He nodded, like she’d said more than she had. “Give me two minutes and I’ll come with you.”
“Jessie, I know you need space, but even Catfish Creek isn’t without its dangers. If it would make you feel better, I can jog behind you, but I am coming.”
She glared. “No, it would not make me feel better. You jogging behind me is creepier than any stranger would be.”
He waited, as if he had all the time in the world. And why not? He couldn’t possibly feel like he was about to shred off his skin if he didn’t move. She rubbed her arms. “Fine. Yes. Whatever. You can come with me. Just…I don’t want to talk.”
“Done.” He dug through his suitcase and then walked out of her room, presumably to change in the bathroom.
She considered leaving without him, but Catfish Creek wasn’t exactly big, and pissing him off wasn’t currently on her to-do list. Plenty of time for that tomorrow. Despite everything, she found herself smiling. Maybe teasing the hell out of Jake Davis was exactly what she needed to get her mind off all the crap that came with their hometown.
She looked at the shirt in her hands and tossed it back into her suitcase. She was covered more than most swimsuits she owned, and the heat truly was oppressive, even with the sun on the verge of setting. Any extra clothes would be an encumbrance—and it wasn’t like she could piss off her mama any more than she already had today.
The rest of Catfish Creek?
Well, that was a different story.
Feeling like herself for the first time in far too long, she pulled her hair back into a ponytail and headed for the stairs. “Meet you outside.” Jake’s muffled acknowledgement was all she needed to hear to keep her moving.
If she had her way, there wasn’t a chance in hell that he’d keep his hands off her tonight.
Jake stepped out onto the front porch and froze, his gaze glued to Jessie’s ass as she bent over to stretch her hamstrings. Her tiny shorts left absolutely nothing to the imagination, and he couldn’t decide if he wanted to rush back into the house to find the closest blanket to wrap her in—or fuck her right there in the grass.
Get a hold of yourself, asshole.
Easier said than done. Especially when she straightened and stretched her arms over her head, giving him a perfect view of her back, broken only by a few straps of her sports bra. She turned around and his mouth went dry.
She might as well be naked.
No, it was more than that. He’d known her body was different from when they’d been together, but he’d underestimated the impact on him. The eighteen-year-old who’d dumped him was a girl.
The twenty-eight-year-old standing in front of him now was a woman.
It should have gone without saying, but his eyes traced the curve of her waist, more pronounced than before, the way her breasts filled out her bra, the softness of her stomach.
This was a woman who worked hard, but still loved life. He wasn’t sure what specific thing it was that gave him that impression, but he couldn’t shake it.
He took a step forward, and she shot him a grin before she turned on her heel and took off. Jakes stared after her for a long moment and then shot down the porch stairs and jogged after her. He almost caught her by the end of the drive, but slowed up so he could enjoy the view. The Jacksons lived in one of those fancy ass neighborhoods that pretended it was rural, but every single one of the lawns was manicured down to the last square foot.
His parents’ neighborhood wasn’t bad by any means, but it was lower middle class. He made a mental note to check in with his mama and let it go. Right now, there was only Jessie and him and the open space of the road beneath their feet.
As tempting as it was to play with her a little bit, she’d been seriously shaky when she decided she needed a run. If she needed to push herself to quiet her demons, he wouldn’t be the one to stand in her way. Jake picked up his pace until he was even with her.
Neither of them said anything, and he matched her stride easily—Jessie was only a couple inches under his six feet, and her legs were almost as long as his. He let her set their speed. He was in good shape because he required it of his employees, and he couldn’t ask it of them if he wasn’t willing to do it himself.
He’d cleared the schedule this weekend so this was the only event planned. Jake liked to be able to monitor the situation when his guys were out, because even though they did their due diligence with background checks and research about whatever situation they were walking into, there was still room for shit to go sideways. They might all be badass dudes to one degree or another, but they trusted him to have their back.
He couldn’t guarantee he’d be there if they called while he was occupied with Jessie.
Jake didn’t realize they’d turned until the pavement gave way to dirt beneath his shoes. He blinked and looked around, a slow smile spreading over his face despite himself. He knew this spot. Surely she wasn’t…
But Jessie veered down the dirt road and through the field, toward a strand of trees that he knew as well as the back of his hand. It had been their escape and hideout ever since they were ten-years-old and she’d stumbled on the makeshift fort he’d built back there. It made him smile to think of now.
She only stopped when the trees hid the rest of the world from sight. Jessie paced back and forth, and if he didn’t know better, he’d assume she was cooling down after the run.
He knew better.
Jake opened his mouth to… He didn’t know what. Ask her what the deal was. Tell her that he’d changed his mind about forcing the issue. Fuck, to tell her the truth about who he was to Diamond Dates and why he showed up as her date.
But she turned to him, and the strange look in her dark eyes stopped him. Jake knew that look—it was one that tended to appear when she was at the end of her rope and didn’t know who to turn to…though she’d always turned to him. At least up until the end. “What do you need from me?”
She blinked, as if he’d surprised her, but recovered quickly. “This can’t be…anything. I know what happened, and I know what I said, but—”
But there were too many skeletons in the closet that was their past. That didn’t mean he couldn’t help her now. “I get it.” He refused to examine why he wanted to help her now.
“Then…” She took a breath. “Then what I want, Jake, is you.”
Jessica didn’t know what she expected—for Jake to laugh her out of town, most likely—but it wasn’t for him to cross the distance between them in a single step and yank her into his arms. Earlier, their interactions had been almost teasing. There was no room for that now.
The running hadn’t helped. She knew after the first mile that no matter how long she ran or how exhausted she ended up, she’d still have her mot
her’s voice in her head. She’d still stay up all night, worrying about how the reunion would go tomorrow. She’d convince herself of whatever worst case scenarios her brain decided to come up with at three a.m.
It was always three a.m.
Unless she did something about it.
Jessica went up on her tiptoes and kissed Jake with everything she had. Her earlier missed orgasm had her half primed already, the edge of her pleasure so acute, it was almost pain. Jake could fix it.
Jake would fix it.
He took control instantly, his hands coming up to tilt her head back so he could take the kiss deeper. Jessica’s knees went a little weak, but she wasn’t about to let that stop her. She skimmed off his shirt and dropped it on the ground. He was like some dark golden Adonis, his skin sun-kissed without bothering with tan lines, his close-cropped beard and hair more blond than it had looked in the airport. Or maybe she was just looking for the familiar with the world going topsy-turvy around her.
I came back here for closure, and I’m hooking up with my ex-boyfriend inside of twelve hours.
The voice of reason had no power here.
The golden skin of his chest was broken by a series of scars that stretched from his shoulder down to his elbow. Jessica jerked her gaze away and kissed him again. She didn’t need the reminder of the event that had been the beginning of the end of them. Only the here and now mattered.
She went for the front of his shorts, the elastic band making it easy for her to slip her hand inside. A shudder rolled through him as she stroked his cock. If she let him think too much, he’d talk them both out of this. She could tell by the way his hands tensed on her face that Jake’s noble streak hadn’t died a terrible death alongside their relationship.
Jessica took one of his hands in hers. Desperation made her bold, even though in the back of her mind she knew she’d be mortified once this was all over. She drew his hand down to where her nipples were hard enough that there was no way he’d be able to miss it. He went stock still, letting her use him to cup her right breast.