Savannah scoffed, her arms dropping to her sides.
“Ten bucks she slaps him,” I whispered into Roman’s ear.
“Twenty,” he said.
But Savannah merely smirked up at him. “I wasn’t judging, Hollywood,” she said, stepping closer to him, their bodies almost touching as she never shied away from his intense blue gaze. “I merely wonder what it is you’re running from?”
A muscle ticked in Hendrix’s jaw, and I blushed from the implication in her words. We’d crossed over from playful banter to emotional digging. And something darker churned in Hendrix’s normally crushing blue eyes. Something I couldn’t place, but it was strong enough for me to tear my eyes off the two and silently question Liberty on what we should do.
“Who wants to see pictures of the baby!” Liberty blurted, reaching in her clutch for her phone.
“I do!” I hurried to say, thankful for literally anything to change the subject.
Savannah blinked a few times before turning her back on Hendrix, her eyes focused on the photo up on Liberty’s screen.
“She’s getting so big!” I said, eying the shot of Nicole. She had Liberty’s eyes and Nixon’s dark hair and smile. “I need to see her again,” I said, grinning. “It’s been too long.”
Liberty smiled up at Nixon while she continued to show us the most recent photos.
Savannah finished her champagne, awing along with the rest of us.
And Hendrix clapped Nixon on the back before disappearing into the crowd across the room.
Roman grew still and quiet during the photo show, his eyes distant.
Was he worried about Hendrix getting into trouble? The man had always loved testing any boundaries or rules ever set by anyone—naturally, he’d take any opportunity he could to get a rise out of Savannah, but it was all in good fun. Right? Coach wouldn’t actually—
“Omigod, Teagan!” Liberty dropped her phone on the table, her eyes widening as she stared at my left hand.
“Wait, what?” Savannah followed her gaze and instantly grabbed my hand, nearly jerking my arm out of socket as she tugged me around the table. “You didn’t tell us?”
“I was about to,” I said, tears glittering my eyes from the excitement building up my throat. “We got side-tracked—”
“It’s stunning!” Liberty said, jumping up and down.
Savannah squealed right alongside her as we fell into a fit of hugs and giggles as I told them how Roman had proposed. How everything had fallen into place. How deep my love ran for this man.
Roman and Nixon shook hands, holding their own version of the tale off to the side as me and my girls celebrated.
The night flowed into a flurry of music and drinks and celebrations with friends who were genuinely happy for Roman and me. A blissful sort of contentment settled over my soul as I realized how different life was when you had someone who truly loved you by your side. Someone who didn’t want to change you or mold you into their perfect prize, but someone who loved you for you—flaws and all.
“Dance with me?” Roman whispered into my ear, his hand grazing my hip.
“Always,” I said, sitting down my champagne flute and following him onto the dance floor.
He twirled me beneath his hand as we made it to a clear spot, the music soft and slow around us.
“Do you still like me?” He asked, a free smile on his lips.
I bit back my grin at the memory of the question we’d asked each other dozens of times over our long friendship. “Yes,” I answered. “Do you still like me?”
Roman drew me to his chest, his hand lifting my left hand between us as he smiled down at the ring that claimed me as his.
“Always,” he said. “That diamond looks good on you.”
I raised my hand, wiggling my fingers so the stone caught the light as we swayed to the music. “You know,” I said, my tone teasing. “I would’ve said yes to a RingPop.”
Roman laughed, the sound filling every inch of my soul with light.
“I’m pretty sure you did, in third grade, but I’ll be sure to remember that on our anniversary,” he said, tucking me closer to lean his head against mine. “Future Mrs. Padilla.”
My heart sang at his words, but my body froze at the sight just over his shoulder.
“T?” Roman felt the shift and moved in our embrace to follow my gaze.
Dancing with some cheerleader not four-feet away.
His eyes flared, his neck tense as he looked at the ring on my finger. The one I’d just so unashamedly held up in the air. And he’d no doubt heard Roman’s words just now.
Roman tensed beside me, but I stopped his efforts to tuck me behind him. I stared Rick down, unashamed. I loved Roman. The true kind of love someone like Rick would never understand.
I held that vicious gaze, and I didn’t flinch. I didn’t blush. I didn’t look away. I steeled my spine and dared him to say one word to me.