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Trystan reached for me, his fingers snatching at my waist and he pulled me closer. Positioning himself above me, Trystan held me in place, tickling me until tears leaked from the corners of my eyes, and I was screaming like a lunatic.

That’s when I cheated. I totally lost. He had me pinned, but I couldn’t stop looking at his lips. Trystan’s mouth was so close and that smile was so sexy. I wanted to taste it. Trystan’s grin dissolved when my lips pressed against his.

Without a word, the tickle fight was over and he was on top of me. Trystan’s hands found my face and stroked my hair while his kisses grew hotter. Teasing me at first, Trystan’s teeth gently nipped my lower lip like he was hesitant to do more. He lingered there, pressing small kisses to my mouth and gently nibbling my lip, teasing me until I couldn’t stand it.

Heart racing, I slipped my hands under the bottom of his shirt and found his back. Trystan’s skin was hot and smooth. Lifting my fingers, I held him closer, pulling him tighter against my chest. We were both breathing hard, like we’d been running for miles. I was so hot, so lost. I needed him so much. Trystan had no idea, but I decided I wouldn’t mention sex again, not after the way he acted before. I expected Trystan to be happy about it, but instead he seemed skittish.

I lay in his arms and enjoyed Trystan’s hot kisses and the sensation of his full lips pressing against mine. Heat seared through me, swirling in my stomach until my nails bit into his back. I didn’t mean to. It just happened. That’s when he finally kissed me. I mean, kissed me fully, deeply—the way he felt he should. The kisses up until that point were like he was holding back. Passion surged through us and things got hotter. If I could have pulled Trystan closer, I would have. I couldn’t get enough of him. Everything from his scent, to the way his skin felt beneath my fingers, to the way his muscles rippled beneath my touch made me want him more.

I was kissing Trystan Scott. No, it was more than that. He loved me and he was showing me what that meant, how he wanted to tease me with kisses until I lost my mind.

“Trystan,” I breathed his name. He broke the kiss and looked down at me breathing hard. We were both covered in a thin sheen of sweat. “I love you.”

Dazzling me with a pure smile, he said, “I love you, too.”

We stayed like that for a moment, both of us breathing hard, just staring at each other. The way Trystan’s gaze moved between my eyes and my lips made me want to kiss him more. When his scorching look drifted lower, I knew I was toast. We had to do something else or I wouldn’t be able to stop.

As if he was reading my mind, Trystan sat up causing a blast of cold air to rush between us. “I’m thinking that I don’t have the self-control I thought I did.” Trystan gazed at the window with a sheepish look on his face. It was so sweet.

Laughing softly, I pushed myself up on my elbows and looked up at him. “Neither do I.” Scooting over behind him, I threw my arms around his shoulders and squeezed hard, hugging him from behind. Trystan nearly fell over, but I held him against me. After a second I released him, and Trystan turned around to look at me. I knew what he was thinking, that he should leave. It was insanely late. My parents would have killed me if I stayed out this late.

Before he could say anything, I asked, “Stay? Just a little longer? You have no idea how much better tonight is compared to last night.” The smile slipped off my lips. I couldn’t keep the bitterness out of my voice.

Trystan sat on the floor, his arm draped over his knee, with those sapphire eyes softly searching mine. Finally, he nodded, “I can stay a while longer. I just want to be gone by the time your parents get home. I don’t want to get you in trouble.”

“They’re working the seven to seven shift and they usually get breakfast before coming home, so unless you stay all night, there’s no way you guys will run into each other.” I looked at him for a moment, wondering why he wasn’t antsy about missing his curfew, so I asked, “What time do you have to be home?”

Trystan smiled. It was the one that said he was going to evade the truth, but not quite lie. “There is no time. I don’t have a curfew.”

Sitting across from him, I felt my head c*ck to the side like a confused Pomeranian. “Seriously?”

He shrugged. “Seriously.” It felt like he was leaving something out, but he didn’t say what and I didn’t want to push him.

“Then, stay here as late as you want. Oh, and since you don’t have a cell phone, I want you to have this.” I crossed the room and opened my closet door. Fishing out a box from the top shelf, I turned around and handed it to him.

Trystan had crossed the room and was standing behind me. He looked at the box and bristled a little. “You’re giving me a phone? Mari, I can’t take this.” He tried to push it back into my hands, but I shook my head.

“Yes, you can. It’s one of those cheap throw away phones. I bought it a few months ago because I lost the super-expensive phone my dad had gotten me. I bought that one and forwarded my calls to it until I found this phone.” I pointed to my smart phone on my dresser. “I can’t use this one and no one has the number. I thought it’d work good for us, you know, so I can hear your voice at night—so you can get hold of me, if you need to.” I felt fragile for some reason. I didn’t want him to say no, but I could see it on his face. He didn’t want it. After a second I said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you—” Pressing my eyes closed, I shook my head and snatched the box back from his hands. I turned to shove it into the closet, but Trystan’s hands fell lightly on my shoulders.

His voice was level, but when he spoke there was an intensity there that I’d never heard before, “What happened last night? Did someone hurt you?”

I turned toward him. Tears stung my eyes but they didn’t fall. I shook my head. His eyes searched mine like they were trying to find the truth. I wanted to tell him, but I couldn’t say it out loud. My parents don’t care about me. I’m alone. My throat tightened and I couldn’t speak, even if I wanted to.

Trystan looked down at the box and took it out of my hands. “I’ll borrow it for a while. I want you to call me if something like that happens again.”

I couldn’t help it. The tears flowed over my eyes and ran down my cheeks. I wrapped my arms around his neck and Trystan held me. I had no idea how much time passed, but when he stepped away I felt like everything might be okay, and it wasn’t because he took the phone. That was symbolic. For some reason Trystan didn’t want it, but he took it anyway to make me feel better. He put me first. No one did that for me before. I smiled and cried like a crazy person until Trystan’s shoulder was soaked with tears.

Trystan kissed my temple softly and said, “Tell me what happened when you’re ready. I’ll always be here for you, Mari. And if anyone ever hurts you—” he left the threat hanging in the air. I nodded and pulled away.

I sat down on my bed and before I knew it, I was recanting what happened last night. Trystan stood for a while and then he finally sat next to me. By the time I finished, he had his arms around me. “It’s stupid,” I sniffled. “I’m crying because I got yelled at. I sound like a brat.”

“No, you don’t.” He kissed my wet cheek and held my face between his palms. “And that’s not why you’re crying. I know you, Mari. I know what this is about.” He stroked my hair away from my face, and then I leaned into his shoulder, staring blankly ahead, not speaking. It was silent for a moment, until he whispered, “We’re more alike than I thought.”

Lifting my head, I asked, “What do you mean?”

Trystan didn’t meet my gaze. Instead he looked down and stared the floor. “Our fathers—they seem to have unrealistic expectations. That’s all. It’s kind of paralyzing.” I nodded, wondering what his father did to him. Trystan seemed so hard, so cynical at times. He constantly had a wall up that blocked everyone out, but somehow I snuck through. “I was going to leave after graduation, but things kind of changed.”

My heart beat faster as hope flooded through my veins. “You’re not going to enlist?”

“And leave you?” he grinned. “Nah, I’ll have to move onto plan B, which has something to do with staying here with you.”

I threw my arms around him. Trystan embraced me and we stayed like that. I couldn’t help the smile on my face. When he pulled back, I said excitedly, “You should go down the Day Jones path and see where it leads.” Trystan didn’t look convinced. “Your songs are powerful, they speak to people, and I’ve seen you on stage—you glow. People can’t help but love you. You’d be really good at it.”

Trystan’s gaze cut to hers. His mood was a tad off, apprehensive maybe. “You really think you’d want to share me with all those people?”

“I want you to be happy.”

“I’m happy here with you. You’re all I need.” Trystan’s thumb rubbed the back of my hand. His eyes drifted to my lips and I knew he wanted to kiss me again. Trystan broke the gaze, like he was trying to control himself, and looked at the clock. “It’s nearly 2:00am. You’re going to be a zombie tomorrow. You should get to sleep.”

I nodded. Lethargy had been pulling on my body like giant sandbags. “So should you.”

He looked down, and ran his fingers through his hair. “Yeah. I will.”

Liar. What’s with him tonight? I thought about it for a moment, what it could mean, and stumbled on the answer. “You don’t sleep, do you?” Trystan’s blue eyes lifted to mine, nervous like I’d wound him. “It’s okay. Listen, you can stay here until dawn, if your dad won’t mind. If you don’t want to sleep, you can watch TV downstairs, eat something—” He was staring at me with his lips parted slightly. I couldn’t read his expression. Trystan seemed to be caught between terror and surprise and I had no idea why. “What?”

Trystan smiled sadly and shook his head. That haunted look slipped away like it was never there. “Nothing. You’re just amazing. I’d like to stay longer, if that’s okay with you.”

“Of course it is. Let me get ready for bed. I’ll be right back.” I dressed for bed, pulling on a pair of sleep shorts and a cami. I crawled into bed, and pulled up the blankets. Trystan sat at the foot of the bed and smiled at me.

“Will you stay until I fall asleep?” I blinked slowly, barely able to keep my eyes open.

“Sure, that’d be nice. And then I’ll sneak out so your parents don’t skin me. I’ll see you at school in the morning.” He stood and sat down again, closer to me, leaning in to kiss my forehead. My eyes fluttered like they wanted to close. I didn’t want the night to end. It was so perfect.

Trystan started to sing softly, as he stroked my cheek. The result was instant bliss. The sound of his voice washed over me, comforting me. There were few things in life that were certain, but I knew this was real. We were meant to be together. My breathing slowed as I snuggled into my blankets. Trystan’s gentle touch and voice lulled me into a sleep coma. I didn’t wake up until my alarm went off the next morning. The night passed, and when I looked, Trystan was gone. It was like a dream, a wonderful dream.