“Marty,” a voice says in front of me. “Hoped I’d find you out here.”

Pierce’s eyes glow in the pub’s soft outdoor lighting. Passersby keep up their chatter, but it all gets muted when my gaze meets his.

He holds my oboe case out to me, his expression unreadable. “You left this inside. Shane said he’d take it back, but I figured I could catch you.”

There’s room on the bench next to me, and he takes a seat. He goes to put his arm around me, but stops halfway, resting on his elbow and draping his hand next to my arm.

“Need to chat?” he offers, and I shrug.

I don’t know what he wants from me, from whatever’s going on between us. And it’s becoming clear that all warning signs are saying that he doesn’t enter any relationship if he doesn’t want something out of it.

“Not really.”

“Understood. Is it okay that I’m here? Or should I leave?”

I pause, considering the question. If you remove everything I’ve heard about Pierce from others, all I’m left with is a slightly obnoxious but super passionate guy. A guy I like, who’s maybe even the first guy who likes me back. A guy who knows how to respect the boundaries that matter, while pushing me out of the ones that hold me back.

“You should come with us sometime, on one of the trips. Shane never goes, and I’m not sure why. He blames work and money—which are valid, don’t get me wrong—but even during short, cheap trips where he has enough time to request off in advance, he gets weird. He was like this in secondary school too.”

 I grunt an approval so he knows I’ll consider it, and then we’re silent for a bit longer. He builds the courage to move his arm again, this time draping it over my shoulder. I welcome the touch and unconsciously lean into him.

“Why did you agree to come pick me up from the airport?”

“Because Shane needed help.” He says it plainly. Despite myself, I smile. Even if he does go through guys quickly, he’s still clearly a good guy on some level. “Well, I suppose there’s more. Shane talked about you coming a lot. And I thought you were cute. And I knew you were a good oboist—I even saw the navy scholarship finalist performance you gave. I wanted to get to know you.”

“Get to know me as an oboist, or as . . . something else?”

“Both. Is that so bad?” he says. I turn my head and our eyes meet. “I like getting to know you better.”

I don’t have Megan here to vet all of my choices. I don’t have hours of solitude to overthink things. I have this moment, and I have a decision to make. I like him, and he seems to like me. But is that enough?

Leaning in, slow enough that he can stop me if I’m reading all the wrong signals, I plant a soft kiss on his lips. He puckers as I do, offering the slightest bit of suction between our lips. My chest floats as I give in to one more kiss, one more pull—this one firmer than the last. More confident. Real.

We release, and I feel like I’m panting. It couldn’t have been thirty seconds, but my entire body is charged with electricity. It’s like I’m a whole new person, and I find myself getting addicted to the feeling. Sure, kissing Pierce might be a risk.

If you ask me, a good kiss is worth the risk.

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