Charlie Ever After

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24| Tanner

The early morning sun streams through the windows and for a moment I forget the events of the night before and when I see Charlie lying next to me I'm stunned for a moment. She looks so peaceful, her dark hair fanning around her, my t-shirt swimming on her small frame. A grin kicks up at the corner of my lips as I trail a finger lightly across the skin of her arm, watching her body's reaction to me as goosebumps litter her skin.

It's nice being able to see her in such a calm state after what happened last night. It's not that I thought she wouldn't be... damaged from what she endured; not that she's even damaged, traumatized is more like it. She's a lot stronger than I ever could be.

One moment everything was okay, from my point of view we were both enjoying ourselves. Then it's like something within her switched and she was no longer wrapped in my arms. She told me that it was like she was torn from my bedroom and transported right back to that night. I may not understand how that must feel, but witnessing it the only thing I knew I had to do was hold her. At first I wasn't sure how accepting she would be of that, but once I got her permission, I held her until her tears dried up.

Sitting there with her in my lap, being able to comfort her in whatever way she needed in that minute made me realize how fast I'm falling for her. It scares me more than I can ever express. I haven't known her very long and the feelings that I'm experiencing because of her are so foreign but she's worth it. She's worth every fear and anxiety that swims through my head. She's who I've been looking for and I've never been more sure if it.

"I love her." The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them. I didn't scream it but I didn't necessarily whisper it either. My heart starts to race as I look over at her, her right arm is now above her head and she's facing away from me but other than that she's still passed out. My heart starts to beat at its normal speed as I let out a breath that I didn't realize I was holding.

I lay a light kiss on her cheek as I slip out of bed, pulling the blankets tighter around her. I don't want to wake her, it's only six thirty and she still has plenty of time to sleep before our nine a.m class.

I reach down, picking up a t-shirt. I hold it to my nose, giving it the good 'ol sniff test before pulling it on. I silently slip out of my bedroom, closing the door gently behind me and try tiptoeing down the stairs as quietly as I could. Jace and Collin sleep like the dead but I still don't want to risk waking them up and having to deal with their interrogation just yet.

I make my way to the kitchen and head straight to the coffee maker. I make sure the basket is empty before adding a fresh filter and taking the pot over to the sink, filling it with water.
Once the coffee maker is all set up I set it to brew the normal in this house, twelve cups.

It doesn't take long before the smell of a fresh brew wafts through the air and instantly makes my mouth water. I pull out two clean mugs from the cupboard and put only a spoonful or so of sugar into mine, and almost half a cup of sugar in Charlie's. Over the past few weeks of knowing her, I've come to learn that she likes her coffee light and very, very sweet, with hazelnut creamer.

I walk over to the fridge and pull out the half and half as well as the special bottle of hazelnut creamer that I keep here, just for her.

The day she looked in the fridge and saw it sitting there you'd think you I gifted her a diamond ring. The smile that lit up her face was the most magnificent thing I've ever seen.

"It's just coffee creamer." I had told her.

"Yeah but to me it means you listen." Her grin only stretched even further as she clutched the creamer to her chest and did a little spin before making her way back to her steaming cup, pouring some in her mug.

In the short time of knowing her, I've come to love how goofy she could be, how her smile can light up whatever room she's in and despite the bad that's happened to her, she's always looking at the bright side. It's something I envy in her more than anything. I wish I could be as carefree and free as her. She's able to see the good in everything, meanwhile I struggle on a daily basis just to maintain a level head and not want to punch holes in walls. When I'm around her though, my anger fades away. With her I'm the person I want to be. I'm the carefree, happy and optimistic Tanner that I know is buried deep within.

My sister's death damaged me in ways that I will never admit to anyone. Ever since the day of her passing I felt this hole burn open in my soul and with each year that passes the hole gets bigger and bigger; the anger getting stronger. Most of the time I was good at masking what I feel on the inside but it doesn't take much to set me off and the sick thing is, I know it. No matter how many years of therapy I went to, the black hole in my soul never closed up, not even a little bit- that was until my life became revolved around Charlie.

When the coffee finishes brewing, I pour each of our cups and top them off with our creamers before carefully carrying them back up to my bedroom. On the way Jace peeks his head out of his bedroom door, his eyebrows raising once he sees me with two mugs. I give him a stern look, telling him to not say a word before maneuvering both mugs into my palm as I open my bedroom door.

I set Charlie's mug on the night stand next to her and crawl into bed with mine, taking a cautious sip before setting it on the table next to me.

I lean over and wrap my arms around her, trailing light kisses down the exposed skin of her neck. I feel her stir under me before she awakens with a struggled breath. Her body stiffens under me and I immediately feel guilty, pulling back and giving her some space.

"It's me, Tanner. It's okay." I comfort her as I cautiously lay my hand back on her arm.

Her eyes find mine and I can tell that tears are beginning to form. I lean in and brush my thumb lightly under both of her eyes, wiping them away before they have the chance to fall.

She takes a deep, shuddery breath and wraps her arms around my body, burying her face into my chest.

She inhales my scent and instantly relaxes against me and to a normal person they probably wouldn't pick up on this reaction but not everyone knows anxiety and how something as simple as a smell or a familiar feeling can instantly calm you.

I wrap my arms around her small body and run my hand slowly up and down her back as I kiss her forehead, gently. "I brought you coffee, just how you like it. Sickeningly sweet, with hazelnut creamer."

I can feel the muscles of her face move as she smiles against the thin material of my shirt. Her head pops up shortly after and her face is still slightly red from the tears she was shedding just moments before.

I gaze into her eyes and lay a hand on her cheek, my thumb stroking her skin softly. In that moment I know in my gut I love her, and again I almost say it out loud but my brain kicks in quick enough this time to stop the words right at my lips.

She pulls away from me and reaches over, grabbing her mug. She brings it to her lips, blowing softly before taking a sip. She licks her lips and I can't help the pressure I feel between my legs as the action awakens the beast inside of me. I shift positions and reach over, grabbing my mug. I sit up, propping a pillow behind me and watch her as she enjoys her coffee.

"How is it?"

"Perfect" She replies, a soft moan escaping her lips as she takes another sip.

I chuckle softly trying to ignore the way my body reacts to the sound.

"You know exactly how I like it." The way she says it makes the thought sound almost dirty and again I have to shift to fix myself.

"What time is it?" She asks, searching through the blankets for what I could only assume is her cellphone.

I reach over on my bedside table, grabbing her phone and handing it to her. She smiles as she takes it from me, tapping the screen.

"Okay, we still have an hour and a half before class." She bites her bottom lip before continuing. "Is there any way you can bring me back to my dorm so I can take a shower and get dressed?"

I'm almost tempted to beg her to take a shower with me but I decide against it because I know I won't be able to control myself.

I nod. "Of course." I smile. "Let me take a shower real quick and we'll head over.

She places her empty cup on her bedside table and crawls over to me. She straddles my lap and I know for sure she can feel how bad I'm dying for her.

She gasps as her hips come in full contact with mine, a blush forming on her cheeks. She wraps her arms around my neck and I swear she grinds her hips against me and my cock is now rock hard. I'm going to have to take a really, really cold shower.

Her forehead leans in against mine as I wrap my arms around her waist, pulling her close.

"Thank you so much." It's barely audible but I'm able to catch the tail end of it.

"For what?" I question, placing my finger under her chin, tilting her face up to meet mine. I search her eyes for the answers to all of the questions I have and the corners of her mouth lift up just slightly.

"Just for being you. For being so amazing and caring, for being there for me last night and not running the hell away." She giggles slightly but there's a sadness to it that I wish I can just take away.

"Never." Is all I can say.

It takes me a minute but I want to make sure I say all the right things. "I'm not going to lie to you Charlie. I'm not as perfect as I may seem. I know I may seem like it sometimes but you just bring it out of me. You have changed me in ways that I don't think I'll ever be able to explain to you and you've opened my eyes to so many things, so really I should be the one thanking you."

The blush is back on her face.

"You mean a lot to me and I hope me saying this doesn't scare you away, but ever since I met you I've been so much happier. It's like we were meant to meet and before you say it, yes I know another cliché Tanner phrase." I grin and roll my eyes jokingly.

"But I'm so glad I met you, Charlie. You're the brightness in my stormy days... Another one."

Her smile nearly blinds me and before I have time to react her lips are pressed against mine and I now remember that she's straddling me. My mind can go from serious to horny in a matter of milliseconds and I silently scold myself for this.

I kiss her back and her tongue traces my bottom lip, begging for entrance. I open my mouth just slightly, greeting her tongue with mine.

The kiss is over almost as fast as it started and I'm left wanting more, my cock throbbing inside my boxers. I take in a deep breath and hold her against me.

"You can never scare me away, Tanner. I want this forever." She shies away for a second before continuing. "You make me believe that in the end I can be happy. You make me understand that I deserve so much better than what I've had in the past. You've truly saved me Tanner." She blushes slightly, shying away again but I pick her chin up, laying a tender kiss on her lips.

I'm so close to saying those magical three words but again I stop myself in fear that the words will scare her away, even after what she told me, for now it's something that will have to remain in my thoughts and my heart.
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