And, for a while, my self-torment was working.
Until the day I broke.
We were up in my room on my bed during a party, a little drunk and alone. I kept picturing myself laying her back, kissing her while exploring her body. I knew I couldn’t act on my desires. At least, I did until she told me I was making her nervous, staring at my mouth like she wanted to taste me as badly as I wanted to taste her.
Hope rose inside me, and I went in for the kiss.
For a microsecond, everything was perfect as our lips connected for the first time.
And then she broke the kiss and took off, taking the perfection with her.
She’s kept a hold of it ever since, and I question if I’ll ever get it back, even after she gave me a piece of paper that pretty much informed me that we’d never kiss again.
A stupid piece of paper with a stupid rule: absolutely no lip-to-lip contact.
I’m not much of a rule follower. Never have been. But for the last year, I’ve tried to be … for her.
Always for her.
I’m not sure how long I zone off, thinking of all the times I almost kissed Willow and destroyed our friendship. Probably way too long, though, because by the time I’m yanked back to reality, we’re close to her apartment. I hate that I get so consumed with wanting her and wish I could just figure out a way to talk to her and tell her how I feel without her freaking out.
“Beck, are you okay?” Willow asks.
My gaze moves from the narrow street to her. “Yeah. I was just thinking about stuff.”
She twists in the seat, bringing her knee up. I try not to stare at her long legs that I can’t stop picturing around me, but she rarely wears shorts—though she really should—and I can’t help sneaking a glance or two. Or three. Or four. Or twenty. Still, I can’t help wondering why she’s dressed like this. She said it was for a party, but I know when she’s lying.
“What kind of stuff?” She rests her chin on her knee. “You have that look on your face.”
“What look?” The look where I’m thinking about how much I want you and how you’ll never want me back? At least, not the way I want you to. Do I have a look for that?
“The look when your dad is being a pain in the ass.” Her mouth curves downward. “Is he bugging you about working at the firm again?”
That wasn’t where my thoughts were, but I’ll take talking about my dad over telling her the truth.
“Princess, he’s never stopped bugging me. He likes yelling at me way too much,” I say. “And I’m pretty sure he won’t ever stop until I agree to do what he wants.”
“Please don’t let him force you to do anything,” she begs. “You deserve to do what you want. And you’d be miserable as a lawyer. I know you would.”
“Oh, trust me; I know that, too.” I flip on the blinker to turn onto the side road that runs through her rundown neighborhood. “And I’ve tried to explain that to him. I told him that I’d be the suckiest lawyer that’s ever existed. But you know my dad … His way is the only way.”
“Why does he even think you need to go into law?” she asks, tangling a strand of hair around her finger. “Just because he did?”
“I have no idea.” I shrug stiffly. “I stopped trying to figure out what the fuck goes on in his head when I turned twelve and realized he loved his job more than his own family.”
“I’m sure he doesn’t love work more,” she tries to convince me. “He’s just a workaholic.”
“Wills, I love that you’re trying to make me feel better, but I already accepted a long time ago that my dad will never like me as much as he likes his clients … and money, which kind of coincide.”
Her lips part, but then shut. A moment of pitying silence ticks by, and I start to feel like shit. Then she grins.
“Well, he’s an idiot. You’re way better than money. In fact, if I had to choose between you and having all the money in the world, I’d choose you.”
“Really?” My lips quirk. “All the money in the world, huh? Man, I must be extremely valuable.”
She bobs her head up and down exaggeratedly. “You’re at the top of the list, Beck. Way, way up at the top where no one else is.” The lampposts reflect in her eyes, highlighting a hint of sadness. “You always will be.”
My chest tightens in the most wonderfully agonizing way. God, what I wouldn’t give to just kiss her again. All the money in the world and then some.
“What about Theo?” she asks, already moving on from the moment. Me, I wonder if I’ll be stuck there forever, consumed by wanting her but knowing I’ll never have her. “Is he only going to law school just to please your dad?”
I shrug. “Probably. I haven’t really talked to him about why he decided to go. Theo always seemed like he was going to become someone who needed a lawyer, not the one who would become one.”
She giggles, and the sound makes me want to spend all night cracking joke after joke. She looks so beautiful, especially when she laughs. I wish she would do it more often. I wish she wasn’t so stressed all the time so she could.
“Theo did get into a lot of trouble,” she agrees, her smile fading. “But, anyway. All I’m saying is that maybe if you and Theo were on the same page, you could talk to your dad together and try to make him see it your way.”
Leave it to Willow to try to find a solution to my problem.
“I love the suggestion, but I doubt it’ll work.” When she frowns, I add, “You know my dad. He never hears anything unless he wants to. I don’t even know how many times I’ve tried to have a conversation with him, and he completely ignored me and just walked out of the room.” I make a right down a narrow side road lined with small, older houses. “The guy’s got a serious case of selective hearing. I swear, it’s a fucking gift or something.”
“Or maybe they taught him that in law school,” she jokes, a small but beautiful smile pulling at her lips.
“Maybe. Or maybe he’s just an asshole.”
“Aren’t those two supposed to be one and the same?”
“They are, actually. In fact, I heard they make you take a class in law school that teaches you asshole skills. I think it’s called learning how to channel your inner asshole so that you bully people into doing things your way and become a real prick.”