Chapter no 35 – Amelia

When in Rome

I step out of the bathroom and go into Noah’s room, where I find him lying on his side on the bed, a Scrabble board

laid out in front of him. We’ve been playing a lot of it together over the last week, as well as having drinks at Hank’s last Friday, where I managed to not accidentally take a sleeping pill and pass out, a hearts tournament with his sisters on Saturday night at The Pie Shop, reading his terrifically boring book together in bed every night, and then not reading together in bed at night.

After I fired Susan, Tommy called and said my car was fixed and ready to go. But I wasn’t ready yet, and neither was Noah, so we decided I would stay until I needed to leave to get ready for the tour. Unfortunately, that day is tomorrow. But I was given one more incredible week with Noah, his sisters, and this kooky town, and the memories from it will get me through the next nine months. My mom and I have also talked on the phone more. She’s going to meet me a few days before the start of the tour to help me pack and officially reconnect.

Things have been a little different with Will always hovering nearby when we go out, but it surprisingly hasn’t been that strange. Paparazzi lingered in town the first few

days after the big incident, snapping pictures every time I went anywhere in the town; but soon, when they realized this sort of life is way too slow and boring to most people, they vanished. I’ve had my privacy back.

What I thought would be a problem for the town ended up being the highlight of their year. The moment a paparazzo was sighted, everyone transformed into peacocks, flaunting random talents and trying their best to get their picture taken. Mysteriously, Phil’s hardware sign has crept closer and closer to The Pie Shop each day, where photographers have been known to lurk outside, always advertising a new sale.

And no one seems to mind Will hanging around. Actually, everyone seems to love him. It’s a little unconventional that he’s become our third roommate and taken over the room I had been staying in, but he holes up in his SUV, surveying the driveway until late at night, and then comes in to sleep for a few hours before he’s out with the sun again. Mabel keeps buying him pies because she thinks he needs more calories to support all his muscle. I think she has a crush on him. When I come back after the tour like Noah and I have discussed, we’ll have to figure out a more permanent solution for security. But right now, Will is not in this house, and that’s all that matters.

“Thief,” Noah says when he notices what I’m wearing. I stole his hoodie again and I’ll never give it back. Underneath, I’m wearing a delicate pair of sleep shorts. Noah notices—or rather notices the lack of clothing on my legs. He smiles to himself and aims his gaze back to the board, dumping out the tiles before sitting up and perching on the edge of the bed.

“More Scrabble?” I ask, stepping between his legs. He puts his hands on the backs of my thighs and looks up at

me with a gaze so reverent I feel outrageously beautiful even in my wet hair and his oversized hoodie.

“I just thought since it’s your last night in town, you might want to play one more time,” he says, and I don’t like the sudden sadness that statement has introduced to the conversation.

“Last night for a while,” I correct.

He smiles a little but it’s clear he’s still keeping a barrier around his heart. I’ve noticed he’s grown more quiet and pensive over the last two days.

Earlier tonight the town threw me a little goodbye party here at Noah’s house, and through the whole evening, he stayed in the shadows. I think he’s terrified that we won’t last. That history will repeat itself and I won’t be faithful to him. Poor thing doesn’t realize he’s never getting rid of me now.

His eyes snag on my lips. “Yeah, for a while.” “You don’t believe I’ll come back?”

He hesitates to answer. “I want to. It’s just…”

“Hard for you to fully trust again. I know.” I intertwine my fingers in the back of his hair and he closes his eyes with a look of pain. I lean down and kiss his cheek. “I promise I’ll be back, Noah. And you know how you can believe me?”

“How?” he asks, with his eyes still closed.

I take this moment to study him. To memorize every centimeter of his face. Every wrinkle, eyelash, and curve of his mouth. “Because I found a home and a family with this town and I love them.” I drag in a breath and cup his jaw, angling his face up toward me. “And I love you.”

He opens his eyes, and his hands remain fixed on the backs of my legs. His face is tender astonishment, because

we haven’t exchanged those words yet. But I can’t hold them in any longer.

And then Noah smiles. Full. Wide. Glorious smile. “I love you, too, Amelia.”

“Oh, thank goodness,” I say on an exhale while removing his hands from my legs, tugging his wrists up in the air, and then pulling his shirt off. “I was beginning to sweat there for a second.” Not true. I’ve known he loves me even before he even knew it.

He laughs as I give his shirt one final yank over his head. Now he’s shirtless, just the way I like him. My eyes greedily roam the expanse of his tan, summertime body. Muscled shoulders and biceps. Broad chest and masculine veins winding down his forearms. Beautiful tattoo bursting with color and flowers and pie against his rib cage—a direct contrast to his grumpy unapproachable maleness. His blond hair is waving in slight disarray and the slash of his moody mouth hitches up in the corner as I ogle him.

He then watches as I remove my sweatshirt and reveal the silk spaghetti strap camisole underneath. It’s blush pink and matches my skin after my shower. I asked Claire (who is officially my new personal assistant) to bring me a few things from my house after I decided to stay here another week, and I want to kiss my past self for having the forethought to make sure this little number was among those items.

Noah’s eyes fall all over me and I feel the hot press of his gaze. He watches me as I walk to the bedroom door and lock it. I don’t suspect Will would come inside before midnight, but I’m making a point that what I have intended for tonight should not be interrupted.

When I come back to Noah, he’s standing—arms crossed. Surly Pose. I mirror it. The feminine delicate

version. Surly in Silk. This makes him laugh and then his eyes drop to my shoulder. He runs his finger along the wispy strap of my camisole. Along my skin. “So soft,” he says, almost to himself. He loops his finger under the strap and glides it down off my shoulder. My knees nearly buckle. A man this strong and rugged shouldn’t be able to be this tender. His other hand presses against my lower back, pulling my hips firmly to his. His breath moves to my bare shoulder as he bends down to lay one melting kiss to my collarbone.

I feel strangled by my own need for him. But I stay still and let him press hot kisses all over my shoulder. My neck. My mouth. I feel wired—strung out with anticipation as I feel his tongue touch my skin.

“I don’t want to let you go,” he whispers in my ear during his traverse of the other side of my body.

“This isn’t goodbye, Noah.”

“Then why does it feel like it?” he says as his lips brush down the line of my throat. “Why do I feel like I might never see you again?”

I close my eyes and run my hands up his solid chest, feeling his heart beating against my palm—savoring the heat of his lips and the sweetness of his touch. Right now, in his room, surrounded by his body, I feel confident that we’ll be able to make our relationship work. But I have to admit, when my thoughts tiptoe out to the future, I feel nervous. My life is about to become jam-packed with work, and I’m going to need Noah to trust me when I’m not able to check in frequently or when he reads something questionable (and untrue) in a tabloid at the grocery store. I’m terrified this isn’t going to last, and at the same time, I know that Noah and I are so right together.

I wrap my arms around Noah’s abdomen and hug him tight. He looks down into my eyes. “The future is full of unknowns. We can’t try to figure them all out tonight. Let’s just savor the moments we have together right now.”

He bends to kiss me tenderly, and it skewers me through the heart. This better not be goodbye. Don’t give up on us so soon, Noah.

Noah’s hand moves up my arm where he slowly lowers the other strap from my shoulder. Warm breath fans my skin. I stand motionless—savoring and roasting alive as his hands slide and press. Tease and soothe. I have never trusted or wanted anyone more in my life. I love him.

As Noah leisurely unwraps me, I have the privilege of watching him unravel. His breath trembles when I’m all skin and his eyes flare. His fingers flex against my hips as he pulls me closer to him. I feel gloriously empowered by his gaze and tug every stitch of clothing from him.

Tonight, he tells me how much he loves me with his mouth. He tells me how he’s going to miss me with his hands. He tells me we’ll make this work with his body. And when there is nothing left between us besides skin and desire, our hearts tangle with our limbs until I don’t know what’s what anymore. We fall and twist together into this place between reality and dreams. There’s no existence outside these four walls. All I feel is Noah’s strong, warm body, cherishing me in this moment. His fingers leave trails of fire over every inch of my skin, leaving me consumed.

We spend the evening loving each other joyfully, recklessly, tragically until we’re both dozing as his fingers languidly trail my spine. I try to keep from falling asleep as long as possible, because I know when I wake up, I’ll have to leave.

The tour starts in a few days, and I have no choice but to go.

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