WHEN I SEE THE p*rn mag on the back of the toilet as casually placed as one on motorcycles might be, I can’t help but laugh to myself. I wonder briefly if there are any guys in the world that don’t look at pornography and then realize what a stupid question that is. I can’t say anything; I’ve looked at my fair share of p*rn on the internet.
I take a long, hot shower and dry off with the beach towel Andrew gave me and then get dressed.
I don’t like it here. In his apartment. In Texas.
Any other time and in some other circumstance, it would be different, but what I said to him the other night when we pulled over on the side of the road still holds true. This place, everything about it feels like the end. The magic of our time together on the road has all but literally evaporated with last week’s rain. Not our feelings for each other…no, those are so strong that thinking about the end at all is metaphorically bringing me to my knees. How we feel about each other is…well, it’s all that we have left. The open road is gone. The spontaneous stops and sometimes not knowing where we are but not giving a damn, is gone. The motels and the little things like beef jerky and Baby Oil and bubble bath, they’re all gone. The soundtrack of our time together, our short life together, has faded away as the last song on the album ends. All I can hear anymore is the smooth vibration of silence coming from the speakers. I feel like all I want to do is reach out and start it over again, but my hand won’t move to press the button.
And I can’t understand why.
I wipe the tear from my face and push my emotions down into my lungs and hold them there, taking a deep breath before I open the bathroom door.
I hear Andrew talking on the phone when I move through the dining room:
“Don’t f**k with me right now, Aidan. I don’t need this shit. Yeah, so what? Who are you to tell me what to do with my life? What? Give me a f**king break, bro; funerals aren’t mandatory. I personally would rather never go to another one again unless it’s my own. I don’t know why people have funerals anyway; just going to see someone you care about lying completely f**king lifeless in a goddamn box. I’d rather the last time I see someone it be of them alive. Don’t give me that line of shit, Aidan! You know it’s bullshit!”
I don’t want to keep standing around the corner like I’m eavesdropping, but it doesn’t exactly feel appropriate to walk in there on him yet, either.
I do it anyway. He’s getting way too irate and I just want to calm him down. The second he sees me, he drops the angry tone with Aidan and raises his back from the couch.
“Look, I gotta go,” he says. “Yes, I’ve already called Mom. Yes. Yeah, alright, I hear yah. Later.”
He shuts the phone off and drops it on the oak coffee table next to his propped bare foot.
I sit down next to him on the split cushion.
“Sorry about that,” he says, patting my thigh and then rubbing his palm across it.
“I’ll never hear the end of it from him.”
I move over and sit on his lap and he pulls me against his chest as if I’m what he needs to calm down. I drape my arms around his neck, interlocking my fingers around his shoulder. Leaning in, I kiss the side of his mouth.
“Camryn.” He gazes into my eyes. “Look, I don’t want this to be the end, either,” he says, as though he had been reading my mind while in the bathroom moments ago.
Suddenly, he lifts me up and makes me sit upright on his lap facing him with my legs on either side, my knees bent into the couch. He takes each of my hands into his and looks right at me with gravity and intensity in his eyes.
“What if we…” he looks away, contemplating his words deeply, though I wish I knew if it was because he wanted to say them right, or maybe not at all.
“What if we what?” I try to prompt him. I don’t want him to back out, no matter what it is; I want him to say it. I feel some revived sense of hope again and I can’t bear to let it slip away. “Andrew?”
His intense green eyes lock on mine as my voice snaps him back into the moment.
“What if we go away together?” he says and my heart starts pounding faster. “I don’t want to be here. And I’m not saying that because of my father or my brother—none of that has anything to do with how I feel. Right now. Here with you. How I’ve felt all this time, since the day I saw you sitting alone on that bus in Kansas.” He squeezes my hands tighter. “I know you lost your partner in crime, but…I want you to be mine. Maybe we should travel the world together, Camryn…I know I can’t replace your ex—”
Tears stream from my eyes.
He takes it the wrong way. His hands slip from mine and suddenly he can’t look at me anymore. I reach out and cup his face in my palms, forcing his tortured gaze.
“Andrew..,” I shake my head, tears rolling down my cheeks, “…it was always you,” I whisper harshly. “Even with Ian, I felt something was missing. I told you, that night in the field; I told you that…,” My voice trails. I smile and say, “You are my partner in crime. I’ve known that for a long time.”
I kiss his lips.
“I can’t think of anything in this world I’d rather do than to see it with you. We belong on the road. Together. It’s where I want to be.”
His eyes are watering, but he lets his bright smile push the tears away before they fall. And then he crushes his mouth against mine, both of us cupping each other’s faces in our hands. His kiss steals my breath away, but I just kiss him deeper, drinking down as much of his own breath as I can. And without breaking the kiss his hands fall away from my face and he wraps them tight around my body, lifting me with him into a stand.
“You have to meet my mom today,” he says, scanning my face, peering deeply into my eyes.
I sniffle back the rest of my tears and nod. “I would love to meet your mom.”
“Great,” he says, guiding me to slip away from his waist and stand on my own. “I’ll get a shower and we’ll go do some stuff around town for a while and head over to see her after she’s off work.”
“OK,” I say, never letting the smile fade from my face.
I couldn’t let it fade even if I tried.
He looks at me for a long moment like he doesn’t want to pry himself away long enough even to shower, his smiling eyes as radiant as I saw them that night after our performance at Old Point. His face reads all sorts of things that one who is overwhelmingly happy might want to say, but he says nothing.
He doesn’t need to.
Andrew finally leaves the room to shower and I go to check my phone messages. Mom finally called. She left a voice mail telling me all about her cruise of the Bahamas that ended up lasting eight days. It really sounds like she’s into this guy, Roger. I might actually have to swing by home long enough to check him out and do my own douchebag inspection of his personality just in case my mom has been blinded by something he has that overshadows the warning signs: more money than my dad, a body sexier than Andrew’s—well, that’s not likely—or a really big…not sure exactly how I would find something like that out unless I asked Mom directly. That’s not gonna happen.
My dad called, too. Said he’s going to Greece in a month on a business trip and asked if I want to go along with him. I’d love to, but sorry, Dad, if I go to Greece anytime in the next year or so, it’ll be with Andrew. I’ve always been Daddy’s Girl, but you have to grow up sometime and now…now I’m Andrew’s Girl.
I shake the dreamy thoughts from my brain and go back to checking messages. Natalie finally called instead of biting her tongue and sending a text message. I know by now she’s beyond going stir crazy wanting to know what I’ve been doing and who I’m with. I think maybe I’ve made her squirm long enough.
Hmmm…I could just give her a morsel.
A devious grin spreads across my face. A morsel might be worse torture, but it’s better than nothing at all.
When Andrew comes out of the shower, walking through the den with a damp towel around the back of his neck, I call him into the living room. He stands there, shirtless: the sexiest f**king thing I have ever seen in my life, with water dripping down his tanned abs. I want to lick it all off, but I refrain for Natalie’s sake.
“Baby, come here,” I say, curling my finger at him, “I want to send Natalie a picture of us. She’s been on my back since New Orleans about you, but I still haven’t told her anything, not even your name. She left me a voice mail.” I start punching letters on my phone.
He laughs, drying the back of his hair with the towel. “What did she say?”
“She’s about to explode, basically. I want to mess with her head.”
Andrew’s dimples deepen. “Hell yeah, I’m game.” He plops down on the couch and pulls me down with him.
I snap a couple of shots of us together: one with us just looking straight into the camera, one with him kissing me fully on the cheek and one with him eyeing the camera seductively with his tongue snaking out of the side of his mouth and licking my face.
“That one’s perfect,” I say excitedly about the third one. “She’s going to freak out. Prepare yourself; Texas might see Hurricane Natalie blow through here once she gets this pic.”
Andrew laughs and leaves me on the couch with my phone.
“I’ll be ready in a few more minutes,” he says as he slips out of the living room.
I load the photo into a message and type in:
Here we are, Nat, in Galveston, Texas :-)
And then I hit send. I hear Andrew moving around in the apartment. I start to get up to spy on him when in less than one minute after sending the photo, Natalie texts me back:
OMFG! R U sleeping with Kellan Lutz?!?!!!!?
I burst into laughter. Andrew comes back around the corner, unfortunately with a shirt on this time and he’s tucking the front behind his belt. And he’s already replaced the shorts with a pair of jeans.
“What, did she reply already?” He seems faintly amused.
“Yeah,” I say with laughter in my voice, “I knew it wouldn’t take long.”
More messages start popping up in fast succession as if a machine is on the other end:
Cam, OMFG, he is f**king RAWR! What the hell???
Call me. Like NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!
CAMNRYN MARTYBETH BENNETT! U better call me!!
I’m dring over here!!!
I mean DRING
DAMN AUTO-CORRECT! I f**king hate this phone.
DYING, not dring!!
I can’t stop grinning. Andrew comes around behind me and snatches the phone from my fingers.
He laughs scrolling through her mumbo-jumbo.
“Typo much?” he says. “Who the hell is Kellan Lutz?—is he ugly?” He looks at me with a twinge of fear in his eyes.
No…ummm, definitely not ugly.
“It’s just an actor,” I try to explain. “And no, he’s not. Don’t put too much thought into it; Natalie always, I mean always compares everyone to someone famous, usually with a serious over-exaggeration.” I take the phone from him while he’s halfway preoccupied by my explanation and set it on the couch. “She and I went to school with Shay Mitchell and Hayden Panettiere, Megan Fox was prom queen, Chris Hemsworth was prom king.” I make a clicking noise with my tongue. “And then there was Natalie’s worst enemy, a cheerleader who tried to steal Damon away from her in tenth grade; Natalie said she was the slutty version of Nina Dobrev—none of these people really looked like them, not really anyway. Natalie is just…odd.”