“It was so hot. The paint was blistering. There was no air and . . .” I drew in a shaky breath and I didn’t realize that I’d spoken out loud until his lips pressed against my temple again.
“I know you were lucky to survive,” he said, smoothing his thumbs along the sides of my waist. “Your dad got to you first and he brought you outside. And then he and your Mom tried to get back inside, upstairs again, but it was fully engulfed. They couldn’t get back up the stairs . . . it was too late for your brothers.”
I twisted again, but Jax held on. The ice in my chest was spreading, becoming a real, tangible pain. “Tommy never woke up.” I remembered hearing Mom say that once. That after an autopsy was performed, it showed that he’d died from smoke inhalation. A blessing in disguise, because by the time the fire was put out, his room was nothing but charred cinder and wood. “Kevin . . . he was awake.”
Again, with the quiet voice, “I know.”
I opened my eyes slowly and my lashes felt damp. “Their coffins,” I whispered, squeezing my eyes tight once more and seeing them. “They were so small. You know, smaller than you think they made coffins. And yet, I know they make them even smaller, but God . . . they were so small.”
His lips brushed under the corner of my right eye, and I knew—oh God, my chest hurt—I knew he’d caught a tear, and the iciness in my chest, invading my stomach and my soul, eased off a little bit.
“They never had a chance,” I said, dragging in another deep breath. “The fire started right outside their rooms, in the ceiling and walls. It spread so quickly.”
Jax remained quiet, and a few moments passed before I spoke again. “Our family was awarded a large sum of money once it was discovered that the fire . . . it was due to the faulty wiring. Dad put some in a college fund for me. That’s . . . that’s the money Mom had drained. And she had a lot of money—hundreds of thousands that she had to have blown through.” My fingers eased off the blanket. “Dad left not even a year later. He couldn’t deal.”
“Fucker,” muttered Jax.
My eyes opened wide and I started to defend my dad, but stopped myself. Yeah, he was kind of a f**ker. I’d accepted that long ago. The next breath I took was easier. “I’ve never talked to anyone about this. Not even my friends at home. It’s not like I haven’t . . . dealt with it, because I have. I was young when all of this happened and I still miss my brothers. It’s just so damn sad.”
Our gazes met, and I felt my heart turn over heavily in my chest. I knew he wasn’t done.
“I know this isn’t the only thing.” He lifted a hand and trailed a finger along the length of my scar. “I know you have other scars.”
I couldn’t look away. Damn if I didn’t want to, but his gaze held me, and his eyes were warm, they were focused.
“And I know you were burned, Calla.” At that, my chest clenched with a mixture of embarrassment and relief. “I know you had surgeries and I know those surgeries stopped before they were supposed to.”
“Mom . . . she . . .”
“She got caught up in her own shit. She forgot or she couldn’t deal,” he confirmed. “She never really said why, and I know this doesn’t make anything better, but she felt a hell of a lot of guilt over it. That much is obvious.”
Yeah, that didn’t change anything. It never would. I didn’t know if that made me a cold bitch or not, but some things couldn’t be easily forgotten. They weren’t designed that way.
“I’ve never . . . no one has ever seen the scars,” I said in a voice barely above a whisper. “They’re not pretty.”
“They’re a part of you.”
I nodded slowly. My thoughts where awhirl again as my gaze searched out his. He’d known from day one that there were a lot of scars I was hiding. Hell, he’d known before he even laid eyes on me, because of my mom and Clyde. I wasn’t sure what to think of them telling someone who had been a virtual stranger to me, but I couldn’t muster up the anger over that. I couldn’t dredge up any more emotion as I stared at him. “You like me.”
His lips twitched. “Not a news flash, honey. I like you, knowing that the scars are a part of you.”
“But how?” It wasn’t the first time I asked him this.
“I’ve already told you how.” Both hands were back on my waist again, and my breath caught. “I think it’s past time for me to just show you.”
My brows rose. “Show me?”
“Yeah, show you.”
His hands curved under my arms as he lifted me up, and I tightened my hold on my drink. He moved me until I was closer to the headboard, smack dab in the middle of the bed. He reached between us, took my fruit punch, and placed it on the nightstand.
Then he got down to the business of making it real obvious that he was into me.
Morning sunlight streamed in through the large square window when I blinked open my eyes, and I came awake with a mouth on my neck, trailing tiny, hot kisses down the side of my throat.
Oh wow. My lips curved up at the corners, and then I gasped as his tongue flicked over the sensitive spot just below my ear. My back arched on its own accord when his hand smoothed from where it rested on my stomach, over my shirt to the curve of my hip.
That was a great way to wake up.
Last night was . . . well, it was literally orgasmic, and although we hadn’t been asleep that many hours, I woke up feeling like I’d slept for a year. Though I doubted the orgasm he’d given me with his clever hand had anything to do with that. It was the fact that last night, something happened. A bit of the weight lifted off my chest. There wasn’t this wall between us.
Was there ever one?
Funny thing was, the wall might have never been there, at least not on his side. He’d known about the fire, about my brothers and the money, the scars and how horrible all of it was. He’d known before he’d even seen me face-to-face. And he didn’t care. I didn’t fully get it. Probably would never really understand, but when he set out to proving he was into me last night, with all the kissing and the touching, like I had decided before, I was going to stop trying to figure it out.
My shorts were off, lying forgotten somewhere on Jax’s bedroom floor, and when his hand drifted below the thin strap of my undies and glided over my bare skin, I bit down on my lower lip. His other hand had made its way down my upper thigh and curled around the back of my knee. He lifted my leg up, forcing my behind into the groove of his lap.
There was definitely more than a flutter between my legs at the feel of him pressing into me from behind. The heaviness was back in my br**sts, and with a wet, sensual kiss against my pulse, I was already damp, and it took everything not to immediately start squirming.
Last night, Jax hadn’t . . . he hadn’t gotten off. After he’d done his thing to me, he’d tucked me to him, my back to his front, and that had been it. I’d wondered then how he could give and not get anything in return, but I’d been too thrown off by everything to question it—and a wee bit blissed out to move—and I hadn’t had the courage to change it. Mainly because I had the general idea of what to do to rectify that problem, but I probably needed a learner’s curve.
But today was a different day and I was going to grow some lady balls, starting right now. I shifted onto my back, and Jax stared down at me, all sleepy and sexy looking. Before I could say or do anything, his lips were on mine, starting off with a slow and sweet kiss. The slight stubble on his cheek tickled my palm as I skated my hand down his face. He shifted over me, resting one leg between mine, pressing his thigh against the softest part of me, and I could feel his hardness against my lower belly. The feel took my breath.
“Morning,” he rumbled against my parted lips.
One side of his lips tipped up.
My heart was starting to speed up for various reasons. For one thing, his mouth was on mine again, and this kiss was much deeper. His tongue was moving against mine and then it was his right hand. It was on the move and I had a feeling it was heading to where it had gone last night. To my br**sts. I tensed, like I had before, and I had to force myself not to grab his hand, like I had done before. I didn’t this time, because I knew there wasn’t a point. When he wanted to touch me, he was going to touch me.
And he touched me again.
His large hand closed over my left breast, and I knew he could feel the scars there, but the caress didn’t stumble as he zeroed onto the now-aching tip. Jax was good . . . so good that even through a T-shirt and a tank top, he had my nipple puckered when his thumb and forefinger got going, and sharp tingles arced from my br**sts to down south. I gasped into the hot kiss, raising my back, and I wasn’t disappointed when he moved to my other breast.
“Fuck, I love that sound you make,” he all but growled against my mouth. He kissed me again. “I want to hear it again.”
So he made me make that sound again, and I was done with not squirming, but I wanted to touch him. I knew I needed to act now, because if I didn’t, his hand would be south again, and hell, all bets were off.
Smoothing my hand off the back of his neck, I slid it across the rough skin of his chest, and almost forgot what I was doing when I imagined what our skin would feel like with nothing between us. Not like that was ever going to happen, so I refocused on my path, trailing my hand down his side, then across the flat expanse of his upper stomach.
“What are you up to?’ he asked, voice husky.
Jax lifted up so there was space between our bodies, and I loved the way his abs tightened with the movement. He arched a brow. “Nothing?”
Shaking my head, I bit down on my lip as my fingers skated around his navel and reached the band on his black boxer briefs. With a deep breath, I slipped my fingers under the band.
He caught my wrist. “You want to touch me?”
Warmth flooded my face and a different kind of heat hit my veins. “Yes.” I forced my gaze up, meeting his. “I want to give you . . . what you’ve given me.”
The hunger in his stare sent a shiver of awareness down my spine. “I like that. I want that.” Dipping his head, he caught my lower lip in a quick kiss. “I’ll make you a deal.”
He trailed his lips across my jaw. “Yeah. A deal. You can touch me.” He moved my wrist by mere inches, lowering my hand over the short, crisp hairs. “But you got to take off the shirt.”
He kissed my temple. “Yes. The shirt. It’s got to come off.”
My heart pumped as I tensed. Taking off the shirt didn’t mean I was getting nak*d. I had a tank top underneath, but it would show off the scars on my upper chest and it would expose some of my back. But I was also on my back, so it wasn’t like he’d see that.
“I want you to touch me,” Jax said to me, and I shivered again. “Real bad. You want it, too.” His teeth skated over my earlobe. “Just the shirt.”
I didn’t know if I could do it, but I nodded and then whispered, “Okay.”
Jax acted fast. He drew my hand away from him and caught my shirt under the hem in one fist. His other hand slid under my lower back and he lifted me up enough to get the shirt up and then, in a second, it was over my head.
I lay back down, eyes wide and heart racing. His gaze met mine as he dropped the shirt on the floor and then his gaze slowly tracked down my face, over my throat and lower. His stare lingered on my chest, and fear pierced my belly. I moved to cross my arms.
“Don’t you dare,” he ordered in a gentle way. “There’s nothing you need to hide.”
My chest squeezed as his hand trailed over my breast. It was then I realized what he was staring at. It wasn’t the small visible patch of skin between my br**sts or the slice showing above my left breast.
It was something else.
The tips of my br**sts were aching and hard, pushing against the thin material of the tank top, and my breath caught in a half laugh, half sob. His gaze flicked back, holding my stare as he lowered his head.
His mouth hit the skin between my br**sts first and he kissed me there, then he went to the tip of one breast, also kissing me there, through the material, and he sucked deep, causing my back to arch clear off the bed as a riot of sensation rocketed through me.
God, I’d never felt that before.
“You like that?” he asked.
I panted out a breathy “Yes.”
He moved to my other breast, and that was awesome. I could barely breathe as his hand got involved, and I almost forgot the purpose behind taking off my shirt, because I had no idea how sensitive I could be there, but then he lifted his head. He got down to his side of the deal, and he was fast about it. Reaching down, he hooked his fingers under the band of his boxers and shimmied it down his hips.