Authors: Nicola Marsh
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Coming of Age, #Romance, #Contemporary, #New Adult & College, #Teen & Young Adult
I laughed. “Not that adventurous, huh?”
She squared her shoulders and her head tilted up. “Maybe I am?”
So she didn’t like being taunted? I’d have to remember that. Because a guy could have a shitload of fun teasing someone like her.
“I doubt it.” I turned the knob and her eyes widened. “I guess we’re about to find out how adventurous you really are.”
“What are you doing?”
I grinned. “Getting my towel.”
Her frantic gaze darted around at the same time I opened the stall door.
“It’s behind you, in case you were wondering,” I drawled, trying not to laugh at her obvious discomfort.
I shouldn’t tease her, I really shouldn’t. She was a guest. Off limits. But that urge to ruffle her poise when we’d first met this afternoon was back, stronger than ever.
And just when I thought she would turn tail and run, she surprised me.
“Go ahead and get it.” Her gaze drifted from my chest, lower. “Wouldn’t want you getting cold or anything.”
Fuck. She’d called my bluff. As for getting cold? The only thing I was getting behind this stall door was hot. Extremely hot. And hard.
“Last chance, sweet thing.” I swung open the stall door so slowly the hinges squeaked. “Leave now or cop an eyeful.”
She met my gaze, hers challenging and defiant. “Do I look like I’m going anywhere?”
In retaliation, I pushed the stall door open the rest of the way, so hard it slammed against the side of the shower.
I stood there. Hands on hips. Daring her to look her fill.
And she did. Staring at me in open-mouthed wonder.
I should’ve felt self-conscious. I didn’t. I felt like a frigging king, on top of the world, having a girl like her look at me like I was the best thing she’d ever seen.
The longer she stared at my cock, the harder I grew, until I was pointing straight at her.
Only then did she turn away, but not before I saw her press her hands to her cheeks and mouth ‘wow.’
“If you fancy another peep show, I’m here every day. Same time,” I called out at her retreating back.
She paused, and glanced over her shoulder, her smile impish. “Seen it once, seen it all before.”
With that, she sauntered away, leaving me with a hard-on that wouldn’t quit, and the distinct urge to run after her so she could do something about it.
I didn’t like cooking. I’d done enough of it when I lived at home because Mom was too self-absorbed to ensure her kids ate. That, and the fact Mom’s cooking tasted like reheated trash.
I could do the basics like cheese omelets, jar pesto tossed through pasta and a grilled steak. And at college, I survived on cheap noodles and cafeteria food. So the meals dished up at the homestead in one day? Divine.
And the fact I wanted to know whether Jack was the whiz concocting the culinary delights made it pretty damn hard to stay out of the kitchen. But I had to. Because if I pushed through that door and saw him again, I’d combust on the spot.
He’d kept me up all night.
How dare he strut around naked so I couldn’t get the image of him out of my head? The fact he’d given me fair warning but I’d stuck around regardless was beside the point. There was something about that cocky, insufferable Aussie that rubbed me up the wrong way.
He brought out something in me I’d never thought I possessed.
My inner smartass.
I never traded quips with guys. I didn’t backchat or spar or play word games. Yet in twenty-four hours, Jack had made me do it—and how.
I’d seen his penis. A very impressive penis. Erect.
And I’d never forget the sight of my first as long as I lived.
That’s the thing about being a virgin. I’d kissed guys, I’d fooled around a little, but I hadn’t actually seen the equipment. Now that I had? It was all I could think about.
“Pass the coffee, Jess.”
Were all guys that big? Or did it only look that huge because it had been hard?
“Jess? Coffee?” Reid’s voice finally penetrated my intent mental study of male anatomy and I glanced up.
“Cof-fee puh-lease,” he annunciated with exaggerated slowness and I finally got the message.
“Here.” I passed him the pot and shook my head when he offered me a top up.
“No, just a bit tired.” Mentally fixating on a guy’s dick all night would do that to a girl. “Long semester.”
“How’s it all going?”
I rolled my eyes. “You ring me weekly to get updates so nothing’s changed.”
Apart from the fact my best study partner and friend at college had tried to get it on with me.
Reid stabbed a piece of blueberry pancake with his fork and waved it at me. “You should be nicer to me. I brought you here, didn’t I?”
“That’s only because you’re a lame ass for not having a girlfriend.”
He laughed. “Long days at the office aren’t conducive to a relationship.”
Despite my teasing, I admired Reid. For a young guy, he was going places. I had no doubt he’d make it to the House of Representatives one day, which was his dream.
“And before you ask for the hundredth time this morning, I’ll be fine here next week when you head to Sydney.”
More than fine, if I persisted in taking strolls around the property at dusk.
Reid poured more maple syrup on his pancakes. “Jack seems like a good kid.”
Uh-oh. I didn’t like where this conversation was headed, especially as the mere mention of Jack made my cheeks flush.
“We only met him yesterday. How do you know?”
He shrugged. “Meet a lot of people in my profession from all walks of life. I can tell the good guys from the bad.”
Wonder if my brother would re-evaluate his opinion if he knew Jack had showed me his penis a few hours after we met?
“Reckon he’d be good summer crush material.” Reid winked and I choked on my OJ.
He laughed as I coughed and spluttered. “Just don’t go falling too hard, Jessie girl. Guys like that are heartbreakers.”
I dabbed at my mouth with a napkin and glared. “Make up your mind. One minute he’s a good guy, the next he’ll break my heart.”
Reid held up his hands. “Just saying it’ll be good for you to have a little fun while you’re here after a long semester.” He paused, and mock frowned. “But not too much fun.”
“Yes, Sir.” I saluted and he grinned at my sass.
“Speaking of Jack, Doreen said he’d be happy to show us around. Take us on a few tours around the place, that kind of thing.”
And just like that, the OJ I’d managed to swallow curdled in my stomach. I didn’t want to hang out with Jack. Not after what I’d seen. And wanted to see again.
“Great,” I managed to say when the silence grew. “This is an amazing country. Can’t wait to explore.”
I sounded weird, like I had a frog in my throat, and Reid studied me. “You okay?”
“Just peachy,” I said, wishing my big-hearted brother hadn’t put the notion of a summer crush into my head, wishing Jack didn’t look like Chris Hemsworth, and wishing I hadn’t seen him naked.
Okay, so that last wish? So not true.
“I’m done.” Reid patted his stomach and pushed back from the table. “I need to call the Cattle Council of Australia to start negotiations, so I’ll see you later.”
“Knock yourself out.” I waved him away, secretly admiring how driven he was and wishing I had half his ambition.
But after he left the dining room, I felt weird sitting there by myself. I’d learned that formal, sit-down meals were the norm at the homestead but I wasn’t some lady of the house who had to be served.
I stood and cleared the dishes, stacking them on my arm before I headed for the kitchen. I pushed through the hinged door and my precarious plate-balancing act almost came undone as I spied Jack, bolting out the back door as fast as his long, lean legs could carry him.
Resisting the urge to stick my tongue out at his back, I entered the kitchen. When Mrs. Gee straightened from having her head stuck in a giant fridge, her eyes bulged out of her head.
“What do you think you’re doing, Missie?” She bustled toward me like an angry hen, all puffed up and outraged. “Give me those dishes this instant and you head back in there and relax.”
I laughed. “I live in a dorm on campus where I come from, so cleaning up is second nature.”
She faltered. “But you’re a guest…it’s not right.”
I placed the dishes in the sink. “Considering I’ll be the only person in this house next week, apart from you and the other workers, how about we drop the formalities now and become friends?”
I watched the older woman deflate before my eyes.
She plucked at the frayed pocket on the front of her apron. “You’d rather hang out with me than surf the Net or lie around with an e-reader all day?”
“Sure.” I pointed at the stove, where she had a delicious broth simmering. “You can give me some pointers.”
Her eyebrows rose in unison. “You like to cook?”
“Not really, but a girl has to eat.”
A knowing glint made her beady brown eyes glow. “Or is there another reason you want to hang around the kitchen?”
I shook my head, cursing my blushing cheeks. “I just think it’d be better if I ate in here with you while the others are away rather than sitting alone in that formal dining room.”
“Makes sense.” Mrs. Gee studied me for a few more seconds before turning away to busy herself with rinsing dishes. “Jack will be back in a minute. He’s out picking herbs for the pumpkin soup he’s making for lunch.”
“So he does some of the cooking too?” I tried to instill the right amount of nonchalance in my tone but it still sounded desperate to me.
“All of it since you’ve arrived.”
She paused, and glanced over her shoulder at me. “Why? Anything you fancy in particular?”
She was onto me. And there was nothing I could do but smile and shrug.
Mrs. Gee’s wrinkled face creased further when she smiled too. “Word of warning. Jack’s easy on the eye but he’s not for you.”
Sheesh. What was it with people around here? First Reid, now Mrs. Gee. Was I that easy to read? Could they see the invisible ‘I SAW JACK NAKED AND WANT MORE’ tattooed on my forehead?
Keeping my voice devoid of emotion, I said, “I’m here for a vacation, that’s it.”
“Smart girl.” Mrs. Gee nodded and returned to her dishes.
The fact I had a sudden urge to check out the herb garden? Not so smart.
* * *
“Is that dill or rosemary?” I had no interest in herbs but it seemed as good an opening line as any, considering the last time I’d seen this guy I’d seen his man bits.
“Neither. It’s thyme.” Jack slowly straightened from a squatting position and stared at me, a slow grin easing across his face. “Surprised to see you here.”
“Why? I live here for the next month, remember?”
“Oh, I remember.” His gaze started at my flip-flops and traveled upward in a slow, leisurely perusal that made my skin prickle all over. “I just meant I’m surprised to see you out here when I thought I’d next see you at dusk this evening down by my shack.”
I blushed, heat scorching my cheeks at the memory of what I’d seen last night.
He laughed. “So what’re you going to dare me to do today?”
“Last night wasn’t a dare,” I said, sounding like a sulky kid. “You’re just an exhibitionist.”
His naughty grin alerted me to the fact he’d always win in any war of words we had. “When I had such a captive audience, do you blame me?”
“And you’re a show off.”
“You seemed to appreciate what I had to show off.”
He had me there. The way I’d stared at him? Like I hadn’t seen an erection before. Which I hadn’t. But he didn’t need to know that.
“Can we just forget about it?”
He raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know. Can you?”
Then again, with the size of what I’d seen, he had every right to be proud.
“Tell you what I’ll do.” He plucked a bunch of parsley and added it to the thyme in his other hand. “I won’t mention it again if you stop looking at me like that.”
He crossed the small herb garden to stand close. Way too close, as he leaned in to murmur in my ear. “Like you want to do more than look.”
His warm breath fanned my cheek and I sighed, my body alternating between tingling and flushing. I liked having him this close to me, liked the way he made me feel. Jack made me feel like I could do anything and not be sorry.
Then he chuckled and broke the intimacy surrounding us. Of course he was teasing, trying to get me flustered. Screw him.
I stepped away and mustered my best haughty glare. “You wish.”
“You have no idea what I wish for, sweet thing, and if you did–” he touched my arm, the barest brush of a fingertip, and I almost moaned, “–you wouldn’t be standing there all prim and proper like butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth.”
I shouldn’t encourage him, I really shouldn’t. But this word play thing we had going on? Like nothing I’d ever done before with a guy. It was a serious turn on.
“What would I be doing?”
His fingertips trailed up my arm in a slow, deliberate caress that made me shiver with longing. “You’d be naked.” He toyed with my bra strap, slipping a finger underneath to snap it. “In my bed.” He skimmed my collarbone, precariously close to my breast, and I couldn’t breathe. “Begging for more.”
With that, he headed back into the kitchen, leaving me hot and shaking and yearning.
I’d managed to avoid Jess for five days.
And it looked like the feeling was entirely mutual.
She hadn’t ventured near my shack again and whenever she was around the homestead I made sure I had urgent kitchen duties.
I couldn’t be alone with her.
We’d spoken a grand total of three times: during introductions, at my shack when she’d seen me naked and in the herb garden. Each and every time I’d wanted to make the uptight princess lose control.
What was it about her air of untouchability that made me want to touch her real bad?