1.44: How I Feel About You

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Carrick found Ayala doing her homework. After looking at her for a moment, he scooted a stump closer to her and sat down.

“Oh, hey,” she briefly looked up at him, then bent her head back to her work.

“Ayala, are you ok?” She’d been staying at the house the past few days, and her mood had been reserved–not typical Ayala fare.

“Yeah, why?” Her eyes squinted slightly as she looked at him questioningly.

“You seem…” He chose his words carefully. “You seem a little down. I wondered if it had something to do with Dustin. On the beach the other day, it looked like–”

“It was nothing,” she cut him off curtly.

He shook his head. “Okayyy. But you seemed upset that night when Rhea mentioned him.”

 

 

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She sighed and dropped her pencil. Did he really have to bring this up? She just wanted to forget about it. It had been stupid to think a man like Dustin would really like her like that. Not with exotic women around. “I was fine. I am fine.”

“Did he hurt you?”

“No.” Yes. “Seriously Cary, just drop it. Jake’s coming over in awhile and I need to get this assignment done.”

His eyebrows rose in surprise. Jake? He knew there was something more to it than she was saying, heck, he’d seen that for himself on the beach. He threw his hands up. Whatever. She obviously doesn’t want to talk about it.

 

 

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Bronwyn came to bar again, a few evenings later.  It was late, and Joel was getting ready to close down the bar for the night. The smell of Autumn hung in the air.

“Aren’t you a bit young to be drinking this much?” he asked with a bemused smile.

“I’m hardly a child anymore Joel, in case you hadn’t noticed.” She tossed him a coquettish smile.

“I could hardly fail to notice,” he replied evenly. It was true. “What’ll it be for you this evening?” He pulled a glass from under the bar.

“A cherry cassanova, please,” she said smoothly. He raised an eyebrow at her choice as he mixed the drink for her. Cocking her head to the side, she watched as he did so. “Are you seeing anyone, Joel?”

“No.” He slid the glass to her, crossing his arms and standing back to regard her.

 

 

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Bronwyn gave her drink a tiny sip, then plunked it back onto the bar decisively. He started to ask her if there was something wrong with it. Sliding off the bar stool, she came around to the end of the bar. “You want company tonight?” From her laughter, he knew the look of surprise on his face must have been something to see. “Well?” she persisted.

“Well,” was all he managed. Look at you, Joel, it’s been so long since you’ve been with a woman that you don’t even know how to say ‘yes’ anymore. “Yes.”

She smiled triumphantly.

 

 

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“How do I look?” Ayala turned so Jake could see her dress.

“Gorgeous!” And by the look on his face, she knew it was true. He offered her his arm, and they made their way to the dance, which was set up near the beach past the community center.

 

 

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Carrick watched his sister with Jake, pleased that she seemed to finally be more of herself again.

Ayala was having a great time at the dance, and was very glad she’d decided to come. Jake was attentive, and quite surprised her by how good of a dancer he was. She’d never seen him dance before, but he whirled and dipped as if he’d been dancing all his life.

“Having fun?” he asked her.

“Oh yes, best time I’ve had all week!”

 

 

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The music moved into a yet slower tune, and Jake pulled her close against him. “You smell good enough to eat,” he whispered into her ear. His hand slipped a little lower on her hip.

Ayala pulled away slightly. “Thanks, it’s some French perfume of my mom’s she let me use.”

Jake pulled her closer again, inhaling her perfume. “Do you want a drink?” he asked.

 

 

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“Sounds good,” Ayala said agreeably. She was feeling a little flustered by his nearness. And after dancing for awhile, she’d definitely worked up a thirst.

 

 

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Jake handed her a glass and poured another for himself, then led her to a bench, where they sat in silence for a few minutes. Ayala sipped the nectar and looked up at the stars. I’m so glad I came tonight. This is just what I needed. She cast around, thinking of something to say. “Good music tonight, too. That was nice of Kiwi Hale to play for us.”

He nodded, taking another sip of nectar. “Yeah it was short notice, too. Dustin was going to play guitar tonight, but he bailed.”

“Oh,” was all she could think to say. She wasn’t ready to see Dustin again yet.

 

 

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“It’s getting late. Let’s go to beach for a little while before I take you home,” he said suddenly.

“Great idea,” she said. Jake jumped up, pulling her up and putting his arm around her. She didn’t pull away this time.

 

 

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They sat on the beach, watching the stars for awhile, making small talk, then lapsed into silence again. “Ayala,” he broke into her thoughts. “Thanks for coming tonight. I really had fun with you.”

“Me too,” she smiled. It really had been fun. She felt happy and relaxed. “I had no idea you could dance like that!”

“My mom taught me.” Jake shifted closer to her in the sand. “I really like you. I was wondering…I was hoping we could hang out more.”

She regarded him, noting how the moonlight shone off his golden hair. He’s a handsome guy, she acknowledged. “Sure, we can hang out again.”

“I mean, like.” He took a deep breath. “Will you be my girlfriend?”

 

 

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Before she could answer, Jake leaned forward and kissed her. Caught by surprise, she found herself kissing him back. She’d never kissed anyone before, and this was nice. Really nice, she thought when she felt his tongue on her lips. She opened her mouth for him, and his tongue plunged into her mouth.

 

 

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It was both a strange and good sensation, when his tongue moved in circles around hers. She let him push her back a little, propping herself on her elbows as he leaned over her. They made out for a little while, and it crossed her mind that Jake was not only a good dancer, but also a great kisser. Not that she had any points of comparison, though.

 

 

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Finally, Jake pulled back to look down at her. “So is that a yes?”

She laughed. “I think that’s a yes!”

He took a deep breath to calm himself, in more ways than one, then sat back and helped pull her up. He kissed her again, more softly this time. “I better get you home. Carrick saw us leave and I know he’d kill me if he thought I was, you know. Besides, I don’t want to move too fast.”

Move too fast about what? Why would Carrick kill him, and what is “you know”? she wondered. We were just kissing.

 

 

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Another Autumn had washed over Ouroboros, bringing with it brilliant colors, and cooler nights that made the campfire a welcome kiss of warmth at the day’s end. Shane could feel it in his bones, this would be his last Autumn. It saddened him only to know that he probably wouldn’t live long enough to see his youngest daughters grow into young women.

 

 

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Nevertheless Shane felt great satisfaction in the life he’d built for his family. His nectars had accomplished notoriety across the seas, particularly in Champs Les Sims, from which merchants traveled regularly to the island to trade with him. In addition to bringing more commerce to the island, Shane had been able to build a home for his large family the likes of which the island had never seen. Locals deferred to him as a leader in the village, and Meadowstone Manor would be home to his legacy for generations to come.

 

 

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Ayala had been seeing Jake for a few months, and found she much liked having a boyfriend. It was nice not feeling like a fifth wheel at parties and gatherings anymore. It was nice not having to feel lonely. It was nice that someone always wanted her around. It was nice to be kissed. The more time she spent with Jake, the more like she felt she was getting to know a whole new side to herself. Jake’s attentions made her more aware of herself as a woman.

 

 

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Nick Hale and Nadia Riverhaven had also started dating, adding another couple to the mix. Ayala felt a little bad for Jennika Swiftglen and Nala Riverhaven, who had recently started hanging out with the older kids. They were both now in the position of feeling like fifth wheels.

 

 

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Sometimes she didn’t mind Jake’s public displays of affection, but other times she did. Sometimes it seemed like all he wanted to do was make out, especially when she wanted to talk and relax with their friends. Tonight he’d playfully pulled her behind the bushes and started kissing her. A lot of the couples did this, so Ayala thought nothing of it. In fact, it was a little exciting to be off alone with him.

He swept tendrils of hair off her neck, wetly kissing her skin. Pulling the shoulder of her shirt aside, he kissed down her shoulder, which made her shiver a little. “You like that?” his breath was warm against her neck as he held her flush against his chest. “Kiss my neck,” he said, giving a little groan when she did so.

She was surprised when she felt his hand slide under her shirt, and tried to pull away a little. “We should go somewhere to be alone,” he whispered, kissing her mouth again, his hand working it’s way down her back.

She teasingly pushed him away. “We are alone. Sort of. But I think we should get back to the bonfire, actually,” she said, and started walking back to the group. Behind her, she heard a frustrated sigh, but he followed.

 

 

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A few weeks later, the cool autumn weather gave in to a warm snap, and some of the couples headed up to hot springs near the bonfire pit. Ayala was enjoying herself, feeling languid in the warm water, and talking with Nadia about something that happened in school. Jake and Nick were talking about hunting and fishing, as usual. Carrick and Rhea had been arguing earlier in the evening, but apparently they’d made nice, and were making nicer in the pool.

“Gah, you two, get a tent or something,” Nick laughed, splashing water at Carrick.

 

 

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Rhea looked at Carrick. “You know what, lover, I think he’s right.” She climbed out of the spring, hauling a willing Carrick with her. They disappeared behind some bushes, and the group in the hot spring tried to ignore the not-so-furtive noises coming from the bushes.

“THE TENT, CARRICK, THE TENT! Surely you can make it that far!” Nick yelled, causing everyone to laugh.

“Alright, alright,” called Carrick. “We’re going!”

“Gross.” Ayala wrinkled her nose, and Nadia laughed with her. The four of them resumed their conversation, punctuated with splashing and laughing, but soon Nadia decided to call it a night, and Nick left to walk her back to her camp.

 

 

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Ayala stretched, then lifted herself out of the water to sit on the edge of the pool. “I guess we should get going too,” she said.

Jake looked up at her. “We don’t have to go. Don’t you want to stay? We finally have the night to ourselves.”

 

 

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“And we’re finally alone,” he said, rising out of the water to lean over her, brushing her lips with his.

 

 

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Jake tugged her back down into the water, and she willingly gave herself over when he kissed her. It wasn’t often they were really alone together, and this moment seemed romantic, with the warmth of the water and of Jake’s body so near to her own, the sounds of the night wrapped around them. His lips left her mouth, trailed down her neck and shoulder, then raised her arm and placed it over his shoulder. She smiled at him and kissed him again.

His hands began wandering more freely over her body as they kissed, and she felt a moment’s annoyance. Is this all he ever thinks about? Breaking off the kiss, she leaned back casually and pointed out the yankee moon rising above the island, hoping to cool him down. Instead, he took advantage of her leaning back. She jumped when she felt his hand rubbing against her breast. “Jake–” she said, but he filled her mouth with his tongue again.

“Just relax,” he whispered against her ear. His fingers plucked at her nipple beneath the wet fabric of her bikini top.

 

 

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Ayala leaned her head back. Just relax, Ayala, really. It does feel good. His fingers sent little jolts of sensation skittering through her stomach. All the other kids love doing stuff like this. Just go with the flow, she told herself. Her hands moved restlessly on his shoulders, which Jake took as an assent. Peeling down one side of her bikini top, his mouth closed over her nipple with an excited grunt. Ayala gasped in shock. She started to pull her hand back so she could push him away, but he resettled it on his shoulder again. His other hand tugged down the other half of her bikini top. “Does this feel good?”

 

 

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Actually, it did feel good, but it was also feeling very overwhelming. This was a lot farther than they’d gone before and she wasn’t ready for it.

“Gods Ayala, you’re so beautiful,” he leaned back up in the water to kiss her mouth again, and she relaxed a little, now that his mouth was back in familiar territory.

“I need to get back to camp,” she said softly.

“But why? Aren’t you enjoying this?”

“I am, it’s just–” He pressed his hips between her legs, and she jumped again when she felt he had an erection. “Jake, really. Not here.”

“This feels good, Ayala, I just want to show you how I feel about you,” he gasped against her ear. He reached a hand between them, trying to pull her bikini bottom to the side, and bent his head to suck her nipple again. “Here is perfect.” He managed to slide a finger under the fabric.  “You know you want it.”

 

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A/N: If you’re wondering about Joel’s appearance in this and the last chapter, Joel was introduced to the legacy at the time of Layla Sixkiller’s visit to Ouroboros. I’d intended a much larger role for him in the legacy story, but that isn’t working out with the island’s current population. Before I put him to pasture, he’s being given a few cameos. For instance, we know from Joel’s POV in the last chapter what Dustin was really talking about with the traveling woman. Joel’s cameo appearances will figure into the background story on the island, providing a backdrop for an important scene in a few chapters.

Are you still worried about Jake getting hurt?

ETA outtakes are up on the bloopers and outtakes page. Including his yumminess!