She hadn’t moved from the controls, though she’d turned off the engine. She was still white-knuckling the wheel, head bent.
He reached for the rope at the stern to tie that as well. “You breathing over there?”
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
Finished with the boat, he crouched on the dock, as close as he could get to her with her still behind the wheel. “Hey.”
“I’ll get it fixed,” she said. “I promise.”
“Soph. Look at me.”
She lifted her head. She was pale, upset. And goddamn it all to hell, anxious. A stark difference to how she’d been looking at him fifteen minutes ago, when she’d been on her knees between his, eyes lit with erotic promise as she’d driven him wild with her mouth.
“It’s just a dock, Soph,” he said softly. “It won’t take much to fix it. I can do it myself.” He shifted closer, and she froze. Froze into a solid block of ice, every inch of her—except for her eyes, which flared with defiance, and her hands as they tightened into fists at her side.
The gesture was familiar. Jacob had seen it every time he and Hud had gone head-to-head, or with his unit when they’d bickered…She was braced for a fight. He stared at her, trying to figure out what the hell. How could she think he was going to yell at her over a mistake, or worse…Jesus…put his hands on her in anger?
Moving slowly, he continued with what he’d originally planned on doing. He touched her cheek, stroked his fingers over the curve of her jaw and let them sink into her hair, gently pulling her face up to his.
She closed her eyes, and he felt his heart press up too hard against his rib cage. “Sophie, please look at me.”
She opened her eyes and focused them on his face, specifically just above his own eyes, probably at the scar that bisected his eyebrow. It was a trick he knew all too well from having to stare at commanding officers who were yelling right in his face. He wouldn’t give them the respect of looking straight in their eyes, saying fuck you by looking right through them. “I once fell out of a tree trying to beat Hud to the top,” he said.
Her startled gaze flew to his. “What?”
“The scar you’re looking at. I got it when I was a kid. The funny thing is that Hud has one exactly like it on the opposite eyebrow. He got his when I hit him with a bat.”
Her eyes widened and she gasped.
“Not on purpose,” he said. “He was catcher on our high school baseball team and got caught by a wide swing.”
She stared at him. “You’re trying to distract me.”
“If I were trying to distract you, we’d both be naked again.”
She blinked. “Awfully sure of yourself,” she said.
A challenge. He liked a good challenge. He also liked her pissed off instead of anxious. He got that she was afraid of getting emotionally attached and he’d thought that worked for him. He’d mistakenly assumed that her past, and her scars from that past, were none of his business. He’d been wrong. And if it was Lucas who’d taught her to fear confrontation, he’d be teaching him to drink through a straw.
“I don’t care about the dock,” he said. “Or the damage. What I care about is you.”
She was very busy studying her feet.
She didn’t fully believe him, and he did his best to not be insulted by that. “Okay,” he said. “Let’s try this instead.” And then he pulled her face to his and kissed her. He went in quick and easy, or meant to. But even with their awkward angle, with her in the boat and him on the dock leaning over her, there was absolutely nothing quick or easy about the way their mouths clung greedily.
She pulled back first, shaking her head like she needed to clear it. She tried to speak, but either she couldn’t find the words or she was still as dazed as he was, because she ended up just staring at him.
He nodded. “I’ll take that as ‘Why, Jacob, I care about you too.’” He rose and offered her a hand out of the boat, which she took.
“I stand corrected,” she said. “You were able to distract me.”
He smiled, but she pointed at him. “But I’m onto you now, so that won’t work again.” And with that, she headed belowdecks.
Another challenge, he thought, and he was absolutely up to the task.
Sophie went belowdecks and pressed her hands to her racing heart. God. God, what had she done?
You let him in…
And then you destroyed his dock. She plopped down on the bed and closed her eyes. Damn, her body was still trembling. From good sex, adrenaline.