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“What do you think?”

I realized then that my mouth was open and I snapped it shut.

His eyebrows pulled together. “I went to Hobby Lobby in Ponca to get it framed. It wasn’t the frame I wanted, but they would have had to order the other one, and I wanted to show it to you today. I couldn’t wait.”

“Are you really going to fail Art?”

He shrugged. “Who cares? What do you think?”

“The Art Institute of Dallas might take issue with you failing Art.”

His shoulders fell. “I’m not going to Dallas, Erin.”

“Why not?”

“I tried to tell my parents, but I can’t look them in the eye and say it to them.”

“Do you want to go?”

He held out his hands then let them fall back to his thighs with a slap. “Yeah.”

“Then you’re going. We’re going to figure out a way to get you there, even if I have to hold your hand when you tell them. They love you, Weston, and above all, they want you to be happy, right?”

He nodded slowly. “But . . .”

“No buts. We’re going to get you there.”

He watched me for a moment. “Do you like the frame?”

“I love the frame. I love the picture. I still don’t understand why you decided to make me your final project.” My last words hung in the air. “Is that what I am? A project?”

He seemed disappointed by my question. “I didn’t know what I was going to do. I just started drawing. After a week I realized that she,” he said, pointing to the drawing, “was you. As I put more time into making her perfect, I understood why it happened.” He took a few steps toward me, until he was so close I had to look up to see his eyes. “When you think about something enough, you start dreaming about it. And when you dream about something enough, you just have to hope that it becomes a reality.” He sighed. “I think about you all the time, Erin. I’ve wanted to talk to you for years, but I was just so damn nervous. I didn’t know what to say or how you’d react if I did. I was afraid you would think I was just trying to help Alder pick on you. I know that I have shitty timing, because we’re both getting ready to move in different directions, but I’ve gotten really good at loving you from a distance.”

I’d worked so hard not to let anyone see me cry that I felt a moment of panic when my eyes watered and the first tear fell. I quickly wiped it away.

Weston put his thumbs on each side of my face and leaned down, pausing just before he whispered, “Can I kiss you?”

I nodded slowly, feeling every nerve in my body perk up and wait to experience what was about to happen.

Weston leaned in, closed his eyes, and pressed his lips to mine. They were so soft and warm. His lips parted, so I did the same. I’d seen kissing on television enough to know how this worked, so I just tried to keep my lips soft and moved with him. His tongue slipped into my mouth and danced with mine. He tasted like Cherry Dip Cone and toothpaste, which was oddly fantastic. His hands slid down from my jaw to my neck, and then to my shoulders. His fingers pressed into my skin as he pulled me gently closer.

Just when I thought I was going to pass out from holding my breath, I heard Weston breathe slightly through his nose, and I did the same. I was completely clueless, so I just kept taking cues from him.

He pulled away, and I nearly fell forward because I wasn’t ready to stop yet.

“Whoa,” he said, staring at me.

“What? Was it awful?”

He shook his head. “No. Not at all. But we’d better stop.” He sat on the bed and took a deep breath, rubbing the back of his head. He stared at the floor. “Just . . . give me a minute.”

I walked over to him and crashed against his chest. His back slammed against the bed, and I put my mouth on his. He wrapped his arms around me and hugged me to him, making a low humming noise as our tongues found their way to each other again. We grabbed at each other, barely coming up for air, and at one point or another over the next hour, we occupied every inch of his queen-sized bed.

Finally, Weston let his head fall back to his pillow, keeping his arms wrapped tightly around me. I was halfway on top of him, lying on my side, my leg draped over one of his. “I’m going to be hurting in the morning already. We have to stop.”

“Why will you be hurting?”

He paused, clearly trying to search for gentle words to explain. “I feel like an ass explaining. It’ll make it sound like I’m trying to guilt trip you into . . . you know. And it was never my intention for you to experience your first kiss and lose your virginity in the same night.”

“Are we talking about blue balls?”

He choked then busted out into loud laughter. Once he caught his breath, he pulled my fingers up to his mouth and kissed them. “Yes.”

“I’m not completely clueless. I am aware of most things, even if I haven’t experienced them for myself.”

“Something you might not be aware of is that I’m not cheating on Alder. I broke up with her today.”

“I know.”

He readjusted his head on the pillow to look straight at me. “How?”

“She came by the DQ today. She was pretty upset.”

“Was she mean to you?” he said. His jaws worked under the skin as he waited for me to answer.

“She’s always mean to me. But she said when she gets back that it’s going to get significantly worse.”

Weston looked away, and then back at me. “I won’t let them hurt you anymore, Erin. Don’t be afraid of them.”

“I’m not.”

He frowned. “It’s just six weeks. We can get through it.”

I kissed him, this time it was brief and sweet. Just a peck, then I nodded. “You’re the one I’m worried about. You’re not used to it.”

“I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time. They might give us shit during school, but they can’t touch what we’ve got.”

I rested my head on his chest and listened to his heart beating. It slowed more with each passing minute, and then his breathing became deep and even. I glanced up, seeing that his eyes were closed. His hand was resting comfortably on my back. I laid my head back down, nestling against his side and snuggling into his neck. He pulled me closer to him, and that is when I fell asleep.