Chapter 25: What's up with us?
Jaci was up before Ricky in the morning. She went and sat by what was left of the coals from their fire the night before. She felt blindsided, caught off-guard. Who knew she’d be spending days alone with a boy who made her heart jump?
A sound behind her made her turn. Ricky gave her a smile and sat down cross-legged next to her, his knee bumping her leg. “You look deep in thought.”
She exhaled. “Yeah.” She cocked her head to look at him. He stared up at the sky, his mind apparently drifting also. “What are you thinking?”
He blinked and gave her a quick grin. “If I have to be stuck with someone, at least it’s you.”
The comment irked her. “Whatever, Ricky.” She stood and started down the river bank.
He caught up with her. For awhile the only sound was him tearing apart a branch. “You’re hard to read, Jaci.”
She arched an eyebrow. Did he think he was easy? “I’ll take that as a compliment.” What about him and Amanda? What did he really think about Jaci? “Amanda really likes you.”
He grunted. “Of course she does. What’s not to like?”
Did he have to make everything so difficult? “And do you like her?”
He glanced at her. “Hey, I told you already. She created the whole thing between us. It's not real."
“And you haven’t given her any reason to believe it is?”
Something flickered in his hazel eyes. He ran a hand through his hair, pushing it out of his face. “Um. No.”
Every word he said just made her angrier. Jaci stopped and crossed her arms over her chest. “What do you want out of life, Ricky?”
He tossed the branch into the swirling water and stared at it. “I want to live it. I'm tired of other people's expectations. No one should make decisions for me.”
He had a seriousness about him that reminded her of Neal. “Is that what you think’s been happening?”
He heaved a sigh and shook his head. “Let’s keep walking.”
Jaci arched an eyebrow. More intrigue. “Okay.”
Ricky tapped her knuckles with his finger, then interlaced her fingers with his. Jaci tried to pull her hand back, but he squeezed tighter.
"Why won’t you let me hold your hand?”
Jaci's face burned. "You might get ideas." Like you did with Amanda. "I'm not that kind of girl."
His eyes roved over her face. “You think holding hands is bad?”
She smirked. “No. There’s nothing wrong with holding hands, per se. But it leads to something more.”
She fanned her face with her free hand. “Yes.”
“And kissing’s bad.”
“No, no, no.” She kept her eyes straight, afraid he’d read her thoughts. “But it’s special. I don’t want to kiss just anyone.” She risked a glance at him, but his face was blank.
“Oh?” Jaci frowned. “Is that all you have to say?”
He shrugged. “Hey, it’s new info. I’m just thinking.” He looked down at his hand, intertwined with hers. “Is this okay?”
Yes! “Um.” She forced the words out. “No, not really.”
Ricky dropped her hand. “All right. I get it. You’re saving your hand-holding for someone…special.”
Ouch. Jaci stared ahead, not sure how to respond.