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I tear across the empty square, praying no-one else is up this early

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I tear across the empty square, praying no-one else is up this early. If they are, our trip to Nashville will finish before it even begins. As I think about the note I've left, my stomach churns: Off to Cricket's for the day – cheer practice. Home for dinner. Although I hate lying, I can't tell my parents the truth, especially not Daddy. He doesn't trust Finch Whittingham one iota.

Finch's truck is parked behind the dance school in a quiet alleyway. I leap in, heart racing.

'Morning, Trouble,' he says, leaning over to kiss me.

The normality of it has my head spinning. If I want to keep my heart safe, I need to keep my head today. One glance at Finch and I know that'll be easier said than done.

'I've got something for you,' he says, leaning into the back seat. He passes over a white sheath of paper. 'I convinced Mr Zheng to mark mine early. I didn't want it hanging over me before the Pirates game.'

I recognise the midterm format instantly. My heart leaps at the red B.

'Finch! That's incredible.'

Looking bashful, he starts up the car.

'It's all down to you.'

I place the sheet on his dash. 'I can't take credit for this. This was all you.'

Pride shines on his face. 'It doesn't mean I won't be thanking you.'

By the time we reach Nashville, the anticipation is almost unbearable. Finch barely parks before pulling me into a kiss that leaves me breathless. I panic before remembering that here, we're anonymous. The freedom feels delicious. Without Miss Delilah's prying eyes, and the ever-present worry of James discovering our secret, I relax for the first time in weeks.

By lunchtime, my lips are swollen and my heart is teetering on the edge of a painful mistake. Whatever anyone says, hope is more dangerous than risk. As we stop outside a large, glass-ceilinged building, Finch covers my eyes.

'I've got a surprise for you.'

He ignores my protests and marches me forwards. After directing me in this way and that, his hands draw back. Covered in a hundred sparkling lights, a colossal Christmas tree stands tall over a gleaming ice-rink.

'I didn't want you missing any more traditions,' he says, slipping his arms around me so that my back presses tight against his front.

It had been a throwaway comment when I mentioned how Lyds, Lissie and I always looked forward to skating outside Somerset House. I never expected him to remember. Let alone plan this.

As he leads me onto the ice, he places a strong arm around my waist. He's secure on the ice, his confidence calming my unsteady feet. Skating me over to the edge, he reaches into his back pocket.

'For my final thank you of the day, I need you to close your eyes.'

Closing them tight, he takes my hand. Something cold slides around my wrist, sending the hairs on the back of my arm standing on end. As I open my eyes, I gasp at the beauty of the bracelet. Small golden stars are delicately interlinked together and fastened with a pink velvet ribbon.

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