I run a hand over her hip while the other trails a path from her jaw to her neck. Her delicate skin, softer than the petals of a rose, has me entranced. I can’t get enough of her, but I don’t want to rush it. I know I can’t.
With more willpower than I ever thought I possessed, I break the kiss and press my forehead to hers. “Better. It was better than I remembered.”
“I love you, Eli,” she says, and I pull back to see her big blue eyes so bright and happy.
“I knew it all along,” I tease, and give her another soft kiss. “But we have to be careful, sunshine.”
“It’s okay, I’m on the pill,” she says, and bites her lip.
“Maggie, that’s not what I meant.” I clench my eyes shut thinking about the fact that she’s already on the pill, or that she wants to have sex. Jesus. I need a second to catch my breath. “You’re seventeen. I love you so much, but there’s only so much we can do right now. And I want to wait until your birthday.”
“But—” She starts to protest, but I place my finger over her lips.
“Please, sunshine. This means a lot to me. I care about the Major, and as soon as he comes back I want to talk to him about this and let him know my intentions.”
The reminder of our situation at home makes her sit up a little straighter in my lap.
“Okay,” she answers. “I get it. Maybe this isn’t the best time to take that step.”
“I wanted to wait until your birthday to come back. But now that I’m here, I won’t deny my feelings for you. We’ve got plenty of time to figure out us. I’m not going anywhere.”
“You promise me.” She narrows her eyes on me, and I smile as I rub her jaw.
“I promise you with all that I have. I’ll never leave you again. You’re my heart, Maggie. Leaving it behind was absolute hell. And I’ll never do it again.”
I take her lips in another kiss, and she holds on to me fiercely. I can feel her love pour through me, and it’s the sweetest, most powerful thing I’ve ever felt. Her body starts to move on top of my lap, and my aching cock begs for more. He wants friction of any kind, and I’m sure I could get off from dry-humping her in my truck. But we have to wait. As much as I want her and want to feel her against me, I have to put both hands on her hips and hold her still.
“Not too far, sunshine. Just kissing.”
“But I’m seventeen.” She nearly pouts as I take her off my lap and put her in the passenger seat.
“Right now, I’m your legal guardian, and you’re underage. For the sake of the law, let’s keep it to kissing.”
“Fine. But I want lots of them,” she says, smiling now.
I give her another kiss as I buckle her in, and it seems to ease some of the sting. We take off toward home, and I feel a sense of peace come over us. It’s not completely covering us because there’s a piece of home that’s missing. But I know in my soul Major will be back soon.
“What are you doing, sunshine?” Eli whispers into the room.
I should’ve known he’d wake up. I think he knows where I am, even in his sleep. It’s hard to stay away from him. I feel like there’s an invisible thread that connects us, and when I’m away from him for too long, it starts to pull me back. An ache deep inside of me blooms.
“I’m not under the covers, and it’s not like we can do anything. We’re in the freaking living room. Alice could walk in at any moment.”
I roll to my side to look at him. He’s on the fold-out bed in the living room. This is the first time he’s ever pulled it out. Normally he sleeps on the couch and doesn’t bother with having a bigger bed. How could I resist? I just need to lie here with him. He makes me feel at peace. Safe—something I have to have right now.
He starts to get up. “Please, just for a minute. I had a bad dream,” I admit. “I’ll stay on my side, I promise.”
Eli has been adamant about how far we can go. Never more than kisses or a hug. He won’t even really cuddle. He says it’s too tempting. I never thought of myself as a temptress, but Eli makes it sound like I’m a siren meant to drive him insane.
“About your dad?” His voice goes soft, and I can hear the edge of his own pain.
Two weeks and nothing. They found where his signal went off, but when they got there—wherever there was—he was gone. That’s the last update we’d gotten. Not that we hadn’t tried to get one every day.
Eli grabs me, pulling me into his arms and shocking me a little. “He’s coming back. I promise.” He places a kiss on top of my head. I melt into him, needing his comfort. He’s all I have to lean on right now.
“Something is wrong with Alice.” I say the same thing I’ve been saying for weeks. She’s pushed everyone away. “She not even talking to Sam now, either.”
Eli tenses a little at the mention of Sam’s name.
“For the last year while you were gone, it’s been Alice, Sam and I. We do everything together.” I can tell he still doesn’t like that, either. It’s silly because Eli’s the only person I’ve kissed, but I do enjoy his jealousy over me. Something about it is empowering.
“Sam had a thing for Alice, not me.” I nudge him with my elbow. He fakes a sound of pain, like anything could dent all that muscle he has. “But it didn’t work out. We were only ever friends. They helped me when I was really sad about you being gone.”