Authors: Sophia Henry
I liked how comfortable he always seemed no matter where he was. I liked people who were comfortable with themselves and with the world. I wasn't quite there yet.
“Do you eat lunch at the Berezins' a lot?” I'd been dying to ask him since we left the courthouse.
“Usually about once a week. Why?”
“I don't know. I just got the impression that you weren't close with them. Like they were Auden's grandparents, not yours.”
“I'm trying. I mean, I'm not sitting on Viktor's lap and asking him to read me books,” Jason joked. “But I'm trying to get to know them.”
I reached over and touched his hand. “I think it's really cool. I'm sorry I've cut in to that time.” I paused as the next words stuck in my throat. “I really appreciate you thinking of me and my schedule.”
“I want to spend every minute I can with you, Indie. You've taken over my thoughts.” Jason's eyes were soft, and his lips curled into a smile.
I couldn't think of a snappy reply, because he had me all warm and gooey after taking me to his sister's wedding and having lunch brought in. “I like spending time with you, too,” I admitted.
“I know what your life is like. I know you have a million things to think about and work around. I want to make sure you never feel pressured or uncomfortable. I know how much courage it takes to let someone into your life again after being hurt.”
“Have you been hurt?”
Jason took a breath. “I don't know if hurt is the word.” He stretched his arms above his head, then lowered them and folded them in front of his chest. “I dated a girl in college for a year and a half.”
“I thought it was more than it was. I thought we were moving toward living together after graduation.” He chuckled. “She didn't feel the same.”
“Did you love her?” I blurted out. I wasn't jealous, just curious. Okay, a little jealous. Everyone has a past. Hell, I had a kid from my past relationship.
Jason squinted. “I don't know.” He paused. “I know that sounds really stupid. I never wanted to twist my schedule to see her, or use every lunch hour to meet up with her. She didn't run through my head every second like you do.”
Warmth rushed to my cheeks and I pressed my lips together to keep my composure. “Busted,” I whispered.
“So busted.” Jason leaned toward me. He slid one hand into my hair and pulled my face close to his. Then his other hand was on my cheek and his lips were over mine. My hands moved to his hair and I clutched the short strands, holding on as he kissed me with more intensity.
Jason lifted his face and whispered, “I like spending time with you.” He kissed me again. “I like thinking about you.” Another kiss. He took his hand off my face to trail his finger from the lower part of my neck down the skin exposed by my V-neck sweater. “I like touching you.”
As he slid his finger across my skin, every nerve tingled, sending an SOS straight to my hormones. My heavy breaths made my chest rise, pressing my skin against his finger.
“Have you ever had that fantasy of shoving everything off the desk and getting it on right in an office?” I asked.
Jason's gaze met mine, his eyes wide with surprise and desire. “I have a lot of fantasies about you, Indie.”
I glanced at my desk, then back at him. “Sounds cooler than it is, and I know there are some papers I need to have clients sign today.”
Linden Meadows's responsibility bone strikes again. I'm so lame.
Jason leaned back. “Don't worry. I'd be pissed at myself if I shoved a bunch of my paperwork to the floor, too.”
“How old are we again?” I quipped.
“Old enough to know better?”
“We don't have to do something silly like mess up your paperwork to have fun.”
Jason stood up. Then he lifted me and I fell against his chest, wrapping my arms around his neck and my legs around his waist. He supported my weight by putting his hands under my backside, which brought zero complaints from me.
Jason held me at the perfect height, our faces level. He leaned in and kissed me again.
“I don't think I'll ever get enough of that,” Jason whispered against my lips.
“Do you want to come over for trick-or-treating?” I blurted out.
Where the hell had that come from? It had nothing to do with making out. The only reason it was relevant was because I wanted to spend more time with him.
“That was random.” Jason squeezed my butt and I jumped.
“I justâ¦” I stopped and leaned back, though I had nothing to lean against. “I have no clue why I thought of that right now.”
“You're not as good at surprises as I am,” Jason said, teasing.
“I know. You must teach me your Jedi ways, Mr. Spock.”
“No!” Jason dropped me. Not hard. He kept his hands on my waist as I slid to the floor. “You didn't just say that.”
“What? I thought all guys loved Star Wars?” I asked. Not to stereotype, but I'm pretty sure it's true. Even those lame episodes that came out when we were young.
“Spock wasn't in Star Wars,” Jason said. “He's from Star Trek.”
“Whoa! Simmer down, dork.” I held my hands up between us. “Star Wars. Star Trek. Same difference.”
“I don't evenâ¦can't even.” Jason rubbed his hair with both hands until it stuck out in all directions, like a deranged scientist's. Or a frustrated geek's.
“Dude, you're taking dork to a whole new level. Forget I said anything.”
“I can't forget. This might be a deal breaker.”
“What?” I asked.
Jason lowered his hands to my waist and smiled. “Surprise! I'm kidding.”
“You're a weirdo.” I tried to twist out of his grasp, but he held me still.
“What is Holden going to be for Halloween?”
“A zombie.” Because Holden wanted to be what Uncle Damien thought was cool.
I shrugged. “That's what he said.”
“You guys are messed up.” Jason kissed my forehead.
I knew he was joking, but his comment deflated the giddiness I'd been feeling. Like a lot of parents, I obsess over how I'm raising my kid and how I'm shaping his world. He'd never seen any scary zombie shows or movies, but he heard Damien and me talk about zombies and the show The Walking Dead. We joked about eating brains. All in good fun.
But sometimes all it takes is one throwaway comment to flip my mood upside down. The bad, or rather my fear of being judged, usually outweighs the good.
“Hang on!” Indie called from inside the house.
She'd invited me over to take Holden trick-or-treating for Halloween. It felt weird to be nervous about meeting a three-year-old, but sure enough, my stomach swirled as I stood on the stoop rubbing my hands together waiting for her to open the door.
“Are you kidding me?” Indie asked, instead of greeting me. And instead of looking at me, her eyes were on my outfit.
“What?” I looked down at my costume. “I'm zombie Kristoff,” I explained. I held up a small stuffed Sven, which completed my ensemble. Indie mentioned that Holden loved the Disney movie Frozen, so I'd bought the costume. I'd painted my face like an undead version of the character after her newest revelation that he was going to be a zombie, because I thought he'd get a kick out of seeing me mix the two.
Indie slapped the stuffed reindeer out of her face and put a hand on her hip, which brought my attention to her costume. I immediately realized why she was so surprised by the character I'd chosen. She stood in front of me dressed to the nines, in a replica of the dress worn by Anna, also from Frozen.
I grinned and pushed my shoulders back, owning my choice to dress as the fictional Scandinavian ice seller. A pang of excitement skipped through my chest because we'd dressed in a couple's costume without coordinating with each other. I liked being on the same wavelength as Indie. Well, almost the same wavelength, since her face was not zombified.
“Did you know?” she asked.
I shook my head. “You said he was going to be a zombie.” That was the last I'd heard.
She stepped aside and I entered the kitchen. “I thought so, too,” she began, “until he realized zombies don't have costumes. He freaked out when we went to the Halloween store. Instead I had to be Anna and he would beâ”
“Mama, look! I Olaf!” Holden yelled as he ran into the kitchen, a three-foot blur of white. He looked at me, face shadowed by the puffy, orange nose extending from the white hood, and his eyes went wide. A gasp of surprise escaped his lips as he stared at me. “Kristoff!”
Without any kind of introduction, Holden raced toward me, slammed his chest against my shins, and wrapped his arms around my legs.
“Whoa!” I grabbed the countertop to keep my balance. “Hey, buddy.”
“Holden, that's Jason. He's Uncle D's hockey coach. Do you remember him?” Indie asked. Holden let go of my legs and peered up at me.
“I get hockey puck.”
“You're going to go get a hockey puck?” I asked, squatting to be at his eye level.
“At game. I get hockey puck at game,” he explained.
After thinking about it for a few seconds, his words made sense. I'd never met Holden face-to-face, but I always made a point to wave to him every time I saw him in the stands at the arena, back when I thought he was Damien's little brother. I'd thrown him a puck during a game once.
“I did give you a puck at a game. You have a good memory.”
“Why you hurt?” Holden asked touching my face. When he pulled his hand away, his fingertips were gray from my face paint. I brushed his hand against my pants to wipe it off.
“I'm zombie Kristoff. Iâ” Suddenly, I felt like an idiot desecrating a beloved Disney character. I'd probably give him nightmares. “I heard you liked zombies.”
“Jason, you so cool,” Holden said. Then he noticed the stuffed Sven I still had clutched in one hand.
“You wanna hold Sven?” I asked. His lips slid into a grin and he nodded. I handed him the toy and he spun around to show Indie.
“I get Sven!” He lifted the toy to her. When she reached for it, he snatched it back and ran.
“I can't believe you're Kristoff.” She shook her head.
“I can't believe you're Anna. I thought all the girls wanted to be Elsa.”
“Elsa's a bitch.”
I laughed. Anna was the one with a good heart from beginning to end, but Elsa got all the love from little girls across the world. Must be the fancy dress and ice powers.
I took a step closer to Indie and whispered, “I have to tell you something, but I don't want it to sound creepy.”
“What?” she asked, leaning in to me.
I grabbed her waist and pulled her close. “You're a hot Anna. I can't keep my hands to myself.”
“Good thing we're totally dating. In the movie and in real life.” Indie rose up on her toes and I leaned down to meet her lips.
Before our mouths collided, Indie pulled away. “I don't want that crap on my face.”
“Should I wash it off?” I asked.
“No way! You make Kristoff look badass,” Indie assured me. “I've got to finish my makeup. You can sit in the living room if you want. I'll only be a few more minutes.”
“Yeah. Cool.” I followed her through the arched doorway from the kitchen to the living room. She bolted up the stairs, and I sank into a comfy, blue-plaid couch.
I leaned forward and grabbed a Halloween costume catalog from the coffee table in front of me. The cover advertised perfectly decent costumes for the whole family, but as soon as you opened it, the Sexy Everything costumes started.
An adult female couldn't cover up with any of the costumes shown. I eyed the model in a tiny piece of fabric covered in black-and-white polka dots and a red belt. Sexy Minnie Mouse. Mickey was a lucky rodent. Minnie's skirt barely came past her crotch. I flipped the page, wondering if there was a Sexy Anna costume.
The dress Indie had on was floor length, totally respectable to take a kid trick-or-treating. Peeling the pretty princess dress off her ran through my mind, though it felt a bit creepy to think that way. Then, suddenly, like a horny teenager, I couldn't stop thinking about Indie in a teeny-tiny piece of fabric, preferably with nothing underneath.
As much as I wanted to get naked with her, I'd let her dictate our naked time, since she was the one with a kid.
“Jason?” Indie asked, removing me from my fantasy.
How long had she been standing there?
“Huh?” I tossed the magazine on the table and stood up.
“You ready?” she asked.
“Yeah.” I tried to shake away the X-rated thoughts about her, but then I saw her face and the heat rose again. “Zombie Anna?” I asked.
Her natural blush was still visible under the red-and-white makeup she'd smeared over her face. “I wanted to look badass, too.”
I stepped toward her, needing her in my arms, needing my lips on hers. “You're always badass.” Now that we were both made up, I knew she wouldn't stop me from planting a kiss on her. Indie's hands grabbed my waist as she sank into the kiss.
“What were you doing?” She peered around me toward the coffee table.
“You have a silly little grin on your face,” she said. “What were you thinking about?”
“Maybe I'll tell you someday,” I said, teasing her.
Indie opened her mouth to say something else, but Holden ran into the room, yelling, “We go Halloweening!”
Trick-or-treating with Indie and Holden brought back so many memories from my own childhood.
“This is so cool,” I told Indie, grabbing her hand. “Thanks for inviting me.”
“I love Halloween,” she said. “Holden really got into it this year, which made it more fun.”
“Halloween is a bigger holiday than Christmas in the Taylor household.”
“Oh, yeah. My mom goes all out. She decorates every inch of the house and front yard. I totally should've taken you and Holden there last weekend.”
“Maybe next year,” Indie said. Then she let go of my hand and shook her head. “I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to be forward or creepy.”
Her comment took me by surprise, and I didn't know how to respond. I hadn't thought that far into the future. From my experience with my ex, girls didn't want to think about a future with a Detroit copâwhich is where I'd be if Indie and I stayed together long-term.
Thankfully, Holden came running up to us, saving me from answering.
“I get stickers!” He waved a strip of paper at us.
“That's awesome. You said thank you, right?” Indie asked.
“Thank you!” Holden called into the air as he walked to the next house.
I laughed and Indie slapped my arm lightly. “What? He said it.”
After about a half hour of trick-or-treating, Holden's energy level took a serious nosedive. I picked him up and put him on my shoulders and we hit a few more houses together before Indie called it a night.
Holden patted my head. “Yeah, buddy?”
“Want you to hold me,” he whined.
Indie reached for him. “Here, I'llâ”
“Jason hold me,” Holden cried.
I felt him whip his weight backward, so I reached up and grabbed him before he fell off my shoulders.
“I got it,” I assured Indie. As soon as I took Holden into my arms, he put his head on my shoulder and closed his eyes.
When Indie's eyes softened and her lips slid into a smile, it told me all I needed to know about what she was looking for in a man.
As we walked back to the house, I began to feel bad about ignoring her comment about next year, because I really did want to spend more time with her.
“Hey, I was thinking,” I began quietly, so as not to wake the little boy sleeping on my chest. “Landon has an afternoon game in a few weeks. Would you and Holden want to go?”
“In Detroit?” she asked.
“Yeah. It's on a Saturday. I've gotta look up the exact date. But I thought we could drive down in the morning, go to the game, and stay at my parents' house that night.” I paused. “If you can get the time off.”
I wanted to make sure she knew I cared about her schedule. I thought I proved that with my creative approach to lunches, but you can never be too careful.
She bit her lip, but I saw the smile curling up. “I'd love to,” she answered. “I'll have to check my schedule, but that'd be cool.”
“Awesome.” I couldn't help but grin. I probably looked as happy as Holden had when he saw me in my Kristoff costume.
When we got back to Indie's house, I followed her up the stairs. She directed me to Holden's room, which looked to be her room, as well. I set the little boy on the toddler bed next to a full-sized bed.
“I'll wait downstairs.” I pointed a thumb at the door behind me.
“I'll be right there,” she whispered.
I knew Indie lived with her mom and her brother. The house was modest. Nice, but nothing huge or fancy. It never dawned on me that she and Holden shared a room. I never thought about it at all, actually. It made me a little sad. Indie had no privacy. No time to herself. No space for herself.
I'd always had my own space. I never shared a room in my parents' house. After I moved out of the dorms in college, I had my own apartment. I even have a three-bedroom house all to myself here in Bridgeland. I'd always taken it for granted. I guess you don't take much for granted when you're a single mom.
As I waited for Indie to come down, I glanced at the Halloween catalog I'd flipped through earlier. No reason to pick that up again; it would just get me all hot and bothered thinking about Indie in one of those sexy costumes that barely covered her ass, and we had no privacy to do anything about it.
A few minutes later, Indie came down the stairs in a white T-shirt and a pair of comfy gray sweatpants, face still covered in zombie makeup. Which left me standing in the living room looking like a tool, still dressed as zombie Kristoff.
“No fair,” I said, grabbing the hem of her T-shirt when she came close.
“You're the one who chose to be a dorky Disney character,” Indie said, wrapping her arms around my neck. “You could've been something cool like a Transformer.”
My hands roved under her shirt, skimming the skin at her hips. “Kristoff is supercool. He sells ice for a living.”
“Oh my gosh, that was such a dad joke!” Indie said, teasing.
“It was. I'm sorry. I'm being corny when all I want to do is make out with you.” I squeezed her waist and lowered my face to hers.
“Talking is not your strong point, copper.”
“Nope,” I agreed. “Tonsil hockey is.” I pressed my lips against hers, but Indie pulled away laughing.
“Stop being a dork! I can't concentrate.”
Instead of responding, I lowered her onto the couch and climbed on top of her. Her dark hair spilled over the throw pillows, creating a halo around her face. When our mouths met, a low groan rumbled in Indie's throat. Excited by the sound of pleasure, I simultaneously opened her mouth with my tongue and thrust my hips into her. Which caused another throaty sound.
Her hands slid along my arms before stopping to clutch my shoulders. The feel of her nails digging into my skin made me increase the pressure of my kiss. Soon our tongues were engaged in a gentle duel. My fingers grazed her skin as I lifted her shirt up. I took my mouth off Indie's to lean down and kiss the soft skin above her bra. She arched toward my mouth and tightened her grip on my shoulders for stability.
I lowered the cup of her bra and one beautiful breast spilled out.
“Jason,” she moaned when I took her in my mouth. I should have been sorry about smearing the greasy face paint over her chest, but she felt too good to stop because of something so lame. I'd offer to help her wash it off in the shower.
Suddenly, the door opened.
“Ewwww!” a female voice howled.
“What the fuck?” a male voice exclaimed.
“Oh my god!” Indie screeched, reaching between us to lower her shirt over her exposed breast and stomach.
I sprang up and ran my hands through my hair.
Damien, Indie's brother, stood in the doorway with a girl dressed in one of those Halloween costumes from the catalog on the coffee table. Slutty Sailor Girl.
“You're screwing my sister on our couch?” Damien said, accusingly.