But things have been hectic on my side of the table as well. I’m overwhelmed with senior projects, applying to more universities, and mentally preparing for the life that lies ahead of me. Plus, I have to balance my time between him and Nicole. I don’t want her to start to feel rejected just because I’ve been seeing someone. I’d hate to be the girl who ghosts my friends just because I’ve found a man.

And on top of it all, my parents have been on me about the fact that I spend very little time with them. They want to soak up all the time they can get with me before I leave this fall. They even planned a weekend getaway for us to St. Louis. I appreciate the gesture, but that’s three days I won’t get to spend with Michael.

I am looking forward to the family vacation though. I’ve heard that St. Louis has a beautiful arboretum. It’s so large that you can spend an entire day walking through various gardens. There’s even an eco-dome that replicates the climate of a rainforest. There are coconut and banana trees growing inside, among a vast variety of other flora. I’ll get so much inspiration for future art projects from this experience. Plus, I greatly value the time I get to spend with my parents and will surely miss them when I leave for school.

With this busy schedule, most of my time spent with Michael is in the middle of the night. It seems to be the easiest way to not get caught. Sometimes, I drive myself to his house, but other times, I sneak downstairs and past my parents’ room to the kitchen door. Then, I run through the backyard and meet Michael around the block, where he’s parked behind a bush. We’ve changed the pickup location a few times, in case neighbors get suspicious.

Sometimes we just drive around and talk. Usually, we find a place to park and, well, enjoy each other’s company, if you catch my drift. A couple of times, we’ve even gone into his liquor stores and used the back room for our night-time shenanigans. Scan-da-lous!

I am so NOT this person. At least, I never was until now. It’s still so crazy to me that I’m sneaking around like this. I can’t even imagine how my parents would react if they found out. The me I was six months ago would be appalled at this behavior, frankly.

But to be totally honest, I like it. Having a secret relationship is really fun, and all the sneaking around and the white lies give me such a rush of adrenaline.

It makes the sex great too. It feels like we’re putting it all on the line just to get to that one moment, that moment where he’s inside me and we both peak with ecstasy, reveling in the touch of the other person on our skin. I’m getting turned on just thinking about it.

But my relationship with Michael has changed who I am in a sense. I no longer care about the little things that used to get under my skin, like the bullies at school. I know that I am wanted, and that a man craves me. I know a real-life alpha male is risking it all to be with me. Of course, nobody knows any of this besides Nicole. I just walk around with my head a little higher, and a secret smile on my face.

Plus, Nicole and I have changed too. Instead of swooning over the fake men on book covers, we find a private corner of the library and gush over my latest love-making session. Sometimes, I wonder if my friend is jealous, but it doesn’t seem like it. Her constant giggles make me think that she likes hearing about my various rendezvous.

Plus, she’s helped me come up with a few secret spots where Michael and I can meet. The best one yet was the forest preserve up North off the I-55. It took us about forty-five minutes to get there, but it was worth the drive. We lay down in the fresh grass beside the lake, surrounded by oak trees. We made love three times that night, the sounds of the owls and the crickets masking our sighs of pleasure.

Things in my life seem to be going really well right now. I find it almost comical, because this by and large is not the love story I always wished for. I expected a long, romantic courtship. I envisioned walking through parks together, holding hands in public, going to the diner for afternoon treats. I pictured being with someone that could go to prom with me.

But as they say, life never works out the way you plan. Which is good, because I couldn’t have planned this in a million years.

Tags: Winter Renshaw Romance
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