I congratulated myself on following the former and ignoring the latter.

Until I walked out of Brooke’s room that night (another Reid-related panic attack) to see Emma leaving my door and sprinting to her room like she didn’t want me to see her. I had two choices: go to my room and beat my head on the wall, or knock on her door and try to mitigate the damages of her having witnessed me leaving Brooke’s room late at night.

I knew the best case scenario for keeping Emma at arm’s length was to let her assume Brooke and I were involved. She was already halfway there; all I had to do was nothing. Then the image of her upturned face that morning flashed across my mind’s eye, and my memory conjured the smell of the rain on her skin and in her hair. I considered the easy rapport we’d established, and the comfort I felt when she was near. In a fit of unprecedented impulsiveness, I was at her door inviting myself in, and before I left her room I’d held her and kissed her and fallen so hard that I was happy to be broken into bits.

24 hours later: Emma and Reid’s kiss-seen-around-the-world. The kiss that occurred the night after my daughter was rushed to the hospital, unable to breathe. The night I’d stoically accepted a blistering lecture from Mom about my smoking and Cara’s asthma, incredulous at the timing of Emma’s big plan to help me quit. That night, shot through the concern for my daughter, was the anticipation of returning to the first girl I’d fallen for since Zoe.

And then Brooke texted me the photo from the concert—the same photo that ended up on multiple gossip sites the next day, though she swore she only sent it to “a couple of trusted friends.” I didn’t chastise her, not really, though I was disappointed that she’d be so careless. Her defense was that Reid and Emma had kissed in public, and anyone could have taken a photo of them.

“Anyone didn’t, though—you did,” I said.

She shrugged. “The point isn’t the picture. The point is the kiss.”

She was right. For me, the point was the kiss.

Now, we have less than three hours together, and we’re on the street and I’m remembering belatedly how freaking cold it is, along with the fact that I was in such a fog this morning that I forgot to grab a jacket when I left the house. I glance down at her, hunched and shivering in her thin sweater. Nestling her against my side, I point to a subway entrance. “It’s warmer underground, I think.” We head for the descending stairs and hop on the R. The view from the bridge into Brooklyn can make you fall in love with New York, if you haven’t already.

Once we’re seated in the sparsely occupied car, Emma leans her head on my shoulder, our arms entwined and hands tightly clasped on my knee. I don’t think we even let go for the turnstile. “Let’s play Truth or Dare,” I say, “but without the Dare.”

Her brows elevate. “I thought you weren’t a games sort of guy.”


I smile down at her. “I did say that, didn’t I?” She nods. “All right, then. Let’s not call it a game. Let’s just call it getting the hard questions out of the way, because I know we both have them. You can go first. Ask me anything.”

She chews her lip, staring into my eyes. “Okay… Why did you kiss me in Austin?”

I laugh softly and she frowns. “Sorry. That one’s too easy.” My gaze flicks to her mouth and back. “I’d wanted to kiss you ever since Quinton suggested playing spin the bottle, and by that night in your room, I’d run out of the willpower to fight it.”

“Why were you—”

I place my fingers over her lips and shake my head. “Nuh-uh. My turn.” When I slide my fingers across her mouth, she parts her lips. I want to kiss her again, but if I start, I suspect I’m not going to stop, and we need this talk. I’d rather spend the next month dreaming about kissing her than worrying over questions never asked or answered.

“Why did you kiss Reid the day after you kissed me?” I’ve pulled no punches. This is the sorest point I’ve got, and I want it behind us.

She takes a deep breath, staring at our intertwined hands. It’s a full minute before she speaks. “When I went to Austin, I thought he was what I wanted.” She checks my reaction, and I urge her to go on with a slight nod. “I was wrong. I just… didn’t know it yet.” Her eyes fill and her voice is uneven. “I know that’s not good enough.”

Fingers below her chin, I tip her face up so I can look into her eyes. “It’s the truth, so it’s good enough. Did you… love him?”

Sniffling, she shakes her head, setting a finger over my lips. “Nuh-uh,” she says. “It’s my turn.” When I frown, she laughs, and a tear escapes the corner of her eye. She dashes it away with the back of her hand. “But no, I didn’t.”

Squashing the urge to beat my chest like a Neanderthal, I pull her closer and inhale her scent, so familiar, even these months later. My voice drops. “Can I kiss you now?”

Her expression turns coy. “Graham, that’s three questions in a row. I’m starting to think you don’t understand the concept of taking turns.”

To hell with questions. We can talk on the phone. I can’t kiss her long-distance. “Oh, I’ll give you your turn, Emma.” Closing the small space between us, I slide my hand behind her neck and touch my lips to hers. She presses closer—warm lips, sweet breath, soft fingertips drifting down the side of my face as we kiss.

Up to this point, we’ve been ignoring the small number of fellow passengers entering and exiting as we move down the line, stopping every few minutes. And then the train squeals to a stop, and three dozen loud, matching-t-shirt-wearing middle schoolers and their harried chaperones crowd into our car. A small pack of girls stare at Emma and me unabashedly, like we’re on a screen and not real people. Whispering behind their hands, their eyes wide, their attention swings between us and the group of boys who plop onto the adjacent seat and proceed to make fart noises with a weirdly impressive array of body parts.

So much for that kiss.


I thought of Graham a dozen times since we arrived in New York, chiding myself when my focus lingered on some tall, dark-haired guy standing hands-in-pockets at a deli counter, or crossing quickly at an intersection, or smoking in a courtyard.

Graham quit smoking months ago, of course.

More to the point, though—what was the likelihood I’d just happen upon Graham in a city this enormous? I felt silly for even considering it a possibility. And then—there he was, sitting in a coffee shop on MacDougal. With his daughter.

“So, Cara is four?” I ask, taking my turn.

“She’ll actually be four in a couple of months,” he says, leaning close, his breath warm in my ear. “Right after my birthday.”

“Landon is so immature,” one of the girls across the aisle declares to the others. They all nod and level disdainful looks on the boy responsible for the majority of rude noises.

“What’d I do?” he says, palms up. “What?”

One of the other boys offers, “Bitches, man,” and a fist bump in consolation, and they all howl with laughter while the girls huff and refuse to look openly at them again.

Graham and I stare at each other, our eyes tearing and lips compressed in an effort to remain outwardly indifferent. “I would be willing to swear I was never a preteen boy,” he says, rolling his eyes.

“That sounds like denial.”

“Yeah, well, that’s my story.” His eyes dance. “Next question: Are you seeing anyone now?”

Emily set me up with several guys during the past few months—dinner, movies, ballet, bowling. Each one was perfectly nice, but I didn’t feel a connection with any of them. Then, during the community theatre production of It’s a Wonderful Life over the holidays, I met Marcus. He’d already been accepted early-decision to Pace, and was elated at the possibility of us both starting college in New York in the fall. Since December, we’ve been out multiple times. I saw him last weekend. We’re supposed to hang out tonight when I get home. And… I agreed to go to his small private school’s prom next weekend.

“Hmm. Not the quick refusal I was hoping for,” Graham says, his thumb moving hypnotically over the back of my hand. “Should I plan to follow you home and challenge some guy to a duel?” In his eyes, I see the teasing and the sincerity behind his words. “I’ve never been a horribly possessive guy, Emma, and I know this is all sudden and unforeseen for both of us. But watching you with Reid was almost more than I could take. I don’t think my heart can tolerate sharing you again. You’re free to make your own decision, of course. But I have to be allowed to make mine, too.”

I hate the thought of hurting Marcus. He’s been patient, never grilling me about my well-known failed liaison with Reid Alexander. When I came back home after the School Pride photo shoot last month, Marcus maintained his cheerful disposition while I pulled myself through a delayed depression over the whole Reid debacle and came to grips with the fact that I still cared for Graham and felt his absence, though whatever was between us in Austin was long gone.

Except now, suddenly, it’s not gone. And Graham is sitting here next to me, waiting for me to tell him I want him.

“I have been seeing someone, but it’s not… this.” I swallow, hard, hoping he’ll give me the time to be compassionate. “I’ll end it when I get back home.” When he exhales, I realize he was holding his breath. “But… I did promise to go to his prom next weekend.”

His lips quirk and he watches me closely. “Should I be worried?”

I shake my head slightly. “No.”

His forearm flexes as he brings our interlaced hands up, rotating his arm and kissing the back of my hand. “Then I guess there’s no reason to begrudge some poor guy his prom date.”

The knot of girls across the car sighs audibly, and I think one of them just took our picture with her phone. It’s possible that they know who we are. School Pride doesn’t come out until next month, though the media blitz has begun. Or maybe they’re just starry-eyed girls, and the two of us tangled up in each other on the subway is classic NYC romantic—which makes me think of Emily. I’m going to have a lot to tell her when I get home.

“Are you, you know, seeing anyone?”

He shakes his head, his dark eyes intense despite the half-smile on his lips. “I passed the point of being willing to settle a long time ago. If I’m not fiercely inclined, I don’t bother.”

I press my lips together, but they kick up on one side. It isn’t really fair, that I’m happy to have no competition for his attention while he trusts me to go home, go to prom with some faceless boy and then kick him to the curb.

The preteens reach their stop, and the noise escalates to something resembling the running of the bulls as the chaperones attempt to make sure every single one of them makes it off the subway before it pulls away. It’s so quiet once they exit that I can hear my own breathing.

Most Popular