And so, hand in hand, we walk inside my building, shiny white tiles beneath our feet. The lobby is small, with a sitting area to the right and a desk to left, where Ned, the thirty-something stoic doorman is standing on this side. I wave, ignoring the knowing twist to his lips that says I have a man on my arm, soon to be in my bed. He is about to be in my bed. Yes. He is. I bet my bed has been empty longer than Ned’s.
Thankfully, as impatience is burning me alive, the elevator is a short walk and it arrives with a quick punch of the button. Jax and I step inside the car and I push in my floor, even as my cellphone buzzes with a text. The doors start to close and I hate this, but I have to check the message. I reach for my phone, but Jax catches my waist, his hands on my body an assault on my senses, driven home when he pulls me to him. “Whoever that is can wait,” he says, his voice low, rough. “You’re mine the rest of the night.”
That word is a trigger and I forget the text message. My hands go to his hands on my waist as if that will cool the effect, but it only serves to spread the heat up along my arms. “And what does that word mean to you?”
“What word? Mine?”
“Yes,” I say. “Mine.”
“I’m not a man who shares, Emma. You’re with me tonight or you’re with him.”
Understanding washes over me, right along with guilt for judging him by a past long gone.
“Jax,” I begin, planning to explain, but the elevator halts and the doors start opening. “The text isn’t from York,” I add quickly.
He stares down at me under hooded lids. “You haven’t even looked at it.” There’s disapproval in his statement. He thinks I’m pining for York and while I doubt he’s jealous, every person on planet earth wants to feel like they matter when they’re with another person.
At the sound of my sixty-something-year-old neighbor, I cringe at the interruption, but cave to the inevitable. I can’t make this right with Jax until we’re alone. The topic of York lingers and I’m desperate to make this right between us. I don’t want Jax to leave.
I rotate to face my neighbor. She’s standing just outside the elevator, while Jax and I remain inside. “Hi, Mrs. Nichols,” I say, noting her stylish black dress that reminds me that her ten years as a widow haven’t left her desolate. It’s an encouraging moment that reminds me that losing my father won’t leave my mother desolate either. “You’re out late tonight,” I comment, glancing at Jax, who’s all stone faced and hard all over.
Ignoring that little detail, I catch his hand to guide him out of the elevator with me, relieved when he not only stays close but that his hand settles on my lower back.
“It’s only nine, honey,” Mrs. Nichols informs me, giving Jax a once-over. “And who is this? Hi there, Mr. Good Looking in a Tuxedo.”
“Hi there, Mrs. Nichols,” he says, taking a hint.
“This is Jax,” I say, also taking a hint. “Jax,” I say, glancing up at him. “Mrs. Nichols has lived here for twenty years.”
“Five of them next door to Emma,” she explains and gives him a wink. “And it only took her five years to bring a man to her door. You’re worth the wait.” With that, my cheeks heat, and she heads for the elevator that’s about to shut. Jax catches the doors for her.
I take the opportunity to grab my keys from my purse, the need to check that message grinding on my nerve endings. “Have a fun night, Emma,” Mrs. Nichols calls out a second before she’s shut inside the elevator.
“Thank you, Mrs. Nichols, for telling my story for me,” I murmur, as Jax turns to face me, and in a poorly timed moment, my phone vibrates with another text. “That’s not York.” I press my hand to his chest. “I blocked him when we were downstairs.”
“You blocked him tonight after years—”
“Of not talking to him,” I supply. “Five years, Jax, as Mrs. Nichols just made clear. And as for the text message I really want to look at—my phone wasn’t charged the night my father died, Jax. I didn’t know for hours and since then, well, I feel paranoid. My brother is all I—” I stop myself from the continuous flow of confessions. “It’s not about York. I swear to you. You are—”
His expression softens, his voice lowers. “Look at the message.”
I don’t reach for my phone. “You’re sure?”
“Yes. Absolutely. I get it, Emma. More than you know. Where are we going?”
“To the right and down the hall,” I say and we start walking. We’re only a few steps closer to my apartment, and I’m already grabbing my phone, glancing down at the message. “Oh God,” I say, panicked now, and stopping dead in my tracks, “my brother wants to come over for pizza.” I shove my keys at Jax and quickly type: Carly is here. She’s eager to see you.