His pupils swelled, turning his eyes nearly black, and in the brief reaction I read the forbidden thoughts there. I wondered whether they mirrored my own: Sam’s mouth on mine, the heat of his palm beneath my shirt, the way he would block out the sun if he hovered over me.
“I mean,” I clarified, pushing through the embarrassment, “things I’m not sure we could do in a park.”
His brows shot up, and a laugh burst out of his mouth. “Tate, holy shit.”
“Don’t tell me you weren’t thinking it too. I could see it all over your face.”
He looked at my mouth again, and a lazy grin settled on his. “You always this honest?”
I was already shaking my head. “Absolutely not.”
Sam’s brows pulled closer together. “Why with me?”
“I don’t know.” He just seemed to pull everything out of me: my truth magnet. Maybe it was because he already knew my secret; there was nothing else about me that I’d ever have to hide. “I just feel safe with you.”
“I could ask you anything, and you’d tell me?” he asked.
He was so close, maybe only six inches away, and my heart was a jackhammer. I could lean forward and press my lips to his. I was 99.8 percent sure he’d let me.
“You can try,” I said.
I watched his tongue dart out, wet his lips. “Hmm.”
“I could ask you anything, too,” I ventured.
But all my thoughts were more . . . physical. I was wiped clean of any other thought. Maybe he could see it too, because he smiled a little wider and reached out to pull a strand of hair from where it was stuck to my lip. “So you’ve had one boyfriend?”
“Yeah. But we didn’t have sex.”
His hand fell away leisurely, his breathing slowed, and he let my words settle between us. I felt everything come to a stop inside me, immediately wanting to swallow back what I’d said, wanting to stand up and walk away and dive under the covers back at the hotel room.
“I don’t know why I just said that,” I admitted.
“Because you’re thinking about it.”
If my heart was racing before, it was torpedoing now, a wild metronome inside me that couldn’t keep pace with this song.
“Don’t be embarrassed,” he said quietly. “I am too.”
“You’ve done it before?” I wanted to shove my fist in my mouth over how naive I sounded.
He let out a sweet laugh, a gentle, “Yeah.”
At first, I thought I was only imagining that he moved closer, but then his mouth was on mine, just once: a long, pressing, lingering strawberry kiss.
“That okay?” he asked, his words whispered against my lips. He pulled back, taking me in. His breath was warm on my skin.
“I’ve been kissed before.”
With another quiet laugh, he leaned in again, and this time he brought one hand up, cupping the side of my face, before sliding it into my hair. His mouth opened, warm and careful, and he tasted me, pulling back again with a smile. “Now you taste like strawberries.”
I may have tasted sweet, but I’d become a monster, a shark given a whiff of blood. With a hand on his neck, I pulled him back, urging him partway over me so his chest covered mine. He came readily, groaning, and was careful not to crush me, putting his weight on an elbow, propping his other hand beside my ribs.
I couldn’t get enough, couldn’t kiss him deep enough or press my mouth hard enough against his. I wanted him so intensely; it had been building only for days but it felt like months, and it made me ache in this agonizing, impatient way.
He pulled away a little, breathless as he kissed my chin, my neck, and then pressed his forehead to my shoulder. “Easy, Tate. I still have to walk out of here.”
His ear was so close to my heart, I was sure he could hear the way it flipped around inside me. “Nana’s gone for the next few hours,” I said.
Slowly, Sam lifted his head and studied me. “You wanna go back to the hotel?”
When I spoke, I sounded like I’d been running all morning: “Yeah. Hotel.”
MY HAND SHOOK AS I slid the key card into the slot in the door. I was distracted and rushed by the sensation of Sam’s fingers bracketing my hips, his mouth moving up the side of my neck to my ear. I didn’t know what I was doing—this was crazy—but the hunger was greater than the trepidation that loomed like an anxious shadow in the back of my thoughts. Housekeeping had already been through, and the beds were immaculate, surfaces shining.
We closed the door, hooked the safety lock in place, and then stood, staring at each other.
“We don’t have to do this,” he said.
Before nerves could get the best of me, I turned and walk over to my bed, scooting toward the headboard. Sam climbed after me onto the mattress, kicking off his shoes.
It was so quiet I could hear a taxi driver on the street yelling to someone on the sidewalk. I could hear the even ticking of the alarm clock on the bedside table. I could hear the uneven pulls of Sam’s breath.
“This is crazy,” he said, finally moving closer and punctuating every sentence with a kiss to my jaw, my cheek, my ear: “Change your mind anytime. I mean. We just met. Your grandmother could come back. Tell me to stop.”