“So, you’re free to do whatever you want when I’m gone.” Just saying that made me want to vomit. The truth was, lately, I’d been coming up with hypothetical situations where Jackson and I somehow found a way to make something real work between us.
But that was just my silly mind messing around with my heart.
There were a million reasons Jackson and I couldn’t work…but my heart kept telling me I only needed one good one to give it a try.
He grimaced. “You want me to sleep with Mary Sue?”
“What? No. I’m just saying, there’s a line of women waiting for you once I leave.”
His brows knitted. “I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to just hook up with random women.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Why not? Isn’t that what we’ve been doing?”
He lowered his spoon. “Come on, princess…” He gave me a look. “You don’t really believe that’s all we’ve been doing, do you?”
“I know we just had it yesterday, but it’s a craving,” a voice said as someone walked into the ice cream parlor. As I looked up, I saw Autumn walking in as Finn held the door open for her. The moment they saw me, their faces went pale, almost as if they’d walked straight into a ghost.
“Grace,” Autumn muttered, her voice shaky.
My eyes fell to her stomach where a small bump was forming, and nausea overtook me.
Finn was quick to drop his hand from her lower back, which he had been massaging as they entered. His eyes darted back and forth between Jackson and me then he cleared his throat, but he didn’t say a word.
Autumn’s eyes watered over, but I groaned. “Don’t do it.”
“Don’t do what?” she asked.
“I…I won’t. It’s just…” She began crying, and she was still beautiful.
That made me want to cry.
“I’m just going to run to the restroom,” she said, hurrying away.
Finn kept standing there, and he awkwardly stuffed his hands in his pockets. “So, you two are like…buddies now?” he asked, his voice deeper than it had ever been, which was odd.
“Finley, don’t do this,” I warned. “Just go.”
“It’s just a question,” he said, moving in closer. He tilted his head my way. “I’ve been calling you.”
“I blocked your number, remember?”
“We should talk.”
“I think you should go,” I said sternly. The wave of comfort that washed over me as Jackson placed a hand on my knee and squeezed it under the table was shocking. I needed that. I needed him there.
“Yeah, but—” Finn started.
“You should do as she said,” Jackson said harshly.
“Or maybe you should mind your own business,” Finn shot back. He looked at me, then toward my ice cream. “Since when do you like peanut butter ice cream? You always get strawberry.”
“I’m trying something new.”
“Yeah?” he huffed, glancing at Jackson once more. “Is that what you’re doing?”
“All right, on that note, we’re leaving. Enjoy your date with Autumn,” I said, standing up from the table.
“It’s not a date. It’s just…ice cream. She’s been having cravings.”
“I don’t care.”
“What’s that on your back?” he inquired, seeing the plastic covering my new tattoo. “Jesus, did you get a tattoo? Your mom’s going to flip out.”
“Finn, can we stop this? We aren’t having conversations anymore, okay? Come on, Jackson. Let’s go.”
As we began to walk away, Finn quickly grabbed me by the wrist and pulled me closer to him. “This isn’t you, Grace. Whatever’s going on between you and this guy…this isn’t you.”
“You have no clue who I am,” I told him.
“Maybe not, but you have no clue who he is.”
“Let me go, Finley.”
“No. I can’t let you go with this guy,” he insisted as I tried to twist out of his grip.
Jackson stepped forward and lowered his voice as his gaze pierced Finn. “You have five seconds to let her go before I rip your arm from the socket.”
For a moment, Finn debated, uncertain if he should believe the threat or not.
“You better listen to him,” I warned. “Last time a guy stepped out of line, he snapped his cell phone in half.”
Finn dropped his hold on me and took a step back. “It’s only a matter of time before he hurts you, Grace. People like him always snap.”
“And people like you always let people like me down.”
“You’re acting like a fool,” he barked, but I didn’t even give him a reply.
I was so tired of being in his presence.
I took Jackson’s hand in mine and we walked out, my stomach in knots and my mind spinning. I hated how Finn still had that effect on me, how he could make me feel so small and naïve.
That was the biggest difference between the two men standing in front of me.
Finley always caged me.
Jackson allowed me to fly.
After the run-in with Finn and Autumn, we went back to my place where I had a night of watching Game of Thrones planned. I had everything ready—popcorn, cherry cola, and her favorite candy: Reese’s peanut butter cups.