Untouched: A Cedar Cove Novella Part 8

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I sit on the porch all afternoon, watching the tide roll in. I think about Emerson, but this time, it's not grief, or hopelessness circling endlessly in my mind. This time, I think clearly. I'm trying to find an answer.

We're meant to be together.

It's simple, and sure, maybe even naive, but it's the truest thing I've ever known. He's mine. I'm his. We belong to each other now, and I just have to find a way to make him see it, see that he deserves to be happy as much as anyone, that we can make this work, for real.

Because the alternative-life without him-hurts too much to even bear.

I stare out at the ocean, all these questions racing in my mind. Soon I see, there's someone out in the ocean, a surfer. I can make out the pale strip of his board as he sits, bobbing on the surface, waiting for a wave. But the whole afternoon, he never takes one. I see him paddling furiously, every time a swell comes through. He lines up his board with the oncoming wave, gets into position, and then... just lets it roll by.

I wonder what's holding him back. Fear, getting the best of him, before he can let go. I know how he must feel. I always promised myself I wouldn't be like my parents: I'd love bravely, no matter what the cost. But looking into my future, so many decisions to be made, I can see, how sometimes it's easier just to let the wave pass you by. You can tell yourself it's not the right one, that you're playing it safe, that it's too much to take. And maybe, you're right.

But you stay there, bobbing on the surface. You never know what it's like, to take flight and soar, propelled on by something bigger than yourself.

I want that. I want Emerson. And I don't care how.

I feel the certainty flood through me, as if there was ever any doubt. He's all that counts in the world to me. College, the future, it's all just details. There are other schools, other cities.

But there will never be another him.

I find my phone, and with shaking hands, I dial.


"Emerson?" My voice is trembling, but I don't stop. I have to say it, it's the only thing I have left.

I take a breath and let it spill out in a rush.

"I love you."

I stop, hearing the words out loud. It sounds so simple, but it means everything in the world to me. I let out a self-conscious laugh, "I know, it's wrong to be saying that to your voicemail, but, you need to hear it." I swallow. "I want to be with you, Emerson. That's all that matters to me. We'll figure out the rest together. Just, come to me. I'll be in my darkroom. I... I don't want to be alone anymore."

I hang up, my heart racing.

He could say no. He could keep pushing me away. But somehow, I know that doesn't matter. I'm not giving up on him, not like everyone else in his life. He thinks I'm going to leave because the rest of them always do, but I won't. I'm staying right here, as long as it takes.

I'll make him see, we're all that matters now.


She loves me.

After everything. After seeing my life laid bare, all the mess, and pain, and twisted shadows that come with it, everything I've been ashamed of for so long. I don't deserve her, I know. She's seen the worst of me: the brute animal, the demons unleashed. She's seen it all.

Still, she loves me.

There's no choice, not a moment of doubt. I don't stop, even for red lights.


I carefully soak the last photograph in the chemical bath. My hands are shaking, my whole body wound tight with nervous anticipation. I can't help but glance at my watch again, struggling to make out the time in the dim darkroom light.


As soon as I hung up from Emerson's voicemail, I took a shower and changed: picking out pretty underwear, and my favorite sundress; lip gloss, and a ponytail. I felt like I was dressing for a date, or graduation, but this is even bigger. I'm on the edge of something, the rest of my life, right now.

Once he's here, there'll be no going back.

I try and distract myself with the photos. I lift the final print out of the liquid, and pin it to the line to dry. It's Emerson, the photo I took during our perfect day together. He's in the driver's seat, lounging back, one hand on the wheel. He's grinning at me, so relaxed and free, I can hardly believe he's the same guy I saw pummeling that dead-beat dealer, driving his fists into the other man's face over and over until I thought he'd leave him dead on the ground. My heart broke for him, watching his mom leave, but even more, for the look of grim resignation on Emerson's face, the betrayal and hurt he would never speak.

I vow to myself, to never let him feel that way again. I can love him, and protect him from the pain. We can heal each other.

I feel a sudden shiver, and I know he's here, even before the shed door opens and evening light comes flooding in. "Close it, quick!" I cry.

Emerson steps inside and slams it shut."What's wrong?"

"The photos," I check them, and let out a sigh of relief. "It's OK, the chemicals have set. You have to develop them in total dark," I explain, "Or else the paper gets exposed, and nothing prints."

He comes closer to me in the dark, and I catch my breath. The photos distracted me for a moment, but now he's right in front of me, and everything comes flooding back. All my nerves, and hopes, the love swelling in my chest.

And desire.

Emerson stops, a step away from me. His body looms in the shadows, dark eyes glittering in the red beam of the safety bulb. "What you said, in your message..." he trails off, "Did you mean it?"

There's a twist in his voice, full of hope.

I close the distance between us, and place both palms on his chest. I can feel his heart racing through the fabric of his shirt, a wild rhythm that matches my own.

"Yes." I vow. I look up into his eyes, and feel the sense of pure rightness wash over me. This is exactly where I'm supposed to be. With him.

"I love you." I say it softly, tracing one hand up to touch his jaw. I run my fingers over his lips, those lips that send me to heaven with the faintest kiss. "I know it seems impossible, but, it's the only thing that's real to me. I want you," I add, my voice sounding calm and sure despite the butterflies in my stomach. "I want everything."

Emerson's eyes flash in recognition, but still, he doesn't move.

"You're sure?" His voice is hoarse. "Because if we... You can't take it back." His body is tight, and full of tension under my hands. All his power, held back, strung out on the most delicate of wires, waiting to be unleashed.

"I don't want to take it back," I'm dizzy, inhaling the scent of him. My legs are weak, just from being so close, but I need him to let go, to surrender to the force that is so much bigger than the both of us.

I press closer against him, and Emerson clenches his jaw. "I want to belong to you." I tell him, clear. "Always."

I bring my face closer, closer to his, until our lips are just inches apart.

"Take me." I breathe as my mouth finds his. "I'm yours."

Emerson lets out a tormented groan, and then his control is gone, all restraint lost as he sweeps me into his arms, his lips crashing down on mine in a searing kiss that shocks right through me.

He slams me up against the cabinet, devouring me with his mouth, his body, his hands. I clutch eagerly to him, overcome by my hunger, to know every part of him; feel everything. He lifts me as if I weigh nothing, and I wrap my legs tight around his waist. I kiss him back with everything I have, already pulling his T-shirt over his head so my hands can roam across the warm skin of his shoulders, his back, his chest. I slide my hands over the smooth planes, marveling at the taut, hard muscles. The beauty of him.

Emerson breaks the kiss, yanking my dress straps down and raking his tongue across my breasts. I gasp, the sensation rippling through me, a thick pull that itches in my veins and pools with an ache between my thighs. I thrust against him, reckless, wanton, loving the feel of his mouth closing around my nipple, teasing and toying until I'm crying out for more.

Emerson lifts me away from the wall, and we fall to the floor in a tangle of limbs and hot, greedy kisses. I lick across his chest, savoring the taste of his skin, and the way his whole body flinches under my mouth. He shoves my dress down, yanking it off the whole way so I'm trapped beneath him in just my lace bra and panties. Exposed.

He catches his breath, looking down at me with a fierce tenderness in his gaze. "God, you're beautiful," he breathes, and then he's kissing me again, hard and fast until there's nothing left in my mind and all I can feel is the tantalizing thrust of his body against mine and the delicious sensation of his bare chest pressing against my breasts. He tears off my bra, groaning into my mouth as his hand slides between my thighs.

I cry out. I'm wet for him, aching, and I sob with relief as his fingers find me, rubbing gently, searching, teasing me until I'm bucking wildly in his arms.

"Now," I gasp, pulling away to grip his face in both my hands. I stare at him, panting and desperate for something I've never even known. "I want all of you, I need to know..." I break off, helpless. There are no words to explain how I feel, how this desire is consuming me, and I'm lost in the glorious flames.

But I see it, in the dark intensity of his eyes, Emerson feels it too. He rolls off me, just for a moment, and pulls a condom from his pocket. Then he strips off his jeans and underwear, returning to lie beside me, his body hot against my skin. He kisses me again, tender, and slowly moves me into position.

I lay beneath him, and catch my breath. He settles between my thighs, the look on his face so strained and focused, I can't help but smile.

"What?" he whispers, reaching to stroke some hair back from my face.

I smile up at him. "You." I whisper, suddenly shy. "It's always you."

A look comes over Emerson I've never seen before. A quiet joy that takes my breath away.

"I love you," he whispers, and I feel his body surge to meet mine. I gasp, taking him into me, feeling the sharp ache and then, oh, the glorious fullness. I stop, our eyes locked, something so precious and true passing between us, I know my life will never be the same.

"I love you," Emerson breathes again. He starts to move, and I move with him, moaning, lost in the fresh wave of sensation pulsing through me. "It's you, Jules. It's always been you."

He shifts, pulling me closer, angling deeper, and I cry out in pleasure. The fever is taking over me now, pulling me down, every thrust sending me closer to the edge. Emerson is gasping, wild against me, and it's all I can do to hold on tight, answering his body's every demand with my own. The tide rises, building, every muscle in my body pulled tight with desire, but somehow I can't break, I can't surrender.

"Don't hold back," I gasp, writhing under his touch. "I want all of you. Everything you are."

Emerson's eyes flash, and then he's slamming into me, harder, deeper, everything I need. I rise up to meet him, sinking my nails into his back, throwing back my head in abandon. I feel it come, closer, closer, and then Emerson's face changes and his body goes stiff, and I'm crying out as the wave finally crashes over us, sending me spinning, broken, into the depths of pure ecstasy.

I finally surface, limp in his arms. Emerson is heavy on top of me, his delicious weight pressing down. I take a shuddering breath, my heart racing. Pure gold is shimmering in every cell of my body, an afterglow of peace and breathless pleasure.

"Hey, baby." Emerson blinks his eyes open, and rolls off me. I open my mouth to protest, but then he pulls me against him, spooning me so I'm tucked, tight against his chest. I relax into his embrace, feeling the race of his heartbeat, and his labored breath.

"Hey yourself." I sigh, resting my head back onto his shoulder. "That was..."

"Mind-blowing, life-changing, fucking perfection?" Emerson finishes for me.

I laugh, twisting to kiss him. I place my hand against his cheek, still dazed from the storm of sensation. "If that's what it's like, how does anyone get out of bed?" I tease.

Emerson grins. "It's not like that, not with anyone else." he answers. "Not ever."

"Oh," I feel a glow of pride, and snuggle closer. "Just us."

"All you, baby." He kisses my sweaty forehead, and I lay back, yawning. "Will your mom be looking for you?" he asks softly, tracing down my naked body.

I shiver under his touch and shake my head. "She went to bed early, she's still got this flu."

"So we've got all night?" Emerson asks, smiling wide.

"We've got forever."


I laid there in her arms until morning, feeling the softness of her body, pressed against me, the heat of her skin against mine. I held her, safe in my arms, and knew that now we'd found each other, nothing could break us apart.

We would be together forever, in love, just like this. We would make it work somehow. I knew it with every atom in my body, every dream I'd hardly dared to think. We belonged to each other now, our lives together were only just beginning.

I was wrong.


Emerson and Juliet's story continues in the USA Today Bestseller UNBROKEN. Read on for more info and a look at Chapter One!


Emerson and Juliet's story continues in the USA TODAY Bestselling novel, out now!

Mom always told me there are two kinds of love in this world: the steady breeze, and the hurricane. Emerson Ray was my hurricane...

Juliet McKenzie was an innocent eighteen-year old when she spent the summer in Cedar Cove-and fell head over heels in love with Emerson. Complicated, intense Emerson, the local bad boy. His blue eyes hid dark secrets, and just one touch could set Juliet ablaze. Their love was demanding and all-consuming, but when summer ended, tragedy tore them apart. Juliet swore she'd never go back, and she's kept that promise... Until now.

Four years later, Juliet's done her best to rebuild the wreckage of her shattered life. She's got a great boyfriend, and a steady job planned after she graduates. Returning to Cedar Cove to pack up her family's beach house to prepare it for sale, Juliet is determined that nothing will stand in the way of her future. But one look from Emerson, and all her old desire comes flooding back. He let her go once, but this time, he's not giving up without a fight. And Emerson fights dirty.

A heartbreaking history. An unstoppable passion. Torn between her past and future, Juliet struggles to separate love from desire. But will they find a way to overcome their tragic secrets-together? And after so much damage has been done, can a love remain unbroken?


Untouched: A Cedar Cove Novella Part 8

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Untouched: A Cedar Cove Novella Part 8 summary

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