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Beautiful distraction, p.38
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       Beautiful Distraction, p.38

           J. C. Reed
 

  “Because I have other plans for us. Now go to sleep.” A wicked grin spread across his beautiful face. “You’ll need all the energy you can muster.”

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  I woke up to an empty bed and a warm yet slightly sore sensation in my lower body. My arm stretched out to the imprint on Jett’s pillow and touched the place where he had been sleeping a few hours ago. We had a written understanding, which included no clause on romance and intimacy. Hence, falling asleep in Jett’s arms had been strange, if not to say scary, because deep down I knew this wasn’t part of the deal. In the end, when his breathing had flattened and his muscles had become limp, I just rolled with it, thinking one night wouldn’t hurt.

  I had been wrong.

  Bad move, Stewart.

  Because, as I lay on my back, staring at my reflection in the oversized mirror above my head, I could see something in my eyes that hadn’t been there before.

  I was beginning to like him—everything about him. His body, his touch, his smile, his way of talking, and him as a person. Usually, when that happened in the past, I ran as fast as I could, leaving my feelings and the person behind. What I saw in my eyes was an unwillingness to run. For some reason I wanted to stay and see where it might take me.

  “It’s not going to take you anywhere because nothing’s happening,” I mumbled to myself, jumping out of bed annoyed. I had never fallen for anyone, and I wouldn’t let it happen now. I had liked Sean, but I wasn’t in love with him. I never was with anyone. Sure Jett was handsome, witty, and amazing in bed, but he was also the kind of guy you had fun with, not the one you brought home to meet the parents. When I signed the contract I knew what I was getting myself into.

  I headed for my room to take a quick shower, brush my teeth, put on a clean pair of jeans and a shirt, and then joined him downstairs in the kitchen. He was leaning against the open balcony door, holding a cup of steaming coffee, his back turned to me. A warm morning breeze wafted in, carrying the sylvan scent of damp wood and blossoming flowers. He had slipped into a pair of blue jeans, but his back was naked—all flexed muscles under flawless, bronze skin. For a split second I just stood there watching him—mesmerized. I wondered how he would behave after our first night together. Would he bolt? Would he keep his distance? Pretend like nothing happened?

  Lost in thought he didn’t hear me, so I cleared my parched throat and took a step forward, watching him intently as he turned. For a brief second I caught a dark shadow in his eyes, and then it dissipated into appreciation, as though he liked what he saw, and a lazy grin spread across his beautiful lips.

  “Good morning, gorgeous.” His dark hair framed his face in a disheveled way that invited me to run my fingers through it. His voice was raw and sexy, rich with lust, just like his electrifying eyes. He reached me in two long strides and wrapped his arm around me, pulling me against his strong chest. My breasts rubbed against him, and the air charged between us.

  He handed me his mug of coffee and watched me take a sip. It was black and unsweetened, just the way I preferred it. No one I knew had their morning coffee this way.

  “Thanks.” I handed the mug back to him. His arm remained wrapped around me as he took a sip and then handed it back to me. It was such a simple yet intimate gesture that it threw me off balance. I don’t know why my mind made such a big deal out of it, but somehow, the way we shared this cup of coffee made my heart beat just a little bit faster and turned my smile just a little bit wider.

  Post-coital bliss.

  “I figured it’s the way you’d drink it,” Jett said.

  “Why?”

  “Because it’s the way I drink it.”

  I peered up at the nonchalant expression on his face. Was he suggesting that we had lots of things in common? I wanted to ask, but decided against it. Did it really matter what he thought? In a few weeks, we’d be done fucking this insane attraction and lust out of each other, and then we’d move on as planned. No feelings whatsoever. Maybe we’d stay friends, and maybe not. It didn’t matter either way. I intended to enjoy it as long as it lasted.

  “Slept well?” Jett asked, changing the subject. I nodded. ‘Good’ was an understatement. Cradled in his arms, I hadn’t slept this well in years. “You said something in your sleep.” His tone changed slightly and I instantly froze.

  “What?” I asked warily.

  His eyes bore into me with such intensity I feared they could penetrate years of steel and rake through my soul. “You said, ‘please don’t hurt me’.”

  A cold shudder of dread rushed down my spine and turned my insides as cold as ice. The sudden urge to free myself from his embrace and get the hell away from him overwhelmed me. And yet, years of calculated planning kicked in, and I didn’t move an inch. Jett wasn’t the first man to come close to the truth, and he wouldn’t be the last. No need to panic. I had enough experience to deal with this.

  I drew a long, silent breath to steady my nerves and clutched at the coffee mug just a little bit tighter while hiding my hands from his view, so he wouldn’t notice the white knuckles. “It was just a nightmare. I don’t really remember it.”

  But I did. Vivid and cold in all its glory.

  “Do you have those often?” His scrutinizing gaze brushed over my face, and his expression changed to brazen interest.

  “Not really.”

  I did, almost every night for the past twelve years. Twelve years of blaming and self-hate, of wishing I could turn back the clock and do things differently.

  Jett hesitated. He didn’t believe a word I said.

  Shit.

  He was growing suspicious. I could see it in his intense gaze and worried frown.

  “Did someone hurt you?”

  “What?” I laughed, and almost choked on the sudden tears blurring my vision. “No, of course not. I told you it was just a dream. Just leave it at that.”

  His shoulders remained tense and he didn’t look away. He didn’t even blink.

  Double shit.

  I knew my words came out all defensive and incriminating the moment he nodded slowly, as though I had just confirmed his suspicions. The vein in his right temple began to throb visibly beneath his skin. His jaw set and his eyes blazed with anger. I knew that look. It was the same look the police officer gave me the moment he told me they wished they could help, but it was probably too late.

  I hated that look and everything it implied. You couldn’t change the past, no matter how hard you tried to shake at the gates of your life. People kept saying time heals all wounds, but in my case the memories buried deep within my soul never stopped torturing me with their vivid pictures and hurtful words.

  So all that remained was me pretending it never happened. I had been trying that for years and almost succeeded, until a card popped up in the mail a few weeks ago, and turned my carefully planned lie of a life upside down.

  “Who was it?” Jett asked softly, his voice barely able to contain his anger.

  I shook my head. “No one.”

  “Who was it?” he repeated more demanding. His index finger moved beneath my chin and forced my eyes to meet his. I searched his gaze, expecting anger and pity. The anger was there, but there was no hint of pity. Whatever he thought had happened to me, he also thought I was strong enough to deal with it.

  Under his scrutinizing gaze the memories began to rush through my head, and a bolt of pain headed straight for my heart. I had pushed them deep inside the pits of my soul for so long, entombing them beneath layers of concrete and steel. But now the dam was about to erupt.

  Shit and shit again.

  “Please, don’t do this.” My whisper was so low I doubted Jett had heard it. Breaking free from his embrace, I dashed out into the backyard, eager to put as much physical and emotional distance between Jett and me as possible. I slumped down on the bench and pulled my legs to my chest. The warm breeze dried my moisture-stained cheeks, and I only now realized I was crying. I wiped at the tears hastily, angry with myself that I ta
lked in my sleep, angry with Jett that he had to bring it up, angry with the world that shit happened and no one ever tried to stop it.

  As I forced air into my lungs I began to rock back and forth, silently begging Jett to let it be, but I knew he wasn’t the type to turn his back on a woman.

  “Brooke?” His voice reached me a moment before he appeared around the corner, his eyes burning with worry and determination.

  “Leave me alone.” My demand was a feeble one; certainly not firm enough to fool anyone with a morsel of common sense. I had never talked to anyone. For some reason I wanted to talk to him; I just needed a few more minutes to gather my strength and exhume a past that had almost destroyed me once.

  Jett’s arms moved around my back and he pressed my head against his hard abdomen, rocking me like you’d rock a child. “It’s okay.” His words were meant to soothe me, but they only managed to stir up another wave of anger.

  “It’s not. It never will be.”

  “Tell me about it.” He sat down beside me and pulled me in his arms. I cradled my head in the hollow of his shoulder and took deep breaths to steady myself for what was to come. Maybe it was the silence of the countryside and the serenity of the landscape. Maybe it was the fact that I was far away from home and the demons of my past. Or maybe it was his determined presence and the fortitude he seemed to exude from every pore. Whatever it was, it made both the words and my tears flow.

  CHAPTER TWENTY

  Jenna and I weren’t just sisters, we were best friends and as close as two people could get. Being two years older than me, she was my idol and everything I wasn’t: skinny, blonde, and extremely popular. Everyone preferred her, even my parents, which was okay by me because I adored her, too, and looked up to her throughout my childhood. When she began dating Danny at age fifteen, I was jealous of the attention she lavished upon him and naturally disliked the guy, probably sensing deep down just how strange he was.

  Danny was the kind of guy you didn’t want around your squeaky clean daughter. He was older, and had just dropped out of school. Jenna told me that he used to hang out with his friends a lot and only met up with her when he felt like it; never when she needed him. The moment she began dating him, I could almost see her changing before my eyes. My once vivacious sister turned her back on most of her friends and transformed into someone who’d spend hours locked up in her room for no apparent reason, or become aggressive, smashing things. I often covered for her so she could meet Danny, and when she returned home from him in the early morning hours, she’d look beat-up and greasy, her eyes unnaturally big, and her hands trembling. I didn’t know he gave her drugs. As a thirteen-year-old you were told of the dangers, but you didn’t know the signs and couldn’t put two and two together.

  I don’t know how long this went on. Maybe a few months, half a year tops. By the time my parents saw the puncture marks on her skin and sent her to a counselor, she was an emotional wreck and scared out of her mind. Jenna was hospitalized and remained in treatment for another half year, and when she returned I was naïve enough to believe everything would return to normal.

  “It didn’t,” Jett whispered, jerking me back to reality. I shook my head and, realizing my nails were dug into the fragile skin of his arm, I peeled my hand off him. Five tiny red marks remained imbued where I had clutched at him for support. Jett showed no sign that it bothered him. He didn’t even flinch as I brushed my fingers over the indentations, wondering whether it was my nature to hurt people without even realizing.

  “Shortly after she returned, he invited us both over to a party. I didn’t want to go because my parents had forbidden any contact with him, but Jenna wouldn’t listen. She told me he was the love of her life, and I believed her.”

  I hesitated as I let the memories of the few hours that changed my family’s fate scroll before my eyes like a motion picture. My hands were shaking. My unshed tears sat like a rock in my throat, almost choking me. Sensing my distress, Jett’s grip on my hand tightened but he remained quiet, as though he knew all I needed from him was to listen to the story I had never shared with anyone.

  “Jenna made me promise I wouldn’t tell anyone. Jenna didn’t come back that night. I didn’t know what happened, so when she wasn’t home the next morning I had to tell my parents, who called the police. We looked everywhere for her,” I whispered, my tears finally finding release, spilling onto my cheeks in angry rivulets that soaked the material of my shirt. “They found her body in an apartment owned by one of Danny’s friends. It turned out she had been plied with drugs, and her body had been sold to several men who gang-raped her. We were told she died of internal bleeding. When Danny was charged with murder, I was the one who had to testify against him. His friends kept threatening they’d hurt my family, and I had no one to talk to.” I stopped, fighting for breath. How could I tell Jett I didn’t have the courage to pull it through? My sister’s murderer walked free because I feared for my and my parent’s life.

  “I’m sorry,” Jett said softly.

  I shook my head in response. No pity. I didn’t deserve it. Not after the ordeal Jenna went through, and certainly not after the events her death brought upon my family. My tears slipped between my lips. I could feel the salty tang on my tongue, drying out the cave of my mouth. My heart beat so fast it seemed as though it wanted to tear my ribcage apart. The choking sensation around my neck tightened, and yet I wasn’t going to back off from the panic attack gathering inside me.

  Jett and I remained quiet for a few moments as I snuggled into his strong arms for support. His handgrip was so tight I feared he’d stop my blood circulation, but the sting was welcome. It kept my mind sane for a few more moments so I could finish what I had started. For once I was ready to share the pain and think about the consequences later.

  “My mother never blamed me, but my father did,” I began slowly. “He never got over Jenna’s death.”

  “Are you still in touch?”

  I hesitated as I considered my answer carefully. No, we weren’t in touch. We couldn’t be. “He killed himself a few weeks later.”

  “I’m sorry, Brooke,” Jett whispered into my hair. His arms tightened around me, gathering me deeper into his arms, and I let myself fall into his embrace as I tore down the last shreds of defense I had built around myself in the last twelve years.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

  I don’t know how we ended up in his bed. It happened so quickly that my haunted mind didn’t even register it. The sun was shining through the tall bay window, and my fingers were buried in Jett’s hair, pulling him on top of me as my mouth tugged at his lips with an urgency I had never felt before.

  My tongue thrust between his lips and my fingers began to unbutton his shirt to find the hot skin beneath. His muscles were hard and tense, just like the throbbing sensation between my legs.

  “Brooke.” His whisper was an unspoken question.

  “It’s fine.” As though to prove my point, my right hand clasped around his neck and pulled him down harder, closing the space left between us.

  “Wait.” He pulled away slightly, his eyes burning with need. “I don’t want you to think I’m taking advantage of your state.”

  He wasn’t a bad guy, I could feel it in my heart. Maybe it was the reason I had opened up to him about my past; why I wanted to give him everything I had, my body and mind.

  “I told you, I’m fine,” I said. “This is what I need right now. Will you give it to me?”

  Our eyes collided and for a moment Jett was all I could see and feel. His fingers moved to trace the contours of my lips, leaving a tingling sensation behind.

  “I wish I could ease your pain forever, Brooke,” he whispered.

  Yeah, I wished that, too.

  My eyes swelled up with moisture. I tried to turn my head to hide my unshed tears but his hand clasped my chin, holding my gaze transfixed on his. Ever so gently he lowered his lips and kissed the corners of my eyes, then moved to my cheeks, then to my lips. Somehow his
sensual and tender touch was more erotic than the passion-fuelled kiss we had just shared. His surprising gentleness stoked my arousal to a fevered pitch. I wanted him, and I wasn’t afraid to take it.

  My legs wrapped around his hips and I pulled him down until his weight crushed me, almost knocking the breath out of my lungs. His stubble grated my skin as I trailed my lips along his jawline.

  “Fuck me, Jett.”

  I had never spoken this demand to anyone in my life. It made my cheeks blush with shame, and my nipples throb with anticipation. But I didn’t care. The pain inside me had to be stilled somehow. If only for a short while.

  “I’ve never wanted anything more,” he groaned against my mouth. A moment later his lips found mine in a tortuously slow kiss. He sat up and lifted me onto his lap to remove my shirt followed by my bra. I shrugged out of my jeans and then helped him remove my panties. His fingers lingered between my thighs, rubbing gently between my folds.

  “I like it when you’re so wet.” His electric eyes mirrored the desire in his voice.

  He didn’t just make me wet; he made me ache for his touch. But today, I wanted to touch him back and make him feel all the sweet things he did to me.

  “Take off your jeans,” I whispered, watching him as he followed my command.

  Our eyes remained locked as my fingertips grazed the hard ridges of his abdomen and moved to the waistband of his shorts. Beneath them, he was already hard, the contours of his erection clearly visible under the thin material. I pulled them down his hips and watched his impressive erection jerk out. He looked even bigger in broad daylight, the slick crown engorged, ready to take me to pleasure heaven. I only needed to ask.

  I ran my fingertips against his swollen shaft and soaked in his deep moan.

  “Brooke.” He moistened his luscious lips, and his eyes followed my every move, watching me with such intensity it sent jolts of fire through my sex.

 
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