“I’m sorry I didn’t call you today,” she said.
“It’s okay,” he said quickly, then shook his head, as if that were not what he meant to say. “I wasn’t…” He looked away from her, but only for a moment, and then his eyes were locked on her again. “Where were you?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” She shook her head.
“I’d believe anything you said,” Alex replied, and the sincerity in his voice made Gemma look at him.
“What’s going on with you?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean…” She gestured to him. “This. The way you’re looking at me. The way you’re talking to me.”
“Aren’t I talking to you the way I always have?” Alex moved away from her a bit, genuinely taken aback by her observation.
“No. You’re all…” She shrugged, unable to find the right words to explain it. “Not you.”
“I’m sorry.” His face pinched as he tried hard to figure out what she meant. “I guess … I was scared this morning. Harper wouldn’t tell me what was going on, and I was afraid that something had happened to you.”
“I truly am sorry about that,” Gemma said, deciding that must be what was going on. He’d been worried about her, so he was overcompensating with excessive staring, like Harper did sometimes. “I never meant to scare you. Or anybody.”
“But now you’ll be grounded?” Alex asked.
She sighed. “Yeah, definitely.”
“I won’t be able to see you?” he asked, sounding as depressed about it as she felt. “I don’t know if I can handle that.”
“Hopefully it will only be for a few weeks. Maybe less, with good behavior.” She gave him a small smile. “And maybe sometimes you can stop by when Harper and my dad are at work, like now.”
“How long do we have until Harper gets home from work?”
Gemma glanced over at the clock and realized sadly that Harper had already been gone for an hour. “Not long.”
“Then we have to make the most of this time while we have it,” Alex said decisively.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean this.” He leaned in to her, pressing his lips to hers.
At first he kissed her in the same sweet way he always did—gentle, restrained, careful. But something changed. An eagerness took over, and he tangled his fingers in her hair, pressing her to him.
When things shifted, when Alex began kissing her with an insistence that was almost forceful, Gemma grew alarmed. She almost pushed him back so she could suggest they slow down, but it was as if he’d awakened something inside of her, a hunger she didn’t even know she had.
She pushed him back on the bed, still kissing him. His hands roamed over her body, at first over her clothes, but then sliding underneath her shirt to where her bruise should be. Everywhere his flesh touched hers, that same sensation she’d felt in the shower rippled over her.
Their kisses were getting more frantic, like Alex thought he’d die if he didn’t have her. Gemma felt ravenous for him in the most primal way. She wanted him, needed him, couldn’t wait to devour him. It surged through her like a fire, and in some dark part of her mind she realized that what she wanted to do with him had nothing to do with passion.
“Ow!” Alex winced and stopped kissing her.
“What?” Gemma asked.
She lay on top of him, both of them gasping for breath. Alex’s eyes were clearer now, no longer fogged with passion. His hand had been gripping her side, pulling her to him, but he let go and touched his lip. It came back with a drop of blood on his fingertip.
“You … bit me?” Alex said uncertainly.
“I bit you?” She sat up, still straddling Alex.
As she ran her tongue over her teeth, they suddenly felt sharper to her. Her incisors were so pointed, she nearly pricked her own tongue on them.
“It’s okay.” Alex rubbed her leg, trying to comfort her. “It was an accident, and I’m fine.”
Her stomach growled, audibly rumbling. Gemma put her hand over it, as if that would silence it.
“I’m starving,” she said, sounding confused by her admission.
He laughed. “I heard that.”
She shook her head and didn’t know how to explain it. Kissing him had somehow made her incredibly hungry. And though she didn’t remember doing it, she wasn’t convinced that biting him had been an accident.
“Harper should be home soon,” Gemma said, looking for an excuse to end their encounter. She climbed off of Alex and sat down on the bed.
“Yeah, of course.” He sat up quickly and shook his head, as if clearing it of something.
Neither of them said anything for a minute. They both just stared down at the floor, confused by their recent actions.
“Listen, I’m … I’m sorry,” Alex said.
“I didn’t mean to come over and … and…” He stumbled over his words. “Make out like that, I guess. I mean, it was nice. But…” He sighed. “I didn’t want to rush you or pressure you, and … That’s not me. I’m not that guy.”
“I know.” Gemma nodded. She smiled at him, hoping her smile didn’t look as pained as it felt. “I’m not that girl, either. But you definitely didn’t pressure me into anything.”
“Okay. Good.” He stood up and touched his lip again, checking for blood, then looked back at her. “I guess, um, I’ll see you when I can.”
“Yeah.” She nodded.
“I am really glad that you’re okay.”
“I know. Thank you.”
He paused, thinking for a second, then bent down and kissed her on the cheek. It was a little long for a kiss on the cheek, but it was still over too quickly. Then Alex was gone.
Of all the kisses they’d shared that afternoon, that one before he left was Gemma’s favorite. It may have been the most chaste, but it was also the one that felt the most genuine.
The library was slow today, thanks to the pristine weather. The sun shone brightly in the sky, and it was warm without being overly so. It was the kind of day that would make Gemma kill to be out on the bay, and even Harper would’ve been happy to join her.
Not that Gemma could go anywhere. As predicted, their father had grounded her when he came home from work last night. He’d yelled in a way that almost made Harper stand up for her sister, but she didn’t. She hid out on the steps and listened to him rant about how he’d always given Gemma freedom and trusted her, but those days were over.