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Instead of You
Author:Anie Michaels

I saw him duck, watched as his face drew nearer to mine, and tried to hide the horror from my face when I realized Cory was going to kiss me.

His mouth met mine with a little too much force, causing my teeth to painfully press into my lips, but once his mouth was there, it stalled for a moment, leaving me blinking, afraid to move, kissing my best friend. When Cory finally moved, it was to spread his lips, his tongue darting out and forcing my lips apart in the process. Our teeth knocked together as his tongue continued to explore. I pulled away, horrified at how terrible we were at kissing each other, but his mouth followed mine and his hands pulled me closer.

When the kiss was finally over, no less than one million thoughts filtered through my mind. How in the world had I gone sixteen years without one kiss, but managed to get two in less than ten minutes? I tried to focus on the thoughts that told me the quality of the kisses were both based on experience, which would explain why Cory’s was the less successful of the two; Hayes obviously had more experience. And while I was busy convincing myself the kiss with Cory was just a matter of practice, I also tried to tamp down the voice in my head that was telling me it was more than that. The small, yet loud, voice that screamed at me that the kiss was about chemistry, and that I had none with Cory. I tried very hard not to listen to my body which, after both kisses, could declare a clear winner.

My poor heart. No one had informed it there’d be a competition. No one had warned me about Hayes.

“Wow,” Cory breathed as he pulled away from me, his eyes still sparkling, mouth tipped up into a smile. I tried to match his smile, tried to, in some way, force myself to be just as enamored with that kiss as Cory was. “I know you’re nervous, Kenz I do,” he said as his forehead came to rest against mine, both his hands now wrapped firmly around my waist. I let myself lean into him, hoping he could calm the panic rising within me. “But I know we are meant to be together, and I’ll spend as long as it takes convincing you of that.”

His mouth moved slowly toward mine again, and thankfully, the second kiss was much better than the first. It was soft and sweet, less insistent and less involved. It was the first kiss I imagined us sharing, except it wasn’t my first.

“Let me prove it to you.” He whispered this against my lips, and I knew I had no other choice except to answer with my own whispered response.

“Okay.”





Chapter Two


1:00 a.m., Cory’s Seventeenth Birthday

McKenzie

I was startled awake by the unmistakable sound of my window being opened. The sound of wood sliding against wood pulled me from a deep sleep and it took me a moment to realize where I was and what was happening. Once it fully occurred to me that someone was climbing in my window, I shot out of my bed like lightning. I had made it to my feet just in time to see a dark, shadow of a person moving toward me. Before I could scream to save my life, warm and familiar hands rested on my shoulders, and a soothing voice spoke to me.

“Kenz, it’s me, don’t freak out.” Cory’s voice was instantly recognizable, and it took me from terrified to irritated in a flash.

“What are you doing?” I whisper-yelled, my eyes starting to make out the features of his face in the darkness. He stepped closer to me, his hands moving down my arms, then landing on my waist and moving upward. It had been exactly one year, to the day, even, since Cory had started touching me less like a best friend and more like a boyfriend. I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t take a while to get used to. But I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t like it.

I pushed his hands away halfheartedly, grinning when they only started at my waist again and moved up. He was hard to dissuade, I’d found.

“It’s our one-year anniversary, Kenzie. I was lying in bed thinking about how much I love you, and I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to come over here and tell you to your face.” His lips found mine and I could feel his smile against my mouth. His hands traveled north again, stopping very high along my ribcage. “Sweet Jesus, you’re not wearing a bra.” As if to prove his point, his hands moved all the way to my back, feeling for my bra strap. “Tiny sweet baby Jesus,” he whispered as his hands moved toward my front. I rolled my eyes, knowing he couldn’t see me. I swatted his hands away just before they covered my breasts. Not because I was particularly against him touching me there, but more so because I knew it would frustrate him and he’d just woken me from a very deep sleep. Karma was a bitch.