“Did they buy it?”
She nods her head with her brows turned in and her thumbnail locked between her teeth. “I think so.”
“What do you think they’d do if they found out?”
She shrugs. “Probably throw a fit. Talk to me about how it’s too soon.”
“They’d want to meet him,” I say, trying not to laugh when I imagine Rowan’s burly, football-loving father meeting Adam, with his long hair and painted fingernails.
“The thing is, I want them to meet him,” Rowan says, sighing and curling her knees up on the couch. “I mean, they know we’re dating. I want them to know he’s the one . . . I’m just a little worried they won’t like him.”
“Would it matter?” I ask, and to my surprise, she smiles.
“Then stop worrying about it.” I tap her thumb away from her mouth and add, “If they meet him and don’t like him, whatever. But if it helps, I think they’ll love him.” I stand up and start walking toward her bedroom. Her nails are a jagged mess I can’t stand to look at anymore. Filing and polishing them will be a better waste of my time than sitting around stressing about Joel.
“You think so?” she asks.
“How do you know?”
I walk backward, giving her a smile. “Because your parents love you. And so does Adam.”
My afternoon is spent doing her nails and trying not to hate her when she gets constant text messages from Adam. I attempt to distract myself by talking to her about Kit and how weird Shawn acted around her—which Rowan observed too—but it doesn’t stop me from noticing that my phone remains painfully silent while Rowan’s beeps and dings and rings like a winning lotto machine. By the time I crawl into my bed later that night, I’m convinced that what I had with Joel was a fluke and that he’s forgotten all about me.
I don’t hear from him until three o’clock the next afternoon.
My dad and I are outside at my favorite year-round ice-cream parlor eating sundaes at a picnic table, and I’m teasing him about the way the ice-cream girls batted their eyelashes at him, when my phone beeps and Joel’s panty-melting smile flashes onto my screen. My heart does parkour off the walls of my chest, and I snatch my phone off the table.
I miss you.
Three little words from him lift an impossible weight off my chest, and my mouth curls into the smile to end all smiles.
“Who is it?” my dad asks, and I quickly slam my phone face down on the table.
When he doesn’t look convinced, I ask if he’s going to eat the cherry on top of his sundae, and then I steal it without waiting for an answer.
As soon as I get home, I speed-walk into the privacy of my bedroom and whip my phone out of my pocket.
Why haven’t you called? I type, and Joel’s response is immediate.
Why haven’t *you* called?
I debate saying something snarky, something clever and insincere. Instead, I type back, I miss you too.
I hit SEND before I can change my mind, and then I listen to the clock on my wall tick seconds into minutes. Hours later, long after dinner and late-night TV with my dad, I’m still waiting for Joel’s reply. I turn my ringer all the way up so that I’ll wake if he texts, and then I crawl under my covers, wondering what he’s doing and who he’s doing it with. Maybe he found someone to help him stop missing me—God knows his phone is full of plenty of numbers of girls who would jump at the chance.
I’m not sure how long it takes me to fall asleep, but when I wake up later, it’s still dark. Even though the sound that wakes me is familiar, it takes me a moment to place—because I haven’t heard anyone tap on my bedroom window since I moved away from home.
“WHAT ARE YOU doing here?” I whisper-yell through the glass.
Joel smiles at me and points to the lock, and I quickly push it over and throw the window open.
“What are you doing here?” I whisper again. Cold night air gets sucked inside the warmth of my room, and I wrap my arms around myself to ward off the chill. I’m wearing nothing but a cami top with nothing under it and a pair of oversized pajama shorts.
“Can you lift the screen?”
I do, and Joel climbs into my bedroom, forcing me to take a step back. My brain barely has time to form another question before his arms wrap around me and his lips steal my words. Two days without him and I’d forgotten how intoxicating those kisses can be.
“I missed you,” he says against my mouth, his feet already walking me backward toward the bed, his hands already removing my clothes. My cami gets pulled over my head, his jeans fall to the floor, and we sink into the mattress. He nestles between my legs, and when I tug his shirt off, his bare chest molds against mine. With only thin layers of cotton between us where it counts, I moan against his mouth. It’s been eight hours since he texted me to tell me he missed me, and he’s making it clear he meant every single word.
Joel’s chilled lips drop to my neck, and I muster the sense to ask, “How did you get here?”
“I bought a car,” he says as he trails kisses down my stomach and pulls my pajama shorts down.
“You bought a—” my breath catches in my throat when his warm tongue envelopes me. His ice-cold lips follow, sucking my tiny bud into his molten mouth and squeezing it tight. “Joel!” I gasp, my toes curling against the mattress. He tenderly slides his lips away, and my fingernails claw at loose sheets.