I slid a hand down to his pants, pressing my palm into his crotch. He was already getting hard, the heat from him throbbing through the thin fabric. As I rubbed him gently, he grew even larger. A hungry groan escaped from his mouth, and I slowly moved my hands up his body with a slight twinge of regret. He had negotiated for a hand down there, but he hadn't said for how long. Besides, if we kept this up, I'd end up making some serious life mistakes.
My hands found their way to his velvety hair, fingers caressing his scalp as the kiss grew deeper. His mouth, ravenous but subtle, started an avalanche of pleasure. Each small sensation combined into something much larger, something I couldn’t control or even comprehend.
His movements grew sweeter, more lingering and soft. The kiss had begun in lust, but now there was something else there, something new, almost frightening with its gentleness.
Surprised, I pulled away, hearing a loud suction sound as our lips parted.
Our faces inches apart, I saw that his eyes were still closed. He opened them slowly as if waking from a dream. "Are your kisses always this good?"
"Sometimes better," I said, as I stared at him defiantly, daring him to kiss me again.
He opened my palm and dropped the bikini into it. "Then I’d say I got a bargain, and you got ripped off." Smiling to himself, he headed to the stairs.
As I watched him walk away, I tied my top back on and felt a surge of victory; I’d gotten the top back, and I’d even managed to get Jax to agree to an arrangement that could put me one step closer to my bonus. If anyone was ripped off in this exchange, it was him.
But as I toweled off, the negotiation played back in my mind, and I realized with a growing sense of discomfort that he’d gotten me to do exactly what I’d wanted to avoid. I’d started the morning wanting to tell Jax we were through with playing games. But now we had an ongoing agreement—a dangerous game I’d have to replay every time the Hitchcocks took the stage.
THE JAX EFFECT
My aching body was feeling a whole lot better by the time I went downstairs and changed back into real clothes. I tried forgetting about what happened with Jax moments ago, about his soft lips. His hungry kiss. But it required a lot of effort. I had to remind myself that I had things under control, that all I needed was a little self-control, and I could keep him at arm’s length. A kiss every now and then wouldn’t change anything between us, no matter how much he wanted it to.
After scolding myself and slapping my face a few times, I was finally able to concentrate on the work that needed to get done. I wanted to have the band’s finances in some semblance of order before the next show, so I set up shop with a stack of papers on the first floor, working as the rest of the band eventually woke up.
When afternoon rolled around, I had a pretty good idea of where to start making changes, but I had to discuss the changes with Jax first—a prospect that sounded less than ideal after what had happened in the hot tub. Ideally, a tour accountant could regard band members as co-workers, team members—even friends. But even then, cutting budgets could lead to conflict and drama.
One of the first things I learned at certification training was to make sure the band understands where your friendship ends and your working relationship begins. With Jax, I’d broken the rules in a big way, but I hoped it would have an equally big payoff. If he was willing to make the cuts, my job was about to get a whole lot easier. Of course, that was a big if. I didn’t know for sure if Jax meant to keep his end of the bargain, but I was about to find out.
I got up from the couches and steeled myself with a quick lifesaver on my way up the stairs. I wasn’t sure I’d need it, but I wanted to be as calm and collected as possible when I approached him.
On one of the second-floor couches, Chewie and Sky were rolling blunts together in the mid-afternoon sun. With marijuana legal in Colorado, they were working their way through the band’s stash, and planned to restock in the morning when we arrived in Denver. Knowing how a lot of rock stars liked to party, I was just grateful they were sticking to weed—at least it was cheap.
As I walked past them, holding my breath to avoid a contact high, I heard voices emanating from Jax’s room, too quiet to understand. Was he in there with someone?
I tapped at the door, tentatively. "Jax?"
The voices suddenly went silent. He opened the door a crack. "Can it wait?"
"Not really." The sooner the expenses were cut in the budget, the sooner I could notify venues and change vendor requests. "I wanted to get these expenses trimmed before we got into Denver. Want to go downstairs?"
He opened the door wider, and I saw a TV inside the room, paused on a frame from a black-and-white movie. "I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t you come in here?"
"I’m . . . not sure that’s a good idea at all."
"Then we can talk some other time. How does next week work for you?" he said, starting to shut the door again.
Oh no you don’t. I wedged my arm into the door frame. "No, Jax. This has to happen today. It can’t wait."
He sniffed at the air. "Then come in, but close the door. Everything smells like skunk out there."
I noticed the white clouds of pot smoke drifting into his room. Was he trying to get me to play another game? I didn’t know, but I didn’t want to piss him off by making his room stink. I scooted into the small space, shutting and latching the door behind me.
"So this is the famous Fortress of Solitude," I said, taking a look around. The room was barely wide enough to fit Jax’s king-sized bed. I had no idea how they’d gotten the mattress in, but it hugged snugly against two walls. Thick fabric swaths hung from the ceiling, in dark, subdued hues.
An assortment of pillows in dark brown, deep purple, and navy blue covered a bed layered thick with dark comforters. A guitar hung next to the wall-mounted flat-screen. The effect was somewhere between gypsy caravan and blanket fort.
He sat on the bed in a gray v-neck, a different shirt than he’d been wearing before, probably because I splashed water on the last one. Jax looked like a Mongol khan in his tent, his golden skin a glistening highlight against the dark fabrics. The room smelled of him—a rich, earthy scent I couldn’t get enough of.
Control yourself, I thought, tempted to slap myself again. Just finish the expense talk, say goodbye, and get out.
"Since you’re already here," Jax’s voice broke through my daydreaming and jolted me back to reality, "Want to stay for the movie?" His eyes were glued to the screen.