I chose the room with the best view of the ocean and sat down on the edge of the bed. She took a seat next to me, sliding her hand into mine and resting her head on my shoulder.

“I hope I don’t make you feel uncomfortable, Aiden,” she said quietly.

I brushed my fingers against her cheek and planted a kiss on her forehead. “I’m not going to lie,” I said, smiling as I took in her pretty face. “I wouldn’t have suggested sleeping together so soon…”

“We don’t have to—”

I pressed a finger to her lips. “But, Kailyn, your frankness is something that I love about you. You don’t play games or beat around the bush. I don’t have to try to read your mind. You tell me what you want, and you’re not afraid of doing so. It’s a quality that’s rarer than you might think… Honestly, it’s a breath of fresh air.”

She bit her lip, staring out at the distant horizon though the window. I wrapped an arm around her, holding her closer against me.

“While I would prefer we waited at least a while longer before making love,” I continued, “I don’t want this to stop you being as open with me as you have been till now. You don’t need to worry about making me feel uncomfortable, because I’ll tell you if I feel uncomfortable.” I kissed her cheek. “Can you promise me you won’t stop?”

She smiled, dimples forming in her rosy cheeks. “Okay, vampire. I promise.” She stood up and leaned against the wall, looking down at me. “It’s just been a long time since I’ve been with someone. And I really, really like you, Aiden.”

I felt the blood rise in my own pale cheeks. “You know that I adore you, too.” I stood next to her, pressing her back against the wall as I dipped down to kiss her lips. “I’d just like more time to romance you.”

“I can live with that,” she said, draping her arms around my neck and kissing me harder.

A knock at the front door interrupted our passion. I walked to the door, opening it to see Kailyn’s younger sister, Kira, standing there with a huge smile on her face.

“I heard you two were headed here,” she said. “Is Kailyn around?”

Kailyn appeared by my side. “What’s up, sis?”

“Micah. He just—” Kira looked close to tears as she clasped her hands over her mouth. “He just told me he loved me.” She leapt into Kailyn’s arms, burying her head against her neck.

Kailyn squealed. “I told you so! I could see it in that boy’s eyes.” Kailyn turned to me. “You’re going to have to excuse me for half an hour while I go see the lad and squeeze out all the juicy details,” she said.

“Go right ahead,” I chuckled, watching them jump the steps and clamber down the mountainside.

I sighed, closing the door behind me and heading to the bathroom. I switched on the shower and began undressing. I was about to step inside when there was another knock at the front door. I grabbed a towel and wrapped it around my waist before hurrying to the entrance again. I wasn’t expecting Kailyn to be back so soon, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to find Adelle Ardene standing on my doorstep. As I looked her over—her long red hair twined in a braid over one shoulder—I realized how close we were to her old home.

“Adelle,” I said, raising a brow as I tightened the towel around my waist and leaned against the doorpost. “What brings you here?”

“Well, I… I didn’t get a chance to speak to you properly in the caves. I-I just wanted to say how happy I am you’re all right.” Her demeanor was awkward and rigid like it had been when she’d walked in on Kailyn and I sharing a kiss on the mountaintop.

“Well, yeah. Thanks.”

“I’m sorry if I disturbed you,” she said, her eyes falling to my bare torso.

“I was just about to get in the shower.”

“Okay,” she said breathlessly. She took a step away, and I was shocked as she almost tripped backward down the stairs. I whizzed forward and gripped her arm just in time to stop her.

I looked her closely in the eyes. “Are you all right, Adelle?”

“I’m fine,” she said, even as tears brimmed behind her eyelids. “I… I should get going.”

“Okay. Just take care of yourself, all right?”

She gulped, nodding. I waited until she’d safely descended the stairs before backing into the cabin again. I was about to lock the door when something slammed against it. I opened it, my mouth hanging open to see Adelle outside the doorstep again. This time, instead of timidly waiting outside, she pushed open the door and slipped in before shutting it behind her. Tears were now streaming freely down her cheeks.

“Are you alone?” she whispered.

“Yes. Why? What’s wrong?” I urged. “Talk to me.”

Her lips trembled as she said, “It’s just w-when we thought you all were dead… Oh, God, this sounds so terrible… It wasn’t Eli at the forefront of my mind.” Her voice broke. “It was you, Aiden. All the times we’d spent together flashed before my eyes. Our classroom chats, our walks by the lake, our chamomile tea breaks—” She buried her head in her hands. “It’s so wrong and I feel so awful about it.”

I stared at her, stunned speechless.

“I don’t even know why I’m telling you this. I just… had to let it out, I guess.” She roughly wiped away her tears with the back of her hand even as more flowed from her eyes. “Please don’t tell Eli I came here,” she croaked. “I don’t want to hurt him.”

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