A picture of a past I never knew existed started to form in my head. “Something happened that night.”
“Yeah.” His throat worked. “Jon had come home that afternoon all screwed up. He ended up getting into a fight with Dad because he’d taken money out of Mom’s purse again. The fight was really bad, and Mom . . . man, she was nearly hysterical. Things got out of hand. The police were called, and before I knew it, the dance had already started.”
Geez. I was floored. All this time I’d believed Jensen had pulled a nasty prank on me or had forgotten or a number of other lame things, but I’d never guessed this. Never had any reason to.
“I wanted to tell you.” He looked at me again. “But . . .”
“But I didn’t give you a chance.” I squeezed my eyes shut. “When you showed up that weekend, I told you to leave me alone. And then you moved later that month. God, Jensen, I’m so sorry. About all of it.”
“You don’t have anything to apologize for.” The tips of his fingers touched my cheek gingerly. “I could’ve told you what was going on before that night. I could’ve come back later on, but I didn’t. None of that matters now.”
But it did.
“So that’s why I didn’t show up at that dance, and that’s why my parents moved. They wanted to get away. Anyway, like I said, I wished I’d done so many things differently, but I can’t go back in time. All I have is today and tomorrow, and I want a future,” he said, closing his eyes. “I want a future with you.”
Something tugged at my chest, and God, I wanted that future too. I wanted Jensen. I’d always wanted him and had missed him so badly during the years he was away, but to have him, I had to let go of the past.
Was I willing to do that?
Sitting up halfway, I stared down at him. Jensen had opened his eyes and was watching me warily with a bit of resignation churning in those beautiful eyes. I knew in that moment he expected me to tell him no or say I wasn’t ready. And I knew he’d still stay with me, he’d still be there for me, and an even deeper part of me realized that he wouldn’t give up.
But I didn’t want to wait.
I didn’t want to live in a past full of hurt and pain, guilt and misunderstandings anymore. I wanted today and tomorrow, especially when there was such a powerful reminder that not everyone had tomorrow. I wanted a fresh start and I wanted that with him.
“I want that too,” I said, and my heart thumped in my chest. “I want to be with you.”
For a long moment, Jensen didn’t move, and I wasn’t sure he even breathed. Then he slipped two fingers under my chin, tilting my head down. “For real?”
“For real,” I whispered, knowing that I was making the right choice. “But can you . . . can you forgive me?”
His brows furrowed. “What would I need to forgive you for?”
It seemed obvious to me. “I didn’t give you a chance to explain. I didn’t even want to listen. It was selfish and cold—”
“You didn’t know. I had ample opportunity to tell you about Jon and I didn’t.” His gaze searched mine. “There’s nothing to apologize for. Okay?”
I wanted to apologize again, because I felt like a bitch, but I nodded. “Okay.”
“Thank you.” Jensen’s arms swept around me and he pulled me down, snuggling me close to him, and that’s how we stayed.
That’s how we fell asleep.
LIKE THE MORNING before, I woke a little too early to get ready, but surprisingly well-rested and toasty.
I’d fallen asleep in Jensen’s arms, my head tucked under his chin, my leg cradled between his. My heart did a little jump in my chest. Our conversation from last night was replaying itself. As was the kiss we shared.
Jensen had thanked me for being with him, for giving him a chance, and I was kind of blown away by that.
It took me a few moments to realize that Jensen wasn’t asleep. At some point, his fingers started moving up and down the curve of my spine. My hands were still folded against his chest and I could feel his heart kick up, matching mine.
“Morning,” I murmured.
“Mmm . . .” That seemed to be all he was capable of saying, but he was definitely awake enough to move. One hand trailed up my side, skipping to my bare arm, and then the tips of his fingers found their way to my jaw. He tilted my head back, and my gaze met his sleepy, heavily lidded one. “Morning.”
Before I could say anything else, Jensen lowered his head and kissed me. There was a flutter of panic. I hadn’t washed my face or brushed my teeth, and I knew I looked like a hot mess, but the infinite tenderness of his kiss swept away those concerns. The kiss was slow and sweet, an exploration, and I was lost in him.
When he finally lifted his mouth from mine, I had pressed the length of my body against his, and he was half on his back. He slid his hands down my back and then lower, eliciting a gasp from me.
“I need to get out of this bed or . . .”
My heart tripped up as I stared down at him. “Or what?”
He kicked his head back, his hair wonderfully messy. “Or we’re going to switch positions, repeat the morning before, end up really late for school, and most likely busted by your mother in a very awkward way.” He stretched up, kissing my parted lips. “Oh, and this time, we’d probably be naked, so . . .”
A heady flush traveled down my body. Being busted by my mom in that kind of situation was mortifying, but I didn’t move. I touched his cheek, running my fingers over the slight stubble.
“Not probably.” His lips curled up in a lazy smile. “We’d most definitely be naked.”
I bit down on my lip. My stomach hollowed at the thought of there being nothing between us.
My voice was low, barely a whisper when I spoke. “I’ve never done it before.”
“What?” One hand traveled up my back. He gently tugged on my hair. “Get naked?”
Gavin and I had been together for a while, and we’d experimented in lots of ways that involved getting naked, but . . .”No. Not that.”
An eyebrow rose, and then his lazy smile vanished as his eyes widened slightly. The look was almost comical. “Wait. You and Gavin never . . . ?”
I shook my head.
“Not even one time?”
“Nope. We did stuff, but not that,” I said, and he looked so floored one would think I’d admitted to being the Easter Bunny. “Is it really that hard to believe?”
“Hell yeah,” he murmured, splaying his hand across my cheek. “How the hell did he manage to keep his hands off of you?”
I shot him a bland look.
“Sorry. I just thought . . .”
“Going that far, well, it never seemed right.” I shrugged. “Not once. Not like . . .”
“Not like what?” Jensen swallowed hard. “You and me?”
He stared at me for a moment and then squeezed his eyes shut. “Damn. That does not help.”
“Help with what?”
“Not getting you naked.”
Unable to suppress my grin, I rolled off him and he groaned. “Sorry?”
“Uh-huh.” He threw an arm over his eyes. “Did I tell you you’re beautiful in the morning?”
I smiled. “No.”
“You are.” He shifted his arm, opening one eye. “The best thing ever to see first thing in the morning.” Then he sat up. Leaning over, he kissed my forehead. “I better get going.”
“Yeah,” I whispered, caught up in the swelling-chest thing. I knew that feeling had a name. A four-letter word. Something I’d felt for Jensen for a long time, even when I wanted to hate him.
Jensen rose fluidly and I followed him to the window. He stopped there, turning to me. His voice was low, his grin wicked. “You know, I’m sure I can hang out for a few more minutes. If you’re going to shower, I can help.”
“Oh no.” I smacked his chest. “I do not need that kind of help.”
He straightened, putting his hands on my hips. “I think you lie. I think you want that kind of help.”