“Bed,” I say, walking down the hallway like a zombie.

“Bed,” Aiden agrees, following behind me, still holding my hand.

I don’t even bother turning on the lights, just wait for Aiden to follow me in and turn to face him. There’s light leaking in from the city outside. Just enough for me to see his chiseled face and shadow of stubble on his jaw. And of course, his blue-green eyes catch that light and glint with mischief.

“This was the best night I’ve had since… well, a very long time.”

Aiden places his hands on my hips and bumps his forehead to mine. “Agreed. I feel good about it now, Kali.”

He doesn’t say it specifically, but he doesn’t need to. He feels like he’s gotten Kyle’s approval. “I do too,” I tell him back. “I really do.”

I place my hands on his face, leaning up on my tiptoes to kiss him on the mouth. He kisses me back. Softly at first. A sweet kiss. Tender and loving. One that says this isn’t about kissing, or sex, or teenage lust. It’s about love, and friendship, and being meant for each other.

But of course, there’s desire in there too. So much desire inside me for this man. He’s my one. He’s always been my one. And just because we grew apart for a while doesn’t mean any of the feelings I’ve had for him over the years changed.

And if they did change, they only grew stronger. It’s sad that it took the death of my brother to realize this, but there’s still time.

I break away from our kiss and look up into his eyes. “There’s still time,” I tell him.

And because he knows me—and has always known me—he understands. “Plenty of time, pretty thing.”

His hands slide up my arms, sending chills through my body, and then tug down on my off-the-shoulder top until I slide my arms out and it’s bunched up at my waist.

“Nice shirt.” He chuckles.

“I wore it just for you,” I say. Kidding and serious in the same breath.

His hands go to my breasts, squeezing them through the cups of my strapless bra, and then he tugs that down to my waist too and my upper half is bare.

I reach for the hem of his t-shirt and he helps me lift it over his head. In the darkness I can see the writing all over his body.

“One day I’m gonna read all this,” I say, tracing some letters with my fingertip. “I’m gonna read it so many times I’ll have it all memorized.”

“Or maybe I’ll read it to you,” he says, unbuttoning my jeans and pulling down the zipper. “One day, Kali Anderson, I’m gonna make you my wife. And on that night we take those vows I will tell you all the little things you’ve missed that are written on my body. But you won’t be sad for missing them. You’ll be happy for me, like I am for you, that we grew up, then apart, and came back together again.”

My heart thumps in my chest at his words. His proposal that isn’t quite a proposal, but still feels like one. At the range of emotion that’s coursed through my body since we found each other again. At the laughter, and the tears, and the heartache that will one day become something sweet.

He bends down and starts taking off my sneakers. He places them neatly off to the side and reaches for the waist of my jeans, easing them carefully over my hips and dragging them down my legs until I step out. He folds them and places them on top of the shoes. Then without standing up, he unhooks my bra and slides it down my legs with my shirt. Again, artfully folding them up and placing them on top of my jeans. Like this care he’s taking with my clothes is a metaphor for how he’ll take care of me in the future.

And none of it seems trite, or planned, or fake.

He’s just not that kind of man.

When that’s done he leans forward, kissing his way up my belly as he stands up again. He doesn’t tell me to undress him. Just begins taking off the rest of his clothes. He folds them and places then on top of mine.

And we stand there in the hazy city light leaking in from outside, and really look at each other. Maybe for the first time ever.

Bare, naked, and unashamed.

“God, I love you,” he says, reaching for me. His hands find my hips and his mouth finds my lips, and then we’re kissing again.

Open mouth. Twisting tongues. But still a slow, careful kind of kiss. A passionate kiss that says, No. This is not typical, or ordinary, or without meaning.

It says… This is special. We are special.

He takes half a step forward, eliminating any distance between us. Until our bodies touch. My breasts to his chest. His hips to mine. He’s hard, but that’s not even one of the first five things on my mind right now.

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