Trashed, p.6
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       Trashed, p.6

         Part #2 of Stripped series by Jasinda Wilder
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I can’t even look at Adam now.

  He slides off the bed and goes to the kitchen. I hear water running, and then the gurgling of a kettle. I need to get up, need to get dressed, need to get out of here, but I can’t seem to move. I’m not thinking of the panic attack now, I’m thinking about what preceded it.

  I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life: I let a man I’ve known for a matter of hours almost get me naked, let him touch me, let him kiss me. And he’s not just some random guy, he’s a rich and famous movie star.

  What the fuck was I thinking?

  And then I go and have a panic attack.

  God, I’m a freak, and a mess.

  He comes up the stairs and into the bedroom with a mug in his hand, the string and tab of a tea bag dangling over the side of the mug. He’s wearing nothing but a pair of black gym shorts, and even after everything that just happened I catch myself staring at his crotch, watching the bounce and sway of his dick in his shorts as he walks toward me. I can see the tip in the folds of the shorts, a thick round thing. I force my eyes away and blink hard, keeping my eyes down on the floral-print comforter and accept the mug of tea from him.

  He sits on the edge of the bed and watches me sip the tea. Waits. “Des, I—” he stops, sighs, and tries again. “Are you okay?”

  I shrug. “I’m fine. Thanks. ”

  “I want to ask what happened, what I did to make you have a panic attack, but I—”

  I interrupt him. “It wasn’t you. I just…have issues. ”

  “I should have backed off. I’m sorry, Des. I saw—I knew you were nervous or something, but I didn’t realize—”

  I finally meet his eyes, and see that he’s genuinely upset. “Just…forget it, okay? It wasn’t you. ”

  “Don’t feed me the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ bullshit, Des. You don’t just have panic attacks that bad out of nowhere. ” He says this gently, reaching out to trace my cheekbone with his thumb. “Drink your tea, babe. I’ll get dressed and take you home. ”

  Babe. He called me babe.

  Why do I like that so much? And why do I feel this crazy urge to explain everything to him?

  Instead, I follow him across the room with my eyes as he snags a pair of jeans and a black T-shirt out of a suitcase in the corner of the bedroom area. He goes into the bathroom and comes out dressed a few seconds later. I notice he didn’t put on any underwear, and that does things I can’t quite figure out to my insides.

  I take a long sip of the tea, which is some kind of minty lemony herbal tea, and it’s exactly what I needed even though I didn’t know it until now. I listen as he calls down to the front desk and requests a private carriage.

  “What kind of tea is this?” I ask when he comes back.

  He goes down to the kitchenette and grabs the wrapper off the counter. “Harney and Sons. Mint Verbena. ”

  “It’s really good. ” I try to smile at him. “Thank you. ”

  “You’re welcome. ” He smiles back at me, but the questions that keep piling up in his eyes are all I can see.

  “I’m sorry for freaking out on you, Adam. It really wasn’t your fault. ”

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  He shrugs. “Don’t be sorry. ”

  I want to tell him how good what he did made me feel, but I don’t know how. “And thank you for…” I wave my hand vaguely, hating the way I’m flushing. “This. ”

  His gaze narrows and heats. “This what?”

  I try a different tack. “I had a really…really good time. Until I wigged out, that is. But dinner, and everything. Just…thank you. ”

  A smile brightens his face, his eyes gleaming. “I really enjoyed everything, too, Des. So thank you. ”

  I finish my tea in two long swallows, burning my mouth a little and not caring. I have to get home. He’s too much. This is too much. I’m embarrassed by my freak-out, shaken by how intensely attracted to Adam I am, not just physically but to him, to the man, and I just don’t know what to think or feel or do.

  I still can’t believe I almost let him get me naked. That can’t happen. He’d see things no one has ever seen except Ruthie, and I don’t know how he’d react.

  I take the linen bag containing my clothes into the bathroom and dress quickly, and when I emerge Adam has a pair of cross trainers on and his room key in his hands. We walk to the elevator in silence. We ride down to the parlor level together in silence, and he walks me out to the covered driveway, not holding my hand and not speaking.

  A closed carriage waits, two tall black horses stomping and swishing their tails and shaking their heads. The driver is hunched over, wearing a slicker and gloves and looking miserable. A doorman opens the carriage door, and Adam hands me up.

  “Goodnight, Des,” he says.

  “Goodnight, Adam. ”

  A million things lie between us, all unspoken.

  Rain still falls in wild, windblown curtains, and thunder still crashes and lightning still splits the sky. I’d forgotten, for a while, that it was storming.

  Adam hands a folded bill to the driver, tells him my destination, and then closes the door, shoving his hands in his pockets and watching as the carriage jerks into motion. I watch him until he’s out of sight.

  When I finally get home, Ruth is on her bed reading.

  She frowns at me over the top of her book. “I thought you were meeting Jimmy and me for drinks?”

  “I was going to,” I start, and then realize I have no clue how to explain what just happened, to myself, let alone to my friend. “Something came up. ”

  Ruth knows me well enough to know when I’m evading, when I don’t want to talk about something. “Okay,” she shrugs, and then looks at me more closely. “Are you okay? You look like you were crying. ”

  I owe her something, at least. “I don’t even know where to start, Ruthie. I just don’t. I’m okay, though. I just…I need some sleep. ”

  She stares at me, one pierced eyebrow arched in suspicion. And then she goes back to reading. “Fine. But if you ever want to talk, you know you can tell me anything. ”

  “I know. ” I lean over and hug her, but quickly, so she doesn’t smell Adam on me. “Thanks, Ruthie. ”

  Sleep is a long time coming. I can’t stop thinking of Adam, of what he made me feel. I realize he knew exactly how to handle my panic attack, and somehow I’m not surprised. He just took care of me, and he didn’t ask any questions.

  And when I finally fall asleep, I dream of his hands and his mouth and his eyes, and his words. I dream of his big warm hard body beneath mine, just holding me, and I dream of listening to his heartbeat.

  Chapter 5

  It’s late afternoon, the day of the fundraiser dinner. I’ve managed to spend the day in my room, answering emails and working on my script and studiously not thinking about Des. Eventually, I’m compelled by my restless nature to head downstairs for lunch. After eating, I find Gareth on one of the couches in the parlor, sipping tea and staring at his cell phone, a sour look on his face.

  “Bad news, Adam,” Gareth says to me.

  I sit down beside him, and he sets his phone on his knee. “Bad news, huh?” I glance at him. “What’s up?”

  “I just got a call from Emma. ” He doesn’t look at me as he says her name. “The storm is still out of control. They ran the ferries all day yesterday despite the storm, but today they’re saying the waves are well over fifteen feet in places. They’re shutting down the ferries for a while, until the waves go down a bit. ”

  I frown. “I didn’t think they ever shut the ferries down. ”

  He shrugs. “I didn’t either. First time in like, twenty years or something. One of the ferries almost capsized this morning, apparently. ” He taps at the screen of his phone. “Anyway, point is, Emma can’t make it for the dinner. ”

  “Well damn,” I say, my tone dry and droll. “I’m so upset. ”

  Gareth rolls his eyes an
d grins. “I’m sure you’re heartbroken. But you still need a date for the dinner. ”

  “I might be stuck going on my own. It’s not the end of the world. ”

  “Fine, whatever. ” Gareth pokes me in the shoulder. “But you will show up, Adam. Alone or with a date, you have to at least make an appearance. ”

  “I will, I will. ”

  He sets his tea down with a clatter, and picks up a tiny triangular sandwich with something pink on top of the bread. It’s a formal English type of tea setup that they do every afternoon, apparently, complete with weird sandwiches and bizarre pastries.

  “Well, I’d better go make some calls,” I say, slapping my knee.

  Although, by the time I get up to my room, I already know what I’m going to do. It’s reckless, and sure to get me in trouble, and probably make a huge scene for everyone, but I don’t care. I shower and dress in my tux, fighting with the bow tie for nearly twenty minutes before getting it to look right. Fucking bow ties.

  I ask for a private carriage and bring an umbrella, not that it’ll do much good, as it’s still raining really hard. I hop into the waiting carriage, tell the driver where I want to go, and then sit back to think about what I’m going to say. And try not to think too closely about what I’m doing, and how bad an idea it is.

  It’s only a few minutes before the carriage is stopping outside her dorm. I jump out and jog to the entrance, which is luckily unlocked. A girl with blue-streaked blonde hair and an eyebrow piercing is exiting one of the apartment doors and locking it behind herself.

  “Excuse me,” I say, fixing my public-appearance smile on my face. “I’m looking for Des Ross. ”

  Page 17


  The girl starts and presses a hand to her chest, having not seen me as I approached. “Holy shit, you scared me, dude. ” And then she actually sees me and her eyes go wide. “Holy shit. Holy motherfucking shit. ”

  I ignore her unblinking stare of disbelief. “Do you know where I can find Des?”

  She tilts her head to one side. “Why?”

  “I met her yesterday, and I wanted to…talk to her. ” I take a step closer and let a silence hang. “Do you know where I can find her?”

  The girl has a calculating expression on her face. “She came home last night looking like she’d been crying. ”

  “Home?” I glance at the door behind the girl. “She’s your roommate?”

  “Ruth Nicholson. ” She extends her hand, and I shake it, squeezing gently.

  “Adam Trenton. ”

  “Nice to meet you, Adam. ” She withdraws her hand and fixes me with an impressively hard look. “So why did she come back looking shaken up?”

  I hesitate, not knowing what to say. Finally, I decide on neutrality. “I think if she didn’t explain, neither should I. But how about you just tell her I’m here, and let her decide if she wants to see me. ”

  Ruth nods. “Good enough. ” Her eyes rake up and down. “Nice tux, by the way. ”

  “Thanks. ”

  She goes back inside, and then returns after only a moment. “You can go in. ” She closes the distance between us and looks up at me, a fierce expression on her face. “You better be nice to my friend, dude. I don’t care who you are. Don’t hurt her. ”

  “She’s in good hands,” I tell her.

  She nods, a rueful expression crossing her features. “Yeah, that’s what I’m afraid of. ”

  And then the small but fiery girl with blue-streaked hair is out in the rain, ducking and running across the street and into a coffee shop. The door to her and Des’s apartment is cracked open, so I knock on it and push in. It’s a dorm room, exactly like you’d find in any college in the country. Small, a bunk bed on one wall, a bookshelf and two small bureaus on another, a bathroom behind a partially open door. There’s an actual closet too, shallow and narrow, but more than most dorms have. There are girl clothes everywhere, a bra hanging off the hook of the bathroom door, inside-out jeans on the floor, a hairbrush on the desk under the window, a tiny scrap of thong underwear on the floor just inside the bathroom. Having sisters, I’m unfazed.

  Des is sitting at the desk, her hair in a ponytail and hanging over her shoulder. She’s wearing yoga pants and a hoodie, and she manages to be a knock-out even in that.

  Her eyes find mine. “Hi. ”

  I move to the desk and perch one hip on the edge. “Hey. ”

  She eyes me warily, but doesn’t move away from me, even though I’m suddenly in her personal space. “What’s up? Why are you here, and why are you wearing a tux?”

  “Do you have a nice dress here with you?”

  She just blinks at me. “A dress?”

  I nod. “Yeah. Like, a nice one. An evening gown type of thing. ”

  I can see the wheels turning in her head. “I do, actually, yeah. ” Her gaze flits over me. “God you look hot in that tux. ” She closes her eyes slowly and presses her lips together, as if she hadn’t meant to say that.

  I laugh. “Thanks. So. How long will it take you to get ready?”

  She frowns. “Ready? For what?”

  “The ferries are shut down, so the person I was bringing to the dinner tonight can’t get here. I want you to come with me. ”

  “The dinner? The fancy fundraiser dinner?”

  “Yep. ”

  She shakes her head. “No. No fucking way. ”

  I lean closer to her, brush my palm against her cheek and inhale her scent. “Please?”

  She nuzzles her face into my palm, closes her eyes and lets out a shuddering breath. “Adam, that’s crazy. I don’t belong at a dinner like that. ”

  She really doesn’t. Neither do I, if you ask me. But no one’s asking me.

  I just grin at her. “But I want you there. I really don’t want to go, but if I have to, it’d be better if you were there. ” I don’t know what I’m saying, but it feels true. “Please? I need you to go with me. ”

  She hesitates. And then she stabs her finger into my chest. “You can’t leave me alone. Not for one second. ”

  I’m leaning into her finger, closing the inches between us, inhaling her scent. I take a strand of her thick silky black hair between my fingers and spin it so the end twirls.

  “I won’t. ” She smells so good and looks so good and I want to kiss her, so I do. Slowly, carefully, briefly. “I’ll stay by your side the whole time. ”

  She seems shaken by the kiss, as if she wasn’t expecting it, and doesn’t know how to deal with it. “Promise?” she asks in a whisper.

  “I swear. ”

  “Give me forty-five minutes. ”

  “No problem. ”

  She stands up and I move out of the way. She slides past me, her eyes finding mine. A smile crosses her face, but then she ducks her head and goes into the bathroom. I catch a glimpse of her as she tugs the band out of her hair and shakes it out, and then shrugs out of her hoodie. I catch a glimpse of a bare shoulder and a hint of tattoo ink just before she closes the door.

  Ten minutes later, she’s out of the shower and emerging from the bathroom wreathed in steam, a towel turbaned around her hair and another wrapped around her torso. I get another glimpse of the ink, but it’s hidden by the towel and I can just see the edges of it. It looks like words, text of some kind, but that’s all I can make out. Des just out of the shower, dripping wet and flushed from the heat, is a version of her I’m starting to really like. She offers me another small smile, rifles through the clothes on one side of the closet, and withdraws a red dress. Then she goes to a dresser where she withdraws a bra and a pair of underwear, but I can’t make out what either looks like. She vanishes into the bathroom once more, and this time she’s in there for a full half an hour. I hear a hair dryer going for a while, and then further silence.

  The intimacy of waiting for a woman to get ready is not lost on me. Even in the year and a half that I was with Emma, we didn’t share these kinds
of intimate moments. I never saw her just out of the shower. Never waited for her to get ready. We always met somewhere, or I picked her up at her house, waiting in the foyer for her to come down.

  Page 18


  At long last, the bathroom door opens and I catch a glimpse of red, and then my heart stops beating, my lungs seize, and my dick goes rock hard.

  “Jesus, Des. ” I stand up, move closer. “You’re…there just aren’t words for how incredible you look. ”

  She smiles brightly, shrugging one shoulder. “It’s just a dress I’ve had for awhile. Never even worn it. ”

  It’s not an elaborate or expensive dress, but it’s molded to her goddess body like it was made especially for her. It’s strapless, the cups pushing her incredible tits into mouth-watering prominence, and the hem hangs to brush the tops of her toes on one side while not quite hitting her knee on the other. It’s unbearably sexy without being slutty.

  Her hair…god, her hair. She’s brushed it to shining perfection, leaving it loose to scintillate in waves around her shoulders and down her back, and she’s put on just enough makeup to accentuate how lovely she is, highlighting the bright brown molten brilliance of her eyes and the tanned clarity of her skin.

  I wrap my hand around the small of her back and pull her closer to me. “Des…I’m speechless. ”

  She’s wearing a pair of simple black heels, so the difference in our height is almost eliminated. “Really?” She sounds skeptical.

  I shake my head. She really doesn’t understand what she does to me. “You’re so gorgeous it’s sinful. I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the evening without attacking you. ” I tug her body flush against mine. “You’re so fucking sexy it actually hurts to breathe looking at you. Now come on, the carriage is waiting. ”

  I don’t think she’s ever been complimented this way, judging by her unsure reaction. Eventually she shrugs and then looks me over again. “You look pretty damn sexy yourself,” she says.

  I just smile at her and offer her my hand. She takes it, and we go to the entrance, brace ourselves, and run for the carriage.

  * * *

  I bought this dress on a whim, a year ago. At full price it’d have been so far out of my reach I wouldn’t have even bothered trying it on, but it was on clearance, so I gave it a try. I’m not an insecure girl most days, and I’m also not vain. But when I put on that dress, I knew it looked good on me. Damn good. So I bought it, even though I never went anywhere that such a dress would be appropriate. And more baffling still, I stuffed it and a pair of heels into my bags when I packed for the summer on Mackinac. Why, I wasn’t sure, even then. I collected trash and drank with the other co-ops and locals. Why the hell would I have brought an evening gown and heels? But, for reasons unknown, I did, and now I’m glad I did.

  I’m also glad my hair is long enough to cover the upper edge of the tattoos on my back that peek up over the dress, because I’m pretty sure an event like this isn’t the kind of place to go around showing ink. I wonder if Adam saw the ink? I wonder what he would think if he saw it all, if he likes tattoos or if he’s against them.

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