Out of breath, p.17
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       Out of Breath, p.17

         Part #3 of Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan
Page 17


  ‘What are you doing over here?’ Peyton exclaimed. The beers she’d consumed had amped up her boisterous volume. Cole and I practically jumped, before turning in her direction. ‘Oooh, was I interrupting something?’ She held her finger to her mouth like she was telling herself to be quiet. Too late.

  We drove home in silence the next morning, the tension intensifying with each mile. Our week had to come to an end. But I still couldn’t bring myself to say it. I could feel Cole glancing at me every so often. Doing the right thing was going to be so difficult.

  As we drove through town, the looming clouds opened up. I rolled down the window and stuck out my arm to feel the warm spring raindrops upon my skin. I breathed in the scent of the moisture in the air, mixed with fresh-cut grass and earthy blooms.

  When Cole stopped at a red light less than a mile from my house, I opened my door to step into the rain.

  I won’t destroy your life too.

  My parting words echoing in my head carried me across the street to the sidewalk, not looking back. The rain intensified, saturating my shirt instantly. I took off my shoes and walked in the fast running water, letting the coolness wash over my toes, cascade down my hair and drip from my chin.

  I was a few blocks from the house when I heard thumping footsteps splashing in the water behind me. I turned to find Cole stopped a short distance from me, breathing heavily. My mouth curved faintly at the sight of his shirt clinging to the curves of his chest, the water darkening his blond hair. He approached me with an unasked question in his eyes.

  I watched the water drip down his nose and over his beautiful full lips. I knew what I should do. But with him so close, looking down at me intensely, I wanted more than anything to allow the spark he contained to possess me and fill up the chasm that had left me so empty all this time. I was craving the warmth of his touch. The rush of our connection. Regardless of whether I deserved it or not. Regardless of whether he was wrong for me. I couldn’t resist it any longer.

  I stepped closer, covering the flush of his cheeks with my hands to feel their heat, and pressed my lips firmly against his, until it almost hurt. Cole gripped my waist and pulled me into him, sealing the space between us. I secured my arms around his neck. As our lips slid over each other’s, I was overwhelmed by the electric current coursing through me.

  Desire poured into the shadows, and I didn’t let anything else matter. Not the voice that told me this was wrong. Not the guilt. Not the warning that crashed through my head. I pushed it all away and let the desperate craving overtake me.

  Panting, I pushed away and grabbed his hand, pulling him after me as I ran the remaining distance to the house.

  I stopped in front of the door and turned back to him, kissing him with such want, my entire body pulsed. His mouth was still finding mine as I opened the door. He blindly shut the door behind him, concentrating on me, touching me. I broke away to rush up the stairs, Cole in pursuit.

  My shirt was over my head before I opened the door to my room. Cole removed his while shutting the door behind him, then thrust me against it. I let my shoes slide from my fingertips as he ran his lips along my slick neck, teasing with his tongue, forcing a low, breathy moan from my throat. He slipped a hand around my back to unfasten my bra. Our wet bodies slid together as our mouths found one another over and over again, unable to get enough.

  Cole kicked off his shoes while I ran my tongue along his neck. His strong hands braced my face, and he bent down to kiss me. I parted my mouth as his tongue slipped in, teasing my bottom lip. His hands ran down my sides to my hips and inside the waist of my jeans as I forced the zipper down. Cole peeled them off my legs, and I kicked them aside. I stood before him, exposed. In a quick motion, he lifted me, and I wrapped my legs around him, my back colliding against the door with a gasping grunt.

  Cole carried me to the bed, gently laying me on my back. His eyes danced over the length of my body, and I bit my lip, waiting as he searched his pockets before letting his shorts drop to the floor. He returned to me after he tore off the wrapper. Pulling me up by my hips, he pressed his knees against the edge of the bed. I inhaled deeply as we connected, clutching his hand as he lowered himself over me. I gripped the tense muscles along his back as he moved into me, exploring me deeper. The charge intensified, possessing my senses. It became all that I could feel, all that I needed, as it streamed through every inch of my body. The emptiness was swept away, and I would give anything not to be devoured by it again.

  My entire body quivered with his escalation. My legs tightened, and I moaned in release. The air was lost to me with a swirling rush, and I liquefied into nothing in a single breath. He gave in with the slightest audible groan, tensing until every inch of him became rigid and then folding onto me. We lay in our breathless embrace, still entwined. Cole raised his head to look at me. The ruddiness of his cheeks had spread down his neck. I ran my hand along it.

  ‘So … you like the rain?’ he enquired with a gleam in his eye.

  I laughed, not expecting those to be the first words out of his mouth since we’d left Santa Barbara. ‘Yes, don’t you?’ I asked, brushing my lips along his jaw, my pulse still thrumming.

  ‘No,’ he replied with a chuckle. ‘I think I love the rain. ’ He gave me the softest kiss before laying his head on my chest. ‘I’m not ready for this to be over yet, Emma. ’

  ‘Em,’ Peyton bellowed, interrupting my response, ‘are you home?’ I heard the doorknob jiggle.

  I froze beneath Cole, and he raised his head in alarm.

  ‘Don’t you dare!’ Serena hollered from the bottom of the stairs. Cole and I stared at each other, waiting.

  ‘What?’ Peyton replied in surprise.

  ‘She’s not alone. ’


  What Are You Afraid Of?

  ‘ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE FLOAT trip this weekend?’ Sara asked from my computer screen, her smile vibrant and her eyes twinkling with the excitement I was lacking. ‘Didn’t you say it was supposed to be pretty huge?’

  ‘That’s what I’ve been told,’ I answered with a slight nod. ‘I guess students from Stanford and some other colleges take over a campground for the weekend. It’s exclusive, by invitation only. I don’t know how they figure out who gets invited, but, yeah, it’s going to be … huge. ’

  ‘What’s wrong?’ Sara asked, picking up on my dread. ‘You’re not freaked by the crowd, are you? I thought you were over that. Wait … is it Cole?’ Her questions flew at me without pause.

  ‘Nothing’s wrong. ’ But I could feel my throat constrict just saying it.

  ‘You can’t lie to me, Emma. I can always tell when you’re lying, even when you think you’re getting away with it. It is Cole, isn’t it?’

  I looked away from the screen, pressing my lips together.

  ‘Em, things have been going so well for the past two months,’ Sara continued soothingly. ‘It’s okay to be happy. It’s okay if you move on. You don’t –’

  Before she could continue with her reassurances, I interrupted with, ‘We’re supposed to sleep in a tent. ’

  I reluctantly returned my focus to the screen. Sara was still and silent.

  ‘I can’t sleep in a tent, Sara,’ I continued, my voice edged with panic. ‘That night with …’ I couldn’t go there. I couldn’t think about it. It was the last time I’d been truly happy. ‘I just … I can’t sleep in a tent with Cole. ’

  ‘I know. ’ Sara’s eyes shone with understanding. ‘Then don’t sleep in a tent. Tell Cole you want to sleep in his SUV. You can fold down the back and put a blow-up mattress in it. It works, I’ve done it before. ’ A devious smile spread on her face as she reminisced.

  ‘Really, Sara? I didn’t need to know that!’

  ‘What? It’s not like you don’t get naked with Cole every chance you get!’ she snapped back teasingly.

  ‘I knew I should never have told you. ’

  ‘It’s the onl
y way it’s real,’ she responded, reminding me of the oath I’d given her in high school, that it didn’t really happen unless I told her. I wished that were true; so much of my past would’ve been erased. ‘I like this. That you’re dating again … and having crazy bunny sex!’

  ‘We’re not dating,’ I stressed, ‘and we’re not always … I mean, we surf too. ’ I couldn’t finish, because in fact that’s how Cole and I spent most of our time together. We were either studying in our comfortable silence, surfing or having ‘crazy bunny sex’. I sighed.

  ‘Whatever. You keep saying you’re not, but it’s okay if you are,’ Sara said emphatically. ‘You can move on, Em. I like him. Don’t give up on him. ’

  My entire body tensed, and I stared back as her mouth dropped in realization.

  ‘I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have said it like that. ’

  The last time Sara had said that same exact thing to me, we were sitting in her driveway, and she was convincing me to give Evan a chance.

  ‘So, you’ll be here next Friday, right?’ I was trying to recover, but my chest remained tight.

  ‘Yeah,’ Sara responded, watching me carefully. ‘I fly back to Connecticut on Monday and to see the fam before I spend the summer with you in Cali. I cannot wait to be there!’

  I tried to smile, but couldn’t. ‘I can’t wait for you to be here either. I don’t have to take classes this quarter, so I’m all yours. ’

  ‘So fucking fantastic!’ Sara exclaimed, her natural jubilance returning.

  ‘I should get going,’ I told her. ‘I need to pack. ’

  ‘This weekend will be good for you, I just know it. Call me when you get back. ’

  ‘I will,’ I replied, forcing a smile, ‘Bye, Sara. ’

  ‘I love you, Em!’ Sara proclaimed before the screen clicked off. I sat in the chair and stared at it for a moment before pushing away from the desk.

  ‘But, how about you stay the night? It’s supposed to be pretty nice tonight. We can sleep outside. ’

  ‘Like camping?’

  ‘That’s a better idea. I think I have a tent in the garage. We can sleep in the back yard, or we can go to the meadow. The sky will look incredible out there, away from the lights. What do you think?’

  ‘Emma! Cole’s here!’ Peyton yelled.

  Her voice startled me out of my memory. I scanned the sky, focused on collecting myself. I blinked the tears back and took a deep breath.

  ‘She’s where?’ I heard him ask. Before I could make an attempt to move, he was scrambling up on the roof. I lifted my head to search for him.

  ‘What are you doing?’ I ran my finger along the corner of my eye, struggling to tuck the emotion away.

  ‘Uh, besides trying not to fall off and kill myself?’ Cole scooted next to me, his breathing slightly laboured. ‘I came up here to find you. ’

  ‘I was going to come down. ’

  ‘Well, I’m here now, so let me catch my breath. ’ Eyeing the distance to the ground, he shifted back and bent his knees to rest his arms over them, trying to appear casual, but his back remained tense. ‘Why are you up here?’ he asked. Then he noticed my amused expression. ‘Oh, you think it’s funny that I’m hating this right now, don’t you?’

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