She loves me.

I’m unable to move as I hover over her, listening to her breathe. It’s a moment I want burned into my memory so that I can recall every single detail for the rest of my life. I take in her scent of lavender, imprinting her into my soul. There’s a part of my mind that worries she’s giving in only because she thought I’d cast her aside, but that doubt is quickly dashed. It’s only my insecurities that are trying to push through, and I ignore them. I knew that if I could get her to fall in love with me, then nothing else would matter. And so it shall be. I will make this the way it’s supposed to be and forget about the part of me that has doubt. The bigger part knows that she’s finally being honest with herself. I’ve known for a long time she felt the same way I did. She’s just been slower at getting to the point than I have.

“I love you, Paige.” Leaning down, I rub my nose against hers and close my eyes. It scared the shit out of me when I thought she might run tonight, slip away from me and out of my grasp. The thought was unbearable. I know I haven’t been with her for years, but I always had eyes on her. Knew where she was and what she was doing. If I lost that, I think I might go insane.

She moves her hands to my neck, and then our lips connect. It’s soft and tentative at first, as if she’s exploring me for the first time, making sure I’m really here, still a little unsure that I want her. But there’s a passion under the surface that’s beginning to create waves. A heat churning between us that I can feel building.

Her lips are full against mine, and when I open my mouth, I feel her tongue sweep inside. She’s trying to take charge, but neither of us really wants that. She likes when I’m in control, even if she doesn’t admit it. But I feel the need in her kiss, and I know what she’s after. She’s trying to force me into what she wants, but she should know by now that it doesn’t work that way. I know what she needs. I set the pace for us because I want this to be perfect for her. I want everything to always be perfect for her.

I reach behind my neck and take her wrists, gently pulling them away. I press her hands above her head, softly but firmly.

“Not tonight, kitten,” I whisper, staring into her gorgeous blue eyes. Fighting myself. I’ve wanted her for so long, and even with all the tempting things she’s done to turn me on and try to get me to take her, her “I love you” was the fucking sexiest thing she’s ever done for me.

I sense an intensity inside her that matches my own, but I don’t want her like this. I don’t want our first time to happen after I caught her sneaking around and made me spill her darkest secrets. I want it to be special and perfect, like she deserves.

“Don’t make me wait any longer. Please, Ryan, haven’t we danced around this long enough? I’ve given you what you wanted. Make love to me.”

I close my eyes, hating to deny her anything. “I want it to be special. You deserve candles and rose petals. Our first time will be with us the rest of our lives. It will be the memory that sticks with us when we’re old and gray and sharing Jell-O.” She smiles at me, and there couldn’t possibly be a more beautiful woman on this earth. “We’re going to tell our grandchildren one day about how we fell in love, and I want our whole story to be exactly what you deserve.”

She wiggles one wrist free and brings her hand up to my cheek. “Everything about us is messy. The way we met, the way we fell in love.” She smiles like she surprised herself in saying that so easily. “The way I try to push you away when we both know all I want is to be in your arms. I’ve never had anything in my life as perfect as you, as perfect as this. Make love to me.”

I drop my head to her chest, resting my forehead there. Breathing in her smell, I feel her other hand come free of my grip and dance across my back. She tugs at my dress shirt, pulling it from my pants and up my spin. She tugs it up to my shoulders, and I reluctantly let her take it off me. She discards it, and then I look down as she grips the hem of her own shirt. She pulls it off her body in one fluid motion and wiggles beneath me to unclasp her bra. She takes it off and throws it to the side with our shirts, and I let out a breath. She’s naked from the waist up, and it takes everything in me not to look down at her breasts. I want to so badly, but if I do I might lose control.