G I V E A W A Y E N D E D
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After an unexpected hookup, I end up dating Grayson Knight—my former mortal enemy. We still argue constantly, and I’m sure we’ll break up at some point, but after a family dinner goes well with Dad—the city’s Police Sergeant—I have hope.
Then I start noticing things. Like how Grayson gets called away at odd times, or how skilled he is with gymnastics. Then there was the fight at school—the one where he dominated his opponent. None of it seems important until we’re attacked by a monstrous creature—and Grayson springs into action. It’s almost like he knows what to do…like he’s done it before.
Knowing something is off, I confront him about his unusual behavior, but he dismisses it. Not satisfied, I decide to discover the truth for myself. Because Grayson has a secret—and I’m going to find out what.
Grayson looks at me, gesturing for me to sit.
I pull out my chair and take my seat, and he does the same across from me. Scooting in, I glance around the restaurant, scanning the other diners. All are in their thirties and older, most in their forties and fifties. We’re definitely the youngest patrons here.
“Stop staring.” He pushes the menu in front of me. “Pick out something to eat. Get whatever you want.”
Encouraged, I look down, scanning the prices first like I’ve always done.
Everything is in the double digits, and most start with three. I feel weird.
“Stop looking at the prices and get whatever you want, okay? This is our one big date, so make it count.”
Our one big date? I thought he was joking about making this stretch, but was he? Maybe that wasn’t a joke at all. I’m sure this will work itself toward an argument, but I need to understand what he means. Setting the menu down, I look up. “You’re saying I don’t get any more after this?”
“Until prom?” He thinks about it, tilting his head. “Eh. Probably not.”
“That’s in like, six months.”
“Which is why you should make this one count.”
I narrow my eyes at him, but he only stares back. Oh, no. He’s not getting by with this one. “I didn’t ask you to roll all our dates into one big-ass crazy one.”
“Is that what I’m doing? I said big dates—not all dates. This is our first official one, hence it’s a big one.” He picks up his menu with both hands, his eyes already dipping back down the paper. “You really got to pay attention.”
I replay his words, trying to find what I missed. Oh. Tilting my head, I lock onto his eyes, holding him accountable. “So that means I get more dates then?”
“How many dates am I supposed to take you on?”
“I don’t know…twice a month?”
“Twice a month?” He thinks. “So, according to your math, you’re owed twelve dates over a six-month period?”
He nods to himself. “Think I can handle that. Just don’t expect each date to be up to this caliber, okay? Again, this one is a big deal. A special situation since it’s our first official date. After this, it’s fast food and streaming services. Completely downhill from here.”
I stare at him a long moment, wondering how his weird little brain works. “You know sometimes, I still think about strangling you.”
“Are we naked when you imagine it?”
“Hello.” A black lady stops at our table, her arms behind her back. She’s wearing the same thing as the other servers—a white blouse with black slacks and shoes. Her hair is pulled into a braid down her neck, and unlike some of the other servers, she’s wearing very little makeup. “And welcome to Donald’s. My name is Latoya. Have you dined with us previously?”
“No ma’am,” Grayson answers for us.
“Well, welcome. I’ll give you a moment to look over the menu, but first, let me tell you about today’s specials…” Latoya prattles off her rehearsed description, and it actually sounds delicious—grilled salmon in butter herb sauce with rice pilaf and cherry tomatoes.
Once she’s done, she leaves us with a smile and promises to return shortly with two waters and a basket of warmed bread.
Grayson is back to staring at his menu, his eyes pouring over each option. “What’re you thinking about getting? The salmon sounds good, but I haven’t had lobster in fucking ever.”
Grayson throws his head back with an amused laugh. “Best part of this whole thing? Of everyone to find out—of all the girls to date—it’s got to be the police sergeant’s daughter.” He shakes his head at the irony. “Fucking figures. Guess I like to live dangerously.”
“Dad can’t find out.”
“Then don’t tell him.” He grins, his focus shifting to my lips. A lump rolls down his throat a moment before he leans in. My heart races as he moves closer, fully into my space, bringing his lips and soft, sweet breath to mine.
Grayson kisses me slowly. He’s almost tentative about it. I close my eyes, feeling his hand slide up my cheek, holding the side of my face. We kiss, but it’s different. We’re taking our time, really exploring this part of touching one another. It’s like at the docks—a slow, new kind of intimacy. I love it. And, even though I’m dying to touch more of Grayson—and have him touch more of me—this slow part is incredible.
And it’s really turning me on.
Pulling back, I rest my forehead against his. I lick my lips and smile down at his mouth, admitting a small, secret truth. “You know it’s kind of hot.”
The corner of his mouth lifts. “Yeah?”
“Yeah. You’re like…a superhero.”
Grayson pulls back, laughing out loud. “The fuck I am. I don’t have any powers.”
“You don’t have to have powers to be a superhero. You have to—you know—be willing to stand up for the underdog or whatever. Save the damsel.”
His brows pinch in confusion. “Do you even know what a superhero is?”
He rolls his eyes. “I’m a vigilante.”
“Aren’t they the same?”
“What?” He shakes his head. “No. Look, if we’re going to date, you’ve got to understand the basics.”
“I know the basics. I don’t think you do.”
“Why are we arguing about this? You can be wrong later. Let’s get back to kissing.” Grayson leans in but I hold him back, pressing a palm to his chest.
“I’m not wrong.”
“You are, but that’s okay. I’ll explain it to you later.” He tries moving in again, but I keep my hand to his chest, right over his heart so that I feel its rapid beating beneath my palm. I kind of want to keep it here forever; there’s something vulnerable about touching him like this.
“Vigilantes do heroic stuff, right? Wouldn’t that by extension make you a hero?”
Grayson sighs, giving up. “Sure. If it speeds this up any.”
“I’m just saying…” I laugh, finally lowering my hand, studying his eyes and lips. “You’re like one of Perish’s secret heroes. That’s really great.”
“You said hot.”
He moves in slowly, like he’s expecting me to deny him again, but I allow Grayson to kiss me this time. And he does. Sweetly like before, he brushes his lips to mine in soft movements, his hand sliding up the side of my face, holding my head to his.
The air between us grows warm and I feel it burning against my skin, my chest and stomach already overheating at how slow and tender he’s being. This is different from the other times. Grayson is much more tentative. He’s taking his time, appreciating every detail, like he’s aware he could’ve lost this. Lost me.
“I like this…” I whisper against his mouth.
“Going slow like this. Just kissing.”
He brushes his lips against mine softly again, whispering like it’s a secret. “We can just kiss whenever you want.”
C.G. Coppola is the author of the sci-fi adventure series, Arizal Wars, and the contemporary romance series, Better Than This. In addition to stories that explore magic and the paranormal, she writes realistic fiction set in fantastical universes, usually with a lot of kissing. Married with two fur-babies she spoils rotten, C.G. Coppola lives in Florida where she grew up and attended college. When not writing, she can be found decorating the house, bantering with her husband, or dancing to Meghan Trainor–sometimes all at once.