Page 21

 Kristen Ashley

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My breath started coming faster again.
“You got it,” he replied, leaned in, kissed my forehead, leaned back and caught my eyes. “Later, Emme.”
“Drive safe, Jacob.”
He grinned.
My heart jumped.
His hand slid away from my jaw and I watched him saunter out of my living room.
Then I sat immobile and listened to the front door open and close.
And last, I listened to the distant sounds of his truck growling out of my drive.
Been to some interesting places, Emme, baby, and that has always been with me.
I sat unmoving and remembered standing outside the door to the hotel room he was staying in since he left the apartment to Elsbeth. I stood there heartbroken for him, heartbroken for me, and I gave him that kaleidoscope. I remembered what I said. I remembered his eyes got warm and surprised and he took the box and opened it, pulling out the piece of beauty within and holding it like it was precious.
I also remember he didn’t let me into his room.
He just kissed my cheek and whispered in my ear, “I’ll always remember you, Emme,” before he pulled back, gave me a smile that got nowhere near his eyes and backed into the room, closing the door on me.
Taking the kaleidoscope with him.
At the time, I got it, why he had to close the door on me. At the time, I was distraught at what his breakup with Elsbeth meant to him.
And to me.
So I’d walked away and let him go.
But at the time, I also was dealing with things, things I didn’t share with anybody, not Elsbeth, definitely not Jacob.
I still had that secret.
Words came to me. Words said in a man’s voice, a man no one knew was in my life. A man who was special to me in a way I knew no one would get. A man I shared with nobody.
I hope this wakes you up, sweet Emme.
I closed my eyes and called that moment up in my mind.
It was a month after I got out of the hospital. I’d visited him. He could not visit me. He’d been concerned. Eaten up with it, it was plain to see. But he could not come to see for himself I was all right.
He had to wait for me.
We were sitting in his kitchen, drinking coffee.
I hope this wakes you up, sweet Emme.
It did. Being sick like that, it did.
I didn’t get it then. I didn’t get it when he said that to me. I only got it when Jacob pointed it out.
I opened my eyes and looked to Jacob’s beer bottle on my coffee table.
You can shake and bake with the best, Emme.
I knew right then that Jacob saying that meant that he intended to keep the goodness, the easiness, the familiarity of what we had safe.
He just intended to add really great things.
I hope this wakes you up, sweet Emme.
I took a sip of the beer that I held until then forgotten in my hand.
And when I was done, I whispered, “I think I just woke up, Harvey.”
And when I did, pure joy flowed through me.
So I smiled.
Chapter Six
One hour, two minutes later…
I lay on my back in my bed, staring unseeing at the ceiling and going over the last two days in my mind again and again.
No way I could sleep.
No way.
So I rolled, turned on my light and saw the ring Dane had given me the night before on my nightstand.
The box was open.
I flipped it shut and put it in the nightstand drawer.
Dane giving me that weirded me out, but it was the kind of gesture that you didn’t make an “euw” face and throw it across the room.
So, after I’d tried to refuse it, gently saying it was too much, and he’d refused my refusal, adamantly and repeatedly, I’d given up, thanked him and kissed him.
He’d done what he always did when I kissed him. He escalated things and made love to me.
I’d had two lovers in my life, and to say Dane was better than the first one was a massive understatement.
Still, I read enough, watched enough TV and movies, heard enough girlfriends talking about it, I knew I was missing something.
Even from Dane.
I knew this because I’d never had an orgasm with a partner. Not once.
I faked it.
It wasn’t a good thing to do but eventually things just kept going, it got tedious, and I had to do what I had to do to end it so I could get some sleep.
Thinking on this brought me to the memory that Elsbeth had not shared often, but she had shared. And what she shared was that Jacob had no problems in that department. They’d started their relationship young and had been together for five years. Elsbeth and I were the same age and she’d been twenty when they started out. He’d been twenty-three. She had not been a virgin but she’d been an orgasm-during-sex virgin.
According to Elsbeth, Jacob had taken that particular virginity and done it spectacularly then went on to give that to her frequently and unfailingly.
Now I was thirty-four and had two lovers and no orgasms that had been given to me by anyone else but me.
And I had sexual knowledge of the man who that night told me he was interested in me and intended to do something about it.
So even though it was late, I was me, he was Jacob and I was psycho.
Not to mention, these thoughts were tamping down the joy I’d felt earlier, and I didn’t like that much.
So I got out of bed, wandered through the dark to the kitchen and nabbed my phone.
I called him wandering back to my room through the dark.
“You okay?” he answered.
“Just to say, if I wasn’t, although you have superhuman strength and an off-the-charts IQ, I’d still probably call 911.”
“Babe,” he replied.
I waited but he didn’t follow that up.
So I asked, “Babe, what?”
“Babe,” this time there was a smile in his voice, “get on with what you’re callin’ about.”
“Right,” I muttered as I walked up the rounded staircase that was reason three I bought this house. Reason one being the view I saw from the circular drive. Reason two being the extraordinary wood starburst inlaid in the entryway floor.
“Emme,” he called.
“Sorry,” I replied. “I was thinking about my starburst.”
“Nothing,” I said quickly. “Is this too late to call?”
“No, but just to say, no time is a bad time to hear from you.”
Good answer. So good, it made me feel mushy inside.
Safe in that feeling, I admitted, “I can’t sleep.”
There was concern in my name and a hint of Jacob being what Jacob had been recently. Determined to go full steam ahead, do most of the talking and the talking he did blowing my mind.