She couldn’t stop singing. She knew for a fact that it was probably annoying the hell out of Jessamine, but Cassie couldn’t help it: she was happy.
Not that she hadn’t been happy before. Cassie was a firm believer in not needing a romantic relationship to feel fulfilled, but she had to admit that there was something nice about being courted. And whether or not Tyler realized it, that was exactly what was happening.
They’d kept in contact over the last few weeks of term, whether it was through frequent text messages or the occasional phone call. There wasn’t constant conversation, because they were both busy: Cassie with studying for her exams and Tyler with his swim training and studying for his exams, but she liked that at the end of the day, she could always look forward to a message from him saying that he hoped she was happy and had a good day and he couldn’t wait to see her when she came home.
Which was why she hummed pretty much the entire car ride from college to the Copeland house. She was so caught up with wondering how her reunion with Tyler was going to go that she didn’t notice the detour Jessamine took until they were on a road which was entirely unfamiliar.
“Where are we going?” Cassie asked, furrowing her brow as she scanned the passing scenery, wondering why she didn’t recognize the suburban roads which led to the gated community where all the Flux families lived. Turning her head towards the driver, she lifted one eyebrow as she waited for Jessamine to respond.
“To Tyler’s school,” Jessamine said nonchalantly, keeping her eyes on the road.
Cassie’s eyes widened in horror as she gaped at her friend, completely caught off guard by the change of plans. Although she had thought quite a bit about what she would say to Tyler when she saw him again, she had assumed she would have some time to prepare at the house before he arrived home from school. She didn’t particularly like being thrown headfirst into the situation with absolutely no warning.
“W-what?” she stammered out, shifting uncomfortably in the leather passenger seat. “Why?”
“So you can surprise him,” Jessamine replied simply, “I’m sure he’ll love it. He asks about you every time I talk to him.”
“Really?” Cassie’s eyebrows lifted in surprise, flattered that the fact that her thoughts had quite frequently strayed to Tyler quite a lot wasn’t completely one sided.
“Yep,” Jessamine nodded.
Despite the fact that Jessamine had never been anything but supportive of whatever it was that Cassie and Tyler were doing, Cassie couldn’t help but think it was amazing that she had that mindset at all. Surely the entire situation was a bit strange.
“Are you sure you’re okay with this?” Cassie asked quietly, twisting her torso so she could more easily look at her friend. “With me and Tyler…”
Jessamine replied before Cassie could finish. “Of course! I love the both of you and I just want you to be happy, so if this is what makes you happy, then go for it. And as long as you’re both smart and mature about it all, then no one will get hurt.”
Cassie wondered what it meant that each time she’d had a conversation about her potential relationship with Tyler with any member of his family, they all seemed to talk about it as though it would inevitably end. And perhaps it would. Perhaps, once break was over and they went back to their separate schools, they would forget about each other and just relish in the happiness they had in the few weeks they did get to spend together. She supposed they could cross that bridge when they came to it, because for now, she had much more pressing issues on her hands.
She fiddled with her seat belt as Jessamine parked the car in the lot in front of the school. “So…what am I supposed to do?”
Settling back into her seat, Jessamine took a deep breath before she spoke. “Well, first, I’m gonna text Lucy and tell her I can take her home in case Ty already offered her a ride and then you are going to go wait by Ty’s car until he comes out of school. It’s that dark blue SUV over there.”
Cassie followed the line of Jessamine’s finger to the car a row away and a few spots up and gulped nervously as she unfastened her seatbelt. Reaching down to grab her purse, she pushed open the car door and took a deep breath once her feet hit the ground, turning accept a nod of encouragement from her friend before slamming the car door shut and walking slowly towards the SUV Jessamine had pointed out.
Tyler was always fidgety during his last class on Fridays, but today he had an extra reason to be on edge. In less than an hour, he would be home, where Cassie most likely currently was, and hopefully, they would get some alone time. Because everyone was coming home for break, tonight had been designated as game night, which meant the entire extended family would be gathering at the Peters house for some good old fashioned bonding time.
Generally speaking, Tyler loved family get togethers, but seeing as he hadn’t kissed Cassie in what felt like a lifetime, he was going to seize every moment he could to be alone with her. If his plan worked out like he hoped it would, he’d be able to grab Lucy and race home in time to visit Cassie while she unpacked. By his calculations, they’d have about an hour of time to get reacquainted before they were called down for dinner and then left for the Peters’s.
Chewing on his lower lip, he stared intensely at the clock on the wall, jittering his right leg and tapping the eraser of his mechanical pencil against the plastic desk top as he waited for the bell to ring. When it finally did, he practically sprinted out the door, shoving his pencil and notebook into his backpack and swinging the straps over his shoulders as he turned the corner towards Lucy’s locker, just in time to see her strolling to put away her books.
“Hey,” he said, a bit out of breath as he came to a skidding halt in front of her locker. “You ready to go?”
One eyebrow quirked upwards as she reached for the combination lock, her lips parting to ask why he was in such a hurry. Despite the fact that they were now off to a three week break, she wasn’t aware that they had any sort of pressing plans until game night that evening. Then she remembered that last day of school before break meant that a certain someone was coming home from college and her lips immediately curved into a smile as she pulled open her locker door. “Cassie’s on her way?”
“Actually,” Tyler corrected, pulling his phone from the pocket of his uniform trousers to reread the text message his sister had sent him an hour ago. “According to where Jessa said they were in her last text, they should be home by now.”
Lucy let out a snorting laugh as she plucked a textbook from her tote bag and inserted into her locker. “Damn, Ty, what kind of spell does this girl have over you? I’ve never seen you this worked up about someone before.”
He froze, his fingers tightening around his phone as he stood up a little straighter and wondered if that was true. By nature, he was a lover of all women, so the fact that he was excited about seeing one that he was particularly partial to wasn’t really surprising. What was surprising was the fact that the idea of seeing her was making him jittery, because much like his father and sister, Tyler Copeland was usually calm, cool, and collected, when it came to matters such as these.
“I’m not worked up,” he mumbled, shoving his phone back into the pocket of his pants and crossing his arms over his chest. “I’m just excited to see her. Can we go now?”
Knowing better than to try and prove him wrong, Lucy laughed and shook her head as she shut her locker door and hiked up the strap of her cheetah print tote bag on her shoulder. “I drove myself today, remember?”
“Right,” Tyler nodded, recalling how Lucy hadn’t been particularly keen on accompanying him to his early morning swim practice that day and had opted to drive her lime green beetle to school instead. “I guess I’ll just see you at the Peters’s later.”
“Sounds good,” she replied as they turned towards the exit which led to the parking lot, her eyes immediately searching the rows of cars for a familiar face once they stepped outside. She had received Jessamine’s text message while in class and wanted to see firsthand Tyler’s reaction to seeing the girl who had him twisted into knots, whether he liked to admit it or not. Lucy spotted Cassie leaning against the side of Tyler’s SUV, looking as though she had no idea what to do with herself, and smiled as she gently elbowed Tyler’s side and nodded towards his car. “Looks like it’s your lucky day.”
Tyler followed her gaze to his car, his eyes widening at the sight of the girl who had been consuming his thoughts as of late casually leaning against the side of his SUV.
“Is that…?” he asked quietly, his gaze laser focused on the older girl, blinking a few times to make sure he wasn’t seeing things.
“Cassie?” Lucy prompted, reaching into her tote bag to fish out her car keys. “Why don’t you go talk to her and find out?”
Not needing any more encouragement than that, he waved goodbye to his best friend as he made a beeline for his car, stopping short just in front of Cassie, who seemed to snap out of a daze once he was standing directly in front of her. She had been too preoccupied with worrying what the hell she was going to say to him to notice that people had started exiting the school and it wasn’t until his voice rang out that she even realized he was there.
She blinked at the sound of his voice, her lips automatically stretching into a smile, though her words came out whispered. “I’m here.”
Grinning widely, he took another step forward and dipped his head to press his lips to hers before she could speak again, the pressure pushing her back against the side of his car, his hands rising to cup her cheeks as the two of them smiled into the kiss. Her hands flattened against his chest as she returned the pressure and although she felt as though she was flying, she couldn’t help but think that it was all a bit surreal.
It must have been quite a shock for the younger girls who always made a point to stroll through the parking lot slowly in hopes of catching a glimpse of Tyler Copeland, the school’s dreamiest senior boy, stripping out of his uniform shirt beside his car, only to find him instead engaged in a passionate kiss with a mystery girl. Although it was a well-known fact that Tyler Copeland had kissed quite a lot of girls, most of the time, it was done in supply closets or locker rooms or at house parties or empty hallways when he was supposed to be in class. The last girl he had kissed publically at school had been Lindsay, a relationship which hadn’t worked out, so the fact that he seemed pretty content to push his lips against a girl’s in the school parking lot was somewhat of a shock.
“It’s good to see you, Cass,” he said when he pulled away, his eyes alight with happiness and his head spinning just a bit.
“Good to see you, too,” she whispered, because that was the loudest she could make her voice go.
Laughing quietly, he took a step back, knowing that if he didn’t create some space between them, he’d only end up kissing her again and there were places they had to be tonight. Reaching to her side, he pulled open the passenger side door of his car and gestured for her to get in, shutting it once she obliged and walking around to the driver’s side. Once he slid into the leather seat, he twisted his torso to deposit his backpack in the second row before sticking his key into the ignition and reversing out of the parking spot.
Neither of them spoke until he was out on the main road and it was he who broke the silence. “So, I’ve been thinking about our date.”
“You have?” she lifted her eyebrows in surprise, playing with the zipper of her purse in her lap. Although she remembered that he had said he wanted to take her out when she got back, she figured that was just talk since things between them finally seemed to be progressing and didn’t think he’d actually go through with it. But if he was down for a date, then so was she, because she imagined it would be nice to spend some time with him where they didn’t just make out.
The corners of his lips lifted into a smile and he thought she had every right to be surprised by his statement. After all, he had been the one who had been vague about the status of their relationship, but he did want to get to know her better and he knew better than to think that they would get heaps of time alone in the house while his parents and sister and extended family were around.
“Yeah,” he replied with a nod, one hand on the steering wheel and the crooked elbow of his other arm resting in the open window. “Jessa probably told you that tonight’s game night, so I was thinking maybe tomorrow after my swim training? There’s this carnival thing on the boardwalk by the beach and I was thinking we could check it out.”
He had done a lot of thinking about the kind of date he would want to take Cassie on, and although full out romance might seem ideal, he didn’t want to scare her away. Plus, they were supposed to be taking things slow, so he figured he’d start with something he often did with Lucy and see how things went from there.
“That sounds great!” Cassie smiled, a bit relieved. She had been afraid that he would choose something more intense and at the end of the night, she would have been left wondering if they should progress pass just kissing, but a carnival on the boardwalk sounded casual and fun.
After their plans for the following day had been solidified, the tension in the car seemed to dissipate and they spent the rest of the ride back to the Copeland house catching up. Cassie told Tyler how she was pretty sure she aced all of her exams and how glad she was to no longer be pulling all nighters and Tyler told her about how swimming was going great and he’d shaved a couple seconds off his butterfly, which had always been his worst stroke, and how he’d perfected three new pasta recipes and he couldn’t wait to try them on her.
By the time they pulled into the Copeland’s garage, they were both smiling widely, thinking that this break was definitely going to be something special. After shutting off the engine, Tyler reached over to place his hand on Cassie’s arm as she unfastened her seatbelt, keeping her from getting out of the car just yet.
“Everything alright?” she asked, furrowing her eyebrows in concern because she couldn’t read the expression on his face.
Chewing on his lower lip, he nodded as he leaned over the center console, giving her a soft kiss on the lips and as he pulled away, whispering words which would resonate in her mind for the remainder of her stay.
“Welcome home, Cassie.”