One side of Cole’s face pulled up. “I might kinda, sorta, maybe be going into Natural Resource Sciences at Wazzu this fall,” he said, confessing it like a sin.
“Wazzu?” I said, dumbfounded. “Wazzu as in Washington State University? As in Pullman, Washington? As in a few hours away from here?”
Cole bit his lip to keep from smiling. “I believe that’s the one, yeah.”
“How long have you known?” I asked, scooting forward.
“Since this past winter,” he answered. “I applied, not really expecting to get accepted, but then I received my acceptance letter right before I headed here this summer. Right before I met you.”
“But the smokejumping? I thought you were going to be jumping out of planes until they forced retirement on you.”
Cole chuckled. “I love it, don’t get me wrong, but I gave it four years of my life. Now it’s time for me to do something else. It’s time to move on to the next great adventure.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked, trying to shake through the haze of surreal. It was pretty much impossible though, given the man who’d been a total stranger at the start of summer had turned into the man I loved weeks later and now was attending a college I’d applied to myself in the fall.
“When I learned you’d applied and been accepted to a few different schools, I didn’t want where I was going to affect your decision. I wanted you to make that on your own so neither of us would ever wonder if you’d only made your decision based on mine.” Pausing just long enough to plant a kiss on my mouth, Cole’s hands formed around my face. “I love you, Elle, but I don’t want that love to inhibit you. I want it to make you feel like you can do anything you want. I want you to feel free to make your own decisions.”
Resisting the overwhelming urge to kiss him again, I inhaled. “I already made my decision,” I said, about to lose the battle of resisting his mouth.
The way Cole stared at my mouth made my stomach flutter. “And what have you decided?” he whispered, just barely grazing his bottom lip against mine. My stomach wasn’t only fluttering anymore.
“I’ve decided on you,” I said before grabbing his shirt and tugging him closer. When his mouth was firmly crushed against mine, I leaned back just enough to add, “And Wazzu. Washington State University. Pullman, Washington. Three hours away. You ever heard of it?”
Cole was breathing heavily already from our almost kiss, but it picked up even more as his eyes widened.
“I sent in my acceptance papers a while ago,” I said. “Go Cougs.”
“You’re telling me I get you to myself for the next four, possibly five if we make like good slackers and take our sweet time, years?” He sounded like it was too good to be true.
I smiled and shrugged.
His hand wound behind my neck and he pulled me close again. “Sounds like one hell of an adventure.”
“I wouldn’t expect anything less from you.”
Right before his mouth covered mine, he grinned. “From us,” he said, “I wouldn’t expect anything less from us.”
Neither would I.