by Janell Rhiannon
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
Publication Date: December 15, 2014 Goodreads | Amazon
Fiona Lavender is the new girl at school. She has a chip on her shoulder and a penchant for poetry. Dario Martinez is the star quarterback, and the most unattainable guy on campus. Their stars cross when they are paired to study Romeo and Juliet for a senior English project. Their attraction is fragile and undeniable. But, Dario is afraid of what love will do; and Fiona is waiting for love to claim her.
Will they uncross the stars and find the love they both need to heal their pasts?
The after party began on the far side of the Renaissance Fair grounds, near the edge of the city park’s wooded island. Dario sat against a large rock with Fiona between his knees, her back pressed against his chest. Her arms rested on his knees, and his arms wrapped loosely around her waist. Dario watched the huge bonfire blaze orange and blue against the black night sky. The red hot cinders floated above the roaring flames, funneling up into the darkness. A hipster boy sat in the light of the fire strumming Coldplay songs on a guitar he hugged in his lap. Fiona’s back was warm against his chest. He leaned forward to smell her hair, soft against his face.
“Your hair smells like campfire,” he said.
“Thanks. I think.”
“Don’t worry. It’s a good thing. I like it.” He let a strand of her hair slide through his fingers.
“Okay, in that case, thanks.” Fiona turned to look at him and smiled.
“Did you notice how bright the stars are?” Dario asked.
She leaned her head back against Dario’s shoulder and looked up. “No, not until just now. They look like blinking jewels.”
“You want to take a walk?” he asked.
“It’s dark. Where would we walk to?”
“Trust me. I know a place. The view is spectacular.”
Dario got up first and slapped the damp grass off his jeans, then he extended his hand to Fiona and she reached for it without hesitation. He held her hand low next to his thigh so that as they walked their legs sometimes bumped their clasp hands. The light and noise of the gathering faded as they walked along the edge of the city park’s planned woodland. Dario wanted to tell her how pretty he thought she was, but kept the words to himself. He didn’t want to say the wrong thing and come on too strong. His avoidance of girls had handicapped him for this situation.
He knew next to nothing about girls, except that he wanted Fiona. Within minutes they reached a small trailhead.
“We have to go down this way.” Dario pointed to the dirt line that faded into shadows and darkness. He pulled out his phone and switched the flashlight on high, beaming the bluish light down the intended path.
“That looks scary,” Fiona said. She backed up a step. “I don’t know.”
“It’s okay. I promise.” Dario reassured her by releasing her hand and putting his arm around her shoulders. “I’ve got you.”
“It better be worth it. What if a tree monster grabs us or the Wild Things kidnap us?”
Dario stiffened a little. “The Wild Things? You mean the kid book?” He hadn’t thought about that book in forever. Without knowing it, Fiona broke the seal on the lid to his Pandora’s Box.
“Those little monsters freaked me out. I hate that story about Max and their gnashing teeth and all that. In a forest. This looks like that forest.”
“It’s not my favorite story either,” Dario said. He pulled her a little closer. “It’s just some trees. It’ll be fine. I know where I’m going.” They followed the thin glow projected by his phone. The well-trodden path wound around trees and rocks. The branches soon canopied overhead blocking out the white points of light above and the sky itself. Dario held her tight against his side. He pulled her just a little closer and kissed the top of her head. He liked how she leaned into him. He hoped she felt safe.
It seemed like they were lost in the shadows of the low hanging branches and tree trunks when the night sky popped into view. They stepped out into a small hidden meadow circling a huge boulder.
“Welcome to Boulder Meadow,” Dario announced. “Come on.”
He led her through the low grass and late summer flowers bowing their sleepy heads to the earth, closed for the night.
“Wow. It’s a lot bigger close up,” Fiona said. She put a hand out to touch it. “It’s cold.”
Dario led them around the rock to a place with an easily accessible cleft serving as handholds and footholds. They scaled the giant rock to the very top.
Fiona stood and looked out over the meadow. “It’s all silver in the moonlight. It’s beautiful.”
“Most people forget this is here. It’s my favorite spot to be under the stars,” he said. “Here and, now, the pond.”
Fiona turned to face him. “Why’s that?”
“You know why,” Dario said, looking down into her eyes. “You.”
Fiona blushed and looked away.
“Is something wrong?” Dario asked.
“No. Not at all.”
Dario sat on the rock. Fiona sat next to him. He put his arm around her, guarding her from the chill. “You want to see something really cool?”
Fiona nodded. “Of course.”
“Lay back and look up.” He leaned back, opening his arm so she could lay next to him. “Look at that.”
Fiona settled in the nook of his arm and looked up at the sea of stars. “I’ve always thought stars looked like dancing dots of light. Little flames across the sky. This view really is spectacular. Thanks for bringing me here.”
Dario hugged her a little tighter to his side. She warmed him from the inside out. “I have a confession, Fiona.”
“What’s that?” she asked, as she turned to face him.
“When we were at the pond I wanted to kiss you.”
“I have a confession, too.”
“What’s that?” he asked and smiled up at the sky.
“I wanted you to.” She rolled onto her side with Dario still cradling her shoulders.
“I’ve never kissed a girl like this.” He gave up another truth and met her gaze.
“Like what?” she asked.
Dario swallowed hard. He leaned his head down, stopping just as his lips made contact with hers. He could feel the heat of her breath, the soft curve of her bottom lip. Then, he pressed his mouth against hers. Her lips parted. She was sweet, and soft, and stirred a long dormant hunger.
He rolled completely on his side, wrapping his arms around her tightly. He kissed her harder. Fiona wrapped a leg over his, pulling him closer to her, smashing their bodies completely against each other.
His body had a mind of its own. It told him he wanted her. He wanted more than this kissing. His hands roamed to her unknown curves. His brain screamed for the emergency brake.
Fiona pulled her mouth away to whisper, “If you want to…”
Her offering jarred him to his senses. He’d jumped with both feet into an all-consuming fire. And he’d done it without realizing it would happen. If he didn’t stop now, he wouldn’t be able to stop the swell of emotions and needs urging him forward. No girl had ever tugged so sweetly on his heart, until now. He sat up, pulling her with him. “It’s getting kind of late. We should be getting back. I still have to get you home.”
Fiona sat up and looked away. “Sure. Okay.”
Dario helped her down the rock by the same path they had climbed up. They walked all the way back to the bonfire in silence. Dario was confused by what happened on the rock. He was afraid of how he wanted her, how she was reaching all the hidden places in his heart.
On the way back, Dario noticed that Fiona didn’t lean into him the way she had earlier. He wondered what she was thinking. He hoped she knew how much he wanted her. He wanted to just tell her, but that would take him down a path he wasn’t certain he wanted to go.
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