Someone to love, p.21

Someone to Love, page 21

 

Someone to Love
 

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  “Kenny…” His forehead wrinkles, with deep concern. Cruise pulls me in. He wraps his arms around my waist with a strong, hearty embrace. “Is this what you thought I would hate you for?” He huffs a laugh. “I could never hate you. And something like this—you didn’t do anything wrong.” He pulls back, and his lips twist as he considers this. “Besides, you can’t be pregnant. You’re on the pill.” His face swells with relief. “All that puking messed with your brain. You must have forgot.”

  My mouth opens to correct him, and nothing but air comes out.

  “You’re not on the pill?” He says it pressured, his face flooding with panic.

  God, he’s going to think I’m a liar—that I’m one of those girls who feels the need to fill a void in her life by “planning” a pregnancy. Right about now he’s probably thinking that whole virgin thing was a ruse, too.

  “Kenny? What’s going on? Talk to me.” He’s got a frightened look on his face that suggests he just realized he’s been drilling without hardware.

  The nurse comes in and instructs me to follow her—so I do.

  When I finally make my way back to the tiny white room, Cruise has long since defected. I bet he’s clearing all my crap out of his house right this minute—ransacking his wallet for the receipt on that coat he bought.

  I should have known it would be my own stupidity that would ruin things between the two of us and not some fictitious inclination in him to “cheat.” If anything, that night at the restaurant proved Cruise doesn’t give a rat’s ass about other girls. That waitress could have qualified as a bona fide supermodel on seven different planets. You could see the invitation she was giving him, plain as the boob job wedging out of her blouse. But it was me Cruise hauled to the back. It was me he thrust all of his affection into until I thought my spine would snap from the pressure—me he pleasured until I gave a heated scream. Now, the only one screaming will be Cruise as he runs the other way when he sees me coming.

  Face it. We’re over. And now we’re going to have a baby of all things to remind us both for the next eighteen years what a complete idiot I am.

  My brother, Morgan, was an accident. My dad hung out just long enough to produce me then made a beeline for the state line before I hit preschool. That would paint a rosy picture for Cruise and me. I would give anything to have him love me with that body just one more time.

  The nurse walks in and jolts me back to reality.

  “Kendall Jordan?” She gives a knowing smile. “I have your results.”

  After the nurse breaks the news, I speed out of the bowels of the medical facility and through the waiting room, hoping to chase down Cruise’s truck, but it’s still safely parked in the lot sans its drop dead gorgeous owner.

  I spin around, and there he is with that sexy, devilish grin. He wraps his arms around my waist and plants a full kiss on my lips that neither feels like a felony in the making, nor angry in the least.

  “So tell me”—his breath evokes a plume of fog, round as a halo—“am I going to be a father?” He expels it with such peace, such wonder and beauty, that for a fleeting moment I wish it were true.

  “Not this time.” I give a wry smile. “But you just might get the flu.”

  “The flu?” He touches his forehead to mine as he breathes a sigh of relief. “I was sort of rooting for the baby.”

  I let out a laugh, and for the first time in twenty-four hours, I don’t feel like I’m going to hurl a lung.

  “You’re off the hook,” I say, slipping my hands into his sweatshirt to keep from shivering.

  “I can deal with that for now, but one day we’re going to have an entire tribe of gorgeous dark-haired children.”

  “A tribe?” I take in a breath at the thought.

  “With those genes? You owe it to humanity.”

  Cruise and I get into the truck, and he runs the heater while I tell him about my misunderstanding with the little magic pill. Turns out, putting a “hat” on it was simply a precautionary measure for the first cycle.

  “That, and it helps prevent STDs.” He nods into his knowledge of all things prophylactic.

  Oh shit!

  I didn’t even think of STDs. Gah!

  Having sex with Cruise means I’ve technically had sex with hundreds of girls—wait, that doesn’t sound right, but I think it totally is.

  His eyes round out in horror at my silent, yet terrified, reaction.

  “I swear to you”—Cruise gently picks up my hand—“I’m clean. I just had a physical before school let out for winter break. I’m free and clear, and I’ve never had a single thing.”

  “Oh, um…” Forget about me. I need to warn Molly before she becomes infected with all sorts of warts and blisters no thanks to Brayden I-Sleep-With-Sluts Holmes. “Actually no, I wasn’t thinking about STDs.” Because apparently, I’m an idiot.

  Turns out, I was more worried about babies than I was rabies.

  “You went on the pill just for me?” He looks humbled by the idea.

  I don’t answer right away. Instead, I press his hand against my lips.

  “And you thought, we were going to have a baby.” He reaches over and covers me with his arms, tightening his grip around me as if I might drift away. “Kenny”—he bounces a kiss off my temple—“if something like that happened, you don’t have to hide it from me or think I’m going to hate you. I swear, I’m not going anywhere. I’m in this for the long haul. You couldn’t get rid of me if you tried.”

  “Then I guess you’re stuck with me.” I take him in against the backdrop of a deep navy night.

  “And I guess you’re stuck with me.” He cradles my face in his hands and examines me as if he’s peeled back all the layers and is seeing something new, something far more defined than before. “I love you, Kendall Jordan.” He offers the softest kiss under a bed of burgeoning stars that peer in through the windshield.

  I pull back and soak in all of his perfection both inside and out.

  “I love you, too, Cruise Elton.”

  Cruise

  In the next few weeks, the north winds scour the sky clean. They scrub the details out of the fir-lined hillsides and draw the oils from the eucalyptus like perfume straight from the throne of God.

  Kenny and I file through the syllabus of my own making as if it were some sexual bucket list that begged to race to completion.

  On a Tuesday, at five-thirty in the morning, I convince Kenny to join me in watching the sunrise from Barrels’ cliff side. Barrels, lies tucked at the distal end of a thicket, a good thirty-minutes away. Juniper and myrtles gnarl their branches together, locked in a perennial swordfight as I drive the truck down the congested dirt road.

  I happen to know firsthand, Barrels affords the best damn view of the sunrise.

  “My dad took me here once.” I confess. “We went camping when I was a kid.”

  I may only have a handful of memories when it comes to my father, but that camping trip we took when I was seven burns in my mind, alive and fluid. For some unknowable reason, I’m able to crawl back into the moment and live it over and over again. It was the last time I did anything of quality with the man who would grow to be Pennington’s father, not mine. Maybe that’s why I held on so strong. It was the eulogy of the father-son relationship that would never progress beyond that point.

  “Really? Did Pen go with you? I bet you beat him up a lot.” She bites the air, teasing.

  Kenny rolls her head back, slow and easy. Her neck peaks as if calling my lips to bless it. Her sleepy eyes send a silent invitation to drown in her kisses. Kenny is the heroin and the wine—the choice opiate of the gods, and I want nothing more than to lap her up by the bowlful.

  “Nope, not Pen—just my dad and me. It was the last time he ever made the effort. I keep thinking about how beautiful this place is. In my mind, it’s become this living postcard.”

  “Is that why you wanted me to see it?” She says it soft, uncertain of what my real intentions might be.

 
“No.” I park as deep inside the overgrowth as possible before killing the engine. “I was sort of hoping to stomp out all those old memories and make some new ones today—with you.” I reach back and grab the fleece-lined sleeping bag I keep for emergencies. It weighs ten pounds, but you can survive a subarctic winter nestled inside it if you had to.

  We get out and make our way to the edge. The cliff is blocked off by wood fencing that’s cracked in two places like a car might have tried to plow through, and I know for a fact a couple of them did.

  A tangerine glow surprises the darkness far in the east and sprays the new day with promise.

  “Come here.” Kenny pulls me in and lays her cushioned lips over mine. “Let’s hop in the back of the truck and start building that memory.” She dips her iced hand into my sweats, and I take a quick breath.

  “Sounds like you mean business. Let’s give the sun another thirty seconds to show.” I help her to the hood of the truck then spread the sleeping bag over the roof.

  “Have I mentioned I’m afraid of heights?” she asks as we climb to the roof. “You make me feel safe.”

  “You make me feel safe.” I echo the sentiment.

  Kenny purrs as she washes those pale stone eyes over me. “Hey…anybody can do the back of the truck,” she whispers it smooth like a promise. “But the roof at sunrise…how would you like to build that memory?”

  “The roof,” I muse. “You, my love, are frightfully brilliant.”

  “And eager to please.” She peels off her shirt in one lithe move.

  I pull the sleeping bag over us, slip off both my sweats and Kenny’s as though they were one. Kenny closes her hand over me and guides me toward my newfound nirvana. I cup her breast and give a gentle squeeze.

  “This is my new favorite way to start the day.” I inhale sharply as she pushes me deep inside her warm body.

  My hands ride over her smooth skin, and I pull her knees up high to afford maximum entry. I secure her by the shoulders and push in with soft easy waves, trying not to launch either of us off the truck in the process.

  When Kenny walked into my life, she blew all of my bad luck away like dust. Kenny is the anti-Blair, the one I could love forever and then that wouldn’t be enough. Together we were ushering in a new day with all of our explosive passion, the frigid mountain air can’t cool the fire brewing inside the two of us. Kenny peeled away the old memories, the ones born of pain and yearning. She filled in the crevices of my thirsty soul better than my father could have, far better than any of those one-night stands could ever hope to do. This is a new dawn in our lives, the beginning of the best season—the very first bite of sweet, delicious fruit that would satisfy for a lifetime.

  We ride the waves of our affection, and I hold out until she’s panting, just about to detonate. Then I release, and we shake uncontrollably for a few of the most blissful moments that love has to offer.

  I always want to remember Kenny like this—the kiss of a new day, glowing over her skin.

  “Good or great?” I heave the words in her ear through a ragged breath.

  “Neither.” She plants a wet kiss over my lips. “It was perfect.”

  Her hair encircles her marble features like a charcoal-colored wreath. Her eyes reflect the virginal morning light, clear as cellophane.

  “I think we’re perfect Kenny.” I collapse over her just as the sun pierces us with its luminescent joy.

  We birthed a new memory at sunrise. We made it happen.

  With Kenny all things are possible.

  Weeks sweep by, and the bed and breakfast, much like my mother, is hobbling on its last leg. Thank God for Molly, crutches, and home health nurses who are willing to pop in every now again. But, mostly, thank God for Kenny, who not only brings Mom and Molly hot meals, but is helping out at the salon when needed.

  Mom and I sit in her bedroom, which she sacrificially ventured up to on my behalf.

  She takes a breath after espousing the woes of the B&B. “I’ve got one couple next weekend, but after that, it’s dead.” She laments while digging through the top drawer of her antique dresser.

  The furniture has been in the family for generations—sage and cream oak, inlaid with carvings that decorate the edges. Mom took the smallest room in the house to make sure the guests would have a great view of the stream out back and the sun as it sets over the hillside. Molly has a room downstairs behind the kitchen, and now that Mom is gimpy, she’s bunking in my old room next door. But today, she hobbled up a flight of stairs to gift me with what’s going to be one of the most treasured memories I have ever known.

  “You didn’t give this to Blair,” she says, cradling my grandmother’s ring in the cup of her hand.

  “Nope. Went store-bought, three months of imaginary wages down the drain, but I’m not too broken up over it.”

  “That’s because I let you sell my vintage Beetle for the damn thing.” Her marionette lines depress as she holds back a laugh. “Honey, you sure you’re ready for this?” Her voice shakes as she hands me the round platinum band. It holds a simple diamond in the center and winks in the light as if my grandmother herself approved of the situation.

  “I’m more than sure.”

  “You could take your time—sew your wild oats. If she’s really the one, things will work out in the end.”

  “Sewing my oats wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.”

  “I figured those bad boy shoes never really fit you.” She runs her fingers through my hair and lifts my chin in her direction.

  My mother has aged decades these last few years. She used to believe in love, have men in her life, and brim with excitement each day, then the last one took off and she never recovered.

  “How about you?” I toss the ring in the air and catch it. “Are you writing off that chapter in your life, or are the books still open to finding that perfect someone?”

  “There’s always room for someone to love, Cruise. It’s just about finding that special person. It’s all about time and place.”

  “I thought it was about destiny and soul mates,” I say, half-teasing.

  “It’s mostly that.” She winks. “A little magic now and again doesn’t hurt either.”

  That’s the exact ingredient I’m looking for to make this next moment with Kenny most memorable—magic.

  On Valentine’s Day, I drive Kenny up north to the Alexander estate on a crystalline afternoon that makes the snow on the ground glitter like fallen stars.

  “Is Pennington somehow involved in this surprise?” She makes a face as she notes his sports car parked in the circular drive.

  “God, I hope not,” I mutter under my breath, driving down another quarter mile to the barn where Jackie houses her prized thoroughbreds. Kenny’s face lights up as she spots the horses roaming free in the corral. They’re all regal in their own right, but it’s the Appaloosa that’s my favorite—black and white spots like a leopard. Kenny is going to look like an angel riding him through the fields.

  “Horses?” Her face smooths out in wonder as we park by the stalls.

  I head around to her side and take up her hand.

  The sun starts to dip in the west, washing the landscape in gold.

  “We’d better hurry before we lose light,” I say as we make our way toward the overgrown barn.

  “What are we doing? Are we going to ride?” Her dark hair whips around her face until she shakes it out and makes the wind sweep it back in perfect compliance. It doesn’t surprise me that Kenny can get the elements to do her bidding.

  “Nope, no riding,” I tease. “Just cleaning up around here. I’ve been working for Jackie since I was fifteen. She pays me fifty bucks to scour the stalls clean once a month. I thought I’d bring along a helping hand.” I give her shoulder a little squeeze.

  “No way. We’re shoveling Jackie’s horse crap for a lousy fifty bucks?” She gives a wry smile before dotting me with a kiss. “Okay. I’m in.”

  A gentle laugh rolls through me. “Actuall
y, that was yesterday—and the fifty bucks comes in handy now and again. But for now, I have something a little better planned.” At least I hope she thinks it’s a little better. The truth is, I’m shaking like a virgin on prom night. My palms won’t stop sweating. I keep wiping them down on my jeans, trying to get a grip as each moment passes.

  “I have a gift for you.” I bring her hand to my lips and press in a kiss.

  Kenny keeps her arm strapped around my waist as I lead her to the back. We bypass stall after stall, the scent of lemon oil clots up the air from the wash I gave the walnut doors a month ago. Our shoes scuff through the hay, creating a hushed whisper as I walk her over to a large box with a bow on it. It’s light as a feather, and I gingerly hand it to her.

  I decided to ditch the wrapping in the event one of Jackie’s prized equine possessions decided to fill its stomach with parchment. She’d undoubtedly sue my ass the second they shit tinfoil.

  “Cruise! You didn’t have to do this.”

  “I wanted to.” I press in a quick kiss and nod for her to open it.

  Kenny pulls back the ribbon. She lifts the lid, and her eyes round out in wonder. “Boots!” Her lips quiver.

  “They’re lined with fleece, so they’ll keep you warm.”

  Kenny holds up the sable-colored leather and admires them.

  “They come with a stacked heel, so you can propagate your vixen-like ways.” My heart thumps as she continues to examine them. I almost opted for the homelier ones that cost twice as much just to keep Kenny from looking so damn hot on campus, but Kenny’s beauty is a fire I can never put out—wouldn’t even want to try.

  “Thank you.” Her eyes glitter with tears as she buries her arms in their warmth. She looks up at me from under her lashes and sighs. “I love you.”

  “I love you, too.” I land my lips over hers and linger before pulling away. “Let’s check them out.” I help her put them on, trading her high tops for something that might actually ward off frostbite.

 
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