A Tree on Fire
“Okay, I give in.” Shawn held up his hands in surrender before doubling over. “If I eat anything more I’m going to throw up.”
Light snowfall gathered around us as I made my way over to him, the tiny white flecks landing on his blond curls. A grin spread across my face as I leaned down, tilting my head so I would meet his eyes. Victory tasted so much sweeter than anything we had tasted, and I was always eager to revel in it.
“What is my price?” I asked.
Shawn straightened back up, crossing his arms. “What is it you want?”
Mari usually got me something small, a little trinket from one of the stalls, but that wasn’t what I wanted from Shawn. Trinkets were Mari’s thing, and I wanted something different to remember him by.
Glancing up, the sky had already started to darken, the sun setting behind the thick clouds. Soon the big tree would be set ablaze, and although I dreaded seeing it before, new excitement had made my heart race at the thought alone.
Heat crept up my neck as I looked back at Shawn who was patiently waiting for my answer. “The fire,” I said, tugging at my sleeves. “I want to watch it together.”
Nodding, he held out his arm. “Shall we?”
I took his arm, holding it a little tighter than was needed. If he noticed, he didn’t comment. Slowly, we made out way to the tree, following the colorful path and the many people who had the same idea as we did. The more people that joined the crowd, the closer I pressed myself against Shawn. Not being seen also meant being pushed and shoved around.
Shawn pulled his arm from my grip, but only so he could wrap it around my shoulders. My heart slammed against my ribcage, the same excitement from before taking over again. Although the crowd was thick and Shawn was approached multiple times, we were able to find a spot where we could stand without interruptions. A bit hidden away behind a tree and a stall, but with a clear view of the tree.
A chill ran down the entirety of my body as the countdown started. With each number said, the less the cold bothered me. Much like on New Year’s Eve, where you share a kiss with someone at midnight, it had become a tradition to kiss your partner when the fire reaches the top of the tree. And my anticipation was growing.
Ten . . .
Nine . . .
Having only felt Shawn’s lips on my skin, I could only imagine what they would feel like on my own. This time I wasn’t going to hold back. I wasn’t going to push him away. I was going to give him my first kiss. This was the special occasion I was waiting for.
Six . . .
Five . . .
My eyes turned to him as he watched the tree, whispering the numbers with a boyish grin on his lips.
Three . . .
Two . . .
One . . .
As the tree was set on fire, and cheers erupted from the crowd, Shawn turned back to me, and I forgot to breathe. Before I lost my nerve, before I could think better of it, I said it. I said what I wanted.
His smile softened as his hand came up to cup my cheek, gently brushing his thumb across. I all too aware of how badly I was shaking, but it wasn’t from the cold. My skin was burning, but it wasn’t from the fire.
Slowly, he leaned down, and my eyes shut. Then, his hot breath fanned across my skin, and he pressed his lips against my cheek. They were as soft and as warm as I remembered from this morning, but they weren’t on mine.
As I blinked in confusion, Shawn started to pull away, and I could do nothing but stare. I was shaking on my feet, but I wasn’t getting what I wanted. “No.”
“No?” Shawn chuckled, wrapping his arms around my waist and started swaying us from side to side. “Isn’t that what friends do? Kiss each other on the cheek?”
Pressing my lips into a thin line, I grabbed hold of his jacket and pushed myself up on my toes, coming close enough to his face for his nose to touch mine. He continued to chuckle and sway, his eyes roaming my face, but each time resting on my mouth just a second too long. I knew he wanted the same as I did, so why wasn’t he giving in?
“I don’t want to be friends,” I whispered.
“Let’s make a deal.” Brushing his nose once more against mine, he swiftly kissed the side of my mouth before pulling away. Unable to support myself much longer without his help, I stumbled back a bit. His hands still held me steady, but the moment he would let go I was certain I would fall.
“W—What?” was all I could say in my confusion.
Shawn pulled me to him again as he went to sit underneath the tree right in the snow. A bit embarrassed, I went to sit between his long legs. I was still shaking all over, and slowly the realization of what I did replaced the excitement. Even with Shawn’s arms wrapped around my middle, I couldn’t stop myself from hating this careless side of me. A fucking idiot I was to let myself go like this.
“Seduce me.” Shawn’s voice had taken on a much deeper tone, raspier. It pushed all my thoughts away and my heart picked up speed once more. Fuck, what did I get myself into? “Seduce me to the point where I can’t resist you anymore.”
“I—I can’t do that,” I mumbled, wanting to pull my legs to my chest and hide my face, but his arms kept me from doing so. “I’m sorry, I went overboard, I shouldn’t—”
“Don’t you want to win from me, Darcey?” The way my name rolled off his tongue as a prayer, yet also a confession of sin, it kept me from saying another word. Another protest. “To win me?”
There was no denying I wanted to win from him in any way I could, but if this was the competition I wasn’t sure if I could, seeing as he already had me wrapped around his fingers. He could ask me anything in that voice, and I’d gladly give it to him.
“Then here are my terms,” he said, the suggestive tone nowhere to be found. As if it had never been there in the first place. “The one who kisses the other on the mouth first loses. And you’re at an advantage since I won’t be trying at all.”
Letting out a long breath, I tried my best to relax my muscles. “Didn’t seem like you weren’t trying.”
Brushing aside my hair, he whispered into my ear, “I was giving you a little . . . taste of what you could win.”
Rubbing my sweaty palms on my jeans, I turned my head to look at Shawn. “What if I lose?”
“Then I’ll have it all my way.” The innocence in his smile did nothing to hide the suggestion in his tone before. Swallowing, I could only wonder what any of it could mean.
But, I had to admit I had never felt this exhilarated about anything. So much was going through my head, so much was going through my body, and what made me accept I wasn’t entirely sure.
“Deal,” I whispered, kissing his cheek in turn. A grin spread across my face as I took in his expression. Perhaps it wasn’t as impossible.
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