Chasing Sofia

It’s not easy being the only girl in the Durant household. It’s tough when everybody views you as the baby of the family, despite having a twin brother who is only two minutes older than you. But most difficult of all is harboring a secret crush on your twin’s best friend for three years. Sofia Durant is having the worst last weeks of high school she could have ever imagined, especially after failing two classes and having to take summer classes in order to graduate. So when Adrian Carter, the star of the college soccer team in Madrid unexpectedly asks her out on date, she thinks her bad streak has come to an end. But things take a turn for the worse and after an unspeakable night she wishes she could forget, flees to London to live with her older brother Leo. Eight months pass before she finally has the courage to come back home and resume her life, only to find that things are a whole lot different now and she’s not the only one who has changed.

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1. Prologue

I never thought my senior year of high school would feel like such a drag. Especially not the final weeks. People always talk about how it is the best time of their lives, how they hold the sweetest memories of it. I wish I could say the same. But the truth is, it feels nothing like that to me.

I flip through the channels of my TV for what is probably the fifth time, and finally land on a re-run of Office Space. I crack a grin seeing it is the scene with the two Bobs. Okay, this just might do. God knows I need something to improve my sour mood.

“Sofia! You down there?” Nico’s voice yells.

I have to keep myself from groaning. My lovely twin always seems to pick the worst moments to show up and bug me.

“I know you’re down there, so don’t even try to pretend you can’t hear me!” he continues.

“Go away!” I yell back. God, why does he have to be so annoying?

I hear his big footsteps make his way down to the family room and I try to ignore him. “Are you hiding again, princess?”

“Just watching a movie,” I mumble, not even bothering to look at him.

That all changes when he decides to set foot in front of the TV and block the view of my precious programming. “Get your ass up, we’re going out,” he orders.

I try to look over his bulky frame, but it is an exercise in futility. Being the soccer player that he is only makes him bigger and bigger by the day. Ever since he joined the college team earlier this year, I can’t believe how many extra pounds he has quickly gained.

“I’m perfectly fine here, thank you,” I tell him.

“This is such bullshit, Sofia. It’s your senior fucking year of high school. What are you doing?”

“What does it look like? I’m watching a damn movie. Now get out of the way, you’re ruining my favorite part.”

“You are impossible sometimes, you know that? Suit yourself,” he says before storming off.

I shrug, seeing that he gave up so quickly. Usually he puts up a bit more of a fight, but maybe his patience is finally running out. Good.

I settle back into watching the movie. Peter is in the middle of getting hypnotized when I hear footsteps behind me again. Great, now what does he want? Maybe I sang victory too soon.

“For the love of god, just leave me alone! Can’t you see you’re ruining my favorite part?”

“I thought the two Bobs was your favorite part.”

I freeze at the sound of his voice and try to sink further into the couch. That voice doesn’t belong to Nico, but to Adrian, my brother’s best friend and my secret crush since I was fifteen. Dammit. You would think I would remember he practically lives at our place by now.

He flops down casually next to me on the couch, which forces me to look in his direction. I wish I hadn’t. Sometimes his good looks just hurt too much to look at. Everything from his light brown hair and his chocolate colored eyes, to his perfect abs I’ve had the misfortune of seeing way too many times over the last few years.

“Hey, princess,” he says with an easy smile.

Oh, and how could I forget that rugged American accent? It is just too much for a girl to handle, let alone a half British girl like me. Whenever he speaks, it’s like watching a Hollywood actor on the big screen.

“Please don’t call me that,” I immediately respond. I never liked the nickname, even more so coming from him.

“Sorry. I forget. Everybody in your family calls you that, and it just gets stuck in my head.”

I nod at him. Sometimes I wish our dads didn’t work together at the Embassy. He knows way too many embarrassing things about me because of it. Like the time I got a severe case of pink eye in both of my damn eyeballs, or when I got my wisdom teeth pulled out and looked like a chipmunk for two weeks. Things that no one should know about, let alone the star of the college soccer team in Madrid.

I turn back to the TV to watch the therapist drop dead of a sudden heart attack.

Adrian laughs at the scene. “So … was I right?”

“About what?” I ask confused.

“Your favorite part was earlier?” he clarifies.

“Oh, right. I guess this is my second favorite part then.”

Adrian smiles again and turns back to watch the movie. What the hell is he doing? Usually he doesn’t hang out with me … especially just the two of us. I have learned that the hard way over the last couple of years.

“Did Nico send you?” I ask before I can stop myself.

“Um, no. Why?”

“Then why are you here?” It comes out a bit harsher than I had intended, but I am really just trying to understand this bizarre situation.

“I uh …” he fidgets for a split second, the first time I have ever seen him do such a thing. “Do you wanna come to the movies with us? We’re going to the theater downtown in Sol so we can watch it with subtitles and not the dubbed version.”

What? I didn’t expect that to come out of his mouth in a million years. Sure, we have all gone to the movies together before in a big group, but why is he asking me specifically to go this time? He never seemed to care before whether I was there or not. Hell, I didn’t even think he noticed I was there half the time.

“I um … was kind of watching a movie here,” I say pointing to the television in front of us.

“I know. But now that your favorite parts are over, I thought you might change your mind.”

“Why do you want me go?” I ask bluntly.

He shrugs and looks away from me for a second. “You never come out with us anymore. Nico’s girlfriend and a few of her friends are coming too, so I figured we could all hang out together.” He looks straight back at me and searches my eyes. “C’mon, Sofia. Please?”

“Okay,” I answer immediately, surprising myself. Maybe it is because of the way I secretly melt when he says my name. Plus, I always did like Nico’s girlfriend, Ana. She is really sweet to me. Maybe I should make more of an effort with her.

“Cool. Let’s go then,” he says with a big smile. He sure is being extra smiley today.

“It better not be a horror movie, though. You know how freaked out I get.”

He pauses for a minute and looks at me apologetically.

“It’s a horror movie, isn’t it?” I ask, even though I already know the answer judging from his expression.

“Technically I think it’s categorized as a suspense or thriller. It’s one of those end of the world type of movies,” he explains.

“I don’t know, Adrian. I’ll probably have trouble sleeping regardless.” I can never really explain it. It is just something that happens to me every time I watch a potentially scary movie. Even if it is War of the Worlds or World War Z, I still dream of machines or zombies trying to kill me afterwards.

“Look, why don’t you just record the rest of this one? I’ll finish watching it with you afterwards. That way you won’t be thinking about the scary stuff when you go to sleep later.”

Sometimes it stuns me how thoughtful he is. He always looks after me in a big brother kind of way. At the end of the day, he is three years older than me and an only child, so in a way I think he feels responsible for me sometimes, especially since our parents travel all the time. “You don’t have to do that. It’s probably a good idea, though. I’m already recording it.”

“It’s not a problem, Sofia.” He stands up and offers me his hand.

I turn off the TV and stand up with his help. He is so strong. It is effortless on his part. Like he could just throw me over his back at any time as if it was nothing. Something I have improperly daydreamed about on countless occasions.

“I should probably go change,” I say, trying to clear my head. I’m not exactly dressed to go out, only wearing a white long-sleeved shirt with leggings and my favorite pair of Havaianas.

“No need. You look great like that. C’mon we’re going to be late.” He motions towards upstairs, and gives me a little push to start walking.

I’m still thinking I should at least put on some makeup, when he directs me towards the garage. “I need to grab my bag,” I protest.

“It’s already in the car,” he replies. Before I can say anything, Adrian keeps pushing me towards the jeep in the garage, and then quickly opens the door to the passenger’s side and practically shoves me inside. To my surprise, Nico is already inside, playing with his phone in the driver’s seat next to me. My bag is also neatly placed on top of the console.

“Finally,” he says tossing his phone and starting the engine as Adrian settles in the back seat and shuts the door. “I was already considering leaving you guys.”

I turn around to look at Adrian. “I thought you said Nico didn’t send you.”

“I didn’t. I told him it was a lost cause, but apparently he has better convincing skills than I do,” Nico replies.

Adrian just grins at me, and I turn around, suddenly feeling embarrassed.

We arrive at Ana’s house pretty quickly, seeing that she is only a ten-minute drive from us. It makes it really easy for Nico to sneak into her place sometimes. What I didn’t expect was for her to show up with three of her friends.

I get out of the car to say hi to her and to let her sit upfront, and the next thing I know, her friends have all gotten in the back next to Adrian. I guess I will have to ride in the trunk.

Feeling a bit stupid, I go to open it. Unexpectedly, Adrian suddenly gets out of his seat and comes around the back. I thought he was just being nice and was going to close the trunk for me, but he actually ends up sitting in the back next to me.

“Thanks,” I tell him.

“It was a bit crowded in the back seat,” he whispers nudging my shoulder.

The girls are already chatting away in front of us. “Yeah,” I respond.

As we take off towards the movie theater, I try to think of something to say to him. But everything I think of just sounds lame, so we sit in silence for a bit. I certainly am not used to being alone with him. He usually has a girl clinging around his shoulders or is chatting with my brother.

“So do you have any cool summer plans?” he finally asks. I think I see him cringe a little as he asks the question, but I’m not too sure.

“Um, not really, no.”

“Oh, c’mon. It’s the summer before your first year of college. I’m sure you have all sorts of plans being up to no good and whatever else you teenagers do these days.”

“Well, I wouldn’t exactly call them cool.” In fact, they are very un-cool.

“Are you going to tell me or are you going to make me guess?”

“No, please don’t,” I say, trying to hide my panic. Oh god, I really don’t want to tell him at all. It is way too embarrassing. Not even wanting to say it out loud, I take out my phone and decide to text him instead. I turn around to make sure people aren’t listening to us, and then begin to type.

Me: Please don’t say anything, but I have to take some summer courses in order to graduate. So those are my up to no good plans.

Adrian is looking at me confused, so I point to him and then towards my phone.

“Oh,” he says. “I thought you were texting … never mind.” He digs out his phone in his pocket and reads the text. He shoots me a sympathetic look, before turning back to his phone.

Adrian: Ouch. Sorry, I didn’t know. Didn’t mean to be an ass.

Me: Tell me about it.

Me: About the ouch part. Not the ass part.

Adrian: Haha, got it. What classes do you have to take? Maybe I can help you.

Me: You? No offense. Biology and pre-calc.

Adrian: Yes, me. Believe it or not. I already graduated high school and took those same courses, remember? I might still have my notes lying around somewhere.

Me: Oh, right. That would be really helpful actually. I asked Nico, and apparently he threw everything in the trash the minute he graduated and then took a piss on it. First time being held back a grade below him didn’t come in handy.

Adrian laughs and looks at me. “That sounds like Nico.”

“Yeah,” I laugh back, and then look out the window. Well, at least he isn’t judging me for being a complete idiot and flunking two classes my senior year. I think our conversation is over when I hear my phone buzz.

Adrian: Finally a real smile on your face and I only got to see half of it. I kinda like this texting situation even though you’re sitting right next to me. It’s kind of fun.

I feel myself blush, not really knowing how to respond to that. I start typing something back when I realize the car has come to a halt. We are here already?

Nico suddenly opens the door to the trunk and pulls me out, a look of disapproval on his face. He throws the car keys towards Adrian and then he wraps his arm around my shoulder and starts walking towards the mall, not even bothering to wait for his girlfriend or anyone else.

As we gain some distance from the car, he looks over at me and says, “You shouldn’t have gotten in the trunk, Sofia.”

“The other girls got in the back, there wasn’t any space,” I explain.

“So tell them to get the hell out. It’s our car, we’re the ones picking them up. They should sit in the back, not you. Got it?”

“I didn’t think it was a big deal.”

“I don’t know, that just really pissed me off. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to embarrass you, but you should have just stayed in the front with me and let everyone else figure it out, even Ana. I know you were trying to be nice, and they might be older than you, but you need to show more of a backbone. You’re a Durant, don’t forget that.”

“Ugh, fine Dad. Can you stop acting like the big brother all the time? You might be in college already, but we’re still the same age. So don’t get all high and mighty with me.”

Nico sighs as he opens the door and we make our way towards the movie theater. “I’m just looking out for you, sis. You know our parents aren’t around as much, so someone’s got to do it. Speaking of which, be careful with Adrian. I don’t know what he’s up to, but I got my eye on him.”

“What? Okay, now you’re talking out of your ass. He was just being nice.”

He lets out a dry laugh and shakes his head. “Damn, Sofia. Sometimes I think we went a little overboard sheltering you. And by we, I mainly blame Leo and Max.”

I just roll my eyes at him as we stand in line to buy the tickets. He is the worst out of all of them, especially being that my two older brothers happily live in London with their wives and kids. I remember Nico even kicked some poor kid in the shin once during kiddie soccer because he said he was getting too close to me on defense. That was the beginning of a long list of embarrassing things he’s done over the years under the claim of protecting me.

When we arrive at the ticket booth, Nico buys four tickets and hands me two of them. “One is for Adrian. I owe him from last time. Don’t let him get any ideas,” he says before taking off towards Ana. He quickly grabs her from the line and they make their way towards the theater. Apparently lecture time is over.

I see that Adrian is in line with Ana’s friends and I have to bite my tongue at the display in front of me. They are all shamelessly flirting with him, but there is one girl in particular who is desperately trying to get his attention. Sheesh.

I walk towards them and hand Adrian his ticket. “From Nico,” I simply say, before going on my own way. I’m not going to stick around for that one. I then head towards the concession stand, my throat suddenly feeling very dry. I could definitely use something to drink.

“Mind if I cut in?”

I turn around to see Adrian behind me. I just shrug, hoping the people behind me in line won’t get mad.

“So what are you getting?” he asks.

“Just a bottle of water.”

“Really? That’s it? You gotta do the full movie experience or else it doesn’t count. Coke, popcorn, maybe some nachos, and a candy bar.”

“That’s only because both you and Nico could eat an entire restaurant between the two of you. I’m not very hungry,” I reply.

“You’re such a girl. If I get a combo, will you at least share it with me?”

“Um, maybe the candy bar.”

“Now you’re talking,” he responds with a grin.

After ordering way too many snacks, we finally make it into the theater. We spot Nico and Ana but the seats next to them are already taken so we end up sitting a few seats down the aisle from them. Ana’s friends come in afterwards and it’s not a big surprise to see them all scramble to sit down next to Adrian.

The same girl from before beats out her friends and ends up in the coveted seat. She then proceeds to ask him a million questions about his favorite things, even though the previews have already started. He keeps on looking my way as if asking for help, but I’m really not sure what I can do. I try not to laugh as I drink my bottle of water.

He suddenly takes out his phone and writes something quickly before putting it back in his pocket. My phone vibrates and I see it is a text from him.

Adrian: Major SOS. Please help me. Seriously, I won’t be able to sit through the movie like this.

This time I can’t hold the laughter and look away. I try to keep a straight face as I fix my vision on the person sitting in front of me. That’s when I think of something.

“Hey Adrian? Do you mind switching seats with me? This guy is blocking my view and I can’t see anything.” I try to put on my best pouty face as I bat my eyelashes at him, but I’m not sure if I pulled off the damsel in distress vibe correctly.

He looks at me stunned for a moment and then clears his throat. “Sure, princess. You should have told me sooner, I would have gladly moved.” He quickly gets up and grabs my hand, letting me pass in front of him. His arm brushes my waist and even if it is only for a second, I still feel my body heat up at his touch.

I scramble to sit down before I let out an embarrassing reaction. The girl who is now sitting next to me immediately huffs and rolls her eyes.

“God. Why does he have to babysit you all the time?” She gets up from her seat and walks down the aisle angrily, knocking into people along the way. Her friends quickly follow and they all sit down somewhere on the complete opposite side.

I feel my cheeks flame and begin to stand up as well. There is no way I can stomach the humiliation for two hours.

Adrian’s arm shoots out over the armrest of my seat, not letting me get out. “Don’t you dare move an inch.”

“I uh … should probably …”

“No, you shouldn’t.” I feel his hand on my chin, followed by him gently turning my face. His hand drops as soon as I look at him, and I notice he glances down the aisle for a moment. “It’s not true … what she said. I’m not babysitting you and I’ve never intended to do that. She just wants attention. Got it? I would have told her off but your brother is staring at me like a hawk.”

Confused, I turn to look at Nico and he is looking at us with a weird expression on his face. What is his problem now?

“Just ignore him. I usually do,” I tell Adrian.

“Right,” he laughs, shaking his head. “Popcorn?” he asks, shoving the box in my lap all of a sudden.

“Thanks,” I mumble, grabbing a handful and feeling more perplexed than ever.

“Hey, do you mind holding on to my phone? It always seems to fall out of my pocket,” Adrian says as he takes a swig of Coke.

“What? Yeah, just drop it in my bag.”

He has a way of changing the subject on you so quickly before you can even register what is going on, so I decide it will be best to zone him out. I settle in my seat as the previews finally end and feel myself relax since the first time I stepped out of my house. Hopefully there won’t be any more drama during the movie. And if there is, it will all be internal drama spinning around my head. I blame the confusing boy sitting next to me for that.

Ten minutes into the movie and I am already sinking down in my seat. Christ, I am such a wuss. The damn opening credits haven’t even rolled yet.

When the first zombie appears out of nowhere, I silently scream and jump, popcorn spilling all over the place. I should have seen that one coming. Of course I immediately hear Adrian chuckle next to me as I hand him a now half empty box. He simply places it on the floor and decides it is funnier to pick at the popcorn that has fallen on top of me instead.

I half watch the next part of the movie, averting my eyes as much as physically possible. As if the sounds of gurgling, shrieking monsters eating the flesh of live humans isn’t bad enough. When I can’t take it anymore, I simply cover my eyes with my hands, tucking my head into my shoulder.

“Jesus, Sofia. That bad, huh?” I hear Adrian whisper next to me.

I simply nod, cringing at the thought of opening my eyes again.

“You know it’s not real, right?” he whispers again.

“It could be,” I mumble.

I feel him lean closer to me. “How about I let you know when the scary parts are over? You can at least watch the normal parts.”

“Okay. Is it safe now?”

“Yes. The coast is clear.”

I can’t hear any horrific sounds anymore so he has to be telling the truth. I look up and see that the main characters are walking through a zombie infested dark tunnel. The zombies all appear to be dead though. As in dead dead and not just zombie dead but still alive. Suddenly a young girl gets dragged underneath a car and this time I scream out loud…as does a good portion of the theater.

The next thing I know, I am taking cover behind Adrian’s shoulder. I hadn’t even realized it until I feel his arm wrap around me and pull me into his solid chest. He shields my eyes with his large hand, and I feel my heart pound in my ears as I inhale his scent. I don’t know what is scarier, the movie or this newfound position I am in. I have never been this remotely close to him in all my years, let alone been cocooned by him. It is an amazing feeling. Like he is protecting me.

My wild imagination comes to an end when I hear his chest vibrate with laughter. “I’ll let you know when it’s over, scaredy-cat.”

Great, I am just some form of amusement for him. I sigh and go back to pretending he really cares for me, wrapped in his arms. It is so easy to imagine. I know it is dumb, pathetic even, but I like my version of events better.

I am beginning to think how oddly comfortable he really is, when it occurs to me I have been in this position for a while now. Surely the scene must have changed by now.

“Is it over?” I ask him.

“Not yet,” he murmurs.

“Are you sure? I don’t hear anything anymore.”

“Shh. You’re interrupting the movie,” he whispers. His voice sounds amused and I know he has to be up to something.

I pull away from him and take a quick peek at the movie screen. It is broad daylight and the characters are clearly out of harm’s way. “Adrian,” I protest and swat him in the shoulder.

He just smirks at me and shrugs. “I figured it was just a matter of time before another zombie would attack.”

“Jerk,” I laugh under my breath. “You’re so full of it.”

“Hey, I was looking out for you. You can’t blame me for that.”

“I thought you weren’t babysitting me.”

His brown eyes narrow at me and his expression completely changes. “I’m not, Sofia.”

I am about to contradict him when a loud boom sounds from the movie, bloody body parts flying in every direction, and I all but crawl into his lap. This time he sighs and adjusts my back against him, almost in resignation. He grabs the coke that is situated in the placeholder between us and moves it to his right side. He then lifts the armrest between our seats and wraps an arm around my shoulder, scooting me closer to him.

It all happens so quickly I think I look at him in alarm.

“Is this okay?” he asks me.

“I…think so.” I don’t really know what to think. Am I even thinking? Is he?

“Good. You might as well stay like this for the rest of the movie for both of our sakes. If it’s too much, we can go outside.”

He is too much. Does he even know what he is doing to me? This is so much worse than all of his years of silent rejection, and all he is doing is wrapping an arm around my shoulder because I am scared of a stupid zombie movie.

God, I am so dumb.

I try not to dwell on that thought for the rest of the movie. Oddly, I don’t jump out of my seat anymore and bask in Adrian’s warmth instead.

When the movie ends and the lights come back on, he quickly removes his arm from around my shoulder and stands up. At least he is nice enough to pick up everything off of the floor, including my bag.

Once we all convene outside, Nico and Adrian immediately start going over every single gory detail of the movie and relay their favorite parts. They are such guys. I look over at Ana and she seems to be as bored as I am.

“How about we hit up the food court? I’m dying for a milkshake,” Ana suggests.

I really don’t have much of an appetite after seeing all that blood, but at least it will give my mind a mental break. “Sounds good to me,” I reply.

“Yeah, let’s go,” Nico says. “What about your friends? Should we wait for them?” he asks her.

“Nah. They said they were going to do their own thing,” Ana responds.

“Works for me,” Adrian says grinning. “Hey Sofia, you got my phone?”

“Yeah, hold on.” I start searching around in my bag, but I can’t seem to find it. “It’s a Samsung right?”

“Yeah, I put it in the front pocket.”

“Are you sure? It’s not in here,” I say starting to panic.

“I’m positive.”

“Shit. Should we go back in and look for it?”

“Um yeah,” he tells me, seeming nervous all of a sudden. Turning to Nico and Ana he says, “Why don’t you guys go ahead? We’ll meet you at the food court.”

Nico nods. “Alright, see you there.”

We walk back into the theater and the cleaning personnel are already making their rounds. I rush back to our seats and start looking on the floor. Oh god, I really hope I didn’t lose his phone. Now that would be totally embarrassing.

Weirdly, Adrian is just standing around not even seeming to care about his phone. Maybe he is one of those types that secretly gets pissed inside but doesn’t let it show.

“I don’t think it’s here, Adrian. Let me go ask the cleaning lady. Maybe she already picked it up.”

“No, wait. Let’s sit down a minute.”

“What? Why? What about your phone?”

“Just … please.” He grabs my hand and pulls me down into the seat next to him.

“Adrian. We should just go ask her. I can offer her some money or something.”

“No, don’t do that. Let’s just forget about the phone for a second.”

Oh my goodness. Is he bipolar? “Okay, I just have to say this. You are the most confusing person on the planet.”

He laughs out loud and sits back in his seat. He runs a hand down his face and looks at me calmly. “I have to confess something.”

I literally feel my heart stop in my chest. Oh my god, he is going to confess that he is bipolar. How did I miss that all these years?

I must be staring at him blankly, because he suddenly blurts, “I have my phone.”

“You…what? Dammit Adrian, you almost gave me a heart attack! I was already thinking I was going to need to buy you a new phone and everything.”

“I know, I know. I’m sorry. It was lame.”

“What was lame?”

“I … uh. It was an excuse. I just wanted to get you alone.”

Me? Alone? What the hell is he talking about?

“God, I just realized how creepy that sounded,” he continues. “I meant that I wanted to talk you alone … without an audience. It’s really hard to get you away from Nico sometimes.”

“Oh. Well, what did you want to talk about?”

He sighs and averts his gaze from me. He almost looks … embarrassed. I can’t really tell what that expression is. I have never seen him be embarrassed about anything.

“You really don’t know?” he finally asks.

“Is this about me flunking two classes this semester? Because believe me, I’ve already gotten enough shit about it from everyone so I don’t need another lecture.”

“What? No, not at all. I don’t care about that. I mean, I do care in the sense that it sucks for you and you have to take summer courses and all that. But no, this has nothing to do with that.”

“So what is it?”

He looks at the floor again and shakes his head. “Fuck, I never knew how difficult this would actually be. Okay, I’m just going to say it, alright?”

“You’re really starting to scare me, Adrian.”

“Ugh. Fine. I wanted to ask you out. There, I said it.” He takes a deep breath and looks at me with an almost terrified expression.

I blink a few times at first and then my eyes instantly go wide and I laugh in disbelief. Yes, I actually laugh. “Are you sure you have the right person?”

“Are you crazy? Yes. Last I checked there was only one Sofia Durant.”

“But you’re so … and I’m … wait, what?”

“Just hear me out, okay? I’ve thought about this a lot over the years and…”

“Years? As in plural?” I think my jaw just dropped to the floor.

“Look. I’m very aware of the fact that you were only fifteen when we first met. That’s why I’ve kept my distance from you … because you were far too young and I knew on some level it was wrong. It might not be a big deal here or in Europe, but people take these things really seriously in the United States. But you’re eighteen now and going to be in college soon and I figured I’d given it more than enough time by now.”

“What was wrong? For us to be friends?” I’m still not understanding a word he is saying.

“For us to … get involved. This might be a bit pretentious of me, but from the moment we met I knew there was something there. In my defense, you’ve always been really mature for your age, probably because of your brothers. So I never thought of you being that much younger than me, and you definitely didn’t look that much younger. I thought it would go away if I ignored it long enough, but that clearly hasn’t been the case. And I have a feeling that maybe you might feel the way same way.”

I instantly blush and am stunned beyond belief. “I just never thought you saw me that way. I thought I was just Nico’s sister to you.”

“God … Nico. I love that guy to death, but I also kinda hate him sometimes. He’s told me to stay away from you a million times, even though I’ve never admitted anything to him. But obviously he knows. I guess I haven’t done the best job of hiding it. Even Leo and Max have both given me a fair share of warnings over the years. I have to say they are a pretty intimidating bunch.”

“Oh my god, that’s so embarrassing. What did they tell you?”

“Just … you know, the usual guy talk. They would break my legs, that kind of thing. They seemed pretty serious about it too,” he says nonchalantly.

“I can’t believe they would say that to you.”

“It’s fine. I get it, it’s part of their DNA. It’s nothing I wouldn’t say to someone who tried to hit on you. But I think I can handle them. I just wanted to talk to you first about it. It’s not like they won’t let you go out with someone if that’s what you want.”

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s best if we don’t tell them anything.” Last thing I need is for them to get on my case or even worse … go after Adrian.

“Are you sure?” he asks.

“It’s not like they won’t let me date, but I just know they’ll give me a really hard time about it. So it’ll be better if they don’t know. Sometimes it sucks being the only girl in the family and technically the youngest. Nico likes to constantly remind me that he’s an entire two minutes older than me.”

“Okay, if that’s what you want.”

Wow, he is being so reasonable. This conversation already seems way too adult and civilized for me. Which reminds me … “What about our parents? Our dads work together. You don’t think that’s going to be a problem?”

“I’ve thought about that, too. I guess if your dad is okay with it, then it should be fine. I can talk to him if you want.”

“No … you don’t have to do that Adrian. It’s not like … I mean, what if …? Maybe we’re over thinking all of this. What if we go out and then you realize you don’t even like me and we did this whole thing for nothing?”

“That’s not going to happen, Sofia. At least not from my side. But I see what you’re saying. Maybe it’s best if we actually go out first and then we can deal with other people later. I just didn’t want it to be a big secret or make you feel uncomfortable.”

I take a deep breath and sigh. This is sounding more and more complicated. I had never thought about actually getting involved with Adrian and what the real-life implications might be. My teenage imagination has never gone beyond us hooking up at a party behind closed doors. Or at least I never thought he would be interested in something more serious with me.

I look at Adrian, my mind spinning a million miles per minute. He seems just as worried as I am.

He clears his throat and hesitantly reaches for my hand. “Look, just forget about everything else for a second. Forget your brothers or our parents, or what anyone else might say or think about this. If they didn’t exist or we were just strangers that met on the street, would you want to go out with me?”

“Well, yeah.” Obviously. Who wouldn’t? I blush a little at that admission.

He lets out a breath and cracks a smile that I know will be the end of me. “So, is that a yes? You’ll go out with me?”

“Yes.”

 

 

 

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