"For some reason I'm attracted to you."


"For some reason I'm attracted to you," he said, letting himself drop from the tree. She scowled and looked back to her book as he sat casually down beside her, spreading his long legs out in front of him and leaning against the trunk of the tree.

"Is that a problem, Samantha?" he asked, smiling. "Does that make you uncomfortable?"

"Stop teasing me." She growled and turned the opposite way, reburying her nose in "A Tale of Two Cities."

"But it's fun to tease you," he laughed, snatching the book out of her hands.

"Give it back, Jeremy!" she shouted, scrambling to her feet.

"Say you love me," he taunted. "I won't give it back 'till you say you love me." He pulled himself into the tree and perched there, like some overgrown bird. His wide, easy grin was infectious, but Samantha knew all his tricks.

"You're a bully, you know that?" she said, planting one foot on the ground and sticking her lip out.

"And you're cute when you're mad!" he laughed.

"I'm going to tell Mom," she threatened.

"No you're not. Because then you'd have to tell her why, and you know how she'd react," he said, smirking with the confidence of one who knew they had won.

"You are insufferable!" she huffed, then whirled towards the house.

"Okay, okay, you win," he said, dropping down behind her. She turned to grab her book and he quickly took her hand.

"Can't you just listen to me, Samantha?" he pleaded. She lowered her gaze to the ground to avoid the hint of desperation in his eyes.

"No," she said softly. "If I believe you, you'll just say it was all a joke. You'll tease me like you have every day since I was nine."

"Look at me." He gently lifted her chin until her gaze was level with his. "Don't you know why I tease you? I tease you because I like you, Samantha. Is that so hard to believe?"

"Yes," she replied, but her voice wavered a little.

"I've liked you since you were eleven," he said, smiling a little. "I think I first realized it that one time when we were at Jenny's eleventh birthday party. You had brought your book along and were sitting in the corner reading while all the other kids were playing. Caleb came and tossed it into the pool, remember? I got really mad and punched him, you started crying, and I got sent home. Do you remember that? That was the first day I realized I liked you." He looked at her tenderly and she flushed a little.

"I remember."

"Do you remember freshman homecoming? You showed up in a short purple dress with your hair all done up, and that was the first time I truly realized how beautiful you were."

"You remember that?" she asked softly.

"Yes, I do." He looked at her so lovingly she had to look away.

"Then why do you torment me constantly? That starts to make a girl think the opposite." He ran a hand through his blond hair and sighed.

"What else am I supposed to do, Samantha? How am I supposed to act normal in front of you?"

"You could start by not taking my books," she mumbled.

"But then how would you pay any attention to me? This is the only way I can get you to look at me for one second." Her gaze softened.

"I'm afraid to believe it, Jeremy," she whispered.

"Don't be."

"I just, I think of all the things that would happen if you were joking, or even if you weren't."

"Then don't think," he begged. "Just trust me. Don't you feel it too?" She didn't answer.

"Please, Samantha." She looked at him, and his eyes were so raw and vulnerable she felt her heart melt.

"Okay," she said softly.

"Okay? Does that mean-" he started uncertainly.

"Yes," she said, smiling a little. "You know, it's nice to have so much power over you for once." Her mouth quirked to the side. "I will use this," she warned.

"I know." He smiled back. "I wouldn't have gone through all this if I weren't sure. You can have your book back now if you want." He offered it to her, watching her expression carefully.

"You know, at this moment, I don't think I need it." Her smile was as bright as the sun as she gently pushed his hand away.

"Does that mean I can kiss you?" His voice hitched a little, but he was smiling.

"I suppose it does," she said, shrugging one shoulder.

"Alright then," he grinned. Then, throwing the book down, he kissed her. She didn't even notice stepping on her book as they went inside. She was smiling too much.