The One with MORE Mateo and Nell!
A few weeks ago, my street team organized an awesome All Played Out Read-a-thon, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to revisit some of my favorite Rusk couples! I started out with a bonus scene about Carson and Dallas, which you can read HERE. Then I wrote a bonus scene about Silas and Dylan, which you can read HERE. And finally, last but certainly not least – a bonus scene about Mateo and Nell!
This scene is an expansion of sorts on the epilogue. And I’ve included both Mateo AND Nell’s POV.
*Please note: This is unedited. Sorry for any mistakes! ?*
Watching her, I feel proud and terrified all at once. That stage is her field. And her uniform—black robe, white collar, colored ropes marking her accomplishments, and square cap—it’s all strangely sexy, even that loose fitting robe. Because I know how easy it will be to slide my hand beneath it.
Not that that’s something I should be thinking about when I’m sitting next to Nell’s mother. Nell’s badass mother who could give Coach Cole a run for his money in the scary department.
I watch Nell climbing the steps up onto the platform where she’ll receive her diploma, and I swear my heart is lodged in my throat. We’re all clapping, and I want to yell, to scream—that’s what people would expect. Hell, it’s what I expected. I was looking forward to trying to spot the blush on her cheeks when I made sure everyone in this place knew that she belonged to me.
But now that it’s happening… I can’t seem to make a sound. She just… she’s everything I ever wanted. More, actually. And things are moving so fast. She’s graduating. I’ve got one more semester with her while she works, then the summer, and then she’ll be starting graduate school. And I just have to believe that what we have is strong enough, real enough to last.
“I knew I’d be on the verge of tears. But I didn’t expect it from you,” Her mother says, her smile sly.
I laugh, and it comes out hoarse, like I really had been crying. “I won’t tell if you won’t.”
As she shakes the dean’s hand and accepts her diploma, I finally find my voice enough to shout, “Yeah! That’s my girl!”
Her eyes flick up in my direction in the stands, and instead of blushing, she blows me a kiss, and I’m grinning like a fucking maniac.
“You’re not what I expected,” Nell’s mom says.
“Better, I hope. Because your daughter is never getting rid of me now. Not if I have anything to say about it.”
“She’s a smart girl. It’s her say that matters.”
On reflex, I start to reply that she’s more than smart… she’s a fucking genius. But I’m not sure how her mom will react to that particular endearment. So I smile and nod, and sit impatiently as hundreds of other graduates from Nell’s program cross the stage.
A brutal hour later, I see Nell outside, chatting with some of the people she knows from her classes. I run up behind her and scoop her into my arms. She squeals when I swing her around.
“Mateo!” Her fingers grip my forearms where they’re wrapped around her middle.
I set her down and she twists in my arms and leans in to hug me. I dip closer to her ear and say, “I’ll never get tired of hearing my name come out of your mouth.”
“Mateo,” she says again, a touch of warning in it this time, no doubt because her parents are behind me and my hand might be a little too close to her ass. But what can I say? I missed her.
Teasing, I slide my hand down another inch. “You know saying my name is never the way to get me to back off.”
She peels my hands off her body and laces our fingers together. “Later. Dinner with my parents. Then maybe we can spend some time in the library.”
I lift a brow. “The library, huh?”
“Well… I’m only at Rusk for one more semester. And I seem to recall one more list we never completed.”
“Does this list have six things on it?”
She grins. “It does.”
I don’t care that her parents are watching. I tug her forward and kiss her hard. Then whisper in her ear, “I love you, girl genius.”
It’s dark by the time we’ve finished celebrating with MY parents and returned them to their hotel room. I tell them that Mateo is taking me home, but we both know that’s not true. Excitement bubbles up in my belly at the thought of where we’re heading. Books and Mateo are pretty much my favorite things ever. And Mateo in the library? Irresistable.
But I Mateo doesn’t head to the parking lot nearest the library like I expect. Instead he chose one near the quad in the center of campus.
Suspicious, I narrow my eyes and ask, “What are you up to?”
Grinning, he puts the truck into park and pushes open his door. “Who me?”
“Mateo Torres,” I shout through the closed door. “You know how I feel about surprises. I like to know what I’m heading into.”
He rounds the front of the truck to open to my door, and he takes his time gripping my hips and helping me slide off the seat to stand in front of him. He says, “I definitely know all that. Just trust me… okay?”
Trust. I take a deep breath. I’ve trusted him with just about everything else in my life, I can give him this too. I’d give him just about anything.
He laces our fingers together and pulls me out of the parking lot and onto the sidewalk. We walk through the center of campus, past dorms and educational building, and we come to a stop at the very center of campus where the university seal is set into concrete and surround by flowers and trees and fountains. The seal has the original founding date of the university, along with the founder, school crest and school motto in Latin.
Confused, my eyebrows furrow and I look up at my boyfriend. He’s not one to typically care about school history. But he stops with us standing right at the center of the seal.
“Care to fill me in?” I ask.
He pulls our hands between us, his thumbs rubbing back and forth over my knuckles.
“You said that you like to know what you’re heading into. And that’s what I’m doing. I’m telling you what you’re heading into. We might have met here at Rusk, and it might be one the main things we have in common. But we won’t be here forever. In fact, you’re going to be leaving really, really soon. And before that happens, I need you to know that I’m in this. That this place won’t just be where I fell in love with you.” Those words never fail to make my heart beat faster, to make my stomach swoop with anticipation. He squeezes my hands and continues, “Someday, this is going to be the place that I ask you to spend the rest of your life with me. Then we’re going to get married because I won’t let you say anything but yes, and I’m going to bring you here and we’re going to climb Big Daddy Rusk, wedding dress and all.” Tears crest over my cheeks at the same time that I choke on a laugh. “And then a long time after that, we’ll bring our kids here, and we can stand on this seal, and tell them what this place means to us. That this school changed our lives by bringing us together. That’s where we’re heading. I may not know what will happen in a month or a year or five years down the road… but I know that.”
I can’t seem to get any words out. I’m a blubbering, crying mess, and let’s just blame on graduation and my family and this being a REALLY emotional day. So without words, I settle for throwing my arms around his neck and kissing him. And kissing him and kissing him until I can’t breathe.
His hands are tight on my hips, pulling me close against his large body, and it’s all so surreal. I cannot believe this man loves me. And that I love him. And that in all the chaos and horror and unknown in this wide world, we have somehow found this good and perfect thing together.
It defies all reason.
A whistle breaks us apart, followed by the glaring flick of a light over our faces. My eyes widen.
A security guard. Jumping out of a golf cart, heading our way.
Mateo grips my hand tight, and starts pulling me away, first at a fast walk and then a run.
“Why are we running?” I say, between huffing breaths.
“Did I not mention that the seal is part of the Sweet Six? They have a regular patrol that sweeps by to run people off.”
“Oh my God, you pervert! After all those sweet things you said, you wanted to have sex on that seal!”
He chuckles, pausing in our escape to grab me around the middle and swing me around, before setting me back on my feet and pulling me into a run once more.
“Oh, we’re gonna get that seal. But don’t worry. We’ll leave that part of the story out when we tell our kids.”