Wanting to Remember, Trying to Forget (Meet the Shepards, #1)

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Chapter 7: July

Danny shifted in her seat as Max parked the car. A nervous knot had developed in her stomach during the drive to the conference venue. She was so scared that she had maybe missed something and the function was going to be a flop, like the sponge cake she had tried to bake last week. There were going to be over two hundred people there tonight and she didn’t want it to be an epic fail.

She pulled down the visor on the passenger side and checked her make-up in the small mirror. That looked fine. It was her hair that was the problem. It was an awkward length now, long enough to cover the scar but still too short to actually style it. She had trimmed it a bit yesterday to get rid of the edges that were curling in all directions. With her short hair and small boobs, she could definitely pass as a boy if she wore the right clothes. She didn’t wear the right clothes, though, so tonight she looked like a boy in a dress.

Max kept telling her that she looked beautiful, but his opinion was a little biased. She still felt incredibly self-conscious. Every dress in her cupboard had a low-neckline. Add the scar to the boy in a dress look and she beginning to regret coming to this dinner.

Max walked around to the passenger side and opened the door. She slowly stepped out into the warm summer air. There was no need for a cardigan on a hot night like this, but she pulled it on anyway and began buttoning it up.

“Don’t cover it,” he said, placing his hand over hers.

His fingers slowly moved over scar and Danny could only smile. He had the oddest fascination with that thing. The only person in the world who could see beauty in something so ugly. She relented, though, and pulled off her cardigan, because she realized then that his opinion was the only one that actually mattered.

She took his hand and walked with him into the venue. What had looked like clown vomit just two days ago, now looked like a properly themed carnival. Two popcorn machines stood right at the entrance and the heavenly smell mingled with that of syrup-dipped donuts.

“It looks amazing,” Max commented as his eyes scanned the colorful room. “I’m proud of you.”

The words filled her with a warm, fuzzy feeling. She had rearranged the tables to make room for a decent sized dance floor. There was a clown on there now, circling around on his unicycle.

Danny led Max to the back of the room to a table that was reserved for them, Amber and Charlie. Amber was already there, looking breathtakingly beautiful in a deep green dress which accentuated her perfectly tanned skin and auburn hair.

“You did it again,” she said, waving her hand around the room. “It looks amazing. And these starters are divine.”

“Thanks,” Danny said, sitting down beside her. “I can’t cook, but at least now I know people who can.”

Charlie arrived a few minutes later. “Amber,” he said, taking a seat, “you’re looking lovely this evening.”

“Why, thank you, Charlie.”

He looked over at Danny. “You, too, Sat— uh, Danny.”

Danny smiled. Charlie slamming brakes mid-sentence had not gone unnoticed. “What were you about to call me?”

“Just an old nick-name,” he responded with a shrug. “Old habits die hard.”

“I get the feeling you don’t like me very much.”

Charlie nodded. “Your feeling would be correct. But how about we start afresh? I’ve called you Satan. You’ve said that I look…old and now that everything is out in the open we can begin to heal. Let’s just put all that behind us, shall we?”

Danny laughed at the dramatic flair he had added to his words. “Sure, Charlie.”

The waiters came around, serving dinner which was surprisingly more delicious than the starters. There were a variety of options but they had all ordered lamb shank on a bed of mashed potatoes accompanied with steamed green beans and carrots.

Danny got sucked into the conversation, giggling at the banter between Charlie and Amber, laughing at the dorky jokes Max made. Despite her memory loss, she did not feel out of place at all. They included her in the conversation, filling her in if she could not recall a specific event and she concluded that maybe Max was right. Eventually, she would feel whole again.

After dinner, she stood up and used a napkin to dab her lips. “I want to make sure the DJ is ready.”

She gave Max a quick kiss on the lips, then walked across the dance floor to the front of the room. She was a few feet away from the DJ’s table when a tall woman stood up and blocked her path. With her sandy hair and brown eyes, she looked like a younger version of Lauren.

“So that’s why you didn’t want to set me up with Max,” she hissed. “Because you wanted him for yourself!”

Danny’s eyes widened with confusion. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Every feature on her flawless face hardened. “Are you really gonna play dumb? I saw you kiss him!” She sneered. “I should have known the day I saw you dancing with him that you were going to stab me in the back, but I gave you the benefit of the doubt. You kept going on and on about how much you loved Richard and I actually believed you.”

Danny’s mind was reeling now. “Wait…who?”

But the woman in front of her didn’t pay much attention to her question. Instead she continued with her attack, each word dripping with unexplained anger. “You kept on saying that you would never be interested in Max, that the two of you were just friends. You told me that Max was dating someone else but now I see—”

“Back off, Jennifer,” came Amber’s voice from behind her.

“Screw you, Amber. I’m not done yet.”

Lauren also appeared out of nowhere and took the woman by the arm. “I think we should sit down. This is not the time or the place for this, dear.”

Jennifer yanked her arm out of Lauren’s grip. “You, too, mom? I can understand these bitches lying to me, but you knew about this as well and you didn’t say anything to me.”

“Come on, Danny,” Amber said, grabbing her wrist and leading her back to their table.

Danny’s head was spinning. So many words yet so little information. Everything Jennifer said only caused more questions to swirl around her head. “What the hell is going on, Amber? Who’s Richard? Who was Max dating? What is she talking about?”

Before Amber could answer any of her questions, Lauren caught up to them. “I am really sorry about all that, Danielle. My daughter has a sharp tongue.”

“You said she wasn’t going to be here, Lauren,” Amber snapped.

“She was supposed to be in Arkansas, visiting family, but she came home early and my husband suggested that she come along with us.”

Danny noticed the looks that were exchanged between the other two women, as if there were more secrets and lies that they were trying to keep from her. “What’s going on?” she shouted.

“It’s just Jennifer being Jennifer,” Amber said. “She’s being bitchy because she’s jealous. She wanted Max and now you have him.”

That answered some of the questions but not all. They reached the table and Amber’s eyes locked on Max. “I think you need to take her home.”

Although surprised, Max did not argue and stood up immediately. Danny released a heavy sigh, realizing that no-one was going to answer her questions. Just a short while ago, she had felt like the pieces of her life were finally beginning to fit together. That feeling was long gone now. Everyone knew something she didn’t, holding back information about her life. She left the party feeling as lost as she did the day she woke up with no recollection of the past ten years.

Danny waited for Max to open the door of their apartment and walked in first.

“Who’s Richard?” she asked before he had even pulled off his jacket.

He froze, his jaw clenching, but he didn’t respond.

“Who’s Richard?” she asked again.

“Richard is just another asshole you dated.”

That made sense. He must have been the man she dated before Max. What didn’t make sense, though, was the timeline. Jennifer would not have been so angry had this not been a recent thing. “When did we break up?”

His jaw tightened again and she could see that she was stirring up the anger that he always tried to keep so well hidden. His guard went up almost immediately.

“Drop it, Danny!”

“Stop doing that to me. Just tell me.”

He took a deep, calming breath before he answered. “You guys broke up right before you and I got together.”

That wasn’t a straight answer. He was keeping something from her. All of them were and she didn’t want to be kept in the dark anymore. He was sidestepping and she decided to change her line of questioning to get more information out of him. “Why did we break up?”

His breathing became unsteady and his fingers balled into tight fists. She could actually see the rage filling up inside him. Whoever Richard was, he had certainly gotten on the wrong side of Max.

“Richard,” Max said, gritting his teeth, “was a low-life cheat who was only after one thing.”

“He cheated on me?”

“Fuck, Danny! Just forget about him, forget you ever heard his name!”

His words ignited her anger. “Don’t you get it, Max? I’ve already forgotten. My whole life is one big, gaping hole and I’m trying so hard to fill it with all this lost information. Everything I know about my past is because of you. I am living vicariously through you. I don’t remember anyone or anything from the last ten years. You don’t know what its like.” Tears filled her eyes. “You don’t know what it feels like to wake up every morning to a life you don’t know. You don’t know what it feels like to not remember the places you’ve been, the people you’ve dated.” She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand as the tears rolled down her cheek. “It’s like someone telling me a story about my life. You don’t know what it’s like to feel…this empty.”

He calmed down almost instantly. “Danny…I’m sorry. That…that was a stupid thing to—”

“Save it,” she cut in, lifting her hand to silence him. “I’m done talking.”

She walked past him, into her bedroom, and shut the door.

It was over an hour later when she heard a light tap on her bedroom door. Max walked in and sat down beside her on the bed. She kept her back to him, not ready to face him just yet.

“I’m sorry about what I said earlier. It was dumb.” He shifted closer but made no attempt to touch her. “When I hear Richard’s name, it gets under my skin and…I guess it makes me a little crazy. I shouldn’t have said that, though. You’re right. I don’t know what it’s like and I’m sorry.”

She turned to face him then. “It makes you a lot crazy,” she said with a small smile.

He returned the smile. “I have something for you. I didn’t even think about it until now, but it’s definitely better than just hearing stories.”


Max stood up and she followed him back to the living room, where she saw a large box filled with DVDs. He lifted one out of the box entitled First Christmas with Danny. He inserted it into the DVD player and pressed play.

Danny sat quietly on the sofa and watched two teenage boys, shoveling snow in the front yard. “That’s my brother, Kevin, and his best friend, Perry,” Max explained.

He had told her about them before. They wore thick woolen hats and their heavy jackets were zipped up to the top so she still could not see their full faces, but somehow seeing actual people made the stories seem more real.

“Are you going to pay us for this, Mister Shepard?” Perry asked, looking up at the camera.

“He’s a little cheeky,” Max said beside her. “He’s like a younger version of Chris Tucker.”

She simply nodded even though she didn’t know who Chris Tucker was, not wanting to speak because speaking would be an unnecessary distraction. She took in every detail on the screen. The large country-style house in the background. The tree-lined street at the end of the driveway. Her nose tingled, almost like it was trying to remember the rich smell of whitebark pine on a cold day.

Kevin, unlike Max, had two dimples instead of one. Another difference she noticed was that Kevin’s eyes weren’t brown, they were a strange shade of blue. Although he had a boyish face like Max, his was a little more rugged, a little more serious. Perry was much taller than Kevin, with brown eyes that twinkled with mischievousness, and was also incredibly good looking. Teenage girls probably fell over themselves trying to get these two to notice them, Danny thought.

“Perry,” came a thick voice from behind the camera, “you technically live here for free. I think that’s payment enough.”

“I think your dad is trying to bring back slavery,” Perry murmured to Kevin.

Kevin stopped shoveling and turned to face him. “You can’t play the race card if he’s got both of us doing it.”

Before Perry could respond, Max burst through the front door, running down the stairs towards his father.

Danny shifted on the sofa when she saw a younger version of herself on the screen. It was almost surreal seeing herself in a moment that she had no recollection of. Her long, dark brown hair ended below her shoulders and thick bangs covered her forehead. Same face, different hair. Same person, different life.

She had an overwhelming urge to force her mind out of her current body into the body of the person on screen, to know for just one second what it was like to be her, to know what she knew. She had not noticed she was crying until she felt Max gently rubbing his hand up and down her back.

She watched her younger self pick up a large chunk of snow and roll it into a ball.

“Don’t even think about it, Danny,” Max shouted from the other side, but the camera remained fixed on her, only moving with the snowball as she flung it across the driveway. The camera shifted to Max just in time to see it hit the side of his face, fragments of snowflakes sticking to his hair.

“You don’t speak to me for the next two hours,” younger Danny said before storming back inside.

“What happened?” Max’s dad asked.

Max shrugged. “Scrabble.”

Perry walked up to Max and tapped him on the shoulder. “Damn, Max! That girl is fine as hell.”

“Yeah, easy, Tiger,” he responded playfully. “That one is mine. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s my future wife.”

Danny smiled to herself. Those few sentences reaffirmed so many things. Max had always cheated at games, she had always resorted to violence, and he had not been lying about when he started liking her more than a friend. It must have been very early in their friendship if this was her first Christmas with his family.

“Lunch is ready,” a familiar voice sang.

Danny recognized it immediately, but the camera was still focused on Max and Perry. She felt anxious, almost wishing she jump in there and move the damn thing herself.

“Great,” Perry chirped. “I’m starving and I’m gonna stuff my face. Roast chicken and sweet potatoes. Momma J’s cooking is da bomb!”

“And then dessert,” Kevin added. “Ice cream!”

“With chocolate sauce,” Perry agreed with a nod.

They did a weird little handshake, something that looked like it was only shared between the two of them.

“You guys are making me hungry,” Max’s dad said, finally shifting the lens back to the door.

“Jake.” His name caught in her throat. She fumbled to get the remote and pressed pause, freezing the gray-haired man on the screen. She slowly shifted off the sofa and moved towards the TV, tracing her fingers on the edges of his pixelated face. Somehow looking at the only person she remembered and knowing that he was no longer there only reinforced every lonely, empty feeling inside her. Her life truly was one big, gaping hole; an abyss filling with incomplete memories and other peoples’ versions of the truth.

She sat there for quite some time, staring at the wrinkles near his eyes and the tiny mole below his lip. This was the only form of Jake she had left and she wanted to hold onto it for as long as possible.

Max walked towards her, leaned down, and placed a kiss on the side of her head. “I can see you want some time alone.”

She could only manage a nod. She waited for him to leave the living room before she pressed play again. She watched the rest of her first Christmas at the Shepards, putting more faces to the names in her head. Jordan. Shane. Dominic. His parents. They were a beautiful family and she felt privileged that Max would let her be a part of something so special. They laughed and joked and told stories around the Christmas tree. It made her greedy for more.

She went through DVD after DVD, not caring that the information overload was causing her head to spin. She wanted to feel every feeling those moving pictures invoked. Whether it was joy or sorrow, she didn’t care. Anything was better than emptiness.

Some of the videos included Amber, especially the ones from college, some had Lauren, but most of them were of her and Max. At college. At the beach. At Rocko’s. She even got to see the flash mob he had told her about. Every moment with him was playful and energetic. She knew from their past conversations that she’d had other boyfriends, but from the videos it was very difficult to pin point exactly when her and Max had started dating. They always behaved like a couple.

The casual arm around her shoulder, the quick kiss on the side of her head, the distant admiration in his eyes, those things were captured in almost every video. That made sense because he had admitted that he liked her from the very beginning. But the reason why she was still confused was because of the fleeting glances she kept seeing in younger Danny’s eyes.

Every now and then, younger Danny looked at Max the same way current Danny did, with eyes that seemed like she was crushing on him in the biggest way. It was strange that it took such a long time for them to get together because from the videos it was clear that they were in to each other years ago.

She stumbled upon a more recent video. From the date stamp in the corner of the screen, it was in early February this year. She watched herself in a powder blue dress, kick off her shoes and meet Max in the middle of the dance floor. He smiled and they proceeded to perform the cutest, most incredibly dorky dance known to mankind. The song was catchy, but the music was too loud to hear the words that were exchanged between them. They bounced and turned and did the robot and Danny had to cover her mouth to mute her giggles. They were adorable together.

When the song ended, Max pulled her into his arms and he probably said something stupid because she pulled a weird face. Right after that, Danny grabbed the remote again and pressed pause.

Except for younger Danny’s occasional glances of affection, everything she had seen so far was unfamiliar, something she didn’t recognize. But now gazing at herself and Max in that moment frozen in time, she finally saw something she could relate to. A feeling encompassed in her hazel eyes. She felt the same way now for the same man and the similarity brought a sense of comfort because it meant that she was on her way to getting her life back. And it was all because of him.

She stared at Max, the cute dimple on his cheek. “I think I’m falling in love with you,” she whispered. “I think…I’ve always been in love with you.”

* * * * *

Max tossed over and looked at the alarm clock on the side of his bed. It was already two in the morning and he could still hear the faint sounds of the television.

His phone buzzed on the night stand.

Jordan: Can’t sleep?

Max: No. Why are you up?

Jordan: Obsessing over some guy. You?

Max: Worried about Danny. How did you know I was awake?

Jordan: Irish twins have the same psychic ability as normal twins.

Max: Or you’re just bored and looking for company at 2 in the morning.

Jordan: Yeah, that too :)

He rolled out of bed and walked to the living room where he saw Danny sleeping on the sofa. He knelt down beside her, noticing fine lines where tears had dried on her cheek.

Everything that had happened today made the guilt even more unbearable. When she had asked him about Richard, he was at breaking point and ready to reveal it all. But he couldn’t because the thought of Richard brought back all his insecurities.

If she knew that he had lied to her about being her boyfriend, if she knew that she and Richard were still technically dating at the time of the accident, then what would stop her from going back to him?

He had made the choice for her. Who would she choose if she knew everything? He had always wanted her to choose him, but this was rickety scale that would tilt in Richard’s favor if she found out what he had done. Maybe he wouldn’t lose her to Richard, but he would lose her. He couldn’t risk telling her the truth with so much hanging in the balance.

It couldn’t be that bad, though. Lying to her couldn’t be that bad. They were happy. She was happy. How could it be bad? He would tell her eventually. As soon as she felt like she had just as much to lose, he would tell her.

He gently ran his fingers over the scar on the side of her head. “My future wife,” he whispered and for the first time ever, he felt like those words might actually be possible.

* * * * *

“Let’s play a game,” Danny said, walking into the kitchen with a notebook in her hand. “And at least this is a game you can’t cheat at.”

Max chuckled and continued chopping cucumbers for the salad he was preparing. He shifted the chopping board to the island counter so he could face her. “Sure.”

Sitting down on the barstool, she opened her notebook. “You said that I haven’t changed,” she explained. “So I want to test that. I have here a documented list of all my favorite things. You tell what they were before and I’ll compare it to what I have now. That way I can see if it really is the same.”

He nodded, somewhat amused. “Okay. Shoot.”

“My favorite color?”

“You don’t have a favorite color. You think there are too many pretty colors to choose just one.”

Her eyes widened and she couldn’t hold back her excitement. “That’s exactly what I wrote here.” She put a quick tick next to Favorite color on her notebook. “Okay, next one. Favorite movie?”

“You know you don’t even need to ask that question and I don’t need to answer.” He tossed the cucumbers into the salad bowl on top of the lettuce.

A tick was placed next to Jerry Maguire on her notebook. “Favorite song?”

“Timbaland, The Way I Are. You’re sentimental like that.”

“Is that our dorky dance song?”

He nodded as he reached for a tomato, cutting it down the middle and then into neat slices.

“I have a different one now,” she said, looking down at her notebook. “I found an old CD in the box you gave me and there’s this one song called Kokomo.”

The light expression on his face dropped and he shook his head with disappointment. “The Beach Boys? Really, Danny? That song is like a hundred years old. And it’s clear that you haven’t listened to much music since the accident.”

“Don’t be mean.” She laughed and threw a dish towel at his head. “Favorite food?”

“Anything made at Rocko’s,” he replied instantly.

“That one also changed. I got here anything made by Max, especially chicken-a-la-king.”

He smiled, almost a shy smile, as he walked to the fridge to get out the feta cheese and olives. She continued down her list, asking about her favorite place to hang out, her favorite book and all her other favorites. As more answers were revealed, she noticed that not much had changed since before the accident. It surprised her but what surprised her more was how much he knew about her. He answered her questions quickly, without having to really think about it.

An amazing man, this Max Shepard, so in tune with every aspect of her life. Three months was not a long time, but three months was all she really remembered and somehow he made it enough. She still felt lost, she still felt the hole inside her yet he was enough to fill the void of the unknown.

“Second last on the list,” she said. “Favorite pastime?”

This one took him a few seconds to respond. “It’s a little difficult to answer that one. You don’t really have many hobbies, but if I had to guess…it would be reading fashion and lifestyle magazines. You love all that How To shit. How to burn belly-fat in 30 days. How to dress to fit your body type.” He leaned forward and smiled, his tone mocking the silliness of it all. “How to keep him coming back for more.”

“You’re being mean again. And while those seem like very interesting articles, you’ll be pleased to know that that one has changed as well. I do in fact have a new favorite.”

“Oh, please tell me. I am dying to know what could possibly be more interesting than that.”

She ignored his sarcasm and lowered her head, feeling shy to reveal this to him now. “Well…it says here that my favorite pastime is…making out with you. But I wouldn’t trust it. It comes from an unreliable source, some crazy woman who likes the Beach Boys and How To articles. You can’t trust a person like that.”

He stopped chopping and the smile that curved on his lips made her heart skip a beat.

“I think we have to prove that one.” Moving around the counter, he swiveled the barstool so she could face him. “Like you said; the crazy woman can’t be trusted.”

His lips touched hers and she knew in that moment that she didn’t need to ask her final question, because the answer now was the same as it was before. Her ultimate favorite, the thing she loved most in this world was, is and always would be Maximillian Augustus Shepard.

* * * * *

Someone needed to remind him not to kiss Danny anymore. He needed a trigger, some type of alarm to go off in his head whenever her lips were in kissing distance, because this is what always happened.

She had come home a few minutes ago, excited to tell him that she had landed another job. One of the benefactors at the charity dinner asked Lauren for her number and she was now going to be planning another corporate event.

A little congratulatory kiss had resulted in them rolling on her bed like two sex-starved maniacs who couldn’t get enough of each other.

Off came her blouse.

His hands moved up her body, giving its usual tribute to the scar before cupping her breasts. She rolled onto him, grinding her pelvis against his. He unclipped her bra and pulled it off before his hands went sliding down her back to squeeze her ass, pressing her harder against Penis.

Penis and Danny had become very well-acquainted over the last few weeks. And when Danny was around, Penis could not be reasoned with. Alarms bells, triggers and common sense went out the window if he got even the slightest taste of her.

Max rolled over, tossing her back against the bed. Whipping off his T-shirt, he threw it on the floor and then his mouth was on hers again. Chest to chest. Skin to skin. He loved that feeling, the way her nipples hardened against him. Soft hands were all over him, fervent and hungry.

He ran a hard hand up her thigh and she moaned against his ear. He loved her ass in those denim shorts, but it was entirely unnecessary at the moment, so that, too, was soon discarded. His hand moved between her thighs, stroking her wet hot spot with expertise. After weeks of foreplay, he knew every hot spot she had.

Lick the spot at the base of her neck and her breath caught in her throat. Run a thumb over her nipple and she bit her bottom lip to stifle a moan. Move his finger inside her until he found just the right spot and…


That moan caught Penis’s attention, causing him to push against the fabric of Max’s jeans, like he was trying to burst through and escape his prison. Max smiled as he looked down at her flushed face. She was exquisite. Even though her dark hair was styled in a boy-cut, she exuded femininity. Her soft caramel skin, her small perky breasts; every inch of her was flaming hot perfection.

She unzipped his jeans, her lips trailing down his neck as her hand moved beneath the band of his boxer shorts. She gave Penis a firm handshake and Max suddenly needed both his hands to hold himself up.

He shut his eyes, dropping his head to kiss her again, but it was a broken kiss, ending every few seconds when his lips released a staggered groan.

She knew where to touch him, too. Nibble his ear and he tingled everywhere. Run nails down his back and a scorching wave surged through his body. Rub his cock the way she was right now and every part of him went haywire.

Yep. No more congratulatory kisses for Danny.

She continued to stroke him until he felt something completely unfamiliar. If her mouth was on his, then what was that delicious wetness he was feeling?

Oh, fuck!

Now when did that happen? His jeans were still on – well, partly on – but somehow the wrong part of their lower halves were naked at the same time. It was a simple rule, really. Don’t get naked. It only led to trouble and now he was so deep in it that he couldn’t bring himself to pull away. His lungs gave in, freezing as she rubbed his tip along her moist entrance.


It was supposed to be a protest yet it didn’t sound like one and she was too lost in ecstasy to pay much attention. She whimpered, rubbing his tip against her clit, round and round, and up and down.

“Danny…we need to stop.” And he meant it. Penis was about to lose control and thinking with a level head was becoming impossible. “We’re not…we’re not ready for this.”

“I’m ready, Max,” she whispered breathlessly. “Can’t you feel how wet I am for you?”

Charlie was right. She was the fucking devil, tempting him with forbidden fruit.

Then she pushed his tip inside her and every rational thought disintegrated. His brain turned to mush, thinking only of the pleasure her wet warmth ignited. He had to resist every urge to plunge his hips forward.

“Max, I want you inside me.”

He shut his eyes, shaking his head as if it would throw those words out of his ears. That was the last thing he wanted to hear…the only thing he wanted to hear.

“I want you inside me so bad,” she said and his hand immediately covered her mouth.

“You…you…need to…you need to stop talking…just stop…talking.”

Her lips stopped moving, but her hand didn’t, pushing more of him into her, deep enough to feel her tender tightness around him. His hand slipped off mouth, curling tightly into the pillowcase.

“I want you, Max.”

That sentence was torture. I want you. That was a choice, wasn’t it? And that choice was him. How could he say no when that was what he had wanted to hear for years?

“I don’t have protection,” he muttered as a last resort to save himself.

“I do,” she whispered.

That was a very quick solution to a problem he didn’t want to have. No more congratulatory kisses for Danny!

* * * * *

Danny urged him off her and rolled over to retrieve a pack of condoms from her drawer.

“Were you planning this?” he asked.

“Hoping is more like it,” she confessed. “I started on the pill a few weeks ago, but it’s still too soon so I got these.”

He rubbed his jaw and she realized that she had given him too much time to think and when he started thinking, doubt inevitably ensued.

“Are you sure you want to do this, Danny?”

“Every part of me wants to do this.” She decided to speak quickly, say everything she needed to say so he would know that she had no doubts. “Don’t look for excuses. I know you want this, too. Don’t bring up my memory loss. If anything, the accident makes me want to do this even more. It taught me to not waste time because all it takes is one second to lose everything that’s important. Life gave me a second chance with you and I’m not wasting it.” She placed the sealed condom in his hand and straddled his hips. “I want this. I want you. Stop questioning it because my answer will always be yes.”

He grabbed the back of her head and kissed her with unbridled passion, uncontrolled fervency, like he did in fact have everything to lose. His hands encircled her bottom, pulling her harder against him. It only took a few minutes of him kissing her like that before she felt like she couldn’t wait any longer. She broke the kiss and took the condom from him, studying the glossy front cover and then the back. “Does this thing come with instructions?”

“Um…” He shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not sure what to do either.”

“I thought you did this before?”

“Yeah, three years ago,” he reminded her. “And…she took care of this part.”

“Well, okay. It can’t be that hard. It’s not rocket science. We can figure this out.”

She got off him and sat beside him on the bed. She used her teeth to rip open the packet and then handed him the condom.

He stripped off his jeans, then looked down at himself and released an exaggerated breath as he began the task. She heard the stinging sound of rubber slapping against skin.

“Ow,” he said, his face flinching. “I don’t remember this being such a painful exercise.” After a few more ows and frustrated groans, his eyebrows creased. “That doesn’t look right.”

Danny looked down at his poor penis trapped in the rubber with a bubble of air caught at the top and burst out laughing. “I think you put it on upside down.”

The uncontrollable giggles came out so hard that she fell back against bed.

“Stop laughing,” Max said, amusement in his voice as well. “Give me another one.”

She handed him another condom, then placed her hands on her stomach because it was beginning to hurt from the laughter.

Her backside received a light slap. “Stop laughing!”

Another stinging sound as the first condom was removed. Putting on the second one was much quicker and evidently much less painful. “There!” He pushed her back against the bed and rolled on top of her. “You don’t do much for a man’s ego.”

“You’re cute,” she said, brushing his hair back as her giggles subsided.

He smiled but his eyes were serious. “Only if you’re sure, Danny.”

“I’m sure.” She slid her hand between their bodies and guided him to her entrance.

His body stiffened, seemingly more nervous than she was. He began to move, pushing slowly into her. The sensation was indescribable, her body welcoming this new visitor. She took deep, steady breaths to slow her heart rate as he withdrew and pushed in again, trying to go a little deeper this time. But then he encountered resistance. His tip hit against it and pain shot up her body. She shifted her hips to ease the discomfort but as he tapped again and again, the pain became more searing.

“Max, stop.” Her face felt hot, her pelvis throbbing. “It’s like…going swimming. You can’t get into the pool little by little. You just gotta jump right in.”

Wariness wrinkled his forehead when he realized what she was suggesting. “Danny, I could hurt you.”

“It’s hurting now.”

“Okay.” He grabbed her hand and interlinked his fingers with hers. “Hurt me back if you have to.”

She braced herself as he withdrew and plunged into her, once, twice, until she felt it give way. Squeezing his fingers tight, she bit into his shoulder, trying to transfer at least some of the pain. He stopped when he was fully inside her, both of them breathless.

“You okay?” he whispered raggedly.

She managed a nod, almost huffing as her body tried to adjust to the thickness inside her. More than a minute ticked by before the ache began to ebb. “It’s a bit better now.”

He nodded and waited a while before he began to move. The first thrust was uncomfortable, the second was a mixture of pain and pleasure, but by the third she was gripping his fingers for a different reason. Her body loosened, allowing her to feel the ecstasy of him sliding in and out of her. He kept his slow pace but his breathing quickened and then his tongue was in her mouth, kissing her like only he knew how.

He groaned against her lips. “You feel so good,” he murmured.

Every part of her pelvis felt tender. The fleeting jolts of pain stopped it from being a completely enjoyable experience yet the very thought of him being inside her was what brought the waves of pleasure. Looking down at where their bodies joined, the erotic way he moved in and out, exhilarated her. His thrusts were deep, but at the same time, slow and careful. She could sense his restraint. He was trying not to hurt her. Slow and deep and deep and slow, he rocked above her, his breathing becoming more and more irregular.

“Danny…I can’t…” One more thrust. One more heavy groan and it was over. He dropped his head beside hers, his gasps warm against her skin. Lifting himself up again, he looked at her. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I know you didn’t…It just…it felt so good and I couldn’t…I’m sorry. I’m really bad at this.”

“Hey.” She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him closer. “We have more than that. This was more than that…so much more. We’re still learning and we’ll get better, but this wasn’t about sex or orgasms. I gave you me and you gave me you and that’s all that matters. And just for the record,” she whispered, lifting her head to brush her lips against his. “That was incredible…better than I could have ever imagined.”

A slight smile curved on his lips, causing his dimple to twitch. “You’ve always had a way of making me feel better about my shortcomings.” He paused for a second and his smile widened. “Pardon the pun.”

She giggled then, too.

“You’ve always made me feel like being me is more than enough. You’re amazing, Danny…my best friend and I…I…I really…”

He couldn’t say it, not yet anyway, but she knew what the last two words of that sentence was. Maybe he wasn’t ready or maybe he wasn’t sure yet about how he felt about her. She was sure but she wouldn’t tell him either. She had initiated everything so far and sometimes it felt like she had forced the relationship to this point. She didn’t want to be first to drop the word love, too. For those three precious words, she was going to wait. Wait until he was ready. Wait until he was sure. Because those words, that feeling shouldn’t ever be forced.

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