I’m standing next to the window with Cory when Drake walks over with a bottle of water in his hand. “What do you guys know about that Emery girl?” he asks, not bothering with hellos.
Cory shrugs, but I bite. “She’s Kate’s roommate. I don’t know too much about her except for she studies all the time and doesn’t seem to like me.”
“Nerd girl’s pretty hot,” Cory adds, bringing his beer can to his lips.
“She drives me insane,” Drake says as we all stand and watch them come toward us. “Don’t tell her I said that by the way.”
Kate stands beside me, wrapping her arm around my back while Rachel does the same to Cory. The air is thick—filled with tension. I’m going to kill Cory for inviting him.
“Hey, Emery, if you need somewhere to rest your arm, you got me,” Drake says, developing a wicked grin across his face.
“I’ll keep my hands to myself.”
“The offer stands all night. Let me know if you change your mind.”
We all stand around gossiping for a few minutes before Cory and Rachel disappear, followed by Emery, and then Drake. I know Cory took his girl into the bedroom because he had that look in his eyes, but I have no idea what happened to the other two.
“I’m going to go use the bathroom,” Kate says as she stands on her tiptoes to kiss my cheek.
Grabbing her wrist, I stop her. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” She winks, and I loosen my hold.
I admire the way the dress fits around her ass as she walks away. One of the best things about Kate is she has no idea how sexy she is … it just makes it that much better.
As I wait for her to return, I notice a few more people have left, leaving one small group playing a drinking game at the table and another chatting as they sit in the living area. Our apartment is small, and it really shows when you pack any number of people into it.
When Kate doesn’t immediately come back, I head down the hallway to find her. The bathroom door is still closed, and light floods from underneath it. I knock lightly. “Kate.”
“Yeah?” she answers, sounding tired.
“Can I come in?”
“Just a second.”
I listen for the lock to click and then slowly turn the knob. Kate sits with her back against the tub, legs folded in front of her.
“What are you doing in here?” I ask, sitting beside her.
“I’m just tired and needed a little escape.”
“I would have escaped with you.”
“I know,” she says, biting down on her lower lip. “Can I ask you my one question for today?”
“Shoot,” I reply, wrapping my hand around hers.
“If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?”
I stare at her curiously. She just got here so I’m hoping she’s not thinking about moving already. It’s not a question I really even have to think about, though. “The lake.”
“Seriously?” Her eyebrow rises as she stares at me like I’m someone she doesn’t even know.
“Yes, seriously. It holds so many memories, and it feels like I’m supposed to be there. It’s my favorite place behind wherever you are.”
“You always know what to say.”
“Is it helping?” I ask, sweeping away a strand of hair that fell in front of her eyes.
“You know it is,” she whispers.
“Now it’s my turn for a question. Why don’t you tell me why you were really sitting in this bathroom?”
She looks up at the ceiling then back at me. “I was afraid, since the rest of our group left, you were going to ask me to play cards or something, and I don’t know those people. It was making me nervous.”
I frame her face in my hands, making it difficult for her to look anywhere but at me. “If I ever ask you to do something you don’t feel comfortable doing, just say no. It’s that easy.”
“I think I know that deep down, but I’m not programmed that way.”
“We’ll get you there.”
“I think I’m going to go home. I’m tired from these first couple weeks of class,” she says, leaning into my touch.
“I’ll take you. It’s late, and I would just feel better—”
“You don’t have to,” she says as she stands.
“I want to.”
She nods, placing her small hand in mine. As we make our way outside, I notice it’s raining and offer to go get my truck so she doesn’t have to walk through it.
I don’t waste any time getting in my truck and putting it into gear to retrieve my girl. It’s completely dark with only a few streetlights highlighting the sidewalks and parking lots. I don’t have to wait long before I see the familiar auburn curls. The smile that lights up her face assures me that she’s okay.
“Hey,” she says as she hops up into my truck.
Not wasting a second, I close the space between us and grab her face in my hands. I kiss her like I haven’t seen her in months, using my tongue to press through the seam of her lips, tasting her slowly. There isn’t one bit of her mouth that I leave unexplored.
By the time I pull away and rest my forehead against hers, we’re both having trouble catching our breaths. “What was that for?” she whispers.
Her heart is beating so hard that I swear I can hear it. “That was I missed you,” I say, kissing her one more time before moving back into the driver’s seat.
“You saw me just two minutes ago.”
“That was long enough to miss you.”
As I drive to the dorm, I see her touch her lips with her fingertips out of the corner of my eye. She catches me about the fourth time I look at her, and her cheeks turn pink. “What?” she asks, crossing her arms over her chest.
“I like watching what my kisses do to you.”
If she thinks I didn’t see how she rolls her eyes as she turns her attention out the passenger side window, she’s wrong. I feel myself relaxing. This isn’t the same Kate I knew back in Carrington.
Three Months Later – December 2012
I MANAGED TO AVOID PARTIES my first three months of college, but now that the semester is over, it doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to avoid them much longer. I’ve come a long way, and this is another step toward normalcy. Most of all, I think I’m ready to do it.
Every weekend there are huge parties on and off campus, and I think it’s safe to say that Cory and Rachel haven’t missed a single one. They asked us to come with for the first few weeks and then gave up when we turned them down every time. This week they couldn’t stop talking about the huge end-of-semester party at the campus’s largest frat house. When they asked us to go, Beau looked over at me, and I couldn’t say no. I’m not going to hold him—or myself for that matter—back anymore. Beau seems to think that attending a college party is something I should try at least once in my life. I hope he’s not wrong—he rarely is.
I pull on a pair of jeans and a fitted black turtleneck sweater before spending some time adding a few loose curls to my hair. By the time I hear a knock at the door, I’m ready to go. I may even be a little excited about it, if I’m being honest with myself.
I haven’t seen Beau since earlier this afternoon, and that’s way too long for me. As soon as the door is wide open, I jump right into his arms.
“Did you miss me?” he asks, his lips brushing against my hair.
“Every time I’m not with you, I miss you.”
“I’m here now.”
He wraps his arms around my lower back and pulls me tightly against his body. I melt into him, slowly moving my lips up his throat until they reach his mouth. His hands run up my back as he drags my bottom lip between his teeth. He doesn’t kiss me like it’s our first kiss or our last … he kisses me like I’m the air he needs to breathe. And when he does, it makes me feel alive. From my head to my toes, I feel him.
His fingers tangle in my hair as his tongue slips past my lips. I’m so caught up in him that it doesn’t register that my back is against the wall. It’s the only thing holding me up because my knees are too weak to do the job, especially when his thumbs run against the tender skin below my ears. He knows what drives me crazy, but he always moves slowly. Maybe he’s afraid I’m still breakable, or I’ll run if he moves too fast.
It’s not like that anymore. I’m not a fragile crystal dangling from a thin chain. I’m strong now—maybe stronger than I ever was before. My legs part, allowing him to step closer, and instead of feeling scared, I feel safe. The amount of trust I have in him allows him to be my comfort and security. He’s also the guy who can ignite a fire inside me with one simple touch.
He suddenly moves back just enough to break our connection but leans in for one more soft, sweet kiss. “I’d love to continue this. But we shouldn’t. Not tonight.”
“Yeah?” he asks, running his thumb across my cheekbone.
“I’m ready. I mean, whenever you’re ready, I’m ready,” I say quietly, trying to keep my eyes focused on his.
“Let’s get out of here then,” he says, grabbing my hand in his. He starts to pull me out the door, but I stop him by keeping my feet in place.
“Aren’t you coming?” he asks, looking over his shoulder at me.
“I didn’t mean I was ready for the party. I mean, I am ready for the party, but I was talking about you and me doing … more.”
His eyes darken as he lets go of my hand and comes to stand in front of me, gripping my hips. “There is nothing I’d want more than to have those legs of yours wrapped around me all night.” He leans his forehead against mine. “I want to give you a taste of what you have to look forward to when we make love for the first time. The first time with the girl who’s going to be my last is sure as f**k not going to happen in this dorm room,” he says, smiling down at me.