Page 17

"What about Sam?"

"What about him?"

"You sound like you're planning to do something." My gaze shifts between his eyes, looking for the truth. "Don't hurt Sam."

"Sam should have protected you."

"Sam's an asshole, I know that, but—"

Peter kisses the top of my head. "Calm down. I won't hurt him if he doesn't hurt you. If he stands there and does nothing again while Dean beats the shit out of you, then he'll have a problem."

"Sam wasn't there."

"Then there's nothing to worry about."

I nod slowly. Having someone looking out for me is different. I don't know what to do with the feelings that are rising up inside of me. Half of me says that I should be able to take care of myself, but the other part knows I need help. I morph into the timid girl I was when Dean hurt me the other night. She resurfaces no matter how far I've come. Sometimes I think my mind is going to snap, that I'll bear more grief and pain than I can tolerate. I hope to God that I never get pushed that far. It's extremely obvious that Sean was pushed past his breaking point. The idea of living in a broken mind, unable to mend, frightens me. I don't want that life.

Peter opens the door and we go into the room. It's small but posh. The bed looks like it is made out of fluffy white sheep. Screw you, little lambs! I can't wait to jump on it and all its cloudy goodness. The headboard is lined with fluffy white pillows. They look so soft and perfect.

Peter strips off his suit jacket and walks over to sit on the bed. I know his pattern by now. He'll undress and take a shower. Butterflies swirl in my stomach like a vortex. I place my hand on Peter's arm and stop him. "Wait a second." Peter looks back at me.

"What is it?"

"I…" I suck at this. I'm mental. I love you. Go with I love you. "I suck at this." Oh my God, my brain isn't listening to me. I look down, and when I glance up again, Peter has a curious expression on his face, no doubt brought about by my sudden timidity.

"I liked the way you held your own with Sean." I nod. I don't want to talk about Sean. I want to talk about Peter. I want to do something with Peter before I lose my nerve, but I don't know where to start. It's like he can sense it. Peter is all soft smiles and kind words. He tilts my chin up so I meet his gaze. "What are you thinking in that beautiful head of yours?"

"I want to try something with you, but I don't know how far I can go." I feel weird saying it. There's a rebellion going on in my mind, and it's been growing stronger each day. The more time I spend with Peter, the more I want to be with him, but it's not so simple. I expect to shut down when I try to press forward. The first time I tried to be with Peter was the furthest I'd gotten with anyone, and even then, I anticipated a major freak-out. Getting touched like that is like stroking his scar. There's no way to forget what happened to me. I just hope that one day I can push past it, that it will no longer dictate my life. I want this with Peter, but I don't know what it'll do to me. That thought alone is enough to make me chicken out, but I already threw the words out there. So I finish by asking, "Is that okay?"

"You don't ever have to ask me that, all right? We go and stop when and where you want. I won't push you at all, so you have to take the initiative here." He gives me that boyish smile I love so much.

I look away. Take the initiative? I can't do that. "I don't know how."

Peter reaches for me and then lifts my hands to his lips, kissing my fingertips. "Then tell me what you want, and I'll make it happen."

My heart flutters at his kisses, at his words. Maybe I can do this. I repeat the things Avery mentioned at the bar, the things that I could do that weren't sex—the things that would make me feel secure enough to be with Peter if I wanted to continue.

Peter's gaze darkens as I say the things one by one. "I can do that. That sounds perfect actually."

"It's not just teasing you to the point that you're going to hire a hooker?"

He laughs. "No, nothing could make me leave you. And being with you like that sounds perfect. I don't know if you noticed or not, but I'm a little gun-shy. I completely freaked out that first night we were having coffee and couldn't hide it. That's not gone. The emotions…it feels like betrayal, like cheating even though I know it's not. Slower is good for me, I promise."

I believe him. Every word he says pulls me closer and closer. Peter leans in and lightly brushes his lips against mine. "Wait right here. I'll be right back." I nod. My heart is pounding and I feel frantic, like I need to run. I shake out my arms and kick my legs, but it doesn't help so I crank it up a notch. Kicking my leg out hard behind me, I hold it and shake. The nervous energy is spent, so I do it again with the other leg. I turn around so I don't kick the dresser or punch the mirror and work my arms, too. I try to be quick, but apparently I take too long.

Peter sees me. "Are you doing the hokey pokey?" He's leaning in the bathroom doorway with his arms folded over his chest like he's been standing there the whole time. How come I never catch him doing anything dorky?

Feeling silly, I reply, "Maybe."

He grins and crosses the room. Water is running in the bathroom. Peter turns the lamps off so that only a streak of white light from the bath illuminates the room. Then he walks toward me slowly, outlined perfectly, and stops when we are toe to toe. Cupping my face, Peter pulls me into a kiss. It builds slowly, becoming deeper and stronger. When he backs away we're both breathless. Peter looks down at my black dress, then his eyes flick up to mine. He reaches for my hands and places them on his chest, leading me to the buttons.

Excitement shoots through me in a burst. I try not to smile, but I can't help it and the corners of my lips tip up. I remove his tie first and then start on the buttons. I slip them through the tiny holes one by one and push his shirtfront open. There's a white undershirt in the way. I glance down at his slacks, at the belt, and swallow hard. I reach for him, pulling on the belt and unfastening it. I don't think about the anxiety shooting through my veins or the way it's twisting my stomach into a pretzel. I've seen him naked before. This isn't new, but last time he stripped himself. Things change when I'm the one tugging his clothing off. Swallowing the apprehension, I unbutton his pants. I tug his shirt free and toss it on the floor. Next, I slide my hands up over his skin and lift the undershirt over his head.

Peter is breathing hard, watching me. My hands trail over his chest, feeling the firm muscles beneath. I lean in slowly, trying not to think about what's next or how far I'll go, and press my lips to his chest. Avery told me not to think ahead, because it'll only freak me out. She's right about that. Moments of confidence pass as I do whatever I feel like doing. Peter sucks in a gasp of air as he threads his fingers through my hair when I slide my hands over his washboard stomach. When I pull away, I don't have the nerve to look at him, though I can feel his eyes on me.

The rise and fall of his chest is hypnotic. My eyes remain locked in place, as I inhale slowly. Peter's scent fills my head. It's become a familiar scent. It reminds me of smiles, sweat, and dancing. I splay my hands just above his heart and lean in close. Nothing distracts me. There are no distant thoughts lurking at the back of my mind. I feel safe. I know he won't hurt me. I know I can stop this right now and Peter will still love me.

Tension runs through his body, but it's not just desire. It's more than that. Part of Peter is holding back because he's also fearful, but for different reasons. It kills me to hear the pain in his voice when he talks about Gina. She changed him from a reckless boy into the unmarred version of the man standing in front of me. Sometimes a life can do that, change a person. I wonder what changes I'm bringing about in him and hope that they're good.

Peter's chest feels warm beneath my hands. His eyes on my face—I can feel them there caressing me—but I haven't looked up. When I do glance his way, all the air is knocked out of my lungs. Peter's gaze is deep and dark with traces of remorse. Last time we did anything like this, it didn't go anywhere. I slept next to him, and we literally went to sleep. Before that, he pushed me away. But now, I don't think he will. I think he wants more.

Remembering to breathe, I suck in a trembling breath and tuck a strand of hair behind my ear. "Is this what it's supposed to be like?"

His voice is deep and rich. "That depends. How do you feel?"

"Nervous, excited, happy…"

Peter smiles and nods. "When you find the right person, yeah—this is what it feels like." He takes a deep breath, trying to steady himself before taking my hand and placing it over his heart. It's beating fast and hard. "Do you feel that? We haven't even done anything yet and that's how I react to you."

I watch him for a moment, wondering if he's all right. A lazy smile lines Peter's lips, and his dark hair is hanging in his eyes. Lifting my hand, I touch the silky strands and push them back. Twin pools of pure azure are studying my face, learning the curves of my cheeks, and reading the shape of my lips. Peter stretches and lets out a nervous sigh as he runs his hands through his hair.

I react without thinking. I can tell Peter is emotionally scarred. It's not something I can change, but it feels like we both need this. If we can get past this part, we'll be better for it. Taking Peter's hands in mine, I pull him closer to the bathroom where the water is still running. The tub is going to overflow soon. My hands find his waist. I lean into him and slip my palms over the small of his back, while hooking my thumbs over the edge of his slacks. I slip them down and set them aside, then do the same for his socks after stripping each foot. Peter is wearing blue boxers that are the same color as his eyes. It makes me grin. I wonder if he did that on purpose.

When I finish, Peter is standing there wearing next to nothing and I'm still fully clothed. Peter agreed to let me do it this way—we both thought it would be better if I'm the one in control. I reach up behind me and feel the dress's zipper tab between my fingers. I pull it down slowly and let the clothing fall open in front. Peter's eyes watch the fabric slip away, revealing a black bra beneath. I shimmy the dress past my hips and let it fall to the floor. I bend over and slip off my stockings. I doubt that was suggestive, but when I stand up Peter's expression says it was beyond sexy. His eyes greedily drink me in, but he doesn't come forward and touch me, not yet.