Breathless - Jesse Book 1 (8 page)

BOOK: Breathless - Jesse Book 1
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“Whoa, whoa, Kat. Take it easy on my neck, girl.” He laughed. “Glad to see me, or what?”

The girl giggled and tossed back her long blonde hair. “Chase sweetie, who’s your friend here?” She radiated as she turned to scope me out, one arm thrown over Chase’s shoulder and a seductive glitter in her eye. She’d been drinking already. Always an attractive quality in my book. I pushed my hand through my hair feeling like a side of beef hanging in a meat market.

“Kat, this is Jesse, he’s the newbie at Rookies. He’s Kenny’s nephew,” Chase said.

She dropped her arm from his neck and gawked at me hungrily. I could really go for this chick. Hot piece of ass. The kind of girl who’d play into my lifestyle nicely.

“Hey Jesse. Where’ve you been all my life?” She turned back to the bar and grabbed her cranberry vodka. “Are you a fitness trainer or something? You’re pretty damn hot with all those muscles and shit.” She gazed up at me from under her lashes, like she could jump on me and eat me alive. Damn, this girl could sure turn the tables. Suddenly the hunter became the hunted. I liked it. Easier for me to be a player.

I shuffled my feet. “Well, what can I say? I’m vegetarian and hit the gym religiously.” I was being sarcastic. She didn’t get it.

“Really?” she asked with wide eyes.

Chase blew out a sudden short laugh.

“No. Are you whack? My idea of weight lifting is lifting beer bottles to my lips,” I snorted.

She stomped her foot and huffed. “You guys suck ass.”

I eyed the bartender behind her, anxious to get a drink in me to better deal with this little vixen.

“Hey Jesse, hon. C’mon, you gotta meet my best friend.” Before I knew it she was pulling on my arm for me to follow her a couple spots down the bar. When we stopped, my eyes lingered on a girl with long dark hair, in an outrageously short black dress standing at the bar with her back to us.

“Niki!”

The girl heard her name and turned with a drink in hand, long black locks undulating down her back in a wave as she moved. My eyes beaded a line straight on her face, fair and sweet, that imprinted on my soul in a heartbeat. I swore I heard the buzz of electricity and for a nanosecond time froze. My awareness of the room momentarily faded into a hazy blur, followed by another cool glance over her shoulder. And with that, the room warped back to normal.

Kat tugged on her friend's arm, pulling her attention away from some dude who had been chewing her ear off.

“Niki. You gotta meet Jesse. He’s Chase's new friend and coworker. Kenny’s nephew.”

The sweet faced girl turned completely around looking right into me like she could see through me, like she could see all the way to where my thoughts originated. How I had never mind wasting my life on cheap beer…or cheap women.

“Jesse, this is my best friend in the whole world, Niki. We’ve know each other since high school, well, all of us have. Anyway...oh my God, I think I need another drink,” Kat said to the bottom of her empty glass.

“Hi Jesse, nice to meet you,” Niki said. Her lush lips moved. Her dark lashes batted. Her reaction towards me was pleasant, but she didn’t look impressed. My heart sank. Holy hell, I just met this girl and already the sparks were flying like heat lightning arcing between storm clouds. At least that was my reaction.
Fuck
. This was unusual for me. None of my usual bar whores and one-night-stands ever caused this kind of reaction.

 
Her eyes flitted over to Chase and lit up with old friendship when she saw him.

“Chase, baby, good to see you again.” She leaned past me to give Chase a hug. A wisp of her raven hair brushed my arm. “Chase, where’ve you been hiding? I haven’t seen you around lately.” Her scent pleasantly invaded my nostrils. My pulse jabbed at my veins, with a sharp burst of adrenaline.

 
Damn, that felt good.

“Chase, dude, I need a drink,” I said. “Let’s flag down the bartender.” Chase pressed into the bodies closest to the edge of the bar and waved. He shouted our order over their heads and I shoved a twenty dollar bill at him to pay for our drinks.

Niki stood to my rear, wedged in between me and Chase, almost pressed up against his chest the crowd was so tight. Even at that close range, their conversation was strained and she had to yell to be heard over the music and bar chatter. This arrangement left me trapped on the receiving end of Kat’s nuclear attention, her off the wall personality oozing enthusiasm in my face.

“Jesse, you look dark and mysterious to me. Where are you from again? New Hampshire?”

She practically scaled me like Mount Everest when Chase passed over my drink, holding it high above all the heads. Too many people. It sloshed in the glass and dribbled on Kat’s bare forearm causing her to squeal.

“Oh shit, that’s cold.” She laughed, shaking imaginary drops off of her arm.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to baptize you with beer.”

She kept laughing. “It’s okay Jesse. You can lick it off.” She held her arm up to my face and laughed loudly. “Just kidding, lover. You can do it later,” she giggled.

This chick was hot and all, the total package, but damn she just wasn't tripping my trigger anymore. Niki had lit a spark in me that baffled me. How could one look be so powerful? I shot a glance back over my shoulder. Niki was still at my back deep in a conversation with Chase. I could hear snippets of conversation fading in and out, the two of them rehashing old high school memories. Damn, if I knew her in high school I never would have let that one get away. Secret tingles amassed my skin, knowing how dangerously close behind me she was. Was it the heat from her body, or heat from the conglomerate of human flesh?
Shit
. What was happening to me? I downed the rest of my beer and ordered another.

“Okay Jesse, let’s play a game.”

Oh my God, no. Let’s not play a fucking guessing game. I blew out a breath, twisted around a little to check on Niki. Still hanging on Chase.

“So, Jesse, huh? What do you think? What’s your answer? Mary Ann or Ginger?” Kat was all up in my face. I had no clue what the fuck she was talking about. I hadn’t even heard a word she said.

“Uh, well...” I noticed a couple leaving. “There’s a table. Let’s snag it before anyone else gets it.” I lurched through the crowd to a round high top table and staked a claim with my beer glass.

I yelled back, “Chase, Niki, I got a table over here.”

The wooden leg of the tall chair groaned against the cement floor as I pulled it out for Niki. Kat jumped into the chair. “Thanks hun.”

I looked up and Chase caught the pained expression on my face. He slid into the chair next to Kat to run interference for me.

Chapter 11 – V Lounge

Niki

Kat dipped her head into mine. “Isn’t he cute?” she said, laying claim to Jesse. It was a familiar scenario; Kat drew all the attention when we went out. I glanced over the sleek black tabletop, hoping Jesse wouldn’t catch me looking. It was obvious he was interested in Kat, yet he intrigued me. He looked down into his beer, laughing at something Kat said. I tried hard not to notice anything about him. It would be best to ignore him. He was probably a “player”, nothing but trouble. But the minute we met my eyes discerned several things: his dark blue eyes, the way stray locks of hair fell in his eyes and how he pushed them back, his charming smile, his ink, and a pack of muscles that moved powerfully under his tight grey T-shirt. But I shouldn't have noticed. I already had a boyfriend.

“Yeah, he’s hot as hell.” I took a sip of beer and vowed to divert my thoughts from Jesse. Chase and Jesse had ordered a pitcher and we all shared. It was good to see Chase again. We almost dated in high school, but it was awkward. Sometimes friends are meant to stay as friends. Maybe if he was as good looking back then as now, it would’ve been different. It took some time for him to ripen. Now he was definitely handsome, tall, and muscular, with jet black hair that was cut short in the back and longer in the front.

 
“Well, hands off Niki girl. I’m claiming “new guy in town” for myself.”

“Kat, you’re a crazy woman. I have Jason, remember?” I played it off, like I hadn’t been the least bit affected by Jesse. Yeah, I had Jason. With that thought, my eyes flashed over to Jesse again and my heart wilted.

Jason was very literal-minded, no understanding of music, poetry and yet when you got right down to it, Jason’s literalness, his pragmatic approach to every subject was the primary reason he was cut out to be a lawyer, and it made him invulnerable. He was smart, even-tempered and ... and rather flat, and boring. That was it, it plain and clear and as usual, Kat was spot on.

Tonight, restlessness rumbled in my gut, stoked by the staleness of my relationship with Jason. I’d made a lot of changes in my life lately and each gave more power to the next, a domino effect. It was no wonder I was on edge. Or maybe Jesse was just damn hot. And he got my head all turned around.

“Fuck that shit, Niki. Jason is a dickhead. Dump him, you deserve so much better.” She took a swig of her beer, as if to lay credence to her words. The edge to her words was all a facade and I never took offense. Kat could read people in an instant. She picked up on Jason’s control issue long before I did and aired her opinion right from the get go.

“What the hell do you mean, Kat?” The beers had absorbed straight into my bloodstream and I giggled. “Jason is the pitomee...” My tongue had a mind of its own inside my mouth. “Jason is the e-pit-omy of a good boyfriend.” I leaned in heavily onto the table, touching heads with Kat as we laughed.

“Girl, I love you. You’re the best roommate ever.” Kat flung an arm over my shoulder and rubbed her head against mine and kissed me on the cheek. Jesse leaned over invading our space and I raised my head to a pair of solid blue eyes burning a hole in me. Once again, his unruly strands of brown hair fell into his eyes. He shoved them back with his hand. It drew my attention to the movement of muscles under his inked skin. Without his awareness, Jesse knew how to push all my buttons. My blood simmered. My eyelashes fluttered. I pulled back, shoving my drink in my mouth to cover the gasp I surely made.
Oh shit.
Jason was out of town for his grandmother’s birthday and here I was lusting after the first hot guy who crossed my path. What was wrong with me?

“Can I join the party? You two are pretty tight over here.” Playfully, he nudged my elbow and a shiver ran up my arm. “Can a new guy get a word in?”

“Oh sorry, baby.” Kat said. “Come in here and join us.”

Chase must have gone to the restroom, as I couldn’t see him anywhere in the crowd. Jesse was breathing down my neck. Every second near him was like resisting a powerful electromagnet. I needed Chase back at the table to divert my attention before the alcohol made me do something stupid. Kat pulled her arm off of me and draped it over Jesse’s broad, muscular shoulder.

“Damn, baby. You work out.” Kat slurred, running her forefinger up and down his bulging bicep. It traced across the edge of a tattoo, peeking out from under the tight sleeve of his T-shirt. I cocked my head to the side and read, “Carpe Diem.” A slight tug pulled in the pit of my stomach, as I allowed my eyes to vacation on his powerful ink covered muscles. I whimpered in my mind, and bit my tongue, while I watched Kat soak up all the testosterone laden attention at the table. I closed my eyes and gulped my beer.

Jason, Jason, Jason. Remember Jason.

At least I had drab thoughts of “boring old Jason” to squelch the fire Jesse started in me.
I exhaled and relaxed as Kat and Jesse focused on each other. I drummed my fingers waiting for Chase. Kat was falling all over Jesse and I wouldn’t be surprised if she took him home with her, or she went home with him.

Damn it Kat, cool your jets. We’re roommates.

I didn't want to see her with him, or
hear
her with him at our place later tonight. I could crash on Chase’s couch if things headed in that direction.

“Who’s ready for some shots?” Chase sang out, returning to the table with four shots of Patron. “Yeah. I’m ready.”

“Hell yeah. I know I am.” Jesse’s voice joined in.

Chase put them down and high fived Jesse. Kat doled out the shots, one in front of each of us, a lime wedge teetering on the edge of each glass. Chase held his up, signaling everyone to raise a glass in unison. “Here’s to old friends and new.”

 
He threw back his shot and we all followed suite. I coughed and sputtered, feeling the burn in my throat. I was never much of an expert at shots. Sipping wine was more my style, but as we toasted, I noted that Jesse appeared to be quite the pro at chugging drinks. With the back of my hand, I wiped lime juice from my mouth and mentally chastised myself. Who was I kidding? Jesse’s demeanor had “bad boy” written all over it, one who could hook up with a girl in no time flat. Normally, I wouldn’t give a guy like that the time of day and yet his eyes had pierced me to my soul, awakening something in me that I hadn’t realize existed. And he pushed into my mind more often than I wanted to admit.

Corralled at the table by friends the remainder of the night, I was a reluctant witness to Kat’s well-crafted play for Mr. Bad Boy himself. I chewed the thin short drink straw in my empty glass to shreds. I knew he would break her heart like a typical bad boy. Just another troublemaker. Run Kat, high tail it outta here. I sank my teeth into my lower lip, reached for the glass Chase had just sat down and swallowed a huge gulp of beer.

“Hey Niki, that was mine.” Chase blinked at me, like he was hurt and plopped down in the chair next to mine. Kat and Jesse were practically conjoined twins by now, locked into a fascinating conversation, garnished with lots of high pitched laughing and hair tossing. I wanted to puke. Well, maybe it was the alcohol that made me want to puke.

“Yeah whatever, I need this to drown my sorrows.” I leaned heavily on the table top, loose as a ragdoll and verbally vomited all the drama of the Jason situation onto Chase. He was a sympathetic listener so I heaved a second time, and the story about my dad and moving out to find my freedom came spilling out. Such are the effects of mixing your liquors; beer, vodka and tequila.

“Come on girl.” A strong hand reached over, taking me by the elbow. I looked up with blurry vision into Jesse’s heavenly blue eyes. “Come on you. It’s time to go home.”

“Niki, I think we need to go now, hun,” Kat slurred and swayed while grabbing the back of my chair to steady herself.

“Where are we going? I don’t want to go home yet,” I blubbered.

They both snickered at how poorly Kat and I held our liquor. Jesse tugged on my arm a second time, but I yanked it away.

“Nah. I think I’ll stay and have one more.” I shifted in my chair like I was settling in.

“Hey, come on, Niki. It’s time to get out of here. I’ll get you ladies in a cab and send you home,” Chase said. “Both of you two need to call it a night.”

He gently put his hands on my waist and moved me out of the chair. I struggled to stand, finding everything, and nothing in particular, hilarious.

“Niki-i-i-i. Come on. Woo...” Kat whooped and flung her arm over my shoulder. The force was enough to make me fall into Jesse, standing next to us. I grabbed at his T-shirt, laughing and Kat’s petite body followed, the two of us crashing into him like falling dominoes.

“Woo, hoo!” Kat yelped. “Let’s make a sandwich.” She wrapped her arms around me, reaching all the way to Jesse, for one big hug. Spontaneously, he circled his arms around the both of us in a “sandwich hug”. I found myself caught in the middle, pressed up against a solid pack of muscles. Even in my inebriated state, his lethal energy radiated through me and I melted into his chest. I tipped my head back, looking up at him, my mouth hanging open. And there I froze, painfully aware of how awkward the situation was, wondering if he could feel my heart beating against his chest. Oh God, he probably thought I was falling all over him like all the other girls.

 
Damn you, drunken Kat.

Kat was oblivious, lost in her own world, dancing to one big party inside her head. Jostling me up and down, locked in the middle of some kind of crazy, psychotic bear hug, pumping to the bar music.

“Wooo! Let’s da-a-nce,” Kat squealed.

Oh my God, just let me die now.

“The party is over, Kat,” Chase chuckled. “Come on. Let’s get out of this place before you start dancing on the tables.” He tugged at her arm and she let go of the hug, releasing me from my blissful torture session.

“Oh, that’s a good idea. I could do that. Maybe I’d get a few dollar bills...”

“No, no, no, no,” He steered her back towards the exit.

“This way. To the door, party girl. We’re not in Vegas.”

I lurched for Chase’s arm. I would only be tempting fate if I stayed within Jesse’s personal bubble. And to no surprise, Kat latched herself onto Jesse’s arm.

Outside on the curb, the summer night air was fresh to my face. A dirty cab pulled up in front of us.

“Here’s your limo, girls,” Jesse said.

“What?” We don’t need a cab,” Kat protested.

Chase pulled her arm. “You’re insane. There’s no way in hell you can drive tonight, Kat. Jesse called you girls a cab.”

“That’s right, get in Cinderella. Your pumpkin has arrived,” Jesse said and opened the door of the cab.

“Hey, maybe you can take me home,” Kat said pulling closer to Jesse. “Sorry, not tonight, sugar,” Jesse said, as he escorted her to the open car door. He pushed her into the back seat of the cab, a petite mass of babbling and laughing flesh. She fell back giggling, the cab driver cutting her an annoyed glance. Jesse apologized to the man and took her legs by the ankles shoving them in after her, like he was stuffing an oversized duffle bag.

Jesse now turned, one hand still on the door, and held out his other hand for me. I stood, wide eyed, staring. Oh shit. My heart did a flip flop. I knew he was simply being polite, but he had no idea what havoc his presence had wreaked upon me. My eyes flitted from his open waiting hand up to his face. His stare cut through me, as he smiled a charming smile, causing my stomach to tie itself in knots. I swallowed hard and put my hand in his trying not to come undone. Maybe I had been wrong about him. Maybe he wasn’t a player after all.

I dropped down into the seat, as he shut the door and stepped back away from the cab. Chase thumped the top of the car with his hand and walked off. Jesse shoved his hands in his pockets and walked backwards, bent over looking down to see me peering out the window, as the cab pulled away from the curb. I jerked my face from the window, embarrassed that he caught me gawking. I could’ve sworn I saw him blow me a two fingered kiss. I gasped and spun around to see if Kat had witnessed it.

“Kat!” She was silent, slumped back in the seat with her eyes closed and her mouth open.

BOOK: Breathless - Jesse Book 1
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