I smiled as I placed my hand over his. “I know.”
“About us. The difference? Good or bad?”
“Good. Very good.”
He tipped his head down and brushed his lips over my forehead. A shiver coursed over my skin. “We’re going to have to do better than good.”
“Uh-huh,” he murmured, and then he kissed me.
There was something different about this kiss. Maybe it was because it was taking place in my bed or it was our first real kiss after our conversation. Or maybe it was something else. Either way, he sipped from my lips, drank from my mouth. The kiss went on forever as he tasted and explored. I never knew it was possible for a kiss to be so powerful, but it was.
“How about that?” he asked, a slight tremble running up his arm as his lips brushed mine.
My body seemed to sink through the mattress. In that moment, with my lips still tingling with the touch of his, I didn’t—couldn’t—think about all the things that were wrong. “That was better than good. That was great.”
He kissed me again, but this time with a slow, sweet sweep of his lips. It was those soft, dragging kisses that affected me beyond the physical that caused the swelling warmth in my chest that spoke of love and forever and other tender, silly things I didn’t want to admit out loud.
But it still got me on a physical level. Even with the constant ache in my knee, the ache in other parts of my body hadn’t diminished. I wanted Jase on an almost painful level. The very idea of nothing between our bodies, of him inside me, nearly drove me crazy with the desire to explore.
Jase lifted his mouth from mine, breathing raggedly as he settled on his side beside me. I expected him to touch me. My br**sts felt swollen and full with his hand so close, but he did nothing.
I turned my head toward him. His eyes were a fierce silver as he groaned deeply. “You keep looking at me like that, I’m going to strip the clothes off you and get so far deep inside you that I’ll never get out.”
Everything in my body tightened, and the muscles in my lower stomach spasmed in response to his words. “I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
He made that deep, sexy rumble again, and I burned partly due to my own boldness. “You make this so hard.”
“I do?” I reached for him, and as my fingers brushed the visible line in his jeans, he caught my wrist in a gentle grasp. In confusion, I raised my gaze to his.
His eyes squeezed closed. “Yeah, you make me hard. All the f**king time. I’m a constant walking erection around you, but I . . . I want to do this the right way.”
My fingers curled in as he held my hand near his chest. “The right way?”
When his eyes reopened, a slight pink flush stained his cheeks. “The right way. You know. Us not being just all about sex.”
My lips parted, but I didn’t say anything. I was stunned by the fact Jase was blushing and from what he’d said.
The hue in his cheeks deepened. “As hard as it is to go slow with this, because damn, baby, I want you in every way imaginable.” He lowered my hand and pressed his erection against my palm, proving his next words. “I want you so badly right now it’s killing me, but every girl I’ve been with since . . . since a really long time has only ever been about sex. Getting in. Getting off. Then getting out.”
“Like Steph?” I blurted out before I could stop myself.
He cringed. “Yeah, like Steph. And that was okay with her—with them. Because as much as a dick as this makes me sound like, I didn’t care about them. Not like I care about you, Tess. I want this—I want us to be different. I want us to mean more than sex. I need us to mean more than that. Okay?”
As I stared at him, a knot climbed up and got lodged in my throat. Tears filled my eyes.
His pupils dilated as he dropped my hand and cupped my cheeks. “Baby, why are you about to cry? Did I—”
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” I said quickly, my voice cracking. “You did everything perfectly.”
Confusion marked his expression. “I don’t understand.”
I laughed hoarsely. “It’s okay.” Leaning over, I kissed him. Whoever Jack’s mom was, was truly missing out. “It’s perfect.”
“You sure? Fuck what I think is right and wrong. Because I can get nak*d in like two seconds flat and be inside you quicker than that.”
I nodded and laughed again.
Jase rested his forehead against mine and closed his eyes. His warm breath danced over my lips. “I want to take you out on a date. I want to take you horseback riding. I want to tell your brother. I want to take you home to my parents and introduce you as my girlfriend. I want to prove this means more to me. I want to do this the right way.”
My chest squeezed under the pressure of what I felt for him in that moment. If I hadn’t already tumbled head over heels in love with him, I would’ve tonight, but I was already lost in him. Those three little words formed on my tongue, but I kept them to myself as I snuggled closer, closed my eyes, and allowed myself to just enjoy his closeness and his almost desperate want to do this the right way.
In spite of all the stuff running through my head, I slept like the dead after Jase left, waking up oddly refreshed. I’d thought Wednesday morning would be hard to face, waking up to a future I hadn’t planned, but if anything, what I really felt was an odd sense of anticipation.
As I got ready for classes, I received a text from Jase. He wouldn’t be in music but would be there to pick me up afterward. When I asked if everything was okay, he’d replied with a quick text saying everything was cool.
Excitement was palpable in the halls of Whitehall. Somehow I’d forgotten that we didn’t have classes Thursday or Friday. Fall break—a four-day weekend. History wasn’t nearly as crowded, but maneuvering with crutches was still damn inconveniencing.
Sympathy clouded Calla’s face when she got an eyeful of me and my crutches. “What happened?”
As I sat awkwardly in the chair, I told her I’d lost my balance on Sunday. I didn’t mention anything about Erik or Debbie. Not because I cared what people thought about the ass**le, but I didn’t want Debbie to have to deal with it. Somewhere between yesterday morning and today, I decided Deb and I were going to have a nice long chat the next time she was in the dorm. I was going to tell her the truth—of what happened to me. It might not make a difference, but maybe it would.
“What about dancing?” Calla asked, and I winced.
“My knee is too unstable and it will most likely stay that way.” My stomach dipped at those words, as if saying them made it somehow more real. “It shouldn’t have given out on me Sunday, so . . .”
She leaned forward, lowering her voice. “So no dancing?”
Unable to say those words, I shook my head.
Her face fell. “I’m so sorry.”
“Thanks,” I croaked out.
I wasn’t very talkative after that. The whole “refreshed” mood evaporated when we missed the bus to west campus and I had to hoof it over. My armpits were killing me by the time we hit the arts center, and they still ached when I hobbled out at the end of class.
God knows how long I had to worry with these crutches. My lips slipped into a scowl as I tried to balance myself and pull down the back of my shirt. It would be so much easier if I didn’t have classes on both sides of the campus. I could drop music. Or if I dropped history, then I only had to go from my dorm to music then to east campus—
I cut those thoughts off. Dropping classes was like quitting. Giving up. I would not do that. No matter how much of a pain in my ass this would become.
“There’s your man,” Calla said, causing me to almost topple over as I stood on the pavilion.
I almost asked her how she knew, but then I realized that she was just teasing me. I wanted to tell Calla about us, but I needed to tell Cam first. Strangely, it didn’t seem real until then. Like if I couldn’t announce it on Facebook, then it hadn’t happened yet.
I rolled my eyes at that and turned to her. “I’ll see you later.”
She waved good-bye as I painstakingly made my way to where he was idling in the no parking zone. Jase got out and jogged around to my side. Brown hair curled out from under the gray knit skullcap he wore. I decided it was a good look for him.
He opened my door and then took my crutches, placing them in the back, and when he turned to me, he started to lower his head, as if he were going to kiss me hello. My insides tensed. He stopped short, let out a deep breath, and then cupped my elbow.
“Up you go,” he said, and I shivered at the deepness in his voice.
Once he was in the Jeep, I glanced over at him. “Did you get everything taken care of this morning?”
“Yeah.” His gaze flicked to the rearview mirror. A campus police cruiser was coming around the bend. With a quick, satisfied grin, he pulled out before they could get him for where he was parked. “Mom called me early this morning. Jack was sick all night. Throwing up.”
“Oh no, is he okay?”
He nodded. “He’s got a bug. Doc said he just needed to drink lots of fluids and rest. He’ll be out of school the rest of the week. He was pretty upset about that.”
“Yeah, he loves his teacher and going to school.” He paused, rubbing his chin. “Hopefully he stays like that.”
I leaned toward him. “Did you like going to school when you were little?”
“Did it stay that way?”
He laughed. “Hell no. I skipped more than I went to class—Jack’s different, though. He will be different.”
I smiled at that, silently wishing him luck.
“If he’s feeling better this weekend, I thought we could . . . I don’t know, take him out to lunch or something?”
That was huge. I nodded eagerly, a little nervous. What if Jack woke up one morning and decided he hated me? Kids were fickle like that.
“Good,” he said, relaxing.
Since a lot of students had already bailed for the four-day weekend, we didn’t have any problem finding a parking spot near the Den, and the place was practically empty as I walked in. Jase carried my bag and slowed his long-legged steps to match mine.
Only Cam and Avery were at the table, sharing a slice of pizza. I opted for a hot dog and fries—breaking up the monotony of greasy hamburgers—and Jase, I think, got an entire pizza judging by the stacks of slices on his plate.
Sitting down across from the lovebirds, I stretched out my right leg. “I’m surprised you guys are here. I thought you were heading up to Pennsylvania?”
“We are.” Cam swiped a handful of fries off my plate and didn’t even bother to look guilty. “We’re leaving tonight.”
“Excited?” I asked Avery.
She nodded rapidly, causing her high ponytail to bounce. “I’ve never been there, so I can’t wait.”
“What are you guys planning to do there?” Jase dropped an elbow on the table, and as he leaned forward, he picked up the second slice of pizza and lowered his other hand under the table. “I mean, what do you do in the Poconos? Stare at trees?”
Cam snorted. “No. There’s hiking, indoor saunas, wine, fishing—I’m taking Avery fishing. She’s never done it . . .”
As my brother went on . . . and on, Jase shifted closer, pressing his right leg against my left one. A second later, his hand landed just above my knee. My eyes widened as I stilled, hot dog halfway to my mouth.
“And we’re renting a boat on Saturday,” Cam continued, sending Jase a meaningful look that made me drop my hot dog.
Did he see what was Jase was doing? Oh God . . .
Cam frowned at me. “You okay over there?”
“Yeah,” I squeaked, and grabbed my hot dog as Jase’s hand crept up my leg. “So, um, a boat?”
My brother said something that made the skin around Avery’s eyes crinkle as she laughed, but I was too focused on Jase’s hand curving over my upper thigh. I took a deep breath when he leaned over, plucking up a few fries, using the closeness to his advantage.
His hand slipped between my thighs.
Oh my God . . .
Heat flooded my face as I ducked my chin, but the warmth also went way south, traveling to one point, right where his hand was heading. He wouldn’t do it.
“What kind of boat is it?” Jase asked, and dear God, he sounded completely at ease.
Whatever boat Cam was renting totally wasn’t even on my radar. Jase’s hand inched closer, the tips of his fingers brushing the band covering the zipper of my jeans.
I drew in a deep breath as my hand tightened around the hot dog. Pieces of the bun crumbled. He wouldn’t go any farther. No way.
“So what are you doing?” Avery asked, resting her chin in her hands.