“No.” His lips pressed against my cheek. “But I just want to clarify that. And you know what else I want?”
By the way his body was pressed against mine, I had a pretty good idea of what he wanted. The same thing Gavin had wanted from me, but I hadn’t been ready to give.
“Ask me,” he said.
My breath shuddered. “What?”
“I want to be that guy—the one that when your phone rings, you hope it’s me. The one who holds your hand in the hallway and at lunch. The guy who gets to hold you. I want to be the one who gets to touch you,” he whispered against my cheek. “I want to be yours.”
There was a swift swelling in my chest, and if he wasn’t holding on to me, I knew I would float right up to the ceiling. His words were beautiful. Possibly the most poignant words a guy had ever spoken to me considering most were like hey, nice butt, let’s make out. I doubted that Dr. Oliver had meant all of this when he talked about Jensen and I reconnecting, but I’d be a liar if I said that I didn’t want this, that I didn’t want to take those words and hold them close to my heart.
But I had wanted it before—before I really understood what I was feeling—and he had hurt me. “Jensen, I . . .”
“Don’t tell me what you’re thinking yet.”
My eyes searched his. “When do you want me to tell you?”
“In a minute.”
I raised an eyebrow. “In a—?”
Jensen’s mouth was on mine before I could finish the thought. It was a whisper of lips, a brushing of his against mine, as if he were mapping out the feel, testing my response. When I didn’t turn away, he swept his mouth across mine once more, and this time he kissed me.
He really kissed me, like we should’ve been kissing this morning, and I was swimming in raw emotions, swept away in a tide made of him and me and everything in our past and everything that could be our future. I kissed him back, following his lead, and his hands slid to my waist. There was no space between our bodies.
Holding me against him, he exhaled a soft moan, and his lips seared mine. He kissed me until we were both breathless, until my fingers were wrapped around the soft hair at the nape of his neck.
Jensen pulled back, resting his forehead against mine. His chest rose and fell in rapid, shallow breaths. “Now.” His voice was deep, gruff. “Tell me what you’re thinking now.”
My brain cells had been blown. “I can’t think.”
I felt his cheek rise in a half smile as he reached up, turning off my bedroom light. Then he lowered me so my feet were flat on the floor and he grabbed my hand. He pulled me away from the door, to the bed. Down we went, our legs and arms tangled together, my heart pounding so fast. We lay facing each other, his breath warm against the top of my head, his heart drumming solidly under my hands.
“Can you think now?” he asked.
My brain was slow to come back online. The pleasant haze his kisses left behind clouded my thoughts. How close we were didn’t help either. My lashes lifted and my eyes met his. He was watching me as if I was something valuable in his life, to be cherished—it was how he’d always looked at me in the past.
In that moment, the past intruded like an old friend you no longer had anything in common with. As I stared into his pale blue eyes, I suddenly wasn’t sure about any of this, because there was so much between us.
Jensen seemed to sense the shift in me. “You are thinking.”
“I am.” It was hard to say the next words, because for so long I’d done nothing but run and hide from the past and from all the hurt. But I couldn’t anymore. “There’s a lot . . . between us, Jensen.” My voice was low as I spoke. “And you say you want me, but you hurt me before. You . . . embarrassed me. I know it was a long time ago, but it’s hard to let go of that.”
He held my gaze for a moment and then rolled onto his back. Staring up at the ceiling, he cursed under his breath, the sound so self-deprecating. “You’re thinking about that night.”
The stupid dance.
I didn’t like to think about it, because after everything with Penn, after all the years Jensen and I had known each other, he had made an absolute fool out of me before moving away.
“Yeah,” I murmured, watching his profile. “I just don’t understand. We were basically just kids, but why . . . why did you do it?”
Jensen didn’t answer, and in the silence my mind whirled back several years, to when he invited me to the stupid Valentine’s Day dance. I believed that it meant he liked me, too. Granted, we were like thirteen, but the dance had been a big deal. He had asked me at lunch, in front of Brock, Mason, the girls, and Gavin.
Even in front of the lunch lady with the frizzy hair.
I had my mom buy me this ridiculous pink dress, and I had gotten my hair done, and then the night of the dance, Dad had dropped me off, and Jensen . . . well, he never showed up. Everyone thought it was a joke. Gavin thought he’d done to me what we had done to Penn a year earlier, trading me in for something better. And Jensen had never told me why. Of course, I hadn’t given him much of a chance. When he came to my house the next day, I wouldn’t let him inside, and that was when I told him I never wanted to speak to him again.
“Why would you pull that kind of prank on me?” I whispered.
“A prank?” He turned his head toward mine sharply, eyes narrowed. “You really believe I’d do that to you? That asking you out was just some kind of game?”
“What was I supposed to think?”
“I never got the chance to tell you why I didn’t show up that night.” He shook his head, his gaze returning to the ceiling. “And I’m not saying that’s your fault. I should’ve told you way before then, and you would’ve understood.”
I frowned. “I don’t understand.”
His chest rose with a deep breath. “There’s something about me—about my family you never knew. Hell, no one really knew. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to tell you, but my parents . . . it was our dirty little secret.”
“Okay. I’m really kind of confused. Dirty secret? What are you talking about?”
He opened his mouth and it was like he had to get his tongue around the words. “Jonathan—he was . . .”
Whoa. I wasn’t expecting that this had anything to do with his brother.
Jensen shifted back onto his side, facing me. “Jon . . . he had issues, Ella. Not a lot of people knew. Only us and a few of his friends.” He looked down. “Brock did, because his brother was close to Jon, but Mom and Dad were horrified.”
“Horrified about what?” I asked.
He raised a hand, smoothing his palm down his face. “Jon had a huge drug problem.”
I blinked once and then twice. “What?”
“Heroin,” he spat the word out. “Started his sophomore year of high school. For a while he was able to function with it, and we had no idea. None at all. Not until he started getting strung out, stealing from them—from me. Once he took my birthday money our grandma gave me. Then it was obvious. They sent him to rehab, got him clean, and everyone thought he . . . you know, had escaped its clutches. He went to college, but he started using again.”
Holy crap, I had no idea.
He frowned. “Our parents were so embarrassed by it. Like they did something wrong raising him and that’s why he used. For the longest time, I didn’t understand. Why? He didn’t have a shitty life. He wasn’t suffering from anything. He just tried it once and I guessed he was forever chasing that high. I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter. The night that he died in his sleep? He overdosed.”
“Oh my God,” I whispered. “I’m so—”
“Don’t say you’re sorry,” he told me. “Heroin did that to him.” There was a pause. “You know, I think people would be amazed by how many families are hiding secrets like that.”
“Probably a lot.” I had no idea what to say. This was something I never knew, and as many times as I had seen Jonathan, I never would have guessed.
“I was looking forward to going to that dance,” he said quietly, as if he was talking to himself. “I liked you then, you know? As more than a friend. Had for a while, and well, I wish I had told you that. I wish I told you about Jon, but I didn’t know what to say about him. Everyone looked up to him, even me. I thought eventually his . . . his problems would just go away.”