"How many girls have you been with?"

"Been with?" he says from behind me. I feel his warm breath on the back of my head as he leans closer to me. I resist the urge to lean back into him and close my eyes. "Kissed?"

I don't want to think about other things he's done with girls so I say, "Yeah. Kissed."

"Including my mother?"

"No, smart-ass, not your mom. You know what I mean. A real kiss."

"A guy isn't supposed to talk about how many girls he's kissed. I'll tell you what. If you'll tell me, I'll tell you."

I give him a look as if I'll kill him if he doesn't spill the beans. "You first."

"I guess about eight," he finally admits.

"Eight!" I say, flabbergasted.

"Why?" he asks, and I can sense the alarm in his voice. "How many have you kissed? I bet it's a lot more by the way you kissed me in the kayak."

I smile at his compliment but say, "Less than you."

Try two, although the first one probably shouldn't count because that was during a camp overnighter and it happened accidentally in the dark.

You might wonder how I accidentally kissed someone. Well, I thought I was kissing this guy I liked during a "lights out mashing session" and it turned out to be the one guy who'd kissed about half the girls in the whole camp. I still remember the taste of soap in my mouth from trying to wash his germs out. You know what they say ...it's like you've kissed whoever they've kissed. Blech!

Unfortunately when the lights came on during the "lights out mashing session" and I was lip-locked with Guy Wrong, Guy Right saw us and then ended up liking Jessica instead of me.


"No, not seven, you ho," I say.

"You know what, don't tell me. I don't want you to think about other guys you've kissed. And I'm not what you call a ho. Besides, I just want you to concentrate your thoughts on me ... on us."

"I thought you hated me."

"I wanted to push you away because I couldn't stop watching you." His voice is hoarse and full of emotion. "Sometimes I can't fall asleep at night. I get hot tinking about you," he says, his accent deeper than usual.

"You tink about me at night?" I ask and by mistake say tink instead of think. "Why?" Please don't say my boobs.

"First of all," he says as he fingers the curls at the end of my hair that have started to frizz in the desert heat, "you're beautiful. But the way you handle yourself in every situation with your own style mesmerizes me. You're animated, you're honest to a fault, you've got this feisty personality I just can't help but watch because I don't know what you're going to say or do next. You're very exciting. And to top it off, you have a big heart even though you don't open it up often."

I twist around to face him. "I've never had anyone describe me like that."

"When you tried to push me off the haystack back at the moshav, it totally shocked me."

"Yeah, except it didn't work. You're like one big mass of muscle."

He laughs. "Don't feed my ego. Now tell me what attracts you to me. Besides my big mass of muscle."

"Ha, ha. But seriously," I say, then take my finger and slowly draw a path from the corner of his eye, past the stubble on his chin and end up at his full lips. "Besides you being a gorgeous male specimen, I like the way you were always there for me when I did freak out. Even though you made it sound like a chore, you've helped me with every challenge I've had here. You let me fall on you when Mutt's friends were about to attack me," I say and kiss him gently on the mouth.

"You helped me herd the sheep," I continue, kissing him again, "and you were my hero by washing off the snake-guts."

Before I can kiss him again and continue telling him all of the incredible things I now see in him that I was blind to before, he crushes his lips to mine.

"Amy," he says against my lips. "I think we're about to get ourselves in trouble. How old are you again?"

"I'll be seventeen soon," I say breathlessly.

He says something in Hebrew I obviously can't understand. "We shouldn't be doing this."

"We're not doing anything except kissing."

"Yeah, but--"

"We can kiss, can't we?" I say as I graze my lips down his neck.

"Yeah," he says in a strained, low voice, "we can kiss."

I don't want him to think about my age right now. I want him to enjoy the time and the kissing. Especially the kissing. I press my open lips to his, because I can't imagine right now not touching my lips to his. He deepens the kiss and I follow, only barely aware we've changed positions and are now lying down side by side.

Okay, I've never in my sixteen (almost seventeen) years felt like this before. It's as if I've crossed the bridge from being a girl to a woman just by experiencing the strange, unfamiliar, steamy sensations deep in my body. My bodily reactions have intensified tenfold as my knight with an Israeli accent caresses my back. I feel like I'll die if we stop and I sense he feels the same.

"I'm going to remember tonight when I'm in basic training," he says as he nips my earlobe. "When they try and wear me out, I'll recall this moment and get through it."

My body feels like it's enduring sweet torture and I want to learn everything about Avi and his body right now. I grab his head to bring it closer to me and then I caress his body with my fingertips. Our lips and mouths are exploring each other's and our hands are doing the same.

When I touch his back, his muscles tense beneath my fingers. My hand moves around to the front of his shirt and I pull the material up to feel his smooth skin and hard six-pack against my hand. His heart is beating fast; I can feel it pumping in an erratic rhythm.

Moving my hand lower, I reach the waistband of his jeans and glide my index finger inside the band. Slowly, my fingers move downward.

Avi groans softly and gently takes my hand and guides it away.

"We can't..." he says.

"Why not?" I ask breathlessly, still reeling from our intense kisses. I feel drunk (although I've never been drunk, I can sure guess how it feels) and out of control.

"Besides the fact your aba would kill me?"

Great, my dad's not even here and still he's able to ruin my life.

"I don't care about what Ron thinks."

"You may not," he says as he sits up. "But I do. I don't want either of us to regret anything tomorrow."

I sit up, too. "I won't regret anything." Ever.

He kisses me on the top of my forehead. "Let me take you to your room. It's getting late."


Approach me at your own risk.

"Boker tov," Avi says good morning to me in the breakfast buffet line the next morning. He leans forward to kiss me, but I pull away.

"What's wrong?" he asks.

Duh! He totally rejected me last night.


I continue to place whatever is in front of me on my plate. I barely realize it's this creamy stuff with whole pieces of little sardiny-like fishes inside (with the silver scales attached, thank you very much). It is DEFINITELY not like sushi. It's gross, but now that I've put it on my plate, I'm going to have to stare at it while I eat.

Before I can add more to my plate, Avi grabs the dish out of my hand and puts it on the nearest table.

I put my hands on my hips. "Hey! That's my breakfast."

I realize I'm making a scene. I don't care.

He grabs my hand and leads me toward the exit. "It'll wait. We need to talk."

He leads me into the lobby and out the front doors. A blast of steamy, hot desert air smacks me in the face.

"Okay, talk. Before I melt, please."

He rubs his eyes in frustration. Next thing you know he'll be running his fingers through his hair.

He looks straight at me and says, "You think last night I stopped things from getting out of hand because I didn't want to be more intimate with you?"

"Bingo," I say sarcastically. "But I'm wiser this morning and won't throw myself on you anymore. Besides, it's not like we were going to have sex or anything."

"Where you and I go physically, our emotions are starting to follow. I can't deal with that."

"You're right. God forbid we should be emotional people. We should just call ourselves 'friends with benefits.' Or, better yet, why don't we just call this whole thing off so you can find another girl to be non-emotional with," I say as I head back inside before my armpits get damp through the shirt I'm wearing. In hindsight, I'm glad I decided to borrow Snotty's tank top.

"You are so stubborn," he says.

I turn around and face him before I reach the door. "I am not."

"Amy, you're the most stubborn person I've ever met. You play games in your mind and create drama that isn't there just to piss everyone off, including yourself."

I just stare incredulously at him.

He takes my hands in his. "Look at me." When I don't he says again, "Look at me."

I raise my eyes and look into his, which are wide and sincere.

"I wanted more last night," he says. "Don't lie to yourself and think I didn't. I beat myself up about a million times after I left you. Believe me, I want you to throw yourself at me. But this thing between us is more serious than we're admitting to each other. You're leaving in a couple of weeks whether I want you to or not. And I'm going into the army for three years."

I can't argue his points, so I just stand there staring into his brown eyes.

He lets go of my hands and says, "You want to call it off right now, just say the word."

Then he just stalks back into the hotel and leaves me here in the hot desert heat, sweaty armpits and all.

Damn. Why does Avi have to be so logical about everything? I hate being logical. But I'm too hot to have an attitude and realistically Avi is right. We're getting too attached already.

Slowly I walk back into the hotel and enter the restaurant. Avi is sitting down at a table, talking to his friends. There's an empty seat next to him with my plate on the table in front of it.

I know for a fact I don't want to end it with him right now. I want to keep this thing going for as long as possible.

Our eyes meet and he gives me a short smile. The problem is everyone else is looking at me, too. Okay, I guess I deserve it for causing a scene. I want to cringe in embarrassment, but I hold my head high and sit down next to him.

I avert my eyes from everyone around us, including Avi. But when he reaches for my hand under the table and gives it a squeeze, I squeeze back. I can handle this relationship I tell myself. Even with its ups and downs.

"Have you ever been to an alpaca farm?" Ofra asks me.

"What's an alpaca?" I ask.

"It looks kind of like a llama," Avi answers.


Ofra pats me on the back. "We're going right after breakfast so make sure you're ready."

By ten in the morning, we're parked at the entrance to the alpaca farm. Then we pay for bags of food to feed the tall, furry animals with long necks. I expect the alpacas to be in cages, but they're all running around. We actually walk into the large enclosure with them.

I regard the alpacas warily. They're all shades of brown, red, black, and tan. And their bottom teeth are so huge they look like alpaca hillbillies.