I squeeze my eyes closed and clench my stomach as the airplane wheels skid across the asphalt to a hard stop.
Holding the armrest, I rear back against the chair, fearing the plane is going to crash. In the back of my mind, I know it won’t, but that does nothing to calm the dread in my gut. The aircraft bumps and lifts off the ground again, and the breaks squeal in rejection.
I hate flying.
A few stiff moments later, the pilot comes on the speakers. I drown out his voice and wait impatiently for the flight attendants to give us the all-clear to depart. My heart is in my throat, and I’m an anxious ball of nerves. I’ve been preparing for this moment for months, eager to get to my destination, but dreading that I’m going to see him.
One of them, anyway.
Pulling the strap of my purse over my head, it falls across my chest. I blindly feel around inside for a carton of cigarettes out of habit. My shoulders sag when I remember I don’t smoke anymore. I quit a year ago, but some days I wish I hadn’t. The only thing that keeps me from lighting up two and puffing them together is the fact my best friend needs my kidney one day. We’ve already been tested and matched. Sealed and declared. We’re with each other until the end.
I finger the necklace that hangs over my heart. I never take it off—I haven’t in years—and I don’t plan to anytime soon. To the naked eye it looks like nothing more than a gray glass pendant, but when I hold it toward the sun and bring it close to my eye, there’s a clear image of a sonogram picture inside.
My thoughts should not be on anything else except the new life Adrianna will soon welcome into the world. But they’re on him because I know we’re going to see each other again.
Adrianna’s brother, Xavier Rossi.
And I feel disgustingly guilty about it.
Thinking about him causes a pang in my chest. It always does. He’s a yearning I’ll forever have gnawing under my skin. I want to know what he’s doing and who he’s with. Where he is. When I’ll see him. If he realizes we’re going to see each other again. If he even cares that we will. If he’s asked Adrianna about me at all. Xavier consumes my thoughts more often than I care to admit. He keeps me up at night tossing and turning with regret from the lie he ate so easily that I wish I could take back. The truth had been too hard for him to bear, so I took the blame. Some days, I wish I hadn’t.
Though I’d never admit this to anyone, I can’t wait to see Xavier, even if it does hurt my heart to be in the same room as him. He was my first love. My only love. You never forget your first love.
The last time I saw Xavier was at my father’s sixtieth birthday celebration over a year ago, and before that it had been years.
Air seized my lungs the second my eyes landed on Xavier. I knew he’d be there, but I wasn’t expecting such a response to come from me. After all the years of no communication, I assumed I was over him. But I was wrong. So, so wrong. He brought back to life all the butterflies I thought were long dead. Before that night, I hadn’t seen Xavier since I left for—and graduated from—college. I’d stalked him over the years, but social media didn’t do him justice when it came time to seeing him in person. Not even close. I could appreciate a good-looking man when I saw one, and Xavier was in a league of his own.
The flight attendant’s voice comes over the speakers to notify us we’re next in line to connect to the building’s door. There’s a backup of arrivals and the airline will need a few more moments of our patience before we can exit safely. The passengers groan. Luckily, I paid the extra fee to sit in first class. I can exit the plane once the green light is given.
My thoughts wander back to the past again. That night is still so fresh in my mind. I’d just turned a corner and stepped into the dining area when I stopped in my tracks. My lips had parted at his masculine beauty. I’d watched Xavier for a moment, trying to steady the sudden chaotic beating in my chest. He was dressed in business attire and talking to Frank with a glass tumbler in his left hand. He hadn’t seen me, it wasn’t possible from the direction I’d come from, but he turned around as if he’d sensed me enter the room. Our eyes met, and Xavier stopped talking mid-sentence to stare at me.
The attraction was instant, and I became hyperaware of him. He ate it up too. I didn’t care that he saw I was stunned by how ridiculously gorgeous he’d turned out to be. He took my breath away.
I grew up living next door to Adrianna. It was an ideal situation for two families who were in business together. Naturally, Adrianna and I loved it. Who wouldn’t want to live next door to their best friend? Like most older brothers, Xavier was like the gnat at a barbeque who wouldn’t go away. He was always around, but it turned out to be a good thing since he was close in age to my twin brothers. That meant Connor and Michael would leave me alone. At least, I thought they would. The three of them called themselves the “band of brothers,” and they were annoying as hell daredevils. The guys were constantly in trouble or pulling pranks on us girls. We lived in a small, ritzy complex, where homes were priced starting in the millions. The locals didn’t find them as entertaining as they thought they were. They were typical dumb boys, except somewhere along the way, Xavier hit puberty and it made me see him in a completely different light. I guess he felt the same about me too.
What transpired between us happened by accident. It was just like any other night after cheerleading practice. I’d walk next door and wait for Adrianna to get home from gymnastics so we could hang out for a bit. She was homeschooled, but I wasn’t, so our schedules were vastly different. At first Xavier didn’t want me around, but I didn’t want to sit the forty-minute wait alone, so I would mosey out to the pool house to see what he was up to. He’d often plop onto his bed like a sullen boy and bury his face under his folded arms and complain about the pressure his dad put on him. He’d talk and ramble about pointless things without looking at me. On occasion I talked and shared, but I’d rather listen. I’d sit next to him and play with his hair as I teased him about how hard his spoiled life was. There was a familiarity between the two of us despite our four-year age difference. Our sibling type bickering turned flirtatious, and hands became extra grabby. No one was there but us. No one knew we were alone. We thought nothing of it at first.
Xavier was different behind closed doors. He was wildly smart with numbers and could solve the Rubik’s Cube in under twenty seconds. He was more intense in his conversations when no one was around, emotionally deeper than the aloof pretense he wore like a second skin. His chest would turn red when he’d get on a tangent. He spoke freely when it was just us. He was honest and had questions about life. Xavier was comfortable around me, candid about what he liked and didn’t, and I think it’s why I was attracted to him. He was different.
I stare out the window, thinking back to the time we first kissed, reliving the innocence we shared before shit got heavy. He called it seven seconds in heaven. It became a thing between us.
“Pity party for one,” I joked.
Xavier chuckled under his breath. “I don’t have fucking pity parties, Avery.”
“Yeah, you do.”
“Okay. So what if I do? Guys can’t bitch too? Is it only reserved for chicks?”
“Poor little rich boy, down on his luck.”
“There’s nothing little about me.” A smile splashed across his lips, and all it did was egg me on to tease him more.
Xavier huffed under his breath and unconsciously wrapped an arm around my waist to pull me down to his bed, ending my retort. He pinned one of his knees to the inside of my thigh and my body reacted immediately, my legs spreading all too easily for him. He crawled over my body and brazenly dropped his weight on me. Our limbs fused together, and for a moment sex crossed my mind even though I was still a virgin.
Xavier pressed his hips to my pelvis. My grin slipped, and so did his as things turned serious. I was instantly wet feeling his cock swell against my thin cotton cheer shorts. I clenched my thighs around him on instinct when his thick length glided up and down my pussy. It felt too good, too fast, and caused a maelstrom to build inside of me, yearning for more. My back bowed off the bed, causing my chest to push into his as he continued to work me up. He knew what he was doing. And when I rolled my hips against his and sighed at the feel of his length between my legs, he knew exactly what I was doing.
“Do it again,” he demanded. And I did. “Mmm,” he groaned. I liked the response I got out of him.
Xavier peered down at me, caging me in with his arms. The friction between us was thick as unspoken desire loomed in the air. We’d never been this bold with each other. I took small, short breaths as he did too. I stared at the brown in his eyes, captivated by how the color blended with his dilated pupils. His eyes were nearly black and they sucked me in like a vortex before my gaze found his lips. I studied his mouth, wishing I could summon the courage to kiss him. Our legs tangled together slowly, like they we’re getting acquainted. Which I guess we were. Xavier was all muscle and strength, and he smelled so good he made me want to take a bite of him. I didn’t because I was sure he’d think it was weird.
Xavier didn’t say anything, and I didn’t either. All we could do was feel each other. He released a heavy breath and dipped his head to graze the tip of my nose with his. I leaned up to close the gap.
“What if I wanted you as my guest?”
“What?” I asked, my voice soft. “Your guest for what?”
“You said I have pity parties. What if I want you as my guest?”
I held my breath while I considered a response. I wasn’t sure exactly what he was asking for, but I knew whatever it was, my answer was yes.
“Depends on how many people are at this party,” I said. “I’m not for everyone. I’m an acquired taste.”
“You are for me.” The corner of his mouth tugged into a smirk. It made my stomach clench. Xavier was striking. But stripped down like this, Xavier was gorgeous.
“Ave,” he said, and suddenly I was not Avery anymore.
He brought his lips to my forehead, and my lungs ached from holding my breath. He pressed a soft kiss to my skin. My shoulders loosened and I relaxed into his bed. I wished he would have kissed my lips instead.
“Can I count on your RSVP?”
I tipped my jaw up in search of his eyes. His lips were so close to mine that I felt his heated breath as he exhaled. I nodded my response.
“You have to seal it with a kiss.”
My brows shot up. I licked my parched lips and he watched. “You want to kiss me?”
I held my breath as he nodded. “God, yes. I’ve been dying to taste your lips for weeks, to feel your hands on me. I’m struggling not to kiss you right now,” he admitted.
“How come you haven’t kissed me yet?” I wasn’t sure where I found the courage to ask the question, but I blurted it out before I could stop.
“I have this feeling that if I kiss you, it will change everything. But also because I’m afraid I won’t be able to stop now that I have you under me. I shouldn’t. It’s wrong. You’re my sister’s friend, and your brothers would murder me if they saw me on top of you. But you know what?”
My heart raced a mile a minute. I was in utter shock at what I was hearing. “What?”
“I like you under me. I want to keep you there.”
“What if I…” I stumbled over my words and bit my bottom lip.
Xavier wasn’t some scrawny boy with twiggy arms. He’d filled out and shot up. His voice had deepened, and he stopped wearing a shirt most of the time. He smoked cigarettes against his parents’ wishes and stole their liquor while we were all in the same room.
The older he got, the slicker he got. He made fake IDs and sold them. He willingly sold me one without thinking twice. They were the good kind too. The kind that had allowed him to ink up his shoulder before he was legal. It was how he got the tongue ring he hid from his parents for a couple of years until he didn’t care anymore if they saw it. Xavier was a bad boy, the kind a girl would do anything for.
“What if I kissed you? Would you be able to stop if I asked you to?”
He averted his gaze. “I don’t know.”
I studied him for a moment, trying to figure out my next move when an idea came to me.
“How about I give you seven seconds to kiss me?”
He grinned. “Are we playing seven seconds in heaven?”
I hadn’t thought of it like that, but it was a good cover.
“Maybe,” I answered.
“What happens after seven seconds?”
I blinked, thinking. “I get seven seconds.”
“And then what?”
I blinked again, trying to figure out the rules of this new game we were playing. “Then we start over and you get another seven seconds.”
Xavier shook his head, not approving. “What do I gotta do to multiply it? Seven seconds goes by fast.”
An idea struck me. “Seven second intervals. No more than seven times.”
“Every day?” he asked immediately. He sounded hopeful, and I liked it.
“Only on pity party days.”
Xavier’s brows scrunched. “That’s not fair. I can’t anticipate my moods. What if I want you on another day for no other reason?”
“Then we don’t play.”
His brows deepened. “What if I never have another pity party again because you make every day brighter?”
A loud laugh had burst from my lips. I couldn’t contain it. “I would say you’re a lying sack of shit. You’re in a mood every other day.”
Xavier lifted his head and looked at something behind me. He shrugged one shoulder. His gaze was long and deep. It made me curious to know what he was thinking about.
“Most people piss me off.”
“Do I ever piss you off?”
Xavier’s gaze snapped back to mine. He held it.
“You serious right now?”
I nodded. I was the same age as his sister. I couldn’t stand my brothers, but the younger siblings were always more annoying.
“I don’t have wet dreams of people who piss me off. I don’t imagine what it would like to be inside of them. And I definitely don’t think about what she’d look like riding my dick.” I gasped under my breath and his voice lowered. “Does that answer your question, Ave?”
I nodded quickly. Wetness seeped from my pussy. I didn’t want Xavier to know he made me so wet, but all I could focus on was the warmth of his body pressed to mine, and how big his dick was.
I wanted Xavier badly.
Slowly, we ground into each other, and it took all of me not to moan.
“Now about this game—”
“Let’s just start out with seven seconds at a time and go from there?”
My voice was high and quick. I’d cut him off to set the rules. My heart was pounding against my chest.
“You really think seven is a good number to start with? That’ll be enough?”
He nodded and huffed out a smile. “I’m going to make you regret your rules.”
I hoped so.
The sound of the cabin door opening brings me back to the present. I look up and see we’re given the green light to exit the plane. I rise from my seat and shuffle forward. I’m starting to sweat. I need to get my checked bag, then head outside to meet Kova. Adrianna is about two weeks away from giving birth to a miracle child, and of course Xavier will be there to witness it. That’s where his thoughts probably are, and where mine should be too. But they’re not, and I’m stuck in a riff of emotions as I’m about to face my past yet again. I want to see him, but I don’t.