Suddenly, a stinging slap landed on my ass. A cry escaped my lips, and I turned to see Jax grinning at me.
"I like the view just fine from here," he said, his eyes gleaming in a way that I loved to see. This date seemed to be keeping his spirits up . . . if not something else, I thought with a wicked grin.
I rubbed the spot where his hand had landed and arched an eyebrow at him. "So you did have an ulterior motive for coming up here."
"No, that's just one of the perks. I can't help it if you're sticking your butt in my face, asking for it."
I started climbing again, swinging my rear in an exaggerated sway. "If I'm asking for it, then come and get it," I said over my shoulder.
Jax pressed his lips together with determination and made a lunge for me. His hand brushed the back of my leg, but missed as I dodged away from him. Laughing, I turned and ran up the stairs. The sound of Jax's shoes scraping on the wooden stairs as he chased me sent a thrill of excitement through me, and with a sudden burst of energy, I scrambled up onto the landing.
I turned to get my bearings and stopped still. I gazed around in wonder.
A hand reached around my waist, and I jumped. Jax pressed himself against me, his breath hot in my ear.
"Got you," he said, kissing the back of my neck.
I laughed and pointed to the view. "Come on, I call truce. Look."
Jax let go of me with a reluctant sigh, then followed my gaze. A smile lit up his face.
San Francisco Bay stretched before us in a late afternoon glow. Sailboats dotted the water. Trees and bushes obscured the view somewhat, but it was still breathtaking.
I shaded my eyes. "Is that Alcatraz?" I asked, pointing at a distant island.
Jax looked for a moment, then nodded.
I eyed the distance from the island to shore. "I guess it worked as a prison for a reason. No one could escape from there, could they?"
He shrugged. "That's what the officials say."
Tilting my head, I looked up at him. "Is it up for debate?"
Leaning against the railing, Jax stared out at the island. "Rumor has it three men escaped in the sixties." He whipped his head around, giving me an amused look. "Haven't you ever seen Escape From Alcatraz? Clint Eastwood?"
I folded my arms across my chest. Old movies weren't really my forte—until I'd met Jax, that is. "No, Mr. Movie Buff, I haven't. But let me guess what it was about. An escape."
Dismissing my sarcasm with a quick smile, Jax nodded. "It's based on real events. These guys dug through the walls, left behind paper mache dummies to fool the guards, and took off across the bay on a raft made out of raincoats."
I gazed back over the wide expanse of water that separated the island from the mainland, and shivered. That looked like a far way to go on just some raincoats stitched together. "No wonder they made a movie about it. And they survived?"
A slow grin appeared on Jax's face. "No one found their bodies, but three men were spotted in a boat on the water that night, then later stealing a truck."
"Maybe they did escape then," I murmured. "It's weird though, those guys were criminals who probably deserved to be locked up, but somehow you just have to root for them anyway. Even if it feels wrong."
"It's the underdog principle," Jax said, drawing his brows together. "The more impossible the odds, the more you want to beat them. And if anyone else tries, you root for them too."
"Even if they've done bad things?"
He nodded, seeming sure of himself. "Everyone deserves a second chance."
I stayed quiet, looking at the island. Even your dad? He was the one who'd almost broken Jax. But not quite. Jax was a fighter—he'd survived, despite the odds.
Jax interrupted my thoughts. "So, you're my favorite lockpicker. Think could you break out?"
I laughed, glad for a reason to forget my dark thoughts. "Hah. I can pick a lock, but this place was built for people who knew more than me about escape plans. If I were stuck in there, I'd probably just rot."
He put his arm around my shoulders and kissed the top of my head. "If you couldn't get out, I'd break you out."
"It's reassuring to know my boyfriend will help me plan a jailbreak," I said with a wry smile. Reaching for Jax's waist, I pulled him closer. "Maybe—"
A sharp wolf whistle carried through the air aimed at us, and I stopped, surprised. Who did that?
I looked around. We were alone on the landing, and no one climbed the stairs behind us. Jax stared at the steps leading upwards, frowning, but the people walking up them had their backs to us, and were too far away besides.
Jax turned back to me, his brows drawn with annoyance . "That's not —"
The whistle came again, but this time it was louder. And from the direction of one of the small houses that clung to the hillside.
Jax followed my gaze and scowled. "What, is it some asshole peeping Tom?"
The whistle sounded again, but this time my eyes connected it to a flutter of movement in a tree next to the house.
Seated on a branch above our heads was a green bird with a tan curved beak and a blotch of red covering its head.
"A parrot?" I cried.
It squawked in reply, then made another human sounding whistle.
I clutched Jax's arm. "Do you see that? What's it doing out here?"
Jax narrowed his eyes at it. "Someone's taught it to be rude. Shouldn't be whistling at my girl like that."
"Do you think it's lost?" I asked, moving closer to the tree to get a better look at the bird. It cocked its head calmly and regarded me with intelligent eyes. Did it belong to the owner of the house?
"It's too laid back to be lost," Jax observed, a look of understanding dawning over his face.
I shook my head, not buying his take on the situation. "If it's a pet then we should rescue it and bring it to its owner. Maybe the bird doesn't feel lost, but he might be just the same."
I gauged where the bird sat perched on a branch above my head. He didn't look too high up—maybe I could climb up and get him? Or maybe he'd just come to me. "Here birdie," I coaxed, holding out my hand.
Another squawk sounded on my left, and I whipped my head around. On a branch higher up, another parrot was perched.
I shook my head, amazed at what I saw. One was someone's pet gone missing. Two—did that mean they got loose from a pet shop?
I was startled by the sound of Jax's laughter.
"What's so funny?" I demanded.
"You." He held his side as he laughed.
"I don't know what's funny about helping lost pets."