Man, I was turning into a crybaby. Seriously. I needed help.
Drawing in a shaky breath, I glanced at Kyler. He was holding an identical picture and frame. He was silent. I nudged him with my elbow. “I bet you forgot about this.”
“No,” he said. “I hadn’t. I’ve seen the pic a couple of times.”
Surprise flickered through me. “You have?”
Kyler nodded. “Mom loves to pull it out whenever family comes over. Funny that she gave us this now, all things considering.” He looked at me. “Almost like she knew we’d finally figure this out, huh?”
“Yeah.” I smiled, smoothing my fingers along the edges of the frame. “I love it. Seriously. I really do.”
“Same here.” He slipped the picture into his backpack. “I don’t want to forget it.”
I couldn’t figure out if he really did like the picture or not, but I stopped myself from overanalyzing it like a freak. I gathered up the wrapping paper and carried it into the kitchen, disposing of it in the trash. When I returned to the living room, he was standing in front of the Christmas tree. The present I’d gotten him a few weeks ago was still nestled under the tree.
“You’re not getting your present right now,” I told him.
He turned to me, a mysterious grin etched across his lips and his dark brown eyes intense. “There’s something I want right now, and it’s not what’s under the tree.”
Warmth stole through my veins and liquid heat pooled low in my belly. “And what would that be?”
“I can give you one hint.”
I was already breathless. “Okay.”
Kyler prowled up to me, placing his hands on my hips once more. He tugged me against him, fitting his hips against mine. I could feel him through our clothes. “That’s your hint.”
Shivers coursed through me, and the tips of my breasts tightened under my sweater and bra. “I think I know what you want.”
“You do?” His lips brushed across my forehead and over my temple. My body relaxed and tensed all at once. “What do I want?”
I gripped his arms, and his muscles flexed under my touch. “Me?”
“Bingo,” he growled, and who knew someone could make that word sound sexy? “I want you.”
And those last three words were the sexiest words thrown together in the human language. Then Kyler kissed me, and I stopped thinking about words and languages, because there was nothing beyond how smooth and firm his lips felt against mine. My senses snapped alive, shooting hot fire through my veins as his tongue expertly slipped past my lips.
Good Lord, Kyler knew how to kiss.
A sexual charge thrummed through me as his hold on my hips tightened. Without breaking the kiss, he lifted me up and I wrapped my legs around his narrow hips.
“Good girl,” he murmured against my lips. And then he started walking. When he hit the stairs, I knew where he was heading and I so approved.
My bedroom door was ajar, and Kyler turned sideways, nudging it all the way open. He put me down on my feet beside the bed, and then closed the door.
“Lock it,” I said. No one else was home right now, but why take the chance?
He grinned, flipping the lock, and then turned to me. Our eyes met, and excitement hummed through me. I reached down, wrapping my fingers under the hem of my sweater and pulling it over my head. I let it fall to the floor.
Kyler’s eyes flared. “God. Damn.”
I flushed as I bit down on my lower lip, flicking the button on my jeans. He took a step forward and gripped the waistband.
“I’m impatient,” he grumbled, and he was. In one quick motion, he swept the jeans and socks right off me. Standing before him in my bra and panties was suddenly easier than I had imagined it ever could be. “You’re beautiful.”
His clothes came off rather quickly and I got caught up staring at the hard dips and planes of his stomach. I touched him, slipping my hand under the band of his boxers. “You’re not too bad—”
My words were cut off by the sheer intensity of the way he kissed me. His hands went to unhook my bra, and then to my panties. He stripped me bare, and then we were a tangled mess of flesh on my bed.
I moaned against his mouth as his hand slipped between my thighs, his fingers brushing over the wet cleft. His kisses were intoxicating and addictive. Timing the thrusts of his tongue with the plunge of his finger, I was quickly on the verge of coming apart, and when his thumb pressed against the bundle of nerves, I tumbled right over the edge.
In the midst of the shattering release, he slid into me, skin against skin. Sensation roared through me, a feeling I’d never get used to as long as I lived. The powerful cords of the muscles along his back bulged under my hands. He rocked into me, a deep invasion that curled my toes and had my back arching.
“I love you,” he said, and he kissed me again. Feral. Possessive.
I gasped out, “I love you too.”
And then I was incapable of talking. A sharp swirl of tingles spread over me as his hips moved fiercely, bring me closer and closer to the edge once more. He moved fast and hard, his face beautifully strained. His mouth press to mine as my ankles locked around his back and then it hit us both at the same time. Our bodies shuddered together, our names on each other’s lips. It was a stunning moment that threw me up so high, I wasn’t sure I would ever come back down.
Afterward—long, long afterward—we snuggled together under the covers. He was tracing idle circles along the curve of my spine and I was content listening to his heart. It was quiet and peaceful, making me think of that one Christmas rhyme.
I laughed, because that was wholly inappropriate.
“What?” Kyler’s hand stilled.
Giggling, I pressed a kiss to his chest. “I was just thinking of the Christmas poem ‘Night Before Christmas’ and it made me laugh.”
“I know.” I lifted my head so my chin rested on his chest. “But you love me?”
His lips tipped up at the corners. “I love you as much as a kid loves Santa.”
I laughed. “That’s serious.”
“Hardcore,” he murmured, tucking my hair back from my face. “Though, I have to say, what we just did was the best Christmas present ever.”
I flushed with pleasure. “Well, if you’re nice, you’ll get another present.”
His brows rose. “What if I’m naughty?” My mind went straight to the gutter, and Kyler must’ve sensed it, because he chuckled deeply and the sound rumbled through me. “I like where this conversation is going.”
“I bet you do.”
“I could pretend I was Santa. You can sit on my lap and tell me what you want for Christmas.”
I laughed again. “That sounds like it would only benefit you.”
“Hence the sitting-on-my-lap part. Naked.”
Lifting myself up, I kissed his slightly parted lips. That led to more kisses and more touching, which led to me straddling his hips and before too long, we both were beyond talking. We explored each other like it was our first time and we took things slower, making the experience more tender and intimate, but the end results were just as beautifully breathtaking.
Much later, when it was time for us to leave, he stood to find his clothes, and I admired the nice view I was getting of his backside. My gaze finally moved up his spine, and I rose, trailing a finger over the intricate lettering of the mystery tattoo that had always fascinated me. He looked over his shoulder at me, but didn’t move away.
“What does this say?”
He didn’t answer for a long moment. “You really want to know?”
I settled back on my side. “Yes, I do.”
Kyler finished buttoning his jeans and sat beside me. He leaned down and kissed me. “I got the tattoo after high school, right before freshman year of college.”
“I know.” Wasn’t like I’d only recently started checking Kyler out. The day I’d seen the tattoo for the first time was the day I’d committed it to memory.
One side of his lips tipped up. “You’re probably either going to think it’s really stupid or you’re going to be really surprised.”
“Now I’m really curious. Tell me.” I tapped on his bare chest. “Please?”
He watched me a moment. “It’s in Sanskrit. It says, ‘This Is Forever.’”
My heart skipped a beat as I stared up at him. “Does it mean what I think it does?”
“Yeah, it means what you think it does.”
I pressed my hand to my chest, blinking back tears. “You did this after we graduated high school? That long ago?”
“Yes. It had just felt like something I needed to commit to, you know? That us, no matter in what way we were together, it was forever.”
I couldn’t speak for a full minute. “Surprise” didn’t even cover how I felt. I wanted to cry again, like a baby, because that was the confirmation of all that he’d said. Of how he’d felt about me this entire time, and I’d never known—that he’d never really known. But deep down, his heart had to have known. My chest filled to the point I felt like I’d burst.
He studied me intensely. “What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking…I’m thinking it’s perfect.” I sat up, placing my hands on either side of his face. “You’re perfect.”
Kyler pressed his forehead against mine. “I wouldn’t go that far.”
“Look at you, being modest for once in your life,” I teased, but the lump of emotion was sitting at the top of my throat. “Kyler?”
He pecked me on the lips. “Syd?”
“I love you.” I paused, taking a deep breath and our eyes locked. I saw the world in his gaze. I saw our future. “And that is forever.”