Wild For You, p.9J. C. Reed
As though hearing my thoughts, her gaze turns to me and our eyes connect.
The world around us disappears; the chatter of voices fade into nothingness.
I take a sharp breath as a current of energy shoots through me, and my body becomes alive.
“Maybe Cash will come, too. If he decides to give me a chance.”
Her words are soft, earnest, devoid of the pity I’ve been getting from her and everyone else around me.
I stare at her, taken aback by the warmth and the determination in her gaze.
“We all would like that,” my dad says. I can feel his glance at me. I can feel everyone’s glance, but all I can do is stare at Erin as she’s staring back at me.
I want her.
I’ve never wanted a woman the way I want her, I realize. I also realize that I’ve been staring a little too long and my family’s bound to notice.
But damn, I can’t peel my eyes off of her.
“We’ll see about that,” I mumble, which seems to please her because she rewards me with a smile.
Throughout the evening, I watch Erin take a nibble here and there, all the while talking and having a great time while throwing secret glances my way whenever she thinks I’m not looking.
What I don’t fail to notice is Ryder hovering around her like a swarm of bees around honey. Honey—that she is all right, just not his.
What’s with women and guys in uniform?
But Erin’s not my business.
I set my jaw and look the other way.
Eventually, everyone says their goodbyes. Shannon’s the last to leave after clearing the plates and whispering in my ear, “We weren’t so bad now, were we?”
I smirk at her. “No, but don’t come back.”
“You know we can’t honor your wish. Tomorrow’s your birthday.” Laughing, she slaps my arm, and then the last of the Boyd clan’s gone.
I close my eyes and lean back, relishing the sudden silence.
Dusk descended a few hours ago. A soft breeze is wafting the crisp air into my face. From the feel of it, it might rain soon. Then again, this is Montana. Our rainy days are numbered.
“You haven’t eaten much yet.” Erin’s soft voice reaches me.
I open my eyes right in time to catch the paper plate she’s thrown into my lap before taking the same spot my dad had just occupied.
Her thigh is almost brushing mine. For a moment, I imagine myself squeezing my hand beneath the thin fabric of her dress, riding my fingers high up her thigh.
“I’m not hungry.” At least not for food.
“Eat,” she says softly but with enough determination to make me want to take a bite. “Organizing something like this was so kind of everyone.”
Following Erin’s line of vision, I peer at the cooling down barbecue and the twenty bowls of delicacies Shannon and Margaret were kind enough to prepare to “help see us through the week.”
“Yeah,” I mumble and take another bite. The food is delicious, and my stomach rumbles in response.
“I can cook up a mean bowl of pasta. But boy, does Shannon beat me to everything else. This is nice.” Erin points at the strings of fairy lights Margaret hung up all around the trees a few hours ago. Together with the countless lanterns, it looks like a canopy of tiny, glowing stars is hovering over our heads.
Under different circumstances, the whole setting would have been quite romantic. I would have poured us a glass of wine, and we’d be having sex on my terrace before we’d finish the bottle.
But not with the pain constantly flowing and ebbing through my body.
“Your family’s great,” Erin says. “They’re supportive, loving—the kind anyone would wish for.”
I nod and push another forkful of food into my mouth, chewing slowly. “I know. The kind you don’t have but have always wanted—until you have them and can’t get the hell away from fast enough.”
She laughs. “They do meddle a bit.”
“You think? How the hell did they manage to march in here without my noticing?” I ask. “And why didn’t you stop them? You should have figured out by now that I don’t like visitors, and particularly not the uninvited kind.”
“That includes me, right?”
Erin’s statement renders me speechless for a moment. It is the truth and yet not quite. I want her to leave, but at the same time I’ve somehow gotten used to watching her in the backyard or hearing her shower running at night.
And then there’s also the lounge chair incident. I haven’t quite been able to get rid of the image of her on top of me. My dick jerks to life again, the way it’s been doing since the first day she arrived here. It’s like my right hand is no longer doing the trick. It wants more.
It wants her.
Kissing her has only fueled my wants and needs. Kissing her has made me realize what I have been missing out on. I want her to leave, but at the same time I want her to stay.
“Dad hired you,” I say matter-of-factly. “I didn’t get a say in the matter. So, naturally, you’re staying because of him.”
She nods. “Yes, but I want to assure you—”
I laugh. “Please, Erin. Stop with the reassurances. I know you’re good. I Googled you the moment you told me your name.”
“You remembered my name and pretended you didn’t?” Her brows shoot up in annoyance.
“I had to make sure he hired a therapist, not a dragon.” I sigh. “Don’t take it personally. People around here don’t wait for an invitation. They just show up and meddle in your affairs before you’re even aware of your own matters. Dad means well, but he can be a little overbearing.”
Her lips quirk a little, which brings a tiny smile to my face. Who knew Little Miss Prissy had a sense of humor?
I try to sit up straight, silently cursing and groaning. Maybe my family’s right and I need help to get back on my feet.
I can feel Erin’s hand hovering near my arm.
“Don’t,” I say sharply.
Thankfully, I’ve found a comfortable position that makes the pain subside, but it doesn’t melt away. In fact, it’s become such a part of my life that it feels as though it’s been with me forever.
“You’ve been avoiding me since my arrival,” Erin says, ignoring my silent invitation to sit down. “You think that’s the way to get rid of me. This and being rude, and obnoxious.”
“It’s not doing the trick, is it?”
She stares at me gravely, then shakes her head. “You think I’ve never had patients who swear and proclaim their profound hate for me? Well, think again. It’s natural to be resentful, to want to be alone in hard times.”
“Tell that to my family.”
“I can try, but they won’t understand,” Erin says. “They think what we’re doing is like a workout. You train, and you get better. But in the beginning, during the first few weeks, therapy can be very frustrating. It often feels like you take one step forward and two steps back. It’s hard, and it’s cruel. Most patients want to give up. It might take all your willpower to keep going. When the frustration kicks in, I’m the one who’ll help you to overcome it.” She touches my arm. “You will walk again one day, Cash, there’s no doubt about that. I’ll make that path easier and shorter for you, I promise you.”
“Okay.” I suck in a sharp breath, but not because I’m pissed. In the fairy lights twinkling above our heads, her eyes are such a beautiful shade of blue that I can barely look away. She isn’t just pretty; she’s something else. Cool and unaffected. Professional and maybe even a little bit sad. It’s such a strange combination; strong, and yet fragile. Unreachable, yet so damn alluring.
“Okay as in ‘you’ll stop avoiding me, and you’ll let me help you?’ Or ‘okay as in shut your mouth, and move on?’” she asks.
“No.” I draw out the word. “Okay as in ‘Will you finally stop with the preaching if I submit myself to your care, but only under a few conditions’?”
“Conditions?” she asks, warily.
She crosses her arms over her chest, and our eyes connect fiercely. There’s a battle in her eyes. It’s not like her to follow a man’s command, but she most certainly hasn’t met someone like me yet.
“I’m not going to repeat myself. Come here,” I say calmly and watch her as she slowly gets up and lowers herself next to me, making sure not to touch me. The fact that she’s put as much distance as she possibly can between us irks me, but I choose to ignore it, for the time being.
“My father hired you because he thinks I need help,” I begin. “I don’t particularly agree with him.”
She opens her mouth to speak. I hold up a hand to silence her and continue, “This isn’t my first injury, and it probably won’t be my last. I’ve dealt with things like this on my own my entire life. I don’t want you here, meddling in my affairs. But I assume you need the job, and you don’t seem so bad.”
“Gee, thanks.” She smirks. “That’s quite the compliment.”
I frown at her sarcasm. “My point is, if I send you away, my father will hire the next therapist. And that one might not be so…agreeable.”
“Agreeable?” Her brows shoot up, and she licks her lips. Her emotions are written all over her face. She’s angry as hell. Offended. I realize my words weren’t well chosen, but I need her to know her place.
“This is what I propose. I want you to stop working for my father. Instead, I want you to work for me. As long as you’re here, I’m the boss, and you’re to agree to my wishes. You do what I want and when I want it.” I hold her gaze. “I expect you to respect my privacy and don’t let people in unless I’ve explicitly told you so. Those are my conditions.”
She laughs, but the sound is choked, forced. “You can’t be serious.”
“Do I look like someone who’s joking?” My gaze is cold and adamant. “I will let you help me if you let me be your boss. I want this to be my decision, not because my father wants it.”
She laughs again. Then she nods. “Of course. I can most certainly do that as long as you agree to let me aid you in your recovery. After all, I have a reputation to maintain.”
“On my terms. I decide when and where. I’ll ask for help when I want it, not when you or others think I need it. I’ll choose the time and the place for therapy.”
“Sure. As long as you push yourself. Every single day. And I mean it, Cash. I’ll have to insist that we work every single day. I don’t like slacking off.” Her eyes are two mirrors of stealth, fighting with everything they’ve got. She’s not a quitter; I can see that much. She’s not going to try and please me. And I’m sure she won’t go easy on me. I can’t help but wonder what it’d be like to deviate from my usual prey into unknown territory. Have someone like her in my bed—someone as determined and demanding as I am.
I regard her for a few moments as it dawns on me that Kellan might be onto something. Maybe my father has done me a favor by hiring someone like Erin Stone. Admittedly, my recovery hasn’t seen much progress in the few months since the accident. Maybe having a bit of a challenge right before my eyes is all I need to get back into both the bull riding and the horizontal game.
Get back into the saddle.
Have a woman warm my bed on the way there.
It’s a simple recipe for success. One as old as time.
“I’m not into slacking, either,” I say eventually. “In fact, I work hard to please.”
Erin narrows her eyes at me, apparently unsure what to think of my remark. I shoot her a lopsided smile and progress to stand, groaning as the pang of pain hits me harder than before, making me sway.
This time she doesn’t try to steady me.
I know she wants to, but I wouldn’t let her.
I need to be in control for a change.
“Erin, one more thing.” I turn to regard her. “No fraternizing with the Boyd family. Ryder, in particular. I don’t condone my employees hooking up with members of my family.”
Her jaw drops open for a second before a flash of anger shimmers in her eyes. Her cheeks turn a bright shade of red. “I wasn’t going to. I’m not a slut, Cash. And frankly—”
“I’m glad we’ve cleared that up,” I cut her off. “I expect you in my living room at 8 a.m. sharp.”
“But your birthday…?”
“Is none of your business.” With that I turn to leave.
“Cash?” The sudden softness in her tone makes me stop. I don’t turn to look at her. “Thank you,” she whispers.
“Don’t thank me yet.” I tip my head, then proceed walking.
Her gaze is burning a hole in my back as I stumble away on my crutches, hating the fact that I’m so damn helpless.
Hating the fact that I’m walking away when I should be staying.
My heart flutters and my stomach cramps. Today is Cash’s birthday, which shouldn’t mean anything to me.
But for some reason, I’m nervous.
I want him to have a great day, and yet I instinctively know it will be one of more struggle and fighting. His relatives visiting didn’t have the soothing and uplifting effect on him I would have expected. Maybe he had other things besides celebrating on his mind. Or maybe he’s simply unsocial. Either way, you never know what to expect with Cash Boyd.
With each passing day, I try to rethink my strategy, only to fail again. He’s unpredictable and uncompromising, which is the reason why the task at hand renders me nervous.
I’m standing in the kitchen, my old apron tied around my waist, sweat trickling down my back, as I try to complete today’s mission. I shift my weight, juggling several things at once. The counter is covered with flour and pots, and mixing bowls are scattered all over the generous working space.
I only register the approaching steps when he’s already thrown open the door to the kitchen. Startled, I lift my gaze, and my heart gives a jerk, as though it’s about to flee from my own body.
Cash is dressed in worn, blue jeans and a white shirt that hugs his sculpted body. Not even the tired lines beneath his eyes diminish his beauty. He looks so devilishly handsome, my body heats up and my cheeks catch fire.
I feel like a teen in heat, brainless and completely out of control when it comes to my body’s reaction to him. It’s like I’m reliving high school all over again, only I don’t remember ever having felt this way for a man before.
Ever since that damn kiss, I’ve been imagining us in all kinds of situations, most involving a bed and plenty of naked skin.
Sometimes, we don’t even get to take our clothes off…
I clear my throat and take a sip of water in the hopes he won’t notice just how breathless his proximity makes me feel.
Luckily, Cash seems oblivious to my thoughts as his eyes roam over the kitchen, taking in the mess, before settling on me, confused.
“Happy Birthday,” I say.
I point needlessly at the cake on the counter, my hands shaking a little because this is the first time I’m baking a cake for a man. It still needs the finishing touches, but I didn’t anticipate Cash to get up so early. It’s barely five a.m., the sky a beautiful shade of red and the air still crisp.
“What’s this?” he asks, his brows drawn.
“A cake. I’m sure you’ve heard of those, maybe even had a slice or two in your life.” Seriously, I might not be a professional, but I do think my cake resembles the real thing. Besides, there’s frosting everywhere. I’m probably even covered in it. That’s hard to miss.
“I’ve made it for you,” I say, in case it’s not obvious. “It’s your birthday gift.”
His eyes move to me, taking me in. Really taking me in, as though he needs to remember every inch of me. “You’re baking a cake at four in the morning?”
He continues to stare at me, which is slowly starting to make me feel uncomfortable.
What the hell’s there to look at?
Eventually, his gaze focuses on the cake, and I can finally release the breath I didn’t even know I was holding.
Cash leans forward, his face so low, I can’t read his expression.
“Happy Birth,” he tries to read.
“It’s not yet finished, obviously.”
He looks up. “You didn’t have to.”
There’s a soft smile on his lips. It could be my imagination, but I think there’s also a spark in his eyes.
He likes my cake.
The thought makes my heart flutter a little bit faster.
“Well, I wanted to.” I shrug, as though I’ve done this countless times before, and it’s no big deal. “I love cake, both baking and eating it. Back home, I use every opportunity to cook. My mom once owned a bakery, and as a child, I used to sit in the kitchen and eat all the raw dough.”
I don’t know why I’m disclosing this information to him. I should keep my mouth shut, and yet I can’t.
When he says nothing, I go on, trying to fill the silence. “Did I wake you? If I did, I’m sorry.”
“No. I couldn’t sleep.” His eyes are focused on me, too sharp, too penetrating.
“Is it the pain?” He nods in response. “Why don’t you take your painkillers, Cash?”
“I don’t like the way they make me feel.”
I want to point out that being in pain all the time will make it harder for him to find the necessary motivation for therapy. But I remain silent.
I watch him as he opens a cupboard.
“Coffee?” Cash asks. It’s the first time he’s offered me something. His half-eaten sandwich doesn’t count. I frown when he pushes a button and a panel slides out, revealing a state-of-the-art coffee maker.
“You’ve been hiding the coffee from me.” It isn’t a question, but a statement, with plenty of accusation in my tone.
I’m so astounded I don’t know whether I should be angry or laughing at his audacity.
Wild For You by J. C. Reed / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes