I didn’t care about anything at the moment, though I should have. But the guy I wanted the most was here, on this rooftop, in some mysterious way, and he was kissing me, consciously, without the wildness we both felt when we first kissed.
He did it, which meant he wanted me. And then, without caring about anyone else in the room, I grabbed his shoulders, dug my nails into his jacket, and felt his hands cupping my face as he kept pressing his lips to mine. I wanted to cry of happiness, of frustration, of so many emotions. The tears spilled out of my dark eyes, and I knew I was a goner.
Body and soul – it all belonged to Gunner. And here he was, kissing me, making my mouth open under his and sliding his tongue home, like he really possessed me. Yet I was so lost. I needed answers.
He kissed me for another moment before he he pulled himself away and looked down at me. His greenish-blue eyes looked like the stormiest of seas, his tousled black hair was even more messy than ever, and a remaining of sweat lingered on his forehead. It’d struck me that he’d probably ran here.
It made another tear escape my eye, and he caught it with his finger, looking at me with blazing eyes that spoke of nothing and everything. His feelings were as whirlwinded as mine.
We looked at each other in wonder and so many other emotions I forgot we were on the rooftop with everybody around us – not to mention Chase. But then someone cleared his throat, and my eyes left Gunner’s.
That’s when I saw we were the center of attention. Everyone in the room were watching, shell-shocked, at Gunner and me. Taryn was green with jealousy, Jez astonished, Isobel and Marcus dumbfounded, and Chase... Chase had an inscrutable look on his face.
But his deep blue eyes... They said more than words. They were stoney, and I knew he was hurt. I’d hurt him, just after when he told me he felt things for me.
What kind of girl was I?
Self-hatred started booming in my mind, but I had no time thinking about it. I didn’t know what to do, what to say, and Gunner gave me no time. Ignoring Jez’s astonishment and everyone else’s surprise, he grabbed my hand and held as we ran out of the rooftop, down the stairs inside the penthouse, and straight into the elevator. Nobody tried to even stop us, but everyone had been watching.
Once alone in the elevator, my heart hammered in my chest, I sobbed. It was all too much, way too much for me to bear.
Gunner wrapped his arms around me, tucking me in his embrace. It was like he knew what I needed and said nothing, just caressed me again and again. The elevator stopped at the lobby eventually, and, still tucked to him, he led us out, to where his black SUV parked.
“Get in, Rae,” he said quietly. “We’ll talk in a few.”
I was afraid to let go of him, seeing as he was my anchor right now. But I forced myself to let go and sit on the passenger seat. He took his driver seat and then we were on the road.
At first there was tensed silence, but then he turned on the radio and some smoky serenade was played.
I was feeling more lost than I’d ever felt. So many questions, so many thoughts were trapped in my mind. What made Gunner come to a decision, if it was what I thought it was? What should I do about Chase? How could I fix things with Chase now that I kinda ran away with another guy who kissed me when he was about to? Would Jezebel be angry that I didn’t tell her about the Gunner Saga? Would she be jealous because of the sort-of crush she’d had on him? Would Taryn be even meaner to me? What did Isy think about me kissing the hottest guy around? What did the entire school think about what’d just happened? Would I be some oddball from now on? Was my fate to be an outsider again?
Another wave of tears threatened to come but I gulped hard. I cried enough in the last weeks. I didn’t need to weep again. It’d be embarrassing, with Gunner here and all... Yet he didn’t make me feel humiliated that I cried. In fact, he was all for embracing and keeping me safe.
God, I needed answers as soon as possible.
Gunner said nothing, his eyes on the road. His face seemed as nonchalant as ever, but his eyes were still kinda blazing. I could only hope it meant what I thought it meant.
After that endless trip he parked the SUV next to a crowded coffee shop – the one we were at before, when he told me about Willow. We got out and Gunner put an arm around my shoulders, like we were a couple already. I saw how every girl in the café looked at him and it would’ve annoyed me hadn’t I been so confused. The guys seemed annoyed that someone who could easily pass as the hottest superstar ever had caught their girls’ attention. But the girls were disappointed when they saw I was with him. Some of them regarded me with mockery, like I didn’t deserve someone who looked like Gunner – which was probably true, physically talking. Others looked ready to snap my neck for daring having Gunner all for myself.
I mentally laughed. If it was as simple as that, I wouldn’t have been so torn inside.
Gunner murmured something to the host of the café, who nodded and took us to the same warm, isolated table we were sitting at the last time we were here. It was a deja-vu, really, only now the situation was far different.
We sat next to each other on the sofa-seat, me next to the wall, and Gunner only inches away. I wasn’t ready to be the one to break the silence between us. I needed him to tell me everything on his own accord. Otherwise, this whatever-relationship-we-had wouldn’t go anywhere.
I jerked a little, but planted my eyes on the table. I wasn’t ready to look up. Not yet.
“Rae, please look at me.”
Without saying anything, I shook my head no. I heard him sigh, and then his hands were cupping my face and he moved me so I looked at him. The hit of his sea-green eyes made me want to whimper and look away, but he held my gaze, eyes steely against my own watery dark-brown ones. “There you are,” he said, the ghost of a smile flirting at his lips.
I said nothing, just looked at him with desperation I hoped was at least a little concealed.
“Rae...” He said, his thumbs tracing my cheeks. “Let me explain everything. I promise I’ll let you understand every single thing, so just listen to me, okay?”
Again, I kept my silence. A waitress came, looking practical and not as smitten with Gunner as every other girl. “Ready to order?” She asked in a tired voice.
“Black coffee and chocolate drink,” Gunner said without moving his eyes from mine.
The waitress wrote and went away, leaving us alone again. “Rae, will you listen?” He asked, searching my eyes.
Even acting like a total retard, I knew the answer to that question. “Yes,” I said, my voice cracked with misuse.
He then took a deep breath, and steeled himself. “The first time I was in love,” he said, voice a little rough, “as you already know, I got hurt. I was young and wild and quiet stupid. I’d let a woman mess with me, and after the Willow Saga was over, I promised myself I would never let it happen again.”
He seemed like he wanted to look away, but kept his gaze straight. “Since Willow, I had only flings. I saw Rose was an available woman who wanted to jump my bones, so I had sex with her. I met Emmeline Summers, your history teacher, a few months ago in some pub and had a fling with her, too. They’re only two out of dozens I slept with.”
Gunner didn’t seem thrilled about sharing those details. “I’m not proud of who I was... Who I am. Danger used to call me a ‘man-whore’ until I threatened him with bodily harm to stop. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t right. I was a man-whore.” A grim look settled on his face. “I don’t say it was only my fault, though. Women are attracted to me on a regular basis. I only had to pick the ones whom I liked the most. They just threw themselves at my feet willingly.”
Another deep breath. “When you... When I found you there, at the Moores house, it was the first time I was so furious with a girl that I couldn’t see straight. Knocking you out was no hardship for me, and caring you to the mansion was hell. Especially when you looked like an innocent doll who was sleeping in my arms. I wanted you to be a monster who endangered my family, but instead you were an innocent.
“You didn’t make me feel anything special for you other than that momentary hatred. When I saw you the second time, standing in the balcony, I was struck again by how innocent you looked. I knew you didn’t mean to witness what you did, and so my hatred for you slipped away and was replaced by pity. Then you were looking at me with open admiration, and I thought you were just like all those other meaningless girls. But then you got angry, and accused me of murder, and I saw your internal conflict. You were attracted to me, yet you didn’t want to be, because in your eyes I was a killer.
“I saw how those feelings of yours turned into some sort of crush on me as the time passed. After I explained the Moores situation to you, it was like a switch. Suddenly, you couldn’t see me as a cold-hearted killer anymore. You were attracted to me, and I saw it.
“I won’t say I was attracted to you from the beginning because I wasn’t. But when I got to know you anymore, I realized how like Willow you were. You resembled her so much, yet the both of you were so different. You had a strength to you Willow could’ve only dreamed about. You had a spine of steel. You weren’t afraid of calling me out on my bullshit. You weren’t afraid of calling me an asshole when I deserved it, and most of all, you didn’t submit to me like the other girls... Like Willow. You stood on your own, and when your emotional life was in danger of getting hurt, you made sure to take care of it. I watched in wonder as you did all that, and gradually, without my noticing, my attraction to you grew.
“Then, after what happened in the valley... I realized you had the power to bring me to my knees. I suspected it even before, whenever you made me talk to you about personal matters. Those things about my life I told you? I never told those to anyone. Not even to Willow. The closeness I started to feel to you made me realize you were so dangerous. You had the power to make me fall in love again, even harder than I’ve ever fell for Willow.
“So I put a distance between us. I needed to avoid you so I wouldn’t fall for you accidentally, so I would feel like I could rely on you. But it all went to hell when you told me you would avoid me first – and actually did just that. The first girl to ever avoid me, and the only girl I wanted to keep on chasing me. Up until your avoidance, I didn’t realize how your gazes, how your attention to me made me feel. When it was all gone... I realized I missed it.”
My heart beat so fast I was sure he could hear. His eyes were blazing again, and although his tone was a little harsh, a little rough, but the words... The words were altering my world.
“Jez told me about how you and the Montgomery boy were getting closer,” he continued, his voice turning frosty a bit. “And then I overheard her telling Ryder about the fact that Montgomery asked you to the New Year’s Eve party. I didn’t like that thought at all, and I realized I wanted you all to myself. And earlier tonight, Danger was frustrated with Jez and the fact that she’s unsure about him and all. It made me think that you probably felt the same way, and I knew I had to make the decision you pushed me to make. So I did, and I snatched you away.”
He landed his forehead on mine, his eyes boring into my own. “I’m not a man of words, Rae,” he said, “after this speech, you would probably never hear me talk about any of this. It’s a one-off, so I hope you listened well. And now I’m going to give you a dilemma.”
My heart like a drumbeat, my eyes filled with emotional tears, I whispered, “Dilemma?”
He crooked a small, smile that made my insides go all mushy. “I poured my heart to you tonight. If you figured it out and even if you didn’t, I want you. I’m not going to play any shit games with you and your feelings anymore, but I’m not going to promise I’ll be the opened man you want me to be. I’m still me, and old habits take time to change. But if you’re really dead-set on me, then take the gamble that I may not be what you need, or may not be as affectionate as you’d like.
I gulped, but said nothing. My stunned state didn’t let me to speak anyway.
“But if you don’t think you can handle me, Rae,” he said, an odd look on his face, “then walk away now. If you aren’t willing to risk you heart again, I suggest you let go.”
Tears streamed down my face again at his statement. But I knew what I wanted. I knew. The only question was... “If I said I don’t want you,” I whispered, “would you really let me go?”
There that was. The grin I waited for ages to see again. A slightly wild grin that made him look ten times hotter. “I would probably try to convince you with everything in me,” he said with a joking undertone I couldn’t help but like, but then he got serious again. “But if really wanted out, I’d give you that. I won’t force anyone to stay with me.”
That was the response I needed to hear. Without thinking twice, I cupped his face with my hands and put my lips on his. The electricity sparked to life again, and I felt him tense. I deepened the kiss and he opened his, giving me an access inside. My tongue tangled with his, and it aroused both of us. He wrapped his arms around my waist and I grabbed his broad shoulders and felt as he took control over the kiss. Not that I cared. Not as long as we were kissing.
And then we both stopped, and just looked at each other. “Yes,” I murmured to the question in his eyes. And it was all he needed to hear, as a sexy smirk spread on his face.
Our waitress returned with our drinks and we both took the cups and drank, not looking away from each other even for a second. Sparks flew in the air between us, and for the first time, I felt the chemistry I longed for so long. The attraction was now both-ways, and so the chemistry was created. I felt happiness bubbling in my heart, yet still worry and guilt over what I’d done to Chase.
“I’ll have to apologize,” I murmured.
Gunner took my hand and said nothing, knowing that it wouldn’t help improve my feelings.
We drank in complete silence, and for the first time, it was comfortable. Just looking at each other, just drinking... It was all more relaxing than I could’ve thought.
Moving by instinct, I lay my head on his chest and felt what I wanted to feel so long; his arms wrapping around me and holding me close, keeping me safe and sound. I would’ve cried of happiness hadn’t I been holding my tears in. I didn’t want to seem weak again.
I could see other couples at the the café and couldn’t help but wonder what kinds of couple we were going to be. Would it be like that cute couple that kept kissing and feeding each other and being so sweet it made my teeth ache? I didn’t think so. Maybe like this emo couple that seemed to be brooding even as they gazed into each other’s eyes? Nah.
Gunner and I would probably be the strangest couple of all. If we stayed together for so long to find out.
Okay, now I was being pessimistic. Why wouldn’t we stay together? Our chemistry is out of the charts, he practically told me he had feelings for me just like I had for him, and we were really good together – maybe not physically but mentally, kindred-souls-way.
And for now, I should think that way. When obstacles came – and they would come, I was sure about that – then we’d find out how to pass them.
But for now... Now let us be safely together, with nothing else to worry about.