Emerge is Laney Walker's story; an 18 yr old quick witted, athletic, southern girl who lets few get too close and uses her sarcastic zingers to deflect most situations. This is her coming of age journey...starting at a new college, with a new softball team and a quirky roommate, all while living in a co-ed dorm.
It changes all which she thought she knew and awakens something, someone, within her that she didn't know existed.
A tale of friendship, loyalty, first love, primal love and...life.
So I do exactly what I knew I was going to 10 minutes ago. I text Dane.
Laney: Hey, what r u up 2?
Dane: Nothing important. You?
Laney: Just woke up lol. Had quite a day yesterday, trying to recover.
Dane: Oh yeah, good or bad?
Laney: Bad. Very. But I don’t want 2 talk about that… Do you play the piano?
Dane: Um yes…random?
Laney: Random is good sometimes, right?
Dane: It is. You okay?
Laney: Not really, at all. Wanna do random with me today?
Dane: I’ll be there soon.
I jump out of bed and run to the shower. I take extra care straightening my hair, applying light makeup and selecting my outfit. I choose jeans and a black sleeveless top with black ankle boots that I dug out of Bennett’s closet. Basically, I dress unlike myself for Random Day: Laney with a dash of Bennett. I can’t help that my heart flutters when I hear the knock on the door.
When I open it, all moisture leaves my mouth and heads elsewhere. Dane stands before me in dark washed jeans, a tight white t-shirt, black boots and disheveled hair. He smells delicious, the light scent of cologne and freshness graces my senses from where he stands, and
that half-cocked smile he wears as he peruses me is almost more than I can take. Full frontal awareness hits me—I’ve gone from never having a boyfriend to a full-on love triangle, head first.
“Well hello, Disney. You look like walking sin,” he says, sensuality dripping from every word. Make that a love hexapolyoctagon. I’m screwed.
“Why thank you,” I say with my chin held high. “Trying something random. You ready?”
“I’m ready for anything. What do you have in mind?” he asks as I close and lock my door. I really hope Bennett remembered her key.
“Well, I’m thinking I can’t skip classes, so we don’t have time to jet away to Fiji. So how about…we play right left and see where we end up?”
He gives me a curious look as he opens my door and settles me in the passenger seat of…a
black SUV? Well, of course he has more than one car. I mean, who doesn’t?
“You’re gonna have to tell me what this is before I can agree,” he laughs. He hurries around to the driver’s side and hops in, handing me his phone. He’s going to let me pick the music, a small but very thoughtful gesture. I choose his Damien Rice playlist, skipping straight to “9 Crimes.” Maybe he’ll take the hint that I think of this song when I picture him at the piano. He looks over and winks at me as it starts, yep; he knows how to play it.
“Every time we come to a stop, we just choose right or left. But, in a startling new twist, we’re gonna take turns saying something completely meaningless with each turn, until we end up somewhere good! Honestly, I could care less where we end up right now, I just wanna be.”
“I’m game.” He gives me a smile. “But I kind of wish you’d talk to me about what happened.”
I give him the very condensed version, interrupting every few minutes with a “right” or “left,” and so far our random facts at each tell me that he’s for morning breath kissing as long
as both people have it and he can also play the violin. I share that I’m the ultimate Beatles fan, but only pre-mustache Beatles, and brush my teeth about 15 times a day (totally in reaction to his morning breath comment). He doesn’t ask about my time with Evan or any specifics, he just hits on the part about Kaitlyn.
“So what are you going to do?”
“I’m not going to do anything; what can I do? The chance is gone, at least for this year. The friendship’s gone, so why even ask her for an explanation? There isn’t one that will ever fix it. And… nothing, that’s it.”
“Nice try, Disney, finish what you were gonna say.”
“The dorm rooms here are really nice, like way better than other colleges’. How cool is it to have our own bathrooms? You can’t get that just anywhere.
“That’s not what you were gonna say, either.” He shoots me a one raised eyebrow look.
“Pull over then, I want you to look at me when I tell you.”
He pulls over so fast I slap him in the arm because my life just flashed before my eyes.
“Do I have your undivided attention?” I ask him with a smirk.
“Since the moment I saw you.” He turns in his seat to face me and waits for me to talk, his face full of question and anticipation.
“I’m content with where I am. I don’t have to have it fixed. I actually really like it here. It gets better every day. Besides, I think Sawyer would really miss me and finally go completely insane.”
He chuckles at my attempt to alleviate the seriousness.
“I really like Bennett, and the girls on my team are so talented. We have a real shot at a banner year. Who cares if the games will never have a camera there, we’ll still be kicking ass and taking names.” I chance a peek up at him, hoping his eyes tell me what he’s thinking.
They’re such a deep brown, almost black, and right now I can see my own reflection. His eyes mirror me in this moment. It gives me the strength to keep talking.
“And part of me hates it, hates feeling like this, and all of me is scared shitless, but I suspect my resolve has something to do with the fact that you’re here, Dane. Never in my life have I instantly connected with someone, not even Evan. I made him work like a dog for my acceptance.” I chuckle softly at the memory. “But I find myself wondering what you’re doing all the time, and thinking about what we could do or talk about if we were together. Tell me the truth; you got anything like that going on at all?” I laugh nervously, praying that leaves some question, cause I can’t risk him knowing I’m completely serious right before he makes me feel like a fool.
He takes a deep breath and blows it out slowly, reaching over to brush the back of his hand down my face. “I saw you last night, at the door with him. I saw you.” His hand still gentle on my face, he forces me to meet his gaze. “Are you two back together?”
“No,” my voice cracks.
“I won’t share you, Laney. Not your lips, not your thoughts, not your body, and especially not your heart. You don’t have to give it all to me just yet, but give me nothing if any of it belongs to him. Do you understand?”
“Dane, it was a long night, we were both hurting.” I blink back the building tears. “He’ll never not be in my life. I just don’t know what that means right now.” I have to be honest, with not only him, but myself. And I can’t blatantly crush Evan; I won’t. “If he was here with me, things wouldn’t be like this. I can’t lie to you. I don’t know exactly what anything means right now; I’m trying to be as honest as I can. And I haven’t told Evan about you, not that I’ve had a chance.” I take a huge, cleansing breath. I feel better having put it all out there.
“Thank you for being so honest. It makes me want you even more, and I do want you, Laney…so fucking bad it scares me. Let’s try this one more time—are you in a committed relationship with Evan?”
“Are you in love with him?” His hand moves down my face, his fingertips softly caressing me, and I lean into it and close my eyes. I can’t look at him when I answer. I don’t want him to see the scared little girl in my eyes.
“I don’t know.” My own answer confuses me.
I have no doubt that I love Evan, but am I in love with him? We were so perfect and the minute we changed it, things got too hard. Yes, college had everything to do with that, but why couldn’t we last? Was it supposed to be Evan or was it just that Evan was always there? That’s the thing that scares me most—why am I so strongly and instantly attracted to Dane? Why do I think about spending time with him? First temptation? Nope, I don’t feel the pull to Zach, Tate, Sawyer, Parker…no one else, ever. To be honest, besides Evan, Dane is the first guy I’ve ever considered liking in my entire life.
“You didn’t say yes.” His finger is now tracing my lips. He’s going to kiss me, and I’m going to let him.
I blow slightly out, teasing his finger, and I hear him inhale.
“I will never kiss another man’s girl…but you’re not his, Laney. You’re not mine…yet. But you’re not his, either. So the way I see it, you’re kissable.”
I say nothing. I just open my eyes and look into his; if he can hear my yes in that, he can have my kiss.
“Last chance, Disney. Once I get a taste, I’m coming after you with everything I’ve got.”
I couldn’t say no right now if I wanted to, I can barely breathe. His words are so sexy; they stroke every part of me. He leans into me and I close my eyes.
“Open your eyes, Laney, look at me. Make damn sure you know it’s me kissing you, and don’t you ever hide from it.”
I do as he says and then his lips are on mine. This isn’t the kiss of a best friend, not the kiss of the boy next door who made you spit-shake on a deal and will always take care of you. This is the kiss of a madman who wants to make you scream his name up against a wall. This kiss makes it okay that I even just thought that, because it’s a fact. I can’t take it. I break the contact and throw my head back, trying to catch my breath.
“Nuh-uh, not done yet, come ‘ere,” he growls, reaching around the back of my neck and pulling me to him. He takes my mouth again with lust, bites, and a low groan. Grabbing my face, he turns it, deepening his angle and the throbbing between my legs.
Fuck, this guy can kiss.
Dane breaks away this time, only slightly, still close enough that his breath tickles my lips… “That wasn’t random, that was supposed to happen,” he says, giving me another quick kiss.
After a brief silence, simply because I still haven’t recovered the ability to speak, he pulls back into traffic with his right hand now interlaced with mine. He gives my hand a squeeze before he asks, “where to?”
Seriously, I’m expected to think? “Um, right…and I hate coffee but I love coffee ice cream.”
We turned until dark, never actually making it to a destination.
S.E.Hall resides in Arkansas with her husband of 17 years and 3 beautiful daughters. When not in the stands watching her ladies play softball, she enjoys reading YA and NA romance.