Kay Bennett ran into her bedroom, slamming the door behind her. She had to have been seeing things. After all she couldn't possibly have seen Reese Durkee kissing her sister!

"Think of something else, Kay. Anything else," she muttered to herself. "Just don't think about that."

Yes, a few weeks ago she had broken it off with Reese. After all, the guilt that she felt about leading him on was starting to catch up to her … and there was the fact that the way he followed her around like a lost puppy dog was grating on her nerves.

But, honestly, who wouldn't feel that way? Reese was the biggest nerd within a fifty-mile radius, and he thought that she was in love with him! Having him as a boyfriend certainly wasn't doing wonders for her social life, so she's ended it – plain and simple. After all, if Miguel thought that she was in love with Reese, he would never allow any type of relationship to develop between them.

And it was Miguel that she loved. Not Reese. Never Reese.

But if she didn't love Reese, why was she so upset over him kissing her sister? After all, Jessica was a Class-A Dork. She and Reese were practically made for each other!

It figured, Kay thought reaching for the phone to call her best friend. Just when she thought that her life was finally back to normal, Reese had to find some way to screw with her mind.

"So what do you think?" Kay asked twenty minutes later, after relating the story to her lifelong friend Simone Russell.

Simone grabbed a handful of caramel corn and popped one into her mouth before replying. "You're jealous, Kay."

"Be serious," Kay scoffed.

"I am being serious," she insisted. "You've been dating Reese for the past three years, but you were blinded by your infatuation with Miguel so you didn't realize how wonderful he was. Now he's moving on with your sister, and you're beginning to see what you were missing out on."

"First off, I am in love with Miguel," Kay replied, her blue eyes darkening with anger. "As for me being jealous, that's just ridiculous. Me? Love Reese?" She laughed mirthlessly. "That will never happen."

Simone raised her eyebrows. She knew her friend well enough to know that if she left and let her stew over it for awhile, eventually she'd realize the truth that was hidden within her words.

Glancing down at her watch, Simone quickly stood up and said, "Sorry, Kay, but I promised Mom I'd run some errands for her. Think about what I said, ok?"

She grabbed one last handful of caramel corn before she walked out of Kay's bedroom. She certainly hoped that her best friend would wake up and realize what she was missing out on.

Some woman was sure to eventually realize what a catch Reese was. Simone just hoped that that woman would be Kay, and that by the time she realized it, it wouldn't be too late.

Simone had been right.

Again.

Kay hated that. She hated the idea that she had been wrong. She hated the idea that Simone knew more than she did.

Most of all, she hated the fact that she was in love with Reese Durkee.

Well, perhaps she didn't hate the fact that she loved him. Rather, she hated the timing of her realization.

After Simone had left, she had come downstairs and paged through some of the photo albums of her and Miguel from their younger days. She had, however, neglected to remember that Reese would be in many of those same pictures.

So she had seen page after page of her, Miguel, and Reese mugging happily for the camera. All of the pictures had made her think about how their lives had been so different when they were younger – so much simpler.

But out of all of the pictures that she had glanced through, there was one that she couldn't seem to forget.

It was an old Halloween photo, one from around nine years ago. Her mother had made her a beautiful costume that transformed her into a chocolate chip cookie, and she wore it proudly with a smile upon her young face.

It was a silly costume she knew, but she had loved it. Everyone else had been a witch or a ghost or a goblin, but Kay Bennett had been a cookie for Halloween.

She remembered trying to get Reese and Miguel to dress up as cookies too – that way, they would match as they marched from door to door for Trick-or-Treat.

Miguel had laughed at her cookie idea. Rather, he had gone as a police officer since he had been so enthralled by his older brother's new position on the local force.

Reese had kept silent through their whole debate, his eyes swinging back and forth between the two of them as the words flew from their mouths. Kay had taken his silence as unspoken agreement with Miguel, and that had hurt.

But when Halloween had finally come, Reese had arrived at her house in his costume. It certainly was a rather atypical one; one that surprised her.

Reese wasn't wearing a cookie costume, as she had wanted him to. Rather, his mother had made him a big foam glass of milk to wear.

Their neighbors had thought it'd been so adorable, the chocolate chip cookie and milk walking together. They'd had extra treats lavished upon them, and by the end of the afternoon, Miguel had been wishing that he had dressed up to match them as well.

In essence, what it all boiled down to was the fact that Reese had been willing to give her what she needed back then. He knew that she had wanted to have someone else who had a costume like hers, so he had gotten one that would be the perfect complement to hers.

Miguel hadn't even tried to give her what she'd needed.

Even now that was true. Whatever she had asked Reese for, he had been more than willing to give her. Even when she had asked him for time apart, he had granted her what she asked for.

Miguel was barely even an acquaintance anymore. His life was so filled with perfect, sweet, pure Charity that he barely noticed that she existed. She had practically thrown herself at him for the past few years, and he hadn't blinked an eye.

Reese had truly loved her, and she now knew that she loved him too.

But it was too late. He was with Jessica now. Their love would never come to be.

Love was pain.

True, for some people, love was full of wonderful, uplifting feelings, but that had never been the case for Kay. It hadn't been for the previous eighteen years of her life, and she doubted that it ever would be. No, for her, love was meant to be a heartbreaking experience – literally.

She'd thought she had loved two men in her life, but only once had it really been love. That wasn't what was important though.

The important thing was that neither had allowed her to experience the beauty that was love. Miguel had never loved her, and she had loved Reese too late. Any love that he had felt for her had been ruined by her "love" for Miguel. He loved her sister now, not her.

In her mind, Eve6 said it best.

Want to put my tender heart in a blender, watch it spend 'round to a beautiful oblivion. Rendezvous, then I'm through with you.

Love had torn her heart to shreds once already when she had thought that she'd loved Miguel. Her heart had never fully recovered, and the loss of Reese and his love could prove to be more than she could take.

She would just have to swear off love. She didn't need it. She didn't need someone who knew her inside and out.

Most of all, she didn't need the heartache.

What a joke, Kay thought as her pounding feet rearranged the sand beneath them. She may not need or want the heartache, but she did need Reese.

She wanted him to hold her, to kiss her. She wanted him beside her, working through everything with her.

After their breakup, they had pledged to stay friends, but Kay honestly didn't think that she could handle seeing him, knowing that he could never be hers.

She needed to find a beautiful oblivion of her own. She needed a way to get all thoughts of Reese Durkee and their lost love from her head.

Her eyes swung towards the rolling surf. Perhaps a swim could keep her mind occupied for a bit. She knew that there was a sandbar three-hundred yards out; she'd only swim that far before she headed back.

Yes, she affirmed with a nod of her head. She would do it. A swim could be just what she needed.

Quickly, Kay halted her run and stripped down to her daisy-patterned bikini. Without a second thought, she sprinted into the chilly surf and began to swim.

Minutes passed, and she continued to swim, despite her quickly depleting energy reserves. She had to be nearly there, and she desperately needed to rest before she headed back to shore.

Urgently, she scanned the water before her, searching for the sandbar.

She saw nothing.

She stopped for a moment to glance behind her and saw the sandbar one-hundred yards back and nearly two-hundred yards to the south.

She didn't have enough energy remaining to swim that far – let alone all the way back to shore.

No, unless her guardian angel came to her rescue, she was going to make the frigid Atlantic Ocean her watery grave.

Death would be a form of the oblivion that she sought, yes, but she wanted to live. Even a life without Reese was better than no life at all.

And so Kay continued to tread water, valiantly working to keep her head above the waves.

Minutes passed, and she could feel her limbs begin to turn to lead. It was too late now.

Then, her eyes caught sight of a tall man jogging on the beach. She tried to call out, to let him know that she was in trouble, but barely a whisper of sound left her lips.

But still, she saw him turn. She saw the look of realization cross his features, as well as the fear that accompanied it. She saw him start swimming out towards her.

Then, she saw nothing.

"We have an eighteen-year-old white female, victim of a near-drowning. She's breathing, but we need to get the water from her lungs," an EMT informed his crew, almost mechanically.

"Kay," a familiar voice whispered, his rough fingertips brushing her arm.

"Sir, I need you to stay back," the EMT warned.

He nodded, but before he could leave, there was something that he needed to say.

"Ten cuidado, mi amor."

"Now, sweetheart," Sam began, laying a comforting hand on his daughter's arm, "are you sure you'll be okay today?"

"Yes, Dad," Kay replied, letting out a long sigh. "I'll be fine."

"Ok, honey." He bent over to give her a loving kiss on her forehead. "Your mother will be downstairs, and don't hesitate to call me if you need something, alright?"

She rolled her eyes. "Yes, Dad. I will."

He nodded. "I know that your mother and I are getting very overprotective, but we were very worried about you, Kay. We just want to make sure that you'll be ok."

"I know, Dad. Thanks." Kay offered him a smile, as he headed out of her bedroom.

God, she was bored. Eve had prescribed bed rest of the next three days – not exactly the way Kay wanted to spend her final days of summer. The only good thing about it was the fact that she might be able to get her family to do a large part of her college packing for her.

"Hey, Kay," Jessica called out from her doorway, interrupting her thoughts. "Is there anything I can get you before I leave?"

"No, I think I'm okay," Kay replied, shifting on her pale green comforter to face her sister. "Where are you headed?"

"Reese and I were going to drive into Augusta to check out some exhibit on Spanish art. He's seen it before, and he thought that I might enjoy it too," Jessica explained.

Reese.

His name jogged a vague memory – or perhaps it had been nothing more than a dream.

A man, one with a voice much like Reese's, had said something to her. The question was, what had he said exactly?

It involved a number. She remembered that much. Eight? Nine?

No, she remembered. It had been ten. But she didn't think that he had meant the number. Rather, it had been almost a secret message, a hidden message.

Ten cuidado, mi amor.

The words reverberated in her head. What on earth could they have meant? They seemed hauntingly familiar, almost as if she had heard them before.

She must have heard them at Miguel's house. They must be encrypted in Spanish.

"Jessica, before you go, could you grab me my Spanish dictionary?" Kay requested before her sister had a chance to leave.

"Okay," Jessica agreed, quirking an eyebrow. As she headed for the bookcase, she couldn't help but ask what Kay wanted the dictionary for.

"I heard some Spanish the other day, and I was trying to remember what it meant. It's not all that interesting, but it should give me something to do. After all, if I'm going to be bedridden for the next few days, I will need some way to occupy myself."

Jessica laughed. "That's true, I suppose. Did you want me to grab the verb conjugation book for you too?"

"Please," Kay replied. "Thanks, Jess."

"No problem, sis." Jessica placed the books on the nightstand beside Kay's bed. "I'm just glad that you're okay. I wish you could come with us – I know you'd have a good time, but if Eve says bed rest … "

"Please," Kay groaned. "Don't you be getting all sentimental on me too. I had enough of that with Dad this morning."

Jessica giggled. "Ok, I won't. Try not to get into too much trouble, ok?"

Kay laughed in return. "Like I can get into any trouble laying on my bed?"

Jessica raised a hand in farewell as she left the room, her chuckles echoing down the hall.

Thirty-seven minutes and twelve seconds had passed since Jessica had left with Reese.

Not that she was counting or anything.

Thirty-three of those minutes had been spent trying to translate that damn Spanish phrase. It figured that it had to have an irregular verb form within it.

But, she supposed that maybe it was better that way. The damn verb had kept her busy for twenty-five of those thirty-three minutes. So now she only had roughly twelve hours remaining in the day in which to do absolutely nothing.

Granted, she could spend some of that time trying to figure out who had actually said those words to her. She could effectively rule out Reese, judging from the translation.

"Be careful, my love" were the words that had been uttered. And judging from that kiss that he had shared with her sister the day before, he no longer loved her.

It could have been Miguel, she supposed, but he would have been too attached to Charity's side to be jogging at the beach that day. As it was, he didn't love her either, and for the first time in a long time, that fact didn't bother her.

It must have been her guardian angel who had whispered those words – although the idea of her having an angel watching over her after everything that she had done seemed even more absurd than the idea of Miguel saying those words to her.

Soft, hushed tones from just outside her door distracted her from her current train of thought – especially a muffled curse. What on earth was going on out there?

Knock, knock

"Come in," Kay called. She honestly didn't care who was out in the hallway. At least it would be something to keep her mind occupied for a moment.

The door swung open, revealing the adorable face of the man she had spent the majority of the day thinking about.

Reese Durkee.

"Reese, what are you doing here?" Kay asked, confusedly.

"Well, Jessica said that you seemed awfully bored, so we thought we'd take you on a trip. But if you don't think you're up for it … " he answered before trailing off.

"No, I'll be fine," she replied. She paused for a moment before adding, "Well? Are we going?"

Reese chuckled and carefully picked her up off of her bed. She was in his arms – exactly where she wanted to be. Granted, her position was not ideal and neither was the situation, but she'd take what she could get.

Carefully, she rested her head against his chest, surprised at the definition she could feel even through his shirt. Who would have guessed that Reese Durkee had such a sculpted body?

She certainly hadn't, that was for sure.

She looked up at his face and realized that he wasn't wearing his glasses, which allowed his intriguing blue orbs to finally be seen. "Reese, why aren't you wearing your glasses?"

He smiled at the thought of what had happened. "I stepped on them this morning, so I had to put in my contacts." He sighed. "I look weird, don't I?"

Kay shook her head slightly. "Not weird – just different. Good different," she specified.

"Really?" he asked. He grinned and his eyes lit up, making him sexier than ever.

"Really," Kay replied, offering him a soft smile of her own. "Now let's get the hell out of here!"

"Ooooh! Churros!" Jessica squealed with excitement, pointing over towards the food stands. "You guys want?"

Kay tilted her head back to look at Reese, who shrugged. "Sure, Jess – thanks. We'll find a table, ok?"

"Sounds good," she replied, skipping off to join the line for churros.

"What the hell is a churro?" Kay whispered once Jessica was safely out of earshot.

Reese chuckled heartily. "It's a pastry, Kay. With lots of sugar and sweet filling."

Kay grinned at the thought of it. Sugar. Maybe that would give her some energy. She supposed that she could run on adrenaline for awhile yet, but it couldn't power her body forever.

She couldn't help but wonder why she was so tired. After all, Reese had pushed her around in a wheelchair all day, so she hadn't had to walk around.

A wheelchair.

She was sitting in a wheelchair.

It was still hard to believe. After all, she wasn't over the hill yet!

But when she had attempted to protest, Reese had been adamant, insisting that if she wanted to see any part of the Spanish Art Fair, she would have to be in the wheelchair. So she had agreed.

She would have rather been in his arms though.

Those warm, strong, comforting arms. She hadn't been able to forget the way that she'd felt with his arms wrapped tight around her.

Not that she wanted to forget anyhow.

Carefully, Reese rolled her to the end of a picnic table, before taking the seat beside her. "Are you having fun, Kay?" he asked, his eyes meeting the gaze from her own.

God, those eyes. They were so vibrant, so beautiful. She'd stared at them every opportunity that she'd had that day, as she was doing right now. She couldn't help but feel that within those bright orbs lay the answer to all that troubled her.

That was silly, wasn't it? Her life was so screwed up that she doubted that a whole team of psychologists would be able to make sense of it – let alone Reese's beautiful eyes.

"Kay?" Reese prompted, effectively putting an end to her continuous staring.

"I – I – " Kay stuttered. "I'm sorry, Reese. What did you say?"

"I asked if you were having fun," he repeated with a smirk.

He was so gorgeous! But she couldn't think about that now. No, she had to reply to his question first. Then, she could ogle him to her heart's content.

"I am having fun, Reese. Thanks for bringing me along. I'm sure that this isn't quite the romantic outing that you and Jessica had planned, but I do appreciate it," she replied softly, her eyes avoiding his gaze for the first time all day. She couldn't see the pity for her shining in them. Losing him to her sister was bad enough – having him pity the poor loveless Kay would be even worse.

He chuckled loudly for a moment before he stifled the laughter when he realized that she was serious. "Kay, Jessica and I aren't dating or anything," he explained.

Kay shrugged. "So then it's friends with benefits. Whatever. Same thing."

Reese eyes widened. "Kay, we're not together – we're not boyfriend and girlfriend, we're not friends with benefits. We're friends – that's it."

"Reese, don't lie to me! I saw the two of you kissing yesterday!" she insisted.

He raised his eyebrows. "I don't see how it's any of your business, seeing as how you don't want to be my girlfriend anymore, but, yes, we did kiss. We were talking about how much I missed you and everything, and it just … happened. Afterwards, we realized that we don't have a future together since I was, essentially, just replacing one sister with the other. Besides, Jessica knows that I still love you."

He couldn't still love her! Why would he do that? Why would he put himself through that kind of pain twice?

But if he loved her … perhaps there was still a chance for them.

"Really?" She instantly winced the moment the words left her mouth. What did she care? Hadn't she sworn to give up on love?

Yes, she would. She couldn't let herself love Reese. After all, in just a few short weeks, they would be heading off to different colleges. She didn't think that she could handle losing him and his love again. Her feelings for him had caused her enough pain already.

Her decision made, she met his intense gaze. "Of course I still love you, Kay. Do you really think that your breaking up with me could kill that emotion so quickly?" He paused for a moment before continuing. "But why do you care if I love you? I've loved you for years, and you didn't let it affect your life or your way of thinking – until now. Why, Kay?"

Kay gulped. She couldn't tell him that she loved him – not when she knew that their short relationship would be sure to end in pain.

"I – I – " she stumbled, unable to think of a decent excuse.

He peered intently into her eyes, a look of confusion on his face. Then realization set in.

"You're in love with me!" he cried victoriously, quickly leaning in to give her a soft kiss.

The kiss was wonderful – she couldn't deny that. It was sweet and gentle – and it made her love for him multiply almost instantaneously.

Quickly, she pulled away. She couldn't do this to herself. If she let herself kiss him, it would only make it harder to walk away afterwards.

"No," she said, tears welling up in her eyes. "I don't love you. I – I can't love you."

Reese carefully picked her up and held her in his arms. Damn him. It would be much tougher to resist him when he was holding her so close.

"Kay, I know that you love me. I can it shining in your eyes." He paused to graze his thumb across her cheek. "Why can't you let yourself love me?" he asked gently, cupping her chin. "What would be so horrible about getting involved with the man you love?"

Kay bit her lip, willing the tears not to fall. She had to be strong. After all, she was Kay Bennett, and Kay Bennett didn't cry.

"Let it all out, Kay," Reese urged, his hands forming reassuring circles on her back.

"I – I thought I loved Miguel, Reese, and by the time I realized that it was you that I loved, I thought you had moved on. And that hurt Reese. It hurt so bad, and I don't know if I can go through that kind of pain again."

"Kay, you won't have to," he assured her, an encouraging smile filling his face. "I'll always be here for you."

"Dammit, Reese. We're going off to college in a few weeks. We probably won't see each other until our ten-year class reunion. By then, you'll have met some wonderful girl who deserves you much more than me, and you'll introduce her to 'Kate Bennett.' I'm not the right kind of girl for a guy like you."

"How do you know what kind of girl is right for me? Shouldn't I be the one to make that kind of decision?" he retorted, an edge creeping into his voice.

"I – I – " she stumbled as the tears began to fall down her face. Couldn't he see that he deserved better than a manipulative liar who wasn't afraid to use other people to get what she wanted?

"I'm sorry," he whispered, gently wiping her tears away. "I shouldn't have yelled at you, Kay. I was just so frustrated that you don't seem to care about how great we could be together."

They could be great together, she supposed, but that didn't matter. The important thing was that she wouldn't end up being enough for Reese, and she'd get her heart broken in the end. He loved her now, yes, but when he got off to Harvard, she couldn't begin to compare to the women he would meet there.

He smiled softly at her. "What if I said that I loved you? What if that's all I could say? What if I said that I'd hold you and give you all that you needed? Would you love me then or let me walk away?"

"But what if I can't give you all you need?" Kay asked timidly after a moment of silence passed between them. "What if you get off to college and – "

"Kay, I love you with all of my heart – I have for awhile now. I can't imagine ever meeting another woman who could compare to you."

"I'm not perfect," she informed him warily.

He laughed. "I know it. And I love that about you. You make mistakes, yes, but so does everyone else. You make life interesting, Kay, and you keep me on my toes."

"You don't know much of anything about me, Reese. You don't know what you're saying."

"Kay, I know that you've done some horrible things to try to break up Miguel and Charity – even though I didn't really realize it until after we broke up. I should have known that something was not quite right with our 'relationship' – after all, we never went anywhere alone, and we rarely kissed. But I guess I was just so excited to be dating you that I didn't question it." He paused to gather his thoughts. "When you've spent as much time watching you as I have, you get a sense of what a person is like. And I know what you're like, Katherine Bennett."

"I don't want to hear what you think of me, Reese. I don't think I could handle it," she told him, but her protests fell on deaf ears.

"You are a competitive, and you're cunning. You may have done some things that weren't always for the best, but I believe that you have a good heart. And that heart is what I want to have for the rest of my life."

Kay's mouth dropped open. She couldn't possibly have a good heart – especially after what she'd done, but Reese was certain that she did.

"I – I – " she stuttered.

"You seem to be saying that a lot," Reese whispered, softly caressing her cheek. "Let me love you, Kay. Let me show you how you deserve to be loved."

Slowly, she nodded, and Reese's hand moved through her chestnut mane to the base of her neck to pull her to him. Their lips fused together in a kiss that was filled with so many things.

It was filled with devotion and trust, tenderness and passion. But above all, it was filled with love.

And it was wonderful.

Then a familiar voice had to interrupt their moment in heaven. "Well, it's about time."

Their mouths separated as they rested their foreheads against on another's, a soft blush filling Kay's cheeks at the sound of her sister's voice.

Kay pulled her head away from Reese's. "Hi, Jess," she said, attempting to look nonchalant, but failing miserably. She couldn't seem to stop smiling! "Uh, what were you talking about?"

"You and Reese, silly! I told him that you loved him, but he wouldn't believe me. Guess I was right, huh?"

Reese grinned. "Yeah, you were right. Thanks."

"No problem, now let's eat!"

Kay turned her head towards him and saw him raise an eyebrow. Clearly, he had no intentions of eating their churros – at least, not yet.

He leaned in and covered her lips with his own, forcing all thoughts of their churros, the Spanish Art Fair, and her sister from her mind. As she instinctively wrapped her arms around his neck, she was aware of nothing but the lips of the man she loved.

She felt protected. She felt loved.

Most of all, she felt him.

Finally, she had found a man who would love her. Finally, she had found happiness.

Finally, she had found the beautiful oblivion that she had yearned for.
END

**song credit: "Inside Out" by Eve6