Eventually, I broke away to catch my breath, studying her closely as I weighed her reaction. Her lips were puffy, her eyelids half-mast as she reached for me.
“Come back,” she begged, and at that moment, she was the sexiest woman I’d ever laid eyes on.
I was about to kiss her again when there was a loud shout outside followed by hysterical yelling. Afric and I stared at one another in confusion before we both leapt into action, climbing out of the tent to investigate. Adam’s friend, Steve, the one who took forever to get his tent up, was running around waving his hands in the air, very obviously drunk off his arse.
“Look! Look! It’s them! They’re trying to make contact,” he cried out. Several others were gesticulating at a light shining in the distance, all of them as drunk as Steve.
Adam emerged from his tent wearing nothing but a pair of boxer briefs. He looked like a cranky bear with his hairy auburn chest out as he glanced up at the sky, shook his head, then grabbed Steve by the elbow.
“Good God, man, how much have you had to drink? That’s not a bloody UFO. It’s the lighthouse over on the coast.”
At this, Steve frowned and rubbed his forehead, looking drunkenly chagrined. “Oh,” he said, realisation dawning.
I glanced at Afric, and just like that, we both burst into laughter. Adam looked over at us and started laughing, too. Moments later, we were all in hysterics. I nudged Afric with my elbow, my voice affectionate when I said, “I told you it was all fake.”
She scowled up at me playfully. “Just because we didn’t see anything tonight doesn’t mean it’s fake.”
I noticed her shiver and moved closer, wrapping my arm around her waist, “Come on. Let’s get back inside before we catch our death.”
She nodded, and I led her back to the tent. I wanted to continue what we’d started before being interrupted by Steve’s drunken shouting, but I also had a bit of a dilemma. Afric was important to me, more important than any woman I’d ever been with before, and I wanted to do things right. I needed to set Annabelle straight, for real this time, and tell her I wasn’t interested in dating her. If she then decided to tell Callum the truth, so be it.
I woke up with my face mashed into Neil’s chest. After the UFO false alarm last night, we’d gone back to bed, but he hadn’t reinitiated the kissing. Instead, he reached out and pulled me close, and I’d fallen asleep while he held me, both of us in our individual sleeping bags.
Neil was a perceptive man, and he must’ve known that the sheer intensity of kissing him had been jarring. Life altering, you might even say. I definitely needed time to process it.
Before I met Neil, I would’ve happily gone without kissing for the rest of my life. Now I wasn’t sure if I could survive a single day without kissing him, and that was a terrifying thought. What if somewhere along the way, he came to the same realisation as Dev and my other past boyfriends? What if he decided I was too annoying or that my gaming demanded too much of my attention?
I’d survived those past rejections with my head held high, but if Neil rejected me, there were no two ways about it. I’d be devastated. How I felt for him was stronger than how I’d ever felt for anyone else, and I didn’t know if I’d get over it if he didn’t want to be around me anymore.
Neil still slept as I moved away from him and shuffled out of my sleeping bag. The hot water bottle had long gone cold, and the chilly morning air hit me fast. I grabbed a hoodie from my bag and pulled it on over my head.
When I emerged from the tent, I quickly went to pee and freshen up as best I could. I’d only slept outdoors for one night, and already, I felt like I could do with taking an hour-long shower when I got home. The survivalist life certainly wasn’t for me.
When I returned, Neil was up and dressed. I found him outside, sitting on the ground while he tied his shoelaces. The tent had already been partially disassembled, and oddly, I was relieved. It meant he planned on leaving soon, and that was fine by me. I was all up in my head, almost paralysed by my fears of rejection and of losing him. The tent was a reminder of all the ways my heart had lit up and soared last night when he pressed his lips to mine.
“Morning,” he said cheerfully as he came and walked towards me with a warm smile. He bent and pressed a kiss to my temple, his hand coming to rest on my shoulder. “I hope you don’t mind that I started packing up early. I have a few things to take care of back in London, so I wanted to get on the road as soon as possible.”