Under My Skin (Shady Falls Series Book 2) (6 page)

BOOK: Under My Skin (Shady Falls Series Book 2)
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Chapter Four



How I let Grant convince me to let him come to talk to me, let alone pick me up after work for drinks beyond me. But I found myself leaving my little Prius at school and climbing into his ridiculously expensive BMW, without argument.

              We had agreed to meet at my place after work so I could at least put on more comfortable clothes, but he’d decided to show up at school and insist I go along with him. Didn’t matter what I wanted, Grant always got his way and I let it happen.

              Grant was the guy who loved to be in charge. Constantly ordering me around, he attempted to make plans for me. He insisted on ordering for me when we were out and he often downplayed how I felt if I voiced my displeasure. Grant loved to convince me to wear my pencil skirts and heels, the outfits I wore almost daily to school. The fact of the matter was, I didn’t like to dress up all the time. I preferred yoga pants and t-shirts to just about anything else in my wardrobe. I hated wearing the clothes he wanted, disliked most of the food he ordered for me, and I almost always was miserable when he made plans for us.

              So why exactly was I sitting in his car, bag clutched to my chest and heels lying on the floor so I wouldn’t mess up his carpet? I had no explanation. All I knew was my stomach was in knots ever since he called and I finally agreed to see him. I hated myself for being so pathetic I’d deal with his shit instead of just being alone.
I need help

              Grant shoved the key in the ignition and looked over at me with a goofy smile on his face. His eyes were kind of bloodshot and he seemed … off somehow.

              He was overweight and frumpy, even in his expensive suits. His hair was its usual disheveled mess, and the five o’clock shadow looked like someone took a hacksaw to his face. I couldn’t figure out why I’d spend time with him. I liked men who were driven. Men who had some kind of athletic talent and competitive drive. The problem with those guys was they were usually more worried about their muscles than the woman they were with. The only competition Grant saw was at work, and that was pathetic at best. But at least he seemed to want to spend time with me.

              Grant raked his eyes down my body, getting caught up on the exposed skin on my thigh. I dropped my bag down into my lap, trying to cover the visible flesh. His gaze made me uncomfortable, like he had violated me somehow. It was a rather powerful feeling to what should’ve been a simple look, but his observations of me were anything but simple. I could almost see the gears turning behind his eyes.

              “Where’re we goin’?” I asked, not feeling particularly comfortable. I just wanted to get this night over with. Maybe I’d eventually calm down and see something worthwhile in him. I should at least give him a chance, he deserved it – right?

              Ugh … The internal argument I had with myself was never ending. Could he ever be what I wanted? Could I ever just be happy with him? At this point I’d probably settle for comfortable or even ordinary. But could I live with mediocre? Could I learn to be okay without any kind of real connection? Could I settle?

              We drove, neither of us saying a word as the minutes ticked off. He never responded to my question, only smirking while we drove through town. Why was he so insistent on being vague? Didn’t he know I hated being treated like a child?

              We pulled into the parking lot of Viva Lounge, the most popular bar in downtown Mooresville. It was loud, impersonal, and the place Jake frequented the most. Several times I heard him telling others in the gym about the food. Had I known we were going to a place like this, I would’ve insisted on going somewhere different. I didn’t want to see Jake with some woman all over him.

              “Come on, we’re going to eat and dance the night away,” he said with a smile. Did he seriously not know anything about me at all? Didn’t he realize this was my version of purgatory? The only reason I went to places like Viva Lounge with Jen was to keep her company until she found her latest conquest. Once she had the man she was going to spend time with for the night, I usually left. She would text several times so I knew she was okay, but I never stuck around and I was usually miserable the entire time. I’d told him this many times before. Didn’t he listen? Didn’t he believe me?

              Taking my hand, he pulled me across the throngs of people, following a waitress to a table. I searched the faces for one who was familiar. I hoped Jake wouldn’t be there. I started to relax, not one face stuck out in the large crowd.

              Grant led me to a booth along the wall furthest from the door. A dark corner in the already dark bar. I would’ve preferred to be less secluded from the room, but Grant didn’t give me a choice. He gestured for me to sit and slid in next to me.

              The waitress stood by and waited so she could take our order. She was pretty and dressed in the bar’s skimpy attire. I noticed Grant basically undressing her with his eyes while he ordered for the both of us. Yet another thing I hated about him.

              Silence stretched between us. One of those uncomfortable silences when you racked your brain trying to find something to talk about, but of course, nothing came to mind. This was a normal feeling around Grant. We had little in common and he had a tendency of making me feel like I was worthless.
Any moron can be a teacher, right?
Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.

              “I’m glad you came around, Mia. You ignoring me was starting to piss me off.” His eyes drifted from my face and down to my chest, blatantly staring at the sliver of flesh exposed above the top button of my shirt. He reached under the table and put his hand on my thigh. Soft, smooth fingers, softer than my own, slid up my thigh, stopping just below my skirt. He squeezed tightly, possessively; the bite of his fingers hurt my flesh.

              I jerked my leg away from him and stared in disbelief. He smiled, a devilish glint to his eyes. Instead of trying to touch my thigh again, he took my hand. He thought I wanted to be there with him, but I was only there because I was sick of dodging his calls.

              Focusing on his hand once more, I was hung up on the fact that no other man I’d ever met had such soft hands.

              Grant must never have performed a single day’s labor in his life. What did that say about him? Didn’t he cut grass or do any form of landscaping? How about paint a room, a repair in his home or on his car? Did he expect others to do everything for him? I knew he didn’t lift weights or do any such physical activity. Hell, he spent most of his time on the phone when I convinced him to go to the gym with me.
So not my type!

“Come on,” he said, standing. He yanked on my arm, pulling me from the booth. “Let’s go dance.”

              A protest bubbled in my throat as he hauled me toward the dance floor. Even though it wasn’t a slow song, Grant wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me hard into his chest. Something inside of his suit jacket dug into my side as he swayed us, much too slowly, around the dance floor.

              “I got you back,” he whispered into my ear, the smell of alcohol covered the side of my face, making me gag. I hadn’t seen him drink enough to smell so strongly of liquor; had he been drinking before he picked me up? Suddenly the bloodshot eyes made complete sense. This night was going to get worse if he was drinking this heavily already. “This is it, Mia. I ain’t giving you up again. You’re mine.”

              One of his hands sat low on my back, and fingers grazed the flare of my ass. His other hand slid up my ribs, gliding over the swell at the side of my breast. His hands were everywhere, sliding over my body with more aggression than ever before. I did everything I could to avoid his touch, especially when he slid one of his hands between us and tried to grasp my breast. I tried to pull away, but every time he pulled me right back in. I could feel his whole body as he moved us around the dance floor. As he pressed harder into me, I could feel arousal pressing into my stomach, and it made my stomach roil.

              His hand slid lower, and this time he grasped my ass. I jerked back and stared at him wide-eyed.

              “What?” He snickered. “You don’t like that?”

              “No,” I growled.

              “Mind if I cut in?” a deep, smooth voice asked from behind me. My heart leaped at the sound.

              Grant’s eyes narrowed and he glared at the man behind me. “No, I think we’re fine.”

              “Don’t you think the decision belongs to the lady?” It was Jake. I’d know his deep baritone anywhere.

              “Sure,” I said instantly.

              Grant turned his glare on me. “Fine,” he growled and pulled away.

              Jake stepped to me. He took my hand and pulled me out of Grant’s arms.

              His strong, muscular arms held me gently as he guided me away from Grant. The hint of tattoos peaked from beneath both sleeves. I focused on the black ink until he stopped and turned in front of me, then I was consumed by Jake’s brilliant blue eyes.

              The song turned slow as Jake guided me across the floor. He wrapped one arm around my waist, pulling me gently to him. Taking my other hand, he placed our joined hands on his chest near his heart. He led us around the floor to Alexander Jean’s,
Roses and Violets,
holding me gently in his arms.

              I’d dreamt of being held in his arms for so long, once it finally happened, I didn’t know how to react. My heart thudded and my whole body hummed at his touch, craving so much more.

              “You looked like you needed a break,” he said without any real emotion.

              I sighed, knowing how it must have looked with Grant pawing at me the way he was. “Yeah. I don’t know what’s gotten into him.” I didn’t know what more to say. My mind was a jumble of nerves and hope. I was in Jake’s arms for the first time in at least seven years, I didn’t want to think about Grant or anyone else. All I wanted to do was to get lost in Jake’s jewel-like blue eyes.

              The song continued on while we moved across the floor, Jake holding me sweetly and pulling me tighter in his arms. I rested my head on his chest next to our clasped hands and closed my eyes. I allowed myself to enjoy the comforting yet thrilling feel of his strong body against mine and the sound of his heart drumming in my ear. The beat of his heart seemed to mimic the rhythm of the song.

              “What’re you doin’ here tonight?” I asked, looking up at him. I hoped to prolong this dance for as long as possible.

              This had to be a dream, Jake had barely acknowledged my existence most days. I saw him every day at the gym, and I knew he saw me. But we never talked. If we spoke, it was a tense greeting and nothing more. Things couldn’t have changed that fast, could it?

              “Just hangin’ out with some friends.” He only looked at me when he spoke. His eyes didn’t wander the room or my body. He didn’t make me feel like an object like other men did. “You look gorgeous, by the way. But you look kind of uncomfortable.”

              “Thank you. I wanted to change, but Grant was insistent on pickin’ me up and goin’ out, he brought me here.”

              Jake was quiet for a few moments as the piano at the end of the song quieted. The next song, the Foo Fighters,
Come Alive,
started and he didn’t let me go.

              When he finally spoke, I was shocked into silence. “Since when do you let anyone tell you what to do?” he asked. “The Mia I knew didn’t take shit from no one.”

              His observation of me was sincere and honest; I immediately stopped dancing and looked up, staring into the blue depths of his eyes. I didn’t think he’d paid any attention to me in a long time. Apparently I was wrong.

              “What? What do you mean? I’m still the same Mia,” I insisted, allowing his to bring me back in to continue to dance.

              Jake hummed, deep and rumbling in my ear. “No, you were independent and you went after what you wanted. You changed at some point. In my opinion, you need to figure out what happened to that girl and bring her back.”

              “I’m still the same girl, Jake. It’s just sometimes you can’t have what you want, no matter how bad you want it. Besides, you can’t fight for something which no longer exists.”

              The moment the words were out of my mouth, I regretted them. Would he understand what I was talking about? Would he know it was him to which I referred? He couldn’t possibly know after all these years.

              “Look, I can take you home. You shouldn’t be here with that asshole,” he said rather firmly.

              “I’m fine. I can take care of myself, Jake. I’m not lookin’ for someone to take care of me,” I insisted.

              “Well,” he said with a surprised but annoyed tone. He looked down, meeting my eyes. “It seems you can still be fierce, but apparently it’s just for me. Too bad you let a dickhead make you look like a fool with his cheatin’.”

BOOK: Under My Skin (Shady Falls Series Book 2)
8.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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