Exclusive Excerpt from Second Priority
by Este Holland
Riley glanced at me but had to concentrate on the traffic as we neared the airport. It wasn’t anything like LAX, but there were plenty of cars. The hotel was standard, and I checked us in without any trouble. We took our bags, grabbed the elevator, and I let us in with the keycard.
I sighed again, deeper this time. “I thought I’d be done with hotels for a few weeks.”
Riley groaned. “I’m sorry. I didn’t even think of that.” He threw his bag on the bed. “We could find an Airbnb, maybe?”
“No, she’ll be right.”
Riley smiled. “You don’t say stuff like that very often. Not that we’ve been around each other that much.”
He fiddled with his bag, and I walked over to take his hand in mine. “I don’t spend much time in Melbourne.”
He stilled and stared into my eyes. “Why?”
I shrugged and played with his slender fingers. “Not a lot of good memories.”
Riley frowned and leaned his forehead against mine, and we stayed like that for several heartbeats. Then, he leaned in slowly and pressed his lips to mine, soft and sweet. It made my heart ache.
“I need a shower.”
Riley nodded. “I’ll get us some food. What do you feel like?”
“Doesn’t matter. Whatever’s close.”
I went to the bathroom, undressed and showered. When I came out, Riley wasn’t back yet, so I sat on the bed in my towel, drying my shaggy hair. I needed a cut. I grabbed my phone and stared at a picture I’d taken long ago. I’d snapped it of a printed-out photo in a frame, so I’d have it with me. Me, Mum, Dad, and Jamie. My little brother. We were happy, smiling like idiots with sunscreen on our noses at the beach.
I shook off my mood and looked up when the door opened. Riley stopped and stared at my chest. The door slammed shut, and he jumped. I chuckled and stood to grab the pizza box he held. He shrugged off his coat, but his eyes kept straying to the tattoo over my left pec.
“You’ve seen me without my shirt.”
“Not this close.” His cheeks flushed red, and I smiled and sidled closer.
He swallowed and tried not to stare. I wasn’t huge, more lean and wiry, but I had decent muscle definition. Surprising me, he lifted his hand and traced the outline of my ink. It was a vague representation of the Australian continent made of native leaves and flowers and a tiny bee.
I watched his fingers. “I didn’t want to forget where I came from, though it hurts to think of it most days.”
“Why?” Riley whispered.
I squinted one eye as I peered at him, then bit my lip. “Why don’t we eat, and you can grab a shower, and then we can talk?”
His eyes darted back and forth between mine. “Okay.”
We drank sodas and ate pizza, then after Riley showered, we sat together on one of the queen-sized beds in our pajamas. Riley smelled of soap and mint from his toothpaste.
I loved being close to him, breathing the same air, and touching feet under the blankets. The curtains were open, and we talked as the snow drifted down outside in the yellow glow of parking lot lights.
I handed him my phone with the picture of my family pulled up.