“If you don’t hold hands and you don’t do boyfriends, then what do you do?”

She sighs. “Pretty much everything else. I’ve got quite a reputation, you know. In fact, it’s possible the two of us may have had sex before and we don’t even realize it.”

“Not possible. You’d remember me.”

She laughs again and as much as I’m having fun talking to her, that laugh makes me want to drag her to the floor with me and do nothing but kiss her again.

“Are you actually good looking?” she asks skeptically.

“Terribly good looking,” I reply.

“Let me guess. Dark hair, brown eyes, great abs, white teeth, Abercrombie & Fitch.”

“Close,” I say. “Light brown hair, correct on the eyes, abs, and teeth, but American Eagle Outfitters all the way.”

“Impressive,” she says.

“My turn,” I say. “Thick blonde hair, big blue eyes, an adorable little white dress with a matching hat, royal blue skin, and you’re about two feet tall.”

She laughs loudly. “You have a thing for Smurfette?”

“A guy can dream.”

She’s still laughing and the sound of her laughter actually makes my heart hurt. It hurts because I really want to know who this chick is but I know once I find out, I more than likely won’t want her like I want her right now.

She inhales a breath after her laughter subsides and then the room becomes quiet. So quiet, it’s almost uncomfortable.

“I’m not coming back in here after today,” she says softly.

I squeeze her hand, surprised by the sadness I felt at that confession.

“I’m moving. Not right away, but soon. This summer. I just think it’d be silly if I came back here, because eventually we’ll have to turn on the light or we’ll slip up and say our names and I just don’t think I want to know who you are.”

I graze my thumb over her hand. “Why’d you come back today, then?”

She exhales a delicate breath. “I wanted to thank you.”

I laugh softly. “For what? Kissing you? That’s all I did.”

“Yeah,” she says, matter-of-fact. “Exactly. For kissing me. For just kissing me. Do you know how long it’s been since a guy has actually just kissed me? After I left last week I tried to remember, but I couldn’t. Every time a guy has ever kissed me, he’s always been in such a hurry to move on to what comes after the kisses that I don’t think anyone has ever taken the time to give me an honest to God, genuine kiss before.”

I shake my head. “That’s really depressing,” I say. “But don’t give me too much credit. I’ve been known to want to rush past that part in the past. I just didn’t really care to rush past it last week because you’re a pretty phenomenal kisser.”

“Yeah,” she says confidently. “I know. Imagine what making love to me could feel like.”

I swallow the sudden lump in my throat. “Believe me, I have. For about seven days straight now.”

Her legs stop swinging next to me. I don’t know if I just made her uncomfortable with that comment.

“You know what else is sad?” she asks. “No one’s ever made love to me before.”

This conversation is headed in a weird direction. I can already tell.

“You’re young. Plenty of time for that. Virginity is actually a turn-on, so you have nothing to worry about.”

She laughs, but it’s a sad laugh this time.

Weird how I can already differentiate her laughs.

“I am so not a virgin,” she says. “That’s why it’s sad. I’m pretty skilled in the sex department, but looking back . . . I’ve never loved any of them. None of them have ever loved me, either. Sometimes I wonder if sex with someone who actually loves you is different. Better.”

I think about her question and realize that I don’t have an answer. I’ve never loved anyone, either. “Good question,” I say. “It’s kind of sad that we’ve both had sex, multiple times it sounds like, but neither of us has ever loved anyone we’ve done it with. Says a lot about our characters, don’t you think?”

“Yeah,” she says quietly. “Sure does. A lot of sad truth.”

It’s quiet for a while and I still have hold of her hand. I can’t stop thinking about the fact that no one’s ever held her hand before. It makes me wonder if I’ve ever held the hands of any of the girls I’ve had sex with. Not that there have been a ton, but enough that I should be able to recall holding one of their hands.

“I might be one of those guys,” I ashamedly admit. “I don’t know if I’ve ever held a girl’s hand before.”

“You’re holding mine,” she says.

I nod slowly. “So I am.”

A few more beats of silence pass before she speaks again.

“What if I leave here in forty-five minutes and never hold another guy’s hand again? What if I go through life like I am right now? What if guys continue to take me for granted and I do nothing to change it and I’ll have lots of sex, but never know what it’s like to make love?”

“So don’t do that. Find you a good guy and tie him down and make love to him every night.”

She groans. “That terrifies me. As curious as I am about the difference between making love and having sex . . . my stance on relationships makes it impossible to find out.”

I think about her comment for a while. It’s weird, because she sounds a little like the female version of me. I’m not sure I’m as opposed to relationships as she is, but I’ve definitely never told a girl I loved her and I really hope that doesn’t happen for a hell of a long time.

“You’re really never coming back?” I ask.

“I’m really not coming back,” she says.

I let go of her hand and press my palms onto the cabinet, then jump down. I move and stand in front of her, then place my hands on either side of her. “Let’s solve our dilemma right now.”

She leans back. “Which dilemma?”

I move my hands and place them on her hips, then pull her to me. “We have a good forty-five minutes to work with. I’m pretty sure I could make love to you in forty-five minutes. We can see what it’s like and if it’s even worth going through relationships in the future. That way when you leave here, you won’t worry about never knowing what it’s like.”

She laughs nervously, then leans toward me again. “How do you make love to someone you aren’t in love with?”

I lean forward until my mouth is next to her ear. “We pretend.”

I can hear the breath catch in her lungs. She turns her face slightly toward mine and I feel her lips graze my cheek. “What if we’re bad actors?” she whispers.

I close my eyes, because the possibility that I might actually be making love to this chick in a matter of minutes is almost too much to take in.

“You should audition for me,” she says. “If you’re convincing then I just might agree to this absurd idea of yours.”

“Deal,” I say.

I take a step back and remove my shirt, then lay it on the floor. I grab my jacket off the counter and unfold it, then lay it on the floor as well. I turn back to the counter, then scoop her up. She locks herself around me, burying her head in my neck.

“Where’s your shirt?” she asks, running her hands across my shoulder. I lower her to the floor, onto her back. I ease myself to her side and pull her against me.

“You’re lying on it,” I respond.

“Oh,” she says. “That was considerate of you.”

I bring my hand up to her cheek. “That’s what people do when they’re this in love.”

I feel her smile. “How in love are we?”

“All the way,” I say.

“Why? What is it about me you love so much?”

“Your laugh,” I say immediately, not sure how much of that is actually made up. “I love your humor. I also love the way you tuck your hair behind your ears when you’re reading. And I love how you hate to talk on the phone almost as much as I do. I really love that you leave me those little notes all the time in your adorable handwriting. And I love that you love my dog so much, because he really likes you. I also love taking showers with you. Those are always fun.”

I slide my hand from her cheek to the nape of her neck. I ease my mouth forward and rest my lips against hers.

“Wow,” she says against my mouth. “You’re really convincing.”

I smile and pull away. “Stop breaking character,” I tease. “Now it’s your turn. What do you love about me?”

“I do love your dog,” she says. “He’s a great dog. I also love how you open doors for me even though I’m supposed to want to open doors for myself. I love that you don’t try to pretend you like old black and white movies like everyone else does, because they bore the hell out of me. I also love it when I’m at your house and every time your parents turn the other way, you steal little kisses from me. My favorite part about you though is when I catch you staring at me. I love that you don’t look away and you stare unapologetically, like you aren’t ashamed that you can’t stop watching me. It’s all you want to do because you think I’m the most amazing thing you’ve ever laid eyes on. I love how much you love me.”

“You’re absolutely right,” I whisper. “I love staring at you.”

I kiss her mouth, then trail kisses across her cheek and up her jawline. I press my lips against her ear and even though I know we’re pretending, my mouth runs dry at the thought of the words about to pass my lips. I hesitate, almost deciding against it. But an even bigger part of me wants to say it. A huge part of me wishes I could mean it and a small part of me thinks I probably could.

I run my hands up and through her hair. “I love you,” I whisper.

The next breath she draws in is a deep one. My heart is hammering against my chest and I’m quiet, waiting on her next move. I have no idea what comes next. Then again, neither does she.

Her hands move from my shoulders and slowly make their way up to my neck. She tilts her head until her mouth is flush against my ear. “I love you more,” she whispers. I can feel the smile on her lips and I wonder if it matches the smile on my face. I don’t know why I’m suddenly enjoying this so much, but I am.

“You’re so beautiful,” I whisper, moving my lips closer to her mouth. “So damn beautiful. And every single one of those guys who somehow passed this up is a complete fool.”

She closes the gap between our lips and I kiss her, but this time the kiss seems so much more intimate. For a brief moment, I actually feel like I really do love all those things about her and she really does love all those things about me. We’re kissing and touching and pulling the rest of our clothes off in such a hurry, it feels as if we’re on a timer.

I guess we technically are.

I pull my wallet out of the pocket of my jeans and grab a condom, then ease myself back against her.

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