Chapter Forty

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I made a ko-fi...which is a platform where supporters (like you) can donate to creators (like me). If you like what I do consider donating. I spend lots of time writing and editing and posting and know that it would mean a lot to me. ❤️ The link is in my bio. Thank you to those of you who have been generous enough to donate.

Thank you guys so much for the comments and the love on my profile. It seriously means a lot and helps relieve the stress I feel towards meeting writing expectations. I was going to talk more about my absence but I don't think I really want to yet. Maybe in a future chapter.

I meant to post last night but I fell asleep. 🙈

WC: 4.8K

Trace was in an unpredictable mood every time I mentioned our upcoming beach trip. He did a better job at concealing his emotions compared to me but his discomfort was there in his pursed lips and the near constant glint of irritation in his eyes. When it was finally the day of the trip, Trace seemed more upset than ever.

We waited in front of my building with our luggage as Trace sat on a nearby bench with one leg crossed over the other. For the first time in the almost year that I'd known him he was wearing shorts. They went past his thighs but made his prosthetic more than a little obvious. The new leg was similar but not quite the same as the old one. It was still made of the dark gleaming lightweight material that seemed as sturdy as it seemed futuristic.

"I think you look cute today," I said quietly.

Trace froze and looked over at me with narrowed eyes. "You don't have to compliment me just because I'm in a bad mood." He was rarely sharp with me but there was an edge there. I knew it had nothing to do with me but it still hurt.

"I'm being honest, Trace," I said slowly. "You do look nice today and if anyone stares at you at the beach it may not have anything to do with your prosthetic."

Trace let out a short, bitter laugh. "Right."

"We don't have to go, you know," I said with a bit of bite. "No one is forcing us."

"I used to love going to the beach," Trace said softly. "And then when I tried going again...after...Everyone was staring at me. It's not like I don't want to go, Darius. It just scares me."

Before I could think of the right words to say Manny and his fiancée, Marisol, rolled up to the curb. They were both dressed for the warm weather with shorts and t-shirts and smiles. Manny got out of the car after parking and embraced me in a quick hug.

"Mijo," Manny said fondly. "Nice to see you! And hey, Trace, what's up, dude?"

Trace smiled, shaking hands with Manny and giving Marisol a hug. She didn't seem surprised by Trace's prosthetic so I figured Manny had told her about it. Marisol had warm cinnamon tinged  skin with dark wavy hair that settled in a bob. She had always been beautiful and there were still times that Manny had confessed he felt tongue tied around her. Even though they were in the process of wedding planning things hadn't changed between them. Everyone exchanged greetings before we piled into Manny's Jeep. The beach house was just over an hour out of the city and I snoozed on the ride over.

I woke up to Trace's fingers sliding over the back of my hand and him watching me. I stretched as much as I could while yawning.

"Sorry, was I snoring?" I said.

"No, baby, you don't snore," Trace said quietly. "We're here now but I felt bad about waking you up. You look cute, can I kiss you?"

The request surprised me but I was quick to unbuckle my seatbelt and lean over to kiss Trace. His lips were soft as he gave me one slow kiss after another, one hand cupping the side of my face and the other squeezing higher and higher on my thigh. A low moan rattled from my throat and Trace abruptly stopped kissing me.

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