Jax grabs my hand and spins me into his arms, then boosts me up into a lift and back down into another spin, making everyone cheer.
He’s such a show-off.
When the song is over, the girls change their shoes and gather their book bags and jackets, waving goodbye as they leave.
“That Melissa is good,” Jax mentions as he locks the glass door.
“She’s really good,” I agree and drop down in the chair behind the desk. “You should work with her one-on-one.”
“Me? I thought that was your area.” He leans his hip on the desk and guzzles a bottle of water.
“She responds well to you, and she doesn’t have a crush on you, so it would work well.”
“I’m hurt that she doesn’t have a crush on me.” He pretends to pout. “I must be losing my touch.”
“You’re getting old,” I tease him and laugh when he flips me off. “I’ll talk to her mom next week.”
“Her mom will jump all over it,” he says with a shake of his head. “Some of the moms get more excited about it than the dancers do.”
“My mom always loved watching me dance.” The pain is swift and sharp, settling heavy in my heart.
“She would be so fucking proud of you, shortcake,” he says and pulls me in for a hug. “She was always proud, and seeing you start this studio made her glow with it.”
“I’m glad she got to see it,” I say and blink hard against the tears that always threaten when we start talking about my mom. “She enjoyed watching the little ones dance.”
“She enjoyed watching you teach them,” he replies softly.
I bite my lip and stare up at my friend for a long minute and then decide fuck it, and let the tears come. “I miss her. Why do people I love die?”
“I’m sorry,” he says as he pulls me into his arms and rocks me back and forth.
“You can’t die on me,” I cry and bury my face in his chest. “I tried to shake you off years ago, but you wouldn’t leave, so you can’t die on me.”
“Silly woman, thinking you could shake me off. I showed you.” He tips my face up and wipes my cheeks dry with his thumbs. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“Okay.” I nod and take a deep calming breath. “Thank you for tolerating my hysteria.”
“I’m used to it.” I glare and punch him in the arm.
“Ow! I’m also used to the violence.” He rubs his arm and doesn’t look me in the eye when he says, “Going out with Mark again tonight?”
“We had planned to.” I check my phone and smile when I see a text from him.
What are you wearing?
“So you won’t be home again tonight?” His face is neutral, but his voice sounds annoyed.
“Are you keeping score? I doubt you’ve been home much more than I have since you’ve been seeing your new guy.”
“I’m home more than you know,” he says.
“Who is this guy, by the way?”
He shrugs and takes another drink of water.
“Why don’t you want to talk about him? We always talk about who we’re dating.”
“Like you’ve been talking to me about Mr. Hot Tamale?”
“That’s not fair. I haven’t seen you.”
“That’s my point, Cherry Garcia.”
“What do you have against Mark? He never did anything wrong in the first place.”
“It feels like you’re moving fast. I heard you tell him that you love him over the phone yesterday. Are you sure he has good intentions? Maybe he’s got some vindictive plan to hurt you so he can get retribution for you dumping him back in the day.”
“Uh, hello, drama queen.” I shake my head in exasperation. “No, I don’t think that.”
“I’m just saying it’s a possibility.”
“You don’t know him, Jax. He’s not like that.”
“Okay, it’s your heart.” He shrugs and moves to walk away, but I stand and stop him.
“I know it’s fast,” I admit and chew my lip as he stands and watches me with worried eyes. “You think I don’t know it? It’s scaring the shit out of me.”
“If he’s pressuring you into something…”
“Oh, get real.” I roll my eyes and shake my head. “No one pressures me into anything. You know that better than anyone. I don’t feel pressured, I feel… drawn to him. I can’t stop it. It’s stronger than it was when we were teenagers, and it’s not just the sex, although, hello, the man has sure as hell honed that skill, and he was good ten years ago.”
“Oh good. That’s exactly what I want to hear about, your sex life.”
“Am I making a mistake? Am I letting myself fall back into love with him and setting myself up for heartbreak when it all falls apart?”
“Why is it going to fall apart?”
“Why wouldn’t it?”
“Boy, we’re both pretty cynical, aren’t we?” He smirks and then runs his hand down my ponytail. “As long as you’re on the same page, don’t walk away from him. I watched you pine for him for years. If this is your time to be together, reach for it, Mer.”
“Wow, that’s very romantic coming from you.”
He laughs and backs away. “Or just fuck him until you have him out of your system and kick him to the curb, but I don’t see that happening this time.”
Neither do I.
“Either way, keep me posted.” His smile fades and he checks his phone. “I have to go.”
“Don’t walk away, Jax. Something is off with you this week. Is it this Mr. Lovey Pants you’re seeing?”
He busts out laughing and then pulls me into a big hug. “Mr. Lovey Pants?”
“What’s going on?”
He sighs and kisses my head then pulls away and sits on the desk, swinging his feet. “His name is Logan. I thought it would be a quick fuck, as usual, but it’s… not.” He shrugs as if he’s at a complete loss, and I take his hand in mine and squeeze.
“What is it?”
“Hell if I know. The sex is crazy. He’s thoughtful and nice and I stayed the night with him. Twice.”
“Wow,” I reply with raised brows. “That’s very un-Jax.”
“Yeah, you’re usually the only one I like to cuddle with.” He grins and tweaks my nose with his fingertip then his face sobers. “It’s been hard to slide into second place on your priority list.”