“I haven’t had any alcohol,” I tell him. “If the cops catch me, then I’ll be fine. They catch you, and you’ll be in trouble with your dad.”
“Thanks for reminding me.” He lets out a deep sigh, and then spins around—back facing me. Just when I think he’s going to take off running, actually listening to my request, he does something quite different. He bends down, lifts up my legs and hoists me on his back. “Grab tight, love.”
My hands wrap around his neck, and he speeds off.
The wind whips my brown hair, and I listen to his easy breath as he carries me away from the chaos and towards the city where we live. I’ve ridden on his back before. When we were kids. When I couldn’t make it up the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado. When I forgot to wear closed-toed shoes in the Costa Rican rain forest. When I just needed a lift. He was always there.
Minutes pass and then those turn into hours, and Lo has slowed to a walk, the Philadelphia streets alive and glittering in the middle of the night. We head to the Drake—to our new apartment that we share together.
Lo has spun me around, and he holds me in a front-piggyback while I rest my head on the crook of his neck and shoulder, my eyes fluttering closed.
My desires have already been satiated for the night. The only person that crosses my mind is the man carrying me. “If you were an X-Men, I think you would be Quicksilver,” I say with a small yawn. He has superhuman speed, able to run as fast as lightening. He’s also the son of Magneto, who expects too much of him at times, their father-son relationship one of the rockiest among mutant kind.
He mulls this over and then whispers, “I’d rather be Hellion.”
I know. I’d rather be Veil most of the time and escape my most embarrassing moments by whisking into nothingness, but the truth is, I’m probably not even worthy of being compared to an X-Men. At least Lo is like someone. At least he can relate.
He glances down at me as I begin to fall asleep. “How’s your ankle?”
“Wonderful,” I whisper, “because I’m not standing on it.”
“I think we have an ice pack in the fridge.”
My eyes shut fully. “Mmm, sounds nice.”
He kisses the top of my head and then whispers, “I love you, Lil.”
We say the words all the time, but the power has not been lost. They mean more to me than he’ll know. Because at the end of the day, this type of love is different than a first-sight encounter with a man at a bar, a crush in prep school or a bubbling, new romance. Our I love yous encompass years of heartache, of hurt, of laughter and pain.
And every time we say the words, I feel the rush of our childhood. I couldn’t imagine ever losing that.
* * *
After a full night of icing the muscle, I’m so chilly in the morning that I crave warmth. At ten a.m., I fill up a bubble bath and lie in the soapy suds, letting my injury soak in the soothing waters. Bliss doesn’t even define this feeling. That is…until Lo opens the bathroom door and sluggishly walks in. I sink further down into the water and gather some foamy bubbles to hide my nak*d body.
“You have your own bathroom,” I remind him as he runs water under his toothbrush. A blue Spider-Man one that he carried in here.
He turns around, supporting himself against the edge of my counter. Only drawstring pants on that leave absolutely nothing to the imagination. But I keep my eyes firmly planted on his.
“I wanted to see how your ankle was doing,” he admits before putting his toothbrush in his mouth. One week into college, and I still haven’t fully adjusted to living with him. We were comfortable before, but sharing space has blurred even more lines that really didn’t need any more blurring.
“I’m warming it,” I explain and lift my foot up from the water, leaving out the part about wanting the heat a lot more than my ankle needing it.
I didn’t expect him to walk over, toothbrush still hanging out of his mouth, and press his fingers to the swollen area. I try not to let the pain cross my face too much.
Lo pops the toothbrush from his mouth and points to me. “Bed rest for you,” he orders before turning and spitting into the sink. He rinses and squishes with water.
“You feel okay?” I ask, watching him wipe his lips on the towel.
When he returns his attention to me, his eyes land on the bath. “I could use a bubble bath,” he says, a smile playing at his lips. Another moment where I should say no and not submit to his teasing and playfulness.
But the words just don’t come, and he’s already shedding his pants down to his black boxer-briefs and hopping right into the waters. The Jacuzzi is large enough for seven people, so it’s not that awkward.
He lets out a loud moan as he sinks into the waters. I can’t help but smile.
“Just don’t come any closer,” I warn. “I’m nak*d.” I flush at the words.
It’s his turn to smile, a mischievous one that I do not like.
“Lo,” I warn again.
He raises his hands from the water, coming in peace. “I’m staying right here.” Good. “It’s you that we both should be worried about.” I frown. He may be right about that. I scoot a little further back, avoiding his silly smile. I press my body firmly to the porcelain tub.
After a moment, Lo clears his throat and plays with the bubbles, running them between his fingers. “So…last night, did he use a condom?”
“Yeah.” I nod, giving into his question even though I have no desire to talk about last night.
“You know because college guys are different,” Lo says, still fixated on the bubbles.
“They’re hornier,” I agree. It’s my very own sexual playground. Maybe that’s why Lo looks so concerned.
“They drink more,” he adds, “and may forget to use one. You can’t let that happen, okay?”
For the past week, I’ve been so neurotic about Lo being in college, surrounded by parties every night where the liquor never runs out (most of the time). I never thought he’d have fears about me.
Against better judgment, I scoot forward a little and nudge his foot with mine. At least, I hope it’s his foot. I can’t really tell through all the bubbles. “I’ll be fine,” I say confidently, “I’m always the one in control during sex. I call the shots.” It helps that I don’t drink since I usually need to drive Lo home afterwards. Last night we had Nola drop us off with the intention of going home at a reasonable hour without the cop lights flashing in the background. Oops.
“Do you even realize how small you are?” Lo asks in disbelief. “Honestly, Lil.”
I splash some bubbles in his face. “I’m big enough.”
“You’re ridiculously skinny and five foot five. I’m big.”
My eyes drift down. Unintentional. At least I hope so. He’s already smiling again and my cheeks burn. “Can we move on?” I ask, partly whining. “I just don’t know what you want me to say.” He won’t tell me to stop, so there’s no use in revolving around this topic like some vomit-inducing carousel on a playground.
“No, I don’t want to move on,” he says roughly. “And I want you to convince me that I shouldn’t be nervous whenever you run off with a guy who looks like he could snap you in half.”
“If I can convince you, you’ll drop this subject for at least the rest of the year?” I ask, already thinking of what I could say…or do.
“Fine,” I reply. “Then you act like the horny college guy—”
I roll my eyes. “And I’ll show you just how in control I am.”
He stares me down. “You do realize you’re nak*d.”
Oh…shit. I forgot.
“Which makes this even better,” he tells me. “More realistic, right?”
Right. But my heart has started to thud in my chest, also reminding me that this is real, but maybe it’s not. We are still kind of pretending. Good God. Alice in Wonderland had an easier f**king time discerning reality than me.
I give him a nod, and before I can process anything else, Lo reaches into the water and grabs my hurt foot. I don’t know where this is going. Maybe he’s worried about my ankle again. He gently takes it in his hands and then kisses the heel sweetly.
I’m so confused. How am I supposed to convince him I’m in control if he’s just kissing my foot?
His eyes meet mine, and they don’t break away, not as he leans in and puts his mouth around my toe. Holy shit. I can feel his tongue swirling around it, and then he starts sucking. I feel like someone lit me on fire. The bath does not help smother the flames.
When he licks the arch of my foot, I pull it right out of his hands.
His eyes rise accusingly. “You didn’t like that?” he asks, knowing full well I did.
“I don’t let them suck my toes,” I say.
“Let’s see what you do then,” he challenges.
I take the bait and edge closer, glad that the bubbles hide my body from view. He relaxes against the porcelain tub now, leaning back while I straddle his waist. He tries to sit up and take charge again, and I slam my hands against his chest. My mouth finds his neck and I start leaving a trail of kisses while my h*ps move back and forth over him. The hardness in his pants grows beneath me; I’m thankful he still wears his boxer-briefs even if I don’t have any clothes on. I just need to remember this is to prove a point. Nothing more.
Before he can make another move on me, my hand lowers to his c*ck and I grip it firmly but not too hard. He groans and leans back into the tub. I smile into my next kiss and start to massage outside his underwear. I’ve got this.
But then he grabs me by the waist and in a swift motion, I’m suddenly on the bottom. I try and jerk away but his fingers find my wrist and his other hand sinks beneath the waters and touches the spot in between my legs. I shudder in need. My body just so damn confused at this point.
He leans in, his lips brushing my earlobe. “You’re in control?” he asks huskily. “Fight me.”
I try to push him off again, but he just pushes back, pinning me to the slippery tub. My slick, nak*d chest touches his and my mind can’t process anything but the words more and need.
I know I’m losing.
He doesn’t back away. Just shakes his head in slight distress. “Why not?”
“You’re too big.” And I think I want it.
He breaks into a smile, but it quickly disappears when he realizes what this means. “So you’re going to…” he trails off, not able to say the words.
“I’m going to…not f**k any linebackers or burly guys. And I have pepper spray, and like I said—I can take care of myself as long as the guy doesn’t get too aggressive.” Or isn’t Loren Hale.
“You didn’t say that.”
“I’m saying it now.” He’s about to move away and I quickly blurt out, “Can you put them in me?” No. No. No. I did not…