“Hi,” Kody said.
“Hi,” I responded wittily. He’d caught me off guard. I hadn’t expected to see him, and here he was with his hand still on my arm. His touch was surprisingly warm and tingly, as if energy was flowing from his body into mine. I stared down at his hand, unable to believe that he was actually touching me.
“You okay?” he asked.
I snapped out of it and grinned. “Yeah, um, better now.”
“That’s good.” He smiled back at me, and I forgot we were standing in the middle of a crowd of people. For that moment, we were alone.
“Definitely,” I agreed.
He shifted nervously. “So, um, Jake would you like to go get….something to eat….with me?” He was so cute. As if I could say no to him!
“That sounds great.”
He looked surprised that I’d agreed. “Uh, where should we go?”
I shrugged. “I don’t really know anywhere except The Morning Rush.”
Kody made a face. “Ew. No, definitely not.”
“We can just wander until we see something we like,” I suggested.
“Sounds like a plan.”
We’d started walking away before I remembered Roy. I turned back to find him trailing along behind us with a proud smile on his face. Great, just what I needed for my first date with Kody, a three hundred pound chaperone.
Before I could decide what to do about Roy, I heard someone calling my name and turned to see an arm waving above the crowd. I followed the arm down to find Erin grinning at me, with Carlos at her side. I stifled a sigh and pasted a friendly smile on my face. Why was this happening now? I just wanted to be alone with Kody.
Erin and Carlos were pushing through the mob towards us, and I noticed Toshi following in their wake. Great! The more the merrier.
“Hey!” Erin shouted to be heard over the music and crowd as she approached. “I was hoping we’d run into you. Carlos said you invited him so we decided to come check it out.”
“I thought you were working.”
“I was, but then one of the other RA’s asked if I would switch with him and work tomorrow morning. I said yes so he took over—” She broke off as she seemed to notice Kody for the first time. “Hey, Kody! I see you found him all right. I didn’t know where you’d disappeared to earlier. One minute you were right behind me and then, poof, you’re gone.”
I felt my eyes grow wide. Kody and Erin had met already? I looked to Kody, who was blushing and looking very guilty. I turned my gaze to Erin. She hadn’t missed my expression and was now trying her best to look innocent. She didn’t fool anyone.
“Okay, what happened?” I asked.
“Nothing,” Kody and Erin chorused.
I gave them my best skeptical look, but let it slide—for now. I’d be sure to bring it back up later.
“Isn’t this band great?” Carlos asked in an attempt to change the subject.
“They really are,” Toshi agreed. “And they have the same name as you, Jake! How cool!”
Just then, the band went into a slow number.
“Oh! I want to slow dance!” Toshi cooed. “Carlos, dance with me!”
Carlos blinked in surprise.
“Hey, watch it, buster. Carlos is mine,” Erin teased.
“I promise to bring him back unmolested,” Toshi replied with a serious face.
Erin pretended to think about it for a second. “I guess it’s okay then. Go ahead.”
“Hey! Don’t I get a say in this?” Carlos protested, but he was grinning.
“No!” Toshi and Erin said together as Toshi began to drag Carlos off towards the area where everyone was dancing.
Erin watched them go with a wickedly amused gleam in her eye.
“You’re enjoying that way too much,” I joked.
She laughed and turned to eye the rest of us. “Well, I’m not going to just stand here like a wallflower. Come on, Roy, we’re going to go dance.”
“Uh, me?” Roy asked, his voice filled with something akin to fear. “I don’t know how to dance.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll teach you,” Erin said as she grabbed his arm and started pulling him away. Erin looked back at me with a meaningful glance, then flicked her eyes in Kody’s direction. Roy looked back in panic.
Once they were gone, I turned to Kody, who was looking at me with an anxious expression. I wasn’t sure if he was nervous that I’d ask him to dance, scared that I wouldn’t, or a mixture of both. The opportunity was too good to pass up, however.
“So, can I have this dance?” I asked as I held my hand out to him. He looked down at it like it was a snake about to bite him. The panic was clear on his face. Crap! I’d moved too fast. With Kody, I felt a bit like someone trying to coax a wild animal to eat from their hand. I had to avoid making any sudden moves or I might spook him. “Never mind—” I started to say, but he surprised me by interrupting with his soft voice.
He took my hand and started towards the dance area, towing me along in shock. I barely had time to register that he was holding my hand before we reached the edge of the dancing couples. He turned to look at me, his face clearly saying “What now?”
I gave him a reassuring smile and stepped closer to him, sliding my arms gently around his waist. I heard him suck in a breath. I knew how he felt. My heart was hammering and I could barely remember how to dance. He slowly lifted his arms and placed them around my neck. His face was flushed and he looked like he might pass out at any second. We began to move to the music, awkwardly at first, but gradually finding the rhythm of the music and one another’s bodies.
I couldn’t tell you if people were watching us or not. All I could think about was the way it felt to be in Kody’s arms again. It was better than I remembered it. He wasn’t drunk this time; he knew exactly what he was doing. His eyes were locked on mine, and what I saw there filled me with a strange jumble of hope and fear—hope that I might have something real and deep with Kody, but fear that he wouldn’t accept me if he knew the truth.
Kody leaned into me and rested his head against my shoulder. I closed my eyes and just enjoyed having his body touch mine. “I’ve never danced with a guy before,” he said.
“I have...but never like this,” I said.
The song ended too soon, and the band jumped into another fast song. I reluctantly released my hold on Kody and he stepped away. I thought he looked a little disappointed as well, but maybe I was only seeing what I wanted to see. Now, more than ever, I just wanted to be alone with Kody. I had to get rid of Erin and the gang—but how? Then I remembered where we were going when we ran into them in the first place.
Erin, Carlos, Toshi and Roy made their way over to us, Erin beaming her approval of Kody and me.
“See, didn’t I say you’d make a cute couple?” she said to Kody.
“Okay, explain this now, please,” I said. “When did you two meet?”
“Well...” Erin looked to Kody.
Kody sighed. “I kind of went looking for you earlier today.”
I blinked. “You did?”
“Yeah, um...I didn’t know what building you were in so I was just asking around. Erin just happened to come in and overhear me asking and she figured out who I was.” He shrugged.
“So I offered to show him your room, and one minute he’s behind me and the next he’s gone,” Erin added.
“You probably scared him off,” I said dryly and everyone laughed. “Well, it’s great that you two are already acquainted and all, and I’m sure we’ll have more to discuss about that later,” I gave Erin a dirty look, “but Kody and I were just about to go find somewhere to eat before we ran into you.”
“Hey, that’s great!” Toshi jumped in. “I’m starving and Carlos was just saying how hungry he is in between whispering sweet nothings into my ear.”
“Ha! You wish!” Carlos laughed. “Oh, and Erin, let’s just say he did not return me unmolested. That boy has wandering hands!” Toshi leered in Carlos’ direction and we all laughed again.
“There’s a great place near here,” Erin said. “It’s called Quintessence and it’s on the south side of the park, across from the Lake House. We can walk there from here. You guys will love it,” she added to Kody and me.
I wanted to say that what I would really love is some alone time with Kody, but that idea had obviously been steamrolled by our well-meaning friends. Just then, Nick walked up with a tall, dark and handsome guy by his side. The party just kept getting bigger and bigger.
“Hey, Jake! Hey, Kody!” he said. “What’s up?”
“We were just getting ready to go to Quintessence,” Kody said.
“Cool! Mind if we tag along?”
“The more the merrier,” Erin said, echoing my sarcastic thought from earlier. “Since these guys seem to have forgotten their manners, hi, I’m Erin and this is my boyfriend Carlos. The one with the drool running down his chin is Toshi, and the strong, silent type in the back is Roy. I take you already know Jake and Kody.”
“Hi, Erin! I’m Nick and this is Steve. I live next door to Kody and I met Jake at a party last weekend. Actually, I met Roy then too.”
“Kody punched Foster,” Roy added helpfully.
Erin raised her eyebrows as she took in Kody’s small frame and Kody blushed furiously. “Wish I could’ve seen that.”
“It was quite a sight,” Nick said.
“How about you give us all the gory details at the restaurants?” she suggested.
“How about we don’t?” Kody put in.
“Oh, come on, it was pretty impressive,” Nick kidded. “You should be proud.”
“Right. It was my proudest moment.”
“Can we argue about this while we walk?” Toshi asked. “My stomach is about to eat itself, I’m so hungry.”
The group started to move and Erin naturally took the lead. She was a born leader and seemed to feel most comfortable when she was in charge. Everyone argued good-naturedly, joking and trading mock-insults as we walked. I was trying not to pout, but it was a losing battle. Kody finally makes a move and the moment gets ruined. The old saying “two’s company but three’s a crowd” was so true—and if three was a crowd, what does that make eight? My sulking was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Erin at my side. While I pouted, I had slowly moved to the back of the group. I was surprised that she’d give up her lead-dog position to come to the back of the pack.
“So what’s eating you?” she asked softly.
“Nothing,” I said unconvincingly.
“Uh huh, and I’m Mrs. Claus. Ho! Ho! Ho!”
“I think it’s Mr. Claus that says that.”
“Come on, Jake. What’s wrong? Are you mad at me for telling Kody you’d make a cute couple?”
“What? Oh. No. Well, maybe a little. But not really.”
“Clear as mud. Then what’s up?”
“Spit it out already!”
“I guess I’d just like to be alone with Kody,” I admitted.
“Oh. Oh! And we’re cramping your style. Duh!” She slapped her forehead. “Sometimes I can be so dense. I’m so sorry Jake!”
“It’s okay. It’s just...you know, I really don’t know how to do this.”
“Date someone normal. I’ve never been in a real relationship. I’ve never done the whole dating thing. I mean, I’ve been with a lot of guys, but never anyone like Kody. I’m so afraid I’m going to do something wrong and hurt him or scare him away.”
“Trust me, sweetie, I don’t think you could scare him away if you tried. I’ve seen the way his face lights up when he talks about you or the look in his eye when he stares at you.”
“Really?” I asked hopefully.
“He stares at me?”
I sighed. “Yeah, but you don’t know the whole story...”
“Then why don’t you tell me?”
The funny thing was I wanted to. I wanted to tell her the whole sordid story. Something told me she wouldn’t pull away. Maybe she wouldn’t understand—how could she?—but she’d at least try to. But now was not the time.
“Hey, what are you two doing back there?” Carlos yelled back suddenly.
“Maybe I’ll tell you some other time,” I said quietly to Erin, then yelled back to Carlos, “We’re talking about how fine your ass is!”
A series of cat-calls from the assorted gay guys present took the attention off me and Erin as we rejoined the group. I caught Kody giving me a thoughtful look, and I’m sure he suspected we’d been talking about him. I gave him what I thought to be a reassuring smile and was rewarded with another adorable blush.
We arrived at the restaurant and managed to get seated together. As I sat down next to Kody, he leaned in close to me and whispered, “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, why?” I asked innocently.
“You just looked like you were upset back there.”
“Everything’s great. I’m here with you, aren’t I?” He blushed again and I couldn’t help giggling. It was almost becoming a game—make Kody blush.
We ordered our food and sat around shooting the bull while we waited. I watched Kody as he relaxed and opened up, and I realized that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing to have everyone else along after all. He definitely seemed more comfortable with Nick there. I felt a twinge of envy, but that was just silly. Nick was with that guy Steve. He and Kody were just friends. No matter how many times I told myself that, though, the jealousy was still there.
Man, I had it bad. I hadn’t felt like this about a guy since I was fourteen. It made me feel like a dumb kid again—which was weird, but not entirely a bad thing. That was the last time I’d felt even close to innocent. My whole life had been ripped to shreds about that time, and I was still trying to piece it together four years later.
“Jake?” Kody asked.
I blinked and realized he’d been talking to me while I was lost in my thoughts. “Sorry,” I said with a rather shaky smile. “I guess I zoned out there for a minute.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?” His voice was filled with so much concern I almost fell apart right there.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I didn’t even convince myself. I could see my strained face reflected in his worry-filled eyes.
“Jake...” he started.
“I’ll be right back,” I said suddenly as I stood up. I had to cut him off before he said another word. If I hadn’t, I would have started crying. What the fuck was happening to me?
I rushed to the bathroom and tried to pull myself together. I was splashing water on my face when Roy came through the door. “Jake?” he asked.
“Hey, Roy,” I mumbled through the rough paper toweling I was using to dry my face.
“Are you sick?”
“No, I’m okay.” I was getting very tired of saying that, especially when I so obviously wasn’t okay.
“Then why’d you run out like that?”
“I just needed to get away for a minute.”
“Did Kody say something to make you upset?”
“No! I just...I started thinking about something that happened a long time ago and it...I guess it still upsets me. I’m ready to go back out now. Let’s go.”
We walked back to the table, where everyone was carefully trying to pretend like nothing had happened. Only Kody was acting any differently. He had pulled back into himself and was sitting quietly with a haunted look on his face.
I slid back into my seat and turned to him. “I’m sorry.”
“Was it something I said?” he asked.
“No! I promise. It’s just...I’ll explain later, okay?”
He nodded, but his cheery mood from earlier was gone now. I felt like an ass for ruining the night for him. He remained quiet while we ate. I tried to draw him into the conversation again, but he had withdrawn completely.
I was feeling like a complete and total heel when Erin slipped around to my side of the table and leaned down to whisper in my ear, “I’ll fix it. Just follow my lead.”
“Hey guys,” she said brightly. “Have you guys ever been down to the Corning Preserve after dark?”
“Yeah,” Carlos said, receiving a dirty look from his girlfriend for his effort.
“I don’t even know what it is,” I replied, hoping I was following her lead. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant.
“It’s this cool park in the middle of the city, right on the river.”
“That would be the Hudson River?” I asked.
“Right. Want to go?”
Maybe this was the part where I was supposed to play along. Did that involve saying yes or no? Was she trying to get all of us to this preserve place or was I supposed to say no and they’d go, leaving Kody and I alone. I liked the idea of that last scenario the best and since we’d been talking earlier about how I wanted to be alone with Kody, I decided to try that one.
“Not really...” I started, but a sharp glance from Erin quickly let me know I’d chosen the wrong door. “...er...I mean, sure.”
“Great! There’s a bus that stops there. We can go as soon as we settle the bill.”
“I think Steve and I are gonna duck out if you don’t mind,” Nick said, staring deep into Steve’s eyes. I had a feeling I knew where they would end up before the night was over. I waited for Erin to argue with him, but she just smiled and nodded. I guess they weren’t essential for her plan.
“I think I’m gonna skip out too,” Kody said softly, and I spun around with dismay.
“Come on, Kody,” Erin said. “It’ll be fun.”
“No thanks,” he said.
“Please?” I whispered. His eyes met mine and he stared into them, as if trying to read my intentions. I gave him my best puppy dog look and I could see him giving in.
“Okay,” he said with a sigh.
I gave him a big smile. I didn’t know what Erin’s plan was, but as long as Kody was along for the ride, it couldn’t be all that bad.
After we settled the bill, we said goodbye to Nick and Steve, and then caught the bus towards the Corning Preserve. Kody was quiet the whole way there. When we arrived, I looked around with a little disappointment. It wasn’t what I had expected at all. When I hear the word “preserve”, I think of some wooded area teeming with wildlife. The Corning Preserve was a narrow strip of trees, bordered by the river on one side, and the highway on the other. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a pretty little park, just not what I’d pictured.
“So why are we here again?” Toshi asked as we walked down the footpath towards the river.
“I just thought it would be nice,” Erin said defensively.
“It is nice,” Carlos placated, as he slid his arm around her waist. “You know what would be even nicer? If we walked down to see the Slater.”
“Who’s that?” I asked.
“Not who, it’s a what,” Erin said, rolling her eyes.
“She’s a decommissioned World War II Navy destroyer,” Carlos enthused. “The city keeps her moored near here. They offer tours and stuff.”
“She? Her? Why do boats and cars always have to be women?” she said in mock-testiness. “Besides, not everyone wants to see some big boat. Right, Jake?”
“Huh? Uh, right.” I was being honest. I couldn’t care less about a boat right then. I couldn’t take my eyes off Kody. He looked so beautiful in the moonlight, standing at the railing overlooking the Hudson River. From the looks of things, he wasn’t paying any attention to the conversation.
“But if you want to see it, we’ll walk down there,” Erin continued. “Come on, Roy and Toshi. You can walk with us.”
“I’ll stay here,” Toshi said.
“No, walk with us,” Erin insisted.
“I don’t really want...”Toshi started.
“Yes. You. Do,” Erin informed him firmly, as Roy caught Toshi’s arm and started tugging him along in the direction Carlos was heading.
I turned to find Kody still leaning against the rail. I wondered if he even knew the others had left. He seemed to be in his own little world. I walked up and stood next to him.
“Hey, you okay?” I said softly.
He looked up and gave me a little smile. “Yeah. I’m okay.”
You’ve been really quiet since the restaurant.”
He shrugged and looked back out over the water. “I’m sorry if I said or did something wrong.”
“In the restaurant, I’m sorry if I said or did something to upset you.”
“You didn’t, Kody. Honest!”
“Then what happened? One minute we’re talking and everything is fine, then you get this funny look on your face, and the next thing I know you’re running from the room.”
“It’s...complicated.” I wasn’t ready to go into details, but his disappointed expression made me realize I had to tell him something. “Okay.” I took a deep breath. “Kody, there’s a lot you don’t know about me.”
He rolled his eyes. “Duh. There’s a lot you don’t know about me too.”
“No, I mean there’s a lot you don’t know about me. I have a pretty...unpleasant past. I guess you could say I come with a lot of baggage. When we were sitting in the restaurant, I was actually thinking about how much I like you.”
His eyes grew round. “Really?”
“Yeah,” I said as I began to blush.
He grinned ear to ear. “I guess it’s safe to tell you that I like you too.” Suddenly, he frowned. “But that doesn’t explain why you ran away like that.”
“Well, that’s where my past comes in.” It was my turn to face the river to avoid eye contact. “I haven’t felt like this about someone for a long time—since I was a kid. Some really bad things happened to me then and as one of my counselors put it, I disassociated my emotions so I wouldn’t get hurt like that again. I haven’t really let myself feel things for a long time so this is all very new to me. Feeling this way about you made me remember the last time I felt like this, which made me think about the bad things that happened around the same time.”
“What...what bad things?” Kody asked tentatively.
I tried to suppress a shudder but failed. “I’d rather not talk it,” I whispered. “Not yet.”
I cleared my throat. “I do want to get to know you better, though,” I told him as I faced him once more. “I really do like you.”
He smiled. “What do you want to know? I’m pretty much an open book.”
I was relieved that he was so willing to let the subject drop and move on. “Everything!” I said with a grin. “Start at the beginning.”
He giggled. “Well, I grew up at a truck stop.” I laughed. “No, I really did,” he insisted. “My grandfather raised me after my dad died when I was little. I never even knew my mom. My grandpa ran this little motel and diner on the highway. I lived there until I was about fourteen, and then one day, this guy broke down in our parking lot. His name was Dave and he was a really nice guy. I didn’t have a lot of friends, living in the middle of nowhere, so I kind of latched onto him. I followed him around and probably pretty much made a nuisance of myself, but he was too nice to say so. I figured out that he was gay when he told me he was moving to Baysville, which is a really gay-friendly town, and I told my grandpa. My grandpa already knew I was gay, and that it was going to be really hard for me in the tiny little town where we lived. Dave and my grandpa spent a lot of time talking while he was there, and when he left, I went with him. My grandpa wanted me to have a better life. I have an adopted little brother who is gay too. So we’re just one big gay family. There. I don’t think I left anything out.”
I stared at him open-mouthed. Kody watched me, nervously awaiting my reaction. His story was almost as incredible as mine. “Wow,” was all I could manage.
“My dad, my adopted dad, went to college here, so he really wanted me to come here too,” he went on when I didn’t say anything else. “It’s really far from home and I miss Dad and Charlie, but I guess it’s good for me.”
He was started to babble so I thought I’d better say something before he started telling me what kind of underwear he wore. “Charlie!” I said latching on to the name.
Kody blinked at me. “What about him?”
“When I called you one time, you yelled at me and called me Charlie. I wondered who Charlie was. So he’s your little brother?”
Kody flushed a fetching shade of scarlet. “Yeah, um, he’s my brother. I’m, uh, really sorry about that. Charlie had been teasing me...” He trailed off with a sudden look of horror.
“Teasing you about what?” I couldn’t resist asking, although I thought I had an idea from his expression.
“N-nothing,” he stuttered.
“Come on, tell me,” I teased.
“He was, uh, teasing me about you,” he said and his face blazed even brighter, if possible.
I grinned. “Oh really?”
He stuck out his tongue at me. “Yes, really. And don’t try to pretend that you weren’t talking about me. Erin knew who I was before I even told her my name.”
It was my turn to blush. “Yeah, well...”
Kody grinned at me and I looked into his eyes. I saw something there that brought me to a decision. I wasn’t ready to tell him all the details, but I wanted him to know what he was getting into. Without thinking, I reached out and took his hand. “Let's go for a walk,” I said softly. He fell into step beside me as we began to walk along the river. He kept looking down at our hands as if trying to reassure himself that it was really happening. I knew how he felt. I took a deep breath.
“When I was fourteen, a gay guy came to my school. He was a couple years older than me, so I didn’t really have any interaction with him, but I watched him from a distance. He seemed so proud of who he was, even though he pretty much had no friends. I wanted to be that open but I’d never even seen an openly gay person before, so I guess you could say I didn’t have any role models. I was from a really strict religious family and coming out had never even occurred to me.” The story was coming out as if I was talking about someone else. I’d only talked about this with my therapists, so it felt strange to be telling it to Kody.
“I was just working up enough nerve to talk to the gay guy when he was murdered. This other guy in our school was stabbed at the same time. It was a really big deal at our school. It was all anyone talked about for weeks. Then the guy who was stabbed started dating my sister, or that’s what I thought at the time. I had a huge crush on this guy, his name was Killian. He was so hot. I guess I was kind of flirty—well, okay, I was a huge flirt. It turned out that Killian was gay too, and just dating my sister as a cover. We started getting closer and I really liked him a lot. Just when I was really getting my hopes up about me and Killian, he decided that he liked another guy more. So I kind of got my heart broken. That happens to everybody and wouldn’t have been a big deal—Killian and I are even friends now—except for what happened next. Someone else was killed at a Halloween party at our house. The police investigated and nothing seemed to happen. Then about a month later, all hell broke loose.”
I paused in my narrative while I tried to figure out how to tell the next part. Kody misunderstood my hesitation and spoke up. “Jake, you don’t have to tell me this if you don’t want to,” he said, concern filling his voice.
I shook my head. “No. I want to tell you. It was my brother.”
Kody looked at me with a mix of confusion and horror. “Your brother was killed?”
“No. Well...I mean my older brother was the murderer.” I was surprised at how calm I sounded, almost clinical. “I found out when he tried to kill me. He killed my whole family.”
“Oh my God...”
“I would be dead except for Killian. He shot my brother and saved my life.”
I was on a roll now though and couldn’t stop, the story just kept rolling from my tongue. “My whole family was gone in one night. Then I find out that the woman I always thought was my aunt is my real mom. She took me in and moved me across the country.”
“I can’t imagine what that must have been like.”
“It gets worse. I started using.”
“Drugs, alcohol...sex... You name it, I used it.”
“I...wow...” Kody abruptly stopped walking and his hand went limp in mine. I turned to face him and saw the stunned look on his face.
It suddenly struck me how this all must sound to him. He was so innocent, so pure. What must be going through his mind right now? It didn’t take my psychic mother to figure it out. “I know,” I said, my voice tight with bitterness. “You’re probably disgusted. I don’t do any of that anymore, but...I’ve seen and done some horrible things. I don’t even know why I thought this would work. I’m sorry...” I dropped his hand, turned, and started walking away. I’d only taken a few steps when I felt his hand slide around my wrist. I stopped and turned back around, but refused to look him in the eye. I didn’t want to see emptiness and pain where moments before there’d been such warmth and-Dare I even think it?-love.
“Look at me,” he commanded in a gentle voice. I slowly lifted my gaze to meet his. There was pain in his eyes, but not like what I had expected. This was empathy for my pain, and it was softened by compassion. “I’m not disgusted. I’m...shocked. I...I don’t know what I would have done if I was in your place. I don’t even know if I could have survived it. What happened to you was horrible. But...I’m glad you told me. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you to talk about it. It means a lot that you’d trust me that much. I... I like you, Jake. A lot. I want to try and make this work...whatever this is.”
His fingers slipped from my wrist to intertwine with mine. The sincerity in his eyes told me that he meant every word. A sense of relief washed over me that made me want to whoop with joy, but I somehow restrained myself. I couldn’t restrain the grin that spread across my face.
“You really mean that?” I asked, hardly daring to believe what I was hearing.
“Yep,” he said with a smile of his own.
“I really want this to work too.” I wanted to kiss him so bad, but my instincts told me it was too soon. I settled for a quick hug instead. “We should probably get back to the others,” I said, even though what I really wanted was more time alone with this incredible guy. I fell a little more for him with every passing second.
We walked back towards the bus stop in a comfortable silence, still hand-in-hand. The others were waiting for us when we got back. Erin took in our hand-holding and gave me a wink. Judging by her smug expression, she was quite pleased with the success of her plan. I was sure I’d hear all about it as soon as we were alone.
The camaraderie from earlier was back in full-force on the bus ride back to campus. Once there, I insisted on walking Kody back to his apartment. We all said goodnight and went our separate ways. Kody and I walked as slowly as possible in order to drag out our time together. At his door, I once again found myself fighting to keep from giving him a good-night kiss. A slight hesitation on Kody’s part is all that kept me from going for it. It would wait, and it would be all the sweeter for the wait. Somehow, I was sure he was worth it.