I felt warm when I woke up.

The heat emanating from Brandon was both comforting and unsettling. I could feel his legs entwined with mine, his bare chest pressed against my back. I had given in to him again, even after I promised myself, and Brandon for that matter, that it would never happen again after the last time. But I had relented. I knew that when Brandon woke up I would tell him that it would never happen again. Like I always did. But as certain as I was that I would tell him this, I was also certain that I would lie in his bed with him until he woke up. Like I always did.

I used to do relentless mental gymnastics with myself when I had woken up after the first few times we had started sleeping with each other. Leave before he wakes up, I would think. My mind would be screaming at me, but my body was comforted by the heat of his body. The two halves of me would never cooperate so I had shortly given up on mentally exhausting myself with reason. Our relationship was carnal. When it came to him, I always listened to my body. At least that's what I told myself.

Surprisingly, Brandon had wanted more. He wanted a real relationship with me. A functioning one. One that wasn't based solely on sex and physical attraction. I had refused. Brandon was everything that I wasn't used to. He was messy, shorter than my 6"0 height requirement, a fraternity boy, a flirt. He drank too much, smoked occasionally, cursed more than occasionally. It was sickening to watch him charm women, from the little old lady who cut his unruly curly hair, to the cashier at the café; they all fell at his feet, myself included apparently. I was convinced it was his eyes. Kind eyes, as my friend Heather would say, he has kind eyes.

But it was the kindness that he possessed that made people crave his company. It was one of the reasons I was drawn to him. Few people were genuinely kind to strangers, but he was. I always envied his ability to make strangers feel like old friends. But he did so extremely well.

This quality, of course, was something I liked about him.

The attraction I felt for him was another thing I liked about him.

Brandon was so different from any other guy I knew. He was bold, forward. He didn't beat around the bush; he knew what he wanted and he knew how to get it. He had decided he had wanted me. And he had got me.

The first time I had seen Brandon was on the campus shuttle around eight o'clock in the evening. I had been studying for a midterm in the library and had decided to leave early since I had discovered I had left my laptop charger back at my apartment. The bus was crowded so I had had to stand, something I hated because I had no sense of balance.

Right before the bus was about to leave, Brandon had walked on and took a position at the front. He obviously knew people on the bus and I watched as he waved to a group of boys who loudly greeted him from the back of the bus. He flashed them a charming grin, but didn't say anything. I looked out the window then, watching the bright car headlights pass, praying to God that I didn't fall when the bus would make the dreaded sharp right turn at the next intersection. And when I looked back up towards the front, my heart sped up when I noticed his dark eyes on me.

That was when it all started. I remember thinking I could become addicted to his eyes. I remember thinking they were warm.

I was not one to blush and look away when I was being held under a watchful gaze. I had returned his stare until he smiled a small smile in amusement. Then something overcame me and I dropped my eyes down his body boldly. His tight shirt emphasized the bulging muscles. He obviously spent time at the gym. A lot of time. I watched as the muscles in his arm tensed, moving under his tanned skin, as the bus switched lanes. He gripped the pole tighter and a wave of lust went through me, surprising me.

I had never reacted so strongly to a male presence. I would appreciate men from afar, at a safe distance, but never had my body burned with an intense desire. Brandon had the ability to do that to me. It was his body, I argued. Not his kind eyes.

He had come up to me on the bus after a group of students got off at their stop.

"Like what you see?" He had asked me, flashing that charming grin. I hadn't known what to say. I hadn't expected him to approach me. He had surprised me. He always had a way of surprising me.

Brandon stirred next to me, groaning softly. "What time is it, babe?" He asked, his voice husky.

I bit back a smile, turning into his side, pressing my bare breasts into his arm. He always asked what time it was when he woke up. As if he was afraid he overslept for a lecture, even though it was a Saturday. He had never missed a lecture before and he intended to keep it that way.

"9:40," I responded.

He gave another groan and stretched his arms along his headboard, the muscles flexing. He sleepily grinned down at me, noticing me watching him, and purposely flexed a little more than necessary. I rolled my eyes even while he leaned down to suck the delicate skin on my neck. I let him, leaning my head to the side, moaning softly, my hands already trailing down his broad chest. I had never thought of myself as easy. Brandon had been my first after all. But he had this uncanny ability to give me one look and I would be willing and ready to drag him to the nearest private enclosure to have my way with him.

One touch, one warm look and I would be panting for more.

Brandon's breathing quickened as I threaded my hands through his thick, curly hair. I could feel his hot tongue on my throat. There would be a mark there later, as there always was. Whether it was bruises on the inside of my thighs from where Brandon thrust his hips into mine or a red mark on the top of my breast where he had kissed, he always left his mark on me. A constant reminder of what we shared and what he wanted.

I could already feel him hard against my thigh and he groaned low in his throat when my hand brushed against him.

His soft lips found my face and I felt him brush kisses across my forehead, my eyelids, my nose. Tenderly. Lovingly. And then he said the words that I both loved and dreaded to hear, "I love you, Ali. So much." He whispered them, for just the two of us to hear.

I shut my eyes as they started to tear up, turning my head away. "I know," I said finally. He paused, waiting for the words that I couldn't say even though I felt them. He deserved better. Someone who would actually say those words back to him and not hold them inside, locked away as if they were in a prison.

I had told him once I didn't believe that relationships were meant to last. He knew about my parents' ugly divorce and I knew about his parents' more civil one. It always amazed me that he had this ability to still believe in relationships and in love when he had been hurt too. After my parents' divorce, I had guarded myself closely and built up a stone, cold wall against relationships. He had cracked that wall, and I liked to believe that he chiseled it down even more everyday.

But something still always prevented me from reciprocating his love. I had no doubt that I loved him. But it was hard for me to show it; I didn't want to get hurt again. Not after my parents. Brandon would be able to hurt me in a way even worse than how my parents had hurt me.

Brandon sighed when I didn't respond and rolled off me, throwing an arm over his face. "I'm tired of playing games, Ali," he said in a low voice and even though my body was still thrumming with desire, I sat up, bringing his sheets with me to cover my breasts. I could hear the hurt in his voice and it made my chest clench.

"That's why we shouldn't be doing this anymore," I mumbled softly, my voice catching in my throat.

"Don't fucking start with that," he said, immediately, anger creeping in his voice. "I swear, you can be the most infuriating person I know. I'm tired of this!"

A small flame of anger rose up. "Then why would you still want to be doing this if I'm the most infuriating person you know?"

"Because I'm in love with you! For fuck's sake, Ali, don't you know that by now?" He burst out, his dark eyes finding mine. I turned my head away. "You know what I want, Ali. And you're just too scared to have a relationship with me because of how your parents turned out. Not being able to trust people must really suck for you, you know. Because I would think by now you would at least trust me."

He sat up, swinging his legs over the side of his bed, but stayed perched on the edge. His back was to me. "Your parents broke up too, Brandon. I would think you would understand what I feel."

Brandon sighed and ran a hand over the stubble on his face. "I understand how hurt you are by it, okay? I really do. Do you think anybody wants their parents to get divorce? You think that somehow maybe you were responsible for it in a way. Would it have been any different if you had done something more, seen it coming sooner? Trust me, I've gone through all that a million times, but you know what I've found? That I'm not my parents, Ali. Just because they didn't work out, it doesn't mean that any of my relationships won't work out either. Divorce isn't some gene passed down through the generations. It's not contagious like a disease. Unlike you, I found that it makes me want to work on my relationships even more, because I don't want to end up like my parents. I don't want my kids to have to go through that like I did. It made me a better person in the end and one day, I honestly hope that you'll find that too."

My throat burned as he pushed off the bed, grabbing loose basketball shorts and a t-shirt, pulling them on. He grabbed his mp3 player off the dresser and without looking at me said, "I'm going for a run. Lock up after you leave please."

I felt numb as I heard him leave the apartment. I couldn't think, couldn't move. It was only after a single tear fell that I started to break down. It was like a dam bursting. One crack and it fell apart. One tear and I started crying uncontrollably. Loud sobs racked my body. This was his power over me. This was what I was afraid of. I hadn't cried in so long that I forgot what it did to me.

I cried until my head throbbed and until I couldn't breathe through my nose. His words kept running through my mind, over and over again, like they were on repeat. But once I made a conscious effort to settle down, I found that I was…all right. One of my TA's had told me once that sometimes it felt good to cry, to release everything that had been building up. I hadn't believed him until now. I felt strangely calm and it allowed me to think over what Brandon had said before he left. Maybe a good cry was exactly what I had needed.

He was right. Naturally. He was right about me thinking that my relationships were doomed to fail from the start. That I didn't trust people easily. But he was also wrong in thinking that I didn't trust him. That I didn't love him. Because he couldn't be any more wrong.

I asked myself why I was so against a relationship with him. I could only think that I didn't want to get hurt. I had been opposed to it for so long that it had just become an automatic response to me, that I didn't want to have a relationship. That I would cringe whenever he would bring it up. Like Pavlov's dogs. However, now that I thought it over, the only reason I could come up with was getting hurt. It had seemed like there were so many other reasons and excuses not to pursue something more with him before. But he was right. Getting hurt was a poor reason to not start a relationship with someone, simply because I was scared. I was hurt right now by his words, but somewhere deep inside me, I knew everything would be okay. I would be all right in the end. It was just like how I suddenly knew that if I decided to take a chance with him, I would be all right. And I knew that if I had figured that out earlier, I could've saved the both of us a lot of pain.

And with that thought I got out of bed and got dressed. I would wait until he came back to talk to him, but he would be another half an hour at least. So I busied myself, trying to calm my nerves. It was funny how the one person that knew me more intimately than any one was the same one that could make me feel so incredibly nervous.

I made his bed and tidied up his room. After I was content with his room, I moved to the living room and kitchen. Unfortunately, there really wasn't much to clean since he had made a more conscious effort to keep things tidy. For me. He knew that I liked things tidy.

I was sitting on the counter, practicing what I wanted to say to him, when I heard the door click open. And just like that, my heart started to race. I could hardly breathe as my heartbeat thumped loudly in my chest.

He was flushed and his shirt was damp. I could hear the music blaring in his ears as he glanced up and saw me. He seemed to hesitate for a moment before he locked the door behind him and kicked off his shoes. The music stopped and I noticed how quiet it became.

"Hi," he said, walking towards where I was sitting on the counter.

"Hi," I replied, a small nervous smile quirking up my lips. Already his presence was comforting me.

"I thought you would be gone by now," he said quietly, even as he brushed a small kiss across the temple of my forehead. My throat tightened. He was never one to hold grudges or be angry for too long. He had said life was too short for that. Maybe that's why he was still with me. Perhaps, because he couldn't live without me the same way I couldn't live without him.

"I didn't want to leave," I confessed as I met his dark, kind eyes. "I was thinking over what you said and I want to tell you something."

I could feel him pause and I saw curiosity swirl around in his eyes, questioning mine. "Okay then. Let's hear it." He was nervous too.

I took a small breath as I felt him brush back my hair away from my face. I grabbed his hands in mine so I could think and concentrate. I began then. "I know I've been incredibly selfish through all of this. I like to think of it as self-preservation in a way. And I know that you've been incredibly patient as well and I know what you want and I appreciate that you haven't pushed me." I paused. My words felt scattered but it was a reflection of my mind. I took another breath and tried to slow down. "Obviously, I have feelings for you, Brandon. I wouldn't keep coming back to you if I thought differently. And I thought that by sleeping with you it would be enough. I tricked myself into thinking that it was just sex and that it wasn't anything more. But the truth is that you've become my best friend and I don't know when it happened. You've slowly been chipping away at this wall I've built for myself. I thought at first that I had put it up because I would be keeping myself safe. But now I see that it's only made me closed off and cold. And now you'll always be there." I hadn't noticed that I had started crying again until Brandon brushed a tear from my cheek. I closed my eyes for a brief second but pushed on. I had to tell him. "You were right about me. I am scared to be in a relationship because I thought that it would only lead to hurt and pain. I don't know anything different. But you were wrong to think that I don't trust you. Because I do. I trust you more than anyone else…which is why I finally," I gave a short, nervous laugh here, "want to be in a relationship with you. Brandon, I'm in love with you…and I know I've never said it before but I'm saying it now. I've always been thinking it, but I know now that it's safe to say out loud because I know that you won't hurt me. And I just wanted to apologize for not doing this sooner." I stopped then, my heart still beating loudly in my ears. I felt winded, as if I was the one who had just run. I felt unsure as I waited for him to say something. "And, um, that's what I wanted to say to you." I felt my face warm as I fidgeted under his gaze.

Finally, I felt relief as I watched a small smile spread over his lips. "See? Was that so hard?" His soft tone was teasing and I felt myself relax.

I sighed softly when he leaned down to kiss me. His mouth was warm, his lips familiar. Happiness swelled up inside me and I smiled as his lips pressed against mine. I knew then that I wouldn't regret my decision.

He pulled back, his lids heavy. I looked up into his eyes as he stroked the back of my head. "No more games?" He asked seriously.

I shook my head, making sure to look him straight in the eye. "No more games. I promise. I want this."

He grinned that same grin he flashed me on the bus when we first met. The grin that would make me do anything for him. His lips came to mine again and he pressed himself closer to me between my legs. The kiss seemed to last for hours and when he finally pulled back he said in a husky voice, "I could use another workout right about now. What about you?"

I bit my lip, heat rushing through my body. "Only if I can have you as a personal trainer."

He groaned softly, "I wouldn't have it any other way. I'll work you out real good."

I laughed at his cheesy line while he smiled. He looked at me then and it made my heart pound faster. "I love you," he said softly.

My heart burst and I smiled shyly, "I know. I love you too."


A/N: Seeing as how it has been way too long since I last uploaded something on here, I decided to sit down at my computer and try to get something out. And this is what I came up with. I'm actually pleased with the end product even though I feel as though it is a bit different from some of my other postings on fp. :)

I just wanted to say thank you to all of my reviewers and readers that have followed me throughout the years. I get messages from all of you asking me when I'll be posting more material to fp and it really means a lot to me! So thank you! I'm not sure when I'll get another full length story posted up. I am working on one now, but it has technically been on "hiatus" for a little while, so hopefully I'll be able to get through my writer's block and work on it again soon. Until then, one-shots, to get me back into the writer's spirit! Hope you enjoyed this story! :)

- Lauren