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I screamed. Tears streamed from the sides of my eyes and into my hair, but I bit my lip and tucked my head to his shoulder, mortified. I’d asked for this. Wanted it. I’d known it would hurt—Melody and I had discussed sex a million times—but holy hell. What she described as discomfort felt more like being stabbed with a flamethrower.
Boyce held himself utterly still. “Shit.” He started to withdraw and I clutched his arms, nails digging into his biceps, because movement equaled a burn like a lit match. “Pearl…” His voice was pained. “Are you—?”
Crap. So much for a stealthy loss of my V-card. “I was,” I mumbled, feeling every bit as dumb and inexperienced as I was.
“But— That assmunch you dated junior year—” He stopped, because I’d just proved that rumor untrue. “That sexy come-to-my-bedroom look— The striptease without so much as a kiss— You have condoms in your nightstand for fuck’s sake! I thought— Jesus Christ. How was I supposed to know—” Again he began to withdraw and I cried out, equal parts pain and embarrassment. He froze. “What the hell, Pearl?”
How could I ever explain this? Oh, you know, I’ve been in love with you since I was five and I wanted you to be my first. That’s all.
No, no, no.
The inferno below appeared to be subsiding, kind of. I took a deep breath and pulled my face from his shoulder, determined to be bold and fearless. The last thing this fiasco needed was for my declaration to be delivered in a squeak. “I’m going to college in three months. And I wanted this to be with you.” Matter-of-fact. Logical. Very Pearl Frank. “Is that not okay?”
His freaked-out expression melted a bit, but his grimace lingered. “Why me?”
I licked my lips. “Because you want me. Not just this. Not just something to fill the time. You want me. You have for a while.”
His brow relaxed and his mouth pulled up on one side. “I’m not exactly a subtle guy.”
In spite of everything, I laughed. “No, you aren’t.” Swallowing lightly, I whispered, “I thought maybe you wouldn’t have done it at all if you knew…”
Leaning to brush his lips against mine, his indignation melted away. “Hate to spoil your puzzling opinion of my principles, but you thought wrong. I wish you’d have told me. I could’ve made it so much better if I’d known.” His warm breath fanned against my throat.
“So make it better now. It doesn’t… doesn’t really hurt at all anymore.” A little white lie.  Even if the pain had subsided, it was anything but pleasant. I was at a loss as to how the first man ever talked the first woman into trying this a second time. Then I looked into his dark eyes, which were crowded with an uncharacteristic mix of banked passion and self-reproach. Ah, that’s how.
“I’m so sorry, Pearl.”
“I’m not.” The words tumbled out, startling him, but they were right. I wasn’t sorry.
He lowered his mouth to mine again, kissing me softly, deeply, as he withdrew below. Before I could protest, he returned—more tenderly than before. His biceps trembled beneath my hands, and I knew he was using every ounce of control to keep from hurting me.
I trailed my fingertips over his solid shoulders and down his back as he pressed deeper still, his kisses drugging me. The discomfort began to melt away, to be replaced with a fierce, building ache. Progressing slowly to longer, deeper strokes, he countered those movements with his mouth rather than mirroring them—his tongue driving deepest when he pulled back, teasing the surface of my lips when he thrust inside.
“Boyce?” I breathed, beginning to move along with him, though the motion was foreign and some small part of me felt ridiculous. I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right.
He slowed and I arched against him, wanting the opposite of slow.
“Ah, dammit.” He closed his eyes. “You. Feel. So. Fucking. Good.” His eyes flashed open and he steeled his jaw, filling me completely and going stock-still, watching me.
My breaths came so raggedly that they’d turned into inarticulate whimpers, and I knew the orgasms I gave myself weren’t going to compare to this. Nothing in my experience assured me of this—but I knew it was true. I writhed under him, so close, wanting him to move. “Don’t stop. Please don’t stop.”
“No intention of that,” he murmured, pressing his forehead to my shoulder and pulling out, slamming back into me a second later. “Jesus Christ, girl. Goddamn.” He raised his head and swirled his tongue over the margin of my ear and I moaned, teetering on the verge and terrified to let go. “Fuck me, Pearl,” he said. “I’ve got you. Fuck. Me.”
Everything under my skin from my jaw to my toes clenched tight at once—muscles and veins and nerves and blood—and then released, pulsing, gushing like a dam breaking open, and I cried out for the second time, but for the most opposite reason possible.
That time he did too.
Chapter Eleven
I pulled my bellyaching TA onto the road, the loaded boat trailer filling the rearview mirror. Using a classic sports car to tow a fishing boat—even a small one—wasn’t ideal, and I tapped the steering wheel in unspoken apology. The municipal harbor was only a quarter mile or so through town, and lately I hadn’t gotten much chance to take her out on the water anyhow, but the recent increase in business meant that renting a slip at the marina might be less of a fantasy than it was a few months ago.
“I guess I’ve never been in your car before,” Pearl said, clicking the seat belt over her lap. Her gaze roamed over the dash, the floorboards, and my hand on the knobbed gearshift between us. “It’s really… clean. Your place too. Very tidy.”
I chuckled. In terms of everyday living, we knew so little about each other. She wasn’t familiar with all my habits and quirks any more than I was familiar with hers. “Expected me to be a slob, huh? Surprised?”
She chewed the edge of her lip, trying to hide the familiar cheeky twist of her mouth. “A little.”
I’d run around picking up before she showed up, but it could have been worse. Was worse; she hadn’t seen Dad’s room. If not for Mr. Amos having me search his shit for legal paperwork, his decades’ worth of hoarded crap would have been at the curb a week ago. “How do you know I didn’t just clean up before you came over?”
“Why would you?”