Authors: Autumn Markus
Tags: #Romance, #General, #Fiction
“No probs. You’d do the same for me.” Jena felt a low rumble of laughter in his chest. “I think we should cement your reputation as the Pussycat Doll of PT, though.” He dipped her dramatically and pressed a closed lipped, but passionate-looking kiss on her mouth. Jena heard a shriek from the office, and the door banged closed. “There. No one will even remember Nicholas was here today,” Travis said with satisfaction, pulling Jena upright. “I already rescheduled the last appointment, so let’s get movin’.” He slapped Jena’s ass, and she heard another shriek from behind the office window.
“Thanks, Uncle Travis. I think,” she said, shaking her head and walking toward the dressing room to grab her swimsuit.
Nicholas answered his front door at the first knock, inviting the trio inside. Conor and Samantha glanced up from the TV long enough to smile, shout hello, and wave everyone into the living room. As Leisa tugged at his arm, Travis handed the basket of goodies they’d brought along to Jena, and she headed to the kitchen, heaving it onto the counter to start unpacking the provisions.
Nicholas leaned one hip against the counter next to Jena, lips twisted up into the lazy grin that made her heart thump. “Impressive. Remind me not to piss you off, Ahnold.” He drew the last word out Schwarzenegger-style.
Jena grinned, patting her bicep. “That’s right, baby. Be very afraid of these.”
Nicholas ran the backs of his fingers over the same bicep and into the sleeve of Jena’s shirt to caress her shoulder. “I don’t think ‘afraid’ is quite the right word,” he said, shifting closer. “Nice shirt, by the way.”
Jena turned back toward the basket, face red. Wearing the pink tee with the word
delicately inscribed on the chest above two strategically placed peaches had seemed funny at home in her bedroom…not so much now. “A joke gift from Leisa.”
“Doesn’t seem silly to me at all,” Nicholas said, turning her toward him. “In fact—”
“Don’t you have bratwurst that need to be turned, Nicky?” Conor’s voice sounded from the doorway.
Nicholas closed his eyes and muttered
under his breath. Jena giggled as he dropped his hand and straightened up. “Be right back, Jena.”
Conor started to dig through the things remaining in the basket, mumbling happily with each discovery. “You guys bring the good shit, don’t you?” he asked with a grin. Finally finished scavenging through the snacks, Conor raised an eyebrow at the impressive array of liquor displayed on the counter.
“We like to be prepared.” Jena smiled. “Can I help with plates or anything?”
Conor nodded, opening a cupboard and rummaging for paper plates. “You know, Jena,” he began casually, head still deep in the cupboard, “I don’t know how you convinced Nicholas you’re not his girl from New Year’s, but I know better.”
Jena’s knees got mushy, and her head spun. “What are you talking about?” she asked, cursing her voice as it squeaked unconvincingly.
Shutting the cupboard, Conor handed Jena a stack of plates and napkins. “Don’t try to bullshit a bullshitter, sweetheart. I may have only seen you from behind when the door was closing, but I
forget an ass.” He grinned, tugging on Jena’s braid. “This either. Long hair fetish.”
Jena moaned, setting the dinnerware on the counter and dropping her face into her hands. “Tell me this isn’t happening. Kill me now, God.”
Conor laughed and pulled her face up with one of his gigantic hands. “Don’t sweat it, girl. I won’t say anything. I like to see Nicky squirm. Keep in mind, though, he’s gonna figure it out if you guys get much closer.”
Jena closed her eyes briefly, face still captured by his fingers. “Then I’m not getting any closer. Apparently, I’m not very impressive anyway.”
He chuckled. “I wouldn’t exactly say that. I could tell you some stories…” Conor’s eyes flicked over Jena’s shoulder, and he carefully picked something off her cheek with a deftness that surprised her from such large hands. “Got it. Don’t want a lash to get in your eye—hurts like a bastard.” He released Jena’s face, and she felt a warm arm circle around her stomach.
“What’s up?” Nicholas’s voice was curious, but with an edge. He pulled Jena back against him, tucking her head in under his chin.
“Eyelash, dude.” Conor rolled his eyes. “What did you think—that I was making a move? With you on the deck and my date in the next room?” He snorted. “Give me a little credit, Dickolas.” He took Jena’s hand and raised it, brushing the back gently with his lips. “I wouldn’t want to rush with this one. I might forget something,” he murmured, winking.
Jena had to admit, her heart did a little extra beat. Charming bastard.
“Brats ready?” Conor asked, dropping her hand and grinning when Nicholas started muttering under his breath. He sauntered out of the room, and Jena quickly followed with the dinnerware, not quite ready to look Nicholas in the eye yet.
After dinner, Jena finally relaxed, accepting that Conor wasn’t going to reveal her secret to Nicholas. She had resigned herself to losing every hand at the poker game Nick proposed, since she sucked at card games, but was determined to have fun anyway. It wasn’t difficult to do so once Leisa’s liquor stash was breached and everyone loosened up. Soon the evil woman was emerging from the kitchen, wagging a bottle of Jäger.
“Who’s up for it?” Leisa sang, dropping a shirtfront full of shot glasses on the table and flashing the room in the process.
Nicholas immediately held up his good hand, shaking his head. “Count me out. Jäger and I don’t get along.”
Conor bellowed laughter. “Just because you decided to drink an ocean of Jäger on New Year’s and can’t remember anything is no reason to puss out now.” He eyed Jena, smiling a little when he intercepted her startled, considering stare at Nick. “How about you, kid? Do you have the ’nads?”
Far be it from Jena to ignore a challenge, especially after several drinks. She pushed aside the sudden clamor in her head, as the relief that there was a reason Nick didn’t remember her fought with embarrassment that she hadn’t been enough to overcome the effects of alcohol. Looking coolly at Conor, Jena gulped straight from the bottle and dropped it in front of him when she was through.
“How about you, big mouth?”
Leisa giggled. “Don’t even try it, Conor. This girl can drink you under the table and then dance on it. Remember your trophy, Jen?”
Jena groaned, dropping her head on her arms. “Is this necessary, Leis?”
“Nope. But it’s damned funny.” Leisa patted Jena on the head. “Our junior year of college, we went to a party and Jena got funky with—what was it? Oh, peach schnapps and tequila. Ended up participating in
a wet T-shirt contest. She won because she flashed the judges.”
“So she says,” Jena said, voice still muffled by her head in her arms. “I have no memory of said event.”
“Maybe not, honey, but I’ve got photographic proof, stolen from an avid fan.”
Jena banged her head on the table as the rest of them laughed.
“Well, now,” Samantha purred, putting her feet up on the edge of the table and tipping her chair back against the wall. “That gives me an idea. How about we make this a little more interesting and change the game to strip poker?”
Jena pushed back from the table, shaking her head. “I may be tipsy, but I’m not stupid. I’m the worst player here. I’d be sitting here naked in—” she mentally counted clothing items “—five hands, if shoes count as two. I’ll just get some fresh air.” Ignoring the catcalls, Jena stepped out onto the balcony and looked out at the lights of the city.
She smiled when she felt a warm body behind her, and Nick’s hand gripped the rail next to her. “Let’s see,” Nicholas murmured, “what I learned about Jena today. She looks deadly hot in a swimsuit, is damn strong for a girl, can drink like a fish, and there are semi-naked pictures of her floating around that I would kill for. All in all, not a bad haul of information.”
Jena felt his lips ghost down one side of her neck as his good hand whispered down the other side, coming to rest at her shoulder. She groaned and shuddered as his thumb rubbed gently across the bone at the base of her neck. Nick’s breath tickled her skin as he smiled.
“Found a spot, didn’t I?” He adjusted his position until his mouth was over Jena’s personal Bermuda Triangle, and his tongue swirled against the sensitive spot. Jena had to hold on to the rail to keep upright as her knees buckled.
“This is such a bad idea. And totally unfair, Cooper,” she said.
Nicholas trailed his lips up to whisper in her ear. “No, unfair is five clothing items. Shoes counting as two.” His hand ran down Jena’s hip and across her bottom. “No panty lines. Do I have to ask?”
Jena shrugged. “Laundry didn’t get done.”
Nicholas leaned his forehead against Jena’s shoulder and chuckled. He ran his hand down her back and stopped to rub the sueded texture of her old khakis. “Is everything about you soft, Jena?” he whispered, running his hand around the front of her hip to rest it on her thigh.
Jena trailed her hand over Nick’s forearm, feeling the sinew and muscle. “Is everything about you hard, Nicholas?”
They both caught their breath at that one. “Yes,” Nick growled, using his hand on Jena’s thigh to pull her flush against him.
He wasn’t kidding.
Nicholas laughed shakily after a second. “Never, never, never get that verbal filter fixed, Jena. Seriously.”
His hand had traveled high on Jena’s thigh when he pulled her back, his fingers slipping under the hem of her shorts. He took a step backward, until he could collapse back on one of the loungers with Jena on his lap. His hand moved higher still, sliding back and forth on the moist, silky skin where her leg joined her body.
“An unfortunate side effect of being too lazy to wash panties yesterday,” Jena said breathlessly, plunging her hand into Nicholas’s hair as he ran his tongue and lips over her neck. “No absorbency.”
“Okay. It’s official. You’ve killed me,” Nick muttered, trailing his hand over Jena’s stomach until he was brushing the underside of her breast. She felt him shift uncomfortably, and was suddenly aware that she was leaning on his injured arm.
Jena leapt up and ran a shaky hand over her hair. “Crap. I’m sorry, Nicholas. I totally forgot—your arm, I mean.” She rubbed a spot between her eyebrows as she tended to do when stressed. “Shit, shit, shit,” Jena muttered. Plan Let’s-Just-Be-Friends didn’t seem to be working out.
Nicholas laughed, finally managing to lurch out of the Adirondack chair when Jena grabbed his hand and helped him up. He held on to her hand and tugged her closer. “You didn’t hurt my arm, but I’m pretty uncomfortable somewhere else.” He released her hand to run a finger down her cheek. “You
blush for what you do to me. I can’t resist you at
.” He leaned down and nibbled at Jena’s jaw line. She sighed, tilting her head so Nick could reach more territory.
Fuck self-control. It’s overrated,
Running her hands up from where they were resting on his hips and pushing the fabric of his shirt aside until she could brush the taut muscles of his stomach, Jena played with the slight mist of wiry hair that covered them. Nicholas gasped when Jena drew her nails lightly down the skin of his lower back, and she felt his erection twitch underneath his loose shorts as he pressed against her. Jena chuckled deep in her throat.
She was dragged back to the present by Conor’s voice as he passed the glass doors on his way to the kitchen. “Remember what I said…”
“What the hell?” Nicholas asked, exasperated, as Jena stumbled backward. “What’s he talking about?”
Jena drew a shuddery breath. “Nothing. Just…I need to think for a minute. That’s my problem. I never think when I drink.” She turned and moved shakily through the door, the ache in her lower stomach making it uncomfortable to walk.
“Hey, Jen! Ready to play yet?” Leisa asked brightly. Jena had to laugh reluctantly at the crew assembled at the table. Samantha only seemed to be missing a shoe, and Conor looked comfortable in jeans, while Travis was down to socks and boxers and Leisa was clinging desperately to her thong. The Jäger bottle appeared to be empty, so that item of clothing could be expected to be lost at any moment, Jena thought.
“Not right now, Leis. Potty break.” Jena kept her eyes turned away from the patio doors as she walked down the hall to the bathroom, though she could feel Nicholas watching her.
Once the door was closed behind her, Jena leaned against the cool wall, willing her heart to stop
and her breathing to slow down, waiting for her self-control to reassert itself. This was Nicholas, the guy who slept with her and promptly forgot all about her. Was she actually considering going down that road again? As loud as her brain was shouting
, her body was crying
“Oh, fuck,” she muttered, staring at herself in the mirror. “What am I doing?”
There was a soft knock on the door. “Jena?” Nicholas’s voice was quiet and husky. “Come out, please?”
Jena took a deep breath and splashed some water on her face before opening the door. Nick was leaning on the wall a few steps down the hall, looking at the floor, and his face in profile took her breath away again.