“We should go,” he said and pressed his lips to my temple. I closed my eyes and smiled. “Not yet,” I said, making no move to leave his embrace. “Why?” he asked, dipping his head to my shoulder again. “Because I like where I am right now. It feels right, and I don’t want to lose this feeling,” I said honestly, because against my better judgement, I was at risk of falling for Nate Kellerman. Nate trailed his nose across the top of my shoulder and up the curve of my neck to the sensitive spot behind my ear and whispered, “I don’t want to either.” I was wrong. I wasn’t at risk of falling. The figurative ledge beneath my feet had already given way, and I was falling. Hard and fast. It was out of my control now, and all I could do was hope to survive. “But,” he continued. One word, and it was like a bucket of cold water was dumped over my head. I jolted in his arms and jumped to my feet, taking a step back. “You said it yourself. We can’t do this.” I folded my arms over my chest and nodded. Rejection wasn’t enjoyable. At all. Even though it was right, it didn’t feel it. Nate reached for me, his fingers gripped my hips and pulled me to him. Leaning his head against my stomach, his fingers splayed on my sides, he spoke again. “The consequences. Brody. It’s not fair to him.” I dropped my arms and threaded my fingers into his hair. Hearing him repeat my words was like a kick in the gut. Was that how he felt when I first ended things? Letting out a frustrated breath, I knew he was right. I was right. It just wasn’t fair. No one had made me feel this way. No one had made me care this much, not even Brody. Not the way I cared for Nate. I had never wanted anyone more than I wanted him, and I just wanted to say… “Screw the consequences.” Nate pulled back, his head lifting to meet my gaze. His eyes were dark, calculating as he chewed on his lip, contemplating my words. “Harper…” he warned. “Nate.” He pushed me back gently, releasing his grip on my waist. “I’m going to hate myself for this. You’re going to hate me too. It can’t happen. It’s not right.” He stood and picked up my bag from beside his feet. He was wrong. I didn’t hate him. I couldn’t hate someone for doing the right thing out of love, concern, and respect for another person’s feelings. But I could up my game and make him surrender. I wordlessly slid my hand into his, entwining our fingers, and walked beside him toward the parking lot. He opened the car door for me but stopped me before I climbed in. My back was hard against the window, but Nate leaned into me, his hips pressing into mine and one arm braced against the car while the other cupped my cheek. “Thank you,” he murmured. “For trusting me and telling me your story.” And then… He kissed me. I gripped his shirt and pulled him closer, but his mouth remained closed. Clamped shut. There was no movement. His tongue stayed firmly behind his lips. It was nothing more than his mouth on mine. It was a kiss that said everything. A kiss that said he wanted to kiss me but couldn’t. A kiss that said we were more than friends when we couldn’t be. A kiss that said he wanted me as much as I did him, but it could never happen. A kiss that said we were just friends, when neither of us wanted that. It was a kiss that felt like the end before it even began. “Let’s go…friend,” he said and stepped back to let me in the car.
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