He leaned back, stretching out his long legs. “Tess . . . Tess . . . Tess . . .”
“What?” I forced my gaze back to him after staring at a square hedge for far too long.
Jase was watching me again, the look on his face completely unreadable. His eyes were so bright now, almost silver, as his gaze dipped. He made a sound deep in his throat, half curse and half groan. I didn’t understand it. My attention followed his, and I drew in a shaky, surprised breath.
That was about when I realized I wasn’t wearing a bra, and the cooler night air and thin tank top did nothing to hide what I had going on.
And right at that moment, I had a lot going on.
My ni**les were hard, pressing against the material. Heat swamped my cheeks and I started to fold my arms, but then it struck me that Jase was looking, like really looking. And for someone who claimed that “the moment” got away from him . . .
Wait. He was drunk right now.
I folded my arms over my chest. “What?” I demanded again.
He dragged his burning gaze up, and I swore it had lingered over my lips. “Why did you come here? To this place?”
The question caught me off guard, and so did the way he asked it, like he’d never in a million years expected me to be here, at the same college as him. “I . . . my leg . . .” Couldn’t I speak in complete sentences? A soft wind picked up, tossing my hair around. “I didn’t know what else to do.”
“You never planned on doing the college thing, right?”
“No. Not like this.”
“So what . . .” Jase paused, catching a piece of my hair. As he tucked it back, his fingers grazed my cheek, causing a fine shiver to work its way down my spine. His hand lingered for maybe a second, and then it fell into the space between us—a space that suddenly seemed much smaller. “What are you studying?”
It took a moment for my brain to turn over the question. “Elementary ed.”
The corner of his lip curled up once more as he draped his right arm over the back of the bench, still facing me. “That takes a special kind of person.”
“How so?” The major had been a last-minute thing because I hadn’t planned on having a normal career. I’d opened the registration manual and basically picked one. Teaching seemed like a good, stable idea. A plan B that I didn’t plan on using.
“Kids are tough, Tess, especially at that age.”
“You’d know.” I smiled as I remembered how he was with his little brother. “But I like kids.”
A sudden shadow passed over his face. “Yeah, look, I better get going. It’s late and you probably would like to go back to sleep.” He started to lean forward but stopped. “We’re friends, right? You and I? Like . . . like before?”
Like before he’d kissed me. I steeled myself against the sudden tumbling of my heart. This was it. Even if Jase thought I was beautiful and he was attracted to me, he wasn’t going to act on it. Whether it was because of Cam or something else, whatever he felt for me wasn’t going to be enough. And it didn’t matter. I could be friends with him. It wasn’t like I planned on being here for a long time. If I was cleared, I’d finish out the semester and then head back to the studio.
Jase . . . Jase would once more become a memory.
I forced a smile. “Yes. We’re friends.”
“Good. Perfect.” His smile spread, and it was that big smile, the one that didn’t lessen his beauty whatsoever, that probably had panties dropping across the nation. He stood, and I watched him stumble to the left. Jase threw his hands out, balancing himself. “Whoa.”
When he pulled his car keys out of his pocket, I pushed to my feet. There was no pain in my knee this time. “You’re not driving.”
He shot me a look and then laughed. “I’m fine.”
“You are not fine. You can’t even stand straight.”
“Well, it’s a good thing that driving doesn’t requiring standing straight.”
My eyes widened. “Jase . . .”
He took another stumbling step, and I caught his arm, wrapping my hand around his forearm. My fingers didn’t come anywhere close to meeting. He was startled by the contact and his gaze swung toward me. So was I. The feel of his warm skin branded mine, but I took advantage of the situation.
I swiped the keys from his hand and then let go, stepping back. “You’re not driving.”
Jase didn’t make a grab for the keys. “Then what do you expect me to do? Sleep out on this bench?”
I could’ve suggested that he call one of his friends, but that’s not what I said. “You can stay with me.”
His eyes widened, and then he barked out a short laugh. “Stay with you?”
I scowled. “Yeah, what’s so funny about that?”
He started to respond, but then he seemed to rethink what he was about to say. Several seconds stretched out between us. “Cam’s gonna kill me.”
“Cam will kill me if I let you drive off. Besides, there’s a couch in the suite. It’s not like you’re sharing my bed.”
In the light of the lamppost, his eyes glimmered. The look that suddenly filled his eyes had the tips of my ears burning.
“Suite or your bed,” he said finally. “Your brother is still gonna kill me.”
There was a slight chance that Cam might, but he’d be more pissed if I let Jase drive off. And besides, it wasn’t like either of us could call Cam to come get his drunk ass. How could we explain Jase being here? “He doesn’t have to know.”
Jase didn’t look convinced, but when I turned to walk back toward the entrance, he stumbled into step beside me. He was quiet as he followed me up to my dorm and opened the door to the suite.
“Debbie’s not back yet.” I flipped the floor lamp on. “She might be spending it with—”
“Erik,” Jase interrupted, looking around the small sitting room. I so doubted this was the first time he’d been in one of these suites. “They’re still at the party. Who’s in the other room?”
“Don’t know.” I picked up the pillow from the floor and placed it on the couch, by the arm. “I’ve never seen them. I think they’re vampires or something.”
He chuckled as he brushed past me and then sat on the couch. The next second he was on his back, eyes closed and chest rising and falling evenly. Wow. It must be awesome to pass out that quickly.
Sighing, I went into my room and grabbed a quilt my mom had made from off the foot of my bed and then returned to the suite. He hadn’t moved by the time I came to stand between the coffee table and his long legs, but his silvery eyes were open in thin slits.
“Friends?” he murmured.
The twinge of disappointment was lost in the lurch my heart gave as he smiled up at me. I was such an idiot. Draping the quilt over him, I started to back away.
Moving faster than I thought a drunk guy could move, he grabbed my wrist, holding me in place with a surprisingly gentle grip. “Tess?” he said, eyes heavily hooded. “Are we friends?”
My breath caught as his thumb moved in a slow, idle circle right under my palm. The slight touch did crazy things to my brain, completely shorting it out. “Yes. We’re friends.”
“Good,” he said, repeating what he’d spoken outside. “Perfect.”
He didn’t let go, but tugged me down until my hip was resting on the couch beside his. So many thoughts whirled around, and I had no idea why I said what I did next. “How did you know what dorm I was in?”
“I have my ways.” His hand slid up my arm, stopping just below my elbow, where his thumb moved over the sensitive skin there.
What was he doing? I was pretty sure friends didn’t do this. I sure as hell didn’t with my guy friends. But I really didn’t have a lot of guy friends, just a few from the studio. And Jase didn’t touch me like this before. Not even in the seconds before he’d kissed me. We’d been talking and I’d hugged him good night, but when I pulled back, he had held on and . . . the moment had gotten away from him. Was the moment going to get away from us again? He was drunk. It was quite possible and I knew I should pull away for a hundred different reasons, but I didn’t.
And that made me a stupid girl.
I still didn’t move away.
The smooth circling of his thumb sent little jolts of awareness through me. An ache filled my br**sts and moved lower through my body. My lips parted on their own accord. God, I knew better. Honestly I did, but I had never, ever responded this way to a simple touch. I hadn’t even known it was possible for my insides to twist up in such delicious knots from a thumb on the inside of my elbow.
“Friends,” he murmured again, and then he pulled me down.
Pulse pounding, I didn’t resist. The very idea didn’t even cross my mind as his head tilted up and his warm breath danced over my lips and then my cheek. I shivered when his chest rose, brushing mine.
A deep emotion sparked in my chest, and it tasted like panic. Self-control came out of nowhere. A will that surprised me was born, and I pulled away before I really did turn into a doormat that had WELCOME tattooed on my forehead.
Jase held on as I jerked up, rising into a sitting position. The combination of me being off balance, him being drunk, and poor leverage didn’t mingle well with the quilt I had so nicely draped over him. Somehow he got his legs tangled in it. I stepped back and bumped into the coffee table. He kept moving as he pulled me down, half rolling, half sitting up. We tumbled right off the couch.
I hit the floor on my back and Jase’s weight came down on me, pushing the air out of my lungs. A moment passed and then I blinked open my eyes. I was plastered to the carpet, unable to move my legs or my arms.
“Oh my God,” I managed to squeak out. “Are you dead?”
He laughed deeply as he planted his hands on either side of my arms and lifted his upper body off mine. Air rushed into my lungs. “No. Holy wow . . . are you okay?”
His thick, dark lashes lowered and he grinned. “I don’t know. I think I broke you.”
“I asked if you were okay,” I clarified in a voice that sounded strange in my ears. His weight and proximity had blood thundering through my veins. “Breaking me has nothing to do with that.”
“I’m more concerned about you, but you did break my fall. How sweet of you, Tess.” He chuckled, and dear Lord, I knew he was three sheets to the wind and then some, and damnit, did he have to be an adorable albeit clumsy drunk? Wiggling to get my arms free, he shifted and our bodies ended up pressed together in all the ways that counted. I stilled when a raw, sexy sound rumbled up from his chest. My gaze lifted, meeting his. Neither of us moved. Neither of us spoke. His lips parted on a quick, shallow inhale. My chest rose against his in a deep, shaky breath. I felt him through my thin bottoms, right where he was hardening between my thighs. There was no mistaking it, no hiding his length and thickness.
A sweet and heady burn crawled over my body. Several points in my body throbbed acutely as he stared down at me. Entranced, I watched his eyes turn to a molten silver. Several shivers ran down my spine. The throbbing was intensifying in the very center of me, spreading through my limbs.
There was a slight, unfocused quality to his eyes, and I again told myself he was drunk, but that knowledge did nothing to dampen my arousal or the heat in his gaze.
“This . . . this is unexpected,” he said in a voice that stretched my nerve endings. “Tess, I . . .” His eyes closed, and he let out a deep breath. “You feel good under me, too good.”
My heart skipped a beat and then picked up. His words stirred up the kind of lust I had little experience with or understanding of. All I knew was that I wanted to wrap myself around him and hold on tight.
“Good isn’t the right word. Maybe perfect?” He sounded almost like he was talking to himself. “Fuck,” he growled, and then his h*ps rolled in a slow thrust, pressing against the part where I ached the most. My toes curled and I gasped. A tremble coursed through his large body. “Do you believe in fate?”
The question came out of left field, but it didn’t cut through the haze building in my head. “I don’t know,” I whispered. “Do you?”
“I mean, do you believe that some things are just meant to happen?” he murmured as he dropped his head and his lips brushed my neck. Another strangled gasp parted my lips. “Like no matter what you do, what you tell yourself, things are just going to happen? Some things I don’t think you can stop.”
My body overran my brain, losing what he was he was saying, and I wasn’t even sure he knew what he was saying. My right arm was free and I lifted my hand slowly, resting my fingers against the cool, silky strands of his hair.
His lips grazed my skin again and then the tip of his tongue flicked over my pulse. I jerked, causing our lower halves to press together. He kissed the same spot, nipping at my skin gently enough that it would not bruise, but the sensation was a riot inside me.
“You never knew.” He shifted his weight onto one arm and his hand curved along my cheek, tilting my head back.
A thunder was in my veins, as dangerous as a summer storm. “Never knew what?”
Jase shook his head as the rough pad of his thumb rubbed along my bottom lip. “I didn’t always . . . come up to see Cam. He wasn’t the only reason why I made that trip every weekend.” As shock shot through me, he laughed and then closed his eyes. “I came up to see you. Makes me a bastard, really. How old were you? Sixteen? Fuck me.”
Those words mixed with the feel of him were like an explosion, but there was little time to internalize and obsess over their meaning or to even question it. His head lowered and my body tensed. He was going to kiss me and I wasn’t going to push him away. Not now. Not after what he’d just admitted. Not with the way my chest was swelling, erasing the horrible, wretched feeling from earlier.