them over my chest, his thumbs dragging in secret across my breasts. I draw a sharp breath as he pauses with his knuckles over my now hardened nipples that have turned to pebbles from his touch and the cold air.
“I miss you so much,” I breathe out, my head falling back into his chest and turning enough to find his mouth waiting hungrily for mine. He kisses me with our kiss, taking my top lip in and sucking slowly until I feel the rough edges of his teeth grab hold of my skin. My lip slips out with a slight pant and Reed pulls me against his body more, this time so I can feel what this is doing to him.
“We should go for a walk,” I whisper. He nods, his rough cheek rubbing against my soft one, and we slip away just as our friends are all shouting over one another about who can handle more shots.
I start to giggle as we break into a run, and Reed holds his finger over his wide smile as he turns to take my hand and jog backward.
“I can’t believe it’s come to this. We’re almost forty, and we have to sneak out in the desert to have sex,” I laugh out.
Reed’s laugh shifts into a growl as he reaches for my other hand and draws me closer to him, urging me up a few steps to a large boulder embedded on the opposite side of a wash that’s been dry for months. My back against the rock, Reed cages me between his arms and leans to the side to test how hidden we are.
“They’re drunk as fuck,” he says, his eyes glimmering with the moonlight. I don’t bother to look. I’m too mesmerized by the movement of his Adam’s apple, and every dip it makes with his laugh. It stalls when his gaze shifts to me, his lips closing with the heavy swallow of his growing desire.
“Reed,” my lips quiver out his name and my eyes work to seduce him more, sweeping closed at his chest and opening wide on his.
His gaze circles my face, painting me with the adoration that’s never left, but has only been buried by life—by all of this shit that the game brought with it. The game isn’t with us right now; it’s only me and him. I shift my body up enough so my eyes are square with his, and I wrap my fingers behind his head, threading through his thick hair. It’s courser than I remember. These months apart have aged it, but it still submits to me, softening to silk in my hand as he takes his time closing the distance between our lips.
His eyes flit from mine to my mouth, licking as he parts his just before falling into me with a possessive kiss that forces my chin up as his hand comes to the side of my neck. I whimper as his fingers follow the curve of my jaw, neck and arms then grip at my sweater, gathering it in his fists from the bottom until his palms are cupping my breasts.
If the ground were softer, we maybe wouldn’t have noticed the crunch of gravel and brittle snaps of brush under someone’s approaching feet. Reed’s eyes widen and he presses two fingers to my mouth, holding my nervous laugh inside, but barely. I can feel his body shake with his silent laugh as his head falls to rest against mine, and after a mood-killing round of hearing two teens trying to sneak off into the darkness to do the exact same thing we’re doing, we make our escape and slowly walk back to our friends.
“You all went to make out, didn’t you?” Sarah is slurring her words and stumbling toward us. My friend is a sloppy drunk, and it’s late and the early morning will be here way too soon.
“You caught us,” I smile at her as I shoot a glance to Reed over my shoulder. I slide my arm under her to hold her weight and hold out my open palm, our universal sign for her to give me her keys.
“I’ll see you at home,” Reed says, and as everyone else loads up in the Jeep, Becky, Sarah, and I climb into Sarah’s car. Together we all make our way out of the dry river bottom to the main road.