Bringing You Back by Katherine May

“Jessa, did you hear me? He’s here, he’s back in town.”

I’d heard her. I’d heard her loud and clear, but what she didn’t understand was that at that exact moment my world started to spin. Like, really spin. I remember hearing that sometimes the room around you started to blur when you heard information that you weren’t expecting, but for me it was more like vertigo. Not that I’d ever experienced that stuff, but if I had, it would be just like what was happening to me at that exact moment.
Bringing You Back
Bringing You Back by Katherine May
“Jess, are you okay? Jessa!” I knew I was freaking my best friend, Kami, out, but what did she expect me to say? Lane was coming back. No, not coming back, he was back. Finally gaining control of myself, I looked at her. “I heard you. I’m just shocked, I guess.” Shocked was an understatement. Walking over and calmly placing her delicate hand on my shoulder, I put on my best façade and smiled brightly at her. “Really, I’m okay. I mean, it’s only been what, four years? How much different can he be?” The laugh that left my lips wasn’t mine. It was a fake Jessa that had taken over my body. She was trying to protect my heart that had finally been healed, put back as one. Lane Rhyer. It’s not like I hadn’t tried to talk to him since he’d moved, but I had a feeling he blamed me for what had happened. How could it have been my fault? I almost hated him back for riding me of his life. We were both going through something hard, and we should have done it together. Growing up on a farm in the middle of Kansas wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows, and having someone my age that was only a mile down the road was more of a blessing than I could have ever known. Sure our dads were the best of friends, but that didn’t automatically mean that we would hit it off. But we did. That was, until his dad rooted him up from my life because of something terrible and I lost him. He was my best friend for ten years, and then poof. He was a memory. “Shit, Kami. I really don’t want to see him.” I buried my face in my hands and finally realized that I could sit on her couch that was only a few inches behind me. Kami actually laughed at me and plopped down right next to my stiff body. “You’re being dramatic. I’m sure it’ll be fine. I mean, maybe he’ll be excited to see you. You two were pretty close at one point, right?” “Something like that.” I’d told Kami about Lane. Shit, we lived in a small country town, so she’d heard all the gossip. She only moved to our small town about two years ago, so she’d never met my ex-best friend. She’d only heard stories from our past, and really I only told her a few. For some reason it hurt to talk about him, like I’d actually mourned his death. But now he was back, and I had no idea what to expect. My Dad had to have known he was coming back, and that made me angry that he couldn’t have at least given me a warning. “Come on, it will be fine. Tomorrow is the first day of our senior year. It’s going to be awesome, and even if Lane has changed and turned into some huge ass jerk, you still have me. And Brady.” Her smile was actually a little contagious and I knew she was right. I wasn’t going to let Lane ruin my last year of high school, even if he hated my guts. “You’re right, I don’t know why I’m acting so dramatic about this. I’ve got a hot boyfriend and a great group of friends. Lane probably won’t even talk to me, not after how he left.” Kami looked at me with a little more pity and I hated that I made her feel the need to. “I know you told me that your dads had a huge argument, but you’ve never actually told me what happened.” Leaning back on the couch and sighing, I didn’t really want to open that can of worms. I felt like my life was finally going in a positive direction, and all the bullshit that happened over four years ago was finally being forgotten. But nope, the can exploded. “Can we talk about it another time? I don’t feel like hashing it all out right now. Besides, I better get home and see if my dad heard that Lane is back.” Kami stood up and pulled me with her. “I understand. Call me if you need anything. Okay?” “Okay,” I whispered and leaned over to kiss my best friend on her cheek. What would I do without this chick? Kami pretended to swoon and rubbed the spot on her cheek where I had just had my lips and gushed how Jessa Stevens had just kissed her. “I’m never washing this face again.” “You’re dumb,” I said laughing and walked over to her front door. It was so nice having a friend that lived in town. Somewhere I could go and hang out in between practices, meetings, or events. “But, I love you.” “Love you, you dirty little B.” Even if she was a little crazy, I loved her too. Walking over to my Chevy truck, I opened the driver’s door and jumped inside. I remember when there was a time that I was glad Lane had been held back in first grade, because that meant that we would always be in school together. But now I would give anything for him to be in college. Anywhere but in my hometown. For some reason I had a deep feeling in my gut that my world was about to be turned upside down. Little did I know how right I was. Chapter Two My parents started their farm before I was even a thought. Inheriting farm ground as a teenager wasn’t exactly my dad’s life plan, but he accepted the challenge and has been a farmer ever since. We mainly grew corn and wheat, but he was the busiest, hardest working guy I’d ever known. Living fifteen miles out of a small mid-western Kansas town wasn’t really that bad. I loved having all of the open space and wild country to explore. The worst part about the drive was that I always, every day, had to drive by the place where I’d spent countless hours as a kid. Lane’s house was now abandoned. The last tenant left about a year ago and it’s been vacant ever since. It looks so different now, almost like a ghost had moved in. Thinking about Lane was consuming my mind, and I realized that I finally had almost gotten completely over him. Sure he not only broke my heart, but he broke his mother’s as well. Watching her live without her son was just as painful as losing my best friend. So why now? Why move back our senior year after all this time? I needed answers and I was damn sure going to get them. When I finally pulled into my long driveway, I could see my house in the distant. Nothing looked different. There weren’t any extra cars around, and the only light on was in the living room. Maybe Kami had heard wrong. Maybe it wasn’t Lane that was back in town. It could have been an easy telephone mix-up. I mean, maybe someone downtown said, “Hey did you know that Cane is moving back?” Then, the guy next to him was having problems with his hearing aid that day and thought he said Lane. Shit, I was dreaming now. Of course Lane Rhyer was back in town. Kami said everyone was talking about it. Everyone except me. People are stupid, they knew it would be hard for me to have him back. I guess they were just sparing my feelings. “Shit, well here we go.” I tried to muster all the will power I could find when I finally made it to the front door. I was going to walk right in and demand to know what the hell was going on. No matter what my Dad and Janice said, I was getting the truth. Hearing the front door slam shut behind me, I knew that my presence was known. “Jessa, come in to the living room. We need to talk.” Yeah, no shit. “I would say so,” was all I could think to say back. Now, sassing my dad was never allowed. He grew up with the olden day rules that kids were respectful to their elders. My backside wasn’t a stranger to his leather belt. “Just get in here.” Oops, now he was pissed at me. “Yes, sir.” I shouted back and for some strange reason I stopped at a large mirror that was hanging in the middle of the hallway that led right into the living room. My long, wavy, golden blonde hair looked like a tangled mess. Running my fingers through it barely helped, but I did have to say my make-up still looked good, even after one hell of a volleyball practice. “Jessa, now please.” “Hold your horses, I’m coming,” I whispered more to myself, because that definitely wouldn’t have been acceptable. I wish that someone would have warned me, or that my dad would have actually learned how to text so he could have told me what I was about to walk in to. Janice could have at least said something, but no. When I turned that corner into our small living room, it felt like all of the air had been shoved out of my body from the inside out. Like I was vomiting my lungs out. Lane wasn’t just back in town, he was sitting on my couch, in my home. “Hey, sis. Look who’s back in town.” I knew all of the color had drained from face, but I couldn’t help it. The fifteen-year-old boy that I had last seen was gone, and it his place was the most drop dead gorgeous nineteen-year-old that I’d ever laid eyes on. And he just happened to be my step-brother. Chapter Three “Well, aren’t you going to say hello?” Lane was mocking me, and he was being an ass, but I didn’t know what else to do. “Hello?” was all I said and the most beautiful sound left his lips. God, I missed that laugh. “Lane, what are you doing here?” I could tell that my dad didn’t know what to say or do, and Janice had the same exact look plastered across her face. “Why, mom didn’t tell you?” Lane looked over at Janice and winked in her direction. “No, actually no one told me.” I crossed my arms across my chest and gave my dad a knowing look. A look that only a teenage daughter could create. “Dad, can you please tell me what’s going on?” My dad’s a big guy, always has been, and the only other man that matched his size was Lane’s dad. So when my dad stood and Lane followed his movements, it took me by surprise when Lane was just an inch or two away from matching his height. Everyone in school made fun of him for his small size back in middle school, but no one would be laughing now. “Jessa, sweetheart, come and sit down. We need to tell you something.” “I would say so,” was all I grumbled when my dad reached out and grabbed my arm, directing me to a chair that was right next to the couch. “As you can see, Lane is back in town. Janice and I didn’t find out until yesterday that this was happening, and we both thought he wouldn’t be here until next week. We thought we’d have time to discuss this with you.” Flicking my gaze between my dad, Janice, and Lane made me even more confused. After all this time, all this time spent hating the three of us, why now? “Why?” I asked in a much tougher voice than I had tried for. I was proud of myself. “I’d thought you’d be excited to see me,” Lane grinned while sitting back down on the couch, prompting one of his large legs on the other. “Lane, be nice.” Janice’s voice was also stern, but it had a hint of desperation in it. I couldn’t imagine what she was thinking, seeing her son for the first time in four years. Remember how I mentioned that our dads were best friends? They were, and everyone knew it. That’s why when Lane and I walked in one day to find his mother and my father on the back porch, we didn’t know what the hell to do. “God, I think I’m blind!” I screamed when we both finally realized what the hell was going on and bee-lined it out the back door. “What was that?” I shrieked and almost ran into one of our huge oak trees before Lane caught up with me and grabbed my arm. “Jesus, Jessa, calm down. You’re going to hurt yourself. Take your hand off your eyes.” When I finally met his gaze, I knew what this meant. “Why aren’t you freaking out? You saw that, right?” His hand was now covering his face. Finally, he slowing moved it down to his chin and then he looked up at the sky. “Yes, I saw your dad banging my mom.” “Lane, look at me.” And he did. He looked at me with anger, confusion, and most of all resentment. “Did you know about this?” “What? Are you kidding? Of course not. Did you?” “What’s my dad going to say? He’s going to be broken. Your dad has always been a piece of shit. I can’t believe he’s doing this to us. To my family.” I’d never heard Lane talk like that before. He’d never said anything mean or hurtful to me, and honestly that hurt me more than what we’d both just witnessed. We needed to be there for each other, not the opposite. “Lane, how can you say that? My dad has always treated you like a son.” Lane laughed, but not in a, ‘I just told you the best joke,’ kind of way. He laughed in a sick, evil way. “Son? Well, looks like I may just be that. Fuck this, Jessa. I can’t believe what we just saw.” And on that cue, out ran my dad and Lane’s mom, fully clothed and coming our way. “Nice? Right Mom, I’ll be nice.” Lane laughed again and finally made eye-contact with me. My best friend was gone, and in his place was a young man filled with hate. “Lane, you will be nice. You’re in our town now and you know I demand respect.” Lane just rolled his eyes and half-ass saluted my dad. “Right, Dad. This has been fun but I’m going to head out and see what some old friends are up to. It was sure swell reconnecting.” No one made a move, except Lane, and he was out the door before the rest of us even had a clue about what was going on. After the front door slammed shut, I heard my pick-up roar to life. That got me to move. “He’s taking my truck?” I squealed and ran as fast as I could, to hopefully stop him. “Lane!” I screamed, running after my prized possession. My truck that I’d saved up for and worked my ass off for three longs summers. “I swear to God if you hurt her, I’ll kill you!” Was all I got out before my tail lights bounced over the horizon. A few seconds later I felt a hand on my shoulder. “I’m so sorry, sweetie. I really had no idea he was coming back today.” “I’m just confused and supper pissed that he took my truck. If he wrecks her, well he better run and hide.” My dad’s chuckle made me sigh and I knew that it was time to learn some things about Lane that probably wouldn’t be all that wonderful to hear. “Tell me everything, dad. Why is he back?” “Come into the kitchen, Jessa dear. We’ll tell you everything we know.” *** An hour later and I’d learned more about Lane Rhyer than I probably knew the whole ten years we were best friends. “Why didn’t you tell me any of this before?” I finally said after hearing how Lane’s life was basically spiraling out of control. “Jessa, I knew that if I told you about Lane that you would go running to help him. I didn’t want to lose you too. You staying here in Rockford was the best place for you. Your dad and I both agreed.” Janice and my dad knew they had messed up when they had their affair. Hurting Lane’s dad was hard for them, but losing Lane all together was earth shattering. Janice had no idea that her actions would result in losing her child. But after losing my mother when I was six to breast cancer, it was selfishly nice to have a woman around. Even if it took me a good year to get over the fact that their affair caused me to lose my Lane. “I get that, but it sounds like he was really in some deep shit,” I barely got my sentence out before my dad’s hand smacked me in the back of my head. “Language, Jessa.” “Alright, geez,” I laughed and playfully shoved his shoulder with mine. Janice smiled at me and handed me my tea that she’d just refilled. “When his father died, I tried to go the service but Lane had written me a letter that said if I showed up he would leave. I didn’t want to do that to him, so I secretly went by myself and hid in the background. I had no idea that Dan’s heart was that bad. Lane must have been a mess, and I wasn’t there for him.” Janice’s silent tears tugged at my heart, and my dad and I just stood there, not knowing what to say or do. “Janice, you tried contacting both of them. You did everything, you even staked out in their front lawn. You couldn’t live that way forever. They made their choice, just like you made yours.” “Why are you so wise, child?” Janice said and we all let out a quick laugh, before remembering why we were gathered in the kitchen. “What are we going to do? He lost the most important man in his life only a few weeks ago. He’s been a mess in school for the past few years and he hates us.” I looked between my dad and Janice, hoping they at least had some kind of plan. “We’ll figure it out, but right now you need to head up to bed. You have a big day tomorrow.” My dad’s smile really didn’t do much to lift my spirits, but of course I didn’t argue. “Night,” I said quietly and headed up the stairs to my room. I started to wonder where in the world Lane was going to be sleeping. Hopefully not in the guest room that just happened to be right next to mine. My dad wouldn’t do that, would he? Put an eighteen-year-old boy right next to my room? But then why would he even worry about it. Lane hated my guts. The curiosity finally got the better of me, and right as I passed our guest bedroom, I gently tapped the door open and there was my answer. Lane’s bags were thrown carelessly all over his new bed. Chapter Four “Jessa, don’t be a baby. Just close your eyes and jump!” “Shut-up, Lane! I’m not a baby, I’m just judging the distance so I don’t break my leg. Be quiet and let me think.” He didn’t really need to know that I was about to pee my pants. Especially because if my father found out what I was doing, well that would probably make me not see the sun for a few days, because he’d have me on lock-down. “Okay, I’m jumping!” Falling thirty feet to what was called the Black Hole, was nothing like I imagined it would be. It was not only terrifying; it was exhilarating. “I can’t believe you did that!” Lane screamed and swam right over to me. “Shit, Jess!” He was laughing and slightly drowning all at the same time. “Swim back to the rock, you idiot. I don’t want to save you and get my freaking heart back in my chest at the same time!” I yelled and laughed when his poor attempt at the dog paddle happened right in front of me. Finally, we were both pulling ourselves back on the huge rock in the middle of our small swimming hole. “That was crazy. I’ve never felt anything like that. Seriously, why have we waited so long to- “Lane wasn’t listening to a damn thing I was saying. No, his eyes were practically bulging out of his eyes and they were directed right at my chest. “What are you looking at?” I asked but when I looked down at my white, very see through tank, I’d answered my own question. Being caught ogling my chest, I finally got Lane to look at me. “Nothing, sorry. I know right? What a jump.” Eyeing him carefully, I knew there was something that was off about him. He was starting to act funny. I mean, I know that my chest had practically exploded over the past year, but it’s not like he didn’t know I had boobs. “Lane, were you checking out my boobs?” Lane coughed and adjusted his shorts, looking everywhere but my face. “No, why would I look at your boobs. That’s gross.” “You think boobs are gross? Do I need to know something?” Lane finally looked at me and the blush that filled his cheeks was actually adorable. “No, they aren’t gross, Jessa. Just yours, okay?” Now that hurt. Why were my boobs gross? “That’s mean, Lane. Why? Because they aren’t Kathy King’s boobs?” “Whatever, I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” “I know she flashed you after P.E. last week.” That got his attention. “Who told you that?” Jeff Adamson. That’s who, but I wasn’t a rat. “No one, it’s just going around the school. I don’t care that she did that, but don’t call my boobs gross. In fact, I bet mine are bigger.” “I can’t really see yours that well.” And then something weird happened. Something kind of shifted between us. I had the huge urge to lift my shirt up and prove to him that my boobs were not gross. I’d never done anything like that with Lane, or any guy for that matter. “If I show you my boobs, you can’t tell anyone. If you do, I’ll tell everyone that you wet your bed until you were nine.” Lane shifted uncomfortably on the rock and looked around, I’m guessing to make sure we were alone. “I would never do that to you.” Reaching around the back of my tank, I grabbed my swimsuit and pulled the string until I felt my top fall down to my lap. Shit, I was about to show Lane my boobs, but again, some part of me wanted to. To show him that I wasn’t just his best friend. That my boobs were just as good as miss fancy herself. “Ready? I’m just going to show you one time, so don’t you dare ask me to ever show you them again, Lane Rhyer.” Keeping my eyes on Lane, I slowly lifted my very wet, white tank top and showed him everything I had to offer. His eyes never left my chest. In fact, if I wasn’t watching him so closely, I would have missed it. I would have missed his tongue glide quickly across his top lip. I would have missed how his pupils dilated, and how his hand went straight to the front of his swim shorts. Because if I wouldn’t have seen those small, little things, I would have believed what he said next. “Yup, gross.” And his splash in the water let me know that he may have told me that he didn’t like what he saw, but his body movements told me something else. However, being a thirteen-year-old newly developing teen, his reaction crushed me. Beep. Beep. Beep, beep beep beep. “Okay, I’m awake.” Alarm clocks suck, but not as much as waking up on the first day of your senior year, knowing what could have been an amazing year, was going to probably be the exact opposite. “You’re done, thank you very much.” Pushing the off button wasn’t what I wanted to do, but I knew if I wanted to look my best on my first day of school, that it would have to happen. Checking my phone, I had my normal morning text from my boyfriend, Brady. Morning, babe. Can’t wait to see you. I wish I would have just come out last night, to give you a goodnight kiss. Did I mention he loved me? Like full on obsessed, loved me? Brady was the typical high school dreamboat. Captain of the football team, most likely to receive a full ride to K-State, and only had eyes for me. Every girl in school pretended to love me, but secretly hated my guts for dating him. Especially my nemesis, Kathy freaking King. Yes, the same Kathy that flashed Lane when we were younger. “Morning, can’t wait to see you, too.” Now don’t get me wrong, I liked Brady. Very much. He’s easy on the eyes and made me laugh. I never considered him the sharpest tool in the shed, but he was the perfect boyfriend for high school. And he respected me, knowing that I wasn’t ready to take our relationship to the next level. Which was very important to me. Forty-five minutes later I was ready to go when I heard my pick-up start up out in front of the house. “Oh, no you aren’t!” I yelled and made a mad dash down the stairs. “Lane!” I screamed and rounded the corner to the kitchen just in time to see Lane leaning against the counter, eating a toaster strudel. “Problem, sis?” This most definitely wasn’t my best friend anymore. Some giant asshole, with an extremely, annoyingly amazing build took his place, and was now calling me his sister. Well, two can play at that game. If he wanted to be a jerk, so could I. I must have taken him off guard because when I marched straight up to him and smacked his strudel right out of his hands, making it spin and flip onto the kitchen counter, he didn’t have a witty comeback. “Don’t call me your sister, asshole.” I said between clinched teeth and went to grab my backpack by the front door. “Bye dad. Bye, Janice. I’m heading to school,” I said in my sweetest voice, but just before I got my last word out, Janice was flying down the stairs with a camera in her hands. “I want to get a picture, hold on!” she said with way too much excitement, and looked like she had practically just gotten out of bed. Which was unusual because she was typically up before even my dad, feeding our animals. “One picture,” I said quickly and posed by the back door. “Lane, honey. I’d love for you to be in this, too.” Just when I thought Lane might cave, he stepped around me and headed out the door. “No, thanks.” I shrugged my shoulders at Janice and smiled brightly for her. She really was a nice lady, and as much as she didn’t want to admit it, having Lane write her off as his mother was taking its toll on her. “Thanks, Hun. Have a great first day. Your dad says goodbye and wanted to be here, but he’s out messing with a sprinkler.” “No prob. Tell him bye for me.” I leaned over and placed a quick kiss on her cheek. “And try not to stress about Lane; I’m sure it’ll get better.” Janice gave me a sad smile, and I could practically hear her thinking that it was a nice thought. Stepping outside, it finally dawned on me why Lane had started my pick-up. “I’m not letting you ride with me to school. You’ll have to figure out another way to get there.” Lane actually laughed and walked over to the driver’s side. “You’re right, I’m not riding with you. You’re riding with me to school.” Who in the hell did this guy think he was? “You’re not driving my truck, again, Lane. Don’t even think about it. I’m still pissed at you for taking it last night without even asking me. We aren’t friends anymore.” I don’t know if it was in my imagination, but for a split second it almost looked like Lane was hurt by my words. If it was there, it didn’t last but a second because Lane made a mad dash to open the door before I took off running in his direction. “Lane Rhyer, don’t you even think about it!” I squealed as he tried to shut the door on me, but I pounced like a lion and came barreling in, landing right on his lap. “I will hurt you!” I screamed and did the one thing I knew he’d hate. Reaching up and finding his nipple through his think cotton shirt was easy, trying to rip the damn thing off was the hard part. “Shit, Jessa!” was all I got out before he started to twist and turn, bucking me off his lap and back out the door. “I was just messing with you; you didn’t need to rip my damn nipple off.” Satisfied, I smiled when he passed by me and walked around to the passenger side. “You always were easy to win over with a little titty-twister.” Lane didn’t say anything; he didn’t need to. I knew there was going to be a bruise there in the morning. The ride in to town was very uncomfortable. Gone was my friend that I could talk to for hours, and in his place was a foreigner. Lane did everything in his power to ignore me. It didn’t matter what question I’d had planned to ask him, because the minute I pulled my truck in reverse, he popped his earphones in and listened to music so loud, I could actually make out the singer’s words. What he didn’t know was that I didn’t want to talk to him just as much as he didn’t want to talk to me. When he left us, four years ago, he took a piece of me with him. He didn’t treat me like the friend I thought I was, but more like a stranger. Yes, I was royally pissed off at my dad for some time after I’d found out about the affair, but when some secrets came out that were just as alarming, it made me sympathize for the two of them. Janice finally won me over and I’ve been happy for them for years now. In fact, Janice is as close to a mother figure as I’ll ever have. Which makes it extremely awkward between Lane and I, because what we never talked about was when our bodies started to change, started to morph into young adults, so did our friendship. “What in the hell are you wearing, Jessa?” Lane’s words cut a little deep, but I wasn’t going to let him notice. “It’s called make-up, dumb shit.” “Dumb shit? Really?” His cocked eyebrow, letting me know that he wasn’t expecting that reaction out of me. I was rarely ever mean to him. Lane and I were sitting on top of a few hay bales during a hot summer day, about a month before he would get a little show of my now growing chest. For some reason, I’d decided to sneak in some eyeliner and mascara at my last Walmart visit, which would have gotten me killed if my dad would have found out. “Don’t like me calling you that? Then don’t act like one.” “I’ve just never seen you with make-up on. You look… different.” I gave in and finally glanced over at him and gave him a stern look. “If you call me ugly, I’m going to punch you in your face.” Lane’s belly laugh made me crack a small smile, but what surprised me the most was his next statement. “I wasn’t going to say that at all. It’s just that you look, well, really pretty.” I could feel the warmth spread across my cheeks and I knew I was full on blushing. Lane never gave me girly compliments, because our relationship just wasn’t like that. But I could tell he was starting to check out the girls in our class more, and even talked about maybe inviting a few to hang out with us. For some reason, I hated that thought. Lane was my best friend, and I didn’t like thinking about sharing him. “Are you going to just sit there like an idiot, or are you going to come inside?” Lane’s rough voice broke my thoughts, and I realized that we were in the school parking lot, but I wasn’t moving. I quickly rolled my eyes and reached behind my seat to grab my bag. “Whatever. I have volleyball practice after school, so if you want a ride you’ll have to wait. Or, you can find your own way home.” “Sassy today. I like it,” Lane said and shot me a quick wink, which just made me want to rip his eyeball out. “Sure,” was all I said before I slammed my door and noticed Brady’s black mustang pull up beside us. I loved his car, maybe more that I would have liked to admit. Okay, maybe it was the sole reason I even agreed to go out with him in the first place. I know, shallow moment. “Babe!” I swear I heard Lane let out a little grunt when Brady stepped out and embraced me in a full on hug. My skin-tight leggings and loose white tee left little to the imagination, and I couldn’t lie if anyone asked me if I had thought of Lane when I picked out my outfit, because for some reason, I needed to show him that he wasn’t the only one who had done some growing up. “Hi,” I whispered and place a soft kiss on his lips. I know he was surprised by my action, because I was a firm believer in no PDA. Kissing never happened at school, let alone in the middle of a parking lot. Brady pulled back and smiled at me brightly. “I like this new senior side to you.” I just laughed and glanced over at Lane, who was watching me like a hawk. He looked pissed, like he wanted to rip me out of Brady’s arms, but I knew that was crazy. He basically hated every single part of me. “Is that Lane?” Brady asked just loud enough so he could hear. I pulled him over to the other side of the truck, but before I could get a word out, Lane turned and walked toward the school, not looking back once in my direction. “Yeah, that’s Lane. Don’t worry about him, he has the biggest chip on his shoulder that I’ve ever seen.” “I can’t imagine moving to a new school right before senior year. I’m sure he’s going through a lot. You know?” “You’re a great guy, you know that Brady Waters?” Brady smiled and went in for another kiss, but I dodged him just in time, pretending like I wanted to get in to school before the bell rang. Chapter Five Looking down at my watch for the hundredth time didn’t help improve my mood. I’d been waiting for Lane for the past thirty minutes, and was about to give up on him and go home. I knew he had a cell, but I never got his number. To hell with you, Lane Rhyer. But just as I thoughts those words, I saw him walking out of the stadium with a perky blonde girl. Squinting my eyes just a little more, I could finally make out who the cheerleader was. Kathy freaking King. That bitch was always in my business and interfering with my life. I thought I’d finally gotten rid of her last year when Brady had to practically tell her in front of the entire cafeteria that he was with me, and that she needed to stop calling him. She cried and ran out of the room, finally giving up on going after everything I had. Bitch. “Oh, Jessa. I didn’t think you’d wait up for me. No need to, Kathy here said she’d give me a ride out to your house.” Lane looked pleased, probably because if looks could kill, that fake blonde bitch would be a red and black cheerleader puddle right about then. “Hey, Jessa. Can you believe Lane is back? And look how freaking hot he is? You always were a looker, but damn. When I saw him, my insides flipped.” Her giggle almost made me throw up a little in my mouth, but Lane looked more than amused. “That’s great, Kathy.” I smiled tightly at her and stepped around my truck, letting my full appearance show. Lanes eyes bulged when he saw me in my volleyball practice uniform, and he couldn’t hide his wandering eyes making a complete pass over my body. My legs were a lot longer and leaner than the last time he saw me, and from what I was seeing, he liked them. “It is great, and it’s also great that Lane took my advice and went out for the football team. Now I get to cheer for him all season!” Her squeal made me wince and I couldn’t imagine Lane actually wanting to be around that chick. Even though she was super easy, she was ten times more annoying. Looking over at Lane, he put his arm around miss Barbie and squeezed her. “This one is trouble, that’s for sure.” Kathy’s giggle was all I could take, and so I rolled my eyes and opened my door. “Again, that’s so great.” Lane leaned down and whispered something in Kathy’s ear, making her pout like a damn two-year-old. “I can take you, Lane. It’s not a big deal.” Lane said something else I couldn’t hear, and just as I jumped in my truck and started to shut my door, Lane ran over and opened the passenger side. “I hate to make her drive all the way out.” I rolled my eyes, but secretly couldn’t help the satisfaction that she wouldn’t be able to take him home. Take that, Kathy freaking King. “Whatever. This is the last time I’ll wait for you, just so you know.” After pulling out of the school parking lot, Lane reached over and turned on the radio to what was once our favorite station. With us both being country kids, we loved our country music. I wasn’t sure if he still liked it, but it made me smile when Blake Shelton filled my cab. “So, how was your first day?” Lane talking to me threw me off for a second, and it made me a little skeptical. “Why? I thought you didn’t care about me.” Covering his chest like I’d actually stabbed him, he looked at me with a fake, shocked expression. “Jessa, I’m appalled! Of course I care. I’m your brother.” I reached over and tried to smack him in the chest. “Shut up, and you’ll never be my brother, so please stop saying that.” Lane’s laugh wasn’t his usual boisterous sound, but at least he wasn’t being a complete prick anymore. “Okay, fine. But seriously, you didn’t even look at me in English Lit. That hurt, Jessa. Really hurt.” “Oh, whatever. I figured you wanted nothing to do with me.” I knew he was messing with me, but for some reason I loved that he was even speaking to me. “But, fine. My day was actually really good. I made captain, and we have a good chance at taking state this year.” “Captain, huh?” “Yes, captain.” I wasn’t sure where he was going with this conversation, and I didn’t want to get too comfortable. We’d both gone so long not being friends, but for some reason it was just always so easy with him. Our friendship took off right away when we were kids, and even now being around him felt, well, easy. “That’s cool, Jess.” Hearing him call me Jess made my heart flip in my chest. I felt like my old friend was back for a split second, but then he continued talking. “Yeah, I don’t know about your football team here. I had no idea our captain was such a tool.” Giving Lane a sideways glance, I knew what he was doing. “Brady is not a tool.” Lane laughed and slouched down in his seat a little, getting more comfortable. “He’s a big freaking tool. Why in the world are you dating that guy? Is he really that good in bed?” “Lane!” I shrieked and wacked my hand hard across his chest, which really didn’t do much because his chest felt like a freaking rock. “Shut-up, we haven’t even gone there yet.” I couldn’t chance looking over at him, I mean we were back in each other’s life not even a day, and here I was telling him my sexual secrets. “Interesting,” was all he said before he popped his headphones back in his ears. *** The next few weeks went down in a monotonous routine. Lane was pretty much a prick every single day, and Kathy King was like an annoying hemorrhoid that wouldn’t get off Lane’s body. I knew he didn’t like her, and that her annoying cheerleading attitude was driving him crazy, but for some reason he was allowing her attachment. We barely spoke to each other, and when we were home he would stay locked up in his room or in the basement. I gave him his privacy because it almost didn’t seem worth it to try anymore. Hearing nasty, mean words come out of my ex-best friend’s mouth was hard enough, but to have him look at me with so much hatred was the dagger in the heart. My dad and Janice tried their best with him as well, but it was never enough. I heard him once on the phone, with I’m assuming a friend back in Colorado where he and his dad had moved to, and he said that he just had to endure nine more months of hell, and then he’d be free. It broke my heart, again, to hear him refer to being around me as hell. A few days later at school, I couldn’t help but listen in on a conversation that started during lunch. Brady and I were eating outside when Ian, Brady’s best friend, mentioned something that I had no idea about. ‘Dude, Lane’s cool as shit. Did you hear he’s throwing a major kager at his house after our game on Friday? That guy is legit.” Ian and Chad, another football goon, high-fived each other and smiled widely. “Wait, what did you just say?” I asked and looked at the two boys with fire in my eyes. “A kager? At his house?’ Brady cleared his throat and slowly moved his hand across the front of his throat, indication to drop the subject. I turned my body and looked right at him. “Wait, you knew about this?” Brady coughed quickly and looked around at his friends for help. When they stuffed their faces with food, he was on his own. “Babe, yeah, but I just heard this morning. It will probably get busted before it even happens. You know how it is around here. Parties never last.” “Oh, don’t ‘babe’ me. You should have said something.” I glared at him, but knew that I was just throwing my frustration his way, instead of getting after the real person behind this all. “Uh, I’m sorry. I’m not mad at you guys, and I know you all like Lane, but he’s a pain in my ass.” They all chuckled and then Ian perked up, which only meant that Kami was walking up behind us. “Hey, Kami. Going to the big party this weekend?” “Only unless you’re not,” she sang back to him and sat down on the bench next to me. “Kami, why are you always breaking my heart?” Kami just rolled her eyes and turned to face me. “I’m assuming you’ve heard?” She raised her eyebrows, and I knew she was waiting for me to lose it. Except, I wasn’t going to lose it. The only person that was going to get the rage of Jessa was Lane himself. “I did. That’s interesting, isn’t it? The first time our parents go out of town, he throws a party. It’s like he’s just trying to get kicked out.” I had filled Kami in on all of mine and Lane’s past. She’s such an amazing friend, and listened to me wine the past few weeks, only giving me advice when I really need it. I also let her know the real reason Lane moved back. The day after I found out he was going to be living with us for the rest of the school year, my dad and Janice told me all about Lane losing his dad, and how hard it was on him. I guess he had tried to live with an aunt that lived in Denver, but he hated the city more than he hated the idea of coming back here. I wanted to talk to him about it so bad, but he was so closed off from me that it was impossible. I thought maybe he’d come around, but that didn’t seem likely. “You aren’t going to rat him out, are you?” Ian asked with hopeful eyes, which meant that people were probably looking forward to this party. I really didn’t want to chance getting in trouble with my volleyball coach, but I also couldn’t be that friend. Rolling my eyes, I ripped off a corner of my sandwich and threw it at him. “Of course not. I’m not a snitch.” Everyone whooped and hollered, which made me join in. “What’s so funny? Did Bradly tell another hilarious joke?” Everyone’s head snapped up, and there, standing beside us was Lane himself with his plastic sidekick. “It’s Brady, and no. We were actually just talking about –” I nudged Brady’s side, indicating that I did not want to talk about Lane’s party here. He would get that wrath when I got home that evening. “Easy, Jessa.” Brady said, and rubbed his side. “He actually did just tell us a hilarious joke. It involved you, so of course everyone laughed.” Lane pushed his sunglasses down and gave me a questioning glare. Kathy started to pull on his arm, indicating she was just as done with that encounter as I was. “Yeah, well good luck with that one, Bradly.” When Lane was out of earshot range, Brady turned toward me and gave me a hard look. “What’s his problem? It’s like he’s always out for me, saying my name wrong, or just always saying some dickhead comment.” Ian laughed and told him to quit being such a puss. I knew, though, that what he was feeling was exactly what he thought it was. Lane was punishing him for being with me. The only question I had was why. Chapter Six “I’m going to Lindsey’s party tomorrow night, are you?” Lane and I were walking back to his house, which was a good mile away from mine, but we had to because we’d both left our bikes in his garage. At least we were more than halfway there. “I don’t know; I think Lindsey’s a total bitch.” “Lane!” I said laughing and smacked his shoulder. My dad would never let me curse, but it seemed lately that every other word out of Lane’s mouth was foul. “She’s not that bad.” Lane laughed a little, but then became serious again. “I just don’t like that girl. She seems to be so jealous of you. I’m surprised she even invited you to her party.” “Trust me, she’s not jealous of me.” “She is; she just doesn’t ever act that way around you.” I pulled on Lane’s arm, which made him stop in the middle of our dirt road. “Has she been talking crap about me?” His darting eyes told me everything I needed to know. “What has she been saying?” “Jessa, it’s not important. I told her to shut her mouth and that she was just mad that you were prettier than her.” Smiling, I started walking again but it didn’t exactly help me feel one-hundred percent better. “I’ll never have any girls as friends, will I?” Lane reached over and grabbed my hand, interlocking his fingers with mine. The first time he did that, it made me jump so high that his cheeks turned a blazing red, and we never spoke of it. But since then, he has held my hand more and more. It never felt awkward, just right. Like a best friend’s hand should feel. “You’ll find a girl that likes you for you. She’ll be the best friend you’ll ever have.” I squeezed his hand back. “Thanks for that, but you’re wrong.” “And why is that?” I was quiet for a minute, not sure if I really wanted to say what was on my mind. But then I thought, why not? “Because you’re the best friend I’ll ever have.” Lane stopped and dropped my hand, looking straight into my eyes. Something was changing between us, and I wasn’t sure what in the world to think about it. Just when his silence couldn’t have gotten any weirder, he took off running, telling me that he was going to beat me to his house. Now, Lane was fast, but I was too. Not quite as fast as him, but I could hold my own. “You will not!” I took off sprinting and by the time we both touched his front door, we were panting like dogs in the hot summer heat. “I think I tripped on a rock,” he said in a playful voice. When I didn’t say anything back, he plopped down on the front step, and pulled me down with him. “Don’t be sad about Lindsey’s party. You should still go; I doubt she says anything mean to you.” I just shrugged my shoulders and started to play with a stick that was lying next to me. “It’s not just that, I thought maybe, well. Oh, never mind. It’s so stupid.” Lane turned towards me and lifted my chin to meet his gaze. “Since when is anything you think stupid?” Closing my eyes, I knew there was no going back now. He was going to get my thoughts out of me, and telling him would cut out so much time of torture. “Okay, but you can’t laugh. Promise?” “Of course, I promise, who do you think I am?” Lane gave me a mischievous grin, which only made me cringe more. “Okay, Okay. I promise. No laughing,” He pretended to lock-up his mouth and throw away a fake key. I let out a little sigh and turned away from him. There was no way I could look at him and say what I was about to say. “I heard that Jeremy Dillion was going to be there.” Lane kept his word and didn’t make a sound, but I still didn’t turn to look at him. “I also heard Betty Miller say that we were going to play spin the bottle.” Lane’s quick intake of air made me hide my face in my hands. “Jessa, you want to kiss Jeremy Dillion?” “No,” I said through my hands which made it sound muffled. Lane pulled my hands from my face and made me look at him again. “Why Jeremy?” “Ugh, I don’t know. I’m just tired of feeling like I’m the only fourteen-year-old that hasn’t ever kissed anyone. I mean, you’ve kissed what, three girls? I’m such a loser.” I could tell Lane was trying everything he had in him to not laugh at me, and he was honestly doing a pretty good job. “Jeremy Dillion doesn’t deserve your first kiss, Jessa. Besides, your names are too easy to make fun of together.” Rolling my eyes, I swatted his shoulder and went to stand-up. “Wait.” The sudden plea in his voice made me sit back down quickly, but it didn’t mean I wasn’t still embarrassed. “I’m sorry, it’s just that, I’ve heard things about Jeremy. You don’t want him to be your first kiss. There’s a rumor going around that he’s all tongue.” “Eww!” I said laughing, which also got a good one out of him. “That’s gross.” We were both smiling when I noticed that Lane kept looking down at my lips. “What are you looking at?” Lane closed his eyes tightly, and then took in a deep breath. “Jessa, if you want a first kiss, I’ll be the one. You know, your first kiss?” He opened his eyes again and met my stare. He was serious. A million different thoughts went spiraling through my mind. Kiss Lane? Honestly, that thought really never even occurred to me. But, why not? Lane wasn’t horrible looking, in fact, the past year he really had started to change a lot. His boyish looks are starting to look more mature, but still. Kiss Lane? “I don’t know about that.” Lane looked hurt and put his hand over his chest. “What, am I not good enough for you?” I pretended to play punch his arm, but when he grabbed my hand, I knew it was going to happen. Lane was looking at me differently. Like, he might have actually wanted to kiss me, too. “Okay, but just this once. We can never talk about it to anyone, and I mean anyone. We also can’t get all weird around each other, promise?” Lane just nodded and ran his tongue across his lips, staring at my mouth the entire time. “Also, no laughing at my kissing ability. I’m a beginner.” Lane reached his hand out and gently placed it behind my neck, sending a slight tremor of chills down my back. “What are you doing?” I whispered. “This is how they do it on movies,” he said just as quietly, and soon he was leaning in. I knew I was supposed to close my eyes, but I had to keep them open to make sure I didn’t miss his mouth. A few second later, Lane’s wet lips barely brushed against mine. I started to panic because we never talked about what kind of kiss this was going to be. Was he going to use his tongue? I didn’t have enough time to think anymore, because just when I was about to pull back and ask, Lane’s tongue ran against the crease of my lips, instinctively opening them. It was like our mouths were meant to do this, that they took over for us and knew exactly what to do. Lane’s grip on my neck became tighter, and a funny feeling started to form between my thighs. His kiss felt good, way too good. I pulled back quickly and we both were breathing extremely hard. “Was that a good first kiss?” I ask stupidly, because maybe it was for me, but it could have totally sucked for him. “I don’t know? I think we should try it again?” I laughed, but he was serious. “You really want to kiss me again?” “Yes,” was all he got out before we heard someone yell inside of his house. “Shit!” we both said in unison, making us jump up off the step and stumble back onto his sidewalk. “I didn’t think your parents were home,” I stammered, concerned that they may have just witnessed our first kiss. “Shh, keep your voice down. I didn’t think they were either. My dad should be in town.” Lately, Lane’s parents had been fighting more and more. His mother was one of the sweetest ladies I’d ever met, but it seemed like every time I was over at his house, their yelling eventually made us go elsewhere. “Ms. Mayes, do I need to repeat my question?” My eyes snapped up quickly to my math teacher, who was standing at the board in my AP class, pointing to a problem with a long, wooden stick. Crap, I was totally zoned out. “Yes, sir.” I said, which earned a few snickers from my fellow classmates. Lane was really messing with my mind. Thinking about our first kiss when we were only fourteen made me reach up slowly and touch my lips. But then I thought about his little kager, and my furry was back. *** Later that afternoon after volleyball practice, I walked out to the school parking lot with Kami and I didn’t see Lane anywhere. He’d been getting a ride home with Kathy freaking King, and it pissed me off more and more each time. Why did she get him back, but I didn’t? Why was he letting her in, of all people? “Well, I’m out of here. Thanks for listening to me at practice today. I don’t know what to do about him.” Kami just gave me a huge, sqeezey hug and told me to call her after I chewed Lane out. The drive home only made me even more irate, and by the time I walked through the front door, my temper was at its maximum capacity. Luckily, the bimbo didn’t stay and came straight back. When we passed each other on the highway, I didn’t give on crap if she saw me give her the middle finger. Screw them all. When I walked up my stairs later that evening, I could hear Lane’s music in his room, so I knew he was in home. It was our first night home alone together, and even though I told myself that I was going to just leave him alone for the next four days, to pretend he didn’t even come back, his little party had me too fired up to not say anything. You could tell my dad was upset that he was leaving me home alone with Lane, but I assured him that everything was going to go smoothly. It helped that Lane had barely said ten words to me since moving back here. Besides the time in my pick-up on that first day of school, he acted like I wasn’t even around. Walking quickly to his bedroom door, I banged on it loudly, knowing that he could hear me over his music. “Lane, come out here!” I yelled and took a few steps back. When he didn’t answer me, it only made me angrier. “Lane, I know you can hear me. Open your damn door!” I screamed and hit his door even harder. “Open this door or I swear to you I’ll get a – “ “What?” he asked right as he opened his door, making his face only inches away from mine. Standing up straight, I smoothed out my tight, spandex shorts and gathered all the courage I had. For some reason looking at him didn’t make me feel as bad ass as I did a few seconds ago. “We need to talk, now.” I said, and turned on my heels down the hallway that led to the staircase. “Meet me in the living room.” I walked off, not looking behind me. However, I knew he was following me because I could hear his heavy footsteps. “Yes?” he asked, which made me whip around, pointing a finger right in front of his face. “Do you think I’m stupid?” I asked, and glared at him with all the fury I could muster up. “Is this a trick question?” My glare must have been a little powerful, because he looked away from me, and cleared his throat. “No, Jessa. I don’t think you’re stupid.” “Good, because I was starting to question your intelligence. I mean, you did get held back in first grade.” “Really? You’re going to bring that up?” He asked, and crossed his arms across his chest. “Now who’s being immature?” Pinching the bridge of my nose didn’t help as much as I’d hope it would, but it did give me a chance to recollect my thoughts. “Sorry, I just meant that I know about the party you’re throwing here. It could get us both in so much trouble. You don’t think that teachers haven’t heard by now that it’s happening? I don’t want to miss any games because of this.” Lane was eerily quiet. Maybe he understood my concerns, or maybe he didn’t care about me at all. Walking over to the huge bay window in the living room, I had no idea what in the world he was thinking. So what he said next surprised the heck out of me. “I didn’t even think about that. We’ll move the party. Maybe down by the lake, so you won’t have to worry about getting caught with alcohol.” In the past few weeks, this was the nicest Lane had been to me. I could feel my eyes water, and my damn was about two seconds away from breaking. “Thank you.” I knew he could hear the waver in my voice, and when I turned around, I couldn’t hold it in any longer. “Jessa, why are you crying? I told you that I’d move the party.” Waving him off, I walked quickly into the kitchen, trying to get away from his prying eyes. “It’s not that,” I said quickly and grabbed a tissue from the box on the counter. “Then what is it? Shit, I’ve only seen you cry like two times.” One of those times was the last time we saw each other, but that didn’t matter. His stone façade was set then, and my tears wouldn’t do anything against it. “Nothing, and thank you.” I turned to walk away, but he grabbed my arm, making me turn to face him. “Look, I know this is uncomfortable as hell, but I’ll be gone soon. I literally had nowhere else to go, but I’ll be out of here in a few short months. Then you’ll never have to think of me, or see me again.” Lane was a really smart guy, even though he was held back a grade. He had a little trouble with reading at first, but then his mind took off. If he would have put forth a little effort in school, there would be no doubt in my mind that he could have worked toward a full ride to a university. “You aren’t very smart, are you?” I asked, and finally looked up at him with my wet, red-rimmed eyes. He let go of my arm and took a step back. “What do you mean?” Clueless. That’s what he was. “You think I haven’t wanted to see you? That I haven’t missed you every single day? You were my best friend, Lane. Then one day, you weren’t. Do you know how hard that was for me? And now you’re back, but you’re not. You’ll let that dumb, blonde bimbo in, but not me? I guess you’re right, it is only a few short months. And then I’ll never think of you again. I’ll finally rid you of my life, if that’s what you really want?” That made Lane snap. He grabbed both of my shoulders and pushed me up against the kitchen counter. “And you don’t think it was hard for me to leave? To leave the best thing in my life? You have no idea what my real life was like, because I always felt the need to protect you. I know exactly why my mom left my dad, but did you? Did you ever hear the real reason?” Lane wasn’t hurting me, but his actions were alarming. Did I even have a clue what he really went on behind their closed doors? I knew enough, but probably nothing close to the real extent. “I know a little,” I said softly and hung my head down. He loosened his grip on me, and slid his hands down to my waist. “So you know that my mom was my dad’s punching bag when he drank too much, or that he would get so mad at her, that throwing her down the stairs was the one thing that seemed to release some of his pent up anger?” I gasped and brought my eyes up to his. “I didn’t know it was quite that bad.” “That bad? Oh, that’s nothing. When we moved to Colorado, he didn’t have her anymore. He had me. Except, I wasn’t as frail as her. I would actually fight back. It only took one hit to his face to get the point across that I wouldn’t take his shit. The past few years weren’t hell, but they were pretty damn close.” “Lane,” I said and place my hands over his. “I wish you would have talked to me.” My tears were back, streaming down my face. I had no idea it was that bad in his home. His dad had a slight drinking problem, everyone knew that, but Janice was pretty good at covering up the abuse. “Really? Do you think if we would have stayed here, that my dad would have just let your old man have his woman that easily? I had to get him out of here, to talk him into getting a job far away, so he couldn’t hurt any of you. I left for you all, and it had to be that way.” I couldn’t stop my tears, and knowing everything that he’d gone through didn’t help. There also wasn’t much more that I could say. He didn’t just leave because of anger, he left because he felt like that was the only thing he could do to keep us safe. “Don’t cry, Jessa. Shit, I hate seeing you like this.” I wanted to believe him; to think that what he was saying was true. Maybe it was? But then why be such a jerk? “I don’t believe you. You’ve been so cruel to me.” Lane laid his forehead gently on mine, and let out a long breath. “I’m so sorry, Jess. It’s just that, when I saw our parents together, I knew what that meant. That they would probably end up moving in together and that would make us step-siblings. Our future was ruined, and it was the only way I could manage. Hating you was my only option of getting over you.” I pushed him back, and couldn’t believe what I was hearing, “What do you mean, ruined our future? We could have still been best friends. We could have been there for each other.” “Best friends?” “Yes, best friends. Or, at least I thought we were.” Lane looked defeated, and I wasn’t sure what was going through his mind. “Yeah, we were. I really am sorry for the way I’ve been treating you, but I need you to do something for me. Something very important.” “And what’s that?” I asked and wiped a final tear that had broken free. “Call Bradly and break up with him.” I couldn’t help it and did the last thing I thought was possible. I laughed, and looked at him like he was crazy. “Why in the world would I do that?” “Because he’s not right for you.” Slapping him across his face was more of an outer body experience, but I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “You have some nerve, Lane Rhyer.” And with that, I stomped out of the kitchen. Chapter Seven Lane and I didn’t speak for the rest of the evening. In fact, I couldn’t even concentrate on anything at all. Homework was shot to hell, talking to anyone on the phone was pointless, because all I could think of was what Lane had told me in the kitchen. He’d finally opened up to me, but then he had the edacity to tell me to break up with my boyfriend? Who does that? I was just about to climb into bed when my phone chimed. Smiling, I knew it was from Brady, telling me goodnight. Except, when I swiped the green bar across my phone, the text was from an unrecognizable number. I told you to break up with Bradly because I’m going to kiss you. And when I do, I don’t want anyone in our way. My eyes had to have been bulging out of my head, because that text was the last thing I expected to read. Kiss me? I did not see that coming. Looking back and rereading that text a hundred times didn’t help it make any more sense. Kiss me? The only problem was that his text started to do funny things to me, and the pull to go to him was so strong that I had no idea what to do. Did I want him to kiss me? My answer was yes. I did. The weird part was that I found myself dialing Brady’s number, without even giving it a second thought. “Hey, Babe. Calling to tell me goodnight?” Hearing his voice made me question what the hell I was doing, but in all honesty, I knew he wasn’t the guy for me. Brady was easy and convenient, and it wasn’t fair to him that I didn’t have the same feelings toward our relationship. I was doing this, as crazy as it was. “Hi, Brady. No, I’m not. I was actually calling to tell you that I think we should break up.” I bit my bottom lip and closed my eyes tightly. The call went silent, but I knew he was still there because I could hear him breathing. “Why?” Shit, this was harder than I thought it was going to be. Actually, I hadn’t thought about it at all until about two seconds ago. But now I was committed. “I’ve been thinking about this for some time, and I don’t want to lead you on anymore. I just don’t feel that way about you. You deserve to be with someone who’s going to love you. That just isn’t me.” “Who is he?” Brady’s tone became serious, and I wasn’t sure what to say. “Who’s who?” I asked. “The guy you’re breaking up with me for. Does he go to our school, because I don’t think I could watch you be with another guy, Jessa?” I let out a huge sigh. “It’s just over, okay? I want to break-up.” “Fine, but he won’t treat you as good as I did. I hope you know that.” And with that, the line went dead. Chapter Eight I only made it another hour before I was sneaking out of my room and tiptoeing to Lane’s. When we were kids, Lane would sometimes crawl into my room through a window when he said he couldn’t sleep. I always thought we’d get caught, but we never did. Nerves were rampaging through my body when I gently pushed on his door, surprised when it slowly creaked open. Was Lane awake? Did he know I’d come to him? I didn’t say a word as I crept across his floor, making out his bed through the moonlight. When I slid into his bed, I could feel the heat radiating off his body just like it used to. He didn’t say a word as he turned towards me, looking at me straight in the eyes. “Remember when you would sneak into my room sometimes, when we were kids?” “Yes.” His voice was gravelly, and so different than the voice I’d etched into my memory. “Was it because of your dad?” “Did you break up with Bradly?” Our silence filled the room, making both of our chests heave like we couldn’t get our next breath. Lane brushed a piece of my hair that had fallen across my face, and tucked it safely behind my ear. “Did you?” I had to use everything in me to finally speak, because I didn’t know what this really would mean for us. “Yes,” I whispered, and closed my eyes. Lane’s arm wrapped around my body, bringing me closer to him, making our bodies press against each other. “Jessa, you may have been my best friend when we were kids, but you also meant so much more to me. You have no idea how much I died inside when I had to move away from you, but I also knew that growing up around you as a step-brother would be even harder.” When I opened my eyes to find him as serious as could be, I knew that he was right. We may have been best friends, but we were also both going through some major changes our last summer together. “We could have made it work. I hate that you left, and that you had to endure such horrible situations with your father. I had no idea, Lane. I would have come to you.” Lane’s deep breath pulled me closer to him, and soon he was leaning forward which made me match his movements. Our lips brushed softly against each other and it brought me back to our first kiss, almost four year ago. Except, this wasn’t the fifteen-year-old boy that was kissing me, this was a man. A man who obviously had different feelings for me than he let on. Our mouths weren’t strangers, and like before, they completely took over. It was as if Lane was nervous about that kiss, that if he stopped, I would suddenly disappear. However, when our mouths both parted and our tongues met once again, I swear fireworks went off in his room. I’d obviously kissed Brady, but it was never like how Lane kissed me. Just when I thought things were going to heat up, Lane pulled back and sat up on his elbow. “God, I’ve missed you so much. You have no idea how hard it was staying away from you.” “I wish you wouldn’t have. I feel like I missed four years with you. Four years that I’ll never get back.” Lane sat up in his bed, showcasing his beautifully chiseled chest. Damn, he’d definitely done some growing up. “Come here,” he said and pulled me up beside him. “I know I’ve been harsh, and it’s going to take me a long time to make this all up to you, but you have to understand I did the best thing for all of us. We’re together now, and I’m tired of trying to hate you. I can’t do it anymore, because it’s been slowly killing me inside.” I couldn’t help it, but I had to bring up his own little girlfriend. “What about Kathy King?” Lane chuckled a little and leaned forward, placing a little peck on my nose. “She’s nothing, Jessa. Just a distraction, but that’s it. I never even laid a hand on her, because she’s not you. No one has ever been you.” I wasn’t sure I was hearing him right. No one? “Wait, you’ve never been with another girl?” Lane shook his head and smiled at me. “And trust me, I tried. They just always felt wrong. None of them had your soft, golden blonde hair.” His rough, calloused hand reached forward and ran gently through my long locks, sending chills down my back. “And I could never find eyes as blue as yours. Eyes that can see everything inside of me, and know everything without even asking.” Leaning forward and placing a kiss on both of my temples did something extremely amazing to my heart. “And no one had lips like these,” and when he placed his mouth on mine, everything stopped spinning. My world made sense again. Chapter Nine “What in the world are we going to tell our parents?” I looked frantically between Lane and the bowl of Lucky Charms I’d just filled full of milk. “We aren’t going to say anything. I’m pretty sure your dad will shoot me, and I’m not even joking.” Laughing at his morbid comment really didn’t make me feel any better, but it did lighten the mood for a split second. “I don’t know, Lane. This seems impossible to hide. Our parents aren't stupid; they’re going to catch on.” Lane leaned forward and gave me another one of his sweet kisses. “You worry too much. We’ll have to be careful for the next nine months, that’s all. Then, we’re going to go with my original plan. A plan I created back before I moved away.” “You created a plan for our future when you were fifteen?” Lane wiggled his eyebrows at me and looked straight down at my chest. “Hey, perve! Eyes up here,” I laughed and swatted at his shoulder. “Remember when you flashed me out at the swimming hole?” I nodded quickly and shoved a spoon full of cereal in my mouth, hoping that my rosie cheeks didn’t give away my embarrassment. “Well, that was by far one of the best moments of my life, and I decided right then and there that I was going to marry you someday. Because there was no way in hell that some other guy was going to be able to look at your boobs.” “Lane!” I laughed and covered my face with my hands. “I can’t believe you thought that.” As he moved my hands away from my face, he brought my gaze up to his. “I’d known for a while that I was developing real feelings for you back when we were kids. It wouldn’t have mattered to me how your chest developed. I knew I was going to love whatever you showed me, and I also knew that I didn’t want anyone else to have them. To say I’ve been going crazy about you having a boyfriend is an understatement.” “I wish you would have told me. You always seemed to just tease me whenever anything different happened between us.” “I was a fifteen-year-old punk,” he laughed and stole a spoonful of my cereal. “I also have to tell you that I haven’t been the best behaved person for the past few years. But, Jess, you make me want to be better. I promise I’ll be better for you.” I looked at Lane and was thankful that we’d had our blowout this past weekend. I was also thankful that I’d talked him out of having his stupid party. We only had about five minute until we needed to leave for school, but I couldn’t help the moment we were in, and I pulled his face down to me. “Kiss me,” I said and didn’t waste a second when he finally found my lips. Lane told me that we weren’t going to do anything we’d regret while he was living with me, but he made me want more. He made me want everything with me. “Okay, okay. We better stop or we’ll both be skipping school today,” he said with a grunt and had to quickly readjust his shorts. I smiled to myself, loving that I affected him in that way. “Right, let’s go.” The past few days of school weren’t actually as horrible as I thought they were going to be. Brady avoided me at all costs, and Lane told me that he didn’t act different to him on the field. Lane and I also made sure to keep our distance, because our relationship wasn’t something we were ready to have judged. I really hoped we were able to keep in that way. *** “Do you believe in heaven?” I threw another huge stone into ‘our’ lake, and looked over at my best friend. “Of course, don’t you?” Lane shrugged which made me feel uneasy. Even though his dad didn’t go to church, Lane and his mom always met my father and me every Sunday at nine o’clock for mass. “Sometimes, I don’t know what to think.” Grabbing his hand, I pulled him up on the bank and pointed up to the sky. “Look around us. Look at everything that was created for us. How could you not believe?” As he looked around at the crystal blue lake and the lush green grass, he started to smile. “You’re a good person, Jessa Mayes.” And then he looked over at me, with the most vibrant green eyes I’d ever seen. “Promise you’ll stay in my life forever. That you’ll always make me a good man.” I couldn’t’ help the giggle that came out of my mouth, and soon my whole body was being hurled through the air, and before I even knew what was happening, we both went face first into the fishy, lake water. “Lane!” I yelled and only ended up with more water in my mouth. We laughed and played in that lake the rest of the day, and just before he dropped me off at my back porch, I leaned over and whispered in his ear that I’d be with him forever.” Chapter Ten Despite having one of the best volleyball season to date during my high school career, I couldn’t get my mind off Lane. Having him back in my life was like a freaking freight train. One minute I didn’t think I was going to survive my senior year, but then it was like a light switched turned on inside of him and my old Lane was back. Well, a more handsome, grown-up, making-out version of my old best friend. “Penny for your thought?” Kami peered over her shoulder with a questioning look, and I knew there was no way I was going to keep this a new ‘thing’ a secret very long. Even if we were in a very public locker room. “Just thinking about what I’m going to wear to the game tonight,” I smiled and started to pull my knee-pads down around my calves. Kami wasn’t buying it. She knew me all too well. “Right, well I have to tell you that you’re handling this break-up with Brady very well. Except, I’m sure you’ve heard the big rumor that your doing so well because of some other guy?” Her raised eyebrows were a sign she was on to me. Rolling my eyes, I packed up my gear and threw my duffle bag over my shoulder. “Since when do you buy into gossip?” I asked and started to walk out of the locker room. “Jessa Dawn Mayes, you get your perfect little ass over here and tell me everything that’s going on with you. Because the past few days I haven’t been able to figure it out.” Her hands on her hips and her pointed look did me in. There was no way I was going to get out of this. “Fine, but you better not say a single word to anyone. Understand?” After she promised to give me her brand new coach purse that her father had just bought her if she did, I broke down at told her everything. “Say something.” I finally glanced over at her, and the smile that was spread across her face was the last thing I was planning on seeing. “You guys are like what everyone else in the world hopes and prays they’ll find!” She squealed and embraced me in a tight hug. “Your soul mates.” “I love you Kami, I really do.” I also knew that if there was one person who could keep my secret, it was that girl. *** Later that night, Lane proved to be quite the football player. I knew he was built, and I knew he was always fast, but our team was damn lucky to have that guy back in town. “You did great,” I said and smiled at him while he slid into the front of my truck. “I do everything better when you’re involved.” He grinned back at me and leaned over to give me a quick kiss. I wasn’t sure if we should chance it in the school parking lot, and I knew he could feel my hesitation because soon he was pulling back and gave me a knowing smile. “It’s okay, I know what this could do to you here.” I sighed and hated that we couldn’t be open about our new relationship, or whatever it was. “I’m sorry. Just give it some time, and we’ll figure everything out.” We were both quiet when few of his teammates and my friends ran by my truck, hit it hard with their hands. “Are you guys heading out to the lake?” Lane looked over at me to confirm if we were heading to the big kager that had gotten postponed. I shook my head quickly, reminding him that I didn’t need to get benched this far out in the season. “I’ll be out there in a while. See you assholes soon.” Lane shifted uncomfortably in his seat, and I knew he thought I’d be upset with him. But the truth was, he really could go and I wouldn’t have been even an ounce angry. Except, after his buddies walked off, he turned and looked over at me. “I’m not going; I would rather just stay home with you, if that’s okay? I thought maybe we could watch a movie?” “You don’t have to do that, Lane. Go to the party, it’ll be fun.” “Look at me.” His tone and expression was serious, and I knew I needed to be excited he wanted to be with me instead of partying. “I just got you back. There’s nowhere else I’m going to be than with you.” Reaching over, I interlaced my hand with his and we made our way home. Chapter Eleven “The Shining? Really?” Lane walked over to the DVD player and let out a huge laugh. “Do you remember the first time we watched this? You were so scared that I thought you were going to pee your pants when he pushed his face through the door.” “Oh, be quiet. I’ve never peed my pants.” Lane stopped and turned around quickly. “Oh really? I seem to remember a different story.” Totally embarrassed, I hid my face in my hands and hated how much he knew about me. “Fine, but I was eight years old!” And then I remembered what he’d done for me, and how he’d saved me from probably earning a nickname in elementary school, one that inevitably involved something to do with pee pants. “I’m not playing tether ball with you,” Lane gave me one of ‘those’ looks and started to walk away. “Lane, come on. One game, and I’ll even go easy on you.” I knew that would get his attention. If there was one thing about Lane, it was that he was one of the most competitive people I’d ever known. “Easy on me, huh? I’d beat you anytime of the day. Even in a stupid sport like tetherball. If you can call this thing a sport.” “Yes!” I said excitedly and ran over to the lone pole with a very old, rugged ball attached to it. Lane grumbled all the way over to our new game, and looked over his shoulders at all of his friends who were playing a game of tag football. “You owe me big, Mayes.” I snickered when he grabbed the ball and gave it a good smack. We played a very intense game for the next few minutes, and soon it was down to a tie breaker. “Okay, I’m going to hit this ball as hard as I can, and then I’m going to make you wish you never suggested we pay this stupid game,” “Bring it on,” I said with a huge smile and was ready for whatever came my way. Except, I wasn’t ready and soon Lane’s arm shot off like a rocket and the tetherball was flying too fast at my face that I thought I saw my life flash before me. Bending down quickly, I dodged the ball but that only meant that it was now wildly out of control. “Oh, shit!” Lane yelled, and just as he went to move out of the way, the ball hit him so hard in the face that it knocked him down to the ground, burying his face into the soft, wet dirt. I couldn’t help it. I laughed, and laughed, and soon I could feel the urge to go to the bathroom. I’d never in my life peed my pants, but there was no stopping what was about to happen. It was just too dang funny. “Jessa! You about knocked my head off. Whoa, what’s wrong?” I knew Lane could tell that something had happened, because if my squeezed together legs weren’t enough, the tears rolling down my cheeks were. “What happened?” When he looked down and noticed what had happened, he had a panicked look cross his face. “Come over here.” Pulling on my arm, I found us both standing at a little puddle of water, just under our merry-go-round. “Just go with me, okay? It’s going to be fine.” Lane grabbed me and threw us both on the ground, rolling us around in the wet sand and small mud puddle. Soon, both of our shirts and pants were covered with mud, and my oopps was now covered. “There,” he said and stood us both up. At our school is was majorly against to rules to play in any kind of water, and we both got calls home that day after lunch. But he’d done the nicest thing for me, and at that moment, I knew that Lane Rhyer would always be one of the greatest things in my life. “You were always so good to me. Well, except when I showed you my boobs. I thought you hated them.” Lane pushed play on our movie and grabbed a huge bowl of popcorn, placing it on the coffee table in front of us. “You know that’s ridiculous. That was the best moment of my life, like I said.” I laughed and grabbed a handful of popcorn. “Well, you sure showed it in a funny way.” Lane turned toward me and looked a bit more serious. “I guess I could see them again, and try to react a little better this time?” Before I could reply with some witty comment, his look told me he was dead serious. “Okay,” I said with my most sure voice, and knew I wanted things with Lane that I had never felt with anyone else. Especially with Brady. Lifting up my t-shirt slowly, I reached behind my back and unclasped my bra. When the cool air hit my nipples, Lane’s expression almost mirrored that of when the first time I did the same thing. “Gorgeous,” he whispered and pulled me over to his lap. Our mouth met with such force that it felt like my chest was going to explode. His rough stubble on his face brushed against my skin, but it only made me want more. Lane broke our kiss and I was about to pull my shirt over my head when he touched my hands and shook his head slowly. “Jessa, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I moved back here. I’m not going to lie when I say that I wasn’t excited to see you again, or that maybe, just maybe we’d be able to work out what’d happened the past four years, but I never expected us to go all the way. I know how much saving yourself until your married means to you. I don’t want to jeopardize that.” My heart strings were pulled so tight at that moment. The way he was looking at me, the sweet words he was saying, and the fact that I could tell he was one-hundred percent truthful did crazy things to my mind. “I love you,” I said so quietly that I wasn’t sure if he’d even heard me. And then I wondered what the hell I was doing? Why would I just blurt those three words out to him? Instead of running for the hills and calling it quits, Lane smiled so brightly and brought my lips back to his that I wasn’t really sure what was going on. “I love you, so much. You have no idea how this makes me feel.” We didn’t have sex that night, or any for the next nine months while living in the same house. For some miraculous reason, we were able to keep our love a secret from our parents, or so we thought, until it was time to graduate. When we finally sat our parents down in the kitchen to tell them our plan of attending K-State together that next fall, they already knew why. They’d known for months that we were secretly an item, but they also knew that they hadn’t seen either one of us happier than we were when we were together. Lane may have left my life for four years, but the minute I had him back, it was like he’d been there all along. It was like I’d brought him back home.

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