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Instead of You
Author:Anie Michaels

“Tell you what. One year from today, your eighteenth birthday. I’ll be ready.”

“A whole year?” he practically shouted, a shocked expression on his face.

“Shhhhh,” I whisper-yelled, eyes darting to my bedroom door, listening for any sounds of my parents stirring. Hearing nothing from the hallway, I turned back to Cory. “You’re ridiculous. You can wait a year. Until then, just assume it’s not going to happen. Look at it this way,” I said with a smile. “If I change my mind, it’ll be a surprise.” He let out a loud groan, making me laugh. I took his arm and moved it out so I could put my head in the crook of his neck, and snuggled in. “You know you’re my favorite, right?”

He pressed a kiss against my temple. “Yeah.”





Chapter Three


Cory’s Eighteenth Birthday

McKenzie

“Baby, I’m so sorry.”

I turned my head to see Mrs. Wallace shutting the front door behind her. She looked panicked and flustered.

“My late meeting ran over, traffic was atrocious, and I had to stop for gas on the way home.” I watched as she came around the couch Cory and I were sitting on, grabbed his face, and planted a big kiss on his cheek. She pulled away, gave him sad mom eyes, and then stood up. “I cannot believe my little baby is eighteen today.” She let out a loud sigh, then turned toward the kitchen exclaiming, “Eighteen!” I couldn’t see her anymore, but I knew she was throwing her hands up in exasperation.

“Don’t worry about it, Mom. Kenz and I were just watching a movie, waiting for everyone to get home.”

I felt myself blush and I bit my bottom lip to stop from smiling. Cory was only telling half the truth. Up until twenty minutes ago, we’d been his room fooling around. Cory had yet to let me forget I’d set his eighteenth birthday as the date, the one on which I’d give him my virginity. And take his, as well. It was a whole thing. A thing we’d discussed in very thorough detail practically every day since I’d promised him a year ago. One of the things I made clear was that if he wanted us to have sex for the first time, it wasn’t going to be in either one of our houses. I wanted something romantic: a hotel room, roses, champagne if he could get his hands on any. I simply was not going to have sex with him for the first time while we were rushed, trying to do the deed before his mom got home from work.

Much to his dismay.

“I promise I’ll start dinner right now.” She sounded like a little hummingbird flitting around the kitchen.

“Do you need any help?” I called out, hoping she wasn’t making anything too difficult that I could possibly ruin. Culinary wizard I was not.

“Oh, Kenzie, sweetie, that’s so nice of you to offer, but I have to get my head on straight first.”

“All right, let me know.” I always tried to be helpful when I was at Cory’s house. I knew his parents were almost obligated to like me, since I was the daughter of their best friends and all, but I still wanted them to actually like me. It was kind of a complex of mine. I never wanted anyone to be disappointed in me. Cory moved to drape his arm over my shoulders, giving me a squeeze and a half smile; he knew why I always offered, and I think he liked when I helped his mom with tasks around their house. He said it made him feel like I was part of his family. That was important to me as well—I loved the Wallaces. All of them. Even if it was in different ways. Thinking of all the Wallaces made me question, “Is Hayes coming for dinner?”

“Nah, he said he’s taking some sort of seminar over his winter break to get a couple extra credits or something, so he doesn’t have the time to drive down for one night to have dinner with us on my birthday.”

I could hear the vinegar in his voice. He was upset his brother wasn’t coming to dinner and I could totally understand that. I, on the other hand, was relieved. Hayes had been so caught up in his schoolwork, I hadn’t seen him since the night of Cory’s sixteenth birthday.

“I’m sorry, Cory,” I said softly. And I was. Selfishly, though, I wasn’t sorry I wouldn’t see him that night, just sorry Cory was upset about it. I knew I’d have to see him eventually—I couldn’t go the rest of my life without Hayes coming around, but as far as I was concerned, the longer the better. Just then the front door opened again as Mr. Wallace entered the house.

“Hey, Dad,” Cory called out.

“Hey, birthday man,” his dad said with a wide smile.

“Don’t call him a man just yet,” Mrs. Wallace whined as she came out of the kitchen to greet her husband.

“Okay, okay,” Mr. Wallace said, stopping at her side and pressing a kiss to her temple. I looked away, not wanting to intrude on their private moment.

A cell phone rang and I heard Mrs. Wallace ask her husband to answer her phone for her.

“Uh, babe, it’s the bakery. They say they’re closing in thirty minutes and they wanted to know if you’re still coming to get the cake you ordered.” Cory and I both turned our heads to look into the kitchen, watching his mother’s eyes bulge and hands fist at her sides.