Breaking Masks

by Dabeagle & Josh Aterovis


Chapter 19


He loves me.

My head was spinning. I still hadn’t quite caught up, everything had happened so quickly. I came out of the shower and Kody showed up in my bedroom to tell me he loved me. He’d driven all the way down here from Albany to tell me he loved me. He didn’t hate me. He wasn’t disgusted. He loved me.

Kody Kingsley loves me.

I snapped back to reality to find Kody watching me expectantly, hopefully. It was my turn. “I...I love you, too.”

A huge grin spread across Kody’s face. I couldn’t believe this was really happening. I expected to wake up and discover it was all a dream. He drew me into a tight hug, and I never wanted him to let go. I wrapped my arms around him and held him just as tightly. I hadn’t dared allow myself to believe this could happen. Now that it had, I was afraid to trust it. The other shoe had to drop eventually.

Kody pulled back slightly to see me better, his eyes serious. “So,” he said softly. “I guess that means we’re in love with each other.” He stopped and waited for a response. I nodded slowly, unsure of where he was taking this. “So that means that from now on we have to be completely honest with each other. No more secrets, no more running away instead of talking, no more making decisions without the other person being involved. Got it?”

“Got it.”

“Good.” He stepped back, then suddenly punched me in the arm. I stumbled back and grabbed my arm in shocked disbelief.

“What was that for?”

“That was for leaving without talking to me and making me drive six hours and forty-one minutes trapped in a car with Nick.” He moved closer to me and trailed a finger down my cheek. “And this is for being you, and making my life so much better just by being a part of it.” He leaned in and softly pressed his lips against mine.

At first, I was too shocked by the punch to respond, but once his words registered, I quickly melted into his embrace, and soon we were kissing like we’d never stop. As we made out, he slowly pushed me back until I felt the bed behind my knees. He pushed me down, our lips never losing contact, and lowered himself onto me. His hands slid under my shirt, grazing gently across my skin and causing chills to ripple through my body. I hadn’t felt like this in a long time. My mind flashed to the last person who had touched me like this and I almost panicked. I tried desperately to steer my mind away from those thoughts and focus solely on the man I loved, who was currently trailing his finger lightly around my nipple.

Kody broke our kiss long enough to murmur, “I’ve wanted to do this for so long.”

His hand brushed across my stomach and slid under the waistband of my boxers. I sat up so abruptly I almost knocked Kody off the bed. I pushed myself up the bed until my back hit the headboard, and drew my knees to my chest. Kody stared at me as if I’d lost my mind.

“Did I do something wrong? Did I hurt you?” Concern and confusion filled his expression.

I shook my head no.

“Then what is it? Why won’t you let me touch you? Is it because I don’t know what I’m doing?”

“It’s not that. Kody, please believe me. I do want to be with you.”

“Then be with me. Stop pulling away.” He slowly inched towards me, as if he was afraid to make any sudden moves.

“It’s just...I’m scared.”

“Of what?”

“I—” I stopped and took a deep breath. No more secrets. Total honesty. “I’ve never been with someone I loved. All my memories of sex are with people who didn’t really care about me. They were just using me. Whenever we start...getting intimate, all those negative feelings start up and it scares me. I don’t want to have those feelings with you. It makes what we’re doing feel...soiled, somehow.” I looked away, unable to look Kody in the face as I admitted this.

By now, Kody had reached my side, where he propped himself on his elbow. He reached over, gently turned my face back towards him, and looked deeply into my eyes. “Then don’t you think it’s time you started replacing those bad memories with some good ones?”

“I want to, but—”

“I’m not all those other guys, Jake. I’m Kody. I love you. If we’re going to be a couple, then you can’t live in your past. You have to let go, forgive yourself, and move on—hopefully with me.”

I knew he was right. More than anything, I just wanted to take him my arms and pick up where we’d left off, but I was still scared.

Seeing my indecision, he gave me a warm smile. “Hey, we’re both virgins in a way. You’ve never done it with someone you care about, and I’ve never done it at all, so it’s a first for both of us. We’ll be going through it together.” I relaxed a little, stretching my legs out. He snuggled in next to me and laid his head on my chest. “We don’t even have to do anything if you don’t want. I’m just happy being close to you.”

“I do want to,” I whispered. He looked up at me, and I kissed him softly on the lips. “Maybe if we just take things slowly, that might help.”

He nodded. “Slow works.” We kissed again, deeper this time. He pulled away and a mischievous smile lit up his face making my heart skip a beat. “So how slow is slow? And where do we start?”

I laughed. “We start here, just like we are now. I don’t know where we go from there. I guess maybe we should just take it one thing at a time. You know, work our way up.”

He giggled. “You know, I’ve never done anything before. You have a lot to teach me, and I intend to be a very attentive student.” He rolled on top of me and brushed my lips with his. “Let’s start with my first lesson.”

“What would your first lesson be?”

He thought a minute, then said, “Kissing.”

“Oh, trust me, you’ve mastered that.” A whole swarm of butterflies fluttered in my stomach, but it was time to start replacing the old memories with new. “I think you’re ready for the next level.”

“You think?” I nodded, trying to hide how nervous I was. Kody gave me a trusting smile and rubbed his nose against mine. “Then if my teacher is ready, let the class begin.”

I quickly realized that this whole business of making new memories could turn out to be a lot of fun.

* * *

After the lesson—which he passed with flying colors—we talked for a while. He told me everything that had happened with Becca, about his trip to the hospital with Max, and then coming back to discover I had left. Then I told him about my mom’s phone call, running into Becca, and my panicked search for him. Eventually, we talked ourselves out and Kody suddenly remembered that he’d left Nick in the car. We rushed out of my bedroom to find Killian had taken the situation in hand, and he and Nick were in the living room having a lively discussion about their favorite gay movie. Killian was arguing for Beautiful Thing while Nick advocated The Broken Hearts Club.

“It’s the gay Steel Magnolias,” Nick was insisting as we walked into the room. He broke off and looked us over with a smug smile. “It’s about damn time,” he said with a suggestive waggle of his eyebrows. I tried to stop the blush I felt creeping up my cheeks, but it was hopeless. I was at least comforted to see that Kody was red too. Killian just gave me a wink.

“Thanks for driving Kody down here,” I said to Nick.

“Yeah, yeah. You both owe me big time. Now, since you guys have obviously worked everything out, when do we head back?”

“Head back?” Kody asked. “Already?” He slipped his hand possessively into mine. “But we just got here.”

“I have classes tomorrow, Kode.”

“That’s a lot of driving in one day,” Killian chipped in. I gave him a grateful look.

“Why don’t you guys spend the night and head back in the morning?” I suggested. “I mean, are any of your classes tomorrow something you can’t miss?”

He shrugged. “I guess I can miss them, but where are we going to stay. Here?”

“Uh, no offense or anything,” Kody inserted, “but I don’t know if I’m ready to meet your mom.”

“You can stay at the bed and breakfast my dads run,” Killian offered. “I’m sure Steve won’t mind letting you guys have a room. They’re not booked right now.”

“Are you sure?” I asked. “I hate to impose.”

Killian waved away my concern. “I’m sure it’ll be fine. Let me call and check.” He pulled out his cell phone and walked into the kitchen to talk.

“So when do you think you’ll be back at school?” Nick asked me.

I shrugged. “I don’t know. As soon as possible I guess.”

“You want to drive back with us tomorrow?”

Kody gave me puppy dog eyes and I giggled. “I’ll have to talk to Mom first, but maybe.”

“And maybe you can stay with us tonight?” Kody added hopefully.

“Hey now, don’t forget we’re sharing a room,” Nick quickly jumped in.

Kody rolled his eyes. “I think we can behave for one night, Nick.”

Nick leered at us. “I didn’t say anything about behaving. Just be sure I’m included.”

“Hey! You have Steve.”

He pretended to pout. “Doesn’t mean I can’t have a little fun now and then.”

“It does to me,” Kody said with finality.

“Every couple is different, you know. Everyone has to decide for themselves what they’re comfortable with.”

“So you and Steve have an open relationship?” I asked, curious.

Nick shrugged. “I wouldn’t say open, maybe just semi-open.”

“What does that mean?” Kody asked, but before Nick could answer, Killian rejoined us.

“Steve said any friends of Jake’s are more than welcome, and if you want separate rooms, it’s not a problem. This isn’t a busy time of year.”

“We want separate rooms,” Kody said quickly, then added to me, “You will stay with me tonight, right?”

“We’ll see. I need to talk to Mom about all this before I start making plans.”

He nodded, trying to hide a pout. “I understand.”

I sighed. It was obvious he didn’t understand.

Nick stood up. “So, are we ready then?”

Kody looked to me. “I guess so,” I said. “Let me leave a note for Mom and I’ll drive over with you—that is, if Killian can bring me back later.” Killian nodded, and I scribbled a few quick lines to Mom, then we filed out of the house.

“Whose car did you bring?” I asked when I saw the older-model Mazda Nick was headed for.

“Toshi’s,” Kody said.

“Toshi has a car? But he’s a freshman!”

“Shh!” Kody giggled.

“You guys can just follow me,” Killian said.

Kody and I tumbled into the back seat of the car, still giggling and holding hands. “Why do I feel like a chauffeur on prom night?” Nick grumbled as he slid behind the wheel.

“Home, Jeeves,” Kody snorted.

“I could make you walk, you know.” He followed Killian’s car as we drove into the country. Kody and I were busy staring into each other’s eyes, but after a few minutes, Nick interrupted. “Maryland’s a lot flatter than I expected.”

“It’s not this flat everywhere, just here on the Eastern Shore.”

“The eastern shore of what?”

“The Eastern Shore is the entire peninsula on the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay.”

“Oh. I see. So what’s here?”

“Not much, really. A lot of chickens. Some corn fields. There’s Ocean City. That’s like a beach resort.”

Nick’s eyes lit up. “A beach? Maybe we should stay an extra day or two.”

“I thought you were worried about classes,” Kody said. “Besides, isn’t it a little chilly for the beach?”

“I guess,” Nick conceded with a sigh.

“You can come back this summer,” I suggested.

“Me too?” Kody asked.

“You’d better.” I leaned over and kissed him.

“Hey! There’ll be none of that in my car,” Nick yelled.

“It’s not your car,” Kody reminded him.

“Don’t make me pull this car over!”

We all busted up laughing. A few minutes later, we arrived at the bed and breakfast. Nick and Kody gawked, making me realize once again what an impressive place Amalie’s House was. The building was originally a plantation manor, built in the pre-Civil War era and designed for entertaining lavishly. It rose three stories above a well-manicured lawn, and elaborate gingerbread trim graced every possible surface. Steve and Adam, Killian’s dads, had named the B&B after the original lady of the house, who’d out-stayed her welcome by a hundred and fifty years. She was gone now, but her portrait still hung in the front foyer.

We followed Killian inside, where we found Steve, a tall, dark-haired man in his mid-forties, talking to an older woman with a large hooked nose. When Steve noticed us, he said something to her and quickly walked towards us. The woman stared after him for a second, then went up the stairs.

“Thanks, guys,” Steve said after glancing over his shoulder to make sure she was gone. “You saved my butt. All she’s done is complain since she got here.” He rolled his eyes and we chuckled. “Hi, Jake. It’s good to see you.”

“Hi, Steve. This is my friend Nick and my boyfriend Kody.” Kody blushed at my introduction, but shook Steve’s hand with a proud smile.

We made small talk for a few more minutes, then Steve showed us up to the rooms. Nick’s room was decorated in dark blues with cream highlights and antique golden oak furniture; Kody’s room was layered in rich burgundy velvet with complimentary walnut furnishings. Kody’s eyes grew wide as he took in his room and Steve smiled at his reaction.

“Are all the rooms this nice?” Kody asked in awe.

“I like to think so. We tried to make them all special.”

“You succeeded with this room anyway.”

“At least someone is satisfied.” He laughed and left us alone in the room. Nick went back to his room, and soon after Killian excused himself, saying he was going to make sure Nick didn’t need anything, but it was obvious he was just trying to give Kody and me time alone. Not that we minded.

Kody wrapped his arms around me in a hug as soon as we were alone. “You have to stay here with me tonight,” he said, his voice muffled by my chest. “Look how big that bed is.”

I laughed and squeezed him tight. “I’ll do my best.”

“No, you have to stay here. This old place is probably haunted.”

“Actually, it used to be, but it’s not anymore.”

Kody pulled away and gave me a wary look, as if he wasn’t sure if I was kidding him or not. “Are you joking?”

“Nope. There really was a ghost here when Steve bought the place. She’s gone now.”

“Okay. That settles it. You’re spending the night.” He pulled me close again and held on as if he had no plans to let go again.

“I told you she’s gone,” I said laughing.

“I don’t care. She might decide to come back.”

“I can tell you the whole story if you want.”

“Not now. Maybe later tonight, after we’re settled in bed, under the covers.”

I laughed again. “You’re so cute.”

“Yeah, yeah. You won’t think I’m so cute if I have to hit you again.”

“Hey, that hurt!” I stepped away and pretended to pout.

“Good, it was supposed to. Just be glad I didn’t kick your ass like I’d planned.”

“Oh, you think you could kick my ass, huh?” I teased.

“As mad as I was earlier, I know I could have.” He raised one eyebrow challengingly, as his lips twitched and he tried not to smile.

“Oh really?” I leaped forward and grabbed him around the waist, hoisting him into the air over my shoulder. He squealed and beat his fists against my back between giggles.

Someone knocked at the door and we froze. I quickly set him down on his feet and pulled open the door to find a frowning Nick.

“I hope you two won’t be that noisy all night,” he said, then broke into a wide grin. “‘Cause if you are I might come a-knocking again.”

“Try earplugs,” Kody said dryly as he walked over and shut the door in his face, then collapsed into a fit of giggles. There was another knock on the door. “Don’t answer it,” he gasped. “It’s probably just Nick again.”

I opened the door anyway and found Killian this time. “Hey, I hate to rush you, but I just got a call from Novak. Is it okay if I drive you home now?”

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Kody’s face fall. “Yeah, sure,” I said to Killian, then turned to Kody. “I’ll be back after I talk to Mom.”

“Promise?” he asked plaintively.

“Promise.” I gave him a quick kiss, hoping I would be able to keep that promise. Then I followed Killian downstairs and out to his car.

“You guys seem to have worked out your problems pretty quickly,” he said as I buckled my seatbelt.

I shrugged. “I’m sure we still have a lot to work out, but we’re making progress.” I felt a smile spread across my face. “I can’t even begin to tell you how great it feels not to have any secrets between us now. He knows everything about me and he still loves me.”

He laughed. “Of course he does. You’re quite loveable.”

My grin grew even wider. “As long as he thinks so, that’s all that matters. I still can’t believe he came all the way down here after me.”

“That’s so romantic. Of course, it would have been easier on Nick and your Mom if you could have just waited to talk to him before you ran off.”

My grin faded as I thought about Mom. Would she be mad or relieved that I wanted to go back to school already?

Killian glanced over at me. “What are you thinking about?”


“What about her?”

“What if she’s pissed that I want to go back with Nick and Kody tomorrow?”

“Pissed that you’ve decided to go back to college and you’re sparing her a six-hour drive? I think she’ll be thrilled.”

“Yeah, but she did just drive all the way up there to get me then all the way home just last night.”

“True. I guess you’ll have to wait and see.”

I brooded over her reaction for a few minutes, then decided I needed a distraction. “So how come Novak called you into the office? Is it a case you’re working on?”

He launched into a run-down of his current case. He was vague because of confidentiality issues, but it was still fascinating. Soon, we arrived back at my house, where Mom’s car sat in the driveway.

Killian turned to me and caught my wrist as I moved to open the door. “Jake, one more thing. Obviously I don’t know Kody very well, but it’s equally obvious that you guys really love each other. Do yourself a favor and stop living behind a mask.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve been hurt so many times that you’ve been afraid to let him see the real you. You’ve worn a mask, but you’ve taken it off for now. Just be sure you don’t slip back into it. James Baldwin has a quote that I love and really fits your situation. ‘Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.’”

I smiled and leaned forward to give him a hug. “Don’t worry. That mask was broken into a million pieces. It’s never going back on.” I sat back. “Thanks for always being there for me. I feel like I owe you so much.”

“You don’t owe me anything. happy with Kody.”

“I plan on it.”

We hugged once more, then I got out of the car. I turned, blew Killian a kiss, and shut the door. It was time to face my mother. “Wish me luck,” I mumbled under my breath as I stalked towards the door.

“Mom?” I called as I stepped inside.

“I’m in the kitchen,” she replied.

I walked into the kitchen and was surprised to find Mom sweating over the stove. She was a good cook when she got around to it, which wasn’t often. “Hey. What’re you making?”

She looked up and wiped her forehead with the back of her hand, leaving a smudge of tomato sauce. “Stuffed peppers. Will Kody and his friend be joining us for dinner?”

“Um, no. They’re at the B&B.”

She frowned. “Why didn’t they just stay here?”

“Well, uh...”

She smiled suddenly. “Kody isn’t quite ready to meet the boyfriend’s crazy mother?”

I laughed. “He doesn’t think you’re crazy. He’s just nervous. We haven’t even been dating that long and we just had a pretty messy episode.”

“Had? As in past tense? I take it you boys worked things out?”

“Yeah. More or less. We talked for a while this afternoon.”

“He must care a lot about you to chase you all the way down here.”

I practically glowed at her words. “Yeah. He told me he loves me.”

She smiled approvingly and turned back to dinner. “Great. So I guess you’ll be returning to school soon.”

“Nick offered to drive me back up with them tomorrow morning,” I offered tentatively.

She nodded briskly. “Fantastic. That will save me a trip.”

“You don’t mind? Even though you just drove up there to get me last night?”

She looked up at me again, and her expression turned serious. “No. I don’t mind. What happened was what had to happen. I think you both needed this to realize what you mean to each other. Now that you know, you can get back to school and stop wasting all that money I’m paying for tuition.” She winked to show me she was just teasing with that last part.

I walked over and gave her a hug from behind. “Thanks, Mom. You’re the greatest.”

“I know,” she said lightly. “Now what else do you have to ask me?”

I rolled my eyes and released her. You could never get anything over on my mother. “Kody wants me to stay with him at the B&B tonight.”

She scrunched up her face and pretended to think about it, then shook her head sadly. “Fine, go ahead and desert your dear old mother on your one night home. And just after you said I was the greatest too!”


She broke into a grin. “Of course you can go. Just have dinner with me first. Can you give me that at least?”

“Of course. I wouldn’t miss your stuffed peppers anyway. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Sure is. Check those peppers to see if they’re tender yet.”

* * *

After dinner, Mom drove me over to the B&B. I only took enough clothes for the night. We’d have to stop back by the house to get all my stuff when we left in the morning.

“Now remember,” I said before getting out of the car, “You promised you won’t be home when I come to get my stuff in the morning. No hiding in the closet or anything.”

“Yes, yes. I get it. You’re embarrassed by your mother.”

“I am not! You know that’s not it.”

She laughed. “I know, kiddo. Don’t worry. I’ll respect Kody’s wishes until he’s worked up the nerve to meet me.”

I laughed too. “Thanks, Mom.”

When I walked into the B&B there was no one around. I went up to Kody’s room and knocked on the door, but there was no answer. It was the same thing at Nick’s room. I wandered back downstairs and into the kitchen, where I finally found Steve. He was sitting at a small table in the corner of the room, a messy pile of paperwork spread out in front of him.

“Hey Jake,” he said, looking up from his work. “I didn’t hear you. I guess I was too caught up in my accounting.” He made a sour face and I chuckled.

“Hey Steve. That’s okay. I just got back. Do you know where Kody and Nick went?”

“I think they took a walk around the yard. You might try out back.”


“No problem. Oh, and Jake?” I turned back. “Kody is adorable.”

I blushed and grinned. “Yeah, I think so too.”

“He seems like a really nice boy too. I think you’ve chosen wisely. Hang on to him.”

My grin grew wider. “Don’t worry. I don’t intend to let him get away.”

Steve winked at me, then turned back to his work.

I walked outside, thinking about Kody and how glad I was that he’d come after me. Now that I knew he loved me and that he wanted to be with me despite my past, I couldn’t imagine living without him. How had I ever thought I could just walk away from him?

I heard voices out in the small copse of trees in the back yard and headed in that direction. I found Nick and Kody in the small park-like area Steve and Adam had created around the old family graveyard in the woods. A stone bench sat facing an angel statue, and they’d planted flowers all around. Nick was kneeling next to one of the headstones, while Kody sat on the bench, his arms wrapped around his slim body in an effort to keep himself warm in the cool fall air.

As I got closer, I could see that the headstone was for Amalie Marnier, the woman for whom the house was named.

“She died so young,” Nick was saying. “I wonder what happened.”

“Her husband killed her,” I said, causing them both to jump. Nick fell backwards onto his bottom. Kody giggled nervously.

“Hey,” he said, jumping up off the bench and running to meet me. “I didn’t expect you back so soon.”

“Mom and I had dinner, then she brought me over. Steve told me you guys were back here.” I gave him a quick kiss.

“Did her husband really kill her?” Nick asked, still studying the worn words carved into the stone.


“Did they catch him?”

“Nope. No one ever knew.”

“Then how do you know?”

“She told us. Well, she told Killian.”

“Huh?” Kody asked, his eyes wide.

“It’s a long story, but the short version is she haunted the house for a while, but she doesn’t anymore.”

“That’s what you were talking about earlier?” Kody asked.


“Did people see her and everything?” Nick asked excitedly.


“That’s really freaky,” Kody said. “I don’t know if I want to sleep here now.”

I slipped my arms around Kody. “I’ll be here to protect you—not that you’ll need protection. She’s gone now. You don’t have anything to worry about.”

“Maybe she’d come back if we held a séance.” Nick sounded quite eager.

“No way,” Kody said firmly. “Let’s go back up to the house. It’s creepy out here now that it’s getting dark.”

“Oh come on,” Nick begged. “It would be fun!”

“I agree with Kody. No séance. Besides, the ghost was hurting Steve’s business before she left. We wouldn’t want to do anything to bring her back, assuming we even could.”

I slid my hand into Kody’s and we started walking back towards the house, Nick trailing along behind us, pouting.

We went to Nick’s room for a while, just talking and hanging out. Nick tried to talk us into a séance again, but once more, we shot him down. Finally, I suggested we get some sleep since we had to get up fairly early in the morning to pack all my stuff into Toshi’s car and drive all the way back to Albany.

Kody and I went to his room, but once there, a sudden awkwardness came over us. This would be the first time we’d ever spent the night together, and neither of us was sure what the other expected. After a few seconds of silence, we both started speaking at the same time.

“Look, Jake—”

“Kody, I—”

We giggled.

“Go ahead,” he said.

“No, you go first.”

He sighed. “Fine. I was just going to say that I know we’re taking it slow, so if you don’t want to do anything but sleep tonight, I’m cool with that.”

I thought about it for a few seconds, then gave him a shy smile. “Let’s just let whatever happens happen, okay? I’m not promising I won’t freak out if something does happen, but...let’s not worry about that.”

He came over and gave me a hug, then we silently undressed and slipped into the bed. We cuddled together without saying a word. I think he could feel the nervous tension in my body, because he didn’t try to do anything. We just lay in each others arms for a while, Kody’s hands softly moving up and down my back sending tingles across my skin.

“Thank you for coming after me,” I said finally.

It was too dark to distinguish his face, but I could sense his smile even if I couldn’t see it. “It was my pleasure. Just being held by you like this—it was worth the six hours in the car with Nick.”

I laughed. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” He moved closer and pressed his lips against mine. I pulled him against me and soon we were making out.

I woke up abruptly the next morning to the sound of someone pounding at the door. “Wake up,” Nick called.

“Be quiet,” I barked back. “You’ll wake up the whole house.”

The banging stopped and I turned my head to find Kody staring back at me, a contented smile on his face. “Can I wake up like this every morning for the rest of my life?” he asked softly.

“With Nick beating your door down?”

“No, with you by my side.”

My heart melted as I leaned in for a good morning kiss—screw morning breath.

Nick didn’t give us long, however, before he was back knocking at the door again.

“We might as well get up,” I said with a sigh.

“I already am,” Kody said with a giggled. I burst out laughing as an adorable blush crept up his cheeks.

I left Kody under the covers and went to the door to assure Nick that we were awake and we’d be out shortly. Then we took turns taking quick showers, got dressed, and joined Nick downstairs for a continental breakfast courtesy of Steve.

Once we’d all had something to eat, we drove over to my house. True to her word, Mom’s car was gone. I let us in the house using my key, and the three of us loaded up Toshi’s car. Once we were finished, we realized that there was only room for one person in the backseat. Kody and I stared at each other in horror as we realized that we’d be separated for the duration of the trip.

“Oh, for God’s sake. Give me a break,” Nick groaned. “You too are so sickeningly sweet I’m getting a cavity. Move some stuff up front and you two can both sit in the back seat.”

“Or I could drive and you could sit in the back,” I offered.

Nick pondered that for half a second. “No way, Jose. We’d never make it back to school with you two making moony faces at each other. You’d crash the car. Move your shit up front. I’m driving and that’s final.”

We shifted the stuff around, climbed in, and we were off. The trip itself wasn’t that bad. In fact, it seemed to fly by. Then again, Kody and I were pretty caught up in each other, cuddling and kissing for pretty much the whole trip. Nick kept threatening to barf all over us if we didn’t stop, but it was out of our control.

We rolled onto campus in the early afternoon. Seeing the school again made my stomach clench up a little. I knew I’d have to deal with Becca at some point, a prospect I was not looking forward to. I was, however, looking forward to seeing all my friends again. I was surprised to realize how much I had missed Erin, Roy, Carlos, Toshi, and Miranda.

The car had barely stopped rolling when Erin burst out of the dorm, vaulted over a bench, and skidded to a stop next to the vehicle.

“You could have called somebody,” she accused indignantly as we got out. Then, before I could answer, she threw her arms around my neck and whispered fiercely, “Welcome back.”

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