1 year after graduation
It feels like just yesterday I was sitting in this arena watching Jordan play hockey and falling in love with him. He stands at the edge of the ice in his suit and tie, looking so handsome I can’t believe he’s mine. Or that I could have fallen even more in love with him.
The Valley U hockey program is honoring him tonight and several of his old teammates, including Liam.
They’re called out individually, and everyone in the audience gets to their feet to applaud the group of guys that found so much success here.
When they announce Jordan, he lifts a hand in a small wave and struts to join the rest of the guys. I scream so loudly from my seat. He looks my way with a smirk. That smirk still gives me butterflies.
They pose for a bunch of pictures at the center of the arena, and then they’re ushered to a back room where I get to join him. All the guys are chatting at once, excited to catch up with each other. I’m happy to be a quiet observer tonight while he relives the old days with his college teammates. He’s already accomplished so much. He makes me look like the slacker in the relationship now.
He graduated a year before me, with honors (thank you very much, I’ll take some credit for that), and has been playing hockey in California. I joined him the second I was finished at Valley U, and we’ve basically been living the dream. Life is good. No, it’s great.
We’re living in a cute little apartment, and I’m going to graduate school during the day, and my nights are spent studying or kissing (sometimes kissing while studying). Some things haven’t changed that much, I guess.
Jordan wraps an arm around my waist and drops his mouth close to my ear. “Wanna get out of here?”
“And go where?” I ask, but he’s already pulling me toward the door.
Out in the hallway, he draws me against his chest and kisses me. “I felt twenty-one all over again being out there and watching you cheer for me.”
“I still cheer for you,” I say. I go to every home game, and I watch the others on TV. Go, team, go! Who would have thought I’d end up a hockey fan for real? Technically, I think I’m just a Jordan Thatcher fan. I don’t pay a lot of attention to the other guys.
“I know. There’s something about this place, though. It brings back so many good memories.” He takes my hand, and we start for the exit.
“Don’t you want to stay and catch up with your old teammates?”
“We’re going to meet up at The Hideout later, but first, I want to take you somewhere.”
“Okay.” I smile as we push outside. We get into the rental car, and he drives us to my old street, stopping and parking along the curb halfway between it and The White House.
“I miss this place.” I step out onto the sidewalk and stare at it. New people have moved in. Their unfamiliar cars are parked in the driveway, and several lawn chairs are placed around the front yard like this is where they sit to hang out on a Friday night.
He laces his fingers through mine and tugs me up the sidewalk to the front door of The White House.
“What are we doing here?” I ask as he knocks three times.
The door opens before Jordan answers my question, and a guy I don’t know pulls the door wide and smiles. “Are you Thatcher?”
“Yeah.” Jordan tips his head in my direction. “This is Daisy.”
I get a quick glance before his smile is aimed back at Jordan. “I’m Louis. Everyone calls me LL.”
“What’s up, LL?” Jordan asks as we step inside.
“It’s early yet, but we’re expecting a big turnout later.” The beginning of a party is forming outside, and there are several people in the kitchen pouring drinks. “Everything is ready for you.”
“Thanks.” Jordan holds out his hand, and the two shake.
“Why are we here?” My question goes unanswered again, but this time he shoots a wink at me.
We bypass the drinks and go to the backyard. The music is already going, and a few people are in the pool, but Jordan’s steps bring us to the fence that divides the White House from my old place.
My gaze travels up to the tree house, and I smile. “It’s still there.”
His arms circle around my waist, and he brushes his lips over mine. “Want to go over and see if it looks the same inside?”
“What if someone sees us?”
“Live a little, sweet Daisy.” He kneels down and encourages me to use him as a human ladder.
“Of course, you want me to go first. This way, I’ll be the one that gets the cops called and go to jail for trespassing,” I mumble as I not-so-gracefully climb over the fence and hop down on the other side.
“I promise to bail you out,” he says. His jaw works side to side. “I saw Gavin do this once, but back up just in case.”
“Just in case of what?” I ask as I move away from him farther into the yard behind me.
He takes off his jacket and tosses it over first, then Jordan rushes forward, places his hands on the top of the fence, and hefts himself over, landing on my side with a mischievous grin.
He picks up his jacket and shakes it off. I glance at the dark house in front of us. It doesn’t look like anyone is home, but I can’t be sure, and there were cars out front.
“After you.” Jordan juts his chin to the tree house.
I’m about to protest when it lights up.
I gasp. It’s even more beautiful than I remember. “The lights!”
My legs can’t move me to the top fast enough. Once I’m standing in my favorite spot, I turn a slow circle. Closing my eyes, I can picture us up here, studying and getting to know one another, falling madly in love.
I hear Jordan step up behind me, and I open my eyes. “Did you do this?”
“I might have called in a couple of favors.” He rests his chin on top of my head and points at our initials carved into the wood.
I run my finger along the letters. We did that the day before he graduated. I was so sad that he was leaving.
“We need a tree house someday,” I say with a sigh and lean back against his chest. “Just like this one.”
“On one condition.” He pulls away with a kiss on my cheek.
I turn, missing his body heat and the feel of him so close.
He falls to one knee and holds up a ring between his finger and thumb. “Marry me, sweet Daisy?”
“Really?!” I must look from the ring to his face a dozen times.
A small chuckle leaves his lips. “Really, really. I fell in love with you here. I couldn’t think of a better spot to ask you to be mine forever.”
I nod frantically and yell my answer out, no longer caring if anyone knows we’re up here. “Yes!”
With Jordan, life is fun, spontaneous, and loud. And, sometimes, so am I. He does that for me. He coaxes me out of my shell and makes me want to live life to the fullest.
He stands and places the diamond on my left ring finger. I frame his face with both hands, admiring how my new accessory sparkles under the lights, and kiss him like I’ve done so many times in this very spot.
“I love you,” he says, voice low and gruff with emotion. “I love you so freaking much.”
“I love you too, sweet Jordan.”
His brows lift. “I am not sweet.”
I rest my head over his heart. “Debatable.”