I slip my fingers through the hand that’s resting tightly against me and I squeeze it, not even knowing what it means, but every part of me wants to touch him and hold him and make sure he’s really here. I need to know he’s here and that this isn’t just another vivid dream.

His mouth meets my shoulder and he parts his lips, kissing me softly. The feel of his tongue against my skin immediately sends a surge of heat through me and I can feel the flush rise from my stomach, straight up to my cheeks.

“I know, baby,” he whispers again, slowly exploring my collarbone and neck with his lips. I keep my eyes shut because the distress in his voice and the tenderness in his touch is making my head spin. I reach up behind me and run my hand through his hair, pressing him deeper into my neck. His warm breath against my skin becomes increasingly more frantic, along with his kisses. Both of our breathing picks up pace as he covers every inch of my neck twice over.

He lifts up on his arm and urges me flat onto my back, then brings his hand to my face and brushes the hair away from my eyes. Seeing him this close to me brings back every single feeling I’ve ever felt for this boy…the good and the bad. I don’t understand how he can put me through what he’s put me through when the sorrow in his eyes is so prominent. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I can’t read him at all or if I read him too well, but looking up at him right now I know he feels what I’m feeling…which makes his actions that much more confusing.

“I know you’re mad at me,” he says, looking down at me. His eyes and his words are full of remorse, but the apology still doesn’t come. “I need you to be mad at me, Sky. But I think I need you to still want me here with you even more.”

My chest grows heavy with his words and it takes an extreme amount of effort to continue pulling breath into my lungs. I nod my head slightly, because I can completely agree to that. I’m pissed at him, but I want him here with me so much more than I don’t. He drops his forehead to mine and we grab hold of each other’s faces, looking desperately into each other’s eyes. I’m not sure if he’s about to kiss me. I’m not even sure if he’s about to get up and leave. The only thing I’m certain about right now is that after this moment, I will never be the same. I know by the way his existence is like a magnetic pull on my heart, that if he ever hurts me again, I’ll be far from just fine. I’ll be broken.

Our chests are rising and falling as one as the silence and tension grows thicker. The firm grip he has on my face can be felt in every part of me, almost as if he’s gripping me from the inside out. The intensity of the moment causes tears to sting at my eyes, and I’m completely taken aback by my unexpected emotions.

“I am mad at you, Holder,” I say with an unsteady, but sure voice. “But no matter how mad I’ve been, I never for one second stopped wanting you here with me.”

He somehow smiles and frowns in the same moment. “Jesus, Sky.” His face contorts into an incredible amount of reprieve. “I’ve missed you so fucking bad.” He immediately drops his mouth and his tongue collides feverishly with mine. He fills me with the sweet taste of his mint leaves and soda, and he’s everything I’ve been imagining he would be and more. Our lips are finally intertwining for the first time, or the twentieth time, or the millionth time. It doesn’t really matter because whichever time this is—it’s absolutely perfect. It’s incredible and flawless and almost worth everything we’ve been through in order to get to this moment.

Our lips move passionately together as we struggle to pull ourselves closer, wanting to find that perfect connection with our bodies that we’ve just found with our mouths. He works his mouth against mine delicately, yet fiercely, and I match him movement for movement. I release several moans and even more breaths and he drinks each one of them in with his mouth.

We kiss and we kiss in every position possible, and remain as restrained as we possibly can. We kiss until I can no longer feel my lips, and until I’m so exhausted and spent that I’m not even sure if we’re still kissing when he presses his head to mine again.

And that’s exactly how we fall asleep—forehead-to-forehead, wrapped silently together. Because nothing else is spoken between us. Not even an apology.

Saturday, September 29th, 2012 8:40 a.m.

I turn over to inspect the bed, half thinking what happened last night was a dream. Holder isn’t here, but in his place is a small gift-wrapped box. I push myself up against my headboard and pick up the gift. I stare at it for a long time before I finally lift the lid and look inside. It’s something that looks like a credit card, so I pick it up and read it.

He bought me a phone card with texting minutes. Lots of them.

I smile, because I know the significance of this card. It all lies within the message that Six sent him. He plans on stealing her girl, and he also plans on using a lot of her minutes. The gift makes me smile and I immediately reach to the nightstand and grab my phone. I have one missed text and it’s from Holder.

You hungry?

The text is short and simple but it’s his way of letting me know he’s still here. Somewhere. Is he making me breakfast? I go to the bathroom before heading to the kitchen and brush my teeth. I change out of my tank top and pull on a simple sundress, then gather my hair up in a ponytail. I look at my reflection in the mirror and I see a girl who desperately wants to forgive a boy, but not without a hell of a lot of groveling first.

When I open the door to my bedroom, I’m met with the smell of bacon and the sound of grease sizzling from the kitchen. I walk down the hallway and around the corner, then pause. I stare at him for a while. His back is to me and he’s working his way around the stove, humming to himself. He’s shoeless, wearing jeans topped with a plain white sleeveless t-shirt. He already feels at home again, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

“I left early this morning,” he says, talking with his back still to me, “because I was afraid your mom would walk in and think I was trying to get you pregnant. Then when I went for my run, I passed by your house again and realized her car wasn’t even home and remembered you said she does those trade days the first weekend of every month. So I decided to pick up some groceries because I wanted to cook you breakfast. I also almost bought groceries for lunch and dinner, but maybe we should take it one meal at a time today.” He turns around and faces me, slowly eyeing me up and down. “Happy Birthday. I really like that dress. I bought real milk, you want some?”

I walk to the bar and keep my eyes trained on him, trying to process the plethora of words that just came out of his mouth. I scoot out a chair and take a seat. He pours me a glass of milk, even though I never said I wanted one, then slides it to me with a huge grin on his face. Before I can take a sip of the milk, he closes the gap between us and takes my chin in his hand.

“I need to kiss you. Your mouth was so damn perfect last night, I’m scared I dreamt that whole thing.” He brings his mouth to mine and as soon as his tongue caresses mine, I can already tell this is going to be an issue.

His lips and his tongue and his hands are so incredibly perfect, I’ll never be able to stay mad at him as long as he’s able to use them against me like this. I grab his shirt and force my mouth against his even harder. He groans and fists his hands into my hair, then abruptly lets go and backs away. “Nope,” he says, smiling. “Didn’t dream it.”

He walks back to the stove and turns off the burners, then transfers the bacon to a plate lined with eggs and toast. He walks it to the bar and begins filling the plate in front of me with food. He takes a seat and begins eating. He’s smiling at me the whole time, and it suddenly hits me.

I know. I know what’s wrong with him. I know why he’s happy and angry and temperamental and all over the place and it finally makes so much sense.

“Are we allowed to play Dinner Quest, even though it’s breakfast time?” he asks.

I take a sip of my milk and nod. “If I get the first question.”

He lays his fork down on his plate and smiles. “I was thinking about just letting you have all the questions.”

“I only need the answer to one.”

He sighs and leans back against his seat, then looks down at his hands. I can tell by the way he’s avoiding my gaze that he already knows I know. His reaction is one of guilt. I lean forward in my chair and glare at him.

“How long have you been using drugs, Holder?”

He shoots his eyes up to meet mine and his expression is stoic. He stares at me for a moment and I keep my stance, wanting him to know I’m not letting up until he tells me the truth. He purses his lips together in a tight line, then looks down at his hands again. For a second I’m thinking he might be preparing to bolt out the front door in order to avoid talking about it, but then I see something on his face I wasn’t expecting to see at all. A dimple.

He’s grimacing, attempting to hold on to his expression, but the corners of his mouth give way and his smile breaks out into laughter.

He’s laughing and he’s laughing really hard and it’s really pissing me off.

“Drugs?” he says between fits of laughter. “You think I’m on drugs?” He continues laughing until he realizes that I don’t think it’s the least bit funny at all. He eventually stops and sucks in a deep breath, then reaches across the table and takes my hand in his. “I’m not on drugs, Sky. I promise. I don’t know why you would think that, but I swear.”

“Then what the hell is wrong with you?”

His expression drops with that question, and he releases my hand from his. “Can you be a little less vague?” He falls back into his chair and folds his arms over his chest.

I shrug. “Sure. What happened to us and why are you acting like it never happened?”

His elbow is resting on the table and he looks down at his arm. He slowly traces each letter of his tattoo with his fingers, deep in thought. I know silence isn’t considered a sound, but right now the silence between us is the loudest sound in the world. He pulls his arm off the table and looks up at me.

“I didn’t want to let you down, Sky. I’ve let everyone down in my life that’s ever loved me, and after that day at lunch I knew I let you down, too. So…I left you before you could start loving me. Otherwise, any effort to try not to disappoint you would be hopeless.”

His words are full of apology and sadness and regret, but he still can’t just say them. He overreacted and jealousy got the best of him, but if he would have just said those two words we would have been spared an entire month of emotional agony. I’m shaking my head, because I just don’t get it. I don’t understand why he couldn’t just say I’m sorry.

“Why couldn’t you just say it, Holder? Why couldn’t you just apologize?”

He leans forward across the table and takes my hand, looking me hard in the eyes. “I’m not apologizing to you…because I don’t want you to forgive me.”

Tags: Colleen Hoover Hopeless Romance
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