Here’s a peek from Chapter Eight in Butterfly Ginger.
As they passed the stairs on the way to the kitchen, Blythe chewed her lip. When would they go up there? Would it happen right away? How much would it hurt?
“Where are your parents?” she asked, unable to stop the rush of fears that crowded into her head.
“In St. Francesville, visiting Nana Grace — Richland’s mother,” Nate said, taking down two glasses from the cabinet. “They’ll be back tonight.”
Tonight. By then, everything would be different. Would this change them? Her palms felt like dishrags, and she tried to dry them on her shorts.
“Blythe…?” Nate was staring at her. He stood at the open fridge door, and Blythe realized she had missed something.
“I asked if you wanted sweet or unsweet.” His voice was even, but as he studied her, the look of confident ease faded to one of concern.
“Oh… sweet, I guess… or unsweet,” she stammered. “It doesn’t matter.”
Nate shut the fridge door and crossed to her in two strides.
“Stop it,” he said, taking both her hands.
“Stop what?” she said, understanding him all too well but feeling damned ridiculous.
“Stop pretending that you’re okay when you’re not,” he said gently. He squeezed her hands and drew a long, slow breath as though he could breathe for her. “We don’t have to do this today, Blythe.”
“Yes, we do!”
The startled look he gave her must have matched her own.
Where did that come from?
“We do?” he asked, clearly teasing her. “I’m pretty sure it’s optional, Blythe, but if there’s some rule I don’t know about —”
Her index finger jabbed his ribs.
“Don’t joke,” she said, masking her embarrassment with irritation. It wasn’t his fault she was such a mess, but Blythe didn’t know what else to do. How could she screw this up any worse?
“Hey, hey,” Nate whispered, dropping his humor and pulling her against him. “I’m sorry. I just want you to relax. You look miserable, and that’s the last thing I want.”
His brown eyes, the color of warmth, searched hers, and Blythe finally remembered what it was like to be with him. She had thought and obsessed and stressed so much about what they would do, she had forgotten what it meant to be with Nate. Thinking had wound her tight with worry, but being with Nate always settled her like nothing else.
“I’m sorry,” she said, holding his gaze, circling her arms around him and squeezing back. “I’m too much in my head.”
“You seemed far away. I didn’t like it,” he told her. Nate swallowed and appeared to weigh his words. “I want you with me when you’re with me. There will be enough distance once school starts.”
It always came back to this. Time was running out for them. It was why she felt like they had to make the most of this one day alone.
“You’re right,” she conceded. “It doesn’t have to happen today, but, Nate, I want it to. When we go away to school, I don’t just want to be your girlfriend. I want to be your…”
Blythe lost her nerve. She couldn’t say the word out loud.
A wicked smile crept over Nate’s mouth.
“My pen pal?”
“Nate!” She giggled in spite of herself, and Nate trapped her arms with his so that she couldn’t swat him. His lips found her neck, and he teased her between kisses.
“My Facebook friend?” he breathed, making the hairs on the back of her neck stand up, even as she laughed and wanted to kick him all at once.
“Mmm… I love you,” Nate whispered, his breath tickling against her skin. “Would you be my lover?”
The word on his lips made her knees weak. How come he could say it and she couldn’t? And when he did, it sounded perfect. Not cheesy. Not strange. But intimate. A secret just for them.
“I love you,” she whispered back, drowning in his heat. She stretched up and pressed her lips to his neck, tasting a hint of salt and the crisp bite of grass. Even after a shower, Nate smelled like fresh air and green grass, as though he were made of it.
“Is that a yes?” he asked, smiling against her skin.