River / Present / 23
The velvet caress of silk sheets against my bare skin leaves me hyperaware of what I’ve done. Early morning sunlight slips through the cracked blinds and kisses my exposed back, coating the room in soft pinks and yellows.
Steady, rhythmic breathing sounds from behind me. In, out. In, out. It’s a melody that makes my muscles lock, too afraid to reacquaint my eyes with every dip and curve of chiseled muscle displayed inches away.
His natural musky scent wraps around me, overwhelming my senses until my heart thumps wildly in my chest. It doesn’t take away the memories of lingering touches, gentle kisses, and an overpowering sense of belonging. And less than twelve hours ago, I belonged to Everett Tucker in ways I never thought possible in the ten years of knowing him.
His touches scorched me.
His kisses burned me.
And his body…
The mattress dips with the shift of his weight. I hold my breath, waiting to see if he’s awake. When his soft snores echo in the half-empty room, I release the breath and white knuckle the sheets against my breasts. Carefully, I sit up and squeeze my eyes closed like it’ll soften the blow of reality.
I wait for the pounding headache or quake of unavoidable nausea to punish me, but my conscience reminds me of what I already know. I wasn’t drunk last night. What I’ve done can’t be blamed on alcohol.
My hand drags across my bare neck until my heart thunders in pure panic over my missing possession. I swallow my anxiety when I catch the silver chain resting on the night stand and remember the very moment he took it off me.
Nothing but skin. That’s what he said he wanted between us. I’ve only taken this necklace off to shower and sleep. It goes everywhere with me, the silver paint palette and brush charms sweeping over my heartbeat as a reminder that he cares. But in the moment I had him as more than a wish, a hope, a dream, he didn’t want it lingering.
Nothing but skin.
My fingertips touch the newest charm, a cracked heart, and I suck in a short breath when the contact shocks me. Clenching the sheets tighter to me, I turn slightly to peek through my peripheral and see a tussle of dirty blond hair against my starch white pillow case.
Look, my conscience taunts. Look at him.
Slivers of tan skin make their way into my sight as I shift, my gaze drifting up the mountain of hard muscles that form his toned biceps as they wrap around a pillow. Worrying my bottom lip, my heart summersaults in my chest when the curve of his square jaw comes into view. The sharp line of it is coated with early morning shadow that he’ll shave despite preferring a thin layer of stubble.
He looks peaceful when he’s sleeping; the hard edge he normally radiates eased to a laxed slumber. From this angle, I can see the faded white scar that stretches from the bottom of his left ear along the curve of his throat, landing just above his pulse. You wouldn’t know it’s there unless you know the story, and he doesn’t tell just anybody.
But I’m not just anybody.
Especially not now.
My throat tightens from the emotions lodging in the back of it as I scope out his sculpted body. He works hard for every muscle, spends countless hours in the gym or training at the fire department, and it shows. The man sleeping beside me has been a figment of my imagination that I’ve conjured thousands of times, but his body is a masterpiece I never could have perfected unless I saw it in person.
I absorb the memory of his body spread on my mattress, bare to me. Every vulnerability laying in a mess of sheets, open to pull apart and dissect and regret when the sun fully rises.
Less than twelve hours ago I belonged to the minty eyed boy I’ve loved since I was thirteen. But Everett Tucker isn’t mine to love.
He stirs when I rise from bed.
“Everett,” I whisper brokenly, my heart shattering inside my chest. I can feel the pieces splintering apart as I choke out my final words. “We made a mistake.”