Save the Date!, p.8
"I'm not lost," she told him, though her voice didn't come out as believable as she wanted it to.
His brown eyes sparkled, almost though he knew she was lying to him.
Gemma noticed that he still had yet to release her wrist.
"I can lead you to wherever you need to go," he told her, and Gemma felt his fingers tighten.
Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit…
Before anything drastic could happen, Gemma felt her body being pulled into the opposite direction so strongly that the man had no other choice but to release her. Her body hit another body, this one hard and masculine. When she tilted her head up to see who had rescued her, she came in contact with Dixon's face. If she had thought the man was angry with her, he now looked downright furious. His blue eyes were narrowed, though they were still quite bright, and his lips were pressed together in a thin, white line. His jaw was clenched, and he stood in a way that towered over the man. The muscles on his body seemed to make up for the lack of height.
She had never been so glad to see someone in her entire life.
And then, just like that, the man that had previously been a threat to Gemma had disappeared.
When Dixon felt the two were safe, he relaxed his body and then looked down so he could lock eyes with Gemma. He didn't say anything, but Gemma felt compelled to.
"Thank you," she said, and though she didn't mean for it to come out so soft, it sounded similar to a whisper.
"You can't just go running off like that," Dixon said, though the curt tone he had used on her before was gone.
"I know," she agreed, nodding slightly. "I know. You're right. You're right about everything. But," she added quickly, causing Dixon to smirk, at least on the inside. Of course there would be a but. Gemma was just as proud as he was. He didn't expect anything less. "But can you just agree that I wouldn't have run away from you if you had just told me in the first place you would be there?"
Dixon thought about it for a moment. His lips curled up, and he nodded once. "I suppose so," he told her.
They had just agreed on something.
It was a breakthrough.
"But," he added with a cheeky grin. "You had better get used to it. The risk to your life is too great, and I'll be damned if anything happens to you when I could have prevented it."
"Aren't you excited?" Gillian asked on the other line of Gemma's cell phone. Gemma herself was currently in her room, studying herself in the mirror as she conversed with her friend. Her eyes were scrutinizing a pair of jean shorts that she was still debating whether to wear or not. "I mean," Gillian continued almost wistfully. "This is the End of Summer Bonfire. We've been going to this thing since we were freshmen in high school, and now, we're going to be third years in college! And I think Grant is going to be there…" She let her voice off before sighing. When she realized Gemma had yet to respond, she frowned. "Gemma? Gemma, are you even listening to me?"
"What?" Gemma asked, deciding that yes, she would keep the shorts but instead of the tank top, she would be wearing a long sleeved shirt so she wouldn't need to bring a jacket. "Yes, Gillian, I'm listening. You're excited that Grant might be coming."
"Right," Gillian said. "But are you excited? I mean, I know how much you love the ocean and all, but I also know you really don't like parties and the last few times have been either really good or not that great…" Again, she let her voice trail off, but this time, Gemma responded.
Gemma sighed through her nose. "I'm not sure yet," she mumbled, her eyes now focused on her hair. Usually, she left it down, but maybe she should pull it up and try something different for a change… "I mean, ugh, Code Blue is coming with me." When she caught her mistake, she quickly back peddled. "I mean, obviously I'm excited that he's coming with me because we love to spend all this time together, but I just don't want to be the weird girl who's already engaged, you know?"
"I think that if you're in love, who gives two shits about what anybody else thinks?" Gillian replied.
This caused Gemma to pause, and she realized that she shouldn't be odd about her fake relationship with Dixon anymore. She had to commit fully to it or she wouldn't commit to it at all. And she decided to leave her hair down. If it got cold, it would warm the back of her neck.
"You're right," Gemma said, heading over to her closet in order to grab a new shirt. "It's just… this whole thing is new to me. I don't know how to act, you know? How does one be a fiancée anyways?"
"Just be yourself Gems," Gillian said as reassuringly as she could. "I mean, that's who he fell in love with, right? You should be comfortable around him." She paused. "Hey, I'm going to get ready, okay? I'll meet you there."
"See you," Gemma said, and after she hung up the phone, quickly took off the tank top and replaced it with a form fitting black t-shirt with flecks of gold on the front.
She ran a brush through her hair, spritzed herself with body spray, and put on sun screen. Yes, the sun was currently setting, and she'd be getting there some time after six, but Gemma was very careful, especially concerning the protection of her skin. When she was satisfied with the way she looked, she grabbed her beach bag and headed down the stairs.
Her parents were at some sort of charity dinner, so it was Dixon who was waiting for her. He was wearing a loose green t-shirt and white board shirts. He was leaning on the back of the couch, his arms crossed over his chest (enhancing his biceps, Gemma noticed) and his right leg was crossed over his left. His head was tilted downward, as though he didn't really want to spend his Saturday night at a bonfire, but his face wasn't tense enough to show that he dreaded it.
When he heard her approach, his eyes slipped up into hers, and before he could stop it, his lips twitched up into a smile.
"Ready?" she asked.
He nodded. "Let's go," he murmured.
The drive was quick and quiet. Gemma was driving, and she had her window rolled down slightly, allowing the cool breeze to tousle her hair. Dixon wasn't exactly sure what kind of mood she was in because she wasn't arguing about something with him and she even let him listen to whatever station on the radio he wanted.
When they arrived, the two got out of the car and started to walk towards the group of kids around Gemma's age in the middle of the beach. The two weren't exactly sure what to do to act couple-ish, so Dixon interlaced his fingers with hers, deciding that holding hands would be sufficient enough to pull off what they were trying to accomplish.
"Gems!" Gillian exclaimed, her face flushed as she dashed over to her friend. A plastic cup was in her hand and it was hard for Gillian to balance with so much excitement, causing Gemma to realize her friend was slightly tipsy. Gillian had always been a lightweight. "Oh my gosh, you're here!" She threw her eyes over to Dixon, who was desperately trying not to crack a smile once he, too, realized what was going on with Gillian. "And so are you." She said this more flatly, but her eyes brightened after her statement. "But guess who else is here! Grant! Ooooh… I just want him to take me on the beach with the water softly crashing against us…" Her words were slightly slurred and her eyes were staring off.
This time, Dixon couldn't contain himself, and he started chuckling at the sight before him. Gemma was going to yell at him, or at least try to prevent him from doing so, but one look at Dixon caused all her determination to falter. She hid a smile and reached for Gillian's cup. "I think you've had enough of this, Gillian," Gemma murmured softly and then threw a glance at Dixon, silently asking for help.
"How about we get back over at the fire, hmm?" Dixon asked, slipping his arm through Gillian's, and began to lead her back over to the party, with Gemma on his other side.
"Okay," Gillian said, before yawning.
"Gemma is here!" someone exclaimed, and a few people waved and murmured their greetings.
"Hey Gemma," Laura said, tilting her head to the side so her curly auburn hair tumbled down her shoulder. "Who's the babe?"
That bitch had always been a maneater.
"Wow," Laura drawled, and it almost sounded like a long, low moan. Gemma clenched her teeth together and glanced away. "You're a very lucky woman, Gemma. So, wait, you're not technically married, are you?"
Gemma didn't even bother to dignify that with a response. She took a seat next to her friend (substantially away from Laura), and Dixon followed suit.
She turned to converse with Gillian when, from across the flickering fire pit, she saw Laura and a couple of her friends get up and then deliberately sit next to Dixon. Gemma tried to ignore them, hoped that Dixon would see through their flirtatious behavior. She knew they weren't really getting married, but she still hoped beyond reason that he wouldn't actually engage in any sort of flirtation back.
"Wow, you guys," Gemma heard Laura say to her friends. "Could his biceps get any bigger?" Laura flashed her blue eyes back at Dixon. "Do you work out?"
At that point, Gemma didn't want to be around this. She knew it was stupid and passive, but she really had no desire to stick around while some woman tried to get into her fiancé's pants. After she got up, she quietly told Dixon she wanted to walk along the shore, and no, she didn't need anyone to accompany her, but thanks for asking, and don't worry, she would be right back.
It didn't take long to make it to the water. It was deserted due to the cold night, but she still wanted to feel the water, at least between her toes…
At that moment, someone grabbed her, and she jumped.
"Hey, hey," the voice said soothingly. "Don't be scared. It's just me. It's Troy."
It wasn't as though Dixon didn't know when someone was coming on to him. In fact, the way this woman – she had introduced herself as Laura – portrayed herself, he realized she must be quite experienced when it came to this sort of flirting game, and she had set her sights, that night, on him. The woman was pretty, no doubt. She was the sort of girl who had flaws, but instead of taking away from her face, they only enhanced it. He couldn't tell from her conversation topics whether or not she was smart, however, and Dixon wondered if this was a conscious effort of her part or not. Though it was dark and most probably cold, she was wearing only a black string bikini and flip flops. He was sure she was cold too, just from the amount of goose bumps that littered her bare skin, but either she was very stubborn or she was waiting for someone – preferably a male – to offer her a jacket. And since she was talking to him, he assumed that it was his job to offer her that particular comfort.
Dixon was raised to be considerate and courteous, always opening doors and standing up and giving a woman or a senior citizen his spot on the bus if it was crowded, so it was a wonder when he didn't offer her his jacket. Maybe it was due to the way she presented herself. Dixon was too much of a gentleman to say that the girl in front of him was easy, but he was certain that if he asked her to come home with him even now, when they barely knew each other, she would agree. And he didn't really respect women who didn't seem to respect themselves. Then again, maybe it was out of loyalty to Gemma. She had left a good ten minutes ago, no doubt because this woman, a peer of hers, was so forward with him.
A thought had crossed his mind as he thought about it; could it be that she had left him alone in hopes he would take Laura's bait? The two had never really discussed rules when it came to their particular arrangement. Were they both allowed to date other people, and to keep the engagement around as a façade merely in order to appease her father? Dixon was very serious about his job, and even if Gemma was okay with an open arrangement, he wouldn't engage in one, nor would he want her to.
Why did he care if she did or not?
Oh, come off it, Dixon, a voice murmured in his head, and he nodded his head in Laura's direction, though he wasn't paying any attention whatsoever to whatever it was she was telling him. You'd get jealous.
Since he couldn't verbally respond to his mind's own claim, he had to think it. Yes, he felt quite ridiculous talking to himself, in his mind no less, but he found it was probably better than actually listening to what this Laura girl was saying.
How can I be jealous at the thought of her dating someone else when I can barely stand the woman myself? he asked himself.
Do you really want to go into that one, buddy? The voice answered with another question and Dixon was certain it had a sense of arrogance in its tone. Okay, tell me this; ever since she's left, you've been craning your neck in the shore's direction, wondering just where it is that she went off to.
Maybe I'm doing that because it's my job, Dixon growled inside of his mind. I'm supposed to watching over her.
Yeah, but that doesn't mean you want to know who she's with… The taunting voice let its thought trail off, causing Dixon to clench his jaw.
Okay, so maybe the bastard voice had a point. Was she with anyone? His eyes scanned the crowd, trying to pick out any familiar faces. Gillian was still a couple of seats over from his current position, talking to some guy who he assumed was Grant but couldn't be sure.
Hadn't Troy come to this party? And yet, as Dixon's eyes searched the crowd, he realized the guy Gemma claimed to be super in love with but not really was nowhere to be found. Something deep in his stomach clenched, and he pushed himself off the sand. Without so much as an excuse me, Dixon began heading in the shore's direction, but paused after leaving the perimeters of the party. He didn't want her to get upset at him again if she was having some conversation with someone. It wasn't just the fact that he wanted to respect her privacy, which he did want, but he didn't like it when she was upset with him. Like, really upset with him. Dixon knew he said some things just to press her buttons and to get on her nerves, but when she was really angry with him… Well, he didn't really like it, which was weird, because normally, he wouldn't have cared either way.
Dixon took a couple of steps closer, and his sharp eyes caught sight of a familiar silhouette that no doubt belonged to Gemma. And the person next to her? It had to be Troy. Who could it possibly be? When the two were at her university's bookstore, Dixon had gotten a good look at Troy while he was ringing Gemma up. He looked like an athlete, and the person talking to Gemma had broad shoulders and a thick body.
But what to do? Should he listen? He knew he shouldn't, but…
"…was disappointed when I didn't see you at Conor's last Saturday," Dixon heard Troy say, and the CIA agent couldn't help but take a couple of steps closer. "Were you busy?"
"I was actually spending time with my fiancé," Gemma said, and Dixon was surprised when there was no disdain in her tone. At least, he didn't think there was any.
"I can't believe you're engaged," Troy murmured, before whistling. "I didn't even know you were seeing anyone. I mean, I thought that maybe –"
Oddly enough, Gemma cut him off, her tone sharp. "Yup, I am," she explained hastily. "I mean, it was this whole forbidden love can't tell my father sort of thing, so I didn't really volunteer any of this information because, you know, I didn't want to get caught because I didn't want to risk his job or anything –"
"Yeah," Troy cut in, nodding his head in agreement. "He's kind of old."
For whatever reason, Dixon felt offense at this statement. It was odd, having some twenty year old get him all flustered, but he was beginning to realize that Gemma wasn't unlike anyone he had ever came in contact with before, and as a result, he cared – he actually cared – about what she thought.
Then, she said something he never thought she would ever say.
"I think that's one of the reasons I love him," she murmured, her eyes going up to the night sky in order to look up at the stars. "I mean, he's mature and experienced, and he still looks really good."
"I guess," Troy said, but it was obvious he
Gemma nodded once. "I do," she said.
Troy thought about that for a moment before shrugging his shoulders nonchalantly. "Oh well," he mumbled before heading back to the party. Dixon had to stand perfectly still to ensure Troy wouldn't notice him, or he might alert Gemma to Dixon's presence.
When Gemma was absolutely sure Troy was out of ear shot, she crossed her arms over her chest. "I know you're there," she said into the night, her tone now flat and expectant. "And don't pretend you're not."
Dixon's lips twitched up. She didn't sound upset, which caused him to relax, and headed over to her so that he stood a few feet from her. When she looked up at him, she smiled triumphantly.
"Ha!" she exclaimed. "I knew it." Her eyes suddenly narrowed. "What did you hear exactly, anyways?"
Dixon pretended to think about it, his index finger tapping on the tip of his chin and his sky blue eyes reverting up into the night. "Oh, the usual," he said finally, before returning his eyes to Gemma's face. "That you want me and that you need me, and though you've tried, you can't live without me."
"You're funny," Gemma said, her voice laced with sarcasm. "How's Laura, by the way?"
Dixon would never admit it, but he secretly reveled in the fact that she sounded just as jealous as he had felt. "Probably still going on about something or another," he told her as though he didn't particularly care. Which he didn't. "I wasn't really paying attention."
She smiled up at him, distracting him from the bright stars.
"Yeah," she said softly, nodding her head. "I told Troy that I'm so in love with my fiancé, so…" She let her voice trail off before meeting his eyes and cocking her head to the side. "I guess you're stuck with me."
It was Dixon's turn to smile now, and it wasn't one of those closed lips, halfhearted ones. "I think," he began before reaching over and sliding an errant curl of golden hair behind her ear. He let the palm of his hand cup her cheek instead of pulling it immediately away. "I think that I don't really mind."