Page 49 of We Were Once

Her arms return to loop around me, her eyes closed momentarily as soft mewls fill the air. When she lifts up, she looks into my eyes, and says, “And just so you know, I will never tire of this lake, that old truck, or sex with you, because you, Joshua Evans, have stolen my heart.”

Leaning my head against hers, I confess, “Our backgrounds don’t matter, and the past is left for our memories. You’re more than I could have asked for. The other half of my heart that I’ve been missing.”

While her fingers slide into my hair, she sighs. “I feel empty when we’re apart.”

Like that. “I feel just like that.” I add, “You’re my one and only.”

My cheek is kissed and then my chin. Another follows right where I want her mouth—on mine. Our lips come together and our hold on each other tightens while our tongues embrace.

I engulf her lithe body in my arms, wishing she was about two inches lower—Never mind. She hits the spot, grinding against me, her breath stealing mine in the process. I crave that completion, never wanting us to be apart.

Her hair shimmers on the clear night, causing me to stare, admiring her delicate features. We dip under together and then come back up for air. When the water strays from her eyes, leaving dark lashes still wet, she asks, “Have you had sex in a lake?” When I hesitate, her mouth falls open. “You have?”

“No,” I say, chuckling. Reaching behind her and down, I get a solid hold of her fine ass again. “Are you hitting on me?”

She replies, “More than hitting. I’m full-on rubbing.”

Leveraging her thighs around me, she lifts, looking down over me. I kiss her collarbone before lowering her into the water again. “You don’t have to rub.” I have a box of condoms in the truck, but there’s no way I’m fucking her in the lake. At least not tonight. Tonight is about romance, but shivering isn’t romantic. “Let’s go.” I nod toward the truck. “We can use the blanket to dry off.”

We move through the water toward the shore, and I rush to get the blanket for her, shaking it off. Even though I wrap it around her shoulders, it doesn’t stop a shiver that was already working its way up her spine, but hopefully, it will keep any others at bay.

Gathering our clothes, I slip on my jeans before picking up everything else and loading it into the back of the truck. Chloe’s still standing near the water, and says, “Look out there.” I look past her, following her gaze as it skims across the lake. “That’s mangata.”

“What is?”

“See the streak of moonlight across the top of the water? A silver road leading to the moon. That means moon street in Swedish.”

“Mangata. I’ve never heard of it.”

“No matter where in the world I was, if I was near water, I could pretend to traipse across the water to some magical land.” Embarrassment takes over and she dips her head with a grin still on her face. “Silly, but some nights it was nice to have an escape.”

Leaves crinkle under my feet as I move in front of her. When she looks up, I cup her face, leaning my head against hers. “If I could make a wish, I’d wish that one day you don’t need an escape.”

“Like now,” she replies with watery eyes staring into mine. “Like the past month with you.”

I nod and lean down to kiss her—slow and sweet—like she needs in the moment. Like I need from her. Our lips part, but our heads remain together. With my eyes closed, I breathe her in, the sound of the water nearby, and the night that should be winding down but feels like we’re suddenly given limitless opportunity. “Chloe,” I say just wanting to feel the shape of her name on my tongue again.

She opens her arms and brings me into her fold with the blanket wrapping around me. “Joshua,” she whispers.

Branches crack under tires right before the headlights catch us. “Fuck,” I grind between gritted teeth.

Clinging to me, she peeks over her shoulder. “Are we going to be arrested?”

“No,” I say, recognizing the truck when it comes through the clearing. “He’s an asshole, though. Don’t say anything. Okay, Chloe?”

“I’m scared.”

I tuck her behind me, leaving my hand on her hip. “Don’t be. I’ll handle it.”

Her blanketed arms are around my middle as she whispers against my back, “We can’t be kicked out of school. It’s our last year.”

Turning to her, I give her hand a squeeze. “It’s going to be fine. I promise. Just let me do the talking.”

The truck door creaks open, needing a good oiling, and the driver gets out adjusting the Red Sox baseball cap. Hitting the Blazer as he passes, Jon Dwight says, “Should have known it was you. Thought we had an understanding, Josh?” He cocks an eyebrow when he sees Chloe. “Trying to impress some girl on my time? I was knee deep in the Notre Dame game and had to drag my ass out here.”

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