“So honestly, when do I get to kiss you again?” She laughs at my harsh left turn in our conversation. I love the way she laughs. There’s this rasping sound that comes from deep inside her that shows it’s genuine, and her smile creases deep into her cheeks.
She flops to her back, and I instantly kick myself for causing her to move away. “You’re really trying to wear me down, aren’t you?” she says, her hand running along the side of her face until she covers her eyes, peering at me through her barely spread fingers.
“Wow, well…I’ve never really had to wear anyone down before…” I say, shielding my slightly dented ego.
“And that’s precisely why we need to be friends, and why I can’t kiss you…” she starts, and I interrupt.
“Again,” I say.
“Right, again,” she whispers and moves her hand back to cover her eyes. I take this opportunity to roll onto my side and really look at her, the way her lips barely part when she breathes, the small twitches they make when she fights against her body’s urge to smile, the tiny movement of her tongue as it wets her lips. I have to kiss her again.
“But…and hear me out,” I say, startling her with how close I am. She uncovers her eyes and turns to face me, scooting back a few more inches just to maintain this new self-imposed “safety”distance. “Maybe the fact that I am willing to work so hard just to get you to say yes makes you different.”
She stares into my eyes for several long seconds, her lips slightly parted as she considers this. “Am I? Different?” she asks.
“Now see, there’s the catch,” I say, running my thumb softly over the wrinkles in the sheet between us. “I can’t know for certain unless I kiss you again.”
“Oh really,” she says, smirking.
“Cross my heart,” I say, motioning my hand across my chest. “It’s in the handbook.”
“There’s a handbook,” she says.
“Uh, duh. There’s always a handbook,” I challenge back.
“And your handbook says you can’t tell if I’m worth your time without jamming your tongue down my throat?” she fires back.
“Wow. Again with the word slap,” I say, secretly loving this back-and-forth we’ve got going now.
“Word slap?” she questions.
“Yeah, like, you just bitch-slapped me in the face with your words. Word slap,” I say with a shrug. She holds my gaze after this and bites at the corner of her lip, her eyes squinting as she decides her next move.
“Okay, how’s this,” she says, leaning in a little closer, closing the gap in the invisible barrier she seems to have instituted when I started talking about kissing. “You can kiss me again…” I move toward her on instinct, but she’s quick to put her hand against my chest to stop me. I grip it, tight, and meet the dare in her eyes. “But not until you mean it.”
There’s a fire in her eyes when she says this, one that I don’t disrespect, and don’t dare cross. It’s not threatening, but it’s serious, and I have this feeling churning in my stomach that Cass Owens is what Nate and I like to call a game changer. Her words have my heart racing, my mind worried that I can’t mean it enough, at least not yet. All of our playfulness from seconds before has ceased with this line she’s drawn, and I will obey it.
Holding her gaze, I lift the hand I’ve trapped against my body to my mouth and press my lips to her open palm. I don’t speak, and I don’t break our line of sight. But I don’t kiss her, either.
Book One: This Is Falling