Wild For You, p.13J. C. Reed
“I’m serious, Erin. I want you to do your job because I know you can.”
“Cash.” Sighing, she turns to face me again. “You want me to stay to do what, exactly? Because you sure as hell don’t want me to do my job. I can’t work with someone who doesn’t want my help. I can’t stand back and watch you ruining your health. I’m done with it. Whatever you claim to want today, we both know come tomorrow you’ll have changed your mind. Apparently, you don’t have what it takes to see this through. Not because you can’t do it, but because you’re too proud to let someone else take charge for a while. Trust me, I’m doing us both a favor by leaving.”
“I’ll be there.”
“Oh, please.” She rolls her eyes again.
“I mean it.”
She stares at me in silence, assessing me, trying to read my expression. Seconds pass. Eventually, she shakes her head. “I’m sorry, but I don’t believe you. Feel free to give me a bad recommendation or ruin my career. I don’t care. My mind’s made up.”
She doesn’t wait for my answer. Instead of resuming packing up the equipment, she slings her handbag over her shoulder and points to the scattered stuff. “I’ll pick up the rest tomorrow.”
I follow her as she heads out into the hall. “Where are you going?”
“Hotel. We both need to cool off.”
I follow her, trying to keep up with her hasty pace, but she’s too fast for me. I reach the entrance in time to see her cross the front yard and climb into the tractor Margaret often uses.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing, Erin?” I shout.
“What does it look like?” She starts the engine. “Goodbye, Cash.”
I want to ask her whether she even knows how to drive the thing when the engine sputters to life, and with a strong jerk pushes forward, throwing Erin out.
My body freezes on the spot as I watch her landing on the ground with a loud thud.
My heart stops as I watch the machine act up—something it’s been doing for months. The engine sputters again, then jerks toward Erin.
A rush of adrenaline surges through me at the realization that if she doesn’t move from the spot, she’ll be run over.
She’ll be seriously hurt.
I have to save her. That’s the only coherent thought I can form.
Moving the fastest I’ve ever moved since the accident, I lunge forward.
“Erin.” My voice slices through the air, cutting through the roaring sound of the ancient engine.
She’s not moving. She’s not reacting in any way. The tractor moves closer to her.
“Get up,” I shout and surge forward, oblivious to the blinding pain shooting through my body. It seems the damn crutches are slowing me down more than usual. My gaze switches between Erin and the beast of a vehicle, as I push my muscles to the limit. My arms are burning from the effort and my back is drenched in sweat.
It feels like an eternity before I reach her. As I peer at her unmoving body, fear grips hold of me.
What if she’s dead?
I could never forgive myself. Guilt and anger flash through my mind, fighting against each other in equal measure. It was a stupid move to send her away. It was an even more stupid move to coerce her into being intimate with me. That one was sure as hell going to backfire.
I should have stopped her from leaving rather than play games with her.
Push and pull.
I should have never given her reason to lose hope.
In slow motion, I watch the tractor moving toward us. There isn’t enough time to get away, not on those damn crutches. I don’t care if I get hurt, but I couldn’t bear the thought of anything happening to her.
With a silent promise on my lips that I’ll do what she wants from now on, I reach out for her, pressing her body against mine. I pull us both out of the way a moment before the tractor rolls over the spot she’s just occupied.
Pressing Erin hard against my chest, I close my eyes.
A loud bang cuts through the air and smoke fills my nostrils. Then the rumbling stops.
Her heart beats against my chest. I open my eyes and peer at her, worried.
I saved her. Somehow.
“Erin,” I balance precariously on my leg as I brush her cheek gently. That’s when I see the wound on her forehead, close to her hairline. The skin’s grazed. There’s no blood; no swelling. But what do I know? I’m not a doctor.
My jaw sets.
She’s hurt, and I’m to blame.
Erin’s eyes flutter open, and she peers around her, confused.
“What happened?” She takes in my worried glance.
“I’m sorry,” I mutter.
My mouth crashes against hers on impulse, silencing the questions on her lips. I taste her mouth with fervor, savoring every part of it because it’s the only way to make me forget the horrific images that could have unfolded if I didn’t make it on time to save her.
Kissing her is the only thing that makes sense.
As I brush my lips against hers, I expect her to push me away, but instead she wraps her arms around my neck. Her body’s soft against mine, willing, eager to both give and take.
My tongue spears through her lips as I slide one hand around her waist, molding her to me. Echoing the moan vibrating in her throat, I kiss her with an urgency that takes my breath away all the while thanking whoever’s up there that she’s alive.
* * *
* * *
Eventually, we return to the house in silence. I instruct Erin to wait in the living room as I retrieve pads and antibiotic ointment. She remains quiet as I treat her head wound, though I can’t tell whether from shock or pain.
“We should go to the hospital,” I say. There’s no swelling yet, but she could still have a head concussion.
“No.” It’s the first word she’s spoken since we got back inside. Her eyes are wide as she peers at me. “It’s just a scratch, Cash.”
“I want you to get it checked out. Just to make sure everything’s okay.”
“I said I’m okay,” she says feebly.
Ignoring her wish, I call my father, and then I make sure she lies down as we wait for him. Under different circumstances, I would be the one to drive her to the hospital. The thought makes me angry, and I realize I can’t live like this. I can’t be helpless all my life and rely on others, not when I haven’t tried to change something about it.
The color is slowly returning to her cheeks, but the fact that she’s not talking bothers me. I’ve seen so many accidents in my life that nothing really fazes me. But this is different.
For some inexplicable reason, I seem to doubt my judgment that she will be fine.
I soak a towel in cold water and place it on her forehead, then sit down beside her.
“What are you doing?” Erin asks in half protest, half surprise.
“Making sure your brain’s not swelling. It’s the only thing I can do,” I mutter.
“I shouldn’t have jumped onto that tractor.”
“This isn’t your fault. I shouldn’t have made you leave. I’m to blame for everything” I avoid her gaze.
Another thing that I’ve screwed up. Maybe my family’s right about me. Maybe all I ever do is hurt the people I care about.
Erin’s hand finds mine and she gives it a light squeeze. “If I remember correctly, you asked me to stay.”
I stare at our fingers, the way they seem to fit. I liked kissing her. I like her touch. But more than that, I like her.
“I gave you no choice.” I withdraw my hand as I think back to our little disagreement. “I’m sorry, Erin. I know words can’t ever be enough, but it’s how I feel. I can be such a jerk.”
“I couldn’t agree more.”
I sense her smile and look up to “I wish you wouldn’t agree, but I guess I deserve it.”
She nods and her eyes sparkle with something that wasn’t there bef
“The operative words are ‘in time’,” I say grimly. “I meant it when I told you that I wanted you to stay. I want you here. I want to do therapy with you, and no one else.” I’m surprised by my raw honesty and how much I need her to understand that she can’t leave. Not now. Not when we haven’t figured out what’s going on between us. I can hear the urgency in my voice, the desperation, the distress. I want her to help me walk again. But more than that, I want things to be okay between us.
“You don’t really mean it, Cash,” she says softly. “You’ll change your mind, and that’s why I can’t be here anymore. I can’t start each day, wondering, guessing. That’s just not me.”
“I mean it. I want your help.” Leaning into her, I cup her chin between my fingers, forcing her to peer into my eyes, into my soul. I want her to feel what I feel. “When you were unconscious, I felt powerless. You made me realize that I can’t do it on my own.” My thumb grazes her lips, my eyes pleading with hers.
“I…” She opens her mouth in response, and the memory of our kiss flashes before me.
The sudden realization that I need her help isn’t the only reason why I can’t let her go.
Somehow, at some point, I’ve grown to like her more than I should. She’s started to be in my thoughts at the most unfortunate of times, like when I try to focus on work. I don’t want her gone because I fear she won’t be easily forgotten.
“Stay, Erin,” I whisper. “Stay here. For a while. For as long as it might take.”
To see where this might lead, I want to add.
“How can I believe you? One minute you ask me to go, and the next you want me here. How can I trust this isn’t just a mood swing?”
“Because this accident has opened my eyes. I was wrong to send you away.” I hesitate, unsure how much I can open up to her. In the end, I decide to go for it because there’s nothing to lose. “I’ve been working out every single day since that damn accident. But I still can’t walk.”
“You’ve been training on your own?” She sounds genuinely surprised.
I nod. “With no results whatsoever. Then you came along. After one session, something changed. I felt different. Stronger. I want to continue, but only on my terms.”
She grins. “Of course. Your ego wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“And I still want to fuck you. Nothing’s going to change about that.”
Her breath hitches.
Quickly, I add. “Not that I expect it. But I want to. And I want you to call the shots. You tell me where and when and I’ll be there.”
Her eyes narrow. “So, if I ask you to do therapy twice a day, you’ll do it?”
“Without a single complaint.”
“You better mean it, Mr. Boyd.” In spite of the hard edge to her tone, her eyes remain surprisingly warm. “Because I’m sick of your antics. I’m sick of you hiding. And just so we’re clear, I know where you’ve been hiding. That secret room of yours isn’t a secret anymore.”
I regard her, both relieved that she’s staying, and amused at the fact that the woman always seems to know how to put me in my place. “How did you find out?”
“I won’t say.”
I heave an exasperated sigh. “Now I’ll have to kill Josh, which isn’t going to be hard given that I don’t even like him.”
Her brows shoot up. “Who says something like that? He’s family.”
“Do you have a big family like mine, Erin? Like so big you could probably fill a small village?” I ask, not waiting for her answer. “See, I don’t think you do. You only have a sister. Three cousins. Two aunts. One uncle. Lucky you. Nobody’s ever bothering you.”
“How—” She turns bright red, her beautiful eyes ablaze again. “You’ve been spying on me.”
“No.” I draw out the word. “I’ve only done a background check into you and your family. Given that you were a stranger who basically moved in without my consent, I guess that was to be expected.”
“What else did you find out?” she asks warily.
“That you really love your work.”
She juts out her chin with pride. “Damn right I do.”
“Look.” I take a step closer to her. “I’m sorry I was a jerk. I did want you to leave in the first few days, which is why I looked into your background. I thought there might be something I could use against you. But at some point, things changed. I got to know you, and I realized you weren’t really so bad.”
She crosses her arms over her chest. “Wow, Cash. Your apology sucks. It’s even worse than the first one.”
“But you’re accepting it and we get to make a fresh start. Yes?”
“You leave me no choice, because let’s face it. I could have been killed in your front yard. The next time you save me, you better run and fast.” Her face remains expressionless, but her lips are twitching.
I laugh and wrap my arms around her waist, drawing her close to my chest. She puts up a fight, but it’s a feeble attempt—one that’s enticing me even more.
My lips find hers when the sound of an approaching car carries through the open window, the gravel crunching beneath the tires as the driver hits the brake. I release my grip on Erin and peer out at my father.
An instant later, the door slams open. “Where is she?”
“Come on in,” I call out to him. I’m in such a good mood, not even my pestering family can ruin my moment.
“We are in the living room,” Erin says needlessly.
“What happened?” Dad’s voice reaches us a moment before he appears in the doorway, sporting his usual worry lines. “The shed looks totaled.”
“I lost control over the tractor,” I lie. “Couldn’t hit the brakes on time.”
Erin shakes her head. “No, Cash. Don’t do that. I don’t want you to lie.” She turns to face my father. “It was me. We had a fight and I wanted to get away.”
Dad’s gaze shifts from Erin to me and then back to Erin. I can almost see his mind working, probably picturing the scenario before his eyes.
Which is kind of funny.
“You do realize we’re grown-ups, right? We don’t need to explain anything.” I don’t even know who I’m addressing.
Dad’s gaze narrows. That’s when I realize my hand’s still glued to Erin’s lower back and she’s standing too close to me. She glances at me, guilt written all over her face.
So, the woman isn’t just hell-bent on revealing every detail that doesn’t even concern my father. She’s also an open book.
“Outside,” Dad bellows. “And wipe that lipstick off your mouth, son. The shade doesn’t suit you.”
Let me tell you something about my father. I’ve got the coolest dad in the world. Whatever the problem was, he’d always gotten me out of trouble. Even when we didn’t see eye to eye, he supported me and proceeded to meddle in my affairs because he meant well.
He always showed at least some understanding…right after giving me an earful of whatever he had to say.
I sense this is one of those times.
His cheeks are flushed red with anger, his gaze is stony, which is kind of frightening. I mean, the guy’s a cop and carries a gun. His fists are clenching and unclenching. His whole body’s tense, but his tone is surprisingly calm as he speaks. “You are screwing your physical therapist.”
I know better than to trust that tone of his when his posture says it all.
He’s about to bite my head off.
My dad’s just lost the cool dad of the year award.
This is going to be fun.
He cuts me off “Cash.” That tone of his is supposed to make me feel like I’m still a teen. He must have missed the fact that I’m twenty-eight years old. “What the hell were you thinking?”
“Relax, Dad. Nothing happened.” I grin, which is sort of belying my assurance. But hell, I can
They both have that short fuse thing going for them, but Dad can take it to a whole new level.
“You expect me to believe you?” He cocks his head to the side, regarding me with an air of incredulity. “I saw the glance you two exchanged.”
I meet his gaze with a cold stare. “What glance?”
“Don’t play stupid with me, boy.”
“You don’t think it was because you kind of barged in without so much as knocking and you kind of startled us?” I sigh. “But if you must know our private business, Erin and I kissed.”
He shoots me a look of disapproval…and then more incredulity. “I’m not screwing her,” I say slowly.
“I’m disappointed in you.” His eyes bore into me. “I leave you alone for what? A few weeks? And what happens? It’s bad enough you risk your life for nothing and screw women over at every corner. But does it need to happen in your home? With her? Goddammit, Cash.” He gives me another deadly stare. “You better get your shit together. I pray for you that she doesn’t sue! Because if she does, I promise you won’t hear the end of it.” He heads back inside, leaving me staring after him, my hands clutching at my crutches, as I mull over his words.
Not two minutes later, Dad returns, followed by Erin.
“I need to get a few things from town,” Erin whispers as she rushes past me.
“Keep it in your pants,” Dad mumbles and heads for his cruiser, slamming the door.
From where I’m standing I can see Erin peering at me as she heads for the car. I give her a small nod; my lips pressed together. My father gives me another deadly stare before he starts the engine, and they speed off.
For a good few minutes, I stand in the driveway, staring into the empty space.
I’m a businessman, for crying out loud. Making out with the employees is never a good idea. It can go wrong on too many levels.
I know that.
Dad’s right to warn me against it. I would never get sexually involved with a female employee.
Wild For You by J. C. Reed / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes