The protector, p.28
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       The Protector, p.28
 

           Jodi Ellen Malpas

  viciously. “Put your legs down,” I order, knowing that will tip us both.

  She screams, launching her legs down my body, her teeth gritting. I cough, our new position stripping me of the ability to breathe. “Oh God.” I feel the rush of pleasure start to seize me. Cami’s lids snap closed, denying me the vision of her eyes. “Open,” I order harshly.

  She growls but obeys.

  “I need to see you.”

  She whimpers and groans, her hands on a feeling frenzy all over my head before moving to my back. “I see you,” she whispers, and then convulses violently, losing control of herself.

  Those words, her reactions. They take me with her. I hiss, my cock undulating in waves, spilling everything I have to give into her. My body surrenders to the power of my pleasure, falling into her curves, molding to her. The sensations taking over my body blank my mind and shrink my lungs. I feel helpless, but the strongest I’ve ever felt. I feel hijacked by a force too powerful to keep back.

  I feel her go slack and manage to lift my face a fraction to get her in my view, seeing her eyes closed, her head fallen to the side in exhaustion. Her arms are no longer clinging to me, her long, slender limbs splayed out at her sides. The only signs of life are her heartbeat, currently thumping against my chest, and the constriction of her internal muscles, milking me dry. I study her for a few moments, feeling so fucking emotional. She’s turned me into an emotional pussy. I hate her for it. But I mostly love her for it.

  She’s made me feel again, which scares me to fucking death, because feeling again means I can hurt again.

  On a content and disturbed sigh, I lower my face into her sweaty neck and settle above her, keeping her caged in. She’s not going anywhere. Not now. But what about tomorrow? What about when I reveal my ghosts?

  Chapter 26

  CAMI

  Moving isn’t an option. Neither is speaking. All I can do is feel, and somewhere amid my exhaustion, I can find the energy to enjoy it. I’ve been lost in semiconsciousness for…I don’t know how long. It doesn’t matter, because I can still feel him spread all over me, breathing into my neck.

  I’m not sure what just happened. All of the usual crushing feelings and pleasure were there, but this time there was something else. I can’t put my finger on it. Jake seemed so absolutely together, cool and controlled, stable and with it. Then something switched in him. His desperation spiraled, taking me with it. He made love to me like he thought he would never get the chance again.

  “Does it swallow you up like it does me?” he asks quietly, unmoving above me. “Does it consume you so much you think you might never break free?” He rises to his elbows, taking his time, until he’s gazing down at me, looking almost confused. His handsome face is clear, his gorgeous eyes twinkling. “Tell me you feel the same. Tell me I’m not alone.”

  If he needs the words, then I’ll give them to him. If that’s what it’ll take every day, then I’ll repeat them until he finally knows without the need for me to voice it. I bend my arms and bring them under my head, using them as a pillow to lift my head a little. “You’re not alone,” I say, watching for his reaction. He doesn’t lose the hint of perplexity from his features, but he does smile a little. “Can we stay here?” I ask.

  “In the bluebell woods?”

  “At your house,” I correct him. I’d happily remain right in this exact spot forever, but that would be a silly dream. My actual request isn’t silly. There’s no reason why we can’t just hide here forever; just me and him.

  He looks off into the distance as if considering my request. “We have things to deal with,” he says, but more to himself than to me.

  Nevertheless, I still answer him. “We don’t have to deal with them.” I sound sure of that, but Jake’s fleeting look of sympathy tells me I shouldn’t be. He’s looking down at me, seeming torn. “No one knows we’re here. They don’t have to,” I say quietly.

  “You want to live with unfinished business threatening to catch up with you?”

  “It’s finished,” I retort, more snappily than I meant. If I never see my father again, it’ll be too soon. Mum can visit me here. Or I’ll Skype her. And I can’t help but imagine Heather and me poring over our designs at Jake’s huge kitchen table, or maybe even converting one of the outbuildings into a work studio. It would be perfect. So perfect. London is only a couple of hours away. It’s doable.

  Jake sighs, heavily and despondently. “The police are looking for me, Cami. I don’t want anything to hold us back. I want a clear path, angel. I want you to pursue your career. I want us to be together. I want us to be happy. No holding back.”

  “What if the path is never clear?” My father is a relentless bastard. I know him. He doesn’t know how to lose.

  “It will be.” He sounds adamant, but it doesn’t lessen my trepidation. I might be suggesting the most cowardly option, but it’s also the easiest. “It’s going to be okay.”

  Jake doesn’t sound so resolute this time. He averts his eyes from mine, only emphasizing it.

  I feel incredibly protected here, but catching these occasional signs of uncertainty in him, seeing him have these internal battles, makes me question my peace. It makes me feel very unprotected. I fall into thought. I realize the situation with my father isn’t cause for us to be dancing on the ceiling, but why do I think there’s something else? Something more.

  My mind is quickly bombarded with flashbacks of that silver picture frame and Jake’s happy face. “Who is she?”

  He doesn’t ask me what on earth I’m talking about, despite my question being vague. I start chewing my lip nervously.

  He stiffens above me, his face remaining straight, but his dark eyes darken. He shakes his head.

  “Jake, who is she?” I repeat, ignoring all the signs that are telling me to drop it.

  He’s up and off me in the blink of an eye, leaving me bare and now chilly on the woodland ground. “Everything isn’t always as it seems, Cami,” he says through a tight jaw. “Don’t believe everything you see.” He paces over to his pile of clothes and yanks his jeans up, pulling them on aggressively.

  Sitting up, I wrap my arms around my legs, feeling small and stupid. I watch warily as he wrenches and yanks at the buttons of his fly, trying to fasten them. His hands are shaking. “Then tell me what to believe,” I plead tentatively.

  He breathes in deeply and turns to me. “I’m not ready to share that part of me with you.”

  Hurt slices me, and I drop my gaze to the ground, not wanting him to see it. So there’s something to tell, but he doesn’t want to tell me? He knows everything there is to know about me. It doesn’t seem fair. He knows what Sebastian did to me. I confided in him when I’d never breathed a word of Sebastian’s violent outbursts to anyone except Heather. No one could know I’d been that weak. Never.

  I could get up and walk away from Jake. I could demand to know and refuse to let it rest until he tells me.

  I could.

  But I won’t.

  Perhaps my subconscious is telling me I actually don’t want to know. It’s painful to him, therefore it means something. Anyone who’s caused him to behave so hurt and damaged hurts me also. Not because Jake feels that way but, selfishly, because someone else had that power over him. Someone else had that effect on him, and they still have.

  “Angel?”

  I show him my face. It’s not streaming with tears, nor is it hurt or slighted. It’s just me. “I understand,” I tell him, even though I don’t.

  But my reasons for not wanting to know go way deeper than Jake could ever comprehend. I don’t want to believe he ever existed before I found him—that he was a soldier or, most significantly, that he was someone else’s. I want to believe that he was just a shadow. Or that he’s always been mine.

  I’m huddled on the ground, feeling a little lost amid my thoughts, as Jake comes over and takes my arms, pulling me to my feet. “We haven’t eaten,” he says, taking us off track to issues that are far more tri
vial, yet much more appealing, despite my appetite having run for the hills.

  I don’t tell him that, though. It’ll hint to the sick feeling I have rolling round in my tummy, and of which I’m trying my hardest to ignore. “Then let’s eat.” I force a smile and cherish the one I get in return.

  “Sit.” He pulls me down to the blanket and starts rummaging through the basket, eventually pulling out a platter of cold meats and a basket of bread rolls.

  “Where did all of this come from?” I ask.

  “I have someone who stocks the cupboards for me. A local farmer based about thirty miles that way.” He nods past me, but I don’t look. I won’t see a farm thirty miles away even if I wasn’t surrounded by trees. “He has a little farmers’ shop.”

  “And he delivers from thirty miles?”

  “For me, yes.” Jake smiles, offering me the plate and a fork. “The beef has been hung for thirty days. It’s divine.”

  I help myself to the beef. “Does he know you?”

  He gives me a look as he loads his own plate. “He knows me but he doesn’t know me,” he says, making me laugh on the inside. That makes two of us.

  We eat in relative silence. It doesn’t bother me, because it gives me the opportunity to discreetly watch him. This place isn’t the kind of house or location that I would have matched up to Jake. It doesn’t suit him, but then, it does, in a weird kind of way. It’s secluded. Just like he is. What’s certain, though, is his peace. He’s mellow. Calm. And the longer I watch him, the more relaxed and serene he appears.

  I force myself to eat what I’ve put on my plate. There’s no signs of any green or salad, and I’m wondering if that was consciously chosen on his part. I shouldn’t care. I haven’t got another shoot until a week from Friday. Plenty of time to worry about avoiding carbs. I’ve gone without them for so long, that tiny roll has stuffed me. I feel fit to burst.

  Moving my plate to the side, I fall to my back and stare up at the sky. “I love it here,” I declare to the clouds, hearing Jake’s light laugh as he clears my plate.

  “So do I.” He appears above my naked body, towering high. With a gun in his hand.

  My eyes stick to it, the black weapon resting easily in his grasp, pointing at the ground.

  “Is it loaded?” I ask, pushing myself up onto my elbows.

  “It’s always loaded.” A slight shift of his grip has a chamber falling out of the handle into his spare hand. “Want to try?”

  My eyes bug. “Try firing a gun?”

  “Yes.” He grins wickedly. “It’s a massive rush.”

  “Okay!” I’m up like lightning, weirdly excited by the prospect. “What do I need to do?”

  He’s delighting in my enthusiasm. “This here is the magazine.” He holds up the black rectangular thing.

  I frown at him. “Magazine?”

  “Not your kind of magazine.” He rolls his eyes on a mild chuckle. “It holds the bullets.” He slips it into the bottom of the handle and smacks it, locking it into place on a thrilling sound of metal on metal.

  The sound isn’t the only thrilling thing. Jake looks hot as fuck handling it in only his jeans. I swallow, trying to moisten my suddenly dry mouth.

  “Here.” He hands me the gun, handle first, and I reach forward tentatively, taking it from his grasp as I hold my breath, feeling all kinds of forbidden resting in my hand.

  “It’s heavy,” I muse, flexing my grip.

  “It’s one of the lightest handguns on the market.” He circles and comes in behind me, pushing his back close to mine. “You’re a true vision, bollock naked and with my gun in your hand.”

  He pushes his groin into my lower back, making me jerk. The gun starts to shake lightly in my grasp, and my breasts are pushing forward as my back lengthens. “You shouldn’t do that when I’m holding a loaded weapon.”

  “Easy now.” He laughs, reaching round me and steadying my wrist. “I want you to aim for that tree over there.”

  “I can’t shoot a tree!” I object, horrified. “They’re living, breathing things!”

  “In that case, they’ve just got the show of their lives.” He laughs again, the sound so lovely I can’t possibly scowl at his quick quip. “It’s already dead, angel.” Jake releases me and points to some branches above. I follow his pointing hand and spot the signs of hollows in the trunk. “Has been for years.”

  “Oh.” I shrug my shoulders and lift the gun, pointing it at the center of the trunk, one eye closing as I try to aim. I feel my lips twist in concentration, determined to hit my target. “Do I just pull the trigger?”

  “Not so fast, angel.” His palms push into my shoulders. “Keep your shoulders square, your arms relaxed, and your thumbs away from the slide at the back. It pinches like a bitch if it catches you.”

  I nod, despite being a bit overwhelmed by the onslaught of instructions. I check my that thumbs are clear, square my shoulders, and force my arms to soften. “Right.”

  “The power will shock you at first. Be prepared for the kickback.”

  “Okay,” I say, widening my stance a little.

  Jake comes in closer to my side and indicates the back of the gun. “Pull the slide back.” He points to the top of the gun, and I do as I’m bid, pulling it back as I pull in breath. “The red light here tells you the gun is uncocked and you’re ready to fire.’

  I move my eyes to where Jake is indicating at the back of the gun, seeing the red light. “So I’m ready? Just squeeze the trigger?”

  “Just squeeze the trigger.”

  My teeth grit and I close one eye as I squeeze the trigger.

  Bang!

  “Holy shit!” I jump a mile into the air, vibrations rippling up my arms, the gun flailing as I swing around.

  Jake’s quick to move in and seize it from me, obviously prepared. “You missed by a mile,” he says, amused, pointing toward my target.

  “It wasn’t a mile!” I protest. “And how would you know? Those things fire bullets at stupid-miles-per-hour.”

  “Ooh, is my angel competitive?”

  “No.” I snort, ignoring his smirk. “Give me that gun!” I know better than to snatch it back, so I hold my hand out and give him an expectant look.

  He’s enjoying this. And I can’t deny it, so am I. Laying the gun in my palm, he gestures toward the tree, all gentlemanly. Piss-taking arsehole.

  I secure my grip, then aim once again, following all of Jake’s previous instructions. I don’t miss his small sound of praise. I’m going to hit it with this shot. Just watch me. Keeping both eyes open this time, I squeeze.

  Bang!

  My arms don’t fly around this time, and I manage to remain in position, which is how I know the bullet missed the tree by a long shot. Not a mile, but still. “How do I reload?” I ask, keeping my focus on the bark of the trunk.

  “It’s semiautomatic.”

  I sigh. “Which means what?”

  “Which means it loads itself each time a bullet is fired. One pull of the trigger, one shot. As soon as you release the trigger, it’s ready to go again.”

  “Right. So I just keep firing?”

  “Just keep firing,” he confirms.

  I pull again, sending another bullet zooming toward the tree. And past it. “Damn!” I release and squeeze, but again I miss by a mile. I growl under my breath and realign my focus.

  Bang!

  Bang!

  Both miss. “Shit!” I keep firing, each time failing to hit my target, until the slide atop the gun doesn’t retract to allow me to fire anymore.

  “You’re out of bullets, angel.” He sounds smug.

  “I don’t like this game,” I mutter, dropping the gun to my side. It’s much harder than it looks.

  Jake moves in and takes the gun from my hand. “Practice makes perfect,” he quips, releasing the magazine thingy.

  “How perfect a shot are you?”

  He tucks the weapon under his arm and goes to his pocket, pulling out some bullets and feeding them into
the chamber of the magazine. “Shall we see?”

  “You’re perfect, aren’t you?” He was a sniper. Of course he’s perfect.

  He waggles a cocky eyebrow and locks the magazine in place. “What am I aiming for?” he asks seriously.

 
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