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Chapter Twenty One

Can the feeling you give me be described? When you look at me, I feel as if I am on the highest mountain, toeing the edge of oblivion. I don’t know what will be waiting for me at the bottom of this vastness, but those eyes could make me jump over without a second thought. Your smile lifts me up, the butterflies in my stomach becoming majestic eagles that send me soaring, these feelings I have for you setting me free. When you touch me I’m breathless, your warmth seeping into my skin and igniting sparks. And when our lips meet, I swear atoms split and my world spontaneously combusts; you set me aflame.

Your calloused fingers could either piece me together or rip me apart. But with my heart in your palm, I’m ready either way. I’ll brave the flames and burn away from your destruction or I’ll bask in the acceptance of your love. You could irrevocably ruin me but I trust that you won’t.

My pencil abruptly stops as Justin begins to kiss the side of my neck, leaving wet trails up it’s column before he slightly nips at the edge of my jaw. “What’re you writing baby? Is it about me?” I can practically feel his smirk against my skin. “Can I read it?”

“Oh, so now you’re asking?” I tease and he laughs, pushing me onto my back before straddling my waist.

“Hey! That’s not fair. I just wanted to know more about you,” He mumbles and I grin, leaning up to peck his lips. We’ve been in my bedroom almost all day, goofing off and cuddling together. Justin and I agreed we wanted to spend as much time as we could together before school starts up again for second semester, and later this afternoon we’re going on our first date. He won’t tell me where we’re going though.

“You still could’ve asked my permission though you asshole.” I detach our lips and give him a devious smile. He pouts.

“You would’ve said no.”

“So?” I quirk an eyebrow and squeal when his fingers secretly crept to my sides and he threatens to tickle me.

“Okay, I’m sorry!” I shout as his fingers dig into my sides, causing raucous laughter to erupt from my lips.

“Wait, wait! I know how you can make it up to me!” I plead, tears in the corners of my eyes as he finally stops his tickling assault.

“I’m listening,” He smirks, now shifting from on top of me to lay beside me. I flip over, propping my head up on my white pillow to stare into his gorgeous eyes.

“Tell me where our date is.” I beg, sticking out my bottom lip, hoping my puppy dog face will work on him. It doesn’t.

“No can do Lillybear.” I immediately scowl, giving him a rough shove and screaming in laughter as he tumbles onto my bedroom floor. I watch as he lifts himself up, his forearms straining underneath his weight. My mouth suddenly goes dry at the sight of his muscles flexing, and I almost unconsciously lick my lips. Damn. My boyfriend is fit. His now dark green eyes meet mine.

“Five,” He mutters, his pupils dilating, and I have to remember to breath because he looks so dangerously sexy right now.

“Four,” He stands up, his towering figure looming over me. My eyebrows crinkle and before I can ask him why the hell he’s counting and acting like a maniac he continues.

“Three,” He’s now smiling mischievously and my eyes widen in fright. Shit! I stumble off of my bed, squealing as I run out of my room and Justin finishes his countdown.

“You’re going to pay for that Lilly!” I laugh as I reach the bottom of the stairs, my eyes frantically searching for my next destination. I hurry and turn left, dashing through my kitchen and stopping in front of my backdoor. My hand fumbles with the doorknob before I think better of it. It’s damn near 20 degrees outside and I don’t have any shoes on. Instead, I make my way past the pantry and into the laundry room, hiding into a small crevice between my dryer and the back wall.

I’m panting, trying to calm my breath so Justin can’t find me. I have to stifle a few sneezes, it’s stuffy in here and lint still lingers in the air. I can hear Justin calling out for me and I shrink farther back when I see the door open. His footsteps thud as he walks around the room, a few things banging as he looks for me.

“I know you’re in here Lilly.” I jump with a start when his face abruptly is in my line of vision. I scream in protest as he gathers me into his arms, lifting me and carrying me into the living room.

“I’m sorry Justin! Put me down, please!” I screech, screaming in slight terror and exhilaration as he begins spinning me around, his arms loosening and tightening around me randomly.

“First you have to tell me I’m smart and sexy as hell.”

“No!” I protest, squirming around in his arms. “I don’t lie!”

“Wrong answer,” He growls, sexily may I add ironically. I curse as I’m suddenly dropped onto the couch, my body bouncing and arms flailing from the suddenness of it. Justin’s immediately on me, tickling me to near death as I laugh and howl like a hyena.

“Stop!” My laughter is steadily increasing and Justin’s body is crushing my legs so I can’t escape nor kick him.

“Say it baby. We both know it’s true.”

“Fine! You’re smart and sexy as hell!” I shudder in imminent relief when his fingers finally stop their assault. His smirk is cocky as he basks over his win. I turn my head swiftly when he tries to kiss me.

“Come on, don’t be like that.” He coos and I shove him off of me.

“Being manipulative doesn’t earn you any kisses.” I tut.

“But being smart and sexy does.” He is so sinful.

“You’re so fucking annoying.” I huff in exasperation. His lips twitch.

“But you like me anyways.” He says deeply, the timbre of his voice and the illusion of his eyes cracking me. I cup his face, which is just slightly prickly from his lack of shaving, and move his lips to mine. I sigh in delight, sitting up and angling my head so I can deepen our kiss, savoring the smooth texture of his lips and the wetness of his tongue. I open my mouth a bit more to slide my tongue over his, our movements so deliberate and intricate that they eliciting sighs and groans from the backs of our throats.

His hands move from my cheeks to lightly grip my jaw before his fingers slide sensually over my neck. Continuing down the length of my body, he grips my waist tightly, laying me underneath him. He’s hovering over me now, his hands on either side of my head as his lips detach from mine, pecking my jaw and slithering down to my neck. My chest is moving up and down in rapid succession, and my hands clutch at his hair when he starts sucking on my sweet spot. A moan emits from me.

“I will personally staple your balls above our fireplace if you don’t get off of my fucking sister.” Justin springs back from me immediately, his movements so quick that he fumbles onto the floor. Sitting up, my face and neck are a shade of crimson as I see Alex and our mom standing awkwardly in the entrance to the living room. How did we not hear the front door open?

Well, to be fair you were too busy moaning at Justin’s lips on your neck to pay any attention to silly things such as doors opening.

“So I guess you guys are back from the grocery store.”

“That we are.” My mother grins, saying hello to Justin who had now stood up as she went into the kitchen to put the food away.

“Before I go and bleach my eyeballs after witnessing you on top of my sister, I think I’ll keep you both company. We wouldn’t want a repeat of that.” Alex shudders and I throw a couch pillow at him. He catches it of course.

“Lilly that was pathetic. Don’t tell me you forgot that I used to be on the football team?” Alex grins. I just flick him off.

“Actually,” Justin speaks up after being eerily silent for awhile, “I think I’ll go. I need to do a few things before our date. I’ll be back at 5 to pick you up Lilly.” Justin kisses me goodbye, seemingly uncaring of Alex’s glare burning the back of his head. Justin gathers his coat, telling my mom goodbye before the front door slams behind him. Alex and I are silent for a few awkward seconds before he breaks the silence.

“Please tell me you guys aren’t friends with benefits because I’d hate to get arrested again because this time I’d actually go to jail. I’m too pretty to go to jail and become somebody’s bitch. Not like I’d let that happen anyways.” I roll my eyes.

“We’re dating now. We got together on New Years.”

“That still doesn’t reassure me that I won’t be locked up.”

“Alex you’re awful, please stop. Justin is a great guy who I really like. You won’t be hurting him in any way, shape, or form. Capisce?” Alex groans.

“You’re no fun. But seriously. If he hurts you I can’t be held accountable for my actions flower.”

“I love how protective you are of me but it’s not necessary. Justin would never hurt me.” I try and reassure Alex, snatching up the remote and turning the television on to relax before getting ready for my date in a little while.

“He’s a guy. And he’s also human, and sometimes people just can’t help but screw things up. I never want to see you hurt again. Whether it’s because of me or anyone else.” I lean forward and kiss his cheek affectionately.

“I love you Alex. Trust me to make this decision though. I know there’s a chance I might be hurt, but it’s a chance I’m willing to take. I’ll risk getting hurt to be as happy as I am with Justin. I believe he’s worth it.” Alex gives me a side hug.

“When the hell did you get so smart?” he teases and I laugh, snuggling back into the couch.

“I don’t know. Maybe’s Justin’s rubbing off on me.”

I grin when I hear the doorbell ring, making sure my coral blue sweater was tucked completely into my high waisted jeans, I answer the door to a gorgeous Justin.

“Beautiful.” He utters, wrapping his arms around my waist and giving me a sweet kiss. I kiss him back.

“Wish I could say the same about you.” I mumble against his lips, squealing as he pinches my waist.

“You’re so mean to me. Why am I dating you again?” He asks while we walk side by side to his car.

“I don’t know, clearly you aren’t as smart as you think you are.” He shoves me slightly and laughs.

When we finally leave, I feel like a detective as I analyze every street we turn on in a feeble attempt to decipher where we’re going. Glancing over, Justin laughs as he sees my inquisitive face.

“You won’t figure it out until we get there. Maybe not even then.” Justin taunts and I groan. Why do dates have to be a secret? I don’t get the allure of secret outings or keeping things mysterious in general. Some people might find surprises nice or exciting even, but they’re just burdenous to me.

I frown as we pull into the parking lot of the public library. Before I can even say anything Justin is dashing out of the car and opening the passenger side door for me. I smile and thank him as I exit the car, deciding to not be annoying for once and bug him about what the hell we were doing. I let him grab my hand as we walk inside the library, my mouth dropping open at the sight of all the people inside. A large banner spanned the entrance. All Afternoon Writing Workshops With Special Guest Veronica Ingle.

“Oh my god,” I gasp. “No way.” This can’t be real. Justin hugs me from behind.

“Yes baby. Surprise.”

“Justin! This is amazing.” I can’t believe he took me here to write with my favorite author. “I could kiss you right now.”

“I really think you should.” I laugh, turning in his arms to give him a quick, sweet peck. I yank on his hand.

“Come on! We don’t want them to start without us!” I exclaim, tugging him to a pair of empty seats. I sit down eagerly, nearly jumping in my seat. I can’t believe I’m going to meet my favorite author. Veronica lives here in Indiana, which makes her honestly a thousand times better. She writes teen-fiction and romance novels, and I’m obsessed with all of her work.

“I had no idea she was even doing this.” Justin places his arm around me.

“I actually heard about this a month ago and had been planning to take you. I kept wondering how I could convince you to come with me, just the two of us, without all of our friends. But, since we’re dating now I figured it’d be perfect for our first date.”

“Well, you were right. It was so thoughtful of you to take me here Justin.”

“There’s no way I couldn’t. We were on the phone for hours last week after you finished her latest book that Gracson bought for you.” I blush a little, recalling the way I had bawled and ranted to him once I finished reading it. The ending was so beautiful, yet devastating. Justin was sweet and attentive though when I kept him on the phone and basically spilled about the entire book. He even brought me chocolate the next day and binge watched Friends with me so I’d cheer up. I couldn’t ask for anything better, it was great being able to spend the day with Justin. I swear he’s too good to me.

“I know. And you were very sweet.” A hush befalls the room and I glance up to see Veronica Ingle taking her place at a podium that must’ve been set up for her.

“Hello everyone. I’m very delighted to see all of you here. My pr team has attempted to keep this event under wraps, and I’d say we were mildly successful.” Everyone laughs. “As you know, I’ll be leading you all in multiple different writing workshops today. There will be ample opportunities for you guys to ask me any questions and I’ll be doing a book signing at the end before we wrap up. Any questions?” As she answers a few questions I turn towards Justin, a frown on my face.

“I don’t have her book with me. Dang it.” Disappointment rushes through me but I try to dampen it. Just being able to be here should be good enough. And it is.

“Actually,” My eyes widen when he lifts his jacket from the table to reveal my book. “I swiped this before I left your house earlier. I read on the library’s website that she would be doing book signings.” I couldn’t stop smiling, my heart swelling with so much affection for him.

“What did I do to deserve you?” I mumble, giving him a passionate kiss before reluctantly pulling away. For some reason we had a thing for getting heated in public and I really needed to curb that addiction.

“Everyone make sure you grab some paper and a pencil so we can get started!” Justin leans forward to grab us both a yellow number two pencil while also slapping a few sheets of lined paper in front of me. I begin to tap my fingers on the wooden table, excitement thrumming in my veins. Most of the tables in this room were filled, and while the ages varied, from teenagers to slightly older women, I notice with amusement how Justin was the only guy here. Veronica Ingle mostly had a female fanbase, and I figured being in a room surrounded by women wasn’t Justin’s ideal date but it made me appreciate him more. Writing also wasn’t his strong suit, but I knew he was doing this for me.

“First we’ll start with a poetry workshop. I want you guys to write a poem using all of the following words.” I glance up to see the words she writes on the large white board. Exquisite, visit, and glisten.

“What the hell.” Justin mutters and I slap his arm. “Shush. Just do it.” Veronica puts a minute and thirty seconds on the projector screen behind her and pencils begin moving swiftly as the timer starts. I bite my lip as my mind begins to juggle the words. My hand is a flurry of movement as I try to formulate a decent poem within the parameter of time. I halt when the timer goes off and the sound of pencils being slammed down resonates around the room.

“Okay! I’d like for you all to pass your poem to the person sitting next to you, whether they are who you came with or a complete stranger!” Justin reluctantly hands me his paper, and I snatch it eagerly.

She’s exquisite

complicated in my favorite way

Her brother hates when I visit

but as long as she’ll have me I’ll stay

I swear her smile glistens

it takes my breath away.

This is so corny.” I chuckle, trying to hold back my smile.

“Shut up. I was trying to be romantic.”

“Babe, you’re very romantic.”

“We both know I’m not.”

“I’m just trying to make you feel better.”

“Well it’s not working.” Justin pouts, and I can’t help but kiss it away. A cacophony of “aw’s” by the people around us causes me pull away immediately.

“You guys are so cute! How long have you been together?” A girl with black hair and matching glasses asks while she smiles crookedly at us.

“Um, only about a week actually.” I confess, blushing at all the attention we’ve received. When the girl asks to read the poem Justin wrote about me I pass it over, ignoring his grunt of protest.

“Omg. This is so adorable! Do you mind if I post it on my snapchat?”

“Absolutely not.”

“Sure, no problem!” We say at the same time, turning to face each other with matching frowns.

“It’s not like anyone on her snapchat knows you.”

“And you’re point is?” Justin asks, being a smart ass. I scowl.

“My point is that it shouldn’t matter if she posts it on there. Why’d you write the poem if you think it’s so awful? You didn’t have to write about me.” Justin groans.

“Lilly. This has nothing to do about you and you know it. I meant what I wrote in my lame attempt at poetry. I just wanted to impress you.” I think me and snapchat girl both melted.

“So it’s settled. We’d be flattered if you put that on your story.” We all perk up as the next writing exercise is announced, and Justin grumbles into my neck.

“Is this how our relationship is going to work? You always getting your way?”

“Basically yeah.” I can feel his smile against my skin.

“I’m surprisingly okay with that.”

“You better be Grey. You becoming my friend was no easy feat, neither was becoming my boyfriend. The challenge doesn’t end here. You ready for that?” I turn to look him in the eye, my heart beating in a fast, steady rhythm. Sometimes I’m still taken aback by how strong my feelings for him are, and I wonder how I ever hid them. All I ever think about now is his lips and being near him.

“I’m ready for it all baby. Good stuff, bad stuff. The really good stuff, like having you moan my name when-” I slap a hand over his mouth.

“Justin!” I hiss. “We’re in public!”

“That’s never stopped us before.”

“You made that sound dirty on purpose. Why the hell am I dating you again?” Before he can respond a shove more paper at him.

“Stop irritating me and just write.” I can tell he’s debating in his head what I just demanded, but after seeing my searing glare he decides to listen.

Gray, is often seen as




and dark.

But with him, its shades translate into




and spark

In-between the thunderous and muddled haze

forever he shall remain

my favorite shade of Grey.

“Thank you so much. I’m a huge fan of your work.” I’m grinning ear to ear while Veronica Ingle signs my book, and I eagerly hand Justin my phone when she agrees to take a picture with me.

“I can’t believe that just happened. I think I’m going to cry.” I’m starstruck as we walk back to Justin’s car. He had to literally drag me out here because I didn’t want to leave.

“Please, please don’t cry. What kind of loser makes his girlfriend cry on the first date?” I laugh, and Justin’s startled when I basically jump at him. His arms wrap around me tightly, and there’s honestly no other place I’d rather be. Being in his embrace causes butterflies to rampage my stomach and I reach my hands up to rest them on his broad shoulders. My cheeks flush as he stares down at me, his emerald eyes flickering all over my face, taking in my features. I’m entranced as he leans down and connects his lips with mine.

Our bodies meld together as our lips mesh. I’m clinging to the hair at the back of his head, curling my fingers through the thick waves. His hands are fast on my waist, gripping tightly; attempting to bring me closer. My head tilts forwards in confusion as he pulls away, still desperately seeking his lips.

“We’ll never get to continue our date at this rate,” he rasps, and I want to groan at how sexy his voice sounds. My eyebrows raise while I pepper little kisses underneath his chin, trailing down his neck.

“There’s more?” I ask, and he groans as I nibble at his skin.

“Yes baby. But you need to stop if we ever want to get out of this damn library parking lot.” I smirk against his skin and willingly pull back, strutting over to his car.

“You coming Grey?” I call over my shoulder.

“Mhhm, I’m right behind you.” I grin as I slide into the passenger seat, watching Justin start up the car and reverse out of the parking lot.

“No way! Tell me you’re lying!” I grin, trying to stifle my laughter.

“Unfortunately, I’m not. The first girl I ever asked out screamed that I was ugly and ran. I even cried.” I choked on my pop, nearly spitting it out everywhere.

“That’s awful! She could’ve let you down easy.” I tease and he throws a french fry at me. It slides down my sweater and plops on my plate. Shrugging, I pick it up and munch on it.

“You’re turn. Tell me about the first time you ever asked a guy out.” I roll my eyes.

“That’s easy. It was during the third grade, and I had this huge crush on this kid named Nathan. I cornered him on the playground while all of my friends were watching. I wrote him a poem.” Justin throws his head back, chuckles leaving him effortlessly. I shush him.

“Stop! I’m not finished yet! I think I wrote about his dimples or something and told him to circle yes or no at the bottom.”

“He said no didn’t he. He probably did. I wouldn’t want to date a weird third grader who wrote about my dimples.”

“Hey! For your information he said yes! I wasn’t rejected and insulted like you.” He just rolls his eyes and steals my fries from me. I swat his hands away.

Justin and I are currently eating an early dinner together. We’ve been trading stories and getting to know the little things about one another. The restaurant we were at was pretty laid back and lax, and I felt no pressure being out with Justin. I feel comfortable around him, and I don’t see a need to act different or awkward because we were on a date. It felt like every other time we’ve hung out, only better because I didn’t have to ignore the way he made me feel and I could kiss him whenever I wanted to.

“Okay, next question. Why don’t you go by your full name anymore?”

“What do you mean?”

“When I first started talking to you after we had detention together that one day, I called you Lillian and you got all defensive.Why don’t you like being called that?” I sigh, fiddling with my napkin and tearing it to shreds.

“After my parent’s got a divorce, Alex becoming an addict, and everything with Bryce, I was just lost. All of the relationships in my life were ruined and I was depressed for a long time.

I sought to reinvent myself and completely get rid of every single thing that reminded me of the person I was before. I wanted to bury the happier, ignorant, whole person I used to be. I stopped letting my mom or anyone call me Lillian and at school I told all of the teachers to call me Lilly. I wanted to become someone new because I was convinced the person I used to be was a lie.

I guess I just hated myself for a while. What little self esteem I had was shot after Bryce broke up with me. I felt like something was wrong with me, like I was unlovable. I mean, something must be wrong with me if my own brother cared more about drugs than me and all my family could do was tear themselves apart. I was utterly alone.” I didn’t know my hands were shaking until Justin places his larger hand on top of mine. I look up and see his comforting gaze on me, constantly accepting of my flaws and the cracks hidden within me.

“You’re not unlovable Lilly, and there is not a damn thing wrong with you. You’re still that amazing girl you tried to keep down. I see her. I saw her that day in detention through your sad eyes and I saw her slowly emerge every day I sat down with you during lunch.” I try and hold back my tears as I turn my hand palm up to clutch him tight to me, my fingers entwining with his own.

“I saw her through your writing I shouldn’t have read and I saw her when she interacted with my friends who are now hers. I have always seen you Lilly. You just never noticed.” Tears are trickling down my face in quick succession and before I know it Justin lets go of my hand. I look up in confused frenzy only to sigh as he smashes my face against his warm chest. He holds me so firmly that there’s no telling where I begin and he ends. He just lets me bleed.

“Dammit you weren’t supposed to cry.” I laugh, pushing him back so I can wipe my tears away. Only Justin can make me laugh after breaking down like that. Justin pauses for a moment before dragging his chair around so he can sit beside me. I lean my head on his shoulder, drinking in the strength he so readily offers to me.

“Do you wanna know the real reason I started talking to you and sitting with you everyday?” Justin asks quietly. I look up at him, resting my chin on his shoulder. He takes this as a yes.

“Truth is, I’ve liked you for a long time now Lilly. I’ve had a crush on you since freshman year. Maybe even before then, that’s the year I admitted it to myself,” he confesses, his cheeks turning pink. I can’t mask my shock as he glances down at me.

“Seriously? Why didn’t you ever say anything?” I’m completely baffled.

“You always kept to yourself, and I didn’t know how to get your attention. It felt like a sign when we had detention together and I wasn’t with Amy anymore.”

“Wait a minute,” I say, sitting up so I can face him properly. “You acted like you didn’t know me! When you knew my name the whole time!” I accuse and he grins sheepishly. He scratches the back of his neck in embarrassment.

“I needed an excuse to talk to you. It gave me a reason to talk to you again outside of your locker that one day. Then when I couldn’t find you in the cafeteria, where I wanted to convince you to sit with me, I followed you after the bell rang for lunch and found you in the library. Then a plan formed in my head.” My eyes are as wide as saucers and my mouth is hanging open as I gape at him like an idiot.

“You sneaky motherfucker! I can’t believe this,” He wraps his arms around me, kissing my cheek softly, causing a fluttering sensation to arise in my stomach.

“Believe it. I told you, I’ve always noticed you. I just never had the courage to act on my feelings. Then we became friends and I was afraid if you knew how I felt you’d run away. When I found out you felt the same I was so goddamn happy. I had to wait to make sure this would work out because I knew, once I had a taste of you, I wouldn’t be able to let you go. ” He’s staring at me so intently that my breath is snatched from my lungs. My hands cling to each of his cheeks as I bring him forward into a desperate and needy kiss.

“I’m not going anywhere.” I murmur, but he kisses my words away, slowly numbing my mind with his lips.

We eventually leave the restaurant and he drives me home. We hang out for a few more hours before he has to go. He’s still on my mind long after he’s left. My mind lingers on how he’s had feelings for me all of this time and I never knew. I grin at the thought. It’s impossible to not fall in love with Justin at this rate. I can’t imagine my heart ever belonging to someone else. Justin was it for me.

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