Author's Note: Hopefully you guys like this chapter. A few things start to get wrapped up here.

The door closing brought her out of her frozen state. Silvia blinked, and her eyes went to the coffee mugs that still sat on the bottom step – reminders of how the morning could have gone.

Sighing, she tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear and went down the steps, sitting next to the mugs and putting her head in her hands. The breath that shuddered out of her was accompanied by a tear dripping down her cheek.

Part of her couldn't believe what had just happened. The look in Slade's eyes as he'd stood at the bottom of the stairs had been ice cold. Like there'd been a wall thrown up in front of something he hadn't wanted her to see.

However, she was quite sure that he had been able to tell exactly what she was thinking, and exactly how she had felt. Normally she was decent at concealing how she felt, she'd been doing it well enough for the years that she and Abbey had been taking care of Jenn. But she'd found that it was becoming increasingly more difficult to hide anything from Slade.

Ever since they'd met, she'd always felt that his eyes could see parts of her other people couldn't. The difference was that before, she'd been able to keep things to herself. That, and he hadn't pressed.

But he'd been pressing her, just now. And she'd been scrambling for cover that didn't exist.

Sniffling, she wiped her cheek and stood back up. The coffee mugs were still warm. With a twist of her mouth she took them back to the kitchen and dumped them out in the sink. Just as she closed the dishwasher, her phone went off.

It was a text from Abbey, saying that she didn't have time to talk but that she had an idea about hanging out over summer. Thankful that she wouldn't have to try and hide how upset she was from her best friend, Silvia left the kitchen and started to wander listlessly up to her room.

She'd wanted to tell Slade that yes – of course she would have told him. But she couldn't. It wasn't the honest answer. She wanted it to be, but she wasn't sure. Aside from their physical connection, there wasn't much to their relationship. She wanted there to be, and lately she'd been getting the feeling that so had Slade. The problem was getting to that point.

In her relationship with Quince, Silvia had never had to cross hurdles like this. He'd been so open, that if he ever had had any secrets she'd been able to tell easily. Slade was a whole other breed – and she was off target.

With a dissatisfied huff, she paused in her bedroom doorway. The bed didn't even get a glance – it was too fresh of a reminder how perfect last night had been. Her eyes traveled around the room until they landed on Slade's leather jacket. Still draped over her chair. Her fingers itched to touch it, pick it up, to feel the supple leather. She knew that if she held it close to her face she'd find his unique scent. Biting her lip, she resisted being that pathetic. Instead she went to her closet and changed into jeans and a graphic tee.

Her car was alone in the garage. Her parents were probably going about their – separate – business, and no doubt Bryson had gone to hang out with TJ.

She dialed Allegra's phone, and cheered inside when she answered. "Als, please tell me you're free to hang out."


Slade's introduction to the last day of his high school career came at seven in the morning, with his mother calling to check on the time of the graduation ceremony. For the fourth time in the last week.

"Six, mom. It's at six o'clock. I thought you put it on the white board in the kitchen?"

"Oh, I did. But then Daniel erased everything. But six is perfect, Randy gets off work at four so that will give us plenty-" there was a strange thumping noise, childish laughter, and then a baby's fitful crying. Slade held his phone away from his ear as he heard his mother shout 'Sasha! Get back here, you're going in timeout!' "-plenty of time to get there."

"Great," he mumbled, rubbing his eyes.

"Your father called me yesterday. He and Katerina want to have a special dinner for you on Friday night. I told him we'd be there."

Slade leaned back into his pillow, closing his eyes and fighting to keep a shred of enthusiasm in his voice. "That's great, mom. I'll see you tonight before the ceremony."

"Okay, love you!"

He mumbled an affirmation and hung up, rubbing his eyes. After he could think clearly, he dialed Katerina's number.


"A celebratory dinner?"

Katerina laughed. "Oh, it won't be so bad. It's been so long since I've seen Madelyn. And Hannah and Rose seem to get along well enough."

"Is Chase going?"

"I'm not sure. I left a message telling him about it, but he never replied. …Your father told me about what happened between you two last weekend."

He inhaled. "Yeah well, he was drunk and I was agitated. The two have never mixed well. Sorry, Kat."

"Mhm, darling I know that you two have a long and storied past full of problems. But you are brothers. You should be able to try and work on your relationship. He's the only big brother you have. I remember how close you two used to be when you were young. You'd follow him around, and fall asleep in his room. Don't you think-"

"No," he replied, unable to keep the frost out of his voice. "Chase knows where we stand. I've tried to mend things before, Kat. It'll never work as long as he's set on destroying himself."

"…he's trying."

"Good. He can keep trying until he succeeds. Then he and I will talk."

He heard his step mother let out a sigh. "Fine, I wash my hands of it. For now."

He mentally sidestepped back to the track of the previous conversation. "Who else is going to this dinner that you didn't warn me about?"

"Oh, don't be cross. You remind of your father when he gets grumpy. Anyways, Fee and Felicity are both going. Along with Trevor. Your uncle Aaron and your cousin Drew will both be there. I thought you could invite Jake and Allegra too. Oh, and Bryson and his lovely sister Silvia."

He suppressed a groan at not seeing the trap before he was caught in it. "How do you know she's lovely?"

"Oh, Madelyn and I had a little chat about her. And don't think I didn't notice that you made no effort to deny her loveliness."

This time he did groan. "Kat…"

"Slade, your mother didn't even know you two were dating. When was the last time you spoke to her? She is just thrilled, let me tell you. She just gushed about Silvia and everything she knows about her through Roxanne."

He exhaled heavily. "I just spoke with her and she didn't even mention it."

"Oh, she's giving you a chance to be a good son and tell her yourself." Katerina made a little squeal that was far more girlish than he expected. "I am so excited to meet her!"

He rubbed his forehead, feeling the beginnings of a migraine. "That might not happen."

Silence on the other end. He could have head a pin drop. "Is she busy Friday?"

"Not that I know of."

"Well, then why wouldn't- What did you DO!?"

He winced away from the phone as she yelled. "I…found out something unexpected and I didn't handle it well. I have to fix it, I'm just not sure how."

"Hmph, well have you apologized yet?"

"Not yet."

"Well, do that first. Do it right, get lucky and give her a present and she'll even forgive you without much groveling."

He blinked, then frowned. "Wait, a…present?"

"Women like nice presents, sweetheart. What does she like?"

He paused. "I- I'll have to think about it."

"Well, just don't focus so much on the present that you forget to make the apology perfect."

"Thanks, I'll keep that in mind." The sarcasm in his voice was heavy, but she didn't seem to notice it.

"I want to meet her, Slade Deane Blackwood. So fix it." Her voice went from iron to flower petals. "Now, I love you darling, and we'll all see you tonight at six."

At around ten Jake came over, with the suit he was wearing to the graduation in tow. They spent most of the day in Slade's living room. Jake, whose face was still in recovery, was far less mopey.

One of the greatest things about his best friend, Slade could admit, was his cheerful attitude. Very little could keep him down for long. It did well to balance his own quiet moods.

"You are going to the party tonight, right bro?"

Slade shrugged. They were sitting in his living room, watching some crap on MTV that Jake insisted was funny. He wasn't inclined to agree but didn't make a point of it. "Which one? Aren't there like six happening tonight?"

"Yeah," Jake shrugged and leaned back further on Slade's couch. "But the one up on Crystal Ridge is gonna be a good one."

Slade's brow arched. "How the hell do you know?"

Jake winked. "Cuz, bro. That's the one we're going to."

Slade snorted and shook his head. "I think another party is the last thing you need right now dude."

"Pfft, nonsense. We'll play some pool, have a drink or two. Relax. Dance with some hotties. Well, I will. You'll dance with Silvia. Well, I mean, Silvia's smoking hot but since you and her are- ya know, whatever, clearly I wasn't talking about that-"

"Dude," Slade interrupted. "Shut up already."

Jake grinned devilishly. "Okay, okay."

Slade bit the inside of his cheek, staring at the TV screen. "Besides, Silvia and I are… we had a fight."

Jake groaned. "Jeeeesus, is it going around or something? Cupid is in some fuckin mood." He sat up and faced Slade. "What did you fight about?"

Slade stared at him, deep in thought. "I think…the real cause was the fact that neither of us are sure what we're doing together."

Jake blinked. "As in, you're not sure how to define the relationship."

Slade sighed irritably. "I guess."

Jake nodded encouragingly. "Okay, go on. I need details man! How else am I going to fulfill my best bro duties?"

Slade's eyebrow rose higher. "No offense," he looked pointedly at the slowly-fading bruise on Jake's jaw. The swelling was gone, but the skin was still mottled. "But your relationship skills lately don't exactly foster confidence."

"Hey man, fuck off. You just watch, I'll get Allegra back yet!"

Slade sighed. "Do explain, oh mighty one. We of weak faith harbor doubts." His tone dripped sarcasm.

"Psh, now she knows I never stopped liking her for sure. There's no doubts now. All I gotta do at this point is show I'm serious about her by not messing around with anyone else and she'll get the picture. …she might beat me bloody first but after that she'll fall right into my arms." The grin he gave was far too wide to be reassuring.

Slade blinked at him and said seriously. "This is why we all worry about you."

On the inside, he was cheering that his friend was feeling good enough to joke about the situation. Even it was forced.

"Whatever, man. I try to impart my wisdom and you shoot me down." Jake crossed his arms and fell back onto the couch, his eyes on the TV again.

Slade watched him for a moment before turning back to the screen as well. After a few minutes "Katerina wants you up at my father's place on Friday night for a graduation dinner."



The ceremony was being held in a football field that belonged to a college about forty-five minutes upstate. It was huge, very nice, and the evening weather was cool enough to allow for the robes going over everyone's clothes. Someone – probably a pretty big group of people – had decked the entire place out in the school's colors, banners, and decorated the entire place to look official and elegant.

By the time he and Jake arrived, people were pouring in from the parking lot. Jake and he found their families waiting near the entrance – Jake's mother and his own chatting amicably, each of them with their younger children clustered around. Sometimes he forgot that if not for Madelyn, he may never have been such good friends with Jake.

His father and that part of his family stood a little off to the side, looking somewhat out of place. Their clothing and hair a little too chic even for this crowd full of silver spoon babies and their families. Slade was somewhat relieved to see that Chase was not among them.

Hannah came running to greet him, as per usual. She giggled as he hugged her. "You look funny."

He arched both eyebrows at her. "Funny?"

She giggled more and tugged on his bright blue tie, the only color in his black on black suit. "Like daddy."

He blinked and smiled a little before letting her down. "Thanks banana."

Madelyn claimed the first hug – her eyes already watery. "This is so wonderful! I'm going to be taking pictures the whole time so when you get your diploma you need to look towards me so I get a good one."

She went on to gush about the ceremony as he shook Randy's hand and hugged Rose – somehow Madelyn had bullied her into a plain light blue sundress. An impressive feat.

He had just turned to say hello to his father when he heard Jake whistle shrilly and turned to see him wave through the crowd of people. "Yo Bry! Over here man!"

Bryson and Silvia were walking with their parents towards the entrance. The two siblings were side by side – and it occurred to him all over again that they were technically twins as they both turned their heads at the exact same moment, and then broke off from their parents to make their way over.

They had – of course – both dressed for the occasion. Bryson wore light grey slacks, a pale ivory shirt with a salmon tie and a suit jacket to match his slacks. His hair was combed back and he walked with his hands in his pockets. Slade barely noticed any of that, though.

His eyes were on Silvia, and his mouth went dry as she came closer.

She was in a floor length dress that was such a pale pink it was nearly white. It was sleeveless, and on one wrist she wore a simple bracelet that twinkled with the soft pink light of some kind of gemstone. The bodice had a modest v in the front that just hinted at a bit of pale crème skin. Her hair was in tight curls that cascaded down to rest on her shoulders – looking soft enough to make him want to run his fingers through it. At her knees, the dress became a flurry of color with a floral pattern – rick, dark pink roses, he thought. The skirt flowed with every step she took, twirling around her frame in all the right ways. She was carrying his leather jacket in her arms, and nothing else, not even a purse.

When she and Bryson reached them, Jake was quick to give a low whistle – which earned him a smack on the head from his mother. "Sheesh, princess. You really fit the name this time."

He watched as she gave Jake a small smile before her eyes – almost without her permission, it seemed – traveled to him. They looked at each other for a few moments in silence, before he felt a presence at his side.

"I don't believe we've met." Katerina's voice was pure honey, and he could tell that she was barely holding back a twinkle from forming in her eyes. "You're Bryson's sister?"

The blonde nodded softly, and took the hand that Katerina extended. "Yes, I'm Silvia."

"It's wonderful to meet you, dear. I'm Katerina, Slade's stepmother."

"Oh, Silvia! Is that you?" Madelyn – who had until now been fussing with Sable – came rushing forward. For the next five minutes he was subjected to Madelyn, Katerina, and Rose all gushing over Silvia's dress. Even Felicity and Fiona – who he'd hoped would have had the dignity to stay aloof – were given introductions and then promptly invited her to go shopping with them sometime.


Finally – perhaps sensing that he was at the end of his rope – Katerina suggested that they all go to find their seats. En masse, both sides of his family departed. Sticking his hands into the pockets of his slacks, he stood and waited as Silvia turned towards her brother.

"You should go on in and find your spot. I'll be sitting with Mom and Dad."

Bryson grinned. "Try to keep them from talking too much."

Silvia laughed softly – clearly there was a private joke here – and nodded before getting up on her tiptoes and kissing his cheek. "Good luck."

Bryson winked, then tilted his head toward the building at Jake. With a glance at Slade, Jake left with him. Finally, the two of them were – aside from the people still entering the building – alone.

Instantly, she held his jacket out towards him. "You left this in my room yesterday."

The discomfort in the air between them was palpable. He looked down at the jacket, then back up to meet her eyes. She was doing her best to keep her emotions carefully fenced off. But there was still a little bit of hurt in those sage green eyes.

"Hold onto it for me," he told her, keeping his hands in his pockets. "I'll get it from you after the ceremony."

She stared at him, still holding the jacket out in his direction for a few moments before she awkwardly lowered it to her side. "Oh, okay."

He resisted the urge to grin, but he couldn't keep his eyes from wandering over her again. This close, he could tell that she had some kind of shimmery light pink gloss on her lips. They looked even more plump and sweet than normal.

He held back a groan, and gestured toward the entrance. "I should go find my place."

She folded her arms, draping his jacket over them. "Right….I should go get a seat." With that, she turned on her heel and walked – faster than normal, like she was escaping him – through the entrance.

With a grimace, he followed.


Her parents – as Bryson had known all too well – did not say a single word to each other through the entire ceremony. The speeches at the beginning – which except for the valedictorian's were all sleep inducing – seemed to drag on forever. To their credit, they cheered right along Silvia when Bryson accepted his diploma, but aside from that it was a small bubble of silence around their three chairs. And of course, she was between them.

She sat with Slade's jacket folded in her lap – hating how comfortably reassuring the weight of the supple leather was on her thighs.

Unlike her parents, she clapped for everyone – and cheered when Allegra, Jake, and anyone else she knew accepted their diplomas. Predictably, when Slade accepted his the entire student body cheered and whistled. And – in a surprising show of humor – he'd turned and winked at the crowd. Despite herself she'd grinned.

There was a final speech – blessedly short – about the graduates stepping forward into adult life with their heads held high. And then the crowd was standing and cheering as all of the students threw their caps in the air, while 'Times Like These' by the Foo Fighters blared over the crowd.

Her parents told her that they'd meet her back at the car and promptly departed. She watched them go, wondering how they could even bear to walk side by side. Even to an outsider's point of view, there was a certain awkwardness in the way they responded to each other.

She shook her head, and went in the opposite direction, intent on finding Bryson.

After fighting her way through the jostling crowd of graduates – and getting directions from a few of the guys that had been on his soccer team – she located him near the stage that had been erected for the speakers. He was standing with TJ and Allegra – for a moment she thought it odd that Jake wasn't there, but he and Allegra were obviously avoiding each other.

When Bryson saw her he broke into a huge grin. "Hey, graduate!" She yelled over the crowd before he drew her into a bear hug. She closed her eyes and smiled before pulling back. "Well, let me see, let me see!"

He held his diploma out for her inspection, and she 'oohed' and 'aahed' over the thick paper and gold filigree.

They'd started to make their way towards the entrance when Allegra poked her arm. "So hey, I was thinking that we need to go to a party tonight."

Silvia blinked. "Really? Why?"

"Because, its graduation night… it's our last chance to be in the spirit of things."

Silvia quirked an eyebrow. "Are you sure? Parties haven't exactly worked in our favor over the last month or so."

Allegra rolled her eyes. "Yes, I'm sure. What's the worst that could happen?"

Bryson burst out laughing. "Well, now something bad has to happen. Bad mojo, Als. Seriously."

Allegra waived him off. "Oh, whatever. Come on, you've gotta go with me, Silv. Don't make me go to a party all by myself." And then she turned on a pouty face that was too pathetic for the blonde to resist.

"Fine, fine," she sighed. "Something horrible will no doubt happen and I'll regret it for weeks to come," she laid on the sarcasm. "But why not? I thrive on ridiculous drama."

She and Allegra broke into giggles, before Allegra's eyes lowered down to the jacket Silvia was carrying. "Isn't that Slade's?"

Despite hanging out with Allegra yesterday, Silvia hadn't told her brunette friend about she and Slade's confrontation. Firstly, because she'd had no idea how to explain what happened. Secondly, because she definitely hadn't wanted to tell Allegra what they had been fighting about.

"Oh, crap yeah. Have any of you seen him? I need to give this back to him."

"I think I saw him over on the right side, with Jake and their families." TJ responded. "Back the way we came."

"Okay, Bry I'll meet you at the car." Bryson gave her a salute as she turned and started forcing her way through the throngs of people.

Before she'd even made it halfway there, she felt a hand grasp her own and start leading her in a different direction. Startled, she tried to tug her hand away before she looked up and saw the ruddy blonde hair and black suit.

Slade. Of course.

She let herself be led along, but frowned when he turned them down a dimply lit corridor, empty of anyone but them. The two of them being alone again could be a problem. Instantly, she had nerves rolling around in her stomach.

Once they were somewhat removed from the crowds and the noise, he stopped and turned back to her. Robotically, she held out his jacket. He didn't even look at it, just met her eyes and watched her. After a few moments, she began to fidget and shift on her feet. "Slade…"

Her voice seemed to kick start him. He moved forward – closer than they'd been since yesterday morning, before everything had gone to hell.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly, his voice low with a rough timbre that instantly gave her shivers.

She blinked up at him, her lips falling open in shock. "W-what?"

He ran a hand through his hair – mussing it perfectly. "About yesterday. I overreacted, and I said things that were out of bounds. I just-" he sighed heavily, turning partly away from her and then swiveling his head back. In the dim light, his eyes nearly glowed. "I can't stand the thought of another guy touching you the way I do. The idea that it would be unwanted on your part – it lit a fire in me, sweetheart. I was seeing red."

She gulped, taken completely aback by his obvious attempt to mend things. He'd apologized. "You…wait- what?"

His lips curled slightly. "What part of that do I need to repeat?"

She huffed and pushed against his chest – then rolled her eyes when he didn't even take a step backwards. Tucking her hair back behind her ear, she mustered her courage. "You…mentioned something about- that I should have mentioned it to you. But I-"

"Silvia, no." He shook his head, his eyes made even brighter by the vibrant blue tie that sat against his black shirt and blazer. "That was unrealistic of me. I know that."

With a choked on breath, she moved forward and threw her arms over his shoulders, pressing herself into him and hiding her face in his neck. For a moment, he was totally still. But then she felt his arms wrap around her and his hands move to her back.

"I- I think I understand why you felt that way." She murmured into his shirt, her eyes slipping closed as he pulled her in tight. "Thank you, for apologizing." She felt one of his hands move up, his fingers threading into her hair and massaging the back of her neck. "The fewer people that knew," she explained "the easier it was to forget about. I- I hated leaving."

She felt his lips brush against her ear. "You know, this has given me some time to think about a few things."

There was something in his voice – it made her heart do a little stutter. "Oh?"

"Mhm," his teeth nipped at her earlobe, and her breathing increased. "First things first, I think it's time we decided what we're doing together."

Her breath caught in her throat even as her chest swelled. "Really?"

His voice was rough as he whispered, "Really. You think I'm about to let some other guy scoop you up?"

Her smile was instant, and she leaned back enough to look up and meet his eyes. "That's the only reason?"

He shrugged, her arms moving with his thick shoulders as her fingers nervously toyed with the hair at the base of his neck. "I want a relationship with you. I want you to tell me things." His eyes hardened for a moment. "Things that matter," the fingers he had twined in her hair massaged over her scalp. "And things that don't."

Apparently today – even more than usual – was the day for Slade to strike her speechless. She opened her mouth but no words came out. After a moment, one of his eyebrows arched up, and his lips curved into a trademark smirk.

"This is where you're supposed to say something, sweetheart."

She blinked rapidly. "I-" she gulped, "I want that too. All of that. And I want…" She took a moment and reeled herself in with a deep breath. "I want to be able to ask you things. There's- there's so much we don't know about each other…sometimes I feel a little lost."

He was kissing her before she even finished speaking, and her eyes widened before slipping closed. Her arms tightened around his neck as she went up on her tiptoes, leaning into him fully.

Too soon, their lips parted. He looked down at her, so serious that for a moment she thought maybe he was going to take everything back. "No more feeling lost."

She smiled and ran her fingers up into his hair, scraping her nails over his scalp the way he liked. "Don't count on me telling you very much."

His brows lowered over his eyes while his mouth formed a sullen frown – and even that was disarmingly handsome on him. "Why not?"

She resisted a grin as she kissed him. "Because," another kiss, and then the words all tumbled out in a rushed whisper. "You make everything else disappear."


By the time they left the building – Silvia's hand held firmly in his own – the two parts of his family were clustered loosely near the parking lot. Silvia's parents seemed to have blown the popsicle stand, but Bryson was nearby leaning against his car with Jake and TJ who were both there goofing around with their graduation caps.

The moment they saw him, he was instantly aware of Katerina and Madelyn's eyes going directly to where he and Silvia's fingers were linked. Katerina raised an eyebrow as if to tell him that she approved of his efforts. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes and turned to Silvia as they neared Bryson's car.

"I'll see you tonight? There's a party up on Crystal Ridge we're all going to."

She nodded up at him, her curls bouncing. "I think Allegra wanted to go to that. I told her okay."

He arched an eyebrow. "You're going to a party? By choice?"

She gave him a dubious look and nudged him. "Oh, hush. It could go well for once."

He chuckled and brought her hand up, kissing the inside of her wrist. "I'll see you then."

He watched her walk over to her brother's car – that long dress swishing around her legs – before turning and continuing on to his family.

His father met him, and they shook hands. "Well done, son. I'm proud of you. Kat said that she told you about the dinner we're planning on Friday."

Pursing his lips, Slade nodded. "I'll be there."

"Good," James' eyes went to Silvia as she stepped into Bryson's car. "Your mother and Katerina seem to be enamored. Are you going to be bringing her?"

Slade breathed in deeply through his nose. "I haven't asked her yet."

"Hm," his father's eyes went to Bryson's car as it pulled out of the parking lot. Jake and TJ were walking towards where they stood, laughing about something. As they advanced, the rest of Slade's family members approached. He was hugged more times than he was comfortable with – Madelyn, even for her small and somewhat doughy stature, nearly squeezed him to death as she cooed over how proud she was.

Finally, after about ten minutes, his family all piled into their cars and left. He sighed and gestured TJ and Jake towards his car.

"So what time exactly are we going to this party?"

TJ shrugged. "Whenever, man. I say we go get some food first, though."


Absolutely nothing about that night's party was different than any other Silvia had been to in the last month. Absolutely nothing, except for Slade.

When she and Allegra finally found where the guys had decided to hang out, they were sitting around on barstools and laughing uproariously about something they probably couldn't even remember.

Grinning, she crept up behind Slade – giving the other guys a look that said not to give her away – and smoothed her hands over his shoulders and down his chest, putting her mouth next to his ear and whispering smoothly, "Hey, hot stuff. I heard you're off the market." She felt him go still underneath her fingers, and nipped his earlobe before giggling.

In a swift move that made her squeak he turned and captured her waist, spinning her around so that she sat on his lap. Blushing, she was silently thankful that she'd opted to wear skintight jeans instead of that black skirt – or everyone would have known what color her panties were. Not good.

She grinned as Slade arched an eyebrow at her. "Hot stuff?"

Giggling, she didn't reply and turned around a little. "Hey guys."

"Princess! What happened to your ball gown?" Jake and TJ sniggered.

She rolled her eyes. "Thanks for the concern Jake."

Her eyes went to Allegra as she sidled over to Jeremiah, conveniently as far away from Jake as she could get while still being in the group. Luckily, Jeremiah and the girl standing with him smiled at her and they starting talking about something that Silvia couldn't hear over the music.

Her eyes slid over to Jake, who was joking around with TJ and some other guys – but his eyes were glued. She sucked in a breath. Oh boy.

"Stop," Slade's voice whispered in her ear. "They'll figure it out."

She turned her head to eye him. "And if they don't?"

He shrugged, his lips pressing against the tender skin behind her ear. "Not what we should be worrying about."

She shivered, and nibbled on her lower lip. "What are you doing?"

His hands smoothed down her thighs. "Just returning the favor."

"Uh, wow. Can you two get a room?"

Silvia's eyes went wide and she felt her cheeks heat as she and Slade turned to look at the red head that was standing nearby. Silvia cocked her head a bit. She looked familiar.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Slade's eyebrow arch. "Hailey. Keep your opinions to yourself."

The redhead – Hailey – pursed her lips, but also turned an unflattering shade of red. A moment later, Bryson came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, handing her a cup of something probably alcoholic to drink.

The blonde's lips parted in shock as she blinked rapidly. She sucked in a breath – intending on saying something that would make her brother realize what the hell he was doing – when Slade's arms tightened around her. "Again, sweetheart. Not what we should be worrying about."

She bit her lip, worrying it before purposefully turning away from Bryson. And he'd had the nerve to lecture her about Slade? Ha! She was pretty sure she knew which one of them was making the better choices.

She leaned back against Slade, soaking in his heat. "What should we be worrying about?"

His lips brushed her ear as he murmured huskily. "How quickly I can get you out of here."

She grinned and shook her head, ignoring the heat that spiked through her. "What makes you think you can?"

"Hmm," his teeth scraped her skin. "I'll have to think about that while we're dancing."

She blinked and turned back towards him to see the self-satisfied smirk on his face. "Dancing?" She asked, before squeaking when he pinched her hip.

They stood up, and she tried not to let her smile go supernova as he led her to the dance floor two rooms over – with Jake and TJ catcalling them as they went. They weaved their way in among the crowd, their bodies growing closer as square footage became a shortage.

She turned so that their fronts where pressed together – able to feel every ridge of his muscles through her thin pink ruffled shirt. Biting her lip, she ran a hand through her hair before reaching up to brush the backs of her fingers against Slade's cheek.

The music was too loud to hear anything else. The bass so thick in the air that it felt like her bones were vibrating. The song that was playing was sultry and the tempo had the perfect beat for club music.

Adapting a smile, she rotated her hips and began to move. Letting her limbs flow to the music. This kind of dancing was different from what she normally did – she didn't have to think through every move, none of it was pre-planned. That and Slade's body pressed against hers, his hands traveling over her body helped.

The songs changed repeatedly as they danced, but neither of them stopped, neither of them slowed down. The part of her that was built for this – the part that was the most primal and yet the most advanced – was beginning to take up most of her brain.

Later, she would remember snapshots of Slade's hands rested on her hips, his warm breath stirring the hair near her right ear. But she couldn't have recalled how many songs played. The fact that centered the most in her mind was that Slade's hands were leaving burning circles on her.

And something else far more important. As much as she loved dancing, that wasn't what she was enjoying most at that moment. What she enjoyed most was being able to spend time with him, without any pressure.

Finally she couldn't dance anymore, by then it must have been past midnight and the party showed no sign of breaking apart. She turned towards Slade, meeting glacial eyes with her own. His hands were still on her hips, his thumbs making small circles on the skin above her jeans. They left searing trails behind them.

The blonde shook her head, knowing there was no way he'd be able to hear her this close to the source of the music. He understood – after so long with just their bodies doing the talking, her eyes must have been simple to read. He took her hand and led her through a sea of moving bodies. Once they were out of range of flailing arms and flipping bodies she leaned against a wall, breathing heavily. Her muscles were on fire.

Slade leaned beside her, and his eyes could have sparked a match as he gazed down at her. However, his breathing was obviously labored.

"Well, I'll give you this much," she paused, taking a gulp of air. "You can keep up."

He threw back his head and laughed, and all she could do was stare. She was reminded of the first time they'd had sex, when they were standing in the shower and the water had turned cold. If she'd been enamored of how perfect he looked when he sincerely smiled then, she was purely entranced this time around.

His teeth shone and his voice became husky as he laughed. His skin glistened wonderfully with a light sheen of perspiration in the dim light. He was the most glorious thing she'd seen in ages.

"Sweetheart," he leaned in above her until their foreheads brushed. Despite the heat, she shivered as his fingers traced patterns into the skin of her back. "We both know I can do a lot more than keep up."

She licked her lips and then sunk her teeth into her bottom lip to keep back the sound her body was aching to make. His eyes flicked down to her mouth and stayed there for a few long moments, before he tugged her close against him.

She gasped his name, and he paused a hairs width from her lips – a wild look in his eyes. She gulped, then blinked and smiled a little. "I'm about to die of thirst."

His shoulders rose and fell as he inhaled deeply, before he stepped back slightly. "They've got drinks in the kitchen."

She shook her head with a twist of her lips. "No alcohol."

He grinned and ran a hand through his hair. "They have other stuff too. I'll go find something."

She blinked, and couldn't hold back a smile at his sweet offer. "Okay, I'm gonna go find Allegra."

He winked. "Meet you in five."

They split up, and she headed back the way they'd came to where the group was hanging out. However, when she got there Allegra was nowhere to be found. Not surprising, considering how long she and Slade had been on the dance floor. However, as she looked around she noticed that Jake was gone too. She frowned. It was possibly a coincidence – but it seemed like a stretch. Bryson pointed her in the direction of the back of the house, saying that he'd seen Allegra head that way about an hour ago, with Jake hot on her heels.

Her heart sinking in worry, she sped off, scanning every room as she breezed through them. Finally, she reached the backyard. It was dark, and there weren't a lot of people around. There was a group clustered around a fire pit, drinking and roasting marshmallows, and a few couples that seemed more interested in sneaking off to someplace quiet than wanting room to talk in private.

However, no Jake and Allegra. She gnawed on her lip and went over to the railing to lean against it, savoring the quiet and the cool night air.

"How can you even say that?" Silvia jumped, and looked down. On the lawn below her, Jake and Allegra stood opposite from one another – clearly at odds. It was Allegra who was speaking, her arms crossed protectively over her midsection. Silvia knew that position well. They were arguing. "How could you ever think that?"

"I wasn't thinking, alright?" Jake responded, his voice low but obviously heated. "I'll admit, I was wasted. And when I saw you I got angry."

It was hard to tell in the dark, but Silvia could imagine Allegra leveling an evil eye at him. "Clearly."

"Look, I'm sorry okay? Once I realized what happened I- I wanted to come find you and apologize right away. I just…." Jake sighed. "I didn't know what to say. I still don't."

There was silence – for a long time. Just when Silvia started to get a little worried, Allegra spoke up. "You can start by telling me how you really feel."

Silvia felt a presence behind her right before two unopened sodas were set down on the balcony in front of her and a husky voice whispered in her ear, "You're eavesdropping."

She felt her cheeks go hot, and was grateful for the darkness to hide her tomato red face. "Not intentionally," she whispered back as Slade kissed her bare shoulder. "Now hush."

She tuned back in to the conversation below them as Slade chuckled quietly.

"-and I know that back then it got pretty bad. But we're different now. We've been with different people, we're more mature."

Allegra snorted at Jake's words. "Maybe not both of us."

Behind her, Slade shifted. "Come on, sweetheart. They don't violate our privacy."

With one last look, she let Slade pull her away, back into the house.

They were back inside with everyone else, with Slade's arms wrapped around her while she tried to focus on TJ's jokes when Jake finally wandered back in. He had his hands in his pockets and was looking particularly sheepish as he took residence on a nearby stool.

"Hey, uh, Silvia?" She bit her lip. Their conversation must have been heavy. Jake was using her actual name. "Allegra's waiting out front. She needs a ride home."

"Oh, uhm okay." She didn't ask him to explain, even though she wanted to.

However once they were in the car – after a steamy goodbye kiss from Slade that had given her chills – Allegra jumped into explaining before Silvia had even opened her mouth.

"So, Jake apologized."

The blonde blinked as she navigated through an intersection. "Okay, go on."

"Well…then he said he wanted us to talk, maybe even go on a date."

"And what did you say?"

Allegra was quiet for a few moments. "I told him I'd think about it."

Inwardly, Silvia was doing a victory dance all the way home.

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