Cheerleader Taylor Smith doesn’t want to die a virgin. Unfortunately, if the terminally-ill leukemia patient doesn't find a lover or a stem-cell match within months, her fear will become reality. When her cancer mentor is revealed to be a hottie entrepreneur from California, it seems fate might finally be on her side.
Tech-geek Gavin Taylor has everything he ever wanted, except someone to grieve for him when he's gone. With his melanoma cancer beyond the help of his riches, he agrees to participate in a cancer patient mentoring program where he's matched with a dying teen from Texas. Despite his immediate attraction, the Silicon Valley whiz intends only to provide friendship and happy memories to the beautiful, young woman who is determined to win his love.
When it's discovered that his frozen sperm and her harvested eggs could lead to a cure, Taylor's mother offers to be a surrogate. And Gavin must decide if he can risk the heart he has never given and a child he'll never know to a girl he just met.
My blood rushed hot through my veins like a West Texas brush fire as Gavin pulled into the driveway and parked.
We were perfect together. Couldn’t he see that? When I’d asked about the matchmaker, I thought for sure he would sweep me off my feet and carry me away. He hadn’t.
He turned off the ignition and twisted in his seat to face me. “I had a great time the last three days.”
“Me, too.” I lifted my gaze to look at him, to really look at him. God, he was gorgeous, smart, fun, but also sweet and kind. Panic made me want to latch on to him and not let go. I’d rather get an IV in my eyeball than let him leave. I loved him. I always would.
He stared at back at me, his eyes misting with some emotion I couldn’t name. He was breathing heavily, too heavily. I didn’t move. I knew this game—the first one to blink loses.
Kiss me. Please kiss me.
His hand twitched. My lips parted, and I quietly gasped.
Finally, he closed his eyes, whistled out a long breath, and got out of the car.
I wasn’t about to give up yet.
He walked around and opened my door, offering his hand. I clasped it and yanked myself from the seat so quickly that I collided with his chest. He dropped my hand and jumped back like I’d burnt him.
I slapped my palm against my thigh. “What is your problem? Am I so repulsive you can’t stand to accidentally touch me?”
His face paled, and his Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed hard. “No. Of course not. It’s late. I’m sorry.”
It’s late? What kind of lame excuse was that? My shoulders sagged as he swiftly ushered me to the door. I tried to smile hopefully. “You wanna come in?”
He eyed me up and down then shook his head like he was trying to remove a bug clinging to his ear. “I better go. I have an early flight.”
“So that’s it, then? You’re just gonna leave?” Everything inside me fell to my toes.
He smiled sympathetically. My hands fisted. Slapping the pacifying expression off his face crossed my mind.
“Hey. It won’t be that bad.” He reached out to brush my arm but let his fingers fall short.
“We’ll talk on the phone, and maybe you and your Mom can come for a visit in a few weeks.”
He leaned to kiss my cheek, but I stuck my fingers over his lips. His mouth was soft and warm. Heat spread from my fingers into my arm and through my body. I pulled my hand away so I could concentrate. I was not about to let this end here. “I don’t want a kiss on the cheek, Gavin.”
“I understand.” He held out his hand for me to shake. Captain Oblivious.
I crinkled my nose and frowned. “No. You don’t understand. I want a kiss, but not on the cheek.”
He rubbed a palm across his forehead. “Taylor, we’ve gone over this.”
“No, we haven’t. You’re leaving and—let’s face it—I’ll never see you again. You know it, and I know it.” My voice broke. I stood tall and continued, “You came here to mentor me, take me on a few outings, and give me happy memories. You’ve done that. But I’m asking for one last thing.” I twirled my hair and met his gaze. “I want a real kiss.”
He started shaking his head before I’d even finished. “No.”
Crud-ola! “Why not?”
“Taylor, you know the answer. I told you from the beginning. It’s not appropriate.”
He hadn’t said he didn’t want to. I glared at him and decided to pull out the big guns. “It’s one harmless kiss, Gavin, and it’s a dying girl’s wish.”
His jaw twitched. “That’s not fair, and you know it.”
“Fair? Are we talking about fair now? What’s not fair is that I’ll never get married or have children or even be in love. You’re all I get.” I waved my hand between us. “This is all I get.”
He set his jaw stubbornly, but his eyes betrayed him. “I’ve offered you what I’m willing to give.”
Tears stung my eyes. Damn it. I hated crying, but I couldn’t help it. He’d hit the nail. “You’re no better than those doctors offering me another round of chemo, knowing it won’t do any good and would only make me weaker, sicker.” I crossed my arms over my chest. “Well, I won’t settle for less. I’m settling for too little as it is.” I swiped at my stupid tears. My pulse pounded. I was fighting with everything I had. “How many women have you been with?”
He squinted in apparent disbelief. “What kind of question is that?”
I stamped my foot. “How many?”
He almost yelled it at me. “A few.”
“Do you remember how it felt to be with them? To love them? Would you trade those memories because a few people said it wasn’t okay?”
He darted his gaze around the front yard, shifting his weight from side to side. Even in the dim light of the porch I could see his mind working through possibilities, making him uncomfortable.
“There’s no one out there in the dark to tell you it’s okay. You have to decide.” I pressed on.
“What memory do you want to leave me with? What memory do you want to take? Is it really such a sickening thought? Just one kiss.”
He stared back at me with a wildness that scared me. My heart drummed a xylophone chord across my ribs.
I locked in on his gaze and stepped toward him. “Tonight you get to decide what you can live with—or without. I’m asking for one moment.”
Stopping inches from him, I absorbed the tension like a thirsty towel. Electric sparks flew between us. The only sounds were our shallow breaths.
Softly, I went in for the kill. “A kiss goodnight. Is it really too much, Gavin?”
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Kary Rader is a part-time Twitter sage, stay-at-home mother of three, and slave to the characters and worlds inside her head. Always creative, she's drawn to stories with fantastical worlds and creatures. With a little bit of magic and divine guidance, there isn't anything that can't be accomplished with words. It's the power of words that creates and destroys. Vanquishing evil and injustice while finding eternal love in the process is all in a day's work. With the help of her critique partners and master cartographer imaginary places come to life.
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