Lucas (Preston Brothers #1)(5)

by Jay McLean

He moves closer. So close that when he says, “Leave it alone, Lane,” I can feel his warm breath against my neck.

“Okay…?”

“Good.”

Ten minutes later I’m wide awake, lying on my back, his hand flat on my stomach. I listen to him breathe, feel the goosebumps prick my skin, feel an overwhelming amount of emotions. It’s not the first time we’ve been this close physically, but there’s something different, something off. And there’s this nagging in the back of my mind that’s telling me this should be the last time. I want it to be the last time. Because having him here is too much, and at the same time, it’s not enough. It won’t ever be enough.

Without warning, his fingers start strumming against my skin. “Can’t get back to sleep, huh?”

I shake my head, but refuse to look at him.

He removes his hand and untangles his legs from mine, and I exhale, relieved, hoping he’ll leave. “Do I have sweats here?” he asks.

“Bottom drawer.”

I sit up halfway and watch him move across the room—one hand in his hair, the other covering his parts. I’d be lying if I said the attraction to him wasn’t physical because it plays a part. Unlike me, he’d changed a lot over the years. I was still Plain Lane, and he was no longer the cute boy I crushed on when we were eleven. He’d gotten rid of his glasses and opted for contacts the moment he joined the track team in sixth grade. In seventh grade, he got braces to fix the gap in his teeth. In eighth grade, he had a growth spurt and never really stopped. By the time tenth grade started, he’d dated more than his share of girls. Now, at seventeen, he topped out at 6’2” and showed off muscles in places I didn’t know existed.

He was too much.

He wasn’t enough.

“Don’t forget your phone,” I tell him, lying back down.

“I’m not leaving.”

I glance over at him just in time to see him pull on a pair of his sweatpants. “You’re not?”

“Unless you want me to,” he says, eyes on mine.

After seconds of waiting and no response from me, he shakes his head, his gaze shifting to the floor. “I’m going to brush my teeth, and then we’re going to talk because something’s going on with you and we need to deal with it.” He makes his way to the bathroom, and I follow behind. It’s a routine we’ve done many times before; we stand in front of the mirror, brush our teeth, take turns to spit, pass each other the mouthwash, then I leave so he can do his business, and when he’s done, I do mine.

He’s back in bed when I get out, his gaze fixed on the bathroom door, waiting. “So?” he says.

I shrug. “So.”

He pats the spot next to him, and reluctantly, I do as he suggests. I lie beneath the covers and wait for him to put his hands on me, somewhere, anywhere, it doesn’t really matter. He opts for his fingers on my forehead, pushing away my bangs so he can look in my eyes. “What goes on, Lane?”

I shrug again, but there’s a backlog of tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat and I know he can see it because his eyebrows bunch and he moves closer again, so his head’s on my pillow. “Was it about the party last night? The whole class was invited and if I thought that you’d go—”

“It’s not about the party.”

“Then what?” His voice is soft, unmasking his concern. His gaze fixes on mine while mine searches his and I find nothing. Not a damn thing.

He licks his lips, his eyes narrowing even more. “Are you worried about school starting tomorrow? Because if you are, you don’t need to be. It’s only senior year. One year of our entire—”

“Why do you come here, Luke?” I cut in.

He rears back an inch. “In general or…”

“Why do you spend nights with me instead of going home or sleeping at one of your many girlfriends’ houses?”

Luke pulls away and faces the ceiling. “Don’t do that, Laney.”

I lean up on my elbow and look down at him. “Do what?”

“Make me out to be something I’m not. Yeah, I’ve had a lot of girlfriends, but I’ve never been with more than one at a time and you know that.”

I look away, the guilt quick to consume me because he’s right.

He says, his voice low, “I come here because I like being around you. Because my own home doesn’t feel like home unless you’re there. Because I want to know what’s going on in your life and I want to tell you what goes on in mine. Because you’re there for me through every breakup, through all the shit that goes on with my family, through everything. And mostly, I come here because I want to.” He inhales deeply. Exhales loudly. “Is this what it feels like to have someone you care about break up with you because if it is, I think I’m done with dating.” He rubs his chest… right above his heart. “This feeling sucks.”

There’s power in his words that go directly through my ears and pierce my heart. But I remind myself that it’s a lie. He doesn’t care about me. If he did, he’d remember. “Luke…”

His gaze moves to mine, his eyes revealing his pain. I’ve only seen that look a few times. Once when we were twelve and he showed up at my house, soaking wet from the storm outside, and again when we were thirteen and he accidentally swung a baseball bat too far back and caused me to get three stitches under my right eyebrow. “Did I do something?” he asks, his voice hoarse.

I blink, push back the emotions, the tears. “No,” I lie.

“Then what the hell’s going on?”

I lie back down, my head landing on his already outstretched, waiting arm. And I think… I try to come up with a lie so that we can move past this. So that his actions, or lack of, from the past twenty-four hours don’t define him or us or our entire friendship. And so I give him a half-truth because right now, it’s all I can offer. “The summer’s almost over and summers remind me of your mom and how great she was. And I miss her, I guess. I just…” I trail off, unable to finish with the lump lodged in my throat. So maybe it was more than a half-truth. Maybe it was all I needed to feel, needed to say. Maybe it was everything. “I really miss her.”

“Why didn’t you say something?” he whispers.

“Because she’s your mom. I have no right to miss her.”