Don’t talk. If he talked, I’d think, and stop those fingers, which were edging my bra straps down and off, smoothing a slow caress back up my forearms, trailing goose bumps in their wake.

Cass broke the kiss. His eyes were bright sea blue, pupils

wide and black. I stared at him, stunned, consciousness slowly returning, which he must have seen in my face because he pulled back.

He cleared his throat. “Stop?”

Shaking my head emphatically was wrong. A mistake. Cer-tainly, so was me flipping up the arm rest and moving closer.

Which resulted in Cass pulling me right into his lap.

I took my hands out of his hair (warm at the roots, frost cold at the tips) and reached down. What was I doing? I was doing exactly what Cass was, and my fingers folded on his as he pulled the lever to recline the seat and BOOM I was lying on him and his hands were all over my back, then swirling my hair aside so he could put his open mouth on my neck.

Oh my God. Cass Somers had lightning-fast reflexes and some magic potion coming out of every pore that dissolved self-control, caution, rational thought.

It was all gone and the only thing I could think was that it was the best trade I ever made.

I was the one who practically crawled into his lap. I was the one whose hands slid first up under his shirt to all that smooth skin. After a few more minutes, he was the one who stilled my fingers with his own. “Gwen. Wait.” He shook his head, took deep breaths. “Slow down . . . We’d better . . .”

He sat, tugging me up with him, and said, “Let’s go back to the house. I’m not thinking clearly.”

I should not have said, “So . . . don’t. Think clearly.”

But I did say that.

He looked at me, startled, a little blankness and a little— what was it?—in those blue, blue eyes. I didn’t take the time to

define it. I shrugged off my shirt, pushed myself farther onto his lap and reached down for the button of his jeans.



“I don’t—”

“But I do.”

And we did.

In the Bronco, afterward, we lay entangled on the passenger’s seat. Cass stretched a long arm down to the ground for his discarded parka, picked it up one-handed and draped it over us. I rested my cheek against his chest and listened to the echo of his galloping heartbeat. He slid his finger up and down from my knee to my thigh, a dreamy slow motion. I didn’t feel self-conscious or like I wanted to get away fast, the way I had with Alex. For the first time all those phrases I’d heard but never believed—“it felt right” and “you just know”—made sense.

He shifted his hand to my spine, ran slowly up the line of it, smiling a little, as though he enjoyed every bump and hollow.

He took another deep breath, then ducked his head to kiss my forehead. “Thank you.”

I didn’t think that was strange, then. It melted me even more. It seemed so Cass, born to be polite, acting as though I’d given him a gift, rather than that we’d opened one together.

I pulled his face close, nudging his cheek with mine.

“You always smell like chlorine, even when you’ve been out of the pool for ages,” I whispered.

“Probably in my pores. I swim every day.”

“Even when the season’s over?”

“Every day.” He started twining one of my curls around his finger, letting it slip out, wrapping it again. In a strange way this seemed as intimate and personal as what we’d just done, that he still wanted to touch me, after. “Uh—we have an indoor pool . . . so . . .”

“I feel gypped on the tour. I didn’t see the pool.”

“Didn’t really think it was a great idea to point it out—in case anyone was following us. Before you know it, half the high school would have been in there with their clothes on.

Or off.”

I looked down at myself, pulled the parka up a little more, suddenly remembering how little I was wearing.

“Don’t do that,” Cass whispered. He readjusted the parka down, stroked my back with his index finger.

I buried my nose in the hollow of his throat, inhaling the chorine, the hint of salty sweat.

Then, for some reason, maybe the clean scent of him, the image of that spotless house abandoned to the rest of the partygoers, while we stayed in this bubble, came into my head.

“Are your guests going to be in there ransacking and pillag-ing your home while I’m out here waylaying the host?”

His chest shook under me. “There may be a bit of ransacking. Probably a massive treasure hunt for Dad’s liquor cabinet. And, for the record, I waylaid you.” Despite the joke, he sounded a little worried, so I sat up.

“We’d better go in.”

Semi-uncomfortable moment while I hunted for my bra,

and he ducked his head, looking away as he tucked in, zipped his jeans. But not bad awkward, sort of nice awkward, espe-cially when he reached over to pull close my pea coat, knotting the tie at the waist, then took my hand and opened the door.

“After you.”

“You are so polite, it’s terminal,” I said. “You should see someone about this. You’re a seventeen-year-old guy. You need to do more grunting and pointing.”

“Truth? I’m feeling sorta speechless right now.”

By this time we were walking up the driveway, the sound of our feet crisping on the icy gravel. Then it happened. We must have tripped the motion detector and floodlights came on, illuminating us bright as day. Or someone flipped a switch.

I never knew which. But anyway, suddenly we were bathed in dazzling white-blue light and pummeled by the sound of clapping, cheering, hooting. “Way to go, Sundance!” shouted a voice I couldn’t identify, and there was laughter.

And then a voice I did recognize gave a long, low whistle, and Spence called, “I know I told you where to go to lose your V card, Somers. But I didn’t think you’d cash it in so fast. Nice work.”

I stumbled on the icy driveway, wobbly heel flipping, turning incredulously to Cass, while in the background there was a chorus of Ooooo’s and Were you gentle with him, Gwen’s. He was blushing so fiercely it prickled my own face with heat. And suddenly “Thank you” took on a whole new meaning. I pulled my hand from his, shaking my head, backing away, waiting for him to deny it. But instead he looked at me, then down at the ground, broad shoulders hunched. I saw it in his eyes.