Strip Me Bare
real.
    I don’t know how to find the words.
Expressing what I feel is challenging for me on so many levels, but
I want him.
    I’ve always wanted him.
    I reach down and grab Ryan’s face, tilting it
up to mine. He freezes under my stare; a blonde waterfall of my
hair falling around us. I inch in slowly, without closing my eyes
and press my lips gently against his. He doesn’t move, not a
muscle, as our mouths connect. He just lets me in; in his heart, in
his head, and in his soul as he succumbs to my kiss.
    And I do the same.
    His hands suddenly trap my head in place as
he kisses me harder, his tongue reclaiming what was once his.
    And it’s the exact same kiss from the cabana;
slow and torrid and full of love.
     

     
    “Can you stay?” Ryan asks out of breath and
full of need.
    “Huh?” I answer a little starry-eyed. That
was one sidewalk-singeing kiss.
    “Can you stay in the city with me
tonight?”
    “Um,” I blink out of my haze, “I don’t think
that’s a good idea.”
    Ryan looks disappointed.
    “I need some time to think on my own. To sort
things out.” I look at my watch, 4:20 PM. If I leave now I can
catch the 5:07 home. Not that I really want to leave. Ryan. Ever
again. But I need to hash out everything my brain is thinking and
everything my body is feeling.
    “Will you walk me to Penn station?” I ask
him.
    He nods, reluctantly.
    I start to shift off him, but he grabs me. I
can see what he wants, his eyes giving him away. But I can’t stay.
Not today. But soon, I think. Very soon.
    We head out of Bryant Park down Broadway
towards the train. Holding hands the whole time. As we walk, I
can’t help but think about how surreal this day has been. One
chance encounter has rearranged my entire world and nothing is
going to be the same. There’s still some fear in me though, that
Ryan will pull another disappearing act. I believe everything he
told me, but putting my full trust in him again? That may take a
while.
    Ryan and I make our way to Madison Square
Garden with people coming and going in every direction. There’s an
outside entrance to NJ transit, which is where I need to catch the
train. I stand at the top of the steps, Ryan’s hands firmly around
my waist.
    “When will I see you again?” he asks.
    “Wednesday,” I tell him. “I’ll be in the city
looking at apartments in the morning, then I’ll have the rest of
the day free,” I pull a strand of blonde hair away from my face;
standing near the stairwell is like being in a wind tunnel.
    “Wednesday,” he agrees.
    I give him a soft peck on the cheek then turn
to leave, but he grabs my arm and slams me into his chest. Then he
kisses me. Hard. Right there in the middle of pedestrian traffic,
and it’s the kind of kiss that slows time, increases heart rates
and brings a city block to its knees.
    Ryan exhales breathing my name. His eyes
closed, his forehead planted to mine. Now I really need to leave,
because my willpower is dissolving. One more second in his arms and
I am spending the night in the city. Maybe the week. Possibly the
month.
    I glance at my watch. The train will be here
in two minutes. “I have to go,” I say softly, wiping some of my lip
gloss away from his mouth.
    “Wednesday,” he stipulates.
    “Wednesday,” I agree, and then turn to leave.
Mustering all the strength I have to walk down the stairs and away
from the one man who not once, but twice, shocked my world
alive.
    “Alana!” I hear Ryan call and I turn on the
stairs. “I’m not disappearing, not this time.”
    I look at him conspicuously.
    “Time will tell, Ryan. Time will tell.”
    “It will take an act of God to keep me away,”
he professes.
    I smirk hopefully as I disappear out of
sight.
     

     
    I hop onto the train and walk the three
stairs down to the lower level. I hand the conductor my ticket to
punch then settle back in one of the light blue pleather seats. The
tracks making a clicking sound as the train pulls away. I stare out
the

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