Home > November 9(18)

November 9(18)
Author: Colleen Hoover

She grins at me. “Exactly. From now on when you meet a girl, you better be comparing them to me instead of her.”

“Using you as a standard is completely unfair to the rest of the female population.”

She rolls her eyes, assuming I’m kidding again. But in all honesty, the thought of comparing anyone to Fallon is ridiculous. There’s no comparison. And it sucks that I’ve only spent a few hours with her and I already know that. I almost wish I’d never met her. Because I don’t do real girlfriends and she’s moving to New York and we’re only eighteen and so . . . many . . . things.

I stare up at the ceiling and wonder how this is going to work. How the hell am I supposed to just say goodbye to her tonight, knowing I’ll never talk to her again? I lay my forearm across my eyes. I wish I wouldn’t have walked into that restaurant today. People can’t miss what they’ve never been introduced to.

“Are you still thinking about kissing me?”

I tilt my head back against the pillow and look up at her. “I moved beyond the kiss. Marry me.”

She laughs and scoots down on the bed so that she’s facing me. Her expression is soft with a trace of a smile. She reaches a hand out and presses her palm against my neck. My breath hitches. “You shaved,” she says, running her thumb over my jaw.

I don’t think a single part of me could possibly smile when she’s touching me like this, because there’s absolutely nothing good about the fact that I’m not going to feel this way again after tonight. It’s fucking cruel.

“If I asked for your phone number would you give it to me?”

“No,” she says, almost immediately.

I press my lips together and wait for her to explain why not, but she doesn’t. She just continues to run her thumb back and forth over my jaw.

“Email address?”

She shakes her head.

“Do you have a pager, at least? A fax machine?”

She laughs, and it feels good to hear her laugh. The air was feeling way too heavy.

“I don’t want a boyfriend, Ben.”

“So you’re breaking up with me?”

She rolls her eyes. “You know what I mean.” She pulls her hand from my face and rests it on the bed between us. “We’re only eighteen. I’m moving to New York. We barely know each other. And I promised my mother I wouldn’t fall in love with anyone until I’m twenty-three.”

Agree, agree, agree, and . . . what? “Why twenty-three?”

“My mother says the majority of people have their lives figured out by the age of twenty-three, so I want to make sure I know who I am and what I want out of life before I allow myself to fall in love. Because it’s easy to fall in love, Ben. The hard part comes when you want out.”

Makes sense. If you’re the Tin Man. “You think you can actually control whether or not you fall in love with someone?”

“Falling in love may not be a conscious decision, but removing yourself from the situation before it happens is. So if I meet someone I think I might fall in love with . . . I’ll just remove myself from their presence until I’m ready for it.”

Wow. She’s like a mini-Socrates with all this life advice. I feel like I should be taking notes. Or debating with her.

Honestly, though, I’m relieved she’s saying these things because I was afraid she would kiss me drunk and convince me we were soul mates by the end of the night. Because Lord knows if she asked, I’d jump right in, knowing it’s the absolute last thing I should do. Guys don’t say no to a girl like her, no matter how unappealing relationships are to him. Guys see boobs coupled with a great sense of humor and think they’ve found the holy fucking grail.

But five years seems like an eternity. I’m pretty sure she won’t even remember tonight after five years. “Will you do me a favor then and look me up when you’re twenty-three?”

She laughs. “Benton James Kessler, you’ll be too famous of a writer in five years to remember little old me.”

“Or maybe you’ll be too famous an actress to remember me.”

She doesn’t respond to that. In fact, if anything, my comment made her sad.

We remain quietly in our positions, face to face on her bed. Even with the scars and the obvious sadness in her eyes, she’s still one of the most beautiful girls I’ve ever seen. Her lips look soft and inviting, and I’m trying to ignore the knots in my stomach, but every time I stare at her mouth, the intensity of trying to hold back actually causes me to grimace. I try not to imagine what it would feel like if I leaned forward and kissed her, but with her this close, I’m really wishing I’d have already somehow read every romance novel ever written, because what the hell makes a kiss book-worthy? I need to know so I can make it happen.

She’s lying on her right side, and with the dress she’s wearing, a lot of her skin is exposed. I can see where the scars begin, right above her wrist, all the way up her arm and neck, pouring across her cheek. I touch her face just like she was touching mine. I can feel her flinch beneath my palm, because I’m touching the part of her she didn’t even want me looking at a few hours ago. I run my thumb over her jaw and then slide my hand down the length of her neck. She’s tense everywhere beneath my touch. “Does this bother you?”

Her eyes flicker back and forth between mine. “I don’t know,” she whispers.

I wonder if I’m the only one who has ever touched her scars before. I’ve had accidents in the past where I’ve burned myself attempting to cook, so I know what it feels like when a burn heals. But her scars are a lot more prominent than a superficial burn. Her skin feels a lot softer to the touch than normal skin. More fragile. There’s something about the way it feels beneath my fingertips that makes me want to keep touching her.

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