Scipio S by Nick Scipio SC: Wren

CHAPTER 13

My eyes flicked back to the girls on the bed. Erin’s tan nipples rose and fell with her breathing. Leah’s were dark little nubs, puckered with arousal. The girls’ legs entwined sinuously, alternating caramel and pink. My gaze returned to their faces, which shone with lust and alcohol. Leah had a good buzz, but Erin must have been a lot drunker than I’d thought.

Time seemed to slow as my mind went into overdrive. Where would Erin draw the line? Would she want to have sex with me? What would I do if she did? Would I say no? Yes? Would she regret it? Would I?

I paused at the thought of how easy it would be to let go of my inhibitions. I could have sex with both of them, but should I? The little head voted yes, of course. The big head was still undecided, which worried me more.

I wanted to laugh at the irony as I relived my mother’s dilemma from years ago: I was horny and willing, tempted by a fantasy come true.

The girls were oblivious to my struggle, so they stood and moved toward me. They knelt at my feet without a word, and Leah gently grasped my erection. She offered it to Erin, who looked up with wide blue eyes, asking permission.

She’d given me blowjobs before, so we weren’t breaking a taboo—not a new one, at least—but one thing had a way of leading to another, especially after a night of partying. Still, it had been a long time since I’d had two girls at once, and I couldn’t think of a reason to tell her no. So I smiled and ran my fingers through her hair.

She closed her eyes at my touch. Then she grasped my shaft and swirled her tongue around the crown. I grunted at the warm, wet pleasure of her mouth. Leah tilted her head and kissed my balls, adding her own warmth and wetness to the mix.

I managed to lose myself and relax for several minutes, simply wallowing in the pleasure of two girls giving me head. Unfortunately, my conscience kicked in when the girls switched and Leah began sucking. I had to think—before they took things further.

Did I really want to fuck Erin? The answer scared me, so I asked the more important question: should I? That, unfortunately, was more complicated.

Once again, I felt my mother’s dilemma as I looked at things from every angle. Would Erin stop if I asked her to? Would she be upset? Would I have the strength to ask in the first place? The answer was easy when I was jerking off to a fantasy, but it wasn’t so simple when the fantasy became real.

The girls switched again, and I almost lost it as Erin swallowed half my length. Her mouth was warm and soft and tight, and I wondered what her pussy would feel like. I shook off the thought with an effort.

I thought of a dozen different scenarios, but kept coming back to the most likely ones. I could have sex with her and deal with the consequences (disappointment? remorse? more sex?). Or I could push her away, which would hurt her feelings and force me to deal with an entirely different set of consequences. Or I could find some middle ground and avoid trouble altogether. Unfortunately, I didn’t see how.

The girls began sucking in turns, double-teaming my swollen glans on each pass, and I fought not to lose my train of thought. I had to figure out what I wanted before it simply happened. I knew what I’d do if I had to wing it, but I also knew how I’d feel afterward.

If you can’t stand the heat, I told myself, get out of the kitchen.

But I want to have my cake and eat it too.

I rolled my eyes at the clichés, but then forced myself to take a deep breath. The little head made one last appeal, but I ruthlessly ignored it.

Get a grip! You’re not some kid with no self-control. You’re supposed to be an adult. Now act like one!

Somewhere in all the arguing with myself, I’d come to a decision. I didn’t know if it was the right one or not, but I’d have to deal with the consequences either way.

The girls switched again, and I decided that I didn’t have to be a killjoy. After all, our New Year’s orgies were a time to bend the rules. I still had to walk a fine line, but I could have fun in the meantime.

I gazed down at the girls, who were intent on making me come. I felt guilty for ignoring them, but they probably hadn’t even noticed. Erin looked up and smiled, her eyes a bit unfocused. I returned the smile and cupped the back of her head as she inhaled my shaft.

Leah sensed me looking, so I gave her a smile as well. Her eyes glittered with excitement, and her hand dropped to her shaved pussy. She raised a damp finger to her lips and tasted her own juices. Her eyes never left mine, and she blinked in surprise when Erin pushed my dick at her.

We shared a grin as she kissed my glans, teasing me. I lifted my eyebrows, almost daring her to do it again. She did, of course, so I gripped my shaft and began stroking, careful not to hit Erin in the face as she nuzzled my balls.

“Where do you want me to come?”

Leah’s eyes twinkled. “Where do you think?”

“Are you going to share?”

“Yeah, I guess,” she mocked.

Erin surfaced from under my balls and grinned up at me. With her out of the way, I stroked faster, already tingling with the need for release.

“Put your faces together,” I said.

The girls pressed their cheeks together and watched my dick, eyes intent.

“Get ready,” I grunted.

The first spurt landed on Leah’s cheek, so I fixed my aim, and the next one arced into her open mouth. I let her have another before I turned to Erin and angled my shaft toward her.

She moaned when the spurt hit her tongue, and then sucked gently as I continued stroking. Leah closed her mouth with exaggerated concentration, savoring the flavor of my semen as it trickled down her throat.

When I finally pulled away, Erin pursed her lips and smiled up at me. Her blue eyes glowed with more than arousal as she turned to Leah and kissed her. The darker girl stiffened in surprise at first, but then moaned urgently.

It took me a moment to realize that Erin was sharing my semen with Leah. I’d seen Susan do the same thing with my mom, and my dick swelled with the memory.

When they finally pulled apart, Erin gently wiped Leah’s face. She raised her spermy finger and gazed at the darker girl, watching as Leah sucked it clean. They kissed again, and caressed each other as the kiss deepened.

“Oh my God,” Leah panted when they separated at last. “That was so hot.”

Erin grinned and slipped her arm around Leah’s waist. A look passed between them and they turned to my dick.

“So,” Erin teased, “ready for more?”

I playfully stroked my cock, but it was already growing soft. “Lemme return the favor first.”

Erin scampered to the bed and lay on her back, knees bent in anticipation.

“Sit on her face,” I told Leah, who grinned.

I nudged Erin’s legs apart and settled between them. Her pussy opened before me, pink and shiny, the soft blonde fur already damp. I spread her gently and licked from bottom to top. Soft hairs tickled my lips as I circled her clit with my tongue.

She lifted her legs and spread them further, so I rested my palms on her soft inner thighs. At a movement from above, I glanced up to see Leah watching. I held her eyes as I sucked Erin’s inner lips and pulled them taut. The soft folds sprang back gently, and I recaptured them, my eyes still locked with Leah’s.

After a moment she closed her eyes and gnawed her lip in pleasure, her face a mask of concentration. I grinned and focused on Erin, nudging her clit with my nose as I buried my face in her pussy.

She tasted different from Leah, but still sweet and tangy, salty and metallic. I waggled my tongue through her folds, my cheeks pressed against her as she writhed with pleasure. I didn’t want to make her come yet, so I pulled back and began teasing her with short licks.

After fifteen minutes of gentle torture, I looked up at Leah.

“Ready for your turn?”

I knelt at the foot of the bed while the girls switched places. Erin tweaked Leah’s nipples as she straddled her face, and I paused to watch them for a moment. Then I gently spread Leah’s thighs and settled between them to marvel at her shaved pussy. I’d seen it a lot in the past few days, but I never seemed to lose my fascination.

After a moment I descended on Leah, my face still wet from Erin. Leah was already worked up, and I didn’t want her to come too soon, especially before I had a chance to fuck her. So I licked gently for several minutes, running my tongue in lazy circles around her clit and back down again. She squirmed for me to lick harder, but I held her down and simply teased.

My dick had been hard for a while, but it seemed to swell as I thought about my next move. Things might not go exactly as planned, but I was pretty sure how Erin would react.

I rose to my knees, my face tight as the girls’ mingled juices dried. Erin’s gaze followed my jutting erection as I scooted closer to Leah and rubbed the tip along her slit. Her dark labia parted, revealing the pink of her inner lips.

I set the tip at her opening and pushed. She moaned into Erin’s pussy, so I slid deeper and slowly buried myself to the root. Then I settled her legs around my hips and gripped her waist for leverage.

After several powerful thrusts, I met Erin’s eyes. They shone with lust and anticipation, but were also a little glassy from all the alcohol. I smirked and leaned forward to capture one of her nipples. She gasped and cupped her breast as her nipple hardened. I circled it with my tongue and then switched to the other.

Erin’s breasts were softer and fuller than Leah’s, but still firm. I nipped and sucked for several minutes, working her to a fever pitch. When I pulled back to grin at her, she opened her eyes and struggled to focus.

“Oh, God,” she said, her voice husky with desire, “I want you inside me.”

I’d been expecting it, but the words still struck me like a bolt of lightning. Leah must have heard, because she put her hands on my hips to stop my thrusting. She struggled to pull back far enough for my dick to slip free, but then threw her leg over and rolled off the bed.

Erin quickly took her place. She spread her legs and gave me the perfect shot of her damp blonde slit. I felt a wave of calm settle over me, relieved that I’d thought about things before she offered herself. If I hadn’t, I probably would have simply fucked her, to hell with the consequences. Even then, it was a close thing, and my dick practically quivered with pent-up desire.

Erin looked up at me as I struggled with one last bout of conscience. What would it hurt to fuck her? She obviously wanted me to, and she wasn’t my mother. Was I worried about what other people would think? But who’d know?

I would, I thought reluctantly. I’d know that I’d taken advantage of her when she was drunk. Worse, I’d always wonder if she’d have done the same thing sober.

Who cares? the little head protested. You know she wants you, drunk or not. The treacherous thing seemed to tug me toward Erin, but I held my ground with a surge of defiance.

Yeah? Well, too bad. I’m in charge here.

“Whatever you want,” Erin panted, “you’re in charge.”

I looked at her in surprise. I’d spoken aloud?

“Just put it in.”

I wanted to have sex with her, and I knew it. I’d been in the same position with my mother, and I vividly remembered how that had turned out. I wasn’t ashamed, but I wanted to spare Erin the same confusion and frustration.

I looked at Leah, and her face fell when she saw the look in my eye.

I told myself I was making the right choice, the mature choice, and began rubbing my shaft along Erin’s pussy. The head of my cock was red and shiny with pre-come, and it somehow managed to seem resentful.

I suppressed a humorless chuckle, although Leah must have caught my expression. She looked a question at me, but I shook it off with a shrug. I couldn’t imagine how I’d explain the conversation with my dick. Besides, I gave it too much credit in the first place. I was in control, and I couldn’t blame anyone but myself if I screwed up.

Or in, I thought wryly, and barely avoided just that.

Leah figured out what I was doing, so she distracted Erin by playing with her nipples. I silently thanked her and gripped the base of my dick.

Erin’s pussy was as slippery as ever, and I didn’t want to enter her by accident. So I began teasing her, running my glans through her channel. I pressed hard under her clit and then circled it with each stroke.

She bucked her hips, but I pulled my dick away just in time, which made her whimper in frustration.

“Oh, God, just put it in.”

I fought the urge to do it. Leah sensed my hesitation, so she slid her hand down Erin’s taut belly. Her fingers found the top of Erin’s slit and began moving in small circles. While she teased Erin’s clit from above, I nudged it from below and began stroking myself.

Erin had figured out that I wasn’t going to fuck her, so she began writhing her hips, trying to impale herself. I easily avoided her opening, but at the same time, I felt my willpower crumbling.

“Just put the tip in,” she pleaded. “Just for a minute. Please.”

I desperately wanted to, but…

Leah looked at me and seemed to ask, “What would it hurt?”

I didn’t know myself, but it was a line I couldn’t cross halfway. I’d either fuck her, or I wouldn’t. I teetered on the brink, but then gritted my teeth and steeled my resolve. Erin was close to orgasm—her face and chest were flushed, and she ground her hips with renewed urgency—and I felt my own release building.

“Oh, God,” she begged, squirming, “do it now. Please. Put it in.”

Leah raised an eyebrow, but I shook my head. She gave me an “okay, but you’re an idiot” look, and started moving her fingers again, teasing Erin’s clit.

I couldn’t hold back any longer, so I told Leah to move her hand. Then I set the tip of my cock against Erin’s clit and began stroking. The contact drove her wild, and the pressure in my balls built until I grunted from the force of release.

Erin gasped when the jet of semen struck her clit. I felt the hot liquid splash over my hand, but I kept pumping. I could feel the next spurt shooting up my shaft, but I still jerked at the sensation as it spewed over Erin’s pussy. The next two spurts sent droplets flying and covered us both.

When my orgasm finally subsided, I sank back on my haunches and opened my eyes. Pearly drops of semen dotted Erin’s stomach and pubic hair, but I didn’t get to admire them for long. Leah began licking her way down, her fingers already probing for Erin’s sperm-covered clit.

I stood clumsily, my legs tingling with the renewed blood flow. Leah quickly climbed between Erin’s legs and started licking in earnest. I watched as Erin tensed with ecstasy at the approaching orgasm.

Leah slid two fingers into Erin’s drenched pussy. Erin convulsed and tried to curl into a ball, her face and chest red from the effort. Leah licked until Erin finally had to push her away. Erin fell back and lay still, her chest heaving.

We all sat there panting for a few minutes, until Erin took a deep breath and opened her eyes.

I gazed back at her, and something passed between us.

“I…,” she began, but then fell silent.

“Yeah, I know.”

“But I wanted you to.”

“Maybe when you’re not so drunk.”

She closed her eyes and nodded without arguing.

Leah looked at me and seemed to say, “You’re still an idiot.”

She’s my sister, I said with a look.

Whatever, Leah shrugged.

I sank to the floor and crossed my legs Indian-style. Leah crawled up the bed and settled behind Erin. She propped her head on her hand and gazed at me, still bemused. I simply shrugged. What else could I do?

Erin had dozed off, so Leah and I had a silent conversation. Her face was more expressive than Gina’s, and I marveled at the difference. I knew exactly what she was thinking, but only because she wanted me to.

I couldn’t imitate her, so I teased her instead. I waggled my eyebrows as I pumped my fist, jerk-off style. She licked her lips, so I feigned rapture and flicked my tongue between two fingers, as if licking a pussy. She shook with silent laughter, more at my expression than my imaginary-pussy-licking talents.

When Erin stirred sleepily, I carried her to her own bed and pulled up the blankets. Sean was sleeping heavily, his breathing slow and regular. I made sure Erin was settled and then kissed her forehead like Mom used to do.

Back in the other bedroom, Leah looked at me from under dark lashes. She lay with her head still propped on her hand. She had the covers pulled to her waist, leaving her breasts bare. Her dark nipples were half the size as usual, drawn tight with arousal.

I climbed into bed and mirrored her pose. I started to speak, but paused for a moment, struck by how beautiful she was, even after a night of partying. Her dark eyes laughed, and my own quirked into a question.

“What were you thinking?” she said at last.

“When?”

“With Erin. Why didn’t you have sex with her? She wanted you to.”

“Yeah.”

“So why didn’t you?”

“She’s my sister.”

Leah actually shook her head and laughed. “So? If you were my brother, I’d screw you silly.”

“What if I didn’t want to?”

“Then I’d convince you,” she said. “But don’t tell me you didn’t want to.”

“Of course I did.”

“Then why didn’t you?”

“Because she’s my sister,” I repeated.

Leah rolled her eyes. “Duh! I had sex with my sister all the time.”

“But it’s different with a brother.”

“I don’t see how.”

“That’s ’cause you don’t have one.”

“I wish I did,” she said seriously. “You’d have to lock your door at night if you were my brother.” She grinned.

I sensed a way out of the circular argument, so I arched an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“Mmm hmm,” she breathed, and reached for my limp manhood. “I’d suck you day and night, and ride you till I was too sore to walk.” Grinning, she added, “I might even let you do that finger-licking thing!”

I chuckled. “But what about school?”

“Who needs school?” She shrugged. “I don’t want to be a doctor anyway.”

“Okay, then what about your parents?”

“What about them?” She gave me a deadpan look. “I think they know we’re having intercourse.”

I laughed. “‘Intercourse’?”

“Yeah, you know… sex. Everybody does it. Only, some people talk too much when they should be doing it.”

“Talk too much, huh?” I rolled upright.

She grinned and slid under me, her dark eyes sparkling with mirth.

I set my erection at her opening and probed gently. She arched her back, her hands resting lightly on my forearms. With her dark hair fanned out on the pillow and her eyes closed in anticipation, she looked more beautiful than ever.

After several heartbeats, I angled my hips and eased into her. I pulled back and repeated the motion, teasing her with slowly deepening thrusts.

When I finally hit bottom, I lowered myself to my elbows and kissed her. She responded, and we began moving together, our bodies in constant contact. We made love slowly, lost in a hazy world of sensation. She came first, but then I thrust deep and groaned as I emptied my balls into her.

We held each other until our breathing slowed, and then I rolled over and pulled her with me. She rested her head on my chest, one leg thrown over mine. I stroked her back, which was damp with sweat.

She shivered and pulled the sheet over us, so I reached for the bedside light and turned it off. When she yawned and rubbed my chest, I could feel her sinking into a deep sleep. I closed my eyes and felt my own breathing slow.

Some part of me regretted not having sex with Erin, but most of me was happy. I couldn’t explain it, even to myself, but I felt as though I’d passed a test. Leah probably still thought I was an idiot, but I knew better.

✧ ✧ ✧

We slept late, and the sun was fully up by the time I opened my eyes and groped for my watch. Leah stirred against me and mumbled, “Wha’ time izzit?”

“After ten,” I said when my eyes finally focused.

We dozed for a while, comfortable under the pile of blankets. I didn’t remember pulling them over us, but one of us must have. After a while, Leah rolled toward me and gave my chest an experimental kiss. Then she reached for my dick and gently fondled me.

I scooted away from the wall and rolled to my back. Then I guided her head toward my growing erection. She slid under the covers and cupped my balls as she began sucking. I shoved the blankets aside to give her some air, and then relaxed as she fellated me.

I came quickly, but Leah didn’t seem to mind. She kept sucking long after, and emerged from under the blankets with a satisfied smile.

“You know what I want to do today?” she said as she snuggled beside me.

“What?”

“Stay in bed.”

I felt a touch of regret that I wouldn’t get to spend my last day on the slopes, but I wasn’t about to complain. “Sounds good to me.”

Her stomach growled, and she laughed in embarrassment. “I guess we’d better get something to eat first.”

I nodded.

“Wait,” she said suddenly. “Let’s have breakfast in bed. I’ll even make it. You want toast or cereal?”

I laughed. “Gee, you really know how to tempt a man.”

She rolled her eyes, but waited expectantly.

“Cereal,” I said.

“Lucky Charms or Froot Loops?”

“Um… do we have anything healthy left?”

“Mom has some Special K, but…” She grimaced.

“I’d better have the Special K,” I said with a chuckle.

Leah bounded out of the room, lithe, nude, and beautifully disheveled. She returned a few minutes later and handed me a bowl. Then she sat on the bed and unselfconsciously crossed her legs.

She raised her bowl and scooped a heaping spoonful of Lucky Charms. “They’re magically delicious,” she said, and crammed the spoon into her mouth.

Her eyes gleamed with a grin as she tried to chew the huge mouthful, but a trickle of milk leaked from the corner of her lips. She caught it with the heel of her palm and tried not to laugh.

“Sexy,” I teased, and took a more manageable bite.

When she finally managed to chew and swallow, she sucked the milk from her palm and grinned, unrepentant.

We ate in silence, and Leah drained her milk with a theatrical slurp.

“Oh,” I said, “even sexier.”

“Don’t you like it when I slurp?”

“Not milk.” I took our empty bowls and set them on the bedside table. When I looked back at Leah, she was frowning in thought, and I tried to hide my sudden nervousness. “What?”

“I just thought of something.”

“Okay…,” I said slowly.

“I’m happy,” she said, as if she’d just realized it. “I mean, really happy.”

“Um… good?”

“No, seriously,” she said. “I’m happy, and I think I just figured out why. Remember when you asked what’s the difference between me and Gina and Kara?”

I nodded.

“I just figured it out: you.”

“Me?”

“Well, not you you, but you, a guy.” She grew animated as she explained. “Kara always had some guy she was going with. She wasn’t super popular—she was kind of a nerd, actually—but she always had a boyfriend.” She laughed at a memory. “I guess it was ’cause she put out. She wasn’t a slut, but… you know what I mean.” Her cheeks turned rosy. “You know what we like.”

“Yeah,” I deadpanned, “I think I figured it out.”

“Anyway,” Leah continued, “Gina didn’t really have a steady boyfriend until you, but God.” She shook her head in disbelief. “I thought my parents were horny, but you and Gina…? Wow.”

I laughed, a little embarrassed and wistful, but then composed myself. “Okay, but… what’s this have to do with you?”

“Well, that’s just it,” Leah said. “I didn’t think anything, but I guess it does.” She met my gaze. “Look, don’t take this the wrong way, but I still don’t think you’re boyfriend material—not for me at least—but I’ve been really happy the past few days. You know?”

“Yeah, I had fun too.” I felt a bit wounded, but relieved at the same time.

“So I was thinking about it,” she continued. “I mean, it’s nice that we’re friends again, but it’s more than that. And that’s what got me thinking about Gina and Kara. They never really fought with Mom. Okay, they did, but not like I do.

“I thought it was ’cause they did everything Mom wanted, but I guess it wasn’t.” She considered for a moment. “I started thinking about what else was different between me and them, and that’s when I realized what it was.”

“Me?” I said. “A guy, I mean?”

“Yeah,” she said. “Don’t you get it?”

“So it’s about sex?”

“Exactly!”

“But I thought you and Erin fooled around?”

“We do,” she said dismissively, “but it’s not the same.”

“What’s different about it? I mean, an orgasm’s an orgasm, right?”

She gave me a level look. “Would you rather jerk off or get a blowjob?”

“Okay, I see your point. But I thought you liked girls more than guys.”

She shrugged. “I used to, but… I guess I changed. I mean, it wasn’t overnight or anything, but… guys just seem cooler now.”

I nodded.

“I still like women, obviously,” she added, “but mostly I think about guys and blowjobs and getting screwed real hard.”

My dick stiffened at the thought, but she barely noticed.

“And no matter how many times I get off, it’s not the same when it’s just my fingers, or my vibrator, or even Erin. It’s like I have this itch that I can’t scratch. And something else I noticed…,” she said, “I get cranky when I don’t get off.

“My mom’s the same way,” she continued. “If she doesn’t get her daily fix, she can be a real… um… witch.” She gave me a significant look, and I nodded at the word she hadn’t used. “At least I know where I get it,” she said, and shrugged. “So I guess that’s the difference between me and Gina and Kara. I don’t have a regular source of… um… protein.”

I laughed. “So that’s it, huh?”

“I can’t explain it any other way. I mean, these past few days, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal that Mom wants me to be a doctor. Yeah,” she said matter-of-factly, “I need to tell her I don’t, but that shouldn’t be too hard.” She shrugged. “It didn’t even seem like a drag when she wanted to know where we were going, what time we’d be home, et cetera.”

I wanted to say something about the magical effects of semen—particularly my semen, especially since I had a hard-on—but I managed to contain myself. “So what’re you gonna do when you get home?”

“Can I take you with me? Smuggle you in my suitcase? Keep you stashed in the guest house?”

I laughed at her enthusiasm. “Um… probably not. I think your mom would notice. Not to mention that I need to get back to UT.” I made a dismissive gesture. “A little matter of a bachelor’s degree. It’s nothing, really, but… you know.”

She rolled her eyes, but then grinned ruefully.

“So why don’t you find a guy at school?” I suggested.

“Duh,” she said. “Do you remember the guys at Riverwood?”

I thought back to high school and remembered my friends. They seemed cool enough to me, but I wasn’t a girl, much less a girl like Leah. “They can’t all be bad.”

“No, I guess they’re not,” she admitted, “but the good guys are all taken.”

“What’re your standards?”

“They’re not that high!” she protested.

“Gee, thanks,” I said, only half teasing.

“Oh! Sorry.”

I smiled and let her off the hook. “I know what you meant,” I said, but then returned to the original question. “Seriously, though. What kind of guy are you looking for?”

She stopped and gave it some thought. “Someone smart… funny… cute… cool. Interested in politics… TV… music.” She thought for a moment and then went on, “Tall… well-built, but not all muscles… a cute smile… nice teeth—no braces, ugh.” Another pause. “Dark hair… kinda wavy… not too hairy otherwise… knows how to treat a lady… can talk about his feelings…”

She threatened to wax poetic, so I interrupted, “Likes long walks in the moonlight, holding hands on the beach, and kittens?”

She rolled her eyes.

“Oh,” I added, “and it wouldn’t hurt if he’s hung like a horse, with balls to match, right?”

No,” she blurted, but then pretended to look thoughtful. “Although…”

It was my turn to roll my eyes, and we both laughed.

“So basically,” I said at last, more joking than serious, “you want a guy like me.”

“Only taller. And maybe…”—she spread her hands and gestured at my muscles—“not so… big.” She smiled, mocking and saccharine. “Oh, and someone who isn’t in love with my sister.”

“Oh, no fair!” I grinned.

“All I really want is a guy I can trust,” she said with a shrug. “Well, hung like a horse would be nice,” she added facetiously, but then turned serious with a sigh. “You and Gina don’t know how lucky you were.”

“How so?”

“She never had to worry about her reputation. I mean, you pretty much did everything, but no one thought she was a slut.”

I nodded in understanding. Some guys couldn’t keep their mouths shut if they were lucky enough to get past first base with a girl. Worse, rumors spread quickly in high school, and usually got blown out of proportion. So a girl could get a reputation as a slut whether she deserved it or not. And even if she didn’t fool around, guys would call her a tease, a prude, or worse. It was a classic catch-22.

“It’s not fair,” she said, a little bitterly.

“Yeah, I know,” I said, and we fell silent.

“I guess I’d be happy to find a guy who’s sorta cute, mildly nerdy, and hung like a pony,” she said at last, “but who won’t shoot his mouth off.”

“Ponies are still well-hung,” I pointed out.

“You’re one to talk, Ponyboy.”

I laughed, and a sudden memory made me change the subject. “Is Mrs. Schroeppel still making you read that?”

“Yeah… The Outsiders, A Separate Peace, Go Ask Alice, all of ’em.”

I shook my head and thought about how easy life had been when I only had to worry about book reports and wrestling practice. Leah fell silent as well, thinking her own thoughts. The mood turned unexpectedly heavy, so I stroked my dick back to life.

“If you ever need an emergency dose of protein,” I said, “you’re welcome to come to Knoxville.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Oh, really? You’d do that for me? How generous!”

“Sure,” I said. “You can smuggle yourself in your suitcase and I’ll stash you in my closet.”

“Oh, how luxurious,” she said in a droll imitation of her mother’s accent. “Would I also receive these protein shots in the closet?”

“No, in the mouth,” I said dryly, and hid a grin. “Or the pussy.”

“Not the butt?”

My eyebrows flew up. “I didn’t think…”

“I’ve never tried it,” she said, “though Gina says it’s fun. She says you’re kinda big for back there, but real gentle.”

I had sudden visions of Leah on her hands and knees, her slim ass spread for my pleasure. My dick sprang to life, very hard and very ready. Much to my chagrin, Leah actually laughed.

“I’m sorry,” she said, her eyes crinkling with mirth. “I shouldn’t laugh, but…” She glanced at my dick. “He sure is eager, isn’t he?”

“Yeah,” I said flatly. “He gets in trouble that way.”

“Poor thing,” she said to it. “Do you get in trouble?”

“All right, if you’re going to talk to it, the least you can do is kiss it too.”

“Aw,” Leah cooed to my straining penis, “does ’e want a wittle kiss?”

I scooted toward the head of the bed as she neatly settled between my legs. Then I leaned back and watched as she began kissing my shaft.

Not surprisingly, we spent the next hour screwing each other silly. We didn’t have anal sex—she was still a little nervous about it—but we did everything else. Afterward, we did something almost as good: we curled up together and took a nap.

✧ ✧ ✧

We didn’t spend the whole day in bed, but we did our best. We had sex a couple of times, but it was slow and deliberate—more enjoyment and less rush. Mom checked to make sure we were okay (from her tone, I gathered that Erin was pretty hung over), but we told her we just wanted some time alone. I think she understood.

When Leah and I weren’t dozing or fooling around, we talked about everything and nothing. Until then, I hadn’t realized how much I missed just being friends with her. She was like Gina in many ways, but completely different in others. To my surprise, I liked the differences more than the similarities.

For her part, I think Leah enjoyed talking to someone like an adult. Erin and her friends weren’t childish, but they weren’t college students, which made me realize how much I’d grown up since high school. I still had a long way to go, but at least I was making some progress.

When we finally emerged from the bedroom, we shamelessly monopolized the hot water. Then we took our time getting ready, laughing and flirting and just goofing around. By the time we made it downstairs, dinner was on the table. Mom and Elizabeth teased us, but it was good-natured and friendly.

Afterward, Sean wanted to go to the club again. Erin didn’t seem too enthusiastic, but she agreed anyway. Leah and I took one look at each other and shook our heads. Dad tried to talk me into going, but I stood my ground, so he made Sean promise not to drink.

“No problem, Mr. H.,” Sean said, and I almost believed him.

Dad looked at me. “Are you sure you don’t want to go?”

“Positive, Dad,” I said. “Sorry.” I felt a little guilty, but Erin was responsible enough, even if Sean wasn’t.

Mom thought so too, because she gave Dad a subtle nod. With a twitch of surprise, I realized that I wouldn’t have noticed the exchange when I was younger. Erin certainly didn’t, because her eyes widened when Dad relented and handed over the car keys.

She recovered quickly. “We promise: no drinking.”

After they left, Mom leaned close. “Had enough?” she said quietly.

“Partying?” I said. “Or Sean?”

“Either.”

“Both. Besides,” I added, “I think Leah wants to spend some time with the grown-ups.”

“And you’re not a grown-up?”

I shrugged. “I dunno. I’m somewhere in the middle, I guess.”

“Oh?”

“I’m not a kid, but I’m not a grown-up, either.” I paused and thought about it. “Well, technically I am, but you know what I mean.”

She nodded. “Maturity doesn’t happen overnight.” Suddenly she grinned, wry and girlish. “Just ask your father.”

He looked up from across the room. “What about me?”

“Nothing, dear,” she lied smoothly, and then swore me to silence with a wink.

We went out to the hot tub a little later. Leah and I were half-hoping our parents had more than soaking in mind, especially since Sean wasn’t around to put a damper on things, but they seemed content to relax and drink and talk.

Leah sat on my lap and rested her head on my shoulder. I played with her nipples every once in a while, just to keep her in the mood, but nothing too serious. When she had to go to the bathroom, I refilled our wine and sat on the edge to cool off.

Once Leah was out of earshot, Elizabeth quietly thanked me.

I felt a surge of embarrassment and decided to play dumb. “What for?”

“For spending time with her.”

I shrugged.

“We appreciate it,” she insisted. “I appreciate it.”

“You’re welcome, I guess. But I’m not really doing it ’cause you want me to.”

“I know,” Elizabeth said, and nodded toward the chalet. “And so does Leah.” She paused to consider her words. “She needs a mature influence right now.”

“She needs a boyfriend,” I said frankly.

Elizabeth arched an elegant eyebrow, but I shook my head.

“We’re not right for each other.”

“And what does she think?”

“She’s the one who told me. But she’s right.” I shrugged. “We talked about it, and we’re okay with it.”

Part of me wanted to say more, but I didn’t want to sound like I was telling Elizabeth how to raise her daughter. More importantly, I didn’t want to betray Leah’s trust, so I kept my mouth shut and left it at that.

Leah picked that moment to return, and I was glad I hadn’t said anything. She kissed my cheek and sank into the frothy water with a soft groan. I slid in beside her and pulled her onto my lap.

The conversation picked up as Chris and Dad started talking politics. I didn’t know very much about the Soviet Union, so I decided to just listen. Much to my surprise, Leah wasn’t shy about voicing her opinions, and even held her own.

Chris argued with a sparkle in his eyes, and I realized he was playing devil’s advocate. He kept his cool as he bantered with her, but she grew more heated with every exchange. She wasn’t rude, but a couple of times she darted a nervous glance at her mother.

Elizabeth simply watched, tolerant and amused by their intensity. But after fifteen minutes of back and forth, she decided that enough was enough. “All right,” she said, “I believe that’s quite enough about the Communists. It’s time for bed.”

“But I’m not tired,” Chris said.

She arched an eyebrow. “Who said anything about sleep?

Dad laughed. “She’s got you there.” He climbed out of the tub. “Besides, she’s right. We have a big day tomorrow.” He extended a hand to Mom.

“Don’t stay up too late,” she said to us as she wrapped a towel around herself.

We promised not to, and bid them goodnight.

“I can’t believe he thinks Yuri Andropov will be better than Brezhnev,” Leah said, still heated. “The man ran the KGB for fifteen years. He was the Soviet Ambassador to Hungary.”

“Um… so?”

Hungary, Paul… in 1956!”

I had a vague memory from history class, but didn’t know enough to argue the point. So I changed the subject. “He was baiting you… playing devil’s advocate.”

She glared, dark eyes burning. “What do you mean?”

“Think about it.”

She concentrated and mentally replayed the argument. “Ugh! I hate it when he does that.”

“But it made you support your arguments.”

She glared again, but I didn’t back down.

“I think he was also having fun.”

“You’re supposed to be on my side,” she grumped.

“I am. That’s why I’m explaining.”

“But it’s not fair.”

I grinned. “Life isn’t fair sometimes. For instance, I’m horny right now.”

Her eyes widened in disbelief, but then she felt the proof against her thigh.

“Yeah,” I said. “You’re sexy as hell when you get fired up. But since you are fired up, you probably aren’t in the mood to fool around. So, what if I said it’s not fair?”

She bit back a sharp reply. Then she actually considered it, and some of the fight drained out of her. “I guess it would seem… kinda selfish.”

I nodded. “And maybe a little childish.”

“But what if I am horny?”

“You weren’t a minute ago.”

She didn’t want to agree, but she didn’t argue either.

“Like I said, life isn’t fair sometimes. Complaining about it won’t do any good, so why do it? Besides, your dad was having fun.”

“But I’m not a child.”

“You’re his child,” I said evenly, “but he wasn’t treating you like one. He’s proud of you.”

Her brows flew up.

“He never argued politics with Gina,” I said, “and I bet he didn’t with Kara either.”

Leah shook her head in agreement.

“So why argue with you?” I asked, but it was rhetorical. “Maybe ’cause he knows you’ll put up a good fight?”

“You really think so?”

“Uh-huh. I wouldn’t argue with him. He’s a TV news producer, for cryin’ out loud. You think I’m gonna argue politics with a man whose job it is? That’d be like him arguing buildings with Joska.” I shook my head to emphasize my point. “No, he argues with you because he’s proud of you.”

She didn’t want to admit that I was right, but she relived the argument again, and a slow smile crinkled her eyes.

“See?” I said. “Trust me.” Then I leaned close. “I’m also right about you being sexy when you talk politics.”

She rolled her eyes, but looked secretly pleased. “You really think so?”

“Sit on the Rod of Truth if you don’t believe me.”

She tried not to react, but then burst into giggles. “The Rod of Truth?”

“Sure,” I said, and turned her to face me. “I’ll show you…”

✧ ✧ ✧

I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when Erin shook me awake at zero dark thirty. Sean had passed out in the Jeep, and she couldn’t move him. Leah mumbled something uncharitable and very unladylike, but I told her to stay in bed as I climbed out. I hopped into my pants and donned a sweater on the way downstairs. At the foyer I stepped into my boots and tied them quickly.

Outside, Sean slumped in the Jeep’s passenger seat. He had passed out with his face flattened against the window, complete with a circle of condensation from his breath. Erin herself was pretty buzzed, and I shot her a reproachful look. She knew I wouldn’t tell Mom and Dad, but she still withered under my disapproval.

I threw Sean over my shoulder in a fireman’s carry and silently lugged his dead weight up two flights of stairs. I dumped him onto the bed, where he flopped limply and began to snore. Erin tried to explain, but I gave her a flat stare.

“Yeah, I know,” she admitted at last. “Pretty dumb.”

Really dumb,” I said, but without much heat. She looked like she wanted to cry, so I relented and pulled her into my arms. I played big brother for another minute or two, but then felt her mood change. She took a deep breath and held it for a moment, as if gathering her thoughts.

“Last night…,” she said hesitantly, “how come you didn’t… you know?”

“I wanted to, but…” I threw a glance at Sean and then ushered Erin toward the bathroom. I silently closed the door behind us and flicked on the lights.

Erin winced, and I realized that she wasn’t as drunk as I’d thought.

“I wanted to,” I said, again, “but”—I had to choose my words carefully—“it just didn’t seem right.”

“But I wanted you to.”

“You were pretty drunk.”

“So?”

“I didn’t want to take advantage of you.”

Her eyes widened in disbelief. “I begged you to.”

“I didn’t think you wanted to,” I said, as reasonably as I could. “Not for real. We talked about it, remember?”

“When?”

“After that party at the Coulters’. The one where we did the blindfold blowjob thing. You said it was fun fooling around, but you didn’t want to do more.”

She huffed in exasperation. “So? I can change my mind, can’t I?”

“Yeah, but why all of a sudden?”

“It’s not all of a sudden,” she shot back. “I’ve been thinking about it since—” She looked guilty. “Since my birthday.”

Since you and Sean started having sex, you mean. I arched an eyebrow.

“Sean’s a nice guy,” she explained, “and the sex is fun, but his dick’s kinda…” She gave me a significant look, but I didn’t take the bait, especially about a guy I didn’t like very much at the moment. “He’s not small, but…” She winced. “I want someone bigger,” she said at last, and then crossed her arms defiantly.

To her surprise, I laughed. “Erin, there are lots of guys with big dicks.” Well, maybe not lots

“But I want you.”

“I’m your brother!”

“So?”

“Whoa, Erin, slow down. Think about this. ‘Innocent experimentation’ is one thing, but going all the way is another. Yeah, it’s okay to have fantasies, but some things need to stay fantasies.”

“Oh, great! Now you sound just like Mom.”

“Maybe that’s ’cause she’s right.”

She completely missed the barb. “But… don’t you want to?” she half-pleaded. “Just to see what it’s like?”

“Of course I do,” I said, which surprised her, “but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna.” I paused to let my words sink in. “It’s called self-control, Erin.” I started to add that I wasn’t a seventeen-year-old (like Sean), but decided to keep that to myself.

“What about me?” she said. “Don’t I get a vote?”

“Sure. You get one and I get one, but it’s gotta be unanimous.” I thought about Regan and the night at the Hilton. “Trust me, I’ve tried it the other way, and it’s not a good feeling.”

“But…”

“I’m sorry, Erin,” I said gently, “this is one line we can’t cross.”

She sniffled and then laughed, teary-eyed. “That’s exactly what Dad said.”

For a moment I thought I’d misunderstood her, but then my eyes flew wide.

“You even sound like him,” she added.

My mind raced, but then I remembered something Mom had said about Erin and “inappropriate behavior” with Dad. I still didn’t know what it was, although I could make a fairly shrewd guess. But then Erin shrugged, and I gave her my full attention.

“Yeah, you’re probably right,” she said glumly. “I guess I got carried away.”

I smiled to lighten the mood. “Believe me, I understand. It’s an incredibly hot fantasy.” I had one where we lived on a tropical island like the one from The Blue Lagoon, but I digress.

“Thanks for not being a jerk about it,” Erin added. She tossed her chin toward the bedroom. “Thanks for helping with Sean, too.”

“Don’t mention it. Just make sure he pretends he isn’t hung over tomorrow.”

“He doesn’t really get hung over.”

“Maybe that’s the problem.” I let the silence stretch out. “Anyway, get some sleep. Tomorrow’s gonna be a long day. Drink some water, too, or you’ll be hurtin’ by the time we hit 30,000 feet.”

She nodded silently.

“Oh, and don’t forget Mom and Dad.”

We left the bathroom and Erin went downstairs to let Mom know she was home.

Leah stirred when I climbed over her and slid under the covers. Fortunately, she’d been dozing, so she didn’t know how long I’d been gone.

“See why I don’ like him?” she mumbled.

So much had happened that it took me a moment to realize she was talking about Sean.

“He’s just young,” I said, and silently thanked my parents. And Susan. And Professor Joska. And a dozen other people who’d helped me grow up a little sooner than I might have.

Professor Joska? I shook my head at the irony. Yeah, you too, I thought. “Hungarian tyrant.” I snorted softly, and felt something perilously close to affection.

“Wha’?” Leah said.

“Nothing. Just talking to myself.” I gently rubbed her back and felt her breathing slow. She snuggled closer when I kissed the top of her head, but she didn’t wake, and I settled against her as I closed my own eyes.

✧ ✧ ✧

In the morning Erin and Sean acted like they weren’t hung over. She did more pretending than he did, and I actually felt sorry for her, especially when she turned pasty and began sweating as our flight hit turbulence on the climb out of Salt Lake City.

As soon as the captain turned off the seat belt sign, I leaned close to Leah. “See if Erin wants to go the bathroom.”

“What? Why?”

“Just do it. Please.”

Leah acted nonchalant as she asked Erin, and the two girls headed toward the lavatories at the rear of the first class cabin. Mom caught my eye when I turned to watch them go. She raised an eyebrow. “Don’t ask,” I said with a headshake, and she nodded.

She probably knew what was going on—she always seemed to know more than she let on—but she appeared to respect our effort to cover it up.

The girls returned about ten minutes later. Erin didn’t look much better, but at least she didn’t look like death warmed over. Leah sank into the seat next to me and re-buckled her seatbelt.

“Did she throw up?” I asked quietly.

“Totally,” she said as she pulled a magazine from the seat back pocket. “I held her hair and cleaned her up,” she added matter-of-factly. “She’s done the same for me.”

“Thanks.”

She shrugged, and we fell into a companionable silence. While she thumbed through her magazine, I finished reading Leon Battista Alberti’s On the Art of Building. Where Vitruvius simply described how buildings were built, Alberti told how they should be built. The book was so interesting that I kept getting sidetracked by design ideas.

When I turned the last page, I felt an overwhelming urge to draw. So I dug into my backpack and pulled out my sketchbook. I worked for twenty minutes before I realized that Leah had closed her magazine and was looking over my shoulder.

“Is that Italy?”

“Where?”

“That building,” she said with a nod. “Is it in Italy?”

I looked at my drawing. “This?” I said, a bit confused. “No.”

“Oh. Then where’d you see it?”

“Um… nowhere,” I said, still nonplussed. “It’s in my head.”

“Is it a project or something?”

“I just made it up.”

Her eyes widened. “Wow. Can I see?”

I handed her the sketchbook and she studied it. “How did you do this?” she said at last.

“I just see it,” I said, with a shrug. “That’s pretty much it.”

“Wow. That’s so cool.”

“Um… thanks.” I couldn’t decide if I should be embarrassed or proud. “It’s just what I do.”

“I wish I could do something like that.”

I knew a plea for attention when I heard it (I’d dated Gina for years, and Leah wasn’t that different), so I closed the book. “You have other talents.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Seriously,” I said. “You’re really smart. And pretty, too.”

“Pretty isn’t a talent. Besides, it’s not like I can get a job because of it.”

“Well, you know about current events and stuff.”

“Great,” she scoffed. “Another useful skill.”

“I dunno, maybe somebody’ll hire you to be smart and pretty and talk about current events.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Hey, you never know.”

✧ ✧ ✧

At the Atlanta airport we bid farewell to Sean, who had a connecting flight to Charlotte. Erin walked him to the gate, while the rest of us headed to baggage claim. She joined us twenty minutes later, her mood subdued. Sean was a nice enough guy, but I didn’t know what she saw in him. Leah agreed with me, but put an arm around Erin anyway.

Out in the parking lot, Leah and I quietly loaded our things into separate cars. She didn’t cry, but I could tell that she didn’t want to say goodbye. I felt the same, although it was different from saying goodbye to a girlfriend. We were friends, I reminded myself. Friends with benefits, but nothing more. Right?

Our families gave us a moment alone.

“When do you have to go back to Knoxville?”

I shrugged. “I was gonna drive up tonight, but I’m kinda tired, so…”

She nodded.

“Maybe we can hang out tomorrow.” Monday was the official New Year’s holiday, so nothing was open. The apartments and dorms at UT were, but registration didn’t begin until Tuesday.

“Yeah, I guess,” Leah said. She was trying to hide her own uncertainty, and she wasn’t doing any better at it.

“I’ll call you?”

“Sure.”

We spent an awkward moment trying to decide on a handshake, a hug, or a kiss. Then we both laughed. I pulled her into my arms and lifted her into the air. She kissed me soundly and then pressed her forehead against mine.

“I’m gonna miss you,” I said softly.

“Do you want to come over?”

“Tonight?”

She pulled back and nodded.

“Are you sure?”

She grinned. “I need to stock up on happy juice.”

“Ha! Are you sure your folks won’t mind?”

“Not if I ask nicely.”

Chris and Elizabeth didn’t mind. Neither did my parents, although Erin looked a little jealous. So I drove over to the Coulters’ after dinner. Leah heard me pull up, and was waiting at the front door.

“Howdy, stranger,” I said with a grin.

We hung out with her parents for a while, watching TV on the monstrosity. Leah and Chris were catching up on the news, so Elizabeth caught my eye and nodded toward the kitchen.

“Thank you again for spending time with her,” she said as we fixed bowls of ice cream.

“It’s not like I’m making a big sacrifice. I mean, she’s fun, she’s funny, she’s smart, and she’s sexy. What more could I ask for?”

“I just worry about her sometimes,” Elizabeth said, and then turned thoughtful. “Her sisters were so… easy.” She laughed. “My mother says Leah is like I was at her age.”

“Oh?”

“Willful. Headstrong. Stubborn.”

I almost spoiled it by laughing when Elizabeth gnawed her lip in concentration.

“I just want her to be happy.”

“She is,” I said. “But… um… maybe you should talk more.”

Elizabeth wasn’t an idiot, and she read the intent behind my cautious words. “Anything in particular?”

“She’ll tell you.”

“Won’t you give me a hint?”

I shook my head. “Not my place.” I nodded toward the TV room at the other end of the house. “But it has to do with Chris.”

Elizabeth’s eyes flew wide, and I had to stifle a laugh.

“No, not that,” I said, reading her perfectly. “It’s about her future. But I’ve already said too much. Besides, the ice cream is melting.”

She shot me a peevish grimace. “When did you become so bloody cocksure? Not to mention smug.”

I cracked a grin.

“Oh, please. Don’t try your boyish charm on me. It doesn’t work.”

“Oh? It doesn’t?”

“Not in the least,” she lied.

“Huh. Too bad.”

“You’re a scoundrel,” she said as we walked down the hall. “You know that, don’t you?”

“Incorrigible, too.”

“You can say that again.”

✧ ✧ ✧

Leah and I enjoyed a queen-size bed for a change. And since I was the first guy to spend the night in her room, we had to christen the place. She was more assertive than usual, and we seemed to be playing out fantasies: on the dressing table, bent over the desk, and on the beanbag chair (which wasn’t as easy as it sounds).

I was more than happy to oblige, and we finally collapsed in the aforementioned bed around two in the morning. We weren’t really tired, since our bodies were still on Park City time, so we talked—about guys at Riverwood, my dating prospects at UT, the Broadcast Club, flying, and more. We finally went to sleep around four o’clock.

We slept late the next morning, and then lounged in bed until lunchtime. I didn’t want to go back to my uncertain sex life at school, and Leah was trying to avoid the same thing. We laughed about it and made jokes, but the jokes held an edge of truth.

My original plan had been to pack my things and drive to Knoxville after lunch, but when Leah offered a farewell blowjob, one thing led to another and we ended up back in bed. I knew we were just stalling, but I couldn’t stop myself. By the time I looked at the clock again, it was after five.

“I need to go,” I said. “I still need to pack the rest of my things.”

Leah wrinkled her nose theatrically. “You need to shower, too.”

“It’s your fault, Miss Sixty-Nine One More Time.”

We laughed, and she threw a pillow at me.

“Seriously, though,” I said. “I really need to go.”

“Can I come with you?”

“To school?”

“No, silly, to your house. To help you pack.”

“Sure. I guess. Mom’ll probably have dinner ready.”

“No sense leaving on an empty stomach,” she said.

“Exactly. So let’s have our last supper.”

“Who gets the thirty pieces of silver?”

I laughed. “Erin.”

Leah shook her head as she rolled out of bed. “She’s too nice to be Judas.”

“Who then?”

“Let’s send ’em to Sean.” She crossed the room. “C’mon,” she said. “I thought you wanted to shower.”

“With you?”

She rolled her eyes.

“Isn’t that a bit… dangerous?”

“If you play your cards right.”

✧ ✧ ✧

After dinner Leah helped me pack my things—Mom had done all my laundry, and I thanked her profusely—and then we loaded the Cruiser. I said goodbye to my family and then drove Leah back to her house. It was already after seven o’clock, and I didn’t want to go inside and delay things even more. I’d already said goodbye to her parents, so we sat in the driveway.

“I guess this is it,” she said at last.

I nodded.

“Wow,” she said softly. “It’s been… amazing.”

We shared a grin.

“My pubes are gonna itch when they grow back.”

“Keep shaving,” I suggested, but she shook her head.

“Too much trouble, especially if no one’ll see.”

“What about that Brian guy?” She’d mentioned him the night before.

She shrugged. “I dunno. He’s cool and all, but he’s kinda shy.”

I nodded silently.

“What about you?” she said. “You gonna jump Wren’s bones?”

“I’d like to,” I said, “but I dunno.”

The conversation trailed off.

“Will you call me?” she said at last.

“Sure! You can call me too.”

She smiled, but then we fell silent again. Awkwardly.

“If I don’t say goodbye now,” she said, “I never will.” She leaned close and we kissed on the cheek. “I love you,” she whispered. A blast of cold air hit me as she practically leapt out of the car. She closed the door before I could even register her words, much less reply. She darted around the back of the Cruiser and ran down the walk.

I rolled my window down and leaned out. “I love you too!”

✧ ✧ ✧

I spent most of the drive to Knoxville lost in thought. I replayed conversations with Leah, or snippets from our parents. I thought about Gina too, albeit with a certain amount of resignation.

I didn’t know if I really wanted to get back together with her, or if I just wanted things the way they used to be. In either case, Gina was with another guy, and she wasn’t the type to dump someone for anything short of monumental stupidity. I knew that only too well.

Part of me hoped that Brock would dump her, but I chided myself for the thought. It was petty and mean-spirited, and I was better than that. Besides, I still loved her, and I didn’t want to see her hurt, no matter how good it might be for me. So I resigned myself to a long wait if I really wanted her back.

Part of me did, and part of me didn’t. The time with Leah had reminded me of things I missed about Gina, although sex had little to do with it. Some of my fondest memories were of Gina and me relaxing together in the bath in Europe, just talking. Or of studying together and making eye contact with a tired smile.

Much to my surprise, the little head was the part that didn’t want her back. I didn’t enjoy being celibate, and I knew I’d come to resent Gina if we had to endure a long-distance relationship. I didn’t like admitting that, but I was too honest to lie to myself.

I want it all, I thought, and I want it now. I laughed, but it was dark and humorless.

Unfortunately, rekindling our relationship would involve some major changes. And since neither of us seemed inclined to move across the country, I didn’t see it happening any time soon, Brock or no Brock.

As I drove through Chattanooga, my thoughts turned to Kendall. Would I ever get back together with her? I snorted. Not likely.

In the first place, she was still upset, and she was the kind of person who carried a grudge. In the second, our differences went beyond career and interests. Way beyond. I hoped we might be friends again, but I didn’t see it happening any time soon. Besides, she’d graduate in May and move away to medical school. So I didn’t see a happy ending to our little romance novel. At least, not without a hefty dose of deus ex machina.

My thoughts eventually turned to Wren, and I smiled. I enjoyed her sense of adventure, and how she wasn’t shy about what she wanted. But a part of me was sure that her brashness was an act, designed to scare away anyone who might hurt her. Why else had she gone so long without a boyfriend after her last relationship ended badly?

I saw the vulnerable girl behind the façade, though. She knew that I knew, and she trusted me for some reason. I wanted to protect that girl. I also wanted to make her happy, to show her that all guys weren’t jerks like her last boyfriend.

And I was totally hot for her, of course. I was already looking forward to modeling with her, and the inevitable teasing and flirting. Since I didn’t have a steady girlfriend, Wren was in for a surprise the first time she tried to test my self-restraint.

I chuckled at the thought, and even indulged in a few fantasies. I was still thinking about her when I finally pulled into the parking lot at Andy Holt.

I couldn’t wait to get upstairs and see her, no matter how late it was. I didn’t expect us to fall into bed immediately, but I wanted to let her know I was interested.

For real this time.

✧ ✧ ✧

✧ ✧ ✧