Chapter Eleven – Keep
February 1st, 2008
Cameron's POV

"I leased an apartment in the center of town," I revealed to my mother on Friday afternoon, five days since Mrs. Klein's dinner party. I leaned into the door framing of my mother's bedroom, watching her reaction closely. Mom looked up at me as if she was waiting for me to yell, "April Fools!"

Except it was the first day of February, not April. Five days ago, not only had I decided for certain that if I spent one more day in Jessica Klein's company, I might do something I'd regret later, but I also learned that I was capable of jealousy over a girl I never even had.

And how did that work exactly? As my fiancée Leah had spent the entirety of that night waiting for Jessica's date, Dexter, to notice her, I shamelessly hoped that he would. For Dexter to have decided to leave Jessica's side to converse with Leah would've left Jessica standing alone, and then maybe I...

It was stupid. I was stupid.

My mother finally spoke. "God, you're serious." I nodded. "And if I say you can't?"

"You're flying back and forth from here to Europe every other day with Aunt Claire. You say I can't. Okay. But who'll be here to ensure that I listen to you? You're never here."

Her expression softened. "Is that what this is about? To get me to stay longer," my mother asked with a smile. "Cammie, I think I understa—"

I shook my head, "To be perfectly honest, it makes no difference where you are, Mom. It's almost been a month and you know what? I still feel like a guest. This is out of my comfort zone, this house, the staff, the residents. I can be engaged to someone without living with them."

"I'll still come by almost everyday for Leah, but other than that, I have no reason or desire to live in this house, on this land, with these people. I'm uncomfortable. I feel constantly watched. Suffocated. There's no way I'm staying here for a year. I'm moving out on Sunday, but it's only a six minute drive to and from that apartment to this house," I explained. "And if you say I can't, I don't care. I'll still leave."

There was a silence that settled in the room and I sensed my mother giving in. "How will you get to and from? You don't drive. At least, not since you were sixtee—"

"I remember enough," I said simply, pulling out my French driver's license. "Nothing a retest can't prove. I'll have an American license by tonight if it gives to piece of mind."

She flushed a shade of pink, bringing a single fingernail to her teeth, not biting it off even though I knew she was tempted to. My mother's nervous tick was a rare occurrence, something most people didn't even know about. I smiled a little to myself.

I win.

"Nothing's changed, Mom," I assured her. "For you, I'm still going through with this engagement." I emphasized the "For you". My mother wasn't so in denial to think I actually harbored feelings for Leah. Everything I'd agreed to, I'd agreed to it to make her happy. I had no intention on going back on my word now.

If I couldn't love Leah, or even like her for that matter, I'd tolerate her.

o o o

Leah skipped out on our nightly walk again today. It was the second time she'd done it this week. Of course there was that lingering curiosity in my mind. Leah went from dragging me out of my room to canceling on me twice. Where did this sudden change come from? But ah, why question my luck?

Still, I enjoyed the walks—for the walk, not Leah. Like yesterday, if Leah was going to cancel on me, that didn't mean I was going to change the routine. Walking alone was just as good if not better. I pulled off my gray sweater, leaving on the thin fabric of my plain white t-shirt. I'd remember to grab my coat on my way out.

As I laid my sweater on the bed I would no longer wold be sleeping on in the future, I looked at my cousin who sat boredly in front of his laptop. I hadn't invited him to come live with me, but when I told him I was going, he did not jump on the idea of being roommates anyway.

My guess was that he preferred living in close quarters with Jessica Klein, who he'd promptly fallen right back in love with the night of Mrs. Kleins dinner party. In his defense, even I couldn't stop my jaw from dropping the moment she'd walked into the room. I'd truly never seen anyone so stunning.

And this brought me exactly where I was—moving out. My feelings, so uncontrolled these days, were going to get me and an unsuspecting Jessica in big trouble. It was my responsibility to remove myself from the equation before I did something stupid. Better I leave curious then get kicked out with all the answers, right?


"Want to go?" I asked my cousin, switching out of my khakis and into a comfortable, pair of jeans. To Raphael's questioning look, I elaborated. "My walk. Do you want to join me?"

He shrugged. "I'm busy." I looked at the computer in front of him and said nothing. I wasn't going to beg him to come along... "Really, I am." He turned the screen revealing the article he was reading—an old interview of Jessica's.

I laughed a little, but he couldn't have possibly known why. It was funny to me because my cousin was entering a phase I had surpassed days ago. Now he was probably learning crucial things that could've made or broken him when he'd first spoken to Jessica. It was too late now though. So I laughed. It was funny to me.

I tied the laces of my sneakers tightly, offering my cousin an opportunity to join me one last time to be polite. Again, he refused, and I rose to my feet. "I probably will be out by Sunday night," I said finally. "You sure you're not moving in with me?"

"Nah," he said without looking up from his computer screen. "You're boring."

I took the back exit from the garage so I could start my walk right at the front gate. It was a little cool outside, so I did zip my coat up half way. I locked and shut the door behind me, easing my way down the concrete steps in the darkening evening light. My watch read seven o'clock. My curiosity as to where Leah could've been was piqued for a split second, but again, I was not going to question my luck.

Besides, it was Friday. She must've had friends to be with and places to go. I inwardly hoped this would happen more frequently.

I started to put my headphones in, but the loud honking of a car horn startled my iPod out of my hands and onto the ground. After picking it up, I pushed my hair out of my eyes to get a good look at the tactless jerk behind the wheel.

"What is wrong with you?" Jessica shouted, stepping out of her car and slamming the door behind her. "Next time, I will run you over. Look both ways before you cross. I almost hit you!"

Now it was my fault. "I didn't really expect anyone to be coming in. You're usually home by this time."

She made a face which I would say was a mix between amused and possibly a little creeped out. How I managed to let those words slip from my mouth, I don't even...

Jessica was standing about twelve inches away from me, and for a discrete moment, I took in her features. She was dressed a modest casual. Burgundy vest over a gray undershirt, dark blue jeans, and a pair of gray oxfords. Jessica and the color red—seriously like magic. There were no words.

"You have got a serious staring problem," she said finally, a teasing edge in her tone. Jessica laughed a little. I looked away, feeling my face get a little warm. "I'm kidding."

I smiled a little, passing a nervous hand through my hair. "Well, I was going to start my walk, so uh..." I was going to say I'd see her later, but then I thought about the apartment key burning a hole in the pocket of my mostly packed bags. I probably wouldn't be seeing much of Jessica in the rest of my stay. "...yeah."

"I'll join you," she said suddenly. "I'm going that way—you know, to my house—anyway. That is," she paused, looking at me with her big brown eyes quietly, "if you don't mind."

What? Really? Do I mind? No. Be my guest. Please. Never mind that being around Jessica was the very thing I was trying to get away from by moving out. Right now, with the opportunity so plainly held before me, I could not refuse. I'd wallow in regret later. "I don't mind." I shrugged, trying to come off as nonchalant. For some reason I felt like she could see right through my act.

"We're not friends though," she reminded me. I smiled, nodding in agreement. "And this is a simple walk because we're heading the same way." I nodded again, stuffing my hands in the pockets of my coat. "We're not friends."

"Not friends," I agreed, taking the first steps which she soon matched in pace. Despite trying my best not to, I finally turned to face her two minutes into the walk. She'd tied up her waist-length brown hair up in a big, loose ball at the back of her head and now I could perfectly see the framing of her face.

My heartbeat stuttered slightly, and it felt as if the entire world had heard it. I might've just looked at her for about five minutes before she met my eyes. God, I really did have a staring problem.

"Is there something on my face?" she asked, feeling around her cheeks for any markings or debris. I finally snapped out of it, shaking my head. "What did you do today, Cameron?" she tried to make small talk.

"Some light reading, went out for a while, scheduled a driving test," I listed, turning to look at her. "And you?"

Jessica brought her finger to her mouth and bit down on it gently, lost in thought. I don't use the word sexy very often, but damn... Was she doing it on purpose? Was I going to complain though? No, probably not. "Nothing special. School, then work. My best friend and I usually hang out on Fridays, but he's with another girl right now." There was an indescribable edge in her voice.

"And this would be your date from last weekend?" I asked curiously. I must've gave something away in the way that I asked because she looked at me thoughtfully, a small smile growing on her face. God, I wished I could've read her mind right then.

"That's him," she replied. "Girlfriend beats best friend every time," Jessica said. "Can't say I'm upset or anything." I looked at her skeptically, reluctant to believe she wasn't the least bit roused over being forgotten in favor of a girlfriend. "Really," she assured.

I stuffed my hands in the pockets of my jacket. It was pretty cold out today and as I synched up with Jessica's steps, I couldn't help but notice the goosebumps that rose on her exposed arms. "And so," I decided to speak. Anything to distract me from the inappropriate concern I was now feeling for her. "It'll just be a night in?" I asked, trying not to sound too curious.

Jessica rubbed her arms absentmindedly, instinctively trying to keep warm. I looked at my jacket again, trying to fight off any insane notions of putting it on her for the world to see. Yeah, I wanted to, but I had to be smart here.

"I'm short on a few groceries. It's almost eight o'clock. I'll wait till traffic slows down and more people are at home sleeping. It's best to go shopping at that time," she explained. "Less chance of running into photographers Most people out at that time are either drunk or on their way to get drunk. Best time for anything."

I smiled a little at her logic, a little part of me asking if I could join her. Jessica let out a slow breath and it fogged into a cloud in front of her in the mid-fifty degree weather. I toyed with the zipper on my jacket absently. "Wait... Did you say something about a driving test?" she asked suddenly. I nodded, fingers still on the zipper of my coat.

"When was the last time you drove a car?" she asked. I shrugged, not being able to pinpoint a specific month in time. "Have you had any practice?" My answer was obvious. I'd spent a lot of my time being driven by a family chauffeur. What I remembered about driving most came from watching other people do it. "So you're just going to wing it?"

A little embarrassed, I smiled a small smile at her expression. "I'm going to wing it," I agreed, finally pulling the zipper of my coat down. "You're getting really pale..." I said as if it would justify the sudden small sacrifice. Before she could oppose, I had laid the dark coat over her shoulders and stood before her, waiting for her to pull her arms through. "You can return it when we reach your house."

"Aren't you cold now though?" she asked. For a moment I thought I'd ignore her, but Jessica looked at me with those eyes as if she was looking straight into me. Even I couldn't keep a straight face for a moment, feeling my eyebrows raise a bit.

I stuttered out the first word, eyes glued to hers. "Don't over think it," I said simply, trying to come off as curt, but I couldn't mask the soft edge in my voice for the life of me.

"Well thanks," she replied, pulling her arms through the sleeves. "Do you want me to help you practice before your driving test? We both know I have free time tonight."

"And if I crash your car?"

She shrugged. "I have insurance." I mulled over it a bit, knowing I knew very well that I could pass the test without practice, but I really, really, really wanted to go with her. If I was going to move out on Sunday, I could do one last crazy thing before I left. It would only be once. Just one time. I agreed. "Midnight. In front of the garage. You're driving us to the grocery store, 'kay?"

"If you don't mind my asking," I started to say. "I was under the impression that we aren't supposed to be friends. Why are you...?"

Jessica shrugged, smiling a little to herself. "Plan B. Befriend," she replied vaguely. To my confused expression she laughed. "It's part of my new system. Don't worry though, I'm not here to ruin your engagement. I mean, I kept saying it over and over again: 'We're not friends.' Well, why the hell not? We should be friends," Jessica said simply, looking to the left a little then returning back to meet my eyes. She stopped in front of the door to her house, waiting for my response.

Being around you is making me crazy! Because you can't even begin to understand the kind of self-control it takes to be so distant! The further you stay from me, the less likely it is that I'll do something we'll both regret. Jessica, I liked it the way it was before. It was safe that way.

"I'll see you at midnight then." My mental voice of reason let out a exasperated sigh. Sure, I knew she was lying about something, but I didn't sense much malicious intent behind her lie. I wasn't using rational reasoning now either. Welcome the change, Cameron. Something's about to change—something big. I could feel it.

o o o
Jessica's POV

I shut the door behind me, instantly putting my hand to my chest. My heart was beating like crazy. What was going on with me? Even as I tried to wean my way into Cameron's schedule for the night, it really did feel like I was asking him out. Not for the plan, but because I actually wanted to be around him.

The night of Karen's dinner party, I would be lying if I said I didn't noticed Cameron's eyes on me for most of the night. He had been very handsome in his suit. His hair was neatly separated off the center with only a few strands touching his eyebrows. Those wistful gray eyes of his seemed to shine when I finally got a good look.

Cameron is beautiful.

I saw the uncomfortable look about him when Dexter touched me intimately. I saw the wounded look he tried to mask when his mother took a few stabs at my confidence. I saw the small smile on his face that he couldn't suppress when he thought no one was looking. I saw the way he didn't seem to care about the way Leah was looking at my date all night. Because he was looking at me exactly the same way. I saw everything. I saw him.

And I couldn't help but just...enjoy the view. Sure, it was part of the plan to befriend him, but I wasn't going to delude myself into thinking there were no ulterior motives behind this decision. I mean, judging from Raphael's face that same night, it wouldn't have been hard to get back in his good graces. But I didn't want Raphael's friendship. I didn't care for his trust. With Cameron I wouldn't have to pretend to want these things.

Because I really wanted them. Sure, I was using him a little, but my motive wasn't all bad. To myself I could finally admit it.

I had a crush on Leah's fiancée.

And I was going into this already knowing he was developing some sort of crush on me. I mean, it was so obvious. Any sane person would've tried to avoid trouble and stay away from him at all costs, but I liked the way Cameron's eyes lit up when he smiled. I liked the way he ran his fingers though his hair when the atmosphere became tense. I liked the sound of his deep, but soft at the same time, voice. I liked his shy personality. I liked how he wasn't in-your-face or arrogant.

I liked Cameron. And what I would do with those feelings, I wasn't quite sure, but I knew one thing was for sure. We were going to be good friends.

o o o

I was still wearing Cameron's navy blue varsity jacket when I went out to the parking garage. He didn't ask for it back when he dropped me off at my house, and I had been so comfortable in it that it had completely slipped my mind to return it.

When I reached the main grounds, the only light came through the windows of rooms that were most likely empty. Everyone in the house was most likely sleeping now. Even Leah, who'd went out to lunch with Dexter after school and did who-knows-what-else was home sleeping in her bed at this hour.

Cameron was leaning on the driver's side of my car, a different coat on now. For some reason that made me smile a little. So he did realize I still had his jacket and still finished the walk without it anyway. Sweet. I checked my cellphone for the time—11:57. This made me wonder how long he was out here.

As I stuffed my phone back in my pocket, I pulled out my car keys simultaneously. "Don't do anything stupid," I warned, throwing the keys his way.

Catching them effortlessly, he replied, "No promises." But for some reason I didn't take what he was saying at face value. There was an alternate meaning to that one statement. Something flirtatious? Nah, I only heard it that way because I wanted to hear it that way.

I climbed into the passenger's seat, fighting with the faulty seat belt I really needed to get fixed. It was no use. Sighing to myself, I crossed my arms out in front of me, opting to just pray we don't get in a bad accident.

"No seat belt?" Cameron asked curiously. "You must really trust me," he decided.

I smiled, demonstrating just how stubborn the belt was. "I need to get this fixed. Do me a favor and don't kill me, 'kay?" My chest seriously fluttered in response to his smile. "You forgot to ask for your jacket back," I started to say as he pulled the car out in reverse.

His gray eyes met mine briefly. "No I didn't," Cameron said simply. My stomach did a back flip. Holy crap...

"When was the last time you drove a car?" I tried to change the subject.

"Senior year of high school. I was sixteen."

I thought about that for a bit. "You were a senior at sixteen?" I asked.

He shrugged, waiting for the automatic gate at the front of the Klein property to open out in front of us. "I skipped a class or two," he tried to downplay it, but I was still impressed.

I rested my face on a hand placed over the passenger door. "So you're, like, really smart..."

Cameron must've thought what I said was funny. "I'm being pretty stupid right now, aren't I?" I was pleasantly surprised by his response. It was good that I wasn't the only one who acknowledged what we were doing as risky. But like me, the risk must not have been great enough to sway his decision. This flattered me. "And which way was the store exactly?" he asked, breaking the silence.

"Oh, just keep going straight and make a left on Bailey Road. It's the big, bright building with 'Supermarket' written on it," I said with a smile. He drove at a moderate speed, a polite driver who let people pass. I felt safe enough to relax even without a proper seat belt. I stared out the window, looking at the nearly empty midnight roads. A few cars lined the streets, but it was nothing note-worthy.

For all intents and purposes, Cameron and I were alone here. Night life in Oakland Hills was nonexistent.

Cameron weaved through the sparse amount of cars like he'd been driving everyday of his life since he first got behind the wheel. "I didn't think I'd still remember all of this," he said suddenly, seemingly proud of himself.

In truth, he was a better driver than I was. I doubted he ever really needed the practice. I'd seen worse drivers get their license... "How are the wedding plans coming along?" That's right Jessica, keep reminding yourself he's engaged.

Cameron's smile faded a little, and something in his eyes grew dull. Note to self: don't mention the engagement. "Um, that's... I don't really get involved. It's kind of Leah and my mother's thing."

Before I asked my second question, I already knew I'd regret it. "Do you even want to get married."

His laugh was laced with a subtle sadness that tugged at a little piece of my heart. A cry for help, I told myself. "Have you met Leah?" he asked simply.

This made me smile a little. "But then why..."

I had no idea I'd be reaching this territory this fast. "My mother doesn't ask for much," Cameron sighed. "She sees something in Leah that the rest of us just...don't." Cameron turned into the parking lot of the supermarket, parking at the front. "She's so fragile, my mom. Most people don't see that side of her, but... I just want to make her happy I guess. She doesn't ask for much."

I remembered my mother again for a moment. Although, I'd do anything for her, she knew when she was crossing a line. Mrs. Beaumont was asking Cameron to give up a future with someone he might actually like. She wanted him to give himself to a girl who was very likely dreaming of another boy as we sat in this parking lot now. I loved my mother enough to do anything for her, so I could understand where Cameron was coming from, but this... His mother was asking for way too much.

All I said was, "I think you're smart enough to know you're lying to yourself, but hey, it's your life..."

Cameron nodded, accepting my words silently. He knew I was right. "Jessica," he said finally. I raised an eyebrow, expecting him to tell me to mind my own business or something. "Can I ask you a personal question now?"

Well, damn. I wanted so badly to say no, but I had to be fair.

"Can I ask why you're doing this? Why you've invited me out tonight? Why you're asking these questions?" I sensed walls being put up, a defense mechanism. Cameron was trying to be smart here and figure me out, know my motives. A person doesn't go from avoiding another to inviting them out to go shopping. He's not stupid.

"That's more than one question," I said, facing him. He didn't smile. His light gray eyes burned with the same intensity they held the first time I met him, no longer soft, but offensive, a shield. I think I crossed some sort of line, set off some sort of alarm in him. It didn't really seem like he trusted me right now. "Honestly, though?"

"I'll be able to tell if you're lying. I've figured out your tell. You briefly look to the left, then force yourself to look me in the eye. You can't help it." How in the hell... "You've lied to me before. Earlier today, 'We should be friends...'. That's when I noticed your tick. What are you not telling me?"

I always knew I had a tell, but in my entire life, my mother was the only one who ever knew when I was lying. Cameron was right, I seriously couldn't help it either.

Looking him square in the eye, I decided to tell Cameron the truth—well, not the alphabetic system part. Honestly, that part of the truth wasn't much of a priority right now with Dexter getting Leah's trust so fast.

I could tell Cameron I liked him and if the atmosphere became weird, he'd have no one to blame but himself for putting me on the spot like this. I would tell the truth. Well, most of it. A friendship based on lies is not really a friendship. But after I confessed, could we really stay friends? I was curious as to what his reaction would be.

"I..." I blinked several times, unconsciously placing a steady hand over my rapidly beating heart. "Well, this is so embarrassing..." I said, feeling as if there wasn't enough air in the world for me to breathe. Cameron's expression softened as he soon realized this was not the kind of confession that would make me an enemy. "Well..."

Why was it so hard to get it out? I couldn't lie now. He'd put me on the spot, and to ensure that I could carry out the main plan properly, I had to confess now. But he was engaged. You don't tell someone who's engaged the kind of confession I was about to tell Cameron. "Um," I started nervously, unable to look him in the eyes now.

My face flushed a deep red. "I swear I'm not out to ruin your life or anything," I mumbled. "Um... I tried really hard not to... But um, it's uh... It's um, been developing for about two weeks now. I blame you really. You kept popping out of nowhere. And you're such a...refreshing personality. And I... I..." I tried to meet his eyes again, but I was too much of a wimp. "I've never done this before," I stalled, still looking down. "Cameron, I have a small crush on—"

"I get it," he put me out of my misery. I let out a slow breath, waiting for a response. "I'm so sorry," he said which caught me off guard. "I didn't... That didn't even cross my mind in my list of possibilities. I thought... I thought you were playing me, but that didn't make sense at first. But this... I wasn't expecting to hear that."

My face burned bright red as we sat facing the front windows of the supermarket. I'd never been so mortified in my entire life.

He laughed a little. Great, he's laughing at me. "This is bad," he decided. I looked at him only to find the most amused smile on his face. Now I was confused. "Breathe though," he told me. "Just relax. It's not your fault. These kinds of things just happen. I understand. I understand more than you think."

Cameron's POV

Jessica could no longer look me in the eyes. It was pretty cute. Every time she tried, her face turned a shade of pink and she looked away really fast. I knew we were both on a fast track to trouble, but for some reason logic was taking a back seat now.

The entire time I thought I was losing my mind going through the process of crushing on the most off-limits person I could think of only to find out she reciprocated those feelings. Yeah, this was pretty bad, but for some reason I could not help but smile every time I looked at her now.

"Do you think you might need coffee?" I asked as we went through the breakfast aisle. Jessica made a face that was a cross between amused and annoyed.

She pushed the cart slowly, matching my pace politely unlike the first time when I walked a couple steps behind her the entire time. Nothing could ever happen between Jessica and I, we both knew that, but as friends, this secret between the two of us kind of served as validation of trust. I wasn't going to call off an engagement because Jessica Klein had a crush on me. Jessica would be really upset with me if I ever tried such a stupid thing anyway.

It was probably the only smart decision I was making all night, to not push the limits we were already pushing. Did I like Jessica? Yeah, I really did. But something like this could really ruin her life. If I was a selfish person, I'd do whatever I want and just date her publicly now that I knew how she felt, but to people who only ever saw Leah's good side and her camera-ready personality, Jessica would suddenly become America's resident home wrecker. She'd get so much hate. There really was no easy fix. For now, we would be friends. That's it. Nothing else. Nothing.

"Am I driving on the way back?" I asked as we piled the groceries into the trunk. Jessica was significantly quieter now that she'd confessed. I was the one keeping the conversation alive now.

She shrugged, stuffing her hands in the pockets of my jacket. On her it was a bit oversized, but it was sufficient enough to keep her warm in these dropping temperatures. "Sure, why not."

It was around 2AM as I pulled out of the parking lot of the supermarket. Jessica was silent until I tried to spring up conversation again. If I had known that was what Jessica was hiding, I wouldn't have put her on the spot like that, but it was too late now.

"Jessica, I'm not rejecting you," I said finally, saying the one thing I probably should've said the moment she confessed her feelings. "It's just... Let me rephrase what I said earlier. I don't want to reject you... But I have to. I more than anyone know exactly how you feel right now. The questions you might ask yourself now are the very questions I asked myself when I..." I had to look at her as I said this. "When I came to terms with the feelings I was developing...for you." She didn't look very surprised. "You already knew."

Jessica shrugged. "You were pretty obvious though." Then what the hell was she so embarrassed about? If she knew how I felt, didn't that make it somewhat easier to confess? Unless that was her taking it well... Before I could respond, Jessica pointed at the road in front of us. "Red light."

Without much thought, I slammed on the brakes, sending a seat beltless Jessica forward in her seat. I held out an arm to impede her momentum, but not fast enough to keep her head from slamming against the dashboard. Hard.

In a matter of seconds I had already pulled over. "Ah," she groaned, trying to sit up straight.

"Are you alright?" I asked, a foreign panicky tremor in my voice.

Jessica leaned back and looked at me with irritated eyes. "No, that felt really, really good. Let's do it again." Her voice was thick with sarcasm, the Jessica I was familiar with.

I winced at the sight of an impact wound forming at the top of her forehead near her hairline. Big droplets of blood were forming from the broken skin and it looked really painful. "I need to get you to a hospital. You need stitches."

"No! Stop being a drama queen," she snapped. "I'm fine. There's a 24-hour pharmacy two blocks over. I just need a first aid kit and some pain killers. We can't show up at a hospital together at two o'clock in the morning and expect no one to ask questions. First aid kit now. It's no big deal."

Jessica flinched at the first bit of pressure on her forehead. As I dabbed the exposed wound with a disinfectant, her fingernails dug into my arm deeply as she tried to take the pain silently. I took her face in my hands and softly blew on her forehead to try to lower the intensity of the stinging. "Hand me the Band-Aid," I said softly, eyes finally meeting hers. It was then I realized just how close to her I was, and holding onto her face as well... And suddenly, my heartbeat picked up. "This might twinge just a bit," I said, peeling the paper off the adhesive side of the large, flesh-colored bandage. I held out a hand for her to hold lastly as I pushed the band aid on.

Jessica squeezed my hand for dear life as I applied the bandage over her wound. Really, she did need stitches, and I had no doubt that she'd bleed through that bandage by morning. "There," I sighed, finally able to relax. "How do you feel?"

"I feel like crap," she whispered, opening up the bottle of pain killers that I'd bought along with the first aid kit. "Stop looking at me like that," she complained. "It's not as bad as you think it is."

"You're going to see a doctor tomorrow morning, right?" Jessica nodded, but I wasn't fully convinced. "Seriously, Jessica." She nodded again, resting her head on her hand and shutting her eyes.

Removing her hand from her face, I positioned her head on my shoulder instead, keeping my posture straight so I wouldn't disturb her as I pulled out of the pharmacy's parking lot. Jessica, now in that in-between of sleep and alertness, left her hand in mine and held it tightly.

The tighter she held on, the better of an idea I had of just how much she was hurting. She was obviously in way more pain than she let on. I drove slowly, cautiously, down the nearly empty streets of Oakland Hills. And every minute I spent in that place with her, her hand in mine, as she dozed off on my shoulder, I wanted nothing more than to keep her a bit longer.

I knew this would be a bad idea.

And we shall call this the turning point for our Jessica-Cameron conflict. Any mistakes? Please point them out. The response for last chapter was AMAZING! Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed and subscribed.

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Anything you like? Anything you don't like? Sorry my updates are so far apart, but I hope you can see why. 6000-word chapter. Woot woot.

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