Gareth

Livvie shivered in my arms. 

“You okay?” Crap, she was probably getting cold. 

“I’m fine, thank you. Just had one of those cold chills. It’s gone now.” 

I pulled her tighter against me to try and ward off another chill, and not just because I wanted her closer to me. I was enjoying the crisp fall air. The hayride took us out through the fields, where the sky was open and vast with no trees to hide the view. The stars were bright and the moon lit up the night. It was peaceful. 

I’d been so nervous the whole night. For three days I’d wracked my brain trying to come up with the perfect first date. Dinner and a movie was so over done. I wanted to take her somewhere different and unique. A place she would remember as being special. Besides, we couldn’t talk in the movie, and I wanted to know everything about her. This connection I felt with her was crazy. I mean, we’d talked about kids at dinner. I was twenty-three years old, just starting my career. She was eighteen, a freshman. No way was I ready for all that entailed. This was only our first date. 

“You’ve gone quiet. Is everything okay?” 

I glanced down at the woman I held in my arms and smiled. “Sorry. I was thinking.” 

“Do you want to talk about it? I’ve been told I’m a really good listener.”

She may be a good listener, but I wasn’t so sure I was a great talker. I didn’t want to freak her out by moving too fast. Especially if I was the only one feeling this intensity between us.

“I was just thinking about what a nice time I’m having. And,” I paused for a beat, then decided to take a risk. “How much I really like you.” 

Livvie’s expression turned even more serious. “I’m kind of terrified to admit how much I like you too.”

I clasped her hand in mine and laid it on my chest, covering it with my own. “It scares me as well. I keep telling myself that we barely know each other. That we’re both young and having fun.” 

“Eighteen may seem young, but I’m a lot more mature than other girls my age. I’m not interested in drinking and partying.” 

“What are you interested in?” I was genuinely curious. She’d said frat parties weren’t her thing. She was responsible and didn’t blow off work or her classes. Livvie was definitely different than other freshman girls I’d met. 

“I’m lucky to even be here in college. There’s no way I’m wasting the opportunity I’ve been given. I’ve worked too hard for it. Making something of myself is what I’m interested in.”

The wind kicked up a bit and Livvie’s hair blew across her face. I reached up and tucked it behind her ear, caressing her cheek. “If anyone can do it, it’s you. I believe in you.” 

Her bottom lip quivered and her eyes shimmered with wetness in the moonlight. I bent to brush my mouth across hers. I pulled back to stare down at her. She was beautiful in the moonlight. 

“No one’s ever believed in me before.”

“Then they’re crazy. You’re focused, smart, and I can tell you’re someone who, once you put your mind to something, can accomplish anything. You’re going to do great things, Livvie.” 

“Thank you,” she whispered. “It’s been so hard. I grew up in foster care. The odds have been stacked against me from the beginning. My dad was a career criminal killed by the cops during a robbery. My mom is a druggie who’s in and out of jail for petty crimes. I want to be better than that. To make something of myself.”

“You will.” I kissed her forehead. 

The tractor squealed to a halt. I glanced up to see we’d arrived back at the farm. One by one people jumped off the hay bale stacked platform. I turned and with my hands on Livvie’s waist, I helped her down. We stood still for several moments, still touching, staring into each other’s eyes. 

“Excuse us. We’d like to get down,” a voice spoke from above our heads. 

We looked up to see several people waiting. “Shit, I mean shoot, sorry.” 

I grabbed Livvie’s hand and we moved away. She giggled at my side. I looked down and my laughter joined hers.

“Guess I got caught up in the moment.” 

She shouldered bumped me, although it hit me more in the bicep. “I did too. Thank you for tonight. This has been the best date, maybe even the best night, ever.” 

“Wow, it’s ranked up there with best nights, huh?” An inordinate amount of pride swelled inside that I’d be able to show her the best night of her life. 

Livvie nodded. “Pretty close.” 

A certain bit of sadness followed her words. I thought we were having a great time, but in the grand scheme of bests, I wasn’t sure this ranked up there. I wanted to show her even better. 

“Do you want to go grab a drink?” I wanted to prolong the time spent with her. 

She sent me a sheepish grin. “I’m not old enough to drink, remember?”

“Oh. Yeah. I forgot.” I took a deep breath. “Would you—would you like to come over to my house?” I didn’t want Livvie to think I was pressuring her into anything. I just wanted to spend more time with her, whether it led to anything or not. 

She bit her lip in indecision. I tipped her chin up with my finger so she was looking at me. “We don’t have to if you’re not comfortable. I can take you back to the dorm, and if I’m lucky, you’ll go out on a second date with me after I ask. Because I’m going to ask no matter what.” 

There was a short pause, and then Livvie nodded. “Okay.” 

“Okay, you want me to take you back to the dorm?”

“No. I mean let’s go to your house.” 

“Are you sure?” I didn’t want her second guessing or worse, regretting her decision. 

She smiled sweetly up at me and palmed my cheek. “Yes, I’m sure.” 

I threaded my fingers through hers and we walked back to my car. Could she feel my nervousness through our hands? My palms were sweaty. I didn’t want to fuck things up. This was a night I wanted both of us to remember…forever.