Getting to Me

Chapter Seventeen

“So what are you going to call him?” Mandy asked her little sister with a small smile as she turned around in the car seat to look at her little sister and the black and white puppy. The dog was licking McKenna’s face, and the ten-year-old was giggling as she attempted to pull the wiggling animal away from her face.

“I don’t know yet,” McKenna answered after several minutes, giving her sister a toothy grin before petting the dog’s head as it settled down on her lap, licking her coat’s sleeve before closing its eyes and yawning.

“Why don’t you take a nap, kiddo?” Zacky asked the sleepy ten-year-old, looking back at her in the rearview mirror and giving her a small smile. The youngest Haner sibling nodded, and her chocolate-brown eyes drifted closed. As soon as Mandy heard her little sister’s snoring fill the Suburban’s interior, she turned to Zacky and gave him a million watt grin and grabbed his hand over the consol.

“Dad’s gonna kill you for getting her a puppy tonight,” she chuckled quietly, shaking her head as she looked out the window at the dark sky and blinding white snow that was coming down from the night sky, illuminated by the bright headlights from the vehicle. Zacky let out a low laugh of his own as he brought her hand up to his lips and kissed her softly before letting her go.

“I can deal with it,” he told her with a small smile before lacing their fingers together even tighter than they already were. The radio began playing a country Christmas song, the first one that either of them had heard this holiday season, and Zacky smirked as she began humming the song under her breath to herself, a childlike smile on her face as she did so. He felt his heart swell with love as he listened to her. He could get lost in the sound of her voice, and it just amazed him that he’d fallen this hard in such a very short amount of time. All his life, Zacky had been told that it took years to fall in love, and even longer to recognize it when you were in love. But with Mandy, it had only been a matter of months, and he knew that he was for sure, one-hundred percent in love with the brown-haired, chocolate-eyed, grinning girl sitting in the passenger seat next to him in the tan-colored Suburban.

“What?” She asked him, breaking her humming and giving him a curious smile. He met her gaze once again, and smiled before pressing his lips to the their intertwined fingers once again, shaking his head softly.

“I need some time, but eventually I’ll tell you,” he told her in a quiet voice. Mandy felt her heart burst at his words, and it was definitely the good kind of inner explosion. She wondered if the dark-haired, beautiful man with green eyes sitting next to her was feeling the same crazy emotions that she was, and if he realized it if he was. Once again, her conversation with her father came to mind, and she hoped that Zacky would confess that he loved her, because she was most certainly in love with him.


The rest of the drive back to the family ranch went by quietly. Suzy and Brian Sr. were already in bed, and Brent was still at his friend’s house. McKenna was out cold when they parked the Suburban in the driveway by the house, and Zacky told Mandy that he’d carry her to her room rather than making her wake up, because it was semi-late, and chances were that the little girl wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep if they woke her up simply to walk into the house. Mandy thought his gesture was a kind one, and she agreed as he carried her younger sister into the house as quietly as he could. She walked behind him, and stifled a giggle as the stairs creaked while he walked up them. McKenna groaned in her sleep, swatting at the air impatiently every time one of the steps made a sound, and though it slightly scared Zacky because he was afraid she’d throw him off balance and make all three of them fall down the stairwell, Mandy found it hilarious.

“I’ll get her coat and stuff off,” Mandy told Zacky in a whisper as he laid her down gently on her bed. He nodded and touched his hand to the small of her back before clearing his throat, causing her to look up at him through her dark hair, a curious smile on his face.

“Would you think it was creepy if I asked if I could come to your room after you got done with McKenna?” He asked her, a sheepish grin on his face as he scratched at the back of his head, waiting for her answer. Mandy blushed at his question, but then shook her head as she stood straight up to look at him.

“No, I wouldn’t think it was creepy,” she whispered to him, leaning on her tiptoes to press a small kiss to his lips as she stood straight on the balls of her feet again. “Get changed in to some warm jammies though, it’s cold in there at night,” she added in a quieter whisper before turning back to her younger sister. Zacky let out a small chuckle as he left the younger Haner sister’s bedroom, pulling the door closed behind himself. Mandy took McKenna’s jacket off and hung it on the back of the door where it had been earlier, and then remembered the dog, which Zacky seemed to forget. She walked back into the hallway and knocked on Brian’s bedroom door, pushing it open after a few seconds before her face reddened when she saw that Zacky was standing stark naked in the center of the room, in the middle of pulling his pajamas on. He turned red as well, and reached to cover himself as Mandy cleared her throat.

“I’m sorry I didn’t knock louder,” she squeaked before meeting his gaze. “I just remembered, we left her dog in the car, and she’s going to want him whenever she wakes up. Do you mind going to get it?”

Zacky gave her a small grin, nodding as she closed the door behind herself again, her face still quite flushed from having walked in on him while he’d been naked. It wasn’t that he didn’t look good—no, he was actually very good-looking naked, if she wanted to think like that—but they weren’t anywhere near that level in their relationship yet, and she wondered if maybe it had Zacky as embarrassed as she was. She walked over to her sister again, and pulled the snow boots off of her feet, following suite with the snow pants and then her sweater and jeans before pulling the blankets over her sleeping sister’s body. She knew that if McKenna woke up at some time during the night, she’d get into some real pajamas, but she would be fine for now, because of all the thick blankets that were piled on her bed. A few minutes later, Zack walked into the bedroom, carrying the black and white ball of fluff, and she took the animal gingerly from him before tucking it into the blankets with McKenna. The little puppy snuggled up against his new owner right away, resting his head in the crook of her small elbow, and Mandy turned to give Zack a small smile.

“Thank you,” she told him as they walked out of McKenna’s bedroom, closing the door behind them but making sure to leave it open a small crack so that the hallway light would be visible in the bedroom. Zacky’s hand grabbed hers as he looked at her, nodding as he licked over his bottom lip.

“It’s no problem,” he shrugged before meeting her gaze. “And don’t feel bad about what happened,” he added in a quieter voice. “It’s not like it hurt either one of us, right? It was an honest mistake.”

She smiled at his words, nodding as he released her hand when she pushed her bedroom door open. “Let me change into some pajamas, and I’ll let you in,” she told him in a quiet voice. He nodded once again, and she stepped into the room before immediately rooting around in her closet for an acceptable pair of PJs to sleep in. After three minutes of sifting through various pairs, she found a pair of flannel calf-length lounge pants and a black capri tank top. It wasn’t appropriate for winter nights in North Dakota, and she probably wouldn’t be wearing them at all tonight if Zacky hadn’t asked to come in to her room, but it would give her a reason to cuddle with him. He himself hadn’t pulled a shirt on, either, and by this point at living in Golden Valley, she knew he realized how cold it got.

She pulled the clothes on quickly before opening her bedroom door once again, allowing Zacky inside, and led him over to her bed. Since her bed was pushed against the wall because she liked to cuddle up against it at night, she crawled in first, and then Zacky got in after she had gotten underneath of the warm blankets. He reached over to her with his arms and pulled her tight against his chest, and just like the night in the hotel in Bismarck, she felt safe and comfortable in his arms.

“I know we haven’t been together for long or anything, so it’s probably stupid that I asked to come in here tonight, isn’t it?” He asked her, his voice a low murmur as he met her gaze in the dark room. The only thing that illuminated the small space was the light outside of the window that illuminated the area beside the house. She gave him a confused look, resting her head on his upper arm while she looked up at him.

“Why would it be stupid?” She asked him, reaching up and touching her palm to the side of his face. “You’re my boyfriend, so it’s perfectly fine that you wanted to sleep with me tonight. Besides, it’s always warmer sharing a bed on a winter night rather than sleeping alone,” she added with a blush.

She felt so complete when she called him her boyfriend rather than just one of her older brother’s best friend’s. She loved the way it sounded as it rolled off of her lips, and she loved how he grinned when she told him that. He nodded after a few moments, licking over his bottom lip before leaning down to press them against hers, catching her off guard with an impromptu kiss.

The kiss started out as nothing more than an innocent, loving kiss. Zacky soon changed that, however, as he pulled her closer still to him before giving up on that and moving her body so that she was underneath of him and he was hovering above her body, pressing his lips firmly against hers in a kiss that was now more fueled by passion and romance than it was by innocence. Mandy reached her arms around Zacky’s back, grabbing his bare shoulders with her hands and digging her short nails into his tattooed skin when he moved his lips to nip teasingly at the exposed skin of her neck and shoulder. Moans and gasps rolled out of her mouth, though she made sure to stay quiet so that McKenna wouldn’t hear her.

“Tell me you want to stop, Mandy,” Zacky whispered against her skin as he moved his hand just barely underneath of the black camisole to graze her stomach, sending hot shivers of excitement traveling up her spine. Mandy bit back a loud moan of pleasure as he slid his finger just inside of the hem of her lounge pants, making her feel a hell of a lot more aroused than any other boy she’d ever come this far with before.

However much she wanted to let him continue, however, she knew that this wasn’t the right place, and nor was it the right time. She wanted it to be romantic and loving whenever it happened with Zacky, and at the pace they were going right now, it would only be frantic and fueled more by lust than love. Neither of them wanted that, but she knew that he was only male, and needed her to say no.

“I don’t want you to stop,” she told him in a breathy whisper, lifting his head up from her neck to meet his gaze. “But we need to. We can’t do this in here, not tonight.”

He nodded, relieved that she’d stopped it. He knew most guys would have been beyond frustrated with a girl that had said no when she so obviously wanted to just let go and let lust control her body rather than logic, but he didn’t feel like that about Mandy. She was right, and even if he was a little hornier right now than he’d like to be, he needed to wait until they were both ready.

“You’re right,” he told her as he laid down next to her. Mandy smiled when he agreed with her, and scooted closer to him while he wrapped his arms around her again. Her head was rested on his arm once again, and his head was leaned so that he was breathing on her forehead, and they fell asleep just like that.

Both of them wanted to tell the other how they felt, but neither of them had the courage to say it first.