Authors: Brinda Berry
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This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are fictitious or have been used fictitiously, and are not to be construed as real in any way. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Published by Sweet Biscuit Publishing LLC
Edited by Nancy Cassidy of
Photography: Kelsey Kukal-Keeton of K Keeton Designs
Model: Don Allen
The Fiction of Forever
All Rights Are Reserved. Copyright ©2016 by Brinda Berry
First electronic publication: January 2016
Print ISBN: 978-0692600689
The Fiction of Forever (A Stand By Me Novel #2)
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hanks to all
the readers who give me words of encouragement and especially those who asked for Gunner. He deserves a happily-ever-after.
“That’s what fiction is for. It’s for getting at the truth when the truth isn’t sufficient for the truth.”
~ Tim O’Brien
, Sophomore Year
sweaty hands when I look at Kiley Vanderbilt. Another part of me notices as well, but I fight to ignore that awkward fact as much as possible when in public.
In private, I worship the photos on my phone. Worship might sound a little creepy. Actually, it sounds a lot creepy. I prefer to think of my photo collection as our pre-dating album.
Kiley is every guy’s dream girl.
In my favorite photo, she wears a tiny pink bikini. I snapped it at her sixteenth birthday party last summer. She’d been standing by the edge of her outdoor pool talking to my friend Aiden, an all-right guy, when he isn’t hitting on the girl who should be with me.
I conveniently cropped him out of the photo.
The photo isn’t my favorite because she’s almost naked. I appreciate all her curves, but mostly I like the shot because she looks happy. Her eyes dance with the pleasure of having all her friends around, or maybe of turning sixteen so she can drive the SUV her daddy bought her. Whatever it is, I want to know what gives her this feeling so I can make her look at me like that all the time.
Tonight is the night I’m going to make my move. I’ve just played the best game of the football season and everybody’s been congratulating me on winning the game.
Kiley sneaks looks from beneath her dark lashes whenever I’m in her line of sight. She smiles that smile where she holds back a little.
Shy. It’s not like her and the chatterbox that she is, which tells me a lot. She likes me. Maybe she has a photo of me on her phone.
A hand touches my back.
“Hey, Gunner. Nice pass in the fourth quarter,” Jenna says.
“Thanks.” I sip from my red plastic cup and hope she’ll leave. I like Jenna but Kiley’s moving closer to the bonfire. It’s my chance to get her alone.
Jenna takes a couple of steps to stand in front of me, blocking my view of Kiley. “I was wondering something.”
“What’s that?” I crane my head to the left to make sure Kiley’s still alone. Dang. Now some douchebag from another school is moving in on her and handing over his football jacket.
“Well, I don’t have a date for the dance next Friday.”
“Hm.” I take another sip.
“I thought maybe we could go together.”
“That’s really nice of you. But…um…I was going to ask someone else tonight.”
Jenna follows my gaze to the bonfire and Kiley. Kiley who takes the jacket from the guy I don’t know.
“I hope you don’t mind if I give you some advice.” Jenna’s voice is low, as if she’s giving me top-secret info.
“Kiley’s nice. And she’s my friend. But…”
“But what?” I narrow my eyes. It’s hard to switch between focusing on what Jenna has to say and making sure Kiley doesn’t get away before I can talk to her.
She shrugs. “She doesn’t date anyone for long. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Jenna places her hand on my arm, as if she’s offering me consolation.
“Well, thanks Jenna, but I’ve known Kiley all my life. I’m not too worried about it.” I lift my plastic cup to take a gulp. She drops her too-friendly hold on my arm.
“I’ll see you later. All out of drink,” I say, holding up my cup to give some kind of reason to get away from her.
“Sure,” she says and looks over at the bonfire where Kiley stands.
I guess I’m not very subtle, but I’m limited on time. It’s the first time in a while since I’ve gone out after a game. Mom’s cancer diagnosis moved everything else in my life to the unimportant list.
In minutes, I’m across the field and standing before the most beautiful girl in Tennessee. It’s been documented. Pageant judges put a crown on this girl every time she steps on a stage.
“Hi.” Kiley says. “You were fantastic tonight. You were generous to pass so much. I know you could’ve run that ball down the field every time.”
I shrug and an embarrassing heat floods my face. I’m not good with compliments. Other guys may need them, but I don’t. I’m a team player, not a glory hound.
My gut churns with anxiety all of a sudden. Why does she make me so nervous? I’ve planned everything I want to say and if the douchebag to her left will get out of the way, I can.
Kiley removes said douchebag’s jacket and hands it to him. “I’m warm now. Here you go.”
He takes it from her reluctantly. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah. Gunner, can you walk me to my car? I need to get something.”
“I guess I can do that.” Slap my stupid mouth. Of course I’ll walk with her. I’d walk to the moon and back if she asked. Hopefully, I’ll only have to master talking to her without saying something stupid.
She leads the way to the area of the field where she’s parked. Kiley’s dad always lets us set up the field parties on his land. He’s the coolest dad I ever heard of.
I walk beside her and look straight ahead, rehearsing my speech about how we should go to the dance together. We’re a couple hundred yards from the bonfire when I know it’s the right time.
“Kiley—” I say.
“Hey, I—” she says at the same time.
We both laugh. Hopefully, mine didn’t sound as nerdish as I feel like it did.
“You first,” I say.
Look at her.
I turn my head and
if the girl doesn’t take my breath away. It’s sappy and true and terrifying.
Only the moon and stars illuminate her face, but it still shines with a beauty like nothing else.
She twists her hands in front of her and then turns to look at me, hopping a little as she walks. It’s cute because she seems excited.
I glance at her again. She messes with straightening the bottom of her mini-dress. She’s so hot with that mid-thigh dress and cowboy boots. My brain sends an emergency alert message to my dick every time I look at her.
God, I hope she doesn’t bend over in that. I have enough problems without adding an aneurism or blue balls to the list.
“Want to sit in my vehicle and talk?” she asks. “It’s chilly tonight.”
“Yeah,” I say in a near croak. Calm down, calm down, calm down. You’d think she asked me to party naked with her.
Is that really what she’s asking?
My gut churns. Shit. One aneurism, order up.
We get to her SUV and she clicks the key fob to unlock the doors. Her vehicle’s parked behind a thicket of tall brush. Once I’m sitting in the passenger seat and looking at the front windshield, I exhale rather noisily. We’re practically hidden from seeing what’s going yards away at the bonfire. Even the music sounds dim and faraway.
“So,” she says and shivers. “Are you excited about the state fair?”
“Not really.” I turn to her. Oh, shit. That was a stupid thing to say. Does she want me to take her? Now I’ll be the dumbass who says he doesn’t like fairs and then asks her.
I try to think of something to say. Anything that will help me get past the usual talking-to-Kiley panic.
“I haven’t seen you around much. Now that we don’t have classes together this year…”
“I’ve been busy.” I could tell her my mom’s been so sick that I don’t have time to think about much else. If I wanted to put a downer into this conversation, the topic of Mom’s cancer would certainly do it.
“Classes are killing me this year,” I say.
“I wish we did have classes together. You still doing the pageant thing?” I search my brain for something—anything else to talk about. I don’t want to talk about how my home life sucks.
“Yes. I was in one last weekend.” She pauses. “I was wondering… Are you dating anybody?” she asks.
“No.” Her question surprises me and heat creeps into my face. I inhale and try to stay cool. I don’t want to say that I’m not interested in anyone but her. Even I’m smart enough to know that’s coming on too strong. Or is it?
“Oh. That surprises me.” She gives me that smile I’ve been waiting for. The one from the photo where all her happy vibes point at me, as if I’m the one who made it happen.
Be honest. That’s what I need to do. Make this moment count. “I want it to be the right girl, not just any girl.” Great. Now I’m the emo douchebag.
Her grin continues and loosens the worry in my gut. She likes that thought.
“Me, too,” she says. “Not the right girl, but the right guy…you know what I mean.”
“Yeah. I know.”
We sit in silence and look at the front glass. A layer of condensation films across it, hiding the rest of the party.
“Want to kiss me?” she asks.
My heart rams into my throat. “I…um…who wouldn’t?”
She straightens the edge of her skirt. “Funny,” she says.
But I’m not joking. Doesn’t she know how I’ve wanted to ask her out all year?
“Maybe you don’t.” She runs fingers through her dark hair, lifting it off her face. “You’re in a secluded car with me and you haven’t tried anything. So, I’m not sure.”
I will certainly die at any moment.
Maybe not totally happy, because I’d like more than a kiss.
She’s waiting for a response from me and I’m not sure if I should yell, “Hell yes,” or go for it.
“But I understand if you only want to be friends,” she says, but doesn’t move. “It might be weird since we’ve known each other forever.”
I lean over the top of the console and I’m not sure what to do with my hands. Feeling her up will probably be more than she’s bargained for tonight.
Her breathing is shallow, her gaze locked to mine. She smells like the most delicious thing I’ve ever smelled—something flowery and heady.
Pretty and perfect.
She stares at my mouth as I come closer. The car’s console digs against my waist. I can’t control my hands.
Without my permission, they move to slide against her neck and pull her closer, linking in her silky hair and capturing the back of her head in my hold.
She licks those full, pink lips.
I slant my mouth to touch hers in a light kiss, then pull back and look at her with our noses barely touching. “You feel like the right girl.”
Kiley’s eyes dance at my words. She grabs the sides of my jacket and kisses me, her tongue sweeping across the inside of my lips. I move one hand from her neck to snake down her back, her sweater soft as a rabbit’s fur.
I press her close to my chest. She skates her hands into my open jacket and around my back. The tension shooting through me rivals running down the football field with somebody on my ass. Our mouths move hungrily against each other’s. I graze my teeth along her full bottom lip and there’s nothing I’d like more than to eat her up.
Her fingers tighten their grasp on my shirt, her fingernails barely skimming my back. She feels better than I imagined. The console prevents me from pulling more of her body against mine.
We break apart panting, our air mingling.
“We’d have more room in the backseat.” I regret my words when her brow furrows. Shit! Now she thinks I’m expecting to get laid. “Only kissing. Promise.”
She gulps so loud I hear it. “OK.”
I open my door and run around to the driver’s side to open hers. She steps out and gives me a shy smile.
Both of us are shaking from the cold by the time we’re in the backseat. I take off my jacket and wrap it around her.
She leans against me, her teeth clicking together from the chill. “This is nice.”
“I’ve always had a crush on you, Gunner Parrish.”
I smile with my head above hers and out of sight. “I’ve always had a thing for you, too.”
“Good,” she says. She turns into me, her hands running over my chest and her lips meeting mine.
Our kiss escalates with my tongue darting into her sweet mouth and my hands skating up and down her back, over her sides so near the swell of her breasts.
Her hands find the bottom of my untucked shirt and skim higher on my bare skin.
My heart’s beating so hard it’s sure to explode at any moment. A kiss was all I wanted, but I think she loves this as much as I do.
might happen. My life sucks lately, but this night might redeem all the suckage and make it bearable.
Kiley moves a hand to the front of my chest to rest over my pounding heart. She pulls her lips back. “I don’t want you to think that I do this—”
“Shush,” I say and stroke her hair back from her face. “I don’t make out with just any girl. Unless it’s the right girl. And this is the beginning, not a one-time thing.”
I don’t tell her that I’m a virgin. That I’m scared shitless that we’ll go too far or not far enough. That I’m scared this thing between us will slip through my fingers and I’ll wake from a dream.
“God, you’re so beautiful.” I whisper the words as I lean forward and kiss the edge of her jaw, the crook of her neck, the base of her throat.
She unbuttons the top buttons of my shirt and stares at the open V of my shirt collar. “Your skin is so warm.”
I tentatively touch the top button of her sweater. My gaze flicks from the button, up to her eyes. She nods without me having to ask. I unbutton three buttons of her cardigan painfully slow. If I don’t stay slow and steady, she’ll see how much I want to race down her buttons and shove the sweater down off her shoulders. Her white lace bra peeks from the top of the opening and my dick gets even harder, if that’s possible.
Our eyes lock on one another. Daring each other because our heartbeats match rhythm in time.
Ba boom. Ba boom. Ba boom.
Then my mouth crashes onto hers and I’m wrestling with her buttons and she threads her fingers through my hair.
Kiley falls back against the seat and I slide on top of her, pressing my erection against her thigh and not caring that she’ll know.
We’re beyond being coy.
Meeep. Meeeep. Meeep.
It takes more than a second to realize it’s my ringtone—the one that sounds like a weather alert warning. Reserved for only one person in my contacts, the sound causes my heart rate to jump for a different reason.
“Just a sec,” I gasp.
We break apart and I struggle to pull the phone from my pocket.
“Hello,” I answer. She never calls unless it’s important.