Taking a deep breath, I try my hardest to focus on her eyes and not what she’s doing to the rest of my body. “I’m sorry for being a dick last night.”
“Are you apologizing to me, Beau Bennett?” she asks, tracing the lines of my face with her fingertips.
“I guess I am,” I reply, pressing a kiss to her lips. “Plus, I’ve heard that make up kisses are f**king amazing.”
“Can I ask you a question?”
“I think you’re allowed one today.” I wink, letting her know I’m okay with playing the little game she proposed last night. It wasn’t so much the game that bothered me; it was the fact that she had done something similar with Asher. But I can’t think about that because I wouldn’t be here in this bed right now with her leg wrapped around mine if she didn’t want me. I wouldn’t be touching her smooth skin and staring at her pink lips.
“When did you realize you were falling in love with me?” she asks. It’s the way she stares at me, biting down on her lower lip that makes me hold back from answering. It’s a view I could stare at forever.
“Do you remember when my cousin, Garrett, came to stay with me while his parents were in Europe? I think it was the summer between seventh and eighth grade.”
She nods and rests her cheek on my chest, allowing me to comb my fingers through her wild hair.
“You decided to cut a pair of your old jeans into shorts. Do you remember that?”
She laughs. “You mean the ones I cut a little too short and maybe a little uneven?”
“Those were the ones,” I reply, laughing right along with her. “Anyway, you came out of your house in them while Garrett and I were throwing the football in my backyard, and he couldn’t take his eyes off you. I didn’t realize why I was so pissed at that moment, but after, I had time to process it, and I decided it was jealousy.”
“You were jealous because Garrett was looking at me? Beau, he’s the most arrogant idiot I’ve ever met.”
“I’m hurt. I thought that title belonged to me,” I tease. I know exactly what she’s talking about. Garrett thinks that because he’s from Chicago, he’s superior to everyone else. No one informed him that there’s a certain type of arrogance that women like and a certain kind that doesn’t go over well. He picked the wrong f**king one.
She looks up at me, resting her chin on top of the hand she has pressed to my chest. “So you fell in love with me because Garrett was checking out my legs?”
Staring at her, I brush my thumb over her lower lip. “No, I fell in love with you long before that, but it didn’t click until that moment. I always thought I loved you because you were my friend but, somewhere along the way, things changed. I didn’t want him or anyone else to look at you like that.”
“That’s the beautiful thing about love … it’s unintentional, and it can happen when we least expect it,” she says, kissing my thumb.
“I definitely didn’t expect it at thirteen,” I reply, sliding my hand from her hair to her back. “Anyway, it became my mission to talk every guy out of asking you out.”
“I don’t get why you didn’t just ask me out.”
Shaking my head, I say, “Love is so f**king scary when you’re a teenager. I was afraid that I would permanently ruin us before we even made it out of high school. Then, senior year, I knew you were slipping away so I asked you to prom … I was finally ready, but it turned out I waited too long.”
“We’re here now,” she whispers as she lays her cheek back down on my chest.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Of course,” she replies, tracing small circles on my stomach.
“What made you decide to give us a chance?”
“After Asher died, I needed some time to heal. I started seeing a therapist, and I did a lot of thinking. As the pieces of my heart came back together, I started thinking about you more and more. At first, I felt guilty because I thought I should still be mourning.” Her finger stops and she inhales a deep breath. “I was still fighting the emotional battle inside when you left for school, but I spent the next few weeks soul searching. I wanted to make sure I loved you for the right reasons, because neither of us can afford another broken heart. With clarity, I saw how strong our love is, and every day I wanted you more and more.”
“I’m glad you’re here.”
“Me too.” She smiles as she kisses my chest.
“What do you want to do today? Do you want to go to the football game?”
“No, I want to stay just like this.” Her voice is tired, and her eyes drift closed.
“Whatever you want, beautiful.”
The last few weeks have been going so freaking smooth for Kate and me. There hasn’t been one day where we haven’t spent the evening together—eating dinner and studying. We spend our entire weekends watching movies, listening to music, and just talking. I’ve seen her beautiful face every single day. It’s the us we used to be before everything came between us … but yet so much better. It’s in these regular couple moments where I think it’s better that it took us this long to be together like this; we appreciate each other so much more.
Tonight, she’s coming over to my apartment for a small get-together that Cory and I are having. I’m leery about this because Kate and I have encased ourselves in a perfect little bubble, and we haven’t let many people near. We’ve been invited to some campus parties, but she’s not ready for those yet. I get it, though. The last time she went to one, it ended up being one of the worst f**king nights of her life.
“Dude, I thought you were going to clean this place up,” I shout, throwing my keys on the end table next to the couch. I had class this afternoon, and I was expecting Cory to have a few things done by the time I got back.
“We’ve got lots of time. Why don’t we call the girls and have them come clean it for us?” Cory asks, turning his attention away from the television.
“I’m surprised you even have a girlfriend when you talk like that,” I say, running my fingers through my hair. The way I treat Kate and the way he treats Rachel is night and day. Maybe it’s because they’ve been together a lot longer, but sometimes I wish she had the balls to stand up to him.
“Look at me. I’m a catch, and Rachel knows it. I don’t have to do that flowers and cuddles shit,” he says, resting his arms on the back of the couch.
“She’ll wake up some day and realize she can do better,” I snap, working quickly to clean the beer and soda cans off the kitchen counter. I know we don’t have the messiest bachelor pad, but it’s certainly seen better days.
Hearing the television turn off, I peek around the corner and spot Cory picking empty cans up from the living area. Maybe the way to get him to clean is to piss him off a little bit.
“When’s everyone getting here?” The guy is a few inches taller than me and built like a swimmer—broader around the shoulders. His dark brown hair is kept much shorter than mine but matches his eyes. I guess girls would consider him good-looking, but he’s not my type. He lacks boobs and common sense.
“In a couple hours,” I reply, soaking a few dirty dishes in the sink.
He makes his way down the hall to his bedroom. Great. He’s going to make me take care of all this myself. Typical Cory.
We were roommates last year in the dorm, and even though the guy gets on my lasting f**king nerve, he can be cool, too. I have to keep reminding myself of that when he gets like this.
A couple hours later, the apartment is as clean as I’m going to get it, and I even have time to shower, throwing on a fresh pair of jeans and t-shirt. When the doorbell rings, it’s either Kate or Rachel. Please be Kate.
And there she is, standing in front of me in a little black dress that hits her mid-thigh. Those legs. A grin spreads across my face as I grab her around the waist and pull her into me. “You look gorgeous.”
“You don’t look too bad yourself.”
Burying my face in the crook of her neck, I inhale her sweet perfume. I hope she doesn’t expect me to keep my hands to myself tonight, because that’s going to be impossible.
“Is anyone else here yet?” she asks when I finally step back.
“Just you, me, and Cory. Rachel should be here soon.”
Cory chooses that moment to come out of his bedroom, looking like he’s spent the last couple hours sleeping. As he yawns, he says, “ I invited Drake. He didn’t have anything going tonight.”
“Drake Chambers?” Kate asks suddenly. Why would she care about Drake Chambers?
Cory’s eyes find her for the first time. “Damn, Kate, you look good, and yes, Drake Chambers.”
“How do you know Drake?” I ask her, trying to keep my tone even.
“He’s the quarterback, everyone knows him, and I have a class with him. That’s not really the problem, though. I invited Emery, and she can’t stand him. Actually they can’t stand each other.”
“Well, I think the night just got better.” Cory laughs, grabbing a cold beer from the fridge.
Kate stays by my side as people start to arrive. I promised her I would only invite twenty people or so to keep it manageable. She still doesn’t do well in crowds of people, and this is my way of easing her into it.
“How are you doing?” I ask as I close the door after letting in even more people.
“As long as I have you, I’m fine.” She smiles up at me, and I lean in to kiss her lips.
“Did I tell you how hot you look tonight?”
“Only about ten times,” she says, returning my kiss.
We mingle with the crowd, joking and having a good time with the other couples who showed up. After an hour or so, Emery finally arrives, and Kate disappears to talk to her, followed by Rachel. I have to admit that it’s nice to see her having a good time with her friends. The three of them couldn’t be more different but they seem to get along great.