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E M B E R

"EMBER!"

"Lu—oof!" I get the breath knocked out of me as Luke throws his arms around me tightly, picking me up and lifting me off the ground. I wrap my arms around him, breathing in his sweet scent. He buries his face in the crook of my neck, and I awkwardly wrap my legs around his waist so I'm not dangling like a doll.  "Did you miss me?" I laugh, my voice muffled by his shoulder.

"So much," he responds, finally letting me down and looking at me. His blue eyes stare into my brown ones, and my breath catches in my throat. His hands are on my hips, his fingers digging lightly into my clothed skin. I feel my cheeks flush, and I look down, my arms still loose around his neck. "Look at me," he says softly, and I look into his eyes again. Before I know what's happening, his lips are on mine, the coolness of his lip ring contrasting the hotness of our lips. I gasp softly in surprise, giving him the chance to slip his tongue into my mouth. His lips are so soft—his gentle yet passionate movements make butterflies erupt in my stomach. By the time he pulls away, we're both breathing heavily. He presses his forehead to mine, and my eyes flutter shut.

"What was that?" I ask softly, my heart beating rapidly.

"A kiss," he replies, and I can hear the smirk in his voice.

"Thanks, Captain Obvious," I reply wryly, making him snort. "I mean, what was that for? What did it mean?"

"It means whatever you want it to mean."

———

L U K E

"I want it to mean something. I don't want it to be a spur of the moment thing," she says after a moment.

"I can assure you that it did mean something. And so does this," I say before pressing my lips to hers again. She pulls me closer, tangling her hands in my hair as she bites my lip ring softly. I shiver in response. She doesn't know what she does to me. I've known her for only a month, and we haven't even been physically together 90% of that time. And I still feel this way. It's like she's positive and I'm negative, and there's just no denying our attraction.

"Am I dreaming?" she giggles against my lips.

"No," I respond, smiling against her and pulling her bottom lip between my teeth. She lets out a soft moan, making my breath catch in my throat. She tugs on my hair, and I move my hands down her body, stopping at her hips. "I thought about doing this every single day," I whisper, pulling away and pressing my forehead against hers.

"Why me, though?" she asks, her insecurities returning.

"Because you're you," I reply simply.

"We've known each other for—"

"I know," I interrupt her. "And we basically spoke everyday, remember?"

"Yeah." She looks at me, her brown eyes searching my face. She pulls her bottom lip between her teeth, chewing on it nervously.

"Don't you want this?"

"Of course I do," she replies, furrowing her brow. "It's just..."

"What?"

"You're Luke Hemmings," she says, her words sounding ever-so-familiar.

"I'm aware."

"I'm not as pretty or skinny or—"

"Okay hold up. Why are you comparing yourself to someone? And you're fucking perfect."

"Annabella is—"

"Ember." I touch her face, and she looks up at me, her brown eyes glistening. "She doesn't matter. You're who I want," I say softly, brushing her cheek with my thumb. She closes her eyes, letting out a shaky breath.

"I'm sorry. It's just as we were kissing, I began wondering if you'd ever kissed her like that. Then I began thinking about what she said to me and how I'm not good enough for you..." she trails off, opening her eyes and meeting mine.

"I actually never kissed her like that," I reply truthfully. "And you're more than good enough for me. You're so...pure." I furrow my brow as I try to find the right words. "Real," I finally say. "You're not fake."

"Thank you," she says softly, smiling at me. She's the kind of person who smiles with her entire face—every feature lights up in happiness, especially her brown eyes.

Just as I open my mouth to say something, I hear the familiar sound of bounding paws, and before I can brace myself, she jumps on me.

"Sam!" Ember laughs, trying to keep us both upright as Sam jumps around excitedly, crashing into both of us. "Down, girl!" Sam ignores her, whining and barking at us. "She missed you, too."

"Did she, now?" I laugh, reaching down to pet her.

"Oh yeah," she responds. "Want to take her for a walk?"

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