Woohoo! Scorched is almost here! As in NEXT WEEK, September 25! For those of you who like to be teased, I’m going to share a chapter here. At the very end, I’m going to share some info on how you can find out about my little secret. But, first, a little taste of Feverish #2!
Chapter Ten of Jade C. Jamison’s Scorched (Feverish #2)
GRACE AND SAM had been hanging together for the sum of three hours, and yet she felt like they’d been together for days. She suspected she probably knew more about him than most music reporters did. Although he hadn’t indicated it, Grace was pretty sure he’d told her some things that were close to his heart…and she wondered why. She wasn’t upset by it—flattered, in fact—but she suspected maybe he’d told her because she was so young. It was like talking to a cat, baring your soul, knowing your deepest, darkest secrets were safe.
No…he didn’t think she was a child, did he?
So Grace was feeling an internal struggle. The hopeful side of her—the part that always dominated—felt like they were becoming true friends, bonding like all friends did by conversing and sharing…but the insecure part of her, the inexperienced waif who hadn’t had much in the way of relationships with the opposite sex, wondered if she was just like a faithful pet who was a mere sounding board—safe but not an equal.
Still, she couldn’t help but ask questions. At first, when Sam had been talking, she’d just listened, but as he got around to answering her question, she found it easier to speak. If he’d had the courage to tell her his secrets, then why couldn’t she ask? After all, he could have talked to an empty room if all he’d wanted to do was vent. No, she was going to ask questions—not just for curiosity’s sake, but also to help him let it all go.
But then she changed her mind. If he was regretting telling her…
So, after they’d returned to the kitchen to check the chili, she said, “Sorry.”
“About what?” They were both looking into the pot and Sam was stirring the thick, hearty meal they were going to be eating soon.
“Asking. I feel bad about it. That was probably none of my business.”
Sam chuckled then. “No, don’t. Actually, talking about it was really good for me. Yeah, in retrospect, I see that moving here was kind of dumb. It was rash and impulsive—but it wasn’t a mistake. A mistake would have been shooting up to get over the pain. Moving a hundred miles away? Not so bad. As far as doing stupid shit goes, it’s survivable, and I don’t regret it. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and ponder—you know, time to decide what I really want out of life. I’ve actually spent this time figuring out what I don’t want, which I think is just as important.”
Grace’s short life was punctuated, like she was sure most young people’s were, with lots of mistakes, but they helped her grow and learn. She’d spent the last few years trying to decide what she wanted to do with her life and had a sneaking suspicion she knew, in spite of what her parents wanted for her. But to instead spend that time pondering all the things she didn’t want? “That’s depressing.”
Sam set the spoon down. “Not really. I thought I knew what I wanted—but I was wrong. I got what I thought I wanted and found out it wasn’t any good.”
Grace felt her eyes widen. “You mean…like music?”
Sam began laughing as though Grace had told the world’s funniest joke. “No way.” Grace found it funny that Sam picked up the spoon again and started to stir it, watching it as intently as if it were a pot of tea leaves with an answer to his future. “I mean…in terms of a partner. I know the kind of person I don’t want to be with. If your partner brings out the worst in you, maybe that’s the kind of person you shouldn’t be with.”
She swallowed. While it was a relief to hear that Sam wasn’t leaving the music business—because he really did belong there, and she’d known of a few artists who’d left to pursue different dreams—she hadn’t meant to step back into the uncomfortable topic of his ex-girlfriend. She knew it had been good for him to talk about, but she was starting to feel a bit like a voyeur or an eavesdropper—as interesting, as fascinating as it was to get the details, she also felt a little dirty, like she knew things she shouldn’t.
She didn’t want to know more.
So the best way, she figured, to get him off the subject of the woman who’d shredded his heart was to get him to talk about something he loved—and she knew it would be music. “So how did you know music was what you wanted to do with your life? How’d you figure that out?”
Sam tapped the spoon on the side of the pot and set it back down. “I think it’s almost ready, but we’ll want to taste it in a bit.” He turned around then, leaning a bit against the stove, and he crossed his arms over his chest. Oh. That made her look again and she couldn’t help but admire his beautiful physique. He hadn’t looked like this when LFS had first started out. He’d been tall and thin but now he was all muscle.
She bit her upper lip and forced her eyes to his, hoping he hadn’t noticed.
“I don’t know that I consciously figured it out. I mean…I was just kind of skating through high school, you know? I liked the social aspect and hanging out with my friends. And, hell, anything to get out of the house. I didn’t like all my classes, but I took band and that helped me keep my sanity. I played drums but I started learning guitar when I was a freshman and I eventually found some friends to start a band.”
“You started LFS when you were still in school?”
He laughed again, and she loved the way it made his blue eyes twinkle. “No, not even. My first band was called One Night in Aspen.”
“What a cool name.”
“Not really. Aspen was a girl the bassist had dated. Well…not really dated. So it was immature—a stupid guy thing. And we sucked anyway. We did a couple of shows in a park and in my buddy’s garage—but we lacked discipline. We mainly did it to get chicks. It wasn’t until the middle of my senior year that I found my real people. Last Five Seconds had already been around for a few months with a different vocalist, but the guy had apparently been unreliable—he liked smack way too much and if you can’t get the guy to wake up to perform, good luck wowing a crowd. Well, back then, Brian was on drums and the guy on bass had been in band with me and told the guys I used to sing in One Night. He tracked me down and asked me if I wanted to audition and I told him no fucking way.”
“Yeah. Dumb, huh? After the whole One Night fiasco and feeling like a total dipshit, I decided I’d outgrown it. I had no clue what the hell I wanted to do with my life, but I was pretty sure being in a band was stupid. Of course, I wasn’t thinking a professional band. I’d imagined myself in some dumb ass’s garage, singing a song about my happy schlong.”
Grace started giggling, but she felt her cheeks flame. He was talking about his penis, right?
“Yeah, that’s what I mean. What the hell kind of band sings a song about a dick? So I was too mature for that shit. But then I was hanging with some friends at a basketball game—it was something to do, and I had it bad for one of the cheerleaders who’d actually been talking to me in classes and started flirting with me…so I was hoping to make a move. Anyway, Les, the bassist back then, brought Brian and Clay to the damn game and sat next to me on the bleachers. I was a little irritated at first and asked how the hell they’d found me. My little brother had answered the phone and told them where I was. After talking to them a few minutes, I realized how serious they were. And I felt this little tickle of interest—but then I wondered if I really could sing in front of an audience. Yeah, sure, I’d done it when I was younger, but could I do it now?
“They invited me to audition. We went to Les’s place and I downed three shots of Jack—liquid courage—and first sang a Judas Priest song, followed by Soundgarden. They offered me the job and then got me to work on their three original songs. And, by graduation, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.”
She had no idea why she wanted to know, but she asked. “What about the cheerleader?”
Sam laughed again. “She started dating one of the basketball players. Her loss.”
“Do you have any pictures from back then?”
“Probably somewhere, but I’ve still got boxes I haven’t unpacked yet. Not sure when I’ll get to them.” He turned and picked up the spoon. “Should we taste it?”
“Yeah. I’m starving.”
“Me, too.” He spooned out a little chili and blew on it. The smell had been driving Grace crazy, and she suspected it was going to be wonderful. Mom would be proud. Sam took a small taste off the spoon and then held it out to her mouth. Holy cow. Her lips were going to be touching the very spoon Sam’s lips had. Just that thought sent a shiver up her spine.
But it wasn’t very good. It was bland, like beans in tomato paste with a little pepper thrown in. She scrunched her lips and felt her brows furrow on her forehead. “It needs work.”
“You trust me?”
What a question. And she didn’t know for certain if she did or not, but she answered nonetheless. “Yes.”
He nodded and grabbed the spices out of the cabinet that they’d been using, along with another jar of crushed red pepper. “I use that for pizza.” She grinned and he started pouring spices in the pot—liberally and in joyous abandon, instead of cautiously like she’d done. He stirred then and took another taste, then added a little more salt and stirred again. After scooping up another spoonful, he held it out to her. “Now try.”
She blew on it before getting her lips close. Tentatively, she opened her mouth over the spoon and pulled the chili into her mouth. She was aware of Sam’s gaze on her but she tried to concentrate on the food in her mouth instead of on his full, gorgeous lips.
That was impossible.
But she did have a verdict. “Perfect.”
* * *
Damn, that was cute. Grace had insisted on setting the table, and she had put little saucers next to the big chili mugs so they could put their crackers on them. She’d also found a stick of butter, because she admitted that she sometimes liked it on her crackers. Then she’d put the plate of sliced cheese next to the butter, but they decided to leave the pot of chili and the bowl of shredded cheese in the kitchen.
Why was he thinking he liked how domestic it all felt?
He shook his head and asked, “You sure you don’t want me to bring the chili out there?”
“No. I’ll just bring the mugs in here.” In seconds, she was beside him at the stove—and “Sweet Child o’ Mine” started playing. Grace set the bowls on the counter beside the grated cheese and said, “You know, this isn’t a bad song, but…”
“Everyone loves it. It’s all mellow and crossover and stuff, but it’s kind of overrated.”
He smiled. “You think so?” He wasn’t going to say it but, minute by minute, this young thing was becoming a girl after his own heart.
“I prefer the heavier music.” Grace walked away, not just to the dining room, but beyond. His house was open enough that he could see what she was doing—she was heading toward the stereo. She skipped the track—something that would be considered blasphemy by lots of GNR fans—and the speakers started playing “You’re Crazy.” As she began walking back, she said, “This is more like it.”
They had that in common, yes. Sam knew there was a place for softer music—it provided time for the “BIC moments” in the audience…now “cell phone moments.” But the soft songs were the sweeter songs—and the hard songs seemed rougher and more potent because they had the balance of the light next to them. But he felt like Grace—his preference was for the heavy. Knowing what little he did about her, he found that fascinating.
She’d asked earlier about if he was considering leaving the music business and he’d given her a resounding hell, no. No…what he’d meant was he knew he didn’t want Debbie, knew he didn’t want anything like her. He was no longer interested in fucking lots of women at once or even fucking a different woman every night. He no longer wanted to experiment or play around. He wanted one woman to devote himself to—and Grace was becoming the prime target.
Target? Yes, unfortunately, that word seemed apt.
And he hadn’t missed that she’d been checking out his pecs earlier when they were talking in the kitchen. Could it be possible that she was interested, too? Maybe she wasn’t just a fan enamored of the band or someone enjoying getting to know her neighbor—maybe she was thinking of him the same way he was thinking about her.
And that was dangerous.
It was almost like Axl was singing directly to him. Yes, he must have been fucking crazy to even think about Grace that way—but there was no stopping it.
“So what did you love about being in a band back then?”
“What—you mean back when we first started out?”
He handed her a mug of chili and, while she piled shredded cheese on top, he spooned out some for himself. “Well, it was exciting. Every night we’d play would be a new adventure. And, at first, we’d play mostly covers with a few original tunes. When Clay left the band—”
“What? Clay as in Jet? Jet left?”
“Yeah. Temporarily. He got married and had a kid and he didn’t think he could fit a band in with all that. So we managed to stay together but the new guitarist wasn’t nearly as good as Clay, and he had a hard time playing the few original tunes we had. He even struggled with down-tuning, so we played more classic metal than new covers. It was okay, but we stagnated. When Clay came back, it was like we knew then what we really wanted, and we worked our asses off. We kept the new guy on, too, but he said he didn’t like competing with a second guitarist. I think the truth was he couldn’t keep up with Clay.
“But it was like a Renaissance for us. We started writing like we never had before—and touring. And then we got noticed. For the first time, we were making a little money, and we sunk it all into putting together our own CD. Once we did that—including twelve of our most popular songs—then we put all our earnings into merchandise. There finally came a point where we were doing great. And, yeah, it was just Denver, but a few venues started reaching out to us, because the fans demanded it. They knew we could draw the crowds.
“We decided to tour around and outside the state to make sure it wasn’t just hometown pride. And then we decided to see if an agent or manager could help us rise to the next level but then, out of the blue, our bassist quit. It was just like when Clay had before, and so we figured he’d rejoin. That’s why Brian moved from drums to bass, because he knew the shit. And Dane was in another band at the time, but he was a tight drummer and he said he’d be happy to play for us as long as we needed. Well…it wasn’t too long before we were recording a real album with a real studio and organizing our first tour. And the rest is history.”
“But what did you like about it?”
Sam sat next to her at the table. Her attentiveness was endearing. Her eyes were wide, eyelashes fluttering, lips slightly parted, her spoon loaded with chili but hovering above the bowl. What was it about this girl that made his heart swell? Because it wasn’t just lust. It wasn’t like all the times in the past when he’d see a woman and think, God, I want to fuck her in the worst way. No. With Grace, it was different. Strangely different. He wanted to hold her close, kiss her tenderly, whisper in her ear—even show her the world. There was nothing prurient about his attraction.
It was the most bizarre thing.
And so, when the opening strings to “Rocket Queen” started playing on GNR’s debut album, he considered getting up to shut it off. But she wasn’t paying close attention to the music anyway, so he chose to answer her question instead. “What wasn’t there to like? I was doing something I loved. Once I got over feeling weird up onstage, it was the most natural thing. I was able to vent and spew and let out all my anger—and people paid to watch.” He smiled and looked at his bowl. “You’ve heard the whole ‘sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll’ thing? Well, it’s even true for little indie bands starting up. Anything I wanted, I could have—chicks, guys, orgies; coke, meth, smack, Molly, you name it. All because of the music. So we were drinking and carrying on and getting whatever we wanted, just ‘cause we made cool music.
“But what I hated about it was struggling. We weren’t making a lot of money at the time, you know? We all had to work to pay the bills and we did the music on top of everything else we had going on. And it’s easy to get sucked into the lifestyle—the booze and drugs and—” He stopped himself. He’d probably already said enough. “I can’t complain, though. We survived. And now I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.”
The elephant in the room was the approaching guitar solo of the GNR song and Sam felt compelled to address it. Ignoring it with this young religious and seemingly innocent girl could prove dangerous and awkward. She may have put in the album, admittedly a favorite of hard rock fans, not thinking about the endgame. Getting up and shutting it off would make it obvious. So why not just talk about it?
It would solidify their friendship—or not. But he felt compelled to do it.
“You know the story behind this song?”
Grace had just swallowed the food in her mouth. “Kind of.”
“Apparently, Adler’s girlfriend was pissed at him because he was telling her she wasn’t really his girlfriend. That’s one story. Another is that she caught him cheating on her. Either way, she was angry and wanted to make him jealous. So Axl and Slash were mixing the album at the studio and she showed up there. Axl talked her into having sex with him right there in the studio and recording it, and then they slapped the sounds over the instrumental section of the first part.”
Grace was looking intently at her bowl of chili but Sam imagined her cheeks were flaming pink. “Yeah.”
“But what I’ve always found more fascinating is how the song is almost like two different ones joined by a bridge. It’s fucking brilliant.” He set his spoon down. “Sorry for the language. Habit.”
Grace looked up then, grinning. “I know. I listen to your songs, remember?”
Sam smiled back at her. That was true. She actually had a window into his soul, if she thought about it. He didn’t admit it to people, but his lyrics really were his thoughts, feelings, memories, and dreams. It was easy enough to deny if people asked, but the words in LFS songs actually were his soul bared, and he’d be simple enough to flay if anyone had a clue. His band members didn’t know it. Even Debbie didn’t know it. It was something he never talked about. And in interviews, when asked, Sam told them that, yeah, some of it was him, but more often than not, he “donned a writing persona” and followed ideas to fruition.
It was just artsy enough that they bought it.
But they were moving into dangerous territory. Sam wasn’t ready to talk about himself any more than he already had, especially deep down. Distraction—and asking his own questions—would help with that. “So tell me more about your college classes and acting and your long-term game plan…”
“Eh, not much more to tell. I mean…I know I want to act. I want to act in film. TV or movies—it doesn’t really matter…although TV would probably be better. My mom and dad would be really upset with me if I acted in something where I had to compromise my morals.”
“You mean like a nude scene?”
“Yeah, or cussing or other stuff like that. They really hate the F word.” She started blowing on another spoonful of chili. “And GD. That’s another one.”
“So you don’t cuss?” God, she was cute, especially the way her cheeks turned pink on a dime.
A tiny smile crept up on her face. “I try not to.”
So she did sometimes. He wasn’t going to press the issue. “Even if you were making money hand over fist, your parents would take issue if you cussed?”
Grace nodded. “Yep. I’m not even going to ask. Money’s not the issue. It’s my morals—and my eternal soul.”
Oh, fuck. He hadn’t realized it till just now, but apparently Grace and her family were a bunch of religious nuts. How had he not seen that coming?
And then it came out of left field. “What about your parents? What do they think about what you do?”
Sam’s chuckle this time held no amusement. “My dad? Haven’t seen him since I was ten. I’m pretty sure he’s dead. And my mom? She didn’t—doesn’t—care. I’m alive and no longer in danger of being arrested or killed—so she doesn’t give a shit about what I do to make money. As long as I’m not hurting anybody and I don’t make her listen to it, she’s okay. Well, that’s not entirely true. She listens to it on occasion.”
“So she’s okay with it?”
“Yep. Sure is.” Of course, his mom had had a rough life and was in no position to judge. Nowadays, she was married a guy who seemed to be pretty decent, but his dad and his stepdad had both been real winners. That Sam hadn’t become either of them made his mom happy enough.
But how the hell had the spotlight turned back on him once more?
More than that, did he really want to know more about Grace and her family? Was she going to try to convert him now?
“So you were gonna tell me about your classes, I think.”
“I was?” She smiled and took a sip of water. “Okay. Well, I’m taking a composition class and I’m okay at that—it’s just writing essays and I’m done with my last one that’s due next week. I’m in a math class. Not thrilled about that but doing okay and almost done with that one too. Environmental science. Early U.S history. And then the class I snuck in—Theatre Appreciation. But between that and the extracurricular theater stuff I do, there’s no real major in it. Not here anyway.”
“Maybe they agree with your dad? That you might as well just do it?”
Grace let out a small puff of air. “Yeah, probably.” She sat up straighter then and pointed. “Look!”
Sam turned to the side so he could see what she wanted him to look at. At first, all he noticed was the next door neighbor’s house. They had a bright spotlight that Sam had at first thought had a motion sensor until he realized they just left it on a lot. But then he realized that was probably not what Grace was excited about. “Snow.”
“Yeah…and it’s really coming down.”
He’d never known anyone to get so thrilled about cold weather. “What’s so great about it?”
“It’s beautiful. Don’t you think? And it’s…” Grace put her spoon down. “It’s a reminder that things are always changing—and if you’re not happy with something, just stick it out, because things will get better.”
“You think snow’s better?”
She turned back to Sam, her eyes shining. “If it didn’t get cold, you wouldn’t like the heat. And if we didn’t get snow, the trees and flowers—and even Lake Pueblo—wouldn’t be like they are in the summer.”
“Ah, the no day without night school of thought.” Much like he’d been thinking about soft songs juxtaposed against hard music.
Grinning, Grace said, “Yes. Exactly. And I want to go for a walk so I can enjoy the first snowstorm of the year.”
“But I thought you wanted hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls. They’re warm right now.”
“Maybe one cinnamon roll now and then more after. Or…not.” She stood. “I’m taking a walk. You can come or not. I don’t care.”
This was a side of Grace he’d never seen before. She’d been sweet and seemingly pliable, but now she was firm and decisive.
And that convinced him to come along.
* * *
The sugary sweet taste lingered in Grace’s mouth as she stuck her tongue out to catch a snowflake. Dad had always told her to not eat the first snow of the season, because the precipitation brought with it all the pollutants in the air, but they’d just had a light rain two weeks ago. She was feeling happy and alive and here was Sam—her rock star friend—in a leather jacket, no less, walking beside her on the dirt road that ran beside her house.
The idea had been a quick jaunt around the block, but blocks in this area of Pueblo West were lots bigger than regular city blocks. She’d walked it before and knew they’d be out a while, but she didn’t care. It was beautiful outside. The clouds were agleam, tinged with pink from the city’s lights reflected in them, and the snow was falling at a steady pace. It was chilly but not too cold.
The last section of “Rocket Queen” was stuck in her head, and she was humming it as they walked. She noticed too that her footsteps were matching the rhythm in her head. It wasn’t until they were walking in an empty part of the block on the street behind theirs that she noticed Sam humming along with her. The second section of the song felt a little sad but also hopeful, and it had always shown off Axl Rose’s range, going from falsetto into a deep baritone in the space of seconds. Of course, the entire song was brilliant, and it had often brought her to tears. So, in spite of story about the embarrassing sex sounds that Sam had to remind her about, she couldn’t contain herself from humming. And when Sam began doing it with her, she got brave enough to start singing. The first part of it was easy enough and in her range, but if she kept going, they were going to get into the high parts. And she didn’t care.
The breeze was brushing her face as she continued singing, and then, at the last line of the song, her dramatic side took over. She stopped walking and put one hand on her chest, the other out to the side as if overcome by emotion, and sang her heart out. It was easier, even though she knew Sam was looking at her, because it wasn’t light out enough to see his expression.
He was singing too, though, and that made it all the easier.
Winding up the song, she felt the vibrations in her chest as she got her voice deep enough to sing the song as intended, but her eyes were also closed as she allowed the emotions to fill her. It was then that she felt Sam’s fingers, chilly to the touch, brush her cheek.
“You have a great singing voice, did you know that?”
Sudden crippling shyness grabbed her around the heart as it started pounding hard, but she forced herself to swallow. What she thought was happening wasn’t really happening, was it?
She felt herself titter, unable—maybe even unwilling—to believe it. “Nah. I’m just acting. See, that’s the cool thing about actors—”
But then Sam’s face was right in front of hers and there was no denying what was going on. “You are adorable.”
Adorable? She got ready to retort, to ask him if he meant like a kitten, but his lips brushed against hers and any and all thought escaped her head. The only thing there was the leftover melody of GNR floating around her brain pan, but the rest of her was thoughtless…
Her heart felt like it had jumped in her chest as she felt tiny snowflakes hitting her cheeks, making Sam’s lips feel so warm, they were almost hot. It was just a small, slow feathering touch against hers, enough that she could even pretend it wasn’t happening, but her lips parted in response.
Why the heck was her heart beating so hard?
As if the heavens were directing her, she felt herself tilt her head just enough that their lips were all the closer, and then Sam pulled her to him and gently eased his tongue inside her mouth.
Yes, not holy crap or holy cow, but
She’d been kissed once or twice before—once by a boy who would open his mouth but never use his tongue and then by a boy who used his tongue too much, almost like a paintbrush. But Sam’s tongue felt almost like it was teasing and something else was going on. It was like her body had been plugged into an outlet and was experiencing life and electricity for the first time.
She was alive. On fire. Awake.
What was going on?
It wasn’t until she realized her hands were around his neck that she felt like she was coming to her senses. And then she registered everything else—the way his beard hair tickled the skin on her face, the taste of his mouth, the spicy smell of his cologne.
She felt weak then, almost as if she was going to faint.
When Sam ended the kiss, he brought his hand to her temple and cradled her head against his chest, holding her close. She could hear his heart throbbing underneath his pecs, even through the jacket, matching hers—just like his pace had been matching hers earlier before she’d started singing. She could feel his voice almost as much as she could hear it. “Sorry about that.”
Was he sorry about kissing her? And why? She shook her head—as hard as that was against his chest—and said, “Sorry?”
He straightened, letting go of her. “That wasn’t gentlemanly.” He looked around. “We need to get back. The snow’s falling harder now.”
Had she done something wrong? Why was he acting so strangely?
And why were her panties wet? Had she started her period early?
It felt natural, though, and she wondered if that had been some weird response to his tongue in her mouth. Her heart was still thudding, her lungs a little breathless, but she wasn’t going to argue with Sam. She wanted to get home and check her underwear.
Had that really just happened?
They walked back in silence, the crunch of gravel under their feet the only sound. There were no cars driving by, either on the road where they walked or the main road not far away, and while the song she’d been singing aloud was on constant rotation in her head, she wasn’t piping it out of her lungs now. Instead, her brain was swimming and churning at ninety miles an hour as she tried to make sense of what had just happened.
She’d shoved her hands in the pockets of her jacket, now feeling the chill in the air, but she realized Sam’s arm was around her shoulders. That meant that it had really happened, but she wasn’t sure how to deal with it—how to deal with any of it.
Where would they go from here?
It felt unreal and awkward…but during the quiet cool walk home, she let it all wash over her. Did this mean they’d moved from flirting friends to something more serious? And, if so, what would happen next?
She let her heart hum all the way home while she imagined the future.
* * *
Goddammit. He just couldn’t trust himself anymore. He’d known it was dangerous—and he’d held himself back how many times throughout the day? But her singing her heart out, baring her soul to him…enjoying a sweet innocent moment, he just couldn’t hold himself back any longer. The kiss had felt like the most natural thing he’d done in a long time. It was like turning your car signal to the right and then turning as expected or making a pot of coffee and then pouring it in your cup.
It was like the snow clouds looming all day and no longer threatening snow but letting it go.
That was probably what was freaking him out the most—the fact that it felt like it was meant to be, like he couldn’t have stopped it if he’d tried…well, tried harder. He’d been resisting the impulse all day.
The part of him that felt protective, one of the hugest parts of him that was attracted to her in the first place, responded and put an arm around her shoulder for the walk back to his house, but he didn’t trust himself to say another word.
Coming back down the block, they got to his house first, but he kept walking toward hers. As he led them up the walk to her front door, she said, “Wait. Where are we going?”
“I’m walking you home.”
“I think we both need our rest.”
Oh, God, no. The look on her face was more than he could take. It was a combination of confusion and hurt—and he knew he couldn’t explain any of this to her. But he had to remain firm, be the adult for both of them. He was too old for her, too different from her. No matter what his heart was telling him, he had to stop this now.
Grace’s eyes grew wide and she swallowed. “Okay…but my stuff’s at your house. My purse, my phone, my backpack…”
He nodded and simply started walking them back. In silence once more, he unlocked his front door and they walked inside. He’d left the lights on and the faint smells of chili and cinnamon hung in the air. While Grace walked over to the sofa and retrieved her things, he stayed by the door. He couldn’t allow himself even a moment of mental rest—he had to fight every urge he had to protect this girl from himself.
“You didn’t want hot cocoa?”
“Maybe another time.”
His voice sounded colder than the air outside. Maybe that was a little too harsh—but he wasn’t sure how to stop it now.
She nodded, straightening her back. “Want me to help with the dishes first?”
“No, I got it.”
Grace nodded her head slowly and then let her eyes drift away from his. As she got closer to him, he couldn’t be sure, but her eyes looked like they were glistening. No…if she started crying, his protective self would take over. That much he knew for certain.
She walked past him, pulling the door open and letting herself out. And he might have been a dick, but he wasn’t going to simply kick her out. He was going to walk her home. She muttered something as he stepped up to walk beside her. Maybe it was “Don’t bother,” but he couldn’t be sure.
He could no longer trust his senses.
And, whether she wanted it or not, he was going to make sure she arrived home safely. It didn’t matter that she was just next door—it was cold and dark and there was no one else there.
She was alone.
That thought almost made him give in to his deepest, strongest emotions, made him want to turn his back on his promise and pull her into his arms again.
Her reaction, a sudden coolness, made him expect her to open and slam the door on him before he could say a word, but, instead, once she’d opened it, she turned around and looked him in the eyes. That, perhaps, was the most painful part of anything that had happened thus far. “Good night,” she said, simple, factual, quiet. She was a damn good actress, and he wished he could tell her that. She was playing the role of calm dignified woman so well—but her eyes couldn’t hide what was in her heart. He’d hurt her—even more than he would have expected.
God, he was a supreme asshole.
But he too was an actor for the ages. “Good night,” he said and waited until she’d closed the door before he began his cold journey back to his house that was guaranteed to feel even colder in its emptiness.
~ ~ ~
I promised to let you know more about my super secret surprise. If you want to find out what it is, there are two places I’m going to share that information. In my Facebook group and also in my VIP newsletter. So if you want that info, you’ll want to join now so you don’t miss out!
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/JadesBulletBabes/
VIP list: http://www.subscribepage.com/s8f0y5