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Sweet Heat at Bayside(8)

By:Addison Cole

"You're the prettiest girl there," Drake said honestly. "He was a lucky guy."

She tilted her chin up, studying his face for a long moment. "Want to know a secret?"

"Not if you're going to tell me that he's the dude who stole your virginity or something equally disturbing."

"Like I'd share that with you? Get real." She shook her head. "Never mind."

"Aw, come on. I was kidding. Tell me your secret."

"No. Forget it." She closed the yearbook.

"Come on, stubborn girl." He took the yearbook from her and opened to  her senior picture. "I want to know a secret about this cutie pie in the  tasseled hat."

"It's embarrassing, and you'll just make fun of me."

He touched her cheek, guiding her face toward him again. "No, I won't. Tell me."         



An uncharacteristically shy expression came over her. "I called to ask  you to go to prom with me," she said so quietly he tried not to breathe,  for fear of missing it. "Not as a date date, you know, but as friends.  We always had fun together, and I figured … "

His chest constricted. "Why didn't you?"

"Call you? I did." She paused, her gaze skittering nervously around the  room. "But you told me about the trip you'd planned to the West Coast  with your friends from school."

"Serena … " He wanted to tell her he would have gone with her, but he knew  that wasn't true. He'd been in his third year of college, and she was  just graduating high school. He'd matured, gained experiences she'd had  yet to enjoy and conquer. He'd had too much experience as a man to be  with her then, especially when she was just starting her life, gearing  up for college. And then, by the time she was old enough that it felt  appropriate to be with her, she'd had her heart set on achieving more  than a life on the Cape.

"Why me?" he asked. "As I remember, you had plenty of punks sniffing around every time I came home to visit."

"Yeah, and you scared them all off!"

"Hey, I was away at school for months at a time. You had enough time to hook up without me around."

"And I did," she said too nonchalantly, making him wonder just how many guys she'd been with.

"Do not tell me about them."

"Oh, please. You were probably hooking up with all sorts of women at  college. Don't even pretend you were bothered by not being here to watch  over your fake sister." Her eyes widened, and she jumped up to her  feet. "I just remembered something I have to show you!"

She snagged her phone from the couch and shoved it in her pocket. Then  she grabbed his hand and tugged him to his feet. "Come on."

He followed her down the hall toward her bedroom.

"I have a shoe box with stuff from the guys I went out with in high school and college. It's hilarious."

"I don't want to see that." He stopped walking.

"Yes, you do! It's funny. They're not love notes or anything."

She grabbed his wrist and ran into the bedroom.

He swept his arm around her waist, hauling her against him. "I don't want to see it."

They both laughed as she struggled and twisted.

"Okay, okay!" she said between giggles. "Then let me show you the  pictures from when Mira and I made you and Rick play wedding with us!  You were such a handsome groom, and you have to see how serious Rick was  when he officiated the ceremony. It's way funnier than the high school  guys."

She wrenched free and went into the closet. He'd been in her bedroom so  many times, he could navigate around the king-size bed and matching oak  dresser and nightstand with his eyes closed. He had carried her to bed  when she was too ill with the flu to walk or too drunk to manage it and  dozens of times when she'd fallen asleep in front of the television as  they watched movies. He knew that when she was sick she hated using flat  sheets, preferring the softness of her comforter against her skin, and  that she needed the closet light left on in order to fall asleep,  because she had never quite gotten over her fear of the dark. Who would  know to do those things for her in Boston?

I hate this.

His gaze swept over the new fancy clothes and silk lingerie littering  her bed, tags still in place. The empty shopping bags lay forgotten on  the floor. He diverted his eyes from the lingerie, but not before  imagining her wearing the sexy black lace panties he'd seen by her  pillow.

"Drake? I think I might need you," she called from the closet.

Not in the way I want you to.

Biting back his desires, he went into the closet and found her standing  on a stool, teetering precariously on her tiptoes while she reached for a  stack of boxes. He wanted to run his hands up her long legs, to feel  goose bumps chase his fingers and her flesh grow warm as he brought his  lips to her skin, taking his first taste of her.

I'm such a jerk. She's days away from making her dreams come true, and all I can think about is making her mine.

"It's okay," she said, stretching farther to reach the topmost box. "I think I got-"

She swatted at the boxes, sending them flying through the air as she  lost her balance and fell into his arms. Dozens of pictures, cards, and  other memorabilia sailed down around them. She was breathing hard, her  soft curves pressed against him. Her beautiful hazel eyes blinked up at  him, an intoxicating mix of amusement and heat. In the space of a  second, he saw dozens of images of her, laughing, crying, eating, lying  in the sun. What felt like a lifetime of loving her culminated into one  split second.         



"Drake," she said breathlessly, passion swimming in her eyes.

He knew he should hold back, knew he didn't have the right to mess up  her plans, but he was powerless to resist the desires stacking up inside  him. He lowered his face toward hers, and a shrill alarm sounded,  jolting him back to reality.

Her eyes widened with shock and something bigger. Panic?

"No," he ground out as he set her on her feet, the annoying alarm still  sounding from her phone as she pulled it from her pocket.

She was shaking a little. Her cheeks were beet red, and her eyes were  trained on her phone, like she didn't want to, or couldn't, look at him.  Had he misread her? Seen only what he wanted to see?

"I must have accidentally set the alarm for midnight instead of noon. It's so late … "

"I'm sorry, Serena. I shouldn't have-"

"You didn't-" Her eyes flicked uneasily up to his. "I appreciate you helping me pack and bringing all that stuff."

Great. Now he'd made her uncomfortable. "Serena … " He wanted to tell her  how he felt, why he'd almost kissed her, but that would only make her  more uneasy. Instead, he motioned to the mess at their feet, trying to  find safe, stable ground, and said, "Want help cleaning up?"

She shook her head. "It's late. I'm fine."

He wasn't an idiot, and she was anything but fine, but he knew she needed him gone.

He hiked his thumb over his shoulder, silently cursing himself, and said, "I'll take off. See you tomorrow at the office?"

"Yeah. Um, I have some stuff to take care of for the music store in the  morning, remember? But I'll be back in the afternoon. We have interviews  scheduled."

Back to freaking business.

Was it really better that way?

Chapter Four

RICK'S AND DRAKE'S voices escalated behind Drake's office door Thursday  afternoon. Serena cringed. She had been training Harper for the past few  hours, and the guys had been in there nearly as long. For the umpteenth  time, Dean's calm, stern voice rang out with, "Cut the bull," before  their conversation became muffled once again.

"Is it always like this?" Harper asked in a hushed whisper.

"No," Serena reassured her. "They don't always see eye to eye, but they  rarely raise their voices. It's just a really tense time with my leaving  so quickly."

Between interviews, coordinating the layout for the music store, and  packing, Serena had little time to breathe, and it seemed the more  people she interviewed, the tenser things became. Drake had been running  hot and cold since she'd gotten there today, either giving her clipped  responses or being overly playful, and she knew it was because of last  night. She hadn't slept a wink. Had stayed up all night vacillating  between wanting to call and give Drake a hard time for doing exactly  what he'd done to her back in ninth grade and being too embarrassed to  see straight. Had he told Dean and Rick about their almost kiss? Was  that why they were fighting? Or worse, what if he hadn't been thinking  about kissing her last night, and she'd freaked out for no reason? What  if he'd been leaning down only to whisper something? Oh gosh. She could  see him doing that so clearly, making fun of her falling into his arms  like a bad rom-com movie.

"I'm sorry," Serena said. "They really are great guys to work with. I  wish we'd done this earlier in the week, when tempers weren't so high."