Part 3 of the series. Still no (good) sex in this part, still establishing relationships
“Don't be mad, okay?”
“Holly... no. Tell me you didn't.”
“He asked me out, what was I supposed to say?”
“How about 'no' for starters?”
“Riley, I'm seventeen. Don't you think I'm old enough to go on a real date?”
“A real date, yes. With him? No. Absolutely not, and your brother would more than agree with me.” We sat next to the fire in the same place on the beach. The boys once again enjoying some drinks, though legally this time (for the oldest of them, at least), as Riley and I sat a bit away from them enjoying our sobriety. They ran around, jumping in and out of the water and being unnecessarily, yet joyfully loud.
Riley and I stayed by the fire, somewhat secluded from the rest, as was not unnatural during nights like this. We romped around and played, swimming throughout the day – I had long since surpassed the shallow parts of the lake – until the alcohol really started taking hold, then we would retreat and turn our energy to conversation: philosophical, shallow, meaningless, deep, ill-witted, pointed, charged... it didn't matter. The conversations were ours, and we enjoyed them to their fullest.
It seemed, however, that the enjoyment was slowly dying as Riley's eyes turned almost harsh at my news. “I told you when you first asked about him that Dean was bad news. You really think that that's changed much in the past couple years?”
I hated the thought of Riley being upset with or disappointed in me. I hated that look in his eye. “It's just a date, Riley. One date.” He sighed heavily, showing his obvious disapproval. “If he tries getting fresh, you'll be the first to know, and I will do nothing but cheer you on while you beat him up. You can even have the other boys join you and just demolish him if you want. I'll carry mace with me.”
“What has Jon said about this?”
“I haven't mentioned it to him, yet. I figured if I had your approval first, it'd be a bit easier to get his. Though I technically don't need either.” I felt guilty throwing the last bit in, and immediately regretted it, wishing I could pull the words back into his mouth. The pained expression that briefly flashed across his face only made me feel worse.
Yes, the statement had been true, and technically would work in my favor as Riley wouldn't want me to stop telling him things, but he was not someone I wanted to manipulate. I needed him and wanted him on my side.
“Why is this so important to you?” Somewhere during our bickering, he had moved a bit away from me, but he drew closer again as he asked his question.
Wanting to give him a complete honest answer, I took a moment to think. “I hang out with guys all the time Riley. I'm surrounded, constantly, by you and Jon and all your friends. But I'm not one of those pretty girls,” he looks as though he's about to interrupt, but I press forward before he can, “you know like from the movies or something, the one that all the guys are actually secretly in love with. I don't wear makeup, or know how to do my hair. I don't really have a lot of friends of my own.”
This time, he succeeds in interrupting. “I'm your friend.”
“But you're Jon's friend first.” The words come out pointed, almost as if I'm accusing him or some kind of offense, though I don't mean them to. “I don't get asked out, ever, and I don't know if it's the intimidating band of guys I'm always in the middle of or if it's just me. Regardless, Dean asked me to go out with him, and it made me really feel desirable.”
He shook his head, still looking distressed and determined. “I realize prom was a while ago, Holl, but don't tell me you already forgot all of Jon's friends trying to get a shot with you.”
I quickly put this thought down. “They were drunk.”
“No, Holly, no. Before that. They all wanted to dance with you. They saw how gorgeous you looked and how grown up you've become. They knew how awesome of a person you were, and still are, and... Holly they definitely started to desire you then, and not in a creepy sense of course, but just truly want you.” His words sunk into me, but I couldn't help wanting to brush them off as soon as they did. The thought of any of Jon's friends thinking of me in that way was ridiculous. “And it's not as ridiculous as you're currently thinking it is.” The knowing and accusing look in his eye made me laugh, and I bumped my shoulder against him to show that he had managed to lighten my mood.
He bumped back, making me laugh even more as I was thrown off balance, falling sideways into the sand.”Ya big brute!” It was all I could do to make my words sound accusatory before I sent my weight back into him, making him wobble a bit, though nothing more. Playfully, I scowled at him and tried pushing once more.
This time, he moved himself out of the way, throwing me off balance again, leaving me to fall across his lap. With my chest against his knees and my face almost to the sand, he took advantage of the moment and dug his fingers into my ribs. “Gah! Not fair! Not fair!” This was his weapon of choice; when in doubt, tickle me. Luckily, he didn't drag it out for too long before helping me roll onto my back to get my face away from the sand.
My head now rest in his lap as I lay sideways to him. He was looking down at me, and the fire danced across his features. In the past year, he had stopped going for the clean shaven look, allowing a well groomed trace of stubble to cover his strong jaw line, meeting over his chin and above his lip. When he smiled, it was always just slightly crooked – so slight I often wondered if anyone noticed it but me – and he showed all of his perfect white teeth. Many times, it was still very much a boyish grin that lit up his green eyes. He wore his hair a bit shorter now, three or four inches off his head, though when he wasn't working it had a playful, tousled look.
Since we had been swimming earlier, he simply wore his trunks and an open button down shirt, showing off the fact that his jaw was not the only thing that had become chiseled.
Needing to look away from him, I looked past him to the sky. “So many stars.”
He leaned back on his right arm, following my eyes upward. After a moment, his other hand came up and began playing with my hair, almost absentmindedly. “It's one of the things I love about being out here. All the stars. So beautiful, yet so out of reach.” His gaze dropped to me, and I could see the simple smile that upturned one side of his mouth. “I still don't like it, Holly.” With that, he brought the conversation back to where it started. His fingers continued to move gently through my hair as he spoke. “You'll be making a mistake.”
The look in his eyes told me how deeply he believed what he was saying to be true, and it hurt me to see that I made me feel that way. Even so, I pushed on.“If I'm making a mistake, you've got to let me make it. And I might be, I admit it, but how else will I learn, right? You and Jon, and even some of the other guys sometimes, are always there to tell me what decision I should be making, and you guys were always there to catch me before I fall, and adjust my path so I'm always on the right track.
“But I've never been allowed to just completely fall off the track. I need to do that, at least once. But, Riley, I'll never feel brave enough to risk completely failing unless I know that you'll be there for me when I do.”
“Me and Jon?” He clarified, his face now extremely gentle and thoughtful, yet almost pained.
“You. I love Jon, and I know he loves me and looks out for me a lot better than most guys do their little sisters, and he listens and helps me and does anything he can for me, but not the same way you do. Jon would go to the end of the earth for me; you would sling me on your back and take me with.” The words kept coming out, yet nothing truly felt enough. I couldn't explain what I meant well enough to make him understand how deeply I meant it.
I tried one more. “Riley, you understand me the way no one else in the world ever could, better than I understand myself, something. That is why I'll never feel brave enough to risk completely failing unless I know that you will be there for me when I do. Be there to help me put myself back together, even when I'm a total wreck.”
With a sigh, he lowered himself backwards against the sand, “come up here.” Crawling upward, I set my head against his bare chest, still lying sideways from him. He put his arms around me. “I'm never going to like it, Holls. I trust you, but I don't trust him. Regardless, you're right. If you want to go out with him, go and I'll try to keep my negative feelings at bay as long as you promise to be honest with me about everything that does or doesn't go on.”
“And know that...” He hesitated in that moment, as if not sure how to shape his words in the way he needed to. “Know that I will always be here for you, no matter what. I promised you that I would always be here to hold you. I'm keeping that promise.”
Just like after prom, his words filled me with more warmth than the fire could. I wondered briefly, where I would be if it weren't for having Riley in my life. How many nights I would have spent alone in my room, my parents fighting so loudly that no music could shut it out. How many times I got myself lost and needed a ride or got ditched by Jon and had Riley step in without question. I thought about Stacy, his last serious relationship that ended just before prom. The one that I still couldn't help but feel had put me down on the list of reasons why they should break up: the nagging girl who always stole Riley's attention by calling him crying.
“I am giving you a can of mace.” His words broke into my thoughts, but they also told me that he had reached a point of acceptance. He did not approve, but he accepted, and that was what I needed. I couldn't help but smile up at him, and he smiled in return, pulling me closer. “I just don't want you giving yourself to him in a way he doesn't deserve.”
“I won't. I promise.”
“Dean, I'm not ready for this.”
“Christ. It's been sixth months! How much more time are you going to need?” We were in the backseat of his car, parked near some abandoned playground I hadn't even remembered existed until he brought me there. Dean was on top of me, his body positioned between my legs and most of his weight on my chest, keeping me in place. I didn't like it back there, cramped and impersonal, but it seemed he pulled us to the backseat more and more often.
He had his own apartment, somewhere on the far side of town, but he never seemed to want to bring me there, as if I hadn't quite earned that yet. So that backseat it was, almost every time he took me out. He'd pushed and pressured from the beginning, but I maintained that I wasn't ready, the timing wasn't right, and every other reason I could muster. He got angry, he complained, but had yet to push it past the point of no return. This night, however, he seemed even more determined than usual.
His shirt was off and his jeans undone. My own shirt was pushed up crudely, and my skirt no longer falling past my hips. The funny thing was, other than the thin, cotton, pool-side dresses I would sometimes pull on after swimming at the beach, I never would have imagined myself in a skirt. Dean liked them though, I was beginning to understand why, and often asked – or more told – me to wear them.
“Come on, it's no big deal. Let's just have some fun.” One of his hands was poised around my neck, a way he liked to hold me, always staying in control, the other hand fondling my underwear in a crude enough manner that I understood it was more for his pleasure than my own. He smashed his lips hard against my own and began pulling my panties down.
I was filled with more reluctance than I knew possible. “Dean... wait...”
“Holly!” His voice was harsh as he said my name mere inches from my face. He didn't stop moving my panties off of me. “I'm not going to wait any longer. We've been going out for six months. Nobody waits that long. I thought you loved me.”
I had never said those words to him in my life. “I do.” I couldn't even say them, and even agreeing to it, I wasn't sure that I meant it. I wasn't even sure what the word 'love' meant. My parents made sure of that.
“Then prove it.” Looking back, I would realize that he didn't even attempt to make his voice kind or soothing. Every word held the edge of demanding.
I felt him move as he pushed his jeans and boxers down to his ankles, keeping himself between my legs as if afraid I would snap them shut at the first available opportunity. “Condom.” Was all I could manage to say, accepting that he wouldn't take 'no' any longer. An accomplished grin played across his mouth as he pulled the condom out of the pocket of his jeans and rolled it on.
“Don't worry. It'll be great.” His words did nothing to reassure me. Without further warning, he pushed himself into me. I had heard stories of how painful the first time can be, but nothing truly prepared me for the shear discomfort that came with feeling like I was being ripped open. There was no slowness, no hesitation. He pushed in and went right for it.
“Ow! Dean... ow... wait it...”
His grip around my neck tightened a bit as he began thrusting in and out, groaning slightly to himself. “It'll stop hurting, just stop crying about it. It's better for me if you get into it, though.” It was better for me if I thought of myself somewhere else, but it seemed like his temper was rising, and I wanted to keep it at bay. “Oh yeah, God you're a tight little slut aren't you?” It was his favorite pet name for me. Slut. “You like that?” He started thrusting harder, causing even more pain. Unlike what he promised, it had not even begun to ease.
The answer was no. I didn't enjoy it one bit. “Yes,” I managed, knowing it was the answer he wanted to hear.
“Yes what? What do you like?”
“I like it when you fuck me like a slut.” My mind flashed to Riley, our nights on the beach, his constant speeches about how much he hates Dean. He would have smacked me if he heard those words come out of my mouth. Dean just pushed harder, kissing me and dropping his tongue into my mouth as if it were a desirable way to kiss, wet and unmeasured.
I tried to enjoy it, moving my body with his and even letting my breath get heavy, but nothing tricked me into thinking it felt good.
Finally, I couldn't take the pain and willed myself to think of something else, only remaining aware of him enough to respond as I thought he wanted.
I had imagined my first time, lying in bed late at night, under the covers. The images hadn't been overly romantic, the candles and music type, but they were always much more pure than this moment. Overrun with passion rather than hormones. Need and desire, not lust. I was going to know that the times was right, so much so that questioning it would never even come to mind.
I had thought the moment would leave me with the sensation of being fulfilled, not filled. It was supposed to be a connection, something to deepen my love of that person, but how could it deepen love I wasn't even sure existed.
As my imagination replayed everything I had ever thought it would be, Riley's face flashed in front of my eyes. Too quickly, I shook myself to rid of it. Before I knew it, Dean's hand slid further up my neck, just below my jaw. “If you're just going to lie there and take it, at least don't fight against it.” As if out of frustration, he thrust even harder, keeping me pinned down by the throat. His labored breath rang against my ear with every movement. I completely sent my mind away.
Finally, “uh... uh... I'm going to fill that little virgin pussy. Mmm...” I was suddenly very glad that he hadn't argued about the condom. While I had been on the pill for a while, the thought of him coming inside me was repugnant. When all was done, he collapsed on top of me. “Next time,” he growled, “show a bit more enthusiasm.” Pushing himself off of me, he opened the car door and stepped into the cool March air. He stood and pulled his pants back up, fastening them and lighting a cigarette from the stash he always kept in his pocket.
The one time I dared tell him that I hated it when he smoked, he smacked me, hard, and told me to mind my business. Before stepping out myself, I tried to straighten my clothes, getting everything back to the direction in which it was supposed to fall.
The cold air was bringing me back to reality, causing me to reach into the front seat to look at my cell. It was almost midnight, and I needed to get home. “Don't worry, little miss goodie-fucking-two-shoes, we're done so I'll take you home.” Not even half done with it, he flicked his cigarette to the ground. “Fix your hair. You look like a cheap whore.”
Releasing myself from the backseat, I moved to the front. Frustrated with myself, I thought about how he was not always like this. He could be demanding and was known to voice a very loud and firm opinion about what I did, when and with whom, but there were plenty of days when he brought me around his friends, clinging on to me as if he were afraid one of them might steal me away.
“This is Holly,” he'd say, “you know, Jon Winters' kid sister. Real prize, isn't she.” He'd tell them about me, how smart and good I was, like I really was a prize worth showing off. Those were the days I truly understood why I was with him. Those were the days he made me feel good.
Without another word to me, he clipped on his seat belt and started driving. It only took a couple minutes before we were parked in front of my house. There were a number of cars already parked in the driveway. It was spring break and all the guys had come for their much missed boys night. “I have to drop my girlfriend off here?” Dean questioned, obviously annoyed. “Drop you off at a house full of guys?”
“It's my house, Dean, and it's just Jon's friends.”
“I don't want you hanging out with them.”
“What's the big deal, they're just...”
“What did I just say?! Do you have a problem with the fact that I don't want to drop my girlfriend off in a place where every guy inside is waiting to fuck her.”
“None of those guys in there...”
“Stop fucking talking back to me! I want to protect you and you're acting like a bitch.” I glanced away from him, toward the house, and imagined the face of every guy that would be inside, unable to respond to Dean in the way he wanted me to. Every last one of them was harmless to the surest degree. The worst they could do, and likely would do, would be voice an opinion against Dean, which seemed to be a new favorite past time of their get togethers. I needed protection from none of them. In fact, most of them had played the role of my protector at some point in the past few years.
That was when I noticed a figure leaning against the railing of the front porch. It was a figure too familiar to me to even hesitate before placing it. “That guy pisses me off.” Dean grumbled.
In my annoyance, I was about to tell him that Riley felt the exact same way about him, but I bit my tongue, saving the arguing for another day. “Goodnight, Dean.” As I started to get out of the car, he grabbed my arm and pulled me back. For a second, my throat swelled with fear. He was going to yell or hit me. The only calming thought was that it was unlikely he would hit me right in front of my house, knowing full well that Riley was standing outside watching.
Instead, he pulled me against him tightly and kissed me. It was a deep kiss, though completely lacking passion. His hand found the back of my neck and held me in place until he was done. “I'll see you later.” That was it; he was dismissing me.
Not knowing whether to be annoyed or embarrassed, I opened the door and stood. At that moment, I was suddenly overtaken by how sore a very specific, lower region of my body was. Unless I perked myself up perfectly straight, my underwear rubbed me in such a way that the pain caused me to wince.
I moved away from the vehicle carefully, slamming the door shut as I did, running my hand through my hair in a last minute attempt to make it lie in a natural way, all the while trying to walk as normally as possible. Riley wasn't watching me walk, though, his eyes were glaring down at Dean with a look of pure hate I hadn't known could exist. Then his gaze turned to me and softened immediately. “What's wrong?”
The question only made me feel more panicked, and there was nothing I could do to calm my expression. “Nothing, what why?”
“You just look...”
“Hey, dickface!” Dean was leaning over the passenger seat of his car, yelling out the window toward us. From the corner of my eye, I saw Riley's hand tense into a fist. “You might want to be careful with that one. I worked her hard tonight.”
A glance at my now shocked face was all Riley needed to understand what Dean was saying. “You mother fu-” In his anger, he started to move off of the porch, but Dean immediately slammed his foot to the accelerator to drive off, and my body was in the way of the stairs.
Every ounce of will power I had went into keeping my breath steady and not letting myself cry. “Holly?” His voice was pained in a way I had never heard it before. I dropped my head, unable to bring myself to look at him. As he stepped toward me, I remembered the image of his face flashing before my eyes and didn't want him to touch me.
“Holly.” More firm this time, though still shaking. He put effort forth in keeping it calm. I raised my head to him. “Tell me you didn't.” A hollow feeling rose in my chest, and I knew I had disappointed him more than I ever knew I could.
We stood there, looking at each other, and I wouldn't allow myself to turn away from his eye again. That was my punishment. I made myself look straight into his eyes and see the hurt and betrayal that lie behind them, knowing I put it there. "That son of a bitch." The anger still hadn't left him, not completely. His gaze moved to the road, looking after the vehicle which had long since left our sight. "Did he force you?" There was no mistaking the strain in his voice. The wrong answer would make him snap.
“No." I answered, and just like telling Dean I loved him, I wasn't sure if it was true. I told myself it was true, though. I hadn't kicked and scream and begged him to stop, so it couldn't have been forced. That was my logic. The word also seemed to put Riley at ease, though only slightly. He started to speak, but I cut him off, feeling too close to tears to let him. "Please, Riley. Whatever you want to say, just don't." My voice was shaking with my inability to keep my breath steady. "Not right now."
They were there, tears, perch within my eyes, waiting to escape. "Why do you look so sad, shouldn't you be ha..." the end of his sentence, likely somewhat snippity and painful, was left unsaid, and I was grateful for it.
"I wasn't r-" My voice broke, and the pain on Riley's face was even worse when he heard it, but I steadied myself. "I wasn't ready. I thought I was. I thought I would be, but..."
All at once, his anger was gone from his features and only concern remained. He opened his arms to me. "Come here."
"I can't." The tears were falling now, one by one, leaving a searing path down my cheek. Riley looked even more hurt, his arms and face both falling in pained surprise. He took a step back, as if I'd just slapped him. "I can't because you're angry and disappointed, even if you won't admit it, and I don't deserve your comfort. And as soon as you touch me I'm going to just start crying, and I don't know if I'll..." With a single movement, he grabbed me and pulled me to him, wrapping me completely in his arms.
My hands came up to cover my face, but fell quickly, hanging limp at my sides, while I buried myself in his shirt. He was warm and smelled faintly of Old Spice, my favorite smell in the world. The tears would not longer be held back. I cried, heavily, and he held me, running soothing fingers through my hair and never once moving in a way that signified he wanted to let go.
Slowly, my crying stopped, and I began to lift my head. "Sorry." I muttered, running a finger over the extremely wet patch I left on his shirt.
Looking down, he chuckled, and the shake of his body relaxed me even more. "No worries, Holls. I'll just make you do my laundry." I gave my own laugh at his retort, knowing he didn't mean it. "Come here. Let's sit down for a second, let your eyes clear up. Wouldn't want Jon or any of the other boys to see you like this." He led me over to the bench swing in the corner of the porch, sitting and pulling me down next to him. There was an Afghan folded up and draped over the back, which he pulled down to cover me.
The simple contrast between the caring way in which Riley handled me and the harsh demanding way Dean would was enough to make me relax myself against Riley's body. Again, he pulled his arms around me, holding the blanket in place. Resting his cheek against my hair, he sighed audibly, but it was a calm sigh. A sigh that said things were finally under control, and he was relieved. "The boys are going to be really excited to see you."
There was music playing inside. The sound of people talking and laughing as well as the booms and bangs of gunfire from the TV. Again, I imagined every face that would be there, all gathered around an array of tv screens: drinking, eating greasy food, and yelling playful profanities at each other, X-Box controllers in hand. This brought a question to mind which I hadn't even considered. "Riley?"
"Hm?" I felt the vibration through my hair, and was momentarily struck dumb by how much I had missed his closeness.
Still, I asked the question I felt I had already formed an answer to. "How come you're not inside with everyone else?"
His body constricted, slightly, and he almost pulled away but managed to stay close. I could sense his hesitancy and decided to ask the question more specifically. "Were you waiting for me?"
"Is that why you were out here, by yourself, because you were waiting for me?" I looked up to see his expression, hoping that I hadn't offended him in any way. His was looking off, though the glazed look in his eye told me he wasn't seeing anything in particular.
Then, the focus came back and he was looking at me. "Well, you do have a midnight curfew, and Jon's a bit too far past wasted to yell at you for coming home late, so I just thought... you know..." I realized the unfocused look was a bit more, as his voice moved in a small quiver.
"Why do you look so sad?" I echoed his words from just a few minutes earlier.
He drew in a deep breath before allowing his eyes to meet mine, a forced smile raising one corner of his lips. "I was worried about you, Holls. I've been worried about you. I was standing out here trying to keep my thoughts from going out of control of all these different ways that Dean could hurt you, and I got this image in my head of you coming home crying and it just wouldn't go away.
“That led to me thinking about all the ways that I could tear Dean limb from limb, which, admittedly, was a bit therapeutic." I let myself chuckle at his words. "I was finally talking myself down and then... the way he grabbed you and kissed you, what he said... that look in your eyes when you came up the stairs... He hurt you tonight, Holly, whether you acknowledge it or not. He hurt you, and I don't know if this is the first time that he has or not because I feel like I'm so close to having lost you.
“I've heard you guys fight about me; I've heard him tell you not to talk to me. And I know you've told him that you won't give me up, which is... I'm so happy for that... but you haven't told me that's he's said those things to you. I can't remember the last time before him that you didn't tell me something. So, I don't know. I don't know if he's hurt you. I don't know if he's hurting you, and I've never felt so helpless in my life." His voice was shaking, raising that hollow feeling to my chest once again as I saw how close he was to tears. “You mean too much to me, Holly, and I always promised myself that I would take care of you. I can't do that if I lose you.”
My entire body was tingling, and I didn't know whether to feel good or heart broken at his words. How could I tell him that he would never lose me when I knew that I hadn't spent even half of the time with him lately as I normally would have, if it weren't for Dean's nagging? Something needed to be said, something I truly meant, something reassuring. What could I say to Riley that really told him that I couldn't imagine being without him? More than that. I needed him.
"You know what some of my favorite memories have been over the years? Sitting with you on the beach or going out to the park and talking or seeing your number show up on my cell phone and thinking that I'm someone who is important enough for you to call.” He rubbed my arm thoughtfully, obviously appreciating that I found something to say, but I needed to get more out. “I like Dean, and I know that if there's a single think you hate about me, that's it, but I don't know what I would do without you, so don't think that he could ever pull me away from you completely."
He nodded, not entirely happy, but content with my words. With a sigh, he pulled me against him again. "Mm... another thing to add to my list of favorites... Old Spice."
Riley laughed. It seems in life it takes the most ridiculous statement to make everything seem okay again, and Old Spice was the statement of choice for this instance. His whole body shook until he was able to calm himself down and regain composure. "Funny, I'm a fan of Old Spice myself."
"Oh! One more! One more! And I think it will do the trick for you." Now in better humor, his face lit slightly with the prospect of my wonderful revelation. "Mass amounts of zombie genocide, which I fear already may be taking place inside without us, and it is such an unspeakable shame."
Riley rolled his eyes at me, but stood nonetheless and pulled the blanket from my shoulders. "You're right. Who are we to sit here while there are such noobs inside who couldn't even dream of equally your headshot average." I made an overly zealous face of 'I know, right?!' and he was once again lost in laughter.
Giving me his hand, he pulled me to my feet, “let's get you inside so the other boys can have their fill of you, too.” Though he open his hand as if to release mine, I kept my fingers curved around his. Once he felt this, he tightened his grip, too.
Just as he reached the door, I realized what else it was I needed to say. "Riley."
“I know. Don't tell Jon what happened.”
“Riley.” I gave his hang a small tug, wanting him to turn and fully look at me. The words were almost lost in my throat, but I couldn't let them. Focusing on the feeling of our hands together, and the perfect green looking down at me, I let the words come. "I love you." I wasn't sure how I meant it, but there was not a doubt in my mind that I did.
The corners of his lips twitched, as if his reflex were to smile, but he suppressed it. I didn't want to be the first to turn away, to suggest that we go in, still content just standing there with him. His eyes never left mine, a hint of confusion in them, until he gave a crooked smile.
Without letting go of my hand, he stepped forward, looking straight down at me, and pressed his lips against my forehead, cupping his free hand behind my head. “I love you, too, Holls.” Every inch of his face was smiling, gently and purely. “Especially when you're helping me kill zombies like the deadly, undead homicidal maniac you are.” With a playful wink, he lead me inside.