Page 19

Jake sits up, pulling on a tee and grabbing a flashlight. “Your sister can keep her money. If you find this kind soul, then I’m certain they will figure out a way to get your sister’s dog back to her.”

“Where are you going?” I ask as he stands close to me—too close.

“I’m taking you to the toilet up the hill.”

“I know how to get there.”

He moves past me and unzips the tent flap. “I’m sure you do.”

“Then why are you taking me?” I follow him out of the tent and chase his long strides.

“Because there could be a few strangers in this camping area that are not kind souls.”

I stumble on a rock and catch myself before landing on my face. “I took a self-defense class. I have skills.”

Jake stops, letting me make it out in front of him, strutting all of my confidence.

“Ahhh!!!” My scream muffles in his large hand as he covers my mouth with it and restrains my arms to my sides with his other arm snaked around my body. I wriggle and scream, but I go nowhere, and my screams are muted to nothing more than a soft pulsing hum.

“Show me your skills, Avery,” he whispers in my ear.

All of my attempts to twist free, headbutt him, elbow his ribs, basically anything, are thwarted by his solid body encasing me like a concrete tomb.

“What if a kind soul held you like this? What would you do? Let me tell you …”

Unexpected tears sting my eyes.

“You would shit your fancy pants, ruin your manicured nails trying to unsuccessfully claw at Mr. Kind Soul’s arm, then you would end up tied to something cold while he made you feel absolutely anything but sexy. You’d long for the days of dick cheese buying you expensive shit then using you for a good lay.”

Before I blink out a single tear, he releases me, takes my hand, and pulls me up the hill to the toilet.

“False confidence is dangerous to your health, your self-esteem, and your entire soul. You need to be something a helluva lot more than a compilation of expensive labels.” He lets go of my hand at the door to the shithole with four wood walls and no sink.

I swallow back the pain and the fear and push open the door. With my back to him, I shrug. “It was a free class. Two hours. I had a crush on the instructor. He told me I was a natural at self-defense. He said I had good moves.”

Jake grunts a laugh. “I’m sure he did. Men tell women whatever it takes to get into their pants.”

When the sting of the truth starts to hurt, I step into the nasty stall, hating that the walls don’t go to the ground or block the sound of me peeing.

“I can’t see anything.”

He points the flashlight into the foot gap at the bottom of the wall.

“Thank you.” I almost choke on the words, but he walked me up the hill and now he’s holding a flashlight for me.

“What do you say?” I hold a squat to prevent from touching anything as I tinkle.

“You’re welcome.”

I roll my eyes. “I’m not talking about the flashlight. What do you say to women to get into their pants?”

Again, no toilet paper. How did I forget to grab a few tissues? I shake and pull up my panties and pink silk night shorts. I open the door, feeling all kinds of disgusting.

No toilet paper.

No sink.

Who lives like this? Aren’t there laws that require a sink with a toilet? Maybe only flushable toilets.

Flushable toilets … best invention ever.

Jake stands from his squatted position where he held the flashlight for me.

“What?”

He shakes his head.

“Don’t shake your head. Why were you looking at me like that? Is it my hair?” I smooth both palms over my fragile locks. I need my hairdresser like a heart attack patient needs a heart surgeon.

Hairdresser STAT!

“What’s up with your hair?” He inspects my head with the light like I had done to his perfect feet, only I don’t think the grimace on his face has anything to do with my perfect hair. “Why are you messing with it all the time? Scratching your scalp all the damn time? If not lice, is it psoriasis? A yeast infection?”

“Jeez.” I shove the light away. “I told you not to mention my hair. Don’t talk about it, don’t look at it, and whatever you do don’t touch it.”

He brings the light back up to my head.

“Stop!” I try to shove him away again.

“Fair is fair. You were inspecting my feet for a really long time.”

I don’t need a mirror to know that all the blood has drained from my face. How the hell does he know that? “What?” I whisper.

Taking one step closer, he aims the flashlight between us so his flip-flop clad feet are illuminated. “When you were searching for the keys, you stopped to stare at my feet, and…” he smiles “…the rest of me.”

My jaw unhinges. “You are so full of yourself. I was not looking at any part of you, especially your ugly, stinky feet.” I cross my arms over my chest. “But if I had been looking at your fungus-infected feet, how would you have known since you were sleeping?”

“It’s hard to sleep when you keep telling me to wake up.”

A gasp catches in my throat. “You bastard! If you were awake, why didn’t you answer me?”

I hate his grin.

Stupid, stupid grin. I don’t care how white his smile happens to be, it’s a terrible grin.

I hate the way his eyes smile. Yep, smiling eyes. I bet it’s an early sign of something like … foot fungus or erectile dysfunction.

“As we speak, mosquitoes are buzzing around us, but I don’t acknowledge them. I’m aware of their pesky little buzzing, but I’m not going to let them ruin my trip or keep me from sleeping.”

“Oh … my … god … Are you comparing me to a bloodsucking insect?”

“If the overpriced shoe fits …” He’s grinning like …

Gah!

I don’t really know what his grin resembles. It’s mocking, flirty, devious, and incredibly infuriating because he only smiles like that when he’s poking fun at me.

“You didn’t answer my question.” I plant my hands on my hips.

He shines the flashlight in my face. “What question was that?”

I flinch, backing away from him and the smell of the shithole behind us. “What do you say to a woman to get into her pants?”

His lips purse. “I ask them if they want to smell my underwear.”

Before my mouth falls into yet another offended gasp, I grit my teeth and formulate … something.

What? I’m not sure. I have skills. I just need to use them to my benefit. Sadly my guy-skills involve a lot of flirting and … other bodily exchanges.

Forcing my jaw to relax, I plaster on my best smile—the one that gets me all kinds of things from men who have posed a bigger challenge than Mr. Kale Salad.

“I bet they do.” I bite my bottom lip, closing the distance between us. Running my fingernail down his defined chest, I trace some of his ink before teasing the waistband to his boxer briefs peeking above his low riding shorts. His abs tighten even more. “I bet they want to smell every inch of you.”

“Avery,” he warns in a gritty voice.

I slip my fingernail just under the waistband, giving it a teasing tug while shifting my gaze to meet his hooded eyes.

Shit … I swallow back the saliva pooling in my mouth. I’m falling apart in the middle of my one chance to take the lead—get the upper hand. I’m turning myself on as much as him. His cock is waking up, but dammit if I’m not feeling my own arousal tingling between my legs.

I was wet just from him saying my name in that unhinged voice. The timbre in it is almost too much to take.

Almost … but the need for revenge trumps it.

I curl both hands into his shorts, clutching his briefs too.

“Ave …” He shakes his head slowly, but when he swallows hard, I know I’ve got him. Jake is a lot of things, but he’s still just a guy who would let the world end around him if it meant that a woman was going to get on her knees and take him in her mouth.

“You know what I’m craving, Jake?” I lace each word with as much seduction as I can, which isn’t hard because … I’m so damn aroused.

His lips part and I know he can’t even speak. Yeah … I’ve got this.

I give him a sexy, sly grin. “Revenge.” Yanking as hard as I can, I pull down his pants, snatch the flashlight, and run like chased prey to the tent.

“Oh my gosh. Oh shit. Oh, oh, oh!” Panic inflames my veins as I navigate the uneven terrain while thinking of what I just did, but more than that … what I just saw.

Holy Batman! I saw Jake’s junk and it’s not at all junky. It’s almost as perfect and big as his feet. When it sprang free, it nearly poked my eye out. Skidding into the tent, completely breathless, I zip it shut and punch the air a hundred times in celebration before shoving Swarley off my sleeping bag and sliding into it until just my eyes peek out of the top.

I did it! I’m the queen, not a princess. Queen Don’t Mess With Me Avery.

My lungs hold my breath hostage as twigs crack beneath the approaching footsteps. Not even the thick sleeping bag hides the visible shaking of my body. I’m nothing more than a bundle of adrenaline and hormones.

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