“Move in with me, Clarisse.” Finlay moves in close and whispers intimately against my ear.
I laugh and push him away because I’m stunned. We haven’t been dating all that long. I quickly hide my reaction when I notice how serious he’s being. If the rickety wooden swing we were sitting on hadn’t been rocking gently, I wouldn’t have been able to hide my jittery hands. “You’re serious?”
“But we’ve only been dating for a few months now.” I don’t think his insurance company has even paid him for his extensive car repairs yet, but his soft brown eyes beg me to say yes anyways.
“I love you, Clarisse.” His serious expression doesn’t change and neither does the firm line of his jaw. He plants both of his feet on the ground and it stops all motion, but my head keeps swinging as he speaks. “When school’s back in, we won’t be able to see each other as much. Is that what you want?”
I shake my head, still too stunned by the sudden proposal to form a complete sentence. “But… but…”
A smirk replaces that serious look on his face. “I’ve already contacted the Admissions Department and all of our classes for next semester are a match.”
I nibble on my lower lip and gloss over that fact for a few seconds. A little odd—maybe even too good to be true—as many things tend to be right before they turn to shit. I should know. My life is about to land in a really big pile of the stinky stuff and there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it.
“Come on,” he says, tearing me from my thoughts.
I nod and get in the car—the same car that I had practically demolished mere months ago. I ignore the seatbelt at first, but when Finlay starts weaving through traffic at a high speed, I secretly secure it over my shoulder. Within another five minutes of his maniacal city driving, he’s parking his car on a tight street with tall pastel houses and short driveways. He gets out of the car, pulls open my door and helps me to the sidewalk. I grip onto his gloved hand and look up into his eyes, curiosity getter the better of me.
“Where are we?” My stomach roils, like a hollow ball of pain, because I know Finlay is up to something here and I don’t know what it is.
Finlay stops me dead in my tracks and holds up a finger, not ready to let the cat out of the bag just yet. “Give me one second.” He jogs through someone’s front yard and plucks a small winter flower from the lawn. He walks back toward me grinning like a fool and I meet him halfway.
He shows me the small flower. “I love you,” he says, offering it to me.
I look at the small purple flower dwarfed between his index finger and thumb. Most people would call it a weed, but when he waits expectantly for me to take it, the little purple flower might as well be a dozen long-stemmed roses. I take it and smile, and for one stolen moment he makes me forget about first impressions and meeting the parents with a soft kiss.
His lips come down on mine gently; they’re forgiving and tender at first, but what starts out as something affectionate and sweet turns into a deeply intimate kiss that has me drinking from his mouth and angling my head to swallow him whole. This is when his mother opens her front door.
I glance up with puckered lips and half-lidded eyes, cowering into my scarf with a yelp and a swear word cut off by my shock of finding her standing there with her arms folded across her chest. Her face remains very stern. So that’s where he gets his prominent jawline from.
Finlay takes my hand and pulls me toward the glowering woman. “Clarisse, I’d like you to meet my mother.”
I stumble over my own two feet until I find solid ground beneath them. “Finlay, do you think I could see you over here for just a minute? Excuse us,” I say to his mother, dragging him back down the sidewalk.
There will be no forgiveness from her. I check back over my shoulder to make sure I’m not hallucinating, but the tightness of her jaw proves I am not.
I try to whisper, but I start rambling anxiously. “What can I say? I was not expecting this.”
“And… what’s the problem, exactly?” Finlay asks me.
I scratch the back of my head and cringe, passing it off as a chill. “You’re the first steady thing I’ve ever known in a life full of ups and downs—mostly downs.” I glance down at my boots, but he lifts my chin.
“Come on, Clarisse. My mom’s invited you to dinner. This is important. We’re going to tell her tonight. You can’t say no.” Finlay’s full-pouting smile is all he needs to reel me in and make for damn sure that I can’t say no.
I’m extremely nervous. “Tell her what, exactly?”
“School comes back in soon and I’ve decided to move back home,” he says. “I’m planning on telling her that tonight. She’ll be ecstatic.”
I just barely stop my jaw from hitting the ground. “About you, maybe.”
He shakes his head and grips onto my chin a little too strongly. “My mom is going to love you. I want you to move in with us, too. Is that not what you want?”
He asks so many damn questions. I don’t see what the rush is. Why does he always have to put me on the spot like this? I flip over another idea in my head. I could go back to my hole in the ground—alone—but where will that get me?
I answer him with a nod because I’m not opposed to living with him, and this house looks a lot nicer than the dump I’m currently staying at, but I’m afraid his mother won’t be as easily persuaded.
Finlay reassures me in every way he can. His hand squeezes onto mine. “We aren’t going to see each other as much as we have been. I don’t like that very much. Are you not okay with this? I thought it was going to be a nice surprise.”
When I hesitate, he keeps talking, as if my avoidance of the question isn’t a slap across the face.
“You’ll be closer to school and we can spend more time together.”
Without thinking of another lame excuse, I take my first real chance at a new life. “I’m ready and, as long as your mother is onboard, I’m okay with this.”
“You are?” He’s surprised that I agreed and frankly so am I.
“Yeah,” I repeat, certain that this is the best move for me.
He reaches for my hand, looking like he’s ready to take me back to his mother, but then he leans over and claims my mouth, clutching my head, not wanting to let me go. At first, he slows his lips, and then he deepens the kiss again, before breaking free for a breath and a smile. I smile back.
There’s the reason why I’m saying yes.
He whispers next to my ear. “I love you, Clarisse.”
Those words tie my stomach in knots and those knots don’t loosen for the rest of evening. It’s not until I’ve struggled through the awkward dinner conversation and received the third degree from his mother over dishes that I get to settle on my heels and take a much needed breath.
Finlay can see that I need a break from his mother. “Come on. Let’s go downstairs.” He takes my hand and hauls me toward the basement door, smiling back at me. The second my socked feet reach the cold basement floor, he tugs me into a hug. For two whole seconds, I feel completely secure—happy even.
“Come.” Finlay pulls me across the room to the entertainment area where he drops to his knees in front of me. “Thank you for everything tonight. My mom really likes you. I think this is going to be great.”
I smirk, running my hand over the short hairs on his head. “You really think so? I don’t know.”
“She does,” he insists, while he digs through a drawer of adapters and remote controls.
“I’m sure she treats all of your girlfriends like this.”
Finlay snaps to his feet and twists to face me. “You’re the only one, Clarisse. I’ve never brought a girl back to meet my family before. I don’t want to hear you ever say anything like that again.”
I wasn’t expecting such an intense response. He’s breathing heavier. Darkness seeps into his eyes. I’m starting to believe that maybe his family life isn’t as picture perfect as his mother lets on. I’m stunned into a silence that makes me shiver. Finlay’s expression lightens when he catches the surprise in my eyes. He scoops a blanket from the back of the sofa and tosses it on the basement floor, and when he looks back to me, the darkness has already begun to fade.
“You’re special to me, Clarisse. That’s all. You’re not like the other college girls.”
He’s got that much right. I’m nothing like the other girls. I’m different. You’ll never catch me staring at every passing mirror, worrying about my hair or the color of my lip gloss. I live in reality. I worry about where my next meal is coming from and where I’ll lay my head. I do my best to hide my weaknesses and pride myself on how far I’ve come on my own, but right now I just want to be the girl he thinks I am.
“Are you going to spend the night with me?” His question knocks me off kilter, but I know what I’m agreeing to if I say yes.
I swallow back my nerve and kneel next to him on the blanket, my heart thundering in the silence. I look up into his eyes submissively, the silence swirling around us like a whirlpool.
“Yeah?” he asks, the softness of his voice touching me.
Wearing his resulting smile, Finlay flicks on his Smart TV and scrolls for a movie—any movie. He turns it up a little on the loud side and moves closer to me, him too on his knees. There’s a charge in the room when our eyes connect and I know we’re both thinking about getting intimate. Heat creeps down my neck and my heart hammers against my ribcage. This is finally happening.
His smile does things to me as he moves in closer yet, first grabbing my hand and then drawing his mouth to mine for a kiss that steals my breath. My eyes flutter shut and I battle for sanity as he hooks onto my bottom lip and tugs at it with his teeth. He wraps his arms around my waist for a squeeze before sliding his hands under my shirt to unhook my bra and massage me intimately.
Pinning me against him, Finlay takes all of my weight into his arms and twirls me around, flattening me on the floor beneath him. I rake my fingers through his short hair, his mouth possessing mine. This isn’t like our other kisses, either. This is me saying yes.
His body presses into mine in places that ache to be touched by him. Once he covers himself with another blanket he’d dropped on the floor next to us, his hands skim back to my waist and plays with the band of my yoga pants. He smiles and lets out a content sigh.
“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” His voice is a little husky. He’s just as nervous as I am.
I nod and he instantly pecks at my mouth, hovering over me like he’s experienced at the task. I know he’s not, from what I hear, and that just makes this moment that much more special.
He keeps kissing me, his hands roaming over my body to pull my pants over each hip. I don’t know when he got his own pants off, but I can suddenly feel skin against skin. The foreign warmth drives me mad in the best kind of way. EEEERRRRRRCH. FULL STOP!
Unfortunately, I can’t post any more than that. This is where is gets a little too racy for public eyes. More info here!
I suppose I can give you one more little teaser from Chapter Four if you’ve stuck around this long. Click below for that special excerpt, and enjoy!!!