Nathaniel hurriedly snapped her pants back, the panicked look on his face almost comical. Zara would have laughed had she not been so sexually frustrated. She had been so close to getting off, having Nathaniel’s skilled fingers working her orgasm out of her at a pace he knew she loved.
Oh, sweet cupcakes.
She could already hear Amy running toward them.
Zara looked over his shoulder and saw her adorable little face scrunch up in confusion when she noticed Nathaniel without his shirt on. “Where did your shirt go?”
Zara had to smother a laugh at the bewildered look on his face.
He didn’t turn to Amy, the tent in his pants still prominent, and looked at Zara with pleading eyes. “It was hot in here, sweetheart.”
Zara pushed herself off the table and moved around him to get to her. Amy’s eyes instantly lit up and she gave a loud shriek and rushed to Zara, jumping onto her, wrapping her arms around her neck. “Zara!”
Zara laughed with pure delight, “Hey there, my little Jellybean.” She caught her at her sides and tickled her a bit. “Did you miss me?”
“Yes!” Amy shouted with laughter, her cute face scrunched up as she tried to burrow into Zara, to keep away from the tickles. Zara stood up with her and Amy proceeded to wrap herself around her completely, her legs going to her waist.
Matt and Susan stood at the door. They looked at her and Amy with a mixture of relief and hesitancy.
Zara took a deep breath, knowing she had hurt them both profusely and had to make it up to them. With Amy in her hold, she made her way to Susan and hugged her. Her shoulders dropped in happiness when her best friend hugged her back without missing a beat, her grip so tight, Zara couldn’t breathe for a second. “I’m so sorry.” She said into Susan’s shoulder, her eyes suddenly tearing up. Susan’s response was to tighten her hold even more, almost crushing her in the process.
Zara didn’t mind. She held her close, letting the relief wash away the anxiety that had been knotting her stomach since last night. “I love you so much, Zara.” Susan kissed her cheek, running a hand through her hair. Zara pulled her close again, gratefulness making her heart burst.
When Susan let her go, Zara looked at Matt, who was already smiling at her, his arms wide open.
“So, I take it Nathaniel finally got his head out of his ass?”
Zara laughed and went to him, resting her head on his shoulder as he wrapped his arms around her in a bear hug, squashing Amy in the process and making her screech and laugh. She ended up plastered all over Zara as she tried to escape Matt’s mischief when he tried to blow a raspberry on her back.
“I heard that.” Nathaniel said drily, coming up behind her and pulling her away from Matt to him. He kissed her forehead and then dropped a soft kiss on her upturned mouth.
Amy giggled when Nathaniel kissed her nose, making her laugh once again when she brushed her fingers over his bristly jaw.
“Did you guys eat?” Susan asked, walking into the kitchen and setting things straight and cleaning up already.
Nathaniel sighed and looked down at Zara, his eyes on her mouth. “Not as much as I’d have liked to.” He murmured the words softly and she blushed red.
Elbowing him in the ribs, she moved away, kissing Amy and fussing over her to cover the effect his words had on her. The heat in her belly slid further down and she felt the pulse between her legs. Jesus, she was such a goner when it came to him. Would this crazy heated need ever go away?
She looked at Nathaniel and caught him staring at her.
They spent the next half hour playing with Amy, the guys, taking turns to let Amy ride on their shoulders. She laughed and squealed, enjoying every single moment of it. Zara felt her heart get lighter and lighter with every passing minute and she was happier than she had ever been. When Susan got busy preparing lunch for them all, Zara stepped into her bedroom and shut the door behind her. she debated with asking Nathaniel to join her but then decided to speak to her mom in private.
She sat down on her bed and called the familiar number.
It was answered on the very first ring.
She heard the worry and anxiety in her mom’s voice instantly. The guilt returned a hundredfold.
She heard the slight rustle of clothes and the sound of a zipper being shut. “I’m on my way, baby.”
Zara frowned. “What? No, don’t do that.”
Her mother continued, “I was so worried about you. I’ve asked Daniel to take care of a couple of things till I get back-“
“Mom, listen to me. I’m okay now.”
She heard her mother pause. “What?”
“Yeah, I am. I’m so sorry I scared you.”
There was a moment of silence at the other end. “I’m sorry I wasn’t there right then, darling.” Her mother’s voice went soft and, Zara noticed, teary.
“Mom, please. It was not your fault. Or mine. I just had a supreme jerk for a father and in spite of me wishing that wasn’t a fact, there’s nothing we can do to change it.”
“And besides,” she continued, “Nathaniel told me that he loved me.”
There was a sharp intake of breath and another long silence.
“How do you feel about him?”
Zara paused at looked at the shut door. She could hear the faint sound of Amy giggling and Nathaniel murmuring something to her that made her laugh even more. She smiled.
“I think I love him too.”
She could swear her mother was smiling. “Why the hesitation?”
Zara pulled at the frayed material of her pants. She was full of nervous energy now, when just a moment ago, she had none. “I guess a part of me expects it to go badly,” she hated saying it out loud. Her heart protested against it.
Her mother was silent for a minute.
“I understand why you may have that kind of attitude, baby. But what happened with me and your father doesn’t have to happen between you and Nathaniel.”
Zara nodded to herself.
“And besides, I’ve seen the way that boy looks at you. Like he could eat you up and at the same time, I think there is no one in the whole world, other than me, of course,” she sniffed, “that could keep you safe, could protect you. Sometimes, from yourself.”
Zara felt the simultaneous rise of a blush while her eyes stung with the onslaught of tears.
Nathaniel had worked his way around the barriers of her heart, chipped away at the coldest one, piece by piece, and then he’d taken it for himself and given her his own. He had mended pieces of her that she didn’t know were broken, treating them with the same fragile care that he gave her body and heart.
Zara raised her head to the ceiling and then looked out the window. “I see that, mom.”
Her mother sighed happily, “I know you do. You just need to be brave enough to tell him that. He deserves to know. Don’t punish him for something he didn’t do.”
Walking over to the window, leaned against the wall.
“I promise I won’t.”
“That’s my girl.”
Zara smiled, “I love you, mom.”
“I love you more.”