I started a little and then smiled as Shaw came up beside me, sliding an arm around my waist.
I leaned into him, relishing the hard press of his body against me. “Hey, you.”
Gazing up at him, I knew my heart was in my eyes because I could feel it there. Since the night I woke up at his house after Justin’s attack, I held nothing back. I loved him and made no effort to hide it. It was in my every word. My every action. We’d become as bad as Pepper and Reece. Inseparable other than when we had to part from each other’s company for class and work. Correction: as good.
Granted, a lot of our time together was spent undressing each other. At his house or my dorm. Mostly at his house though. We couldn’t get enough of each other—but we also spent a lot of time together in his shed. Working. Creating. I had started learning how to airbrush. Shaw kept bringing pieces of metal for me to practice my craft. It was gratifying to work side by side with him . . . moving toward a like goal. He was hoping to open his shop by the fall. He’d already found a space, and I was hoping to be ready by the time he moved in to tackle airbrushing his bikes. He claimed I was ready, that I was better than the professionals he’d worked with before, but I still wanted more practice. I wanted to be a real asset to his business. Our business. He insisted that we were in this together—or as much as I wanted to be. And I wanted to be.
He lowered his mouth to my ear, the movement of his lips on my skin sending goose bumps racing over my arms. “If you don’t stop looking at me that way, I’ll have to find a storage closet and hike up this little black dress of yours—”
“Hey, guys! Sorry we’re late. Parking was a bear.”
Face flaming and my breath tight in my chest, I looked up as Suzanne, Pepper, and Reece closed in. I hugged the girls as Reece and Shaw shook hands.
“Thanks so much for coming, guys.”
Pepper and Suzanne stood back to admire my work.
“We wouldn’t miss it. This is so thrilling.” Pepper squeezed my hands excitedly.
Suzanne shook her head in awe as she stood directly in front of the painting. “Oh my goodness, it’s gorgeous, Emerson. You are so good!”
“Thank you.” I glanced around. “Where’s Georgia?”
Pepper and Suzanne exchanged looks. “You haven’t heard from her?”
I frowned. “No.”
“We haven’t seen her since this morning, and she’s not answering our texts.”
“Huh.” I glanced at each of them. “Hope everything’s okay.”
Pepper shrugged. “I know she planned on coming tonight.”
“Maybe she’s with . . .” Suzanne’s voice faded suggestively. She lifted her eyebrows meaningfully.
“Hey, she’s a big girl. Don’t worry about her,” Reece cut in, waving over a waiter carrying a tray of champagne flutes. “Let’s have a toast.”
Everyone took a glass and lifted them up in the air.
“To Emerson,” Shaw declared. “As talented and brilliant as she is beautiful. Inside and out.”
My friends ahhed and heat crawled over my cheeks.
Shaw leaned down and pressed a lingering kiss to my mouth. “And I love her.”
Glasses clinked as we all toasted. I looked from my friends to Shaw and exhaled a shaky breath, giddy butterflies fluttering through me. Life was good.
Shaw took my hand, his fingers lacing with mine. “Happy?” he asked.
I smiled, my chest swelling with emotion. “More than I ever thought possible.”
He kissed me, murmuring against my lips, “Get used to it. This is only the beginning.”