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I’m not sure how long I sat there feeling sorry for myself before I heard a voice.
I gasped, my heart racing. “Oh my God. You scared me.”
“Sorry.” Ryan tucked his hands into his jeans pockets and came closer. He’d changed, I noticed. And his hair was wet, like he’d just gotten out of the shower.
“What are you doing out here?” he asked.
“Nothing. Just thinking.”
“I don’t know. Different things.” I didn’t have to share anything with him. “What are you doing out here?”
He looked toward his house. “I felt bad. About the way you left. I came to see if you were still awake.”
“Why would you feel bad?” I rose to my feet. “There’s no shame in being honest.”
“No. I’ll take honesty over pretense any day.”
He met my eyes. “Me too.”
“Well then, nothing to feel bad about. Why should you pretend to feel something you don’t?” I started to go up the steps but he grabbed my hand.
I let him tug me back down, but I wished I was wearing my own clothing and not this stupid fuzzy sweater.
“I wasn’t honest,” he said. “At my house.”
“When I said you’d been right about me—that I had no interest in you.”
“I don’t understand.”
He put his hands back in his pockets. “The truth is, I haven’t stopped thinking about you either.”
The ground shifted beneath my feet. “You haven’t?”
“No. I lied because I thought I was protecting you.”
“From me. Everything else I told you about me is true. I dohave rough edges. I don’t relate well to people. But I’m not interested in changing that. I don’t need to be fixed.”
“I wasn’t trying to fix you, Ryan. I was trying to flirt with you.” I lowered my head. “And I’m feeling pretty embarrassed that you couldn’t tell the difference.”
“Hey.” He put one hand beneath my chin and lifted it. “This has nothing to do with you. You’re beautiful. You’re perfect. And if things were different—” He stopped. Took his hand away.
“If things were different, what?” I asked.
“If things were different,” he said, slowly and seriously, “I wouldn’t be standing here telling myself not to touch you.”
My breath caught. “Is that what you’re doing?”
He nodded once.
God, he was gorgeous. And his voice was so low and sweet. His body so big and strong. I wanted to know what it was like to kiss him for real. To feel those arms around me. To press my chest against his and let my heart beat hard against it.
“I had a dream about you last night,” I whispered.
He swallowed. “Actually, I had one about you too.”
“In my dream, we were holding hands, and we ran up a hill and rolled down the other side. And then I told you to kiss me.”
He cleared his throat. “Uh, mine went a little differently.”
“Did you kiss me in your dream?”
“Yeah. I did.” His eyes were locked on mine, dark and glittering with a fire I could feel under my skin.
“Ryan. Kiss me now.”
“It would be a mistake, Stella.” But he gripped my upper arms and pulled me so close I could feel his breath on my lips. “I’m not the man in your dreams.”
“Prove it,” I whispered.
One second later his mouth was on mine, and I was wrapped in the strongest, warmest, tightest embrace I’d ever felt. His tongue swept between my lips and I was dizzy with the taste of apples and cinnamon. I couldn’t feel my feet on the ground.