Okay so I just wrote a lot of this chapter tonight. It's not too polished because I wanted to just get it out there.
"Ryan, I have an awesome idea!"
Those words from Seth usually led to trouble. "I'm going to hear it whether I want to or not, aren't I?"
"You'll like this. Remember how we visited the Nana over spring break two years ago?"
"Yeah," Ryan replied, trying not to think about what had happened while they'd been gone.
"I think it's time we pay the Nana another visit. And this time, we're bringing the girls with us."
"Has Summer agreed to this?"
"Yeah, and we've got Marissa on board too, so that means Luke. Now we just need you and Taylor and the Fab 6 will be complete."
"I'll ask her. She might have to work though."
"Don't worry about that. Leon can always be bribed."
"I don't know, it might be better if I stay here and get caught up with school work."
"Ryan, it's spring break, not spring catch up. Besides I think some quality time with your lady friend could do you a lot of good."
"Seth, we're not-"
"I know, I know, she's not your girlfriend. We both know that's just a technicality though."
"I don't know if I can get past reading the details of the stuff she did with Henri-Michel."
"Right, the book. Ryan, you know that most of that isn't true, right?"
"Well, I doubt it. First of all, there's no way she could have gotten away with that Chunnel stunt and not been arrested. He probably just took a few bits of reality and embellished it into some elaborate fantasy."
"Maybe. Anyway, I'll see if she wants to go."
"Good, we'll count you guys in."
The next night when Savannah came over to Ryan and Luke's room with her physics assignment, Luke was over at Marissa's room. "Thank you so much for doing this," Savannah said, awkwardly looking around the room.
"It's no problem," Ryan told her, gesturing for her to sit down. "What are you having trouble with?"
"Mostly, it's knowing where to plug in which numbers into the formulas." She opened the book to the chapter 3 exercises. "This is what he's quizzing us over tomorrow."
An hour and a half later, Savannah was prepared for the quiz and Ryan was pleasantly surprised at how quickly she'd caught on when he'd explained it to her. Now, they were talking like old friends.
"The woman wanted to get a better picture of Binky, so she crawled over the fence and into his cage!"
Ryan laughed. "She climbed into a polar bear's cage just to get a better picture?"
"Yeah. She was a tourist," Savannah replied, rolling her eyes. "Although you don't have to be from Alaska to know that you shouldn't get in a polar bear's cage. There's a picture of Binky with her shoe in his mouth. The Anchorage Zoo sold T-shirts with that picture on it for months."
"Do you have one?" Ryan asked.
"No, but I wish I did. Oh! And a month after that incident, some drunk guys thought it would be fun to take a dip in Binky's pool. Binky didn't like that."
"I bet. Did they live to tell about it?"
"Yeah, they somehow came out of there mostly unharmed," she said looking perplexed.
When the laughter died down, he asked, "So why did you come to Berkeley?"
"Well, I've always known I didn't want to stay in Alaska. My boyfriend plays soccer and Berkeley was one of the schools offering him a scholarship, so I figured I would apply. He's coming here next year."
"You have a boyfriend?"
"Yeah. Oh no, Marissa wasn't trying to set us up, was she? I thought she knew."
"No, at least I hope not. I have a girlfriend too. Well, technically she's not my girlfriend, yet. I was afraid that you'd be like Sara."
Savannah laughed. "No. Honestly, that girl scares me. How about this? I'll tell her that I threw all my feminine charms at you and you refused to stray from your girl. Then maybe she'll give up."
Ryan smiled, glad Savannah was someone he could call a friend. "I hope so."
"So why is this girl not actually your girlfriend yet?"
"Well, she's still in Newport, and we're just getting to know each other," Ryan replied vaguely.
"I'm sensing there's more to it?" she pressed.
He sighed. "She married this French novelist and he wrote a book with some intimate details about the two of them. And I accidentally read it."
"I see. That's…wow. How did you accidentally read it?"
"It's Luke's fault," Ryan replied smiling. "No, I didn't realize the book was by her ex-husband until I was most of the way through it."
"Is she still hung up on her ex-husband? Is that why you're holding back?"
"No, she was never that into him in the first place. I just can't stop picturing it."
"Poor girl. I would hate to have my past mistakes put out there so publically. Can you imagine?"
He remembered his early days in Newport, when everyone would whisper about he was a felon who stole cars and burned down houses. That had sucked, but to have explicit details about his sex life out there? The idea of Taylor reading graphic descriptions of his encounters with Theresa, Marissa, Sadie, or Chloe, not to mention his early trysts in Chino, made him sick.
"I never thought about what this must be like for her."
Savannah smiled with understanding. "To her, it's just a memory, one she would probably rather forget. I'm sure her ex glamorized it, because those books are supposed to be all about fantasy."
Ryan nodded, knowing she was right. "Thanks."
"Don't worry about it, I owe you because now I have a prayer of passing my physics quiz."
While Taylor was at work on Friday, time seemed to go even slower than usual. Ryan would be arriving around 9 and she couldn't wait to see him, to tell him the good news she'd gotten that afternoon. She heard someone come into the store.
"Henri, I really don't want to talk to you right now."
"Peaches, you know I hate to see you sad. Is it Ryan?"
"Things with Ryan are fine," she replied, unintentionally defensive.
"What did you think of the book?"
"I didn't read it and I'm not going to."
"Peaches, I wrote it for you. I know that you have fallen for Ryan, that you betrayed me for him, but is there no room in your heart for me at all? Was cheating not cruel enough, that now you must shut me out as well?"
"If you had given me a divorce when I asked for it, I wouldn't have been married to you when Ryan and I started dating."
"I just couldn't bring myself to let you go until I'd seen for myself that it was over."
"What did seeing me with Ryan do that all those phone calls and e-mails didn't do?"
"I saw that you were in love with him. You never looked at me the way you look at him."
Taylor knew that it was the truth, but with things with Ryan so uncertain, it was painful to acknowledge.
Ryan knew that Taylor would be at work when he got to Newport, so he went straight to the mall. When he got to the comic book store, he saw that Henri-Michel was there, and standing a little too close to Taylor for his taste.
He confidently walked up to her and greeted her with a kiss.
"Hey," she smiled at him when he pulled back.
Henri was quick to realize he was not welcome. "I should be going. See you later, Peaches." He was out the door before Taylor could reply.
"What was he doing here?" Ryan fought to keep accusation out of his voice.
"I think he just wants me to let him off the hook for publishing that book."
"He isn't trying to get you back?" Ryan asked, raising an eyebrow.
Taylor shrugged, hiding her smile at his jealousy. "It's not like it would do any good if he was trying to get me back, but I don't think he is."
"Good. I don't like other guys hitting on my girlfriend." He pulled her towards him possessively and he was about to lean down and kiss her when her hand on his chest stopped him.
Ryan replayed what he'd just said in his mind and wanted to kick himself. How had he let that just slip? "Well, not my girlfriend, just…whatever we are."
"Oh." She didn't really bother trying to hide her disappointment, though his slip meant that at least he was thinking about her being his girlfriend. "And what exactly are we?"
Ryan looked like a deer in headlights. "Well, we did agree that we didn't want to be exclusive when we weren't living in the same city."
Taylor nodded in agreement. "About that…I got a letter from Berkeley today."
Ryan's eyes lit up. "Did you get in? Of course you got in, you're Taylor Townsend, but are you going to be able to go?"
Taylor smiled at how he'd said, you're Taylor Townsend, like she could do anything. He was looking at her hopefully now, and the words burst out of her. "I got a full ride!"
"Are you serious?" She nodded eagerly and he walked around the counter and pulled her into a hug. "Congratulations! So that means after this semester is over, no more living in different cities."
Taylor nodded, glad he was happy about it. "In three months, you'll be back in Newport for the summer, and we'll both be going to Berkeley in the fall. And you'll be back for a week for spring break."
"Actually, I was thinking…do you want to come to Miami with me? Seth, Summer, Luke and Marissa are going too, so it wouldn't just be us, but I thought…"
Taylor cut him off with a kiss. "I'd love to. And I can get Leon to work for me."
"Good. Now can you close this store yet, so we can go celebrate?"
"Give me five minutes and we can go."
After going out to the Bait Shop, they went back to the Cohens'. Ryan hugged Sandy and Kirsten, savoring the warmth and familiarity of Home. Sandy asked how his classes were going, and Kirsten doted on him, asking if he was eating and sleeping well, if he was getting homesick, if he would like them to come visit. Ryan couldn't help but smile at the attention and assured his guardians that he was fine and things were going well.
"You two look happy," Sandy commented as the couple sat down in the living room.
"Taylor got a full ride to Berkeley," Ryan said proudly.
"That's great, Taylor!" Kirsten exclaimed, hugging her.
"Berkeley is an excellent school," Sandy added.
"I'm going to start this fall. It seems a long ways off now, but I'm sure the time will fly."
Kirsten and Sandy exchanged a look and Kirsten nodded slightly. "We actually have some exciting news too," Sandy said.
"Yeah? What's up?" Even though Sandy and Kirsten were clearly happy about the news, he couldn't help the dread in the pit of his stomach.
"I'm pregnant," Kirsten announced, beaming. "I'm due in September. You're going to have a little brother or sister!"
Ryan had always wanted to be a big brother, though he sometimes felt like one with Seth. He'd never imagined it would happen like this, but he was glad it was. "Congratulations," he said, hugging Kirsten.
"We haven't told Seth yet, so don't mention it to him."
"This is so exciting!" Taylor jumped up, hugging Kirsten. "Have you thought about names yet? Do you think it's a boy or a girl?"
"We haven't gotten that far yet. We just found out a few days ago." Sandy and Ryan smiled at the flustered look on Kirsten's face.
"Taylor should we head out to the pool house? Give these two some space? I'm sure Kirsten needs her rest."
"Oh sure! See you guys tomorrow!"
"Are you excited to be a big brother?" Taylor asked him as she emerged from the bathroom in her nightie.
"Yeah," he replied distractedly, gazing out to the ocean.
She deflated some when he didn't even notice how scantily clad she was. "Is everything okay? Are we okay?" she asked walking up to stand beside him.
"Yeah, I was actually just thinking about...something else."
"Oh. Do you-"
"No. Thanks, but I'd really rather not."
"Okay," she replied softly.
He pulled Taylor's body into his, kissing her temple. "We're okay."
"Really? Because I'm sure if Marissa wrote a romance novel about you, I wouldn't be handling it this well."
The idea of Marissa writing something like that amused him. "Really. I mean, it got to me at first. I couldn't stand picturing you like that with someone else." He took a deep breath and turned to look her in the eye. "I don't want to see you with anyone else. I want you to be with me."
Taylor stepped towards him, watching as his eyes roamed over her body, resting on her nipples, before quickly going back to her face. "I am with you." She moved towards the bed and took his hand to pull him with her.
As they made their way towards the bed, his hand came up to caress her cheek while he lowered his lips to hers. The kiss started out gentle and tender, but it was filled with anticipation. Ryan's hand moved to her hair, feeling the soft tresses and pulling her closer, while the other hand rested on her rubbed against the silky material of her nightie, feeling the curves underneath. Her arms wrapped around him, one going to his hair while the other started at his shoulder and moved down, feeling the muscles of his back before muscular shoulders, before stopping at his hip and pulling him against her. She moved onto the bed, scooting up to the top, while he guided her to the pillow. He rolled his hips into hers and she whimpered, feeling his arousal. "Ryan..."
At the sound of his name on her lips, he felt his control begin to slip away. Her teeth gently nipped his earlobe and her hips grinded against his. Her hands slid under his shirt, quickly pulling it off over his head. Following her lead, he slid the strap on her nightie aside, tasting the skin on her collar bone. He tugged it down, exposing her breasts to him for the first time. Her nipples begged his for his mouth and he happily obliged, flicking his tongue over one rosy bud, while he moved up her side to cup the other mound of flesh, soft and supple in his hand.
In a maneuver that surprised him, she flipped him on his back and settled herself on top of him. As she rode him through his jeans, he watched her, entralled with every the way her head was tilted back, the way her body moved over him, and the soft sounds coming from her lips. She moved down to unbutton his jeans and he lifted his hips to help her take them off. She cupped him through his boxers. "Taylor," he hissed, and she grinned wickedly. She moved back to his lips and kissed him again, this time teasingly. She continued to kiss his jaw, neck, down his chest, over his stomach, to the trail of fine hairs that disappeared into his boxers. "Taylor, wait." She pulled back slightly and regarded him thoughtfully. "Are we ready for this?"
"Probably not. Soon though. But that doesn't mean we can't have fun doing other things."
Ryan smiled, pulling her back down to him. He'd had a feeling that it wasn't the right time yet, and he thought that this relationship was probably worth going slow for. Besides, it gave them something new to look forward to for spring break. "Sounds good to me."
TBC. Review please!