Ethan was nervous. He hadn't expected to be this nervous about taking his relationship with Olivia to the next level. They had been dating for a month now, and their steamy kisses were fueling his desire for her. He wanted her and he thought that she wanted him too. Yet he hadn't been prepared for her to make the first move. He'd had to chase after their first real kiss, so he was stunned when she seductively told him that she had something special for him and invited him to come over in the morning.

"My parents are going to the outlet mall in Grove City, and Connor is going with them. We'll have the whole day to ourselves. They're leaving at eight, so come over at eight-thirty. I've got something to show you," she told him with a flirty smile that sent his imagination into overdrive.

Ethan took a deep breath that did nothing to calm him before he knocked on Olivia's door the following morning. He couldn't recall being this nervous about anything ever. He'd imagined seeing Olivia naked, but it held an importance that went beyond his sexual desires. This was more than a prelude to sex. It would mean that she trusted him enough to reveal something she was extremely self-conscious about, something that she kept hidden from everyone else.

Showing her birthmarks to him would be a big deal to Olivia, and that made it a big deal to Ethan. He didn't consider these birthmarks as big of a flaw as she did, but he knew that she would watch his reaction like a hawk. If he showed the slightest aversion to them, she might never want to get naked with him again. He wondered if she had ever showed them to that Joel guy she had dated, and if that had anything to do with why they had broken up. Ethan didn't want her to break up with him. Now that he had convinced her to give him a chance, he didn't want to blow it.

Even Connor had accepted Ethan's relationship with Olivia, albeit reluctantly. He'd basically told Ethan that if he screwed over his sister, their friendship would be over as well as Ethan's ability to use certain parts of his anatomy. Ethan hadn't expected such a disturbingly vivid and detailed description of violence from his normally easygoing friend, but it wasn't fear of anything that Connor might do to him that worried him. He didn't want to even think of messing things up with Olivia. She was the best thing to happen to him in a long time, and he didn't want to lose her.

Olivia brightened his life with her sweet and quirky presence. It was amazing how much he looked forward to being with her even without the promise of sex. She was a balm after all the crap he had gone through with Melissa. He wasn't sure if it was because Olivia had been there for him at one of the lowest points in his life that made him feel so connected to her or if he would have been drawn to her eventually anyway. Whatever it was that made her special to him, it was something that only she had. He seemed to have lost interest in other girls since he'd confided in Olivia.

He couldn't imagine her birthmarks changing his view of her, but she was so sensitive about them that he feared having the wrong response. What would be the right response anyway? Should he comment on them or not? He already knew that they wouldn't matter to him, but would she believe him? She knew that he was attracted to her without having seen her body, but would she forget that once she took her clothes off? Ethan believed that he'd be just as attracted to her when he saw her naked, but he wasn't sure how he could convince her of that without doing or saying the wrong thing. It was such a delicate situation, and he doubted that he had the finesse to not blunder through it.

He found himself sweating from the pressure as she opened the door in her pajamas. It was déjà vu for him as he felt like he was back in time on her doorstep a month ago when she'd also opened the door in her pajamas. She was expecting him this time, and seeing her greet him in her pajamas was a sign that she didn't intend to go far from her bed.

Ethan heeded her unspoken invitation and didn't bother waiting for a spoken one as he lifted her up into his arms while entering the house. His mouth crashed down on hers and took advantage of her startled gasp to plunder inside with his tongue while his hands gripped her bottom to support her against his body. His nervousness seemed to heighten his excitement to a fever pitch, and he felt almost delirious with wanting her. He moaned when he brushed his tongue against hers.

She momentarily kissed him back with equal fervor but broke the kiss too soon. "Ethan, wait."

"No rush," he assured her. "Let's just kiss for awhile." He consciously reined himself in to taste her lips with a lighter pressure. Her soft moan almost undid his control and he unconsciously squeezed her buttocks where he held her.

"Ethan," she gasped again. "Stop. Put me down."

"Uh, I'm gonna go."

Ethan was so startled by the unexpected voice that he almost dropped Olivia but managed to not completely lose his grip on her as his loosened hold on her made her slip down his body. He had jerked his head in the direction the voice had come from and saw a guy standing in the doorway of the kitchen. It was Vinny, Olivia's best friend.

"What's he doing here?" Ethan demanded of Olivia.

Her expression went from embarrassed to annoyed at his surly tone, and she went to stand by Vinny. "Sorry," she apologized to him before shooting Ethan a disapproving glance. "I didn't get a chance to tell him you were here. This is Ethan," she began formally making the introductions.

She gestured for Ethan to step closer before introducing Vinny to him. "This is Vinny."

They awkwardly greeted each other while Ethan wondered why Olivia had invited him over if Vinny was going to be here. "I thought it was time you met," she explained as if reading his mind. "My best friend and my boyfriend should know each other."

Ethan tried not to let his disappointment show. He'd come here expecting something totally different from the way Olivia had phrased everything yesterday. She'd said nothing about Vinny being here, and she'd made it sound like she and Ethan were going to be alone. It seemed as if she had deliberately misled him. Had she thought that she needed to trick him into coming over to meet Vinny?

Ethan admitted to himself that spending time with Vinny was not on his list of priorities, but he would have done it if Olivia had asked him to. She didn't need to deceive him to get him to do something for her. What kind of boyfriend did she think he was?

Adjusting to the change of plans, Ethan attempted to get past the awkwardness. "Did your parents and Connor go shopping?" he questioned Olivia in a lighter tone.

"Yeah," she replied. "Connor wants to hit the Nike store, but he'll have to endure a whole day of shopping with Mom for it."

"I'm surprised you didn't go," Ethan remarked. Most of the girls he knew wouldn't pass up a shopping trip.

"Yeah, I could use some new hoodies," Olivia retorted with a smirk.

He was relieved that she was no longer scowling at him. "I've been looking for a pink sports watch myself," he joked.

Her lips curved into a sly smile. "Don't tempt me," she warned teasingly.

He wanted to tempt her in ways he couldn't with Vinny here, so he didn't reply in the flirtatious manner he would have if they were alone. "My birthday is coming up, if you want to make a list," he suggested as he pretended to be greedy for presents.

She responded by rolling her eyes in mock dismissal of a gift for him. "You're lucky to get breakfast, and that's only because Vinny cooked it."

Ethan perked up at the mention of food. If he couldn't get sex, food was a good consolation. His eager smile made Olivia laugh. "Go ahead and eat. I'm going upstairs to get dressed."

There went the promise of joining her in her room, but he'd already known that was a bust when he saw Vinny here. At least the guy wasn't in his pajamas too and was wearing real clothes. He followed him into the kitchen while pondering how to make conversation with him.

"Do you like biscuits and gravy?" Vinny asked.

"Yeah," Ethan answered enthusiastically. He was now feeling the hunger from not eating anything since dinner yesterday. He'd been too nervous to eat this morning, but his appetite was roused by the delicious aroma in the kitchen. "Connor says you make the best ones he's ever tasted."

"I don't know about that," Vinny deflected the compliment modestly.

"So," Ethan began as he helped himself to some biscuits and gravy, "you and Olivia have been friends for awhile."

"Two years," Vinny informed him.

It wasn't as long as Ethan had expected from how close they seemed. He'd known her longer himself, although he hadn't paid much attention to her until recently. "Oh, so, uh, have you ever thought about being more than friends?"

He hadn't planned to ask that, and he looked around warily for Olivia. She would probably be pissed if she heard him, but she had just gone upstairs a couple of minutes ago.

"Don't ask Olivia that," Vinny advised him. "It's the reason she broke up with Joel."

"Because he asked her if she ever wanted to be more than friends with you?" Ethan questioned in dismay.

"Because he was suspicious of our friendship," Vinny explained. "She told him it was platonic, but he resented the time we spent together. He just didn't get how we could be only friends. Olivia's not my type though, and I'm not her type."

"I'm not gay," he added, dashing Ethan's hopes that he wasn't attracted to girls. "Olivia and I just aren't attracted to each other. The people we date have to accept that."

"Do you have a girlfriend?" Ethan asked.

Vinny smiled at the question, seeing right through Ethan. "I'm working on it."

Not knowing what else to say, Ethan shoved a piece of biscuit smothered with gravy into his mouth. "Oh my God," he mumbled after swallowing and hurrying to taste another piece. "You should make her this. She'll be your girlfriend for sure."

Ethan thought he might have to reevaluate his ranking of sex and food. Food might have the number one spot if it tasted this good. He was enjoying it too much to continue making conversation with Vinny so he could impress Olivia with how friendly he was with her best friend. He didn't speak again until he had polished off every last bite.

"Seriously man, you should be on the Food Network and all that shit."

"Ethan," Olivia chided him. "Don't be saying words like that while we're eating."

He stiffened at the sound of her voice and looked up to see that she had joined them in the kitchen. His gaze was filled with dread. "Did you want some?"

"You ate it all?" she demanded.

"I'm sorry," he apologized. "I'll make more for you." He glanced helplessly around the kitchen and stood up without really knowing where to start.

Olivia and Vinny laughed at him. "You're evil," Vinny told her.

"I couldn't help it," she said. "He looked so guilty that I couldn't resist."

"She's messing with you," Vinny told him. "We already ate."

"Did Connor get some?" Ethan enquired.

"No," Vinny answered. "They were just leaving when I got here. Olivia wanted me to make them especially for you."

Ethan was happy to hear that Vinny hadn't spent the night. It was also nice of Olivia to arrange this special treat for him. "Thank you," he said sincerely. "They were great. Connor wasn't exaggerating about how good you cook."

"You're welcome," Vinny replied, "but I'm sticking you guys with the cleanup. It was nice to meet you, Ethan."

"You too," Ethan responded, "but you don't have to go."

Vinny glanced at the clock on the wall. "I do actually. I'm feeling the need to stop by the library. Did I mention that I'm a big reader? I'm just constantly having to check books out of the library."

Olivia laughed, and Vinny grinned. Ethan had the feeling that they were sharing some sort of inside joke he didn't get. Olivia confirmed that suspicion with her next words. "What if she asks you to talk about all those books one day?"

"That's what Cliffs Notes are for," he retorted.

She giggled. "I could just see you studying for your date."

Ethan trailed after Olivia as she walked Vinny to the front door. "You better ask her out before you end up having to take the SATs just to be able to go out on a date with her."

"The SATs will be child's play after the extensive reading I've done," he commented.

"Checking a book out of the library doesn't mean you've read it," she remarked drily.

"You're obviously not a librarian," he scoffed at her.

She rolled her eyes at him, and he waved in parting. "See you guys later."

"Bring more biscuits and gravy," Ethan suggested, only half-joking, but he succeeded in making both Vinny and Olivia laugh.

"The girl he likes works at the library on weekends," she explained to Ethan after shutting the door behind Vinny.

"Oh," Ethan responded. "A quiet girl like that doesn't seem like she would be his type. No offense," he added quickly. "He seems like a cool guy. I wouldn't have guessed that he could cook like that either."

"It's the tattoos," Olivia said. "People think he's some wild party guy, but he just likes getting inked. His dad's a tattoo artist."

"Getting inked?" Ethan questioned with a smile. "Do you like getting inked too, Olivia?"

He knew immediately that he'd said the wrong thing. Of course she wouldn't be into decorating her skin when she kept it hidden all the time. "I'm sorry," he exclaimed. "I'm an idiot."

"No," she protested. "Vinny has told me too that getting a tattoo might make me feel better about showing my skin. It would take some of the focus off my birthmarks."

She took a deep breath. "I want to show you where I want to get a tattoo."

Ethan was sure that she had no idea how sexy those words were. She had said them sincerely rather than in a seductive way, but it aroused him to hear her say that. "Okay," he agreed, wanting to say something more encouraging but not knowing what.

She hesitated for a moment as he waited in tense silence, telling himself to have no reaction to Olivia's birthmark. His heart sped up as she began to unzip her hoodie. It was as exciting as another girl doing a striptease. He realized that she had chosen the ease of a zip up hoodie for this very reason. She often wore pullover hoodies, but she had gotten dressed this morning with the intention of getting undressed for him. Ethan's pulse jumped at the thought. His eyes followed her hand on the zipper until she completely unzipped the hoodie.

His gaze moved back up to her face, and he saw her watching him. "Take it off," he pleaded in a suddenly hoarse voice.

A thrill shot through him when she slid the hoodie off her shoulders and dropped it to the floor. She was wearing a t-shirt, but it was the most uncovered he'd ever seen her. He looked at her face again and saw her gaze locked on him.

"Where do you want to get the tattoo?" he managed to ask.

She gazed at him a moment more before suddenly pulling her t-shirt off. Ethan saw skin, and a purple bruise that would have worried him if he hadn't known that it was only a birthmark. His eyes, however, were drawn to the swell of Olivia's breasts and the satin pink bra covering them. The smooth material tantalized him with its touchable appeal. He wanted to caress those tempting breasts by running his fingers over the silky fabric and teasing her—

"Do you see anything besides my boobs?"

Olivia's voice jolted him from his erotic fantasy. He guiltily lifted his eyes to her face and saw her smiling at him in amusement. Having expected to be in trouble for staring at her breasts, he cautiously relaxed a bit.

"What do you think?" she asked.

He was sure that question was devised to trip him up, so he blurted the only compliment he could think of that wouldn't offend her. "You look good in pink."

He began to babble nervously when she didn't respond. "I like your pink watch, and your pink…uh…top. Yeah, pink is pretty." His eyes dropped to the lovely pink bra before he realized what he was doing and quickly looked at her face again.

She was smirking at him. "Do you even remember what I wanted to show you?"

Her prompting made him recall the tattoo conversation. "Where you want to get a tattoo."

She lifted her hand to the birthmark on her collarbone. "Maybe a purple flower here."

"That's a good idea," he agreed as he struggled to keep his eyes from lowering to her breasts.

Her happy laugh drew his attention to her beaming face. "You don't care," she exclaimed in delight.

He regarded her in confusion, glad that she was happy but uncertain what she was talking about.

"You don't care about my birthmark," she elaborated. "You're looking at my body like I'm any other girl."

A slow smile spread over his face. "No, I'm looking at your body like you're my girl."

"I'm your girl, huh? Are you sure about that?" she teased.

He broke from their flirty exchange to speak seriously to her. "I'm sure if you're sure you want me."

Her expression clouded over. "It's not that I don't want you. I'm just not ready to have sex with you yet."

"That's not what I meant," he assured her. "I meant if you want me to be your boyfriend."

"I thought you already were my boyfriend," she stated with a quizzical expression.

"I am," he confirmed, "and I want to keep being your boyfriend." He expelled a breath. "Vinny told me how you broke up with that Joel guy, and I don't want that to happen to me."

"I like you, Olivia," he continued as she opened her mouth to respond to what he had said. "I already like you so much, and I don't want to lose you. Not ever," he dared to add.

She gazed at him in wonder. "Ethan," she breathed. "You don't want to lose me."

"That's what I said," he affirmed, wondering about her reaction to what he had told her.

She moved closer to him and spoke like she was confiding something to him. "Let me tell you a secret."

"Okay," he agreed in anticipation of hearing something she hadn't yet revealed about herself. He wanted her to share everything with him.

"You're not going to lose me," she said in a near whisper.

He gazed into her eyes, and then a bright smile lit up his face. A mirror smile beamed back at him from her face.

"You know what," he said, "I feel like running."

This time it wasn't because of any personal demons but purely from the exhilaration he felt right now. He could see that Olivia felt it too, and her words confirmed it. "So do I."

Ethan even smiled when she put her t-shirt and hoodie back on. That's how happy he was, that he was smiling about a girl putting her clothes on. Not just a girl, he corrected himself. This particular girl, his girl. The thought made him sprint out the door in joy, but he stopped to wait until she was beside him.

She had been beside him when he was at his lowest point, and he wanted her beside him at his highest point. He wanted to be beside her no matter what. In that moment he realized that there was a word for what he was feeling, but it was too soon to say that word to her. He just smiled at her like a fool instead.

"What are you smiling about?" she asked, even though she was smiling too.

"You," he told her. "I'm smiling about you."

When he continued to stand there and do nothing but smile, she laughed in amusement. "Are we doing this or what?"

"Yeah," he agreed with an underlying meaning to his words, "we're doing this."