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Ruin Me, Page 10

Jessica Sorensen

  When we break apart, she doesn't say anything. She simply turns and hurries for the car as if she's terrified out of her Goddamn mind.

  I just wish I knew what she's afraid of.

  Being with me?

  Or is it something else?

  Chapter Ten


  By the time we're driving back to the motel, it's past ten o'clock. Pretty early compared to my normal bedtime, but all I can think about doing is lying down and shutting my eyes.

  That kiss took a lot out of me emotionally. I'd forgotten how intense a kiss could be when it isn't linked to sex or foreplay. Kissing just to kiss usually has meaning behind it. That kiss Jax and I shared definitely meant something, but I can't figure out exactly what.

  Okay, who am I kidding? Everything we've done has meant something. I've just been living in denial. My heart is about to get broken again. I can feel it in the pit of my stomach, a gnawing ache that won't go away.

  To distract myself from my thoughts, I send a text to Nelli. When she doesn't respond right away, I start to panic and end up calling her even though Jax is in the car with me and will be able to hear everything that's said. I just keep thinking about all the times my mom tried to wander out of the house at night. What if she got the door unlocked and made it out without Nelli knowing?

  "Clara, what's wrong?" Nelli answers after four rings, sounding exhausted.

  "I tried to text you, but you didn't respond." I turn toward the window, trying to keep the conversation as private as I can.

  "That's because I was asleep." When she yawns into the receiver, the two hour time difference dawns on me, that it's after midnight back in North Carolina.

  "Oh shit, Nelli, I'm so sorry," I apologize, feeling horrible. "I forgot how late it is there."

  "It's okay. I needed to wake up and check on your mom, anyways."

  "How's she doing?"

  "Good. She even helped me bake a cake for Mr. Garlifed and went with me to take it to him."

  "You didn't return with any roosters, did you?"

  "Nope," she assures me. "Well, not that I'm aware of."

  I rub my heavy eyelids. "Good. I'm glad everything's going okay."

  "Are you okay? You sound either tired or upset... I can't tell which."

  "Tired," I tell her through a yawn. "It's been a long couple of days."

  "I bet it has." She pauses. "How's everything going with the safeness?"

  I give a sidelong glance in Jax's direction. "I thought we agreed not to talk about that ever again."

  "And I thought I made it pretty clear that was never going to happen."

  "Fine, yes, the safeness is going well." I can feel Jax's eyes burning holes in the side of my head. "I'll let you go now. Sorry for waking you up."

  "No problem, Clara... Stellar. Call me if you need anything."

  "Clara Stellar? You're slacking."

  "I'm tired, but I'll do better next time."

  "All right, Nelli Tiserelli. Talk to you later." I hang up then slump back in the seat.

  Jax is watching me intensely. "Who's Nelli?" he wonders as he flips the brights on.

  "Huh?" Did I say her name out loud?

  "You said Nelli on the phone." He treads cautiously. "I know that's not your mom's name."

  My phone clanks as I drop it into the console. I try to conjure up a lie, but I'm so tired my mind blanks out on me. "She's my aunt."

  He cranks down the volume of the stereo. "You called your aunt... Why?" There's a speck of insinuation in his tone, probably because I rarely mention my family.

  "She's staying with my mom while I'm gone." I can tell he wants to ask questions, so I add, "This kind of falls into the stuff I don't want to tell you about."

  "But I thought we agreed we were going to talk more about that stuff when we made it back to the motel room."

  "I don't think we ever agreed to that."

  "I'm pretty sure we did," he replies.

  We're quiet the rest of the way back to the motel and I sink into my thoughts about what exactly he expects to happen once we get to the motel room. Does he think I'm going to just pour my soul out to him? Just like that? Then what? He realizes what a mess my life is and ignores me until we get home, then sends me on my way. I'll end up alone again, with no one, with no Jax. And I like having my Jax, even if the time we have together is limited and rule restricted.

  My mind is unbelievably wired during the drive, but by the time we make it to the room, I start to crash. All I want to do is pass out.

  "Road trips are exhausting," I mutter as I kick my sandals off and flop face first onto the mattress. "I just want to go to sleep."

  "Then go to sleep," Jax replies as he closes the door and flips the lock.

  I twist my head toward him. "I have to shower first and wash the Dirty Tiger stench off me. Plus, I'm not sure I can actually fall asleep. My mind's too wired with thoughts of dirty stripper poles and toothless, pervy men."

  "How about this." He drops his wallet and keys onto the nightstand then climbs onto the bed with me. "You go take a bath while I go raid the vending machine? Then we can stream a movie until you fall asleep." He swings a leg over me to straddle my back then places his hands on my shoulders and starts massaging my sore muscles.

  My eyes widen, and I open my mouth to protest, but it feels so incredible the words get lost in my moan.

  Jax chuckles. "Or we could just spend all night doing this."

  "I might take you up on that offer," I murmur, burying my face into the comforter and stretching out my arms. I wonder if he's going to drop the subject of me telling him stuff. Could I be that lucky? "That feels so good."

  His fingers delve deeper, kneading and working magic on my back. The longer the massage goes on, the louder I moan. It's absurdly intimate but feels way too good for me to ask him to stop.

  "Clara, if you keep making those noses, I'm going to lose it." His voice is raspy, nearly cracking.

  "Huh...?" I barely comprehend what he's saying as I float away to a soothing place I haven't been to in three years.

  I miss being so relaxed. How in the hell is it possible to get lost in someone's touch like this, to the point where reality doesn't even seem real anymore?

  He shifts his weight and I feel his breath against my neck. His fingers continue to work, tracing circles on the bare flesh of my shoulders. "I think I owe you a bite, right?" he whispers huskily then his teeth graze my lobe.

  My body convulses uncontrollably, and I clutch onto the comforter for dear life. "I think it was the other way around." I open my eyes and meet his hungry gaze. "I was the one who was supposed to bite you."

  "I'm pretty sure that was never fully decided."

  "Guess we'll both have to do it then." Before I can back out, I flip onto my back and lift my mouth to his neck. I lightly graze my teeth across his neck and smile when he shivers.

  After he regains control over himself, he seizes my wrists and pins my arms beside my head. "I thought you were tired?" he asks breathlessly as my chest arches against his.

  I shrug, but with my hands trapped above me, the movement is awkward. "You woke me up with the bite."

  A smile expands across his face. "You want me to bite you again?"

  No. "Yes." What the hell is wrong with me?

  He seems as shocked by my response as I am, but dips his head and gently nips at the sensitive spot just below my ear.

  "Mmm..." I hum with a shiver. When his tongue slips out, and he licks a path down my neck, I damn near lose it. "Jax." I stab my fingers into his hands, which are still holding down my arms.

  "What?" His voice is innocent enough, but he rocks his body against mine in a very not-so-innocent way.

  I gasp as his hardness presses between my legs and heat courses through my body. "It's not Friday," I breathe stupidly.

  "You're really going to hold onto that still?" He's mildly amused. And one-hundred percent turned on.

  "Maybe... I don't know..."

; He takes that as a go ahead, and his lips crash down on mine. Our tongues twine, our breaths mix, and our bodies align perfectly. With his hands still holding my arms against the mattress, he rolls his hips against mine. I hitch my legs around his waist, giving him more access as he kisses me until I'm lightheaded and breathless.

  He lets go of one of my wrists, and his hand travels across the outside of my shirt, along my ribcage and to my breast. My nipples harden underneath my shirt. Through the thin fabric, I know he can feel it.

  "I want to see you...all of you..." he whispers as he devours me with his lips. "Clara, tell me I can." When I don't reply, he gently pinches my nipple.

  A cry claws up my throat as heat jolts through my body.

  "Tell me I can take your shirt off," he practically begs.

  I want to tell him yes. Want him to keep doing what he's doing. Want him inside me. But I'm too afraid to cross that intimate line yet.

  With a soft bite of my bottom lip, he grunts then pulls away, leaving my body aching as he sits back on the bed

  "What are you doing?" I whine, pushing up on my elbows.

  He combs his fingers through his tousled hair, his eyes fastened on the floor. "I want to talk."

  "Talk? Right now?" I pout out my bottom lip.

  He chuckles, but his laughter swiftly dissipates when he looks up at me. The determination smoldering in his hazel eyes causes me to shrink back. "I know we have all these rules. You say you don't have time for a relationship, but it feels like I hardly know you, and you know so much about me." He scoots closer, takes my hand in his, and delicately sketches the folds of my fingers. "I want to get to know you."

  I stare at our hands, struggling with whether to pull away or not. "You know more about me than most people do."

  "But you haven't told me anything about your home life. Hell, I just learned about your father."

  "But is that really even important? I mean, it just doesn't seem like something you have to know."

  "I guess that all depends." He smashes his lips together, upset.

  "On what?" I ask, wanting more than anything to erase the hurt from his eyes. I've already seen him too upset today.

  "On what this is," his gaze falls to our hands, "what our relationship means to you. Because whether or not you want me to feel anything for you, I do. I pretty much have since the first day I met you."

  My head bobbles back as I groan in mortification. "God, don't remind me of that day. I have no idea why you didn't run like hell the other way."

  "Are you kidding me?" He tucks a lock of my hair behind my ear. "That was the most real I've ever seen you. Well, up until last night." He cracks a joke at the end, but I can tell he's nervous by his wobbly voice.

  "I looked hideous."

  "You never look hideous."

  I sit up straight, crisscross my legs, and sigh. I knew this was coming. The inevitable. And I have two choices.

  Keep running until I reach a dead end.

  Or tell Jax my story and slam head on into the dead end.

  I think about what my dad would tell me to do. He'd say stop running, that it does no good and only drains the energy out of you. I want to be that person again. The fearless person I once was.

  So I summon a deep breath and prepare my heart for another break.

  "I wasn't lying when I said I don't have time for a relationship," I start unsteadily. "I have so many responsibilities I sometimes can't keep up with them."

  "Like work and school?"

  "Work. School. My mom." I pick at my fingernails to avoid looking at him. "Not only did I lose my father in the accident, but I pretty much lost my mom. I mean, she's alive and everything but she has brain damage and is pretty much like a kid." I blow out an uneven breath as my heart violently pounds inside my chest. It's been so long since I spoke aloud about this stuff with anyone. Breathe, Clara. Breathe. "My sister pretty much bailed on me after the funeral, says it's too painful to talk to me anymore because I remind her of everything she lost. But it wouldn't have mattered if she stuck around. I promised my dad right before he died that I'd take care of my mother." I don't look up at him as I speak, too afraid his eyes will match Mack's the day I told him how my life was going to be. "Between work, taking care of my mom, school, and paying bills, I just don't have time for other things. Plus, it's really not fair to bring someone into that mess."

  He remains quiet for a while, dragging his finger along the ring he wears. When he'd told me the story about where he got it, I wanted to cry. It's the only present his mother ever gave him, and there was such sadness in his tone.

  "What do you mean by it isn't fair?" His voice is gentler than I expected it to be.

  I shrug, letting my hands fall to my lap. "I don't know. Most people our age don't want that. I mean, I can't go to parties all the time. I spend most of my nights either working the nightshift or making sure my mother doesn't try to escape the house. My days are filled with laundry, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, and chasing roosters out of the house."

  "It sounds a lot like my sister's life," he says, his tone light. "Well, minus the rooster. Although, one time, Mason did bring home a hamster. We're still not sure where he got it from."

  "Yeah, which kind of proves my point. I mean, I remember how excited you were when Avery got her new job and you were able to do more things. Being with me would take that away."

  "That's not the same thing. Avery is my sister, and while I don't mind helping her out, I kind of want my own life."

  "I know." I finally dare to meet his gaze then instantly regret it. His eyes are so intense, so overwhelming, so compassionate. Not at all what I was expecting. "Being with me... you wouldn't have that." My eyes start to burn as I say similar words Mack uttered to me. "I'd ruin your life."

  "Why? Because you have to take care of your mom? You have to work? Be responsible? That's called life, Clara." He cups my face between his hands. "And yeah, yours is a little more complicated than others but so what. That doesn't make me want to be with you any less."

  "But you said that's why you left here... because you didn't want a complicated life."

  "You misunderstood me." He pauses, searching for the right words. "All my life, complications have been forced on me. I was born into a world where I had to grow up fast. When I finally escaped that life, I had to live with my sister. While I love Mason, I kind of felt obligated to help her because she helped take care of me. This thing between us... whatever you want it to be... I'm choosing it. Choosing to make my life complicated because I think it's worth it."

  Tears drip from my eyes. "You want to choose it? After what I just told you?"

  He swipes the pad of his thumb across my cheeks, erasing the tears. "Who on earth wouldn't choose you?"

  "A lot of guys." I suck back the tears but more continue to cascade down my cheeks. "My boyfriend, the one I had when the accident happened, said he couldn't handle it, that my life was too complicated for him. That I'd ruin his life if I stayed with him."

  "He said that to you?" Jax asks, and I nod. "What a fucking asshole." He grinds his teeth. "I can't believe he said that to you. I want to hit him."

  "He was just being honest. And it was better for him to bail out early than leave later on." I dab my eyes with the bottom of my shirt.

  He studies me closely then relaxes, as if suddenly something is making sense. "I want to be part of your complicated life, just as long as you want me to be." He says it so simply, so matter-of-factly.

  "Jax, you don't get it. Things are really hard--"

  He covers his hand over my mouth. "I understand you have a lot of stuff going on, but I hope you'll make room for me. Because I don't want this," he removes his hand and gestures between us, "to end. I'm happy. You make me happy even when I'm back here, which may not seem like a whole lot, but it's a really huge deal."

  "I don't know what to say." I expected him to flip out and now that he hasn't, I don't know what to do with myself.

  "Don't say anythi
ng right now. Just think about it for a while." He slides back toward the headboard and stretches his legs out. "Go take a shower and I'll go get the snacks. I think I'll try to find a little more information on Marcus, but if we haven't found any information by Saturday morning, we're going to have to take off. We need to have time for you to go up to the Tetons on our way home."

  "We don't have to do that if there's not time." I scoot to the edge of the bed and lower my feet onto the floor. "We should spend all the time we need looking for your mom. That's what the trip is for."

  "Just stop. We're going to scatter your father's ashes and you're going to get to say your goodbye. I'll even hold your hand the entire time."