Prom Queen - Page 19

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Leah burst out laughing. “Oh, this is too good. Jake and Jessica, together again. What happened? Did you decide that your reputation couldn’t handle showing up here alone so you called in a favor with your old boyfriend?”

“Shut up, Leah.”

She ignored Jessica, her expression turning contemplative. “It makes sense. It’s what Jake’s earned his fortune with—a company catering to lonely, desperate women with more money than friends.” She grimaced. “No offense, Jake. It’s a great business model.”

The rushing in Jessica’s ears drowned out room for any other thoughts. She’d assumed that Jake worked for Diamond Dates and it had been coincidence that he’d ended up at her date. Being in his presence again after so long had muddied her instincts, and she hadn’t held still long enough to really think about the logic behind that. But if what Leah was saying was correct…

She turned. “You own Diamond Dates.”

Instead of denying it like she desperately wanted him to, he gave a short nod. “Yeah.”

Meaning he’d seen her application. He’d read through it and probably gotten a good laugh and poor, pathetic Jessica. He decided to show up as her date, and he had seduced her into thinking that she was forgiven.

That they stood a chance.

She was such a damn fool.

Jessica took one step away from him, and then another, her issue with her brother and Leah forgotten. The crowd around them murmuring in vicious glee didn’t matter. They’d never mattered. She’d given them too much power by wanting to make things right, and this was the fruit of her labors.

Humiliation.

She shot a look at the other woman, but Leah didn’t seem any happier with the realization than Jessica was. Even though all she wanted was to run out of the gym and never look back, the Jacksons were made of sterner stuff than that. The rabble could go to hell, but if there was one person she did need to apologize to, it was Leah. She just had to open her mouth and say the words.

She drew herself up. “I’m sorry. I don’t think my brother is right for you—or that you’re right for him—but I’m sorry about being an asshole in high school.”

“I gave as good as I got.”

“Yes. You did.” There. She’d done what she needed to do. She could leave now.

Jessica turned, deftly avoided Jake reaching for her, and marched out of the gym. Whispers and laughter rose in her wake, but there was no help for it. If this whole nightmare had proven anything, it was that coming back here was a mistake. The past belonged in the past.

And she belonged in LA.

She pulled her phone out of her clutch as soon as she cleared the door.

“Jessie, wait.”

Please don’t make me do this. She kept walking, hoping Jake would take a hint, but he slid in front of her, blocking her path. “Listen to me.”

The dam she’d created to hold herself together cracked and then shattered. “I bet you had a good laugh. I hand-delivered myself to you so you could put me in my place. Your bitch ex-girlfriend broke your heart, so you decided to get back at me, make me feel a degree of the humiliation and pain you did.” She clapped mockingly. “Well, bravo. You did it.”

“That’s not how it happened.”

She wanted to believe him, but even after ten years, Jessica knew him well enough to know when he was lying. And Jake had just lied to her. She gripped her phone hard enough it dug into her palm. “Did you, or did you not, review my application and approve it?”

“Well—”

“And did you, or did you not, decide that instead of treating me like a normal client, you would personally go as my date?”

He held up his hands. “Jessie—”

“And did you or did you not, cross the line with me multiple times? Even though it was against policy. Even though you knew I was conflicted and feeling guilty and having a hard time. Even though I told you that I still had feelings for you.” Her throat tried to close, but she powered through. She had to get this out so she could leave and, this time, she would never come back to Catfish Creek. Hell, she’d leave Texas as a whole in her rearview, too. “Well, congratulations. You did it. You made me fall in love with you all over again, and you’ve successfully humiliated me the same way I humiliated you when I left. We’re even. The scales are balanced. I am done.” She slashed her hand through the air. “Unless you are about to tell me that I have it one hundred percent wrong, I don’t want to hear it.”

If anything, Jake looked just as furious as she felt. “It might have started like that, but it didn’t end that way.”

“The cat is out of the bag. You don’t have to lie to me anymore.” Her eyes burned, but she’d be damned before she cried in front of him.

“You got your turn. Now I get to talk.” He didn’t move closer, but the parking lot suddenly felt a whole lot smaller. Jake cursed. “Fuck, Jessie. I thought it’d be a little petty revenge, and that thought lasted until we got to your house, and I saw you basically curl in on yourself.”

She’d thought this couldn’t get any worse. She’d been wrong. Jessica wobbled on her stupidly high heels. “So you had sex with me out of pity. Wow. Thanks.”

“For God’s sake, stop jumping to the worst possible conclusion and listen to me. You didn’t trust me when we were eighteen. You need to trust me now.”

She shook her head and backed up. “You just got done telling me like three hours ago that I was right not to trust you then. Stands to reason that I’m right this time, too.”

“I love you, you fool woman.” He raked his fingers through his hair, making it stand on end. “I meant what I said in there. I want to make it work. We can make it work this time if you’ll just take this leap of faith with me. I forgave you for the shit you pulled. Can’t you do the same for me?”

“No.” The word fell between them, a stone into a still pool. This was the end. She hadn’t realized that all these years, she’d held out a small hope that maybe she and Jake would find their way back to each other. Now that hope was gone.

“Jessie.”

But she was already shaking her head. “No, Jake. Just…leave me alone. I can’t do this—any of this.” Not right now.

Not ever.

Chapter Eleven

Jake spent a sleepless night in his truck, and then spent the day driving aimlessly, trying to get his head on straight. He kept replaying the look of hurt and betrayal on Jessie’s face before she’d turned around and walked away from him. He hadn’t gone after her. At the time, it seemed like the worst thing to do, but now he was doubting the wisdom of letting them both stew overnight. That evening, in desperate need of a distraction, he’d texted Travis Walker to see if he wanted to grab a drink and catch up since they last talked.

Jake walked into Rebels. It hadn’t changed much in ten years. He’d worked as a dishwasher there through most of high school, but he hadn’t been back since. The place reeked of stale smoke, even though the new owner, Betty had banned smoking inside when she took over fifteen years ago.

Travis didn’t make him wait long. He walked into the place, saw Jake, and made a beeline toward him. He slouched against the bar, his gray T-shirt revealing full sleeve tattoos, as befitting his rocker status. “Hey.”

“Hey.” He smirked. “Rough night?”

“You could say that.” He looked as bad as he felt. He’d left his suitcase at Jessie’s, and though he had some clothes at his mama’s house, he hadn’t wanted to get into that discussion, either. Jake took the stool next to him.

Betty emerged from the back room. She hadn’t aged a day since he quit after his accident—which was to say, she still looked positively ancient. She squinted blue eyes at him. “As I live and breathe. Jake Davis, come back to my humble abode. I thought you were too good for this place.”

“Nah, just not much of a drinker.”

She snorted. “In here, we shoot whiskey. Y’all look like you could use it.”

Jake knew better than to argue, and the truth was that he could use it. Still, he raised his eyebrows at the pair of shots she passed over. “Betty, these aren’t shots. You could throw some ice in here and it’d be whiskey on the rocks.”

“Like I said, you could use it.” She batted her eyes at Travis. “It’ll put some hair on your chest. You need some. I bet you’re as smooth as a baby’s bottom.”

Travis choked on his shot. “Ma’am.” He wheezed. “You can’t say shit like that when a man is going to shoot whiskey.”

“Mm-hmm.” She eyed them both. “On the house, boys.”

Travis watched her walk away and shook his head. “She always like that?”

“I think she’s mellowed in the last ten years.”


Tags: Katee Robert Romance
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