Oh. Wow.

“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.”

Eighteen

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.

“Huh?”

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 naked!”

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 naked! Totally freaking naked, 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.

Nothing.

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.

“Oh God.”

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.

“Calla?”

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.

Le sigh.

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.”

“What?”

“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—”

“Hell no.”

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?

“Together.”

“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.

When he lifted his mouth from mine and pressed his forehead against mine, tears had built in the back of my throat. “I don’t care about it, Calla. I don’t even think about it,” he said. “I don’t even see it.”

I squeezed my eyes shut as my heart squeezed into goo. Immediately, I didn’t believe him, because come the f**k on, but I stopped—I just stopped. Stopped telling myself I knew what was going on in Jax’s head and that I knew what he wanted and didn’t want. I stopped. Because I didn’t know—no one ever knew, scarred or not. Stopped telling myself there was no point, because I planned on leaving. And all I had was what Jax was telling me, and what he was showing me. So I stopped all the other bullshit and I shook that crap off and it was like scrubbing Dermablend off my face at night, when I finally felt like me. All of this might be dumb. It might bite me in the ass later, but I was going to be dumb. I was going to be the best dumb I could be.

Whoa.

I wobbled a little and I exhaled through my nose and when I spoke, my voice was unsteady and the back of my eyes burned, but I pushed on. “Okay. Let’s do this. And get this done, because I really want that nap.”

Those lips curved against mine. “That’s my girl.”

When Jax walked out of the townhouse, he was tugging the back of his shirt down as he walked down the small set of stairs on the front stoop. He was rocking a pair of mirrored sunglasses, aviator style like Jase wore, and he’d looked just as good in them.

We didn’t talk much as he drove to IHOP, which was good, because I was fixated on what might happen before or after the possible nap. More orgasms not self-induced? Count me in. I was so going to follow through with my newly desired dumbness and not worry about anything else while exploring the dumb.

Like any normal red-blooded female, I’d thought about sex a decent amount, but not as much as I had in the last hour or so. My brain was playing happily in the gutter, right up until the plate of bacon, biscuits, and something Jax had said were grits and that I needed to try.

It was hard not thinking about being out in public without makeup, but every time my mind wandered to it or I thought someone was checking it out, like when a small boy had peeked over the back of the booth or when the waitress smiled at me, I forced it out of my thoughts.

And then my thoughts went to this—this Jax and me thing. There was a thing. As he’d said earlier, he had his hand between my thighs and I’d called his name, so there was a thing. A thing I had little experience in, and I wasn’t sure how far this thing really was going to go, because if my financial aid kicked in, I’d be heading three hours down the road. What kind of future was there for our thing when I’d be at college and he’d be all sexy working the bar?

Why was I even thinking about this? Because I was dumb and I’d already decided that I was going to go with this thing, whatever it was, and whatever going with this thing meant.

I poked at the white lumpy crap with my fork. “This is grits?”

“Try it.”

“It looks like something out of a horror movie.” I poked it again. “I’m afraid it’s going to launch itself off the plate and cover my face.”

Jax chuckled as he added some pancakes to the river of syrup.

“It’s not funny. I’ll end up birthing an alien grit baby or something,” I muttered. “And then what are we going to do?”

He peered up through his lashes, a small, amused grin playing across his lips. “Just try it.”

“What does it taste like?” I resisted.

“Grits.”

I lowered my fork, looking at him blandly. “Details.”

He laughed as he cut through what looked like ten pancakes stacked. “One cannot simply describe grits. One must simply enjoy them.”

My eyes rolled, but I scooped up a small taste, made sure I had cheese in it, and gingerly tasted them. The whole time Jax watched and waited. I swallowed, unsure of what to think. I tried a little more.

“So?” he asked.

“I don’t know.” I shoved a mouthful in. “I haven’t decided yet. I think they taste good, but they’re called grits; therefore I’m not sure I can freely admit to liking something called grits. I have to really think about this.”




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