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“It occurs after Anne and Ethan have found Professor Olensky murdered in his office. They are desperately trying to figure out what to do and being chased by Viktor's henchman Dimitri. And my initial impulse was that I very much wanted them to share their first kiss on that El train platform. It felt like the perfect moment -- the classic 'everything is going crazy and this is the person I've been running from but really he's exactly the right person for me' passionate kiss... followed by danger looming and breaking them apart.”
And then, we’re alone.
The wind’s whipping our hair and Ethan’s still holding my hand, our fingers lacing together. Neither of us says a word. The wind swirls a piece of newspaper around on the track and a couple of pigeons peck at the platform across the tracks, looking for bits of food.
“I’m sorry,” Ethan says as a twenty-something guy wearing an unzipped grey hoodie over his green scrubs plops himself down on the bench across the tracks and the pigeons, startled, fly off to search for other crumbs. He lets go of my hand and thrusts both his hands in his jacket pockets.
“You’re right. It is your battle. Probably as much as it is mine.” He blows out a breath.
“We were all so certain after the assassination that at any moment we could find a way to fulfill the prophecy. Get Anastasia back. Restore the Romanovs to power through her. But we didn’t. Ten years passed, then another ten. Then – well, it’s easier than you think for the years to slip by. Each time I though I’d found the girl who could do this, it turned out I was wrong. And each time, I think I just slipped a little farther from the person I used to be. The person who was so clear of his purpose. I never gave up, but I think I stopped trying as hard.”
Ethan stops. Looks down the track for a bit. There’s no train in sight. Across the way, a tall girl in a denim mini and black leggings joins scrub suit guy on his bench. She’s bobbing along to whatever is playing in her headphones. Everywhere I look, it seems, the world is going on like normal. Except I know it’s not.
Ethan’s gaze holds mine, his blue eyes so tired and sad that I feel like crying except I think I’ve used up my quota of tears today. “If Viktor’s betrayed us,” Ethan says, “it’s because I let him. Because I just stopped paying attention. And that part, I do have to bear alone.”
I’m not sure what to say to him. In fact, I’m pretty sure this is one of those times where I probably don’t need to say anything. But he’s standing there in such pain that I start talking.
“We’ll find her, Ethan,” I say, even though I’m not at all sure that’s ever really going to happen. “I mean, you found me, didn’t you?”
And then we just stand there. The wind dies down for a bit, although I can tell from the clouds that it’s going to pick up again soon. Underneath my feet I can feel a slight vibration. Far down the track, our train is coming. Ethan steps closer to me. My heart beats harder: thump, thump, hop in my chest.
I study his face. Those blue eyes. That shaggy chestnut hair all tousled from the wind.
He’s going to kiss me. And I guess it should be weird or whatever. But it’s not. It’s just me and him – and okay, the two strangers across the way – and all the other stuff just sort of drops away. Because when you’re going to kiss someone – really kiss someone – it’s got to be just about that and not anything else.
And then he does. Kiss me, I mean.
He bends down a little, cause he’s taller, and presses his lips to mine. And it’s way better than the kiss on the forehead. And way, way better than the dream kiss since this time he’s just kissing me, not trying to suck the life out of me. His lips are warm and full and sweet, and they feel good against mine.
So I kiss him back.
“I almost lost you, too,” Ethan whispers against my lips. His breath tickles and little sparks tingle their way down my spine. “Here, I’ve just found you, and I almost lost you.” We kiss some more. I reach up and wrap my arms around his neck. I rest one hand on his shoulder – right where he’s got that lion tattoo etched into his skin.
In novels, you always read phrases like ‘they kissed and time stood still.’ And until now, I’ve always thought what a load of crap that was. Cause even when I was making out with Adam Greene, time was marching right along.
And maybe it’s because Adam was a sort of slurpy kisser. And that’s why my mind kept wandering to images of Buster lapping water from his dish.
Or maybe he just wasn’t the right one.
But right now, time is still. And Ethan’s lips, and his hands that are resting against the small of my back, are filling my head so completely there’s no room for anything else.
But then our train pulls up to the platform. The doors open, and I let Ethan take my hand and lead me inside. We settle into our seats as the train gives a lurch and starts up again, headed downtown. I’m sitting next to the window. Ethan’s looking at me like I’d always hope someone who’d just kissed me would look at me.
And then he’s not. Looking at me, that is.
Because he’s looking out the window beyond me. Back over, I realize as I turn my head, to the staircase that leads up the platform we just left. Watching as the familiar figure of Dimitri rushes into view, just as the train picks up speed and carries us away.