I was still trying to figure out who I was—if I was Nadia or Evie, and if that even mattered at the end of the day. I was struggling to find my place in Luc’s world, to feel useful and less like a burden that needed to be protected. I was wary that after all that Luc had said and promised, he was still in love with who I used to be and not who I was today.
But knowing all of that didn’t change that I remembered what it felt like to be held by him, or the sense that I was the only person in the entire world he’d move the universe for if need be. The uncertainty I felt didn’t lessen the sweetness of him lying awake and watching funny videos with me or distracting me with terrible pickup lines. The wariness didn’t overshadow his fierce protectiveness or how he understood when I needed space or when I needed to do something that didn’t involve me staying behind. The confusion I felt over my past wasn’t more powerful than how I’d felt the day he had held my hand and shown me Jefferson Rock.
All those things were when I was Peaches to him. Not Nadia. And what I felt had nothing to do with who I used to be or who I’d become. It had everything to do with who I was right now.
I wanted Luc.
I wanted his hands and his mouth on me.
I wanted to feel his body against mine.
I wanted to be his.
I wanted him to be mine.
I wanted his trust.
Closing my eyes, I shivered as the realization swept through me like a physical blow. I kept shivering, hands trembling, and as I inhaled deeply, the scent of him, fresh and outdoorsy, caused my breath to hitch. The shivers only increased because I knew what I was feeling, what I was wanting and I knew it was me wanting those things.
It was like suddenly waking up after years of a deep sleep. There was a swelling in my chest that felt like it could lift me straight to the ceiling were it not for his arm around me. The shivers didn’t go away.
“Cold?” Luc murmured, his voice breaking the silence.
“Yes,” I lied. Truthfully, I was burning up so badly that I might have spontaneously combusted.
In the shadows, I thought I saw him grin as if he knew better. Maybe he did. Maybe he’d been listening in on my thoughts this entire time, but I didn’t care, because the arm around my waist curled, and then the front of my body was pressed against his side and my right leg tangled with his.
The contact fried my nerve endings. My chest became tight, heavy, and aching, and that fullness, that throbbing, slipped lower, between my legs, centering exactly where his thigh now rested against me.
The fist at my hip unfolded, and his palm flattened. Under the blanket, the heat of his hand burned through my thin sleep shorts. Then his thumb began to move, a slow circle that was a lot like he’d done against my back when I woke up, but there was nothing soothing about each pass of his thumb.
It was starting a fire in my blood, and there was a power in what I realized, what I was letting myself feel. Much like dancing on Halloween had made me feel.
I shifted my hips closer, hoping that his hand would move, would wander, but it stayed where it was, the circles getting smaller and smaller.
Whatever air I was managing to get into my lungs wasn’t nearly enough as I placed my hand on his chest, just below his heart.
Luc became incredibly still. His thumb stopped, and his fingers were pressing into the flesh of my hip.
I didn’t even feel his chest move as I dragged my hand down the flat surface of his stomach, to where his fingers had stopped tapping.
My fingers found his, tracing the elegant lines of his bones and tendons, over his knuckles and then the fine dusting of hair over his forearm.
“Peaches,” he murmured. “You should be asleep.”
In the darkness, my hand wandered up his arm, under the sleeve of his shirt. His skin was the most interesting combination of steel and satin. “I’m not sleepy.”
Then his chest moved, deep and unsteady. “You should try to go to sleep. You have class in the morning. Try to be responsible.”
The teasing in his tone brought a smile to my lips. “What if I don’t want to be responsible?”
He shifted just the slightest, pressing his hard thigh against the softest part of me. I closed my eyes as he said, “Then you’re a bad influence.”
“I don’t think anyone can influence you.” I barely recognized my voice.
His head turned toward me, and when he spoke, I felt his breath on my forehead. “You are so very wrong about that.”