“BECAUSE IT’S MY FAULT HE’S IN A WHEELCHAIR!”
The horse neighs and rears back a bit. Bodhi tightens the reins. After the horse settles down, Bodhi looks at me with regret. “In another life … I would be with you. Marry you. Have babies with you. Just … not in this one. I’m sorry.” He gives the horse a gentle nudge with his feet and rides off.
We open presents. Juni and Zach got me new luggage for my new adventure—and clothes.
“I couldn’t resist.” Juni shrugs, knowing that our tastes in fashion are not the same.
“I love them.” I fold the last item and set it next to me on the floor by the mammoth tree filling the spacious room with the scent of pine. “A new adventure calls for a new look. I’m sure you know what’s trendy around the world more than I do.”
“They’re just clothes. You’ll find your own international style as you make your way through new-to-you countries. God … the handmade items you’ll find are just extraordinary. Nothing like you’d ever find off a rack here in the U.S.” Juni gives me the best smile. Her excitement for me bleeds through every word.
We enjoy a small family dinner. It’s the first year in nearly a decade that it’s just been the three of us at the table on Christmas. It’s usually filled with grandparents and close friends. This year everyone else had other plans, and while it’s kind of a bummer that I won’t get to say as many goodbyes, I find it perfect that it’s just the three of us.
“We’re going to watch a movie. Care to join us?” Zach asks as my mom makes hot chocolate.
“I’m going to watch something in my room if that’s okay?” I slip on my boots, coat, hat, and gloves.
“Sure.” Zach gives me a big hug and kiss on the forehead. “Merry Christmas, darling.”
“Merry Christmas.” I close my eyes for a second and just enjoy his embrace.
“Sweet dreams.” Juni leans in while holding two mugs and kisses my cheek. “See you in the morning.”
I nod and smile while closing the door. The snow crunches under my boots when I step off the last porch step. “What are you doing?” I whisper to the wind, to Bodhi a mile down the mountain from me. Is he with his family? Is he watching an old movie? Is he …
Sliding my phone out of my pocket, I do something I haven’t done in a long time. I message him because I’m leaving, and I don’t give a shit about traceable calls and messages. I’m not his student. I’m not sure I’m his anything.
Me: I only wanted one thing for Christmas, but I didn’t get it. Hope you got everything you wanted. Merry Christmas. <3
Just as I start to slip my phone back into my pocket, assuming he won’t respond, it chimes.
Bodhi: I’m parked at the end of your drive. I’ve been here for over an hour, trying to get the nerve to ask permission to enter the gates.
I look up. The end of the lane is way too far and twisty to see from here, but it doesn’t stop me from running toward it anyway. With shaky hands from my body jerking to keep its balance in the snow, I bring up the gate app and open the gate for him. Within seconds, headlights appear in the distance.
I keep running.
The van stops.
The second Bodhi steps out, I tackle him to the ground.
He grunts from the impact. My hair falls around our faces. I inhale his addictive wood and citrus scent and the warmth of his mouth so close to mine. Lemons. His breath smells like lemons.
“I opened a hundred gifts today, but none of them were you. I was looking for you.”
“Me?” He grins.
“You.” I kiss him.
He threads his fingers through my hair and slides his tongue against mine. I don’t care if it sounds immature or ridiculous—we belonged to each other before we ever met.
“It’s cold.” He breaks our kiss.
“My bed is warm.” I rub my nose against his.
“So is mine.” He sits up, taking me with him so I’m straddling his legs.
“Mine’s closer.” I bite his bottom lip and drag it through my teeth.
“Uh …” I give him my best confused look.
“Up.” He lifts my hips and I plant my boots in the snow as he stands and brushes the snow off himself.
He opens the side door to Alice and flicks a switch.
“Oh my god …” I hold my gloved hand over my mouth.
Battery-operated LED lights line the back of the van, illuminating the mattress, pillows, and fluffy blankets that have replaced the backseats.
“Get in before all the heat escapes.” Bodhi pushes me in onto the mattress with my boots hanging out the door.
I giggle as he slips off my boots and plops down on the mattress next to me to take off his boots as well with quick moves before slamming the door shut.
My eyes dance with delight at this. He did this for us—for me.
“I can’t believe—”
Bodhi kisses me with urgency, covering my body with his. Our fingers intertwine above my head as his body settles perfectly between my legs like God made that space just for him. The mattress allows us one good roll in each direction, and we work the entire space to rid each other of our clothes without missing a single kiss, a single grin, or a single touch.
“Lock in the heat.” He pulls the sheet and approximately ten flannel blankets over our heads.
As I giggle, I feel his grin along my skin a split second before his tongue teases my nipple, hands squeezing my breasts while he hums his pleasure.
A heavy ache builds between my legs, longing for him, even if I know it’s going to hurt. And I just know it will. Maybe not as bad as the first time, but it’s going to hurt. Still, I’m turned on, desperate to feel him all over me and completely inside of me. It’s like getting a massage and the therapist hits a tight knot. It hurts in a good way. You want to scream no and YES at the same time.
I leave for California in a few days. And after New Years, I leave for … indefinitely. The unsettled part of my mind and my soul needs to do this. Traveling the world is all I’ve been able to think about for years. This is not an opportunity everyone gets. I’ve told my friends and family this is what I’m doing, garnering both reactions of envy and judgments of insanity—both drive my need to do this. Robbie didn’t get the chance to do this. She died. The pilot with a wife and three children died. Settling for anything less than living an extraordinary life and seizing every moment feels like I’m failing them too, not just myself.
“Merry Christmas to me,” Bodhi murmurs, taking his kisses down my body. He camps out between my legs, grinding his pelvis into the mattress at the same rhythm his tongue and fingers bring me to orgasm.
“Bodhi!” I wrap my legs around his head as my whole body convulses.
He throws the covers off and reaches between the two front seats, returning with a condom, like it’s a race. Once he’s fitted with the rubber, he crashes his mouth to mine, balancing on one arm while his other hand positions his cock at my entrance, making a few circles—spreading my arousal around.
“You’re so fucking tight.” He pushes into me one slow inch at a time, face strained.
I am tight. Apparently once isn’t enough to get everything broken in.
Bodhi moves slow at first then speeds up. Harder. Faster. I claw into his back, wanting so desperately to build up another orgasm, wanting so desperately to be his every dream. When I realize that’s not happening, I kiss him. This I can do. This I love. It takes my mind off the discomfort of feeling overfilled with Bodhi.
“Henna …” He grunts my name, slamming into me one last time before finishing with a few short jerks. Collapsing onto me, he buries his face in my neck. “I love you. I love you so fucking much.”
“I love you too,” I whisper, feeling a terrible ache in my chest.
I’m leaving and he’s staying.
He slides out slowly, sitting up on his knees to remove the condom. After disposing of it in a napkin from his console, he settles next to me, spooning his front to my back. Our arms tangle as we sigh.
“What did you do?” I ask because I have to ask. If I’m going to leave my greatest love behind to follow dreams that are starting to feel hollow … I have to know why.
“What do you mean?” He buries his nose into my hair and inhales.
Closing my eyes, I imagine a life where I can be nothing but the next breath in his lungs, the metronome to his heart, the blood in his veins.
He stiffens. I lace our fingers together, squeezing tightly.
“You can tell me anything. You know that, right?”
Bodhi hums his acknowledgment.
I want to crawl inside of him and pluck every ounce of pain from his heart like removing needles from a pin pad.
“I had some issues with addiction shortly after our band started getting some seriously respectable gigs. A year. That’s it. After playing out of a basement while in high school, we got our chance. I got to play to real audiences, for a year. And then I fucked up. Hell … we all did.
“I was drunk or high, usually a toxic mix of both. We went to this party. Ty was supposed to be the responsible one that night, but he ended up in worse shape than the rest of us. I remember feeling so fucking sick, I just wanted to go home. At the time, home was with my parents when the band wasn’t traveling. Some girl found me vomiting all over myself. She offered to get help. I gave her my phone, and she called my parents. My dad came to rescue me.”