“You may have everyone else fooled, Elle Montgomery,” Cole said, his voice vibrating through me. “But not me.”
So it seemed.
Without another word, Cole grabbed my hand and pulled me down the remainder of the hall. I went with him not because it was what he wanted, but because of what I wanted. It was a foreign concept—doing what I wanted and not what I guessed, assumed, or knew what someone else wanted.
It wasn’t long before we burst through a door. Inside might have been dark, but the sky was clear, and one of the few things that made the prospect of spending the rest of my life here in Winthrop bearable was that I could stare up at a night sky like this at the end of every day. No clouds plus no city lights equated to a sky so bright with stars it was almost more light than dark.
Cole took in the sky for a couple moments with me before pulling me along again. I started laughing, for a hundred little reasons and one big one.
I felt free.
I was free.
I couldn’t comprehend how running with Cole’s hand wrapped around mine late at night could make me feel freer than I’d ever felt when, in truth, nothing had changed. I was still Elle Montgomery, promised to Logan Matthews, expected to manage and run the diner when Dad retired, the girl who would be born, die, and everything in between in this town.
But it did.
I was still laughing when Cole’s jog slowed.
I’d been so busy staring at the sky and him I hadn’t realized I was on a runway. Or about to run into a small plane.
“A plane? Really?” I said as Cole led me up a ramp before opening the plane’s door. “Is this where you take all the girls?”
Elle the Witty had come back out to play. She was growing on me.
Cole gave me a twisted little grin. “Only the girls that make me work really hard for it,” he said. Before my mind could get carried away with what “working hard for what” entailed, Cole grabbed my hand and pulled me inside the plane.
I knew I shouldn’t follow him inside. I knew what being in another dark, confined, quiet space would make me want to do with Cole. I knew the electricity shooting through my hand from his touch would only compound if we touched anywhere else.
I knew so many things.
But darn if my heart, or my soul, or that rebellious Elle inside of me, wasn’t outwitting my mind at every turn tonight.
“You jump out of this?” I asked, looking outside the tiny door. I felt sick at the thought and the plane wasn’t even in the air.
“Well, the other guys jump,” he said, stepping up behind me. “I fly out of it.”
He was close, too close. I couldn’t feel his body against my back yet, but I felt the heat coming from it. My eyes closed when I imagined Cole’s chest pressing into my back, the rest of him sliding into position. Another flash of our first meeting went through my mind.
My breathing had just picked up when my body acted without my consent. No longer able to bear the line of distance between us, I stepped back until I felt his body hard against mine. I took one more step because now that I felt him, I wanted to feel more.
Cole inhaled sharply, but that was all the surprise he showed. His hands slid down over my hips, and when his fingers curled deep into me before he shoved me harder back into him, I gasped.
Apparently we could get closer and feel even more of each other.
I was breathing so hard I had to open my mouth to keep from passing out. Cole’s h*ps pressed into my lower back and I felt something hard against my spine that both made me blush and moan.
My hands covered my mouth immediately. Where the heck had that come from? I didn’t know I was capable of such a sexual sound.
Cole’s mouth dropped to my neck. His breath was so hot against it, I felt the muscles relax.
Well, they relaxed until something wet and firm slid up the curve of my neck. I tensed for a moment, but then his tongue played with the tip of my earlobe before he gently sucked on it.
I moaned again, louder and longer, but this time I didn’t cover my mouth. I didn’t want to fight anymore. I was done ignoring the way Cole made me feel with a simple look or a not-so-simple touch. I hadn’t been exactly successfully ignoring him as right now—his hands gripping hard into my h*ps and his lips doing things to my earlobe I didn’t know could be done—proved.
“That’s it, Elle,” he breathed as one hand slid up my body before forming around my cheek. “Don’t fight it. I can see the person you are, the one you’re fighting.” He took my earlobe back into his mouth, but this time, his teeth sunk into it carefully. Of course, my only response was another porn-worthy moan. Or groan. Or sigh. I don’t know how the heck you would classify the sounds I was making, but I did know they were the opposite of innocent. “And that girl makes me all kinds of crazy.” Cole’s hand guided my face closer to his. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to stare at: his eyes or his mouth. Both were tempting on so many levels.
“I’m going to kiss you now. Unless you stop me,” he said, lowering his mouth to mine. It was so close, I could taste his lips. But I wanted to feel them. I wanted to feel them move over mine. I wanted to feel him suck at my lower lip the way he’d just done with my ear. I wanted. I wanted too much, and what was worse, I wanted what I couldn’t have.
But tonight, I was going to finally have what I wanted.
“But if you stop me now,” Cole said. His eyes had no degree of indecision; they stayed firmly on mine. “I’ll try to kiss you again later. I’m persistent, Elle.”
Those words, those eyes drilling into mine, those hands holding onto me so tightly I couldn’t budge, and that certain something pressed hard into my back broke down any and all last reservations.
I lifted an arm and curled it around the back of Cole’s neck. In this position, I felt totally vulnerable, totally not-in-control. But still, totally protected.
“And yet you’re still talking,” I whispered, lifting my brows suggestively.
When Cole’s lips dropped to mine, I could feel the tilted smile on his mouth. I’d been right. Whatever voltage our combined hands could create was compounded to the hundredth power when our mouths moved against one another.
I felt clumsy at first, inexperienced in every way as I was, but what I lacked in experience Cole more than made up for for the both of us. The way his lips could both polish and suction to mine in the same heartbeat confirmed this man had been perfecting his craft for a while. I didn’t want to even guess the number of women he’d been perfecting it with, so I tried to follow his lead and not make a kissing fool of myself.
I wasn’t very conscious of his hands with his mouth doing what it was, but I did have enough remaining wits to realize they stayed where they were. I wasn’t sure if I was more relieved or disappointed.
When Cole’s tongue slid out, encouraging the seam of my lips to open, they didn’t take much encouragement. In fact, his tongue hadn’t even entered my mouth before mine met his. I think he was as surprised as I was because a sound that was deeper and more gravelly than the sounds I’d been making traveled up his throat.
Knowing I was responsible for that sound, despite feeling like I was all thumbs in the kissing department . . . all that knowledge made me want him more. Made me want him in ways I knew I couldn’t, shouldn’t, and absolutely wouldn’t indulge.
So instead, I focused on our tongues winding around one another, our lips smoothing over each other, our bodies formed against each other so tightly I didn’t doubt my back would be wearing a Cole-sized dent in it for a while.
My hand slid down to his hands kneading my hips. Our fingers curled together the way our mouths were. I’d never been kissed like this, never even close.
I’d kissed a total of one boy in my life: Logan.
The name was familiar, it meant something, but Cole’s mouth and body were making me forget what that name meant. Only when Cole’s fingers started drifting lower, sliding into the front pocket of my shorts, did reality hit me head on. I felt the small, hard circle at the bottom of my pocket hard against my thigh.
I didn’t know if I broke out of Cole’s embrace because I was ashamed of what I’d just done or because I’d been scared of Cole finding the ring, but the pain of separation was instant.
“Elle?” Cole’s face was as confused as his voice sounded. He had a right to be. One second ago I’d been a making out fiend and now I backed away from him like I was being chased by the devil.
“I’ve got to go,” I said, more to myself than to him as I stumbled down the ramp. Apparently there were more ways to get drunk than from alcohol. Cole’s body had done a number on mine and it wouldn’t function properly.
“Did I do something wrong?” He stuck his head out the plane door and watched me.
“No,” I said, having to look away. If I stared at him any longer, I was going to run back and pick up where we’d left off. “I did.”
I had so much more to say. I had one big thing to explain, but I was either too cowardly or too confused to do any talking or explaining tonight. Without sparing another look or word Cole’s way, I ran.
The tears fell when I realized this wasn’t the first time I’d run away from something I wanted. My life was a snowball of regrets and dreams shoved to the side, and even though I ran in the opposite direction from him, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Cole Carson would be the one to change all that. To change everything.
I ignored Cole’s calls again. He’d called every hour since I ran away last night. Lucky for me, the diner, where my Jeep was parked, hadn’t been that far of a walk. Or a run.
When I’d heard a car approaching, I dodged into the dark tree line, guessing it would be Cole.
My guess was confirmed when an old Land Cruiser went by. It went slow, so I caught a glimpse of his face. It was a mixture of tortured and anxious. I stuck to the trees the last half mile back to the diner and didn’t race to my Jeep until I was certain Cole wasn’t lurking in the shadows waiting for me. I wasn’t ready to face him, but I was even more not ready to tell him about Logan. I knew I had to tell him the very next time I saw him, but I also knew that would end everything we had.
I wasn’t ready for The End.
Trying not to think about endings, or Cole, or Logan, or anything at all the next morning, I headed up the bleachers towards where my dad sat. I had to squeeze and weave my way through a few bodies because I’d showed up an inning late. Reason for my tardiness? I wasn’t ready to face Logan either.
I was convinced that Logan would know I’d been unfaithful. As soon as he took one look at me, he’d know another man’s hands and lips had been on me.
So I avoided Logan.
And I avoided Cole.
And I wanted to avoid Dad too, but this was a small town baseball game and there was a total of one set of bleachers. It was kind of hard to get lost in the crowd.
“Hi, Dad,” I said, sliding between a couple bodies before plopping down on the end of the bleacher. The row was so packed I practically hung off the end. “Thanks for saving me a seat.”