She didn’t let go.

She didn’t want to look at him because she was afraid of what she might see. She was afraid of what he might see. Annie had been rattled all afternoon, no matter how hard she tried to pull it together. It was better for her not to look, but she knew didn’t want to let go of those fingers. They felt like a lifeline, although she had never thought of herself as someone who needed to be saved. It was so strange. Her entire life had been an exercise of self-sufficiency and she never felt like she was even close to coming apart until now.

She gripped his fingers tightly and led the way. She had no idea where she was going, only that she needed to do something. Annie was a mover and the only way she kept her sanity when times were tough was by exerting physical energy. Keeping her body busy kept her mind off of things she didn’t want to think about.

As they approached the perimeter of Belmont Park she felt a tug as Christian stopped walking. The murky edge of night was just beyond the brightly lit boundary a few feet away. She stopped but kept facing the darkness. 

 He pulled her arm toward him and spun her gently until she had no choice but to face him.

Hazel. She supposed that was what you would call the color of his eyes, though that seemed like such a simple way of putting it. They were the most beautiful, rich bronze color with flecks of emerald sprinkled throughout. She wondered what he was seeing in hers, because she felt so unbelievably exposed. She felt the tears spill over and onto her cheeks before she knew she was crying.

His hand came up to cradle her face and he furrowed his brows. “Annie…” She dropped his hand but buried her face in his chest.

Christian didn’t know what to do with his hands. “Annie, I don’t… Are you ok? I don’t even know if I should even hug you or not,” he fumbled his words as he stood perfectly still, trying to dissect what was happening between them.

She couldn’t help the laugh that escaped at his floundering and she looked up at him. “Christian, why are you so awkward?” she asked through a tear-stained smile as she fisted a handful of his shirt. He still didn’t know what to do or think when she yanked his shirt hard toward her and brushed his lips with hers. When he didn’t immediately respond, she backed up to look once more into his eyes. They say the eyes are the window to the soul. The uncertainty in his was clear, but so was the open honesty and desire. She knew that hers would reflect something similar if he could see through the fear. His hands finally found themselves as one thumb came up to brush a tear off her cheek and the other settled gently on her hip. When his lips came back down to find hers, it was this: fire and salt and sweetness.


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