Nevertheless, that’s where I’m at coming off a month of grief and confusion. I snap. “How are you even here?” I demand, closing some of the space between us.
He pushes off the door and before I can blink, he’s standing in front of me, but he doesn’t touch me. He’s close, too close, but somehow not close enough when there was only too close with York. “I came looking for you.”
“Why would you look for me?” I counter, not holding back. I don’t need another person playing games in my life. “What do you want, Jax? What do you really want?”
“We have unfinished business,” he says, his fingers curling around the lapels of my jacket, walking me closer, the heat of his body scorching. “And I’m not a man to leave anything unfinished.”
It’s a common statement that right now, on this night, sends chills down my spine. A statement I read in my father’s journal just a page before he might well have ordered a murder. With Jax, I want it to be about me and him and shared champagne, and so much more. Unfinished business could mean many things and when Jax leans in closer, my hand flattens defensively on his chest, but the touch—that touch—is intimate, so very intimate, and for a moment, I can’t speak.
“What are we doing right now, Emma?” he asks softly.
“How do you know York?”
“With caution and not by choice. We are not friends.”
“That’s somehow managed to be a non-specific and quite specific at the same time. How do you know him?”
“His family owns cruise ships that serve North Whiskey.”
Cruise ships that serve a whole lot more than whiskey. I don’t like that connection. “I need to leave.” I try to turn away.
He holds fast to my lapels and pulls me to him, our legs colliding, the hard lines of his body hugging mine. My gaze jerks to his, the night darkening his blue eyes, the streetlight catching flecks of amber in his intense stare. “Run with me, not away from me.”
“I don’t even know you.”
“Then change that. I’m not asking you to marry me. I’m asking you to get to know me the way I want to know you.” Somehow, this statement manages to be the perfect mix of alpha male and vulnerability. “Come with me.”
“Where?” I whisper, and I can feel my body swaying toward his.
His hand slides under my hair, a warm strong hand, his thumb stretching to my jaw, tilting my face to his. His blue eyes still catching amber gold in the streetlights, a dominance in their depths that shouldn’t arouse me, but there’s no fighting my reaction to this man, or to who I am deep down inside. And I am the woman who is drawn to a man like Jax. Perhaps to a man too like York.
“I promised you a castle,” he says, “but I’ll settle for anywhere where I can do this.” His mouth closes down on mine, his tongue pressing past my lips, a quick tease that I still manage to feel in every part of me. Goosebumps lift on my skin and his mouth lingers above mine, a hot breath promising more before he strokes deep. And then, he’s kissing me, a wicked, passionate kiss that is pure heat, greedy even, fierce. Alluring. Passionate. Addictive. And then gone, his mouth is gone, and I’m panting as he says, “Say yes and I’ll take you anywhere you want to go.”
Every warning that York stirred in me earlier fades away with the taste of this man on my lips, every warning is immediately reasoned away. This is one night and then Jax is gone. This is an escape. Death and grief allow me permission to need this. That damn journal gives me permission to need him. I’m going to do this.
“I want off this street corner,” I say. “I want to leave. I want to leave with you.”
His eyes warm, approval and satisfaction in their depths that somehow isn’t arrogant. He laces his fingers with mine and walks backward, guiding me to the door of the SUV. And then he does something unexpected. He steps aside and motions me toward the back doors, a silent invitation to enter or walk away, to make my own decision. I climb inside, letting the soft leather absorb my body, a willing victim, as he’d wanted.
Jax follows me inside the SUV and shuts the door, only to catch my hand, preventing any distance I might place between us. There’s a message in how easily and quickly he removes any idea of space between us. There is no running from Jax North. Right now, I’m doing just what he suggested last night. I’m running to him, with him.
He eases us around so we’re facing each other, his hand easily caressing away the soft, thin velvet of my coat, his palms settling on my knee beneath the hem of my dress. The intimate touch shouldn’t be shocking, but I’m not prepared for the intensity of my body’s reaction to his hand on me or just how easily he consumes me. “I have a plane waiting to go anywhere you want, even the castle I promised. Or we go to dinner. We can get drinks. We can go to my hotel. You decide, Emma.”