Sean nuzzles his chin to the side of my face and holds me tight. I’m sitting between his legs on the sand. The way he breathes makes me feel peaceful. It’s strange. I don’t understand why or how. I don’t question things like that anymore. I just take it for what it is—I feel at ease around him. Sean rubs his hands over my arms. The chill in the air numbed my skin a while ago. It feels good to have him sitting so close, to warm me up.
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I tilt my head back to ask him something, but never get the chance. When our eyes meet, something shifts. All day Sean has acted more like a friend than a lover. I’ve convinced myself it’s because that’s what he is. I’m his paid lover. It’s not the same. But that look in his eye ensnares me. It pulls me to him, making the butterflies in my stomach flutter to life.
Sean watches my lips with a hungry intensity that sends sparks through my body. Through lowered lashes, his eyes never stray from my mouth. I’m pulled to him With everything in me, I try to resist, but I can’t. I’m barely breathing, hardly holding on. Sean gives me something to hold on to, at least for now.
The space between us closes. Sean’s lips are right there. I feel the magnetic pull and before I know it, his lips are brushing against mine. I suck in air, trying hard to control myself. I don’t want him to know how enamored I am, how much I want him It has nothing to do with contracts or money. It’s Sean. I want him, I want to be around him and taste his lips because I want to.
The kiss is a breathtaking tease. When he pulls away, Sean’s blue eyes are blazing like twin flames. I can’t look away. I twist in his lap and turn to my side. Leaning into his chest, I lift my hand to his cheek. Leaning in slowly, watching his beautiful lips, I close the space between us. My heart pounds harder as I feel Sean’s hands in my hair. He doesn’t pull me forward, but he doesn’t push me back.
Something inside of me is screaming for me to stop. It’s the voice that tells me to hold on, that I can survive this. When every other thought falls silent, it’s always there. I don’t understand the warning bells going off. I just know how Sean makes me feel and I need to feel something that I understand right now. That night on the motorcycle, the night he helped me chase my car down, there were no voices telling me to beware. He could have ridden off with me and dumped my body at the Captree boat docks. No one would have known what happened to me. There was no little voice in the back of my head then, so it’s totally weird that it’s there now.
Breathing in deeply, I ignore the warning and press my lips to his. The uncertainty fades as Sean kisses me back. His tongue sweeps against the seam of my lips, gently, asking me if I want him When I let him in, Sean holds me tight and leans us back into the sand. He rolls so that I’m under him. The cold air and the hot kisses crash together. My pulse pounds harder as the kiss builds hotter and hotter. Sean keeps his lips on mine the entire time, not stopping for breath. His hands touch my face, gently stroking my cheek as the kiss intensifies. My heart thuds inside of me like it’s been sleeping and suddenly startled awake. My body is hot and cold, my mind is swimming in sensations that conflict.
Sean knows how to draw me out of my despair. His touch is like magic. Everything that was crushing me is gone, temporarily held away. I lose myself in his lips. My eyes are closed and I focus on the feel of his lips on mine. Every time he sweeps his tongue over mine, my insides flutter. It’s magic.
After a moment, Sean pulls back. His eyes sweep my face before locking with mine. Reaching toward me, Sean tucks a dark curl behind my ear. “Your kiss is addicting,” he says, his voice a little too husky from a kiss. I smile at him and touch his cheek and feel the light stubble under the pads of my fingers. Sean’s eyes lower as I do it. He takes a slow, deep, breath like he’s savoring my touch. When his eyes open again, he takes a jagged breath. My gaze drifts to his lips. I can’t stop staring a his mouth. “If you keep looking at me like that, I’m not going to be able to stop.”
An awkward smile spreads across my face. My fingers twirl the hair at the base of his neck. “You’d have sex in the sand, when it’s freezing outside?”
“If it meant that I could be with you,” his hands strokes my cheek, “then, yes.”
I stare into Sean’s eyes, unable to blink, unable to breathe. This feels real. I don’t know what to say. “You get to be with me as much as you want. You bought me, remember?”
Sean’s eyes dart back and forth between mine. His hand strokes my cheek again. The sensation makes my eyes close briefly as his warm fingers trail across my chilled skin. “But it’s not like this.”
Before I can ask him what he means, Sean’s lips are on mine. He kisses me fiercely, pressing his mouth firmly to mine. His hands rove my body, carefully moving over areas that no one is supposed to touch. His hands slip over the curve of my hips and under my sweater. I feel Sean’s cold fingers press against the small of my back. I arch toward him and Sean pulls me tighter. He kisses me like he’s never going to get another chance.
My fingers tangle in his hair. I find the bottom of his sweater and slip my hands underneath. I slide my palms along his toned body, feeling the warm skin on his back. Sean reacts by moving onto me. My knees part and I wrap my ankles around his. The kisses grow more passionate. My hear pounds harder. I don’t understand how he does this to me. In that moment, there’s only him and me. I don’t hurt. There are no memories to repress, no thoughts to hold back. There’s only Sean and his hot lips.
Without realizing it, I pull his hair. Sean gasps and breaks the kiss. His eyes are dark with desire. He’s breathing hard and so am I. Watching me closely, Sean reaches for the button on my jeans. He flips the button with his thumb and lowers the zipper. My pulse is thundering in my ears, waiting to see what Sean wants to do. His blue eyes are locked on mine. Sean presses his hand to my stomach and slips his fingers into my panties. My mouth falls open into a little O. I make a sound at the back of my throat as his fingers touch me. Sean watches me and gages my reactions to his touch. He moves his hand in a way that makes me hot even though it’s cold.
Sean’s fingers tease me, pressing and flicking the sensitive flesh. I gasp and push my hips to his hand, wanting more. He watches me move. Our eyes lock. There’s something about his gaze that captivates me. I never thought I’d want someone to do this to me, and watch me so openly, but with him it feels right. When I can’t stand the teasing anymore, I wrap my fingers around Sean’s neck and pull him back down. Kissing Sean fiercely, I feel his hand shift: lower. His fingers push inside of me. Gasping, I rock my hips against his hand. Sean dips his fingers in and out, rocking with me. The movement makes me feel like I’m floating. I never want it to end. I feel his eyes on me, watching me. My heart pounds harder. I feel what he’s done to me, how my body responds to him. The heat between my legs warms my entire body.
Sean’s lips press against my cheek and then dip to my neck. I hear voices coming from somewhere behind us on the boardwalk. Sean hears them, too. He stills for a moment and the people walk past. Sean is breathing hard when he looks at me.
“Tell me what you want,” Sean says, his voice filled with need.
“You.” It’s the only thing I want. I want to feel Sean inside of me. I want to lose myself in him
I reach for his jeans and undo the button. When my hands are on the zipper, he stops me. Sean’s fingers hold mine. There’s a slight tremor to his hands. When I look at his face, Sean won’t return my gaze. I can barely breathe. Sean seems like he’s frozen. I must have done something, but I don’t know what. Taking his hand, I lift it to my lips. I kiss each one of his fingers, gently pressing my lips to the soft pad. Then, I take the next finger and do it again. When I finish, I reach for his waist again.
This time, Sean lets me. I lower his zipper and slip my hand below his jeans. Sean sucks in the cold air as my fingers wrap around his hard, hot shaft. I free him from his cloths without undressing him, and then pull him onto me. Sean adjusts my jeans, lowering them When the cold air hits my warm bottom, I think I might die. But then Sean is there, hot and hard.
I feel his body against mine. Sean pushes into me slowly and then pulls nearly all the way out. Then he repeats it. My hands find the skin on his back. Every time he pushes into me, I dig my nails in wanting more. Every moment that passes is filled with pure bliss. My body responds to him, but it’s so different than the other night. I feel different. My core is hotter than hell and that delicate throbbing starts somewhere inside of me. Sean thrusts into me in rhythm with that pulsing. As he takes me higher and higher, the throbbing becomes more demanding. When he can’t take it anymore, Sean thrusts into me, pushing harder and faster, until I shatter. Gasping, every inch of my body feels incredible. I’m so high, so intoxicated with him
Sean stays there, on top of me, breathing hard. His fingers brush my hair out of my face. The look on his face is pensive. Sean’s gaze sweeps over my eyes, cheeks, and lips. His mouth parts like he wants to say something, but he doesn’t. A shiver slips down my spine. Suddenly I feel the cold sand and damp air. I’m still warm, but my senses are returning. I’m falling back to earth, becoming more aware of what we did.
Sean rolls off of me and helps me get my jeans up without filling them with sand. As it is, there’s sand stuck to my cheeks and the small of my back. We wiggled too much to be sand-free. After he buttons my jeans, Sean lays back down, pressing his body to mine. That distant look in his eyes is gone, replaced with something that I don’t recognize. There’s a softness there, a vulnerability that makes me want to hold him forever. Sean presses his lips together. I think he’s going to say something, but he can’t seem to say it. I start to speak, but Sean leans down and presses his lips to mine, silencing me. The kiss is small and chaste. His mouth drifts to my cheek, and then my eyes and nose, leaving a trail of light kisses in his wake. The last kiss is on my forehead.
I watch him, wondering what he’s thinking, wishing that I knew. I finally ask, “What are you thinking?”
Sean sits up on the sand and lets out a rush of air. He pushes his hands through his hair and looks down at me. “I wish things were different. I wish I…” He sounds tense, like he made a mistake. The muscle in his jaw tightens like he can’t swallow.
I sit up and lean back on my elbows. The wind catches my hair and lifts it from my neck, chilling me. I jump up. I reach out and take Sean’s hand and pull him to his feet. “This isn’t the time for wishing or regrets.”
Sean looks at my hands holding onto his. When his gaze lifts, he asks, “Then what time is it?” There’s more there, things he wants to say. I can hear his heart breaking all over again. I wonder if I’m echoing his wife. I wonder if he feels guilty. I know loss, but Sean’s is different. I can’t imagine his pain.
“Time for lunch. I’m treating. You’re driving. Come on, motorcycle man. Carpe diem and all that crap. Let’s go!” I bend over and grab the piggy kite and we head for the car.
Neither of us says anything for a while. Sean seems lost, like he’s floating with no anchor. I lean back in the seat, grateful for the heater. Maybe I’m a little nuts, always making myself cold, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like getting warm I like things that are predictable, things that I can control. It makes me feel better.
We head into Wendy’s and I tell Sean to grab us a table. He lifts an eyebrow at me. “You’re ordering for me? That’s kind of manly.”
“Get over it, bitch,” I tease, smiling at him I meant it to sound more serious, but he smiles and I laugh. “Go sit. Let me treat you to the most wonderful lunch of your life.” I lean in and whisper in his ear, “It’s that good.”
Sean walks away and I order us a bunch of stuff off the cheap-o menu. This is a splurge for me, but it’s worth it. I get the idea that Sean doesn’t dine on a $1.99 very often. I wonder what expression he’d have on his face if saw my dorm room and my stash of Ramen noodles. The naked guy would probably be a distraction. Where the hell did he get a turkey from, anyway? I wonder if Amber’s plaything stole it from the cafeteria.
I smile to myself and walk back to the table. Sean looks at the tray and back up at me. “Milkshakes?”
“Don’t come between a girl and her chocolate. Here,” I had him a small burger, half the fries, and a cup of chili. Taking the burger, I unwrap it and pull the bun off. I spoon the chili onto the meat, followed by the fries, and then a dollop of the shake. “Happy lunch.”
Sean looks at the sandwich like it might bite him He tilts his head sideways and looks at the frozen shake melting out the side of the sandwich. “And you can assure me that I won’t die from eating this?” He lifts it and takes a bite. There’s a crazy-ass expression on his face, like he can’t decide if it’s delicious or disgusting.
I shrug my shoulders as I make my own little weird burger. “I don’t know. This is the first time I’ve put these together.” When I put the bun back on and lift the burger to my mouth, Sean’s blue eyes are wide. He’s staring at me. “What?”
“I’m waiting to see if you’re screwing with me or if you plan on eating it, too.” He’s smiling, like he’s trying not to laugh.
“Oh, I’m eating it.” I grin at him and stuff the food in my mouth, taking a huge bite. The lettuce and ice cream are cold, while the rest of it is hot. The textures and tastes mix in mouth.
Sean watches me chew. “What’s your verdict?”
I smile and wipe some chocolate from the corner of my mouth. “It’s the most confusing thing I’ve ever eaten. It’s sweet and salty, hot and cold. It’s like the bipolar burger.”
“Created by the slightly insane spray-start car girl,” Sean says smiling at me. He takes another bite and makes a strange face when he swallows. I can’t believe he’s eating it. “I still can’t decide if it’s good or gross.”
I point a fry at him and say, “Eat the whole thing and then decide.”
“I think you’re just trying to see what you can put in my mouth, Miss Smith.” Sean’s eyes sparkle as he leans across the table and speaks in that velvety voice of his.
I poke him in the nose with a French fry. “I already know what I can put in your dirty mouth, Mr. Jones.”
He feigns shock and presses his fingers to his chest. “And I’ve barely told you about myself. My my, what keen eyes you have.. .amongst other things.” There’s an older guy at the next table. He glances at Sean, his eyes wide.
My face flames red. I hide behind my burger, acting like I’m going to take a bite, but it just hovers in front of my face. Sean presses a finger to the food and pushes it back to the table. I glance up at Sean. There’s a wicked look in his eye. “How can you be so shy after what we just did? There were people, Avery, and you didn’t even pause. But this, talking about it later, this makes you blush?” He’s laughing, smiling at me, teasing.
I slap his arm “I’m a complicated person, what can I say?”
The man next to us clears his throat. He’s thin, with leathery looking skin and silver hair. A green ball cap sits on his head. He’s wearing a flannel jacket. With his tray in his hand, he stands and says to me, “Be careful with that one.” His eyes flick to Sean as he passes us, like the old guy doesn’t like him
The smile fades off of Sean’s lips, but I call after the guy. “Actually it’s the other way around.”
The old guy gives me a look when he dumps the trash off his tray. He walks out without another word.
“So, random men warn you away from me and that’s your response?” Sean looks at me oddly. I can’t tell if he’s playing with me or really wants to know.
“Random men say lots of things to me. One guy was like, that guy stole your car! He was really sexy. Turns out that he’s a bit of a sex fiend.” I laugh lightly and smile at him Sean’s eyes hold mine and I feel my stomach sink. I said the wrong thing.
But Sean glazes over it. “I was kind of shocked. Most girls would scream and call the cops if they got carjacked.”
I point a fry at him and say, “I’m not most girls. I flashed half of Long Island that night jumping or and off your bike.”
Sean watches me. I can tell he’s going to say something terrible. I don’t want to hear it. I try tc talk over him, but he puts his hand over mine and cuts me off “You know that things can’t stay like this, don’t you? I’m not this guy.”
I don’t understand what he means. How can he not be himself? But, suddenly his words snap into place. There’s a darker version of Sean. This lighter one isn’t real. It’s an illusion. I pull my hand away and pick at my food. “That’s fine. I’m not this girl.”
“Avery,” he snaps, with a be serious tone.
“Sean,” I mimic him back, using the same voice. “Don’t tell me what I do or don’t see. I know you’re a fucked up mess, okay. So am I. I’m okay with it.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” His voice is cold, warning. The rest of the meal passes in tense silence. I don’t know what to say to him After everything that happened today, I feel closer to him and this feels like he’s pushing me away. I don’t understand why. Every time things seem okay, he acts like this. It’s driving me crazy.
Sean’s gaze doesn’t meet mine while he finishes eating. It’s like he’s stuck somewhere in the back of his mind. I wonder if he can’t come out of that darkness or if he doesn’t want to. The entire time I’m with him, I notice something. We’re very alike in how we dealt with the lot we were given, but there’s a cynical sharpness to Sean that I don’t have. He seems to guard it, carefully wielding it when someone gets too close. That smile on his face, the one he wore that night at the steakhouse, is fake. His entire façade is a house of cards. I can’t blame him for doing anything he needs to do to hold himself together. I don’t pretend to know how he feels about his loss. It’s almost like he blames himself, that it was more than misfortune that stole his wife. I glance at his beautiful face and wonder about his child. I can’t imagine Sean giving the baby away, not if that child is the last piece he has of his wife. But Sean doesn’t mention the baby.
My throat tightens thinking about it. Sean’s lived through hell and hides every last bit of it.
Watching him at the cemetery was the first glimpse I got of who he really is, and every time that I think I know Sean, I find out that I don’t know him at all.
After lunch, Sean drives me back to campus. The silence continues, until he turns onto the main road. “Do I need to pretend that I don’t know where you live? Or would you like me to drop you by your dorm?”
I glance at him How does he know which dorm I’m in? I wonder if I should be concerned, bu I’m not. Not looking at him, I say, “Wherever is fine.” My emotions feel brittle like an old leaf. I’m afraid I’m going to lose myself and never crawl out of the grief that’s drowning me.
Sean pulls up in front of my dorm I get out and see my car parked at the end of the lot. Before I shut the door, I turn back. “Thank you.” My voice is wrong. It sounds like I’m saying something else, something I should never say to him. I love you. I hold his gaze for a moment and try to swallow, but I can’t.
Sean nods. “Thank you. I’ll remember today for a very long time.”
My throat tightens. Why does it feel like we’re saying good-bye? I push back the feelings, and nod at him I close the door and walk away, thinking that I’ll see him in a few hours. I think I know what’s in store for me that evening, but I was wrong.