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Sitting back to back with Will, I leaned my head against his. This was the only way we could talk without crashing into each other.
Even still, we held hands. Our fingers twisted and teased. Slipping together, then apart again, they whispered with caresses. It was like our hands continued doing all the things we couldn’t. Because no matter what we wanted, we really did have to talk.
If I said too much, if I said it the wrong way, would he leave? My heart said no, but how could I be sure? A different kind of tension threaded beneath my skin. It pulled tight, shortening my breath as my pulse raced.
Pretending things weren’t complicated didn’t actually simplify them. Nerves frazzled, I shaped my lips to say it.
“You have a girlfriend,” I said. I kept my voice down. Since diving practice ended, the dark hallway took on an eerie quiet. I didn’t want all my secret thoughts and feelings to carry. No one could know what I was feeling—no one but Will. I glanced around, but we were alone. I was glad for that, because his response caught me off guard.
“Yeah. Tricia’s great.”
Jealousy filled me, not that I was entitled. But I didn’t want Will to think she was great. I wanted him to think I was better. I wanted him to admit he was mine, so I could admit that I was his. How else could we ever be together?
Casting a look over my shoulder, I said, “That night—you asked me if it was just you.”
“It sounds wrong,” Will said. His shoulders rubbed against mine. Fingers darting, he caught my hand in a new grip. His fingers trailed along the underside of my wrist. The skin there was tender, and his fingertips rough. “Or maybe it sounds like bullshit, I don’t know. But it’s different with you.”
A shiver skated through me. “How? Is it just, you know . . . physical?”
“Are you sure?”
When he laughed, I felt it vibrate through him. “If it were, the boathouse would have been enough.”
“Okay, crazy confession time,” I said. I squeezed his hand, rolling against his shoulder. All I wanted was a peek at his face. I caught a glimpse of it in the shadows, half-masked by dark. The light caught his eyes so that they seemed unnaturally blue. Bright as the pool above us, and just as variable.
“Yeah?” he said, prompting me.
“Before anything happened, I felt like I knew you.”
“I thought you were on to me,” he said. With a wry little smile, he rested his weight against my back. “That Athena, she’s just too smart. She cut right through the douche-bag party-boy and saw my true nature.”
I wanted to gather him in my arms. I wanted to protect him from the rest of the world, who looked at him and couldn’t see past the surface. I was sad that he hadn’t had a chance to just be until now. His whole life, stuffed into a shape that didn’t fit him . . . it was like I was the only one who realized that Pinocchio was a real boy.
Twining our forearms together, I raised our joined hands. Fingers skimming our shoulders, I turned and brushed a kiss against his fingertips. “There you are, Will.”
Roughly, he said, “Here I am.”
Reality pressed in. Closing my eyes, I was forced to admit things were crazy complicated. We couldn’t just pack up a convertible and ride into the west together. He’d been dating Tricia for a while. They were homecoming king and queen, and on track to sweep the prom, too. And Dave? Dave wasn’t just my boyfriend. He was my partner. We had years of history behind us, and I cared about him.
“I’m waiting for the ‘but,’” Will said.
What a way to prove he did know me, in some basic, primal way. Already, he keyed into my silences.
“Dave isn’t just my boyfriend,” I said. “We’re partners.”
“The band,” Will said.
“Even that makes it sound easier than it is. We actually have something, music-wise. I don’t believe in muses or anything. But when we sit down and write a song together . . . it really is like there’s some force out there, pouring music and lyrics into us.”
“I’ve seen your website,” Will said.
It touched me that he’d looked at it. That made the rest of what I had to say even harder. I wanted him to understand that Dasa wasn’t so much about me and Dave as a couple. It was about us as artists.
With a frown, Will looked back at me. “You know, I’ve heard you play without him. You’re really good.”
“I’m better with him.” I sighed. This was a mess; I was making it worse.
Will turned. I guess he thought I needed to see him when he said it. Catching my chin gently, he searched my face. Then he met my eyes, unwavering. “I don’t want to take that from you.”
Nervous, I nodded. I appreciated the gesture, but part of me wanted him to protest, to want to be the only guy in my life. Covering his hand with mine, I wondered if this was the part where we agreed to meet back up in five years and see if we could make it work then. A knot formed in my throat. It twisted tight, because the thought of giving him up made me want to cry.
His expression melted dramatically. All at once, his eyes were seeking. His brows tilted, reflecting my pain. Soothing, he stroked my cheek, knuckles grazing my jaw. “Hey. Hey, shhhh. There’s nothing wrong here. We can figure this out.”