I shift closer to him and wrap my arms around his waist. I lay my head on his chest and breathe him in. His shoulders relax, if only slightly. The need to comfort him is overwhelming. I want to wash it all away for him, hold the world at bay while I erase the worry permanently etched in his forehead.
“Everything is going to be okay, West. I just know it,” I lie. I don’t know that everything will be okay. I don’t know anything at all.
We sit in electrified silence, the crackling of dead leaves under us the only sound. I memorize the feel of him, the smell of him, the rhythm of his breathing. I’m lost in the moment, already anticipating the loss that’s to come.
“I leave in a month.”
The words cut through the silence like a judgment. Instead of hurt, I’m filled with resolve. I won’t let him push me away anymore. I’m done playing by his rules.
I rise up to meet the storm brewing in his eyes. His hand wraps firmly around my neck, and his eyes dart hungrily to my lips. I swallow nervously and refuse to look away.
If he turns his head or pulls my hair, I swear I’m going to tackle him to the ground.
I lean in hopefully, somewhat expectantly, and close my eyes. His warm breath dances across my lips, and my every prayer is answered. He presses his mouth firmly to mine and stills, almost memorizing the moment.
That one small touch is the beginning of the most memorable kiss of my life. It’s hello and goodbye, I love you, I’ll miss you, and everything in between.
He sucks my bottom lip, and I inhale sharply, completely overcome. His hands dive into my hair, and his tongue slides against mine just once before he pulls away. He touches my forehead to his and chuckles softly.
“What have we been waiting for all this time?”
“You,” I whisper breathlessly, “I’ve been waiting for you.”
My admission is all he needs. He devours me, a tangle of lips, teeth, tongues, and hands. I don’t know where I end and he begins. I’m exhilarated and relieved all at once.
I run my hands down his arms and grip his wrists tightly. I pull away and look into his hooded eyes.
“Tell me something, West. Tell me something I don’t know.”
He runs a thumb over my swollen lips while he studies me. I’ve never felt more loved, more worshipped.
“I can’t imagine a world without you in it. No matter where I am, I’ll always dream of you. It’ll have to be enough.” He places soft, scorching kisses up my neck until he reaches my ear. “God, I don’t think it’ll ever be enough.”
Book One: Hope Over Fear