By: Jessica Peterson
Released January 25, 2016
Vivian Bingley has big plans for her semester abroad in Spain…
Along with her BFF Maddie, Vivian hopes to indulge her inner Art History nerd by visiting the best museums in the world. She also wants to tackle more practical concerns—like a less than stellar GPA in her major, Economics—with the help of a Spanish tutor.
But falling for her studly Spanish tutor definitely isn’t one of them.
Madrileño Rafa Montoya is the stuff study abroad dreams are made of: super studly and super smart. He also happens to be super into Vivian. With his wicked dancing skills and his passion for the arts, he tempts her to throw caution to the wind and live out her wildest dreams.
Only problem? Maddie wants Rafa, too, and Vivian promised herself she’d never settle for second best again…not after a hookup-gone-awry last semester left her heartbroken. Is it best for Vivian to protect her heart at all costs? Or is letting Rafa in worth the risk?
Jessica Peterson began reading romance to escape the decidedly unromantic awkwardness of her teenage years. Having found solace in the likes of Mr. Darcy, Jamie Fraser (OMG love the gingers!), and Edward Cullen, it wasn’t long before she began creating tall, dark and handsome heroes of her own.
She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband, Mr. Peterson, and her smelly Goldendoodle Martha Bean.
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SPANISH LESSONS (Study Abroad #1)
Copyright 2016 by Jessica Peterson
Herds of scantily-dressed people, heels clomping against the cobblestones, filter past us. They laugh and smoke, and a few couples even put on a show, fondling each other like they mean it. I look up; the sky has faded to grey, just light enough to make out wisps of cloud scudding overhead.
Rafa checks his watch. His skin glows in the soft light.
“It’s almost six.” He rises, brushing off his jeans. “We should get going if we want to catch the first Metro.”
I can’t remember the last time I witnessed 6 a.m. on this Earth. Back on campus, a late night usually meant 2 or 3 a.m.; we’d always try to schedule our classes so we didn’t have to wake up before nine. Six was no man’s land.
I feel badass, frankly, for making it out so late. Everyone else left hours ago.
And still it feels too early for the night to end.
Rafa reaches down and offers me his hand. I take it. He pulls me up beside him, my leg bumping against his. For a minute our eyes meet. I will never get used to how beautifully blue his are. They are the K.O. punch, every time.
I want to kiss him, badly. My heartbeat thrums through my body. Do I take a chance? Or do I let the night end on this heady, anticipatory, safe note? I already count tonight among my most favorite nights ever. Why risk a kiss that could ruin the memory of the wonderful hours I spent in Rafa’s company?
It’s a classic case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I’ll regret not kissing Rafa. But there’s a chance—a very good chance—that if I kiss him, I’ll regret that more. Maybe he never wanted to kiss me in the first place; maybe he pulls away, tries to be nice in a horrifically awkward way.
Maybe the kiss is so wonderful I’ll start falling for him on the spot. Rafa looks like he would be a lethal kisser, thorough and patient and intense, all at once.
But Lord knows I need to fall for another unattainable guy like I need a hole in my head. I’ve done the sorta-kinda-relationship hookup thing, and I ended up with a broken heart. I’m terrified of getting hurt like that again. If I’m going to get involved with someone, it’s gotta be real, and it’s gotta have forever potential.
Rafa, with his handsome smile and panty-dropper charm, doesn’t seem like the forever type.
He offers me a quirk of his lips. He hasn’t let go of my hand. In fact, his fingers, thick and calloused, slide between mine, locking my palm in place against his. He’s still looking at me, his eyes and his face soft.
“So,” he says. We start to walk, hand in hand, down the street. “What did you think of your first night in Madrid? Was I a decent guide?”
I blink. I swallow. I can’t concentrate on anything but our hands swinging between us. His touch is gentle and sweet. Around us the air has finally cooled; my skirt ripples in a slight breeze.
I wish I could capture this moment and squeeze it into a bottle, uncorking it whenever I want to feel the way I feel right now.
“The chocolate incident notwithstanding,” I reply, “I’d say it was pretty awesome. You were right about the sangria—it is magical. My white girl jammed out. I learned some amazing Spanish swear words – thank you for those.”
“Happy to be of service.”
“The churros were ridiculous. The music was sick.” I look at him. “But as for you…”
There it is again, that smirk at the corner of his lips. “Come on, Vivian, you must give me some credit here. Look at this!” He brushes the fingers of his free hand across his bare chest. “I am practically naked, all for you. I am no Justin Timberlake, but I worked very hard on my chest hair, and I think it deserves a little bit of appreciation, yes?”
I slow my pace and he slows, too. Kiss him.
I look down at said chest hair, peeking through his egregiously unbuttoned shirt. “It is very nice hair,” I say. “It’s no Austin Powers bath mat, but I like it.”
“He is a tough guy to beat,” Rafa says. “Maybe when I am older I will be so lucky.”
I don’t know how we arrived at this topic of conversation, but I’m over it, I’m over talking, I just want to kiss him. I remember what Katie told me at the beginning of the night. Talk to him. You have nothing to lose.
I’m holding hands with Rafa right now because I had the cojones to talk to him. Who knows what will happen if I kiss him.
Sure, it could bruise my ego, and my memories of tonight.
But he’s looking at me again and oh God those freckles and his shoulders and the dark messy waves of his hair and the way he smells and now he’s teasing me about my sweaty palm and running his thumb across the back of my hand and I can’t, I can’t, I just can’t not kiss him.
Rafa pauses at an intersection, looking both ways down a deserted lane. There’s a tiny little alcove, a quirk in the building’s architecture, just up ahead, obscured by a tree. The perfect place for a little late-night make-out sesh.
We cross the street—I’m on the outside—and when we step up on the curb I give Rafa’s hand a tug. He turns to face me, the laughter softening in his eyes. My heart is pounding so hard inside my head I think it might explode. I take a step closer.
“Are you okay, Vivian?” he asks.
Not okay. Definitely not okay. But I’m going to do it anyway.
I’ve never made the first move before—at least not when I was this sober— but I know if I don’t just go in for the kill, I’m going to mess it up.
I rise up, slowly, on my tip toes. Our faces inch closer. He keeps looking at me; I feel the heat of his gaze on the rise of my cheekbones. But I can’t meet his eyes, so I focus on his lips instead. The scent of his aftershave hits me and I know I’ve made the right decision.
Or maybe the worst decision ever.
My body slides up the tall length of his, our clasped hands trapped between us. I love the solid warmth of his body, the delightful shock of being this close to someone.
And then I kiss him.
I close my eyes and press my lips to Rafa’s mouth and I kiss him.
The second I do it, I think oh my God, what a fucking idiot fish I am, what in the world am I doing, stop now, stop while you’re ahead.
It’s excruciating, that first second.
But the second—er, second—is much better, because Rafa starts kissing me back.
His lips melt into mine, slightly parted, perfect for kissing. My heart flutters inside my chest. The kiss is slow and a little timid, like neither of us want to go too far or reveal too much. But I don’t mind it. I like slow, especially with Rafa. It allows me to savor every heartbeat, every feeling, every damn delicious thing about him.
Rafa pulls back. My stomach flips. I wait for him to bumble an excuse, to tell me he can’t because he has a girlfriend, he has to get home, he thinks I smell.
But when I open my eyes, he’s grinning. Relief, warm, spreads through me.
“For a minute, I believed you didn’t want to do that,” he murmurs. “Back there, after the chocolate incident…”
I shrug, bashfully. “I did. I do. I do, Rafa. I just…gah, I was just being an idiot.”
He brings our joined hands up between us, settling my hand on his chest. I can feel the pound pound pound of his heart. Something about its furious working makes my own skip a beat. I’m the one who is making him feel this way. I’m the one he feels this—whatever this is—for.
I look up, startled, a little scared. Rafa brings his hands up to my face, his fingers gliding with erotic ease to rest just beneath my earlobes, in my hair, on my cheeks. He angles his head, his lips hovering less than an inch above mine.
A current of desire rips through me. I have never felt anything like it.
Rafa holds me there, an inch from the kiss I want more than my next breath. His nose brushes mine as he looks at me and looks at me and keeps looking, his eyes glassy with heat. He’s making me wait.
“I didn’t know if you wanted to do that,” I say.
One side of his mouth curls into a grin. “Do you not remember? I kissed you first, Vivian.”
My cheeks burn with the memory of the quick, sweet kisses he gave me when we first met at the bar.
“But those were polite kisses,” I say. “Hello kisses.”
“But still kisses. I have been waiting to do it again all night.”
He bends his neck and presses his lips to mine. My eyes flutter shut, a poignant rush of sensation moving from where our mouths meet to where my legs do. His mouth moves over mine, opening me to his every stroke, every pull and nick and bite. In a handful of heartbeats Rafa makes the kiss his own, holding my head in the cradle of his hands as he moves over me. He tastes like chocolate, just a hint of sweet sangria.
Behind my closed lids, a confetti of sparks ignite and sparkle.
Whistles and catcalls erupt somewhere behind us. Rafa slows, but his lips never leave mine. He wedges my legs between his own, and in one swift, strong movement, he swivels me around, reversing our positions so that he is between me and the street. I sense him hunching his shoulders forward, blocking me from sight, pressing me into the little make-out alcove.
I don’t have time to think or catch my breath. Rafa keeps kissing me, and the kiss keeps getting better. Deeper. Our first kiss was timid; but this kiss—this kiss is anything but. My head spins as I try to keep up with him. He’s slow and fast and insistent and soft, all at once. I lose myself in him, my mind a blessed blank. He’s just as good a kisser as I thought he’d be.
Better, even. There is something incredibly sexy about the way he moves. He’s confident without being overbearing. Yes, the kiss is his, but that means I’m his focus. He lavishes me with attention and care, his tongue working to open me to him, and I open, willingly, wildly.
This is how everyone dreams of being kissed. With abandon. With feeling. I grasp his forearms, my fingers digging into his bare skin as I hold on for dear life.
There is nothing safe about Rafa. Not the way he looks at me or the way he dances or how I feel when he touches me. Definitely nothing safe about the way he kisses me.
But I feel safe with him anyway. Safe to be myself. Safe to kiss him back without worrying about what happens next.
I feel safe because we’ll probably never see—much less kiss—each other again. He’s way out of my league. And I don’t want to fall for a guy I’ll just have to leave in a few months. I don’t want to get hurt again. I can’t bear it.
This is just a kiss, I tell myself.
It’s just one kiss that he won’t remember, that I will try to forget.
Still. There’s this rush between my skin and bones that whispers to me, telling me this is no ordinary kiss.
That nothing will be the same after this kiss.