The other side of Jase’s lips tipped up.
My cheeks heated as I hastily looked away. Okay. I could handle this. Jase and I had talked things over. We were cool. Everything was cool. We were friends. And the things he’d said and how he’d felt on top of me Saturday night didn’t matter. He had been drunk. Another mistake. I clung to that, because considering anything else was sure to bring on a world of hurting.
I peeked at him, stealing a sideways glance. His gaze was still fixed on my face, but slowly moved down to my lap. My right leg was stretched out, and the way I held my notebook did nothing to hide the length of the scar covering my knee. I felt the burn in my face deepen as I shifted my notebook to my right leg.
“The class is really boring,” Calla announced, shoving her hand over and drawing his attention away. “I’m Calla, by the way.”
He reached over with his left arm, shaking her hand as his gaze flickered across her face. His stare did not linger on her scar, and for that, he got bonus points when it came to compassion. “I’m—”
“Jase Winstead,” she said, sitting back. “I know you. Well, I don’t know you. I’ve heard of you.”
A faint pink stained the tops of his broad cheeks. Was he blushing? “You have?” he asked.
She nodded and a private, almost knowing smile formed on her lips. “I think every female on this campus has heard of you.”
I rolled my eyes.
He chuckled. “Ah, I see . . .”
“You do?” I arched a brow.
Focusing on the front of the auditorium as the professor strode in, Jase bit down on his lower lip. There was something boyish about the action, but in a strange way, also sensual. The muscles in my stomach tightened at the sudden image of him nipping down on my lower lip like he had on my neck. The skin there tingled as a reminder. An electric-like sensation shot through my veins at the memory of how he’d rocked his hips.
Good God, I needed to get laid or something.
“Some would say I’m quite popular . . .” he remarked finally.
“With the ladies?” I supplied as I pulled a pen out of my bag.
Thick lashes lowered as he sent me a sideways look. “Maybe.”
“Definitely,” Calla murmured under her breath.
I grinned as Jase shifted in his seat. He was uncomfortable addressing his oh-so-stellar reputation?
“So,” I said, unable to resist poking at him. My voice was low as the professor started to discuss the six elements of music. “Would these ladies have good or bad things to say about you?”
He was silent as he scribbled the words rhythm and melody on his notebook. I didn’t think he’d answer. “Depends on who you ask.”
“What would it depend on?”
His grin spread on one side again. “Several factors, but I can assure you that most of them would have many good things to say.” His light gray eyes sought mine out again as he bowed his head until his warm breath danced along my cheek. “Actually, great things.”
My heart stumbled. Was he flirting with me? I swallowed. “Like what kind of things?”
He didn’t answer then, so I forced myself to focus on the lecture. I could feel Calla staring at me. She had no idea how I knew Jase and probably thought I was one of the girls who had many, many good things to say about him.
I wanted to say his comment was made out of arrogance and nothing else, but knowing how damn well he kissed, I was sure that he was just as skilled at everything else. The girls were probably boasting about his prowess on Internet message boards.
Jase shifted in the seat, and I stiffened as I felt his breath on my neck, just below my ear, teasing that sensitive spot that made me want to wiggle around—the same spot he’d nipped, licked, and then kissed. In a low whisper, he said, “I think you know exactly what kind of things they’d say good things about.”
I didn’t have a single clue about what was covered during music appreciation. The awareness of how close Jase sat was wholly distracting. Every time his leg or arm brushed mine, I was completely lost.
And I had an entire semester of this to look forward to.
There was a part of me that wanted to be grumpy about that, but I’d just be lying to myself. Knowing that I’d see Jase three times a week really increased my desire to attend this class.
After all, what was wrong with admiring a little eye candy?
Jase walked out with Calla and me, and it seemed like the temp had increased by ten degrees and the sun’s strength amplified.
“Where are you guys heading?” Jase asked, running a hand through his mess of waves.
“I’m heading back to my dorm,” Calla answered as she adjusted her sunglasses. She glanced at me. “Aren’t you going back to east campus?”
Thinking about the torturous walk ahead, I nodded. “Yeah, eventually. I have a class at one in Knutti. So I have an hour to make my way over there.”
“I can give you a ride over,” Jase offered, stopping at the edge of the pavilion surrounding the arts department. His gaze dipped briefly, but not quick enough that I didn’t know he was checking out my leg. I stiffened. “I can be your personal chauffeur,” he added with a grin that was nothing short of wicked.
For a moment, I got a little lost in that grin and the coils that formed in my tummy, but I managed to shake my head. “Thanks, but you don’t have to go out of your way.”
Jase waved at someone who called his name, but his attention was focused on me. “I’ll drive you. I’m parked over here anyway, in the back lot.”
“It’s not a big deal.” He squinted at the harsh glare off a passing car. “I’m heading over there anyway.”
“That’s really nice of you,” Calla said, sending me a look that said shut the hell up. “Her knee is really bothering her.”
I flushed out of embarrassment. “My leg isn’t bothering me that much. And I need the exercise. Walking is a good—” I squealed as Jase hooked an arm around my waist and bent, lifting me over his shoulder like I weighed nothing more than a sack of sugar. My bag slipped off my arm, smacking the pavement. “What are you doing?”
“Standing here discussing your ability to walk over to east campus in this heat makes me really impatient.”
I gripped the back of his shirt, unable to see through my hair. “Then leave! What the hell does that have to do with picking me up like a caveman?”
“Because you’re not walking over there.” He clamped his arm over the back of my thighs, dangerously close to getting hands-on with my ass. “That’s why.”
Calla laughed. “Well, that’s one way to settle the issue.”
Lifting my head, I glared at her through my hair. “You’re not helping.”
She smiled at me as she picked up my book bag and handed it over to Jase’s waiting hand. “See you later.”
“Traitor,” I muttered.
“Thanks.” Jase pivoted around, and I held on for dear life. He started walking down the road. “How you doing up there?”
“How do you think?” I snapped.
As we passed a group of students, they burst into laughter. One of the guys shouted, “So that’s how Jase gets his girls!”
My entire body went rigid.
He turned suddenly, causing me to squeal. Walking backward, he chuckled. “Some require a more hands-on approach.”
“I’d be down for a hands-on approach,” came a soft, feminine voice. “When you’re not so busy.”
Jase tsked as he spun. “Language, Tess, language.”
Holding on with one hand, I jabbed him in the kidney with my other.
My lips split in a wide smile.
“If my other hand was free . . .”
I knew exactly what he was thinking. “If you even consider for one second you think you can—ompf!” I gasped at the sudden extra hop in his step. “You asshole.”
“I think you do need a spanking.”
My mouth opened for a blistering response, but he’d reached his car and for some reason being spanked didn’t sound that bad. But he had to be teasing because there was no way he was going to put his hand on Cam’s little sister’s ass.
Jase dropped my bag and then opened the door. He moved his hand, and the rough calluses on his palms trailed along the back of my thighs. I shivered in spite of the heat, and mentally cursed my body’s reaction to him.
He reached up, gripping my hips. “You can let go of my shirt now.”
“Oh.” I released my grip.
His shoulders shook with a laugh, and then the front of my body slid down his. Air halted in my throat at the unexpected frisson. Awareness shimmered over certain parts in my body. My feet were on the pavement, but his hands lingered on my hips.
“There you go,” he said, his voice deeper than before as he dropped his hands. “You can climb in, right?”
Pushing the hair out of my face, I took a deep breath. “I’m not an invalid.”
“I didn’t say you were.”
“I can walk, you know, and climb into Jeeps.”
He picked up my bag, dropping it in the backseat. “I’m sure you can.”
When he raised an eyebrow, I realized that he was literally going to stand there until I got into the car. Sighing, I turned and climbed up. He flashed me a grin, closed the door, and then loped around the front.
He started the Jeep and warm air blasted out of the vents, stirring the hair around my face. His eyes were a clear, steely gray when they landed on me. “Okay. Why didn’t you want me to give you a ride?”
Seeing that all the humor had disappeared, I squirmed. “It’s not that I didn’t want you to give me a ride.”
“Really?” He reached up, unhooking his sunglasses from the visor. Sliding them up his nose, he settled back against his seat. Locks of hair fell forward, brushing the rim of the aviators.
Goodness gracious, he looked damn good in sunglasses.
Even though his eyes were shielded, there was no escaping his stare. No one looked at you like Jase Winstead did. It was like he was seeing right through me, layer by exposing layer. “Is it because of Saturday night? I was pretty inebriated. Shit, I don’t remember anything from the moment I stepped into your dorm.”
The back of my neck prickled. “Nothing?”
He shook his head. “So God only knows what I said and did, and I must’ve said something, because you didn’t want to get in this Jeep with me.”
Part of me wanted to punch him in the balls even though I knew beyond a doubt that he’d been drunk—drunk enough to have no recollection of telling me that I was a reason for why he’d visited Cam so much or our little interlude on the floor. It took a lot for me not to blast him over that, but what point would it serve? He’d been sloshed, and I had been the one who went out to meet him and then let him in my dorm. All this was temporary, and I couldn’t let this make an already crappy situation worse.
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “You didn’t do or say anything to make me mad.”
He didn’t respond for a moment. “But I slept on your floor and you slept on the couch?”
“Yeah . . . uh, you sort of fell down and stayed there.” I shrugged a shoulder. “I fell asleep on the couch.”
“Nice.” He coughed out a short laugh. Several seconds passed, and I considered making a mad dash out of the car. “We’re friends, right?”
My heart sunk in spite of my convictions on the state of him and me. “Yes.”
“Correct me if I’m wrong, friends give friends rides, right?”
I nodded, knowing where this conversation was heading.
“So what’s the big deal?”
Looking away, I blew out a long breath. Spending any amount of time in his presence didn’t help my determination to put an end to this stupid crush, but there was another reason. “I don’t want people thinking . . .” Picking at the hem of my shorts, I shook my head. “There’re a lot of things I can’t do right now—dance, work out, run, or even jog at a sedate pace. I can walk. That’s about all I can do.”
I kind of felt stupid after saying that and I doubted he’d understand how hard it was for me to go from being so active to becoming a sloth. And not even the cute baby sloths.
“Ah, here I was thinking you were secretly hoping I’d pick you up.” He switched gears into reverse.
I laughed. “Sorry to disappoint you.”
“You’d never be a disappointment.” Looking over his shoulder as he backed up, he smiled, and I wondered if he could see the way my pulse had jumped at his words. “I get what you’re saying. It’s hard when you’re used to doing something that was as common as breathing to you.”
“It is.” I tugged on the string dangling off my hem. “I miss the rush of dancing and running. You know? The energy. It’s calming and it’s just me . . .” I wasn’t sure I was making any sense. “And I don’t have that anymore.”
Shifting into drive, he relaxed his grip on the steering wheel. He was quiet as he navigated the parking lot. “You know there are other things you could do.”
Like sex? I bet that was relaxing when it was all said and done.
“You know one of the most calming things I’ve found?” he asked, having no idea that my mind was happily playing in the gutter. “Horseback riding.”