She hated Jay at that moment, for making her feel so vulnerable and weak. She wasn’t supposed to be that girl, she had never been that girl before…needy…and pathetic.
By the time the car was pulling up beside her, she didn’t have time to wonder why she hadn’t noticed it before. She hadn’t heard the sound of the tires across the ancient asphalt with its gravel-filled potholes, or even noticed the headlights that blanched the blackness into pale shadows.
She turned her head sideways, squinting slightly, to get a look at who was inside.
When she saw him there, behind the wheel, she stopped walking, trying not to look so thankful as she blinked away the tears.
She heard the door opening, and before she could catch her gratified breath the driver was out of the car and she was in his arms.
She wanted to breathe, to inhale his lethally musky scent, but she couldn’t find the air around her. She was suffocated in the strength, the warmth, of him.
Time seemed irrelevant at that point; it could have been seconds or hours. It didn’t matter. She didn’t even realize she’d been crying again until he pulled away and leaned down to kiss her wet cheek.
And then his lips moved softly, gingerly, tracing a path to hers. Electric shock waves, which started below her stomach and shot upward, made her tingle and burn as his mouth caressed hers.
She’d imagined this moment so many times, dreamed of him holding her like this for so long.
Violet sighed, sinking farther against him, forgetting herself…forgetting her anger and her hurt, losing herself in the moment.
Jay kissed her, hard, and long, and deep. And she kissed him back, matching his intensity. He banished any trace of doubt that might have remained.
Violet was acutely aware of her own heartbeat, fluttering in strategic pulse points throughout her body, and echoing its heady rhythm through her veins. She was flushed and shivering at the same instant. She could smell the intoxicating heat coming off him in waves.
When his mouth left hers, she felt bruised and raw. She could still feel his touch on her lips.
He looked down at her, his eyes as glazed as her own, his voice thick with barely restrained desire. “Get in the car, Violet.”
This time instead of sounding like a granite command, it sounded like warm silk wrapping around her. And instead of bristling against it, she just nodded as she stared at his beautiful face, unable to think of anything but the wonderful things his lips had just done to her.
They didn’t move for a long moment, they just stood there, looking at each other. His gaze moved to her mouth and then lazily back to her eyes, as if he were memorizing her.
Somewhere in the distance, but probably closer than it seemed, Violet heard a car driving away. But she didn’t bother looking up, because she had other things on her mind.
Jay had come back for her.
VIOLET STAYED AWAKE FOR MOST OF THE NIGHT, thinking over and over again about what had happened. She wanted to remember every tiny detail, capturing it forever in her memory so that she could recall it again at a moment’s notice.
Jay had kissed her.
And not just any kiss. It wasn’t one of the sisterly kisses of their childhood. There was nothing childlike about it. He had finally closed that chasm that had been growing between them since the end of the summer.
Violet could hardly stand it. She was excited…elated…electrified all at once.
But along with those feelings came the others, the insecurities and the doubts. The questions of what his sudden appearance last night really meant. What the kiss really meant.
They hadn’t talked about it at all during the ride home. They didn’t talk about anything; the charged silence between them seemed to speak volumes. But there were no repeat performances, even as he walked her up to the door to make sure that she got inside safely. He hadn’t held her hand or even touched her again. And now, in the morning’s light, she couldn’t help but wonder if he had simply been overwhelmed by relief that she was safe, that he had saved her before Grady had gone too far. Had he merely been reacting to a sudden surge of adrenaline…kissing her on impulse, without thinking it through?
She hoped not. She prayed not.
She pushed those negative thoughts away, remembering instead the feel of his soft lips against hers. And the heat of his body pressed, heart to heart, with her own.
By morning she was both exhausted and exhilarated.
She finally gave up chasing sleep and peeled herself from the rumpled warmth of her bed at just after seven o’clock. She could smell the rich scent of coffee brewing from downstairs and felt drawn to it.
Her mom was in the kitchen by herself. She didn’t say anything about Violet coming home last night.
Violet looked around, a little surprised. Her dad was usually the early riser; it was her mom who could sleep until nearly noon. “Did Dad go to work already?” Violet asked, knowing that he often went to the office on Saturdays to catch up on his work without the weekday commotion.
Her mom looked haggard and weary, and she pulled her steaming mug closer to her, hugging her hands around it as if drawing strength from its warmth. “No,” her voice croaked, and then she cleared her throat and tried again. “No, your uncle Stephen picked him up about a half hour ago.”
Violet hesitated only briefly as she reached into the cupboard for one of the mismatched coffee mugs that littered the shelf. She found her favorite one, a faded ceramic mug with a garish picture of the Golden Gate Bridge splashed across it. Her parents had brought it home from a vacation before she was born, and she found the time-crackled paint charming. “Why?” she asked as she filled her own mug and reached into the fridge for the vanilla-flavored creamer. She was generous with it, turning her coffee a pale, milky tan.