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“What don’t you want me to do?” I say it low in the event I won’t like the answer.
“Pretend like you don’t care.” His dimples press in like twin shadows. The muscles in his jaw clench as he swallows hard. “You’re not the kind of girl who runs around after guys for the thrill of it. You had some vendetta to prove your stepfather wrong, and in an effort to prove a point, you came close to degrading yourself on a level that I’d never want for you in any lifetime.” Cruise presses in like he’s hedging for a kiss. There’s a tenderness in his eyes that I’ve never seen before in him or anybody else. “You’re special, Kenny. You deserve to be loved, wanted, and desired by someone who appreciates you for the treasure you are.”
His words cover my wounds like a balm. All of the self-doubt, the self-incrimination, the pity parties rolled into one—Cruise is healing them with his mouth, his kind heart.
“Do you think I’m a treasure?” The words stream out like the plea of a child—an unpretentious question that has its hope pinned on only one answer.
“Yes.” A smile blooms from his lips, and joy percolates to the surface. “I thought so right from the beginning. I never intended on throwing you to the wolves.” A rumble of laughter ripples through his chest, and my body moves in rhythm. “Kenny?” He tilts into me. His features grow all together serious. “I don’t want you to become the female version of me.” His Adam’s apple rises and falls. “I’m not so interested in being me anymore, either. When I saw you at the party that first night, you changed everything for the better. I think you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, Kendall Jordan.” He takes in a breath as if he were bracing himself for a leap off the Empire State building. “And, I love you.”
Every cell in my body sighs with relief. It’s as if Cruise had taken me under the shelter of his wing, covered me in the membrane of those powerful words, and for the first time in my entire life, I feel safe, secure in every way.
“You love me?” I whisper it breathless at the thought of being loved by someone as kind and gorgeous as Cruise. I’m not sure I had ever heard those words from anyone outside of my mother, and from her, it was born with grief as if she were apologizing for my existence on some level.
“Yes, I love you.” His brows dip in amused—baffled I could believe otherwise. “I love you, Kenny. I love everything about you.”
- Someone to Love SWOON #YABound