“I wish I could stay like this forever,” I whisper into her ear. In the distance, I hear the train making its forward ascent.

She sighs when I run my nose along the edge of her neck, from her shoulder blade to her ear lobe. “You smell so damn delicious. I know that the cherry-vanilla is from that chapstick I’ll never forget. The salt and sand is from earlier, but you always have a hint of coconut on your skin that just makes me want to lick you from head to toe.” Which is exactly what I hope to do later.

A shiver runs up her body as she says, “It’s coconut oil. I use it for basically everything.”

“I’m crazy about it. Almost as much as I am about you.” Her hands squeeze my arms in closer to her and I continue, “I’m so sorry for everything…”

I cut him off instantly, “Don’t start that, Jace. Don’t ruin this moment. What’s done is done. We’re here now.”

“I want to be here for you from now on. I want to hold you safe all night and watch you wake up in the morning. I want your happy, forgiving spirit to ease my soul everyday.”

I turn and look up at him again and say, “Jace, I’ve always wanted you and I’ve never pretended otherwise. No one has even come close to making me feel the way I do when I’m with you.”

Then, right there for all of the trees and stars to see, Jace claims my mouth and takes what I’ve been begging to give for years. The train finally barrels down the tracks, and for a split second I try to listen for the sound of metal being squashed beneath thousands of pounds of moving machine. But my thoughts are hopelessly filled with the gorgeous man holding me. The loud rumbling of the engine moving at a blaring speed suffocates all other sounds around us. For a moment, there is only Jace and I never want to go back. We don’t break apart until long after my hair has blown wild in the wind from the passing train.

When it’s gone and the tracks have cooled down, Jace stands and reaches for my hand. He pulls me up and asks me to stay where I am for a second. I watch as he jogs back up the rocky hill we had just climbed not long ago. He bends down, grabs his coin, and returns to my side.

He tenderly opens my hand and drops the warm metal into my palm. I feel the smoothness of the stretched-out penny.

“Yeah, my dad showed me how to do it when I was a kid,” he responds. I close my hand tightly around the penny and think about how I’ll always have this. Even if Jace and I don’t work things out, I’ll always have this little memento to bring out when I’m lonesome, remembering this night out under the stars. It’s something I can tuck away in my pocket for only me to treasure.

“Let’s head back,” he says and crouches down in front of me again. Knowing what he’s suggesting this time, I hop up onto his back and wrap my arms around his neck. He grips my thighs under his big hands and occasionally rubs them softly while we begin the trek back through the trees and shrubs.

“You’re not really going to carry me all the way back to the car, are you?”

“I carried a backpack every day last year that was heavier than you,” he replies, without a hitch in his breathing.

“Why isn’t your backpack as heavy this year?” I ask.

“Well, aren’t you perceptive?” he states with a laugh.

“I was double-majoring up until this year,” he reveals. “It was stupid of me.”

“I’m sure it was anything but stupid, Jace. What were your two majors?”

“I was in Pre-med because I thought that’s what my dad wanted me to do. But I always wanted to take over his company, so I was also in Business. I dropped Pre-med,” he says the last part quietly, almost as if he’s ashamed.

“Because, I always thought you would follow in your dad’s footsteps. Even though we weren’t together, Jace, I absorbed every piece of information I ever heard about you when Jax and I were together. I never saw you being happy as a doctor.”

He continues quietly toward his car. I can tell he’s surprised by my words. While being a doctor is a noble profession, he should always go after what he wants and not what others think that he should do. When I escaped my past by moving to California, I vowed I would never do something that made me unhappy. While accounting isn’t the most exciting occupation in the world, I’m good at it and that makes me happy.

“I can’t imagine working toward two separate degrees. Just the one I got was hard enough. I always thought Lane was crazy for coming back for a second bachelor’s, and now he’s getting a master’s with me.”

“Wow, I didn’t realize you were so far ahead. No wonder I finally found you Friday morning in an advanced Accounting class. So, Lane’s older than us?”

“Yeah, he’s twenty-eight. He already went to school once and graduated in the Criminal Justice field. He never talks about his past, not even to me, but I think something terrible happened. A long time ago, he mentioned that he flipped a one-eighty and tried to go in the exact opposite of his previous life. Criminal Justice to Accounting; doesn’t get more diverse than that.”

“Earlier he told me he might be going out of town for a week,” Jace says.

I groan loudly and the sound vibrates from my chest into his back. “He does this every once in a while and never comes back happy. It usually takes another week before he’s back to his cheerful self. I have no idea where he goes.”

We reach his car finally and he says, “I don’t mind keeping you company.”

I slip down the backside of his body and my feet hit the ground. I watch as he pops the trunk of his car open, pulling out a small, black toolbox.

He extends his hand toward me with his palm up and says, “Penny, please.” I squeeze it tighter in my fist. I wanted to keep it. It was supposed to be my trinket to always remember him by, not that I could ever forget.

When I continue staring at my closed hand, he laughs and says, “I promise to give it back.” Those words are exactly what I need to hear.

When he picks the penny out of my palm, he leans over and kisses my lips with a soft peck. Then he starts to dig through the toolbox, although I’m not sure what he’s looking for. I hop up onto the ledge of the open trunk and stare out into the dark distance. Jace tinkers away beside me and I soak in this simple time with him. Could it really all come together this easily? Could we finally get to be together? Was time all we needed? As two high school kids, it wasn’t our time. But maybe now that we’ve become adults, could this be our time?

“How come you only drive Jaxon’s car?” I ask to interrupt my confusing thoughts.

“Because it’s my car now,” he says, while continuing to work with his hands in the dark. “He gave it to me this past summer. I was always working on it and keeping it in shape anyway, but I never thought he would just hand over the keys like that. I love this car because it reminds me so much of my dad.”

“Wow, that was nice of him,” I say on an exhale.

“Yeah…” he sighs. “Just another reason why I feel so shitty about going behind his back like this. I’ll tell him, I promise, Audrey. But you have to understand how hard it is. We always promised each other that we wouldn’t date each other’s girls, past or present. I just need to find the right way to tell him, but for now, I want to see where this goes.” He gestures with his finger between the two of us.

So, what he’s saying is that he wants to be with me, but he needs to keep it on the down low. How do I feel about that? I would never let it be a permanent situation, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what he’s asking. I can hold on just a little while longer. At least I can still have him in the meantime. That’s what I’ve always wanted anyway. Jace. It’s always been Jace.

I nod my head in agreement and then add, “But I’m not your girlfriend until I get a real first date.”

“Damn, I was hoping I could give this to my girl tonight,” he chuckles. Slowly, he lifts up his hand and a silver chain dangles from his fingers. My eyes follow the series of links until I see that my penny is suspended from the end of it. Somehow he made a tiny hole in the metal and strung a chain through it.

“Wow, you just made me a necklace?” I ask incredulously.

His hands move the length of my hair aside and he drapes it over my shoulder. Then he wraps the chain around my neck, clasping the two ends together. I look down at the penny lying just above my breasts.

“I’ve walked passed so many pennies in my life, never bothering to pick them up because none of them were ever appealing to me. Then one day, I literally crashed into the most gorgeous penny I’d ever seen, so I picked her up off the ground, wiped away her tears, and became mesmerized by her every movement. Stupidly, I let that penny get away from me, and I’ve regretted it ever since. You were my lucky penny, Audrey, and I’ve been dreaming about you for years.”

I can probably count on one hand the number of times I remember crying in my life. Three of those times have been because of Jace, and two of them occurred today. Tears well up in my eyes at his sweet words. How many times have I secretly girl-crushed, imagining Jace confessing his feelings for me? Never, not even in one of my dreams, did they come out like that.

“Babe, no more crying. You’ve reached your quota for the day,” he says, as he once again wipes my eyes.

I laugh through my tears and insist, “These aren’t sad ones.”

I stand up on my toes, wrap my arms around his neck, and kiss him without warning. He is mine to take, whenever I want. Although a little voice in the back of my head annoyingly adds: Yes, except when Jaxon is around.

The futon bar pushes further into my ribcage as I begin to stir awake. Groaning, I shift to try and escape the evil bar that is determined to separate me from Audrey. I don’t understand how it doesn’t drive her f**king insane. Although I tossed and turned last night, I’d do it a thousand times more just to have her next to me all night long. Hopefully, I’ll soon be taking her back to my bed.

Last night when I asked to stay the night, I didn’t consider the true test of my willpower that would be required to resist her na**d body beside me. Especially her begging-to-be-touched na**d body. So much had happened last night, from the horrendous to the magnificent. I had witnessed her cry, twice in one evening. I felt like there were too many raw emotions and it would be better for her to sleep on it all. Trust me though, I was in pain all night long, and it wasn’t just the metal bar in my back causing it.

I run my hand lightly down the length of her side. Her soft skin feels like silk against my fingertips. All I can feel is skin. My fingers don’t have to detour across any clothing on her entire body. Audrey sleeps na**d, well except for my penny around her neck. She sleeps like this, even when she’s by herself. Incredibly, it’s not to seduce a guy, but purely because that’s what makes her comfortable. An unforeseen growl rolls through my chest at the idea of other guys in her bed. She begins to stir at my possessive vibration.

Her back is tucked into my chest, but I peer over and watch her eyelashes as they begin to flutter open. She stretches her arms above her head and I run my hands up them to extend the stretch. One of her hands comes back down to her neck and I smile as she checks for the necklace. The act makes me kiss the back of her neck underneath her hairline.

Her back arches and it causes her ass to press into me. This time a groan rumbles past my lips at the f**king remarkable feeling of her unbelievable body against my willing and ready one.

“Please don’t say you’re planning to make me wait again…” she whispers in her sexy as hell hoarse morning voice.

“I couldn’t even if I tried. If I don’t get some relief from this body right here,” I say in a low undertone, while cupping her br**sts and grinding into her from behind, “I might explode. You’re a tease even when you sleep.”

“Sorry…” she says on a moan.

“No,” she chuckles quietly. That’s my girl. Slowly, while lying on our sides, we move against one another. It’s a lot like the way we danced together last Thursday night, except now we’re na**d and alone. I’ll take this with her any day. I reach behind my head and grab the waiting condom before putting it on.

I lift her top leg and hitch it up by holding the back of her knee. The closer contact makes her groan into her pillow.

“Do you want me?” I ask.

“More than air,” she breathes out instantly. Because I know she’s ready from all the grinding, I slip inside of her, inch by inch. Pausing, I wait for her to adjust to my size. When I begin to move, she lets out a strangled cry and urges me to keep going. Yes, ma’am.

Hours. I could do this with her for f**king hours. Days. Months. Hell, probably even years. Please just deliver my food and all other necessities to this bed, because if anyone wants me to leave, they will have to drag my ass out.

For years my body has craved what I now hold in my hands. I tried to feed it with what I thought it needed, and yet there’s something about finally letting your body have what it’s always desired. You can try and create feelings, but you can’t deny true attraction. Audrey feeds my soul with her strength and beauty.

“God, you feel amazing,” I groan. My speed amps up, but it’s still a slower pace than my usual. Lazy morning sex does have its perks. It’s relaxing and slow versus the frantic kind you have at night in the backseat of a car after drinking too much. I pull her arms up and she bends them backward, grabbing onto my head. Her fingers scratch through my hair as she holds on. I bring her top leg up closer to her body so I can get further in.