Chapter Thirty-One

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I wake up to rays of sunshine pouring through Riley's bedroom window. We fell asleep here together last night, and I realize that I'm going to look like a complete mess when I get up. My clothes are wrinkled from sleeping in them and I know my slept-on hair is probably sticking out everywhere. It doesn't matter, though, because I'm here right now with Riley's arms around me, feeling his chest rise and fall with the even breath of sleep. I wonder if he'll keep his arms around me when he wakes up.

I move my head a little bit so I can see his face. He looks peaceful, his lips parted just slightly and his eyelashes resting against his cheeks. I tune in to his energy and see the same deep pink and golden sparks that I did last night. They're more brilliant now than they were then, which I hadn't thought possible.

He stirs and then his eyes open. A sleepy smile appears on his face when he sees me and he closes his eyes again, holding me a little tighter. He buries his head in the back of my hair and I feel the familiar tingle of our energy connecting. He's here to stay, I know, and I wish I was staying, too.

Don't think about that now, I tell myself. A soft kiss on my shoulder pulls me back into this moment, and I'm grateful.

"You look so serious. What are you thinking about?" His voice is still hoarse from sleep.

"Coffee," I murmur. He laughs, and the sound of it makes me feel warm everywhere. I shift my body so I'm facing him. "That can wait for a bit, though."

"You're sure about that? Coffee is pretty serious business." He brushes a strand of hair from my cheek.

"Shhh." I put a finger against his lips and he smiles, pulling me close again.

"I can't see the clock from here. Do you know what time it is?"

I raise my head to look at the clock on his bedside table. "Almost seven-thirty."

It's no wonder both of us are still sleepy, given that we fell asleep sometime after two o'clock in the morning. I settle my head against the pillow and notice his smile start to fade.

"Now you're the one who looks serious," I tell him. "What are you thinking about?"

"Work." He wrinkles his nose. "I'm supposed to be at the studio today. Do you think my mom will go for it if I call in sick?"

He pretends to cough. It's the worst fake cough I've ever heard. I giggle and shake my head.

"No, huh? There goes my acting career."

"Better stick to writing," I tease him, kissing his nose.

"How about this?" I feel his mouth tug on my lower lip. My hands make their way up his back until they're in his hair. He covers my mouth with his and I feel our bodies press closer, our legs tangling together.

"Mmm." He slowly moves his mouth away from mine. I can tell he doesn't want to.

"Definitely keep doing that," I manage to say, even though I'm so light-headed that I don't think I can move. "Please practice a lot."

"Oh yeah?" He bends his head over mine and kisses me again, this time until I really think the world is spinning. I feel his fingers play at the hem of my shirt, and then the warmth of his palm against my skin. His hand inches upward and his kiss gets hungrier. My breath catches when I feel his thumb stroke the curve of my chest and even though it probably isn't possible, I try to pull him closer against me. His mouth moves away from mine and when I feel his breath tickle my face, I realize it's because he's laughing.

"What's funny?" I open my eyes.

He shakes his head. "Not funny. Just amazing." His head dips down to kiss the side of my neck. His lips move to my earlobe, sending a flutter through my body.

"Do you have any idea what you're doing to me right now?" I murmur. He doesn't answer me with words, but releases my earlobe and brings his mouth to my eyebrow and then to the tip of my nose. I tilt my head up, trying to bring my lips to his. He hovers as close as he can without touching, mischief sparkling in his eyes.

"What do you want me to do to you right now?" he asks.

What a question. My mind takes off with about a million possibilities and my face must show it because Riley chuckles again, moving ever-so-slightly closer to touch his lips to mine. This kiss is gentle.

"It might be a good thing that I have to get up for work," he says when we break apart. "Keeps me responsible." I can tell from the face he makes that it's the last thing he wants to be, but he's right. I force my breath to slow down.

"Should I let you get ready?" I ask.

He squeezes my shoulder and nods. The look of little-boy regret on his face makes me giggle. I can tell he wants to continue where we just left off, but he forces himself to get out of bed.

He makes both of us scrambled eggs and toast before letting me leave. I feel like I'm floating on air after kissing him goodbye and walking to my car.

I get into the driver's seat and put the key in the ignition. Then I stop. I don't know why, but something makes me turn my head and look at the house across the street. Selena's house.

There's nobody standing in the driveway this time. I don't even see a car parked outside. The curtains on all of the windows are closed. There's no reason I should be watching the house. It's like I'm waiting for the front door to open and for Selena to appear. I should just turn the key, start my car, and go home.

But I can't. Maybe it's the sleep I didn't have last night, or some sort of energy hangover from the hours next to Riley. Maybe it's something else. The conversation I had with Amarleen plays in my mind while I watch the house. Live from a place of love.

I open the glove compartment and reach inside, pulling out the first piece of paper I see. The white feather I put in there weeks ago falls out and flutters to the floor of my car. I let it stay where it lands and dig through my purse until I find a pen. Then I hold the piece of paper against the car door window while I scribble the only words I can think to say.

Dear Selena,
I'm sorry.
- Cassidy

Five words. I don't know what they'll do, or if they'll do anything. I know I have to say them, though, and that it has to be now and it has to be here, while I'm still in The Before.

I open my car door and get out, quickly checking for traffic before running across the street. I feel my heart pounding as I get closer to the mailbox, open the lid, and drop the note inside. Then I run down the driveway and back across the street to my car before I can change my mind.

Seven Weeks to Forever (Love / Romance)Where stories live. Discover now