Going Under Page 26

“I think you’re reading more into it. I really got it so the ladies would think I was hot.”

I felt a pang of jealousy when I thought of another girl being with Jessie like this.

“Just how many girls have seen your whole tattoo?” I asked, but we both knew I was asking an entirely different question.

“Do you really want to go there? I doubt you’ll like the answer because most of the girls at Collinsville aren’t like you. They’re more like Gretchen.”

It was his way of warning me I might not be able to handle the truth, and while I debated pushing the issue, he put his arm out and said, “Come here.”

I scooted closer to him and put my head on his shoulder as he tried to put my mind at rest. “You’re the only one for me. Every other girl is in the past.”

I put my hand on his chest, but couldn’t resist the urge to run my palm back and forth across his muscular chest. He closed his eyes and I wondered if I was pushing too hard again. “Is it okay for me to touch you like this?”

“Yeah, I like it. It’s very relaxing.”

I stroked his chest until his breathing became deep and steady, then I rolled away to turn off the light, but he caught me with his arm. “Don’t go, Princess.”

“I didn’t mean to wake you. I was only turning off the lamp. I’m not going anywhere.”

After turning off the lamp switch, I nestled against Jessie and went back to running my palm over his smooth chest. I wanted to be close to him and explore his body, but I was unclear about what his limits were for me.

I felt his chest rising and falling deep and evenly, confirming he was asleep and ending any potential exploring I had on my mind.

“Sweet Dreams,” I whispered, hoping any he had would only include me.

24 Kiss Me Good


I woke up the next morning with Claire blissfully burrowed into me and it was a gift I didn’t think could be real. I put my nose against her hair and breathed deeply, taking in her smell. I hadn’t noticed last night because I was too exhausted, but her bed smelled just like she did-sweet and floral with a hint of peach and cherry.

As I laid half under her, I recalled how she stroked her hand over my chest rhythmically until I fell asleep and I couldn’t think of a time in my life that made me feel more relaxed and happy.

I lifted my head slightly and looked down to see our legs intertwined with one of her arms thrown across my lower abdomen, dangerously close to the waist of my borrowed pajama pants. I dropped my head back down on the pillow and closed my eyes, trying to concentrate on anything other than the position we were in.

Claire woke up a few minutes later and only aggravated the situation by wiggling against me as she stretched and got situated. She rolled off of me onto her back, then turned to look at me. The sunlight beamed in through her bedroom windows on her hair making it look even redder and I stared at her face, thinking she was breathtakingly gorgeous.

I reached out to touch her face. “You are so beautiful.”

She smiled and asked, “Can you stay with me every night because I’d love to wake up to you every morning?”

“I somehow doubt your parents would go for that.” She didn’t disagree and I decided to tackle the topic I would probably regret. “The things Forbes said about me were true, so what do you think your parents will think of me?”

“The things he said are not true,” she argued.

“If you were being honest with me and yourself, you’d have to admit that most of it is true. I don’t fit in. I’m not like all of you. I don’t have money or come from a family like yours.”

She sighed and said, “It doesn’t matter to me and it won’t matter to my parents either. It’s true that we are well off and they are friends with wealthy people, but they are kind and fair. They won’t judge or dislike you because you don’t come from a wealthy family.”

The thoughts of sitting down to talk with Claire’s parents made me nervous. “I’ve told you that I don’t do the parent thing well.”

She firmly informed me, “I know, but if I’m going to be with you, then you have to meet them because we’re a close family. No exceptions.”

I accepted my fate and asked, “Do I have a deadline?”

“I’ll give you a little time to get use to the idea. What about next weekend? My dad won’t be on call, so they should be free. Could you come on Saturday night?”

I laughed and conceded, “If I have to.”

“Yes, you have to, or you could stay and meet them this afternoon.”

Even if that sounded appealing, I couldn’t because I was seeing my little brothers today at their foster parents house today. “I have a family thing today.”

“You never talk about your family,” she said, hinting for information about them.

“There’s not really much to say about them.”

“When are you going to let me meet them?”she asked.

I tried to dodge answering her question. “Why don’t you let me make it through meeting your parents first? They’re the ones that really matter. Then we’ll go from there.”

“Your family is important, too,” she disagreed. “I want them to like me.”

I kissed her on the nose. “Who wouldn’t love you?”

She smiled and said, “Hold that thought.” She got up to the bathroom and I took the same opportunity while she was out of bed. Luckily, Claire had provided me with a new toothbrush last night and I used it again to rid myself of morning breath.

She was waiting for me in the bed when I returned and I pulled the covers back and climbed in next to her. She snuggled up to me and I wrapped my arm around her, pulling her against me and nothing in the world seemed more perfect than this moment.

I looked at Claire’s clock on the nightstand and it was after eleven o’clock. I had under two hours until my appointed visitation with Harley and Ozzy and I needed to go home to get ready. “I really want to stay in this bed with you all day, but I have somewhere to be soon so I have to go.”

“The family thing?” she quizzed.

“Yeah. I have to be there at one o’clock.”

“I’ll agree to let you go on one account,” she countered.

I was definitely interested in hearing this. “And what’s that?”

She slightly lifted her eyebrows and said, “Kiss me so good I won’t be able to stop thinking about it the rest of the day,” she dared me.

“Oh, I can do that,” I said as she raised up and turned to meet me halfway.

My mouth found hers and she teased me as she playfully nipped at my bottom lip with her teeth, then gently sucked it with her mouth. She didn’t intend for it to be anything other than chaste, but even her innocent kisses drove me crazy with desire.

I rolled on top of her to take control of our kiss and realized too late I wasn’t in command of my body when I felt a heated yearning for her. I kissed down her neck and argued with my mouth when it wanted to go lower, but lost the argument when my lips trailed kisses down between her breasts. I heard her gasp and felt her fingernails press into my back.

I slid down and worshipped her body with my hands while I lifted her shirt to kiss her tiny waist and flat stomach. She whimpered and wiggled beneath me and I realized I was teasing her worst than she had me the previous night.

I stopped to look at her face. She lifted her upper body and propped on her elbows waiting to see what I would say. “What is it?” she asked.

“I’m sorry. I got a little carried away,” I confessed.

She fell back against the pillow and blew out a deep breath. “Ya think? You did that on purpose to teach me what it felt like to need a minute.”

“I didn’t mean to go that far. Really. I’m needing a minute here, too, you know?”

I groaned and collapsed on the bed beside her and we both stared at the ceiling in silence. When I looked back at the clock, it was eleven-thirty and past time for me to go.

“I have to go, Princess. I can’t be late.”

“I know.”

I got out of bed and walked over to where my clothes were folded on her dresser. I dropped the pajama bottoms I borrowed and pulled on my jeans and shirt while she watched me from her bed.

She looked ready to bust out laughing. “What?”

She laughed and said, “I wondered if you were a briefs or boxers man.”

“And now you don’t have to wonder anymore.”

“Nope. I don’t have to wonder anymore,” she agreed.

I sat by her on the edge of her bed to put on my shoes. When I finished, she slid over and put her arms around my waist with her head against my back. “I love you,” she whispered.

I turned my head and whispered over my shoulder. “I love you, too.”

I took her hand around my waist and lifted it to my lips for a kiss. “I gotta go, Princess.”

She got out of her bed to walk me out the door. “Turn the alarm on when I’m out the door, okay?”

“I’ll be fine and my parents will be home soon so don’t worry.”

“I know, but now it’s my job to worry about you because you’re my girl.”

She smiled and said, “I love it when you call me that,” and hugged me to her tightly before I left the woman I loved to go see the brothers I also loved.

* * *

I pulled up at the Stevens’ house a few minutes before one and saw Harley’s and Ozzy’s faces pressed against the glass of the big window in the front of the house. As I walked toward the house, the boys came running out yelling, “Jessie, Jessie,” and met me in the yard, nearing tackling me to the ground.

I stood on the lawn with a kid hanging on each leg and I squatted down to hug them. “Happy birthday, guys!”

“Did you bring us presents, Jess?” Ozzy asked while he was repetitively patting my shoulder to get my attention.

“Of course I have gifts for my birthday boys. You know I wouldn’t forget.”

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