Jax was reclining on his side, resting his head in his palm. The cover was down by his h*ps and his bottoms were hanging low, showing off those sexy as hell indents on either side of his h*ps and the tightly rolled muscles of his abs. Yeah, he was rocking a six-pack, and yeah, as I slowly dragged my eyes to his pecs, I might’ve drooled a little. Or a lot. My mouth was definitely hanging open, but for different reasons.
His body was chiseled and cut and just wow, but his skin . . . it was another story. There were marks, dozens and dozens of them, all across his chest and over his abs, and I understood now why I’d thought his skin had felt rough.
Sitting up, I glanced at his face—at his lazy, half smile and raised brows—and then back to his body. The marks were like craters in some areas, where pieces of flesh had either been removed or sunken in. Other marks were puckered, healed over.
Without thinking, I reached out to him, and his free hand shot out like lightning, snatching my arm around the wrist. I swallowed hard as I lifted my lashes. “What happened?” I heard myself ask and then I swore under my breath, dipping my chin. Hair slipped over my shoulder, falling between us. “I’m sorry. That’s a damn rude question. I should know.”
“It’s okay.” He brought my hand forward, and the tips of my fingers brushed a scar. “Roadside bomb,” he reminded me. “Shrapnel sucks ass.”
Oh my . . .
I knew he hadn’t been telling everything last night. I lifted my gaze. “So you got Reece out of there, but you had shrapnel in you?”
“Yeah,” he said like it wasn’t a big deal.
But it had to be, because so many of those marks were over his heart and a lot of other vital places. Some were deep. They had to have hurt and bled a lot. And he managed to get Reece out of there? God, he wasn’t just brave. He was crazy brave. Our gazes locked, and I don’t know what made my mouth move. “It was glass exploding that cut my face.”
Jax didn’t respond as he slid his hand down, pressing his fingers over mine, against his skin.
“It . . . it was a backdraft,” I said. “There was a fire and pressure built up in the room . . .” My gaze broke free from his, shifting to his body, to the connect-the-dot map of scars. I’d never told anyone this. Ever. “When I opened the door, oxygen poured in or something like that and the window exploded.”
“You’re lucky.” He rose into a sitting position and his knees knocked mine. He lowered his head and we were face-to-face. “You could’ve lost an eye.”
Or a nipple, but I wasn’t sharing that. “You were lucky, too.”
Neither of us spoke for a long moment, and then he was up and off the bed in like a nanosecond. “Let’s get breakfast. Maybe IHOP today,” he announced while I stared at him. “Then we’ll go looking for your mom. Plan?”
I blinked once, and then twice. “Okay.”
That lopsided grin appeared. “You got to get off the bed.”
Yeah, he made a good point, but . . .
“Wait.” I hobbled off the bed, feeling my cheeks heat as the words rolled right off the tip of my tongue. “What about you?”
He’d stopped at the foot of the bed, head cocked to the side, bottoms hanging so low I could really see that happy trail of his. “What about me?”
“You know . . . I, well, I came and you . . .”
“Didn’t?” The grin was spreading.
He tipped his head back and laughed.
My lips slipped down at the corners. “What’s so funny?”
“You are. You’re funny. You’re cute.” He came forward and he was right in front of me. “And you’re sweet as hell when you’re coming.”
“I know I didn’t come, but honey, you never had anyone but your own hands down between those pretty legs before.” His gaze dropped to said legs, and I shivered. “That’s the first time you’ve had that and it needed to be about you. Not me.”
Oh. Double wow.
I gaped at him as he turned, starting for the bathroom. My insides started to melt, get a little gooey.
Then he stopped and twisted toward me, lips curved in a mischievous sort of way. “I’ll take care of myself in the shower.”
My jaw was on the floor.
Jax sucked his bottom lip in between straight, white teeth. “And I’ll be thinking of you when I do it.”
Things changed after a guy gave you an orgasm. Not something I’d ever considered before, since no guy had done that to me, but I was catching on pretty quickly.
I’d gotten back in bed while he showered since it turned out that we really were up early. It wasn’t even eight in the morning. I tried not to imagine him in there touching himself, but my thoughts kept going back to that and what it must look like, and that was, well, it was turning me on, which was pretty shocking considering I still wasn’t sure I had complete use of my legs yet. I really needed to stop thinking about all of that.
So I used that time to take stock of my life.
I finally had a non-Calla-induced orgasm, which was pretty epic. Part of me was proud that I’d finally jumped that hurdle, even though I was twenty-one when it happened. But I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I mean, what did it mean for me? For Jax? For us?
Oh my God, was there an “us” now?
My heart rate kicked up a notch as I sat straight up in the bed, staring at the closed bathroom door as I held the blanket to my chin. I could hear the water running from the bathroom and then . . . I heard him. Not groaning or anything like that, but he was humming something or maybe singing, but it sounded like humming because of the water. Suddenly, all of this was so intimate I wanted to jump out of the bed and run screaming and flailing through the townhouse and out into the streets.
What was I doing here?
There couldn’t be an “us” that involved orgasms and showers and songs being sung and breakfasts. I didn’t plan on being here forever and I planned on going back to college in August once I got the approval for financial aid, and that’s what I wanted, right? There was no future between us.
I blinked slowly.
And I needed to be focused on finding my mom so I didn’t end up getting cut up by some low-level gangsta, or worse yet, meeting this Isaiah face-to-face.
More important, someone like Jax couldn’t be in my life. The skin along my back had the consistency of—
So caught up in my own head, I hadn’t heard the water shut off, so when the bathroom door opened and Jax stepped into the bedroom, I wasn’t expecting it.
He had a towel knotted around his lean h*ps and his hair was soaked, brushed back off his forehead, and his entire body was on display.
Yummy eye candy for the win.
Damn, he looked good. Like good enough that I might’ve been drooling again.
“You want to shower before we head out?” he asked, strolling toward the bed like he wasn’t wearing anything more than a towel.
A half grin appeared. “A shower? Do you want to shower?”
I was an imbecile. “Yes,” I squeaked, popping out of the bed. I grabbed my clothes off the dresser. “A shower is a great idea,” I rambled on, trying not to look at him. “You’re so smart.”
Jax twisted sideways as I passed him and smacked my behind.
I jumped and emitted another squeal out of shock, and he chuckled. Looking over my shoulder to shoot him a glare, I then realized he hadn’t smacked me with his hand.
It was the towel that had been around his hips.
And I was not only staring at his muscled back, which, wow, was a nice back, but also his muscled ass. “Oh my God!” I shrieked. “You’re nak*d!”
That chuckle turned into a laugh, and I whipped around, almost throwing myself into the bathroom, but it was too late. Those firm globes were seared into my memory.
He’d been nak*d! Totally freaking nak*d, and didn’t care. Complete lack of modesty there, and that further cemented there could never be an “us.” I had more modesty than a church full of old nuns.
I took advantage of the soap that smelled like him and the two-in-one shampoo and conditioner. It wasn’t until after I showered, had changed into my own clothing, and was twisting my wet, combed hair into a bun at the top of my head that I realized I had no makeup on.
What had been left on my face this morning had rubbed off a bit, letting the scar show more clearly. Dermablend was serious stuff, but it was most definitely off my face now.
My wide eyes stared back at me in the reflection, the blue so bright in the early morning sun coasting in through the small square window. My face had that peaches-and-cream complexion without the Dermablend—a coloring that no makeup in the world could replicate. If I saw only the right side of my face, I knew I looked better without the makeup, but I didn’t walk around with only half of a face.
Without makeup, the scar was still a deep shade of pink, standing out starkly against my complexion, slicing from the corner of my left eye almost to the corner of my lip. It was the only thing I could see.
I stiffened at the sound of Jax’s voice and then gripped the sink. I couldn’t go out there. It was ridiculous, but I couldn’t let him see me like this.
“Are you okay?” he called.
Holding my breath, I turned toward the door. Would it be obvious if I walked out with a towel over my head? I was being stupid. I knew this, but Jax had just been kissing me, he’d had his hands on me, and he’d touched me, making me feel something so beautiful and this—this was so ugly. I didn’t want him to . . .
A whoosh of cold air swept through my body and I closed my eyes, drawing in several deep breaths. Jax knew the scar was on my face. He’d been all up close and personal with my face. He even kissed—
The bathroom door swung open, banging into the wall, and my eyes popped open as Jax barged in.
I hadn’t locked the bathroom door.
He did a body scan, as if he were checking to see if I was injured or something. “Jesus,” he ground out. “I thought you fell in here and knocked yourself unconscious or something.”
Well, that was kind of embarrassing, but not the most pressing issue. I angled my body to the left so he could see my right profile. “I can’t go to breakfast.”
“I can’t go to breakfast. I need to go back to the house.” I knew it sounded irrational and stupid. “Can we go back to the house?”
Jax shifted and his denim-clad leg came into my view. His feet were bare, poking out from the frayed hem of his jeans. “Why?”
“I just need to go back to the house. If you want to go ahead to IHOP, I can get my car and meet you there. That would probably—”
My chin jerked up and dipped to the left. “Excuse me?”
His eyes flashed with anger. “We’re not taking separate cars when I just had my hand between your legs and you came while calling my name.”
I opened my mouth, but really, what do you say in response to that?
“We’re going to leave here together, eat some greasy goodness, and then we’re going to go check out this place for your mom,” he continued. “And when we’re done, if we have time before our shifts start, we’re going to indulge in a nap.”
“A nap?” Really, out of all of that, that is what I focused on?
“A nap together?”
“Yeah,” and then his voice dropped, “and if we have time, I might make you come calling my name again.”
Holy crap, he did not just say that.
Then he stepped farther into the bathroom, coming at me, and I backed up, hitting the sink. He crowded me, and as I tried to look to the left, his hand cupped my right cheek and the other circled the left side of my neck. He turned my face straight to his. This wasn’t the first time he’d done that, I realized.
“I’m not stupid,” he said, smoothing his thumb along the bones in my throat. “I’m also pretty damn observant when I need to be.”
“Okay?” I whispered. “Um, thanks for the heads-up on that.”
His lips twitched as he tilted my head back so our eyes locked. “I know why you’re hiding in the bathroom.”
Oh God. “Because I’m afraid you’re going to make me try another pie I’d never eaten before?”
“Ha. No.” His head lowered, and I swallowed hard. “I don’t notice it.”
My heart tumbled over and I went with pretending to be dumb. “Notice what?”
“Calla, babe, you know what I’m talking about. This.” Then his head slanted and I felt his lips at the corner of my left eye, just below it.
I sucked in a sharp breath that hurt. He’d done this before, too, and it created the same maelstrom of emotion in me, but he did more this time. His lips followed that scar all the way down my cheek, right to the corner of my left lip, and then he kissed me. It was soft and sweet and it lingered. My hands went to his chest and I leaned into him.