Nathan broke the kiss first but I kept my eyes closed. He didn't speak. Instead, he pulled my body closer for a hug and my head rested on his chest. I opened my eyes a little, trying to work through what just happened.
I had been wanting to kiss him ever since we made the pies but then our house and barn were attacked. Now here I was, cuddling with him on the bank of a lake, as the air around us got cooler. I had forgotten we were getting closer to fall.
I was getting uncomfortable so I wrapped my arms around him, too. He tightened his arms and I smiled a little. I had missed being held. Of course, when Brandon held me I knew now it had been lies. Was all of this just us comforting each other from everything that has happened?
As if he were thinking the same thing, he leaned back and I stared up at him. The sun was setting, casting a ruby glow on everything. We frowned at each other. I tried to imagine what it would be like if we weren't constantly followed and harassed but I couldn't. It had become a constant part of my life.
Nathan touched my cheek, tilting his head to the side curiously.
"What are you thinking?" he whispered.
"I'm confused," I blurted and he nodded.
"Yeah, yeah I kind of am, too...."
"Why did you kiss me?" we asked in unison and laughed a little.
"Well, I kissed you first so I guess I'll go first," he murmured and we sat up straight. I sat with my legs crisscrossed and faced him. He was staring at his lap. "I guess 'cause you've done a lot for me. You and Aaron... you helped me grow up and I've been nothing but trouble." He was red but I wasn't sure if that was from the sun, though, as he rubbed his neck. "I dunno. I guess I kind of like you," he said then laughed. "No. I like you a lot. Your turn."
I tore at the grass, avoiding his eyes.
"I like you a lot, too," I admitted. "I mean... you're not the only one that's been causing trouble out of the two of us. We share equal blame." He held one of my hands. I didn't look at him but I held his hand back. "And I guess we both share equal feelings?"
He laughed quietly. "Yeah, I guess we do."
"What now?" I asked, finally looking up at him.
He was about to answer when my phone rang. We groaned in unison.
"It's my dad," I sighed and he nodded, letting go of my dad. "Hey, Dad."
"Hey, sweet pea. Where are you?"
"We had to escape," I answered. "We'll be back soon, though."
"Can you pick something up on your way back?"
"Sure. What do you have a hankerin' for?"
He and Nathan both laughed.
"I don't know.... How about Arby's?"
"You read my mind. We'll be there soon. You want your usual?"
"Yes, ma'am. Love you."
"Love you, too." I hung up and sighed. "Dad wants us to pick some food up on the way home. Well, on the way to the hotel."
He stood up and helped me to my feet. I brushed the grass off my butt and he did the same.
"You have to answer my question," I said, grabbing his arm when he tried to walk off.
They family had noticed us, though, and the parents were watching us carefully. Shit.
"I want to be with you," he whispered, noticing the parents, too. "But now we have an audience. Let's talk about it in the truck."
"Okay," I whispered and put my hands in my pockets.
We didn't speak on our way back up the road but we did walk closer to each other. When we got to the bank, he opened my door for me. I buckled my seatbelt and turned to him a little. He had his head leaned back on the headrest and was already watching me.
"I meant what I said," he said. "But... it'll have to be a secret. Just you, me, and Aaron. If the media finds out...."
"They'll have a field day," I finished and he laughed. I bit my lower lip and, after making sure no one was around, I held his hand. "I want to be with you, too."
He beamed and squeezed my hand. "What's for dinner?"
"Well it took you two long enough," my father said when we got back to the hotel and told him.
I rolled my eyes and threw a curly fry at him.
"Shut up," I murmured but Nathan laughed.
"Did you show them the check?" my dad asked seriously.
I shook my head with a sigh. "I lost my nerve. Nathan suggested going to our lawyer instead. I still have it," I added, taking the check out of my back pocket. "I'll give it back to you, though. I feel nervous having it now."
My dad put it back in his wallet. "I agree with Nathan. I'll call Vince in the morning and set up a consultation."
I nodded and Nathan asked, "How did it go with the insurance company?"
"Well, they're going to replace everything," he began and I threw my head back.
"Thank God!" I yelled then groaned. "Shit I was so worried."
My dad smiled kindly. "We have to decide, though, if we want them to build an above ground home or below ground."
I thought about it for a minute. "Well, below ground would save on heat in the winter."
My dad nodded. "What do you think, Nathan?"
He blinked. "You're asking me?"
"Well sure," my dad said. "You're one of us now."
I nudged him. "You've been infected."
He laughed. "I've always wondered what it would be like to live in an underground home," he admitted.
"It's settled," my father said happily. "I'll call them after Vince and let them know. It'll be a little more expensive but we have the extra money just in case."
"Are they going to replace the furniture and everything, too?" I asked, rolling my wrapper into a ball.
"Yes ma'am," my dad said and Nathan collected the trash. "There are just two things we have to cover: the damage to the barn - which there wasn't too much of - and any extra fees from doing an underground home."
I nodded. "I miss the horses. Can we go visit them the day after tomorrow?"
My dad beamed. "I was afraid you'd never ask."