Lana Finch is a twenty-five-year-old social worker. She believes wholeheartedly in saving the world—one broken kid at a time. Lana is headstrong, she’s righteous and she’ll let nothing stand in her way. Except for maybe her entire family that’s financially dependent on her.
Enter Mozey Cruz, the eighteen-year-old juvenile delinquent assigned to her charge. He’s an illusive artist, he’s misunderstood, and he’s a natural born troublemaker.
Their love is illegal, much like Mozey’s undocumented status in the States. So Lana lets him go even though it might be the worst mistake she’ll ever make.
But destiny has a way of catching up with us even when we run from it.
But first, Lana has to find him before she can deliver him.
I squeeze his hand again. I scrutinize every little point of contact between our two bodies. My ear on his shoulder, and my thigh flush with his. The length of my arm matching up with the length of Mozey’s, and my wrist, grazing lightly with his calf as we sit. My skin is pale, like the underbelly of a fish. His is warm, like hot chocolate with milk. I want to drink it, to swallow all of that velvet. I want it to melt on my tongue and warm me all the way up from the inside out.
Then they’re gone, the door is closed, and my arms cross across my chest. Mozey has one hand in the pocket of his jeans the other palm flat against the back of the door. Those two boys were my protection. My buffers. I feel naked without them. Suddenly, Mozey, looms larger. Almost larger than life.
“Are you hungry?” he asks me.
I couldn’t be more satisfied. I can’t believe I found you. That you’re standing here in front of me.
I shake my head at him as he saunters over to me. I remember that he’s confident, that he’s sexual, that he probably knows more than me.
“We can take it slow, Lana. We don’t have to fuck.”
It’s a jolt when he says it, a live thrash of wire. Saying it, it means he’s thinking about it. I know that I am. Maybe he thinks it’s what I want to do. Or he thinks I don’t so he feels he has to clear the air by saying it out loud.
Sex. I’ve been thinking about it since the minute I met you—whenever I’m around you. Thinking dirty thoughts when I was supposed to be protecting you. My face falls, and my shoulders slump. All of the vixen has run out of me.
“Or we can if you want.” It’s his smile that gets me, so warm and inviting. He’s confident with either choice, whether we do or we don’t. He’s enjoying teasing me, and he knows how hard I’ve been looking for him.
“Come here,” he says and pulls my elbows apart, inserting his body in the space that I was trying to protect—my chest, my breasts, the area surrounding my heart.
“I’ve always thought you were beautiful, Lana. But you never wanted to hear it,” he says, his nose tickling my ear. He pulls my arms around him and sets them at his waist. I am a robot. I can’t speak. I have no feelings.
“Maybe you should sleep on the couch,” I say, stepping out of his hold.
If magic were a good thing, then we would all be able to wield it against the one we love. Hypnotize with eye contact, unravel with a stare. But instead, magic is dangerous, it makes us see what isn’t there. It makes us believe in illusions and in fleeting apparitions that will never be concrete. I need something that can last, not something that will disappear into thin air.
I loved you because I wanted to save you. And I thought if I saved everyone, then it said something about me. I wanted to be worthy. I didn’t want to be bad. I always felt that badness was an inextricable part of me. I became a social worker to try to exorcise the ugly part of me.
Of course I don’t say this out loud. I explain myself to myself in my head. Like an idiot. Like the insecure, crazy girl that I am.
Mozey runs his hands through his hair and looks sadly at me. He nods his head and massages his chin with his thumb and forefinger then looks down at the floor.
“There’s not one single part of me that isn’t complicated—that’s easy to love,” I blurt out, trying to explain away being so difficult. This is the one thing I can’t fuck up and live to regret it.
“I already know that. I want every part of you.”
If there is something I need to hear, well, Mozey just said it. But I’ll still always be a disappointment. I will never be perfect, and for some reason, what I really want to bring to this is perfection.
“I feel like you’re going to keep pushing me away, even if it hurts you. Should I give up? You want me to stop trying?”
I nod my head “yes,” like the fucking liar that I am. I’m nodding and nodding while every inch of my flesh is screaming, “See through me, don’t believe me, please know that I want you, don’t believe anything that she says.”
Mozey yanks his t-shirt up over his head. Two long silver chains clang together as they bounce on his chest. There he is in all of his perfection, his chest tight with emotion, his arm muscles flexed in defensiveness, his brow furrowed in confusion. I’m shaking, with trembles running up and down my spine, splaying out through my limbs into my hands and my feet. What I want is right in front of me but somehow it seems even further out of reach.
Mara White is a contemporary romance and erotica writer who laces forbidden love stories with hard issues, such as race, gender and inequality. She holds an Ivy League degree but has also worked in more strip clubs than even she can remember. She is not a former Mexican telenovela star contrary to what the tabloids might say, but she is a former ballerina and will always remain one in her heart. She lives in NYC with her husband and two children and yes, when she’s not writing you can find her on the playground.