His words trickle against my mouth like raindrops. He kisses me softly and then lifts himself off the bed. My eyes remain closed, but I hear his jeans meet the floor and I hear the tear of a wrapper. I feel his hands on my hips as he hooks his fingers beneath my panties and pulls them down. And it isn’t until he’s on top of me again that I finally find the strength to open my eyes.
“Say it,” he whispers, looking down at me. “I want to hear you tell me I deserve you.”
I slide my hands up his arms, along the curves of his shoulders, up the sides of his neck, and into his hair. I look him directly in the eyes. “You deserve me, Owen.”
He drops his forehead to the side of my head and grabs my leg, lifting it, locking it around his waist. “And you deserve me, Auburn.”
He pushes into me, and I’m not sure which is louder—his groan or my sudden outburst of “Oh my God.”
He buries himself deep inside me and holds still. He looks down at me breathlessly and smiles. “I can’t tell if you said that because this feels incredibly good to you or if you’re making fun of my initials again.”
I smile between gasps. “Both.”
Our smiles fade when he begins moving again. He keeps his mouth close to mine but far enough away that he can look down into my eyes. He moves in and out of me, slowly, as his lips begin to feather soft kisses across mine. I moan and need more than anything to close my eyes, but the way he’s looking at me is something I want to remember every time I take a breath.
He pulls back again and pushes against me at the same time his lips meet my cheek. He begins to find a rhythm between each kiss, and he keeps his eyes focused on mine with every thrust.
“This is what I want you to remember, Auburn,” he says softly. “I don’t want you to remember what it feels like when I’m inside you. I want you to remember how it feels when I look at you.”
His lips brush against mine so delicately, I almost don’t feel them. “I want you to remember how your heart reacts every time I kiss you.” His lips meet mine, and I attempt to ingrain every feeling I get from his kiss and his words into my memory. His hand slides through my hair and he lifts my head slightly off the bed, filling me with a deep kiss.
He pulls away so we can catch our breath. Looking into my eyes again, he says, “I want you to remember my hands, and how they can’t stop touching you.”
He works his mouth slowly up my jaw, until he reaches my ear. “And I need you to remember that anyone can make love. But I’m the only one who deserves to make love to you.”
My arms lock around his neck with those words, and his mouth crashes against mine. He pushes into me, hard, and I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to beg him to never stop, but what I want even more is this kiss. I want to remember every part of it. I want to engrave the taste of him onto my tongue.
The next several minutes are a blur of moans, kisses, sweat, hands, and mouths. He’s on top of me, and then I’m on top of him, and then he’s on top of me again. When I feel the warmth of his mouth meet my breast, I completely lose myself. I let my head fall back and my eyes fall shut and my heart falls straight into the palms of his hands.
I’m so worked up, so dizzy, so grateful that I made the decision to stay, that I can’t even tell when it’s over. I’m still breathing so heavily, and my heart is pounding against my chest. I’m not sure that simply reaching a climax with Owen signifies the end of this experience. Because coming down from being with him feels just as incredible as it felt when it was occurring.
I’m lying against his chest and his arms are wrapped around me, and I never thought I’d be in this position again. A position where I know I’m right where I belong, but there’s nothing I can do that can keep me there.
It reminds me of the day I had to say good-bye to Adam. I knew what we felt was more than what people gave us credit for, and being torn away from him before I was ready took me forever to get over.
And now, the same thing is happening with Owen. I’m not ready to say good-bye. I’m scared to say good-bye.
But I have to say good-bye, and it hurts like hell.
If I knew how to stop the tears, I would. I don’t want him to hear me cry. I don’t want him to know how upset I am that we can’t have this every day of our lives. I don’t want him to ask me what’s wrong.
When he feels my tears falling against his chest, he doesn’t do anything to stop them. Instead, he simply holds me with a much tighter grip and presses his cheek against the top of my head. His hand brushes softly through my hair.
“I know, baby,” he whispers. “I know.”
I should have known she would be gone when I woke up. I felt her heartbreak last night when she was just thinking about having to say good-bye, so the fact that she left before having to do it doesn’t surprise me.
What does surprise me is the confession lying on the pillow next to me. I pick it up to read it, but not before moving to her side of the bed. I can still smell her from here. I open the folded piece of paper and read her words.
I’ll think about last night forever, Owen. Even when I shouldn’t.
My hand falls against my chest, and I clench my fist.
I already miss her enough for it to hurt, and she’s probably only been gone an hour. I read her confession several more times. It’s easily my favorite confession now, but also the most painful.
I walk to my workroom, drag the canvas with her unfinished portrait to the middle of the floor, and set it up. I gather all the supplies I’ll need, and I stand in front of her painting. I stare down at the confession, imagining exactly what she must have looked like when she wrote it, and I finally have the inspiration I need to finish the portrait.
I pick up my brush, and I paint her.
I’m not sure how much time has passed. One day. Two days. I think I stopped three times to eat, at least. It’s dark outside, I know that much.
But I’m finally finished.
I rarely feel that any of my paintings ever make it to a finishing point. There’s always something else I want to add to them, like a few more brushstrokes or another color. But there comes a point with every painting when I just have to stop and accept it for what it is.
I’m at that point with this painting. It’s probably the most realistic painting I’ve ever laid out on canvas.