Nocte (Page 27)

Nocte (The Nocte Trilogy #1)(27)
Author: Courtney Cole

I reach up to touch his face, my fingers grazing his jaw, his stubble teasing my fingertips.

“I’m ready to ask my fourth question,” I tell him, my voice wobbling slightly.  His nearness makes me dizzy.

“Go on then,” he answers, his voice ever calm.

“Do you have a girlfriend back home?”

My words sound childish, almost.  Because girlfriend seems so juvenile.  Because my feelings seem huge and adult.

Dare sucks in his breath, and reaches up to enclose my fingers within his own, holding them in place as he stops me from exploring the rest of his face.  He stares into my eyes and I can’t read him now.

“No.”

He’s holding my hand against his chest and I feel his heart beat against my palm.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

It’s loud in the silence.

The chemistry between us is palpable enough to touch, weaving around us, pulling us together, the air snapping with its electricity.

But he doesn’t move.

And I don’t either.

I want him to kiss me.  I imagine the way his full lips would feel, firm, yet soft.  I imagine the way his hands would feel on my back, pulling me closer, closer, closer.

But he doesn’t move and neither do I.

And then suddenly, he releases my hand and steps back.

“So is this all you’ve got, then?” he asks, his voice teasing me now. The sexual tension is sadly broken.

I can’t help but smile though.  For the simple reason that it was there in the first place.

“Yeah.  I guess your balls of steel saved you today,” I tell him.  He grins again, and then we make our way toward the foyer.  As we cross the parlor though, I see something interesting, and pause next to the door-jam.

DD and CP are inscribed inside a heart.  Corny and sweet.  I trace the letters with my finger.

“What a coincidence,” I murmur, for some reason aching on the inside, aching to be that CP and for Dare to be that DD.   Because Corny or not, it’s so intimate, so heart-breakingly personal.  It smacks of first love, of high-school sweethearts, of things that are normal.

My hand falls away and I keep walking… because we’re not those initials, and my life is not normal.

When we step outside, I take a deep breath of fresh air, breathing in the moon and stars and pine trees.

“There was more to see in there,” I tell him softly, on the edge of the darkened driveway.  The corner of his mouth tilts.

“Let’s leave that for another day,” he suggests as we walk.

I nod because our moment back in Nocte wasn’t imagined.  Maybe it scared him, like it sort of scared me, and that’s why we’re running from it now.

Because it was sudden and hot and blinding… like a shooting star. 

After we’re back in my car and driving toward home, I glance at him.

“Maybe you could give me a ride on your motorcycle sometime?  I’ve never been on one.”

He nods.  “Maybe.”

He stares out the window, careful to stay on his side of the car.  I muse about that for a second, but refuse to dwell on it.  But I’m so busy dwelling on it five minutes later that what Dare says next seems to come from left field.

“I’m ready to ask you a question,” he tells me softly, his voice husky and seeped with the night.

I raise an eyebrow.  “Okay. Shoot.”

I’m expecting him to ask about a boyfriend, or my dating history, or even how old I am.  He doesn’t.  His question actually slams into me with the force of a freight train, returning me to my reality.

“Can you tell me about your mom?”

There’s a solid beat before I can make myself speak.

“Why?” I manage to croak, still stunned.

Dare shrugs, but his expression is soft, his dark eyes liquid.

“I don’t know.  It just feels like a way to know you better.”

That answer, of course, melts my ovaries and I relax, the small of my back slumping against the seat.

I take a deep breath and grip the steering wheel hard enough to turn my knuckles white.

“What do you want to know?”

He stares at me for a second, before reaching over and loosening my grip on the wheel.  His fingers are dry and warm, where mine are cool and clammy.

“Whatever you’d like to tell me.  For instance…are you like her?  Do you look like her?”

I smile.  “I wish I was like her.  She was artistic and amazing.  I’m…not. But I do look like her.   I look exactly like her, actually, which is probably hard on my dad right now.  Finn looks like him.”

“So she was born in England?  Why did she move to America?”

It’s my turn to shrug.  “She was.  But I don’t know why she left.  She said she didn’t get along with her parents very well.  She hasn’t spoken to them in years, and I’ve never personally met them.”

“Huh. Interesting,” Dare murmurs.  “I think it’s good you can talk about her.  When my mom died, I couldn’t talk about her for almost a year.”

I do a double-take. “Your mom’s gone, too?  You only mentioned your dad before.  I’m so sorry!  What happened?”

Dare stares out the windshield, into the night.  I can tell he’s not really seeing it.

“She died in an accident with my step-father.”

My stomach tightens into a knot for him, because God, I know that grief, that sudden, shocking, annihilating grief.  I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

“I’m so sorry,” I tell him limply. He nods.

“Yeah, it sucks.  But I know how you’re feeling right now, at least.  I realized after my mom died that it always helps when someone knows what it’s like.”

He’s right.  It’s hugely comforting.

“It’s hard,” I admit to him.  “It’s especially hard because it was my fault.  I called her at night when it was raining.  If I hadn’t done that, she would still be here.”

Dare looks at me sharply. “You can’t believe that.  That it’s your fault, I mean.”

I look away.  “Of course I can.  It’s true.”

“It’s not,” he argues.  “I personally believe that when your number is up, it’s up.  Surely, living in a funeral home your whole life, you believe that, too.  Sometimes, there isn’t an explanation for something.”