“How much longer?”
I cuddle into the crook of Grayson’s tree trunk arm and press my ear to his chest. The faint thud of his heartbeat doesn’t soothe me like it normally does. Tonight each feather-soft thump is a moment gone, one we’ll never get back.
“I’ve already stayed longer than I should have. I still have to finish packing,” he says. His voice is a soft whisper. It makes the waterlines of my eyes burn.
“I know, but…” I trail off before the sob building in my chest reaches my throat.
He repeats to reassure me, but it does the opposite. Hearing his gravelly voice at such a soft volume makes the knot in my chest tighten. This is the last time we’ll lie tucked into each other, the last time I’ll press my ear against his broad, thick chest. The last time his hands will lace through my hair.
It’s all I can do to keep from crying.
It was supposed to be a fling. I never expected a one night stand to turn into a summer-long romance. I never knew I could connect with a complete stranger physically and emotionally in equal measure.
I had no idea I would want to spend every day with a man who fills his weekends making rabbit ragu and reading comic books. A man who lets his dirty laundry pile on his bedroom floor until there’s not enough space to walk. A man who snorts when he laughs, who tears up during the “Baby of Mine” scene in “Dumbo.”
I hadn’t the slightest clue that this same man could also bring heaven to my body. That he could fuck me against a wall, in the shower, in his car, on the kitchen counter, the floor of his living room, and leave me wanting more. I was addicted to him in every way.
It wasn’t supposed to feel like a knife through my heart when he told me about the job offer he accepted on the other side of the country. But it did. Because we’re more than I thought we were.
I fell in love. So did he.
Grayson pulls me on top of his chest, holding me still with both arms. My head tucks under his chin. Hot tears slide from my eyes onto his skin.
“I’ll miss you. So much,” he says. There’s a strangled sound at the end. He’s holding back. I wish I could too.
My mind replays the evening. Him turning up at my apartment and saying nothing when I answered the door. A combination of pain and lust radiated from his hazel eyes as he lifted me to his chest.
I gripped his thick, muscled shoulders and wrapped my legs around his waist to steady myself. My hands have never felt more at home than when holding his body.
Our tongues teased and tangled, the rhythm nearly too much for me to keep up with. But I did because he was leaving in the morning and this was our last night together. I wanted to savor everything. His taste, his touch, his mouth on me, his sweat mixing with mine as our bodies enmeshed, coiled in my bed sheets.
My lower abdomen pinches at the memory of his tongue sliding down my stomach, the tops of my thighs, between my legs. Slow, rhythmic swirls he knew I craved. I came in less than a minute. He wasn’t finished though.
When he slid into me, I cried out like I always did, but this time his mouth was quick to seal over mine, absorbing the sound, kissing away every breathy whimper I made.
He leaned up, hooked both of my legs over his shoulders, and flashed the most gentle smile in the world.
“I love you, Mae,” he said before a series of slow, measured thrusts rendered me speechless.
I blink, pulling myself back to the present. “I love you, Grayson,” I say.
His voice breaks as he says he loves me too.
It’s too soon before he’s standing and dressing himself. I opt to wrap myself in the bed sheet to walk him to the door. I don’t want to waste time searching for clothes when I could be staring at him, memorizing the way his sandy blond locks fall when he tilts his head.
We stand at my front door, staring at each other with puffy eyes.
“Thank you for an incredible summer, Grayson,” I sniffle.
The words I’ve been repeating to myself for the past two weeks replay in my head. They offer no comfort.
We knew this was temporary. Summer fling only. Don’t hold him back.
He frowns. “You know I can’t leave you.”
A sad smile is my only response. “Yes, you can. We knew this was only for the summer.”
He shakes his head. “You mean more to me than one summer. Than a job.”
My eyebrows knit in confusion. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying that I want to stay here. With you.”
“But what about your job–”
“I can get a job here.”
I shake my head so hard, I’m dizzy. “But you worked so hard–”
The moment his palm caresses my cheek, I’m still.
“I want you, Mae. Nothing else matters.”
I sob with joy. He beams with tears in his eyes before pulling me into his chest.
“Okay then. Stay.”