Be with Me(Wait for You)(4)By: J.Lynn
I started to turn, to go wait in the truck for Cam before I did something embarrassing, like crying all over myself. My emotions had been all over the place since I injured my leg, and seeing Jase wasn’t helping.
“Tess. Wait.” Jase crossed the distance between us in one step with his long legs. Stopping close enough that his worn sneakers almost brushed my toes, he reached out toward me, his hand lingering by my cheek. He didn’t touch me, but the heat from his hand branded my skin. “We need to talk.”
The piece of hair that Jase had reached for blew across my cheek untouched as those words hung between us. My stomach dipped like it did those seconds before I stepped out onto the stage. Fear had always formed an icy ball in the center of my chest when I stopped before the judges and poised, waiting for the music to begin. No matter how many competitions I had entered or how many recitals I performed in, there had always been a second when I wanted nothing more than to run off the stage.
But I hadn’t run away all those times and it was the same with Jase. I wasn’t going to run from this conversation. Long ago, I had been a coward. Too scared to tell the truth about what Jeremy—the ex-boyfriend from hell—had been doing. I wasn’t that girl anymore. I wasn’t a coward anymore.
I took a deep breath. “You’re right. We do need to talk.”
Jase lowered his hand as he glanced over his shoulder, toward the house. Without saying a word, he placed a hand between my shoulder blades. Unprepared for the contact, I jumped and then flushed.
“Walk with me?”
“Sure.” The hummingbird was back with a vengeance, pecking a hole through my chest.
We didn’t end up walking that far as we were still in plain view of the house. With all this land, I figured there were places that offered more privacy, but he steered me to the nearby split-rail fence surrounding the pasture opposite the field where the horses grazed.
“Sit?” he asked, and before I could say standing was fine, his large hands settled around my hips. I gasped as he lifted me up like I weighed no more than his little brother and sat me on the top rail. “This has to be better for your knee.”
“You shouldn’t be standing around.” He folded his arms.
I gripped the rough wood, only relenting because the last thing I wanted to do was talk about my knee. He didn’t say anything as he stared at me and I wanted to sit there mute, forcing him to broach the subject.
My silence lasted all of five seconds before I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind. “It’s stupid.”
“What?” He frowned.
“The name of the town.”
He knocked the longer strands of brown hair out of his face. “You’re mad over the name of the town?”
“Is Spring Mills even a town? You kind of live in Spring Mills, right?” At Jase’s confused stare, I shrugged. “I mean, isn’t it really just Hedgesville or Falling Waters? Just because you build a super Walmart, that doesn’t make it a town.”
Jase stared at me a moment longer and then he laughed deeply—the sound rich and yummy. God help me, but I loved it when he laughed like that. No matter how irritated I was with him or how badly I wanted to karate kick him between the legs, when he laughed, it was like the sun was shining in my eyes.
He leaned against the fence and as tall as he was, we were at eye level as he reached over, draping an arm over my shoulders. He tugged me in close—close enough that if I lifted my head, our mouths would be inches apart. My heart literally did several pliés in my chest. If talking about fake towns and Walmarts got him in the hugging mood, I’d start naming other places like Darksville and Shanghai and—
“Sometimes I don’t think you’re right in the head.” He squeezed me as he dropped his chin to the top of my head, and my breath caught in my throat. “But I like that—I like you. I really do. Not sure what that says about me.”
Pliés? My heart was now a ninja. Maybe this conversation wasn’t going to make me want to go rock in the corner. I relaxed. “That you’re awesome?”
He chuckled as his hand slid down my spine and then was gone. He hoisted himself up beside me. “Yeah, something like that.” There was a stretch of silence and then his gaze settled on me again. His eyes were almost a pale blue now. “I do like you,” he repeated, voice softer. “And that makes it so much harder to figure this out. I don’t know where to really start, Tess.”
The ninja in my heart keeled over dead. But I had a good idea of where he could start. How about why he hadn’t returned a single e-mail or text since that night a year ago? Or why he stopped coming home with Cam? I didn’t get the chance to ask those questions.
“I’m sorry,” he said, and I blinked as the air went out of my lungs. “What happened between us? It shouldn’t have, and I am so very fucking sorry.”
My mouth opened, but I couldn’t make a sound. He was sorry? It felt like he’d punched me in the chest because to be sorry meant he regretted what he’d done. I didn’t regret it, not one bit. That kiss . . . the way he had kissed me proved to me that there really was such a thing as uncontrollable attraction, that yearning for more could be painful in the most delicious way, and that there really were such things as sparks flying when lips touched. Regret it? I’d lived off that kiss, holding it up high and comparing everyone in the past, which was not many, and everyone after him, which was even fewer, to that kiss he regretted.
“I’d been drinking that night,” he continued, that muscle in his jaw thrumming along with my heartbeat. “I was drunk.”
I snapped my mouth shut as those three words sunk in. “You were drunk?”
He looked away, thrusting his hand through his hair again as he squinted. “I didn’t know what I was doing.”
A horrible twisty feeling coiled in my tummy. It was the same feeling when I had come down from my jump wrong. That horrifying, sinking sensation that had been a warning to the burst of pain that had come next. “You drank like two beers that night.”
“Two?” He wouldn’t look at me. “Ah, I know it had to be more than that.”
“Had to be?” My voice squeaked as a different kind of emotion started to fester inside of me. “I remember that night clearly, Jase. You barely drank two beers. You were not drunk.”