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Authors: M. Leighton

Tags: #Fiction / Romance / Contemporary

Some Like It Wild (7 page)

BOOK: Some Like It Wild
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“I try really hard not to be like that.”

“And I think you do a good job. The fact that you’re here right now shows that you’re not as bad as most. Especially in this town.”

She raises big, sorrowful, blue eyes to mine. “I’m sorry people have been so unfair to you and your sister.”

It’s my turn to shrug. “Nah, don’t be. We’ve earned most of it. I’ve pissed off enough people in this town to get that ‘trouble’ label fair and square.”

“Is that all you did? Piss people off?”

I reach out to glide my fingertips up one of her smooth calves. “There might’ve been a few corrupted daughters and compromised wives in the mix. I can’t remember just now.”

“Compromised wives?” she balks.

“Hey, I was young. And they were . . . needy.”

“Oh my gosh! You really
are
a bad boy.”

“Don’t wilt on me now. You were so close.”

“Close to what?”

“Coming to the dark side.”

“No, I wasn’t.”

“Yes, you were. You can sense how much fun it is to stop worrying about what other people think, to just enjoy life as much as you can. We only have a handful of short, sometimes painful days on this earth. You’ve gotta take your pleasure where you can get it.”

“Is that what you’re offering me? Pleasure?”

I sit up and lean toward Laney. She doesn’t back away, just watches me. I can hear as much as feel that she’s holding her breath. “Isn’t that enough?”

I edge in closer and lick over her bottom lip with my tongue.

“I don’t know,” she says softly.

“It can be. You just have to let it. You just have to realize that you’re better off without love. It makes people weak. It makes people lose their common sense and they end up hurting each other. Listen to
you
! Love has brought you nothing but pain and suffering. But I can make all that go away. I can take your mind off the hurt. Make you feel better than you’ve ever felt before. You just have to let me.”

“I don’t know if I can just jump right in like this,” she whispers.

“That’s okay. Jumping can be fun, but so can . . . exploring. As long as we’re on the same page, with the same expectations, we can’t go wrong,” I assure her, reaching forward to circle my fingers around her upper arm and tease the curve of her breast with my thumb.

“So where do we go from here?”

As much as I’d like to go straight to banging her head against my headboard, I know that’s not the smart move right now. So, I bite back my frustrated sigh and opt for a long kiss instead. When she feels a little more relaxed, a little more pliant under my hands, I lean back.

“We go to bed,” I declare, biting her chin and giving her thigh a teasing slap. She yelps playfully and I wink at her. “And we see what we can get into tomorrow.”

“So just fun? No pressure, no promises?”

“Just fun. Lots and lots of fun.” I scoot to my place in the bed and lift an arm, waiting for her to curl up against me, which she does. When she snuggles in and I hear her contented sigh, I smile.

And lots and lots of sex.

That’s my last thought as I drift off to sleep.

ELEVEN:
Laney

I
growl at the skillet and pull it off the heat. The other one is already in the sink, sitting in hot water.

Laney, what were you thinking?

What started out as an attempt at cooking breakfast has morphed into a nightmare. First, I should’ve checked to make sure I could find everything I needed before actually beginning to cook
anything
. The kitchen looks like a demilitarized zone, and I’m pretty sure the house will smell like burnt bacon forever.

Coughing draws my attention toward the doorway. Jake is standing there in jeans that hang perfectly on his hips, a bemused grin on his face and not a scrap of anything else. His hair is sticking up at weird angles and I’m positive I’ve never seen anything more mouthwatering.

“There are easier and much more pleasant ways to wake me up than trying to smoke me out of the bedroom.”

“You said you’re a fireman. I’m testing your skills. You passed,” I say with a cough, my eyes watering so badly I can hardly see.

Jake walks around the island and props open the back door. Einstein, his giant, white-haired dog that I met last week, is sitting on the back porch, whining.

“Quick! Grab a Milk-Bone from the jar on the counter. You’ve deeply offended Einie’s delicate sense of smell,” Jake says. “You must make amends.”

I can’t help but grin as I grab the treat and head for the door. I step outside, give the dog his bone, and drag in a gulp of fresh air. Jake follows. Puffs of thick gray smoke are wafting out the door.

“Sorry about your bacon.”

“Is that what that is?”

“Part of it. It began as an omelet, toast, and bacon, but it quickly deteriorated when I realized that I had no idea where anything was in your house.”

“Like what? The off switch on the stove?”

“Ha. Ha. No, I mean like spatulas.”

“Spatulas? Likely story.”

“No, really. Everything was coming along just fine until I realized I had no way to flip the omelet.”

“And then . . . chaos!”

“Exactly. Once the eggs started burning as I scrambled around looking for the spatula, they got all my attention for a few minutes. At that point, there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t save the bacon.”

“Okay, first of all, burnt eggs, scrambling around, saving bacon—I can’t be expected to ignore any more clichés, so consider yourself warned. Secondly, why the big, elaborate breakfast?”

I shrug. “I thought it was the least I could do since you weren’t mad that I hijacked your bed for a couple of nights.”

“How could any man in his right mind be mad about that?”

“Because it’s so rude! It’s not like I asked or anything, which I should have. I was just so mad! And then, once I left my parents’ house, I realized I had nowhere else to go. If I’d gone to the Sleep Inn, they’d have found me for sure. I mean, it
is
the only hotel in town.”

“Well, now you have a place to stay, so you don’t need to worry about it.”

“Oh, no. I couldn’t impose on you like that.”

“It’s not an imposition. It’s an opportunity.”

His grin is devilish.

“Dare I ask what kind of opportunity?”

“I don’t know. Do you dare? Are you up for it? Are you
really
ready to take a walk on the wild side?”

“I . . . I . . . I guess that depends on what all is involved.”

As if sensing my hesitation with where the conversation is going, Jake shifts into a lighter form of attack. Lighter, but no less effective. I can feel him wearing down my defenses with every passing second.

“Well, considering we just survived a nearly fatal breakfast,” he begins.

“I’d hardly call that ‘nearly fatal.’”

He ignores my interruption. “I should probably perform a thorough physical examination,” he continues without missing a beat, stepping closer as he talks. Jake winds his arms around my waist. “Just to make sure there are no burns on your body. Or even red places. You know heat can make the skin feel very . . . sensitive. I’d be sure to treat any . . . sensitive areas right away. Massage them until they feel better. Much, much better.”

My head is swimming—whether from oxygen deprivation or from Jake, I can’t be sure—and a sublime feeling of contentment is threatening to overcome me. I should be leery, but it’s hard to concentrate on much of anything when Jake is gently swaying against me, his lower body rubbing mine.

“As professional and . . . thorough as that sounds, I’m afraid there’s a big mess to clean up now.” Even as I decline his clever offer, a fire is still burning, this one in the lowest part of my stomach. It’s a fire I know will soon need attention. And Jake will be the only one who can do anything about it.

“I’ll let it go for now. But I won’t rest until I’ve at least checked your lips. You know, in case you burned them tasting something.”

I roll my eyes and sigh dramatically. “If you must. I mean, you
are
a fireman.” He waggles his eyebrows comically as his head descends toward mine.

I’m loving this playful side of him. He really is charming. Which makes him even more dangerous. I didn’t realize just how extensive his allure is.

Or maybe I did.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been trying to keep a safe distance.

His kiss is light and teasing at first, but it quickly turns to more. Within seconds, I find my fingers delving into his hair and my body straining against his, craving closer contact. Craving . . . more.

When he leans back, his smile is gone and we’re both breathless. His pupils dominate the golden irises of his eyes. “Are you sure you won’t let me examine the rest of you? I can make you gasp in ways that have nothing to do with smoke inhalation.”

I laugh nervously. It seems with every word and every kiss, I’m getting closer and closer to saying yes. To jumping.

“Believe it or not, I have no doubt that’s absolutely true.”

“I guarantee you the reality of what I’ll do to you is far better than anything you can imagine.”

My heart is pounding and I’m finding it harder to remember why I shouldn’t be playing with fire this way. “Jake, I—”

“No excuses. No explanations. I know all your reasons and all your hesitations. And you don’t owe me any of them. The only thing I want to hear from those luscious lips of yours is one word. ‘Yes.’ And until you say it, this is what you’ll get,” he says, crushing his lips to mine in a kiss that sears me all the way to my soul. When my insides are like melted butter, he releases me and backs away. “But try not to burn the house down in the meantime.” He grins, turning to walk back into the house.

The smoke has dissipated considerably, but it still smells terrible. “So this is what hell is like,” I murmur as I curl up my nose and look around.

“Does that make me the devil?” Jake asks, looking back at me with one brow raised in challenge.

“The jury’s still out on that one.”

He laughs. “So, since ruining breakfast, you now have two choices for the start of your day. Option number one—which just so happens to be the one I most highly recommend—you let me carry you to the shower where I can give intense attention to making sure every inch of your skin is free of smoky residue. Option number two, we go for a run and
then
we come back and take a shower, after which
I’ll
be fixing
you
breakfast. One that’s not toxic.”

“You cook?” I ask, changing the subject before I impulsively choose option number one, which I’m becoming increasingly interested in.

“I’m a fireman. My chili-making skills are the stuff of legend.”

“Chili for breakfast?”

“Oh, no. I’ll tantalize your taste buds with my culinary delights. You’ll be so smitten with me, we’ll spend the following two hours in bed, where you’ll be worshipping my body as payment for such epicurean awesomeness.”

“Epicurean awesomeness?”

“Yep.”

I narrow my eyes and wrinkle my nose. “Tough choices, but I think I’ll go with option number two point five.”

“I don’t remember offering any such option.”

“Then I’ll just have to surprise you,” I say, prancing away from him as I make my way to the stairs. I have to get some distance from him before I make a big, big mistake. “You’re not the only one with skills.”

That one raven brow arches and a slow smile spreads across Jake’s face. “Decided to take up the gauntlet, did we?”

“Maybe.”

“Not gonna be the good girl after all?”

“Maybe not always.”

“Oh, this is gonna be fun.”

“I think you might be right.”

With that, I mount the steps, feeling a little bit scared, a little bit uncertain, and a little bit giddy. But most of all, I feel free.

* * *

As it turns out, I lack imagination. And courage, evidently. At least I lack the courage to really step out and be the bad girl. To take the risk.

A dozen different ways to end a run with Jake went through my mind, some sexy and some not so much. I ended up chickening out and opting to bring him out for breakfast. Sweat and all.

So, here we are. Sitting at the bar of the one diner in town that serves breakfast all day (and looks like a single-wide trailer).

“So this is point five,” Jake muses, shaking his head and looking around Rita’s.

“Point five?”

“According to you, option ‘two point five’ would be daring. I didn’t think you meant daring in the way of salmonella.”

I give him a dubious look. “You know good and well the food here is great.”

“Yet that’s not the point, is it?”

I look into his discerning amber eyes and I say nothing. He’s right. And he knows it.

“Are you really that afraid of taking a little risk? Or is it just that you’re afraid of taking a little risk
with me
?”

Before I can answer, a familiar voice sounds behind me, making the hairs on the back of my neck prickle.

“So, this is what it’s come to? My daughter comes back home for a visit and I have to casually run into her at the diner just to see her?”

I turn on my stool to see my father standing a few feet behind me, his hands stuffed casually in his pockets, his expression bland. Well, bland to those who didn’t grow up under his roof. For those of us who did, there is a storm brewing just beneath the surface, a storm that comes with an hour-long sermon-slash-lecture attached to it. I’ve only been the recipient of a couple. I was always a good girl and avoided trouble of this kind. But still, I got one every once in a while. Not fun. And even now, several years into being an adult, I still feel the urge to shrink under his disapproval. But, mindful of Jake at my side, I hold my ground.

“Not at all, Daddy. We were just out for some breakfast. You remember Jake Theopolis, right?”

My nerves are jangling. I know how my father feels about Jake. Jake does, too, after last night. I just hope he doesn’t embarrass us all by showing it
in front of
Jake.

“Sir,” Jake says with a nod, coming to his feet to face Daddy. He extends his hand politely toward him.

At first my father just looks down at Jake’s hand like it’s dirty, but then he smiles and gives it a quick shake.

“So, you’re the one that’s lured my daughter into a life of sin,” he says, as amicably as if he were talking about the weather.

“Daddy!” I exclaim, mortified.

“Not that I know of,” Jake says with an unaffected smile as he resumes his seat next to me. I get the feeling he isn’t nearly as relaxed as he appears, however, when he leans back against the bar facing my father, crossing his arms over his chest. That’s clearly a defensive posture.

“Are you saying that she hasn’t been staying at your house? Because I can’t think for the life of me where else she might’ve gone.”

“I didn’t say that. But I’ve been working at the fire station, so she’s had the place to herself.”

My father nods, but I can tell he’s still not satisfied. He wants blood. Jake’s blood.

“Well, regardless, you can imagine how something like that looks. How it reflects on her fine character.”

“I imagine that those inclined to judge others will find something undesirable in the purest of people.”

“And yet we must keep up good Godly appearances, isn’t that right, Laney?”

He turns his intimidating stare on me, but somehow, in the face of how manipulative he’s been about Shane and how he’s so openly antagonizing Jake, I don’t wither as much as I usually do.

“That’s probably the
right
thing to do, Daddy, but that doesn’t mean it’s the thing I’m
going
to do.”

“Laney, I didn’t raise you to—”

“This is not about how you raised me, Daddy. This is about you not being happy with my choices. But, lucky for both of us, you don’t
have to be
. I’m an adult and I can live my life how I see fit. I can make my own decisions and make my own mistakes. I can decide for myself who’s worthy of being part of my life and who’s not. That’s not your business. And it’s certainly not your role to mend a relationship that I’ve ended. In fact, I’d appreciate it if you’d just stay out of my life right now. I’ve got enough to worry about without staying awake at night wondering if I’ve disappointed you.”

Without meaning to, I’ve come to my feet, like I’m braced and ready for battle, and as much as I hate to cause a scene, I’ve done just that. I can feel every eye in the place focused on me. Evidently my voice rose as
I
did.

I turn to Jake.

“I’ve lost my appetite. You ready?”

Jake’s expression is curiously blank. “Sure.”

With that, he slides off his stool and holds out his arm for me to precede him. My father’s disdain is palpable. Jake’s apathy is, too.

I start to walk off with Jake, but Daddy grabs my arm before I can leave him and this humiliating conversation behind. “He’ll be through with you once he gets what he wants, Laney. Don’t waste your love on someone like that.”

Before I can respond, Jake does. “She won’t waste her love on me, sir. I’m unlovable. But you should trust her more because I’m sure
she’s
not.”

With a palm to my lower back, Jake urges me on. I keep my eyes straight ahead as we walk, avoiding all the accusing stares of the town folk. In their eyes, my father can do no wrong. But now I can.

BOOK: Some Like It Wild
11.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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