He was out of his element.
Ethan had played to sold out crowds of thousands at some of the world’s most iconic venues and performed at award shows in front of his idols and even repelled down the side of a building to promote an album, but as he watched his daughter get ready for her date, he had never felt more helpless in his life.
Under normal circumstances, he wouldn’t have cared so much. Sure, Kira would always be his baby girl and he would always do whatever he could to protect her, but he also knew that she was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. Physically weak as she may be, she could demolish the male psyche with just her words and Ethan had the pleasure of watching her do so on multiple occasions when she received catcalls or unwanted advances in public.
But he didn’t consider her dating Jamie Brewer to be a normal circumstance.
It wasn’t as though Ethan saw Jamie as particularly dangerous boyfriend – if anything, Kira was most likely the one who was the bad influence in the relationship – but he didn’t really understand how it worked. When they were children and practically attached at the hip, he and Jack would often joke about their kids growing up and getting married, but after they’d turned into such different teenagers, all facetious comments made about a possible romantic relationship had ceased entirely.
Until about two months ago, that is, when Kira and Jamie apparently started getting more friendly. It started with study sessions after school, which made Ethan suspicious because Kira had never before shown any interest in improving her academics with the Brewer boy. Soon enough, studying together turned into hanging out without any books involved and now it seemed the two oldest of the Vertical Limit children were…well, Ethan wasn’t exactly sure what they were doing, but it seemed a lot like they were dating.
“So…,” Ethan called out from where he was perched on the edge of Kira’s bed, watching her put the finishing touches on her makeup. “Big night tonight?”
Kira shrugged as she rubbed her blood red lips together to smooth out the lipstick she’d just applied before responding. “Not really. I think we’re just going to dinner.”
“Oh,” he blinked, noting the fact that she was wearing the mint green sundress Jessamine had made for her over a year ago, which had only been worn twice. “I just figured…since you’re all dressed up.”
She didn’t reply, but he could swear her cheeks looked about three shades darker.
In general, she enjoyed dressing up, especially putting on makeup because it was like painting a canvas and she got to recreate herself each time. But school wasn’t really worth the extra effort, and nothing could really make those uniforms look any better, so she saved her best tricks for special occasions. Such as when she was going to get some one on one time with Jamie.
She knew he didn’t really care either way, because whether she was wearing sweats or dressed to the nines, he always looked at her as though she’d somehow sucked all of the oxygen from the room. Still, she liked to try a little harder for him because the way his eyes widened and his cheeks flushed adorably was always worth it.
Ethan could tell his daughter was more into Jamie than she’d been into any of the previous guys she’d hung out with– he’d sat through enough awkward family dinners with them to know – so he put a lot of planning into how he phrased his next question.
“Kiki, are you and Jamie…”
“We’re not having sex.”
His eyes widened with horror at how casually she spat that out and the fact that she was still checking her mascara in the bathroom mirror as though she hadn’t just brought all sorts of mortifying thoughts to his mind. “That’s not what I was going to say!”
Ethan and Kira had never discussed her sex life, mostly because Ethan enjoyed being blissfully ignorant and pretending his daughter didn’t have one. But he supposed it was good that she was fine with openly admitting that she wasn’t sleeping with Jack’s son.
In all honesty, Kira didn’t mean for those words to escape her lips, she was just pretending to be nonchalant once they had because she didn’t want to reveal that the reason she’d said it in the first place was because the topic had been on her mind quite a lot. Mostly because it was something she wanted to change.
The fact that she knew Jamie so well meant she was aware of his fling the previous summer with Jenny Jacobsen and the fact that he was no longer a virgin. And seeing as she wasn’t inexperienced in that respect either meant that she didn’t really have any nerves about taking their relationship to that level. She just wasn’t sure how to bring it up. Knowing her, she’d end up blurting it out during dinner later that night.
“What were you going to say?” she said quickly, hoping the whole sex issue would just disappear if she changed the subject.
Ethan was still a tad shell shocked that it had been brought up in the first place, but he figured her admitting that they weren’t sleeping together was better than the alternative, so he continued. “I was going to say, are you and Jamie boyfriend and girlfriend?”
She supposed it was a fair question. It wasn’t one she and Jamie had actually discussed, though. Technically speaking, she hadn’t locked lips with anyone else since the night she kissed him on the beach and she was pretty sure that he hadn’t either, so perhaps that made them exclusive.
Shrugging, she turned away from the mirror and stepped into the bedroom, her bare toes squishing into the carpet. “I don’t know. We haven’t talked about it.”
Nodding, Ethan wet his lips and chewed on his bottom one thoughtfully before responding. “Do you want to be?”
She wouldn’t mind, really. Labels didn’t matter to her either way as long as they were both on the same page, but if Jamie wanted to call her his girlfriend, she’d wholeheartedly agree. Shrugging again, she stepped towards the closet to dig out her black boots. “It would be cool.”
Ethan couldn’t tell if she was actually that easy going or she was hiding the fact that she was aching to be Jamie’s girlfriend, but he decided not to push the issue when he heard the doorbell ring. The corners of his lips lifted slightly as he nodded towards her open bedroom door. “Is that him?”
“Probably,” she nodded, her heart rate picking up just slightly as she held her boots in one hand and checked the time on her phone on the dresser with the other. He was early, but she wasn’t surprised. “Can you get that? I’ll be down in a second.”
Pushing himself to his feet silently, Ethan shuffled towards the door and down the stairs, only to see that Lucy, who had been in the lounge room sorting through the latest pictures she’d had developed, had gotten to the door first. She pulled it open to reveal Jamie, dressed in dark wash jeans, a light blue button up, and a gray blazer, his just too big white Converse looking sparkling from having been recently bleached.
“Hey, Luce,” he shot the younger Saxton daughter a friendly smile as he stepped through the door she had just opened. “How are you?”
“Great!” she grinned, her sunshine level at its highest point as she quickly wrapped one arm around his middle for a hug before shutting the front door. “You look really nice.”
“Thanks,” Jamie blushed lightly, running a hand through his perfectly tousled hair before turning his attention to Ethan. “Hey, Uncle Ethan.”
Never before had Jamie felt so uncomfortable in Ethan’s presence; Ethan had a special talent for making everyone around him feel completely at home. Although Jamie loved all his uncles, Ethan had always been his favorite, mostly due to the fact that the guitarist found Jamie’s childhood antics hysterical and would never yell at the Brewer boy if he caught him doing something his parents wouldn’t approve of, instead dropping him a wink and telling him not to get caught next time. Jamie doubted that laid back attitude was still applicable now that he was putting the moves on Ethan’s daughter.
Ethan, on the other hand, was too curious as to the status of their relationship to care about whether or not Jack’s son planned on getting Kira acquainted with the backseat of his car. Kira wasn’t being secretive, per se, but she did seem unsure and if there was one thing Ethan knew about Jamie Brewer it was that he always knew exactly where he stood. So, chances were that he’d already figured everything out and might be willing to tell his favorite uncle exactly what he was to Kira.
“Hey, man,” Ethan stretched his lips into a friendly grin, wrapping his arms around Jamie to give him a quick hug. “Good to see you.”
“Same here,” Jamie replied, feeling his anxiety levels lower at Ethan’s relaxed mood.
“I’m always glad to see my daughter’s boyfriend.” Ethan threw the word out there because he figured he could judge its applicability by Jamie’s reaction and was not disappointed when Lucy ended up giggling and Jamie flushed a deep red and gaped as though he had no idea what to say.
The truth was that Jamie would have no problem being Kira’s boyfriend. But seeing as it wasn’t something they’d actually talked about, he didn’t want to make any assumptions. Just because he was growing crazier for her by the day didn’t mean his feelings were reciprocated. For all he knew, she thought that whatever was going on between them was completely casual.
Thankfully, he was saved from having to respond at all when he heard someone cough and looked up to see Kira descending the stairs, looking breathtaking as usual. He quite literally held his breath as she stepped off the bottom stair, wiggling her fingers at him as she came to a stop just beside him and shot him one of those smiles that made it seem like time had frozen.
“Well,” Kira laughed, turning her attention to her father. “Are you done making Jamie feel uncomfortable? Can we go?”
Ethan smirked and nodded, leaning forward to kiss her on the cheek. “Have fun, honey. Don’t stay out too late.”
“We won’t,” Jamie promised, reaching for the door handle and letting out an inaudible sigh of relief that he no longer had to be in that situation. Pulling the door open, he waved goodbye to the two remaining Saxtons as Kira quickly hugged Lucy and stepped into fading daylight. “Bye Uncle Ethan. See ya, Lucy.”
His nerves remained high even as they walked towards the car because he could feel Ethan’s stare on his back and it wasn’t until after he’d opened the passenger door of his Accord for Kira and slipped into the driver’s side and they had pulled out of the neighborhood that he finally allowed himself to breathe normally.
“Are you alright?” Kira asked, furrowing her brow in concern. He’d seemed a little freaked out when she’d come down the stairs and she wasn’t sure why.
“Yeah…,” he answered slowly, keeping his gaze focused on the road. “Did you, um, did you hear what your dad said right before you came down?”
“No.” Her eyes widened as her mind raced with the horrible possibilities. “Was it really awkward and inappropriate?”
“No!” he laughed, feeling his entire body relax. Now he could bring up the subject of that conversation at a later time, on his own terms. “Nothing like that. He was just being fatherly, I guess.”
She had no clue what that meant and she could tell there was something Jamie wasn’t saying, but she decided not to push the issue because there were much more important things on her mind. Like the fact that he looked utterly delicious. “So, everything’s good between us right?”
“Of course,” he grinned, glancing to the side, a little worried that she was asking that question in the first place.
“Then is there a reason you haven’t kissed me yet?”
His eyebrows raised in delight and his smile widened and when they came to a stop at the next red light, he leaned over and pressed a sweet kiss to her lips, his expression softening as he pulled away. “Hi.”
“Hey,” she giggled, instantly feeling a buzz flow through her veins. Being around Jamie had a tendency to make her feel as though she was high on life. “So where exactly are you taking me?”
She knew Jamie probably had their date planned out about an hour after they’d agreed to it in their text message conversation four nights ago.
“You’ve heard of Aquatica?” he asked, turning his attention back to the road as the light turned green, but glancing towards her every so often.
“That new seafood place right on the boardwalk?” she asked, recalling the name being said in conversation by some of her classmates.
“Yeah,” he nodded, his fingers loosening around the steering wheel. “Well, I haven’t been and a few of my friends said it was pretty good, so I thought we could check it out.”
“I’m down,” she shrugged, and he wasn’t at all surprised because Kira was generally easy to please.
They pulled into the restaurant parking lot just as the last rays of sun disappeared from the horizon, allowing the moon to cast a beautiful silver glow over the ocean. He’d especially requested a table out on the patio so they could look at the ocean because he knew how much Kira loved being outdoors. To her, breathing in fresh air was like breathing in happiness.
He walked around the car as she climbed out, smoothing out the skirt of her dress and hiking up the strap of her black leather side bag on her shoulder as she shut the door. He reached down to grab her hand as they began to walk towards the front door of the restaurant, swinging it lightly as he shot her a wide smile, his cheeks flushing slightly as he spoke. “Did I already tell you that you look beautiful? Cause you look beautiful.”
She knew he probably would have said the same thing if she’d been wearing her pajamas, but she appreciated the compliment nonetheless. “Thanks. So do you.”
Laughing, he lifted his arm and moved it in a circular motion so that she could twirl beneath it, grinning as he laced their fingers together and tugged her towards the restaurant entrance. He dropped their connected hands only to place his palm flat against the small of her back as they followed the hostess to their outdoor table and smiled gratefully as they took their seats.
“This view is amazing,” she sighed, holding the leather bound menu between her hands as she stared out at the moonlit ocean. She’d meant it when she’d told Jamie that she liked to come to the beach when she was feeling overwhelmed by life. It was calming and somehow the breeze and the smell of the ocean water and the feel of the sand between her toes always helped her find herself again. “This restaurant isn’t super expensive or anything, is it?”
She was a tad bit wary as she noted the high end place settings and the well-dressed clientele. The last thing she wanted was for him to get the impression that she expected nice things because truthfully, she was content to just hang out with him and do nothing. He had a special talent for making her laugh and she liked that he never judged her for her decisions. Despite the fact that they were so different and he might not approve of how she spent her time, he never once made her feel as though she was anything less than incredible.
“It’s all good,” he assured her, fully confident because he had extra cash to burn from mowing his neighbor’s lawn. He’d offered to do it for free, but she’d insisted on paying him, so he figured he’d use the extra money to take Kira somewhere nice.
She wasn’t fully convinced, but she didn’t have time to voice her opinion, because their waiter appeared at their table, notepad and pen in hand. He looked familiar and she was about to say just that, but Jamie spoke first, his smile widening and his eyes lighting with recognition.
“Hey, man,” Jamie grinned, sticking out a hand for a handshake, which the waiter obliged to. “I didn’t know you worked here.”
“Yeah,” the boy replied, his gaze shifted between Jamie and Kira. She could tell he was wondering the question that seemed to be on everyone’s mind recently – whether or not Jamie and Kira were dating. “Just started a few weeks ago. You two just hanging out?”
Jamie nodded, one hand drifting beneath the table to squeeze Kira’s thigh as he shot her an adoring smile. “Kira, you know Tucker Braxton, right? From school.”
Her smile widened with recognition and she nodded as she raised a hand in a wave. They went to a small school, which meant even if she’d never spoken to Tucker before, she had at the very least, seen him around. “We’re in the same math class, right?”
“I think so,” he kept his grin wide. “I don’t see you that much, so I’m not sure.”
She couldn’t tell if that was meant to be a joke or if he was actually disgusted by how up until recently, when she started keeping her promise to her parents, she had been skipping math on the days when she wasn’t skipping history. Lips parting, she meant to retort, but Jamie fingers massaged her thigh from above the cotton of her dress and she relaxed back against her chair, deciding against starting a fight.
“We’re all busy,” Jamie shrugged, attempting to clear the clouds of tension.
“Yeah,” Tucker nodded in agreement, turning his attention back to Jamie. “Speaking of which, did you get all those applications in?”
Kira’s brow furrowed in confusion as she had no idea what they were talking about, but Jamie and Tucker seemed to be on the same page, as Jamie nodded and replied. “Yeah, it took a full day of focus, but I got it done.”
“Always the overachiever,” Tucker laughed. “I’m still working on mine.” There was a pause where Jamie simply nodded and Tucker realized he needed to go back to doing his job. “Well, can I get you guys anything to drink?”
“I’m good with water,” Kira replied. She didn’t mind a bottle of beer every now and then, but being around Jamie gave her enough of a buzz without adding alcohol to the mix.
“Same here,” Jamie said. “Thanks, man.”
With a nod, Tucker left the table and Jamie shot Kira a closed lipped smile as he lifted his hand from her leg so he could open the menu and begin to peruse the entrée options.
“What applications was he talking about?” she asked, genuinely curious, eyes glancing back and forth between the seafood list and her date.
“For college,” Jamie replied casually. “And scholarships and stuff. I know they don’t have to be in for a little while, but I just like getting them done early.”
“Right,” she gulped, her gaze now fully glued to her menu, rereading the words crab and oyster over and over.
“Have you done yours, yet?” They hadn’t discussed what they would be doing after graduation, mostly because it had never come up, but Jamie was curious, because he kind of hoped he was included somewhere in Kira’s future plans.
Shaking her head, her voice came out just barely above a whisper. “No.”
He shrugged, his eyes turning back to the words on the menu. “You still have plenty of time.”
She wanted to tell him that the reason she hadn’t done them yet wasn’t due to procrastination, but she thought perhaps now wasn’t the best time, so she let that topic of conversation pass and was extra nice to Tucker when he returned to take their orders.
Once they were left to their own devices, things returned to their normal feeling of comfort. Jamie told her how proud he was of Caroline because she was working so hard to make the first team in soccer and how much the people in student government drove him crazy, but he always felt like he was doing something good. She told him about her craziest dreams and how sometimes she wished they’d come true and about Lucy’s latest obsession with photographing wildlife. They laughed as they cracked their crab legs and the juices shot outwards and they shared secret smiles, both of them thinking that they could definitely get used to nights like this.
After sharing a molten lava cake with vanilla ice cream and doing a dance over who would pay because Kira was still antsy about the price and figured the least she could do was offer to split – Jamie was the one who won that battle – they decided to take a walk along the practically deserted beach.
Kira stepped out of her boots and socks, leaving them behind a large rock for safe keeping and watching Jamie do the same, even shrugging off his blazer and leaving it neatly folded atop his shoes before he crouched down to roll up the ends of his jeans and they began their stroll.
Taking great care to get as much sand between her toes as possible, Kira breathed in the salty sea air, relishing the way the soft breeze lifted the hem of her skirt and played with the ends of her hair. “I think I could live here.”
“On the beach?” Jamie asked, his steps lighter to keep his feet from getting as dirty.
“Yeah,” she smiled softly, the fingers of her right hand playing with the frayed ends of the friendship bracelets tied around her left wrist. Lucy had made them for her at camp the previous summer and although all of them worn and on the verge of falling off, Kira treasured them dearly, just as she did anything that remotely involved her sister. Eyes wide and bright, she turned her head to look at him directly. “You know, how people set up tents and sit around bonfires where they cook fish they caught from the ocean and strum on guitars? Haven’t you ever wanted to do that?”
If he was being honest, he’d never really been a huge fan of outdoor living. He didn’t even really like camping. The lack of privacy involved in bathing in rivers and the ocean wasn’t extremely appealing. But the way her eyes filled with passion was utterly beautiful, so he made sure his reply was neutral. “I’ve never really thought about it.”
“I think it would be cool,” she shrugged, dropping her hands to her sides. He took advantage of the movement and reached down to lace their fingers together lightly because he enjoyed all forms of physical contact. Her smiled widened at the gesture, impressed by his boldness. “What about you? What do you want to do in the future? Besides, college of course.”
“No idea,” he lied.
Of course, she could tell that was complete bullshit. Laughing, she swung their connected hands lightly. “Says the boy who filled out all his applications way in advance.”
The reminder of the earlier conversation with Tucker caused Jamie to remember something else he’d wanted to discuss with Kira.
“Hey,” he said softly, squeezing her hand and pulling her to a stop, her feet sinking into the sand. “I’m sorry about what Tucker said.”
It wasn’t in Jamie’s nature to be violent or reckless, but it took everything in him not to punch Tucker for being condescending towards Kira. In the end, the rational side of his brain had won out and he decided it best to not make a scene. Still, even as he’d watched her return to her carefree self once the waiter was gone, the fact that the situation had occurred at all was stuck in the back of his mind.
“It’s alright,” she assured him quietly. She wasn’t so much hurt by the encounter as she was irritated.
“You sure?” Jamie wrinkled his nose in concern, his thumb rubbing lightly over the side of her wrist. “I know he can be kind of a dick.”
Dick was a soft word. The truth was that Jamie couldn’t stand Tucker Braxton and his obnoxious, pretentious attitude, but he put up with him because they were both in student government and the Brewer boy didn’t need things to be tense when their committees fought as much as they did already.
Kira laughed, brightly to send a buzz through his veins. “No, it’s fine. I don’t give a shit if that asshole doesn’t think I’m good enough for you.”
Jamie blinked rapidly, completely befuddled as he tried to remember where that had even come up in the conversation. “What?”
She shot him a pointed look, her jaw tightening. “Really?”
“I genuinely have no clue what you’re talking about,” he replied sincerely.
“Please,” she said, her voice sounding almost bitter as she dropped his hand to reach up and brush her long bangs from her eyes. “Don’t act like your friends don’t wonder why you’re wasting your time with me.”
She honestly didn’t care, but that didn’t mean she didn’t hear the whispers in the hallway. She and Jamie were so completely opposite that it was bound to turn some heads when they started spending more time with each other, even if everybody knew their fathers were in a band together.
He always sat in the front row in class because it was where he felt he learned the most and she preferred the view out the window at the back. She never quite understood why he wanted to spend more time than necessary at school and he often felt as if he wasn’t giving enough.
So, people talked. Because he always waited for her in the hallway, offering to carry her books while he walked her to her next class, their arms and elbows and fingers brushing, leaving them both with irrepressible grins. And every night, he would send her a text message, saying he hoped she had sweet dreams and she would fall asleep thinking that she hoped her dreams were all about him, because then there was no doubt that they would be incredible.
“Is that what you think?” he asked, shoving his fingers into his jean pockets and leaning forward on the balls of his feet. “That I’m wasting my time?”
He didn’t want her to think that he thought of her as anything less than absolutely extraordinary.
“You know that’s not what I meant,” she sighed, turning her head to stare out at the ocean, watching the way the soft waves rippled in the moonlight.
She wondered if perhaps the reason they had yet to officially define their relationship was because saying it out loud made it real and making it real meant it would hurt more when it ended.
And it would end. It was inevitable.
Soon enough, they would leave high school and Jamie would be off at college, conquering the student government there and running the place in no time and she would be…well, she wasn’t sure and that was exactly the problem.
He could tell there was something on her mind, but Kira never let her emotions simmer for long, so he knew it was only a matter of time before she spoke again. Sure enough, after a few more moments, she licked her lips and turned her gaze back to him, her blue eyes looking almost sad. “You want to know the real reason why I haven’t done my applications yet? It’s because I’m not sure if college is even something I want.”
This wasn’t particularly surprising information. School made Kira restless as it was so he couldn’t imagine her continuing it when it was no longer required. Her spirit wasn’t meant to be contained by a classroom.
He didn’t say anything, though. He could tell she wasn’t expecting a response; she just wanted to get some things off her chest. Kira could think what she wanted about them being too different, but Jamie understood her; he had always understood.
“Even when we were kids,” she said, the conviction in her voice increasing with each word as she twisted the silver ring she always wore on her middle finger, “you always knew exactly what you wanted. I always admired that about you; your ambition and your drive. You have no idea how lucky you are that you have it all figured out because sometimes I just feel so lost. Like everyone knows where their lives are headed and what they want to accomplish and I just don’t even know where to start. Like everyone is sprinting for the finish line and I’m still waiting for the gun to go off.”
It was concern that often kept her awake at night. She’d count the rotations of her ceiling fan and hope that inspiration would strike; that she’d somehow become imbued with a sense of how she was meant to spend her life.
“Do you really think I have it all figured out?” he asked quietly, once he was sure she’d said everything she wanted to say. “Because, I can promise you, that’s not true.”
She quirked one eyebrow upwards, a small smirk playing at the corners of her lips. “Really? Because I’m pretty sure that planner that you carry around says otherwise.”
She’d always see him writing and making notes in it, so one day, when he’d left her alone in his backyard to get them drinks from the kitchen, she’d taken a peek, astounded to find that he had nearly the next year of his life written into the calendar.
“Alright,” he laughed lightly, pulling one hand from his pocket so he could run his fingers through his windblown hair. “So I like to plan ahead. But we’re teenagers, Kira. Nobody has their life figured out when they’re eighteen. Ask your dad. When he was our age, he was touring the world in a band with his three best friends and I bet he’d tell you that half the time, he still had no idea what he was doing. I know my dad didn’t.”
Jamie, too, had his moments of doubt and when he found himself questioning his choices, his father would assure him that even internationally famous rockstars found themselves in times of self-crisis.
She supposed he was right and she breathed in deeply, allowing the salty air to calm her nerves. Her parents had been nothing but supportive of the fact that she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. They knew she was brilliant enough to excel at whatever she set her mind too, so they offered up all sorts of suggestions to help her narrow the field, such as studying abroad or getting a job after graduation. Perhaps just putting herself out there and exploring all the options was the best first step.
“Besides,” he shrugged, taking a step towards her. “Things change all the time. So just because you make plans doesn’t mean they’re always going to hold up and sometimes things happen that make you reevaluate everything. Like six months ago, I didn’t know I was going to end up at least halfway in love with you.”
He hadn’t meant to say the last part; it was more just something he was thinking, but apparently around Kira, his brain to mouth filter was nonexistent.
Her eyes widened in shock and she gulped. “What?”
“Umm, I’m sorry,” he stuttered, mentally slapping himself. “I freaked you out, didn’t I?”
“A little,” she admitted, laughing nervously. “Just give me a minute, ok?”
She squished her toes deeper into the sand, her mind racing as she stared at him and tried to make sense of what the hell had just happened. Kira had always cared about Jamie, she’d practically known him since he was born, after all, so perhaps it was just a matter of time before that connection deepened into something more.
But she knew nothing about love. She knew he hadn’t officially said the words, but even the fact that he was somewhat on his way to thinking it scared her because she wasn’t really sure how she felt. She cared about him deeply, that much was certain, but was that love? She’d never experienced it before, so how could she possibly know.
“Kira?” he broke the silence, rocking back and forth on his heels nervously. “Can you say something?”
He wasn’t ready to say the words to her yet, but knew it was only a matter of time until he fell completely. Hopefully he hadn’t scared her away before he even got that chance.
Standing up a little straighter, she stepped towards him until their toes were touching in the sand, flattening her palms against his chest and tilting her chin upwards to look him in the eye. “Do you really feel that way about me?”
She knew he would be straight with her because Jamie was always honest, but she held her breath anyways, only letting it out to allow her lips to stretch into a soft smile when he nodded slowly and his hands came to rest at her waist. Lifting herself to the balls of her feet, she leaned in to kiss him soundly on the lips, smiling when she felt him return the pressure.
His fingers squeezed into her hips as she pulled away, the corners of his lips upturned into a pleasantly surprised smile. “Wow.”
She laughed softly, bending her fingers to scratch against the panels of his button up, her expression slowly becoming more serious because she did have something else to admit, she just wanted to kiss him to let him know that his words were not unappreciated. “I don’t know if I’m there yet…but I think if you give me some time, that one day, I will be.”
“Fair enough,” he nodded, letting out a small sigh of relief because, really, that declaration could have led to a much worse ending, such as her never wanting to see him again.
“So, we’re ok?” she asked, glad that everything was out in the open.
“Yeah,” he smiled softly, leaning in to kiss her again, mumbling against her lips. “We’re fantastic.”
They intertwined their fingers again, swinging their arms lightly as they walked back towards their belongings once Jamie remembered that he needed to be up early in the morning to drive Caroline to a soccer game. Kira promised to come for moral support, and even convinced herself that she’d be able to drag her father out of bed in the early hours as well.
They kissed quite a lot on the way home. He kissed her before he opened the car door, not even caring that her bare feet meant sand was getting all over his car and he kissed her at every red light and every stop sign because he couldn’t get enough of the way her lips felt pressed against his.
When he pulled his car to a stop in front of her house, he leaned in to kiss her again, but was stopped when she pressed a finger to his lips and lifted one side of her mouth into a small smile. “Do you have plans next Friday?”
He was pretty sure he didn’t, but even if he did, he’d probably cancel them because the look in her eyes was making his heart rate spike. “No.”
“Good,” her smile widened, her finger tracing lightly over his bottom lip. “Cause my parents have plans and Lucy is sleeping over at a friend’s house, so you should come over, because I think we can have some fun.”
He didn’t need to ask to know what she was implying and he made a mental note to stop by the drug store and buy some condoms before he returned her smirk and leaned in to give her one last kiss. “Sounds great.”
She smiled against his mouth, tugging her fingers through his hair and sucking on his top lip as she pulled away. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, gorgeous,” he whispered as she pushed open the door, gathering her boots and purse before stepping out of the car.
She waved to him as she watched his Honda pull away from the curb and she couldn’t stop smiling as she walked inside, immediately making her way to the lounge room where her father was stretched out on the couch, strumming on an acoustic guitar, her mother already fast asleep.
“You’re back early,” Ethan raised his eyebrows in surprise, sitting up straight and holding the guitar to his chest. It was still before midnight, which he knew was Jamie’s curfew, so he was surprised that his daughter wouldn’t have made the most of every minute. “Did you have a good night?”
“Great!” she grinned, clutching her boots to her chest, her purse hanging off her shoulder.
When Kira and Jamie first started doing…whatever they were doing, Ethan had decided that it was best not to ask details of what they did because he didn’t want to be seriously weirded out. So he teased her instead. “And how’s your boyfriend?”
He expected her to roll her eyes or get flustered, but instead, she just shrugged, looking completely calm. “He’s good.”
If anything, tonight had solidified that she and Jamie were exclusive, so she no longer felt uncertain as to whether or not they were boyfriend and girlfriend. It might take some getting used to, but at least now she knew where they stood.
Ethan’s eyebrows shot up even further and he wasn’t quite sure how to respond, so he stretched his lips into what he hoped was a convincing smile. “That’s great, honey. I’m glad.”
“Yep,” she nodded, stepping forward to give him a goodnight kiss on the cheek. “Well, I’m gonna crash. Night, Dad.”
Before he could say anything else, she had disappeared, leaving him on the couch wondering what the hell was going on.
Not wanting to wake Lucy, she was as quiet as possible as she stripped out of her clothes and washed off her feet. After she’d changed into her pajamas, brushed her teeth, and washed her face, she checked her phone to see if Jamie had sent his usual goodnight text and wasn’t disappointed when the words ‘sweet dreams, beautiful’ appeared on her screen.
As she lay in bed, no longer bothering to count the rotations of her ceiling fan, she came to the realization that she was incredibly lucky to have the people she had in her life. And perhaps the future was scary and she still had no idea what she wanted to do, but she had her family and she had Jamie and with them by her side, she could face anything.