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Authors: Colleen Hoover

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BOOK: Reminders of Him
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People say you fall in love, but
fall
is such a sad word when you think about it. Falls are never good. You fall on the ground, you fall behind, you fall to your death.

Whoever was the first person to say they fell in love must have already fallen out of it. Otherwise, they’d have called it something much better.

Scotty told me he loved me halfway into our relationship. It was the night I was supposed to meet his best friend for the first time. I had already met his parents, and he was excited for that, but not nearly as excited as he was to introduce me to the guy he considered a brother.

That meeting never happened. I can’t remember why; it’s been a long time. But his friend had to cancel, and Scotty was sad, so I baked him cookies and we smoked a joint and then I gave him head. Best girlfriend ever.

Until I killed him.

But this was three months before he would die, and on that particular night, even though he was sad, he was very much alive. He had a beating heart and a rapid pulse and a heaving chest and tears in his eyes when he said,
“I fucking love you, Kenna. I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone. I miss you all the time, even when we’re together.”

That stuck with me.
“I miss you all the time, even when we’re together.”

And I thought that was the
only
thing that stuck with me that night, but I was wrong. Something else stuck with me. A name.
Ledger.

The best friend who never showed. The best friend I never got to meet.

The best friend who just put his tongue in my mouth and his hand up my shirt and his name in my chest.

CHAPTER SIX

L
EDGER

I don’t understand attraction.

What is it that draws people to each other? How can dozens of women walk through the doors to this bar every week and I don’t feel the urge to give any of them a second glance? But then this girl waltzes in, and I can’t take my fucking eyes off her.

Now I can’t take my mouth off her.

I don’t know why I’m breaking my self-imposed rule: “no pursuing customers.” But there’s something about her that indicates I’ll only have one chance. I get the feeling she’s either passing through town or doesn’t plan on coming back in here. Tonight seems like an exception to whatever her normal routine may be, and I feel like skipping an opportunity to be with her will be that one regret in life I’ll still think back on when I’m an old man.

She seems like a quiet person, but not the shy kind of quiet. She’s quiet in a fierce way—a storm that sneaks up on you, and you don’t know it’s there until you feel the thunder rattle your bones.

She’s quiet, but she’s said just enough to make me want the rest of her words. She tastes like apples, even though she had coffee earlier, and apples are my favorite fruit. They’re probably my favorite food
period
, now.

We kiss for several seconds, and even though she made the first move, she still seemed surprised when I pulled her to my mouth.

Maybe she expected me to wait a little longer before tasting her, or maybe she wasn’t expecting it to feel like this—
I hope it feels like this for her
—but whatever caused that tiny gasp right before my mouth met hers, it wasn’t because she didn’t want the kiss.

She pulls away, briefly indecisive, but then she seems to make up her mind because she leans in and kisses me again with even more conviction.

That conviction disappears, though. Too fast. She pulls away for a second time, and this time her eyes are full of regret. She shakes her head quickly and places her palms on my chest. I cover her hands with mine right when she says, “I’m sorry.”

She slides off me, the inside of her thigh rubbing across my zipper, making me even harder, as she scoots out of the booth. I reach for her hand, but her fingers trickle out of mine as she backs away from the table. “I shouldn’t have come back.”

She turns away from me and heads toward the door.

I deflate.

I didn’t commit her face to memory, and I don’t like the thought of her leaving without me, being able to remember the exact shape of the mouth that was just on mine.

I push out of the booth and follow her.

She can’t get the door open. She jiggles the handle and tries to push it like she can’t get away from me fast enough. I want to beg her to stay, but I also want to help her get away from me, so I pull down on the top lock while reaching in front of her with my foot to push up on the floor lock. The door opens and she spills outside.

She inhales a big gulp of air and then spins and faces me. I scan her mouth, wishing I had a photographic memory.

Her eyes are no longer the same color as her shirt. They’re a lighter green now because she’s tearing up. Once again I find myself not
knowing what to do. I’ve never seen a girl so all over the place in such a short amount of time, and none of it feels forced or dramatic. With every move she makes and every feeling she has, it’s as if she wants to reel them back in and tuck them away.

She seems embarrassed.

She’s gasping for breath, trying to wipe away the few tears that are beginning to form, and since I have no idea what the fuck to say, I just hug her.

What else can I do?

I pull her to me, and for a second, she stiffens, but that’s almost immediately followed up by a sigh as she relaxes.

We’re the only people around. It’s after midnight, everyone is home sleeping, watching a movie, making love. But I’m here on Main Street, hugging a really sad girl, wondering why she’s sad, wishing I didn’t think she was so beautiful.

Her face is pressed against my chest, and her arms are tight around my waist. Her forehead comes right up to my mouth, but she’s tucked under my chin.

I rub her arms.

My truck is right around the corner. I always park in the alley, but she seems upset and I don’t want to encourage her to follow me to an alley when she’s crying. I lean against an awning post and pull her with me.

Two minutes pass, maybe three. She doesn’t let go. She molds against me, soaking up the comfort my arms and chest and hands are giving her. I’m rubbing her back, up and down, my voice still trapped in my throat.

Something is wrong with her, something I’m not sure I even want to know at this point, but it’s something I can’t just leave her on the sidewalk and drive away from.

I don’t think she’s crying anymore when she says, “I need to go home.”

“I’ll give you a ride.”

She shakes her head and pulls away from me. I keep my hands on her arms, and I notice when she folds her arms over her chest that she touches my right hand with two of her fingers. It’s just a quick swipe, but it’s deliberate, like she wants to get one last tiny feel of me before she leaves.

“I don’t live far. I’ll walk.”

She’s crazy if she thinks she’s walking home. “It’s too late to be walking by yourself.” I point toward the alley. “My truck is ten feet away.” For obvious reasons, that gesture makes her hesitate, but then she accepts the hand I’m reaching out to her, and she follows me around the corner.

When my truck comes into view, she stops walking. I turn around, and she’s staring at my truck with concern in her eyes.

“I can call you an Uber if you’d prefer that. But I swear, I’m just offering you a ride home. No expectations.”

She looks down at her feet, but continues walking toward my truck. I open my passenger door for her, and when she climbs inside, she doesn’t face forward. She’s still facing me, and her legs are preventing me from closing the door. She’s looking at me like she’s torn. Her eyebrows are drawn apart. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone look so effortlessly sad.

“Are you okay?”

She leans her head against the seat and stares at me. “I will be,” she says quietly. “Tomorrow is a big day for me. I’m just nervous.”

“What’s tomorrow?” I ask her.

“A big day for me.”

She obviously doesn’t plan on elaborating, so I nod, respecting her privacy.

Her focus moves to my arm. She touches the hem of my sleeve, so I put my hand on her knee because I want it somewhere on her, and her knee seems like the safest place until she lets me know where else she might want my hand.

I don’t know what her intentions are. Most people show up to bars and make their intentions clear. You can tell who comes in for a hookup and who comes in to get shit faced.

I can’t tell with this girl. It seems like she accidentally opened the door and ended up in my bar and has no idea what she wants from tonight.

Maybe she just wants to skip tonight and get straight to whatever big thing she’s got going on tomorrow.

I’m waiting for a signal from her on what she wants me to do next, because I thought I was taking her home, but she hasn’t faced forward. It’s like she wants me to kiss her again. But I don’t want to make her cry again.
But I want to kiss her again.

I touch her face, and she leans into my hand. I’m still not positive she’s comfortable, so I hesitate until she scoots closer to me. I position myself between her legs, and then she tightens her thighs around my hips.

I can take a hint.

I swipe my tongue across her lips, and she pulls me in until her sweet breath is in my mouth. She tastes like apples still, but her mouth is saltier and her tongue is more decisive. She leans into my kiss, and I lean into the truck, into her, and she slowly falls back across the seat, pulling me with her. I hover over her, standing between her legs, pressing myself against her.

The way she sucks in small gasps of air while I kiss her is driving me insane.

She guides my hand up her shirt and I grab her breast and she wraps her legs around me and then my jeans are against hers and we’re rocking back and forth like we’re in fucking high school and this is our only place to go.

I want to pull her back into the bar and tear off her clothes, but this is enough. More than this would be way too much. For her. Or
maybe too much for me. I don’t know, I just know her mouth and this truck are enough.

After a minute of making out in the dark, I pull away from her mouth just enough to see that her eyes are closed and her lips are parted. I keep my steady rhythm against her, and she lifts her hips, and I swear the friction between our clothes is enough to start an actual fire. It’s so hot between her thighs, and I don’t think I can finish like this. I’m not sure she can either. We’re just going to drive ourselves crazy if we don’t find a way to get even closer, or stop altogether.

I would invite her to my house, but my parents are in town, and I’m not bringing anyone near those two.

“Nicole,” I whisper. I feel uncomfortable even suggesting this, but I can’t keep making out with her in an alley like she isn’t worth a bed. “We could go back inside.”

She shakes her head and says, “No. I like your truck,” right before pulling my mouth back to hers.

If she likes my truck, I
love
my truck. My truck is my second-favorite thing in the world right now.

Her mouth is my first.

She moves my hand to the button on her jeans, so I oblige and unbutton them while my tongue is dragging across hers. I slip my hand into the front of her jeans until my fingers slide over her panties. She moans, and it’s so loud against the silent soundtrack of this sleepy town.

I move her panties aside with my fingers, and I’m met with smooth skin and heat and a whimper. When I inhale, I can hear the shakiness of my own breaths.

I bury my mouth against her neck just as headlights turn onto the street next to us.

“Shit.” My truck is parked in the alley, but we aren’t hidden from the view of the street. We suddenly find ourselves scrambling as we’re snapped back to reality. I pull my hand out of her jeans, and she buttons
them. I help her up, and then she faces forward while straightening out her hair.

I close her door and walk around the truck as the car approaches and comes to a slow roll, then a stop, right in front of the alley. I glance up at the car and see Grady in his cruiser. He’s rolling down the window, so I walk away from my truck and up to his car.

“Busy night?” he asks as he leans toward the passenger seat so that he can see me from the driver’s side of the car.

I look behind me at Nicole in the truck and then back at him. “Yep. Just closed. You on until morning?”

He turns down his radio. “Whitney took a new shift at the hospital, so I’m back on nights for now. I like it. It’s quiet.”

I tap his hood and then take a step back. “Good to hear. I gotta go. See you tomorrow on the field?”

Grady can tell something is up. I’m usually not this quick to brush him off. He leans forward, looking around me, attempting to see whoever is in my truck. I lean to the right and block his view. “Have a good night, Grady.” I point down the road, letting him know he’s welcome to continue his patrol.

He grins. “Yep. You too.”

I’m not trying to hide her. I just know his wife is a gossip, and I don’t really want to be the talk of the T-ball field tomorrow.

I climb into my truck, and she’s got her feet up on the dash. She’s looking out her window, avoiding eye contact with me. I don’t want her to feel awkward. That’s the last thing I want. I reach over and tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. “You okay?”

She nods, but the nod is stiff, and so is she, and so is her smile. “I live next to Cefco.”

That gas station is almost two miles away. She told me earlier she lived close by, but two miles at midnight isn’t close. “Cefco off Bellview?”

She shrugs. “I think so. I can’t remember all the street names. I just moved here today.”

That explains why she isn’t familiar to me. I want to say something like,
“Where’d you come from? What brings you to town?”
But I say nothing, because she seems to want me to say nothing.

Two miles only takes two minutes when there’s no traffic, and two minutes isn’t all that long, but it sure does feel like an eternity when you’re spending it in a truck with a girl you almost fucked. And it wouldn’t have been a good fuck. It most certainly would have been a quick, sloppy, selfish, couldn’t-have-been-good-for-her fuck.

I want to apologize, but I’m not sure what I’d be apologizing for, and I don’t want her to think I regret it. The only thing I regret is that I’m taking her home and not to my house.

“I live there,” she says, pointing at Paradise Apartments.

I don’t come to this part of town very often. It’s in the opposite direction of my house, so I rarely drive down this road. I honestly thought they condemned this place.

I pull into the parking lot, and I intend to kill the engine and open her door for her, but she’s already out of the truck before I even get it turned off.

“Thanks for the ride,” she says. “And . . . for the coffee.” She closes the door and spins around like that’s how we’re supposed to part.

I open my door. “Hey. Wait.”

She pauses but waits to turn around until I’ve reached her. She’s hugging herself, chewing on her lip, scratching nervously at her arm. She looks up at me. “You don’t have to say anything.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean . . . I know what that was.” She waves a hand at my truck. “You don’t have to ask for my number, I don’t even have one.”

How does she know what that was?
I
don’t know what that was. My mind is still trying to process it. Maybe I should ask her.
“What was that? What does it mean? Can it happen again?”

I’m in uncharted territory. I’ve had one-night stands before, but things were discussed and agreed to prior to the sex. And it’s always happened in a bed, or something close to it.

But with her, the make-out just happened, and then it was interrupted, and it was in an alley of all places. I feel like an asshole.

BOOK: Reminders of Him
5.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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