Charlie Ever After

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23| Charlie

I climb the stairs and it doesn't take me long to locate Jillian's room. There is a large pink J nailed to the door. I knock lightly before slowly opening the door just a crack and peeking my head in.

"Knock, knock. Do you mind if I come in?" I ask and look around her room. It looks like a ballerina threw up in here. There's so much pink and frill that it's almost a little disorienting. Jillian is sitting in a pile of pillows in the corner of her bedroom, her arms crossed over her chest and a wicked scowl across her face.

She rolls her eyes. "I guess." She grumbles and with her unwanted welcome, I step inside her bedroom and get a better look.

"Your room is really pretty." I say, casting a smile her way.

"Thanks." She says and her tone still leaks disgust but as I pick up one of her barbies and make it dance around her dresser I can see the corner of her lips kick up just slightly.

"Do you want to be a ballerina when you grow up?" I question, turning to her before making my way over to where she's sitting, plopping down in a bean bag chair across from her.

She studies me for a moment which makes me slightly nervous. "I don't know. I'm only six. Right now I wanna be a ballerina but mommy says my mind will change a lot of times before I'm a grown up."

It takes me back by how smart she is at such a young age and it causes a smile to perk up on my lips. "You've got spunk. I like you." I giggle softly and look over at her, a smile finally gracing her lips, showing off two missing bottom teeth.

"I remember when I was your age, I wanted to be a vet. Like Tanner." I smile at the thought of him and my stomach growls as the smell of Trish's cooking wafts up the stairs.

"Hey, how about we go downstairs and eat. Your mom's cooking smells amazing and my stomach isn't going to let me ignore it any longer." I shoot her a grin, hauling myself up from the beanbag chair and offering her my hand.

The night goes by so fast and I'm disappointed when we finally have to say our goodbyes. I've never felt so at home somewhere, other than the Ramirez house. It was such a warm and welcoming feeling, one that I didn't now I've been yearning for.

The girls went to bed around nine- thirty and by the end of the night Jillian was sitting on my lap, telling me all about herself and about how she's in dance class; about all the girls she likes and dislikes. She even shows me a few of the dances she's learned and it makes my heart swell to the nth degree.

The other two girls followed right along with her, taking turns telling me stories and showing me their favorite toys and I never knew how much I wanted younger siblings until I got to spend some time with these three. They're a riot. I've never used my imagination this much or felt like such a child. Even when I was little, I was always a little older than my biological age would suggest.

"It was great meeting you, Charlie. I really hope that you come back soon!" Trish says with a wide smile, pulling me in for a tight hug. She leans in, whispering softly against my ear, "I've never seen Tanner so happy. You bring out the best in him." She pulls away, leaving me speechless.

I can't help but grin, wondering what she means about me bringing out the best in him but I push down the thoughts, thanking her for a lovely evening.

His dad tries reaching out his hand for another shake but I just giggle and reach in, giving him a small hug. "Thank you again, the both of you. Dinner was lovely. I will definitely be back, Tanner wasn't bluffing about how amazing your cooking is, Trish!" I smile at the both of them.

Tanner leans in, hugging Trish and giving her a small kiss on the cheek before turning to his dad, giving him a firm hug. "Yeah, thank you guys! It was amazing, and thank you for the leftovers." He gestures to both containers on the counter. One for me and one for him.

Trish waves a dismissive hand towards him. "Oh stop, I made way too much. You know me." She smiles warmly and they both walk us to the door, giving us one last hug each before waving us off as Tanner drives away.

The dinner with his family has my mind swimming with so many thoughts. My heart swelled whenever I thought about him, and now add his family to the equation... it scared me how attached to all of them I already was. One dinner and I was hooked.

I look over at Tanner, his eyes are trained on the road and I can see the muscles in his arms flex every time his grip tightens around the steering wheel, or he flicks on the blinker, or makes a sharp turn.

The breath catches in my throat as my eyes travel his body. I've only seen him with his shirt off a few times but I've memorized every contour of his body and just the memory has me clenching my legs shut as I wonder what his hard, muscular frame would feel, pressed against my body. How his hands would feel as they trail over my entire body, exploring for the first time.

I'm snap out of my fantasy as he lays a hand on my thigh. I let out a shaky breath as goosebumps rise over my entire body with his fiery touch. I was just imagining how his touch would feel, and it's so close now. I need it.

Before I know what I'm saying the words come flying out of my mouth, "Do you wanna go back to your place?" I gasp softly after the words register in my brain.

His eyes snap to mine and he swerves a little, his eyes returning to the road as he corrects the oversteer. I can see his throat bob up and down as he swallows hard and when his gaze drifts back to meet mine for a moment, I can see the fire behind his eyes. In that second that our eyes meet, he practically devours me and god, I let him. I want him to devour every single inch of me.

He nods his head. "Id love that." He says, coming to a stop at a red light. His eyes find mine again and before long they're trailing my body, landing on my thighs, where my skirt is slightly raised. I'm half tempted to pull it up even further to tease him and I'm half shocked by the brazen thought but I decide against it.

The light turns green and Tanner shifts in his seat, no doubt fixing himself as he presses down on the gas pedal.

The rest of the drive I'm plagued with thoughts of his hands again. Traveling my body, touching places that not many have touched before. Something that would usually make me nervous was making me so excited.

Sex with Gavin wasn't like the sex I read about in the books I liked or how it was portrayed in movies. He was always really rough, and it never lasted long. He cared about him and himself only. The only orgasms I've ever had were the ones I've given myself, which is pretty sad if you ask me.

Before long we pull into the driveway of his shared house and he looks over at me. He pulls the hand he had wrapped in his, to his lips and kisses it tenderly.

His eyes search mine and I can't help the smile that pulls at my lips. "You're amazing." I gush. "You know that, right?"

I can't read exactly why he's thinking but the look casted upon his face is one I can only describe as love. I don't know how he feels about me, I mean he's told me how much he likes me and all of that, but does he love me? Is it too fast for two people to even love each other? My mind is racing again and panic starts bubbling in the pit of my stomach as I start contemplating my feelings for him. I can confidently say that I've never felt this strongly for someone before, but do I even know what love is? The only meaning of love that I've ever learned was from the books I read, and if I was going by that- then I'd definitely say I was head over fucking heels for Tanner Kaplan.

He hops out and walks over, opening my door for me, helping me down.

Halfway through the drive, I tore my heels off. My feet were killing me and the cold pavement is so invited as my come in contact. I slide my wristlet down my wrist, it resting against the crook of my elbow as I hold my heels between my fingers and his hand in my free hand.

He leads me inside, unlocking the door and we try our hardest to be as quiet as we can as we walk up the stairs to his bedroom.

He closes the door behind us, the only light illuminating us is the one coming from the moon outside. He wraps his strong arms around me from behind and plants soft kisses against the side of my neck.

I lean into him, reveling in his touch and the warm kisses he's trailing over my skin.

"Mm." I mutter softly before turning around in his arms, wrapping my arms loosely around his neck, grabbing gently at a hunk of hair at the nape of his neck as I find his lips and press my own against them.

The kiss starts off slow but our hunger for each other only fuels it more and before long we're tugging at each others clothing.

One minute I'm on cloud nine with Tanner, ready to give him every single piece of me and the next I'm back in my bedroom and I can smell the alcohol permeating off of Gavin's breath. I nearly gag as I feel his hands grip my clothes try to yank them off of me.

I push back. "Stop." I yell and when my eyes shoot open I let out a muffled cry. I back myself against his dresser and slide down to the ground, my hand covering my mouth as tears fiercely slide down my cheeks.

Tanner stands there, shirtless, a look of shock on his face. It's only there momentarily before he jumps into action, bending down next to me. He studies me for a moment, unsure of what to do.

"Can I touch you?" He asks gently and when I don't pull away as he lowers himself next to me, he slowly places a arm around me. This time when I don't make a move to get away or push him, he pulls me in close. He pulls me into his lap and lets me cry.

My tears get more ferocious and it doesn't take long until I'm engulfed in a full blown panic attack, unable to breath and gasping for air.

Tanner looks at me, scared for a second before he pulls back just slightly, forcing me to look into his eyes.

"Listen to me, beautiful." He's so patient and just his show of affection causes me to cry harder.

"Shh." He soothes. "Breath with me." He says softly and places a gently hand on my chest, rubbing slow and light circles as he takes deep breaths of his own and lets them out slowly.

"Like you're blowing through a straw." He demonstrates, taking a deep breath and letting the breath out as if you're blowing it through a straw; slow, long, and steady.

Within a few minutes I'm reduced to small whimpers and hiccups, his hand still rubbing circled against my chest.

"That's it." He says softly and it's then that I realize we're still on the floor. He's rocking me gently but slowly comes to a stop as I start to calm down. He lays his cheek against my head and pulls me in as close as he can.

Once I'm breathing at a normal rate, he carries me over to his bed, placing me down and pulling down the covers around me. He leaves me with a kiss on my forehead as he walks to where we were just sitting, opening a few drawers as he pulls out a t-shirt and a pair of drawstring pajama pants. He hands both to me and I pull the shirt to my face, inhaling the familiar scent of his fabric softener and a small smile tugs at the corner of my lips.

I feel the bed dip down next to me as he sits down. "How are you feeling?" He asks gently as he placed a hand on my leg, brushing his thumb across the fabric of my tights.

I shrug my shoulders and stay silent for a moment longer. "I'm so sorry you had to witness that. I'm so sorry I pushed you, I'm so sorry for leading you on." I apologize over and over again and his features morph into one of sadness. It wasn't pity I was seeing, but instead it was as if I could see his heart shattering in a million pieces right in front of me.

"Please, don't you ever apologize for something like that. You didn't lead me on at all, Charlie. Don't you ever think that. I never want you to feel like you have to do something you don't want to." His hand finds mine and he squeezes it tight.

"It's not that I don't want to. I just..." I bite the corner of my lip until the faint metallic taste of blood crosses my tongue. "It was like I was transported right back to that night, that moment." I can see the questions in his eyes but he doesn't push it. He doesn't ask him, he just sits there patiently. When I don't say anything else he leans in and kisses me softly.

"It won't always be like that. I will do whatever in my power to help you break free from that night and every bad memory you have." He says, gently leaning his forehead against mine and in this moment I believe it.
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