Second Chance Stepbrother

By: Penny Wylder


I’d be fine with that.

I grin at him. “We could steal snacks from the kitchen whenever she was out, maybe fish for dinner if we’re really hungry.”

“You’d have to get better at building fires if we’re going to be living off of fish we catch ourselves,” he points out.

I punch his shoulder lightly. “You’re the one who let it go out last night. You put a wet log right on top of it.”

“It wasn’t wet, it was only damp.”

I roll my eyes. “Trouble in paradise already.”

“But even with trouble, it’s still paradise,” he counters. He lifts a hand as if to cup my cheek, and my whole body flares. This is it. Finally. But his fingers only skim my cheekbone, brush some stray hairs behind my ear, and then he lets his hand drop back to the grass. He leans back down to watch me again, only a foot away from me, but it feels like the widest gap in the world.

It’s our last night. I don’t know when I’ll see him again. Maybe in a month or two, next time one of our parents decides to host a party. Maybe longer than that if they’re busy. Dad’s been caught up with work a lot lately, took way too much time off for this vacation, he keeps saying. And I know Susan needs to start applying for new jobs when we get back because she hates her current teaching gig, wants to find one that gives her more freedom to set her own curriculum. For all we know, it could be as long as six months before we’re together again. Six months before I have an excuse to lie here across from the hottest guy I know and joke about the dumb stuff we always talk about. Bare our souls to each other because nobody else ever seems to really get it, not the way we do.

“Close your eyes,” I say.

He does, and I marvel at the way his lashes brush his cheeks, the way he looks so relaxed, so trusting. His blond hair falls over his forehead, almost into his eyes, but it’s not quite long enough. I want to brush it back, out of the way. I want to run my fingers through it. I want to pull him close and…

It’s our last night.

“What am I waiting for?” he asks, a sly little grin on his mouth still.

“No patience, huh?” I grin back, lean in closer. We’re just inches apart. I wonder if he can feel my breath on his cheeks. Wonder if he’s thinking the same thing I am.

“I think we’ve both been patient long enough, Pau.” He opens his eyes, and I freeze, caught in the act. There’s barely an inch between us. We’re so close that if I turn my head, our noses will touch. But he doesn’t flinch. Doesn’t even seem surprised. He gazes up at me, that same smile fixed on his face.

“Close your eyes,” I repeat, and his smile grows. But he does it again.

I remember the bridge we jumped off two weeks ago. It was a small bridge, only ten feet high, over the deepest part of the lake. But Josh had to coax me off it. He jumped first, then talked me through climbing over the side and letting go. “All it takes it one step,” he told me. “Then you let gravity do the rest. Once you’re falling, you can’t take it back. It’s nice, letting go.”

He was right about that. I hope the same principle holds true now. Because I know, once I do this, I can’t take it back.

But if I don’t, I’ll regret it. I’ll regret never trying, never knowing.

So I lean forward, slowly, and ever so lightly, brush my lips against his. I’ve never kissed anybody before. It’s feather-light. The kind of kiss you could explain away as a mistake if you really wanted to.

But then Josh cups my chin, pulls me forward, his lips colliding with mine, and I lose my breath. We both sink into it, and it does feel just like jumping off that bridge. My stomach does the same thing, leaps into my throat, and my ears ring, and I feel dizzy, out of breath, but alive and on fire with joy at the same time.

Who knew kissing would feel like this? Almost like flying.

He parts his lips, and I mirror him, our tongues brushing as he slides his hand along my jaw, around my neck, then buries his fingers in my hair. I forget about everything else. The lake, the night around us, the wet grass below. All I can think about are his hands, his body pressed against mine, the way his muscles feel tight and strong while I’m soft and curved. He melds against me, pulls me to him, claims me, and I’m right where I want to be, losing myself in this kiss, in us.

Then lights flick on up at the cabin and flood the yard. We jump apart, breathless, laughing, sharing guilty smiles, our eyes sparkling, dewy like the grass, as if we’re both dazed from shock. Maybe we are.

We reach for each other’s hands. Squeeze once, tight, our fingers hot as molten metal.

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