Page 1 of After the Rain

Chapter 1

The Day Kate Left For College – September 2012

I’VE BEEN MISSING KATE like mad since I left for school. Actually, who the f**k am I kidding? I always miss Kate. Since the day I first saw her on the tire swing, there hasn’t been a single day that I haven’t thought about her. There hasn’t been one day I didn’t hope I’d see her or hear her voice. Every minute I’m not with her, I think about her. People walk in and out of our lives all the time, but there are very few who we hold onto long after they’re gone. They’re the ones who impact our lives and help determine who we become. Kate’s that and more for me.

The hardest f**king part is I don’t know if she’ll ever love me the way I do her. It’s not going to change the way I feel about her, though. She’s owned my heart for a long time, and even if our time never comes, her mark is forever.

Turning around, I let the hot water hit my face one more time before shutting off the shower. I miss the friendship Kate and I had, but I can’t wait forever. I only have one life, and I need to start living it in a way that won’t leave me full of regret years from now. I can’t keep looking back at missed opportunities.

There was a girl I met the other day while standing in line at the campus coffee shop. She noticed my White Sox t-shirt and started up a conversation about baseball. As she went on and on, I wondered how a guy could go wrong with a girl who knows the name of every single baseman? Worst-case scenario we talk about sports all night, I take her back home, and never call again. It would be a shitty thing to do, but I’m not one to play pretend.

I’m resigned to the fact that Kate may never be mine, but that’s also admitting to myself that I’ll never be with the one girl who truly matters. Coffee shop girl might help me forget for a short time, but every minute I’m with her, I’ll be comparing her to Kate. The way she looks, the way she smells, the way she talks or bites her lip … no matter how she does it, Kate does it better.

I dated a couple of girls last year, but no one held my interest beyond a few weeks. It’s hard to be happy with a girl when you’re constantly comparing her to someone else. It’s not fair to her, and it’s not healthy for me. Maybe it will be different someday… maybe.

I pull on a pair of shorts and comb my fingers through my damp hair. I should probably get a haircut, but I haven’t had time, and I really don’t care.

“Beau!” I hear Rachel yell from down the hall. “You might want to hurry.”

“Why?” I shout back, opening the door a crack.

As soon as she comes into view, I see the smile highlighting her face. She’s gorgeous, but she’s also my roommate, Cory’s, girl. And even if she wasn’t, she’s not Kate.

“It’s Kate,” Rachel says, startling me.

“What about her?” I ask, suddenly feeling frantic as I push the door open and walk toward her. Just hearing Kate’s name gets my adrenaline pumping.

“She’s here … I mean, she was here.”

“When?” I ask, standing less than a foot in front of her. I watch the smile fall from her face—she knows I’m more than serious.

“Just a minute ago. I bet if you run, you can catch her.”

Without replying, I run out the door of our apartment and down the hall. I don’t care that my skin is still wet—soaking through my shorts—or that I have water running off my hair. Kate wouldn’t come here if she didn’t have a good reason. Everything that girl does is with purpose, even if I can’t always figure it out.

I haven’t seen her since the day she told me her secret. To hear what happened to her the one night I wasn’t there to protect her all but killed me. When you love someone, you want to be there. If I had been, it wouldn’t have happened.

I take responsibility for that.

As soon as I open the door to walk outside, I see her with her back to me. Her shoulders are slumped slightly forward, and she isn’t walking very fast. It’s hard to keep a clear mind as I watch her. If someone had told me when I woke up this morning that Kate Alexander was coming here, I wouldn’t have believed them.

As she steps onto the sidewalk, I can’t wait any longer, so I start running toward her.

“Kate! Wait!” I yell, stopping her in place.

She doesn’t turn around, and it scares the living shit out of me. Why would she come here and leave before even speaking to me? When I finally catch up to her, I want to touch her to make sure this isn’t all a dream, but something inside of me holds me back.

“Look at me,” I whisper, stepping so close I can feel the heat coming off her back.

“I can’t. I need to go,” she says. Her voice is weak, and I can tell she’s close to tears. I hate when she gets like this. I’ve seen her this way far too often over the last couple years, and there’s nothing I won’t do to never have to see her like this again.

I wrap my arm around her and press my hand to her stomach in an attempt to comfort her—and maybe keep her from running away.

“Why did you come if you aren’t going to stay?” I ask, my lips just a few inches from her ear.

“Beau, please,” she cries, leaning her head back against my shoulder.

“Talk to me,” I demand, pulling her even closer.

Silence radiates between us for too long before she starts to speak again. “I signed up for some classes.”

“Why are you crying?” I ask, walking around her to get a look into her beautiful green eyes. Water is rolling down my forehead and into my eyes, but it doesn’t matter right now.

She matters.

Her mouth opens and closes a few times before I hear anything. “I came for you.”

It’s something I’ve been waiting to hear for a very long time. Something I wanted to hear before I probably even knew I wanted to hear it.

“Then why didn’t you stay?”

Tears roll down her face, and I watch as she wipes them away with the back of her hand. I want to pull her into my arms, but first I need to know what’s going on in that head of hers. “When your girlfriend answered the door, I realized I was too late. I didn’t need to hear you say it.”

Fuck. Rachel. She’s so off about that. But I guess I’d probably think the same thing if some guy answered Kate’s door.

I place my finger under her chin to draw her attention to me. “Open your eyes.”

Her eyes remain closed, and I can’t freaking take it anymore. “Kate, I’m only going to ask you one more time. Open. Your. Eyes. Please.”

She slowly opens them, causing the corner of my mouth to turn up. I missed out on so much time with her because of what Drew did. I’m not going to let him take one more moment.

I realized, after seeing her with Asher, that I had approached everything the wrong way. I pushed her when what she really needed was for someone to hold her hand. Watching them together almost ruined me, but he saved her when I couldn’t. I can’t hate him—not after that.

My lips are so close to hers, I could kiss her if I wanted. God, do I want it. “You got it all wrong, beautiful.”

“What?” she asks, her brows furrowing.

“Rachel is my roommate’s girlfriend,” I reply, unable to keep my smile from widening.

She shakes her head, seeming to contemplate my words. ”I don’t get it. She was looking at me like—”

“She was looking at you like that because she knows you’re my Kate. Everyone in that apartment, or who has ever been in that apartment, knows who you are.”

“She’s not—”

“No,” I say, shaking my head slowly and cupping her face in my hands. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

I brush my lips against hers, feeling warmth in my chest. When I pull back, I run my thumb across her lower lip, feeling her breath against my skin.

“I’m here,” she whispers, leaning into my touch.

“That’s good because I can’t wait any longer,” I say, lifting her up into my arms. I press my lips against hers again, letting them linger a little longer this time.

I’ve been waiting for this. I’ve been waiting to have her in my arms. I’ve been waiting to have her beautiful green eyes look at me like I look at her. I’ve been waiting for this girl to be mine.

“How long are you here for?” I ask, feeling a bit hopeful that I might get to spend the day with her.

Her smile is brighter than I’ve seen it in a long time as she works her bottom lip between her teeth. “How long do you want me to stay?”

I grab her hands in mine, running my thumb over her knuckles. “Can you stay with me today? I can show you around, and maybe we can catch a movie for something.”

“Did you not hear a word I said earlier? I go to school here now.”

I think my heart just stopped beating for a few seconds. She’s not going to want to know the consequences if she’s playing me; my emotions really can’t take any more.

“Are you serious?”

“As of tomorrow, I’m a student at the University of Iowa.” She smiles nervously.

“And what would you have done if I had moved on?” I tease, pressing a few strands of her hair between my fingers.

Her smile falters for just a second before she recovers. “I guess I’d start college out single. I’d concentrate on my studies, and maybe someday I’d run into a nice guy who I could spend my time with.”

I cover her h*ps with my hands and pull her to me again. Her eyes lock on my lips as I lean in. “You have all the nice guy you need right in front of you.” This time when I kiss her, I make sure she knows that she belongs to me and I belong to her. I want to spend the rest of my life proving that I’m the guy for her— I always have been. “There’s no one I’d rather be with. There never has been.”

“Beau,” she whispers.

I place my finger over her lips. “Let’s go inside. I can formally introduce you to Rachel, and maybe Cory will be back soon.”

Tags: Lisa De Jong Rain Young Adult