Say You Won't Let Go (Page 5)

“I never knew.” He stops walking and puts his arms around my hips. “Why didn’t any of us know?”

“I never wanted you to.”

I became a professional at hiding things. I was lucky I had Grace and Cooper’s sister Presley as my friends. They would pass me clothes so I didn’t have to wear the tattered jeans and shirts that were falling apart. Since Grace was always in pageants, she was slipping me makeup and beauty products. I never looked poor, but I was.

“It wouldn’t have mattered.”

“No?” I challenge him. “I never had friends sleep over. Your mama and Grace’s wouldn’t let them. I didn’t have boyfriends because I wasn’t going to bring them home to meet my daddy, who probably would’ve been passed out anyway. I had Pres and Grace, but my best friend was my guitar and my notebook.”

Music was the only way I could breathe. I wrote songs, learned how to play guitar, and sang my heartbreak out of my soul.

“We didn’t have money like you think.” Cooper tries to soften whatever hurt he saw on my face.

“Coop.” I touch his chest. “We weren’t just not-makin’-ends-meet kind of poor. We were getting bags of food from the Rooneys so I didn’t starve. I was shoveling shit at night after all the farmhands went home at the Hennington Horse Farm without anyone knowin’. I’m just a poor girl from a small town in Tennessee. It was the way my life was, and it was nothing like what you remember.”

Cooper’s eyes fill with a mix of sadness and awe. “And look where you are today.”

The awe wins out.

His head dips, and his lips touch mine. When he pulls back, a small smile paints his face. “When I look at you, I don’t remember that. I just see the strong, beautiful girl that I can’t seem to look away from. I see long blonde hair, big blue eyes, and the sexiest woman I know. I see a girl who came from a going-nowhere town and is takin’ the music world by storm. You’re not your past. You’re not what you remember either.”

My pulse quickens, and tears pool in my eyes. He has no idea how much what he just said means to me. I can’t stop myself even if I wanted to.

I have to kiss him.

I lean up on my toes, grip his head, and kiss him right in the middle of this park. I hold him to me, thanking him, needing him, wanting him with everything inside me. I’ve struggled my whole life with not thinking I was good enough for my friends. I wondered if any man would ever see past the trailer park and rumors of my family.

When I pull back, Cooper grins. “What was that for?”

“Bein’ you.”

His hands glide up my back to tangle in my hair before he dips me low, pressing his mouth to mine. Cooper’s tongue glides against my lips, and I open to him. He kisses me hard and ardently.

“Whooo hoo!” We hear people calling around us. “Hell yeah! Kiss her, man!”

I turn my head and tuck against his chest with a giggle.

Clapping and cheering happens from passersby.

Cooper laughs and finally straightens, pulling me back up with him.

“I’m so embarrassed,” I admit.

He leans back and shakes his head. “I’m not. I’ve waited a long time to feel this way. To not give a shit about kissin’ a girl in the middle of wherever we are. To want nothing but to wrap my arms around her any chance I get. I’ve waited a long time for you, Emily. I’m not sure I’ll be able to let you go.”

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

I don’t want to lie and tell him I don’t feel exactly the same, but I can’t say the truth either. Not yet.

I release a nervous laugh that I try to play off as cute. “Oh, umm,” I stammer. “You’re makin’ me blush.”

Cooper’s smile falls, but he recovers quickly. His arm goes back around my shoulders, and we start to walk again. I try not to hear his words echo in my head, but I fail. I know this isn’t a typical boy-meets-girl situation. There’s history and a very established friendship, but I’ve never been tied down. That’s what has made this so easy. The traveling, recording, playing night after night in a bar. Being single has allowed me this life.

I hate that I ruined what has been a really great morning. I need to fix it because Cooper doesn’t deserve it.

I pull him over to the bench, and we sit. “I’m sorry,” I say with his hand in mine. “I got weird, and you don’t deserve that. It’s just that I like you. I’ve always liked you, but now, it’s different. I liked you in Bell Buckle, but we weren’t makin’ out in the center of town. It’s different, and we’re in two really different places—and states,” I tack on.

“I’m not tryin’ to push you, but we’re not gettin’ any younger. I don’t want to look back on my life and wish anymore.”

Cooper runs his thumb across the top of my hand, and I look off at the bronze cattle in front of us. “That’s your life, Coop. The farm, the family, Tennessee, but it’s not mine anymore. My life is music and traveling. I don’t know how long I’ll make it in this business. I’m not young and fresh. I can’t give you all my heart. Not now. Not when I’m living on borrowed time in the music industry.”

He leans back and grins. “Well, I’ll just have to wait.”


“Here’s the thing…” He moves close, giving me a glimpse into his heart. “I know what we have isn’t just one sided. I know what that looks like.” Cooper pauses, and I know he means with Grace. “You like me more than you want to. You like kissin’ me and touchin’ me, and we both know this is more than either of us is ready for. I’ve got the farm and you’ve got your music, but why the hell does that mean we can’t have each other? Who says you have to live in Bell Buckle for us to work? Who says you have to give up your career? Who says I have to? Why have you already decided a future that neither of us can see? So”—Cooper lifts my chin, forcing me to look him in the eye—“are you willing to wait?”

My heart slams against my chest and my hands tingle. How has this happened to me so quickly? How has just two nights of being with him caused me to feel so much? It’s crazy and way too fast and so…right.

“For how long? How long are you willing to wait?”

He shakes his head, and his eyes are full of hope. “I don’t have the answer to that. I know that I’m willing to do what I can. Are you?”

It’s not as if I’ve never wanted a man; I just wanted the right man. I saw no reason to waste my time on silly crushes because nothing was worth it. Now I’m sitting here with him and it feels like everything is new. The sun is brighter, the sky is bluer, and the world is more exciting because I’m seeing it for the first time.

The words fall from my lips as my skin prickles. “I’ll wait. It’s only a month, and then, when I’m back in Tennessee, we can see what this is.”

Cooper’s fingers touch my cheek, and he slides his hand back, cupping my face. “A few weeks and then you’ll fall in love with me.”

If he only knew how I felt already. Last year, when he and Grace were no longer a possibility, I felt something. I thought it would go away, but it clearly hasn’t. Instead, it’s grown stronger than I ever imagined. There won’t be weeks. I’m pretty sure I’m already in love with him.

Chapter Four

My day with Cooper is magical. We spend it doing all kinds of tourist things like having lunch at the most amazing barbeque place and then standing on the grassy knoll where the alleged John F. Kennedy killer stood. Everything is perfect, and there isn’t any more talk about what we could be or what we already are, just light and fun.

Until the sun starts to fall.

Then we know that the time we’re enjoying is drifting away from us. When the sky moves from beautiful purples and blues to black, our spell is broken.

“I should get back,” I say with my forehead resting against his.

“You don’t want them to leave without you,” he agrees.

Don’t I? I don’t want to leave Cooper.

Which is fucking stupid and exactly what I am trying to avoid being.

My fingers grip the sides of his flannel shirt, and I tug. “I don’t want to go.”

He cups my face, waiting until my eyes meet his. “I don’t want you to either, but you have a music world to conquer, and I’ve got an expo that I skipped out on today.”

“Always the responsible one.” I rib him.

“Not at all. If I could have my way, we’d be up in my room right now. I’d be kissin’ you and convincin’ you to stay with me.”

My lips part, and I think about how much I want that. I want him—so much. “Coop.”

“But it’s not right and not what I promised you.”

I nod. “I hate bein’ right.”

Cooper laughs and brings his lips to mine. “Go. Before I change my mind and lock you in my room.”

I raise my brow and grin. He chuckles again, and this time, I lean up and kiss him hard, hoping to convey just how much I don’t want to leave. I would happily stay with him, learning more about the man who is quickly stealing my heart.