Home > Aflame (Fall Away #4)(10)

Aflame (Fall Away #4)(10)
Author: Penelope Douglas

He grabbed hold of my waist and pulled me in, kissing my forehead and nose, always gentle.

Ben and I had been seeing each other for about six weeks, although most of that time was long-distance. During spring break, we were both home, and one day I’d lost control of my car on a rainy, slick road.

And I’d slammed right into his car. As it was parked at a curb right in front of him and all of his friends. Yeah, great moment.

But I played it off. Got out of the car barking at him about his lousy driving and that he better have good insurance or I was calling the cops.

Everyone laughed, and he asked me out.

We spent some time together, went back to school to finish the semester, and reconnected when we came home for summer break.

Since we’d gone to high school together and actually had a date senior year that ended pretty badly, it was kind of fun to catch up after so much time had passed. We got to know each other, and I enjoyed the time we spent together. It wasn’t pedal to the metal from day one. Ben was slow.

And calm.

It was always when I was ready. Not when he was ready.

And I was nowhere near ready yet, so that was a relief.

And the best part? He wasn’t intense. He didn’t get angry or rude. He didn’t have problems that would make me unhappy, and I didn’t have to worry that he would have so much of a pull on me that I would make decisions based on him.

He never pushed or challenged me, and I liked that I dominated the relationship. I never took advantage of it, but I knew I was the one in control. It was comfortable, but more than that, it was easy. I was never surprised with Ben.

He was safe.

He’d finished his bachelor’s degree in economics at UMass in May and would be going on to graduate school at Princeton in the fall. I’d be heading to Stanford for medical school, so we were looking at more time apart. I wasn’t sure if the relationship would continue, but right now, I was content to keep things light and easy.

He’d already hinted to me that I should move to New Jersey with him and apply to medical school there or somewhere at least in the vicinity. I’d said no. I’d compromised my college plans once—for a good reason—but I was sticking to the plan this time. Come hell or high water, I was going to California.

“Will you be at my race tonight?” I asked softly.

“Aren’t I always?” he answered, and I knew there was a sigh that he’d held back.

Ben hated that I raced. He said he hated the crowd, but I knew it was more than that. He didn’t want the girl he was dating racing the boys while he sat on the sidelines.

But even though I liked Ben, I wasn’t quitting the Loop, either.

Wisely, he never asked me to stop—just suggested—and I expected that he thought it was something I would grow out of or give up when I went off to Stanford.

But I wouldn’t stop for anyone or anything. I wouldn’t stop until I was ready.

Madoc whined about my safety, my father chided me about the car costs when I needed parts or repairs, and at least a dozen assholes made snide remarks when I climbed into my car every weekend to race against them.

But none of it made a difference. That’s the beauty of knowing your own mind. No one tells you what you can and can’t do. Once you’re sure of something, it really is that easy.

“I’ll meet you at the track, then.” I circled his neck and leaned in for a kiss, his gentle lips leaving a feathery kiss on mine. “I need to shower and clean up after I leave here.”

He leaned over, nuzzling my ear. “And then after the race, you’re mine, right?”

I could hear the playfulness in his voice, but my heart still skipped a beat anyway.


A shiver ran down my arms, and I closed my eyes, feeling a hot mouth move across my cheek and then his breath glide over my lips.

I want to feel what’s mine. What’s always been mine.

Heat fanned across my face, and need gripped me low in my stomach. His lips brushed mine, never taking, just teasing, and I inhaled a shaky breath as excitement burned under my skin after so long.

It wasn’t Ben.

It wasn’t his lips or his breath that I dreamed about.

I want to touch you.

I pushed up on my tiptoes, pressing my body into his and pulling him close. Jared.

And just like that, I melted at his memory.

“It’s too late to beg,” Jared whispers as his hand threads through the back of my hair, gripping it tight as he pins me against the wall of the janitor’s closet. “This is what you get when you eye-fuck me in the middle of class.”

I squeeze my eyes shut and squirm as he pushes his hand inside the front of my jeans and dips his fingers inside me, bringing the wetness back out to swirl around my clit.

“Oh, God,” I whimper, my breath shaking as I clutch his shoulders. “Jared.”

He leans in, and I can feel his breath hot across my lips. “I want you naked, Tate,” he commands. “Everything off. Now.”

I brushed my nose against his neck, smelling Ben’s exotic cologne instead of Jared’s woodsy body wash with that hint of spice I still remembered.

I lowered myself back down to my feet, releasing Ben.


Why did the memory of him get me more excited than anyone else could in the flesh? Ben treated me better. His easy demeanor was no threat to me. There were no expectations, and the conversation was safe.

But old habits die hard.

I craved dirty words and rough hands, possessiveness and everything that wasn’t Ben’s style. I missed being the breath in someone’s body and being craved like water.

It was dangerous, but that was young love, and once I had been nearly consumed with it.

“You okay?” Ben asked, looking concerned.

I gave him a casual smile. “I’m fine,” I assured him, leaning in for a quick kiss. I might not feel the fireworks with Ben that I wanted yet, but there was no rush. Never any pressure.

I pulled back to say good-bye, but he dove in for another quick peck on the lips before walking back down the hallway, leaving me smiling at his easy attitude.

After logging out on the computer, I jogged to the locker room for my backpack and keys, dumping my scrub shirt in the laundry basket which left me in my super-stylish matching blue pants.

The wind was calling, and I couldn’t wait to get outside. I could already feel the chills of anticipation running through my body.

I sent a mass text to Madoc, Fallon, Juliet, and Jax, letting them know I’d be skipping dinner to tweak a few last things on my G8 before the race tonight. I’d meet them at the track.

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