Ten years ago
Ty didn’t know what he’d done to deserve a woman like Rachel Carson lying beside him, curled into his side. Maybe it had been fate. He’d never given fate and the thinking that things happened for a reason much thought before now. It didn’t seem right, saying everything that had happened in his life up until this point happened because of some bigger and better plan. But it had been pure luck that he’d driven up on his crush and her beat-up car broken down on the side of the road in the middle of a treacherous rainstorm.
He had barely been able to see two feet in front of him, but somehow he managed to catch sight of her little black car. It probably had something to do with the fact that lately she’d always seemed to creep into his thoughts. The storm calmed for a moment, but then showed its ugly head again. Because of the heavy downpour, they were left with no other option but to stop at a hotel.
His high school baseball coach usually held practice on Friday nights, but since a stomach bug had whipped through half of the baseball team, he had called it off. With the gift of a free Friday night, since he was one of the lucky ones who wasn’t puking his guts out in the toilet, Ty headed out of Lincoln Springs for the night. There was a batting cage the next town over he liked to hang out at. To some, beaches and gardens filled with wild flowers were an oasis. Not to him. He preferred a run-down batting cage. Even though he was a pitcher, it didn’t mean he didn’t like the sound of a ball coming off of a bat. He just didn’t particularly like the sound when he was the pitcher on the mound.
After an hour of hitting, he headed back home. He had expected the rest of his night to be lame. A Friday night with his grandmother was fine and all, mainly because he had a cool grandma who acted nothing like the stereotype. But this…with Rachel was about the best night of his life. Only in his dreams did he think he’d ever get the joy of having her wrapped in his arms. And what made the night even more perfect was they were going to spend the entire night together with no interruptions. For the next ten hours or so, it was only going to be “Ty had Rachel,” and he planned to enjoy every minute of it.
Another streak of lightening flashed outside of their window, seconds later followed by a clap of thunder. Rachel’s body jumped. And that only made her hold on him tighten.
Maybe Ty would start believing in fate. Because of Rachel’s fear of storms and tornadoes, she asked him to lie beside her in the bed instead of his makeshift one on the floor. The tears welling up in her eyes had him tugging her to him and whispering words of comfort in her ear. In that moment it didn’t matter that she had a longtime boyfriend. And although Ty couldn’t stand James Young for a lot of reasons—mostly because he got to call this woman his girlfriend—his intentions were pure and innocent. He believed he loved her, and wished to be something more than a friend to her for close to a year now. But just because he wanted it didn’t mean he was going to take advantage of her.
Holding her while she was scared out of her mind didn’t seem wrong. In fact it felt right. Maybe too right for where their lives were at the moment. He was casually dating Tiffany Perkins. But that wasn’t serious and he’d been thinking about ending it anyway. She was more wrapped up in herself and liked the attention she got from dating him, more than the actual dating him part. He doubted she cared anything deeply for him. But Rachel’s relationship with James was different. He could see she loved James. And just the thought of that fact about killed Ty. It was possibly childish, and he had no right to be jealous, but he wanted Rachel to love him the way he loved her.
At the moment though, she was touching him like he’d always wanted to touch her. He wanted the right to be able to reach out and take her into his arms. He wanted to be able kiss her if he wanted. When her eyes locked on his while one of her arms clung to his chest, he saw something different residing in her stare. They’d always had an awkward friendship. Mostly because she didn’t want to upset James and he didn’t want to put her in a bad situation. But right now, alone together, there was no James. It seemed Rachel was realizing the very same thing at that exact moment.
“Ty, I’m going to need you to distract me.” Her voice came out sounding fragile. “Can you do that please?”
He could practically see her mind moving a mile a minute. He was confused as to what to do. Did she want him to sing? Get up and make a complete fool out of himself by dancing? He was trying to do the right thing here, but the fear in her eyes along with something else he hadn’t seen from her before had him thinking she meant something else entirely. If she wanted something more she was going to have to spell it out for him.
He swallowed hard. “I can do that, sweetheart, but I’m not sure what you want me to do.”
God, she was beautiful. The kind of beautiful that gave him butterflies. In his eighteen years of living, she was the only woman who caused him to experience such things. When she only gazed back at him, not saying a word, he asked, “Rachel, what is it you need from me? You name it and I’ll do it.” He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. The simple gesture caused her to suck in a breath. It caught him by surprise. “I don’t want to cross a line. I care about you too much to ruin anything we have. For once, things between us need to be clear.”
She pulled at his T-shirt until half of his stomach was revealed. The last thing he expected shy little Rachel to do was place her lips on his bare skin. He didn’t mean to, but a soft groan spilled from his lips. At least now he knew what kind of distraction she was looking for.
She looked up at him with a wanting in her eyes. And for the first time since the rain had started to pour, she didn’t seem to be scared anymore. “Is that clear enough?”
Wrapping his arms around her small waist, he pulled her up his body. “Once I start kissing you, I’m not going to be able to stop.”
In response, she threaded her fingers through his hair. She leaned down until her lips were tantalizing close to his own, and then whispered, “Kiss me, Ty.”
He put one of his hands behind her neck, and the other around her waist. Savoring this big, possibly life changing moment, he rose up and locked his lips onto hers. They were soft and warm. At first the kiss was sweet. Almost like they wanted to go slow and savor their first time together. But the longer they kissed, the more Ty needed. And by the soft moans and tugging the rest of his shirt up his chest, he figured Rachel was right there with him. She needed him as much as he wanted her. The knowledge of this made his heart swell a couple sizes.
He helped her pull his T-shirt over his head. Her fingers gently stroked from his shoulders down his arms.
Their hands and mouths moved over each other’s bodies, doing a little bit of exploring and a lot of pleasuring. There was something about her he couldn’t quite put his finger on, but knew somewhere deep that she was special—would always be special to him.
His jeans and her shorts were pulled down and puddled at the foot of the bed. He did away with his pants after pulling a condom from his wallet. Before he moved any further, he wanted to be clear with her. “You sure, honey?”
“Yes,” she simply said. “But I need to tell you something first.”
“What is it?”
She nibbled on her bottom lip before answering. “I haven’t been with anyone else.”
Okay, that was the last thing he expected her to admit. “Ever?”
She shook her head. “You will be my first.”
He stared into her eyes and could only read desire and need—for him. They’d been friends long enough for him to know she didn’t make rash decisions. Still…a decent guy would have hesitated, talked to her and found out why he’d been chosen as her first, but all the good guy parts took off to the unknown against his overwhelming desire to be with her.
“I promise to be gentle. You don’t ever have to worry about me hurting you.”
First, she kissed his shoulder, followed by placing her lips on his mouth. “I know. I trust you, Ty.”
Something this good couldn’t be anything other than fate.