Author's Note at the end!

TOXIC

Chapter 32

Nothing Left to Hide

She felt herself sink into the soft curves of Nathan's bed, with little resistance. Her arms immediately wrapped around his neck as he hovered over, not really laying on top of her, but still letting their bodies touch.

His eyes slowly wandered down over her naked body, and she shifted uncomfortably under his gaze, even though the room was almost pitch black. He shook his head at her self-consciousness and brushed his hand softly against her face, pressed his lips to hers.

"I want you so much," he whispered into her ear as he pulled her closer against his bare chest.

Haley felt her heart constrict, and her throat clench up. It felt like she'd been waiting her whole life for him to say that to her, say it and mean it with his entire soul. Her eyes began to automatically water from all the overwhelming emotions running through her. She squeezed her eyes shut tightly and kissed Nathan again, blinking back the tears.

Nathan took no notice of this as he moved his lips down her neck, showering all his attention on the soft skin of her throat and collarbone. Haley ran her hands through his hair, and tangled her fingers into it tightly, quiet moans escaping her mouth as she focused her mind on Nathan's touches.

"I need you," she said to him, pulling his head up and bringing it back to her. Her hands roaming over the taut muscles of his back and the smooth skin that covered them.

Nathan caught her eyes this time, saw the wet rings around her eyes and paused. He brought a hand up to wipe them, but she grabbed a hold of it, lacing their fingers together and kissed his knuckles.

"Haley, I . . . ," he began, but she pushed a finger to his lips. There were no words for a moment like this. Everything that needed to be said, had already been said. All Haley wanted now was to be with him. Feel his love, and let him feel hers. They'd wasted enough time, talking, saying things that they meant and didn't mean. Now it was about showing it.

"I know Nathan," she smiled at him, their eyes locked together. And then he knew.

Everything after that, sort of felt like a soft velvety blur. Touches hear, caresses there, Nathan's warm body on top of hers, as he gently joined them together. And then the room became very hot and her mind became fuzzy. Everything was peaceful and quiet, and still.

Haley felt like she was floating on a warm bubble or a cloud maybe. She felt weightless and light, like all the things that had ever caused her pain, or stress, or worry had just been lifted off of her. She was finally free. Free to be the person she always wanted to be, or could be, or maybe just be the person she really was.

Even before she opened her eyes, a giddy wave came over her, and she smiled. The kind of smile that shows through your whole face, makes your eyes crinkle in the corners, and your cheeks puff up just a little at the top, stretches your lips so wide that you think they might burst.

She felt that warm bubbly feeling in her belly rise up through her again when she remembered that she was at Nathan's apartment, in his bed.

Her eyes fluttered open quickly, and she could see that it wasn't too far from, the darkness of night gave way to a lighter blue hue that came through the window over Nathan's bed, causing a grayish light to filter into the room.

Haley tried to turn over on the bed, her body tangled in the sheets. She kicked her legs out and tried ineffectively to reach for Nathan's body, but found her arm couldn't quite stretch as far as she wanted. She huffed and puffed, attempting to free herself, but found it was useless. When she'd almost given up, out of breath and hot she looped her head through were the sheet was against her chest and felt the rest slowly fall away. Wrestling her way out of the rest of the confining mess of fabric she turned over to see Nathan laying silently beside her, his eyes wide open and awake, his mouth curved into an amused grin.

"Having trouble," he snickered, propping himself up on one elbow.

She glanced down at her previous predicament and puffed out a laugh. Somewhere in the few hours that they'd been asleep, she'd managed to not only steal all the covers from her companion, but take them and completely ensnare herself in them like a fly in a web. She thought about blushing from embarrassment or her own ridiculousness, but chose to instead look into Nathan's eyes. They were ocean blue, and sparkling in a way she'd never seen before. This look he was giving her, it was something new. And it made her toes tingle and her heart skip a beat, as silly as it seemed.

"You're supposed to be sleeping." She pointed her finger at him sternly, as if it would erase the image of her grappling in his sheets like a monkey just seconds before.

"I was watching you sleep."

He let his arm stretch out again, so that he could rest his head on top of it leisurely. He stared at her with a quiet contentedness, and she couldn't help but blush.

"Why," she askedd in that girly way, only young women in love can. Her eyes big and glassy as a smile lit her face, and she snuggled back down onto the mattress next to his body. His skin was slightly warmer than hers, despite not having any covers, and she realized he was more hot blooded than her, which would probably work to her advantage if she was always this much of a bed hog.

Nathan sort of shrugged at her question, and tilted his head off his arm, his eyes never leaving hers. "I dunno. Just wanted to."

"How long have you been awake?"

"Half and hour maybe. Not that long," he snaked his arm under her side and pulled her flush against his chest. She immediately enveloped his neck with her arms. Their lips met softly, smoothly, so that the fervent feeling in their bellies could slowly work its way down.

"Mmm, this is nice," Haley murmured into his mouth. Her tongue running along his upper lip over and down his bottom one. She moved away from his mouth and kissed a trail down his cheek to his neck. Lavishing all of her attention on the bronzed skin of his Adams apple and then to the corner by his ear.

"What," Nathan groaned at her ministrations, not sure he'd heard what she'd said just a moment ago, his mind only focusing on the feeling of her hot mouth on his flesh.

"This is nice. Being here with you, in your bed. I don't ever want to leave"

Nathan attempted to open his eyes, but failed miserably. Instead he continued to let Haley ravish his neck. His arms came around her back and he ran them up and down, until he could grab her butt and cup it his hands. He used the leverage he had to hold her tighter to him. He knew things were getting pretty heated, and he was enjoying it, loving it actually. But he needed to stop them before they went too far. Because otherwise, they really never would leave his bed. Not that the thought wasn't tempting, but right now he had another goal in mind.

"But if we never leave, that means you don't get your surprise," he said just loudly enough for her to hear, and suddenly the kissing on his neck stopped. For which he was slightly grateful, but more so unsatisfied

"What surprise," she sat up abruptly, a look of suspicion covering her eyes.

"Well if I tell you, it won't be a surprise now, will it?"

"Yeah, and the last time you said you had a surprise for me, we ended up in your apartment, here," Haley pointed dramatically to the bed. "So excuse me if I don't exactly trust your "surprises","she held her hand up to do air quotes, and Nathan burst into laugher.

"Don't act like you didn't enjoy where we ended up, just as much as I did," he pushed himself up so that he was sitting opposite of her. That cocky grin spread all over his face, yet there was more kindness to it now. It was more gentle.

Still, Haley shook her head at his bravado and ran a hand through her messy chocolate curls. "I'm just saying. . . I'm not sure if you and I agree on what a surprise is, that's all."

"What if I promise you'll like it? No, love it. LOVE IT. Cross my heart and hope to—."

Haley pressed a hand up to his mouth to hush him, and gave a relenting smile. There's was no fighting Nathan. What he wanted, he got. And if it was something he wanted to do for her, then who was she to argue, really?

"Ok, ok. What do I have to do."

Nathan gave a wide toothed grin, knowing all along that she would fold, and hopped out of bed quickly, running over to where their clothes were spread out sporadically on his hardwood floor.

"Here," he threw a shirt at her. "Get dressed."

...........................

It was still fairly dark[ as Haley sat in the passenger's seat of Nathan's Bronco, staring blankly out the window. For all the playing around they'd done getting down to the vehicle and out of the parking lot, the last few minutes between them had been remarkably quiet.

Haley considered asking Nathan what he was thinking about, but decided against it. It was nice being able to just be with him. Not always having to fill every moment of conversation with meaningless chatter. Sometimes silence brought out the most introspective thoughts. Not that she was really having any. Just sitting and watching the dark blue scenes pass by her window, and listening to her belly rumble with hunger, was enough.

She felt Nathan glance at her every minute or so, and then back to the road. Found herself doing it as well. Sort of making sure he was still there, as crazy as it sounded. She had to keep making sure it was real. He was really hers. They were really together.

"I always liked you."

She wasn't even sure she'd heard it at first. Thought maybe she'd just imagined he'd said it, until she turned to look at him, and he was eyeing her, waiting for some kind of response, even if it was a mute one.

"I-I did too," she conceded a bit shyly, and placed her hand on top of his, when it lay by his side, rubbing circles on his skin with her thumb.

Nathan smiled back at her, knowing what she meant, but then shook his head, acknowledging that he was talking about something different. "No, I mean----I wasn't going to tell you this but-----I liked you before. Before you ever dated Lucas."

Haley blinked her eyes, moved her head forward, the word 'what' on the tip of her lips, but not quite coming through her voice. She was confused. Very confused.

Nathan had a thoughtful expression on his face as he continued to explain. "I always saw you around school all time, because you tutored half the football, basketball, and baseball teams. Everyone always said how nice you were, how fun you were to be around. . . . .. .There was this one time in Mr. Pelts class, we were doing logarithms on the board and I didn't do my homework the night before because of some party after a game, and I was screwing it all up. You were doing one on the board next to me, and you saw I was confused, and you whispered the answer to me, so I didn't have to look like and idiot front of the whole class. I don't know why you did it, because I'd never done anything but ignore you before that. But you helped me anyway. I thought about that a lot afterwards, about you, being nice to me for no reason . No one had ever done that for me before."

"I can't believe you remember that," Haley had her hand tightly wrapped around his, although her body was completely still. She watched him with awe.

"But why did you . . . " she trailed off, not sure what to say, or rather how to say it.

"Why was I such an ass to you," he finished for her, and all she could do was look on.

Nathan set his eyes back on the road. Somehow it made it easier to confess these things if he didn't have to look at her.

"Because I liked you, and you didn't know I existed. Or you liked Lucas better, and neither of those thoughts really appealed to me. So I pretended I hated you. And I think I really did for a little while. Even tried to make Luke think that things between you and him wouldn't work out when he left for school. Not that I'm proud of that now," he finished somewhat lamely.

When Haley didn't say anything he half-expected her to tell him to pull over to let her out. Or at the very least pull her hand away from his, at this revelation. But she did neither. Simply stayed in her same position, staring at him through her big doe eyes, her lips slightly parted.

"Why are you telling me this now," she finally asked, after what seemed an eternity of silence. It was so overwhelming hearing so much from Nathan all at once. He'd never been much of a talker, but as she was coming to find out more and more, when he had something important to say he would let it all out at once, and you better listen. Nevertheless, Haley's mind was a little full with all this new information.

Nathan flicked his gaze over to her. "I just thought you should know, that there were reasons, why I was the way I was. You deserve to know the truth."

She sat still. "Would you take it back now, if you could?"

"Yes and no. If I changed what happened back then, you wouldn't have hated me, but you could also still be with Lucas or some other random guy. And I couldn't handle that. For as much----for all the shit I gave you, and as hard as I made it for us to be together. It's what I wanted Haley. You were always what I wanted."

Haley felt her eyes involuntarily well up with tears for the millionth time. But she bit them back with all her strength, bit them back until they were gone. There seemed like so much to say to Nathan, and not enough. So she settled with saying the only thing that mattered.

"I love you."

Nathan turned to her, felt her hand tightened around his again, and for the third time in the span of 24 hours, he felt like he'd done the right thing.

"I love you," he answered softly, and turned the last corner to their final destination. He stopped in the dim parking lot, shut off the engine and turned toward his girlfriend searching her eyes.

When the corners of her mouth curled into a gentle smile, he let go of her hand and hopped out of the car. He came around to the passenger side door and opened it for her, helping her out. The air between them was quiet, but calm. He wanted to ask her a thousand questions, make sure she really was ok with everything he'd said. But deep down he knew he didn't have to. Haley never did anything with anyone she didn't want to. She always said what she meant and meant what she said.

She'd said she loved him. And that was all he ever needed.

When they came around the Bronco and got sight of what was in front of them Haley cocked her head up at Nathan

"Where are we," she inquired, sidling up against him, his arm laying on top of her shoulders, protectively.

Nathan quietly guided them forward from the car toward a small lit restaurant a few yards away. It was shaped somewhat round, and was a mixture of silvers, blue, reds and whites. The front door held a sign that said :Open 24 Hours and there was a row of windows all around the building, with which you could see through to a few select people sitting in booths and at a long rap around counter. An old style milkshake machine and cigarette dispenser were located in the corner by the jukebox. As the couple came closer to the front, Haley paused and looked up at the white neon light that was illuminating their figures in the semi-dark parking lot. The sign read: Rosebud Diner Food & Spirits.

She clasped a hand to her mouth, but the smile that was etched over her face was abundant around her eyes, and Nathan could see that she was pleased.

"You hungry," he simply asked, at her awed expression.

She nodded vigorously. "Yeah." She began to move forward and stopped again, in shock.

"How did you know? I've always wanted to do this. How'd you know?"

"Well there's this girl I know. And she told me once that the good guys always remember the important things."

Baffled by the man standing in front of her, by the sheer complexity of his being and everything he did, all she could do was gaze up at him with all the love she had inside of her. "Know this girl well do you?"

"Not half as much as I'd like to," Nathan grinned, leaning down and kissing her lips with ardent passion.

Haley felt breathless and happy when the kiss ended. A feeling she never wanted to let go of, and knew with Nathan's help, that hopefully she would never have to.

"There's time," she said.

And Nathan nodded, wrapping her up in his arm again as they headed into the diner. "Yeah . . . yeah there is," he agreed, and this time he believed it.

The End.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Wow! So here we are at the end. Finally. It's been a long road getting through this story, but I cherished every moment writing it. And not only that, but I appreciated all the support and encouragement I got along the way from you fabulous people. So here's my thanks to you!

First off I want to thank all the readers out there who took time out of their days to sit down and read this story. I hope you were entertained and enjoyed what you read.

Secondly I want to thank everyone who reviewed. From the smallest comment to the longest, every single word meant the world to me. Don't thank for one second that I don't live for the feedback, it really helps me know what you the readers like and don't like. It inspires me to write more, and hopefully to continue to try to be a better writer. SO THANK YOU!

Last but not least, to those of you who have been with me from the very beginning. The ones who always gave their unwavering support, and friendship. The ones who read my stories from day one, and lent out a kind word to keep me going, well I thank you from the bottom of my itty bitty heart. You are rock stars baby, and I love you!!!

As this note is getting much longer than I intended I'm going to get on going. So do let me know what you thought of it all. I know I left a lot of things open at the end here, and that's because I plan on doing a sequel in the not to distant future. So look for that, and my new story coming out soon: Chemical Love.

Hugs and Big Sloppy Kisses,

Ashley