I frowned as I thought about Jared’s life. He grew up without a father and an absentee mother. He had no healthy role models or love in his life—that I knew of, anyway. Having no comeback to that, I remained silent as he slowly started helping me unload my crate.
Beakers, flasks, test tubes, and an assortment of liquids and dry materials covered the tabletop. I wouldn’t need all of this stuff, but had gathered it anyway when I was still trying to decide my project. Three different store-bought flame retardants and some ingredients for a homemade one cluttered the counter, along with different cotton fabrics. My experiment would consist of testing how cotton reacted to different resistant sprays. I had already put together my purpose, hypothesis, the constants and variables, and my materials. Today, I’d be putting together my procedures and getting started on one round of tests.
On top of all that, my nerves were now firing at both ends.
There was a time when Jared’s presence calmed me and made me feel safe. Now, his proximity had me hyper-aware of every time his arm came close to brushing mine or whenever I thought his eyes flashed to me. My head felt cloudy, and my hands clenched.
Annoyed, I twisted to grab my notes out of my binder and bumped a flask off the counter. Heat covered my face as I turned around to try to catch the flask, but instead, watched it shatter all over the floor. With my back to the counter, I stared down at the mess and inhaled deeply. At this point, I didn’t care if he thought I was crazy or overreacting. I needed him gone.
Jared moved in front of me and stared down at the broken glass. “I make you nervous,” he said without looking up at me. His assessment was dead-on. I knew it, and so did he.
“Just go.” My desperate whisper pleaded with him as I refused to meet his stare, which I was sure was now on me.
“Look at me.” Jared cupped my cheek with his hand, his fingers reaching my hair. “I’m sorry.” My eyes shot up to his at the sound of his repeat apology. “I should never have treated you the way I did.” Eyes burning, I searched his face for any sarcasm or insincerity, but came up short. His expression was all seriousness, and his breathing was deep as he waited for my response.
Jared brought his other hand up to cup my other cheek and moved in closer. His hands slid around the back of my neck, and his thumbs grazed my ears. My breathing became shallow as his body pressed gently against mine. His eyes were now concentrated on my lips as his face inched closer. Jared was barely an inch from my lips, but I could still taste him.
He had started so slowly, but I groaned in surprise when he dived in and caught my lips with his. Fireworks started in my mouth and filtered up through the top of my head and down my neck. I was lost as his arm wrapped around my waist and his other hand stayed buried in my hair. He clutched me tighter, pulling me up to my toes. I inhaled him, smelling the wind and rain from his skin, and for a brief moment, I was home.
This is everything I needed. Everything I wanted—on me, around me, inside of me. My hormones were out of control. I wanted to rip his clothes off and feel his na**d chest against mine. I wanted to kiss him until I was too hot and delirious with need. Who was I kidding? I was already aching with desire. It pooled in my abdomen and shot downward to my sex like a damn tornado.
His tongue flicked under my top lip, sending shivers down my arms. I snaked my arms tightly his neck and pressed into him. His hands rubbed down my sides and grabbed my ass. My body loved every touch. I molded into him like a piece of clay. Where he caressed, I melted. Where he pulled, I followed.
His mouth was so hot, and I couldn’t help but wonder how good the rest of him would feel, too.
“I’ve wanted you for so long,” he whispered, his breath on my lips was like a drug drawing me in. “All the times I’d see you next door…it drove me crazy.”
My toes curled at his words. He wanted me the whole time. I liked knowing that. I liked that he desired me.
He took my lips again in a deep kiss, my back pressed against the lab table. As he bit my bottom lip, my head reeled with what was happening. I loved finding out that he never hated me, that he always wanted me. But what was happening between us? Were we getting together? Or was Jared scratching an itch?
“Don’t…” I gasped out and pulled myself back. I didn’t want to move, and I didn’t want to be anywhere else but with him. But I knew why I stopped.
He can’t win. He can’t treat me like shit and then have me.
Jared was breathing hard and stared at my swollen lips like he was far from done. His eyes drifted up to mine, and I saw the intense need, as if he was either really pissed I’d stopped him or turned on to the point of tying me down.
Releasing his hold and dropping me back to my feet, his expression became indifferent as he backed away.
“Then I won’t,” he said coldly. I guess I didn’t expect him to argue to pursue me more. Jared wasn’t a beggar. But I was thrown off balance by how quickly he could go from blazing hot to bitterly cold.
I studied him for a few moments, wondering if I’d ever get around this prideful indifference of his. “What are you up to?” I questioned, narrowing my eyes at him.
He let out a dry laugh. “I want us to be friends,” he admitted somewhat sincerely.
“Why so many questions?” he countered.
Was he serious? He had some explaining to do. “You didn’t think it was going to be this easy, did you?”
“Yes, I was hoping we could move forward without looking back.” His annoyed tone fit perfectly with the scowl forming around his eyes.