When they move to my small town, their secret is blown. He needs my help to keep her out of the media, and with each exchange we grow closer. Only problem is I need to stay away from the memories he ignites, and the temptations he brings my way.
Secrets I’ve kept and thoughts of that fatal night come crashing back into my life. I have to wonder if it was more than fate that brought his little girl into my classroom.
“Thank you for going with us today,” I say after getting settled on the freeway, heading back home after having dinner together.
Cailin didn’t even make it this far before passing out.
I sneak a quick glance at Sarah and feel a pain in my chest when I meet her eyes. There’s something about her that makes my heart pound for seemingly no reason at all.
“I had so much fun. I’ve never been with just one child who’s old enough to walk on their own and actually be interested in the animals. I brought my niece a few years ago, but she was a little too young. It’s fun to be able to relax more and enjoy the animals without stressing over where everyone is or if they are taken care of.”
“Do you enjoy teaching?”
She lets out an uneasy breath, and I turn to see her expression. She’s staring out the window like she’s thinking. I touch her hand. I can feel that whatever she is thinking isn’t good. I felt it last time we had this conversation too. There’s something she’s not letting me in on.
When our fingers first meet, she flinches ever so slightly. When she doesn’t turn, I grip her harder, opening her palm and entangling my fingers with hers.
I feel the tension slowly leave her body as I run my thumb over hers.
Finally, she speaks, “It’s not like I don’t like teaching. I love it actually. It just wasn’t my first choice.”
I decide not to push her and ask what that first choice was. Obviously, it’s something she still struggles with, and who am I to bring up sore subjects from the past?
We drive in silence, hands intertwined. Like a Nightmare by Deadset Society comes on the radio, and I turn it up slightly, using the control on the steering wheel.
Out of the corner of my eye, I catch Sarah singing. “You know this song?”
“Yeah. I used to listen to My Darkest Days, so I followed them when they started the new band after Matt Walst left.”
I’m stunned to silence. I expect people to know band names and even song titles, but I don’t know many people who care enough to actually know the intricacies of band members and following those members when bands breaks up, only to create new ones.
I try to keep my eyes on the road as I also stare at her in shock.
She drops her shoulder, giving me a deadpan expression. “Why are you so surprised I know that?” My eyebrows rise, and a genuine, deep belly laugh escapes her sexy lips. “I’m not everything you see.”
A grin spreads across my face. “I can tell, and believe me, it makes me want to see more.”
Her cheeks flush, and I squeeze her hand tighter.
As we get off the freeway, Cailin wakes up, yawning as she asks, “Are we home yet?”
“Almost,” I say. “We have to take Sarah home first.”
“How come she can’t just stay with us? Have a sleepover?” Cailin whines as I hear Sarah choke on the water she was drinking.
I wink in her direction while responding. “Maybe another time, but not tonight.”
Sarah covers her mouth as she coughs harder.
When I pull into her complex, she says goodbye to Cailin as I open the door. “Stay right here, okay, sweetheart? I’m just going to make sure Sarah makes it up to her apartment.” I put on a song Cailin likes and close the door before rushing to Sarah’s side.
Sarah drops her water bottle when she sees me appear on the opposite side of the truck. After leaning down to pick it up, she fidgets with her hair, making sure it’s smooth and in place.
“You don’t have to walk me up. I’ll be fine,” she says, looking everywhere but at me.
I reach for her fingers, lacing them with mine. “I want to.”
Her eyes meet mine, and I nod my head toward her door.
“Thank you again for inviting me,” she says as we stroll in the direction of her place.
“We’ll have to plan something again soon.”
Her lips tug up to a smile. “I’d like that.”
We reach her door, and she takes out her keys, unlocking it but not pushing it open. Instead, she pauses and glances up at me, waiting for what I’m going to say.
I step closer, so our bodies are inches apart. “I’m not going to rush this.”
Her eyes widen, but she doesn’t say anything.
“I’ve been with girls I never wanted, but I’ve never been with anyone I actually wanted a future with, especially this bad. I don’t want to screw this up. I’m going to kiss you though.”
I run my fingers across the nape of her neck. Her pulse is thumping out of control. Mine feels the same way.
I slowly lean in. “Is that okay with you?”
Her lids close as she nods ever so slightly. Her scent is the first thing I notice as I take her in—cherries, vanilla, and so fucking mine.
Our mouths brush against each other as I hold her in place. Her lips parting slightly, I lick them, seeing if she’ll invite me in. When she does, I have to hold my breath and make myself not take more than she’s willing to give me right now as our first kiss.
I wasn’t kidding. I want to take this slow. I want to do this right.
It takes everything I have to pull back as I place my forehead to hers. “Slowly,” I whisper more to myself than anything else.
She nods, and I can’t help myself when I lean in again, entangling my tongue with hers and pushing her against the wall, wanting just a little more.
I pause our kiss, keeping her pressed to my body as I breathe her in one more time.
When I step back, everything I’m feeling reflects back at me, written all over her face. I take my thumb and wipe her bottom lip, needing one last touch from her.
“I’ll see you soon,” I say as I step back.
She waves goodbye as she picks up everything that she was holding that’s now on the floor. I try not to laugh that she dropped them, knowing, with a kiss like that, I might have done the same thing if something were in my hand.
Lauren Runow is the author of multiple Adult Contemporary Romance novels, some more dirty than others. When Lauren isn’t writing, you’ll find her listening to music, at her local CrossFit, reading, or at the baseball field with her boys. Her only vice is coffee, and she swears it makes her a better mom!
Lauren is a graduate from the Academy of Art in San Francisco and is the founder and co-owner of the community magazine she and her husband publish. She is a proud Rotarian, helps run a local non-profit kids science museum, and was awarded Woman of the Year from Congressman Garamendi. She lives in Northern California with her husband and two sons.
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