So after settling on a vanilla caramel latte, Lacey sat down in her normal spot and opened her books to get started. She was hoping that Rachel would come out, but she wasn’t sure on that. Rachel was completely and utterly engrossed with Grady. She didn’t understand it since she thought Grady was a pig and totally not Rachel’s type, but it didn’t bother her much. She had every right to be a bitch about it, but there was really no point. Shouldn’t Grady be grateful for that? Instead, he was a jerk and made Lacey feel like she was ten and not eighteen.
She knew that Karson was trouble. Knew he had been with more girls than he could count on his hands and feet, but it didn’t matter. Even if she was to get involved with him, his past was his past. As long as he didn’t screw her over, she wouldn’t dig into it, but none of that mattered because nothing was ever going to happen between them. It couldn’t. No matter how much she liked his smile, or his laugh, or the way he made her laugh. She enjoyed him way more than she should, and that was why she was doing everything to stay clear of him, but it was getting so hard.
Letting out a long breath, she ran her fingers along her scalp and scratched quickly. She couldn’t wait for her hair to grow back out. She missed her long locks, but she was embracing the pixie. She just wanted to think she looked normal because when she looked in the mirror, all she saw was the girl who lost all her hair because of chemo. The girl who lost her breasts because the cancer was very aggressive, and then lost all the confidence in the world. It was shitty and she hated her luck, but it was her reality. Maybe one day she’d get the money to buy herself some new breasts, or maybe she’d design something that would make her feel like a woman who was worthy of the attention of someone like Karson. She wished that she had gotten them back when she had the chance, but she had tapped her father out on money, and he said he didn’t want to take out a loan for them. She figured she didn’t need them, but obviously, she did. Back then, she was just glad to be alive and wasn’t thinking long-term of what her life would be later, about how all this would affect her—how it would affect her confidence. Letting out a long breath, she closed her eyes, knowing she needed to let all that go. She was alive, and she needed to work. She had to get her degree, so she could start her life. She had to let Karson go. She just had to.
With a sadness filling her chest, she got to work. She was well into her second study guide when she felt Karson in the coffee shop. It was nuts how she could feel him near her. It was a warm feeling that rested deep in her stomach every time he was around her. She knew he would show up, he always did, but she did everything to ignore him. No matter how hard it was. For the last week, she had done well, except for the night before when he had showed up at her concert. The thought that he watched her sing still made her breathless, but knowing that he took a punch from Grady for her made her heart explode in her chest.
There was a pull between them. One she didn’t understand, and as much as she wanted to let go of her insecurities and believe that he could genuinely like her for her while not being disgusted when he saw her deflated breasts, she couldn’t do it. What man would find that attractive? Especially a man as gorgeous and experienced as Karson King—the captain of the Chicago Cats, the number-one player in the state, who had a one-way ticket into the pros? Yeah, he wouldn’t find her attractive. He wouldn’t want her after he saw that. No matter how much she wanted to believe he would, she couldn’t. It wouldn’t happen.
Moving her hair to the side, she tried to concentrate on her work, but she couldn’t. She wanted to look at him, make sure his face was okay after her boneheaded brother knocked him one. Grady was a big guy, and even though Karson was too, that punch had to hurt. When the chair pulled out in front of her, she looked up to see Karson settling into it, a single rose in one hand and a candle in the other. Letting out an annoyed breath, even though she was happy to see him, she said, “Karson, I’m—”
“Please, give me four minutes of your time,” he pleaded as he slowly slid the rose toward her.
Lacey wanted to say no, but she could see it in his eyes. He just wanted four minutes, and after that, she’d turn him down nicely and they could go on without thinking of each other. She wanted to believe that, but for some reason, she couldn’t help but think she’d never forget Karson King. When she didn’t say anything, he smiled before he slowly nodded his head. Suddenly, the lights cut off. Panicky, Lacey looked around, trying to figure out what was wrong. Karson lit the candle, setting it on the table, his gaze holding hers hostage. Lacey was too busy getting lost in the depths of his eyes to wonder why he had a candle, or to notice when three guys appeared behind him. The same three guys who sang with her in the Catappellas—Marc, Jessie, and Roger.
When she did, she said in confusion, “What’s going on?”
Karson only smiled, and then Jessie started to play the guitar she hadn’t noticed he was holding. She didn’t recognize the music at first, but then Marc started to sing and she knew the song instantly. It was “True” by Ryan Cabrera. As they belted the song out, Karson held her gaze, his eyes telling her that every word was true and that this song was meant for her from him. When he reached out, taking her hand in his, she allowed him and didn’t stop him when he pulled her up into his arms before slowly swaying back and forth with her. She couldn’t stop staring into his eyes. She was mesmerized and completely shocked that this was happening. He smelled so good, and it felt unbelievable being wrapped in his arms as everyone watched and the guys sang to them.