Page 47

I can’t think.

I can’t breathe

“I want so many things,” he whispers. “I want your mind. Your strength. I want to be worth your time.” His fingers graze the hem of my top and he says “I want this up.” He tugs on the waist of my pants and says “I want these down.” He touches the tips of his fingers to the sides of my body and says, “I want to feel your skin on fire. I want to feel your heart racing next to mine and I want to know it’s racing because of me, because you want me. Because you never,” he says, he breathes, “never want me to stop. I want every second. Every inch of you. I want all of it.”

And I drop dead, all over the floor.


I can’t understand why I can still hear him speaking because I’m dead, I’m already dead, I’ve died over and over and over again

He swallows, hard, his chest heaving, his words a breathless, shaky whisper when he says “I’m so—I’m so desperately in love with you—”

I’m rooted to the ground, spinning while standing, dizzy in my blood and in my bones and I’m breathing like I’m the first human who’s ever learned to fly, like I’ve been inhaling the kind of oxygen only found in the clouds and I’m trying but I don’t know how to keep my body from reacting to him, to his words, to the ache in his voice.

He touches my cheek.

Soft, so soft, like he’s not sure if I’m real, like he’s afraid if he gets too close I’ll just oh, look she’s gone, she’s just disappeared. His 4 fingers graze the side of my face, slowly, so slowly before they slip behind my head, caught in that in-between spot just above my neck. His thumb brushes the apple of my cheek.

He keeps looking at me, looking into my eyes for help, for guidance, for some sign of a protest like he’s so sure I’m going to start screaming or crying or running away but I won’t. I don’t think I could even if I wanted to because I don’t want to. I want to stay here. Right here. I want to be paralyzed by this moment.

He moves closer, just an inch. His free hand reaches up to cup the other side of my face.

He’s holding me like I’m made of feathers.

He’s holding my face and looking at his own hands like he can’t believe he’s caught this bird who’s always so desperate to fly away. His hands are shaking, just a little bit, just enough for me to feel the slight tremble against my skin. Gone is the boy with the guns and the skeletons in his closet. These hands holding me have never held a weapon. These hands have never touched death. These hands are perfect and kind and tender.

And he leans in, so carefully. Breathing and not breathing and hearts beating between us and he’s so close, he’s so close and I can’t feel my legs anymore. I can’t feel my fingers or the cold or the emptiness of this room because all I feel is him, everywhere, filling everything and he whispers


He says “Please don’t shoot me for this.”

And he kisses me.

His lips are softer than anything I’ve ever known, soft like a first snowfall, like biting into cotton candy, like melting and floating and being weightless in water. It’s sweet, it’s so effortlessly sweet.

And then it changes.

“Oh God—”

He kisses me again, this time stronger, desperate, like he has to have me, like he’s dying to memorize the feel of my lips against his own. The taste of him is making me crazy; he’s all heat and desire and peppermint and I want more. I’ve just begun reeling him in, pulling him into me when he breaks away.

He’s breathing like he’s lost his mind and he’s looking at me like something has broken inside of him, like he’s woken up to find that his nightmares were just that, that they never existed, that it was all just a bad dream that felt far too real but now he’s awake and he’s safe and everything is going to be okay and

I’m falling.

I’m falling apart and into his heart and I’m a disaster.

He’s searching me, searching my eyes for something, for yeses or nos or maybe a cue to keep going and all I want is to drown in him. I want him to kiss me until I collapse in his arms, until I’ve left my bones behind and floated up into a new space that is entirely our own.

No words.

Just his lips.


Deep and urgent like he can’t afford to take his time anymore, like there’s so much he wants to feel and there aren’t enough years to experience it all. His hands travel the length of my back, learning every curve of my figure and he’s kissing my neck, my throat, the slope of my shoulders and his breaths come harder, faster, his hands suddenly threaded in my hair and I’m spinning, I’m dizzy, I’m moving and reaching up behind his neck and clinging to him and it’s ice-cold heat, it’s an ache that attacks every cell in my body. It’s a wanting so desperate, a need so exquisite that it rivals everything, every happy moment I ever thought I knew.

I’m against the wall.

He’s kissing me like the world is rolling right off a cliff, like he’s trying to hang on and he’s decided to hold on to me, like he’s starving for life and love and he’s never known it could ever feel this good to be close to someone. Like it’s the first time he’s ever felt anything but hunger and he doesn’t know how to pace himself, doesn’t know how to eat in small bites, doesn’t know how to do anything anything anything in moderation.

My pants fall to the floor and his hands are responsible.

I’m in his arms in my underwear and a tank top that’s doing little to keep me decent and he pulls back just to look at me, to drink in the sight of me and he’s saying “you’re so beautiful” he’s saying “you’re so unbelievably beautiful” and he pulls me into his arms again and he picks me up, he carries me to my bed and suddenly I’m resting against my pillows and he’s straddling my hips and his shirt is no longer on his body and I have no idea where it went. All I know is that I’m looking up and into his eyes and I’m thinking there isn’t a single thing I would change about this moment.

He has a hundred thousand million kisses and he’s giving them all to me.

He kisses my top lip.

He kisses my bottom lip.

He kisses just under my chin, the tip of my nose, the length of my forehead, both temples, my cheeks, all across my jawline. Then my neck, behind my ears, all the way down my throat and

his hands



my body. His entire form is moving down my figure, disappearing as he shifts downward and suddenly his chest is hovering above my hips; suddenly I can’t see him anymore. I can only make out the top of his head, the curve of his shoulders, the unsteady rise and fall of his back as he inhales, exhales. He’s running his hands down and around my bare thighs and up again, up past my ribs, around my lower back and down again, just past my hip bone. His fingers hook around the elastic waist of my underwear and I gasp.

His lips touch my bare stomach.

It’s just a whisper of a kiss but something collapses in my skull. It’s a feather-light brush of his mouth against my skin in a place I can’t quite see. It’s my mind speaking in a thousand different languages I don’t understand.

And I realize he’s working his way up my body.

He’s leaving a trail of fire along my torso, one kiss after another, and I really don’t think I can take much more of this; I really don’t think I’ll be able to survive this. There’s a whimper building in my throat, begging to break free and I’m locking my fingers in his hair and I’m pulling him up, onto me, on top of me.

I need to kiss him.

I’m reaching up only to slip my hands down his neck, over his chest and down the length of his body and I realize I’ve never felt this, not to this degree, not like every moment is about to explode, like every breath could be our last, like every touch is enough to ignite the world. I’m forgetting everything, forgetting the danger and the horror and the terror of tomorrow and I can’t even remember why I’m forgetting, what I’m forgetting, that there’s something I already seem to have forgotten. It’s too hard to pay attention to anything but his eyes, burning; his skin, bare; his body, perfect.

He’s completely unharmed by my touch.

He’s careful not to crush me, his elbows propped up on either side of my head, and I think I must be smiling at him because he’s smiling at me, but he’s smiling like he might be petrified; he’s breathing like he’s forgotten he’s supposed to, looking at me like he’s not sure how to do this, hesitating like he’s unsure how to let me see him like this. Like he has no idea how to be so vulnerable.

But here he is.

And here I am.

Warner’s forehead is pressed against mine, his skin flushed with heat, his nose touching my own. He shifts his weight to one arm, uses his free hand to softly stroke my cheek, to cup my face like it’s spun from glass and I realize I’m still holding my breath and I can’t even remember the last time I exhaled.

His eyes shift down to my lips and back again. His gaze is heavy, hungry, weighed down by emotion I never thought him capable of. I never thought he could be so full, so human, so real. But it’s there. It’s right there. Raw, written across his face like it’s been ripped out of his chest.

He’s handing me his heart.

And he says one word. He whispers one thing. So urgently.

He says, “Juliette.”

I close my eyes.

He says, “I don’t want you to call me Warner anymore.”

I open my eyes.

“I want you to know me,” he says, breathless, his fingers pushing a stray strand of hair away from my face. “I don’t want to be Warner with you,” he says. “I want it to be different now. I want you to call me Aaron.”

And I’m about to say yes, of course, I completely understand, but there’s something about this stretch of silence that confuses me; something about this moment and the feel of his name on my tongue that unlocks other parts of my brain and there’s something there, something pushing and pulling at my skin and trying to remind me, trying to tell me and

it slaps me in the face

it punches me in the jaw

it dumps me right into the ocean.


My bones are full of ice. My entire being wants to vomit. I’m tripping out from under him and pulling myself away and I almost fall right to the floor and this feeling, this feeling, this overwhelming feeling of absolute self-loathing sticks in my stomach like the slice of a knife too sharp, too thick, too lethal to keep me standing and I’m clutching at myself, I’m trying not to cry and I’m saying no no no this can’t happen this can’t be happening I love Adam, my heart is with Adam, I can’t do this to him

and Warner looks like I’ve shot him all over again, like I’ve wedged a bullet in his heart with my bare hands and he gets to his feet but he can hardly stand. His frame is shaking and he’s looking at me like he wants to say something but every time he tries to speak he fails.