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Chapter Thirty Eight

I couldn’t stop laughing as Dex opened the door to our room and pulled me inside.

 

“I can’t believe you did that!” I had to lean against the wall to keep from falling over. My face was red, and tears were running in rivers down my cheeks. “Did you see the look on their faces when you…when you smeared that dog turd…”

 

It was too much. I collapsed on the couch, grabbing one of the pillows and screaming into it because laughter just couldn’t cut it anymore. I felt Dex sit down beside me, but I couldn’t look up from my pillow yet. When I finally did, though, I found him looking back at me with that same pleasantly lost expression I’d been catching on his face all night.

 

“You’re beautiful when you laugh,” he said. Then he blinked, like he hadn’t realized what was coming out of his mouth, and cleared his throat. “Not that you aren’t always beautiful, but, you know…just…especially right now?”

 

I smirked and felt my cheeks tingle. “Thanks. And you were right. I do feel better. I haven’t laughed like this since…”

 

“Since before you met me.”

 

A little bit of the laughter shriveled up and died. “What? No! I just meant that…”

 

“No, I get it. And I don’t blame you.” He gave me a smile. “Your life’s been pretty crappy over the past few years, huh?”

 

I raised my legs and hugged my knees. “That’s an understatement.”

 

He sighed. “And I’m sorry. You’re the last person in the world who deserved any of this. But for what it’s worth…”

 

His voice trailed off, and I looked up at him. “What?”

 

“Never mind.”

 

“No, really!” I leaned towards him. “Tell me!”

 

He swallowed and looked back at me, his cheeks already turning a little bit red from whatever it was he was about to say. “Amber, I…I’m just glad that I could be the one to put a smile back on your face.”

 

I didn’t say anything, and he didn’t look away. For a long minute, we just stared at each other. What happened now?

 

Kiss him, you idiot! my common sense yelled at me.

 

My heart skipped a beat. Did I want that? I’d had fun with Dex tonight, don’t get me wrong, but…I dunno, kissing at the end of it felt like signing a contract. Like I was agreeing without words to be his girlfriend. I wasn’t sure yet if that was what I wanted. I liked Dex. I liked him a lot. But until yesterday I hadn’t given my love life a thought in years. There was always something more important to worry about, usually along the lines of not getting killed. Now that the prospect was back on the table—and right in front of me—I didn’t know what to do, or think, or feel.

 

He’s been so good to you, that voice whispered. Better than you’d ever deserve. Don’t pretend that means nothing to you.

 

It didn’t mean nothing. It meant everything. Words couldn’t express how thankful I was for his friendship over the past three years. Without him there to make me smile and laugh, living with Hendricks would have driven me to either insanity or suicide within a month.

 

But did I love him for it?

 

I began to think. I’d already kissed him once. Or, rather, he had kissed me. It had been nice, I guess. I wasn’t exactly an expert on kissing. But the memory sent a warm, fuzzy tingle through me. One thing was for sure: no matter what my decision was, I did want to kiss him again.

 

But just as I was about to start inching my face closer to his, Dex stood up, stretched, and yawned.

 

“Well, Sugarsnout, I’m glad you had fun tonight,” he said with a smile. I don’t think he’d even noticed what I was trying to do. “But I’m covered with sweat and dried cheese. Time for a shower!”

 

I blinked and sat back, heart still pounding in my throat, as he gathered a clean set of clothes and made for the bathroom. The door clicked shut behind him.

 

“Y- Yeah,” I whispered. “A shower. Good idea.”

 

I didn’t know what to think. My feelings were churning up a storm inside of me. The happiness Dex had helped me feel tonight was still there, but beneath it was all the sadness and pain I’d accumulated over the past few years. And yet, they didn’t clash. They…meshed. Like pieces from two different puzzles that somehow fit together perfectly.

 

From the other side of the bathroom door, I heard the hiss of the shower.

 

So much happiness. More than I’d felt in years. It was like I’d been living in a dark cave for years, and Dex had suddenly shown up with a flashlight. The darkness was gone, at least for tonight. Tomorrow I’d be back to…

 

No, I didn’t want to think about that. I wanted to think about Dex. Even after spending the whole afternoon with him, he was still on my mind. The way his shaggy blonde hair framed his face, scrawny but still manly. How easily he could smile, even in the worst of times. The knack he had for making others smile with him, even if they didn’t want to. I wanted to hold him against me, feel his warmth and smell his scent. Just being near him made life seem better, and I…

 

I froze with sudden realization. Crap. Sometime when I hadn’t been paying attention, it looked like my heart had gone and made its own decision. I sat back against the couch, putting a hand to my chest to feel my galloping pulse. What did this mean? What did we do now? I looked at the bathroom door again, and realized my mind had made itself up without me a second time.

 

Slowly, I stood up. If my heart had been racing before, that was nothing compared to what it was doing now. Seriously, connect it to a generator and I could have powered this whole city for a day! But that didn’t stop me. I took a cautious step toward the door…

 

And then I took my shirt off.

 

This is crazy! I thought, dropping it on the floor. You’re crazy!

 

I unzipped my pants, letting them fall to the floor and stepping out of them.

 

Yeah, well, my whole life has been crazy lately, I thought back. Maybe I want it to be crazy in my favor for once!

 

With shaking hands, I undid my bra next. Then I slid my underwear down my legs, leaving me completely naked. I shivered a little, goosebumps rising on my skin. Being naked was something that I, as a werewolf, had grown comfortable with a long time ago. You can’t shift with your clothes on, after all. But this time it was different. This time my nakedness wasn’t just for efficiency. It meant something.

 

Equal parts excitement and fear were burning in my chest when I thought about what was coming. Reaching out with a shaking hand, I slowly turned the doorknob. Dex hadn’t locked it. Pushing it open, I felt a wall of steam hit me, warming my bare skin, and I slipped inside. The shower was still running, and I could hear Dex inside it, splashing water and humming tunelessly. My stomach started to do backflips. All that stood between me and Dex was a flimsy, puny shower curtain. I reached for it…

 

Are you sure about this? the voice asked one last time. This is your last chance to back out.

 

I paused, my fingers an inch away from the curtain—and then I grabbed it and pulled it open just the slightest bit. Not allowing myself any more time to think, I stepped into the shower.

 

And there he was. Dex was facing away from me, somehow unaware that I’d joined him. His head was under the spray, washing shampoo out of his hair. I waited for a second, letting my eyes run over him before…

 

If you’re going to do this, then stop stalling!

 

Right. Ignoring my fears and my second thoughts, I stepped forward and wrapped my arms around him from behind. He let out a startled gasp and froze.

 

“A…Amber?” he asked.

 

“Hey, Dex,” I said, pressing myself against his back.

 

“What, um…What are you doing?”

 

“What does it look like I’m doing?”

 

Pulling him even closer, I rested my head against his shoulder and began to run my hands up and down his chest and stomach. He was thin, but that didn’t make him weak. I could feel every muscle as I lightly traced my fingers over them.

 

He craned his neck around to see me. “Amber, I don’t think you—”

 

I silenced him with a kiss. At first he went rigid, and I was afraid he was going to throw me out. But then he seemed to melt, relaxing, and he kissed me back. This wasn’t like the kiss we’d shared in the alley. This one was more intimate, more passionate, and that wasn’t just because we were naked together in the shower. Our tongues invaded each other’s mouths, fighting like a pair of wolves battling for alpha status.

 

We broke the kiss over a minute later, and he looked at me with lust burning in his eyes and whispered, “Are you sure?”

 

I nodded.

 

That was all he needed to hear. Breaking out of my grip, he turned around so we were facing each other and hugged me to him in an embrace so close I could feel his own heart racing at least as fast as mine. His hands caressed the skin of my back, my naked front pressed firmly, erotically, against his. His fingers delicately stroked my spine, making me shiver, and we kissed again.

 

We were in a shower with water pouring down onto us, but in that moment we were both on fire. It felt like my entire body was blushing, somehow, and I knew Dex felt the same way. I could sense his excitement growing by the second.

 

“I love you,” he gasped when we broke for air again. “Amber, I love you so much!”

 

While he caught his breath, I leaned forward and whispered into his ear, “And I have decided that I love you, too.”

 

For a while we both just stood there, kissing and hugging each other under the hot pouring water, our hands growing bolder with each passing minute. I moaned into Dex’s mouth, encouraging him touch me more. But it wasn’t enough, not for either of us. We got out of the shower and dried each other off, kissing almost the entire time. Then, with the chilly post-shower air giving me goosebumps again, we collapsed together onto the bed.

 

“Everything you’ve done means so much to me,” I whispered, lying on top of him. “I couldn’t not love you for what you’ve done, even if I wanted to.”

 

“And do you want to?” Dex asked, reaching up to tuck a stray lock of hair behind my ear.

 

I leaned down and bit his bottom lip—lightly. I didn’t want to accidentally turn him into a werewolf here. Then, grabbing him by the shoulders, I rolled us both over so that he was lying on top of me. God, I had never imagined it being like this. This close, our bodies pressed together with no clothing to get between us. Part of me felt like a wild animal claiming her mate. Everything he was giving me, I wanted more of! The rest of me, the part that was still a twenty one year old girl who’d never so much as kissed a boy before tonight, was scared. This was the closest I’d ever let anybody get to me. I was more vulnerable now than I’d ever been before. There were so many ways that Dex could have hurt me right now, both physically and emotionally, that I couldn’t even count them.

 

But as I looked up into his eyes and saw the way he was looking back at me, I knew I had nothing to worry about. This was a man, perhaps the only man in the world, who would never hurt me. I reached up, pulled his head down into a kiss…

 

And gave myself to him.

 

Every part of me was, for that night, entirely his. Just like he was entirely mine. He loved me, I loved him, and there was nowhere on earth that I wanted to be than underneath him, in our hotel bed, high above one of the biggest cities in the world. It was terrifying, but I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.

Because I loved him.