I didn't think today could get any worse. There were definitely some high points–Luke sharing his Halloween memory and allowing me to work his legs, for one. But now . . . his words replay in my mind before I can even respond.

"This isn't what I want . . . I mean this . . . us. You better go."

He looks at me, his eyes daring me to argue. My body tenses, ready to do just that, but I look closer, deeper, and realize there's something behind the defiance in his eyes and it breaks my heart. I don't want to argue with him; I don't want to cause him any more pain. I shake my head and say, "Fine, I'll go, but I'm coming back tomorrow."

"Why? I don't want you to," he says, but I can see the lie in his eyes.

"See you tomorrow, Luke," I say and turn to go. On impulse, I turn back and lean down and brush his cheek with my lips. It's barely a kiss, but our eyes meet and I see something flutter in the dark depths of his eyes. Hope? Maybe. I turn around and walk out the door.


I have class the next morning and a paper to work on; it's mid-afternoon before I can go to the farm. I knock on the back door, but no one seems to be in the house. Is Luke hiding from me? Does he have a medical appointment? I waiver, not wanting to leave. Everything in me goes against it, but I open the door and step inside. "Hello?" I call. "Luke?" No answer. I still don't want to leave, not until I know for sure if he's here or not. I make my way toward his bedroom, trying not to be stealthy.

His door is open partway and he's inside, laying on the bed on his side, facing me. He's got his iPod on and his eyes are closed. "Luke?" I say, my voice soft. No answer. I open the door all the way and walk in. He doesn't move. I think he's really sleeping. I should go. I really, really should go. I really, really don't want to.

I should leave. I shut the door, slip my shoes off, and go around the bed. I ease onto it, behind him. He doesn't wake. I curl around him and he sighs and settles back against my chest. A pinpoint of joy pierces my heart, but I restrain myself from hugging him tighter. I let him settle against me and we both relax. I take a deep breath, my nose buried in his hair. He smells so good. I intend to stay awake, but the comfort of being here, with him, the warmth of our bodies, and the quiet of the old house lull me to sleep and I drift off.

A sharp movement wakes me. I've forgotten where I am until I hear, "Noah?" Luke's voice is rough with sleep. He's turned over onto his back, which must be what woke me. It's darker in the room and everything is softened by shadows. "What are you doing here?" he asks, his voice low and tinged with a hint of disbelief.

Our eyes meet, just inches apart, and my throat is dry, from sleep or fear–I'm not sure which. "I told you I was coming back today."

"I know. I wasn't sure if you meant it." He's quiet for a moment before asking, "What are you doing in my bed?"

I'm nervous and I'm sure he knows it. "Well, no one was around and you were sleeping. I didn't–I didn't want to leave and so . . . so I . . ." his eyes are open and he can't hide what he's feeling, though he's trying. I see the irritation slide to amusement and then to a combination of hope and fear. "I couldn't resist," I finish in a whisper.

"I told you yesterday, this isn't what I want."

"I've thought about it a lot and I don't believe you," I say, my voice stronger than I'm feeling.

It stops him; his eyes narrow and I can see I've surprised him. His eyes soften and he looks away before replying. "Noah, this isn't what I want. For you. You deserve . . . more."

I knew that's what he meant all along, but hearing him say it makes me suddenly irrationally angry. I raise up on my elbow and look down at him. "My whole life is based on people–my dad–making decisions for me. I'm sick of it! I'm a grown man and I can make my own decisions. So, Luke, if you don't want this because it isn't what youwant–ifI'mnot what you want, then fine, I'll accept that. But if you're doing it to be noble and set me free because you're in a wheel chair and you don't want to burden me with your . . . your . . ." I stutter as my brain freezes and I can't think of a word that won't hurt or insult him or make things worse. I lamely settle on, "your temporary paralysis, then forget it. It's my choice at that point."

The anger leeches out of me and I lean closer to him to say, "I want to be with you. I want to be your boyfriend. I want to help you with your physical therapy and drive you to your appointments and take you out to stupid Halloween street fairs, and just sit with you to study or read or listen to music or watch tv." His eyes are dark and watery, a reflection of my own. "Mostly, though, I want to do this." I look at his lips and my eyes linger on them for a beat before I lean down and meet his lips with mine.

I start out tentative, but his lips are soft and mesh so perfectly with mine that I can't help but open my mouth to taste him further. He makes a noise, deep in his throat, and opens his mouth and, oh god, his tongue is touching my lips, then my teeth, and finally, my own tongue, and it feels like nothing ever . . . like no kiss I've ever felt before. Nothing compares to this.

His arms snake up around my waist and he pulls me closer, practically on top of him, and we can't get close enough to each other. There is desire in every breath, want in every throat-deep moan, and need in every touch of skin on skin. I am lost and he is drowning–we are together.

Then, I am struck with a moment of clarity and become acutely aware of why Luke tried to push me away. Because, as amazing as this is, I wantmore. My body wants, needs, more. I want allof him. I want to crawl inside him and become a part of him and I can feel that he wants the same. I nearly choke on the sorrow that it may never happen and I pull away, my breath ragged and uneven.

He drops his head back and looks at me, trying to catch his own breath. I can see him trying to figure out why I stopped. I try to hide it, but he knows me too well and sees the answer, naked in my eyes, before I can hide it. He closes his eyes and puts his arm over them.

We're spared, for the moment, by a knock on the door. It opens before Luke even says come in. Lily starts in, her arms full of clean, folded clothes, and she stops when she sees us, flustered. "Noah, hi. Luke, I'm sorry. I didn't see a light on . . . I thought you guys must be outside . . ."

"Nope, we're here," Luke says. He can't keep the hurt out of his voice, but Lily is still too flustered to notice.

"Okay, well, I'll just leave you alone," she says as she backs out and closes the door behind her.

"Sorry," Luke says. "I guess you can go now."

"I can't go anywhere right now," I say, trying to inject my words with a lightness I don't feel.

"Fine, whatever," Luke says and tries to move away from me and twists himself into an uncomfortable-looking position. I follow him. He can't go far, lucky for me. I haven't seen this pouty side of him much before, but I have a feeling I should probably get used to it, which makes me grin. I want to help him avoid it so I don't have to get used to it. And if I can't, well, there are worse things in life than dealing with an occasionally pouty boyfriend. I hope.

"I'm not leaving, so you might as well get comfortable again." He glares at me, but straightens out his back and crosses his hands on his stomach. I can't stop smiling. He tries to keep up the glare, but the more he tries, the more I smile. It seems to take forever, but a grin finally breaks through.

"You're such a dork," he tells me.

"I know," I say, my voice serene. Silence fills the room again while we grin at each other like idiots, until his eyes soften and he reaches out and cups my cheek.

"Noah," he whispers, not making it through the short word without a hitch in his voice.

I turn my head and kiss the middle of his palm. It tastes like soap andhim. I don't want to rush anything–I want to go slow. I just want to be here, with him. I rest my hand on his stomach and all my resolve nearly goes out the window when I feel it flutter and clench beneath my fingers. I cannot help myself–I slide my hand beneath his t-shirt and touch his skin. It feels like a combination of silk and satin and heaven. I close my eyes and I can't breath. I'm afraid my heart will beat right out of my chest, it's pounding so hard and so fast.

"Noah," he says again.

I take a deep breath and open my eyes. I can barely see the brown in his eyes–they're so very dark. I grasp at something to bring me back to some sense of coherence. "Is Luke short for something?" I ask.

One side of his mouth goes up, like he knows what I'm doing, and why, and like he knows a secret. "It's Luciano." The way he says it–he draws out the vowels and ends with what I swear is a purr.

I'm lost. Totally and completely lost. I dip my head and kiss his neck, right above his collarbone, and start working my way down to his t-shirt where I start back up. His neck arches and his hand settles on top of mine under his t-shirt.

"Noah . . ." he murmurs. He's killing me. My mouth searches for his and, when our lips meet, all I can hear is blood rushing through me and the sounds he's making. I've never kissed anyone like this. I never knew it could be like this to kiss someone. My hand starts making lazy circles on his stomach. His hand stays on mine for a moment and then it's gone. I wonder if he's going to push me away, but before I can do anything, I feel his hand on my bare back. I can't help it–I moan and break away from him and bury my face in his neck. He stiffens and stops.

"Noah? Did I . . ." he clears his throat and continues, uncertainty in his voice, "did I do something wrong?"

I shake my head and whisper, "No." I raise up and look into his eyes. "No, definitely not." I drape my leg over his and ask if it's okay.

"Yeah," he says, then puts his other arm around me and pushes my shirt up even farther and runs both hands up and down my back. It takes everything in me to refrain from arching against him. It wouldn't be fair. I take my hand off his stomach, because it's too close to places I want to touch and can't yet. I run my fingers through his hair and caress his neck and we kiss some more.

When it gets to the point where I don't know if I can take the pleasure and pain for one more second, we are interrupted, mercifully, by a knock on the door, and pull apart. "Luke?" It's Faith, his sister. "Dad wants to know if Noah is staying for supper?"

He meets my eyes and I'm too wrung out to be coherent. "Yeah, he is." His voice is rough and deep.

"It's going to be ready soon. Can I come in?" she asks and starts to turn the knob.

"No!" he says, a little too loudly, which makes me giggle. "We'll be out soon," he tells her. To me, he says, "Stop it!"

I can't help it, I've been through too much, too many emotions, today. I giggle some more.

He rolls his eyes and tightens his arms around my waist. "You're such a dork."

I sober up and sigh and rest my cheek on his chest. "I know." We're silent again, for a long time.

"We should get up," he says.

I agree, but don't move. "Luciano . . ." I say.

"I know," he says. And he does.