4/414Any similarity to real persons, living or dead,is coincidental and notintended by the author. Cover By Amanda Bennett
For my son Christian and Lincoln, without your undying love I would be incomplete.For my brother Cory and sister Stephanie,thank you for always loving me despite myfaults. Life would have been quite boringwithoutthe both of you.And lastly, Thank You to Marsha Savery, myhigh school English teacher. Your love foryour students is unprecedented. You taughtme how to believe in my work, while encour-aging me to be a better version of myself. Iwill forever be grateful for you.Inspiration comes in many forms and forthat I am thankful to all of the people in mylife, who have one way or another providedme with the insight and courage to keep do-ing what I love to do.
Table Of ContentsPrologueOneTwoThreeFourFiveSixSevenEightNineTenElevenTwelveThirteenFourteen
PrologueYou can’t always predict what will happen inlife. I think some of my best memories are ofvery unpredictable events. The one’s younever see coming, but that make your lifethat much more worth living. I think on somelevel, I always knew that I was in love withhim. Who wouldn’t be? He was beautiful in avery understated way, smart, witty and hadthe kindest heart I had ever known. He wasalways the popular boy, and girls wouldspend their entire high school career throw-ing themselves at him.We had known each other since the summerbefore fifth grade, and had been inseparableever since, at least until now. I should havetold him how much I loved him. I would havegiven my life to have him love me back,without hesitation. I honestly think, that deepdown I knew how much he loved me, just as
9/414I knew how much I loved him. That’s thething about life; you never know when yourswill get cut short.I know now that I should have confided inhim, he would have understood, that’s justwho he is. There would have never been alook of disgust or pity in his beautiful blueeyes. I underestimated him and myself, asindividuals, as best friends and as lovers.That’s the thing about death, it will open youreyes to the most unforgiving things you nev-er knew about yourself. Who would havethought at twenty-two I would find out justhow true that statement could be, and theweight that it would carry.
One Four Years EarlierI pulled into the parking lot of the high schoolfeeling a great sense of accomplishment. Idid it! I had made it through the last year ofmy high school career unscathed. It was ourlast day of school before graduation and Iwas elated. I jumped out of my beat upToyota Corolla and headed towards Gray’sbeautifully lifted Chevy truck. I practicallyskipped my way into my best friend’s long,muscular waiting arms. Lunging myself intohis big burly arms I was beyond grateful tohave known this wonderful boy almost mywhole life. He hugged me back without trep-idation and with true joy. I couldn’t help butsqueeze his muscular neck as I planted aswift kiss against his unshaved cheek.
11/414“We did it Gray! Can you believe it? We ac-tually made it out alive!” I giggled as hegently placed me back onto the asphalt park-ing lot. “I couldn’t have done it without you.” Ismiled up at him. His blue eyes shining backat me.“I know, right? Come on, let’s go get this dayover with.” He grinned down at me as I lacedmy arm through his.As we walked through the front doors of theschool we were about to leave behind, thesadness of it all it suddenly hit me. This isthe last time that we would walk throughthese halls together. The last time we wouldsit through Mr. Rows boring ass algebraclass. The last time we were going to sit andeat lunch under the old oak trees, and thelast time he and I would be together all day,everyday.
12/414I missed him already. Just thinking of himheading off to the police academy and meheading off to college made me want to runaway and cry. I stole a look at him throughmy veil of hair, and noticed the forlorn lookthat he was wearing on his face. It matchedmy mood and I knew exactly how he felt. Heglanced down at me at that moment, and Icould feel the longing running through eachof our veins.As we approached our lockers, four mem-bers of the ‘oh-so-gorgeous’ cheerleadingsquad come bounding towards us. I wish Icould say that this wasn’t a regular occur-rence, but I would be lying. Ever since fresh-man year when Gray started growing into hissix foot three frame, filling it out with musclesupon muscles, all the girls started taking no-tice. It was like someone sent out a memo to
13/414every hormonal teenage girl that Gray wassingle, and filling out quite nicely.Gray had always been something to look at.The summer after eighth grade he went fromfive foot nine and gangly, to an athletic sixfoot three. He let his copper brown hair growout a bit, so it now sat longer on top andshorter on the sides. He never let it get toountidy or too long and for that I was grateful.Along with sky blue eyes, he also had astrong squared jaw and amazingly longblack eyelashes. I have to admit, Gray wasHOT!I wish I could say my changes happenedright along with Gray’s, but I wasn’t as lucky.Freshman year I went through the inevitableawkward phase that most girls go through.By the end of sophomore year, I was finallyfitting in with the rest of the girls at school. Istarted filling out my five foot eight inch
14/414frame with all the right curves. I let my au-burn hair grow out so it skimmed the top ofmy waistband, and I figured out how to applythe right amount of makeup.Of course I had to teach myself, but throughtrial and error and some assholish remarksfrom Gray along the way, I figured it out. Ihad spent my summers working as a life-guard at the local water park, so I had a nicetan that I made sure to keep up withthroughout the winter months. I wouldn’t saythat I was as good looking as Gray, but Ithink I measured up quite nicely with thepretty girls in school.I rolled my eyes at Gray as I turned to openmy locker. He just smirked and leanedagainst his locker awaiting the girls’ arrival.“Hey ladies how are we today?” He knew theeffect he has on these girls and he totallyused it to his advantage, constantly. I
15/414couldn’t help but laugh at them under mybreath before wandering off to find some ofmy other friends. Of course, as I turned toleave all I could hear was them swooningover the almighty Gray.I made sure not to look back at Gray and his“groupies” as I headed down hallway B to gofind Hannah. It only fuels the Gray fire if Iwatch, so I kept my head down. As I roun-ded the corner I spotted Hannah minglingwith some of the underclassman. Secondslater I was running right into what could onlybe described as a brick wall. The books andpapers I was holding against my chest wentflying across the hall in every direction. Istood staring at the ground in disbelief, get-ting ready to rage out on whatever imbeciledecided to not watch where the hell theywere going today.
16/414“You have got to be kid-” The sentence liter-ally vanished from my mouth as I found my-self staring up into the deepest chocolatebrown eyes I had ever seen. They were liter-ally smoldering, and burning a hole throughmy pale gray eyes. Before I had a chance tolet myself recover, he was speaking and Iwas rendered speechless.“Are you okay?” His voice was deep andrugged, and I couldn’t take my eyes off ofhim. “Hello? I said are you okay?” I finallytuned into what he was saying but could onlynod my head.I watched intently as he bent his, what has tobe at least six foot two frame, down to re-trieve my belongings. He was gorgeous, alltanned and defined. His shirt tightened overhis bulging back muscles and biceps and Ibegan to swoon. Dammit, I was turning intothe cheerleading bimbos and I instantly
17/414hated myself for it. His hair was cut into amilitary style buzz cut and it was the lightestshade of blonde. He almost looked bald, un-til the sun would glisten off of the tiny spikes.My heart literally skipped a beat. Who wasthis glorious creature in front of me? I beganto compose myself as he stood back up,handing me my belongings.“Hi.” I squeaked and instantly blushed at thefact that that was all I could come up with tosay.“So you do speak?” He laughed and manwas it a throaty manly laugh. I couldn’t helpmyself, I was laughing along with him.“What’s your name?” His voice was justabove a whisper and it did things to me,deep down that I have only ever felt once.“Bennett? Are you okay?” I heard the all tofamiliar voice of Gray coming up behind me,
18/414and I tried to hide my embarrassment fromthis beautiful man in front of me.“Yeah Gray, I’m fine. I just wasn’t watchingwhere I was going and I ran into…. I’m sorryI didn’t catch your name.” I pointed towardsthe man in front of me.“That’s because I didn’t give it.” He smiledand started walking down the hallway to-wards the office. “Don’t worry, I have a feel-ing we will be seeing each other real soonBennett.” He winked at me and then he wasgone. My name sounded arousing comingout of his mouth, and I wanted to know thisman more. I started questioning how I wouldsee him again, when Gray’s voice found itsway into my thoughts.“What the hell was that all about?” He soun-ded mad.
19/414“I have no idea. I came around the cornerand he ran right into me.” I shrugged andheaded towards first period, missing out ontalking to Hannah all together. I felt Gray’sarm around my shoulders, and I suddenlywished that we didn’t have every single classtogether. All I wanted to do in this momentwas run to Hannah and gush about the per-fect stranger that I just met, but Gray was infull-blown overprotective big brother mode.With a roll of my eyes I continued walking toclass.“I don’t like that guy Bennett. I don’t know,something about him screams psycho-crazy-stalker guy.” He was glancing down at mewhen I slapped him playfully on the chest.“You don’t even know him Gray.” I slippedthrough the door to Mr. Bowen’s class andwe took our seats.
TwoAfter the fourth period bell rang Gray and Iheaded off to the lunchroom. As we werestanding in line, I flashed back rememberingthe first time Gray and I met.It was the summer before fifth grade and wehad just moved into the house right nextdoor to the Weston’s. Gray’s parents hadmade him come over and introduce himselfto me when I first jumped out of my mom’sTahoe. I stood in the grassy front yard twirl-ing and doing cartwheels repeatedly. I hadn’tnoticed when he first walked up, mainly be-cause I was enjoying my brand new freshlymanicured lawn.We came from Arizona and all I had everknown was rocks and dirt. The Connecticutlawns were amazingly full of life, and
21/414brilliantly green. I remember wanting to donothing but run my fingers through the longblades that stood below my feet.In the middle of one of my careless twirls, Iended up hitting him across the chest withmy outstretched arm. I instantly turnedaround and began crying. I had felt so badlyfor hitting this poor brown haired little boystanding in front of me. I took the two steps ittook to reach him, and threw my armsaround his shoulders in a deep hug. I contin-ued to cry and apologize profusely. He justsimply hugged me back and told me that hewas okay, and not to worry.I had looked up at him through my glossy,tear-ridden eyes knowing that we were goingto be the best of friends. He told me hisname was Gray and all I could say was, “likemy eyes” as I pointed at my hooded eyes. Itold him my name was Bennett and he gave
22/414me a quizzical look that I knew all to well. Iexplained to him that it was my mother’smaiden name and that I would never meetmy grandfather, whom she absolutely ad-ored, so she bestowed the name onto me.We remained inseparable for our wholechildhood. Our parents became the best offriends as well, and we rarely spent a mealapart from each other. We stayed outsideplaying in either of our yards until the street-lights came on, and then we headed to ourindividual houses. There were many nightsthat our parents would let us stay the nightwith each other, and we never knew any-thing different.Holidays and birthdays were always spent to-gether. We knew each other like the back ofour hands and I never questioned whatwould happen if one of us should move. Ourchildhood was surreal. Our parents were
23/414wonderful to us and to each other. I lovedGray’s parents almost as much as I loved myown. It’s amazing how one little event canchange the lives of everyone around you. Inever pictured my life without my parents,mostly because I was young and naive.Gray’s and mine idealistic lives wouldchange forever in the months before andafter our sixteenth birthdays.“Hey, what ya thinking about so hard overthere?” Gray playfully bumped into myshoulder, instantly bringing me back toreality.“Oh nothing.” He knew I was lying so I re-vised my statement. “I was just thinkingabout the day I moved next door to you.” Ismiled at the fond memory and so did he.“Who would’ve thought that my very bestfriend would end up being the annoying, cry
24/414baby little girl from next door?” He laughedas he leaned down to kiss me on myforehead.“Ha ha, very funny Gray. I could say thesame about you.” I started laughing uncon-trollably as I headed towards our spot underthe oak tree, where Hannah was patientlywaiting for me. I would say that she waswaiting for ‘us’, but when Hannah and I be-came friends in the eighth grade, Gray tookto not liking her immediately. I think he wasjealous that I now had to split my timebetween the two of them, when he was soused to having me all to himself. I walked atiny bit faster to get to Hannah before Gray,but I failed miserably as he was right by myside the whole way.“Hey Han, how’s your day been so far?” Irolled my eyes towards Gray trying to makethe conversation light. I hate it when they
25/414can’t be civil towards each other. Hannahhas never minded Gray. She never took aliking to him like all the other girls in town,but she put up with him and played nice formy benefit. I loved her even more for this.“Hey Bennett, hey Gray. My day has beenokay but it’s the last day, so, I mean howbad could it really be? How’s our valedictori-an on her last day of high school? You finishyour speech yet? Her face beamed withpride and I beamed back at her knowing Icould have never made it this far without her-oh and Gray.I sat down on the grass next to her andGray. I noticed he was trying to ignore us,the best he could. I knew Gray all too well,and I knew he was just patiently waiting forme to bring up the hot guy in the hall.
26/414 “I’m great. I finished my speech last night. Iwould love it if you could come over afterschool and proofread it for me. I’m sonervous it’s unreal.” I could feel Gray’s eyesboring into the back of my head with jeal-ousy that I didn’t ask him to read it first. I justignored him and smiled at Hannah.“That sounds good to me. I wanted to bringby a couple of dress choices for graduationso you can help me pick one anyway. Grayyou can come over and help too if you want.I know how much you can’t stand to be awayfrom Bennett for too long.”“HANNAH!” I shouted. “Behave.” I shook myhead, “You know I still don’t understand whythe two of you can’t just get along, at leastfor my sake.” I shook my head in disbeliefwhile eyeing Gray through my eyelashes.
27/414“It’s okay Hannah. I’m sure whatever youchoose to wear, you’ll look just as plain asalways.” He growled as he headed off in thedirection of the other members of the footballteam.I rolled my eyes at his petty behavior. Ilooked over and saw that Gray’s words hadhurt Hannah, more than she even thoughtpossible. Hannah isn’t ugly by any means, orplain. She doesn’t stand out amongst thesea of pretty girls in school but she can holdher own. She was only about five feet fourinches tall, but she was extremely petite andslender.She didn’t have very many curves, but it fither small body not to have them. She kepther shiny black hair cut into an A-line hair-style, and she had amazing emerald greeneyes. Hannah didn’t wear much makeup butshe didn’t really have too. Her face was
28/414flawless, sprinkled with the smallest amountof freckles and her ivory skin, making herhair and eyes stand out unbelievably so. Ithink that’s why Hannah and I got along sowell, we are one of the same, cut from thesame cloth. It was a non-materialistic clothand I wouldn’t have had it any other way.“I’m sorry Hannah, for Gray. I’m not surewhat his issue is. He was fine up until I raninto some guy in the hall.” It instantly clickedin my head. That was exactly why he wasmoody. I didn’t quite understand why, we’rebest friends and he has never been jealousbefore. “But the guy I ran into, literally wassex on a stick Han. He was absolutely, un-believably gorgeous.” I smiled a wide mouthgrin as I continued to tell her all about him.How he didn’t introduce himself, and how hesaid he was sure he would be seeing mearound. We laughed and giggled and I
29/414couldn’t help but be over the moon excited tofind out how I would see him again.Hannah and I finished lunch without Gray.He never came back over to walk with me toour next class, and I found this to be ratherodd. I searched the halls for him before en-tering Mrs. Crow’s classroom, but couldn’tfind him anywhere. I told Mrs. Crow that Iwas going to run to the restroom real quick,and that I would be right back. I took offdown hallway C to look for Gray. I stoppeddead in my tracks when I spotted whom Icould have sworn was Gray. I couldn’t besure because he was making out with a girlin the corner by the exit doors. I started towalk closer when my mouth literally fell tothe dingy linoleum floor in shock. Gray waskissing Hannah! How the hell did thishappen?
30/414I shook my head in disbelief. I could feel thetears starting to prick the back of my eyelids,as I turned to run as fast I could to theclosest restroom. I wasn’t quite sure why Iwas crying, but the tears would not stoprolling down my cheeks. I was almost in full-blown hysterics, when I heard the girls’ re-stroom door open. I grabbed some toilet pa-per blotting my eyes, trying to keep my cry-ing to a minimum.I really didn’t need the whole school knowingI was crying over Gray Weston, of all people.I couldnt grasp why I was even crying. Imean, Gray and I are friends and so areHannah and I. I only want both of them to behappy, but I felt betrayed. The two most im-portant people in my life, which treat eachother like shit in front of me, are actually,what? In love? Dating? Sleeping together?The possibilities were endless and none of itmade any sense. I finished blotting my eyes
31/414and emerged from the stall, only to comeface to face with, GRAY!“What the HELL are you doing in hereGray?” Disdain was seething from mymouth. I looked at him with wide angry eyes,until he finally stepped back hanging hishead. He looked sad and all I wanted to dowas put my arms around him and comforthim, but I didn’t. I couldn’t keep putting hisfeelings before my own.“I know you saw us.” He mumbled under hisbreath. “I saw you running to the bathroom.I’m so sorry Bennett. I should have told you.”He refused to look me in the eye, and Icouldn’t help but release all my pent up an-ger on him.“You’re sorry? YOU’RE SORRY?” My voicewas getting louder and I was now yelling athim and waving my finger back and forth.
32/414“How dare you say you’re sorry. You twowalk around and treat each other like shit allday. You can’t even get along with her whenI ask you to do it for, MY sake. You aresomething else Gray Elliot Weston.” His facepaled at hearing me use his full name, but Iwas beyond caring at this point.“How could you keep something like thisfrom me? I thought we told each othereverything; apparently I’m the only one whostays true to that. Well, you want the truth?You are a horrible best friend.” I regrettedsaying the words the minute I heard thempass my lips. I reached out for Gray but hewas backing away, heading out of the bath-room. “Gray wait, please come back and talkto me.” He kept walking. “I’m not the one inthe wrong here Gray, you are.”I ran back to Mrs. Crow’s classroom to grabmy bag and left. I ran full speed out to my
33/414car, barely catching a glimpse of the taillightsof Gray’s truck roaring out of sight. I had justruined the only relationship, with the onlyguy I have ever trusted, with my shitty words.I climbed into my car and made my way to-wards home. I knew exactly where to findhim.
ThreeI could see Gray through the old dilapidatedfence that connects our two houses, as Ipulled into the driveway of my house. I putthe car in park and grasped the steeringwheel with both hands before letting out thebreath; I didn’t realize I was holding. Mywords from earlier were coming back tohaunt me, and I could feel the hot salty tearsstart running down my cheeks. I knew Ineeded to make things right with Gray, evenif he had started this whole thing first. I wasstaring through the bug-ridden windshieldout towards my house, wondering what mylife would have been like, had I not metGray. The thought was overwhelmingly sadand I continued to cry.I slid my hand into the metal door handleand stepped out onto the driveway. I took ina deep breath and walked toward the
35/414conjoining fence, our parents had put in onour eleventh birthday. That was a day to re-member. We had a huge party in “our” back-yard, because that’s what it had become.Our parents decided to buy us one of thosecommercial grade tree houses. They had theguys who delivered the set tear down theproperty line fence, before installing it. I re-member Gray and I watching out of my bed-room window, perched on the edge of mybed in such anticipation we thought wewould die. It was the greatest thing I hadever seen. The whole process took aboutfour hours and we didn’t move, not one inchthat whole time.Gray would drape his arm across myshoulders and smile down at me throughthose thick black, beautiful lashes. I was inawe of him then, but not in that way. I inter-laced my fingers through his hanging hand
36/414and continued to stare outside, until our fath-ers decided it was time for the surprise.Mom’s voice rang through out our house,and we both bolted out of my room into thebackyard within seconds. I stood on ourporch, mouth open in amazement. Our grassfilled backyards had tripled in size. We nowhad free reign to come and go between eachother’s houses, and we were both beyondelated. We shared a quick smile and ranstraight out to the large pine wood structure.Gray ran right up the ladder into the smallerversion of our actual houses. I slowed mypace and walked around the tree house withprecision. I wanted to take it all in. I ran myfingers along the wood, lifting them before Icould get a splinter. I took in all the beautythat was ours. It had a ten row metal ladder,that lead up to the small cutout door. Onceinside it opened up into a two-room
37/414playhouse. It was painted pink in one roomand blue in the other. Our names hungacross the two pieces of wood that metacross the doorway, before sprouting out tomake the steeple for the ceiling. I couldn’thelp but touch everything.There were four windows total. All but two ofthem faced our back doors. The main roomor living room part had a small TV with abrown suede couch sitting across from it. Inmy room there sat a white wicker chair andmatching side table. They were brand new. Ismiled with pure and utter joy. Gray’s roomhad a black suede recliner with a black lac-quer table next to it. All of our books, journ-als, toys and small belongings cluttered eachroom with love.Our parents let us spend almost the wholeday out there, until it was time to get readyfor our party. I pulled Gray into a hug before
38/414ducking my head and rushing into my house.I was excited to put on my party dress. Mymom had found it for me at one of thosefancy shops at the mall. The pink satindraped down my body, resting right abovemy knee. It had two small cap sleeves, and asweetheart neckline that was lined with blackdaisies. I stood in front of my full-length mir-ror for half an hour before finally heading intothe living room, meeting up with my momand dad.When I reached the archway that opened upto the living room, my mom’s tears started tofall. I did a small twirl and ran into her arms. Ithanked her at least a hundred times for thedress, and turned just as my dad swoopedme up into the next hug. He held me tightagainst his chest and whispered “my sweetbaby girl” into my ear, then released me.
39/414I wiped away the small tears with the back ofmy hand as I walked into the bathroom, rightoff of the front room to make sure I stilllooked okay. I was one of the most memor-able days of my short life. My tears dried up,remembering all the happiness of that day.As I reached over to unlatch the fence, Ilooked up to see Gray sitting on the ladderwatching me with bated breath. My grayeyes met his thunderous blue one’s and Imouthed ‘I’m sorry.’ He shook his head andfor the first time in three years I saw a tearfall down his sun kissed cheek. This was myundoing, I ran right into his arms. Nothingelse mattered, not what he did, not what Idid, just him and me at this moment. Ineeded to comfort him as he once comfortedme when no one else in the world could.My arms wrapped tightly around his neck asI kissed his neck, right below his earlobe.
40/414“I’m so unbelievably sorry Gray. I shouldhave never said that. You know I didn’tmean it, right? Tell me you know that.” I wasin tears while grasping onto him for dear life.If he couldn’t or won’t forgive me, my lifewould fall into a million pieces.“I’m sorry too Bennett. Of course I forgiveyou.” His big arms snaked around my waistand pull me into his lap. “You know you’rethe one girl I will always love, don’t you?”I gently leaned up to kiss his cheek to reas-sure not only him, but also myself. “I doknow that Gray.” I slowly ran the back of myhand down his face, stopping just before Ireached his jaw line. “Gray, why didn’t youjust tell me?” I didn’t want to ruin this mo-ment between us, but I had to know.He pushed his fingers through his hair whileletting out a gasp of air, before looking into
41/414my eyes, with a look I have never seen onGray Weston’s face before. “I didn’t want tosee the look on your face that you have rightnow. You’re looking at me as if I have threeheads. It’s not like that with Hannah, I prom-ise Bennett. A couple months ago when youstayed to help the dance committee, she andI ran into each other in the parking lot. I toldher I was sorry for always being a dick, andthat we should try to make things, pleasant,before we all graduated.She agreed. I bent down to give her a quickhug and she kissed me. It was a swift peckto my lips, but then it dawned on me that Ihave only kissed one other girl, besidesyou.” I watched the blush reach his cheeksand I could tell that he was embarrassed. Iwas his first and only other kiss, besides hisstupid ex-girlfriend. I smiled shyly up at himwhile he continued.
42/414“So, I pulled her in and kissed her again. Itwasn’t a lustful kiss, but it helped mefeel...something. We snuck around, just kiss-ing, whenever we could. We both knew thatif you ever found out, you would hate us, sowe decided not to tell you. Today, in the hall-way, it was the last time Bennett. I was run-ning late to class and saw Hannah walkingtowards the office. I ran up to her and toldher that now that I was leaving,” he looked atme, waiting for my reaction.“I also told her that I needed to tell you, andmake things right before I left. Then wekissed for a few minutes. When I pulled backto say good-bye to her, that’s when I heardfootsteps running down the hall. I turnedaround and there you were. I was mortified. Iwanted to crawl up into a ball and die. Icould never imagine hurting you.”
43/414I shifted my weight on his lap, draping a legover the side of the cold metal ladder. I couldsee the hurt in his fallen face. I gentlygrabbed his face cradling it in my hands andwith absolute certainty, I kissed him. Thiswas not a small chaste kiss. This kiss meantmore, much more. I poured every ounce ofmy beating heart into this one kiss. I crackedmy lips and he took full advantage, exploringmy mouth tenderly and lovingly.I pushed my hands into his hair and lightlytugged. We were now fully intertwined andlocked together, as our kiss lasted for whatseemed like hours. I hesitantly let go push-ing my forehead onto the bridge of his nose.I couldn’t find the strength to open my eyes.His overly large hands lifted my chin up, so Iwas now looking into his endlessly blueeyes. They were as blue as the ocean, and Ifound myself lost in them. I couldn’t bring
44/414myself to look away, no matter how hard Itried. His eyes were burning bright with lust,love and longing. He had wanted this for fartoo long, and it was written all over his face. Irealized now that I may have wanted this justas much, if not more than him. I smiled at thethought. He pressed his soft puffy lipsagainst my swollen one’s in a swift kiss, buthe lingered for a couple seconds too long. Itook my chance and pressed our lips togeth-er one more time.
FourI must have dozed off because when I cameto, I was alone in my bedroom. I rolled overonto my side and stared at my small cozyabode. I hadnt changed it, not once in theeight years that I had been living here.My small white wooden desk still sat in thefar corner by my closet door. My bulletinboard had grown in size over the last eightyears, and now took up half of the pink wallacross from my door. I still slept in my fullsize bed, with quilt made by my mother whenI was only two years old. Across from mybed stood my eight drawer mahogany dress-er, cluttered with pictures of me and my par-ents, and me and Gray. I rolled over a bitmore staring at the small, framed picture onmy matching nightstand. It was a small pic-ture of my mom and dad when I was firstborn. They were staring into each other’s
46/414eyes with more love than I have ever knownor felt in my life.My dad was holding me in his right arm, withhis other arm wrapped tightly around mymothers waist. As I ran my finger across thepicture a stray tear fell onto my pillow. Imissed them dearly and my heart was yearn-ing to feel their touch. I carefully set the pic-ture back down sliding myself up against myheadboard. I sat staring blankly out the win-dow when I heard voices coming from thekitchen. This was an unusual occurrence,given the fact that my kitchen only everhoused Gray and myself since my parentsdied.I pushed myself up off my bed and lazilywalk towards the voices and clatteringsounds. I stopped dead in my tracks when Ispotted Gray and his mother in my kitchen,cooking dinner. The picture playing out
47/414before me came off as odd. Gray and hismom hadn’t been getting along since hemade the decision to go into the policeacademy this fall. As if hearing my innerthoughts, they both turned to stare at myshock-ridden face.“Well Dear, dont just stand there. Come sitat the table while Gray and I finish makingdinner.” His mother crooned. Her sleek cop-per brown bob swayed as she walked to-wards me.“Im a little confused.” I said, as I let her leadme to the dining room table. I sat backwatching as Mrs. Weston moved gracefullyaround my kitchen, just like my mother usedto. I smiled at the memory of my mother.“Gray told me you two had quite the daytoday, it was his idea.” She whispered thelast part in my ear as she set the French
48/414bread on the table. The aroma of oregano,basil, tomatoes and garlic pleasantly tickledmy nose. It suddenly dawned on me, I hadnteaten all day, and I was mouthwateringlyhungry.“It smells great Mrs. Weston, but really youdidnt have to do this, I manage just fine.” Itried to stifle a yawn.“Call me Reagan Dear. Mrs. Weston wasDaniel’s mother you know that. Like I toldyou, Gray here is the one who has doneeverything, I just cut the bread.” She gaveme a whimsical smile and went to search forglasses in the cupboard.“They’re in the cabinet above the stove.” Isaid, waiving my hand in that general direc-tion. I nestled into the chair at the smallglass dining room table, staring at Gray andhis mother as they interacted with one
49/414another. I had forgotten how much he andhis mother looked alike. Gray inherited al-most all of his looks from his mom. Her elec-tric blue eyes, and copper colored hair wereidentical to his.I admired his mother for all that she hadbeen through. After Gray’s dad died a fewyears back, she managed to keep herselfstrong and composed. She never left Gray tofend for himself. If anything, she showedeven more love than any adolescent couldimagine needing.Gray’s father, Daniel died in September ofour junior year. Mr. Weston had been a hom-icide detective for ten years before hisshocking death. Mrs. Weston had neverminded her husband’s line of work; she wasamazingly supportive of his sometimes-dan-gerous job. Of course she worried, as any
50/414wife of a detective would, but he alwaysseemed to stay out of harms way.The day he died was the day a piece of Mrs.Weston died as well. From what I could gath-er of that day, he and his partner were in-vestigating a homicide in a small apartmentcomplex outside of New Haven. The first of-ficers on the scene had cleared the apart-ment before Mr. Weston and his partnerentered.Ten minutes into their search a neighbor hadcome by to let them know that they heard astrange noise from the apartment above.Two men, shooting in their direction, wereambushing Mr. Weston and the other of-ficers, a few minutes later. Mr. Westoncaught a bullet to his chest and diedinstantly.
51/414After school we had headed home without acare in the world, until we spotted Mrs. We-ston waiting for us on their front porch, cof-fee cup in hand and a tear stained face.Gray broke down instantly, knowing what itwas she was going to say. Me on the otherhand, I stood looking dumbfounded at theboth of them, not knowing what was wrong.As soon as Mrs. Weston could speak again,she explained to me that Mr. Weston haddied. My heart broke into a million pieces forthe second time in a matter of 4 months.Gray and his mother were devastated, Grayrefused to leave his house for a month. Mr.Weston was like a second father to me, so Iguess I took the news almost as badly. Hewas one of the kindest men I had ever hadthe pleasure of knowing. The Westons tookme in as one of their own the minute we allmet one another, and that’s where westayed.
52/414I caught a glimpse of Gray smiling down athis mother, and I could see a part of Mr. We-ston in his smile. It filled my heart with happi-ness. I slowly stood up to grab myself aglass of water. Gray and his mother werecaught up in a discussion about our currenthealth care system, and I had no problemtuning them out. I stood in front of the sinkstaring out into our backyards with over-whelming sadness. Even though there wereothers in my house to keep me company to-night, I still found myself feeling alone.I noticed that Gray and Reagan were stillchatting amongst themselves, so I snuck outthe sliding glass door out onto the lawn. Itook a long sip from my water glass andsteadied it on the edge of the porch.I lay down in the overgrown grass, staring in-to the star speckled sky. I had spent many
53/414nights after my parents’ death, just lying inthis very spot wondering if they could seeme. I caught the small tear that had startedto fall down my cheek just as I heard theback door crackle as it opened. I didn’t haveto turn around or even sit up to know that itwas Gray. In a matter of seconds he was ly-ing right next to me.His hand slid through the grass, searchingfor mine. When he found it he intertwinedour fingers, squeezing tight. I didn’t say aword, just reciprocated by squeezing hishand back. I found peace just being in thepresence of Gray, and tonight was noexception.I gradually turned my head in his direction,only to realize that he had been looking atme the whole time. “Do you even realize howbeautiful you are?” He whispered quietly, I’mnot even sure I was meant to hear him.
54/414A small smile reached my face as my eyesinstantly locked onto his. “You know this, meand you, won’t work right now right?” I knewI was ruining this moment we were sharing,but he had to know.He turned his head to face the night sky. “Iknow Bennett. I wasn’t asking for anythingfrom you. I never have.” His voice was lacedin anger and I knew I had ruined our perfectmoment.His fingers let go of mine and he pushedhimself into a sitting position while shakinghis head. “Don’t you see it Bennett? Can youreally not see beyond yourself? I lo-. Justnever mind, dinner is ready, let’s go eat.” Hestood and wiped his hands down his pantsbefore heading inside.
55/414I huffed as I stood up and grabbed my glassfrom the porch. I knew I had hurt his feelingsjust now but if he was leaving me in a coupleof months, I had to start pushing him awaynow. It only made sense to spare myself theheartache I knew that I was going to have toendure. It was inevitable, and it made mewant to die.
FiveDinner was amazing. I hadn’t had a homecooked meal or at least one that hadn’tcome from a box, in I didn’t know how long. Imade sure I told Gray, at least a dozen timeshow great it tasted. He was acting strangeand I knew it was my fault. Mrs. Westonprattled on about meaningless things; I couldtell that she sensed the tension between thetwo of us. I knew it wasn’t in her nature topry. When we were all done eating, I imme-diately went to cleaning and loading thedishes into the dishwasher.Gray helped clean off the counters and thenturned to leave with his mother. I was takenaback with the fact that he didn’t even hangback a second to hug me good-bye. Mrs.Weston said a quick good night and theyboth walked out the front door. I stood on theother side of the closed door, baffled. What
57/414had just happened? My sadness suddenlyturned into pure rage, unleashing all of itonto the contents of my house.Picture frames and glass shattered at everycorner of the living room. I heaved the halfmoon wicker chair across the entryway alongwith CDs, books and movies. I ripped eachand every picture from every wall in thehouse, my nails chipping the paint in the pro-cess. I moved my way into the kitchen andnothing was left untouched. Pots, pans,plates, silverware, glasses and vases werehelpless to my fists. When I finally made myway into my bedroom, I slumped downagainst my bedroom door tears falling un-controllably down my face.I wish I could say that my fit made me feelsome sort of relief, but it didn’t. If anything, Iended up feeling worse off than before. I satmy head against my knees that were pulled
58/414up to my chest and let every emotion I hadboiling up inside of me, out. When my legsstarted to fall asleep, I crawled across mybedroom floor and up onto my bed. I curledup in the tightest ball possible and faced myback towards Gray’s window. I knew that hewould at least check on me that way, but Iwasn’t going to give him the satisfaction ofseeing me.My eyes felt like twenty pound weights onmy face when I woke the next morning. I letout a yawn, stretching the length of my bedin all directions. My body was extremely stiffdue to the fetal position that I had stayed inall night, but nothing compared to the painthat went shooting through my knuckles. I in-stantly cried out in pain. I wandered into thebathroom to wrap my hand.I put some antibacterial ointment on myknuckles after checking for shards of glass. I
59/414wrapped it in gauze and then again in anACE bandage. As I was fastening the Velcroon the bandage, I heard crunching glass. Iflung open the door and started screamingas I ran down the hall. “BE CAREFUL! ITSEVERYWHERE!” When I finally reached thesource of the noise Hannah stood staringwith a perplexed look on her face. All I couldthink, was at least it wasn’t a look of pity. Iwas getting really sick of that look.“Hi Han.” I made sure to keep eye contact,with no hint of forgiveness in mine. “Whatare you doing here?” I was pissed and Ineeded her to know. I walked into the kit-chen pantry to grab the broom, ignoringHannah in the process.“What happened to your house?” Shewhispered.
60/414“Nothing. I’ll say it again, why are you hereHan?”She moved to sit at the kitchen table. “Icame by to apologize Bennett. I am s-” I cuther off mid sentence. I was so over her andGray, and their apologies. For once, I justwanted one of them to be honest. I knewwhat I was going to say next would make hernever want to speak to me again, but I wasbeyond caring.“Hannah, I don’t give a shit how sorry youare. You claim to be my best friend. Youhave always been there for me, but then youhide this shit from me.” I began waiving myarms in the air for emphasis. “You straightlied to me more than once. Not once did youthink to yourself, maybe I should tell Bennett.Not once. You and Gray are beyond selfish.You were only concerned with yourself andhow he made YOU feel. Well, I deserve a
61/414better friend than you. I would have neverdone this to you, EVER! Now get out of MYhouse.” I slammed the broom into the dust-pan as I continued to sweep. I didn’t have tolook up to know that Hannah was runningout of my house, in tears. I heard the doorslam and I let out a deep sigh.“Well, if I would’ve known that this was whoyou were going to become, I would havenever told you.” His voice startled me and Icouldn’t help but roll my eyes and continuecleaning.“What do you want Gray?” I whispered.“What happened here Bennett?” His voicewas stern. It was sexy as hell.“Why the hell do you care? Nothinghappened here. You left. Some pictures fellshortly after.” I couldn’t turn to look at him.
62/414“That’s bullshit Bennett, and you know it. Didyou decide to throw yourself a little pityparty? Huh?”It took everything in me not to turn aroundand deck him across the face. Who did hethink he was coming into my house and ac-cusing me of throwing a pity party. “You’redamn right I did, asshole. When you turnedyour back on me last night and didn’t evensay good-bye, I guess I did throw a pityparty! What’s it to you?” I spat.“Are you trying to push everyone away Ben-nett? I’m pretty sure after that little speech,Hannah will never speak to you again. Ihope that makes you happy.”“It does! Now leave me alone!” I turned towalk into the living room but a strong handcaught my forearm in a tight grip.
63/414“Don’t touch me Gray. Just let go and leave.”I jerked my arm trying to free it, but he onlygripped tighter. He pulled me into his chestand I immediately gave in. I leaned into himand couldn’t stop the sobbing that followed.He gently wrapped his comforting armsaround me, squeezing me just enough to letme know he wasn’t letting go. “Stop pushingeverybody away Button.” I heard a chucklevibrate through his chest.“Don’t call me that.” I chuckled back.Gray led me to the kitchen table and sat medown, while he fetched me a glass of water.“Here drink this. Plastic was all I could findthat wasn’t broken. You sure did a numberon your parent’s place.” He sat next to mewith his hand on my knee.
64/414“Don’t call it theirs Gray. Its been mine nowfor two years.” I tensed under his gaze. Icould tell that he had forgotten that it hadbeen exactly two years ago today, that I hadlost my only reason for living.The back of his hand brushed down mycheek gently, instantly calming me. Tearsbegan to fall again, and he caught them withhis fingers one by one. “I am so sorry Ben-nett, I should have remembered.” He hunghis head in what I could only guess wasshame.“I’m fine Gray, I promise.” My tears told an-other story. He leaned in to hug me but Isqueezed past him, heading out into the liv-ing room to finish cleaning up my mess.“I’ll help you.”
65/414I nodded in appreciation. We cleaned in si-lence for at least two hours. I gathered eachbroken picture frame off of the glass-coveredfloor, not being able to bring myself to look atthe pictures they held. We finished around3:30pm and I glanced over at Gray andsmiled. I saw my best friend as a new man,and not a young boy. I ran into his arms andapologized profusely. I needed him to forgiveme, almost as much as I needed air tobreathe. I looked up at him through my veilof hair and squeezed him tighter, before let-ting him go.“You want to stay and hang out for a bit?” Iwas surprised when he said yes.We spent the rest of the day lying in eachother’s arms on the couch, watching movies.After one in the morning I shifted around tolook at him. “Will you stay with me?”
66/414He nodded his head and I snuggled deeperinto his chest and drifted into a dreamlesssleep.
Six End Of SummerGraduation had come and gone, as did sum-mer. I had known this day was coming forexactly eight months and ten days. It stilldidnt make the fact that he was leaving meany easier. Knowing the time was comingonly made it that much harder to deal with.Gray had literally been my whole world forthe last thirteen years. He knew me betterthan I knew myself, and I was petrified to bewithout him. Sure, I would be starting collegesoon but it just seemed wrong that our liveswere headed in separate directions.When Gray told me he was going to be join-ing the police academy, I cried for two wholedays. I couldn’t bring myself to leave my
68/414house. This wasnt how we had planned it.We were both supposed to go to the sameschool, have some classes together, andshare the college experience the way bestfriends should. Knowing that Hannah wouldbe there with me gave me some sense of re-lief but it just wasnt the same.It took some time, but she eventually forgaveme for my outburst and we ended up closerthan we had ever been. It took a little whilefor her and Gray to be able to hang outaround each other, but we managed. We allended up having the best summer ever. Wewent to parties, clubs and even made it intothe city a few times. I was sad to see it allend.Once the last bit of pink sky turned to black, Idecided to head back into the house. I hadspent most of the day in the tree house.Gray was busy getting his things together
69/414and ready for the academy. I figured I mightas well get used to the loneliness now. I slidopen the back door not knowing what to dowith myself. I glanced at the clock on the kit-chen wall and sighed heavily realizing thatsleep would most likely be evading me, yetagain. My house had turned into my solitaryconfinement since laying my parents to rest,and I had learned to accept it. Four months before Gray’s father passed,my parents had been in a terrible car acci-dent that claimed both of their lives. The onlything that I can remember clearly from thatnight was Gray’s mom coming over to giveme the news, which would forever changeme. Gray hadnt left my side since that fate-ful day. His mother tried to get me to move inwith her and Gray more than once but I justcouldnt bring myself to leave “my” home. Itwas the last place I was with both of them
70/414and leaving just felt wrong, like I would beleaving a part of them behind.I still spent practically every minute of theday over at Gray’s house with him after that.I would head over in the mornings beforeschool, study, hang out and then after Graywould walk me home at night. Gray used tooffer to stay with me every time he wouldturn to leave, but I insisted that I was fine.Even though I was anything but. Those weremy moments of weakness, when I would crymyself to sleep and he should have neverhad to see that. Gray and his mother werethe most selfless people I had ever met. Hismother always told me that our grief wouldmake us stronger people. After a month, Iwas beyond repair. Gray began sneakingback into my house through one of the kit-chen windows and sleeping on the couchshortly after.
71/414The crying rarely eased up, and slowly Graywould start holding me while I would cry my-self to sleep. My crying stints became lessand less, but only if Gray was there to holdmy trembling body in his arms. We spentnight upon night talking, once I stopped cry-ing all together. He eased my pain in a way Inever thought possible and just in time forme to help him with his. I would be eternallygrateful to him.I rolled over towards my small bedroom win-dow that faced Gray’s, trying to see if he wasin his darkened room. It only took a secondfor his eyes to find mine. I watched him ashe turned on his bedside lamp. It illuminatedevery chiseled facet of his gorgeous faceand body. A smile broke out on his face, andI couldnt help but smile back. Against mybetter judgment, I waved for him to comeover. In less than a second his light was offand I could see his muscular frame crawl out
72/414of his window, sprinting straight over to mine.I pushed up on the frame, while staring athow his white cotton shirt hugged everymuscle across his chest and shoulders. Graywas definitely something to look at.He climbed onto my bed and discarded hisshirt onto my bedroom floor. I pressed myback into his chest, letting his strong armsconsume my body. This was home but yetagain my comfort in this, in how we were to-gether, would be leaving soon.I breathed a heavy sigh before I whispered,“Hi.”“Hi yourself. You doing okay Button?” Hechuckled in my ear. Gray had been callingme Button since the sixth grade, when hedared me to stick a button up my nose. Heswore it wouldnt fit. Boy was he ever wrong.My mom took me straight to the emergency
73/414room knowing damn well she couldnt get itout herself. I was humiliated, but Graythought it was hilarious and the name hasstuck ever since.“You know I hate it when you call me that.” Inudged him in his ribs making him laugheven harder. “I guess Im okay, for now.” Isighed.“I know its going to be hard Bennett but Ipromise you, things wont change betweenus. You’re my best friend and that I swear,will forever remain true. I love you Button.”He kissed the back of my head quickly andgave me a slight squeeze. I nestled furtherinto his chest not wanting this moment toend. He was my best friend and no amountof distance could change what weve beenthrough, or what we mean to each other,nothing!
74/414I woke the next morning to a cool breezeblowing against my back. I shivered involun-tarily and reached for my comforter. Instead Istumbled across a piece of paper tucked upunder my side. I scrambled to wrap my com-forter around myself and lay back to readwhat good ol’ Gray had to say.Sorry, I had early testing today and I didntwant to wake you. I hope you slept ok, Iknow I did;) Ill text you when I get done.LoveGI couldnt help but smile. I knew that we wereslowly but surely blurring the lines of ourfriendship but I was beyond caring. I sat up,closed my window and then headed out tothe kitchen for a bowl of cereal and coffee. Iso needed coffee!
SevenMy day seemed to drag by extremely slowwithout Gray. I ended up cleaning my entirehouse, which only took about three hours. Itried to keep myself busy, but nothing wasworking. Around 3:00pm my phone went off,alerting me to a text message. When I sawGray’s name flash across the screen, Ibegan beaming. I didn’t want to, but I missedhim terribly. I just wanted to hang out withhim as much as possible before he left. I slidthe bar across the screen opening up thetext. A smile as wide as the Grand Canyonspread across my face as I read his sweetwords.HEY BEAUTIFUL, JUST FINISHEDUP AND WAS THINKIN ABOUT YOU.YOU WANT ME TO COME BACK OVER?G
76/414My stomach filled with butterflies. It waskilling me how badly I wanted to see him. Isat against the couch and pondered whetheror not it was a good idea. I knew what myheart wanted, but my head was fighting toothand nail to push him away. My smile fellwhen I realized what I needed to do.SORRY HON. I HAVE SOME ERRANDSI NEED TO GET DONE BEFORE SCHOOLSTARTS, RAINCHECK??I knew I was going to break his heart, butbetter his than mine at the moment. I neededto keep some of my dignity in tack. It wasn’tall a lie; I really did have things I needed topick up for school. I just needed some timeto process and deal.NO WORRIES, IF UR BUSYUR BUSY. LET ME KNOWWHEN YOU GET DONE.
77/414GI knew he would be pissed and after his text,I decided to leave it alone. I knew we wouldhang out again before he left. I felt bad for ig-noring Gray all day but I just couldn’t bringmyself to get wrapped up in, whatever it wasthat was happening between us. My feelingswere growing way beyond friendship, and Iknew that was hopeless.I turned onto our street at half past ten. I no-ticed that his front porch lights were turnedoff and I assumed he was in bed. Okay,more like I was hoping he was in bed. Notlikely, seems how it was only 10:00pm on aSaturday night. I didn’t know how to explainany of this so Gray would understand.I closed the door to my car as quietly as Icould. I stared in the direction of his frontdoor as I threw my hip into the door closing it
78/414the rest of the way. I let out the air I washolding and turned to head inside.“Holy shit gray, you scared the Hell out ofme. What is your problem?” I smacked hischest while clutching mine to catch mybreath.“Me? Why were you being all sneaky, clos-ing your car door all-quiet? Are you avoidingme?” There was emptiness in his voice.I slid my finger down his cheek, “No I’m notavoiding you. I didn’t know if your mom wassleeping or not. I didn’t want to go aroundslamming doors. That’s all.”LIAR!My subconscious yelled at me. I made myway around his tall figure, making my way to
79/414unlock my front door. He was right behindme.Damn it!“Well, I’m glad you made it home okay.” Hestarted off towards his house then yelledback across the lawn, “Oh yeah, Hannahwas looking for you earlier. Looks like youwere avoiding her too.” His long legs pulledhim further from me.“Gray, wait.” I paused briefly, “You want tocome inside?” The words were out of mymouth before I could stop them. Great Ben-nett, let’s go ahead and complicate thingseven more.“No, that’s okay. I’m going to go out for a bitwith Vince. See ya later Bennett,” he yelledright before he disappeared into his house.
80/414I stood on my porch, mouth agape. Did heseriously just turn me down to hang out with,Vince? I was utterly confused and disappoin-ted. Gray never turned down the chance tohang out with me. Maybe he was trying todistance himself as well, or maybe, I was justbeing that big of a bitch. I shrugged myshoulders and made my way inside. I fixedmyself a frozen dinner and headed into myroom to finish getting things together for myfirst semester at Connecticut University.I set my food down on my desk and noticedthe note still lying on my bed. I crawled ontomy stomach and lay there staring at it, hop-ing it would tell me what to do. I was beyondconfused with everything that was going on.It didn’t help that my emotions were strewnabout all over the place.I snuck a glance towards Gray’s window andnoticed him sitting at his desk. That’s weird;
81/414he said he was going out with Vince. Whoknows, maybe he changed his mind.Vince had been Gray’s best friend sincemiddle school. They both played on thesame football team, and ended up playingon our high school team. They were bothheading to the academy together, go figure.Those two and their damn Bromance. Ichuckled to myself.Vince was a good-looking guy. He was smal-ler than Gray. Vince only stood at about fivefeet ten inches, and he was tall and lanky.He was fit, but had nowhere near the samemuscle structure as Gray. I used to have asmall crush on Vince in middle school. Hehad naturally bleach blonde hair and lightblue eyes. He used to flirt with me a bit backin the day, but Gray put a stop to that beforeit could go anywhere. Not that I would haveever dated Vince anyway, the minute he
82/414opened his mouth, he became such adouche. I couldn’t even stand to be aroundhim half the time these days.I didn’t realize how long I had been staringuntil his brilliant blue eyes caught mine. Iblinked and tried to look away. When myeyes came back to focus on his windowagain, he was gone. I shrugged to myselfand went to my desk to eat my dinner.Around eleven o’clock my phone alerted meto a text message. I half ran to my bed tosee who it was. Disappointment clouded myexpression when I saw it was only Hannah.HEY GIRLY. BIG PARTYTONIGHT, YOU IN?HANI really wasn’t in the mood to go to a party,but I was so sick of hanging out at home by
83/414myself all the time. I let out a sigh before Itext her back.I’M IN. COME GET MEIN 20;)I pulled myself off of my bed and forced my-self to get a little dolled up. I only had twentyminutes, so I had to make it quick. I sat atmy vanity and brushed mascara on mylashes, and swiped some dark pink shadowacross my lids. I brushed some bronzer andpowder over my face and finished it with apale pink lip-gloss my mother had boughtme. I had straightened my hair earlier, so Ionly had to run a brush through it to make itlook presentable.I opened my closet door and stepped in, lost.I had no idea what to wear to a party. Han-nah always dressed to the extreme, showingtoo much of, well, everything. I on the other
84/414hand, rarely showed anything at all. Everytime we had gone out over the summer, Iwas sure to wear jeans and a loose fittingshirt. I didn’t like the attention like she did.Tonight I was going to throw caution to thewind and wear the pink and black pin stripedhalter top that Hannah had given me for mybirthday this summer. I didn’t give myselftime to talk myself out of it. I discarded mybra on the floor of my closet and slid the silkyhalter over my head. I zipped up the sideand pulled on my favorite pair of skinnyjeans. I grabbed my black boots and socksand made my way to the kitchen.I didn’t bother looking in the mirror beforeleaving because honestly, I wasn’t trying toimpress anyone so I didn’t really care all thatmuch. A few minutes later, I heard Hannah’shorn honk. I grabbed my purse off the halltable along with my keys and locked up.
85/414Excitement was slowly starting to creepthrough my veins as I jogged to the passen-ger side of her car.“Hey Han,” I yelled over the music she in-sisted on blaring through the speakers. I slidin and buckled my seatbelt not knowingwhere we were going, and not really caringfor once.Hannah reached to turn the stereo down abit before talking. “Hey girly, you look HOT!!Every guy at this party is going to shit theirpants when they see you. Love the top.” Shesmiled and winked at me knowing I had nev-er dared to wear the top she bought me, be-fore now. “Where’s Gray on this lovely even-ing?” She chuckled to herself. “Isn’t he likeattached to your hip?”I could see her roll her eyes. “He’s not at-tached to my hip Hannah. I think he’s
86/414hanging out with Vince tonight. Who knows.”I shrugged and continued to look out thepassenger side window. As much as I didn’twant it to bother me, it did. I usually knewwhere Gray was and what he was doing, buthe was acting so weird lately.Hannah’s voice cut through my thoughts likea knife. “Well, who cares? We are going tohave a blast. I heard about this party frommy sister. She says that it’s supposed to bekiller. She’s meeting us there. Its in thedorms next to hers.” Hannah smiled thebiggest smile I had ever seen on her face. Iquestioned whether a guy had something todo with it, but knew better than to ask.Thirty minutes later, we were pulling up infront of Missy’s dorm at ConnecticutUniversity. Hannah and Missy hadn’t alwaysgotten along like they did now. Missy wasfour years older than Hannah and she never
87/414let Hannah forget it. They looked nothingalike, and I always found it rather odd. Missywas about my height and a bit on the pudgyside. We used to tease her, saying that shegained the freshman fifteen and never got ridof it. She didn’t like that at all. They had thesame green eyes, but while Han had reallydark hair, Missy was platinum blonde.She used to come home on the weekendsand take us out, until she became too coolfor her little sister to be tagging along. Nowthat Missy was entering her last year of col-lege, she seemed a bit nicer. At least untilwe start attending school with her thissemester. I always thought that Missy wassecretly jealous of Hannah and all the atten-tion she would attract from guys. There wasreally no other explanation for the way shetreated her.
88/414I checked my lip-gloss and hair real quick inthe side mirror before exiting the car. Thenight air had turned crisp, and I suddenlywished I had remembered a jacket. Theleaves were just beginning to start to turntheir glorious brown and orange hues, and Icouldn’t help but notice some of the fallenbuds along the walkway. Connecticut wasdefinitely a beautiful sight to behold when fallstarted coming around.I walked briskly to catch up with Hannah andlooped my arm through hers as we made ourway to the doors. “Thanks for inviting meHan, I really needed this.” I squeezed herarm to my side in a half attempt at a hug. “Iknow you do Bennett. Come on, were goingto have so much fun.”Missy was walking down the hall towards theparty when we reached the top of the
89/414staircase. “Missy!” Hannah yelled to get hersister’s attention but Missy just kept walking.“What a bitch! Oh, I can see this is going tobe fun.” Hannah sighed.We eventually caught up to Hannah’s sisterand she played it off like she never heardHannah. Yeah right! We entered into a bigfour-room dorm. I had never seen one thissize before. Granted I had only ever seenMissy’s room and a few others, but still thisplace was huge in comparison. There was abig open common room with a small kitchento the left and then four big bedrooms withtheir own doors in every corner. It was theperfect party pad that’s for sure.When we walked in we didn’t notice a singleindividual. We had only been to three otherparties in Missy’s dorm, but we usually raninto the same crowd at every one.
90/414“Don’t worry, I’m sure we will run intosomeone we know.” Hannah nudged me.We headed straight for the drink table. Iwasn’t much of a drinker so I decided to stickwith soda for now and be DD. Hannahpoured herself a vodka cranberry, and anextra shot of vodka to get warmed up. “Yousure you don’t want a drink?” Hannah yelledover the music that a DJ was spinning in theback corner. “We can always crash atMissy’s if we need to.”I shook my head, “No, I’m okay for now. I’lljust stick to soda.” I smiled lifting my can ather. She clanked her shot glass to my alu-minum and waved for me to follow her ontothe balcony outside. The air felt at least tendegrees cooler being up on the seventhfloor. I shivered and wrapped my armsaround myself.
91/414We ended up running into Leslie, a girl wemet at our first party. She was your quintes-sential college party girl. She belonged toone of the sororities and was currently datingone of the most gorgeous guys I had everseen, and the star quarterback. She wasstunning. She looked exactly like Malibu Bar-bie with long straight blonde hair, almondshaped blue eyes and a rack that even I wasjealous of.“Hey girls, how are you ladies doing? It’sbeen far too long since we have partied.”Leslie hugged us both, a little too tight forcomfort. I could tell she had been drinkingsince way before now.“Hey Les, we’ve been busy getting ready forschool next week. Where are all the hot guysat?” Hannah shouted.
92/414“Oh, don’t you worry little lady, they will startflowing in like water in no time.” She winked.Hannah and Leslie stood off to the side talk-ing about who knows what when I felt myback pocket vibrate. I slid my phone out andsaw that I had a new text message fromGray.HEY SORRY ABOUT EARLIER.HOPE YOUR NIGHT IS GOOD.VINCE & I ARE HEADED TO A PARTY,CATCH YA TOMORROW.GAt that very minute I was beyond livid. Ipushed past the new bodies that had takenover the back balcony, to smoke andchitchat. I made my way over to the drinktable and poured a tall shot of vodka in arandom shot glass. I threw it back andslammed the glass back down on the table.
93/414Once my distorted face went back to normal,I filled up another and shot that one backtoo. I could feel the warm liquid coating myinsides and I knew it was only a matter oftime before I would be feeling the effects. Iwas in the midst of pouring myself anothershot when I felt a hand on my shoulder.Thinking it was Hannah; I quickly turned witha second shot in my hand ready for her. Imust have turned too quickly because one ofthe liquid filled glasses was now all oversome guy’s shirt.“Oh shit. I am so sorry.” I reached back tothe table for some napkins and absent-mindedly started wiping off his shirt myself. Islowly looked up from beneath my lashesand my voice literally caught in my throat. Itwas him!“It’s you.” I finally stuttered.
94/414“It’s you.” He smiled, and I melted. His teethwere perfectly straight and bright white. Hislush lips pulled up over them in the most per-fect smile I had ever seen.I couldn’t help but smile back. “It is me. I’mBennett by the way. I don’t think we ever hada proper introduction.”“Hi Bennett. I’m Raylon. Welcome to myplace.” He held his arms out as if I was sup-posed to be impressed.I laughed, a real laugh for the first time inweeks. “This is a nice place you have here,”I winked.He laughed a loud boisterous laugh thatmade me smile from ear to ear. My fadedmemory of the first time we had met didn’t dohim justice. He was in incredible shape. Hisblack shirt hugged every curve and ounce of
95/414muscle that made up his upper body. His T-shirt was paired with ripped jeans and a pairof flip-flops. He was the epitome of sex, andhe was standing here talking to lil ol’ me.“Are you okay?” I heard Hannah come upbeside me a minute later. “Oh my gosh haveyou been drinking?” Her eyebrows werepulled together, a smile tugging at her lips.“Yes Hannah, I am drinking.” I couldn’t helpbut smile. Hannah was always trying to getme to drink. I never wanted to, until now.“Well, thank the fucking Lord. It’s aboutdamn time you stopped being so good all thedamn time.” She wrapped her arm aroundmy shoulders while handing me a cup ofsome concoction she had made. I couldalready tell she was beyond drunk, but I wasquickly starting to catch up.
96/414I threw back the drink and reached for anoth-er before I realized that Raylon was stillstanding in front of us. “Oh sorry. Han this isRaylon, Raylon this is my best friend Han-nah. He’s the guy that ran into me in the hallthe last day of school.” I arched my eye-brows at her.“Oh...well Raylon, seems you left quite theimpression on our lil Bennett here.” Shesmiled over at me, “Well, it was nice to meetyou Raylon. I’ll come catch up with you in abit, Bennett.” She turned and gave thumbsup behind his back so he couldn’t see her.“Sorry about my friend.” I said.“Nothing to be sorry about. She seems likefun.” He smiled while taking a sip from hisred solo cup.
97/414“She is. So, what year are you?” I knew Isounded stupid but it was the only thing thatcame to mind.“Senior. I’ll actually be graduating in Janu-ary, a couple months before all these losers.”He chuckled as he waved his arms towardseveryone in the room.I couldn’t help but laugh with him. His laughwas contagious. “I see. Well then, maybe Iwill see ya around for the next couplemonths. I mean before you leave us losers.”I feigned being hurt but then chuckled whenhe leaned in to apologize.We eventually made it onto the couch andwe talked about anything and everything. Hewas the only child of a divorced couple. Hehad lived with is mom, and his dad nevercame around. He just turned twenty-three atthe end of summer. He had played football
98/414since he was six and he made it to Connecti-cut University on a full ride scholarship for it.He and his mom are very close. He talks toher almost every day and he has only everhad one serious relationship, in high school.I started to tell him the Cliffs Notes version ofmy life, leaving out all the bad when I heardan all to familiar voice announcing his pres-ence. I slowly stood up and rounded thecorner, when he came into view. He stoodwith both arms up drink in one hand like hewas some kind of God at this party. I tooknotice of Vince standing a little bit behindhim, and then I noticed the small redheaddirectly underneath Gray’s arm. His armcame down gently around her shoulder and Iwatched as he kissed her on the top of herhead.“Someone you know?” He had just wit-nessed me staring, shit!
99/414“I thought I did but that’s not him.” I turnedand grabbed his hand so he would follow meback to the table where the drinks sat. Idowned three more shots of vodka and thenmade myself a cocktail, consisting of vodkaand a tiny splash of cranberry juice. I wasfeeling better already.“You might want to slow down a bit there,kiddo.” He said smugly.“I think I know what I can handle. Oh, anddon’t call me kiddo.” I spat back and turnedto find Hannah. She was still on the backpatio, only now with a tanned muscular armwrapped around her waist as she stood stilltalking to Leslie.“Oh Hannah, how you?” I could hear mywords starting to slur. I inched closer to herspilling drops of the contents of my cup
100/414along the way. “I see you found a man,hmm?” Nothing was making sense and Icould feel my body getting heavy and my lipswere becoming numb.“Oh my God Bennett, how much have youhad to drink?” She grabbed the red cup frommy hands, throwing it in the tall blackgarbage can in the corner. “Let’s get you awater.” She started pulling me inside when Istopped her.“No! No! I can’t go inside.” I turned crossingmy arms over my chest.“What do you mean?” As soon as the ques-tion came out of her mouth, I saw her gazelock on his. “Oh shit Bennett. What is he do-ing here, and with her?” I could hear the dis-gust in her voice.
101/414Gray had only ever dated one person, wellbesides Hannah. Bobby Jo Levingston, thered headed firecracker who was a bitch toeveryone imaginable, especially me. Gray’sfriendship and mine was their final undoing.He dated her for six months before she star-ted making my life a living hell, and in returnGray made hers one. Apparently, she hadforgiven him. I couldn’t help but watch as hisblue eyes looked into hers while they stoodgrinding together on the makeshift dancefloor. As quick as I went to turn away, hisgaze caught mine. I could see the sadnessand apologetic look in his eyes, but I waspissed and I wasn’t giving in that easily.
EightHis hand was on my arm before I couldmake it past the small doorway into one ofthe rooms. I held my face away from him, notwanting to cry. I could feel the tears wellingup behind my eyes, but I was damn sure notgoing to let him see that.“Bennett, look at me. I didn’t know you wouldbe-” his voice cut off.I snapped my head around quickly sendingme off kilter. After regaining my sense of bal-ance, I stared deep into his ice blue eyes.“YOU’RE SORRY? You didn’t know I wasgoing to be here, right? That’s what youwere going to say. You made me feel like acomplete asshole for blowing you off todayand then you come here, with HER?” I poin-ted in the general direction of where BobbyJo was standing. “How dare you. How dare
103/414you Gray. She treated me, your best friend,like absolute shit the entire time you guyswere together and now you’re just going towhat? Take her home? Get her drunk andthen sleep with her?” I unleashed years offrustration on him. I couldn’t stop myself. Itwas something he had to hear.“Bennett, please just talk to me. Not like this,let’s go home and talk. Please!” He had mewrapped in his arms so tightly; I couldn’tsquirm out of their hold. I tried to pushagainst his chest but nothing happened.“Bennett you have to talk to me,” hewhispered.I was about to give in when I heard his voice.“I believe she asked you to let her go.” Hisvoice was powerful and in a second Gray’sarms dropped to his sides with his handsballed into fists. I knew what was about to
104/414happen. I positioned myself between the twoof them and tried to calm Gray down.“Who the Hell are you?” Gray puffed.“I’m the guy whose house you’re in. I’m alsothe guy who is going to have to hurt you, ifyou try to man handle her again.”“ What the Fu-, oh I remember you. You’rethe guy who ran into her at school. I knewyou were going to be trouble. This has noth-ing to do with you, so butt the fuck out.” Grayreached for my hand but I was instantlypulled behind Raylon’s muscular frame.“I told you not to touch her.” Raylon pokedhis finger into Gray’s chest.“STOP BOTH OF YOU!” I screamed as loudas my lungs would allow. I put a hand oneach of their chests trying to separate them.
105/414“Raylon you need to back off. You don’t un-derstand enough to get in the middle of this.”I looked up at him with a sympathetic look inmy eyes, hoping he would see that I wassorry that I had to choose. “As for you,” Ipushed Gray towards the front door, “youdon’t get to come up in here with another girlaround your arm, and then try to protect me.It doesn’t work that way Gray. You can’twant all of me one minute and then onlysome of me another. It’s not fair.” I looked in-to his eyes and I could see that my wordswere breaking his heart.He hung his head before he finally spokeback. “I was upset Bennett. I wanted to bringyou here with me but you blew me off, allday. I thought we had an amazing night to-gether. I was so excited to get done withtesting this morning and get back to you. Ihad a whole day planned out. Then you justbrushed me off, like nothing happened. Iknow you feel it Bennett. I’m not stupid, I can
106/414see it in your face.” His hands clutched ontothe sides of my face as he stared into myeyes.“Nothing was going to happen with BobbyJo, I swear it. I was just trying to make it soevery waking thought, in my God damnedhead wasn’t consumed with you.” He threwhis hands up in the air exasperated. “FuckBennett, what am I supposed to do?” Hishands fell to his sides in defeat.I reached for his shoulder to turn him to-wards me, but he evaded my touch and star-ted walking towards the stairs. “Tell VinceI’m going home. I’ll get a hold of you tomor-row. Good night Button.” He was down thestairs before I could even catch my breathenough to speak. Why did things have to beso complicated between us?
107/414I made my way back in to find Hannah, whenRaylon stopped me in the small hallwayleading to the common room. “Are youokay?” He sounded truly concerned, but Ijust didn’t have the patience to deal with thiskind of situation tonight. “I’m fine, but I need to find Hannah. I’msorry.”I moved around him and Hannah was stand-ing waiting for me by the first bedroom onthe right. “You ready to go Calamity Jane?”She was joking, but I couldn’t help but swal-low back the lump starting to form in mythroat. “Just get me out of here, please?” Shewrapped her arm around my shoulders andpushed our way to the front door. I didn’tlook back to see if Raylon was looking myway. Honestly, I didn’t care.
108/414The car ride was eerily silent. I couldn’t pro-cess what had happened through my drunk-en haze to have a coherent thought. Hannahknew not to push it; she just kept the radioup enough for some background noise. Alittle bit later we pulled into my driveway andI couldn’t help but notice that Gray’s truckwasn’t in the drive.A part of me was almost hoping he would bewaiting for me. I should’ve known better.When Gray was upset or mad, home wasnot the first place he went.I waved good-bye to Hannah. My wobblyknees carried me to the side gate leading to‘our’ backyard. I wanted to go straight to thetree house. That was where I felt the safest,and right now I was feeling anything but. Myvision was still blurry making me stumbleacross the grass in search of the ladder. Icould barely make out the shadowy figure,
109/414when my knee slammed right into the edgeof it.“Ouch!” I cursed under my breath. I reachedout and grabbed hold of one of the metalslats. I pulled up my leg to go climb, but fellagain. This time I fell onto the grass.“Son of a bitch!” This seemed impossible. Ireached out one more time determined to atleast get half way up. I made it to the secondstep before slipping again and falling flat onmy back onto the wet ground. The sprinklersmust have just gone off before I got homebecause my ass was slowly getting wet. Igave up and decided just to lay there in mydrunken haze, not caring about anything.I heard a laugh and immediately sat up look-ing around. When I heard it again I searchedthe dark backyard, stopping when I saw hisface through the doorway of the tree house.
110/414He was here. Wait, what was he doing here?And who did he think he was laughing atme?“Oh you think this is funny, huh?” I couldn’thelp but laugh along with him. It was kind offunny.“If the roles were reversed, you know youwould be laughing your ass off.” He exten-ded his arm out for me to take his hand. Itried more than once, but failed miserablyand fell back onto the grass laughing hyster-ically. After Gray stopped laughing at me, hefinally came out to help. I reached my handout for him to take it, but in a second he hadme in his arms and he was walking up theladder.Once we were inside he sat me down on thecouch and went to the mini fridge, comingback with a bottle of water for me. I nodded
111/414in appreciation and gulped down half of thebottle before taking a breath. As I leaned for-ward to set the bottle down on the small cof-fee table, I felt his strong arms wrap aroundmy waist. He pulled me back onto his chestand kept his arms where they were. I restedmy head back against him wrapping my fin-gers through his.“I like this.” I mumbled.“So how much did you drink tonight there, lilmiss?’ It came across like a joke, but I knewhe was being serious.“Not a whole lot.” I lied.“Uh huh, I bet. You seemed pretty tankedwhen I showed up.”“How would you know? You were busy withyour paws all over that redheaded skank.”
112/414My hands flew over my mouth realizing whatI had just said. “Sorry Gray.”“Trust me Bennett, I noticed you.” I knew hewas rolling his eyes.“Where’s your truck Gray?” I turned my headslightly to listen for his response.“Uh, I was drinking Bennett, I took a cab. Ican’t afford to get popped with a DUI rightbefore I head off to the police academy.”I felt like an asshole for even asking, nowthat I thought about it. “Me too. Well, not thecab part but the drinking part for sure.” Igiggled.“I figured as much.” He chuckled.“Whatever Gray, I’m aloud to drink if I wantto.”
113/414His arms squeezed my waist tighter beforeletting go completely. Just as I was turning toobject, his lips crashed into mine. In an in-stant I was on my back on the couch withGray hovering above me. There was purelust in his eyes as I pulled his face back tomine. Our kisses started out soft and gentle,familiarizing ourselves with one anotheragain. But they quickly turned heated. Whenmy lips fell open, Gray took full advantage.Our tongues massaged one another’s in aloving motion. Our pace became faster andhe began nibbling my bottom lip, slowly mov-ing down to my chin. He kissed me along mycollarbone, making my heart rate skyrocket.Every inch of me was a live wire and on fire,for Gray. I pushed my hands into his hairand gave a small tug. He responded by pep-pering kisses all down my sides while slowlylifting my shirt up.
114/414I heard the zipper on the side of my halter-top and froze. I was suddenly very nervousfor what was going to happen next. Graymust have sensed my nervousness becausehis lips were suddenly on mine. This kisswas different. I could feel the yearningpulling at him. My worries melted away aswe intertwined our tongues again. I raked myfingernails down his back, and found thehem of his shirt. With one swift move I waspulling his shirt over his muscular back andhead. Once he discarded his shirt on thefloor, I continued to run my hands over everycrevasse and muscle I could find.My insides were yearning for him to touchme. I wanted to feel him all over me. His fin-gers fell to the button on my pants, and Iwiggled them down my hips and off my legs.He gently laid me back down and hoveredabove, just staring at me. I was all of a sud-den feeling very insecure. I didn’t move a
115/414muscle, even though my mind was yelling atme to cover up. He slowly shook his headand leaned in right next to my ear, “You areabsolutely stunning.” He kissed right belowmy earlobe and I could feel it all the way inmy core.I could feel the wetness starting to pool inmy panties as I wriggled underneath Gray,wanting him to touch me anywhere andeverywhere. I’m guessing Gray could sensemy anticipation because in the next second,he was ripping my halter from the zipper upand throwing the shreds that were left, onthe table next to us. Our kissing becamemore intense and I pushed my hand down tohis waistline while he was preoccupied withmy mouth. I fumbled with the button and zip-per, mostly due to my inebriated state butalso because of my nerves. Gray laughedunder his breath and reached down to giveme a hand.
116/414A moment later his pants and boxer briefswere on top of my clothes on the woodplanked floor. Our hands ran across everyinch of each other’s bodies. I wanted toknow every last part of him, while committingit to memory, in case this was our only timetogether. Our breathing became more rapidas he slowly entered me. He pulled back alittle bit to make sure I was okay and with anod from me, he pushed himself in further.I could feel my walls starting to clencharound him and I knew I wouldn’t last long.Gray stayed at a steady pace and never tookhis eyes off of mine. It was the most intimatemoment I would ever share with a man, and Icouldn’t believe that the man I was sharing itwith was Gray Weston.We both found our release together a mo-ment later. Gray pulled out of between my
117/414quivering legs and laid his head on mychest. As our breathing began to even out, Ireached for his face for him to look at me.“I am starving.” I whispered and he began tolaugh.“I was afraid you were going to ask me toleave.” He gently rolled off of me andhanded me his shirt. “Here put this on. Let’sgo inside and get you something to eat.” Hekissed my forehead before reaching for hisjeans. I couldn’t tear my eyes away as hepulled his jeans over his muscular thighs. Icouldn’t help but stare at this amazinglyhandsome man in front of me. He left his topbutton unbuttoned, accentuating the ‘v’muscles as he reached for my hand to helpme stand. “How are you feeling?”I was quite sore but I didn’t want Gray to feellike he had hurt me, so I decided to lie. “I feel
118/414great. Never better.” I smiled as we headedinto my house.Gray cooked us up some omelets and weate in silence. My mind was moving about amillion miles a minute needing time to pro-cess what had just happened. I didn’t regrethaving sex with Gray, not for a minute. But,had I just given myself to a man who couldn’tgive himself back?“You sure you’re okay?” He glanced at meas I shoveled the last bite into my mouth. Inodded, not wanting to lie to him. I knewhow hard it was going to be for me to havehim leave. If it was going to be that hard forme, I could only imagine how hard it wouldbe for him. I scooped up both of our platesand ran them under some hot water beforeplacing them in the dishwasher.
119/414His taught arms wrapped themselves aroundmy waist as I closed the dishwasher door.Before I could react, his hand was sliding upthe inside of my right thigh. I let my head fallback against his shoulder, wanting to soakup every touch. As his hand reached mymound, a small moan escaped my lips.“Are you sure you feel okay enough to goagain?” He whispered in my ear and it sentgoose bumps down the whole right side ofme.“Mmmmhmmm,” was all I could manage tosay.Gray wrapped me up in his arms and madehis way down the hall to my bedroom. Hegently laid me on my bed, sliding his shirt upand over my head. He tossed it aside, alongwith his jeans and then he was back on topof me. He brushed the hair away from my
120/414face without ever breaking eye contact. Icould feel him looking into my soul and mybody shivered in response. This is what itwas like to be loved. True. Honest love.As Gray’s hand slid between my legs, myhand reached down and found his excite-ment pressing against my thigh. I wrappedmy hands around him and slowly moved itup and down his length. A small moan es-caped from between his glorious lips as Icontinued the motion. His hand found mymound again and began circling over mywetness. I arched my back into his body,needing to be closer. My hand slowly madeits way back up over his chiseled abs andover his chest and around to his shoulders.As he lowered himself over me, he pushedinto me with full force. My nails dug into hisskin over his shoulder blades, as if I washolding on for dear life. He eased back and
121/414again pushed into me, this time with moreforce than the first. My nails dug deeper, andI let out a painful but pleasurable cry. Again,we found our release together. I buried myface in the crook of his neck as he stilledhimself with me wrapped in his arms.I could feel his hot uneven breath against myneck, as we lay intertwined with one another.His breath began to become more evenwhen I heard him whisper something. I didn’thear him the first time, so I asked him to re-peat himself.“I love you Bennett. Im head over heals inlove with you.”I wasn’t sure how to respond. Of course Iloved him, I always have, even if it took methis long to admit it. I knew if I respondedwith the same heartfelt emotion, thateverything would change for us and that