Crossroads: Book 1

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Chapter 95

Elena


All week, I’ve been waiting patiently for this day. Heck, ever since I got a boyfriend, I’ve been waiting for this day: Valentine’s Day. The only difficult part of today will be getting through all my classes because it will just make the day slowly drag on.

As I stroll through the hall to my Human Biology class, my phone buzzes, so I swipe it and find a text from Rachel.

Is tonight the night you for you and Mike? Have you decided yet?

I smile as I write her back and hit send: Maybe. I’ll have to see how I feel. I really want to, but I don’t want to rush myself either.

As I turn the corner for the classroom, I run into a black cotton chest, causing my phone to fumble out of my grip and land at my feet. I start to apologize for not looking where I was going until I realize who is squatting down to retrieve my phone before I have a chance to. My heart starts to pound loudly in my ears, making the rest of the world fall away.

The man stands up, glances at my phone, and smirks at me. Heat crawls painfully up my neck as I clench my books tight against my chest. I don’t even want my phone back now.

It buzzes in his hand, and we both look at the phone. “Well, well. I believe someone may end up getting lucky tonight,” Zack purrs. “You’re finally going to spread those prude legs of yours, huh?”

My eyes widen in shock while he dangles the phone in front of me. I try to snatch it, but he lifts it away and tsks. “Now, if I give this back to you, do you promise to watch where you’re going? It’s dangerous to text and walk,” he says it like he cares. “By the way, are you going to tell me where Isaac is?”

“Give it to me,” I seethe.

Zack steps closer as other students walk on by not giving a rat’s behind on what’s going on. Mike should have been here by now...

He pushes the phone against my books, which shields my chest. “I would love to, doll,” he winks, and I grab the phone from him.

“Get the fuck away from her,” I don’t need to look to know who is snarling beside me.

Zack puts his hands up, then smiles at me as he turns around to stroll away with ease.

A soft touch rests on my shoulder, then Mike stands in my line of vision, cutting off Zack’s retreating form. “Hey, kitten. Are you okay? What did he say to you?” His eyes are laced with concern.

The heat in my face feels even hotter. “Nothing, he was just being Zack.” With haste, I move inside the classroom and take my assigned seat. Before Mike can sit down next to me, I read the text from Rachel.

Sex is kind of a big deal. Be sure you’re ready.

I feel my insides churn at the knowledge that Zack read the text when it came through. He is not someone that I wanted to know about this evening’s possible plans. It’s so embarrassing. What doesn’t help the matter is having Mrs. Jackson walk around to disperse a specific diagram on each of our desks. Mike sits down and lifts the diagram up, forcing me to look away from my phone to the piece of paper in his large hands.

He smiles and wiggles his brows then sets the paper down in front of him. I cringe at the female reproductive diagram in front of me. It mocks my current situation and the internal debate about what I may or may not do tonight.

“Hey, are you okay?” Mike asks tenderly with a hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry, if I made you uncomfortable, I was just teasing like I always do in this class.”

“No, no. It’s not that.” I readjust the collar on my shirt. How often does Mike think about sex? I’m sure these diagrams don’t help. They definitely don’t help me. I’ve been thinking about it a lot – more than I probably should...

“What did he say to you, Elena?” Mike presses.

“He was just teasing me. It’s no big deal, I just...” I grip the desk. “It’s a little awkward studying this stuff with you next to me,” I say slowly, completely taking the shining light away from Zack. Yes, he made me feel uncomfortable, and he was a jerk, but I’m not a prude... am I?

Mike leans in close to me. “Hey,” he says softly. “It’s just a diagram. A very one-dimensional diagram that looks nothing like the real thing,” he chuckles.

“Mike,” I chide, and he laughs.

“What? Why is this awkward for you?” he lowers his voice to a whisper against my ear that only I can hear. “I’ve seen you already, remember? I’ve seen every beautiful inch of you, and I gotta tell you, I’d rather study your flesh than a diagram.” His finger traces down my neck. “The real thing is a lot more fun.”

Cotton gathers in my mouth. “Mike,” I sigh and lean into his touch.

“Tell me why this is awkward for you, kitten?”

“Because, I...while you fill out the diagram, I don’t know what you’re thinking about. Are you thinking about just filling out the paper, or are you thinking about sex?” I finally squeak, not sure what I want his response to be.

He chuckles low against my ear, and it vibrates down to my core. “Honestly, when I do any types of assignments in this class, my mind is just on autopilot to get it done so I can watch you work. Whenever I look at you, all I can think about is how damn gorgeous you are.”

“Mike,” I breathe and blush hard, not expecting that answer.

“I’m serious.” He nudges me. “Every time you nibble on that bottom lip, I think about how much I want that mouth nibbling on me instead. Every time your legs wrap around my waist, it’s hard to breathe because I can’t believe a woman like you is with someone like me. And, every time you look at me, the whole world stops because you become my focus. You are my heart, Elena.”

The only words that come to mind are the only ones that spill their way out in a quiet whisper, “I love you, Mike.”

He takes my hand in his and kisses the back of it. “I love you, Elena.” He shows off those dimples with that crooked white smile of his and says, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

For a moment, we smile at each other. Suddenly all the awkward tension I felt because of Zack’s teasing vanishes. “Alright, now let’s get this diagram over with,” Mike tosses out. As he clears his throat, he readjusts his pants, which causes me to giggle. He winks at me. Then we finish filling out our assignments.


“So, you’re still not telling me what the plan is tonight?” I ask into the phone as I curl my hair.

“Nope,” Mike answers. “Just know that I’m taking care of everything and be ready by 6:30.”

“Alright, fine,” I surrender. “I trust you.”

“Good,” he says. I’m sure he’s beaming.

“I’m taking care of dessert, though. I’m putting my foot down on that.”

“Oh? I can’t wait,” Mike rasps in my ear.

We hang up, and I apply some eyeliner around my blue eyes, then add some mascara. With a touch of cherry Chapstick on the lips that can’t seem to stop smiling – I believe I’m all set. I go to my closet and choose to wear the only black dress I own. It’s the off-the-shoulder dress that I wore to mom’s funeral. I decide to wear it tonight because this dress is so beautiful that it deserves a happy memory. I want to be able to look at this dress and think of Mike with a smile rather than think of mom with a frown and a tear at the cusp of leaking.

As I zip myself up in the mirror, I forget how slimming the dress is. It cinches at the waist and flows naturally to my knees; the material is soft and buttery. The black satin heels from my birthday will go perfectly with it. I grab the heels from my closet and decide against bringing my phone. I won’t need it.

There’s a note on the table in the kitchen that I saw when I got home from school, which my dad left. He won’t be back until very late tonight. I turn the note over and write my own message. I let him know that I may still be over at Mike’s when he comes home, so he won’t need to worry if he doesn’t see me.

I glance at the time; it’s 6:15. My eyes cut to the present I wrapped for Mike. I forgot to put a bow on it. Knowing that I have enough time, I trail my way back to dad’s room and into his closet for the ribbons and bows. As I take out a red bow, I realize something’s off. The bow box was resting on a black box before - the black box with dad’s old motorcycle club’s cut on it. This time, the bow box is on the floor. The black box is gone...

Is he hiding something from me? Why would it disappear? The thoughts quickly shake their way out. My questions always did just cause more trouble than necessary; I’m sure he just moved it somewhere else for no important reason. I sneak a peek under the bed and notice it’s not there either.

Giving up, I stand, then make my way back to the kitchen to decorate Mike’s gift that I can finally give him. A knock on the door surprises me even though it shouldn’t because I was expecting it. I top off the bow then smooth my hands down the dress while reaching for the knob to open the door.

He dressed up. Mike stands before me in a black long sleeve shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows for his tattoos to play peek-a-boo. The top couple of buttons of his shirt are undone, but it’s tucked into a nice pair of black dress slacks. The end of his slacks touches a pair of shiny dress shoes. He pushes a hand through his unruly and sexy dark hair. In his other hand, he holds a single rose. Those bright green eyes rake over me as he places a hand over his chest.

You take my breath away,” he says into the quiet of the night surrounding us at my doorway.

Oh, if only he knew. “You don’t look so bad yourself,” I tell him, trying not to act as nervous as I feel.

I don’t think I can ever not be nervous around him. He always manages to blow me away.

Mike steps forward to hand me the rose and lean down to kiss my cheek. The combination of his soft lips and rough beard is one of the best feelings. I relish in it for a moment while the frogs and crickets play a song for us. I smile up at him then motion for him to come inside as the light breeze tickles my skin.

“Wow. What is all this?” Mike asks with surprise. He takes in the homemade card, a large homemade brownie in a shape of a heart, and a gift wrapped in black valentine’s paper with a red ribbon around it in a shape of a bow.

Grinning, I reach up for a flower vase in the cupboard and say, “Those are for you.”

“For me?” he checks, as I fill the vase up with water then put the rose in it.

“Oh! This, too,” I tell him, as I remember having his favorite treat in the fridge. I open the fridge door and pull out a little basket. “But you can’t know what this is yet until it’s time for dessert.” I give him a wink, and his brows rise.

He walks up to embrace me against his body, then nuzzles my neck. “I say it’s dessert time right now,” he teases while kissing and licking my neck at the sweet spot that he’s found a long time ago.

I laugh and rest my hands on his hard chest. “No, Mike. Not yet.” Being firm against my kryptonite has never worked, and he knows it. Thankfully, he backs off, knowing that I’d cave if he keeps pushing.

“Fine,” he playfully grumbles and picks up the items in his arms. “Shall we?” He motions for the door.

I close the door behind me and remember to lock it, then take the arm that he offers to walk me over to his house. He opens his front door for me, and right away, I see rose petals leading a trail to his kitchen table. On the table, there is two tall, red candles lit, and food is already set out. The lights are turned down low, which accompanies the soft romantic dinner music playing from his stereo.

“Wow,” I breathe as I walk myself further inside to place my house key on the hall table. “You did all this?”

Turning around, I watch as Mike sets his gifts down on the counter. His cheeks turn a pale pink as he drags out the word, “Yeah.”

I beam, then pad over to hug him. “It’s too over the top, isn’t it?” he asks, doubting his confidence.

“It’s perfect, Mikey Bear,” I spill out, gazing into his eyes.

His brow quirks up. ”Mikey Bear?”

“Yeah, well... you give the best bear hugs, and your mother can call you Mikey, but I can call you Mikey Bear.” I tap his nose and smile.

“It’s valentine’s day, so I’m going to let that slide for tonight,” he grins and kisses my cheek. “Let’s eat.”

Mike leads us to the table, then pulls out my chair before he sits across from me. “Tonight, we are having steak, twice baked potatoes, and a salad,” he tells me as he uncovers my plate from a plate warming top.

“Looks amazing!” I compliment taking in the aroma of the meal.

With the steak knife and fork, I cut myself a piece of steak. It is juicy, tender, and I’m able to chew it no problem. He must have used chili powder, cumin, and garlic to marinade it in; if heaven had a taste, this would be it.

“Mike, this is so good,” I praise.

He smiles and takes a bite of his twice baked potato. “I’m glad you like it. I’ve learned a lot from you in the kitchen these past few weeks.” My date waits for a beat before asking, “Are you sure you don’t mind staying in for the night?”

I glance around the room, taking in the ambiance and all the hard work he did to celebrate being my valentine. “Of course not. This is the most romantic setting that I can think of. Just being here with you, all dressed up and sharing a meal... I love it. It’s perfect.” I reach to squeeze his hand.

The smile Mike gives me spreads to his emerald irises, he gives me a wink. The smile reminds me of a little boy excited for Christmas. “I’m glad,” he says.

After dinner, I help Mike clean up the kitchen. Unlike me, he likes to wash dishes while he cooks, so there isn’t a whole lot to clean up. While at the dishwasher by the sink, I take each dish he hands me after rinsing it off to perfection and place them in the racks.

“You really are a bit of a neat freak, aren’t you?” I tease adoringly. Mike gives me a side glance, and with the sprayer of the faucet in his hand, he lightly spritzes me with the water, causing me to squeal. I reach into the sink for some of the soap suds and swipe it on his cheek.

“Oh, you didn’t,” he smirks.

“Oh, I did.” I raise my brows in daring him to do something about it.

He shakes his head once and says, “You know, I thought by now you would have learned a thing or two about picking on me.” In a blink of an eye, I was on his counter-top with my wrists restrained by his hands. He steps between my legs, pinning me in place on the counter.

My giggles fall short when he leans in and tickles my neck with his soft lips. He hovers, but he doesn’t let his mouth touch me. It’s an agonizing torcher. I try to lean into him, but he moves away.

“Ah, ah,” he whispers. “You have to earn the pleasure.” I can feel the ghost of his smile along that sensitive spot just under my ear.

“Well then, perhaps my gift to you will earn that,” I mention as I try to catch my breath. He really is intoxicating and makes every fiber in my being react. He steps back enough to hold his hand out for me so I can hold it while hopping down. I blink a few times and take a deep breath from the dizzy sensation that is My Valentine.

Mike reaches down for the door of the dishwasher and closes it. “The rest of this stuff can wait,” he says.

I reach for the gift from the counter then motioned for us to sit on the couch. “You really didn’t have to get me anything,” he says as he takes a seat next to me on the black leather.

“I wanted to.” I grin up at him and place the gift in his lap. “Read the card first.”

He lets out a small sigh and takes the card from beneath the bow and opens it. I watch his face as he reads the homemade card. There’s a flicker of heartfelt emotion in those sea-green abysses of his, but it disappears as quickly as it came. He sets the card down as his eyes nearly gloss over, then he lets out a little chuckle at himself, probably for nearly shedding tears from my heartfelt card; he reaches for me, and I easily mold against him in a hug.

“Thank you, babe,” he murmurs against my hair.

I lean away from him. “Now, you have to open the first part of your gift.”

“The card alone is more than enough,” he protests while he pulls the bow apart and tears away the paper. Since I taped the box up, he reaches for his pant pocket for his pocket-knife and cuts the tape. He closes his knife to set it on the end table and proceeds to open his gift.

“Oh, man,” he grins ear to ear. “I’ve been wanting this!” Mike holds the Walking Dead video game in his hands like it’s a rare piece of treasure worth millions. He reaches for me and slams my body against his as he holds me tight. “Thank you,” he rasps in my ear.

“You’re welcome.” I look up at him and smile. “Maybe we can play it tonight?”

“Definitely, but you need to open your gift now,” he tells me.

Mike gets up from the couch, sets the game on the coffee table, and then disappears into his bedroom. I smooth down the dress over my thighs as I wait for his return.

“Now, I’m terrible at this sort of thing...I meant to get Valentine’s paper to wrap it up, but by the time I remembered to do it, they were all out at the store. So, you have to unwrap Christmas paper instead,” he says with a hint of shame.

I cover my stifling laugh with my hand.

He stops in front of me with a frown. “What?”

“I almost gave you a gift in Christmas paper, too,” I confess. “Now, be honest. Is it because the Christmas paper was really cheap? Is that why you used Christmas paper?”

“You want the truth?”

“Yes,” I demand with a smile.

He sighs and plops next to me, cradling my gift. “I was going to give it to you for Christmas, but I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate so, I just hung on to it until I had the chance to give it to you.” He turns his face to look at me.

With my lips pressed tight together, I try to cover my smile. He did the exact same thing that I did. I couldn’t hold it in. The look on his face has ‘sorry’ written all over it in self-disappointment.

“What’s so funny?” he asks.

I burst into laughter while he sits there patiently until I’m done.

After sobering, I explain myself, and his face falls into his hand as his shoulders start to rock from his own laughter over the fact that we both had the same idea.

“Well, aren’t we just a match made in heav,” he says as he hands me my gift.

All laughter aside, I take the card, which is also homemade, and open it.

My dearest love,

I’m not good with words, but I want you to know just how much you mean to me. You are the blood in my veins, the heart in my chest, my hope in the future, the woman of my dreams, and my true north. You are everything to me, and then some; no amount of words can ever explain the way I feel about you.

We haven’t known each other all that long, but the times we have shared and the things we have gone through feels like it’s been a lifetime of knowing you. You are everything to me, Elena, and I am so lucky to be able to call you my Valentine.

With love,

Mike

I close the card and look up to the man sitting nervously beside me. His hand reaches out to swipe away a single tear that leaked its way out.

“You’re crying. Shit. That bad?” He studies me.

I shake my head. “It’s beautiful.” I hold the homemade card to my chest, over my heart.

A nervous smile plays on his lips. “Open the gift.”

With the box in my hand, I tear away a corner of the snowman paper, then another until a black velvety box is bare in my hands. I open it and gasp, “Mike.”

It’s a charm bracelet. There’s a silver spatula charm for my love of cooking, a black cursive word that spells out ‘Games’ for how much we love playing video games together; there’s a movie marker painted in black and white for my love of movies. There’s a specific charm on the bracelet that happens to be my favorite right away. The charm is of the northern star, with the top peak being the highest point. It’s the same design as his tattoo, the one that I love to trace with my fingers in the inside of his elbow. It’s so different compared to all his other tattoos.

“It’s the kind of bracelet where you can add on more charms if you want to,” he explains while I feel each smooth charm between my fingers. “You can always take off the ones you don’t want...”

“Mike, this is the best gift I’ve ever gotten,” I whisper to him. This idea of a gift came directly from the man’s heart...I have no words.

Meeting his gaze, I tell him, “I love it. Thank you so much.” I reach for him as I try to fight another tear from falling down my face; he pulls me into another hug. I kiss his neck as he squeezes me tighter. I bury my cold nose against the crease of where his neck meets his shoulder, and I feel him quiver.

“Are you cold?” he asks me.

“A little,” I answer honestly. His body has always been warmer than mine, and the contrast against my skin always gives me a shiver, which results in me usually on his lap with his warm arms wrapped around me.

“Here, hang on a sec.” He places me on the couch as he gets up again and turns the corner for his bedroom. I hear a few drawers open and close. Minutes later, he walks out with a pair of grey sweatpants and a plain black t-shirt. “You can change into these if you’d like. You might be more comfortable and warmer.”

My heart squeezes as I take him up on the offer. Once I reach for him, I take the clothes he offered me and make my way to the bathroom. “When I get back, do you want to play the game for a bit? Then I can give you your other gift,” I wink at him as I close the door to the bathroom, not letting him argue with me even if he wanted to.

“Girl, you’re trying hard to earn the pleasure, aren’t you?” I hear him speak over the door; I can’t help but smile at my reflection in the mirror.

With the bracelet in hand, I wrap it around my wrist and clasp it together. It shines and clinks whenever I turn my wrist under the warm light from above the sink.

I change into his clothes, which swim on me, but I don’t care, then I drape my dress over the shower curtain railing, so it won’t get wrinkled by folding it. I’ll just have to remember to fetch it before I leave tonight...or tomorrow.

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