She didn't say anything for a few seconds, probably thrown by the quick turn of conversation, but she could also likely tell he needed the topic changed. Really, he had no doubt. They were that eerily connected already. "I'm focusing on my undergrad requirements at the moment. I haven't decided on my major yet. I think I want to be a teacher, but I'm not sure which route I want to go. I could get my degree in education, but I love reading and writing, so I might major in English Lit."
"Either way you'll be fine. I'd suggest choosing the one you'll have the most fun with. You'll get more out of your classes that way."
She smiled and nodded. "That's good advice. Everyone else picks a side and tries to get me to agree with them. Thanks."
"I aim to please." He took another drink. "So do you have a weekend job to support your horror novel habit?"
"Believe it or not, your books are the only horror I read. I'm usually a mystery reader, sans monsters and ghosts."
He toasted her with his cup. "I thank you for that."
"To answer your second question, no, I don't have a job. My parents made me a deal. If I get good grades and make studying my priority, they'll pay for things as I need them."
"Sweet deal. I wish I had a ride like that when I was your age."
"Yeah. I almost feel guilty when my friends have to go off to work."
"Don't. Enjoy it."
"I did say almost."
They both laughed and finished their drinks. She looked at her cell phone, frowned, and gave a sigh. "I should probably get going. I still have some homework to finish up."
"Can I escort you to your car?"
Her face lit up. "Please."
As they walked through the parking lot, he said, "You realize I'm twice your age, right? I mean literally twice as old as you."
"Math isn't my favorite subject, but I did manage to figure that out."
"All I'm saying is, don't you think 18 years is a bit much of an age difference?"
She looked at him, bit her bottom lip, and said, in a low voice, "Not with you."
His heart jumped into his throat. Yeah, she had a point. They meshed in a way that shouldn't be possible, not yet. He always believed Jenna to be his one and only, that he was destined to exist on his own for the rest of his life. But now? Now that seemed silly.
"There's my car," she said, breaking him out of his thoughts. He hadn't seen what she'd come in earlier, but now saw she had a nice, safe economy car. No doubt it had been a gift from her parents, either for her sweet sixteenth or a graduation present.
As they stood next to her car, he pulled out his phone and got to the contact screen. "Here, program your number in. I don't think either of us wants to wait until my next signing to see each other again." He made sure to touch her hand as he passed it to her, and she didn't miss the contact, staring into his eyes for a few beats until she turned her attention to his phone.
She handed it back and pulled out her own phone. "Text me so I have yours."
He did, and then sighed.
"I don't know. This is weird. I haven't even thought about wanting any sort of relationship since I lost Jenna, but now that I've met you, I can't help but think about it."
"And? Why is that bad?"
"It's not. It's just … I have this awful feeling that the first time we kiss, really kiss, you're going to think about how much older I am and not want to see me anymore. It's stupid, but …"
She reached up to the back of his head and pulled his face down to hers. Their lips touched, gently, probing, and then with more ferocity. Passion overtook both, and their tongues intertwined. Only the thought that they were in a shopping center parking lot kept him from losing control and pushing her onto the hood of the car.
After a few moments, much too short a time in his mind, they broke apart. She smiled up at him, and then melted into his arms. He kissed the top of her head and ran his fingers through her hair. She glanced up, a look of wonder in her eyes, and he knew exactly how she felt. He felt the same way.
"That was amazing," she said. "I don't think you have any worries about me not wanting to stay with you."
"Good. I don't think I could bear to lose you after that."
She giggled, and reached her face up again, which he met halfway. This kiss didn't last nearly as long, but it was no less sweet.
"I really do need to go," she said. "But maybe tomorrow night we can do something?"
"I never did delve into why you like my novels," he said. "Why don't we go to dinner and discuss it?" A thought from earlier popped into his mind. "Hey, in the midst of everything, I never did sign your book."
"You didn't, did you?" she said with a laugh. "I didn't notice, either. It'd be silly to go to a book signing and not get my book signed."
She reached into her car, grabbed the book, and handed it and a pen to him. He wrote, "To Hannah, my best reader," and then scrawled his signature underneath. When he handed it back, she looked at him and smiled. "Do you write that to all your female readers?"
"Nope. You're the first to get that particular message."
She hugged the book to her chest and reached up for another kiss, which he gladly gave. Then she sighed. "I don't want to, but I really do need to go."
He held the door open for her as she climbed in. She told him she'd text him her address, and he told her he'd text her what time he'd pick her up. After one more kiss, this one too quick for his taste, she drove away.
As he watched her go, a single thought ran through his mind: What the hell just happened?