Fifty First Times: A New Adult Anthology, Page 2J. Lynn
“There are a lot of great places to eat in New York,” Wes said, “but I’ve never found a Queenie’s.”
“In-N-Out is pretty good, but nothing touches Queenie’s,” I agreed.
“So about the party—” Wes began.
“Ohmigod!” I shook my head. “Please do not sully Queenie’s with my idiocy.”
The effects of the booze were starting to wear thin. I knew I was still drunk, but my head was less fuzzy now, and the last thing I wanted to do was relive that moment, especially what I said to Wes.
“The last time I saw you, you were drunk.” Wes was clearly not going to drop this. “Do you drink like that at UCLA?”
“Not really,” I admitted. “This was my first real party of the semester.”
Wesley snorted and turned his attention to the window. “So what does it mean that the last two times you’ve seen me, you’ve gotten wasted?”
I froze, my lips poised over the straw of my milkshake. I didn’t really have an answer for him.
“Because to me”—Wes twisted in his seat to face me, dropping his eyes to meet mine—“it feels like you have to be drunk to be near me.”
I wasn’t sure if that was true. I hadn’t really thought about it. “We spent a lot of time together studying and hanging out,” I reminded him. “I wasn’t drunk then.”
“Yeah, but that was before.” He settled back, drumming the steering wheel with his thumbs. “Before we decided on that stupid plan.”
“That plan wasn’t stupid,” I blurted out. “I’m still a virgin, you know!”
“It’s not a terminal illness,” Wes said.
“It feels like it sometimes.” I finally took a drink of the milkshake. The alcohol still buzzing in my brain made it hard not to say whatever came into my head, and try as I might I couldn’t hold back the one question I was dying for him to answer. “Are you?”
“A virgin?” Wes paused before he answered, but then he shook his head slowly.
I felt the most peculiar urge to throw up, cry, and laugh at the same time. By the time, I realized which bodily movement was going to win out, I’d managed to yank open the door and aim my Queenie’s at the parking lot.
“You’ll feel better now,” Wes said, skirting around our previous topic of conversation and handing me a cup of water. He threw the truck in reverse as I slammed the door, and rumbled down the street without another word. A minute later we were parked in front of the Stop-N-Go. Wes disappeared inside the store and came back with a bottle of water and a travel toothbrush set.
“Thanks,” I mumbled. Maybe it was the booze, but hot tears were creeping into the corners of my eyes. It was such a Wes thing to do.
I brushed my teeth while hanging out the window of his truck. It’s amazing how something as simple as minty toothpaste can change your outlook on life.
“You up for some driving or are you ready to go home?” he asked me as we turned down a gravel road.
I wasn’t sure how to answer that question. On one hand, I could probably pass out the second my head hit a pillow. On the other hand, it was barely past eleven o’clock, and my mom might still be awake.
“I don’t want to go home,” I said, “but I’m not sure this road is doing much for my stomach.”
“I know just the place.”
We lapsed into silence as I let him drive me so far outside town that the sky grew black with night save for a few specks of starlight.
“There is nowhere in LA that ever gets this dark.” I leaned forward, pressing my face to the cool glass and trying to see past the road.
“Can’t be worse than New York. Nothing closes down there, especially the lights. It’s great for a two A.M. hot dog run, but . . .”
“You never feel alone,” I finished for him.
“But you always feel alone,” he added.
It was exactly how I felt—swallowed up by the chaos of the city, constantly surrounded by people, bombarded by their energy, and still invisible. “Sometimes I like it,” I told him. “If I want to disappear, all I have to do is walk down the street.”
“It took me a while, but now the noise just blends together and I zone out.” He stopped the truck and climbed out, coming around to open my door. I wasn’t sure why I waited for him to do that, except that girls expected guys in Beauford to open doors. “But you can’t hear the crickets in New York.”
He helped me down and we stood on the edge of the gravel where the prairie grass started and listened to the sharp symphony of cricket songs and rustling leaves. Wes took my hand and pulled me into the field.
“I think this is the start to every horror movie I’ve ever seen,” I warned him.
Wes chuckled at that, but kept going. “You have no idea where we are, do you?”
“The set of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?”
“Everybody in California have a smart mouth like you?” he asked.
“Nah. Most of them are too busy being tall and beautiful to have much to say.”
“I guess it’s lucky that you’re a triple threat then.”
I didn’t ask him what he meant by that. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know, because I liked what it implied and I didn’t know how to feel about that. Wes was my best friend. As in past tense. We’d spent too long not speaking for me to consider us close anymore, so the man dragging me out into a dark field, visible only from the shine of moonlight on his glossy hair, seemed like a foreigner to me. Wes was still in there, but his shell had been replaced by a man. An admittedly hot one that did funny things to my stomach. I couldn’t help but wonder if he felt the same about me.
The field stretched far until a small grove of trees broke it up, and just like that, I knew exactly where we were—back in another time and place.
“I can’t believe I didn’t recognize your family’s road,” I said.
“It was dark.” But his words were wounded. A lot had changed between us, even our shared history seemed to have dissolved into a half-remembered past. Wes pointed his phone toward a tree, the glow from the screen just bright enough to reveal an old tree house.
“You could have used that when you were dragging me through the field,” I said as I grabbed for the phone.
“It was a surprise.” Wes caught me around the waist and pulled me closer to him. “And I wanted to see if you’d follow me.”
“Anywhere.” The word was out of my mouth before I’d even processed it.
Wes leaned closer to me, his lips inches from mine. “Is that so, Jacqueline Kelly?”
My breath hitched in my throat, and I wanted him to kiss me. The desire consumed me, drowning out everything around us.
“Sure.” I pulled away from him and ran toward the makeshift rungs still nailed to the tree. “Anytime you’re in Los Angeles.”
I climbed as quickly as the darkness would allow me to, and when I reached the top, I took a tentative step inside. This tree house was well over fifteen years old, a gift to Wes’s older brothers. But I was surprised to see a few toys and books strewn in the corner and a large, well-worn blanket laid out on the floor.
“My nephew uses it,” Wes said as he stepped in behind me.
The fact that kids were still climbing into tree houses in Beauford, Texas brought a smile to my face.
“Do you remember when we ran away from home to live here?” I asked him, dropping to sit cross-legged.
“It took our parents a whole hour to find us,” he said, joining me on the blanket.
“We didn’t think it through.”
“I bet we could pull it off now. Run away for good,” he said.
“Haven’t we already done that?” I asked in a quiet voice.
“We’re both back in Beauford.”
“Only physically,” I said. “I bet your head’s in New York. Maybe even your heart.”
Wes had admitted he wasn’t a virgin anymore, which meant there was a good chance that there was a girl back at NYU. That thought twisted inside of me and turned my stomach sour.
/> “My heart is right here.” He placed a hand over his chest.
“So she wasn’t anyone special?” My mind was locked on imagining what she looked like, how they had met, what her name was.
“You said you lost your virginity,” I reminded him, struggling to push the words past my lips.
“Oh, that.” His voice was flat and he shrugged, looking past me and out at the starry night above us. “I don’t remember much. It was the first and last time I went drinking in the city. She seemed nice. We went out for coffee, but we couldn’t find five things we had in common. She wanted to nail a Texas cowboy.”
The revelation caught me by surprise, and I snorted. “I’m so sorry,” I said, trying to hold back laughter. “But you are hardly a Texas cowboy.”
“I have the Beauford drawl.” He lengthened each word into sweet, Southern syrup. “Let’s just say it was enough to cross it off the bucket list.”
I was hanging on his every word, leaning closer to him, and I pulled back, glad he couldn’t see that I was blushing.
“So you haven’t yet?” he asked.
I shook my head, feeling the nervous excitement in my stomach shift back to embarrassment. “Nope.”
I waited for him to tell me it wasn’t a big deal. To just get it over with already, but instead he nodded as though he approved of this answer.
“Do you remember prom night?” he asked me.
“I remember I wore that awful lime green dress my mom bought me in Galveston,” I said. “And the wilted salad and the eighties pop music.” I left out the part where I sweet-talked Tasha into stealing a bottle of cheap wine from Jesse and that I’d planned to get drunk to steady my nerves, so that I could go through with our plan. I didn’t mention waking up in that wrinkled lime green dress, very much intact, the next morning and spotting him curled up asleep on the pull-out sofa in the hotel room.
“I should’ve called you,” he said. “After that night, I was so angry. It took me a while to realize I was angry at myself, not you. By then we were on opposite coasts.”
“You didn’t get blitzed out of your mind on Boone’s Farm. I don’t think I was ready,” I said. “Or I wouldn’t have been such a jackass.”
“I knew you were drinking and I didn’t stop you. I knew you were nervous,” he admitted.
“Because I was nervous, too.” His lips curled into a shy smile. “It took me a while to understand why I was nervous though.”
“Is that why you dragged me out of that party tonight?” I asked him. “To avoid seeing me get trashed again?”
He nodded. “And it’s why I’ve been sobering you up for the last three hours.”
“Three hours?” I repeated in disbelief. We’d been up to Queenie’s and driven around for a while, but it was hard to believe it had been three hours. That explained why the happy, boozy haze had lifted as the conversation grew more serious. “I guess you don’t have to worry about taking me home to my mom now.”
“I have a confession.” His fingers trailed along my thigh as he spoke, and I felt his touch shivering through my skin. “I had another reason for sobering you up.”
I could barely concentrate with his fingers running along my skin. “Which is?”
His mouth closed over mine with gentle but demanding force, and I crumbled crumpled against him. My hands fell limply to my sides, the kiss stealing every ounce of control I had over my body. I was entirely his in that moment as his hands moved to cup my face. Another three hours could have passed—maybe an eternity—but when he broke that kiss, it was entirely too soon.
It wasn’t the first time Wesley Asher kissed me in this tree house, but it was the first time I didn’t want him to stop.
“I’ve wanted to do that for a long time, Jac.” He whispered the words against my neck, his breath warm on my skin.
I couldn’t swallow back the question on my lips. “Why didn’t you want me on prom night?”
“You think I didn’t want you?” Wes laughed as though I’d said something outrageous. “I wanted you so much that I couldn’t do it, because I wanted more than one night with you. We spent a lot of time dreaming about our futures away at big colleges, and I realized on prom night that you saw separate futures, and I didn’t. I thought I could live without you if I didn’t kiss you, if I didn’t make love to you. I was wrong.”
It was as though he lifted a veil inside my head, revealing something I’d tried to hide from myself. When I left for California, I wasn’t just running away from Beauford. I was running away from Wes.
I didn’t wait for him to kiss me again. Instead I climbed onto his lap and wrapped my arms around his neck, bringing my lips to his in a crush of urgency. His hands settled on my hips, and he pulled me to him until our bodies couldn’t press any closer together.
“I’m home for three weeks,” Wes said, drawing back slightly. “We don’t have to do this tonight.”
I shook my head, fumbling in his arms until my fingers found the hem of my shirt. Wes bit his lip as I tugged it over my head. “That’s just it. When you finally realize you’re ready, you don’t want to wait a second longer.”
Wes didn’t need further coercion. His fingers slipped under the band of my bra, unhooking it. I let it fall off my shoulders and onto the ground as his hands traveled to my breasts. He cupped them gingerly, brushing his thumb over my nipple. I moaned at his touch. I’d never taken my shirt off in front of a guy, let alone allowed someone to touch me like this, and there was no chance I was stopping now.
His arms cradled my back and he laid me against the floor, hesitating at the zipper of my skirt, waiting for me to nod. He continued undressing me until I was down to my suede boots. I raised my eyebrows at him.
“You can keep those on,” he said in a low voice as he stripped off his own shirt to reveal a stack of abs that hadn’t been there on prom night. Then he was over me, our mouths moving together as our bodies twisted into each other. Thick denim rubbed my naked thighs, and I strained against him. He traced the nape of my neck with the rough pad of his thumb before his fingers closed around the back of my neck, holding my head in place as his tongue dipped into my mouth. My own hands found his fly. Tugging it down, I slipped my hand into his boxers, surprised to discover he was already hard, but then again I didn’t have any experience with this kind of thing. I took him in my hand, a thrill of nerves flooding through me.
It was a heady feeling, lying here nearly stark-ass naked with Wesley Asher. I’d thought once that sex with him would be a simple in-and-out experience. Now that my boots were wrapped around his back, I didn’t want it to end.
“Are you sure?” Wes whispered in my ear.
“Yes,” I said so loudly that heat crept onto my cheeks. Thankfully it was too dark for him to see.
Pushing up to his knees, he pulled out his wallet to retrieve a condom. He tossed the wallet aside and pushed down his pants. Seeing him naked made me oddly shy, but I couldn’t look away, even as he rolled the condom on.
Wes moved forward and positioned himself carefully against me. He nudged me, and burning erupted between my legs, but not the sexy kind. I mean I’d heard that it hurt, but holy hell, it hurt! With his free hand he stroked the side of my thigh as though to reassure me.
“You okay?” he asked me.
I nodded, even as tears smarted at the corner of my eyes. But these weren’t tears from the pain, even though ouch! Slowly, he pushed in a bit farther but with a little more force. For a moment, it felt as though I was being ripped open. I gasped, drawing in a long, ragged breath. Then he was inside me, steady and still, as he dropped to hover over me. Wes kissed away my tears and reached for my hand, pulling it to his chest where he held it as I adjusted to the sensation of him.
Then he began to move slowly. It hurt less, shifting to something that was almost pleasant—a fullness, or rather a wholeness that I’d never felt before. His forehead pressed against mine, slick with sweat, and his b
reath quickened as his hands grabbed my hips. But even as a tremor shuddered through his body, he remained in control, not pushing my body for more than it could handle. And then it was over.
He withdrew carefully, asking once more if I was okay, but I was too dazed to answer him. Lying down, he tucked me against him as I tried to process my thoughts into words but nothing came.
“How do you feel?” he finally asked me.
“I’m not sure. I thought I would feel different afterward, but I don’t. But then again I do.” My answer was hesitant, full of stops and pauses.
He brushed a strand of hair from my face. “You’re still you, Jac.”
“But everything’s changed and nothing has,” I said, still struggling. “It was everything, but it was over so quick.”
Wes chuckled at this, and I realized too late what I had said. “I’ll work on that.”
“Want my help?” I asked, nuzzling against his collarbone.
“We have three weeks,” he pointed out.
“Brings a whole new meaning to the twelve days of Christmas.”
Wes grinned and threaded his hand through mine. “Best present ever.”
I couldn’t help but agree as we lay in the dark under a silent moon. Wes bent to brush his lips softly against mine. “I’ve been looking up at that moon and dreaming of you, Jacqueline Kelly.”
“It took you long enough to tell me,” I said, nipping his chin with my teeth playfully.
“Different cities, different lives,” he reminded me in a soft voice.
I squeezed his hand tightly, knowing he was right, but knowing there was so much more to us than geographic coordinates. “Same moon.”
About the Author
GENNIFER ALBIN is a recovering academic who realized she could write books of her own and discovered to her delight that people would read them. She lives in Kansas with her family and writes full-time. Her debut novel, Crewel, the first in a trilogy, was published in October 2012 by FSG/Macmillan.
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