"Give them the benefit of the doubt. They need you."

He shakes his head. "I have nothing to go back to. Hell, even Mrs. Reynolds is dead. The only person I'd go back for is you, and we were doomed from the start." He steps away from me and runs his fingers through his hair. He does that when he's frustrated. "Forget I just said I'd go back for you. That was stupid of me."

I'm waiting for him to say our cooling-off period will be over, that he's ready to try again. But he doesn't. Maybe he realized that what we have isn't worth the hassle, especially because I'm leaving for Spain and he's leaving for Arizona.

I think of the times we kissed and held each other. I thought nothing could feel as amazing as I felt then, so powerful and explosive.

"Are you really leaving?" I ask, my voice coming out as a whisper.

"Yeah. No regrets."

"What?" No regrets? "Why do you keep saying that? What does it mean?"

He cups my chin tenderly and urges me to look up at him. "It means I can't leave until I do this..."

He bends his head. I wait for his warm, full lips to meet mine as my heart pounds like crazy in my chest. His lips hover over mine, and we both smile because it brings us back to the lake where we were testing and teasing each other. It was playful and dangerous. We're playing a playful and dangerous game right now, but I tell myself to enjoy it and ignore the warnings in the back of my head.

At least that's what I keep trying to tell myself as I close my eyes and he presses his lips to mine. I savor every moment of our kiss. It's not hot and heavy and hungry. It's slow and sexy and sensual. He takes hold of my waist and pulls me closer.

Oh, God, I want to melt in his arms right here and now. I wrap my arms around his neck as we keep kissing and holding and touching. He lifts me off the ground. I can't imagine anyone else being able to make me feel invincible and beautiful and worthy like Caleb does. I want to scream I love you, Caleb! Don't you feel what I feel when Dn with you?

His lips slowly pull away from mine and he unwraps my arms from around his neck. "I won't regret that ... ever. Good-bye, Maggie."

"Bye, Caleb. I'll ... miss you.,,

"I'll miss you, too."

I take a deep breath, holding back the flood of emotions. I push past him and hurry toward the cabin so he doesn't see the tears streaming down my cheeks. I quickly get into bed and bury my head into my pillow so he can't hear my heartache as I cry.

Why do I do this? Why do I let him go without a fight? Because I'm a coward, that's why.

I hear the sliding door creak open a few minutes later. Caleb must be back in the cabin. I think of Vanessa, who is stuck in jail and can't fight for what she wants.

I can.

I realize what Caleb's motives were for kissing me tonight. That sweet kiss was an attempt at closure.

It wasn't enough, at least for me. I want more. I need more. But do I have the nerve to show him what kind of closure I want in order to finally let go?

I take a deep breath as I sit on the edge of my bed. I can do this. I'm careful to take soft steps and pray the wooden floor of the cabin doesn't creak as I make my way down to the basement.

To Caleb's room.

His door is open. Lenny is sleeping soundly in the room across the hall. Lenny's snores echo through the walls, but Caleb's room is quiet. I don't even hear him breathing as I step in.

There are no windows, so it's almost completely dark. A green glow is coming from a permanent night-light in the hallway.

"Caleb?" I whisper. "You awake?"

"Yeah." I hear his sheets rustle as he sits up. "Is something wrong?"

"Kind of."

I close the door, then feel my way slowly around the room, hoping I don't trip and fall. I bump into something warm and hard and distinctly male. Caleb. He's not wearing a shirt, because I feel his hot skin and muscular chest against my fingertips.

I look up into the darkness. "Hi."

"Hey," he says, his familiar voice comforting to me somehow. I'm going to miss that voice. "I don't suppose you got lost."

"No. I, uh, couldn't sleep. And I thought ... I just ... well..."

"What is it, Maggie? Just say it."

Okay. I might as well gather up the nerve. It's now or never. "I thought we could spend our last night together. I know we might not see each other again after tomorrow, but I can't help but want to be in your arms tonight. Just one last time. Is that okay?"

Caleb takes my hand in his and leads me back to his bed. "It's more than okay."

I slip under the covers and wait for him to join me, but he doesn't.

"Where are you going?" I ask.

"To lock the door. You don't want Lenny to suddenly barge in on us, do you?"

I laugh nervously. "No."

It's cool in the basement, so I pull the blanket up to my chest. Caleb slides in beside me, and I feel his bare legs against mine. "You're shivering," he says, his voice a low whisper.

"I'm a little cold ... and a little nervous."

"Don't be nervous, Maggie. It's just me."

It's the real Caleb, without the tough facade. I'm glad it's completely dark now and he can't see my trembling fingers as they move up to his beautiful face. "I know."

He pulls me closer. I rest my head in the crook of his arm and am more content than ever.




"For what?"

"For making me feel alive again."

I drape my arm across his chest, the warmth of his skin melting into mine. I want to remember this night forever, because we'll probably never get another chance to hold each other like this again. It makes me want to do more than just sleep in his arms. I try and relax, to slow my own erratic heartbeat as I wrap my right leg, the one that wasn't severely damaged in the accident, around him. It's a definite hint that I'm ready to do more than just lie in his arms.

He moans in response. "Maggie, you're treading into dangerous territory. I'm trying to be a good, honorable guy here."

"I know. But I'm not asking you to be one."

"You sure you know what you're getting into?"

"Nope. I've got no clue." I start kissing and feeling my way across his broad chest.

"You're killing me," he says, his hands slowly reaching for me and urging me up so we're face to face. "We can't do this. Don't get me wrong, I'm ready and willing. But we're going in completely different directions tomorrow. You and I both know fooling around or having sex will complicate everything."

"I have a great idea," I say matter-of-factly. "Let's just make out all night until we're exhausted. That's okay, isn't it?"

"Make out, huh?" He pulls me on top of him. "We can definitely do that," he murmurs against my lips.

Afterward, when we're both coming down from a high I've never felt before, I lay my head on his chest while he wraps his arms around me. "That was a great make-out session.

"Mmm," he agrees sleepily. "The best." A few minutes later, I feel Caleb's body relax. His slow, even breathing lulls me to sleep.



slept like the dead last night. Maggie's soft, warm body .snuggled up to me was just the sleeping pill I needed after our little (okay, not so little) make-out fest. I knew the second she snuck out of my room this morning, because I was immediately awake when the cool morning air reached my skin.

I pretended not to wake up, even when she lightly kissed me on the lips.

Breakfast was practically torture, because Maggie and I were both trying to avoid eye contact. Damon called us into the main area of the cabin, where he gave an entire half hour speech about how much he respected all of us for finishing the program, even though he knew how hard it was to share our stories.

During the ride back to the Redwood community center, where this whole trip started, we're all pretty silent. Even Lenny. His solemn attitude is unnerving because it's so out of character. At this point I'm tempted to ask if I could pull his finger.

At the community center, Damon pulls me aside.

"You're going back home, right?" he asks. "You promised."

"Yep," I lie. "I'm gonna come clean to my parents. Thanks, Damon. For everything. I know it's your job to try and reform kids like me, but-"

"Just so you know," he interrupts. "It's not just a job to me. Remember that. Call me if you need anything. I mean it."

"I'm out," Lenny calls out once he collects his stuff from the van. "My bus'll be here soon."

"If you need a ride-" Damon begins.

"I'm cool." Lenny waves bye to everyone as he heads over to the bus stop to wait.

"That's it?" Trish calls out to him. "You spend four weeks with us and all you can give us is a backwards wave?"

Lenny, still walking, flips her the finger. "Sit on this and spin, Trish," he yells back.

Trish is yelling something snarky back at Lenny while Damon is trying to defuse the situation so it doesn't escalate into a huge profanity/yelling match in front of the community center. As we're all saying our good-byes, Damon gets an emergency call from one of the kids in the juvenile probation program. He leaves after making us promise that we'll all make sure to call him if we ever need him.

Maggie's mom pulls into the parking lot next and heads toward us. The look on her face when she realizes I've been on the Re-START trip with Maggie makes me wince. If I had any doubts about whether or not Maggie and I could ever see each other again, even casually, her mom's horrified expression says it all.

I'm not welcome near her daughter. Ever.

"Mom, I want to say good-bye to everyone. I'll be there in a minute," I hear Maggie say. Her mom throws me a warning glare.

Maggie hugs everyone in the group. Tears come to her eyes as the girls all promise to call and see each other before Maggie leaves for her year abroad.

She hugs Matt next. "Take care of yourself," she says. "And don't give up on Becca."

"Who's Becca?" I ask them.

"My ex." Matt shrugs. "We broke up before the trip, but I kinda, well, you know ... Maggie's been giving me advice."

So he's not into Maggie? I just wish I'd figured that out sooner.

Maggie kisses me on the cheek. "Well, I guess this is good-bye ... again."

I nod. "Don't forget to show those Spaniards that Maggie Armstrong is a force to be reckoned with."

"Right," she says, amused. When she steps back, I shove my hands in my pockets for fear I'll reach out for her. From the look of us, you'd never know we slept in the same bed last night and made out like the world was going to end if we stopped.

"Just so you know," she says, "I'm okay with saying good-bye this time. Really, I feel like we both have closure. I think you should go back to Paradise, but I can't force you to go home if you don't want to."

Her mom beeps the horn, reminding us that reality is always just around the corner ready to slap us in the face.

I gesture to her mom's car and give her a small smile. "You better go."

She takes another step away, but doesn't turn her back to me. "Stay out of trouble, Caleb. I mean it."

I don't take my eyes off her as she gets into her mom's car and they drive away.