"I'm getting my own place," Jake said. He had insisted on driving me home after his birthday party even though I had come there with Connor.

"How?" I asked. "You don't even have a job."

"Remember when you saw me at the cemetery, and I told you about my first dad and grandpa?"

"Yeah." I was looking at him, but he kept his eyes on the road.

"Well, they left me some money."

The atmosphere in the car had changed. Jake sounded very uncomfortable talking about this even though he was the one who brought it up. "That's great, but don't you think you should save it to help pay for college?" I sounded like my mother.

"There's enough for college too. It was set up in a trust fund." He still wasn't looking at me as he hurried on. "I got the first part when I turned sixteen and the second now for my eighteenth birthday. There are, uh, two more payments. The next one is when I turn twenty-one, and I'll get the rest when I'm thirty."

It was dawning on me what he was saying. I didn't know much about trust funds, but I knew it was something rich people had. Jake didn't just get some money. He must have a sizable inheritance if it was split up into so many parts. "Your car," I said, and he understood what I meant.

"Yeah, there was no way my parents would have been able to afford to buy me a car. Mom told me about the trust fund right before my sixteenth birthday. She said that it was my money, but she hoped that I wouldn't blow it all. I remembered my grandpa talking about me driving him around one day, and I knew he'd want me to have a car." He smiled with the memory. "I wish I could have taken him for that ride." He cleared his throat. "Anyway, I put the rest in the bank."

I didn't know how to feel about this revelation. "No wonder you always have money to pay for dates and stuff. Does Connor know about this?"

"He knows about my first dad and my grandpa, but not about the money. Please don't tell anyone, Cam. I don't want people to treat me differently."

"I won't," I promised. It was too much to take in all at once, so I focused on his immediate plans. "Aren't your parents upset about you moving out? You haven't even finished high school yet."

"They trust me to be responsible, but they wouldn't be able to stop me anyway since I'm eighteen. It's not like I'm moving far away, and I'll still see them more than when I'm away at college." He laughed. "Katie can't wait, because she'll have her own room."

We had just left his house, and his family had happily celebrated his birthday. Nobody seemed to be upset with him, so I guess they were okay with it. I still felt like it was my fault he was moving out. "Jake, I know it's frustrating sometimes when we can't be alone, but you don't have to move out of your house."

"I won't lie to you, Cam. Knowing that we can be together without worrying about someone walking in on us is part of the reason I want my own place, but it really is crowded at my house. Like I said, Katie will be able to have her own room now."

I couldn't deny that I was excited about the thought of truly being able to be alone with him in a place where no parents or siblings could come home unexpectedly. We'd had a close call the other day when Mom arrived home early from work. Some machine had broken down, and they had sent her shift home. Fortunately, Jake and I still had our clothes on, but she had seen us walk out of my room together. This had earned me another talk with her the following day, this time about contraception. She had insisted on setting up an appointment for me with a gynecologist.

"You can ask her questions that you might not feel comfortable asking me." Mom had been open and nonjudgmental, but I still didn't want to discuss my sex life with her.

"Did you have this talk with Connor?" I wondered aloud.

She smiled ruefully. "Yeah, years ago, and he was even more embarrassed than you are. I made sure that he knew about condoms by demonstrating how to put one on a cucumber."

The visual was so hilarious that I laughed until I was almost crying, and Mom cracked up too. "He hasn't eaten cucumbers since," she said, wiping tears from her eyes.

"Stop," I cried, still laughing. "I'll be scarred for life. Poor Connor."

She laughed a little longer, then became serious again. "That was a talk that your father should have had with him, but I did the best I could. Realistically, with me working the hours that I work, I knew that it would be a big temptation for him no matter what I said about waiting. That's why it was a relief not to have to worry about that with you until now."

"I know about safe sex." That was as far as I would go to acknowledge my involvement in this subject.

"There is no such thing as safe sex. Not really. No method is a hundred percent safe. Accidents happen, and I want you to come to me if you're ever in that situation. You don't have to deal with it on your own."

I may not have the best dad, but I was blessed with a terrific mom. "Thanks, Mom."

Her expression was fierce with maternal love. "I mean it, Cam. Even after Nathan and I are married, you can still turn to me for help. He understands how important you and Connor are to me."

It was reassuring to hear her say that. I was going to miss her when I left for college, and I was glad that Nathan would be with her. They were getting married in June, but he wasn't moving in until then. He lived in an apartment, so it made more sense for him to move.

I hadn't told Mom about Jake getting his own place, because her sex talk hadn't seemed like the appropriate time to mention it. His parents were going to help him search for an apartment, so they seemed to have no problem accepting the fact that he was moving out. I had thought about what he had told me about his inheritance and decided that it didn't concern me. That was his money and his business, and I didn't really care to know any more about it.

It only took Jake two weeks to find an apartment, and he bought all new furniture. "I can take it with me when I go to college."

"I don't think it will all fit in a dorm," I said.

"I'm going to get an apartment," he told me.

"Where do you think you'll go?" My back was turned to him as I asked that question.

"That depends on where you go. I applied to all the same schools that you did."

I turned to look at him. "How do you know which schools I applied to?"

"I asked your mom. We had a pretty long conversation about it. She doesn't think that we should live together until we finish college, but she knows that'll be your decision."

The butterflies in my stomach were having a field day. "You want me to live with you at college?"

"If you're ready for that," Jake said. "If not, then we'll wait. You don't have to decide right now." He suddenly looked uncertain. "You don't mind if I go to the same college, do you?"

"I was hoping you would, but I didn't want to be clingy," I admitted.

He laughed. "I'm trying not to be clingy either, because I know how independent you are, but I wouldn't be able to stand being away from you for that long."

I hugged him. "I don't want to be away from you either." I pulled back to look at him. "So, this will be your first night sleeping in your apartment?"

"Yeah," he confirmed. "It's so quiet compared to home."

I ran my hand over his chest and watched what it did to his eyes. "Have you tried out your new bed yet?"

"You have a one-track mind," he scolded, but his voice betrayed him.

"Only when it comes to you," I said before he leaned down to kiss me.

His bed was comfortable, but I was soon too distracted to care about that. It was Monday, and Jake and I planned our next date for Saturday evening. He wanted to go to an expensive restaurant, but I told him that I didn't feel like dressing up, and that we should postpone that for another time.

"Okay, how about we eat somewhere casual and go to a movie?" Jake asked.

"That sounds good," I agreed, but I had my own secret plans for that evening.

Jen had recently gotten her own car, so I told Connor that I was taking our car. "Why?" Connor asked. "Jake's got his own car."

"So does Jen. You've been hogging our car forever, and I haven't complained. I want to drive tonight, so deal with it." The reason for this was because I didn't want Jake to see me until I arrived at his apartment.

Connor relented after he called Jen, and she agreed to drive him on their date. Fortunately, she picked him up before I was ready to leave. I had called Jake to tell him that I was driving, and he had been surprised. "I have a birthday present for you," I said.

"My birthday was three weeks ago, and you already gave me my present."

"Not all of it," I said mysteriously. "I'm bringing the rest of it over later."

"What is it?" Good, he was curious.

"It's a surprise." I was sure he would like it.

As I drove to his apartment, I remembered how I had thought that I could just have casual sex with Jake and walk away. Now I knew that there was nothing casual about this. My feelings for him, both emotional and sexual, were more intense than I had ever imagined they could be. No wonder I had been scared of being in a relationship, because the emotions were so strong that severing our bond would cut deep. I was too far into it to be able to turn back now however. Once I parked the car, all my thoughts turned to seeing Jake and what his reaction would be.

He didn't disappoint me when he opened the door. His blue eyes traveled slowly from my face to my feet before he stepped back to allow me to enter. I was wearing the red miniskirt and top I had worn to school after Madison told me that Jake would return to her. That seemed like ages ago, but I remembered that Jake had been struck speechless by my appearance.

He needed no words now either as he closed the door and pulled me up against it while I wrapped my legs around him. His searing kiss told me how much he liked his present. When his lips pulled back from mine, it was only so that he could see to walk to his bedroom. He stopped several times to kiss me along the way. I kicked my shoes off after he set me down on his bed.

He stood looking at me. "You're beautiful."

I leaned back in what I hoped was a sexy pose and gazed up at him. "You're hot."

Jake joined me on the bed and kissed me while his hand moved up my bare thigh. His fingers teasingly caressed my skin as he broke off the kiss to speak to me in a low voice. "I dreamed about you that night, about touching you like this."

I moaned as his hand moved up to make contact with my panties.

He stopped. "What are you wearing?" His voice sounded even rougher now. He pulled my miniskirt up to reveal silky red panties. His eyes were burning with lust as he removed my top in one swift movement.

I had on a matching silky red bra that I had bought during my first ever shopping trip to Victoria's Secret. The thongs had looked extremely uncomfortable, so I had bypassed them in favor of the panties, which were still sexier than my regular cotton ones. Jake sure seemed to like them, but they eventually ended up on his floor.

We lay cuddling in contentment after our passionate lovemaking. "Hey," Jake suddenly said. "Where's my present?"

I smacked his arm. "If you didn't like it, I'll get you a pair of socks next time."

"As long as you're wearing them—and nothing else." His hand skimmed over my thigh.

"Later," I said. "Right now, I'm hungry. Get dressed and take me out to eat."

"You're so demanding." He pretended to be annoyed.

"You love it," I said as I sat up.

He pulled me back and kissed me. "I love you, Cam."

I smiled, feeling completely happy. "I love you, Jake."

We went out to eat, but we decided to skip the movie and go back to his apartment. I took the miniskirt with me when I left for college. I had received a soccer scholarship that paid for everything, so I lived in a dorm with a roommate. All my weekends were spent at Jake's apartment, however, and my roommate loved it. She had a new boyfriend she had met during her first day at college.

Sadly, Connor and Jen broke up after they went to different colleges. Kyle and Scott lasted another year before their relationship ended for good this time. "We both changed," Kyle told me. He seemed to be dealing with it better than last time, probably because it had been mutual this time.

"Most high school romances don't last," Jake said when I told him the news. "People change as they grow up, and they want different things."

This worried me. "What about us?"

"I think we're going to beat the odds. We've grown up together, and I've loved you through all your changes." He smiled at me. "We've got more places to go together. We haven't even been to Texas yet."

We continued to go through changes, but we stayed together. I made new friends, even with a few girls on my soccer team, and I lost touch with most of my old friends. The only one I was still close to was Kyle. He even stayed at Jake's apartment when he came to visit me. I think that's when I truly began to believe that we would make it. Life changes, but some things remain. Looking back, the constants for me have always been my family, Kyle, and Jake.

They are all here now to celebrate our marriage. Jake's family is now my family too. Justin is now eleven years old and has long since forgotten his vow to marry me. Katie is nineteen and in college, while we graduated a year ago. Jake is paying the tuition for all his siblings to go to college. Now that we're married, I suppose I'll find out all the details of his finances. It still doesn't concern me, because I earn my own money.

Kyle is here with his new boyfriend, Ethan. It's great to see him looking so happy again. "Where are you going on your honeymoon?" Ethan asks.

"Texas," Jake replies.

"That's an unusual choice," Nathan says. He took Mom to the Bahamas for their honeymoon.

Jake and I smile at each other, and I answer for both of us. "Texas is only the beginning."

The End