Chapter no 17 – Auburn


AJ, do you want chocolate chip or blueberry?”

We’re grocery shopping. AJ, Trey, and I. e last time I was at this Target was with Owen, and that’s been a while. Almost three months to be exact. Not that I’m counting. I’m totally counting. I do everything I can to make it stop. I’ve been trying to focus on this thing developing between Trey and me, but I’m constantly comparing him to Owen.

I barely knew the guy, but somehow he reached a part of me that no one has reached since I was with Adam. And despite the things Owen has done, I know he’s a good person. As much as I try to get over the way my chest feels when I think about him, the feelings are still there and I’m at a loss as to how to make them go away.

“Mommy,” AJ says, pulling on the hem of my shirt. “Can I?” I snap out of my trance. “Can you what?”

“Get a toy.”

I begin to shake my head, but Trey answers before I have the chance to. “Yeah, let’s go look at the toys.” He grabs AJ’s hand and begins walking backward. “Meet us in toys when you’re nished,” he says, turning away.

I watch them. ey’re both laughing, and AJ’s little hand is engulfed by Trey’s and it makes me hate myself for not trying harder. Trey loves AJ and AJ obviously loves Trey and here I am being completely sel sh, simply because I don’t feel the same connection to Trey as I did with Owen. I spent two days with Owen. at’s it. I probably would have found something I didn’t like about him had I spent more time with him, so I could very well be caught up in the idea of Owen rather than actual feelings toward him.

Looking at it this way makes me feel somewhat better. I may not have had an instant connection to Trey but it’s de nitely growing. Especially with the way he treats AJ. Anyone who can make AJ happy makes me happy.

For the rst time in a long time, I actually catch myself smiling over the thought of Trey rather than the thought of Owen. I grab most of the items on the list before heading toward the toy section. I take a shortcut through sporting goods and come to an immediate stop as soon as I round a corner.

If fate plays jokes, this is the absolute worst one.

Owen is staring back at me with as much disbelief registered on his face as I’m sure is on mine. In an instant, everything I’ve been trying to feel for Trey is reduced tenfold, and it’s all directed toward Owen. I grip the cart with my hands and debate whether or not to turn in the opposite direction without speaking to him. He would understand, I’m sure.

He must be having the same internal struggle, because we both stopped walking as soon as we laid eyes on one another. Neither of us is speaking. Neither of us is retreating.

We’re both just staring.

My entire body feels his stare, and I physically ache in every part of me.

e main reason I’ve doubted what’s happening between Trey and myself is standing right in front of me, reminding me of what true feelings for someone should be like.

Owen smiles, and I suddenly wish we were in the cleaning aisle, because someone is going to have to mop me up off this oor.

He glances to his left and then his right before his gaze lands back on me. “Aisle thirteen,” he says with a grin. “Must be fate.”

I smile, but my smile is robbed by the sound of AJ’s voice. “Mommy, look!” he says as he tosses two toys into the cart. “Trey said I could have both.”


Trey, Trey, Trey, who is probably behind me right now, based on Owen’s reaction. He stiens and stands straight, gripping his cart with both hands. His eyes are on someone behind me.

An arm slips around my waist, gripping me possessively. Trey stands beside me and I can feel him eyeing Owen. He moves his hand to my lower back and then his lips meet my cheek. I close my eyes because I don’t want

to see the look on Owen’s face. “Come on, babe,” Trey says, urging me to turn around. He’s never called me babe before. I know he’s only using the term in front of Owen to make our relationship seem more than what it is.

After another tug on my arm, I nally turn and walk with Trey.

We nish getting the few items that are left on my list. Trey doesn’t speak to me the entire time we’re shopping. He’s keeping conversation going with AJ, but I can tell he’s angry. My stomach is a ball of nerves because he’s never given me the silent treatment like this before and I don’t know what to expect.

e silent treatment continues through the checkout line, all the way to his car. He loads the groceries into the trunk while I buckle AJ into the backseat. When I have him strapped into his booster seat, I close the door and turn to nd Trey leaning against the car, staring at me. He’s so still, he doesn’t even look like he’s breathing.

“Did you speak to him?”

I shake my head. “No. I had just turned the corner right before you and AJ walked up.”

Trey’s arms are folded across his chest and his jaw is tense. He looks over my shoulder for several seconds before bringing his eyes back to mine.

“Did you fuck him?”

I stand up straighter, shocked at his question. Especially because we’re standing right outside AJ’s door. I glance inside the car at AJ but his focus is on his toys and not at all on the two of us. When I look back at Trey, I think I’m angrier than he is.

“You can’t be mad at me for running into someone at a store, Trey. I don’t control who shops here.”

I try to move past him, but he grabs my arm and pushes me against the car with the weight of his chest against mine. He brings his hand up to the side of my head and lowers his mouth to my ear. My heart is beating erratically, because I have no idea what he’s about to do.

“Auburn,” he says, his voice a deep, threatening whisper. “He’s been inside your apartment. He’s been in your bedroom. He was in that stupid fucking tent with you. Now I need you to tell me if he’s ever been inside you.”

I’m shaking my head, doing whatever I can to calm him down, because AJ is just a foot away from us inside this car. He’s gripping my wrist with

his right hand, waiting for me to give him a verbal response. I’ll say whatever I need to say to make sure he doesn’t lose his temper right now.

“No,” I whisper. “It wasn’t like that. I barely knew him.”

Trey pulls back a few inches and looks me in the eye. “Good,” he says. “Because the way he was watching you made me think otherwise.” He presses his lips against my forehead and relieves some of the pressure around my wrist. He smiles gently at me, but the smile has the opposite eect. It terri es me that his temperament can switch as fast as it just did. He pulls me in for a hug and presses his face into my hair. He inhales and then exhales slowly.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers. “Let’s get out of here.”

He opens the passenger door for me and shuts it after I climb inside. I exhale, relieved the moment is over but knowing full well that his reaction is a huge red ag.

As if my attention is being summoned, my eyes fall to a car across the parking lot. Owen is standing next to it, staring in my direction. e look on his face makes it apparent that he witnessed everything that just happened. However, from across the parking lot it could have very well looked like a tender moment rather than what it actually was. Which could also explain the pained look on Owen’s face.

He opens his car door just as Trey opens his. I keep my eyes focused on Owen long enough to see him lift a hand to his heart and clench it in a st.

e words he spoke to me about how much he missed his mother and brother replay in my head. “Sometimes I miss them so much, it hurts me right here. It feels like someone is squeezing my heart with the strength of the entire goddamn world.”

Trey pulls out of the parking lot and right before Owen is out of my view, I inconspicuously lift my st to my own chest. Our eyes remain locked until they can’t anymore.



e incident at the grocery store yesterday wasn’t mentioned again. Trey and AJ spent the entire evening at my house, and Trey acted as if nothing was amiss while he cooked AJ chocolate chip pancakes. In fact, if anything, Trey was in an extra-good mood. I don’t know if it was a front to make up

for the anger he expressed in the parking lot or if he really does enjoy spending the time he does with the two of us.

His sudden good mood could have also been because he knew he wouldn’t see me for four days and he didn’t want to leave on bad terms. He left for a conference in San Antonio this morning, and I could tell when he told me good-bye last night that he was uneasy about leaving me. He repeatedly asked me about my schedule and what plans I have for the weekend. Lydia is taking AJ to Pasadena for their weekend visit with her family. If I didn’t have to work today, I would have gone with them.

But I didn’t go, and now here I am with an entire weekend ahead of me and absolutely nothing to do; I think that makes Trey nervous. He obviously has trust issues when it comes to Owen.

Rightfully so. After all, here I am, two hours after Trey has left the city of Dallas, and I’m standing in front of Owen’s studio. Every day that I walk by his studio, I inconspicuously slip a piece of paper in the slot. I’ve left over twenty confessions in the last few weeks. I know he’s ooded with confessions, so there’s no way he would know which ones were mine. But it makes me feel better to leave them. Most of the confessions are trivial things that have nothing to do with him. ey usually have to do with AJ, and I never write them in such a way that Owen would be able to tell it was me. I’m sure he would never even guess that I leave them. But it feels like a form of therapy, anyway.

I look down at the confession I just wrote.

I think about you every time he kisses me.

I fold it in two and slip it through the slot, not thinking twice about it. Since that moment between us in the grocery store yesterday, I can still feel him. I want to hear his voice again. I want to see his smile again. I keep telling myself that leaving this confession is just to get closure so I can move ahead with Trey, but I know it’s for purely sel sh reasons.

I grab another piece of paper from my purse and quickly scribble words across it.

He’s out of town this weekend.

I slide the paper through the slot without even folding it. As soon as it’s out of my reach, my chest tightens, and I immediately regret what I just wrote. at wasn’t a confession; it was an invitation. One that I need to rescind. Right now. I’m not that girl.

Why did I just do that?

I attempt to slip my ngers through the slot, knowing the paper has fallen to the oor by now. I grab another piece from my purse and write something to follow up the last confession.

Ignore that confession. That wasn’t an invitation. I don’t know why I wrote it.

I slide that piece of paper through the slot and immediately regret that one even more. Now I just look like an idiot. Again, I tear off another piece of paper and write on it, knowing I should somehow get this paper and pen out of my own reach.

You really should have a way for people to retract their confessions, Owen. Like maybe a twenty-second return policy.

I slide that one through the door as well, and shove the paper and pen into my purse.

What have I just done?

I slide the strap of my purse up my shoulder and continue toward the salon. I swear this has to be the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done. Maybe he won’t read them until Monday, and the weekend will be over.



It’s been eight hours since my slipup this morning as I was walking past Owen’s studio. I’ve had a lot of time to consider why I would even think it was okay to leave something like that for him to read. I know it was a weak moment, but it isn’t fair of me to do that to him. If he really did develop feelings for me in the short time I knew him, the fact that I refuse to be with him is out of his control. And then I go and leave stupid notes like I’ve been leaving for the past few weeks, even though today was the rst day I actually left confessions that pertained to the two of us.

I’ve made my decision though, and even if I don’t feel for Trey the way he feels for me, I would never betray him. Once I make a commitment to

someone, I’m the type of person who will honor that commitment.

We’ve had the discussion about not seeing other people, even though to me it still doesn’t necessarily feel like we’re even seeing each other. is means I need to somehow nd a way to get over the thought of Owen. I need to stop worrying about him. I need to stop walking by his studio when I know there are dierent routes I could take. I need to put my focus and energy into my relationship with Trey, because if I want Trey to be a gure in AJ’s life, I need to be committed to making that relationship work.

And Trey has been good to me. I know his bout of jealousy in the parking lot yesterday scared me, but I can’t blame him. Seeing Owen and me together more than likely lled him with insecurity, so of course he’s angry. And he’s good to AJ. He could provide for us in a way that I can’t do on my own. ere isn’t a reason in the world why I shouldn’t want to make this work with Trey other than my own sel shness.

“I’m leaving,” Donna says, peeking around the corner. “Do you mind locking up?”

Donna is the newest employee, and she’s been here for about two weeks now. She’s already got more clients than I do and does a way better job. Not that I’m bad at what I do, I’m just not that great. It’s hard to be great at something you hate.

“No problem.”

She tells me good-bye, and I nish washing the dye bowls in the sink. Several minutes after she leaves, the bell chimes, signaling someone has entered the salon. I step around the partition in order to let whoever it is know that we’re nished for the day, but my words are caught in my throat when I see him.

He’s standing by the front door, looking around the salon. When his gaze falls on me, the song playing through the overhead speaker comes to a timely end and a heavy silence lls the room.

If I could feel for Trey even a fraction of what Owen makes me feel just standing across the room from me, I could probably make that relationship work without issue.

But I don’t feel this with anyone else. Just Owen.

He begins to walk toward me with quiet con dence. I’m not moving at all. I’m not even sure my heart is moving. I know my lungs aren’t moving,

because I haven’t taken a breath since I stepped around this corner and saw him standing there.

He pauses when he’s about ve feet away from me. His stare hasn’t deviated once, and I can no longer control the obvious rise and fall of my chest. His presence alone is causing me actual, physical turmoil.

“Hi,” he says. His expression is cautious. He’s not giving away a single ounce of emotion. I don’t know if he’s angry about my confessions, but he’s here, so he obviously knew they were from me. When I fail to return his greeting, he glances over his shoulder brie y. He runs a hand through his hair and then turns back to face me.

“You have time for a haircut?” he asks.

My eyes move to his hair, and it’s signi cantly longer than after the last cut I gave him.

“You trust me to cut your hair again?” I’m shocked at the playfulness in my voice. No matter the circumstances, things just seem so easy with him.

 at depends. Are you sober?”

I smile, relieved that he’s able to return the banter in the midst of our cold war. I nod and point to the back of the salon, where the sinks are. He walks toward me, and I walk around him, making my way to the front door to lock it. e last thing I need is someone walking in who shouldn’t see him here.

When I return to the back, he’s already seated in the same chair I washed his hair in last time. And just like last time, his eyes never deviate from my face. I test the water before running it over his hair. After wetting it, I dispense shampoo onto my palm and work my hands through his hair until it lathers. For a few seconds, his eyes fall shut, and I take this opportunity to stare at him.

He reopens them as soon as I begin rinsing his hair, so I quickly glance away.

I wish he would say something. If he’s here, there’s a reason he’s here.

And it’s not to stare at me.

When I’m nished washing his hair, we silently walk toward the front. He takes a seat in my salon chair, and I dry his hair with a towel. I’m not sure if I breathe the entire time I’m cutting his hair, but I do what I can to focus on the hair and not him. e salon has never been this quiet.

It’s also never been this loud.

I can’t stop the thoughts from racing through my head. oughts of what it was like being kissed by him. oughts of how he made me feel when his arms were around me. oughts of how our conversations felt so natural and real that I never wanted them to end.

When I’m nished with the last cut of the scissors, I comb his hair out and then clean him up. I remove the protective smock and shake it out. I fold it and place it into the drawer.

He stands up and pulls out his wallet. He lays a fty-dollar bill on the counter and slides his wallet back into his pocket.

 ank you,” he says with a smile. He turns to leave, and I immediately shake my head, not wanting him to go. We haven’t even discussed the confessions. He didn’t even tell me what made him stop by.

“Wait,” I call out to him. Just as he reaches the door, he turns around, slowly. I try to gure out what to say to him, but nothing I really want to say will come out. Instead, I look down at the fty-dollar bill and grab it, holding it up. “ is is way too much money, Owen.”

He stares quietly for what seems like an eternity before he opens the door and walks out without a word.

I fall into my salon chair, completely confused by my reaction. What did I want him to do? Did I want him to make a move? Did I want him to invite me back to his place?

I wouldn’t have been okay with either of those things, and the fact that I’m upset that neither of them happened makes me feel like a horrible person.

I look down at the fty-dollar bill in my hand. I notice for the rst time that there’s writing on the back of it. I ip it over and read the message sprawled across the back in black Sharpie.

I need at least one night with you. Please.

I clench my st and hold it up to my chest. e erratic beat of my heart and the rapid expansion of my lungs to make room for more air are the only two things I can focus on right now.

I toss the money on the counter and I bury my head in my arms. Oh my God.

Oh my God.

I’ve never wanted to do the wrong thing so much in my entire life.



When I pause in front of his studio, I’m contemplating making a decision that I won’t be proud of tomorrow. If I walk inside, I know what will happen between us. And while I know with Trey being out of town, the likelihood of his ever nding out about this is slim, it still doesn’t make it okay.

e thought of his nding out about it also doesn’t make me want to do it any less.

Before I can even make the choice for myself, the door opens and Owen’s hand reaches out for mine. He pulls me inside the dark studio and closes the door behind me, clicking the lock into place. I wait for my eyes to adjust to the darkness and my conscience to adjust to the fact that I’m here. Inside his studio.

“You shouldn’t stand outside like that,” he says. “Someone might see you.”

I’m not sure whom he’s referring to, but there isn’t a chance of Trey seeing me tonight, considering he’s in San Antonio. “He’s out of town.”

Owen is standing less than two feet away, watching me with his head tilted to the side. I can see a faint smile cross his lips. “So I was told.”

I look down at my feet, embarrassed. I close my eyes and try to talk myself out of this. I’m putting everything at risk by being here. I know if I could shut down the thoughts that have been going through my head, I would be able to see that this isn’t smart. Whether we get caught or not, being with him won’t make anything better. It’ll just make it worse, because I’ll more than likely want him even more after tonight.

“I shouldn’t be here,” I say quietly.

He’s eyeing me with his same unwavering expression. “But you are.” “Only because you pulled me inside without asking.”

He laughs quietly. “You were standing outside my door trying to decide what to do. I just helped make the decision for you.”

“I haven’t made any decision yet.”

He nods. “Yes you have, Auburn. You’ve made a lot of decisions. You chose to be with Trey for the long haul. And now you’re choosing to be with me for the night.”

I bite my bottom lip and glance away from him. I don’t like his comment, no matter how much truth is in it. Sometimes the truth hurts, and having him lay it out like that makes it seem more black and white than it really is.

“You’re being unfair.”

“No, I’m being sel sh,” he says. “It’s the same thing.”

He takes a step toward me. “No, Auburn, it isn’t. Unfair would be giving you an ultimatum. Being sel sh is doing something like this.” His lips connect with mine with strength and purpose. His hands slide into my hair and wrap around the back of my head. He kisses me like he’s giving me every kiss he wishes he could have given me in the past, and every kiss he’ll wish he could give me in the future.

All of them, all at once.

His hands drop to my back and he pulls me against him. I’m not sure where my hands are at this point. I think I’m holding on to him for dear life, but every part of me other than my mouth has just gone completely numb. e only thing I’m fully aware of is his mouth on mine. His kiss is all I know in this moment.

All I want to think about.

But damn it if Trey doesn’t force his way into my thoughts. I don’t care how strong my feelings are for Owen, my loyalty is with Trey. Owen’s actions forced me to make a choice, and now we both have to live with the consequences.

I break apart from him, nding strength to push against his chest. Our mouths separate, but my hands remain pressed against him. I can feel the deep rise and fall of his chest, and knowing he feels what I feel is almost enough for me to pull him back to my mouth.

“Trey,” I say breathlessly. “I’m with Trey now.”

Owen squeezes his eyes shut, like the sound of his name is painful to hear. He’s breathing so heavily, he has to catch his breath before he responds. He opens his eyes and xes his gaze on mine. “Your commitment is the only part of you that’s with Trey.” He lifts his hand and presses his palm over my shirt, against my heart. “Every other part of you is with me.”

His words aect me more than his kiss. I try to inhale, but his hand pressed against my heart isn’t allowing it. He takes a step closer until we’re

ush together. His palm is still pressed to my chest, but now his other arm is wrapped around my lower back.

“He doesn’t make your heart feel like this, Auburn. He doesn’t make it so crazy that it tries to beat through the walls of your chest.”

I close my eyes and lean into him. I think my body makes the choice for me, because my mind has certainly lost all control. I press my face against his neck and listen quietly as our breaths fail to slow. e longer we stand here and the more he says, the heavier our need grows. I can feel it in the way he holds me. I can hear it in the desperate plea of his voice. I can feel it with every rise and fall of his chest.

“I get why you had to choose him,” he says. “I don’t like it, but I understand it. I also know that giving one night to me doesn’t take away the fact that you might be giving him forever. But like I said . . . I’m sel sh. And if one night with you is all I can get, then I’ll take it.” He lifts my head off his shoulder and tilts my face up to his. “I’ll take whatever you’re willing to give me. Because I know that if you walk out that door, then ten years from now . . . twenty years from now . . . we’ll wish we had listened to our hearts when we think back on tonight.”

 at’s what scares me,” I tell him. “I’m afraid if I listen to my heart once, I’ll never gure out how to ignore it again.”

Owen lowers his mouth to mine, and in a whisper he says, “If only I could be so lucky.” His mouth connects with mine again, and this time I’ve very aware of every part of me. I’m pulling him to me with as much desperation as he’s pulling at me. His mouth is everywhere as he kisses me with relief, knowing this kiss is me agreeing to whatever he’s asking of me. It’s my way of telling him he can have tonight.

“I need you upstairs,” he says. “Now.”

We begin to make our way across the oor of the studio, but neither of us can keep our mouths or hands off each other, so it takes us a while. Once we reach the stairs, he begins to back up them, making it even harder to continue kissing. When he sees we aren’t getting anywhere, he nally grabs my hand and turns around, pulling me up the stairs until we’re in his apartment.

When his mouth meets mine again, it’s a completely dierent kind of kiss than the one we were just sharing. He cradles my head between both of

his hands and he kisses me slowly. Soft and deep and full of highs and lows and depth.

He kisses me like I’m his canvas.

He grabs both of my hands and intertwines his ngers with mine. His forehead meets mine when his kiss comes to an end.

No one has ever made me feel this much. Not even Adam. And maybe the way I feel being kissed by him is a feeling that is so rare, it’s something I’ll never experience again after tonight.

at thought terri es me, and also seals my fate until tomorrow morning, because whatever I feel with Owen shouldn’t be taken for granted. Not even for the sake of loyalty to Trey.

And I honestly don’t care what kind of person that makes me. “I’m scared I’ll never feel this again with anyone else,” I whisper. He squeezes my hands. “I’m scared you will.”

I pull back and look at him, because I need him to know that my feelings for Trey will never match this. “I’ll never have this with him, Owen. Not even close.”

He makes a face that isn’t full of relief like I expected. In fact, it’s almost as if I said something he doesn’t want to hear. “I wish you could,” he says. “I don’t want to think of you having to spend a lifetime with someone who doesn’t deserve you.”

He wraps his arms around me, and I bury my face in his neck again. “ at’s not what I meant,” I say. “I’m not saying he deserves me any less than you do. I just feel a dierent kind of connection with you, and it scares me.”

His hands grip the nape of my neck, and he moves his mouth to my ear. “You may not think he deserves you less than I do, but that’s exactly what I’m saying, Auburn.” His hands lower until he grips my thighs, and then he lifts me. He carries me across the room and lowers me down onto the bed. He slides on top of me, cradling my head between his forearms. He kisses me gently on the forehead, then again on the tip of my nose. His eyes meet mine, and he looks at me with more sincerity and honesty than I’ve ever seen in them before. “No one deserves you like I do.”

His hands meet the button on my jeans, and he unbuttons them. His lips rest against my neck as he continues to convince me with his words that this is exactly where we need to be. “No one sees you like I do.”

I close my eyes and listen to the sound of his voice. I wait as he removes my jeans, anticipating the touch of his hand against my skin. His palms slide up the sides of my legs and then his mouth is against mine again.

“No one understands you the way I do.”

He presses himself against me at the same time his tongue slips inside my mouth. I moan, and the room begins to spin, and the combination of his words and his touch and his body on mine are like gasoline on a re. He begins to pull my shirt and bra over my head and I do nothing to help him or stop him. I’m useless against his touch.

“No one makes your heart beat like I do.”

He kisses me, pausing only to remove his shirt. I somehow regain control of my senses when I realize my hands are pulling at his jeans, attempting to remove them so I can feel him skin to skin.

He presses his palm against my heart. “And no one else deserves to be inside you if they can’t get there through here rst.”

His words trickle against my mouth like raindrops. He kisses me softly and then lifts himself off the bed. My eyes remain closed, but I hear his jeans meet the oor and I hear the tear of a wrapper. I feel his hands on my hips as he hooks his ngers beneath my panties and pulls them down. And it isn’t until he’s on top of me again that I nally nd the strength to open my eyes.

“Say it,” he whispers, looking down at me. “I want to hear you tell me I deserve you.”

I slide my hands up his arms, along the curves of his shoulders, up the sides of his neck, and into his hair. I look him directly in the eyes. “You deserve me, Owen.”

He drops his forehead to the side of my head and grabs my leg, lifting it, locking it around his waist. “And you deserve me, Auburn.”

He pushes into me, and I’m not sure which is louder—his groan or my sudden outburst of “Oh my God.”

He buries himself deep inside me and holds still. He looks down at me breathlessly and smiles. “I can’t tell if you said that because this feels incredibly good to you or if you’re making fun of my initials again.”

I smile between gasps. “Both.”

Our smiles fade when he begins moving again. He keeps his mouth close to mine but far enough away that he can look down into my eyes. He moves

in and out of me, slowly, as his lips begin to feather soft kisses across mine. I moan and need more than anything to close my eyes, but the way he’s looking at me is something I want to remember every time I take a breath.

He pulls back again and pushes against me at the same time his lips meet my cheek. He begins to nd a rhythm between each kiss, and he keeps his eyes focused on mine with every thrust.

 is is what I want you to remember, Auburn,” he says softly. “I don’t want you to remember what it feels like when I’m inside you. I want you to remember how it feels when I look at you.”

His lips brush against mine so delicately, I almost don’t feel them. “I want you to remember how your heart reacts every time I kiss you.” His lips meet mine, and I attempt to ingrain every feeling I get from his kiss and his words into my memory. His hand slides through my hair and he lifts my head slightly off the bed, lling me with a deep kiss.

He pulls away so we can catch our breath. Looking into my eyes again, he says, “I want you to remember my hands, and how they can’t stop touching you.”

He works his mouth slowly up my jaw, until he reaches my ear. “And I need you to remember that anyone can make love. But I’m the only one who deserves to make love to you.”

My arms lock around his neck with those words, and his mouth crashes against mine. He pushes into me, hard, and I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to beg him to never stop, but what I want even more is this kiss. I want to remember every part of it. I want to engrave the taste of him onto my tongue.

e next several minutes are a blur of moans, kisses, sweat, hands, and mouths. He’s on top of me, and then I’m on top of him, and then he’s on top of me again. When I feel the warmth of his mouth meet my breast, I completely lose myself. I let my head fall back and my eyes fall shut and my heart falls straight into the palms of his hands.

I’m so worked up, so dizzy, so grateful that I made the decision to stay, that I can’t even tell when it’s over. I’m still breathing so heavily, and my heart is pounding against my chest. I’m not sure that simply reaching a climax with Owen signi es the end of this experience. Because coming down from being with him feels just as incredible as it felt when it was occurring.

I’m lying against his chest and his arms are wrapped around me, and I never thought I’d be in this position again. A position where I know I’m right where I belong, but there’s nothing I can do that can keep me there.

It reminds me of the day I had to say good-bye to Adam. I knew what we felt was more than what people gave us credit for, and being torn away from him before I was ready took me forever to get over.

And now, the same thing is happening with Owen. I’m not ready to say good-bye. I’m scared to say good-bye.

But I have to say good-bye, and it hurts like hell.

If I knew how to stop the tears, I would. I don’t want him to hear me cry. I don’t want him to know how upset I am that we can’t have this every day of our lives. I don’t want him to ask me what’s wrong.

When he feels my tears falling against his chest, he doesn’t do anything to stop them. Instead, he simply holds me with a much tighter grip and presses his cheek against the top of my head. His hand brushes softly through my hair.

“I know, baby,” he whispers. “I know.”

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