A small moan escapes my mouth and his grip tightens even more around me. “You better run now, Liv. If I hear that sound one more time, I’m going to be breaking my promise to take it slow and I’m not going to stop until you can’t walk for a few days.”

Begrudgingly, Vinny loosens his grip around me and slowly releases me. It’s clear he’s struggling and I open my mouth to speak, but Vinny puts his hand over my mouth silencing my attempt at words. His words a stern warning, “Go. Now.”


The sun is starting to come up by the time I finally relax enough to fall asleep. But when I finally do, I find the boy that I once knew, rather than the man I’ve just left, take over my dreams.

I’m sitting up against the tree, my knees drawn up to my chest, arms locked around them tightly. I look down at him, lying so casually and relaxed, his toned body sprawled out on the dark green grass. Hands folded behind his head, he smiles up at me and his pale blue eyes sparkle, contrasting beautifully against his tanned skin in the afternoon sunlight.

“Kiss me, Liv.”

I freeze at his words. I’ve kissed a boy before, but not one like Vinny. It’s pretty much all I could think about doing for the last four months. Yet here I sit like a deer in the headlights when the opportunity finally falls right into my lap.

“Liv.” Vinny’s voice breaks me out of my daze. For a minute, I think I must have imagined that he just told me to kiss him. I even feel a little relief that it was all in my head. But the relief is short lived. His beautiful eyes lock onto mine and this time there’s no mistaking that I haven’t imagined his words. “Come here, Liv. Kiss me.”

Still lying with his hands casually linked behind his head, he makes no attempt to move toward me. He sees the confusion on my face. “Lean down, Liv. Bring your mouth down to me and kiss me.”

“Why?” Finally, I find my wits and speak.

“Don’t you want to?” he says, a knowing smile on his face as he speaks.


My face reddens before I even speak, giving away my embarrassment before my answer. “Yes.”

“So kiss me then.”




“Just do it. Stop thinking for once.”

So I do. I lean down and, hesitantly, I touch my lips to his and kiss him. Gently, with closed mouth.

I sit back up and open my eyes and find Vinny smiling up at me. I smile back at him, feeling relief. “Now really kiss me, Liv.”

My smile quickly disappears, replaced by worry and nervousness. Unconsciously, I bite my lower lip. Vinny arches his eyebrows, waiting patiently.

Slowly, I lean back down to him and cover his lips with mine. At first, I’m hesitant to open my mouth, but then I do. I force myself to push all my fears away and I slip my tongue into his mouth. And that’s all it takes. Vinny growls and hooks his hand around my neck, pulling me closer as his tongue takes over the lead. We kiss for what seems like forever, coming up only for a few seconds each time, both of us panting wildly, gasping only for enough air to allow us to continue.

Eventually Vinny breaks the kiss, ending the passionate embrace with a series of sweet, gentle, closed mouth kisses. Loosening his grip on the back of my neck enough to allow me to pull my head back to look at him, I find him smiling at me.

“Why?” I ask.

“Why what?” Vinny’s thumb strokes along the back of my neck gently as he speaks.

“Why didn’t you kiss me? Why did you make me kiss you first?”

“I was giving you time to say no.” He smiles at me with a cocky smile. “Even though I knew you wanted to. I didn’t know if you were ready for me.”

Chapter 15


“You’re dragging your ass. Do I need to ask what you were up to last night, or do we go straight back to random testing?” Nico’s in the ring with me. He’s right, I’m wiped this morning, but it has nothing to do with partying for a change.

“I was with Liv late last night. Got home and couldn’t sleep.”

Nico laughs. “Been there, done that.”

“Yeah, took me three hours to fall asleep after leaving her.”

“And you didn’t stop at Flannigan’s on the way home to pick up someone to help you work it out of your system?”

“Didn’t even think about it.” The thought never crossed my mind to pick up a GIMP, help work through the frustration I’d taken with me when I made Liv walk away last night.

“My little boy might be growing up after all.” Nico climbs into the ring and raises the cushioned protection pads for me to begin my strikes.


Nico laughs. “I think so.”

Swinging my right leg in a roundhouse kick, I connect with the pad and Nico takes a step back from the momentum of the impact. “Looks like hard up works for you. Again. Other leg. Knock me on my ass or you’re doing six miles on the treadmill when we’re done here.”

Fucking Nico. Always using that god damn treadmill against me. Ever since I was a little kid. I rear back and strike hard with the other leg. Nico takes two steps back, but remains standing. “Looks like you have a good run after practice today.” Nico laughs and I spend the next forty minutes trying to knock him on his ass, purely for my own personal satisfaction. I’m unsuccessful and the six mile run actually helps me cool off after another few hours of feeling frustrated.


I swing by Mom’s on the way home from the gym. The front door is open and I feel the frustration I just ran off knot its way back through my body. She’s careless when she’s wasted, totally disregards her own personal safety. And since she’s wasted most days, she’s pretty much always putting herself out there at risk.

I’m surprised to find my mother sitting up on the couch when I enter. Most days she’s passed out and junkies are lying around haphazardly, like trash before the cleanup after a rough night of partying. There’s two men sitting opposite my mother. Unlike the usual ones I find, these appear clean, their clothes aren’t torn and dirty, and it’s likely they’ve shaved in the last day or two.

“Mom?” All eyes turn to me, they hadn’t noticed I entered the apartment with the heated discussion going on.

“Hi, Baby.” My mother looks to me, and then back to the two men staring at me, and I can see she’s nervous. Whoever they are, they’re bad news. They may look better than the usual losers I find, but the vibe coming from my mother tells me that they’re just as much trouble.

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