“What are you talking about?” I ask, combing my fingers over his buzzed hair while I wait for my heart to stop pounding out of my chest.
He turns his face into my neck and kisses the spot under my ear like he can’t keep his lips off me. “I wanted to get to know you.” His tongue slicks over my skin and makes me hold him tighter. “I just don’t think I can keep my hands off you anymore.”
“So don’t,” I say, tilting my head back to give him better access to my neck. He kisses a trail lower and exploits the spot above my collar bone. My back arches, and he returns the pressure. “I missed you,” I breathe.
Joel pulls away to study me. He searches my eyes and then my lips like he’s not sure where the words came from or if I’m the person who said them. I start to feel self-conscious—like I’ve said too much with three quiet little words—but then he kisses me again and makes all my worries disappear. He kisses me until I’m completely, utterly lost.
“We need to get to the bus,” he says, and I nip at his moving lips.
He sets me on my feet, and the whole way to the bus, he keeps turning around to kiss me and touch me and devour me with half-lidded eyes. By the time we actually get there, my bra is unclasped, the button of his shorts is undone, and my lips are tingling from his unforgiving kisses. On the bus, we fall onto the bench seat, and Joel settles between my legs. I’m moaning against his mouth when his lips drop to my neck. The leather bench is sticking to every inch of my exposed skin, and his hand pushes under my shirt, and he’s so heavy—God he’s so heavy—and the air is too thin, and my lungs are too thick, and I can’t breathe, oh my God, I can’t breathe—I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe!
“Dee?” Joel asks, his voice muffled by the blood surging in my ears, threatening to make my vision go black. He yanks me into a sitting position, and I bend over while sucking in useless breaths that go straight to my head instead of my lungs.
“Breathe,” he coaches, increasing the pressure of his hand on my back so I’ll bend even lower and place my head between my knees.
Air enters me in a gasp and leaves in a sob. Tears sting my already watery eyes, and I stay bent over just so Joel won’t see them.
“Are you okay?” he asks me, quietly like he knows I’m not.
All I can do is shake my head, hating myself for falling apart in front of him. Again. But Cody’s face was in my head, and his hand was under my shirt, and—
“I’m sorry,” Joel says, rubbing my back soothingly. “I didn’t mean . . . I shouldn’t have—”
When I sit up, he looks even more broken than I feel, which makes me hate myself even more, which shouldn’t even be possible.
“We don’t have to do this,” he says, his hand still glued to my back. When I stand up, he lets it fall away.
“I can’t believe he ruined sex for me,” I say, too upset to keep my thoughts to myself. Cody has stolen sleep from me. He’s stolen my appetite. He’s stolen my confidence. Last Wednesday, I saw a guy that looked like him on campus and ended up throwing up in a bathroom stall.
He’s stolen everything.
“Dee, if you’re not ready, we don’t have to—”
“I want to!” I spin around and wipe an angry tear from my eye. Just one, and then there are no more tears to cry. “I want to, but it’s like he broke me, Joel.”
As I stare down into Joel’s concerned eyes, my heart aches with how much I miss him. I miss being more than friends with him. I miss having him in that way that makes me feel like I know him better than anyone else could ever possibly know him.
“Do you know what I want more than sex right now?” he asks, his fingers reaching out to curl around mine. “I just want to hold you.”
Another tear escapes the corner of my eye, and then another.
“Come here,” he says, gently tugging me onto his lap.
I straddle him, and his arms wrap firmly around me. Our chins tuck into the crooks of each other’s shoulders, and I hug him close, quiet tears dripping onto his golden skin.
“You’re not broken,” he assures me, and I wonder why he’s still bothering to stick around. Why he’s holding me closely when he should be pushing me away. There are plenty of girls outside who wouldn’t end up crying when he tried to take their clothes off.
“I hate this,” I confess in a whisper that sounds as defeated as I feel.
“It’s not a big deal. We don’t need to do anything.”
I pull away and stare hard at him. “Doesn’t this even matter to you? Don’t you even care?”
“Of course I care—”
“Then say ‘I hate this too, Dee.’ Tell me how much this fucking sucks because you want to be inside me right now. Tell me how we can fix it. Don’t just tell me it’s not a big deal. Because it’s a huge fucking deal, Joel.”
His eyes slowly darken, his voice firm when he says, “Stand up.”
I slide off his lap, and his big hands capture the sides of my legs, holding me in front of him. He stares up at me and says, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
It sounds like a warning, but whatever he’s planning on doing—with his hands on my legs and him looking at me like that—yeah, I want him to do it. “Yes.”