I wanted a way back to swings and slides and simplicity. A way back to when a butterfly could cheer me up, and a series of puddles could make my day. A way back to a time when happiness wasn’t something I had to search for . . . it just was.

So, I took off toward the playground, eyeing the swings and seesaw and merry-go-round. There were these bizarre ceramic creatures that were kind of like a cross between dinosaurs and Gumby. I made a beeline for the merry-go-round. I sprawled across the flat surface and waited for Hunt to arrive. He dropped both of our bags a few feet away and said, “This is what you want to do?”

I shrugged. It was option number two, but it worked.

“Well then, hold on.”

I gripped the metal bar closest to me, and he set me spinning. He pulled harder, and I spun faster. It was stupid and childish, but it definitely required no thinking.

“Faster,” I yelled.

Hunt gave one more big push, then jumped on the merry-go-round with me. It was moving so fast, he nearly missed, and he had to pull himself the rest of the way on. It was so strange to see him—masculine and reserved—struggling to stay on a merry-go-round. I burst out laughing. Once he managed to lie flat on his back, he laughed too. I lay back beside him, struggling to breathe through my hysterics. But every time I pictured him jumping onto that overgrown child’s toy, I descended into giggles again.

This funny thing happens when you graduate college. You hear so much about being an adult that you start to feel like you have to become a different person overnight, that growing up means being not you. And you concentrate so much on living up to the term “adult” that you forget growing up happens by living, not by sheer force of will.

Looking up at the tree branches spinning and spinning overhead accompanied by the pink and purple palette of the morning sky, I felt younger, or maybe just my age. We lay beside each other laughing at nothing and breathing in everything until the merry-go-round slowed to a stop.

His arm pressed again mine, and when I pulled myself up onto my side, I could feel in my gut that I knew what it was like to kiss this man. That I’d kissed him before. I couldn’t remember it. Not in images. But I could feel it. My body remembered.

Maybe the spinning had cleared my head a little too much because I said straight out, “You kissed me.”



“Last night. You kissed me, didn’t you?”

He pushed himself up into a sitting position, resting his elbows on his knees. He gripped the back of his neck with one hand and said, “It was before I realized you’d been drugged. After that I didn’t . . . I wouldn’t.”

I knew it.

He grabbed one of the bars and slid off the merry-go-round. Without meeting my eyes, he looked around the playground and said, “What’s next?”

I let him change the subject, even though I wanted to push it. Instead, I let him push me on the swings, each touch to my back like a pulse of electricity.

We played on the seesaw, a physical representation of our time together if ever there was one. I gave Hunt my camera, and he took pictures of me sitting atop one of the huge ceramic dinosaurs. Carefully, I held onto the dinosaur’s head and stood up on its back.

For the first time, I looked out and saw the view on the non-Hunt side of the playground, and nearly toppled off dinosaur Gumby.

It was a panoramic vista of Prague, and it was unbelievable. The city was a sea of orange roofs outlined by a winding river and dotted with cathedral spires. Bridges stretched across the river, beautiful and strong. Here up on this random hill in a deserted playground, we had our own private view of the city. It was beautiful. And I had a feeling we never would have found it if we’d looked through guidebooks or searched on the Internet. We didn’t have to share this with other tourists. It belonged to us.

I slid off my dinosaur and made my way closer. A railing lined the edge of the walkway. Plants with small yellow blossoms sprouted everywhere, and other white blossoms like snowflakes dotted the path.

I stared, mesmerized.

“I think you found it,” Hunt said.

I spun, smiling, and leaned back against the railing. His steps stuttered, and he paused for a few moments. His eyes swept from me to the landscape at my back, then returned to me. His jaw went slack, and he blinked a few times. My smile widened.

“What did I find?”

It took him a few seconds to answer, but when he did a chill chased down my spine.

“A little piece of home.”

He was right. I felt lighter. It wasn’t quite the effortless happiness of college, but it was certainly the closest thing I’d felt in a long time. There was just one thing I couldn’t let go of.

“Why won’t you kiss me? You did it last night. Why not now?”

“I wasn’t thinking things through last night.”

“And you are now?”

He nodded.

“And what are you thinking?”

“That I want to keep you.”

“Keep me?”

“Keep seeing you, I mean. I like you. I think we could have fun together. Have adventures together.”

“A kiss sounds like a pretty great adventure.”

“I think it’s smarter if we stay friends.”

“You promised to fill in the blanks from last night. This is a blank.”


“It’s not that big a deal. It’s just a kiss.”

He gave me a dark look that made it hard to breathe. My lungs seemed to deflate, swathing around my heart. It was a very good thing there was a railing behind me, or I might have gone toppling backward.

He stalked forward, and I gripped the cold metal of the bar behind me.

“A trade, then.” He tipped his head down with a smile. “Give me a week. Travel with me for a week. If I can’t find the adventure you were looking for, then we’ll go our separate ways.”

I’d thought before that gravity pulled me toward Hunt, but it was more than that. He was the gravity. In that moment, he was the push and pull that held my universe together.

“One week for one kiss? That’s kind of a steep price.”

“That’s the deal.”

He was so close, my skin felt like it was humming. I could hear the beat of my heart in my ears like the flap of wings, speeding up, trying desperately to stay afloat.

“Okay. I’m in.”

His smile wasn’t just bright. It was illuminating. And for the way warmth spread through my skin, I would have believed that there were two suns in the sky.

Without even a peck, he turned and walked away. He picked up our bags from where we dropped them by the merry-go-round, and looked back at me.

“I said okay,” I called, wondering if somehow he’d misunderstood me.

“I’m going to kiss you, princess. But not now, not when you’re telling me to. Not when it’s just something you want to check off a list. I’ll kiss you when it counts.”

Hunt took one look at the hostel name—the Madhouse—and raised an eyebrow at me. He may not have been convinced, but when we entered and I saw the Jack Kerouac quote across the wall, I knew it was perfect.

I read aloud. “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

I might have gotten a little caught up in my performance. I was an actor after all. But sometimes someone else just gets the words so right that you feel like they read them off your own heart.

Hunt’s eyes stayed fixed on me, and he reached out, but didn’t touch me. His hand hovered like I was an artifact, a work of art that would be compromised by the brush of his skin. Still looking at me, he dropped his hand and said, “Two beds, please.”

We settled into a coed room with six other beds, and I tried not to think about the fact that his bed was right by mine. That if we both reached out in the middle of the night, our fingers would touch. We locked up our things, even though everyone else in the hostel was already out for the day, and he said, “What now?”

I could have asked to find Jenny. But seeing as we were alone, I saw a better opportunity. I moved to sit beside him on his bunk, close enough that my knee touched his when I turned to face him.

“That’s your decision,” I said. “You’ve got me for one week.” I leaned back on my hands, and watched his eyes dip down to my body. “So, Jackson, what are you going to do with me?”

He touched his fingers to his chin, and his gaze swept over me.

“I’ve got a few ideas.”


“I do.”

He bent over me, and my elbows shook. Low on my spine, a tingling sensation spread. It reminded me of when you shake a can of soda. You know what will happen as soon as you open it. You can somehow sense all the built-up energy inside, but the idea of opening it is just too tempting.

“I’ve got a pretty good idea, too,” I said.

He hummed, and the scruff on his chin just barely grazed my collarbone. My head fell back, and his breath roamed free across the skin of my neck. His lips brushed across my pulse point in an almost kiss, and all my muscles locked up tight. His mouth moved to hover above my ear, and my arms shook so badly I expected them to give out any second.

He hummed again, and I could feel the vibration against my skin even though we weren’t touching.

His mouth brushed the shell of my ear in a second almost kiss, and he said, “Not yet, sweetheart.”

My arms gave out, and I flopped back onto his bed with a groan.

His smile was maddening and mischievous.

He gripped the bed frame, and pulled himself up off the bunk, leaving me lying alone on his bed.

What a tease.

“How do you feel about heights?”


You’re crazy,“ I said.

“You wanted adventure, Kelsey.”

“I thought you meant more spontaneous subway rides and playgrounds, not jumping off a bridge!” I heard the scream of the girl I’d just watched disappear over the edge, and I dug my fingers into Hunt’s arm.

“I can’t.”

I’d been on bridges higher than the Zvikov Bridge before, but not ones I was supposed to leap off of. My heart was about to bust out of my chest, and Hunt was grinning like a madman.

I turned to flee, and Hunt pulled me back, his hand settling at the base of my spine. It was almost as if he knew that that’s where I felt him most intensely. When he was near, my spine became a live wire, sending shockwaves down to every last nerve ending.

His touch only amplified that.

“You’re going to love it.”

“Do you have a death wish?” I asked.

“I promise it’s going to be fine. We’re not going to die. We can jump together if that will make you feel better.”

“Oh, I didn’t mean the jumping was going to kill you. I meant I was.”

“You can kill me after the jump.”

“What if I’m too dead to kill you?” I was a little embarrassed at how hysterical I sounded.

He laced his fingers with mine, and squeezed my hand as he pulled me forward.

“Trust me.”

I did. But that only made me more scared. Trust was a key that gave him access to places far more breakable than my body.

It took all of my concentration to keep from crying or throwing up or both as the instructor began hooking us up to the same bungee cord. We were harnessed and strapped and lectured, and the only thing that kept me from having a complete mental breakdown was the fact that Hunt and I were chest to chest as they hooked us together. His proximity and his warm breath fanning across my forehead were enough to distract me from my impending death.

They had us move closer to the ledge, and I let out an involuntary squeak of fear when I saw the river winding away from us so far below.

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