He pulled me all the way onto his lap, and I didn’t think this was a “please don’t cry” hug anymore. I swallowed hard, my pulse racing as I wondered what was going to happen next. Should I just be sitting here with my face buried in his chest? Should I raise my head so he could kiss me?

Or should I already be halfway across the room telling him to keep his hands to himself?

I’ve never been an indecisive person before in my life, but Ethan had my brain cells so scrambled that I couldn’t do anything but sit there, the wheels of my mind spinning uselessly. His chin rubbed back and forth across the top of my head, his hands kneading the muscles of my back. Under different circumstances, I might have thought he was trying to be soothing, but with my head against his chest like that, I could hear the acceleration of his heartbeat. I practically held my breath in anticipation, my pulse ratcheting up to match his. I pressed closer to his warmth.

I guess I was pretty tense, because Ethan chuckled softly, the sound making my insides go squishy.

“Relax, Dana,” he said. “I don’t bite. And I promise not to ravish you.”

The heat in my cheeks was practically enough to burn through his shirt. Bad enough that I was so nervous, but even worse that he knew it. And he was laughing at me.

Okay, he was laughing at me while he still had his arms around me, but still …

I forced myself to release the breath I was holding. “I, um … I’m only sixteen,” I said. “This is kinda new to me.” And I wasn’t sure how much an eighteen-year-old guy would expect out of me. I mean, he was basically an adult, and I was … not.

“No worries,” he assured me. “Sixteen isn’t that far in my past. I remember what it’s like.”

I sincerely doubted he’d been anything like me when he was sixteen. He had too much easy confidence for me ever to believe he’d been shy around girls. But it was nice of him to try to make me feel better.

“I take it you don’t have a boyfriend?” he asked.

I was afraid to speak because I might say something stupid, so I just shook my head. He put a finger under my chin and tilted my head up toward him. My breath caught in my throat, and a pleasant shiver trailed down my spine. His eyes, usually so light in color, were made dark by his enlarged pupils, and he was looking at me like I was a piece of candy he was just dying to eat.

He lowered his head and pressed his lips against mine.

My brain went into complete overload. Ethan’s lips were warm and moist as they caressed mine, and he tasted oddly of cherries. I tried to mirror his movements, but I felt completely awkward, sure I wasn’t doing this right.

His tongue brushed against the seam of my lips until I opened my mouth. He deepened our kiss, and I practically drowned in the taste and the feel and the smell of him. But hot as he was, as attracted as I was to him, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be going down this road. I was alone with him in a secluded cave, and I was kissing him, and I felt how much he was enjoying himself, and I didn’t know him well enough to be sure he’d stop when I wanted him to.

Ethan broke off the kiss and gently stroked some hair away from my face. I was so confused and embarrassed I didn’t want to meet his gaze, but I found I couldn’t look away. He smiled at me.

“You need to stop thinking so much,” he said in a hypnotic murmur as he leaned in for another kiss.

I don’t know where I found the courage to speak, but I did. “My mom decided not to think too much when she was with my dad, and that didn’t turn out so well.”

Ethan chuckled and pulled back. “I beg to differ,” he said, his hand tracing the contours of my face, then brushing lightly down the column of my neck. “I think it turned out very well indeed.”

It was a good line, and I felt myself flush with pleasure. A part of me was jumping up and down and screaming “don’t be such a baby!” It was, after all, just a kiss.

But I couldn’t help remembering Kimber’s warnings. Ethan was a player, and no matter how hot he was, I didn’t want to be his toy.

“I don’t think this is a good idea,” I said, and I tried to slide off his lap.

I wasn’t completely shocked when his hold on me tightened. “You don’t have to be afraid of me,” he said.

It was another good line. Striking at my vanity, daring me to prove I wasn’t afraid. But it was much too obviously a line, and I wasn’t about to fall for it.

“Let go of me.” I said it calmly, though there was a hint of panic in my core. If he wanted to press the issue, I’d be in no position to stop him. So I guess technically, yeah, I was a bit afraid of him.

I was all tensed up for battle, so I was pleasantly surprised when Ethan slid me off his lap and put some distance between us. He didn’t even look annoyed with me.

“Better?” he asked, with one of his lopsided grins.

I doubted he was used to being turned down by anyone, but it sure seemed like he was taking it in stride. Which made me feel guilty for being so suspicious. If he were really playing me, surely he wouldn’t have let me go so easily.

I let out a frustrated huff. Maybe he was right that I should stop thinking so much. But I didn’t know how to turn it off. I clasped my hands in my lap and stared at them, wondering what was wrong with me. When a guy like Ethan kissed me, I should turn into a puddle of goo, not analyze it half to death. Maybe I was frigid.

“Don’t look so miserable,” Ethan said. “You’re allowed to say no.”