“Yes,” I whisper, and I mean it. I’m more okay with this man than I thought I’d ever be again in this lifetime.
“Tell me you liked it.”
My cheeks heat. “I did. You know I did.”
He shifts us and grabs some tissue, pressing them between my legs, before he turns me to face him. “Tell me you liked it,” he repeats as if he needs to see my face when I answer.
My cheeks heat and unbidden emotions ball in my chest. “Apparently a spanking can be all about pleasure,” I say, and when I try to turn away, he catches my leg.
My fingers curl on his chest. “I’m good. We’re good. We’re really good, Jax.” My voice is low, rasping with those damn emotions I can’t seem to get rid of. “It’s just—you wouldn’t think I could feel shy right now, considering all I’ve been through, but—”
He cups my face and tilts my gaze to his. “Please tell me you aren’t comparing this to being raped?”
“Oh, God. No. No. Not at all. I’m sorry.” My hands go to his face. “Not at all. I liked it. I like you, Jax.”
He catches my hand. “You like me, Emma. Is that what you feel for me?”
“No. Yes. I feel—so much for you, Jax North. So much that it scares me. Our families—”
“Don’t get to decide who we are together. Remember that. Two together, you and me, baby. You and me.”
“You and me,” I whisper, and I want what those words represent. I want it so very badly. I trust Jax. I’m falling in love with Jax. He’s the man, the one man, who moves the world for me just by being in it. He really is.
He’s right in a world going so very wrong right now.
This calms my nerves. This gives me hope.
A few minutes later, Jax and I grab ice cream from the freezer, before heading back to bed to eat it. His phone rings and I listen to him debrief with Jill about the evening’s Harvest event, and my feeling of hope is jolted by a slow-forming foreboding sensation that comes over me and won’t let go.
When we finally snuggle under the covers, me resting on his chest, I drift to sleep only to open my eyes with the jolt of a nightmare. Me standing on that landing where Hunter fell to his death, where I almost fell to my death, while the walls pour blood.
I wake to a cozy bed, a dimly lit room and the spicy scent of Jax’s cologne, but not the man himself.
He’s gone. Realization hits me.
The Harvest is happening.
I sit straight up and glance at the clock to read seven am. I don’t remember Jax talking about meetings until lunchtime. I’m sure of it. I grab my phone and check my calendar. I’m right. There’s nothing this morning. He must be in the kitchen. Or something is wrong. A text message alert pops up from my brother, and I tab to it and read: Come Home, Bird Dog.
“Nicknames I do not like will get you nowhere, Chance,” I murmur, setting my phone back down on the charger before I flip on the light and throw away the blanket. Shoving my feet into a pair of slippers, Jax’s oversized T-shirt, that I’d grabbed on a trip to the bathroom last night, falls past my knees. I love wearing his shirt. I’m so into this man, it’s terrifying considering our circumstances.
Hurrying into the bathroom, I swear there is a burn to my backside where he spanked me, which, of course, is my imagination. He didn’t hurt me. Jax wouldn’t hurt me, and I won’t let my family hurt him. I enter the room and flip on the light to find a note on the mirror. It reads: Coffee and me waiting on you in the kitchen. Then we’ll go back to bed. Or for a run. You pick.
I smile and bite my lip. “I want to do both with you, Jax North,” I whisper. “And so much more.”
Eager to see him, I brush my teeth, brush my tangled hair, wash my face, and just in case of company, throw on a pair of sweats and a T-shirt of my own with sneakers. Finally, I pull on a hoodie and stare at the closet where my clothes could one day hang next to Jax’s. The man offered to buy a whole new house for us to get us away from the castle. He’s committed. He’s shown me that in so many ways. And after last night, who am I kidding? I’m in love. I love Jax North. It’s too soon for such proclamations, I know it is, but we’ve been together around the clock and gotten to know each other. I’ve even come to love this place the way I do him. I’ve come to know things about him that I didn’t know before.