I lean against the wall in the dark, not moving, practically not breathing, until I hear his footsteps fade. When the sound of his vehicle is far in the distance, I sink onto the floor and my whole body deflates.
Can I truly do this? Will I be able to spend a month with him and not get hurt? Can I really do this without losing myself or feeling like I've cheapened my soul?
I rise, stiff in my joints. An hour later in bed, I'm still too wired to sleep. Every ten minutes I check my cellphone to see if Rafa has called or texted, and sigh every time I see he hasn't.
I scrunch and hug a pillow, then flop onto the cool side of the bed. Maybe I should turn down his offer of help. Let the paper fail, let my career fail, let everything crumble. Flee to some foreign country, take a job far from St. Augustine, go back to school, freelance... Anything to avoid the painful situation that's bound to unfold.
At least that way I might salvage my self-esteem and pride.
But there had once been a time when I was completely unguarded with Rafa. When I'd given everything to him, without hesitation.
My heart, my body and my soul.
* * *
I gently placed the wrapped gift on the nightstand and slid under the sheets. Rafael's body was both hard and warm, and I couldn't wait to touch him. It was Christmas Eve morning, and he was sleeping in the guest bedroom of my childhood home.
It was our first Christmas together. Rafael managed to get four days off from his job at the hotel, and I couldn't wait to take him around St. Augustine to see the holiday lights and my high school and the old historic Spanish neighborhood that I knew he'd love because his grandparents were from Spain.
I was also glad he was with me for the break; his aunt and uncle had flown to Cuba to visit family, and he'd refused to go, saying he didn't want to visit the island because he hated the Castro regime. He said he'd never return to the island as long as it wasn't free from communism.
I was hoping a trip to my house would take his mind off all that.
"Good morning, sweet boy." I hugged him tight. I loved how his skin smelled in the morning. It was like pure sun, and I mashed my face into his chest and inhaled.
Rafael slipped his arms around me, let out a sexy growl, and snapped his eyes open. "What are you doing? Your father's going to kill us. He warned me last night not to sneak into your room."
"Don't worry. He's gone. He's at the paper. He always has a big party for his employees on Christmas Eve. We'll meet up with him later."
I moved on top of Rafa's body, kissing his neck. Spending the night in the room next to him had been torture. Since we'd made love for the first time two weeks ago, we'd slept next to each other every night in my dorm room. I was just glad that my father had agreed to have him here for Christmas.
"I missed you last night." He hugged me tight.
Of course my father wouldn't let us share a bed. I hadn't even bothered asking. Especially since my dad was uncharacteristically silent—sullen, even—around Rafael. Probably because he was my first boyfriend. My father would have to get used to the idea that his little girl was a few months from being twenty and no longer a child.
"I think this is the best Christmas present I've ever gotten," Rafael said, running his hands over my back. I'd made sure to shower and put on Rafael's favorite vanilla cream perfume before waking him.
"I have a present for you. I wanted to give it to you away from my dad."
I slid off him to sit on the edge of the bed. Reaching over, I grabbed the gift and handed it to him. It was wrapped in red paper and a perfect, silver ribbon.
"You can't show my present to anybody. It's only for you."
Rafa sat up, grinning. He untied the bow and undid the tape.
"A...book?" He turned the spiral-bound black tome in his hands.
"Sort of." I giggled, then kissed him. "Merry Christmas. I love you. Look inside."
He slowly opened the cover.
Affixed to the first page was a picture of us, taken on South Beach one day when we'd skipped class together. He was so handsome, the salt-water drops clinging to his broad chest. I wore a pink bikini. Our arms were wrapped around each other, and we wore the biggest smiles against a backdrop of blue ocean.
"I've never looked happier than in that photo." I tapped on it with my index finger.
He turned the page and sucked in a breath.
I gestured to the page. "I took the rest of the pictures. For you."
His pupils dilated as he drank in the sexy images.
"My God, I've never seen anything more sexy. Not even in Playboy."
His surprise turned into a huge grin. He stared at a photo of me nude, silhouetted by a window. And another of my legs, wearing only calf-high socks. A third photo showed only my breasts. Each page revealed a more explicit, sensual picture. They were all in black and white. I grinned lustily, drunk with my own image and his speechlessness.
"Remember that photography class I took? I learned how to use the time release on my old film camera. I tried to be artistic, not raunchy."
"You didn't take these to a store to get them developed, did you?" He glanced at me with concerned eyes.
I shook my head. "I locked myself in the old darkroom at the school paper one night when you were working and developed them myself. Old-school photography."
"Good." He exhaled, then pushed the blanket away from his legs. "I wouldn't want anyone but me to see them. They're beautiful. More than beautiful. Stunning. Incredible. Fucking hot."
I leaned in to kiss him, pausing near his lips.
"Do you like them?"
"Yes, so much," he breathed.
He squeezed my hips with his hands and pulled my body toward his as he whispered soft in my ear. "I love you, Justine. I want to spend every Christmas with you forever. Can we? Please?"
* * *
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Psst...if you're loving this story I have brand new, never released BONUS SCENE with Rafa and Justine in the upcoming 2019 Wattpad Holiday Anthology! It's another flashback of them in college, and also takes place on Christmas Eve. It will shed more light into their relationship. Follow my profile so you can be notified when it's posted!
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