Chapter 20: Summer Loving

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Chapter shoutouts: taylor8wut, fracturedwords, and acmegreen for the lovely comments and votes! ♥♥♥
 **Can't believe this is the second last chapter :oo Thank you all for reading! ♥♥♥ I'll soon be releasing the epilogue and teasers of a new story (I think), probably over the next two weeks, so keep an eye out! 

Edit in: I know it was kind of a surprise that this story is ending so soon, and it's relatively short compared to a lot of novels - but I think there was enough drama that played out and after considering it, I decided I didn't want too many more terrible things to happen to Matt and Hailey last-minute (because most of the ride was pretty smooth and it was weird to disrupt it at the very end)! Hope you all understand but know that I might do some extended chapters in the future!

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"I can't believe I'll be stuck here with you for almost twenty hours," Matt gropes.

We're seated on a plane to Melbourne, suitcases packed into the overhead compartments and safety videos playing on small flat screens. The seats close by are buzzing with excited chatter and, even in spite of having a neck pillow thrown at him in protest, Matt's lips tug into a small smile and he flicks my forehead before leaning back in his seat.

My mum and Tess are in the seats across from us, swapping magazines and discussing the itinerary. Upon their insistence as well, Arthur is with them, a little disgruntled that he wasn't sitting with his older brother but he's settled instead for filling out a crossword. On the other hand, my dad and Mr. Dewchester were nowhere in sight, likely sitting a few rows behind us and chatting about golf, as they had while waiting in the airport lines.

"And I can't believe you're coming," I muse aloud in a joking mock hurt, throwing him a long side way glance, "Talk about ruining a family vacation."

"If you had bro-zoned me, I would have fit in just fine," Matt retorts with a smug smile, "But you didn't so now you'll have to deal with me."

"Well," I lean in close and quirk my eyebrows, "That would've been unpleasant for the both of us so I think I spared us the trouble."

Matt surprisingly agrees with a nod.

"I think I like it better," he grins. 

And before I can dodge, he plants a quick peck on my left cheek before tossing the neck pillow back into my lap, and leaning instead against my shoulder to sleep. Luckily, my mum and Tess don't seem to take any notice as I look away, flustered, but I spot Arthur throwing a mix between a wide-eyed stare and a knowing smile our way.

It was going to be one hell of a trip.

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"Oh man, I love the sun," I exclaim.

A day later, we've arrived on sandy shores, tiptoeing slowly towards the crystal blue waters that dance along the light brown grains. Laying down a towel and kicking off my flip flops, I begin a dash towards the ocean while Matt sets up close by.

"Magic Mike it," I chant, recalling our first trip to the beach.

Matt lets out an exaggerated sigh.

"Really still hung up on that?"

I shrug in response.

"If you don't, I'm sure there's some surfer here who will," I tease, "Imagining it slow motion, with the accent and the killer bod. . ."

Accepting the challenge, Matt waggles his eyebrows and he raises his arms over his head slowly to slip out of his white tee. As he begins to jog closer, I lean back slightly to hide my pink cheeks underwater.  

Apparently, I had spoken too soon, I groan silently as I take in his well defined torso, glimmering green eyes, and floppy chocolate locks.

I almost fail to notice him when he appears beside me with a cheeky smile.

"How was that?" Matt questions, sauntering over the bumpy ocean floor with ease. "Kept it PG but you get the gist."

"Right, I think I do," I murmur under my breath.

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After an hour or so of splashing around in the ocean with a blow-up beach ball, we pile into a small blue rental van and drive to a beach-side steakhouse only a short distance away. 

Sitting around a large table covered with plates of food, I marvel at the situation. Two families coming together had brought me, and the cheeky olive-eyed boy beside me, together. And in spite of the both of us carrying baggage - pun intended - it had all worked out.

"So,  you're heading off to the University in the fall?" Mr. Dewchester asks.

"Yup," I answer with a nod, "Liberal arts major."

"Well, then, Matt can show you around," he remarks with a wide grin. "Or perhaps we can all figure out a weekend visit to different places. Maybe even Toronto once in a while."

"There's a lot to do in the area," Tess chimes in, "Check out the local hiking trails, the restaurants, the little shops -"

"If you're ever lost on where to go, you can always come by our house," Arthur quips, as the adults chuckle at his seriousness.

"Sounds like we should plan a few trips," my mum nudges Tess with a small smile, "Maybe the long weekends or holidays. We'll have to stay out of the kids' hair though."

"We could definitely use some time away," Tess jokes, before throwing a knowing glance at Matt and I, "And I'm sure they could too."

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That night, we split off into groups to visit different places. 

While the adults and Arthur have taken to going to an outdoor movie screening of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Matt and I opt to go to the boardwalk pier. There was always something magical about being by the water at dusk - maybe it was the the soft orange glow or the glittering reflections that added a certain sort of warmth to the heart. Maybe it was the feeling of freedom that came with worries being washed away like grains of sand by the ocean waves, or disappearing from the horizon like the sun - two forces of nature meeting together and changing the landscape.

That night, there was, indeed, magic in the air.

And as Matt pulled me into his arms, murmuring a few wondrous words and one simple question, I knew love was also.

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 A/N: AHH, am I the only one silently squealing through my teeth right now?? Leave a vote and comment if you are !!

 I honestly can't believe this is the second last chapter of The Exchange (the last one will be the epilogue)! :(( I'm quite sad that we'll all soon be leaving the flirty, friendly world of Matt and Hailey but hopefully, in a few short weeks, you'll also enjoy entering a new world (third-person, past-tense, action-romance-mystery, set in America, to give a very short summary) - is this even real life, it's so different from everything else I've written?? I've been working hard to write a few chapters ahead of the release but I've still been debating about when to put out the teasers (like any thoughts, should I put 'em out along with the epilogue of this story?? Let me know in the comments!)

♥♥♥And I'd also like to thank everyone for 200 followers and (a little prematurely) 3000 reads! I never thought I would ever get this far with any story but you've all been so kind with commenting, voting, and reading! Thank you for going on this journey with me and I hope it'll continue to be one hell of a ride! ;)) ♥♥♥ 

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