Together, we clean up breakfast in relative quiet. Although the quiet isn’t the same comfortable one as it was earlier. It feels like he built a wall and I’m on the other side of it. The recent conversation is still obviously weighing on him.
“I’m going to take a quick shower.”
The warmth of the pulsating shower helps to soothe my aching muscles. It’s been a while since I’ve used some of them. Closing my eyes, I smile as the memories of last night play over in my head. Sex with Caden, even in the beginning when things were good, was never like it was with Jax last night. It was just sex. An activity. A mutual release, which I enjoyed at the time, but we never had a connection to elevate things from sex to making love. Last night felt more like making love than I’d ever experienced in my life. I didn’t just give over my body to Jax…it was more. I let him in, gave him a piece of me. Maybe even a piece I’ll never get back.
When I’m sufficiently pruney, I wrap a towel around my body and open the bathroom door which leads to my bedroom and find Jax lying in my bed. The sheet covering to his waist, the sight of his shirtless torso enough to bring my body that just relaxed in the long, hot shower back to life.
“Hey,” Jax says softly.
“Hey.” I smile and make my way over to the dresser to grab some clothes.
“Come here,” His voice is low, but his tone makes the simple two words more of a demand than a question, it stirs something inside of me.
Still wrapped in my towel, I sit on the edge of the bed next to him.
“For what? You didn’t do anything.”
Jax strokes the wet strands of hair away from my face. “I shut you out when you were only trying to get to know me better.”
I smile, appreciating the thought he’s given to our conversation and his ability to recognize what he’d done. A sign of maturity, something I’m not used to with the men I’ve dated over the years.
“Thank you.” I smile.
Jax nods. Folding his hands behind his head, he leans back leisurely on the headboard. “I had an epiphany while you were in the shower.”
“An epiphany, huh?” I arch an eyebrow. My shower seems to have washed away something for both of us.
“Yep. I’m turning over a new leaf. From now on, I’m not hiding what I want. No more worrying about my family, the media, the reflection my actions might take on the precious Knight legacy. Let them snap pictures. I know who I am.”
“That sounds perfect,” I say, because it really does…and he makes it sound so easy.
Jax leans forward and pulls me back onto the bed, then lifts me onto his lap. “What are you doing?” I giggle.
“I’m starting on my first order of business,” he says, fingering the top of my towel until he loosens the tight wrap and the towel falls around me.
Already squirming while sitting on his lap completely naked, Jax runs both hands down the sides of my arms. Goosebumps flare on my skin. “And your first order of business is…”
“Watching you ride me.” His arms tighten around my waist. He visually assaults my still damp body now bared completely before him as the midmorning sun shines through the nearby window.
Jax’s epiphany may just leave me walking a little funny tomorrow. But I’ll worry about that then.
Peace. That’s what I feel as I wake in the late afternoon. I can’t remember the last time I took a midday nap. But it feels damn incredible. Although it likely has something to do with the beautiful angel who’s wrapped around me, her head snuggled close, cheek pressed warmly right above my heart. I listen to the quiet sounds of her breathing. Watch her slow even breaths, the way her mouth twitches up slightly every once in a while, like whatever she’s dreaming is making her happy. I can’t help but smile each time it happens. Somehow seeing her happiness becomes enough to bring my own.
From the nightstand, her phone buzzes yet again. The sound makes her rustle in her sleep. A few minutes later it happens again, this time she lifts her head. I reach for her phone and look at it. Fucking Caden. Whatever peace I was enjoying is quickly replaced by a host of other emotions. Anger, jealousy, somehow even a little hurt, even though she’s done nothing herself to make me feel this way.
“Mine or yours?” she whispers, her voice filled with sleep.
“Yours.” Unintentionally, the word comes out a bit clipped.
She reaches up, assuming I’m going to hand it to her, but I don’t. Instead I push REJECT and toss it back on the nightstand.
Looking up at me, her brows drawn together in confusion at first then a look of understanding replaces it quickly. “Caden?” she asks softly.
I’ve never been the jealous type. But even hearing her say his name evokes a feeling of turmoil inside of me. I have to force myself to not wonder if he’s been in this bed, lying how I’m lying at this very moment. “What’s the deal with that guy?”
Lily’s eyes dart up to mine. She looks into my eyes, maybe searching for how she should answer, but I only stare, patiently waiting for her response.
She closes her eyes briefly and then opens them. She had said it was a long story. I’m not sure I want to hear the whole thing, but I need to know something. Seeing another man’s name repeatedly flash on her phone as I lie in bed falling for her a little more each minute isn’t going to fly for long.
“We were together for a while,” she says, trailing off.
My jaw clenches. I already knew it was more than a one night stand…she just isn’t that type of girl and there’s some sort of loyalty there. Which I’d normally respect, but having my eyes opened recently makes me leery of misplaced loyalty to a man who doesn’t deserve it.
“When my Dad died I was a disaster. Caden had moved to the city a few months before to train with someone Joe thought might be a good fit. We also hired him part time to help out around the gym. We were friendly, but didn’t really know each other well. But when my Dad died, he was there for me. He helped me through it.” My grip around her tightens automatically, without giving it any thought whatsoever. I’m not sure if it’s because she said she went through a tough time or I’m feeling jealous just hearing the ass**le’s name spill from her lips. Both, likely.
“He wasn’t always a jerk.” Her eyes look away from mine as she thinks for a moment, then she shrugs and smiles almost regretfully. “Maybe he was, I just wasn’t in a place to see it right away.” She pauses and then looks up at me. “He’s possessive of me. Doesn’t quite take the hint, even though I keep politely reminding him we’re over. He also has this way of making me feel guilty…reminding me how he helped me get through a hard time.” She trails off for a moment, thinking. “Sometimes I think I let him bully me into things.”
A burn in my stomach ignites and grows to my face. “What kind of things?” I ask because I need to know, but I’m not sure I want to hear her answer.
She shakes her head, her face paling at the thought. “Oh god. No, it’s not what you think.” Relief floods me. “I don’t even know if he does it on purpose. But he reminds me of everything he’s done for me and it makes me feel bad.”
“It’s on purpose. Trust me.” Sounds all too familiar. Fucking manipulator. Why is it the one being manipulated never sees it until it’s too late? “When did it end?”
She bites her lower lip, nervously. Shit. You’ve got to be kidding me. My stomach turns as she looks away with shame on her face.
“Lily?” Anxiousness with a bit of anger laces my voice. She looks up at me. “You’re still sleeping with him?”
“No!” Lily glares at me. “I wouldn’t be here with you if I was still sleeping with him!” She’s angry I thought so little of her. I don’t blame her. But what the f**k? She couldn’t answer when it ended. Pulling away from me, she tries to move to the other side of the bed, but I pull her back.
“I’m sorry. It’s just…you didn’t answer me when I asked you how long ago it ended.” I don’t like talking to her back. Instead of pulling her to where she was lying, I gently guide her onto her back, so I can see her eyes when we talk. Her face is still angry. “I’m sorry.” I speak slowly, directly into her eyes, my voice filled with sincerity. Her face softens a bit. “It’s just…I like you. A lot. The thought of you with another man…” My jaw clenches and voice trails off.
Sensing I’m being genuine, she reaches up and touches my face. “It’s okay. I guess I could have explained better.” She pauses. “I broke up with him two months ago, but I felt bad and sort of agreed maybe I’d reconsider in the future.” Trying to hide my reaction isn’t easy, but I do a halfway decent job as I wait for her to continue. “I knew it was over, and I wasn’t really going to reconsider, but he was just so persistent. He’s Joe’s nephew, works at my business, and I see him almost every day at the gym. I realize now it was the cowardly way to handle things, but he relented a bit when I said that. I figured he’d move on, realize I wasn’t really reconsidering anything after a while.” She pauses. “Like I said, he helped me when I was in a bad place.” She frowns. “Now he has a big fight coming up soon. I think he’s nervous about it, even though he walks around like a pompous ass full of confidence. I told him a few weeks ago I would be there for him. But as a friend, that I didn’t want more.”
“Guess he doesn’t take a hint too well.”
Lily attempts a smile, but it falls short of real. The kind that seems to be on her face a lot when we are together. Except when the ass**le interrupts us. “No, he doesn’t. We haven’t been together…together…,” her voice dips in that way to explain the word together means f**king, it’s cute that she won’t say it, “…in months, but even the other day when he said goodbye, he tried to kiss me as more than a friend.”
As if on cue, her phone buzzes again. It’s on vibrate, but it bounces around against the wood on the table like a tiny drumroll anxiously leading up to the flashing name. “Think he needs it reinforced that it’s over,” I say, picking up the phone. I’m about to answer, when Lily shrieks at me.
“Don’t!” I stop, my finger freezing, hovering over the buttons. “I’ll talk to him again.”
“It sounds like you’ve tried. Maybe my telling him you’ve moved on, will help him do the same.”
“He’s got some anger issues and that would definitely not sit well.”
“I don’t really give a shit about any issues he has. His calls and behavior are borderline stalker. He’s not hearing what you’re saying.”
“That’s my fault.”
“Did you tell him you didn’t want to see him anymore and you stopped sleeping with him?”
“Then he’s hearing you. He just isn’t accepting what you’re telling him. I think he needs someone else to explain it to him.” The phone is still buzzing in my hand.
“I’ll talk to him again when he gets back.”
“How about we talk to him together?” I suggest as an alternative.
“That would undoubtedly turn into a physical fight. I’d rather it not turn out that way. I’ll talk to him.”
“I’m not worried about it turning physical.” I might actually enjoy it. Didn’t like the ass**le the minute I met him, even before I knew he was playing games with Lily.
“I didn’t say you were.” She takes the phone from my hand and hits the REJECT button. “But I would prefer Caden and I not end that way. Our families have been close for too long. Joe is my family.” She looks at me and smiles sweetly. “And I don’t want you and I to begin that way either.”