Our gazes split as I pretend to stretch my neck, crinkling the melting bag of ice, and severing a replay of the moment at the fire pit we both refuse to acknowledge.
He leans in, and a tiny giggle flutters up my chest and out through my lips.
“What?” He asks, pulling his torso back, his voice squeaking high. “Does my breath smell?” Furrowing his brow, he huffs into his palm. With a deep sniff, he shakes his head.
I swallow down a larger chuckle. He looks over my shoulder as he bites his lower lip. Do what happened the other night. It’s simple.
I cough to cover another laugh and clear my throat. “Let’s try again.”
Hawk crosses his arms and tilts his head like a confused puppy. “Are you going to laugh at me again?”
I shake my head. “No?” Maybe.
“Well, that’s so convincing.” His voice hits a puberty high crack. “It’s only me.”
I nod and take in a deep breath. It’s only me? Does he realize what that even means? There is no one I trust more than him. Despite that, this is still new territory. There’s this tiny nag in me throwing up blocks, worried about being tossed aside when he’s bored of me.
My lips part and hover close enough to feel the gentle exhale of air from his mouth. I peek open an eye to find he’s staring back at me. Another obnoxiously loud laugh erupts from my mouth, and a pang of worry seizes my heart.
I suck in my lips and bite down as I open my eyes. Well, crap. He looks so … confused?
“You’re not okay with this, are you?” He scratches at his cheek and glances down.
The bag of ice drips on my shirt and ceases the trembling tickle in my chest. “It’s not that. It’s every time I see your face I laugh.”
“I’m that horrible looking to you?” His tone suggests a joke, but one drenched in a heavy ouch.
“Shut up. You know you aren’t ugly.” I shake my head.
“True. I’m in the realm of hideous.” He flashes a wide grin and runs his tongue over his lips. “Would a bag over my head with lip holes help?”
“You. Are. Ridiculous.”
He covers his face with wide fingers. “Better?”
“Stop making fun.”
All I want to do is see if the fire pit was a fluke, and forget all the other nonsense. Instead, I can’t stop giggling like I’ve never been with someone before. I lean in, kiss the back of his hand, and lean back.
“Oh, baby.” He rolls his eyes back, pulls his hands down his cheeks, and lets out a groan.
“This. This is why it’s weird.” A full belly laugh pulls through, filling the air. “You’re, you.” Knowing it’s him kissing me is different from seeing him kiss me. When the structured lines of his face get close, my nerves flare a warning and a protective shyness takes over.
“Wildflower, I only want to kiss you. I need to kiss you.” His hands land at his sides with an exaggerated smack and his tone shifts to serious. “Do you actually want to do this?”
The way he says “Wildflower” melts me. I nod repeatedly and pout my bottom lip. My chest holds the tingles, the desire, the pull to him. “I don’t know what’s happening. It’s like each time we get near, one of our magnets flips over, shooting us far apart.”
“Oh. Talk dirty to me with science. Two poles of a magnet repelling.” He leans back and gives an approving nod.
The issue isn’t the repelling, it’s the pull. The thing I’m stuck on from the night we kissed is, he kissed me. He scrambled the natural balance of our friendship, messing with the normally clear division line. We crossed into the unknown and he was burned. Literally. I don’t want to get burned or set our friendship ablaze in a grand bonfire. And yet, I want to be kissed—by him. None of this is logical.
Hawk stops. “Do you think Ben Franklin slept with half the women in this city while he was here?”
“Yes. But I don’t think that’s part of the tours.” I blow at the steam. “We’re surrounded by gorgeous buildings, and you want to know who Ben Franklin slept with.”
“I was thinking about sex.” He shrugs.
I swallow. “You’re always thinking about sex.”
“Not true.” His mouth parts. “Right now, I’m wondering why on earth you want Italian ice on a forty-degree day.”
I shift my weight and look away. We both know I don’t want Italian ice.
“Do you think Ben Franklin or any of those guys had sex on the Liberty Bell? Maybe that’s why it cracked.”
“I absolutely think that’s how the Liberty Bell actually cracked.” I playfully elbow him. “It would be nice, if just for once, people were honest about it. It’s a much better story. Silly prude historians.”
He grabs my hand, our gloves keep our palms from touching, and he tugs me up the street. “Come on. I want to go see the historical sex bell.”
“Maybe they actually rang it each time a virgin lost their …” I don’t know how to finish the sentence, and unintentionally leave my lips parted as the sentence trails off.
“Wings? Pants? No, that’s not historically accurate.” He opens his arms for security at the bell to wand him. “Petticoats? Cat. Must be their cat. So many cats were lost due to Franklin.”
The security guard waves him through and begins to wand me.
“I promise, I’m not going to steal the bell,” I say.
“Oh, she will. The pockets in her coat are huge,” Hawk says.
The woman leans at us in annoyance with her wand outstretched. “Don’t touch the bell.”
We stand in front of the massive bell and stare at it for a bit. The last time I saw it was on a fifth-grade field trip and I barely remember really understanding how beautiful it is. Now, I can see the fine details, and understand better how incredible the artistry is. The technology used to create this massive broken bit of celebrated history was amazing.
“I want to tap the bell,” Hawk whispers. He places a warm hand on top of mine and tries to move me forward.
“Oh god. Stop. I’m not touching this thing.” Fear seizes my insides and I yank my arm down.
“It belongs to the people, it wants to be touched,” he says.
“Sir, please refrain from touching the bell.” The security guard waves her wand at him.
He nods at her and flashes a grin. My nerves are saved by a magic wand and a fairy-God-security-guard in a black suit.
“I don’t think it’d be possible.” I stare at the bell again and he leans into my arm. “The metal would be super cold on exposed flesh.”
My mind switches to an unexpected vision. I’m in a half-off low-necked gown over a petticoat, moaning as Hawk leans me against one of the metal bars that holds up the bell with his breeches undone and his waistcoat providing a shade of privacy as he fucks me. My legs throb and I’m aware of the heat between our bodies right now.
“Come with me,” Hawk says.
“Excuse me?” My chest rises and falls with a hitch of my breath. I blink away the vision and am unable to instantly rid myself of the idea of him inside me. I need to apologize to the entire city for the thoughts that crossed my mind for those fleeting seconds. I know he’d have rung the bell after we were done, probably before he even finished redressing himself, but not before he knew I was covered again. This vision must be from my dry-spell. We’re friends, and friends don’t picture each other fucking one another at a historical site—in historical garb.
“The line is growing, and we still need to get you Italian ice.” He wags his eyebrows like he knows where my mind went. But he couldn’t know.