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Authour’s Note:

This is part two of Runaway, a story for the Highway Song event arranged by blackrandl1958. To fully enjoy the story, I suggest starting with part one, where Lacey leaves her small town on a quest to find her brother Sean. Along the way, she meets Noah, who appoints himself her guardian as she realizes life outside her small town is a bit more overwhelming than she thought.

Chapters have been marked throughout the story and it will be posted in four parts.

Special thanks to the team of people who beta-read and edited this story: BarryJames1952, Bebop3, blackrandl1958, norafares, OneAuthor, and Steve M. This story would not be possible without them. Any remaining errors—factual, grammatical, or otherwise—are my own.

**

Chapter Four

I hadn’t really considered the implications of the sleeping arrangements.

After my very long shower, we ate in the dining car before returning to the cabin. While we were gone, the concierge had turned the room over for us.

We knew there was only one bed, a double that folded down from the wall. The thing was, once the bed was folded down, it rested on top of the small sofa in the room. Not that the sofa was long enough for either of us to comfortably sleep on it, but still.

“It’s fine,” I said as we stood just inside the doorway to the room. “We’re adults. We can share a bed.”

The words sounded impossibly immature coming out of my mouth.

“I can sneak out to the Economy car,” Noah said. “They won’t even notice another person sleeping there.”

“Don’t be silly. We’ll just share the bed.”

I used the bathroom first, brushing my teeth and washing up, and then settled in the bed while Noah took his turn. The TV was opposite me, so I flipped through some channels while waiting.

I had a set of pyjamas with me, because of course I did. Noah, on the other hand, walked back out in his jeans and a T-shirt. I felt like I should tell him to just be comfortable, but after the conversation earlier, I didn’t know that I could handle it. He crawled on top of the covers, leaning back against the headboard as I snuggled into the comforter.

“You don’t have to do that,” I said.

“I know,” he replied. “But I think we’ll both feel better if I do.”

He was probably right. Maybe.

After turning the TV off, I lay awake for a long time. I had a double bed at home and it certainly seemed large enough, but with Noah’s body just inches away from mine, I realized how small it really was. I could feel the heat rising off his body as I lay there, staring up at the roof and listening to the train slide along the tracks.

“You asleep?” he asked after a while.

“No. Are you?”

He chuckled. “Yeah, I’m talking to you in my sleep right now.”

I was glad he couldn’t see my face.

“Offer to go find a seat in Economy still stands,” he said.

“No. I’d feel too guilty to sleep. Might as well stay here.”

He shifted on the bed, rolling to his side to look at me. I turned my head towards him, his eyes reflecting the pale light shining in from the train window.

“Tell me something about you, Miss Lacey.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Tell me the craziest thing you’ve ever done, besides this.”

I laughed and looked back up at the ceiling. “I was only 17 when I went to college. My birthday’s in November. When my roommate found out, she bought a bunch of coolers and brought them to our dorm. We drank them, I puked my guts out, and when my birthday rolled around, I couldn’t even stomach the smell of alcohol. I didn’t drink again until a year later.”

“That’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?”

“I told you, I’m boring. You’ve been around for all the other crazy stuff.”

“You really bought into that whole religion thing, eh?”

“I had to. I didn’t know anything else.”

“Nothing wrong with having faith, but you know what your dad—”

“I don’t want to get into it.”

“Sorry.”

We went quiet for another moment.

“What was prison like?”

He chuckled that startled, barking laugh. “That escalated quickly.”

“Sorry. Too personal?”

“No. Just don’t think anyone’s ever asked me that, to be honest.” He thought for a moment before continuing. “It sucked. I mean, obviously. The first couple weeks were bad. I was withdrawing. They don’t really give a shit, it’s not like when you go to rehab or something, so I was shaking and puking and sick and just completely out of my head. Then that stops and you wish it hadn’t because you start living the same day over and over.” He paused again. “Sam was my second cellmate. First one OD’ed. Found him and told myself I wasn’t gonna ever touch that shit again.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. Was what it took to get my life turned around. Well, as turned around as you can with a record.”

“What do you mean?”

He laughed dryly. “Shit affects everything. Getting a job. Renting a place. You fuck up like I did, it follows you. Not that I had much to go back to when I got out, but I lost Ataşehir Escort it all anyway.”

“What did they arrest you for?”

“Deal gone wrong. Guy fucked me over, I stole his truck, cops got me for both. Plead guilty. When my date finally came up, I’d already finished withdrawing and figured I’d just own up to it. Wasn’t worth fighting.”

“And… you said your mom…”

“Drug trafficking.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t be. She warned me not to get involved with the same fuckheads she did, but I was desperate. It was deal or be homeless.”

I processed the information quietly, long enough that Noah shifted again.

“I’m not religious, but you think God would forgive me?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Do you?”

“Without question.”

**

The next day was Canada Day.

Had my original plans with Roger gone through, I would have been in Montreal. As it turned out, we would spend part of the day right back where I had started: the Winnipeg train station.

Noah and I spent most of the day in our suite, playing cards and watching TV. We ordered food to the room and blew through the voucher we’d gotten from the station in Edmonton, but we’d be arriving in Toronto the next day so it didn’t matter too much.

The closer we got to Winnipeg, the more anxious I felt. We would be stopping there for a few hours and the concierge suggested we take in a nearby festival, but I refused to get off the train. Noah, on the other hand, said he wanted to pick some things up during the stop. After he left, I huddled in the suite, leaving only to wait in the lounge when the concierge came back to set the room to the nighttime configuration.

Noah found me there just before we left.

“Doing all right?” he asked.

I shook my head.

“I know,” he said. “We’ll be leaving soon.”

He sat next to me and hesitantly wrapped his hand around mine. The terror that wracked my body started to evaporate as I gripped his hand tightly. Together, we sat in the lounge not speaking, not addressing the electricity that seemed to flow between our palms as we touched each other, until the train started to move.

Once it did, the trance was broken, and Noah slipped his hand from mine.

When we re-entered the suite, I couldn’t help but laugh.

“What the hell…” muttered Noah.

On the table was a small bucket with a bottle of sparkling wine in it.

“‘Happy Canada Day,'” I read on the small card nearby. “Sweet, free champagne!”

Noah shook his head. “Never thought I’d be taking the train in a fancy suite with free champagne.”

“I’m putting my pyjamas on,” I declared. “Then I’m going to sit in bed and drink champagne and pretend everything is all right.”

I showered quickly and dried my hair, changed, and was back in the suite in no time. Noah rolled his eyes at my excitement, but the corners of his eyes were crinkled as he tried not to smile. He opened the bottle for me and ducked into the bathroom as I poured myself a glass.

Curling up in bed, I put on a game show and was playing along with the contestants when Noah came back. He was wearing a shirt that time, but had a brand-new pair of pyjama pants on.

If possible, he looked even more enticing in the T-shirt and baggy pants than he had when he walked out shirtless.

“I like your pants,” I said lamely, then blushed.

Noah smiled, his mouth tight. “Figured I’d try to be a little more comfortable tonight.”

He poured some water into the champagne glass.

“Not having any?”

“No. I don’t really drink.”

My face went red as I stared down at the glass in front of me. Of course Noah didn’t drink. He had said he was clean.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t even—”

He leaned forward, clinking the glass against mine. “Don’t be.”

“I should put this away.”

“Not a chance. It doesn’t bother me. Even break down and have a beer once in a while. I just try not to make it a habit.” He smiled as he brought the bottle over, topping off my glass. “Never had a problem with alcohol, just don’t want to risk it.”

He put the bottle back on the table and sat on top of the blankets with his champagne flute of water.

“Just go under the covers,” I said.

“Lacey—”

“It’s fine.”

“You sure?”

I nodded, my heart pounding furiously.

“I trust you.”

He pushed the covers back and crawled underneath them. “Told you that was a bad idea.”

“I know.”

I know what you’re thinking. Innocent Lacey drinking champagne in bed with Noah, who she is fully and completely attracted to, can only lead to one thing.

If you guessed that one thing was falling asleep, you’d be correct.

Nothing happened while we sat there. After I finished my glass, Noah put the flutes away and emptied the rest of the champagne into the bathroom sink, and when he returned to the bed, I’d already fallen asleep.

He must have turned off the TV and the lights before falling asleep himself, because when I woke up a few hours later, it was dark in Kadıköy Escort the room.

I was warm. Incredibly warm. And unbelievably comfortable. Sleepily, I shifted my hips slightly, then froze as my eyes popped open.

Noah was behind me. His breath tickled against my neck and I knew he was fast asleep. I could feel the weight of his body pressed against mine, his arm wrapped around my side. My arm was on top of his, holding it close against me, our fingers entwined. My legs were tucked up, as were his, and my ass was cradled in his lap.

His lap, where something very hard was pressing against me.

I bit my lip. Noah was asleep. It didn’t mean anything.

Then again, he was curled up against me completely, and I had pulled him closer, held his hand in place.

That fluttering was starting in my stomach again. I told myself to wriggle away from him, to do the proper, responsible thing and move away. The flutter grew more insistent, and there was a spot between my legs that was becoming incredibly warm.

Frozen with indecision, I lay there, listening to Noah breathe, pleading with my body to stop reacting to his.

I tried to tell myself I would talk to Noah in the morning about my feelings. The flutter didn’t listen.

I reasoned that, whatever my relationship with God, whatever my religion did or didn’t say, it was widely accepted that a physical relationship was meant for people in love. I had known Noah for a matter of days. Love wasn’t on the table. What was happening to me was temptation, was something to be resisted… or at least, that’s what my father would have said.

My father was wrong about a lot.

I told myself I should run away like I did with all things that scared me. I told myself I didn’t want to do anything inappropriate.

I was an absolutely terrible liar. Even I knew that.

I had just about convinced myself to at least let go of Noah’s arm when it moved. Noah sighed as his body tensed, hugging me just a bit closer to him, the bulge behind me pressing firmly into my ass cheek. I couldn’t help it; a small squeak left my throat.

“Wha…” Noah said drowsily.

Hoping he would fall back asleep, I didn’t respond.

Noah shifted again. I felt the moment he woke up fully; like me, he froze, and his eyes probably popped open completely. The soft breath that had been tickling my neck stopped as he held it in.

“Please tell me you’re not awake,” he murmured.

Not about to lie to Noah again, I winced.

“I’m awake.”

“Shit,” he hissed. His legs uncurled, pulling his hardness away from me. “Fuck. Lacey, I’m sorry. I was… I was sleeping.”

“I know. It’s okay.”

“I didn’t mean… I must have just moved closer… Fuck, this is why I said it was a bad idea. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

He paused. Beneath my hand, his fingers flexed.

“Are you going to give me my arm back?”

“Do you want it back?”

The tension in the room was heavier than the blankets were around us. I could almost hear the thoughts flying through his mind, trying to figure out a response.

“I don’t want you to think I’m taking advantage of you,” he finally said.

“I’m the one who has your arm.”

He groaned. The flutter in my stomach roared.

Slowly, his body shifted back towards me. The bulge returned to my ass, pressed against me purposefully. I sighed softly and Noah’s fingers slid from mine. His arm moved as his hand made its way to my side, then travelled down to my stomach.

If he noticed how fast my heart was racing, he didn’t say anything. Fingers pushed underneath the hem of my tank top and suddenly his hand was gliding up my stomach. By the time his rough palm reached the underside of my breast, I was nearly shaking with anticipation.

Before he touched me further, his other hand travelled up my back. He brushed my hair to the side, exposing my neck. A shiver ran through me as the cool air hit my skin, only to be suddenly replaced by warm lips pressing against my neck. While kissing my neck lightly, he resumed the movement under my shirt, and a large hand cupped my breast.

I bit my lip, trying not to make a noise as his fingers explored my breast. He found my nipple, stroking it lightly with his thumb and causing a shock of desire to rush through my body. I wanted Noah, wanted him to touch me everywhere, but I was simultaneously terrified.

“Do you want me to stop?” he whispered, his lips moving against my neck.

“No,” I said, though my voice was high-pitched.

“You sure?”

“Mm-hmm.”

He moved his hand off my breast anyway. “Turn towards me.”

I rolled over obediently. Facing Noah, I was even more nervous. He didn’t say anything, just touched my cheek lightly and brought my face to his, his lips pressing softly to mine.

It was my first kiss.

My mind went completely blank. I’d seen people kiss before, in real life and in movies and on TV. I knew, theoretically, how to kiss somebody. I knew I was supposed to move my mouth somehow, Bostancı Escort and close my eyes. But at that moment, any sense of what I was supposed to do evaporated from my head.

Noah’s eyes opened as he pulled back. “You don’t want this.”

“Yes I do.”

His hand moved away from my face. “This was a bad idea. I’ll go. We can talk tomorrow.”

“Wait, no—”

“Lacey, it’s okay. I don’t want you to do something you don’t want to do.”

“I do want to!”

“You say that, but you’re lying there like you’re made of stone, quiet as a mouse, and won’t kiss me back. I don’t—”

“I’ve never been kissed before.”

He had been about to roll over, but stopped. In the dim light, I could see his eyes were wide.

“What?”

I hoped he couldn’t see how red my face was. I was no longer trembling with anticipation, but with something that was a mix of vulnerability and fear.

“I’m a virgin.”

Noah stared. Full-out stared at me, frozen as he propped himself up on one elbow. It was a long, long moment of silence as he gaped at me.

I had never felt more like a freak in my life.

“Nope.” He shook his head suddenly, breaking his statue-like gaze. “I can’t. This isn’t… I can’t do this.”

“Okay.”

The sound of my heart breaking must have been obvious because Noah winced.

“Not because of you.” He sat up, a respectable distance away from me. “Lacey, you’re… I can’t do that to you if you’ve never… I should not be trusted with that responsibility. You deserve someone good.”

“You are good,” I whispered.

There were tears in my eyes, blissfully hidden in the dark. Under the blanket, my stomach was still exposed, and though I was completely wrapped in the comforter, I had never felt colder in my life.

“That’s not…” He sighed, shaking his head. “Shit. Look, this isn’t about you. I like you, Lacey. I really fucking like you. I think you’re… I want to just…” Again, he shook his head. “Shit. Never mind. Look, your first time should be special, okay? You deserve that. I’m not…” He paused again, swallowing hard. “I’m not taking your virginity on a fucking train.”

I tried to joke about it. “So not being on a train is still on the table, then?”

“That’s not—”

“I was joking,” I mumbled, pulling the blanket up to cover my face.

I was feeling particularly unattractive. I had never thought I was beautiful, but I had never thought I was so unattractive that Noah wouldn’t even want to kiss me.

He said something, but I didn’t hear it. I was focused on not crying, biting my lip hard as I tried to direct my attention to anything other than the sadness that was enveloping my heart. Inhaling steadily, I exhaled softly, pushing the air past my lips. Moments later, a yellow glow filtered through the blankets as Noah turned the lights on.

The mattress shifted as he sat back down on the bed. I couldn’t see him. The only part of me not covered by a blanket was my forehead and my hair.

“Lacey,” he said quietly. “Please come out and talk to me.”

“I can’t.”

“Please, Miss Lacey?”

The tears I’d been working so hard to push down welled up in my eyes again. A soft pressure touched my shoulder.

“Don’t cry,” he said. “Let’s talk.”

I blinked hard, three times, then forced myself to pull the blankets away from my face and sat up.

Noah was looking at me, his hair a tousled mess around his head and his face serious. My eyes met his and then flicked away, still too embarrassed to look at him.

“I’m sorry.”

I shook my head. “It’s fine.”

“Don’t lie to me.”

I winced, my eyes slamming shut at his words.

“Okay, it’s not fine.”

“Tell me what’s going through your head.”

I fought the tears, even with my eyes closed.

“You don’t want me.” My voice was quiet, almost no louder than a thought.

“I do.” His voice was miserable, just as quiet as mine. “I do, Lacey. You’re just… you aren’t like anyone else I’ve ever met. I’m scared of breaking you.”

I frowned, my eyes opening back up. “Breaking me?”

“Ruining what makes you special.”

“My virginity? I thought you said you weren’t religious.”

He sighed. “No, not like that. I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want you to do something like this just because it’s convenient.”

“It’s not exactly convenient to be turned down like this.”

“Lacey—”

“I want you because I like you, Noah. I want you because I trust you, because you’ve been kind to me, because you’ve followed me back and forth across the whole stupid country to make sure I’m okay. You’ve taught me so much and made me feel like I’m important. I care about you.” A tear escaped my eye and fell off my cheek onto the blanket. “I don’t want you just because I’m turned on and you’re the closest man around. I just don’t know what I’m doing and I’m apparently really, really bad at this.”

His eyes were on me. I could feel them, even as I stared down at the blankets.

“Okay,” he finally said.

I looked up at him. His expression was resolute and serious, his forehead creased as he stared at me.

“What?”

“If this is what you really, truly want—”

“It is.”

“—I’m not going to… we’re not having sex on this train.”

I bit my lip as my cheeks burned.

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