Unraveled, p.12
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       Unraveled, p.12
 

         Part #3 of Woodlands series by Jen Frederick
Page 12

 

  I slowed down so I didnt run over an errant footballer.

  Gray came up to my window and I rolled it down. “Is the offer still good?”

  He leaned against the windowsill and his forearm was inches away from me. The healthy sweat from his impromptu game smelled good and I felt a little nostalgic for the times that Id hugged Will after his track practice when you could smell fresh cut grass mixed in with clean male testosterone. A sudden urge to run my tongue up the side of his veined neck rocked me.

  When I looked straight into his gold-flecked eyes, there was a corresponding hunger. But what about last night? I wanted to cry. We could have explored all of this last night, but instead I was going somewhere on an “adventure. ” Well, this adventure better be damned good. Almost against my will, I swayed toward him, but my seatbelt saved me from utter humiliation. It caught me mid-swoon and held me back. Looking down at my hands, I thought about putting the vehicle in reverse and driving away.

  "Ill get the gear," Gray said, voice low. I fought back a visible shiver. What was wrong with me? Or maybe the better question was what was with him? "Dont leave," he ordered as if somehow my trepidation was obvious. "Dont leave," he repeated.

  I sat there in my idling truck and watched the guys and girls on the front lawn, some staring at me and others admiring Gray’s form as he loped toward the garage. It was hard not to admire his powerful build. Had I once thought that he wasn’t my type? That had been some kind of crazy talk.

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  GRAY DIRECTED ME TOWARD THE Red Rock cliffs, a small area of bluffs that dropped into the citys river. Id never been here before. Out of the back he pulled out a bunch of ropes and nylon things and metal hooks.

  "Is that what I think it is?"

  "If youre thinking its extreme macramé, then no it isnt. " Gray didnt look at me but instead was intent on winding rope around his elbow and shoulder. He shrugged off one coil and handed it to me. The weight of it was heavier than I’d anticipated. "Think you can handle that?" Gray gave a chin nod toward the rope. I hefted it.

  "As long as we arent doing a twelve-mile run. "

  "No worries. "

  "So rock climbing?" I guessed this was a real adventure and not sex. I gave a mental shrug. At least I could cross off one word as a sex euphemism. That was useful. It occurred to me that I was being friendzoned. Rocking climbing instead of sex? That’s what you did with friends, not people you wanted to see naked. Even I knew that. Oh well, I’d lost a lot of friends in the two years since Will’s death. I could use this time with Gray to learn how to be a better friend. Although it was weird that we were rock climbing, since Gray could have easily gone with his buddies.

  “None of your friends rock climb?” I asked.

  “Sure they do, although Noah goes a lot less now because his professional fighting contract prevents him from engaging in dangerous activities. ”

  “Then why are we here?”

  “Because I wanted to spend time with you. Wheres your knitting?"

  He wanted to spend time with me? That seemed like something you’d say to someone you wanted to have “coffee” with. I was so confused. I handed him a small bag and he stuck it into a larger pack which he slung over his shoulder along with another coil of rope, another small bag, and set of harnesses. We took off, not at a quick pace, but a steady one.

  "What kind of adventure are you taking me on?" I called to Grays back. Any faster and Id be too winded to talk.

  "A baby one, dont worry. " He turned and winked at me over his shoulder. "Ill take good care of you. "

  His promise sounded a bit provocative. Maybe it was sex. God, I had to stop thinking about sex. As I followed him up the hiking trail, I stared at his physique. His legs looked powerful but not overly thick. He had muscles in his back that moved as he climbed up the hill. Gray looked like he could take care of a woman. He was a guy with strength and endurance, who clearly enjoyed physical things. The pang at the missed opportunity last night hit me harder. Him lifting me up and easily holding me as he kissed me or as he rubbed his thigh between my legs had felt incredible. I’d guess his penis was thick and heavy to match the rest of his build. His rock-hard pecs would be the perfect place for me to place my hands if I rode him. My imaginings made me breathless.

  "Hey, are you okay? Do you need to take a break?" Gray stopped and turned to look at me.

  Yes, I need to take a break and bash my head against the rocks until the image of the two of us naked is flushed from my mind. Out loud, I said, "Nope," and gave him the fakest smile in two counties.

  He looked at me suspiciously but as he couldnt read my mind, thank God, he just turned around. Every time I started thinking of Gray in a sexual way, I stabbed myself with an imaginary knitting needle. Good thing it was imaginary because I wouldve bled out about a third of the way up.

  Gray

  THE HAIRS ON THE BACK of my neck were at attention again. Sam was staring holes through me but whenever I turned around she gave me this wide-eyed innocent look. She was hiding something but I didnt know if she was mad that I was taking her on a hike or upset that Id left her swinging in the wind last night. I considered telling her that I’d been miserable after I’d left her. The erection that had been killed at the sight of her dead husband’s things popped right back after she dropped me off. I tried jacking off in the bathroom but when I did come it was unsatisfactory. My stupid dick wanted to be inside Sam instead of my hand.

  The entire night I alternated between fantasizing about what it felt like being inside her and reliving the moment in the hallway when she came from just the pressure of my wood against her. The longer the night wore on, the more I wanted to punch myself in the face for stopping. Who cared about boots and empty backpacks? Her husband was gone. Neither of us was cheating on anyone. I’d been so close to sinking into her sweetness and I’d cockblocked myself. I wanted to hit myself even harder when I woke up this morning with the realization I hadn’t gotten her phone number. Then she’d shown up, and I didn’t waste time regretting yesterday or asking her whether she changed her mind because I could read the uncertainty in every line of her body from the tense set of her shoulders to the way her hand hovered over the gear shift. She looked ready to throw the Rover in reverse at any moment.

  “Don’t leave,” I’d told her in my best command voice and she hadn’t. Now we were hiking on an unfamiliar bluff, and I was going to use Noah’s equipment to teach Sam how to rappel down the side of a cliff. In the Corps, this might be called a trust exercise. I wasn’t sure what I was trying to prove with her.

  Despite her labored breathing, she kept walking. I suggested stopping but I could tell that if I asked whether she was okay one more time she might push me over the cliff. That wasn’t really the response I was angling for but she’d not entirely forgotten last night because we were walking single file. The path was definitely wide enough for two people but every time I slowed up, she slowed up. So what if she didn’t want to walk beside me? She was here which meant she wanted to spend time with me and I’d take whatever crumbs she was willing to throw my way at this point.

  "Noah told me to go up to the two mile marker and that there would be anchors for us there," I explained.

  "What will I be doing?"

  "Well, thats the adventure part," I joked, but when she didnt respond, I hurried to assure her. "Thats why I have all this safety equipment. " I held up the gear. "When we get to the marker, Ill test the anchors and then well rappel down to the one mile marker. Then while you knit, I’m going to rappel to the bottom and then climb back up to meet you. Sound okay?"

  "Sure, so a baby fall for me and a big boy climb for you?"

  "Its not a fall. " Making sure she could see me, see that I was serious, I said carefully, "Id never hurt you or put you in a position to be hurt. I thought, you know, based on what you said, that this would be kind of interesting. "

  She gave me a small quirk of smile, not
quite a full one but like she found something funny. "Its not what Id expected, but it does sound kind of fun, like Ill be starring in my own little action movie. What do I need to know about rappelling?"

  "Go slow. "

  "That sounds boring. I thought we were going to do something exciting. ” She looked into the ravine below like anything short of jumping without a chute was going to be a sore disappointment.

  I closed the short distance between us and looked down at her. The incline of the path made her tip her head back and exposed the long slender column of her throat. “Slow doesnt need to be boring if youre doing it right. " I ran my hand down the outside of her arm over her small biceps, her soft elbow, and her thin wrist until I reached her fingers. This close I could hear the slight increase in the rhythm of her breathing. She wasnt unaffected after all. I threaded my fingers through hers and when she didn’t draw away, I turned to finish the rest of the hike with her hand in mine.

  When we reached the second mile marker, I spotted the anchors that Noah had mentioned this morning. "Give me a sec," I said, squeezing her hand as I let it go. I busied myself clipping our safety harnesses to the anchors and double-checking the bolts for surety. There was precious cargo with me today and I wanted to make sure we were extra safe.

  A rustling of dirt and rock behind me made me look up. Sam was standing very close to the edge and peering over. The memory of the sad widow whod overdosed flitted through my mind. Sam wouldnt be standing so close to the edge intentionally, right?

  "You okay?" I called out softly so as not to surprise her. When she turned to face me, she had a queasy look on her face.

  "I dont know about this," she admitted. "The idea was nice but maybe I should just wait up here. " She squeezed her hands together and then pointed to a tall tree that provided some nice afternoon shade. "How about I just sit over there and knit? I can occupy myself for a few hours that way with no problem. "

  No, not trying to jump off, simply a little frightened. That I could deal with. I walked to the edge with her and put an arm lightly around her shoulders. She shivered a bit and I wasn’t sure whether it was fear or anticipation. I drew her closer to my side where she fit perfectly, her shoulder under my arm. When I felt her head rest lightly against me, I resisted the urge to pull her even tighter, to conform her body against mine and kiss her until she forgot about being afraid or being mad.

  "Im being a baby,” she muttered.

  “Trust me, I don’t think of you as a baby at all. ” I wondered if her husband had taken her out and not allowed her to be afraid. "Everyone is afraid the first time,” I lied. "I promise this is a safe adventure. " Pulling her back to the ropes, I shook out the harness and gestured for her to step into the web of nylon straps. She looked skeptically at me and then the harness.

  "Hey, you got this. "

  She took a deep breath and stepped into the harness, grabbing my arm to steady herself. I slid the straps up her legs, over her slim calves and the tender skin of the backs of her knees, up past the golden skin of her thighs. Was that her trembling or was that me. As I slipped the nylon harness into place, I talked—more to distract myself than her because I was getting a little light headed after even that small caress. "This is Graces harness, and you can bet your house that Noah checks this regularly for safety. " I pulled the harness up a little higher so the webbing was over her shorts and not on her sensitive skin. "Okay for me to tighten them?" I asked, pointing at the straps.

  She had that wide-eyed look again, the one that I thought signaled flight but she just nodded. With my face level with her waistband, I could only imagine doing one thing and that was learning forward and burying my face between her legs. I was feeling winded, and not because of the altitude or the hike but because kneeling between this girl’s legs felt a lot more intimate than some of the things I’d done with other women—women whose faces have somehow faded from my memory. Pressing a knee into a stray rock on the path, I started reciting the Marines hymn. That was a boner killer if there ever was one.

  I hadn’t invited Sam out for a public quickie in the woods. I’d tossed out the invitation because…the realization struck me. Because I wanted to spend more time with her. I enjoyed the hell out of just talking with her and that weirded me out more than the hard-on I’d just gotten kitting her out in safety gear. I finished as quickly as I could and stood up. Sams face was flushed and her breathing was uneven. Ignoring those telling signs and praying my own erection wouldn’t spring up again, I stepped back and busied myself testing all the connections. Satisfied that everything was in order, I hooked us to the anchor and then came back and went through some internal safety checklist a second time.

  "Do all adventures require safety checks and harnesses?" she asked.

 
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JEN FREDERICK SERIES:

Woodlands