When I wrote ARTICLE 5, I did not anticipate that Sean would offer any more than a brief glimpse into what Ember deemed the Moral Militia. I didn’t anticipate him becoming a friend, or falling in love with Ember’s BFF, Rebecca. I didn’t anticipate him lasting more than one book. I certainly didn’t anticipate that I, or anyone else, would fall in love with him (you can thank my editor for that).
It’s been four years since ARTICLE 5 hit shelves, and still Sean is the character I’m asked about most. Thank you for caring about he and Rebecca, and for wanting them to be okay. I wrote this scene because they are okay, but it took steps like this to get them there. I hope you love it. It was truly a pleasure to write. Remember, if you like reading extra scenes like this, you should totally sign up for my newsletter, under PRESS BACK: SIGN UP FOR THE CHARTER NEWSLETTER on the right side of my website!
***WARNING! This scene takes place in THREE (Book 3 in the ARTICLE 5 series), when Sean and his Becca are at the resistance compound. THERE ARE SPOILERS IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE THIRD BOOK. Also, it’s a little steamy. Ok, enjoy.***
*Also! Don’t forget to look for the 3 hidden words in the following scene. (Hint: They are in RED.) Unscramble the quote from the posts on this blog hop (all are listed below) and you can enter to win a Kindle Fire and a copy of GLASS ARROW!*
Sean and Becca
When he didn’t see her at dinner, Sean went looking. First in the medical wing at the lodge, thinking maybe she was with Dr. DeWitt. Then in the barracks. Then in the stables. That’s where he found her, leaning against the wooden fence, pulling a heavy saddle off the back of a chestnut mare.
She shouldn’t have been doing that herself – someone else could have helped her. He could have helped her, had he known she’d still be here. But Becca had never been the asking-for-help type. She’d been the I-can-do-it-on-my-own type, and lately, when that didn’t work out so well, the leave-me-the-hell-alone type.
He was tired of leaving her the hell alone.
So he watched. And maybe it was creepy because she didn’t know, but what she didn’t know couldn’t really hurt her, could it?
And damn. She was pretty.
Even in cult attire.
Her blonde hair was still short, but he liked it that way. It showed off the lines of her neck, and her jaw, and that place at her collar where she liked to be kissed.
His throat tightened, remembering the times she’d snuck out of the dorms at the rehab center to meet him in the woods. He quickly looked around to make sure someone wasn’t watching him.
Inch by inch, Becca slid the saddle down the mare’s side. He willed the animal to be still so she could finish, but every time it stomped its hoof, or flicked its ear, he winced. He held his breath until Becca had taken the leather seat over her forearm, and when she set it on the fence he grinned like a fool, her victory surging through him.
But then her grip on the fence slipped, and she rocked back, balance lost. She tried to catch herself on the post but it was too late; she fell on her side in the grass. Sean didn’t wait to see if she could recover—he was already halfway there, startling the horse who jumped sideways and then galloped away.
“Are you o…”
He stopped suddenly, thrown back by the ice in her gaze.
“I just wanted to make sure…”
“I know what you wanted,” she said, situating her thin legs beneath her. She hid them in long pants even when it was hot out, as if this would somehow disguise the injuries that weakened them.
It wounded him that she hid from others. It flat out hurt that she wanted to hide from him.
“Do you?” he asked, hands planted on his hips. He was so tired of feeling useless around her. Why was it so awful that he wanted to help? Why couldn’t she see that every time she fell, he fell, and when he stood, he stood for both of them?
She looked away, unwilling to try to pull herself up, he knew, until he turned away.
“Well?” he said, refusing for once to do what she wanted. He was tired of giving her room; it just pushed them further apart. “What do I want? Since you seem to know.”
Her head whipped back his direction, eyes narrowed up at him. A deep blush painted her cheeks, and when her bottom lip trembled, he felt his throat tie in knots.
This girl was going to destroy him, one way or another.
“You want things to be like they were,” she said, and damn him, if it didn’t break his heart a little.
“At rehab, you mean? When no one was allowed to know about us? Or did you mean when we were apart and I had no idea where they’d taken you? Yeah, I’d give anything to go back there.” He didn’t mean to be cruel, but he’d held it in for too long. Words he’d swallowed, just to save her feelings, were pushing against his teeth, begging to burst free.
“I mean when I could walk,” she said. And just like that, he deflated. He slumped forward, the dusky sky heavy on his shoulders. Her face was turned downward, and she pulled absently at the long grass she sat upon. He looked for her crutches along the fence line but didn’t find them. How she’d planned on getting back to the barn, he didn’t know.
He knelt before her, a foot away, raking a hand through his hair.
“Becca,” he said softly.
Her chin lifted, and she met his gaze. It stilled him, as it always did. It silenced all the memories, and quieted the guilt, until all he could see was her. The hope in her blue eyes that made him believe in anything. The fear that made him want to be stronger. Her full, pink lips that he would have given anything to see tilt up in a smile.
“I just want to help,” he whispered.
He leaned a little closer, a test to see if she’d back away. She didn’t.
“Help,” she repeated, the disappointment making her shoulders sag. He didn’t understand women. Of course he wanted to help. Was that so wrong?
“You used to want other things, too.”
He stopped moving, excruciatingly aware of the chirping crickets, and breeze in the grass, and the way she looked up at him through her lashes. A hundred thoughts flashed through his head: the feel of her lips, and the sound of her sigh, and how she used to pull his hair when they kissed.
He coughed into his fist. “Well.” He coughed again. She was talking about something else. She had to be. She needed time, and he’d sworn to give her as much as she needed.
And even if she was talking about what he thought she was talking about, it didn’t mean she wanted him to do anything about it. Hey, she might have been saying, we used to mess around, just like the way someone might say, hey, you used to like cauliflower, or hey, you used to enjoy the finer things, like electricity.
His knuckles rubbed at the tense muscles in his chest. He needed a cold shower, but you know what they didn’t have in refugee compounds? Showers.
She was still looking at him, and he was suddenly trapped by the weight of her expectations and the hope it triggered inside of him.
He cleared his throat.
“I’m not in any hurry,” he said. And it was true, but it felt like a lie. If she gave him the green light, he would have gone crazy on her.
“I know,” she said.
And if there’d been confusion before, there wasn’t now. He had definitely said the wrong thing.
“I don’t know what you want,” he said.
“You could start by not looking at me like I might break.”
It took a second for this to sink in, and when it did, everything pulled too tight within him frayed, and snapped, and he threw back his head and barked out a laugh into the failing light.
“Are you making fun…”
“You make me crazy,” he said. “Think you might break. Good God, Becca. You’re tougher than two of me.”
She was the strongest person he’d ever known. The things she’d survived, he wasn’t sure he could. But she did it with a kind of determination he’d never seen, not even in Chase when he’d gotten his ass arrested on purpose, just to find Ember.
He pulled back, rocking onto his heels. Becca was so hellbent on being made of steel, he’d missed how fragile she was just beneath that cool exterior. Maybe it shouldn’t have relieved him, but it did, because he knew no one else saw what he did right now.
“Becca, I love you.”
She looked away.
“I love you.” He swallowed. “All of you. However you are.”
He could tell she didn’t believe him. Not fully. And damn him for that, too.
He would make it up to her. Now that he knew he could, he would do everything in his power to be the kind of guy she needed.
“I don’t how we come back from this,” she said, swiping a hand over her legs. A cold fear gripped his chest. He didn’t know how to touch her anymore. She had pain; he saw it in every step she took. Parts of her legs were numb, as well. The doctor said she’d made progress, and the exercises were helping, but no one knew if she’d ever walk, or do other things, the same again.
Resolve steeled him. Even if things had changed, it wouldn’t matter. He’d be there for her. They’d figure out a way to be together that was all their own, and it would be okay because they loved each other.
But if he hurt her…
“It’s all right,” she said. He realized he’d been staring at her legs, and lifted his chin. She was giving him an out.
It was cute she thought he’d take it.
“I don’t really know how it works, either, Becca. But I have a plan.”
“You do?” A brow hiked up beneath the fringe of her bangs.
“I do,” he said, sliding his fingertips down her neck to her shoulders, and then down her arms. He felt her shiver, and reminded himself to be slow. “A systematic approach that begins with removing a saddle off a horse. Well done on phase one, by the way.”
“Thank you,” she said, surprise lifting the wariness in her tone.
“And continues with you sitting a little closer…” Nerves skittered through him as he reached for her knees, but he knew she needed his confidence. Gently, he slipped a hand beneath her legs and adjusted the way she sat, so her calves laid across his thighs. She propped herself up on straight arms, bottom lip between her teeth.
“That okay?” he met her eyes, wildly hoping he hadn’t crossed any lines yet. They’d talked since he’d taken her from the hospital. They spent all night talking sometimes. But they touched rarely, and when they did, it was always in a friendly way.
“You can’t wear shoes for phase two,” he said. “I’ll let it go since you’re still new here, but try not to let it happen again.”
He was unbelievably smooth sometimes.
“So we’ll just take them off,” he said quickly, pulling her boots off by the heel. He threw them aside in the grass. “Socks too.” They followed, and soon her bare feet were spilling over the side of his lap, pale in the purple night.
He rested his hands on her shins, over her thick pants, wondering how much she could feel. He wanted her to feel everything. He wanted her to feel half as much as he did just then.
“Phase three involves a simple yes or no quiz.”
“I’m good at tests,” she said, her voice a little higher.
He smiled down at her legs.
“I’ll be the judge of that,” he said, the breath held in his lungs. “Are you ready for the first question?”
She nodded, a little smirk on her lips. He wanted to kiss her again, but waited.
Feather soft, his fingers trailed over the top of her toes.
She didn’t move. His heart clutched in his chest.
“Do you feel that?” he asked.
She shook her head, eyes going glassy with tears.
“So it doesn’t hurt?”
“Good.” He forced himself to smile, even when he was quaking inside. “You got the first question right.” He touched the top of her right foot. Still nothing.
“Here?” he asked. Night was falling, hiding her in shadow. He hated night then. He wanted to see every inch of her.
“No,” she said. “We don’t have…”
“Here?” he asked, at the base of her ankle.
Please don’t give up on me, he thought.
His fingertip ran up the arch of her left foot. Her foot twitched. Her breath caught.
“Here?” He tried to keep his voice steady.
“Yes,” she said.
“Does it hurt?”
He went a little higher, and then a little higher, working his fingertips up her calf beneath her pants. She was thinner than before, but he could still feel muscle, still feel her soft skin. Sometimes she jumped, sometimes she felt nothing, but he kept going, and soon, she seemed just as determined as him.
They mapped her body, one inch at a time, getting familiar again to this kind of touch. When he reached her left knee, her breath came a little faster, and when his fingers brushed just beneath she gasped.
He slowed, and did it again.
“Does it hurt?” he asked, just as he’d asked a dozen times before. His voice was rough, every inch of him drawn tight and tense.
“No,” she whispered. “Do it again.”
He did, leaning closer, just as she leaned closer. Her breath hitched. His free hand grazed her jaw, and slid through her hair. They were close. Her tongue darted out to wet her lips.
“Um.” Her mouth lifted on one side. “Maybe we should go inside?”
He looked around. “Because of the bugs?” If there were roaches around he might actually die.
She snorted. “Because of the people. Who live here. Who might walk by.”
“Oh,” he said, having forgotten they weren’t the only two people in the world. “If anyone comes this way, I’ll shoot them.”
She laughed, but the sound only made everything within him ache harder. The others were at dinner, and after, they’d return to the barracks. No one would come this way.
He eased her back, and balanced himself on her side, head propped up on his bent arm. The sight of her looking up at him from the grass made his pulse stutter. For a moment, he could do nothing but stare, thinking that if they went no further tonight, he could die happy. But he hoped she didn’t want to stop yet.
“Does phase four involve a kiss?” she asked.
“It actually involves you telling me how good I look in the moonlight,” he said unevenly. “But I appreciate the initiative. We can be flexible.”
He grabbed her face between his hands and kissed her, hard enough for her to feel it, not nearly hard enough to make up for all the times he hadn’t when he wished he had. He kissed her again and again, until her mouth softened, and turned up, and her hands came around his.
“Well done with Phase Five,” he managed.
“That was Phase Four,” she said. “This is Five.”
This time it was her that pulled him closer. Her that pressed them close, her tongue that licked at his lips, and explored past his teeth. Her hands that fisted in his hair. He groaned, and she groaned, and he could feel the vibrations in her mouth and thought he’d never felt anything sexier in his life.
He moved lower, hand trailing down the cords of her neck. How many times had he done this? A lot, and not nearly enough, and never, too, because it had never been like this between them. Every part of him burned for her, needed her, directed him to do whatever he could to make her breath hitch like that again, or her fingers squeeze his biceps, or to bring those goosebumps to her skin.
He existed for right now. For her.
“I feel everything,” she murmured.
He smiled against her lips, so overwhelmed that they were here, together finally, that he wept, and whispered I love you, I love you, I love you, until she finally told him, I know.
There it is! Remember to look for the THREE HIDDEN SCAVENGER HUNT WORDS (highlighted in red), and to use them to enter the HUGE Kindle Fire e-reader giveaway! (Included is a signed copy of THE GLASS ARROW!) Also, there are ALL SORTS of great things happening on this blog hop, guys. Check out each of these blogs for more great posts and giveaways!
- February 1st– Fiction Fare
- February 1st– Swoony Boys Podcast
- February 2nd– WhoRU blog
- February 3rd– Lost in Literature
- February 4th– Brighton Walsh
- February 5th– Gone with the Words
- February 6th– Alexa Loves Books
- February 7th– Andi’s ABCs
- February 8th– Huntley Fitzpatrick (hosted on Fiction Fare and Swoony Boys Podcast)
- February 9th– No BS Book Reviews
- February 10th– Ashley Herring Blake
- February 11th– We So Nerdy
- February 12th- Roshani Chokshi
- February 13th– The Irish Banana Review
- February 14th– Kristen Simmons
As always, thanks for reading!