“I think it could be worth it.”

“I know it could,” he said.


Where had he come from? How long would he stay? “Will you go back to the Hourglass when this is over?”

“I don’t know. What will you do?”

Hopefully be alive. Anxiety trickled between my shoulder blades like ice water.

“I want the same things I’ve always wanted. We’re talking about you. I don’t even know your life plan. What is it?”

“College. My professors let me take my finals early so I could come here.”

“Come here and help me?” I put my arm across his stomach and squeezed him. “How is any of this fair to you?”

“Everything I did was my choice. All I have under my belt are core classes. Pretty sure most of those will transfer. I can get into any school I want. Can probably get scholarships, too, at least for undergrad work.”

“You want to go to grad school?”

“I’m not counting it out. Loyola has a computer science program, and a newer one in digital humanities that’s fascinating.”

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A spark of hope lit up my chest and shot out to my fingers and toes. “Did you know that before you met me?”

He grinned.



Her smile made promises. At least I’d die happy.

“You gave me a list of places women like to be touched.” The light was in her eyes again. “Think you can conjure that up about now?”

I took her hand and flipped it over. “Palm.”

“Are you going to read it? Because there are palm readers all over Jackson Square. We can go down later and check with a professional.”

I drew my index finger down the middle of it and kept going. “Wrist. Inner elbow.” “Oh. That’ll work.”

Watching her eyes go wide gave me a boost. When I reached her collarbone, I traced it with two fingers. “Clavicle.”

“That sounds too scientific. And sharp.” A tremble worked its way into her voice.

“Hollow of the throat. Nape of the neck. Shoulder muscles.” I massaged some of her tension away, and then brought it all back when I put my hand on the small of her back and pulled her closer. She inhaled sharply when my lips grazed her earlobe.

“You skipped a few.”

“We aren’t ready for those,” I said.

“I’m okay with concentrating on everything you listed.”

“You’re breathing really fast.”

“Is that a scientific observation?” she asked. “Should I make a note?”

“No.” I couldn’t wait another second. I leaned in.

She kept her lips still when mine touched hers, and I froze, wondering if I’d somehow misread her. I started to pull away.

“No, don’t.” She held me tighter, sliding over so her body was flush against mine. “I always want to remember what it felt like the first time you touched me. Like this.”

“I have a green light, then?” Because now that we were finally here, holding back might kill me.

“It’s fluorescent. Blinking. Spinning.”

I went slowly, partly because I wanted to drive her crazy, and partly because I wanted to remember the first time I touched her, too.

Her lips, cheeks, eyelids, all got equal attention. Her temples, the spot just below her ear, the hollow of her throat. I traced the length of her spine and slipped my fingertips inside the back of her sweater to feel the skin I’d been dreaming of, loving the catch of her breath. She was as soft and warm as I’d thought she’d be. Better.

Our first kiss was unbearably gentle, considering what I wanted, but I had a point to prove. So much of her life had been fast, lived out in spurts of freedom. I didn’t want what we shared to be like anything else she’d ever experienced. Time was compressed, trouble was going down, but I wanted to be part of a long chain of Hallie’s memories, which meant I’d be intentional about making them.

She had other ideas.

“My turn,” she said, rolling me onto my back. Her hair spilled over her shoulders and tickled my cheeks.

“You’re going to wreck my self-control.” And my lack of it was a little too obvious.

Leaning forward, she rested her forearms on my chest, touched her lips to mine, and whispered, “That’s the goal, yes.”

I’d wanted to be close to her, and now I was all kinds of tangled up. I threaded my fingers in her hair, pulled her face closer. “Maybe we should move down to the co—”

“Don’t you dare.” She trailed her fingertips down to my neck. “I haven’t read any surveys about where men like to be touched, but I bet the list is short.”

“Only for those who don’t want to enjoy the journey.”

“You have a way with the sweet talk, Mr. Ta’ala. Don’t tell me you’re going to be a gentleman.”

“That prim and proper expression you’re trying on only makes me want to show you what a gentleman I’m not,” I teased.

Prim and proper disappeared, and naughty and mischievous took their place.

Heaven help me.

“How about this? I want you to be Hallie the girl. I want to be Dune the boy. I want to kiss you until the sun comes up, and then until the moon rises again. Why should we hurry?”

I knew there could be valid reasons, but I couldn’t give in to them. Not yet.

“There’s some kind of crazy role reversal going on here.” She scraped her teeth across the scruff on my chin. “Aren’t you supposed to be trying to talk me into things?”

“We can talk each other into things. Later.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” she said, and then her lips were on mine again.

Chapter 14


I rolled over to look at the clock. “It’s six A.M.”

“I don’t want to leave.” Dune propped his head on one hand and traced the outline of my bottom lip with the other.

“We could run away.”

I looked for the smile in his eyes, but all they told me was that there was too much to run away from. He cupped my cheek and kissed me again.

It was so easy to sink into his body, to fit it to mine, to take the warmth that was an intrinsic part of him. I felt like I’d known him for years, but every touch reduced me to a pile of first-kiss butterflies.

“I have an idea.” I pulled away, reluctantly, and tugged at his arm. “Come on.”

“Should I be worried?” He rolled his big body off the bed and helped me up.

“Always.” I grabbed my sneakers out of my bag, contemplated how they’d look with my yoga pants, and decided I didn’t care. “My dad is gone until tonight, and I want to take advantage of that while I can. Can we go back to your place?”

“I need to talk to you about that.”

Serious tone. Frown. Uh-oh.

“I live in the Georgian.”

“I know the building. That’s where Poe lives.” Not that I’d ever been inside. He’d just popped into my place when we spent time together.

“Yeah. I live with him.”

“He’s back? How long has he been back?”

“Since I got here. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, but Liam and your dad are trying to keep him off your mom’s radar. That’s why he hasn’t been in touch with you.”

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