Chapter Twenty-Four: Breakfast at the Gala (Aria's POV)

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The next night at eight on the dot, I pound on Austin’s door, shivering. My gloved hands are numb and my boots are snow-covered. In short, I'm freezing.

            I hear music coming out, so I know he’s there. Maybe he doesn’t hear me. I pound harder.

            Eventually, he emerges, clad in a thin sweatshirt and t-shirt with jeans.

            “Dude!” is the first thing I yell. “How are you not frozen?” I lean forward and pretend to look up his nostrils. “Do you have snot-cicles in there?”

            The minute this clever remark is out of my mouth, I mentally slap myself for sounding weird.

            Way to be feminine and alluring.

            Luckily, Austin doesn’t pick up on the stupidity of my remark. He just laughs and kisses me. Hard.

            Since when do guys use Chapstick?

            Against his lips, I mumble, “We should probably get inside.”

            “Yup. I’ve got some elderly neighbors. Don’t want to give them a heart attack,” he replies with a laugh.

            When we get inside, I’m immediately hit with a wave of heat. Glorious, soothing heat.

            “Ah, it’s so warm in here,” I breathe.

            “My cheap landlord finally raised the heat,” he replies.

            He leans over to his iPod, and raises the volume on the music that I heard playing outside.

            Say yeah.

            Let’s be alone together.

            We can stay young forever.

            Scream it from the top of your lungs.

            I smirk. “Is there some subliminal message I’m not catching?”

            He shrugs. “Maybe. Anyway, welcome to your musical education. This is Fall Out Boy.”

            I pause for a moment, listening. “Not bad.”

            He throws his hands up in the air. “Not bad? This is awesome! Anyway, due to your total disregard of the awesomeness of this music, I’ll resort to stage two. Sit your butt down on this here couch.”

            “Okay. Let me go sit yonder,” I say, my voice cracking into a laugh at the end.

            I sit down, and he throws his arm around my shoulders. Then he scrolls through Netflix.

            “Hmmm…what shall we watch on this here streamin’ contraption?” he asks.

            “That was half-British and half-southern,” I say. “Get your accents right.”

            As we’re scrolling through Netflix, the song ends and lapses into another.

            Testing, testing,

            I’m just suggesting,

            you and I might not be the best thing.

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