Page 32 of Dirty Promise

Those gray-blue eyes of his never waver. His lips curve upward, the barest hint of a smile. But his eyes still seem sad. Distant almost. “I know what you mean,” he whispers, and now I really can’t control my racing heart. It crashes like the surf in my ears, an echo of the lakeshore down below which sloshes faintly, stirred by the late summer breeze.

“Do we have to go back tomorrow?” I bite my lip. Notice the way his eyes drop to my mouth now, tracking me the same way I track him. But I must be imagining it. I have to be. He hasn’t made a move all summer and we’ve had an entire month of this—the torturous almost-kisses, a million midnight conversations that could’ve turned into something at any moment. He could’ve kissed me a hundred times and I would’ve lost myself in it. But he never does. “What if we just stayed here?”

Josh grins sideways, a lopsided smile that I see every night when I close my eyes, burned into my memories. “We could live in the little cabin,” he says, meaning the one my dad and I are currently sharing, attached by an outdoor porch to the smaller one Josh and Susan took. “I bet the owner wouldn’t notice. There’s two whole bedrooms in there, we could make one our living room, share the other one.”

My cheeks flush brighter at the thought of sharing one of those tiny rooms with him. The single bed would barely fit us both. We’d need to cuddle together, wrap our arms around each other to keep from falling out of bed.

I’d be fine with that.


I grin at him. “We could steal snacks from the kitchen whenever she was out, maybe fish for dinner if we’re really hungry.”

“You’d have to get better at building fires if we’re going to be living off of fish we catch ourselves,” he points out.

I punch his shoulder lightly. “You’re the one who let it go out last night. You put a wet log right on top of it.”

“It wasn’t wet, it was only damp.”

I roll my eyes. “Trouble in paradise already.”

“But even with trouble, it’s still paradise,” he counters. He lifts a hand as if to cup my cheek, and my whole body flares. This is it. Finally. But his fingers only skim my cheekbone, brush some stray hairs behind my ear, and then he lets his hand drop back to the grass. He leans back down to watch me again, only a foot away from me, but it feels like the widest gap in the world.

It’s our last night. I don’t know when I’ll see him again. Maybe in a month or two, next time one of our parents decides to host a party. Maybe longer than that if they’re busy. Dad’s been caught up with work a lot lately, took way too much time off for this vacation, he keeps saying. And I know Susan needs to start applying for new jobs when we get back because she hates her current teaching gig, wants to find one that gives her more freedom to set her own curriculum. For all we know, it could be as long as six months before we’re together again. Six months before I have an excuse to lie here across from the hottest guy I know and joke about the dumb stuff we always talk about. Bare our souls to each other because nobody else ever seems to really get it, not the way we do.

“Close your eyes,” I say.

He does, and I marvel at the way his lashes brush his cheeks, the way he looks so relaxed, so trusting. His blond hair falls over his forehead, almost into his eyes, but it’s not quite long enough. I want to brush it back, out of the way. I want to run my fingers through it. I want to pull him close and…

It’s our last night.

“What am I waiting for?” he asks, a sly little grin on his mouth still.

“No patience, huh?” I grin back, lean in closer. We’re just inches apart. I wonder if he can feel my breath on his cheeks. Wonder if he’s thinking the same thing I am.

“I think we’ve both been patient long enough, Pau.” He opens his eyes, and I freeze, caught in the act. There’s barely an inch between us. We’re so close that if I turn my head, our noses will touch. But he doesn’t flinch. Doesn’t even seem surprised. He gazes up at me, that same smile fixed on his face.

“Close your eyes,” I repeat, and his smile grows. But he does it again.

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