Hannah cleared her throat. “Thirty seconds was up thirty seconds ago.”
As suddenly as they were there, Beth’s lips were gone, and Jack was left with the disorienting tingling. He took a step back, because the forest seemed to’ve decided to pitch and roll, like the time he and his dad had gone fishing on the lake. He shook his head, trying to clear it, and that just made things heave and roll faster. He leaned over, hands on his knees, and took several deep breaths.
The small hand was back on his shoulder.
“I’m okay. Just—” His voice sounded tinny in his ears.
“Sorry,” Beth said. Her voice sounded small, distant.
“Never apologize for a kiss,” Hannah said, looking up from collapsing the tripod. “Unless it’s a bad kiss. And judging from that.…” She pointed to Jack. “I don’t think it was.”
The ringing in his ears had subsided enough that he caught the giggling.
* * * * *
“You could have warned me, at least,” Jack said, as they wound their way along the yarn-marked trail.
“You would have resisted, and that would have ruined the picture.”
“And you never would have done it if I’d asked.”
“How do you know? Did you ask?”
“Didn’t you like it?”
“I didn’t—” Jack’s brain caught up, and he stopped, swallowing. He took a deep breath. “I didn’t… not like it.”
“So why are you mad?”
“I just— you didn’t— and Hannah—” He let out an exasperated sigh. The ringing in his ears had mostly faded, and was leaving a throbbing headache in its wake. “You just… could have asked.” He jammed his hands in his pockets and stalked down the trail.
“So do you?”
Jack turned. “What?”
“Do you want to try again?”
“The experiment,” Beth said.
Jack leaned against one of the trees. “That was an experiment?”
“Of course it was. What did you think it was?”
Jack rubbed his eyes.
* * * * *
“So? How did it go?” Jack’s mother asked, as they were shrugging out of their coats.
“Piece of cake,” Hannah said. “You’ll have to ask Jack about the details, though.”
“It went fine,” Jack said. His lips had finally stopped tingling.
“Why are you blushing?” Charlotte asked.
“Just wait till you see the pictures,” Hannah said with a grin.
“All right, you two. Now go wash up. Dinner is just about ready.”