Brian was waiting for me as I pulled into one of the spaces in his garage. As soon as I opened the door, he was there to help me down and kiss me, but I broke the kiss when I screamed as my feet touched the ground.
He jumped away from me. "DJ! What's wrong?"
There were tears in my eyes but I blinked them back (though not without some serious effort). "I snuck out of my house."
"And?" he asked.
"Win was by the front door," I gasped and clutched onto him so that I wouldn't have to bear all of my weight.
In one fluid motion, he had me in his arms and was carrying me towards the house. "What do you mean he was by the door?"
"He was sleeping in front of the door. And Aaron and Bill were on the couches. I still wanted to come tonight, so I snuck out through my window."
"Oh, crap," he said, suddenly understanding. "You jumped out your window? What were you thinking, DJ?"
"I didn't jump!" I said in my defense as he sat me down on the couch. "I tried to scale myself down and I… slipped."
He sighed as he sat down near my legs. "Where's it hurt? Ankle?"
"Knees," I gasped out through the pain. "They hurt pretty bad, Brian."
"Both of them?"
I nodded and a tear escaped my eye. I quickly wiped it away.
He reached down to the hem. "I'm going to roll your jeans up, okay?"
"Okay," I breathed out.
Slowly and extremely carefully, he began to roll my jeans up to past my knees, first one leg and then the other. It hurt when he reached the knee area, but we got through it until he finally had them rolled up to where he could see my knees.
He gave a low whistle. "They're swollen and bruised, DJ."
"Oh," I said sarcastically because I was angry and in pain and… therefore I was feeling a little snippy. "I thought maybe it was just a scratch."
He allowed a small smile to flicker across his face before he stood up. "I'm gonna go get you some ice." Before he left, he turned on the TV to some old comedy.
He returned with two bags of ice wrapped in towels and some athletic tape. After he managed to attach the ice to my knees, he asked, "Better?"
"A lot," I said as I breathed out a sigh of relief. "You have no idea. Thank you."
"I think you might have twisted them," he said, though he didn't look sure. "Or you could have just jarred them when you landed. I don't know. I'd recommend having a doctor look at them."
"I have something better than a doctor," I told him, still sarcastic. "I have you."
He grinned. "Well, I have been to school for more than eight years, it just hasn't been med school. You need to try to stay off of them, though. And get to a doctor."
I shook my head. "I can't do that."
"Why?" he asked as if I'd just told him that I wanted to skydive from a plane without a parachute.
"Because!" I explained. "If I go to the doctor, my parents and my brothers will find out. And then I'll have to explain how I got hurt."
"Oh," he said, seeing my problem. And then, he went into deep thought for a few moments. Then, his face lit up. "I've got it."
"Your cover story," he said, grinning.
"Care to share?"
"Sure." He shrugged. "Go out to the barn early in the morning and say that you were on the edge of the hayloft and you were off balance so you just jumped off and… there you go. Injured knees."
I pulled him forward abruptly and kissed him. When I pulled away, I was grinning. "Brilliant!"
He smiled. "If I had good ideas like that more often, would you kiss me like that more often?"
I felt myself blush, but I was suddenly feeling very flirtatious. "Maybe. What if I hurt my arm?"
He thought for a moment. "Hmm…depends on the injury."
"You spilled some milk from the bucket and slipped on it, so you reached out to catch yourself."
I smiled. "That one's pretty good, too. But Dad would be pretty mad that I spilled the milk."
He looked confused. "Um, don't you owe me something?"
"Do I?" I asked, faking stupid. "I don't seem to recall…"
"Um, good idea, passionate kiss… ringing any bells?"
I laughed before I pulled him in for another kiss, this one even deeper than the last. He held the back of my head close to him and I could taste his toothpaste. The smell of his cologne was as intoxicating as ever.
When we finally broke apart, I was gasping for breath. "Brian…"
He let out another breath and then stood up. "I'll get you some ibuprofen for the pain. Be right back." He winked at me and then he disappeared.
I turned my attention to the TV as I struggled to catch my breath. The characters on screen were arguing about some new mean teacher that they had at school and how they were going to get back at her for some ridiculous assignment or something. But the words just went in one ear and out the other.
And that's when I figured out that I was falling in love with Brian Nelson. Really and truly. I'm not the smartest girl in the world – far from it – but I knew that I was smart enough to know this. The feelings that I had for him were real – more real than anything else in my life. He liked me for the person that I was and I liked him for who he was. We were friends. We were friends in love.
When Brian came back in with the ibuprofen, I pulled him into a kiss so suddenly that he dropped the ibuprofen on the floor.
Where it stayed.