Authors: Toni Blake
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #General
, you mean,” he pointed out. She’d made a hell of a lot more noise than he had, which pleased the arrogant, lusty guy in him. In response to her question, though, he only shrugged. “Guess they’d probably think you have some company.”
She still looked worried. “What if someone asks me about
brings it up?”
He made a chiding face. “Get real, pussycat. Nobody in Destiny is gonna ask you who was making you scream your head off in passion.”
She sighed in concession. “Okay, probably not. But still, it’s kind of embarrassing.”
“Only in Destiny,” he insisted.
Next to him, she shook her pretty head. “No—for me, it would be embarrassing
” She suddenly looked younger somehow, innocent, like that girl on the dock all those years ago. “I’m…not used to this. Being this wild.”
Something about that tightened his chest and made him glad he’d come along when he had. Maybe he wasn’t the only one getting something he needed here this summer. “Then it’s about time somebody brought out that side of you.”
“Agreed,” she said. Then added, “Destiny isn’t so bad, though. I never thought I’d enjoy being back, but…I’m actually thinking of staying.”
He let his eyes widen in surprise. Nothing she’d told him before had made him think that was even a possibility. “Really?”
“I’ve been offered a job teaching at the high school. At first, I brushed it off—but today I ran into the principal, and he said I’d be teaching all upperclassmen, mostly elective courses, which means they choose to be there and aren’t forced into it. I was thinking it might feel less like babysitting and more like really teaching. And fall is coming quick and I need a job. It’s starting to seem appealing to stick around awhile, give it a try and see how it goes.” She stopped then, sighed. “On the other hand, though, does coming home seem…too easy? Should I challenge myself more?” She looked up into his eyes, as if she truly expected him to have the answer.
He considered her words and replied with a shrug. “I don’t weigh things too much these days by whether they seem easy or hard. I think more about what…feels right inside. The person I used to be…
really felt right inside, but I just didn’t know any other way. Now I
when things feel right, and that’s how I gauge them.”
“Is it how you gauged it when
called to ask for your help?”
He nodded briefly, sorry to be reminded of
—and suffering an instant guilt for feeling that way.
?” she asked gently.
He quietly sighed, then leaned his forehead over against hers. “Not good, pussycat.”
“That’s why you can’t stay long.”
“Are you sure there isn’t anything I can do to help?”
His heart swelled, and all he could do in that moment was kiss her until he found his voice again. “You’re sweet as hell, honey. And
Me and you
helps. But I just gotta ride this out. And, much as I’d rather stay here rolling around on the floor with you…”
“You need to go.”
He gave a short nod and knew they were both pretty bummed by it. Then he propped his head in his hand and let his eyes peruse her from head to toe, all sweaty, wet, and hot, with that bra still on but pulled down—and he didn’t guard his words, since, with Jenny, it was beginning to feel like he didn’t have to. “You look so naughty right now, pussycat, like a girl in a magazine,” he concluded with a lascivious smile.
She flushed prettily, bit her lip, and said, “I thought you were…you know, reformed.”
He laughed. “Not
reformed. If I ever get
reformed, shoot me.”
The next morning, Jenny sat at her laptop, at a small desk in the living room, feeling a little giddy—about last night—and answering e-mail. She’d been keeping in touch with a few friends from
that way, and Sue Ann and she had discovered it was an easy way to make plans. Plus Amy had e-mailed her some pictures from last autumn’s
But mainly, the giddy part was winning out over the practical e-mail part. It was all she could do not to
I had wild ice-cube sex last night!
Until, that is, she was reminded of her father’s presence in the next room when she heard him beating and clanging away on the air conditioner. Given that they’d barely spoken since the Fourth of July and that she was still sweating her brains out—and that sweating wasn’t nearly as fun without Mick around—she found herself completely unable to focus on her replies and decided to go back to it later.
She was just about to click over to the Hubble telescope website when a new message arrived in her inbox—from Ralph Turley, the principal of
Just wanted to tell you what a pleasure it was talking with you yesterday, Jenny, and how much I hope you’ll accept our offer and come back to your alma mater to teach. If you have any questions, just let me know.
Wow, they really wanted her. That was a nice feeling.
Was Mick right? About just trusting your heart and not worrying so much about the perceptions of a decision—your own or others’?
And as for Mick—oh God, her heart swelled just to think of him now. The things that man made her feel, both inside and out, were nearly overwhelming. And the way she’d felt when he’d left last night…
had overwhelmed her, too.
Oh crap—it was a lot easier when I was just giddy about the sex.
She’d tried to attribute her emotions last night to the heat, but she knew that was silly.
I love him,
she thought helplessly. She could try to deny it all she wanted, but that didn’t change the facts.
Oh boy. Oh no. I really do. I really love him. I don’t
to, but I just do
Which was incredible and nightmarish all at once for a hundred different reasons.
How the hell had this happened? When she’d promised herself nothing would get in the way of her pleasure, her wild affair, she’d never imagined the biggest obstacle would turn out to be falling in love with her lover.
Just then, her father ambled into the room, wiping his hands on the same rag he’d used every time he was here. “Think I got it
’ again—should cool down soon. But I wish you’d called me last night, or just come over to my place to sleep.
any sleep at all in this miserable heat?” Despite his words, his tone was forced, and his eyes appeared sort of haunted when she met his gaze. Just looking at him that way tightened her chest.
“I slept…surprisingly well,” she said.
A good orgasm or two can do that for you. Even amid the horror of admitting to yourself that you’re in love with a guy you have no future with.
“I found an old fan and put it in the window above the bed, and it helped a lot.”
Her father sighed. “Well…good.”
It was then that she saw his eyes catch on the print Mick had given her, now hanging on the wall. She’d bought a nice frame and matting at McMillan’s Hardware and framed it herself, just yesterday. “What’s this?” he asked.
She swallowed back the lump in her throat, hating the tension between them. “A Van Gogh print—
Her father pursed his lips and sighed. “It’s nice,” he admitted. “Not as nice as your mother’s picture, but…it looks good with the yellow walls.”
“Mick gave it to me,” she said in a slightly hushed tone. Just to try that on for size. Even though she had no future with him—it was the principle of the thing; she didn’t want her dad to hate the man she loved. And she should be able to say his name.
Even if he’s technically a criminal?
Unfortunately, that made it a lot more complicated.
“Mick,” her father repeated, judging, cynical, and clearly not liking the fact that she felt close enough to Mick to call him by only his first name.
Oh Daddy, if you only
how close I feel to him.
“Yes,” she said. “He knows I like astronomy and that I haven’t gotten to stargaze as much as I’d planned this summer.”
He drew his eyes from the wall to her face, still critical. “I been
’ about this, Jenny, over and over again, and for the life of me, I can’t understand how you could…cavort with someone like him.”
Jenny blinked, shocked, offended. But wait, no, it was more than that—in fact, she was downright pissed off. She hadn’t done everything right here, and she knew she’d put her father in a horrible position by telling him Mick’s secret and asking him to keep it, but what he’d just said was more than she could stand. She’d been trying to smooth things over and keep their relationship on an even keel, but something in her snapped.
“Cavort?” she asked. “
? I’m thirty-one years old, Dad!” Even if it didn’t feel that way between them—she always felt younger in his presence.
“What does your age have to do with anything?” he asked, appearing confounded.
And she could only sigh. He
didn’t get it. “Maybe I’m old enough to cavort with whomever I want to cavort with,” she explained.
“But he’s a criminal,” her dad replied, the word slicing into her a lot deeper when
said it. “Did you know that? Never caught him, mind you, but I know he took part in at least one robbery.”
Yeah, she knew that, and she hated it, but she’d also somehow gotten over it. “That’s in the past,” she insisted. “He’s changed. He’s not a criminal
“He sure as hell is.”
Oh. Harboring a fugitive.
It was so easy to forget, even just a moment after it had come to mind, that he was breaking the law by caring for his brother. “Not by choice,” she pointed out. “He’s only honoring his brother’s last request.”
have a choice,” her father claimed.
And she let out a huff in reply. “Maybe so, but Mick did what he felt was right, and so did I. Why can’t you drop this? Why can’t you do what I said and just pretend you don’t know?”
“Because now I’m technically breaking the law, too. For you,” he reminded her softly.
stopped her in her tracks.
Sighing, she stood up, walked over, and took her father’s hands in hers. Hands that had rocked her as a baby. Hands that had held her when her mother had died. “I’m so deeply sorry about that part, Dad—I really am. You have no idea how I’ve struggled with this. But I’m asking you to trust in me, to believe in me enough to know I wouldn’t have kept this from you, or asked of you what I did, if I didn’t truly feel Mick is a good person.” She squeezed his hands a little tighter and said, “Please, Daddy—believe in me.”
The room was starting to cool now, but the air still felt stifling. She hated hurting him, hated knowing he truly thought less of her now somehow. And she was hoping and praying he’d say,
, I believe in you,
and give her a big hug.
Instead, though, he simply leaned over, kissed her on the forehead, then turned and walked out the door.
Later that day, Jenny and Sue Ann both stretched out in floating lounge chairs just off the dock. It was too hot to even think about being in the sun without staying cool.
“Ah, this is heaven,” Sue Ann said, lifting a wine cooler to her lips, then leaning her head back to soak up the sun.
“Heaven’s a stretch, I think,” Jenny groused. Her mood hadn’t improved much since the run-in with her father. “It’s crazy hot out here. If we had any sense, we’d be in the nice, cool air-conditioning.” A modern convenience a girl really appreciated after a night without it, even if she
found post-orgasmic sleep restful.
—this is nice. Two best friends basking away a lazy afternoon in the sun. I never really thought we’d get to hang out like this again, you know? So maybe that rat bastard’s
was good for
Jenny could only snarl. She loved hanging out with Sue Ann, too, but she was in no mood to actually acknowledge that Terrence’s cheating could have any redeeming qualities.
“By the by,” Sue Ann said, ignoring the snarl, “do you know anybody who wants to rent a house? My mom’s Aunt Celia is moving in with Dinah and John. She’s eighty-five now and really can’t take care of herself anymore. But they don’t want to sell the house, and figure it would be tough anyway right now with the new subdivision going in.”
Jenny knew the house—a small, green, one-story cottage about half a mile past hers, farther up the lake. “Who would
know who’d want to rent a house?” she pointed out.
“Growl,” Sue Ann said with playfully widened eyes. “Somebody’s testy today.”
unusually chipper. How was your weekend, by the way?”