Chapter Twenty

I stretched my arms as I slowly awoke. I let out a heavy sigh. Yet another sleep with dreams filled of Preston. Though last night hadn't changed my mind state at all, it had been nice to get out of my apartment to hang out with Abby and see a band play. I turned my head to see that it was still early, only a little after seven. I couldn't seem to sleep anymore. I sighed once again, before burrowing my head into my pillow. Was it too much to ask for a decent night's sleep?

Knowing it was useless, I gave up on the thought of trying to get more sleep. I sat up, rubbing my eyes before slowly standing. I headed into my kitchen, about to turn on the light when I noticed a familiar jacket resting on the counter. But that couldn't be. I had to be mistaken. I held my breath as I slowly made my way into my living room and to the figure lying on my couch. My heart began to pound as I crouched down beside him. It really was him. I couldn't believe Preston was here in my living room.

I wondered if I should wake him up or to just let him sleep. I softly reached out, touching his shoulder, unable to wait to find out what it was that he wanted. "Preston?"

He jerked awake, looking around disoriented. His stare fell on me, as he seemed to recollect where he was. "Oh, hey," he softly replied.

"Hey," I said, just as softly. "What are you doing here?"

He sat up, his eyes not breaking contact with me. "I don't know. I shouldn't be here, but here I am." He took a deep breath. "I still have your key, you know. I was going to wake you but you looked so peaceful that I thought I would just leave. I just couldn't seem to make myself go though."

"I'm glad you stayed."

"I gave Cindy the ring after you were over my apartment." I clenched my jaw, looking away from him in an effort to try and hide the pain. "I thought that would prove my feelings for her. I wanted to be able to say that no matter what you say to me, good or bad, it doesn't affect me." He shook his head. "It's just not true. Otherwise I would never have asked her to marry me that night."

I didn't know what to say. So he was engaged. "Well congratulations."

"You don't have to say that." He reached over, taking my hand in his. He gave it a squeeze before leaning down and kissing it softly. I closed my eyes, not knowing what to make of his being here. "You really get under a guy's skin, you know that?"

I opened my eyes, searching his face to figure out what he was trying to say. "I don't know about that."

I stood up, walking away from him to the opposite end of the room. I leaned against the wall, silently staring at him. "I think that you do know what I'm talking about. I never know what to make of you. From the moment that we met, you were always just out of reach."

"How can you say that? I always told you all there was to know. You know everything about my life."

He stood up. "Don't say that. I don't want to hurt you, but you have to admit that you don't tell me all there is to know. Sure, I know a lot of things most people don't, but you keep your feelings to yourself. You always have. I suppose it was a fear of getting too close to me. I don't know."

"You came all the way over here to tell me that I've always kept you away from me? Thanks," I said sarcastically, rubbing my forehead. "Here I was under the impression that you knew me best."

"Cut it out, Cassie. I didn't come here to argue."

"Why did you come here?" I refused to move away as he approached me. "You should be with your fiancée."

He softly stroked my arm. "I didn't come here to talk about her. I came here to talk about that day you came to my apartment."

I looked down at the ground as his other hand moved to softly caress my cheek. "Oh," I simply said, closing my eyes.

"Why did you say all of that? Why did you have to come over that day?"

"I don't know," I replied simply. "I couldn't stay away."

I couldn't help the soft sigh that escaped me as his arms were finally around me, pressing my body close to his. "That's why I'm here. No matter what you say to me, it always leads to this urge to be near you." He kissed my cheek tenderly. "I couldn't stay away."

I didn't want him to leave, but I also didn't want him to be at my place simply because he might feel sorry for me. "I told you that you didn't have to worry about me. I'm best on my own," I lied.

"No, you're not. You hate to be alone. Don't tell me to leave, Cass."

"I don't hate to be alone," I mumbled, though he was right.

He kissed my cheek once again, his fingers falling to my lips. I opened my eyes, looking up to stare deep into his guarded gaze. "What's the matter?" he asked.

"Where did life go so wrong? You shouldn't have to protect yourself from me. It just makes me feel sad, you know?"

"I don't want to have to protect myself from you either. I am just so lost anymore. All I want is to be with you, to talk with you." His voice grew a little husky as he added, "To make love to you."

I blushed, biting my lip. "That's probably not good for your relationship."

He sighed. "No, it probably isn't. But then again, I think she might be seeing someone behind my back, so it isn't so bad."

"Oh, I'm sorry Preston."

"Don't be. To tell you the truth, I'm not upset by the news. I deserve that anyway. I guess that's why I came here. I realized that I was sick of pretending that my heart belongs to anyone but you."

I froze, unsure of what to say. I never thought he would tell me that. "What?"

"I know you don't like to believe me, but I do love you, Cassie. And don't start saying that it's only in a brotherly way or whatever other thing you might say to try and push this away. There is nothing brotherly about my feelings for you."

I took a deep breath, wishing that I wasn't so close to him right now. It made it harder to think. "Oh," was all I managed to mumble.

"Cass, I know you feel the same for me. You told me so the other day and I know that it's my fault for not holding you to it then, but I was still hurt from everything that you said. Plus I was scared too. But I can't lie anymore. I'm not going to let you run, either."

As I looked into his eyes, I could see that he was acting more sure than he felt. "Oh," I said again, trying to organize my thoughts.

I started to pull away from him, but he just held me close. "I told you that I'm not letting you run again." He leaned down, kissing me passionately, making my body feel as if it was on fire before he pulled slowly away. "Sorry, I didn't mean to do that. I want to straighten things out verbally but man, I've missed you."

"What do you want me to say?" I softly said. "Do you want me to tell you that I love you? Fine, you're right and I do. But what does that really change? You still have a girlfriend and you still have this other lifestyle where you sleep around."

"Cass, just say it for me, okay?"

I sighed, but I couldn't help but smile softly as I reached up to twirl a strand of his hair. "Fine. I love you, Pres. But-"

"Hey, no buts here! I just want to savor that." He grabbed my hand pulling me back over to the couch as he collapsed onto it. I stared down at him before slowly lying on top of him. "I forgot how good this felt," he murmured huskily into my ear.

"What are we doing?"

He chuckled. "Has it been so long that you forget, Cassie?" he said before he began kissing my neck heatedly, his hands caressing my body.

"No, I mean, what are we doing now? I don't mean that. Geez, you're making it hard to think."

"That's the point," he said, but he stopped kissing me seductively. "Honestly, I don't know what we are doing. I came over because I wanted to see you. I didn't plan to wear my heart on my sleeve for you, but you always change my plans."

"I'm scared of this," I confided to him.

"Me too, but I'm more scared of losing it again. What do you say that we give it a shot?"

I grinned. "You make it sound as if we are trying this new drink."

"So, what do you say? No matter what you say, I'm going to end it with Cindy. That charade has gone on long enough."

As I looked down at him, I wondered how I could have possibly not realized I was in love with him long ago. "Let's give it a shot then, buddy. Me and you."

He grinned devilishly. "I was hoping you would say that."

"But it has to be just the two of us. I can't take you seeing other people while you are on tour. I'll understand if you want it to be that way, just let me know."

He put a finger to my lips. "My sweet Cassandra, you're rambling for no reason. Trust me, there won't be anyone but you."

"Okay," I said, grinning. "But do we have to tell everyone just yet? They are going to act so goofy, especially Nick and Abby. You know how the two of them can be."

Preston raised an eyebrow. "That I do. But I don't want to start off with another lie. It just doesn't seem like a good start."

I snuggled closer to him, yawning. "I know you're right, but you can tell them. Suddenly I think I might be able to sleep."

"Sleep?" he said with a smirk, before he yawned himself. "Okay, as long as this doesn't disappear when we wake up. I know that we've both had a rough time with love."

"It doesn't have to be like that this time," I supplied. "You're right."

Inside I was a mass of nerves, it was easy to pretend that I wasn't scared with him right beside me. But still, there was so much that I had seen with my parents that had me questioning love. Could things ever work out for anyone? Melanie and Reed certainly seemed happy. I guess all I could do was try. Life was hard enough without him. I doubted I could walk away from this yet again. Why would I want to?

"I love you," he murmured softly against my skin.

I sighed happily. Maybe this could work out. "I love you too, Pres." Maybe life really could be this great.