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Authors: Leslie Johnson

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Fighting the Flames (8 page)

BOOK: Fighting the Flames
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“Yeah, well, have fun.” He hesitated for a moment before turning and walking away. That hadn’t been as painful as he’d expected it to be. But spending tomorrow with her was going to be a different story. He had no idea how he was going to handle it. Besides… maybe this would be for the best. The more time he spent with her as a friend, the more he’d get used to it. Kind of an ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ in reverse.

*****

Ryan walked into McGillicuddy’s at eight, fighting through a crowd to get to Shane, who was waiting for him at the bar. “Place is busy tonight,” he said, surprised to find an empty stool beside Shane.

“There’s a live band starting in about an hour,” Shane said, motioning to the bartender. “What do you want to drink?”

“Beer is fine.” Ryan looked around the bar and noticed that it was full of women. Sexy women. If he was in the market for one, he’d be in the right place. The bartender set a bottle of ice cold beer in front of him. He brought it to his lips and took a long pull. It tasted damn good.

“I’m getting laid tonight,” Shane said with a grin. “With these odds,” he swirled his finger in a sweeping motion around the bar, “it shouldn’t be too hard.”

Ryan laughed. “No, it shouldn’t be hard.”

“You seem to be in a better mood.”

“Yeah.” Ryan nodded. “No promises about tomorrow though.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

Ryan wondered if she should spill all the sordid details about him and Jess or if he should just let it go. He took a deep breath. “There’s a woman. We have a bit of history. She just wants to be friends. I want more.”

Shane laughed. “It’s usually the other way around.”

“No shit.” Ryan finished his beer and bought another round. Their conversation turned to idle chitchat. Shane occasionally pointing out a potential one night stand, and Ryan offering his feedback. It passed the time until the band started to play. A horde of women flocked to the dance floor, shaking their asses and grinding with other women, evidently to get the men’s attention. It was fun to watch, but Ryan’s mind was preoccupied with Jess. She was the one and only woman he wanted.

“Hey there, sexy,” said a tall curvy woman who walked up and stood beside him.

“Hey,” Ryan said back, nodding and smiling. He found her attractive. “What’s your name?”

“Sarah.”

“Ryan.”

“Buy me a drink?” She smiled and moved closer to him.

Ryan raked his gaze over her body. “What are you having?” It wouldn’t hurt to buy her a drink or two. It’s not like he planned to do anything with her.

“Sex on the beach,” she shouted over the music.

The smile faded from Ryan’s face. That had always been Jess’s drink of choice. She said she drank it not only because it’s sweet, but also because it reminded her of the time they’d had sex on the beach. It was decision time. Stay, get shit face drunk and entertain himself with the woman standing beside him, or leave now, drive straight to Jess’s and beg her to reconsider the whole friend thing.

The bartender stood in front of him. “What do you need?”

“A sex on the beach, a shot of vodka, and a beer,” Ryan said, tossing a twenty on the bar. He sat at the bar with Sarah for over an hour doing shots and drinking. After a while, he realized he was feeling pretty good.

“Let’s dance!” Sarah grabbed his arm and dragged him onto the dance floor. She turned her back to him, took his hands, put them on her stomach and began to grind her ass against his crotch. Ryan went with it and spent most of the night pushed against her body. The band stopped playing just before two. Shane stumbled toward Ryan with a short blonde tucked under his arm. “Hey, man, I’m outta here.” He gave Ryan a fist bump and a wink.

“Have fun.” Ryan laughed. It was time for him to call it a night, too. He had to be up in five hours for his date with Jess. Uh, friend-date. Frate? Damn, what did you call it anyway?

“My friends are having an after party.” Sarah put her arms around his neck. “Want to go? We can find a room, have our own private party.” She smiled.

Having been dry humped all night on the dance floor, he was hornier than he cared to admit. Sarah was a sure thing. He’d had his fair share of one night stands before. One more wouldn’t hurt. Besides, it’s not like he was dating Jess or anything. An image of Jess flashed in his mind: her big brown eyes and sun kissed face, her plump pink lips and that tiny dimple when she smiled. He took a deep breath, resigning himself to the idea of going home and jerking off. “Thanks, but I can’t. I’ve gotta be up early.”

Sarah ran her hand down his torso and grabbed his crotch. “Are you sure?”

Ryan removed her hand. “No. But you go have fun.” He walked away. Christ, what was wrong with him, turning down sex like that? As he climbed into his truck, he wondered if he’d ever be able to have sex with another woman again. He shook his head. No other woman could ever satisfy him like Jess could. Ryan drove home slowly, glad he’d shifted to drinking soda hours ago. At least he still had half a brain left.

He was so wrapped up in his thoughts, the fifteen minute drive took him half an hour. When he finally made it home, he was surprised to find Jess outside, sitting on her porch, staring up at the sky. Why the hell was she up so late? He hesitated for a moment. Should he go over and talk to her? Or simply say hi and go to bed? He walked over and sat beside her. “You’re up late.”

She rested her elbows on her knees and looked at him with a smile. His heart raced and his cock thickened at the sight of her. It was a bad idea to come over here, he thought, especially considering how horny he was and how badly he wanted to take her to bed.

“I couldn’t sleep,” she said after a moment. “Looks like you had fun tonight.”

“Why do you say that?”

She laughed. “Its two-thirty in the morning, you haven’t stopped smiling since you got home, and I know you’ve been drinking.”

“Oh really?” He raised a brow. “And how do you know I’ve been drinking? I stopped hours ago.”

“Because your cheeks flush when you drink. Right now they’re rosy pink. You smile all the time and when you do, your jaw softens and you get that dimple in your chin. And your eyes get hazy. When they get like that, they remind me of that stretch of beach we found, the one that was clear except for the hint of green seaweed.”

Ryan was dumbstruck. He had no idea she been so observant, so mindful of him. It was flattering. He flung his arm around her shoulders. “Okay, you got me. Maybe I didn’t taper off soon enough.”

She chuckled. “I’m glad you had a good time.”

“It would’ve been better if you’d been there.” Jess sat silently. Ryan worried he’d said the wrong thing, although he noted she hadn’t asked him to move his arm.

“Maybe next time,” she said. “Don’t drive next time. Call me and I’ll pick you up.”

He couldn’t keep the sarcasm from his voice. “That’s what friends are for, right?”

Jess stiffened at that but didn’t engage. Instead, she rested her head on his shoulder. He instinctively kissed her forehead and then immediately regretted it. Friends didn’t kiss other friends. He had to remember that. She tilted her head and looked up at him. Their lips were close. It would be easy for him to kiss her right now, to feel her hot breath mixing with his, to feel her soft lips parting for him, to feel her tongue slide over his.

“Jess,” he whispered and licked his lips. She didn’t move and it was getting harder by the second for him not to lean down and kiss her. The look in her eyes told him she wanted it just as much as he did. “You should get some sleep.”

“You’re probably right.” She still didn’t move though.

Ryan caressed her cheek with the back of his hand and he held her gaze for several long moments before he finally asked, “What do you want, Jess?” She didn’t have to say anything. Her actions told him what he needed to know. Jess leaned in toward him, licked her lips, and her eyelids fluttered closed.

Ryan needed no further encouragement. He slanted his mouth over hers and slipped his tongue into her mouth. She reached up and cupped the back of his neck, holding him to her. His heart beat in his chest like a wild animal that had been captured and caged. Kissing her now was like the first time all over again. All the same emotions and excitement swirled through his body and mind. Jess kissed him back with urgency and need.

Jess pulled away first. He had no idea how long that kiss lasted, but it was much too short for him. “That’s what I wanted,” she whispered.

“Friends with benefits?” he asked, but lightly this time, no sting in his words. If that’s what she wanted, fine, he could live with that.

She moaned, in what could have been a yes or a no.

He dropped his forehead to hers and shook his head. “Oh, Jess, Jess, Jess,” he said on a sigh. This was so hard. He wanted to tell her that if she would just be with him, she could have him any time she wanted. And he wanted to tell her that he’d give her anything, anytime, anywhere—all she had to do was ask. But he kept his mouth shut for fear of ruining the moment.

She responded by pressing her lips to his and kissing him again. There was so much passion in that single kiss, it almost knocked him backwards. “Ryan,” she moaned into his mouth and then she pulled away abruptly. “I’m sorry.” She put her fingers to her lips. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

“Don’t apologize.” He straightened and removed his arm from around her shoulders. It was time to get the hell home before he tried to make another move on her. He stood. “Get some sleep. I’ll see you in a few hours.”

“See you soon.”

Ryan waited until Jess went inside before he walked across the yard and into his own house. If tomorrow was anything like the last few minutes had been, then he was totally and completely screwed.

Chapter 8

A
fter only three hours of sleep, seven a.m. came too early, but Jessie was looking forward to the day. She shouldn’t have kissed Ryan last night. It was a mistake knowing she’d been so adamant about just wanting to be his friend. Kissing him sent the wrong message. To herself and to him.

But, she couldn’t bring herself to regret it. She loved kissing Ryan. As she walked beside him, heading toward the entrance of the flea market, she vowed to do better. Today she wouldn’t kiss him, and she wouldn’t send him mixed signals. It wasn’t fair.

Ryan gently nudged her with his shoulder and smiled. Now that was a sight she could get used to seeing every day. Good grief! They were just friends. She couldn’t think those things about him. So what if he looked drop dead gorgeous in his blue jeans, sneakers, and polo shirt? So what if his eyes sparked every time they met hers? And so what if the sight and smell of him made her mind derail into wickedly erotic thoughts?

“What’s on your mind, Jess?”

How did he do that? How did he always know that her mind was racing? How did he say her name is such a way that it made her body flush with warmth and cause her to shiver at the same time? “Nothing, just trying to take everything in; this place is huge.”

He laughed. “Yes, it is, but it’s okay. There’s a method to this. See, we start in that building right there.” He pointed to a large pole barn directly ahead of them. “When we come out on the other end, we’ll go into the other building, then we loop around and hit the vendors on the outside.”

“Hit the vendors?” She laughed. “What’re we gonna do? Rob ‘em or something? You’ve been casing the joint, haven’t you?”

“Oh, someone’s hip to all the lingo.” Ryan put his arm around her waist and pulled her to him, giving her ribs a squeeze that caused her to jump and yelp with surprised laughter. “Come on, my little criminal mastermind.”

It wasn’t lost on her that he’d said “my” in reference to her. She should correct him, remind him that she wasn’t really his, but she kind of liked it. She liked the idea of being Ryan’s; of hearing the way his voice became adamant when he claimed her. They entered the building and the sights overwhelmed Jessie.

Endless rows of tables filled with trinkets, knickknacks, jewelry, handmade scarves, gloves, hats, and aprons, sports memorabilia, household items, and every other thing imaginable lined the walls. Another row of tables was set up in the middle of the building so that it effectively divided the space in two. Ryan and Jess walked down one side, stopping occasionally to take a closer look at something, and then walked up the other side.

Jessie stopped at one table and picked up a large wooden plaque that looked as if it had been hand painted with a picture of a two-story white house. It was sunset so the background was a vibrant swirl of pinks, reds, yellows, and oranges. It was so pretty and would look wonderful hanging in her bedroom. “How much?” she asked the portly man behind the table.

“Thirty-five dollars,” the man answered.

Jessie hesitated. She really liked it, but it was a little more than she wanted to spend. If she knew she was going to get the job at the paper, she wouldn’t think twice about it.

“We’ll take it,” Ryan said as he came up and stood beside her. He handed the man two twenty-bills. “Keep the change.”

“Ryan.” She turned to face him. “I can’t let you buy this for me.”

“Consider it a housewarming gift from one friend to another.” He winked, then proceeded to walk further ahead, stopping at a table a few feet away.

Jessie thanked the vendor and hugged the picture to her chest. Smiling, she walked toward Ryan. “Thank you.”

He glanced at her over his shoulder and winked. “You’re welcome.”

They continued through the two buildings and by the time they made it outside, it was nearly noon. The morning had flown by, and things were going well. Jessie had been doing good keeping her hands and lips to herself—although it had been hard not to hug and kiss Ryan after he’d bought her the plaque. She was pleased that he hadn’t tried anything either. And even though she didn’t want to admit it, she was also a little disappointed he hadn’t tried anything. Her stomach growled. “I’m starving,” she said.

“There’s a small food stand that sells hotdogs, burgers, and fries. Or we can get out of here and go somewhere else.”

“Here’s fine.” She followed Ryan toward the foot stand. They each placed an order, Ryan paid despite her objections, and they found a table. It was a round, plastic table with matching plastic chairs. Not the most comfortable chairs in the world, but the table had an umbrella over it, providing them with much needed protection from the sun.

BOOK: Fighting the Flames
10.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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