‹ Prequel: Winter Wakes

Summer Shadows


“Whitney is going to regret skipping this, she had absolutely no idea you were going to be here, dear.”

For the last little bit I had been going in and out of focus at the Belmond Anniversary Celebration; the crowd had grown fairly large, the spaces between the chattering groups shrinking so the room between individuals had become very… minimal. Even with such an elaborately large room with the air constantly blasting, it felt slightly stuffy. The amount of people—most of them taller than myself even by the slightest—did nothing to ease the growing sense of claustrophobia that seemed to bear down on me within the confines of the Grand Ballroom. Simon slipping his hand into mine did manage to pull me out of my mind though, and back to the reality we found ourselves in. At that point, it wasn’t exactly ideal.

“Father is out of town, dealing with some business matters. It would have been rude not to attend in his stead,” he responded smoothly to the middle-aged woman with cropped black hair, and a face that seemed too smooth for someone her age. The black and white pattern of her dress held my attention more than anything else though, just looking at it made me feel as though I was staring at a Rorschach test. I didn’t want to even think about how much she had paid for… that.

“Tsk. She’s going to be so disappointed she didn’t get a chance to see you, I always said you two would be the most darling little couple.” The woman pursed her lips, fingers reaching up to trail along the expensive strand of pearls around her neck as I found myself actually listening then, arching an eyebrow as I cast a side-glance at Simon. Perhaps she hadn’t noticed his hand in mine; perhaps she just didn’t care. I was certainly leaning towards the latter.

With a subtle but smooth motion, Simon shifted himself a little closer, hand leaving mine only to slide around my waist instead. The corner of his lip twitched upwards a bit has he cast me the briefest glance, and a wink. Unsurprisingly, I felt a flood of heat rush to my face.

“As flattering as that is, I can’t quite get last year’s instance of her trying to set my hair on fire from behind out on the terrace because she ‘wanted to see how long it would take me to notice’ out of my mind, Mrs. Rialto.” His calm delivery of that one loaded statement left me somewhat flabbergasted, and trying so very hard not to let out a laugh. “And besides, if it isn’t apparent, I do consider myself very much off of the market.”

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out exactly who and what he was referring to with his final statement as we stood there with his arm around my waist, and one of my hands reflexively pressed against his torso. I did blink a few times though, watching her face pull downwards into a pursed lip frown as our eyes met.

“Oh, of course. I suppose I just… overlooked that.”

“I suppose that happens when one only sees what one cares to.” The words were out of my mouth in a falsely cheery tone before I could help it. The cough that suddenly left Simon succeeded in pulling a grin from me; it was clearly an attempt to cover a laugh. I was kind of proud of that.

The woman before us could only gawk, sputtering a few incoherent words before finally finding her ability to form proper sentences. Her reply was curt, and with that she wasted no time making up an excuse to leave us standing there and seek out company elsewhere.

I looked up at Simon again in slight disbelief at myself, and at his little story. “Did she really try to set your hair on fire?”

He grinned, gently turning me around as we took a few slow steps towards the doorway. “First, I’m enjoying this sass from you tonight. And second, that, as farfetched as it sounds, actually happened. Oliver was the one who took notice just beforehand, god, the look on his face when—“

“Oliver, I’m so glad you could make it!” An unfamiliar, booming voice interrupted him, and there was the briefest flash of a dark look on his face before it vanished, and we both turned to see another elderly gentleman making his way towards us.

“Mr. Huffington, it’s… so good to see you again,” Simon’s tone had shifted from playfully light moments before, to almost begrudgingly polite as he spoke to the older man. Huffington… Huffington. He seemed too old to be Cal’s father, but perhaps, his grandfather? The blonde at my side’s grip on my waist tightened suddenly. I had a feeling this wasn’t someone Simon wanted to deal with.

“Good to see you, too, m’boy, good to see you, too.” He stuck out a wrinkled hand, which Simon took without hesitation. A pair of old, faded eyes slid in my direction, settling on me with an almost curious glimmer to them. “And who would your lovely companion be?”

“Maggie, Maggie Walton. It’s nice to meet you,” I spoke up before Simon could answer him, giving one of my most well practiced smiles from the years in the funeral home. I didn’t offer my hand; until the gentleman held his out. There was a momentary pause before I reluctantly mimicked his actions and I soon felt the dry, cracked skin of his fingers wrapped around mine before he gave a slight bow, pressing his lips to the top of my hand briefly. The uneasiness in my stomach was growing as I slowly pulled it back, and Simon stepped just a bit closer to me.

Mr. Huffington gave an almost placid smile, dentures showing. “Charmed.”

I could feel my own smile wanting to falter. Something about that man left me slightly uncomfortable, unsettled even.

“Is there something I can help you with, Mr. Huffington?” Simon’s almost eerily calm attempt to pull his attention worked, the old man nodded and threw up a hand.

“There’s a small matter I want to discuss, well, with your father, but the old man isn’t here, is he?”

“Unfortunately, he had business elsewhere. But if you need me to relay a message I can gladly do that, just, one moment, please.” The blonde shifted his attention back to me, speaking quietly. “If you want to wait out in the hall, I’ll only be a minute, okay?”

It wasn’t hard to fathom he wanted to continue whatever conversation was to be had alone with the elderly Huffington, and I wasn’t about to turn down an opportunity to escape the man’s presence and the overly crowded hall. I offered the slightest of nods, and Simon let go of me. I didn’t look back as I shuffled my way between the attendees, and out into the mostly empty hallway.

My shoulders heaved as I took a deep breath, and a few steps towards one of the windows that gave a view of the cityscape. The noise from the hall was a low buzz, and the slight tenseness that had been increasing throughout my body over the last little while began to slowly dissipate. I took the next little while to calm myself as best I could. It was nice, not having to force conversation with people I shared nothing in common with. It was lovely to be able to watch the lights of the city dance against the black backdrop of the sky.

First came a soft touch on the small of my back, and a hand slowly circled around to my side, settling there with a familiar ease. I could feel the heat rushing to my face as I kept my eyes on the dark city outside of the window; his silhouette reflected on the glass, still towering over me despite the heels Katie had insisted I wear. It hadn’t stopped driving me up a wall—how nice he looked in a tux, and it seemed my options were either to blatantly stare, or avert my gaze and spare myself the embarrassment of getting caught.

“I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind getting out of here. Somewhere quieter would be nice, I think,” his voice was low as he spoke, and I could feel his nose against my head, lips moving against the well-styled curls of my hair, goose bumps erupting across my skin. It wasn’t the first time he had utilized such a tactic that evening, but it still succeeded in leaving me completely flustered. It wasn’t as though I didn’t enjoy his actions though, because I did. The intimacy of the low-spoken words in my ear was enough to make me melt.

“I. Um. Yeah—we. Okay.” I gave a small, jerky nod, overwhelmed still by our surroundings and just Simon in general. He had handled the evening surprisingly well; the few small and uncalled for comments, he had actually brushed off like they were nothing. At those points I hadn’t dared look away from him, watching for the ticks or cracks that might come with the needless words of these privileged strangers. But there hadn’t been any. The only slight deviation had been when one Mrs. Doyle loudly declared how tragic it was that his mother had been the perpetrator of such a scandal that had surely destroyed their family. The smile on Simon’s face had been nothing short of pleasant and polite, as he had proceeded to inquire as to how the proceedings for her husband’s legal battle for charges of drug trafficking were going. His smile had turned to a grin as I had finished our conversation by pointing out that she could hope for conjugal visits if things didn’t pan out, with my arm around his as we had turned to walk away.

But despite how well I felt I had fronted on handling things, I was more than ready to be out of there, away from the crowd of the prosperous and sickeningly wealthy that surrounded us. And going somewhere with him? That was more than a bonus. Katie and Cal had their own plans. I had no intentions of disrupting their time together, especially if it meant Simon and I had a chance to do our own thing. And, perhaps, that ‘thing’ wasn’t going to be an attempt to cope with how horrid the evening had been. Because frankly, while annoying at points, and certainly overwhelming the longer the evening went on, it hadn’t been awful.

Simon placed a small kiss on the side of my head, and I could feel a smile in his voice when he spoke. “Good. C’mon, then.”

He kept his arm around my waist as we left, gently guiding me along. It didn’t matter if we’d been at each other’s sides more often than not that evening after his arrival; I still relished the closeness then. Being near to him felt almost electric. I stole a few glances at him as we walked; some of the other attendees stopping us briefly to bid us a good evening once they gathered we were leaving. Simon’s eyes caught mine during one of those conversations; the corner of his lip twitched up into a slight smirk as he gave me a quick wink. I quickly averted my eyes, and he, of course, laughed.

“Teasing you has got to be one of my favorite hobbies. And I must say, it’s been exceptionally easy this evening,” he spoke just loud enough for me to hear.

The crowd was thinning out as we finally exited the hotel, and met the humid night air; had it not been for all of the hairspray Katie had insisted upon, I was sure my hair would have been a frizzy mess in a matter of moments. Simon exchanged words with the valet briefly before the man went off to retrieve his car. I pointedly kept my eyes off of him.

“You know good and well why that is, asshat,” I mumbled with a pout.

“Come again?”

I huffed, ignoring his inquiry as black car pulled up. An elderly couple began to clamber their way out of it when I felt his fingers on my jawline; soon followed by the light brushing of his lips against my ear. I blinked a few times in surprise; it seemed I was destined to spend most of the night a flushed mess. The couple shot us a somewhat disgusted look as they passed. Simon either didn’t notice, or he didn’t care; I was almost banking on the latter.

“Magnolia Walton, is something the matter?” His voice was low again and new wave of chills rolled across my skin, breath almost catching in my throat.

“You in a tux combined with the fact you very much know well it suits you—“ The words spilled out thoughtlessly, and I bit my tongue a little too late. If Simon hadn’t guessed it already, I’d absolutely supplied him with more fuel for the fire. There was a small lull in any type of words between us for a brief time, and then Simon’s gentle touch on my jawline slowly turned my head. I wanted to look elsewhere, but at that point it felt as though he had already won. Our eyes met, and he had settled me with a most fascinated stare.

“If we’re going to discuss attraction and the other person’s dress for the evening, I’m not quite sure you’ve even mildly grasped how hard its been to keep my eyes off of you. And as for my hands…” His words coupled with the hypnotic gaze of those pale blue eyes left me utterly transfixed. I had wanted Simon Dreyton for so long; this evening had brought that desire to an entirely new level.

“Mr. Dreyton? Your car.”

Simon kept his eyes on mine for a few seconds longer before he pulled back the slightest; enough to look over at the valet with a pleasant smile. “Thank you.”

The valet held the door open for me as I slid in, mind and body ablaze with an almost electric feel thanks to the blonde who made his way into the driver’s seat. He took a slow breath, running his fingers along the steering wheel.

“What do you say to a drink or two before we head home?”

Another stop before we made our way back to the empty beach house almost seemed like a nuisance I didn’t want to bother with. It was a distraction from what I wanted, and what I finally planned to act on; which was Simon Dreyton all to myself in the deep hours of the night. But, on the other hand, nerves were definitely an issue I had to deal with, somehow. Not to mention, even if their comments hadn’t outwardly bothered him, it didn’t mean they hadn’t had any type of effect. Perhaps he just wanted to take the edge off; I couldn’t blame him. “You realize I’m not old enough to drink, right, like, legally? There’s kind of a difference between finding my way into a college party, and finding myself in a bar or something.”

“You’re a charming nineteen to my twenty-one. But that won’t be an issue, I assure you.” Simon glanced over, and once again gave me that subtle little wink before we drove off through the streets of the downtown area. The ride to our destination was completely silent; air instead crackling with the burning tension that filled the small space between us. God, it was impossible to ignore.

Simon undid his tie and the top button or two of his shirt as he drove; I watched with an unmasked fascination; completely put together he was nothing short of stunning. Slightly undone? Want and need were becoming somewhat blurred the longer I found myself in his presence that night.

We arrived not long after at a place that seemed fairly slow; a pub with the words “MOLLY DARCY’S” written over it’s entrance. A couple cars were nestled in the parking lot at its side as we pulled in. Simon hadn’t once glanced at me on the drive after our conversation ceased, and he didn’t then either, as he turned the car off and exited. I immediately followed suit and fount myself by his side just in front of his car. I was always a little wary of new places, one of my hands instinctively grasping for his sleeve as I stared up at the place. His arm made it’s way around my waist once more as we began to walk, that was unsurprisingly comforting.

“We’re a little over-dressed. But it’s fine. Arie won’t care.”

Arie, it turned out, was the old Irish man who ran the bar. Upon our entrance he gave Simon a smile of recognition, clapping his hands together as we approached. “I was beginning to wonder if you’d defected to that shit-hole of a tourist trap out on Palms, but here you are at last. The usual?”

I took a moment to glance around as we approached, the place was dimly lit; dark hardwood coated the walls and the floors, and at a small stage in the corner a very drunk twenty-something in a battered ball-cap sang along off-key to some country tune. Karaoke had always been one of those cringy things, in my opinion. What I could only assume to be his friends sat at a table nearby, cheering him on. And a middle-aged man sat at the far side of the bar nursing a beer; he definitely looked as though he’d seen better days. By comparison the pub certainly was quiet when one thought about the constant buzz of chatter that had seemed to never cease with the crowd at the Belmond Charleston Place.

“Things have just been a bit hectic lately, don’t worry. The only thing the Jammer is good for is volleyball. And yes, the usual.” Simon slid onto a barstool towards the right, and I settled in beside him, idly fidgeting with my hands. Arie immediately got to work on his drink.

“Rich college lad on summer break tells me things have been ‘hectic,’ pah. From the looks of you that damned shindig was tonight, wadn’t it?” Arie’s eyes settled on me for a moment. “And the lass. Will she be having anything?”

Simon cast a side-glance in my direction, before giving a little nod. “Amaretto sour would probably be good. And yes, it was.”

My brow furrowed a bit as I looked at him, and in response, he gave me a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry. You’ll like it. And it’s not too strong. My aim isn’t to get you drunk, Mags.”

Arie slid Simon a glass, the amber liquid sloshing lightly around the ice cubes. He picked it up idly, and took a sip before setting it back down on the napkin. Our eyes met then as he leaned on the counter, his focus entirely settled on me.

“You seem a bit less… tense now. Belmond was overwhelming, wasn’t it?”

I didn’t get a chance to reply before Arie slid a second drink over; this one aimed at me. I studied it for a moment; I was used to wine coolers and cheap beer. Liquor or anything of the like, I had no experience with.

“Don’t worry, lass, it won’t bite. Not saying you have t’ drink it, but. I like t’ imagine I’m a pretty damn good bartender.” Arie had apparently caught on to my apprehension, and I felt a twinge of guilt at that. I tried to mask my hesitation as I picked up the glass, taking a sip out of the small straw. It… surprisingly didn’t taste like alcohol at all. After a small pause, I took another sip, much to his approval. “Not bad, yeah?”

I looked up, giving him a little nod of approval. “It’s actually really good, thank you.”

“Glad t’ hear it. You’re a quiet one, though, I don’t think I caught your name, you would be…?”

“Oh—um, Maggie. I’m Maggie.” A little awkwardly I stuck my hand out; Arie shook it with a laugh before glancing at Simon with a somewhat mysterious smile on his face.

“Of course, I should have known. I told you things would be fine, didn’t I? Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a few other patrons to attend t’.” Arie took off before either of us could say another word.

I looked back at Simon, whose expression had become slightly disgruntled as the old man walked away. “Ah, what exactly did that mean?”

“It just means that he’s your typical bartender, who people more often that not vent to when they’ve had a few drinks. And like a damn elephant, he doesn’t forget.” He took a slightly bigger swig of his own drink this time; pointedly avoiding my gaze. “And you never answered my question.”

It seemed wise to drop the matter, so a little reluctantly, I did. I wrapped my hands around my own glass instead, taking another sip from the straw.

“I’m not a fan of… um. Big groups, I guess. It’s a sensory overload for me; and even when it’s going well its… still kind of unpleasant. Especially when they’re all intimidating. And the majority of them were, even the ones our age. I can fake it well enough, the funeral home taught me that at least, but. This is definitely better.”

“You hid it well, for the most part, don’t worry. I don’t think anyone else noticed. You’ve got a few little ticks, though. The way you would move closer when the crowd thickened at points—I could feel you tense up, and the slightest look of apprehension on your face when bigger groups approached us to talk. We won’t have to do anything like that again this summer, and if we did, for some unknown reason, I’d make sure you and me could avoid it.” Simon picked up his glass, and downed the rest of its contents with a swallow. He seemed focused on the remaining ice cubes. “…I want you to know, you were the only reason I made it through tonight, though. If you hadn’t been there, I’m not sure I could have done it. So, thank you, so much, for being there with me.”

I had to stop and stare at the counter for a moment, myself, brain coming to a screeching halt at his words. Slowly, I looked over. Simon cast me a long side-glance. He turned a bit to face me better then; reaching over he pushed a few of the styled curls back from my face. “You were absolutely the best part of tonight.”

Simon Dreyton had left me dumbstruck as we stared at each other in the low-lights of an almost empty pub. The words I wanted to say seemed stuck at the back of my throat; when I opened my mouth to speak, nothing came out. He merely smiled.

“If you don’t want to finish your drink, we can get out of here. Or stay. Entirely your choice.” He broke the silence for me, eyes dead set on mine over the tops of his glasses. I would give anything to have him look at me the way he did then, every second of every day.

I slowly shook my head; drink be damned. Clearing my throat, I managed a few words, low, but firm. “I. I want to go. Now.”

He didn’t push the matter; just nodded before glancing down briefly to take his wallet out, placing a few bills on the counter. I was up and moving before him, for a change, a few quick paced steps ahead. I needed a moment to clear my head; just a few seconds outside before he appeared with some fresh air would be enough. The pain of the heels I’d worn at Katie’s discretion seemed like nothing at that moment, my mind, and stomach, were in knots. I pushed the door open without waiting for Simon; the cool air of the pub washed away by the humidity of the costal town. I wasn’t going to find any relief there, certainly.

For a moment, I contemplated running from him, trying to leave my nerves and hesitance in the dust by keeping my distance until it all subsided. My fingers grasped at the dark green fabric of my dress as I hit the steps, counting them, one, two, three, under my breath before I met the path that led up to the bar inside of it’s fence. I was lying to myself if I thought I could escape what I’d felt for him; something that had very clearly reached a boiling point. Behind me, the door of the bar opened with a slight moan and closed with a thud.

Don’t stop, keep going, keep goi—

I was a few steps from the sidewalk when I felt his fingers catch mine; the lights hung around the pub’s outside deck area casting his long shadow over my own. I don’t know why I had even thought I could fight what was about to happen.

In one fluid motion I turned to face Simon, catching him off guard for a moment as his eyebrows rose. My hand pulled away from his, and instead my fingers found his shirt’s collar. In the soft light of the pub’s deck, I pulled Simon Dreyton down and kissed him with the pent up tension and desire that had plagued me for the last six months.

The electricity of our closeness before felt like mere static in comparison to that moment, his lips pressed against my own was the discharge from a lightening strike, the tension of the last few weeks melting in its wake. I felt one of his hands find the small of my back to pull me closer as the other cupped my cheek; kissing me in a with a passion I had only dreamed of before that moment. Nothing had ever felt as right as that first real kiss with Simon Dreyton.

In a quick flash I remembered the phantom kiss from January, brief, and soft, and tragic. It was supposed to be the first and the last; a final parting gift from the ghost who had been willing to risk death for a second time, for me. It had been cool; sorrowful, even if a slight twinge of a spark had been there, as things had been, it wasn’t meant to last. In contrast, what I felt then was a heated surge of missed chances and pent up desires. This was solid, not a whisper, with a promise of a future in it in place of a final farewell. This was what it was supposed to be like.

“Magnolia Walton…” His voice was a low murmur as he pulled back ever so slightly, our noses brushing. I loved the way my name sounded when he spoke it; no one had called me Magnolia in such a long time. My arms were around his neck at that point and I gently tugged him back in for another kiss. I could feel a smile on his lips, as they brushed against my own. There was something tender about the way he kissed me then, the way his fingers traced along my cheek and down my neck. “I have wanted this for so very long.”

“It’s mutual then,” I responded softly. His fingers moved, brushing a few stray curls back from my face. The kiss hadn’t sated my want for him; not by far. But it had opened the floodgates of what it seemed we had both desired for months; and a way forward.

He guided me a few slow steps backwards, and I felt the wooden fence of the pub against my spine before he closed the gap once more, kissing me with a need I could gladly match. His voice came between kisses, his lips soon trailing lightly along my jawline. “I think it’s time we went home.”

I merely nodded, reluctant to so much as attempt to move away from him, my fingers traced down the soft fabric of the shirt and his sides. “I… We should. But.”

Simon let out a sigh, slowly pulling back. His hand trailed down my arm, finally taking my hand in his own as he stepped back, giving a gentle tug. I followed him without question, letting him lead me along the path back to his car. We were both quiet then, and he opened the door for me. I slid in. My eyes were on him as he walked around and got in the driver’s seat. If focusing on anything but him had been difficult before, it seemed impossible now.

He cast a glance in my direction as he started the car; and then we were on our way. Another silent ride ensued as his eyes sought me out in the dark almost as much as they seemed to focus on the road, my hands constantly fidgeting in my lap. That ride seemed endless, the trip over the Ravenel bridge and other islands more of an nuisance than I could recall; both of us craved nothing more than to be back at his house.

The bridge that crossed Breach Inlet finally came into sight; it almost felt like a long lost friend. Simon’s hands had continually shifted their positions on the wheel the closer we got, I couldn’t help but think about how badly I wished they were against my skin instead. As we finally turned into the Dreyton’s beach home, my seatbelt was off before the Stingray had come to a complete halt in the garage. I was out just as he cut the ignition, and I’d found myself halfway up the stairs when I caught the sound of his door shutting behind me. Opening the door to the main part of the house, the moonlight filtered in through the living room windows, giving it’s typically too white space a soft, almost ethereal look. The sheer crème curtains waved slightly in the air-conditioning, their delicate shadows dancing lightly over the couch as I pulled to a halt a few steps in, completely distracted by the strangely pleasant sight.

I barely caught the soft click of the door to the garage being shut behind me, but I didn’t turn. Simon’s breath was on my neck soon enough, followed by a soft kiss against the skin there as his arms circled my waist, pulling me back against him. Tilting my head for him was instinctual, a slow breath leaving me as I closed my eyes, my right hand finding its way into his curls.

“Stairs,” he mumbled against my skin. “We should… probably make it up those. I’d carry you but. I don’t want to even think about tripping or dropping you on the way.”

I couldn’t help but let out a quiet laugh in response, reluctantly pulling away from him to take a few steps closer to our destination. My fingers brushed along the railing of the bannister as I looked over my shoulder.

“Done that before?”

The look on his face stopped me in my tracks; his eyes were trained on me with that intense, visceral focus; something deep and crackling like the beginnings of a forest fire danced behind those blue irises. “No. But I’d prefer not to risk it. Not with you.”

I could only watch him then; the magnetism we shared seemed stronger than ever that night. He finally took a few steps forward, and that was enough to will me up the stairs. I waited for him right at the top, fingers hovering on the railing as he made his way up. No one had ever kept their attention on me the way Simon did in those moonlit halls. I had in some ways, always considered him a flame, and myself the moth that just couldn’t keep away. This time, things felt reversed, although I would be lying if I said I wasn’t still as drawn to him as I always was—if not more. Perhaps we were each other’s flames.

His hands had been in his pockets for the short walk up; but when he reached the top landing they found their way to my sides as he pushed me back against the wall. His lips were on mine again with the same need from before, but less resigned. A soft noise sounded in my throat, hands grasping at the front of his shirt eagerly. I had wanted him for what felt like ages, and for the very first time, he was undoubtedly mine.

His grip on my waist tightened a bit, and with one motion he lifted me off of the ground as if I were nothing. I broke the kiss with a surprised squeak; legs instinctively wrapping around his waist as my arms circled his neck. “Simon—“

I felt his forehead against mine, our noses brushing as a familiar heat flooded my face. He gave a quiet laugh before his signature smirk tugged at his lips. He was closer than ever; body flush against mine as he pressed me back against the wall, his hands maneuvering to get a better hold on me.

“Too much? We can always stop if you—“

“Simon Dreyton, I have wanted you for months, and if you think I in any way want to get out of what’s about to happen you are a complete idio—“ The blonde that held me cut me off with a deep kiss; he had definitely gotten the message loud and clear. My left hand found it’s way into his hair; fingers gripping his pale blonde curls none too gently as I kissed him back, daring to nip at his lip. He responded with a sharp inhale, and a small bite of his own. I could feel one of his hands sliding up my back, settling on the top of the zipper that seemed buried beneath all my hair. He gave it a slow tug down as he kissed his way along my jawline, lips settling on my neck where he chose to place a pleasantly sharp little bite. For that, he got a quiet moan in response, and a rough tug of his hair. I could feel him grin against my skin as he finally pulled us back from the wall.

“That might leave a mark,” he mumbled, kissing the spot a time or two. “Oops. Did you leave the door open, by chance?”

He had already started moving, and over his shoulder I could see the stairs growing further away, finally. I gave a nod of my head, soon realizing he hadn’t seen it, heart pounding relentlessly in my chest. “I—did you? I left first--”

“I did, actually. My room it is, then.”

I didn’t have a chance to question that as we turned left, and into the room I’d been staying in. Across the hall, the door to where Simon had resided most of the time since my arrival at least, was shut; I caught only a glimpse of it before he kicked the door closed behind us, and I soon found myself below Simon Dreyton on the soft chocolate comforter of the bed I’d slept in all summer. He pulled back some. Hovering over me as he took his glasses off, and set them on the bedside table. My fingers were already pushing the black jacket of his suit off of his shoulders immediately thereafter. For a moment then I paused, looking up at him with an unbridled fascination. He looked so much like how I’d seen him that winter, pale curls in his face with those striking blue eyes settled intently on me, just a white button up with the top few undone to expose the smooth skin underneath. This was—undoubtedly—my Simon Dreyton.

I reached up, brushing a few of his curls back behind his ear; they didn’t stay long, but that was fine. I took a slow breath, my fingertips trailing gently along his cheek. “I. I love you.”

Above me, his expression shifted just the slightest; a trace of surprise initially took up residence, but, soon after, his face softened a bit, and with the arm that wasn’t supporting his weight, Simon Dreyton mimicked my actions, gently cupping the side of my face. “I have been in love with you since January, Magnolia Walton, and I still very much am. I have no intentions of letting you go again. No matter what.”

Those words for him were more than I had ever hoped to hear, and with a slightly choked exhale; I let out a quiet laugh, pulling him down against me and into a tight hug. He buried his face in the crook of my neck as he fell into me, hugging me back just as tightly. I could feel the stinging sensation in the corners of my eyes; happy crying was such a rare instance those days. There was a sharp relief that came with my confession, and his response. Our feelings were no longer looming over our heads, hovering in the rooms we shared like dams about to burst, but out in the open, and mutually reciprocated.

“Oh—Maggie—please don’t cry—“ Simon pulled back just enough to gently wipe at my eyes, I was unaware the tears had actually started, becoming more than just a slight sting and glassy eyes. I shook my head with a little smile.

“Its… it’s good crying. I’m just… You. You mean everything. You know that?” It was so much easier to say what I felt, now that things were out in the open.

Simon carefully leaned down, dotting soft kisses on my forehead, nose, and cheeks before he gently pressed his lips against mine. “I don’t deserve this from you, but even then, I’m so glad to hear it. Because you are undoubtedly my world.”

The kiss that ensued was deep, the emotions that came with it almost palpable. That night, we were reveling in months of built up emotions. It was time to let them out. Simon gently shifted me further up on the bed as we kissed, his fingers slowly pushing the sleeves of my dress down while my hands carefully undid the buttons of his shirt.

He pulled back just enough to study my face as he paused in his movements; he didn’t have to say a word, I knew he was asking for permission—for confirmation that this was okay. I gave the slightest of nods before leaning up to meet his kiss again as he resumed pushing my dress off of my shoulders.

I had never understood the meaning of making love until that night, tangled up in the moonlight and sheets with Simon Dreyton.
♠ ♠ ♠
I know, I know.

It's about damn time. I can't believe it, either. Enjoy.