- Prologue -

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As Aaron Arsane swung his car into my driveway, my fingers itched to reach into the void between us, longing to skim over his sunkissed skin as I traced the length of his profile. The lines and curves of his features were so ethereal outlined in moonlight, and it almost made me forget the boundaries of personal space.

But I didn't. Just in time, I burrowed both hands between my thighs and the upholstery of the passenger seat, capturing them before they could give me and my secret thoughts away. My biggest indulgence would be smiling into the darkness as Aaron killed the engine and cleared his throat, his own hands dropping into his lap. He stared down at them with one plump lip sucked between his teeth; his Adam's apple bobbed.

A growing silence pressed in around us, seeming to suck out all the air from my lungs. There was a dim blue light from the digital clock on the dash console, and I focused my attention there. My brain was getting more and more muddled with every second that Aaron didn't speak, filling my head with unanswered questions like a running faucet over a plugged sink.

We had fun. Didn't we have fun? He seemed to. Yes, I'm pretty sure he likes me. But what if I'm misinterpreting? What if I like him more than he likes me? What if he doesn't want to go out again? What if he says he'll text or call me, but then he doesn't? What if he ghosts me?

Then he snuck a glance my way. I barely caught it out the corner of my eye, but when I did, my heart did a somersault, and even though my limbs began to tingle, suddenly breathing wasn't so difficult.

"Well." I gulped. Searching for words that wouldn't come off as awkward or weird became one of the hardest things I'd ever done. "That was a lot of fun. I hope...we can do it again sometime."

Okay, I thought on an exhale, that was smooth enough, right? Totally caj. I'm casual!

With a sideways tilt of his head, Aaron locked his gaze with mine ― and for the millionth time that night, the world rippled. Vast hazel eyes peered into me like an x-ray machine. My skin was wax paper, my bones dental floss, my blood warm, molten honey. His teeth let go of his lip, and it seemed even fuller than before.

"We definitely should. Uh," he chuckled, and repositioned himself in the seat so that his whole body faced me, "would next weekend be too soon?"

The smile that took over my face was embarrassing in its size, prompting me to turn away from him to hide it. He let out a quick burst of self-conscious laughter himself, and I felt better.

"Sorry," he said. "Maybe it's too forward, shows too much of my hand, but―"

"No." I turned my body toward him, too. "I'd really like that."

That disarming grin of his that made my heart flip over stretched across his broad mouth, lighting up every bit of his face. "Great. Great, yeah, I, uh...I can―Would you mind if I walked you to the door?"

If I tried to speak, I might lose myself to the most unflattering case of giggles ever, so I simply nodded.

Aaron practically leapt from the car, and he was outside the passenger door before I'd even had a chance to unbuckle my seatbelt. When he pulled the door open, he offered me his hand, easing me out of the low Toyota hatchback before next offering the crook of his arm, his expression goofy ― but giddy ― as I took it with a raised eyebrow.

All the way up the sidewalk from the driveway, I clutched the lean muscle of his forearm, felt the heat of his bicep against my inner elbow. We walked as slowly as we could, trying to prolong the inevitable goodbye. My mind traveled briefly to the few dates I'd been on before this one; I'd never felt less ready for an evening to be over.

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