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Marriage For One: Chapter 24

ROSE

It was after the official first date, not days after, only hours when I woke up with a weird feeling.

It was so hard to sleep in the same bed with Jack after I’d started feeling better from the surgery. As much as I talked about wanting to get him into bed naked, I never actually did anything about it, at least not when we were in bed like this.

That being said, I wasn’t actually surprised to find Jack spooning me—that happened a lot. I woke up in a lot of different positions in the morning, usually with my face tucked under his chin, my hand across his chest. Sometimes my face was on his chest with his arms wrapped around me, and there had been a few instances where we had woken up fused to each other just like we were right then.

Little spoon, meet big spoon.

In the hospital, that had been the only position we had slept in, but that was only because the bed wasn’t big enough for any other positioning. At the hospital, sex had been the last thing on my mind, but out of it…the last two months, things had been different. In those instances where we had woken up with his front pressed to my back, he usually got out of bed as quickly as possible and I said a silent goodbye to his lovely erection that had been pressing into me from behind.

Those mornings were my favorite, because it was something else to wake up wrapped in his arms. I felt protected, cared for, and maybe for the first time in a very long time, like I belonged somewhere: in his arms. Those times, I wasn’t brave enough to tease him, and I just closed my eyes and took my fill instead.

When we were both vertical and wearing actual clothes, that was when I flourished in making him squirm. So much for my bravery.

“Jack?” I mumbled, peering over my shoulder. His lips were right there, only inches away, and I shivered when those same full lips pressed a kiss on my bare shoulder. He was already awake, apparently. I tried to turn onto my back so I could look at him, but with his body covering mine, it wasn’t possible. I only managed to turn halfway, craning my neck back the rest of the way. “Is everything okay?” I croaked out, my voice heavy with sleep. Apart from the city lights casting a shadow on his face, there were no lights on, just us.

“Go back to sleep,” he whispered.

Jack’s hand found mine and I held it up, palm against palm, his skin warm against my fingertips.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Nothing.”

Watching our hands dance as he gently tapped his fingers against mine in the low light, I linked my fingers with his, tightly, and listened to him release a long breath.

“You want me to believe you just woke up to hold hands with me?”

“I talked to your doctor today.”

I turned my body a little more toward him and cautiously watched his face.

“When?”

“After dinner. I called his private phone.”

“And?” I prompted anxiously when he didn’t go on. I was starting to hate the word doctor.

“He sent the email today with the results, and I thought it was a bill so I opened it. The MRI was clean. The surgery worked. There is no tear in your membrane anymore.”

I closed my eyes and dropped my head back onto the pillow, releasing the biggest sigh in the world. I was feeling a little dizzy with relief. A weight had been lifted off my chest with his words, the equivalent of a baby elephant. I felt worlds lighter.

“But you still need to be careful—you know that, right?” Jack reminded me.

That I did. The doctor had warned me that usually when a CSF leak happens out of nowhere, there is a high chance that the same issue can pop up in a different part of the membrane. If the pressure is constantly high, it really is inevitable.

I opened my eyes and looked at Jack with a big smile. “I know, I know, but I’m still happy to have good news.” However, Jack didn’t look all that happy. My brows lowered. “Is everything else okay? You don’t look very excited.” I touched the space between his brows with my fingertip after I pulled my hand out of his grip. “Why this frown?”

Catching my finger in his hand, he leaned down and pressed a soft kiss on my temple that caused my eyes to fall closed and my entire body to wake up and take notice of the man looking at me with such an intense expression on his face.

“Jack,” I mumbled. My brain was screaming Danger!—the good kind.

“I asked if we were cleared for sex.”

That shut me up. My heart rate slowly picked up, and suddenly the room felt hotter.

“And?”

I swallowed and held my breath.

His victorious fingers found a way to link mine with his again, and he gave them a squeeze as he stared into my eyes. “He said if we took it slow, it’d be fine.”

“Huh.”

That was all I could come up with to say. Huh. I was a genius for sure.

I gave him my back but kept my tight hold on his hand so he was forced to spoon me again.

“Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“I thought we should wait the last five days.”

“Now? Now you don’t think we should.”

“No, I don’t think we should.”

“What are you thinking?” he whispered into my ear in a hoarse voice, causing all the hairs on my arms to rise. “I thought you were waiting for this. I thought you wanted this.”

I worried my teeth over my bottom lip. I could hear every little noise in the room. His breathing was low and deep, and the sound the sheets made when he tucked his legs behind mine was a soft swoosh, caressing my senses.

I was on the edge of whimpering like a little girl when I felt his tongue on my neck, kissing me, tasting me.

“I do want to,” I whispered, my eyes fluttering closed as if I was afraid he’d hear me.

Silence followed my words for at least a full minute.

“It’s okay, Rose. Go back to sleep,” he whispered back.

How could I when his hard-on was getting harder and harder to ignore? I squeezed my eyes shut and went for it.

“I didn’t think you’d ask me.”

“Ask you what?”

Groaning, I turned my head and burrowed it into the pillow, trying to be careful with my nose. “It sounds weird when I say it out loud.”

“How would you know that if you don’t say it? Come on, let’s hear it.”

Releasing my breath, I opened my eyes and looked out the windows in the terrace doors. “I thought when it happened, it’d just…happen.”

His hand let go of mine and he started stroking my waist and then my arm. “What do you mean exactly?”

How could I think of anything when he was touching me?

“I’m not sure if you’ve noticed that I talk a big talk, Jack, but I’m not exactly an expert when it comes to getting busy. I’m not saying I’m bad or anything, I’m just saying I’m nothing special when it comes down to it. I’ve only been with three and a half people—”

“Half? No, I take it back. I don’t want to know. I already want to kill all three and a half of them.”

“Cute. You know I’m a romantic, so I thought when the time came, you’d just wake me up in the middle of the night and take me, you know, because you couldn’t wait any longer…or we’d walk into the apartment and you’d just lift me up and I would wrap my legs around you and you’d say fuck it and we’d go for it, or you could push me against a wall and do it like that. I didn’t think you’d ask my permission to have sex with me. It’s making me feel nervous.”

“Sounds like you’ve been thinking about the logistics of this.”

“Of course I have.”

“I didn’t ask your permission.”

“It was implied.”

“You feeling nervous about something? I wouldn’t believe it if I saw it with my own eyes.”

Frowning, I turned my head so I could look at him as his fingers pressed into my skin, holding me at my waist. “Are you making fun of me?”

I caught his smile right before he captured my lips in a deep kiss and my eyes closed on their own. I slowly slipped my tongue in, brushing it against his as I turned onto my back so I could kiss him deeper. This time he let me, and his response was glorious. His fingers lifted the bottom of my shirt and, with no hesitation whatsoever, he pushed his hand right down into my underwear, going straight for my core.

I moaned into his mouth and let my thighs fall open. He growled right back and pushed one finger inside me then he slowly added another. My body offered no resistance, already wet for him. I made a low sound in the back of my throat when he pushed his fingers as deep as they would go, moving excruciatingly slowly.

I just kept kissing him through it, holding his face to me with both of my hands, hungrier by the second. I was so ready for this, for us to be a real thing, and this was sealing the deal. We had done everything backward—I’d even fallen for him before having an official first date—but this…this would make everything right.

When I was sure he wasn’t ending the kiss before I wanted him to, my hands managed to find their way down into his pants, and the kiss turned into something much different once I had my hand wrapped around the base of his cock.

Still kissing him uncontrollably, I took a deep breath through my nose and whimpered into his mouth when he started fingering me in earnest, his thumb firmly pressing on my clit. I moved my hips as much as I could, his hand driving me out of my mind.

My body burning and tingling at the same time, I tore my mouth away from his and bit on my lip to hold in an embarrassingly long and loud moan. My hand tightened around his cock. I could hear all the noises him fingering me was making, and it was only getting me more worked up.

“You’re dripping all over my hand again,” he murmured, and I was happy to see that he was just as out of breath as I was. He nipped my jawline, my neck, my earlobe.

All I could manage in return was to hold on to his cock, giving it a very rough pull every now and then when I could remember to do so.

My entire focus was on his fingers and then his lips were trailing along my neck, biting softly and licking. I was seconds away from coming on his hand. I worked my hips, pushing them down to take more of his fingers even though he was giving me everything. I wanted more, deeper, harder.

I only realized I was saying my thoughts out loud when he said, “Okay. Whatever you want, Rose, I’ll give it to you.”

When he pulled his fingers out of me, I sobered up a little.

“But…”

“Shhh.”

I closed my legs, trying to find some kind of relief, and started pulling on his thick cock a little faster now that I could use my brain again, but he put a stop to that pretty quickly by sitting upright and gently pulling my hand out of his pants.

When I tried to sit up too, he softly pressed a hand on my shoulder and kept me in place. “Stay still for a second.”

I huffed but stopped squirming when he went for my underwear and pulled them off.

“Shit.” When his fingers parted me and I felt the cool air between my legs, I was already panting. My entire focus was on Jack and what he would do next. He put his big hands on my inner thighs and opened me wider for his perusal.

Two possessive fingers entered me again, and then those two quickly turned into three scissoring inside of me. For the life of me, I couldn’t keep still, and the more he didn’t take his eyes away from where his fingers were disappearing into, the hotter and brighter the fire inside of me burned. He leaned down and started licking my clit and all around it with a firm tongue.

“Jack,” I mewled embarrassingly.

“Right,” he mumbled, and after one final delicious lick, he stopped again.

I groaned and tried to close my legs with his fingers still inside. I was pretty sure that would help me get some relief.

His palm pressed into the sensitive skin on the inside of my thigh. “No, keep them open.”

“I want to see you too,” I admitted. “I don’t feel particularly patient at the moment.”

“Neither do I,” he agreed, his eyes devouring me. The next thing I knew, his fingers left me and he was taking off his shirt. I was still trying to get over his pecs and abs that were just out of my reach. He had insisted on being fully clothed at all times when he was in bed with me. I had disagreed wholeheartedly, but he had won. He got off the bed. I sat up straight and got up on my knees in the middle of the sheets.

“Jack,” I started, but I didn’t get far as he got rid of his pajama pants next. I couldn’t take my eyes away as his thick, veiny cock bobbed in the air, almost reaching his navel.

Oh, this was really happening, and I was all for it.

Holding his eyes with my own, I reached for the bottom of my shirt and took it off. Clothes were overrated anyway. Then I reached behind my back and took off my bra, throwing them both on the floor. A second later, Jack released a long groan and he was back in the bed with me, slamming into me and going straight for my mouth.

Compared to the kiss he gave me then, all the kisses we had shared so far would be considered innocent. I tilted my head to the side and let him go in deeper. One of his hands cupped the back of my head, the other gripping my waist in an almost bruising hold. I didn’t care. All that mattered was that he was holding me to himself so he could take as much as he wanted. His cock was pressed between us, the wet and swollen head brushing my stomach. His other hand released its hold on my waist and trailed up, the drag of his skin on mine tipping me even further into delirium as he found my breast and molded it into his hand, squeezing and pulling on my nipple until I was moaning and making all kinds of noises.

The second his lips gave mine a break, he went for my ears, licking and nipping his way down my throat to my boobs. I arched my back, offering myself to him. He latched onto my nipple with his mouth and started sucking with deep, sensual pulls as his other hand moved to caress and knead the other, getting it ready for the same treatment. I let my head drop back and tangled my fingers through his hair, gripping tight.

My heart felt like it was beating in my throat, my pulse all over the place. There was one thing I was sure of: I would never forget Jack Hawthorne and his touch in this lifetime.

When he sucked my nipple into his mouth deeper and harder than I was expecting him to, I had to steady myself with one hand curling around the hard muscle of his shoulder as I tried my very best to catch my breath. I’d never in my life come from just that, but I was surprisingly close.

“Jack,” I murmured on an exhalation as he hummed and sucked my nipples, sending electricity all over my body. I wasn’t sure how I was even staying up on my knees. “Jack,” I repeated. “I want you. I can’t wait. I don’t want to wait.”

When he lifted his head to look into my eyes, I was still moaning, my body twitching. I hadn’t come, but I was pretty damn close to it.

“Hmmm,” he murmured, kissing me again, tangling his tongue with mine. Even though I was naked, I felt warm all over, tingly. “Are you sure it’s not just talk? You really want me to fuck you?”

I reached between us and gave him a few luxuriating pulls that, as far as I could tell, he enjoyed since he nipped my bottom lip. I used my thumb to spread the warm liquid around the head and before I could do anything else, he tore himself away and went for the bedside table. I watched in awe as he ripped open a condom packet and slowly rolled it onto himself. I’d put them there myself to give him a hint. The second it was done, he was by my side. He turned my body until I was facing the headboard and he was on his knees right behind me.

“Open your legs as wide as you can for me, baby,” he muttered, his lips licking and biting my neck. Every kiss caused a full body shiver, and I was sure I would die happy after this. “Hold on to the headboard if you need to.”

I was turned on like I had never been turned on before. I would do whatever he wanted me to. I moved on my knees and opened my legs wider, balancing myself with one hand on the headboard. When he put both of his hands on the insides of my thighs and spread me even wider, his fingertips grazing my wetness, I thought I experienced a very tiny orgasm.

My throat was already hoarse when he finally settled himself between my wide open legs, his knees resting right beside mine, keeping me open. “Lay your head back,” he whispered into my ear, causing another shiver to go through my body.

“Jack,” I moaned. It seemed like I couldn’t come up with any other word.

“I need you so badly,” he whispered, his lips moving against my skin as he spoke, his hot breath keeping me on edge. I’d take it—I’d take him needing me any day.

I felt his left palm covering my stomach and then his right hand guiding his cock between my legs, moving it up and down my slit, spreading my wetness all over his shaft.

“Jack,” I repeated again.

“Hmmm.”

“Please…enough.”

“You want me.”

“I do.”

“Tell me. Say the words.”

“I want you like crazy, Jack.”

“Just me, Rose. I’m the only one.”

I closed my eyes. He wanted me to die a slow death then. “I’ve never wanted anyone as much as I want you.”

That seemed to satisfy him.

“Kiss me then. Give me your mouth before I take you,” he said.

The back of my head was already resting against his shoulder so I turned it to the left, and his mouth took mine in a rough kiss. The next thing I knew, before I could take in my next breath, he was pushing inside me in a slow and never-ending slide. I ripped my lips away from his and released a long, long moan, my head pushing back, my eyes closed shut.

“Okay?” he asked, and all I could do was bite my lip and nod. “You feel so good,” he murmured, pushing the rest of his cock in. He was stretching me wide open and I was loving it. My muscles quivering, my moan started up again.

I could already see colors dancing in front of my eyes. “That’s so good, Jack.”

“Yeah?”

His left palm pushed harder on my stomach, pulling me against him, and finally I took all of it. I tried to open my legs wider to get more comfortable because my right thigh had started shaking, but the little bit of pain that came with his size and our position made everything feel a hundred times better.

He started pulling out and I gripped his forearm to hold on to him. One of my hands was still grasping the headboard, but I needed to feel his skin against my fingertips. “Easy,” I groaned.

“You want me to stop? So soon?”

“I’ll kill you if you stop,” I gasped out.

“Then what? It hurts?” he asked, his nose nuzzling my neck.

“Good hurt,” I managed to get out.

“Good.”

Slowly he pulled out only halfway and then pushed in again. This time, I took him in more easily. I’d never had sex this slowly, had never known it could feel that good and also deliciously painful in a way.

“Is that good for you too?” I asked, feeling bold.

“You have no idea,” he groaned, starting steady thrusts as I got comfortable with his size. I was soaking him in my wetness. “I could fuck you like this for hours.”

Feeling overwhelmed, I chuckled, but then he thrust up all the way in and it turned into another moan. “I think I’d die from pleasure.”

“I would never let you die, just trying to fuck you good.”

“I’d love to die like this.”

He started a slow rhythm that had me moaning constantly. Every time my head dropped forward, he warned me to keep it tilted back against him, and his worry for me helped build my pleasure higher and higher.

“Was this what you imagined all those times you teased me?”

“Better,” I whispered, and his fingers dug deeper into my stomach. My breath and heart out of control, I tightened my grip on his forearm. We’d both leave our mark on each other by the time we were done, and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.

“Jack,” I gasped, a little panic trickling into my voice only a few short minutes after he had started fucking me.

“What? We’re stopping again?” he asked, not slowing down his thrusts. I held the wrist of his left hand, which was still pressing on my stomach.

“No, no, no,” I chanted, and his thrusts started to go deeper and faster. I backed my hips up, trying to somehow take him even deeper. His right hand wrapped around me too, grasping my hip as my butt bounced off the tops of his thighs. “Jack…Jack, I’m gonna come. Don’t stop.”

“Come on, Rose. Come all over my cock, baby. Let me feel how much you want me.” He bit on my earlobe and I lost it. “Yes, baby. Just like that. Ride it. Take my cock.”

I closed my eyes, and listening to his rough voice push me right over the edge and into oblivion. Gasping his name, I felt heat burst between my legs, and all the muscles in my body tightened. I let go of the headboard and threw my right hand back, gripping Jack’s hair, pulling involuntarily. I moaned long and hard as my body shivered in his arms and he kept riding me hard through my orgasm, his lips tracing an invisible line on my neck.

When my body started relaxing around him, he slowed down.

“Was that good enough?”

I could do nothing but nod. I had been too loud and had come too hard. Anywhere he was in contact with my body was burning, but I felt the heat in my cheeks even more.

“Do you feel how slick you are for me? How hard you came on my cock?”

It was impossible not to feel it. My only answer was another nod. He went deeper into me as I whimpered. His right hand cupped the heavy weight of my breast, and I shamelessly arched into it.

Lust licked at my skin. When he quickened his pace just a fraction, I sucked in a breath of air. “Shit.”

“You’ll come again.”

“Always giving orders,” I murmured, all my focus on the spot where we became one.

“It wasn’t an order, Rose, just pointing out the obvious.”

He buried his face in my neck and pinched my nipple, his thrusts uncompromising. I released something between a gasp and a groan.

God, the strength of him holding me—it was just as powerful as his thrusts. I loosened my hold on his wrist and splayed my hand on top of his, silently telling him I wanted more pressure.

“I’ll bruise you,” he whispered.

“I want you to,” I whispered back, turning my head and pressing my forehead against his hot throat.

“Why?”

“I want everything from you, Jack, everything and more. I want you to leave a mark on me.” It was nothing more than a breathy statement that had a double meaning as I realized I was seconds away from another orgasm.

“Open your mouth,” he ordered, moving his head back.

I lifted my head and let him invade my mouth in a blazing kiss at the same moment his thrusts became exquisitely demanding. The taste of him, of his hunger rushed over me as I started coming again. He moved his right hand down my body, and the feel of his skin against my sensitive areas caused me to tremble in his arms as he jackhammered into me. He did nothing but cover my pussy with his hand, the heel of it pressing hard on my clit.

Through the fog that had filled my brain, I felt him go impossibly deeper as I whimpered into his mouth, my body shaking in the aftermath. The little grunts of pleasure escaping from him made my toes curl. He thrust deeply two more times then stilled inside me. I groaned softly as my inner muscles quivered around his length. I was lost in his hunger, his hunger for me.

He gave me a few more lazy, luxuriating thrusts that caressed me from the inside as both his hands rested on top of my thighs. I had a feeling he didn’t want to let go, which was just fine with me. I never wanted him to let go of me either.

“Is this real?” I asked, out of breath as he started to pull out.

He stilled behind me. “What do you mean?”

“I’m not dreaming this, am I?” I moved my hands up and down his forearms, my head still resting on his broad shoulder. Rolling my head, I looked up at him through dazed and probably half-lost eyes.

He smiled the sweetest, sexiest smile and kissed my lips. “This—we—are as real as it gets.” His hands moved and he wrapped them around me in a tight grip, his forearms holding up the weight of my breasts. After a long squeeze, which I loved, he whispered into my ear. “I need to get rid of the condom, baby. Let go of me.”

I dropped my hands and held back a small whimper when he pulled out. However, I couldn’t stop the trembling in my body when his palm moved on the curve of my ass.

“Lie down—you’re shaking.”

I did so happily.

When he came back, I was hiding under the covers, my head resting on the pillow, my hands tucked under my cheek. I tracked his every move and secretly high-fived myself when I noticed he was still naked. His cock was impressive even when it wasn’t doing things to me.

He lay down, facing me.

“Hi,” I whispered.

He took a deep breath and then released it. “Hello, Rose.” His lips met mine and I smiled through our short-lived kiss. “What’s the smile for?” he asked, his lips moving against mine as our noses bumped.

“I’d share my door with you any day, Jack Hawthorne.”

His brows dipped together. “What are you talking about?”

“If you’ve never seen Titanic, I can’t be married to you,” I said seriously.

Unfortunately, the confusion didn’t clear from his eyes, but a smile did touch his lips. “I think it’s a little late for that.”

“You haven’t seen it. Jack and Rose…the Titanic…”

“I know the movie, but I don’t think I’ve seen it.”

“If I was confident I could walk out of this room, I’d force you to watch it right now, but since that’s not happening, clear your schedule—we’re watching it tomorrow.”

His hand brushed my hair away from my face. “Okay. How are you feeling?”

Now I let my own lips curve up. “For a minute there, my brain tingled.”

His expression turned serious, his body going taut. “Are you feeling okay? Was it too much?”

I lifted my hand and smoothed out his frown. “I’m fine, but there was definitely a tingle up there.” Leaning forward, I kissed him. Closing my eyes, my heart in my throat, I whispered against his lips, “It was the best sex of my life, Jack.”

“Good.”

I drew back and looked into his eyes, which were hiding in the dark shadows of my room. “That’s it? You better say something more.”

His eyebrows rose. “You want to hear that you’re my best too?”

“Yes, and more. Please.”

Then he laughed, and if the sounds he made when he was coming were the sexiest I’d ever heard, the sound of him laughing in bed with me was the sweetest. He sobered quickly, but it didn’t stop me from hearing the smile and amusement in his voice. “You’re the best I’ve ever had too, Rose.”

I waited. So did he.

“More,” I said. “And make it more believable.”

One eyebrow quirked up then his hand sneaked behind me and he pulled me to himself until we were skin to skin again. His semi-hard cock pressed against my stomach and he looked into my eyes, no hint of a smile left on his face.

I was already breathless, dammit!

“You’re the only woman I want to go to sleep holding on to and wake up next to, Rose Hawthorne. I will never leave you. I will never forget you.”

Heat rushed across my skin, my heartbeat loud in my ears. I cleared my throat. “Not too bad. I guess it’s a good thing you’re not that bad in bed.”

I will never leave you.

That statement—it stole the breath from my lungs. The obvious claim would’ve easily scared a different woman, but I soaked in every raw word and let them fill me. I’d never belonged to anyone, not like that, not like what Jack was offering me.

“Sex?” I quipped. “Again? You know, just so we can see if the first time was a fluke?”

His answer was whispered against my lips with a smile as his eyes held my vulnerable stare. “Yes, baby. Again.”


The next day, I looked exactly like someone who had gotten herself some. It was smiles galore in the coffee shop and I was walking on clouds. Owen didn’t mind making sure I knew what he thought of me when I kept smiling to myself right across from him on the other side of the kitchen island.

When I saw Jack’s face flash on my phone’s screen right before we were about to open, my morning reached a high.

“Hi.”

“My Rose.” There was that hint of a smile I loved seeing on his lips in his voice when he spoke. “How are you feeling?”

“Perfect,” I whispered, moving to a corner as I looked out at the busy, busy New York streets. We had had sex again, Jack and I, once more after the first time, and then again in the morning, which brought our total up to three. It wasn’t a bad number when you thought about it, and knowing the first time hadn’t been a fluke was just the icing on the cake. I had all kinds of bruises to show for it, but I especially loved the ones on my hipbones and the sides of my stomach. When I closed my eyes, I could still feel his fingers digging into my skin. “How are you feeling?”

His answer was soft and gentle, so opposite of him. “Perfect.”

I looked down at my shoes and grinned. “We have good sex.”

“That we do.”

“Did you want to say something?”

“I can’t just call my wife because I want to?”

“You can, and you should, too. Whenever she crosses your mind, you should call her or text her. I think she likes talking to you.”

“You think so?”

“Yeah, I definitely think so.”

“Tell me more. What else does she like?”

I looked over my shoulder to make sure Sally was still busy stacking the sandwiches and couldn’t hear me. “She likes when you whisper into her ear.” My own voice had dropped into a rough whisper as my body shuddered just thinking about the night before and that morning.

I listened to Jack clear his throat and mutter something to someone who was apparently in his office with him. I waited until he came back to me.

“Sorry. I had a junior associate with me. I’m alone now.”

I nodded, forgetting he couldn’t see me. “What are you doing?”

“I’m getting ready for a meeting.”

“And we’re about to open.”

“I see.”

“I think I missed you,” I admitted in a low voice. It had been only hours since I’d stolen one last kiss when he joined Raymond and me on our little morning commute. He’d said he wanted to be at the office early to go over some things, and I’d said he didn’t want to let go of me. He had kissed me then, right in front of my coffee shop. So what? he had said once he’d left me all breathless and hungry again.

“You think?” he asked, sounding amused.

“I know.”

“Would you like to have lunch with me then?”

“Rose?” I looked up and to the side to see Sally grinning at me. “Should I unlock the door?”

“Yes, yes. Sorry, I’ll come help in a second.”

She waved a hand at me. “I got it.” Then, with an even bigger smile, she unlocked the door and welcomed our first two customers of the day. I hadn’t even noticed they were waiting outside in the cold.

Basically squeezing myself into the corner, I focused my attention back on Jack. “If you missed me so much that you couldn’t continue on with your day without seeing me during your lunch, I would consider that option…but since you haven’t mi—”

“You’ll always call me out, won’t you?”

“I think that’s a given.”

“Good. Well, if you don’t go out to lunch with me, my entire day will be ruined because I won’t be able to think about anything but you, you and your taste.”

I blushed. He definitely knew my taste.

“Fine. I’ll have lunch with you. I’ll have to cancel all my other plans, but only because you insisted so much.”

As I smiled down at my shoes, there was a heavy silence from the other end of the line.

“Jack?”

“I’ll make you happy, Rose. I promise.”

Words got stuck in my throat for a short moment. “I’ll make you happy too, Jack.”

Before he could respond, I heard an unexpected and unwelcome voice behind me.

“Rose?”

My smile dropped before I even set eyes on him. Joshua. His hair was slicked back, which made him look like a total douchebag, and he was wearing a suit—nothing as good as Jack’s suits, but still a black suit. He looked like a perfect fit for someone as rich as Jodi was. When we had been together, he hadn’t been like this—no slick hair, no suits. It was as if he had molded himself into a different person, or maybe my cousin had molded him into a different person. Either way, it wasn’t my business.

“Jack,” I said, still holding the phone to my ear. “I…uh, we just opened. I should go. I’ll text you when we slow down a bit.”

After a quick goodbye, I hung up the phone.

“What are you doing here, Joshua? Again.”

“I’d like to talk to you, if you have a few minutes.”

I frowned at him. We had nothing to talk about. I glanced over his shoulder, annoyed that he was almost blocking my way of escape. “We just opened.” I repeated the words I’d said to Jack. “I don’t have time to talk—I need to work.”

He smiled, a small intimate expression that only made me more annoyed because he was messing with my happy morning. He didn’t belong there. “I don’t mind waiting.”

Because we were starting to fill with customers, I couldn’t make a scene and straight up kick him out. So, I shrugged and, turning my shoulders so I wouldn’t get too close, walked past him.

I made him wait for over an hour, hoping he’d get bored and leave on his own. I couldn’t remember a single time he had waited for me even for an extra fifteen minutes, but now it seemed he had all the time in the world. What bugged me the most was the fact that he hadn’t even ordered one simple coffee as he occupied a table I could have offered to actual paying customers.

That was why I made my way toward him when the morning rush started to slow down, that and the fact that he was making me feel extremely uncomfortable with the way he was trying to catch my eye.

I figured I didn’t need to sit down to say what I needed to say, so I stood next to his seat and, trying to be as quiet as possible, I rushed straight into it.

“I’m not sure how to say this any other way, but I don’t want you to come here again. I don’t want to see or talk to you.”

“I thought we were going to talk.”

Was he even listening to me?

“And I thought you’d take a hint and leave before that happened.”

“Rose, I think you’ll want to hear what—”

“I don’t. I don’t want to hear it, and I don’t want to see you. I have no idea what—”

“I came to tell you a thing or two about your husband.”

My short nails bit into my palms as I tried to maintain a smiling face for the customers around us. “Leave.”

He shifted in his seat, scooting forward. “I met him while we were still in love. You and I… He paid me to break up with you, Rose. He was too insistent, he wouldn’t let me turn him down. I was afraid of what he’d do to me. If I had known he would force you to marry him and play with you like this, I would have—”

With every word coming out of his mouth, I felt my body sway more. The world started to spin around me. My knees weakened, and I had to take the seat across from Joshua.

Once he was done speaking, there was no happiness left inside of me.

He paid me to break up with you.


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