Ellen, I was so mad. I also felt awful for Atlas. He pulled away from me and I could tell what she said bothered him. I started to turn around to yell at her for judging someone she doesn’t even know, but he grabbed my hand and shook his head no.

“Don’t, Lily,” he said.


So I didn’t.

But for the rest of the bus ride, I was so angry. I was angry that Katie would say something so ignorant just to hurt someone she thought was beneath her. I was also hurt that Atlas appeared to be used to comments like that.

I didn’t want him to think I was embarrassed that anyone saw him kiss me. I know Atlas better than any of them do, and I know what a good person he is, no matter what his clothes look like or that he used to smell before he started using my shower.

I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek and then rested my head on his shoulder.

“You know what?” I said to him.

He slid his fingers through mine and squeezed my hand. “What?”

“You’re my favorite person.”

I felt him laugh a little and it made me smile.

“Out of how many people?” he asked.

-- Advertisement --

“All of them.”

He kissed the top of my head and said, “You’re my favorite person, too, Lily. By a long shot.”

When the bus came to a stop on my street, he didn’t let go of my hand when we started to walk off. He was in front of me in the aisle and I was walking behind him, so he didn’t see it when I turned around and flipped off Katie.

I probably shouldn’t have done it, but the look on her face made it worth it.

When we got to my house, he took the house key out of my hand and unlocked my front door. It was weird, seeing how comfortable he is at my house now. He walked in and locked the door behind us. That’s when we noticed the electricity in the house wasn’t working. I looked out the window and saw a utility truck down the street working on the power lines, so that meant we couldn’t watch your show. I wasn’t too upset because it meant we would probably just make out for an hour and a half.

“Does your oven run off gas or electricity?” he asked.

“Gas,” I said, a little confused that he was asking about our oven.

He kicked off his shoes (which were really just a pair of my father’s old shoes) and he started walking toward the kitchen. “I’m going to make you something,” he said.

“You know how to cook?”

He opened the refrigerator and started moving things around. “Yep. I probably love to cook as much as you love to grow things.” He took a few things out of the refrigerator and preheated the oven. I leaned against the counter and watched him. He wasn’t even looking at a recipe. He was just pouring things into bowls and mixing them without even using a measuring cup.

I had never seen my father lift a finger in the kitchen. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t even know how to preheat our oven. I kind of thought most men were like that, but watching Atlas work his way around my kitchen proved me wrong.

“What are you making?” I asked him. I pushed my hands on the island and hoisted myself onto it.

“Cookies,” he said. He walked the bowl over to me and stuck a spoon in the mixture. He brought the spoon up to my mouth and I tasted it. One of my weaknesses is cookie dough, and this was the best I’d ever tasted.

“Oh, wow,” I said, licking my lips.

He set the bowl down beside me and then leaned in and kissed me. Cookie dough and Atlas’s mouth mixed together is like heaven, in case you’re wondering. I made a noise deep in my throat that let him know how much I liked the combination, and it made him laugh. But he didn’t stop kissing me. He just laughed through the kiss and it completely melted my heart. A happy Atlas was near mind-blowing. It made me want to uncover every single thing about this world that he likes and give it all to him.

When he was kissing me, I wondered if I loved him. I’ve never had a boyfriend before and have nothing to compare my feelings to. In fact, I’ve never really wanted a boyfriend or a relationship until Atlas. I’m not growing up in a household with a great example of how a man should treat someone he loves, so I’ve always held on to an unhealthy amount of distrust when it comes to relationships and other people.

There have been times I’ve wondered if I could ever allow myself to trust a guy. For the most part, I hate men because the only example I have is my father. But spending all this time with Atlas is changing me. Not in a huge way, I don’t think. I still distrust most people. But Atlas is changing me enough to believe that maybe he’s an exception to the norm.

He stopped kissing me and picked up the bowl again. He walked it over to the opposite counter and started spooning dough onto two cookie sheets.

“You want to know a trick to cooking with a gas oven?” he asked.

I’m not sure I really ever cared about cooking before, but he somehow made me want to know everything he knew. It might have been how happy he looked when he talked about it.

“Gas ovens have hot spots,” he said as he opened the oven door and put the cookie sheets inside. “You have to be sure and rotate the pans so they’ll cook evenly.” He closed the door and pulled the oven mitt off his hand. He tossed it on the counter. “A pizza stone helps, too. If you just keep it in the oven, even when you aren’t baking pizza, it helps eliminate the hot spots.”

He walked over to me and placed his hands on either side of me. The electricity kicked on right as he was pulling down the collar of my shirt. He kissed the spot on my shoulder he always loves kissing and slowly slid his hands up my back. I swear, sometimes when he’s not even here I can still feel his lips on my collarbone.

-- Advertisement --