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Finding Cinderella, Page 2

Colleen Hoover

  She groans. “That terrifies me. As curious as I am about the difference between making love and having sex . . . my stance on relationships makes it impossible to find out.”

  I think about her comment for a while. It’s weird, because she sounds a little like the female version of me. I’m not sure I’m as opposed to relationships as she is, but I’ve definitely never told a girl I loved her and I really hope that doesn’t happen for a hell of a long time.

  “You’re really never coming back?” I ask.

  “I’m really not coming back,” she says.

  I let go of her hand and press my palms onto the cabinet, then jump down. I move and stand in front of her, then place my hands on either side of her. “Let’s solve our dilemma right now.”

  She leans back. “Which dilemma?”

  I move my hands and place them on her hips, then pull her to me. “We have a good forty-five minutes to work with. I’m pretty sure I could make love to you in forty-five minutes. We can see what it’s like and if it’s even worth going through relationships in the future. That way when you leave here, you won’t worry about never knowing what it’s like.”

  She laughs nervously, then leans toward me again. “How do you make love to someone you aren’t in love with?”

  I lean forward until my mouth is next to her ear. “We pretend.”

  I can hear the breath catch in her lungs. She turns her face slightly toward mine and I feel her lips graze my cheek. “What if we’re bad actors?” she whispers.

  I close my eyes, because the possibility that I might actually be making love to this chick in a matter of minutes is almost too much to take in.

  “You should audition for me,” she says. “If you’re convincing then I just might agree to this absurd idea of yours.”

  “Deal,” I say.

  I take a step back and remove my shirt, then lay it on the floor. I grab my jacket off the counter and unfold it, then lay it on the floor as well. I turn back to the counter, then scoop her up. She locks herself around me, burying her head in my neck.

  “Where’s your shirt?” she asks, running her hands across my shoulder. I lower her to the floor, onto her back. I ease myself to her side and pull her against me.

  “You’re lying on it,” I respond.

  “Oh,” she says. “That was considerate of you.”

  I bring my hand up to her cheek. “That’s what people do when they’re this in love.”

  I feel her smile. “How in love are we?”

  “All the way,” I say.

  “Why? What is it about me you love so much?”

  “Your laugh,” I say immediately, not sure how much of that is actually made up. “I love your humor. I also love the way you tuck your hair behind your ears when you’re reading. And I love how you hate to talk on the phone almost as much as I do. I really love that you leave me those little notes all the time in your adorable handwriting. And I love that you love my dog so much, because he really likes you. I also love taking showers with you. Those are always fun.”

  I slide my hand from her cheek to the nape of her neck. I ease my mouth forward and rest my lips against hers.

  “Wow,” she says against my mouth. “You’re really convincing.”

  I smile and pull away. “Stop breaking character,” I tease. “Now it’s your turn. What do you love about me?”

  “I do love your dog,” she says. “He’s a great dog. I also love how you open doors for me even though I’m supposed to want to open doors for myself. I love that you don’t try to pretend you like old black and white movies like everyone else does, because they bore the hell out of me. I also love it when I’m at your house and every time your parents turn the other way, you steal little kisses from me. My favorite part about you though is when I catch you staring at me. I love that you don’t look away and you stare unapologetically, like you aren’t ashamed that you can’t stop watching me. It’s all you want to do because you think I’m the most amazing thing you’ve ever laid eyes on. I love how much you love me.”

  “You’re absolutely right,” I whisper. “I love staring at you.”

  I kiss her mouth, then trail kisses across her cheek and up her jawline. I press my lips against her ear and even though I know we’re pretending, my mouth runs dry at the thought of the words about to pass my lips. I hesitate, almost deciding against it. But an even bigger part of me wants to say it. A huge part of me wishes I could mean it and a small part of me thinks I probably could.

  I run my hands up and through her hair. “I love you,” I whisper.

  The next breath she draws in is a deep one. My heart is hammering against my chest and I’m quiet, waiting on her next move. I have no idea what comes next. Then again, neither does she.

  Her hands move from my shoulders and slowly make their way up to my neck. She tilts her head until her mouth is flush against my ear. “I love you more,” she whispers. I can feel the smile on her lips and I wonder if it matches the smile on my face. I don’t know why I’m suddenly enjoying this so much, but I am.

  “You’re so beautiful,” I whisper, moving my lips closer to her mouth. “So damn beautiful. And every single one of those guys who somehow passed this up is a complete fool.”

  She closes the gap between our lips and I kiss her, but this time the kiss seems so much more intimate. For a brief moment, I actually feel like I really do love all those things about her and she really does love all those things about me. We’re kissing and touching and pulling the rest of our clothes off in such a hurry, it feels as if we’re on a timer.

  I guess we technically are.

  I pull my wallet out of the pocket of my jeans and grab a condom, then ease myself back against her.

  “You can change your mind,” I whisper, hoping to hell she doesn’t.

  “So can you,” she says.

  I laugh.

  She laughs.

  Then we both shut the hell up and spend the rest of the hour proving exactly how much we love each other.

  • • •

  I’m on my knees now, quietly gathering our clothes. After I slip my shirt over my head, I pull her up and help her with her own shirt. I stand up and pull on my jeans, then help her to her feet. I rest my chin on top of her head and pull her against me, recognizing the perfect fit.

  “I could turn on the light before you leave,” I say. “Aren’t you a little curious to see the face of the guy you’re madly in love with?”

  She shakes her head against my chest with her laugh. “It’ll ruin everything,” she says. Her words are muffled by my shirt, so she lifts her head away from my chest and tilts her face up to mine. “Let’s not ruin it. Once we find out who each other is, we’ll find something we don’t like. Maybe lots of things we don’t like. Right now it’s perfect. We can always have this perfect memory of that one time we loved somebody.”

  I kiss her again, but it doesn’t last long because the bell rings. She doesn’t release her hold from around my waist. She just presses her head against my chest again and squeezes me tighter. “I need to go,” she says.

  I close my eyes and nod. “I know.”

  I’m surprised by just how much I don’t want her to go, knowing I’ll never see her again. I almost beg her to stay, but I also know she’s right. It only feels perfect because we’re pretending it’s perfect.

  She begins to pull away from me, so I lift my hands to her cheeks one last time. “I love you, babe. Wait for me after school, okay? In our usual spot.”

  “You know I’ll be there,” she says. “And I love you, too.” She stands on her tiptoes and presses her lips to mine; hard and desperate and sad. She pulls away and makes her way to the door. As soon as she begins to open it, I walk swiftly to her and push the door shut with my hand. I press my chest against her back and I lower my mouth to her ear.

  “I wish it could be real,” I whisper. I put my hand on the doorknob and open it, then turn my head when she slips out the door.

  I sigh and r
un my hands through my hair. I think I need a few minutes before I can leave this room. I’m not sure I want to forget the way she smells just yet. In fact, I stand here in the dark and try my hardest to commit every single thing about her to my memory, since that’s the only place I’ll ever see her again.

  Chapter One

  One year later

  “Oh, my God!” I say, frustrated. “Lighten up.” I crank the car just as Val climbs inside and slams her door in a huff, then pushes herself back against the seat.

  As soon as she’s inside the car, the overwhelming amount of perfume she has on begins to suffocate me. I crack the window, but just enough that she won’t think I’m insulting her. She knows how much perfume bothers me, especially when chicks smell like they bathe in it, but she never seems to care what I think, because she continues to douse it on by the gallon.

  “You’re so immature, Daniel,” she mutters. She flips the visor down and pulls her lipstick from her purse, then begins to reapply it. “I’m beginning to wonder if you’ll ever change.”


  What the hell is that supposed to mean?

  “Why would I change?” I ask, cocking my head out of curiosity.

  She sighs and drops her lipstick back into her purse, smacks her lips together, then turns toward me. “So you’re telling me you’re happy with the way you act?”


  With the way I act? Is she really commenting on the way I act? The same girl I’ve seen curse at waitresses for something as simple as too much ice in her glass is seriously commenting on the way I act?

  I’ve been seeing her off and on for months now and I haven’t had a single clue that she was hoping I would eventually change. Hoping I’d become someone I’m not.

  Come to think of it . . . I keep getting back together with her, thinking she’ll be the one to change. To be nice for once. In reality, people are who they are and they’ll never really change. So why the hell are Val and I even wasting our time on this exhausting relationship if we don’t even really like who each other is?

  “I didn’t think so,” she says smugly, incorrectly assuming my silence was admission that I’m not happy with how I act. In actuality, my silence was the moment of clarity I’ve needed since the day I met her.

  I remain silent until we pull into her driveway. I leave the car running, indicating that I have no plans on going inside with her tonight.

  “You’re leaving?” she asks.

  I nod and stare out the driver’s side window. I don’t want to look at her, because I’m a guy and she’s hot and I know if I look at her, then my moment of clarity regarding our relationship will become foggy and I’ll end up inside her house, making up with her on her bed like I always do.

  “You aren’t the one who gets to be mad, Daniel. You acted ridiculous tonight. And in front of my parents, no less! How do you expect them to ever approve of you if you act the way you do?”

  I have to exhale a slow, calming breath so that I don’t raise my voice like she’s doing right now. “How do I act, Val? Because I was myself at dinner tonight, just like I’m myself every other minute of the day.”

  “Exactly!” she says. “There’s a time and a place for your stupid nicknames and immature antics and dinner with my parents isn’t the time or the place!”

  I rub my hands over my face out of frustration, then I turn and look at her. “This is me,” I say, gesturing toward myself. “If you don’t like all of me, then we’ve got serious issues, Val. I’m not changing and honestly, it wouldn’t be fair of me to ask you to change, either. I would never ask you to pretend to be something you’re not, which is exactly what you’re asking of me right now. I’m not changing, I’ll never change and I would really like it if you would get the hell out of my car right now because your perfume is making me fucking nauseous.”

  Her eyes narrow and she grabs her purse off the console and pulls it toward her. “Oh, that’s nice, Daniel. Insult my perfume to get back at me. See what I mean? You’re the epitome of immature.” She opens the car door and unbuckles her seatbelt.

  “Well at least I’m not asking you to change your perfume,” I say mockingly.

  She shakes her head. “I can’t do this anymore,” she says, getting out of the car. “We’re done, Daniel. For good this time.”

  “Thank God,” I say loud enough for her to hear me. She slams her door and marches toward her house. I roll down her window to air out the perfume and I back out of the driveway.

  Where the hell is Holder? If I don’t get to complain to someone about her, I’ll fucking scream.

  • • •

  I climb into Sky’s window and she’s sitting on the floor, rummaging through pictures. She looks up and smiles as I make my way into her room. “Hey, Daniel,” she says.

  “Hey, Cheese Tits,” I say as I drop down onto her bed. “Where’s your hopeless boyfriend?”

  She nudges her head toward her bedroom door. “They’re in the kitchen making ice cream. You want some?”

  “Nah,” I say. “I’m too heartbroken to eat anything right now.”

  She laughs. “Val having a bad day?”

  “Val’s having a bad life,” I say. “And after tonight I’ve finally realized I don’t want to be a part of it.”

  She raises her eyebrows. “Oh, yeah? Sounds serious this time.”

  I shrug. “We broke up an hour ago. And who’s they?”

  She shoots me a confused look, so I clarify my question. “You said they were in the kitchen making ice cream. Who’s they?”

  Sky opens her mouth to answer me when her bedroom door swings open and Holder walks in with two bowls of ice cream in his hands. A girl is following behind him with her own bowl of ice cream and a spoon hanging out of her mouth. She pulls the spoon from her lips and kicks the bedroom door shut with her foot, then turns toward the bed and stops when she sees me.

  She looks vaguely familiar, but I can’t place her. Which is odd because she’s cute as hell and I feel like I should probably know her name or remember where I’ve seen her, but I don’t.

  She walks to the bed and sits down on the opposite end of it, eyeing me the whole time. She dips her spoon into her ice cream, then puts the spoon back in her mouth.

  I can’t stop staring at that spoon. I think I love that spoon.

  “What are you doing here?” Holder asks. I regretfully take my eyes off the Ice Cream Girl and watch as he takes a seat on the floor next to Sky and picks up a few of the pictures.

  “I’m done with her, Holder,” I say, stretching my legs out in front of me on the bed. “For good. She’s fucking crazy.”

  “But I thought that’s why you loved her,” he says mockingly.

  I roll my eyes. “Thanks for the insight, Dr. Shitmitten.”

  Sky takes one of the pictures out of Holder’s hands. “I think he’s actually serious this time,” she says to him. “No more Val.” Sky tries to look sad for my sake, but I know she’s relieved. Val never really fit in with the two of them. Now that I think about it, she never really fit in with me, either.

  Holder looks up at me curiously. “Done for good? Really?” He sounds oddly impressed.

  “Yeah, really, really.”

  “Who’s Val?” Ice Cream Girl asks. “Or better yet, who are you?”

  “Oh, my bad,” Sky interrupts. She points back and forth between Ice Cream Girl and me. “Six, this is Dean’s best friend, Daniel. Daniel, this is my best friend, Six.”

  I’ll never get used to hearing Sky call him Dean, but her introduction gives me an excuse to look over at that spoon again. Six pulls it out of her mouth and points it at me. “Nice to meet you, Daniel,” she says.

  How in the hell can I steal that spoon before she leaves?

  “Why does your name sound familiar?” I ask her.

  She shrugs. “I dunno. Maybe because six is a fairly common number? Either that or you’ve heard of what a raging whore I am.”

  I laugh. I don’t know why I laugh,
though, because her comment really wasn’t funny. It was actually a little disturbing. “No, that’s not it,” I say, still confused as to why her name sounds so familiar. I don’t think Sky has ever mentioned her in front of me before.

  “The party last year,” Holder says, forcing me to look at him again. I’m pretty sure I roll my eyes when I have to look away from her, but I don’t mean to. I’d just much rather stare at her than at Holder. “Remember?” he says. “It was the week I got back from Austin and a few days before I met Sky. The night Grayson pummeled you on the floor for saying you took Sky’s virginity?”

  “Oh, you mean the night you pulled me off of him before I even got the chance to kick his ass?” It still irritates me just thinking about it. I could have had him if Holder hadn’t stepped in.

  “Yeah,” Holder confirms. “Jaxon mentioned something that night about Sky and Six, but I didn’t know who they were at the time. I think that’s where you heard her name.”

  “Wait, wait, wait,” Sky says, waving her hands in the air and looking at me like I’m crazy. “What do you mean Grayson pummeled you because you said you took my virginity? What the hell, Daniel?”

  Holder puts a reassuring hand on Sky’s lower back. “It’s cool, babe. He just said it to piss Grayson off because I was about to kick the idiot’s ass for the way he was talking about you.”

  Sky is shaking her head, still confused. “But you didn’t even know me. You just said it was a few days before you met me, so why would you be pissed that Grayson was talking shit about me?”

  I stare at Holder, too, waiting for his answer. I never thought about it then, but that is odd that he was pissed over Grayson’s comments when he didn’t even know Sky at the time.