Sixteen kisses a novella, p.7
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       Sixteen Kisses: A novella, p.7

           Kelly Oram
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  When I made it to my last class of the day, relieved that there hadn’t been any more kissing incidents, I learned something. Kissing was nice. It was fun and could feel fantastic. But it could also get overplayed like a catchy pop song, until you dreaded the very thought of it.

  It didn’t help that everyone knew I had three more to go, and that the day was nearing an end. Everyone was asking me about it—either asking me who I was going to kiss, who I wanted to kiss, or if they could be one of the lucky three. I told anyone who fell into the last category to get lost. I was done. Over it. Thirteen kisses in one school day were plenty for me. Luke Barlow didn’t get the memo.

  My PE teacher, Mr. McFadden, is an Irishman to his core. By the time the last class of the day got to him, he was mentally already at the pub with his buddies celebrating St. Patrick’s Day and therefore let us do whatever we wanted as long as it was outside and we stayed where he could see us.

  A group of us got a game of Frisbee football going that got a little aggressive since we weren’t being very carefully monitored. We weren’t being crazy, but there’d been a tackle or two that had people on the ground. Personally, I could be a bit competitive, so I wasn’t that surprised when I snagged an interception on Luke and he playfully slid his arms around my waist, taking me to the ground. “Come on,” I laughed. “That play was totally legit!”

  “I let you have it,” he argued.

  “You wish, Barlow.”

  “No, I did. I needed a good reason to tackle you.”


  It wasn’t until that moment that I realized we were sitting on the ground together, and his arm was around my waist. Maybe he had let me make that interception. And I’d played right into his hands. Literally. He took my free hand in his, and laced our fingers together. “You can’t stop at thirteen, Cassie.”

  I shook my head, refusing to return his smile. “No way. I’m done.”

  “But you’re almost there. Only three more.”

  “And you think you’re worthy of being one of them?”

  He grinned deviously and tightened his grip on my side as if he were threatening to tickle me. “I think I’ve got you trapped, so you have to let me be one of them.”

  I knew the taunt was all in jest. He wouldn’t really kiss me unless I gave him permission. Luke was cool. Not the most attractive guy, but he was the comedian of the sophomore class. Everybody liked him. I liked him. But I was tired of kissing.

  “No torture could make me surrender to your demands,” I teased.

  Maybe being playful back was my mistake, because it only encouraged him. “Okay, you asked for it.” He clamped his hands to my ribs. “Say yes!” he said as he began the mother of all tickle assaults.

  I’m not ticklish. I am mega freaking ticklish. He squeezed my sides and I squealed, thrashing around uncontrollably. “Stop! Oh my gosh, stop!”

  “Will you kiss me?”

  “Yes, oh, my gosh, fine, whatever, just stop tickling!”

  He stopped. Thank heavens.

  “Oh, I hate you!” I gasped.

  “It was for your own good, Cassie. I promise. You’d regret not getting all sixteen kisses today. So, here’s number fourteen.”

  He leaned down and gave me a soft, sweet kiss. I appreciated the smallness of it. Then, he jumped up with a goofy grin, and wished me happy birthday as he helped me to my feet.

  I laughed as I brushed the grass from my clothes, but I still felt compelled to give the rest of the guys in class a warning. “Okay, it’s been fun and all, but seriously, the games are over. The next guy to put his lips on mine is getting a knee to the groin!”

  Everyone laughed. I was only partially joking. Five minutes later, Bryce Everett found that out the hard way. Bryce is a tool. I’ve never liked him. He’s the type of guy that knows he’s a douche and is proud of it. That’s why I was glad it was him who tested my boundaries. As Mr. McFadden blew the whistle, signaling it was time to hit the locker room, Bryce came up behind me and pulled my back against his chest. He ducked his head next to my ear and said, “I’m a little insulted that you haven’t asked me to kiss you yet, Cassie.”

  “Good. I was hoping you’d be offended. Now let me go before you regret it.”

  “You said the next guy to put his lips on your lips was going to be in trouble. Technically…” He began pressing a trail of light kisses to my neck. “I’m not kissing your lips.”

  If it wasn’t Bryce, and if he wasn’t seriously pissing me off at the moment, I might be inclined to stand here all day. I definitely needed to give this neck-kissing thing a try for real sometime. Just not with Bryce. I shoved my elbow into his gut as hard as I could, knocking the wind out of him. “Technically,” I told him as he hunched over, gasping for air, “that wasn’t a knee to your groin, either.”

  . . . . .

  Bryce had put me in a foul mood, which only got worse when I remembered I had detention. Luckily, the only other person serving time with me that day was Dom, and he’d already kissed me. When I realized we’d have the hour to ourselves, I got a little less cranky. Then, when my hour was up and Jared was waiting in the parking lot to surprise me with a ride home, any hint of negative feelings was gone. Bryce’s kiss was a speck of dirt on the windshield of my memory, wiped away the moment I saw Jared leaning against the grill of his truck.

  I stumbled to a stop when I saw him and, when he smiled, Dom elbowed me. “Looks like you’ll get that last kiss after all.”

  “Shut up.”

  My heart leapt in my chest, and I smacked Dom a little harder than I’d meant to. Dom’s eyebrows lifted to his hairline. “So, cowboys are your thing, huh? Wish I’d known that this morning. I’d have worn my boots.”

  I was mortified, but I still laughed at the idea of Dominic in cowboy boots. As we headed toward Jared, I shook my head. “There’s no way you own a pair of cowboy boots.”

  “Definitely not. But neither do you.”

  Dom cut me a challenging glance. This morning, I’d have just shrugged him off, but now, I felt confident enough to be honest with my friend. “It’s not the boots I like. It’s the guy wearing them.”

  Dom was surprised, but, after a moment, he smiled proudly and gave me a hug. “You go get your man then, girl.”

  I threw his own words from earlier when he’d kissed me back at him. “Don’t mind if I do.”

  Dominic laughed. “Happy birthday, Cassie. See you tomorrow.”

  “Thanks. See you then.”

  He let me go, and gave Jared a quick hand slap, before heading to his car. “She’s up to fifteen, cowboy. Don’t drop the ball.”

  I wanted to kill Dom. And I loved him at the same time. He winked at me then walked off without another word, leaving me standing alone, with pink cheeks, in front of Jared Clayton.

  “Fifteen?” Jared asked, as he rounded the truck to open my door for me. “Really?”

  Unsure what he thought about that number, I just shrugged. After he pulled out of the school parking lot, I broke the silence. “Thanks for coming to get me.”

  Jared grinned. Unlike with Scott earlier, when I got a close up look at Jared’s smile, it only made him better looking. “It’s my pleasure. Besides, I owed you. It’s kind of my fault you got detention today.”

  He drove down the road, passing up the entrance to my neighborhood. “That was—”

  “I know.”

  He obviously had a destination in mind other than my house, but the mischief in his eyes told me I’d get no explanation until we were there. This was new. But, then, so many things about this crazy day had been unexpected that I’d learned to just go with it hours ago. Plus, I was thrilled by the idea of Jared surprising me for my birthday somehow. I let the mystery go.

  We ended up at Jared’s house. Jared’s family’s home is a gorgeous red brick country-style house. He drove past the house and parked out back near the barn. The barn was just as pristine as the house, and fenced off with beautiful white fences all around the
property. The family took pride in the ranch that had belonged to them for over a century, and, more than anything, Jared loved the handful of horses they owned.

  “You up for a ride?” he asked, nodding toward the corral.

  The question was only a formality. He knew I’d want to go. I loved riding and didn’t get to do it nearly often enough. When I grinned, he hoped out of the truck and hurried to open my door for me.

  I got more flutters as he took my hand to help me down, and then nearly swooned when he laced our fingers together as he walked us over to the gate of the horse corral. There was no mistaking this action. He was holding my hand, plain and simple. I bit my bottom lip as I studied our grip. I tried to sneak a glance up at him next and found him watching me closely, trying to gauge my reaction to his bold move. My face flushed, and I looked away, feeling shy for almost the first time in my life.

  When we reached the fence, I climbed up to sit on the post and a few of the horses trotted over hoping to find treats. I reached out to pet the pretty appaloosa I usually rode. “Hey, Lucy,” I cooed.

  She snuffed when she realized I had no carrots or apples for her.

  “Sorry, girl. Next time. I promise.”

  Jared leaned against the fence next to me, and let out a short whistle to one of the horses. “So…fifteen kisses in one day,” he said as his horse, a big, beautiful palomino, trotted over to him, answering his call. “That’s got to be some kind of school record.”

  “Your fault.”

  “True.” Jared laughed as he hopped over the fence and gave his horse an affectionate pat. “But, in my defense, I was really only responsible for Aki. He’s the only one I actually dared to kiss you. I didn’t mean for the rest of them. In fact, I really didn’t like watching all those other guys fight over you all day.”

  My stomach exploded with butterflies. That sounded almost possessive. Protective at the very least. I never thought I’d be the kind of girl that would like “belonging” to a guy, but, if Jared wanted to claim me for his, well, I didn’t mind that thought at all.

  “Then why did you start the whole birthday kisses thing?” I asked.

  “I had to.”

  He stopped paying attention to his horse and came to stand directly in front of me. He was so tall that, even with me sitting on the fence, he was standing an inch or two taller than my eye level. Of course, he took care of those inches when he leaned forward, resting his hands on the fence post on either side of me, trapping me between his arms. He was close enough that, when I sucked in a breath, I smelled a hint of the aftershave he’d used that morning. I lost my senses, and closed my eyes, as I breathed him in.

  “I had to do it, Cassie, because after what you told me yesterday about wanting a real kiss, I realized I needed a bunch of guys to give you meaningless kisses so that you’d be able to recognize a real kiss when I finally gave you one.”


  My eyes snapped open, and I nearly fell backward off the fence. Jared caught me before I fell, and he was suddenly standing between my legs with his hands gripping my hips. His Adam’s apple bobbed, and my mouth went dry. “You’ve never seen me as anything other than Ben’s best friend,” he said, softly. “I offered to kiss you yesterday, and you thought I did it out of pity. But Cass…Cassie…” His voice turned deep, husky.

  There was something in his eyes that I hadn’t seen from any of the guys who’d kissed me today. Longing. I’d seen heat and desire, but I hadn’t seen true want. I hadn’t seen need. Not like I saw in Jared’s eyes now.

  Somehow, I managed to form words, but they were a breathless whisper. “I thought I was just Ben’s little sister to you. You know… just Little Cass.”

  He shook his head without moving his gaze from mine. “Not for a few years now.”

  I started to tremble. “I—I don’t see you that way anymore, either.”

  His lips twitched into a small smile, and his gaze fell to my mouth. The action left me breathless. I tried to gulp in some air, but it did no good. Nothing would stay in my lungs. I couldn’t breathe.

  Jared ducked his head and covered my mouth with a soft, almost timid kiss. He was as confident as Asher and Dom had been with the kissing part, but, beneath the kiss, there was a hint of vulnerability. He knew what he was doing, but he wasn’t entirely sure how he would be received. A part of him—hopefully a small part—was waiting for me to reject him. That part was going to be sorely disappointed.

  Thanks to Jared, and my first fifteen meaningless kisses, in this moment, I wasn’t scared at all. I wasn’t nervous or insecure. I wasn’t worried about what it would be like, or if I would be any good at it. I wasn’t worried about the when or where, and I knew it wasn’t with the wrong guy. I was simply ready and able to enjoy it. And savor the moment I did.

  I knew this was the kiss that counted, and I knew Jared was the guy I wanted. This was the one I would write down in my journal, and, later, when Selena inevitably found me and demanded every single detail, this is the kiss we would swoon over together. The one I was swooning over now.

  The contact made my blood boil. My heart pounded, my stomach twisted, and everything inside me felt as if it needed to be closer to him or I would burst. I reacted with my lips first, kissing him back hard enough to encourage him to deepen the kiss. He happily obliged.

  His hesitancy melted away, and a new urgency overtook him. This was the heat and the desire I’d felt before with some of my more passionate kisses. But, mixed with his desperate want of me, personally, and the shocking intensity of my own feelings, this kiss blew all of the others away. They couldn’t even compare.

  A blissful sigh escaped me, and I gasped, “Definitely real.”

  Jared grinned against my lips, and brought one of his hands to my cheek. The kiss morphed into something softer…sweeter. Again, this was new. Of all my kisses today, none of them had been given with so much care. So much gentleness. It was as if Jared wanted me to know that he felt more for me than just passion.

  I melted. Utterly and completely. Became mush. Every bone in my body turned to rubber. If I’d been standing, my knees would have buckled. As it was, I was only still perched on the fence because Jared had one of his arms around me. If not for his secure grip on me, I’d have fallen.

  Actually, I did fall. I fell head over heels. This was my sixteenth kiss, on my sixteenth birthday, by the sixteenth different guy—forgive me, person—yet it was really my first kiss, by the first guy that really mattered. This was my first real kiss. And it was everything I’d ever dreamed of.

  Eventually he broke the kiss, but he kept me in his arms as we both came back to our senses. “I told you I was going to give you a real kiss for your birthday.”

  I shook my head. “Better than real.”

  He smiled at my answer, but this time it wasn’t his award-winning smile. It was a better smile, a new smile, and one that was just for me. “Good. Then, will you go out with me?”

  I didn’t know what to say. Of course, by now, I understood that he liked me, but it was such a shock. And my own feelings had hit me so fast that I was still trying to get used to them.

  “I’ve liked you for a while, Cassie, but I didn’t think you were interested. And I was afraid you’d think it was weird because of Ben.”

  I laughed. “Ben will think it’s weird.”

  Actually, Ben was going to freak out. I almost couldn’t wait to tell him.

  Jared smirked. “I don’t care.”

  I matched his devilish grin. “Me either.”

  “So, is that a yes, then? To you and me?”

  As Kolby would say it was an Oh, hell yes! But I have a little more tact than my hopeless friend, so I kept that particular response to myself, and instead reached into my front pocket. I pulled out the penny Jared had given me this morning and placed it in the palm of his hand. “Looks like this is your lucky day.”

  While he smiled down at the coin, I wrapped my arms around his neck. “You know? I’ve received a lot
of kisses today. I think it’s about time I give one.”

  Jared grinned. “I guess it really is my lucky day.”

  Make that seventeen kisses in one day. That’s definitely got to be a record.


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  Kelly Oram wrote her first novel at age fifteen–a fan fiction about her favorite music group, The Backstreet Boys, for which family and friends still tease her. She’s obsessed with reading, talks way too much, and loves to eat frosting by the spoonful. She lives outside of Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and four children. Connect with Kelly through social media: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Blog.

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  Kelly Oram, Sixteen Kisses: A novella



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