“Careful,” a familiar male voice says. “It might be a little too easy to take advantage of you out here.”
Jax steps to the railing beside me and when I look at him, when our eyes meet, I’m melting right here in the chilly night air. “I didn’t expect you to be here.”
“How disappointing,” he says, and we turn in unison, facing each other, each with an elbow on the railing. He’s close, so much closer than I’d realized, the scent of his musky, earthy cologne lifting in the ocean breeze, teasing my senses. Those intelligent blue eyes piercing. “Because if you didn’t expect me,” he adds, “then you must be inviting someone else to take advantage of you.”
“I’m not as easy to take advantage of as you might think.”
His lips quirk. “Is that an invitation for me to try?”
“Do you want to take advantage of me?” I ask.
His lips hint at a smile, his eyes warm. “Do you really want me to answer that question?”
“Yes,” I dare. “I do.”
“Then yes, I believe I do.” His eyes twinkle with mischief. “But only if you’re a willing victim.”
“Hmmm,” I say. “I’m not sure I like that word victim.”
“Hmmm,” he replies. “Well then, I guess I’ll consider that a challenge.”
I smile. “Will you now?”
“Yes. I will. Are you going to run again?”
“I didn’t run.”
He arches a brow.
“I left. I live in town. I wanted to be in my own bed.”
“And not mine?”
“That’s very direct,” I say.
“You prefer I play games?”
“No,” I assure him. “I have enough people in my life that do that without adding another.”
“Since I don’t like games, we should get along well.” He reaches over and covers my hand where it holds my glass, our eyes colliding, holding, as he brings it to his lips. He pauses there, his eyes holding mine as he drinks the bubbling liquid, a message of intended intimacy in the action.
Heat pulls low in my belly and I can barely breathe. I feel him in all parts of me, in ways I do not expect.
“No North Whiskey?” he asks, his hands slowly sliding away from mine, leaving me aching for the next time he will touch me, certain that he will, anxious for that moment.
“We settle for what we can get,” I say.
“Never settle for anything but what you really want. What do you want, Emma?”
You, I think, but he already knows that. “For now, I’ll settle for you telling me what happened between you and Randall last night.”
He arches a brow. “He didn’t tell you?”
“Randall and I don’t talk much.”
“He wants to fuck you.”
If he wants to shock me, he’s failed. “He wants what he thinks I can give him.”
“You discount your beauty,” he states simply as if this is fact, not seduction. “Why?”
Somehow it’s both coming from him.
He thinks I’m beautiful and I can’t deny my pleasure at this confession, only with him it’s not a confession, I remind myself. He’s confident in who he is and sure about his thoughts and desires. Somehow that makes his declaration of my beauty mean more than it would from someone else. “Because I’ve known Randall for years. My father treated him like a son and yet he didn’t inherit.”
He studies me a long moment. “And now, more than ever, he sees you as a path to make his role in the family permanent.”
I don’t confirm or deny that statement. I don’t know Jax well enough to trust him with that kind of exposure on my part. I’ve said too much as it is but Randall just won’t give up and yet he walked away last night. He didn’t even know I left the hotel. It’s an odd occurrence, one I’d like explained for reasons that have nothing to do with Randall, not directly that is, and everything to do with a month of discoveries about my family.
“You didn’t answer my question,” I remind him. “What happened between you and Randall?”
He studies me a moment and I think he might resist my redirection, but he doesn’t. “He asked me to step into the lobby, and then he got a text message and left. I waited to have a word or ten with him but he never returned.”
A text message? That pulls me back to the oddity of Randall’s disappearance. What was that all about?
Jax continues, pulling me back to a better moment, the one here, with him. “I’d prefer to tell you that he was driven away by my wit and brawn—after all, I do like to impress a beautiful lady, but I can’t.”
“I don’t think you try to impress anyone,” I say, that observation one I realize now attracts me to him. I return to my thoughts a moment before, that confidence he exudes. He wears his own skin with pride, an enviable trait, when I wear my skin like an obligation, a reality I’m now beginning to face, to own.