Dear life, p.19
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       Dear Life, p.19

           Meghan Quinn
 

  “How did you know that?” I ask, slightly breathless.

  “Because,” the hand that was on my hip cups my cheek and his thumb brushes against my skin, “I saw the same tortured look in your eyes in my reflection.”

  Leaning forward, Jace brings his lips inches away from mine. I freeze, my breath caught in my throat, my knees feeling weak. Pressing those last few inches, I place my hand on his chest, stopping him before our mouths connect. “I can’t.”

  Lifting his head but still staying close, he says, “You can’t, but you want to?”

  Oh hell, do I want to. I want to so freaking bad. If I didn’t feel so conflicted, I would be wrapping my legs around Jace right now, begging him to take me back to his place. I’ve never been the girl to sleep with any man who shows interest, but Jace is right. From the moment we met, there has been that connection. Empathy. Plus, he’s everything a woman dreams of in a man. Strong, passionate, caring, sweet, and sexy. His short, dirty-blond hair, deep blue eyes, and powerful athletic build lure me toward him, like a piece of metal to a magnet.

  Swallowing hard, I nod. “I want to, Jace. I so want to.”

  He rests his forehead against mine, his eyes closed, soaking in the air around us. “I want to get lost in you, Hollyn. In your touch, in your body, in your spirit. I want to forget with you, but I also want to experience joy again.” He sighs and opens his eyes. “But I can wait until you’re ready because you’re worth the wait.”

  “You barely know me.”

  His thumb runs along my jaw and across my lips. “You’re right; I barely know you, but what I do know I like. You’re stronger than any woman I’ve ever met. You’re loyal, and deep down you want to learn to live again. You want so desperately to flip the page to a new chapter. I see it in your eyes. Your ambition is sexy, your courage intoxicating, and fuck, your heart . . . it’s so damn beautiful.” Lifting his chin, he rests his lips on my forehead and presses down a kiss. “I can wait, Hollyn. I want to wait.”

  Those words.

  They’re all the confirmation I need.

  So I jump.

  DAISY

  “Did you know you’re not supposed to hang your sweaters, but you’re supposed to fold them instead?” I ask Amanda, who is lying on my bed, feet up in the air, and her elbows propping up her head.

  “Where did you hear that from? I hang mine and they seem fine.”

  “Tsk, tsk.” I jokingly shake my finger. “Stacy London, fashionista extraordinaire, specifically said by hanging your sweaters, you’re pulling on the fibers, stretching them out. It’s best to fold them and lay them nicely on your shelves or in your drawers.”

  Cocking her head to the side, Amanda asks, “Since when did you start listening to Stacy London?”

  “Cable has been an interesting thing for me.” I smile. “I’ve learned a lot from the happenings on television.”

  “I’m afraid to ask what else you’ve learned.”

  I wave her off. “Oh, nothing too randy. Get your mind out of the gutter.” Folding another sweater, I ask, “Did you know there are workout channels on there? People in spandex, on a beach, lifting weights. It’s quite fascinating. I join in on occasion with cans of soup.”

  Propping herself up, Amanda asks, “So while Matt and I are at work, you’re here, in our living room, in your quilted vests, lifting cans of soup with spandex-clad people on a beach?”

  “Why, yes? Is that odd?”

  “Sort of.” She laughs.

  “Don’t worry. I don’t wear the quilted vests anymore.”

  “Oh, good, because that’s what the weird part was.”

  Beep Beep.

  Shaking my head at my sister, I check my phone.

  Carter: I’m outside your place. Get your ass down here, and wear something warm.

  “What?” I ask out loud and quickly go to my window where I part the blinds to look outside. Sure enough, Carter is outside the house, straddling his motorcycle, looking out at the street.

  “What’s going on?” Amanda asks, following my movements.

  “Carter is here. He wants me to go meet him outside.”

  “On his motorcycle?”

  Dropping the blinds, I quickly find my black ankle boots in my closet and put them on over the skinny black jeans I’m wearing, zipping them up rather quickly. Eager to get outside, I throw on my leather jacket, the only color besides black I’m wearing is the white shirt tucked into the front of my jeans.

  “It wouldn’t be the first time I rode it.”

  “Daisy,” Amanda reprimands in a joking tone, “you need to tell me about these things.”

  “Well, I’m telling you now.” On my way out, I swing my purse over my shoulder and head down the stairs.

  “When should I expect you home?”

  I’m putting on my gloves when I look up at Amanda who is holding on to the banister of the stairs, a smug look on her face.

  “I have no clue.”

  “Text me?”

  “Of course. See you, sis.”

  Excitement fills me as I open the door to find Carter staring down at his phone until he hears me approaching. His eyes turn dark as he eats me up with those chocolate pools. The way he looks at me . . . what it does to me . . . it’s like one look unleashes a thousand butterflies in my stomach.

  Never breaking his gaze, he puts down the kickstand of his motorcycle and throws one leg over the middle, dismounting the bike. His black jeans cling to his legs, riding low on his waist, his grey Henley looks painted across his strong chest, and his black leather jacket only intensifies his dark features, making him sinister, yet sexy.

  Eep, yes, he’s so freaking sexy.

  The total bad boy with the teddy-bear heart. That’s him. I’m sure if I told him that, he would scoff and then go and do something bad just to tarnish his image.

  Swaggering toward me, his hand caressing his jaw, assessing me, we meet in the middle of the sidewalk outside my sister’s house. I wait for him to say something, but instead, he takes a deep breath and once again looks me up and down, the intensity of his perusal so strong I shiver.

  “Are you going to be warm in that?”

  I nod because right about now, my body feels like it’s about to combust from the heat coiling inside.

  “You sure?”

  “I’m sure,” I answer back, just wishing he would stop staring at me so intensely.

  “All right.” He links our hands together, melting me right on the spot, and pulls me toward the bike. “Ready to learn something new?”

  Learn something new? What? My brain feels like mush. Pretty sure if I were a cartoon, my head would be spinning around and I would be constantly spitting out the word, “doye” every two seconds.

  “Are you?” Carter asks again, shaking my hand.

  I mentally chastise myself and formulate a response. “What?” So clever, I know.

  Smirking at me, he tucks a strand of my hair behind my ear and says, “Are you ready to learn something new? You know, our next challenge?”

  Our next challenge . . . he smells so good.

  Focus, Daisy.

  “Oh, yes. I’m ready. What are we doing?”

  “You’ll see.” He reaches behind him into a compartment under the seat of his bike and pulls out a helmet . . . with a daisy sticker on the front. “Here, put this on.”

  A daisy sticker, right there on the front. A daisy sticker for me. Oh, be still my heart, I might just attack this man when he’s not looking.

  “It has a daisy on it.”

  “So?” He shrugs his shoulders, passing it off as nothing.

  “Did you put this daisy sticker on it.”

  Sighing, he looks down at the helmet in my hands and asks, “Are you going to make a big deal about this? Because if so, I’ll just peel the damn thing off.”

  “No.” I move the helmet away from him so he can do no such thing. “You better not take off this daisy.”

  “Then just put the damn thing on and stop making
a big deal.”

  Heaven forbid he lets me indulge in his soft side.

  I do as I’m told and snap the helmet in place, making sure the chinstrap is tight enough. No point in wearing a helmet if you’re not going to wear it properly. When I’m all set, Carter checks the helmet, making sure I have it properly in place, making me sink a little further into being crazy for the man.

  He turns to get on the bike but I stop him. “Hey.”

  He looks over his shoulder, giving me another once-over. “Yeah?”

  Being as brave as I can be, I circle him so we’re facing each other and slip my arms in his jacket and around his waist. Holding on tightly, I give him a hug, resting my helmeted head against his chest. Frozen, he doesn’t reciprocate the hug, but after a few seconds, he gingerly puts his arms around me and hugs me back, almost as if affection is a new thing to him.

  “Thank you, Carter. The helmet is perfect.”

  Pulling away, he puts his helmet on as well and says, “Yeah, it will be perfect when I make my friend Fitzy wear it one day.”

  He straddles his bike, kicks up the kickstand, and nods for me to hop on the back. Still new at the whole bike thing, I take my time getting on, making sure not to tip us both over only for the heavy machinery to fall on us. Once I’m situated, I slip my arms around Carter’s waist, loving the way I can feel his stomach muscles contract under my hold.

  “Ready?” he asks, the visor of his helmet still up.

  “Ready.” I grip him tighter.

  He flips his visor down, revs the engine, and in seconds, has us speeding down the road toward the highway.

  The wind whips by us, his cologne clogging my senses, putting me in a lustful fog where only Carter and I exist, everything else around us is at a standstill.

  This man, he makes me feel exhilarated, like a new person. I wonder, does he feel the same way around me? Is he just as exhilarated, just as excited when he’s around me?

  It’s almost impossible to think of myself being just as fascinating as Carter. The bitter bug of self-consciousness starts to rear its ugly head but I bite it back, willing myself to think positively. Carter would not come pick me up randomly, without warning, because he thought I was boring. I offer something to this friendship; I’m just not sure what it is quite yet.

  CARTER

  Focus on the goddamn road. Stop thinking about Daisy, wrapped around your waist, her fingers dancing across your abs, her head resting against your back, and those tight-as-fuck jeans she’s wearing.

  Focus on driving the bike and not getting in an accident.

  But hell, those jeans. The way her innocent eyes ate me up with excitement when she saw me. The way she practically bounced up and down with glee from the stupid sticker.

  Why did I put a sticker on it in the first place? Because I saw it in one of those little quarter-candy machines at the grocery store.

  Christ.

  What am I even doing picking her up?

  Who the hell am I kidding? I know exactly why I’m picking her up. I can’t get her out of my head. I tried, fuck did I try hard. But every time I made the attempt to forget about her, somehow, someway, she found her way back into my mind, with that infectious smile and her thirst for life.

  That’s why I found myself driving toward her place, a new helmet with a goddamn daisy sticker on the front tucked in my bike, and a plan to help continue her pursuit to experience new things.

  And hell, right about now, I’m not regretting that decision. Seeing her, after a few days of only feeding on the images in my head, was like a breath of fresh air. She renewed my spirit with one simple, yet gorgeous smile.

  How is that even possible? That this woman, who knows nothing except how to be positive, can have such an effect on me? Maybe that’s what I need in my life, a little positivity, even though the cards I’ve been dealt in this lifetime are pure shit.

  Either way, for whatever reason, I crave to be around her right now. She’s the only bright spot in my life. It might not be permanent—it can’t be permanent—but I’m going to be a selfish bastard and soak her up as much as possible, because at least around her, I don’t hate myself as much.

  I just hope she likes my idea for today.

  With her arms gripping me tightly, we fly down E-470 at eighty-five miles per hour, the dry, somewhat snow-covered Colorado landscape whizzing by us. We head north on the stretch of road toward Denver International Airport.

  In a blur, we pass housing developments, shopping centers, and flat plains, dried grass peeking out from under the light snow on the ground. It’s always said when you drive east in Colorado, you might as well be in Kansas because the terrain becomes extremely flat, very farm-like. It’s true. If I weren’t living in the city, I would live on the west side, near the mountains, where I can marvel at their size and expanse.

  But the city will have to do for now.

  I pull off at exit twenty-four and make a right off the highway, onto East Fifty-Sixth Ave. Farmland passes by, but it doesn’t take us long to get to where I want to go, an empty lot in the middle of nowhere.

  Once we arrive, I put the bike in park, pop the kickstand, and turn my head toward Daisy. “Swing around me.”

  “What?” she asks, confusion written all over her face.

  Instead of explaining, I just force her into position myself. I grab her legs and swing her around until she’s sitting on the little portion of the seat between me and the handle, her eyes looking straight into mine, her lips parted on a gasp.

  “Goodness.” Her legs drape over mine, and it’s an intimate position that I don’t mind one bit. Bastard. She’s an innocent, for fuck’s sake. Mind out of the gutter.

  Needing a little breathing room—for some reason my body seems to heat up whenever I’m around her—I take off my helmet and toss it into the soft dirt a few feet from the bike. I can feel the heat of my head, my hair damp from the helmet. She removes hers as well, but carefully leans down to place it on the ground beside us.

  “Do you think you can handle my bike?”

  Her eyes widen, searching me to see if I’m telling the truth. “You mean, drive your bike?”

  “Yeah. We have to learn something new. Why not learn how to drive a motorcycle?”

  The idea came to me when I was thinking about how hot Daisy would look driving it. I had to make the dream a reality. Had to. Like I said, bastard.

  She gulps hard, her hands resting at the base of my jacket, her fingers playing with the end. “Um, when we were told to learn something new, I was thinking of something more in line with learning a new knitting knot.”

  This comes as no surprise to me.

  “That’s too safe, Snowflake. You have to put yourself out there more. Knitting is in your wheelhouse, step outside your shell, like you’ve been trying to.”

  “By driving a motorcycle?” she asks, her voice rising with slight hysteria. “That seems a little extreme, don’t you think?”

  “Not at all.” I smile and cup her face. How is her skin so soft? “I’ll be behind you the whole time, guiding you.”

  “But I don’t have a license to drive one. I don’t want to get a ticket.”

  “You won’t get a ticket. We’re in the middle of nowhere. Now, are you going to grab life by the balls and do something unexpected, learn something new?”

  She bites her bottom lip adorably as she thinks. “Well, I’ve never really grabbed anything by the balls. Even a man.” Her face turns bright red. “Not that I want to grab a bunch of balls or anything, I just haven’t done it before.” Exhaling hard, she leans forward and says, “I hear when you grab a man’s testicles, you have to be gentle because they’re sensitive, is that true?”

  My hand drops from her face, my head flies back, and a bark of a laugh comes out of me from the serious tone coming from her. Is she really asking me about “testicles” right now?

  “What’s so funny?” she asks, swatting my stomach. “That’s a legitimate question.”

&nb
sp; “I don’t know.” I laugh some more. “Do you like it when your boobs are squeezed hard?”

  If I didn’t think her face could get any more red, I’d be wrong. She casts her eyes down and shakes her head. “I’ve, uh, never done the boob or testicle grabbing thing before.” Peeking up at me through her long, dark eyelashes, she says, “I’m a, uh, virgin.”

  This comes as no shock to me. I could have guessed that given how sheltered she was, but she hasn’t even fooled around?

  Curious, I push her a little. “Let me ask you this. Have you ever kissed anyone before?”

  Shying away, she shakes her head, no.

  Never been kissed? This beautiful, vivacious woman has never been kissed? How is that even possible? Those sweetheart lips are going to waste, just resting on her gorgeous face, never once connecting with another soul.

  Why do I feel the need to rectify that?

  Because her lips are one of the things I haven’t been able to out of my head the past few days. I want to know how they taste, how soft they are, how they would feel up against mine. Would it be serendipitous? Like we were meant to be?

  There’s a scary side of me that believes that very well could be true. I block out that side of me though. I can’t go there. Not right now, not with Daisy.

  Instead, I focus my attention back on her. “You’ve never been kissed, Daisy?”

  She shakes her head, unable to really look at me, so I fix that. Lifting her chin, I force her to make eye contact. Those depths of blue hit me hard, harder than I was expecting, drawing me closer. Slow, intense seconds pass between us, the air growing thicker with each breath despite being outside. The heady atmosphere sucks me into her intoxicating orbit. Just one taste, that’s all I want, just one simple taste.

  “Never been kissed, huh? We’re just going to have to change that now, won’t we?”

  Wrapping my hand behind her neck, I pull her forward, her hands now shaking against my thighs. I’m millimeters away from her mouth, our lips barely able to graze against each other. “Tell me to stop, Daisy. Tell me you don’t want this.”

 
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