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Trystan kissed her temple softly, pulling away slowly, like it pained him. “You make me feel better, too.”

She smiled. It wasn’t full wattage, but it was a start. After a second Mari said, “I’ve been banished from the theatre after school.”

He nodded, “I heard. You punched Brie in the face.” He couldn’t help it, a smile spread across his lips as he watched her.

“I didn’t mean to. It just happened. One minute she was threatening me and the next my fist was crushing her nose.” Mari spoke quickly, like she couldn’t believe she was telling him this. Panic laced her voice, but he didn’t know why. It was a hit, and from what he knew of Brie, she deserved it. “Anyway, Tucker banished me for the rest of the semester, so I won’t be able to see you until after.”

Smiling, Trystan asked, “You want to see me after?”

Nodding, she said, “Yes. I was thinking about things—about what I posted on your Day Jones wall—and I’ve decided something.” Mari spoke slowly, her eyes drifted to the floor as she spoke.

Trystan’s stomach felt like it was in a free fall. Was she saying what he thought she was saying? He tried to stay cool and act like he didn’t know what she was talking about. “What’d you decide?”

Mari was silent for a moment as she looked at the floor, with those long dark lashes blinking slowly. When she looked up at him, Trystan knew he’d give her anything she wanted. Her brown gaze was intent, focused on his face, making Trystan’s heart race faster. Suddenly, he was much more aware of her weight on his lap, the curve of her h*ps in his hands, and the way her chest swelled when she breathed.

Staring at her lips, he waited for her to say it.

“I want to be with you.”

Trystan’s mind erupted with conflicting thoughts, both warring to win. But the thing that came out of his mouth was Mari’s thoughts on the matter, not his, “But, you said you wanted to wait until you were married. I love you, Mari, but don’t change things for me. That’s part of who you are.”

She looked into his eyes, pinning Trystan in place, making him want to squirm. “I need you,” she said so softly that he barely heard it. When he didn’t answer, Mari rested her head on his shoulder and said, “Please, Trystan.”

The please and the way she said his name made Trystan come undone. Before he could do something stupid, he kissed her cheek and slipped Mari off his lap. The look of horror on her face struck him like a bat.

Quickly, Trystan said, “I can’t say no to you. I’ll do anything you want, be anything you need. I promise, but I’m not doing it in the school basement. You deserve more than that and if you keep sitting on my lap and talking about hav**g s*x with me, we won’t be talking about it anymore.” Mari’s face flushed and she looked away. Trystan put his fingers under her chin and pulled her gaze back toward him. “I love that about you. I love how you can blush like that. Actually, I uh… wrote a song about it.” Before he knew what happened, Trystan grabbed the guitar and was tuning it, talking about one of the songs he wrote for her.

“You wrote a song about me blushing?” Mari asked, surprised.

Trystan looked up from below his brow and smiled at her. “Sort of. It’s about all the little things you do; the things that make me love you.”

Placing his fingers on the strings to form the cord, Trystan began to strum. It was a song that was Mari to the core. It revealed more of Trystan’s heart, but he didn’t care. He wanted her to smile and he knew this would help. Trystan sang, watching Mari, as he slipped his hand across the neck of the instrument, allowing the notes to fill the air. As he played, her lips lifted into a smile and her brown eyes glittered just for him. Trystan couldn’t help but smile back at her.

Everything about Mari was magic. She touched him like nothing else could, and honestly, the thought of hav**g s*x with her was equally appealing and terrifying. If a look from Mari could produce that much emotion, Trystan wondered what sex would do. If Mari had her way, Trystan was going to find out. The song ended and Trystan remained where he was, across from her on a stool.

Mari stood with a sweet smile on her face and walked slowly toward him, her h*ps swaying gently as she came closer. “That was so incredible. The way you see things is so pure, so intense, and so vulnerable at the same time.” Stopping in front of him, Mari took the guitar from his hands, making Trystan’s pulse pound harder in his ears.

He watched her, saying nothing as she set the guitar down and stood in front of him. A smile spread across Mari’s lips. “You think blushing is sexy?” She placed both hands on his thighs, splaying her fingers, leaning in close to his lips.

“I think everything you do is sexy.”

“Kiss me,” she commanded, and he did.

Trystan’s hands threaded in her hair and pulled her mouth down on his, tasting her sweet, hot kiss on his lips. Heart hammering in his chest, Trystan let the kiss grow stronger and hotter, tasting Mari when she opened her mouth, and stroking her tongue with his. They were both breathing hard when the bell rang and shattered the moment.

Mari stood and stepped away, her hands shaking slightly. Grinning at him, she said, “You follow directions really good.”

Trystan laughed. He stood and rushed toward her, snatching her up by her waist and spinning her around until she shrieked. When he set her down, Mari looked up at him smiling like everything was all right. After a second, Mari reached into her pocket and fished out a piece of paper and handed it to him.

“It’s my address and my cell. Come by later, okay?” Suddenly, she was shy again.

Trystan looked at the address, and confusion pinched his face. “I thought you didn’t want your parents to know?”

“They won’t. They’re working for the next four nights.”

Trystan felt his heart speed up. The way she looked at him said she had plans for all four nights.



After school, Katie sat with me at the diner. We ate a bunch of fried food and topped it off with ice cream. I was so nervous. I’m not sure what person took over my brain and invited Trystan Scott into my bed, but she was gone now and I was left with moody Mari who fretted over everything.

“What’s with you?” Katie asked, dipping a fry in ice cream before popping it in her mouth. “You’ve been out of sorts for days.”

I shrugged, “PMS?”

She laughed, “Yeah, right. More like boy-on-the-brain. Don’t tell me that you’re still pining over Trystan.”

I shook my head confidently. That wasn’t a lie. I wasn’t pining over him at all. “No, of course not.”

“Then what is it?”

I debated telling her what had me on edge. The question was could I tell her and omit names? I didn’t know. And if Katie snooped, she’d see it was Trystan coming to my house later. I decided to risk it. I needed someone to talk to about it and I sure wasn’t asking my mom. “You know how I was going to wait to be with someone? Well, I changed my mind.”

Katie’s jaw dropped open and the ice cream slipped out. It splattered on the table in one big goopy slop. Neither of us said anything for a moment. As she wiped up the ice cream glob, she asked, “What? Why?”

I shrugged, “I don’t know. I thought it’d be romantic to wait for the guy who’d marry me, but now that just seems corny.” Corny was the wrong word. The real reason was that I felt so alone and I thought that sex would make it better. I wanted to feel wanted.

Katie stared at me like I’d grown two heads. “Something’s not right here, but I have no clue what it is. Who are you and what have you done with Mari?”

“Stop it, Katie. I wanted to talk to you about it.” My voice was serious, pleading almost. I felt stupid for bringing it up.

Katie noticed and became serious. In a hushed voice she said, “Don’t do it. Having sex will bind you to that guy for the rest of your life. Be picky about who you’re with. Honestly, I used to laugh at you, but when I see him,” she couldn’t stand to say her first boyfriend’s name, “now, well, I think you had it right. I wish that I’d waited for someone that I wanted to be attached to forever.”

Katie’s eyes darted away from mine as she spoke, as if she were ashamed of what she did. “But it felt right at the time, didn’t it? How were you supposed to know he wasn’t forever?”

Katie laughed bitterly, “I knew, Mari. He wasn’t the one. I just didn’t bother waiting. Maybe it was stupid, but I didn’t think I’d get another chance. Now I’ve learned that there’s always another chance, another guy willing to do it. They’re not picky when it comes to sex, so I figure I have to be.”

“You think I’ll regret it?” I asked, my voice nearly a whisper.

She nodded. “You sound disappointed. What did you think I would say? You see the way I avoid my ex. Whatever amount of fun I had wasn’t worth worrying about getting knocked-up or contracting something gross. It probably sounds funny, but you rubbed off on me. I’m waiting from now on. The guy has to prove he loves me and stick around for a while before he gets into my pants.” Just then the waiter walked by and nearly tripped as he overheard Katie. She was blunt and gorgeous. Hearing her talk about sex made guys salivate.

My gaze fell to the table as I played with my napkin.

Katie asked, “Are you going to tell me who he is?”

“Not yet.”



Trystan looked at the piece of paper in his hands. Theatre practice had dragged on, mainly because Brie refused to cooperate with her face looking the way it did, but it was finally over and he was on his way to see Mari. The streetlights cast a yellow glow on the pavement. The night air wasn’t as frigid as last evening.

Trystan walked past Mari’s house, not stopping in front. His heart raced faster, as his mind repeated the words she’d said earlier. Lowering his gaze, Trystan shoved his hands in his pockets and walked on. Circling the block, Trystan came up behind Mari’s house, cutting through the neighbor’s backyard to remain out of sight.

Although Mari didn’t ask him to sneak up to her house, Trystan was too smart to be seen. No one wanted him around their daughter and Mari’s parents were probably worse. She was smart, like really smart. They probably wanted to send her off to some Ivy League school next year and he’d never see her again.

Trystan sighed, pushing through the spot where the fences met. Neighbors might have looked cordial in this neighborhood, but they were cheap. That last inch of vinyl fence was an expense that no one wanted to pay, since it was covered by tall shrubs and trees. Trystan twisted sideways and sucked in to press himself between the gaps in the fence. No one saw him do it.

Within seconds, he was standing on Mari’s back porch, looking up at the two story house, with his eyes fixated on the only bedroom with a light shining through the windows. Mari crossed the room, her hands stretched above her head, as she pulled her hair into a ponytail.