SAY WHAT YOU NEED TO SAY
|Ryan picks up the ticket from my lap. “You need to see Christian at the art show?” He asks, arching his perfect brow.
“No— maybe— I don’t know.” I shake my head. “What I mean is I need to go see him today. I need some closure. I’m pretty sure he does too.”
“OK, why don’t you call him,” he states, matter-of-factly.
“Because I need to see him in person. It’s not a conversation I want to have over the phone.”
“Alright, I’ll call him and ask if he’ll come over,” he says, pulling his cell phone from his pocket.
“Heck, NO. That’s wrong on so many levels.” I grab the phone from his hand and try shoving it back into his pocket. “My new boyfriend can’t be calling my old boyfriend,” I inform, shaking my head in disapproval.
“Fair enough.” He grins, watching my hand squirm around his lap, then laughing at my unsuccessful attempt to put his phone back.
“You keep your hand there any longer and we might have to move rooms,” he teases, a sexy smirk playing on his lips.
I blush at his sexual innuendo, but remove my hand slowly from his jeans to amuse him further.
“I’m OK with that,” I admit, already desiring his talented lips... and more.
He quickly pats my thigh. “We’ll get there...” he trails off, presenting me with a wink and a hopeful smile. “Someday.”
It’s amazing how just a few simple words and a sign of affection can arouse a person. That person being me. But it quickly fades because I remember what has to be done.
“I need you to be okay with me leaving for a bit.”
His playful smirk disappears and he begins searching my eyes as he contemplates my request, his expression full of uncertainty.
I gaze into his deep blues with pleading eyes, rubbing his arm some more, hoping my touch will sway him.
“It’s just to say goodbye, right?” He asks, a hint of hesitation in his voice.
“Yes.” I nod.
I hear a sharp intake of breath. “Fine. I’m not thrilled about it, but I understand. You say what you need to say and hurry back to me.”
“Thank you.” I squeeze his arm and pat his leg before standing. I want to hug and kiss him, but my brother is in the kitchen getting coffee, and I’m not about to ruin his Christmas morning.
I grab some of my presents from the couch and head upstairs. I need to text Sam. She doesn’t even know about us yet.
While in my room, I decide to exchange my hoodie and leggings for jeans and a black, V-neck sweater. My phone is yanked off the charger as I sit in my computer chair and begin to text my best friend, whom I haven’t seen much of lately.
Merry Christmas, Sam!
Merry Christmas!! What’s new?
Well... Ryan kissed me two nights ago and now we’re together.
There’s a huge pause from her, and I start to worry.
Sam? You there?
You’re together now? What about Christian? Call me. ASAP!
I call Sam and give her all the details, even everything that went down last night. She doesn’t say much at first, but when I finish sharing, she has plenty to say.
“I can’t believe you aren’t with Christian anymore. It sounds like he regrets pushing you away. And Ryan— you know I’m a fan— he’s been there for me on many occasions. I consider him my friend too. But his behavior...” she clips off.
“What about it?” I ask, feeling hurt.
“Listen, you know I’ve always been keen on the idea of you together, but for him to kiss you now... I just think it’s bad timing.”
Shame washes over me. I haven’t heard Sam this worked up in awhile.
“Well, I’m sorry I disappoint you. I didn’t realize my standards were so low in comparison to yours.”
“That’s not what I’m saying at all.”
“But you are, and it’s fine,” I counter defensively.
“No. If anything I’m surprised. I thought you loved Christian.”
“I do, but it’s complicated. I love Ryan too. You already know this.”
“Yeah, but I thought you had moved on from him. You seemed happy. I don’t understand how you could just drop him.”
“I didn’t mean to. I-I can’t talk about this anymore,” I stutter. “I’ll talk to you later.”
I hang up before she can humiliate me further. I’m so embarrassed by her honesty. So embarrassed by my own decisions. I can’t change what I did, but I realize I need to start owning up to it. I just hope my pride doesn’t get in the way again.
Even though I regret the way I handled the night Ryan kissed me, I don’t regret him kissing me. I still want to be with him and I’m thrilled that he finally wants to be with me. The downside is Christian gets hurt in the process, just like he feared and predicted.
I pace my room, pings of anxiety and humility hitting me with each step. I’m upset because Sam is displeased, and I’m nervous because I need to see Christian.
Ryan pops into my room, his brow creased with worry. “Hey, I can hear you pacing from downstairs. What’s wrong?”
“I told Sam about us,” I stammer, unable to make eye contact with him.
“OK, what did she say?” He asks, calmly.
I trek back and forth as my gaze stays fixated on the ground, not giving him any kind of vocal response.
“Ally,” he says sharply, grabbing me at the shoulders, bringing me out of a trance. “Talk to me.”
My vulnerable eyes peer up and start to swell. Ryan immediately takes my saddened face with his careful hands, and kisses my forehead for a lengthy time, providing me with an abundant amount of sweetness and a touch of understanding.
“Thank you. I needed that.” I manage a slow smile and he returns a concerned one.
“Now, tell me what she said.” He takes my hand with him and we both sit on the edge of the bed.
I take in a deep audible breath. “She’s not happy about us, and she’s upset that I ended things with Christian.”
“I’m not surprised,” he answers, straightforward.
My mouth falls open.“You’re not?”
“No. Because she looks up to you. You're her moral compass. I think she’s just a little disappointed and shocked.”
“She’s mad at you too.” I frown.
“Well, that’s on me. Not you. I will talk to her. You and I are both far from perfect, and we’re going to make mistakes. Apparently, she’s not use to us making them.”
“You think we made a mistake?” I ask, feeling my pulse race erratically.
“No, but I admit that my part in it all was not in everyone’s best interest. I put you in tough spot with Christian.”
My heart settles back into my chest, and I shake my head in agreement. “Speaking of, I need to go talk to him.”
“Yeah, about that,” he says, stroking under his chin with his thumb. “Do you think it could wait until tomorrow? I really want to spend the whole day with you.”
I clasp my hands tightly across my lap, thinking hard about my answer to my sweet and irresistibly handsome, new boyfriend.
“I don’t know.” Is all I can muster, uncertain if I can fulfill his request.
“I want you all to myself,” he says, taking my hands in his.
“I thought you were okay with me seeing him,” I answer, slightly bothered by his changed mind.
“A guy is never okay with his girlfriend visiting an ex. I want to be supportive, but it’s Christmas Ally. I don’t think one more day is going to matter.”
“It matters to me.” I stand in protest.
Ryan stands as well, his expression pained from my persistence.
“I don’t want you to go,” he admits, his voice radiating a protective tone.
“I’m sorry, but I’m doing this now. I can’t wait.”
I storm for the door as my chaotic heart feels torn by Ryan’s look of shock and disappointment. I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing, but I’ve already made up my mind. I have to face Christian today.
My wrist is quickly grabbed before I can exit the room. I turn to face Ryan, my heart ready to beat out of my chest.
“Let me go,” I say, firmly.
“His voice is low but forceful. No,” he argues, “you’re not going. Not while your upset.”
“You can’t force me to stay!” I yell.
I wiggle out of his hold and make a run for it. I’m stopped in seconds of making it into the hallway and quickly pulled into Ryan’s chest.
He lifts my face with his hand and the back of my eyelids start to sting. A troubled expression embodies him, but his voice is somehow calm.
“I’m not going to be the controlling boyfriend that I really want to be right now. Im going to let you go, but I want you to know that it pains me to do so. “
The weight of his gaze is too much. I peer down at my feet, and mumble a pathetic apology.
I want to be submissive, but I can’t fight my own strong will. With a slow step backwards, I test his bold assurance. He doesn’t move, but his perfectly sculpted face appears heartbroken. It kills me to walk away, and as I turn so I no longer face him, teardrops fall onto my face.
After making it downstairs, I grab Christian’s gift from under the tree and my purse from the kitchen counter. I realize my phone is still upstairs, but it doesn’t stop me from driving away in my car.
Pools of water fill my eyes as leave. I know it was really hard for Ryan to let me go, especially while upset, and I’m probably going to pay for it later. I will make it up to him somehow. Hurting him was never my intention, but I'm very stubborn when it comes to doing what I really want to do. He knows this, which is probably why he let me leave.
I manage to pull myself together and steer towards my final destination. I’m worried Christian isn’t home, but I don’t have my phone to call and ask. I enter his condo complex and see large candy canes on the sidewalk paths. Even the hedges have some decorations poking out of them.
As I exit my car, I see Christian headed my way, carrying a large canvas bag filled with presents. His glance is elsewhere and he doesn’t notice my approach at first. I swoon at his incredibly sexy appearance, a pair of dark-washed jeans, paired with a black collared shirt, untucked, and his sleeves rolled to his forearms. So hot.
When he finally sees me, he sets the bag of gifts on the sidewalk, and moves towards me with a concerned smile.
Hey, how are you feeling?” he asks, pulling me into a warm embrace. “I was just about to call your brother and check on you.”
“I’m OK,” I say, forcing smile. “I know you said you would call but I needed to see you. I’m sorry for just showing up like this.” I look away as more tears threaten to expose my low spirited self.
“Baby, you don’t ever have to apologize for coming to see me.” He picks up his bag, and then places his hand on the small of my back. “Let’s go inside and talk.”
It’s like he’s still calling me his, and I don’t know if he even realizes it. My insides are screaming. I don’t want to do this. I can’t hurt him again.
He opens his door and waits for me to enter. The only light illuminating the room is the lights on his Christmas tree.
“Where were you headed just now?” I ask, inching towards his couch.
“My moms house, but my sister and her husband won’t be there till later. So I’m in no hurry.”
“Are you sure?” I press, already feeling awkward to be in his place.
He passes me by and sits on the sofa. I join him, setting his present on the ground next to me, while he flicks on the lamp.
“Yeah, it’s fine. What’s going on? You look upset.”
I can hear the hope in his voice. As if me being upset could somehow be good for him. It’s gut wrenching. I have to keep it together. If I start crying, I’m afraid I won’t stop.
I lead with something I probably shouldn’t lead with.
“Ryan and I had a fight about me coming here. Sams mad at me too.”
“Why is Sam upset?”
“Because of what I did to you. She adores Ryan but she doesn’t approve of the way we got together. And she’s right. The wait it just happened— I’m so sorry, Christian. You and I ended so quickly, without even an explanation. That wasn’t fair to you.”
“Falling in love isn’t always fair. I knew from day one that you were in love with someone else. You told me the night I met you, remember?”
I sink into his sofa, pleased he remembered our conversation. “Yes, I remember. That night feels like forever ago.”
“Feels like yesterday to me,” he reflects, ruefully. “Listen, I’m not angry with you anymore, and the way I reacted the other night was wrong. I’m really sorry. Ryan put you in an awkward position, and I wish you had chose differently, but I know what he means to you. He and I talked last night and it went OK, but honestly, even after the apology he gave me, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive him.”
“I understand,” I say, slouching forward on the couch. “Did he tell you when he’s leaving?”
He cocks a brow, curiosity dripping from his face. “No, when will that be?”
“The end of next month some time. I was furious when I found out. Obviously. That’s the reason I was wasted last night. But then he said he wants me to fly out to see him as much as possible, and I quickly got over it.”
“I see.” He glances to the ground, failing to mask his disappointed, yet flawless face.
“He suggested I look into schools nearby,” I explain, immediately regretting my words.
“Wait—,” he counters, quickly peering up. “He actually expects you to follow him? What about following your own path? I’m sorry, but I think it’s wrong for him to suggest you leave your family just to be near him.”
“Except that Ryan is my family,” I argue, feeling like I just crushed a part of his soul. “He’s always been there for as long as I can remember. When my parents died, he filled that void in my heart. I want to be near him, suggestion or no suggestion.”
I gaze at Christian and notice how glossy and shattered his eyes appear. He’s not hiding his pain well, and I’m only making it worse.
“I really was just a distraction for you.”
“No, not all.” My hand absentmindedly covers his knee. “I fell hard for you. Hard and fast. You surprised me in the best possible way. You gave me confidence and courage that I didn’t even know I had in me. I was more than happy with you, but it’s complicated.”
I take in a big breath and continue.
“The truth is, I’m automatically drawn to Ryan. He’s been my constant for so long— It’s like our bond is intricately woven through time.”
“I get it,” he says, covering my hand with his. “I really do. But I’m going to be honest with you and please don’t get upset. I think your past is hindering your future. You’re not ready or willing to leave the comfort of familiarity because It makes you feel safe. I can’t imagine going through a tragedy like you did. So I don’t blame you for any of it. I just hope that someday you realize Ryan is your security blanket and you don’t need him to survive.”
I’m struck by the confidence in his tone. Maybe I am clinging to Ryan for the wrong reasons. But it doesn’t matter. I still want him. I still need him.
“If that’s true, then I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’m not strong enough to let him go. But you have to promise me that you’ll let me go. I want you to be happy.”
“I can’t do that, Ally.” He sighs heavily, shifting his body on the sofa. “Not yet anyway. It’s gonna take some time. But you do what you need to do. I’ll be around if you need me. I mean that.”
“OK, but please know I still love you. That hasn’t changed. I want you to know I loved every enchanting moment, every touch, kiss, laugh, and especially every memory we made together. I love the way you loved me.
In fact, here.” I hand him his gift bag from the ground. “I debated on giving this to you. It probably won’t mean much to you now, so I’m sorry about that. If you don’t keep it, I’ll understand.”
He pulls a jar from the gift bag, confusion spreading across his face.
“There’s 365 pieces of paper inside. Each paper has something written on it. Reasons I love you, favorite quotes and bible verses.”
“Wow, this must have taken you forever,” he says, lifting the jar up to exam the contents.
“I wanted to give you something creative and original and this is what I came up with— because we both know I’m no artist.”
“This was very clever, Ally. Thank you. I look forward to reading each paper.”
His voice is kind and warm, but his eyes are strained. If he starts crying, I’m done for.
“You're welcome, and thank you for my necklace.” My fingers reach for the chain, but then I realize I forgot to put it on. “It’s beautiful.”
“Do you think you’ll make it to the art show?” He asks, tentatively.
“Yeah, I’ll be there. I’m looking forward to it.”
Finally, a smile finds his face. “Good,” he says, happily.
I have no idea if I’m going to the art show alone or with Ryan. I just know that I can’t miss it. I owe it to Christian. But I also have a strong desire to see all the fascinating art, especially his.
“I should probably get going,” I say, standing from the couch. “You have places to go, and I’ve taken enough of your time. But thank you for letting me explain myself. For being so kind and understanding. I’m glad we got to talk.”
“So is that what this visit was all about— a proper goodbye?” He asks, standing in a regretful form.
“I guess so.”
I can tell he doesn’t want me to leave and it’s killing me.
I fish for his key in my purse and hand it to him. “Here.”
“No, keep it,” he says, pushing my hand away.
“Christian, I can’t.”
“Please, I want you to have it. That way you always have a safe place if you ever need one.”
“Alright,” I whisper, holding in a flood gate. “Guess I won’t be seeing you at Kelly’s New Year’s Eve party, will I?”
“No, I don’t think that would bode well with your new boyfriend.”
“Yeah, I guess not.” I reach for him with my arms, and hug his neck so tight.“You take care of yourself.”
He holds me just as close, whispering in my ear, “you do the same.”
Tears cascade from my eyes as I kiss his cheek. I have to let him go. No matter how much it hurts.
As I turn to walk away, I’m abruptly snatched at the waist and pulled into Christian’s perfectly sculpted chest. He kisses me fiercely and with extensive measures, making sure I can feel his love. I don’t have the heart to stop him, but even if I did, my body wouldn’t cooperate. His kiss sends me over the edge, physically and emotionally.
When he finally releases me, I catch my breath and gaze up at him, tears splattered upon my cheeks. He pushes back the tears in his warm brown eyes, and wipes some of mine away with his thumb.
“I should have never pushed you away,” he breaths as one tear escapes him. “I let my insecurities get the best of me. “
Having never seen him cry before, I suddenly have a strong urge to hold him and relieve his suffering, but somehow refrain from doing so.
“I don’t know what to say, except you’re the most secure person I know. And if it weren’t for him... “ My voice is wobbly as I fade off. “I would never leave your arms.”
“I guess you should go to him, then,” he says in defeat.
My trembling hand covers his heart as my lips say the only thing they can manage, “I’m so sorry. I never expected this, and I never wanted to hurt you.”
“I know.” He sighs deeply, taking my hand from his chest, then planting a soft kiss to my skin. With a heavy disposition, he retreats to his bedroom, where just two nights ago, we almost made love for the first time.
I leave his condo with the worst feeling in my gut, tasting bile in my throat as I drag my feet to the car. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, besides my parents funeral.
Every muscle in my body is tensing as I force myself into my car. After a moment, or twenty, of sobbing off and on, I turn my engine on and head home, realizing I should have brought a coat. I’m freezing.
I don’t even knock on Ryan’s door. My shaky hand turns the knob, and I falter in with two uneasy steps.
I find him bent over, peering into the fridge. His sweater hangs over the wooden chair as a white T-shirt sculpts his athletic body.
The door inadvertently slams, and Ryan turns my way, his face surprised to see me.
“You're back,” he says, in disbelief, advancing towards my collapsing body.
When my bottom completely reaches the ground, my head falls to my chest, and I release a plethora of emotions, freely and uninhibitedly. Streams of tears flow from my already swollen eyes and are accompanied with bursts of discernible sobs.
Ryan hovers protectively, crouching to his knees in seconds. One hand is immediately titling my chin up, and the other is on my knee.
“Ally, you’re trembling,” he says, distressed. I’m scooped up quickly by two powerful arms. As I’m carried to the sofa, my attention is drawn to his bicep, and I can’t help but notice the arm muscle harden as he holds me. It’s a nice distraction.
Once I’m placed carefully on the couch, a gray throw blanket is thrown over my shoulders. “You wanna talk about it?” He asks, wrapping his strong arm around my shivering body.
I immediately bury my face in his chest, cling to his shirt with both hands, and weep hysterically.
“Just hold me,” I finally murmur.
I feel him smooth down some of my hair with his hand. “I’m not going anywhere,” he whispers in my ear.
“I’m such a horrible person,” I cry, feeling guilty for leaving him and even more guilty for crying about Christian while being held in his arms.
He presses his lips gently to my temple. “Trust me. You’re far from it.”
After my disappointing conversation with Sam, my struggle with Ryan, and my heartbreaking goodbye to Christian, my core is officially overwhelmed.
When the mental anguish starts to dull, I gaze up to a pair of warm blue eyes. A small smile finds Ryan’s lips and he presents me with a sweet kiss on the mouth. My lips want to curl, but I’m still struggling.
“You can’t even give me a little smile?” He asks, running his finger over my brow.
“Not until I confess something.” I sigh as my tired eyes flutter from his touch.
His curious brow arches. “OK, what is it?”
“Christian kissed me and I didn’t stop him.”
I hear a quick sigh before he answers.
“It’s ok, Ally. I’m not mad.”
“You’re not?” I ask, in a high-pitched voice.
He turns my body so I’m facing him head on.
“I mean, it bothers me, but I also fell like I don’t have the right to be upset after everything that’s happened. Christian is a great guy. I’ve never had a problem admitting that. And from what I’ve been able to tell, he respects you and your decisions. I’m trying to not think about why you picked me over him.”
“Well, let me clarify,” I say, reaching for his face, holding it in my hand. “You are the reason I’m still here. The reason I’m happy. You kept me going during the hardest time in my life, and you made me want to live. You understand stand me better than anyone. Even yelling at you feels normal because I’ve known you so long.”
He chuckles a little at m llast statement.
“I love that we share the same values. I love your caring and sympathetic nature. The way you make me laugh. The way you make me feel when you enter a room. The way you always take care of me. And now, I especially love the way you kiss me.”
His satisfied expression transcends into the most amazing kiss, and I do my best to absorb the magnificence of it all. He deviates from my lips to kiss my neck, ear, and even collarbone. The incredible high of each carefully placed kiss has my body growing more excited.
“How about now?” He asks, expectantly. “Can I get a smile now?”
“I don’t know,” I tease, making him work for it.
He awards me with a soft, tantalizing kiss, but I still hold out on him. I’m not ready to smile, even though my insides are beaming.
I love the sweet taste of his kisses, and the softness of his lips feels like a marshmallow fresh out of the bag.
“I want to know what you’re thinking,” he says, raising an expectant brow.
“I’m thinking about marshmallows,” I answer, stupidly.
The slightest chuckle escapes his lips.
“Yes, so light, so fluffy, and oh, so soft.”
“Oh, I see,” he says with a devilish smirk. “I didn’t realize we were talking about your butt now.”
My head tilts with a warning. “You’re asking for it,” I scold him gently.
His grin widens as his arm slides slowly under my rear. It doesn’t stay long; The soft squeeze of my butt cheek makes me jump.
“Ryan!” I squeal, feeling the heat of his playful, unexpected touch sweep across my cheeks. “I can’t believe you just did that.”
I’m sorry,” he says, solemnly, though a mischievous grin slowly appears. “I just wanted to see you smile.”
“Sure,” I say teasingly.
“Well... it’s not far off from what I actually want to do you.”
“Which is what exactly?” My brow arches as I try not to blush with anticipation.
“To bend you over my knee and spank you.”
“Say what?” I ask, awkwardly. My face feels as though it’s turning an even deeper red, embarrassed by his daring submission.
“For leaving me earlier,” he continues. “You deserve a spanking.”
I shift slightly in my seat before standing. I can’t look at him while I’m feeling this way.
He grabs my arm and says, “Hey, I was only kidding. I’m not actually going to.”
He chuckles and it only makes me blush more.
“I know,” I answer, still unable to face him.
“Sweetie, look at me,” he insists, spinning me at the hips. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, we’re good, I promise.”
There’s no way I’m revealing the truth to Ryan. That the idea of him spanking me has caused me to feel more aroused than ever. The tingling sensation has me embarrassed, and even though he’d probably understand and probably even be amused, I’m too shy to share any sexual thoughts or feelings.
“Come here,” he says, pulling me onto his lap. His hands quickly wrap around my waist as I relax on top of him. I giggle a little when he nuzzles my neck with kisses.
“That’s much better,” he says, smiling.
I turn and squish his cheeks with my hands, kissing his forehead, right between his eyes.
His playful face turns serious as he gazes intensely into my eyes. “Thank you for choosing me,” he whispers, tucking a fallen strand behind my ear.
I lean down again, my body lifted from his lap, and kiss him with one hand resting on his cheek. He fully embraces my soft, sweet brush to the lips.
“In a heartbeat, I choose you,” I say, warmly.
Without pause, he saturates my lips, sliding me down from his lap into a cradle position, so that his face is on top of mine. I’m that moment, I feel like I’m his, like he’s claiming me with his kiss.
He parts from my mouth to apologize. “I’m sorry I embarrassed you.”
“I wasn’t— not really,” I stammer, biting on my lower lip.
“Well your face and body language told me a different story.”
I press my lips together, feeling another blush coming on.
“Listen, you don’t need to be. Especially with me. I want us to be able talk about everything without fear and without shame. And I need you to always be honest with me about how you're feeling. Especially when it comes to sex. That is only going to make our relationship stronger.”
I’m impressed by his desire for us to be open and unashamed with our feelings, but I’m also confused. If he wants me to wait until marriage to have sex, then that means “we” have to wait until marriage. What’s the point in talking about sex if we’re not going to be doing it?
I want to tell him that sex doesn’t intimidate me, that the only reason I didn’t sleep with Christian was because of him, but I’m not sure if that’s the truth. Plus, it might hurt him that I wasn’t willing to wait. I peer down at the promise ring he gave me for my birthday, and say, “I want us to be open and honest too. Which means you have something very important to share with me.”
“What’s that?” He asks,
I rest my hands on his neck, still cradled in his arms. “I want to know if you’re a virgin.”
He speaks with such ease and clarity. “Yes, I am.”
His candor surprises me. He refused to answer that question in the past and now that we’re dating, it’s flows right off his tongue. I guess he only wants potential partners to know, which is making me feel more special. Knowing that he’s never been intimate with another woman makes him more attractive and desirable in my inexperienced eyes.
“Thank you for telling me,” I say, reaching for his face with my hands, pulling him closer to me.
He takes over, pressing his lips to mine with a wild, unrelenting force as he dives his tongue into my mouth. Eventually his hand finds its way to my bottom, caressing the fullness, but it doesn’t linger. It quickly moves to my lower back as he pauses his lips to call my name.
“Ally...” He moans. “I need to confess something too.”
“OK.” I exhale, realizing his tongue might be my most favorite body part.
“I don’t know if I can be patient with you and it scares me.”
I gaze into his eyes and see sincerity above all else.
“It’s OK,” I say, tracing his face with my finger. “I trust your judgement and that’s all that matters.”
I’m kissed on the forehead and then pulled in for a long embrace. Later, Ryan is kind enough to ensure me that my behind, is in fact firm, not fluffy. We talk and laugh and snuggle for hours, until I fall asleep with my cheek firmly on his chest and his arms snug around me.