discarded it at the foot of the bed, and counts it as a ploy to get him to come back to her, even if she knows she’s not fighting fair. She knows that Austin knows her well enough to know how her father died—lung cancer. And she also knows that Austin, her seemingly self-appointed protector, wouldn’t dare let her do herself harm. As she hoped and half expected, he stills when he sees the flicker of a flame, an orange blur in the corner of his wet vision. He’s quick to get to her, plucking the cigarette from her mouth and covering her lips with his. He holds her against him with his forearm braced across her back, both of their cigarettes mingling lit in his other hand, as he fumbles blindly for a cup, a can, anything to snuff them out in. When he does, she wraps her arms around his neck and hoists herself up onto her knees to match his half-bent frame, leaving his other hand to tangle in her hair.
Frantic to have him all over her, Harper wraps her legs around his hips as he groans. He sees white behind his eyes, a heat so intense that it’s blinding in the darkness, and he wants to be within her, inside of her, and more—a symbiotic part of the whole of her. Austin restrains himself though, stops his hips from shifting against her, stops them from begging her for more, and fills his hands with her skin, taking fistfuls of it at a time, as she clings to him. He tears his mouth from hers to kiss the skin of her throat, an area he’s come to know well, before moving to her sternum, outward to her shoulders and arms, anywhere he can reach. She moves with him in a sort of slow dance to give him better access to all of her parts. Her hands find his hair and tug, needy, guiding him around her body until he is willing to return to her mouth. When he does, they change from quick to slow, and he licks across her lower lip as her throat releases a sigh.
They are languid and falling, crashing back to Earth as they hit the mattress, and tangle against each other in the sheets of his bed. His legs intertwine with hers and their hands find backs and arms and other holds of which they don’t want to let go. Slowly, softly, those hands move and shift and grab, hold tighter and longer, and their mouths slide softly over all of their exposed skin at a worshiping speed.
Eventually, even their mouths still, their breaths level out, and Harper’s eyelashes begin to flutter against his chest. He glances down at her, his chin brushing against her hair as he does, and his heart feels entirely too full at the sight of the beauty sprawled across him. Fiery hair and porcelain skin blanket his usual view of the unsightly scars that crisscross his chest, and with her draped over him, he’s able to almost imagine they aren’t there. He kisses the top of her head and she stirs, moves to languidly kiss at his lips again, and he wraps her fully in his arms.
“I feel safe with you,” she murmurs against him.
“That’s all I want, Harp,” he says softly as she drags her lips down his neck and over his heart, over all of the scars and pain. He can feel the weight of her mouth and more bearing down on the core of him, and it beats quickly as he says, “Harper, I need you to promise me something.” She stills, her mouth parted against his skin, and the seconds drag on as he waits for an answer. He can feel the slight nod of her head as her hair brushes against his shoulder, encouraging him to go on. “I’m yours as long as you want me, however you want me,” he whispers, his throat contracting tightly around the words. “But when the time comes that you don’t want me anymore—”
“Please don’t break me.”
“You don’t know that.” Harper releases a heavy breath against him, but doesn’t refute his claim. “But I’d wreck myself for you, you know.”
“I don’t want you to.”
“I’ve been doing it for years,” he laughs solemnly, the sound quickly tapering to a halt.
Alejandro Zambra, Megan McDowell