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  • Inside by Noelle Adams #chapter fifteen

    Introduction

    This is the last chapter of Inside, the serial novel I've been writing, although there is still the epilogue to come. If you need to catch up, you can use the links to the earlier chapters below.
    A few things to mention.
    I'm planning to eventually write Chance and Dax's book, so I'm leaving all the details of what happened to them unexplained on purpose. I wrapped it up enough to avoid cliffhangers, but I don't want to give away too much about Chance and Dax's book in this one.
    There are probably still plot threads that I've left hanging in this book. As I mentioned several times, I wrote this chapter by chapter each week, without the full plot planned out in advance. I don't have the time or motivation to go back over the whole thing and catch all the hanging threads right now, but obviously I'll do it as I revise before I publish this as an individual title. If you notice any hanging threads, that's why. It's all I can do right now to just finish this.
    I'm planning to send the epilogue out tomorrow.

    Need to catch up?


    You can catch up on the earlier chapters through the links below.

    Chapter Fifteen

    “Will?” My voice was soft, gentle, despite the rising panic in my heart at what I knew was coming.
    “I’m sorry, Greer. I really am.” His face—normally so stoic—twisted in obvious emotion.
    I straightened up and cleared my throat, putting both of my hands on my lap. I was tempted to reach out and strangle Will for being so endlessly stubborn, but this was him. It had always been him.
    I wouldn’t love him if he were anyone else.
    “You can’t tell me that you don’t want this,” I said. “If you try to tell me that, I won’t believe you.”
    “Of course I want this. I want you. You know I do.”
    “Then there’s no reason why we can’t be together.”
    “There are reasons. There are still reasons. I just…” He glanced away as his words trailed off.
    He didn’t look hard or obstinate or confident. He didn’t look like he was sure of what he was doing right now.
    He looked wounded.
    And oddly it gave me comfort. It gave me courage.
    He wasn’t set on this. He was still holding on to all the emotional tangles and roadblocks that had kept us apart in the past, but he wouldn’t necessarily be holding onto them forever.
    “You can’t tell me you don’t love me.” I reached for him again to take his hand.
    This time, he didn’t pull his away. His eyes were full, fierce, as he said, “Of course I love you. You know I do.”
    “Okay then. There’s no problem. Because I love you too.”
    I saw the sudden blaze of joy in his eyes. I saw it before he turned his face away.
    It was beautiful. Shattering. As real as anything I’d ever known.
    “I love you, Will,” I continued. “I love you, and you love me. It seems pretty stupid for us not to be together.”
    He turned back to meet my eyes, having contained the flood of feeling. His expression was composed. “You’ve just been through a real crisis. A whole week’s worth of danger. What you’re feeling now might not be…”
    “Oh, just shut up about that. It’s ridiculous. I wanted you a long time before I was ever in danger.”
    “Even so. Relationships that happen in these kinds of situations don’t always have the foundation they need to survive. I’m not just using this as an excuse. It’s a real thing. I’m not sure we should trust—”
    “Me? You don’t think we should trust me? My feelings?”
    “That’s not what I mean.” He looked torn again. Aching. “I’m not sure we should trust… us.”
    Determined not to lose control and shake him the way I was tempted to, I took a deep breath before I answered. “I get what you’re saying, but it’s not what’s happening here. Us has been going on a long time before this past week. We’ve been us for years. Us didn’t happen because we were in danger. I don’t think us is going to go away any time soon.”
    His jaw relaxed and he gave me a little smile.
    For a moment, I thought I’d gotten through to him.
    Then he said, “Doesn’t it matter to you that your father didn’t want us together? That he did everything in his power to keep us apart?”
    If I was being totally honest, the thought did bother me. It hurt. Rankled. Felt like a betrayal.
     But whether I was betraying my father or my father was betraying me, I really didn’t know.
    That wasn’t the most important thing. I knew very well that my father could be wrong.
    Incredibly wrong.
    “My dad also wanted me to have those diamonds, and because he did, he put me and Chance in real danger. He loved us. He did his best. But what he wanted for me isn’t necessarily the best thing for me. I’m an adult now, Will. I can decide what’s best for me. And you’re what’s best for me.”
    I saw him exhale—an odd shuddering release of breath. I wasn’t sure what it meant, but it gave me hope.
    “Sweetheart…”
    “You don’t get to call me that, Will, unless you’re prepared to mean it.”
    “I do mean it.’
    “Enough to act on it? Because I’ve got to tell you, this noble resistance of yours is getting kind of old.”
    “I know it is. It feels old to me too. But I’ve spent years—years—shaping my life around the fact that I wasn’t allowed to have you. So many years living with the knowledge that what I most wanted could never be mine. It’s not something I can easily shake off. I think we just need… some more time.”
    His face was still composed, but his eyes were open, naked. I could see everything he was feeling. All the way inside.
    And I understood.
    I understood why he was still clinging to my being forbidden. I understood why he couldn’t just let go, let himself be happy.
    I understood everything I needed to know about him.
    It was fundamental. Human. True of everyone who had ever really loved another person.
    He was afraid.
    Afraid that is he let go, if he trusted, if he gave himself to me, that it wouldn’t last, that he would get hurt, that I’d get taken away from him eventually.
    He might be strong and brave and always competent. He might act like he was as invulnerable as stone. But he wasn’t. At heart, he wasn’t any different from me. This was new to him. He’d never done it before.
    It was scary to him as it had always been to me.
    It was just as much a risk.
    And I knew now what I needed to do.
    “Okay,” I murmured, leaning over so I could press a soft kiss on his beard and then his lips. “So let’s give it some time.”
    His hand moved up immediately to tangle in my hair. As I let my mouth rub gently against his, his fingers fisted, holding my head more firmly in place as his tongue slipped out to explore.
    “This doesn’t feel like giving it time,” he said against my lips.
    “We can stop any time you want.” I was leaning over awkwardly so I readjusted my body, moving onto the bed beside him, bracing myself on the mattress, and being careful not to put any pressure on his bandaged wound on the opposite side.
    His other hand was now sliding down my back. I wore leggings and a long top today, and he found the bottom of my shirt and then slid his palm back up my thigh until he was rubbing my bottom possessively.
    I was still kissing him. I’d opened my mouth to his tongue, and we were now deep, sensual, urgent. Without thinking, I readjusted my weight so I could slide one hand under the sheet that covered him and feel my way down to his groin.
    He was hard. All the way. Already. I stroked the length of his erection through his cotton shorts, and he groaned into my mouth.
    “Sweetheart,” he rasped, his back arching up slightly from the bed. “Sweetheart, this is torture. We’re in a hospital.”
    “So what? The door is closed.”
    “Someone might come in.”
    “Hopefully they’ll knock first.” I smiled against his lips before I raised my head a few inches. “I love you, Will, and I want to make love to you right now. If you don’t want that, just tell me to stop.”
    He panted as he stared up at my face. I’d never seen anything like the naked longing, hunger, heat in his eyes right now. There was a long moment when everything balanced on the edge, on the cusp.
    Then he used his hold on my hair to bring my head back down toward his. “Please don’t stop.”
    Pleasure, relief, and joy washed over me in waves as I surrendered completely to the kiss. I was still stroking him through his shorts, and he was still caressing my ass and thighs with his free hand. And it was so raw and intimate—genuine—that my heart overflowed even as my body responded viscerally to his touch.
    I was wet and aching between my legs when he mumbled, “I’m going to lose it in about two minutes.” His hips lifted toward my hand as I squeezed him.
    I laughed in breathy huffs as I glanced at the closed door to double-check it was safe and then toed off my shoes and pulled off my leggings. “How should we do this? I don’t want to risk messing up your injury again.”
    “You better be on top.” He glanced once at the door to the room but then his eyes never left me as I carefully straddled him on the bed, pulled his erection out of his shorts, and then aligned myself over him so I could slowly fit him inside me.
    Both of us groaned at the penetration, and Will pulled the sheet up over my body and his. I leaned forward to kiss him again, holding my weight on my hands so I wouldn’t put any pressure on his injury.
    He didn’t seem to feel anything that wasn’t good. His hips were already rocking up into me in helpless little thrusts, and his face was contorting in deep pleasure.
    “Sweetheart,” he breathed. “Oh, fuck, sweetheart.”
    “Will.” I was starting to move over him, trying to restrain my enthusiasm so our motion wasn’t too vigorous for his physical condition.
    His hands clamped down on my ass, holding me in place, clutching possessively. “I love you, sweetheart.”
    My heart burst open, flooded my body. I’d never experienced anything like it. This perfect melding of heart and body. Internal and external. Inside and outside. Finally one.
    “I love you too,” I gasped, riding him with urgent little pumps of my hips. “God, I love you so much.”
    We were shaking the bed, but I was still trying to be careful. Since I couldn’t risk anything rougher, I moved one hand down to rub at my clit.
    I let out a low moan as I tightened around him and the pleasure surged forward.
    He was grunting softly, still holding me with a grip that never wavered.
    Then I came hard and intense and silent, my body shuddering through the contractions. Climax hit him right after me. He jerked and gasped and let himself go, breathing out again and again that he loved me.
    I knew it was true.
    I knew it would last.
    And I also knew he wasn’t going to hold onto his lingering fears for very long.
    I was happy. And I was sure it was safe to let myself be.
    We didn’t hold onto each over for very long after we came. We were still in a hospital room with an unlocked door, and a nurse could come in to check on Will at any moment. I managed to get myself off him and pull back on my leggings.
    Will was still sprawled on the bed, flushed and panting and visibly relaxed. He looked almost debauched, and I felt a ridiculous little thrill of pride that I was the one who had made him look that way.
    “How’s your injury?” I asked, sitting down on the chair beside the bed again, my whole body buzzing with sensation.
    “I’m feeling no pain.”
    I chuckled. “I meant we didn’t make it bleed again or anything.”
    He shook his head, patting the bandages on his side as if to verify they were still in place. Then he reached out to take my hand, holding it in his.
    It felt significant. That he was the one who had taken my hand this time, instead of always pulling his away.
    “So how much time do you think you need?” I asked.
    “For what?” His eyes had fallen closed. He looked warm, sated, perfectly content.
    I giggled. “For us.”
    “Oh.” He opened his eyes again. “I don’t know.”
    “Do you still need time?”
    “No. Yes. I don’t know.”
    I was still smiling as I reached out with my other hand to stroke his face. His beard was deliciously rough beneath my palm. “I think that was a yes. Just tell me how much time you need. I’ll wait for you.”
    “Greer.”
    “I mean it. I’ll wait. I don’t want to do this until you know it’s the right thing. For both of us. So if you need time, then you take the time.”
    “I just need to… be sure that this is what you really want.”
    “I understand. How much time?”
    He hesitated, glancing away briefly. “A few weeks?”
    I managed to hide the surge of relief. I’d been afraid he would need months, and I’d been dreading being patient for so long. A few weeks wasn’t bad at all. “That would be fine. We could say a month?”
    He nodded. “That would give you time to get over the crisis and get back into your old life. So you could really know whether you want… this. Us. One month.”
    “One month.” I paused before I added, “But just so it’s clear, I’m doing this for you. I don’t need a month to know what I want. But I want you to be as sure about it as I am. If it means I can have you forever, then I’m happy to wait a month.”
    He looked so relaxed he might fall asleep at any moment, but his features tightened briefly as he said, “It’s not that I don’t want you, Greer. It feels like I’ve spent my entire life wanting you.”
    “I know. I understand. We’ll wait a month so you’ll have time to accept that I’ve spent my entire life wanting you too.”
    ***
    A week later, I was coming out of Shakespeare class on campus, chatting with the coffee-shop guy I’d thought was cute earlier in the semester.
    He was kind of cute, but I wasn’t interested in him at all. We were just talking about a paper that was due next week.
    Ever since I’d left Will in the hospital with a plan to connect again in a month, I’d been busy trying to catch up on my coursework. I’d had to tell all my professors I’d had a family crisis, which was why I’d dropped off the planet for a week. None of them gave me any trouble about it, as long as I could make up all the missed work.
    So I’d been working twice as hard as normal for the past week, and I’d now mostly caught up to my classes. I was living in the townhouse again, and the only change was that I’d finally cleared out my father’s old office, only keeping a few mementos like the book of sketches and the framed bird picture.
    Chance had come over almost every night, and we’d done it together.
    We were safe again. The diamonds were longer part of our lives.
    We loved our father, but his plan for taking care of us just wasn’t what we wanted for ourselves.
    Kurt hadn’t been killed, and he hadn’t been arrested. But after hearing Chance’s story, I knew Kurt wasn’t going to bother us again.
    It was over. The entire ordeal. Everything except me and Will.
    For that, I still had three more weeks left to wait.
    I was smiling up at the coffee-shop guy, thanking him for the information on the paper he’d given me, when I was suddenly aware of something out of the corner of my eye.
    I’m not sure what I noticed, but it was something.
    I turned my head to look.
    And I saw Will.
    Will Stone.
    Standing next to his big SUV, which was parked on the curb.
    He wore jeans and a black T-shirt. He had dark hair, dark beard, and broad shoulders. He was watching me quietly.
    And he was mine.
    He was mine.
    I mumbled something to the coffee-shop guy and walked over toward Will, drawn by an invisible force that simply wouldn’t be denied.
    When I reached him, I heard myself saying, “If you dare tell me that someone else is after me and we have to go back into hiding, I’m going to slap you. I promise I will.”
    “No one is after you.”
    I hadn’t really thought there was, but I was in a weird kind of daze. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be feeling.
    Before I could get any questions out, Will asked, “Who is that guy?”
    “What?”
    He nodded toward where I’d just been chatting with the coffee-shop guy. “That guy. He’s the same one you were talking to when I came to get you before.”
    “He’s a guy from my class.”
    His frown deepened. “He’s into you.”
    “Who cares?”
    “I care. Do you like him?”
    I gave an astonished huff of laughter. “He’s fine, Will. I don’t care about him. Now what the hell are you doing here? We were supposed to be taking a month.”
    His face relaxed, and his gray eyes softened. “I know.”
    “So why are you here?”
    “I didn’t want to wait a month.”
    “What?”
    “I didn’t want to wait. I tried to. I thought it was better.” He glanced away sheepishly. “But I kept thinking about you, wanting you, and every time I tried to rehearse all the reasons we shouldn’t be together, they came out sounding more and more stupid. I didn’t believe them anymore.”
     I was so stunned that my bag slipped off my shoulder and landed on the sidewalk. “You didn’t believe them?” I breathed.
    “I didn’t believe them. I want to be with you. I need to be with you. And no reason I used to hold onto seems strong enough now to keep us apart.” He reached up with one hand to cup my cheek. “If you still…”
    I almost choked. “I do. Still.”
    “So you…”
    “I…” I couldn’t get words out any more than Will could. Instead, I threw myself at him, wrapping my arms around his neck and pulling him down into a kiss.
    He kissed me back. Hard. Hungry. All in.
    He wasn’t holding back. Not anymore. Not anything. And I could feel it in his kiss.
    When we parted, both of us were flushed and smiling like fools.
    “I can’t believe you only made it a week,” I said, fisting one hand in his T-shirt, loving the feel of his warm, solid body against mine. “We were supposed to take a month.”
    “I know. But you should be impressed I managed to make it an entire week. I was already changing my mind about an hour after you walked out. I’d never believed I could really have you. I can’t believe I almost let you go. What kind of idiot would let himself lose something he’d spent his whole life wanting?”
    I buried my face against his shoulder. “Just you,” I giggled. “You’re the only kind of idiot who would almost do that.”
    He laughed too and wrapped both arms around me in a tight hug. “I’m not going to do it again. I’m not going to let you go again.”
    “Good.”
    He pulled back. “You’re still sure about us?”
    “I’m still sure.”
    “Good. Me too.”
    So we were settled.
    Me and Will.
    Us.
    In the end, that was all it took.
    We went back to my place and spent the afternoon together. We did have sex—three times—but we also did other stuff. We ate. We took a walk. We went to the grocery store.
    We lived life.
    The next day I had to work on my Shakespeare paper, and Will had to get together with Dax. They were partnering up to begin a new security business, since the one Will had with Kurt had fallen apart.
    They were able to keep a few clients, but for the most part they were starting from scratch. Will didn’t seem to mind. He’d always liked a challenge, and Dax was a good man, someone Will could really trust.
    I ended up getting an A on my Shakespeare paper. I suppose that’s not important in the whole scheme of things, but it was important to me.
    Will ended up moving in with me after a couple of months of dating.
    He would never be an easy man, but I wasn’t particularly easy myself. I was just as internal as he was.
    We matched, and both of us knew it now.
    So that was it. The end of my story. There’s more to say about everything that happened, empty spaces that haven’t yet been filled, but I don’t think I’m the one to do it.
    Maybe Chance can tell the rest of the story. One day soon. She’s always been more open and a better story-teller than me.
    I’ve shared enough. I’ve dreamed enough.
    For now, I just want to live.

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