Kiss Me Like This
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Tomorrow morning, Serena assured herself, was soon enough. For the rest of today, all she wanted to do was focus on being with him.
“I like seeing you this happy,” he said as he pulled her close and nuzzled against her.
It was amazing how different—and magical—everything felt now compared to the first time she and Sean had walked across campus together, both of them prickly and unsure with each other.
“I like being this happy,” she agreed. And she was hoping to feel even happier soon. Very soon, in fact.
The plan was to grab some of her books from her room so that they could study back at his place. But Serena knew the likelihood of getting much studying done tonight while alone with Sean was pretty much nil.
She’d finally made up her mind about the two of them. Even if he wasn’t ready yet to share absolutely everything with her, she loved him enough to trust that he would one day...and she couldn’t wait one more second to be his.
One hundred percent his and only his.
In fact, at this point, she wasn’t sure she was going to have the willpower to make it all the way back across campus to his room. Maybe, she thought as she unlocked her door, she’d text her roommate to find out exactly how long Abi would be gone and whether they could have the room to themselves for a while.
The thought of finally making love with Sean made Serena giddy enough that she couldn’t wait until they were inside to kiss him. When he put his hands on her hips and pulled her tightly against him in exactly the way she loved so much, it was clear that he couldn’t wait another second, either.
By the time her door swung all the way open they were wrapped around each other. After a long afternoon where he’d constantly stroked her back, played with her hands under the table, and teased her with little kisses, she was ready for more.
Especially when she had all this joy, all this happiness, to share with him.
But then, in the exact moment that she realized he’d stopped kissing her back, she heard her name.
She would instinctively have spun away from Sean if he hadn’t been holding her so tightly.
“Mom?” She stared at her mother in shock. Genevieve was standing by the window, looking horrified at the sight of Serena in Sean’s arms. “What are you doing here?”
Genevieve Britten was a very striking thirty-nine-year-old woman, and Serena was sure she must have turned plenty of heads walking through campus and into Serena’s dorm today. People always said it was clear where Serena’s looks had come from, though Genevieve’s modeling look had always been crisp and angular, whereas Serena had never been able to shed her soft, slightly dreamy appearance.
“You lied to me,” her mother said in a voice so sharp it could have carved a diamond. “You told me the tabloid pictures were setups. But here you two are, just like in the photos. Worse.”
As the first shock began to wear off, Serena realized her mother hadn’t so much as looked at Sean. “Mom,” she said in as steady a voice as she could manage, “this is Sean. Sean Morrison.”
“I don’t care what his name is. Do you think he loves you? Do you think he’s going to stick around after he gets what he wants from you? After what you’ve probably already so stupidly given him?”
Maybe if she hadn’t just come from spending the day with Sean’s amazing family, this conversation wouldn’t seem so surreal. And maybe if she hadn’t been apart from Genevieve for so many weeks, she would still be numb to hearing her speak like this about men, about their unfaithfulness, their lies.
But today it all came in sharp contrast to the joy, and the faith in love, that she’d literally been embracing just moments before.
Still, though every word out of her mother’s mouth felt like a knife cutting into her, Serena was torn. Torn between moving closer to Sean...and edging away from him in the hopes that it would cool her mother’s ire and make her happy. Or rather, happier.
Sean, however, clearly wasn’t wavering even a little bit as he kept a very protective arm around her. “Ms. Britten,” he said in a low voice in which he was very carefully working to bank his fury, “I don’t think you should talk to your daughter that way.”
No one had ever stood up to her mother on her behalf before. Not her agent. Not any of the photographers or designers, not even the ones that Serena had thought were friends. She’d been too valuable a commodity for all of them to risk Genevieve forbidding them access to Serena.
“I can see why you fell for his lies,” her mother said to Serena, still not directly acknowledging Sean. “He knows exactly how to get to you, doesn’t he, by acting like all he wants is to take care of you. Well, let me tell you what he really wants. He wants to f**k you.” She gestured toward the other dorm rooms. “All any of these college boys want to do is f**k you. They’re going to say all the right things. They’re going to make you believe they mean it when they say they love you. And you’re going to make it so easy for them by being so desperate to hear their pretty little lies. But in the end all they’re going to do is screw you, brag to their friends, then move on to the next stupid girl desperate enough to believe in love. Forgotten, Serena. You’ll be forgotten. And I’ll still be the only one who will ever love you. The only one who will still be here for you with open arms when the rest of the world turns its back on you. So if you’re stupid enough to even think of giving up your career and this movie, I promise you that you will regret it for the rest of your life. Just the way I always regretted giving up mine.”
Sean had moved in front of her and his hands were on her shoulders as if he could physically block her from the horrible things her mother was saying. Things Serena had heard her whole life, but hadn’t wanted to be true.
“You don’t have to stay here and listen to this. You know you don’t.”
When her mother’s verbal assault hadn’t let up, shock had automatically started to shift to that buzzing numbness that Serena had been familiar with for so long. But something pierced through. Movie. Her mother had mentioned the movie. Serena needed to ask what Genevieve was talking about. Needed to know exactly how her life was about to change. And yet, even the possibility that the Smith Sullivan movie really was back on wasn’t the real reason Serena couldn’t just turn and walk away.