Kiss Me Like This
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“No.” Serena didn’t even have to think about it. “Not at all.”
“That’s cool,” his youngest sister said. “I was just thinking it must be kind of weird to go to college and live in a dorm and go to classes after all the things you’ve probably seen and done.”
“It was weird at first,” she admitted. “At least until I met your brother.” Knowing she couldn’t pretend the tabloid story hadn’t come out online with pictures of the two of them, or that there wouldn’t be similar things coming in the future, she said, “I know it must have been strange for all of you when those pictures of the two of us came out.”
“It wasn’t a big deal,” Sean immediately said.
Grant, however, was only a beat behind him with, “Actually, it was a surprise, but I don’t imagine it’s anything you can control, is it?”
“Unfortunately,” she said with a little shake of her head, “it isn’t.”
She could feel Sean bristling beside her, not nearly as bad as he’d been when he’d caught his friends looking at her video the night before, but definitely not pleased with the way the conversation had gone. She wished she knew how to fix things, but before she could figure anything out, help came from the most unlikely quarter.
“Serena, do you want to come help me bring out Maddie’s birthday cake?” Olivia asked.
Beyond grateful, Serena nodded and was sliding out of her seat when Sean slid his hand to the nape of her neck and kissed her, long and hard and in front of his entire family. Her head was spinning by the time he let her go, but she somehow managed to make it to her feet without tripping and into the kitchen, where his sister was waiting for her.
“When those pictures of the two of you came out,” Olivia said, point-blank, “I told him to be careful.”
Serena had barely closed the door behind her, and between the kiss and the roller coaster of a conversation during their meal, she didn’t quite have her bearings. “You love your brother. Of course you would want him to be careful.”
That was right when Olivia shocked her, yet again, by saying, “You love him, too, don’t you?”
Whatever Serena could have imagined that she and Olivia would talk about in the kitchen, it wouldn’t have been love. And yet, now that she’d met Sean’s family and saw that love was the core of everything the Morrisons did, of everything they were, she realized it couldn’t have been anything else.
Olivia’s smile flashed so quickly that Serena almost missed it. Especially when she followed it up by saying, “Losing our mom...it was hard. So, so hard. But she and Sean had a really special connection.” Serena badly wanted to reach out to her as she added, “He’s finally starting to come back to life, and I hate the thought of him getting hurt.”
“I won’t hurt him,” Serena promised.
“Now that I’ve met you,” Olivia said, “I know you wouldn’t do it on purpose. But what about when you leave to film that movie?”
Serena’s chest clenched tight for a split second. “I’m not doing any movies.”
“Didn’t Smith Sullivan pick you to be in his new movie?”
“He did, but then the project was shelved this past summer.”
Olivia stared at her, confused. “But I just read today that it’s back on. And that you’re in it.”
Serena shook her head. “No, I haven’t agreed to anything. It must just be old news that someone is circulating again. I’m going to stay at school, not leave to do a movie or model.”
Sean came in through the door. “Everything good here?”
Olivia stared at Serena for another few seconds before she seemed to make up her mind and smiled. “Everything’s great. I’m glad you came today, Serena.”
Serena smiled back at his sister. “I am, too.”
“I had a great time with your family today.”
Drew needed Sean’s car for the evening to visit his professor, so Olivia had dropped them off in front of Serena’s dorm, and this was the first chance they’d had to be alone since before the party.
“They all really liked you. Just like I knew they would. Even Olivia,” he said with a grin, “couldn’t help but join your team by the end.”
“They’re all amazing. And if at least one of them hadn’t been just a little bit suspicious of me, well, I think that would have been the weird part.”
In fact, the only truly weird thing about the afternoon was that no one had talked about his mom apart from an accidental comment here or there. It was as if they were all walking on eggshells around each other. Or, more specifically, Sean’s father.
Was loving someone so deeply worth the pain of losing that love?
But she already knew the answer to that, didn’t she? Because even if everything blew up between her and Sean, she didn’t see how she could ever regret loving him.
Not, she reminded herself, that things were going to go wrong. Because for once in her life, she felt like she was exactly where she needed to be with exactly the person she needed to be with. And every time she thought about the way Sean seemed to be on the verge of wanting to take pictures again, it made her so happy for him that she knew nothing could possibly crush that joy.
Nothing at all.
As they walked inside and her dorm mates said hello, she could see all of them taking note of the fact that she and Sean were holding hands. She smiled, thinking that as far as she was concerned, every last one of them could take a picture and post it on the Internet.
And if her mother saw it? Well, she’d just have to accept that her daughter had finally grown up. Yes, she knew her mother’s terrible track record with Serena’s father meant that she would likely be extremely suspicious of Sean’s motives, but surely Genevieve would soon realize that Sean was a good person and that he didn’t mean Serena any harm, wouldn’t she?
Still high on having spent the afternoon with Sean’s family, Serena was more hopeful than ever that the two of them might one day be able to connect as mother and daughter, rather than as “momager” and client.
Because if Serena could meet a guy like Sean and fall in love, then surely anything was possible, wasn’t it?