Kiss Me Like This
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But still drunk, nonetheless.
Up on the hill when they’d been making out, the more she drank, the more she’d lost her inhibitions. Even knowing ahead of time that the evening was going to wreak serious havoc on his self-control, he’d still had to steel himself not to take advantage of her when he’d wanted her so badly.
Lord, was he glad he’d been there for her first drinking experience. He hated to think about what pretty much any other guy on the planet would have done as her defenses fell one after the other.
He hadn’t planned on bringing her back to his bedroom tonight. But when she’d gotten a whole lot drunker, a whole lot faster than he’d expected, there’d been no way that he could just take her back to her room and leave her there. Not when neither of them knew how the post-drunk period would treat her. If she needed him, he needed to be there for her.
Luck remained on their side as he took her up the narrow, empty stairwell. His room was just a couple of doors down the hall and once he got her inside, he let out a breath of relief.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be seen with her—of course he wanted to claim her as his in front of the entire world. But since they still hadn’t made an official decision about how public their relationship should be, he didn’t want to make a misstep and upset her with more pictures and gossip spreading throughout campus—and beyond.
“I’ve been wondering for weeks what your room looked like.” She shifted slightly against him so that her br**sts pressed against his chest. “And I’ve been wondering what it would have been like if I’d come up with you when you asked me that first night—especially now that I can guess how good you would have made me feel.”
Like he said, she was a sexy-as-hell drunk. But he made himself press a kiss to her forehead rather than her lips as she swayed even tighter into him.
“Come over here, beautiful.”
“It’s different when you say it.”
He walked her over to the bed and gently sat her down on it. “What’s different?”
“When you call me beautiful.” She whispered the last word as if it were a bad one.
“Why?” He knelt in front of her, needing so badly to understand what made him different to her. “Why is it different when I say it?”
“My face, my body—all they are, all I am, is money to the people I’ve been around my whole life.” She licked her lips as if she was afraid she wasn’t making sense. “They call me beautiful to get something from me. They want me to be beautiful to get something for themselves. For their companies.” She looked straight into his eyes. “But when you say it, I believe it might actually be true. And that it isn’t bad. That I don’t have to keep wishing it away.”
“You are beautiful, Serena. So damned beautiful,” he told her in a raw voice, not thinking, not weighing any of his words. Just knowing that they needed to be said. And heard. “All of you, Serena. Not just your face. Not just your body. Everything you are is beautiful.”
He pulled her against him, breathed her in as he held her tightly. He’d taken care of his sisters, had his brothers’ backs, watched over his mother and father, but that was his family. When it came to girls, to romance—to love—he’d never wanted to be a knight on a white steed for anyone, had always thought those fairytale stories were ridiculous. But now, he understood each and every one of them.
Because if he could vanquish Serena’s demons, he would.
Stunned by the force of his own feelings for her—and by the fact that love was the only way he could describe them—he gently set her away from him. “Why don’t you lie down for a few minutes?”
“Are you going to join me?”
God, he was tempted, especially given the half-innocent, half-budding-seductress way she’d asked. But he knew better, knew that the very last thing in the world he should do was kiss her, strip off her clothes, and make her his while she was drunk.
No, he wanted her to be one hundred percent with him when that happened.
“I should have made sure you ate before we went up to the Dish, but since I didn’t, I’m going to go down and make you a plate of food to soak up some of that tequila you guzzled on the hill.”
She moved as if to sit up. “I’ll go with you.”
He could only imagine the way word would spread if she wobbled into the kitchen downstairs. Like a freaking wildfire.
Plus, he needed a few minutes to try to get his head on straight. Or, more accurately, to figure out if he’d fallen in love with Serena. Because, at this point, even the idea of falling in love felt like being hit by an earthquake from out of the blue. Exciting to the part of him that wanted to believe there would be no collateral damage. Terrifying to the rational part that knew there probably would be.
And the thing was, if he really had gone and fallen in love with her, then he needed to figure out just what they were going to do about it. Starting with whether she loved him, too.
“I think you should stay up here.”
“Kiss me first,” she requested as she rolled over to put her arms around his neck, “and then maybe I’ll stay.”
He loved when she kissed him. With every kiss it felt like another meaningless hook-up from his past disappeared. One day, he wondered, would there only be her?
He could easily have kept kissing her all night long, but made himself draw back, stroking her silky hair with one hand as he pulled away. Her eyes had closed and there was a smile on her lips as he told her, “I’ll be right back.”
She nodded into his pillow, wrapping her arms around it. “I’ll wait here.” Her words were soft and slightly slurred.
Closing the door behind him with a soft click, he ran into Zane in the hall. “Hey, didn’t think we’d see you tonight. Ready to party with us again?”
Sean hadn’t been to one of his frat’s parties since the night he’d met Serena. In truth, he hadn’t enjoyed them for a long time, but he’d been so desperate to escape what was in his own head and heart that he’d kept going along with the same ritual as everyone else. But drinking, partying, picking up random girls, even working out until his muscles burned, hadn’t helped him feel better.
Only being with Serena had been able to do that.