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Authors: M. Leighton

Tags: #Fiction / Romance / Contemporary

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BOOK: Some Like It Wild
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With his words ringing in my head, he crushes his lips against mine again, threading the fingers of one hand into my wet hair as his other hand presses my hips against his.

It’s not until I hear a delighted squeal that I remember we aren’t alone.

Reluctantly, I pull my mouth away from his. My thoughts are foggy. I can’t think right with him touching me, kissing me, talking to me this way.

Dazedly, I look around, prepared to be mortified. But no one is paying us any attention. Jake had enough sense to pull us to the bend at the edge of the cove, practically hidden from the view of the others.

“Don’t worry. They can’t see.”

“I know, but still . . .”

I lean away. The spell is broken. This conversation, this
moment
deserves privacy. Of course, privacy could mean that we’d get carried away. And I’m not sure yet just how far it’s safe for me to let Jake carry me. I’d thought there was no danger of me getting attached to him, but as I look at his handsome face and think of the great care and consideration he’s shown me today, I worry that Mr. Wrong might start to feel like Mr. Right.

* * *

My shorts are finally dry. Well, Hannah’s shorts are finally dry, I should say. After Jake and I got out of the water, we sat on a log in the sun to let our clothes dry. It took just long enough that my head finally began to clear.

And indecision set in.

Am I really capable of engaging in even the most casual of relationships and banter with a guy like Jake? Earlier, I definitely thought so, but now . . . It seems that no matter how badly I get hurt or how much fun there is to be had on the “other side,” I’m still the same girl at heart. Some like it wild, but not me. At least not forever. I still want the same things. A man to love me more than anything. A man to put me and our family first. A man to build a life with. And I’m not crazy enough to think that Jake is that guy.

I might be crazy enough to wish he was, though.

I notice the low position of the sun and start to feel guilty about running off the way I did, without so much as a word to my parents. Yes, I’m an adult, but it was a really inconsiderate thing to do.

“I think I should probably head home,” I say to Jake when the music dies down again. Saltwater Creek has played intermittently since we arrived, and they’re actually quite good. I don’t really want to leave yet. The thought of curling up next to Jake, after dark, in front of the fire I can see them building on the beach area, is extremely tempting. But . . .

Jake is agreeable about leaving. He doesn’t seem to have any preference for staying or going.

He’s quiet on the drive home, but I don’t think that really says much. I get the feeling he’s not one for small talk.

It’s fully dark by the time we reach town. “You know, you could just drop me at my parents’ house if you wouldn’t mind. I can get one of them to take me to my car in the morning. It’s getting late.”

Jake shrugs. “Okay.”

“It’s not far from here.”

“I know where you live.”

“You do?”

“Everyone knows where the preacher lives.”

He falls silent again. He guides the Jeep competently through the turns that lead to my street. I study him surreptitiously from beneath my lashes. The sharp angle of his cheekbones and the sculpted edge of his lips are highlighted by the soft glow of the dashboard light. He doesn’t seem mad or upset, or inconvenienced. He just seems like . . . Jake.

Handsome, charming, sexy Jake.

Jake who sets my blood on fire. Jake who I can’t get out of my head.

“Home sweet home,” he says lightly as he parks at the curb in front of the house I grew up in.

I grab my rumpled clothes and purse from the floorboard and reach for the door handle. “Thanks, Jake. I had a good time.”

“My pleasure,” he replies.

He seems . . . off somehow, but I can’t put my finger on it. I want to ask, but there are a thousand reasons why I shouldn’t, why I shouldn’t even care.

“Well, good night.”

“Good night.” I start to climb down, but Jake’s voice stops me. “Oh, wait.” My heart speeds up in anticipation. Jake cuts off the engine and pulls the keys from the ignition. He works one free and hands it to me. “Here. I won’t be there for a few days. It’s a round-the-clock shift at the fire station. Let yourself in, make yourself at home. Call my cell if you have any questions about anything.”

I take the key from his fingers. “How will you get back in tonight?”

He waves me off. “I didn’t lock the door. Besides, we have a spare key hidden in one of the barns.”

I nod and give him a small smile, feeling bereft that the night is ending like this. So cool. So casual. So disappointing in the face of what happened earlier.

You’ve got no one to blame but yourself. Besides, you should be pleased. Jake Theopolis is a complication you don’t need.

“Sweet dreams, Laney,” Jake says as I’m shutting the door. I look back, but he’s already pulling away.

But I could’ve sworn I saw him grinning, and that elevates my mood considerably. That seems a little more in character for him. Enough to bring a delighted smile to my face.

I’m still grinning in pleasure as I walk through the unlocked front door of my parents’ house. When I shut it behind me and hear nothing but unnatural quiet and the tick of the mantle clock in the living room, my guard goes up immediately.

There’s trouble brewing.

Quietly, I creep toward the steps. I feel like a teenager again, trying to avoid a confrontation that will end in a lecture and then me being grounded for all eternity.

Only I’m not a teenager. And I’m beginning to resent that I still feel that way when I come home.

“Laney, can you come here?”

My father. And I recognize that tone.

My stomach drops.

Curling my clothes into a tighter ball, I straighten my spine and walk to the living room. I smile casually when I stop just inside the doorway. “What’s up?”

Both my parents look like I’ve just slapped them across the face. And they’re both staring at my wad of clothes.

“Laney, what on earth?” Mom asks, holding a hand to her throat like I just announced I’m pregnant or joining a cult.

“Where have you been, young lady?” Daddy asks.

“Out.”

I know such a short answer will only incur more questions and more wrath, but I’m still feeling a bit defiant from the taste of freedom I’ve enjoyed all day.

“Out where? And with whom? And whose clothes are those? Because I
know
they’re not yours.”

“And just how do you know that, Daddy?”

“Because
my daughter
would never dress like that!” he booms.

“And what’s wrong with this? I’m not showing anything inappropriate. And, for what I was doing, this was actually quite concealing.”

Mom gasps.

“And just what
were
you doing?”

“Swimming. Is that a problem?”

“Where?”

“A place called the Blue Hole.”

My father’s face turns red. “You know you’re forbidden to go to places like that.”

“Yes, Daddy. I know I
was
forbidden to go to places like that. But that was before I went to college, became an adult, and got a job out in the real world.”

“Just because you’re a few years older doesn’t make places like that any more appropriate. Or the people that frequent them.” I say nothing. There’s no arguing with him when he’s like this. “Who were you with? Who took you to that hellhole?”

I grit my teeth. This will just be icing on the cake. “Jake Theopolis.”

“Laney, I’ve told you—”

I interrupt my father’s blustering. “I know, I know. You don’t think he’s good company. You don’t think he’s the right kind of friend to have. You don’t approve. Well, you know what, Daddy? I like him. He’s kind and he helped me when I needed it today. And I think you’ve misjudged him.”

“And just what would Shane think about you spending time with someone like that?”

He thinks that’s what will cinch up his argument. A veiled threat to tattle on me to my fiancé.

Ha! He’s my
ex
-fiancé!

“I don’t care, Daddy. And it doesn’t matter. How many times do I have to tell you that we broke up?”

“Well, until you give me a good reason, I’m not giving up on the two of you. Shane’s a good man. The right kind of man. Good for you. You need to hang on to him. And cavorting about with a person like Jake Theopolis could ruin what you have with him. And I won’t stand for that. Someone has to look out for you, do what’s best for you.”

“Maybe so, Daddy. But you’re not it. From now on,
I’m
the only one that’s looking out for me. And if I ever find someone I feel like handing the reins over to, I’ll be sure to let you know. But until then, back off!”

With that, I whirl away from my stunned parents and storm up the stairs and to my room, slamming the door behind me.

If they want a teenager back in the house, I’ll give them one!

* * *

Between that devilish drink I had at the Blue Hole, the drama with my parents, and the miniscule amount of sleep I was able to get after it, I’m tired and cranky by the time I drive back home from Jake’s Monday.

As I pull up in front of the house, I wonder absently why Mom’s car is parked on the street at the curb rather than in the garage. When nothing comes to mind right away, I shrug it off and grab my stuff from the passenger seat to head inside.

Something wonderful teases my nose when I open the door. I inhale deeply, feeling better already. “I’ll be back down after I change clothes, Mom!” I call, aiming my voice toward the kitchen as I head for the stairs.

In my room, I dig through my still-packed suitcase and pull out some yoga pants and a T-shirt with a rip at the neck. I’m hoping my most comfortable clothes will bring me good luck. Maybe my parents can just leave last night where it belongs—in the past.

Maybe.

I hope.

I jog back down the steps and make the right that will take me through the dining room and into the kitchen. I see the table is set. Quite formally, actually. I think back for a second to any plans Mom might’ve told me about, but I come up with nothing.

Again.

I stop dead in my tracks after one step into the kitchen. My mouth drops open and all thought flies out of my head when I see what’s waiting for me.

Or, rather,
who
.

Sitting at the island, still dressed in his work clothes, is Shane. My ex fiancé. The man I have no desire to see or speak to ever again.

At first, I’m just confused. I look to Mom then to Dad, asking, “What’s he doing here?”

Shane stands and walks to me, reaching out to put his hands on my shoulders. I flinch at his touch, backing away from him. “Laney, we need to talk. And your father thought this might be a good time for us to do that.”

His voice is well-modulated, purposely made to sound reasonable and confident. But all I hear is the voice of a liar. Of the man who broke my heart and betrayed me. With my best friend.

I’m flooded with disbelief. This can’t be right. My parents would never, never be so manipulative and inconsiderate.

I lean to look around Shane’s shoulder, expecting to see some sign of outrage at his lies. Or at the very least something to show me that he was gravely mistaken.

But that’s not what I see at all.

I see the support of my parents. But not for me. For my ex fiancé.

It’s an ambush.

“You did this?” I whisper, addressing my father. My throat is closed around a knot so large it feels like a fist. “Please tell me he’s wrong. Please tell me this is just a misunderstanding.”

My mother has the good grace to bow her head. This obviously wasn’t her idea.

My eyes slide back to my father, standing tall and proud and unapologetic behind the island. Behind Shane.

“How could you?” I can barely squeeze out the words, but I know they are easily intelligible in the absolute quiet of the room.

“I can’t let you make a mistake with that Theopolis boy that you’ll regret for the rest of your life.”

With an ache in my chest that feels like a raw and bleeding cavern, I turn away from my father. “The only two mistakes I’ve made, Daddy, are trusting Shane and coming back here.”

Without a backward glance, I retrace my footsteps back up the steps, throw my few toiletries back into my suitcase, grab my purse, and go right back out to my car.

As I’m pulling away from the curb, away from the home and the people that seem barely recognizable to me right now, I have no idea where I’m going. I just know I can’t stay here.

TEN:
Jake

I
’m tired. Not from overexertion like I might’ve been after a forty-eight-hour shift in Baton Rouge. No, this is from boredom. From being static for the better part of two days. It’s no wonder there’s only a dozen guys on the entire fire department force here. There just isn’t enough activity to keep many people busy.

I worked an extra eighteen hours, bringing my total to sixty-six hours straight. I was hoping to at least get some kind of call where I could exercise my response skills, but no such luck. It was just . . . quiet.

Damn.

Since it’s the middle of the night, I figure I’ll get a few hours’ sleep then get up and go for a run. At least working here at the orchard is a
little bit
stimulating. There’s more to do than eat and play cards and watch television.

I stretch my neck as I pull into the long driveway that leads to the house. I’m missing Baton Rouge and all its excitement and activity, right up until I see the dusk-to-dawn light shining on a familiar blue car parked in front of the garage. The sight pushes Baton Rouge—and every other desire, for the most part—to the very back of my mind.

“What the hell is Laney doing here at this hour?” I ask out loud as I recheck the dashboard clock to make sure I’m not missing something.

Nope. Sure enough, it’s three o’clock in the morning.

I park beside her car and make my way quietly into the house. There are no lights on, no signs of life, which makes me wonder if maybe she had car trouble and had to have someone pick her up and drive her home.

That’s possible. But, even though I can’t imagine why, it’s still also possible that she’s asleep in my house right this minute.

Where I was tired before, now I’m wide awake. And feeling all kinds of stimulated.

Silently, I mount the stairs and stop at the top of the steps to look around and listen. There are no sounds, and nothing seems out of place.

Except for the fact that my bedroom door is closed. My dick twitches behind my zipper as all manner of lewd, hot scenarios involving me and Laney flit through my head. I bite back a groan and take a deep breath before moving on down the hall, in complete stealth, toward my door.

I twist the knob and ease the door open. There, lying in a shaft of moonlight with her platinum hair spread out over my maroon pillowcase, is Laney, fast asleep. The covers are pushed down to her hips, leaving her entire upper body exposed. She’s wearing a form-fitting tank top that hugs her chest so tight I can see the outline of her nipples. They make my mouth water. And from what I can see, the only other thing she’s wearing is a pair of light-colored panties.

I debate the best course of action from this point. The
right
thing to do would be to shut the door and leave her undisturbed while I go sleep on the couch. But that’s not what I
want
to do.

As I stand in the doorway staring at Laney, I remember our kiss at the Blue Hole. We have unfinished business. And that business is what has me throwing the “right thing” right out the window, in favor of the thing I want.

Laney.

It only takes me a few seconds to strip down to my boxer briefs. She’s lucky I’ve been bunking with a bunch of guys for the last few days, or else I wouldn’t be wearing any.

As gently as I can, I peel back the covers and slide in beside her. I can feel her body heat radiating toward me under the sheet, warming my legs. My cock throbs with the desire to part her thighs and sink into her like I sank into the mattress—slow and easy.

I fold my hands behind my head, grit my teeth, and close my eyes, counting to twenty-five in an effort to get my body back under control. I hear Laney shift beside me right before I feel her hand sneak across my stomach. She drops one leg over mine and snuggles in. I wait a few seconds before I lower my arm and cup her shoulder with my hand. She sighs, and I relax against her.

But then I feel her stiffen.

I know the instant she comes awake. It’s like her whole body goes on alert, even though she hasn’t moved a muscle. Her hair tickles my chest as she raises her head to look up at me.

“What are you doing?” she asks softly, as though she’s not quite sure she’s awake.

“I’m going to bed. What are you doing?”

“Sleeping.”

“I can see that.”

Her brow furrows like she’s still working all this out. Her blue eyes are heavy and I can see her struggle to push her way through the cobwebs. She’s trying to find her way to wakefulness and reality.

“Are you really here?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Because you should be at work and I could be dreaming.”

“So you dream about me?”

“Yes,” she replies candidly.

“Are they good dreams?”

“Mostly, yes.”

“Mmm, would you like them to be real?”

“Sometimes.”

“What about now?”

Her eyes search mine before they drop to my mouth. That tells me at least part of what she dreams about—kissing me. “Yes,” she whispers.

“Were you dreaming of my lips?” I ask, keeping my voice low so as not to fully wake her. I know what her answer is; I just want to hear her admit it.

Gently, I roll until she’s on her back and I’m hovering over her. I brush my lips over hers, using just enough pressure to tickle her, tease her.

“Yes,” she sighs, her minty breath fanning my face as she relaxes back into the mattress.

“How about my tongue? Were you dreaming about it?” I trace the outline of her lips with the tip of my tongue, dipping inside only long enough to make her want more.

“Mmm-hmmm,” she moans in answer, tilting her face up in open invitation.

“Do you dream about it here?” I ask, flicking her earlobe with my tongue. I descend to her collarbone, easing my fingers under the thin strap of her top. I feel her fingers push into my hair, and I know I’m getting warmer. “Or do you dream about them here?” I pull one side of her top down until her creamy breast and pink nipple are exposed. I draw the pebble into my mouth and feel her fingers clench into a fist, tugging on my hair. “Mmm, you like it there, huh?” As I tease and suck her nipple, I slip my knee between her legs, parting them a little farther. “What about here? Do you dream of my tongue here?” My hand glides down her flat stomach to the damp material between her thighs.

I knew they would be wet.

“Yes,” she breathes heavily.

Moving the cotton to the side, I slide one finger between her slick folds. “I bet you dream of my tongue here, don’t you?” I ask, caressing her wet skin.

Her answer is more of a moan, but it speaks just as clearly as any words. I move down to kiss her bare stomach. “And here,” I whisper as I ease my finger into her. When her muscles squeeze, I can’t hold back a groan. “Oh, shit, you’re so tight!”

She moves her hips against my hand and I can feel her body sucking at my finger, begging me to fill it with something bigger, something harder. But as much as I want to do exactly that, I want her to be fully awake and fully consensual for it. I’ve never had sex with a woman who wasn’t aware of what was happening. And although I can feel how willing her body is, I want her mind to be on board, too.

“Laney, you know this is real, right?” I ask, reluctantly stilling my hand and looking up past her luscious nipple to her passion-filled face. “You’re here with me, in my bed, and I’m getting ready to make you come so hard, you’ll scream my name. Tell me you want me to do that.”

Her eyes are wide and very much awake, but now that I’m giving her an out, I can see the indecision rushing in. I can feel it in the way she’s tensing beneath me.

Why the hell did I do that? Fu—

“I’m sorry,” she whispers, interrupting my thought and confirming my suspicion. “I can’t think straight around you, and certainly not when you’re . . . touching me.”

I hold back a sigh and give her a wry smile. “I kinda figured as much.” Reluctantly removing my finger from inside her, I move back up her body to lean over her. I pull a strand of hair away from her face. “This
is
gonna happen. You know that, right?”

She says nothing. She doesn’t agree, but she doesn’t
disagree
either, which tells me she knows it, too.

“Just not tonight,” I say, rolling off her and sitting up to run my fingers through my hair. With my back to her, it gives her time to straighten her clothes without me looking on. It gives
me
time to focus on not getting harder. And not trying to persuade her. Which I could do.

I know if I pressed her, I could get her to give in. But I won’t. When we do this, I want her body
and
her mind begging for it. “Tonight, I’m very interested to know how I came home to find you in my bed.”

“Are you complaining?”

I turn around to look at her, to see if she’s kidding. Her expression is unreadable. “Hell no!”

She smiles and draws her knees up to her chest, resting her chin on them. Even though it’s an innocent gesture, it’s so prim it’s somehow sexy. And it makes me want her all over again.

I stretch out on my side, crossways in front of her, resting my head on my palm. “So, tell me your tale, Goldilocks.”

Laney focuses on her toes as she wiggles them. I don’t say anything else to prompt her. She’ll tell me in her own time. She has to. She’s been sleeping in my bed, for God’s sake.

Finally she speaks. Her voice is quiet. Wounded.

“It won’t make any sense unless I start from the beginning.”

“Okay, then start from the beginning.”

She glances up at me then quickly away, almost like she’s embarrassed. Now I’m more curious than ever to know her deal.

“My whole life, all I’ve ever wanted was to get married and have kids, and find in life what my parents have.” I suppress a groan.

Damn! Why does she have to be
that
kind of woman?

“I met a guy my freshman year in college. He seemed like the perfect man. He was smart, responsible, ambitious, loving. He had pretty much the same goals as me. And I thought he was trustworthy. Turns out he wasn’t. I found him in bed a couple of months ago. With my best friend.”

“Oh shit! What an asshole!”

Laney nods, still staring at her toes. “I’m sure you know . . . I mean, I doubt it’s any surprise to you that . . .”

When she doesn’t finish, I prompt her. “What? Spit it out? What should I know?”

She struggles with how to phrase whatever she’s getting at. I watch her small, white teeth chew nervously at her bottom lip. It’s distracting as hell. Makes me wish she’d finish her story and then ask me to lick her from head to toe.

Although I doubt that’s likely.

At least not tonight.

Maybe tomorrow night . . . If I can get her to stay . . .

When she still doesn’t speak, I bark, “Damn, woman! Out with it.”

“Look, I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that people see you as a . . . a . . . kind of a wild guy.”

“Seems like I’ve heard that a time or two, but what’s that got to do with anything?”

She shrugs. “Well, my parents know that I’m working on your family’s estate, and . . .”

“Ahhh, and they don’t like you associating with the likes of me,” I finish for her.

“It’s not really that. I mean, I told them it was just work, but . . .”

“But what?”

“But they don’t believe me, of course. At least not after Sunday.”

“Why? What happened Sunday?”

“Well, you dropped me off at the curb and I had to walk in wearing a hoochie outfit, carrying my church clothes. It doesn’t make a very convincing argument for professionalism.”

I can’t help but laugh. “Those were hoochie clothes?” I nod. “Good to know.”

“To me they are. To my parents, they
definitely
are!”

“So the parents think I’m corrupting you?”

She shrugs. “I suppose so. They know I’m not
that
girl.”

“The kind that wears hoochie clothes,” I say, trying to hide my grin.

“Right. And goes to fun parties and indulges in meaningless flirtation.”

“Maybe they don’t know
what
kind of girl you are. ’Cause Sunday, you sure seemed like you were okay being ‘that girl.’”

“That’s exactly the problem. They know it’s not like me. So . . .”

“They think it’s me.”

“Right.”

“And the preacher disapproves.”

“Very much so.”

“And this is why you’re in my bed? You’re sticking it to the preacher by making it look like I’m sticking it to you?”

She gives me the stink eye, and I grin.

“No one is sticking anything to anybody.”

“That’s a damn shame, too.”

She looks surprised when she giggles, like she wasn’t expecting it. Couldn’t control it.

When her smile dies, she asks, “Are you gonna let me finish?”

“Of course. You have my full attention,” I say, narrowing my eyes on her. She gives me a dubious look then rolls her eyes and continues.


Anyway
, after my parents and I discussed where I was, who I was with, and why, we got into an argument. You see, they don’t know why Shane and I broke up.”

“Shane’s Mr. Perfect?”

Another withering look.

“Anyway, long story short, they didn’t like that we broke up, they didn’t like that I was with you, and they took it upon themselves to fix it. So after I came here and worked on the estate all day Monday, I went home to find that they’d invited Shane for dinner. Without even asking me. They totally ambushed me. Wanted us to talk so they could all tell me how stupid I’m being and how wrong I am to throw what we had away. So I left. And I haven’t been back since.”

“They brought the guy in behind your back?” She nods solemnly. “Damn, that
was
a pretty shitty thing for them to do.”

“I thought so, too. It’s like they just can’t understand. Or don’t want to. They see what they want to see, no matter how wrong or biased,” she says bitterly.

“Over the years I’ve learned that most people are judgmental as hell. They may
think
they’re not. And some probably even try not to be. But most are. It’s human nature.”

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