I cleared my throat instead. “Are you drunk yet?” I asked, grinning.

She pinched her eyebrows together as if I were stupid. “No, just a little buzzed.”


She walked toward me, tucking her hair behind her ear, but I caught her arm. “But you’re happy?” I pressed, reaching over and pulling her hair back out from behind her ear and letting my fingertips graze her cheek.

Chills spread up my forearms. How could I not touch her? I wanted to grab her. Dig my hands into her soft skin.

“Yes,” she whispered. “Feeling better.” And then she tucked the hair back behind her ear.

I tilted up the corner of my mouth, pleased with her defiance.

And for the first time since knowing her, I didn’t have the first clue what to do with this chance. She stood there—maybe waiting for me to make a move—and she wasn’t scowling, sneering, or shouting at me.

But she broke the spell before I could decide how to react.

“What’s in there?” She jerked her chin to the door in front of us.

It was my old room when Jared lived here, but now that I’d moved into his room, it housed my office. The door was secured with a padlock, and I kept the key on my key ring. Normally I didn’t lock it if I was home, but during parties when anyone could venture in, it was off-limits.

“Porn,” I replied flatly.

Her lips spread in a wide smile at my joke, and I felt my heartbeat throb in my neck as I flexed my jaw.

She’d never smiled at me before. Not like that.

Reaching into my jeans pocket for the key, I unlocked the room, having no clue why I was doing it. Hell, she asked, she was interested, and I wanted to prolong my time with her before she came up with a new corncob to lodge up her ass.

Opening the door, I waved her in ahead of me, but her eyebrows shot up and her eyes went wide.

“Wow,” she blurted out before she’d even stepped into the room.

She inched in, and I followed behind, shaking my head at myself. Even still, the sensation of a bubble wrapping around us tighter and tighter, forcing us closer, was there.

I twisted the key out of the lock and threw it down on the table by the door, shutting it after we’d walked in.

I leaned back on the table, crossing my arms over my black T-shirt and watching her circle the room. “I don’t let many people in here,” I said.

I wasn’t worried about the computers. They weren’t important to me. The information I could use them to gain was. This room, and its contents, gave me the ability to protect myself and my family, make a living, and be aware of every stumble in the road before I even turned the corner.

When I was thirteen, and my father had been sentenced to prison time, I’d been sent to live with a family that had two computers. One of them was old, so they had let me tinker and explore with it. Once I discovered how to use it and the leverage that’s at a person’s fingertips if you’re clever and diligent enough, I was hooked. I wanted to know everything.

She strolled down the wall, studying the six flat-screen monitors I had mounted in two rows of three each. Two were shut off, two had updates and installations running, and the other two had accounts I was trying to crack. Not that she’d know what she was looking at.

There was a seventh flat-screen I had supported on a tripod that controlled the others. The room wasn’t decorative. Instead of portraits or wall decals, I had bulletin boards and whiteboards with my scribble all over them, and desks lining the walls with electronics and computers sitting around.

In this room I was a god. I watched, and I swirled the paint every so often with no one the wiser.

K.C. passed each monitor and table, stopping to study a few things and swaying ever so slightly to the music coming from downstairs. Her thumbnail was in her mouth, but she looked relaxed.

“This is how you make your money, isn’t it?” she said, turning away from my notes on the whiteboard to look at me. “Are you doing illegal things, Jax?”

I licked my lips, taunting her. “Would it get you hot if I said yes?”

“No,” she grumbled, looking away again. “It gets me hot when you touch me.”

My heart plummeted into my stomach, and I felt as if I were falling.

What the hell did she just say?

She spun back around, her mouth hanging open. “I can’t believe I just said that. Oh, my God.”

I didn’t blink, and her chest wasn’t moving any oxygen.

I swallowed, standing up and stalking toward her. “Say it again.”

“Damn wine coolers,” she bit out, looking to the floor and retreating. “I never usually feel anything. How did you know they were my favorite?”

I smirked. How cute she was. I tipped my chin down, inching toward her and loving every backward step she took. Why did I like her being afraid of me?

“I didn’t know they were your favorite,” I lied. “And it’s not the wine coolers you’re feeling. It’s me.”

Her back hit the wall, and I came in front of her, bearing down on her. Her hair tickled my cheek.

“Say it again,” I breathed into her ear.

Her hands went to my chest, trying to keep me away. “No.”

“Coward.”

She peered up at me, narrowing her eyes. “Now I’m a coward.” She nodded sarcastically, pressing her hands into my chest with more force. “Gutless, helpless, and coward all because I won’t sleep with you. Next, my girly pink wine coolers and peach nail polish will be under attack. Let me help you with some more names: princess, self-absorbed, weak, wimp, arrogant, snotty, sellout, conceited—”

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