Having Charlie away at basketball camp for a week really made me miss her, and the ache in my heart only grew stronger and stronger every day she wasn't here. When she came back, she looked even more beautiful than when she left; she had a slight tan, and she seemed happier, like all that basketball had done her good. A few days after she came back home, I just missed spending time with her so much, that I decided to go tell her to play ball with me.

We were running up a field, kicking a soccer ball. She shover me and stole the ball. Having her skin brush against mine sent a shiver up my spine. I had decided that I wouldn't tell her how I felt about her, because our friendship was just too valuable to me, and I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I ruined it.

"Foul." I said, laughing as she ran away from me with the ball.

"If you can catch me, I'll give you that foul." She said, dribbling the ball faster, toward the net. I decided to take that as a challenge; I ran faster, getting closer to her. She was almost at the goal when I caught up with her, and I wasn't going to let her score that easily, so I wrapped one arm around her waist and dragged her to a halt. I regretted it imeadiatly, because she smelled so nice, so familiar, and the scent only reminded me of what I could never have. I spun her away from the ball, let go, and took the ball back. That's when she jumped on my back.

"Give it up, Lewis." She said; I could feel her breath on my face.

"You think this is going to keep me from scoring?" I gripped her thighs with my hands to keep her from jumping off, and continued to dribble the ball. I had to at least try to get things back to normal with us.

"Let me down." She said, but she was laughing.

"You're the one who jumped up there." I tried to counter.

"Don't make me bite you." She opened her mouth and pressed her teeth lightly against my neck. Having her lips so close to my neck was making my heart race again, and I couldnt let her notice. I started to slow to a stop.

"You wouldn't dare, cheater." She really shouldn't, because she had no idea what she was doing to me.

"I totally would." Her words were so close to my skin, and when she added a little more pressure to her bite, I didn't think I would be able to control myself.

"Charles," I warned in a low voice. She laughed.

"You just have to let go of my legs." I let go, but she gave me a little bite anyway before jumping off. The contact was too much, and I suddenly needed to be close to her again, so I grabbed her again and pulled her against me.

"You brat." I said, and she laughed.

"You're going down." She used one of her legs to sweep mine. I stumbled, but I didn't let go of her—I couldn't—and we both fell down to the ground. I rolled over so that she was pinned beneath one of my hips and my right arm. I didn't want to ever move again—it felt good being so close to her—and she was so strong, I just had to tell her—she deserved to know it.

"You shouldn't be able to knock me down so easily. You're amazingly strong, you know that? It's awesome."

She suddenly froze, and I was afraid I'd hurt her.

"What's wrong?" I asked. "Did I hurt you?"

"No, just let me up." I was confused. She didn't seem hurt, but she looked dead serious, like she really wanted me to get off her. I smiled. "Why?"

"You won. Just let me up." I won? If Charlie was saying that, then maybe something was wrong; she never just "gave up", especially when it came to sports.

"I won? You just conceded? Has that ever happened in the history of time?" I was still choked.

"Yes. You won. Braden. Please." She sounded kind of out of breath, her voice tight. We had both gone so still, I could feel her heartbeat against my skin.

"But I owe you one bite. It's only fair." I couldn't let her get away with that bite so easily. I lowered my head to her neck; if only she knew how much I wanted her, how much I craved her. My teeth brushed lightly against her skin, my breath on her neck. Her fingers dug into my shoulders.

"Just get it over with," She breathed. I let out a low, breathy chuckle and then applied slightly more pressure to my bite. It was hard not to stay there and kiss her on the spot. I had to stop myself before I completely lost control of my emotions. I lifted my head.

"I need to tell you something." Her eyes flew open and met mine. Did she already know? Had she already figured it out after my reaction that night at the fence? It didn't matter; I needed to tell her, if only to move on with it and get on with our friendship.

"I already know." Uh-oh. That didn't sound good.

"You do?" I was getting nervous.

"Yes. My dad told me."

"Your dad?" What? That definitely didn't sound good, especially if her dad was already in on it. Oh boy, this was going to be one heck of a ride for me…

"Yes." She was avoiding my gaze, playing with the grass where she was sitting.

"Gage." I growled, then rolled onto my back, finally freeing her. Of course he would tell on me. Charlie was his little sister, after all…

"Does he want to kill me?" I missed the closeness of her body next to mine.

"No. Why would he? It's not your fault." She had a point.

"True, but that doesn't mean he'd want me to tell you." I couldn't believe I'd let my feelings show so much that he figured it out.

"I thought you weren't going to tell me. That it wasn't your place." Wait. What? I propped himself up on my elbow.

"Wait. What are you talking about?" Were we even talking about the same thing anymore.

"What are you talking about...?" She asked nervously.

"You first." I wasn't going to go around giving away any more of my feelings, thank you very much.

"I know about my mom." Oh. I took a quick breath and sat up on my knees. Now I was concerned.

"Your dad told you about your mom... about how she..?" I didn't quite know how to finish that sentence.

"Yes." She dragged the back of her hand along her cheek and shivered. I stretched myself out beside her.

"Why didn't you tell me?" She must have been going through so much now, and here I was, about to profess my undying love for her…

"I thought you knew. And I didn't want to think about it." She was pulling at the grass again. "I'm sorry."

"Do you want to go home?" She shook her head no, and then buried her face in my chest. She stayed there a while.

"So that's not what you were going to tell me?" She said, after a while. She was still lying against me.

"No. I mean, that's what I wanted to tell you that night by the fence before I realized it wasn't my place to tell you. Maybe I should've told you then. Maybe I should've told you years ago. I'm sorry." I should have told her. Maybe I could've spared her from some of the pain.

"It's not your fault. You're the one who made me confront my dad." She pulled back so she could look in my eyes. "So what, then? What were you going to tell me today?" I couldn't tell her now; not after she's just found out about her mom.

"The timing is wrong now. I'll tell you later."

"No. Please. I want to know now. I'm tired of secrets." I stared at her for a long time, trying to read her, to figure out what to do, what to say.

She was so close to me, I could almost feel her breath on my face as she talked. I didn't know wether or not it was a good time, but I figured if I didn't do it now, I'd lose my confidence and my chance. I leaned in toward her, and closed the distance between us. She let out a small gasp that almost sounded involuntary. Had that really just happened?

"Am I reading you wrong?" I asked, desperate she wouldn't say yes. She nodded her head no. "I was going to tell you that." I let out a slow breath of air.

"You were going to tell me that you wanted to kiss me?" She asked. I nodded. "Is this going to change everything?"

"I sure hope so." She said, smiling. I smiled too, my gaze going from her eyes, to her mouth, then up to her hair. I tucked a piece behind her ear.

"You're so beautiful." I said, and she blushed slightly.

"Aren't we supposed to do this at the fence?" I suddenly got scared that she wanted to keep this—us—secret.

"No. I don't want this to be in our alternate reality. I want this to be in our real one." I met her lips with mine, to show her that I was serious about this relationship. She grabbed my shoulders and pulled me closer.

Against her lips, I added, "But we can do this again tonight at the fence if you want." She smiled.

"Wait. What about Amber?" She asked, pulling away.

"What about her?" Amber? Why was she bringing her up. What did she have to do with anything?

"I thought you and she..." I pulled back, my eyes going wide. Did she really think that…?

"What? No! Your brother is all over that." Hadn't he told her?

"Gage?" She sounded even more surprised than she looked.

"Yeah, they got together while you were gone. He didn't tell you?"

"No." Hmm, and here I was thinking they shared everything with each other.

"You thought.. me and Amber?" I couldn't even picture that.

"Yes. You were hanging out with her. And on the couch the other day, you scooted closer to her to make room for me." I looked up, thinking back.

"Oh. That's because you looked super annoyed with her. I thought I was saving you from having to sit by her." She let out a single laugh. I was glad we cleared that up.

"Stop reading me." I curled my lip.

"Amber? Come on, Charlie, give me some credit." I gripped a section of her T-shirt at her waist. She was the only girl I ever really had eyes for.

"She wears sparkly words across her butt. You told me not to date anyone who did that." I pressed my lips to hers again.

"What about Evan?" I said, trying to match her question.

"Yeah, no." She traced the words on my T-shirt with her finger. "It would be hard to be with someone when I couldn't stop thinking about someone else." That made me smile, knowing I was that someone else.

"That night by the fence, when you thought I was going to tell you that I liked you... " I started saying.

"You don't need to explain." I shook my head. I really did need to.

"No. I do. I did like you. But I had convinced myself I couldn't tell you that. I didn't want to ruin our friendship. So you caught me off guard because it wasn't what I was going to tell you that night. It freaked me out a little that you knew I liked you anyway. I wasn't sure how you would take it, how your family would take it." I really didn't want to ruin what we had.

"And now?" She asked, a little hint of mischievousness in her voice.

"And now I'm still not sure how your family will take it, but that night, you were so hurt, it made me hopeful that at least you would take it well. I thought maybe you were telling me that night that you liked me too, and for the first time it gave me reason to think that it wouldn't ruin anything." It was the truth.

"I don't know how my brothers will react, but my dad loves you."

I buried my face against her neck, remembering. "Gage already knows."

She tried to push me away so she could look at me, but I wouldn't budge.

"He knows? What did he say?" She sounded genuinely curious.

"He's mad." She finally managed to push me away and look at me. Her eyes went straight to mine.

"Wait. Did Gage do that to you?" She asked slowly.

"What?" She ran a finger lightly along the black beneath my right eye.

"Oh. No." I don't think Gage would ever do that to me.

"So it was a golf ball, then?" I shook my head no. "It was.." My eyes looked around her, but not at her. "My dad."

"Your dad?" She asked, worried. She looked so shocked.

"Yes. I finally confronted him. He hit me. My mom kicked him out." I smiled, remembering what had happened.

"Braden! Why didn't you tell me? Are you okay?" She looked genuinely worried and concerned for me.

"Yes. For years I've wanted her to kick him out. I didn't realize it would take him hitting me for her to finally do it. I should've confronted him a long time ago." My face was still lit with a smile, but I think she knew me better than that. She saw the hurt in my eyes. She knew I didn't want him to leave. I wanted him to love me enough to want to change.

"I'm sorry." She ran a hand through my hair, and I moved my head to her lap. We stayed like that for a while, my head resting on her, her fingers combing through my hair for a long time.

"So why is Gage mad at you?" She asked.

"You're his sister, Charlie." And that only made the situation harder for me.

"That makes no sense. He didn't get mad at Evan." I smiled then, knowing that she was with me now.

"I think he knows you were never really into Evan." I looked at her.

"But he thought I was into you?" She actually looked confused about that.

"I don't know. He probably thought I'd have more potential to seriously hurt you. But I won't. I promise I won't... I love you." I'd loved her for a long time. I didn't know if she felt the same way about me or not, but she needed to know; I needed to let her know.

She lowered her lips to mine. "I love you too."