We Were Once - Page 51

“Pants off.”

“Fuck me,” I groan, so ready to be buried deep inside her.

“That’s the plan, hottie.”

18

Chloe

“I knew there was a bad girl under those good girl clothes.”

Opening my eyes, I sit up, resting on my elbows in the back of the Blazer. There wasn’t enough room in the front for us to do things properly. “What exactly are good girl clothes?”

With the tailgate down, I can see almost all of him—all the good stuff at least. Joshua pulls his jeans up, leaving the trail that leads lower exposed. “Those sweet sweaters you wear. The pearl earrings and diamonds. The shoes you have in all the colors.” Grabbing his shirt, he pulls it down over his head. His hair is a sexy mess with the soft wave more defined after swimming. “They’re more conservative. More Rhode Island.”

“Connecticut isn’t exactly wild, so what are you saying?”

“I like when you wear jeans and your sneakers, that leather jacket you have, and I don’t know. Don’t take it wrong. I like the good girl clothes on you, too. I like everything on you. And off.”

Grabbing my bra and T-shirt, I start getting dressed. “Don’t worry. I’m not offended. I see the way you look at me when we go out, when my clothes are tighter or more revealing. I wear what makes me feel good, but that look—the one that you wear around me—that makes me want to be very bad.”

A wry grin reduces the air in the vicinity. He has a way of stealing my breath without even trying. “I like you bad, Chloe, but you can be whatever you want to be with me.” Setting his shoes on the bed of the SUV, he climbs in and right over my body. “Clothes don’t matter to me. You do.” He kisses me slow, the scent of me still gracing his lips, and then sits back, putting his socks and shoes on.

He’s given me pure, unadulterated happiness. “Joshua?”

“Yeah?” he replies without looking back as he finishes up.

I reach forward and touch his arm, waiting until his eyes find mine again. When they do, the corners soften. I say, “I love you. Those words will never be enough for how I feel about you, but know the meaning is there inside them.”

“I love you. Bigger than the sky.”

My swallow is too loud when I let my mood dictate the sound. I kind of hate how my heart pounds so heavy for him. It makes me feel weak, vulnerable in ways I’ve never felt. And there doesn’t seem to be a remedy for it other than being with him. I fumble to get dressed, letting that moment drift into the trees where the crickets sing.

Situating ourselves in the front seats, he rolls down his window and starts the engine, so I crank mine down as well. He pulls onto the highway with his hand resting on my leg. My heart is not my own, but his, the weight of him keeping me as if I’ll vanish if he doesn’t hold me here. “Do I fit into your world?”

“You are my world. You’re different, Chloe,” he says, seeming to finish our conversation from earlier. “Life hasn’t burned you or buried you in some hole that you’ve had to dig yourself out of.” He rubs my knee. “It’s a good thing. You’ve been fortunate in life and not left with emotional scars.”

I think about the wounds he can’t see, the ones that have held me back from experiencing life to some degree. A lack of real friends until I met Ruby, and distrust was always an ally. He says, “Don’t overthink it. It was an off-the-cuff remark.” My knee is gently squeezed. “You’re not damaged. That’s a good thing. It’s fun to see the world through your eyes.”

When the wind whips through the window, it feels good against my skin. I lean into it with my eyes closed as the smell of fall sneaks in, rain hovering in the clouds that have drifted overhead. I open my eyes unable to see the moon, but I can see Joshua in the faint glow of the dashboard. Resting my arm in the opening of the window, I say, “I’m not a Goody Two-shoes.” I hate the way I sound so immature and swipe the flyaways from my forehead.

His eyes are on the road, but his mind is somewhere else entirely. I’m tempted to speak and fill in the empty space between us, but I want to know what he’s thinking and that means giving him the room to sow his thoughts. He finally asks, “Why do you care what anyone thinks?”

“I don’t,” I say, tasting the lie. I’ve put so much time and energy into caring what everyone else thinks—my father, my mom, so-called friends in school, teachers, my professors, and now Joshua. It’s not fair to put that burden on him. He’s shown me I can be me in whatever form I want to be with him, and that’s enough.

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