Kiss Me Like This
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“Amazingly, she did.” He laughed. “And maybe it was because she trusted us not to screw up too badly that none of us really went too far.” He laughed again. “Well, except for Drew.”
“What did he do, beyond breaking both legs and terrorizing all of you with the wheelchair?”
“It’s not my story to tell, unfortunately. But I’m sure you’ll be able to get it out of him one day. There’s nothing he likes more than bragging to a pretty girl about what a badass he is.”
Serena smiled back, but he could see it was forced this time, and he knew why. He’d brought up their future together...one that suddenly seemed uncertain.
“My mom didn’t tell us right away that she was sick. She’d had a cold for a while. At least, that’s what she thought it was. My dad was the one who finally insisted on taking her to the doctor. She hated doctors and hospitals, ever since she was a kid and had ended up in a hospital with pneumonia. And since she was always really healthy, it didn’t seem like a big deal that she didn’t go much. The cancer…it was already pretty advanced by the time they checked her out. They said—” Oh man, he’d made it this far, but suddenly he didn’t know if he could get all the way through it.
He heard Serena say his name and realized that she had put her arms around him and was holding him tight. “You don’t have to keep talking about your mom. It’s too hard.”
But even though it was the hardest thing he’d ever done, he needed to get it off his chest. Finally, get it out there. “They said that if she’d just come in for her regular exams, they probably could have caught it in time.” Anger rose up inside him. “In time to save her life.”
“Oh, Sean. I’m so sorry.”
“I was so mad at her. So damned mad.” His throat had tightened up, and it was hard to get words out past the lump that had formed. “She left us all—she died—because she was afraid of getting poked at by some doctors a couple of times a year. Damn it…” The tears he hadn’t let himself shed were finally falling, and he couldn’t seem to stop them. “I’m still mad. I shouldn’t be, but I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it.”
* * *
There was such deep, powerful love in Sean’s voice when he spoke about his mom. And such pain, too. Pain that broke Serena’s heart into tiny little pieces. Especially now that she knew his grief was both for losing her...and because he’d been beating himself up over his anger at how it had all come to pass.
“You wouldn’t be so angry,” she finally said while his heart beat hard and fast against her own, “if you hadn’t loved her so much. And I can see why you did. She sounds like the perfect mom I always used to dream of having.”
“I thought she was perfect. But she wasn’t.”
“When I was modeling, I always hated the word perfect and the pressure that came with it,” she admitted, “especially when I knew it wasn’t possible to be perfect, that someone would always find some flaw, something about me that could have been better. I was expected to be prepared for absolutely every possibility, but I was just a kid trying to do my best and I think...” She swallowed hard as he drew back to look at her. She didn’t have a clue if this was the right thing to say, but needed to risk saying it anyway. “I think your mom was doing her very best. And from everything you’ve told me, she was awesome and amazing and fun and loving. But she wasn’t perfect. None of us are.”
As he continued to stare at her, she held her breath, praying she hadn’t just upset him even more. Not when it was the very last thing she’d ever want to do. But then, when he finally reached out to cup her cheek, she knew it was safe to let her breath whoosh back out of her lungs.
“I thought it was going to be so hard to talk about her again.” He leaned forward slightly so that his forehead was pressed to hers. “And it was, but you made it easier.”
“Any time you want to talk about your mom, or anything else, I’ll be there,” she promised him. “No matter what else is going on—” Even if she ended up on a movie set far away from Stanford. “—I’ll always drop anything to be there for you. So if you want to talk more tonight—”
But he was shaking his head, and she could feel the change in the way his fingers were stroking over her skin. From pure comfort…to the first stirrings of desire.
“I don’t think we need to talk about my mom, or yours, anymore tonight.” His other hand cupped the other side of her face. “Do you?”
There were a million more things they could have said to each other about the past and the future. But, suddenly, she realized he was right—they’d both gone through enough for one night. The hard decisions would still be there waiting for them in the morning.
But tonight, while they had each other, they should celebrate the one thing they both knew for sure: They loved each other.
“As the last remaining nineteen-year-old virgin on the planet,” she said softly, “I used to wonder if I’d ever know for sure that I was ready, or if I’d just eventually end up having sex because I felt so behind the curve and needed to catch up.” She couldn’t believe she was actually smiling while speaking her most secret thoughts aloud, but that was the magic of being with Sean. Even the impossible no longer seemed out of reach. “But I’ve never been so sure about anyone or anything in my entire life. And I’m so glad you’re my first, because I can’t imagine trusting anyone else the way I trust you. I’m so glad I waited for you, that there hasn’t been anyone else.”
His mouth was almost over hers when he whispered, “I’m really glad there hasn’t been anyone else for you, either.”
And then he was kissing her, and it was their sweetest, sexiest, most incredible kiss yet. One that swam through her bloodstream like a drug she’d always crave more of.
And yet, in a night of revelations, when all she wanted to do was let herself drift away in sensation, she couldn’t quite turn off her brain, couldn’t stop herself from saying, “I wish—”
“Tell me, Serena. Tell me what you wish and I’ll do whatever I can to make it come true.”