Page 24

 Kristen Ashley

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I started laughing softly again and Jacob kept going.
“Two, they need to expend their energies rippin’ out insulation, haulin’ it down, luggin’ new up and staple-gunning it to beams. Food that requires silverware is an unnecessary expenditure of that energy.”
“Got ’cha,” I murmured. “Beer and munchies.”
“Right. And now that I got you, insulation is ordered. Delivery window is one to four tomorrow. That good for you?”
I blinked at my desk. “You ordered it?”
“Babe, need it Sunday. No time to f**k around.”
“But you didn’t measure,” I reminded him.
“You gave me a tour, didn’t you?”
I sat up straight as it hit me, like it sometimes did, how very sharp he was. I knew without a doubt he’d ordered enough, not too much. And he calculated the amount of insulation I’d need by walking through my house.
“Yeah, I did,” I answered. “And I’ll be there for delivery during the window.”
“Good,” he replied then asked the question I’d hoped he wouldn’t ask, “McFarland being cool with you?”
He was. And, in Dane’s way, he also was not. And I figured Jacob wouldn’t see the part where he was, only the part where he wasn’t.
I had to answer so I decided it was safe to share some of it, but not all of it.
“He came up to the office and asked if we could talk. I told him to come by the house at one on Sunday and I’d say what I had to say then.”
“And?” Jacob prompted.
“And, well…”
I didn’t know whether to tell him or not.
Because I was psycho, I told him, “Then he asked who owned the black Dodge Ram that was outside my house last night.”
I shouldn’t have told him.
“He was at your house last night?”
I’d never heard him use that deep, rumbly, controlled-but-barely tone of voice and I wished I’d still never heard it because it was more than a little scary.
“He, well… does that sometimes when he’s, well, we’re not… when we don’t have plans,” I stammered. “He does it because I live up there alone and he wants to check on me. Make sure I’m good.”
“He does it because he’s creepy into you, Emme.”
I was getting the feeling that might be true so I said nothing.
“We need to get around to having a conversation about this guy, babe,” Jacob told me.
“It’ll be over Sunday, honey,” I told him.
“Yeah, but evidence is suggesting he’s not gonna like that and he’s also not gonna like you movin’ on, and you work with him. So we’re gonna have a conversation about him and soon. What’d you say about my truck?”
“I told him you were over.”
More silence then, “Straight up?”
“Well, I didn’t share about your earth-shattering shift in the path of our relationship but, yeah. I said you came around for dinner. Why?”
“And how’d he react to that?”
“He’s always been weird about me with guys,” I admitted.
“Creepy. Fuck,” Jacob murmured.
“He gets over it,” I told him.
“No he doesn’t, Emme. He hides it. And Sunday, after the boys go, we have that conversation. Yeah?”
“Okay,” I mumbled.
“I also want you spending the night at my house tonight and tomorrow night.”
My entire body spasmed.
“Pardon?” I breathed.
“I got work, I won’t be there. I’ll drop the keys at your office with directions. But, he’s doin’ drive-bys, you’re not gonna be there.”
“Jacob, you said we’d go slow,” I reminded him cautiously.
“Babe, job I’m on, I’m not gonna be in my bed until Sunday night.”
At the mention of his bed, I got another full-body spasm.
I ignored that and asked, “What job are you on?”
“Emme, honey, can’t say, and with my work, you gotta know, I’m never gonna be able to say. As we’re takin’ this forward, you’ll get everything you want from me, anything you ask, just not that.”
I knew this. I knew this because, even back when, Elsbeth couldn’t say. Considering his mind and the company he kept, I’d been fascinated by his work and asked her once what he did.
Her response was uttered on a shrug, “No idea. I just know he busts his hump, doesn’t talk about it and doesn’t get paid much for doing it.”
That said, it didn’t take a genius the caliber of Jacob, what with the policemen, private detectives and bounty hunters that came to their parties, to know it had something to do with the things they did. It just seemed that whatever it was was a lot more secretive.
Which, of course, made it a lot more fascinating.
“So, I drop the keys, you pack a bag,” he ordered.
“Honey, honestly, I’ll be okay at home.”
“Baby, honestly, I’m a town away from your creepy soon-to-be ex and I got a security system. You’ll be more okay there and that’s where you’re going to be.”
This was something else I knew but had never experienced directly. Elsbeth had told me Jacob could get bossy.
“I think you’re worried about nothing,” I told him.
“And I think I got a dick,” he told me and I blinked at his words. “And havin’ a dick, I know how other guys who got one think. I also know you dress great. You got great hair. You got unbelievably beautiful eyes. You got a winning personality. You’re funny. You’re smart. You got that thing goin’ on where you state plain with pretty much everything you do you don’t need anybody, and a man falls for all that the wrong way, you also got problems.”
I was feeling so mushy-happy at these words I didn’t have the ability to speak.
“Pack a bag. I’ll drop the keys,” he repeated his order into my silence.
“Okay,” I gave in.
“You get in, make yourself at home. I’ll call Donna and tell her she doesn’t have to worry about Buford for a couple of nights.”
“My hound.”
“Your… what?” My second word was pitched higher.
“You don’t like dogs?” he asked but before I could answer, he stated, “I thought you liked dogs.”