The difference between sitting at a lunch table with my friends and sitting on the back green with Leo were startling. I hadn't really sat down and realized how much I didn't fit in with Jessa, and Cami, and Meghan, and the boys. Sure, I liked them enough. Jessa was the best friend I could ever ask for. But it wasn't me.
Where I sat now was exactly where I wanted to me. Leo made it feel like home. It made that table in the cafeteria feel like another planet. Now that my eyes were opened to a new land, I never wanted to leave.
"Um, hello?" Leo asked as he snapped in my face.
"What?" I asked as I was brought back to this earth.
"You're all zoned out again. What's going on with you today? Are you feeling fine?" he asked as he took a chip, eating it in a single bite. His nosering was a single diamond today. I liked the hoop better.
"Oh, nothing really. I was just thinking of how much I like sitting out here with you," I said, smiling at him, his green eyes dazzling. My stomach got a swarm of butterflies and I felt giddy.
He leaned back on the grass and looked up. I glanced at him and noticed a red mark on his shoulder as his black shirt slouched down. I reached over and brushed it with my pointer. Leo flinched, swatting my hand away, and giving me a stern face, his eyes darkened and his eyebrows drawn together.
"What happened?" I asked, my voice a whisper.
He huffed. "Probably a lacrosse ball or something."
"It's all purple."
"Yeah, Carley. That's what happens when a bruise starts to fade." He scoffed at me, rolling his eyes and making me feel like an idiot. He reached up to the collar of his shirt and fixed it, covering any mark he had. It bothered me that he was hiding it. If it was from lacrosse, then who cared?
"You don't have to worry about every fucking thing I do," he muttered, turning his body away from me and wringing his hands on his lap. He popped another chip in his mouth, crunching it.
"Sorry I care, Leo. It looked like it hurt, okay." I didn't do anything wrong. All I did was notice a damn bruise on his neck and ask about it. I wasn't questioning him or making it into a big deal. He was making it into a bigger deal than it needed to be.
"Yeah, yeah," he muttered again, "you're fine. I just don't like talking about it."
"Talking about your bruise?" I asked, not understanding why that would be such a touchy subject.
"Just like stuff like that. It bothers me," he said, his eyes still not meeting mine.
"I won't bring it up again," I said, touching his shoulder. He dropped his chips on the grass and turned to me. His eyes were still dark, but softer now and he didn't seem to be in such a mood anymore.
He was a confusing guy. These little quirks where he didn't like to talk, then he did, then he was warm toward me and then all of a sudden cold, threw me around a bit. Trying to keep up with him was a worthless battle I didn't think I'd win.
"I have to get back in there," he said, standing up. He reached down and grabbed both of my hands and pulled me up along with him. I laughed as he circled his arms around my waist and pulled me against his chest. He was so much taller than me and being within his arms felt safe.
"You're comfy," I said as I snuggled my face into his chest, dragging in a breath of smoke and cologne. He was misted with something minty and like evergreens, an outdoorsy weird smell that was suddenly alluring.
He let go of me and bent down, picking up my bag and then handing it to me. I threw my backpack over my back. He grabbed my hand and lead me to the double set of glass doors to get back into the cafeteria.
"Want to meet up after school?" he asked as we began to separate. I felt like a rubberband about to snap, both of us pulling in opposite directions, waiting for the break.
"Okay dokay," I said. He leaned down to me and I pressed up onto my tiptoes greeting his kiss.
After school, Leo picked me up in his rickety car. I wanted to drop all of my books off at home before we went to the movies. As Leo pulled in front of my house, my stomach began flipping like it was tumbling under a giant wave in the ocean. Leo was going to meet my parents in less than five seconds.
"Why are you all sweaty?" Leo asked as he held my hand and walked me up to my own door. It felt like introducting my first boyfriend to them...which was what was exactly going on. I was damn terrified because my parents meant the world to me and I wanted them to approve of Leo.
"You're meeting them," I whispered, averting my eyes to the house, trying to keep it quiet.
"And..." He shrugged. "I'm super good with adults."
"I'll just have to trust you because we're about to walk in."
I pushed open the door to my house and the conforting smell I equate with my family wafts over me. Suddenly, I feel settled and calm. At first glance, everything looks normal. Nothing has changed yet. I don't feel weird or different.
"Mom?" I called out. "Dad?!"
"Oh thank god. They're probably at the cheese shop," I told him, letting out a breath of anxious air. I dropped my bag on the floor near the entrance and jumped onto the couch, relaxing.
"You're house is huge," Leo said as he walked around, looking at the many photographs on the walls and the bookcase. He moved like he was tiptoeing, not wanting to step on the ground with his shoes. It was like he never visited friends houses before.
"It's not that big. You should see Jessa's down the street. Three stories." I showed him how high with my hand, though he didn't even glance back at me, too occupied with all the things in my house to give me attention.
"These are your parents?" he asked as he lifted up a picture of the three of us at my eighth grade graduation. It was embarrassing, but I didn't really care. I wore a strapless dress, the first my parents ever let me and little one inch heels Mom bought at Macy's.
"Oh yeah," I said as I got up and met him at the shelf he was at. "They're always super weird at events like that. But it's fun. We went out to eat right after, Jessa came of course, and they pretended it was my birthday so the people working would sing to me. Super embarrassing, but really awesome cake."
"They sound pretty awesome," he said sort of distantly. He put the frame back down and trailed his fingers along to the next one.
"Hey, are you hungry?" I asked him, trying to break him free from this picture trip down memory lane. He seemed to be getting weird about it.
"Starving. You have water?" he asked, leaving the frames and following me into the kitchen. I nodded to the stool and he plopped onto it, looking into the fruit basket on the counter, seemingly surprised.
"What?" I asked, cocking my head to the side.
"You have so much fruit."
It seemed like a statement so I just left it. I pulled open the door to the fridge and began looking for something to eat. Nothing really seemed appealing. Two arms circled my mid section and I jumped. I didn't expect him to just grab my like that. I spun around to face him.
"Hi," I said, wrapping my arms around him.
"I really like your house," he said, nuzzling his nose into my neck.
"It likes you, too."
He turned his head and kissed me. I moved my hands from his waist to his neck and hung onto him. His tongue entered my mouth and I was swept away by his fast pace. It was a whirlwind. My stomach spun and I clung to him.
Out mouths broke apart and he kissed my neck, sucking on it, making a slurping sound against me. His hand traveled down my back to my butt and squeezed hard. My skin errupted in goosebumps and I shivered. He took this as a clue to move on and I let him.
He picked me up and one swoop. I wrapped my legs around his waist and giggled as he lifted me easily, walking across the floor. His green eyes were electric and droopy, clouded in a haze of lust. We flopped down onto the couch, him on top of me, supported by his strong arms.
My heart was racing. Was this the time I was going to lose it? My mind now caught up with my heart, scenarios going through my brain. I didn't think I was ready to have sex. I was sixteen, and that was normal, I guessed, but it didn't feel like a special moment.
Yeah, I was close to loving Leo. I cared a ton for him, and despite his quirks, I really did think that he cared for me. We had a good thing going. I felt safe with him. I felt like he understood me. But sex? I just wasn't that girl yet.
His hand roamed slowly up and down my side. I met his kisses, loving making out with him. This felt fine. This felt like it could go on for hours and I would never get tired of it and how making out with Leo made me feel. I wrapped my arms around him, pulling his chest down to mine so our bodies were flush against each other, horizontal with the couch.
He moaned into my neck, kissing it and sucking again. I turned my head to the side, giving him better access to where my heart pumped in my throat. In that second, I saw the door open.
My mom screamed.
I fell in love with Leo Daniels faster than you could say Leo Daniels. September 2016, I remember when it happened like it was yesterday. He was the seventeen-year-old, unattainable, lacrosse player who was way out of my league, but one day in the hall, he saw me.
I was fascinated with him, wanting to know why he pushed people away and why he acted so distant at certain times. He was strange and mysterious— and before long, he was mine.
Then we changed. Leo had a life that was foreign to me. In the town of Ridgebury, I was sheltered and accepted, and my family surrounded me with love. But Leo’s life was toxic. And his poison burned into me.
What was I supposed to do? Leave him to avoid what was sure to be a terrible ending, or stay by his side? I deserved better, but so did he. If I stayed, would we lose everything? What was the price of our love?
© Taylor Lavati 2017
What Readers Have to Say...
"An absolutely heart wrenching read that shows us that at times no matter how much we hope, darkness will find its way to win. "
-Blogger's From Down Under for A Reliant Love
"So this book is the ultimate love story. I like how two ordinary people who is so different and still so alike in so many ways can overcome everything together."
-Angelica Berglund for For The Love of Hockey
"I never thought I would read a "zombie book", much less love one. The Last Legacy really surprised me. Even with the whole people-eating-people thing, it was a fantastic book"
-Melannie S for The Last Legacy
"I could not wait to start book two. If this book was as good as book one, then I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. It wasn't as good as book one...it was better. "
-Keely Retchloff for Finding Sam
"The powers, the love, the excitement, the drama kept me so enthralled. If you are looking for a GREAT series about true love and mythology, look no further... I wish I could rate 10 stars! Definitely recommend this whole series to all my book loving friends!"
-The Book Blog for A Curse Books Trilogy
"For the Love of Ash" by Taylor Lavati was a rare 5-star read for me. I honestly find many typical romances rather dull and predictable. This was not the case at all here; there was nothing average about the romance, overall storyline, and the long list of supporting characters."
-Summer's Book Blog for For The Love of Ash
"Wingless isn't what I would normally pick up and read, but thought I'd try it out and I am so glad I did. The characters and "worlds" she creates are done so well that you can actually picture them and feel like you are there right along with the characters."
-JLH for Wingless
For The Love of Hockey | January 2016
The Price of Love | 2017