Treat me, p.20
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       Treat Me, p.20

         Part #8 of One Night with Sole Regret series by Olivia Cunning
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  Tina would never let it happen, but wrapped in Jacob’s strong arms, his heart beating strong and steady against her ear, she allowed herself to believe anything could happen.

  Amanda’s belly rumbled unexpectedly, tearing her from her moment of perfect contentment, and Jacob laughed when she covered her stomach with one hand.

  “Do you want to go out for dinner or eat in?” he asked, drawing her closer to his bare chest.

  “I’d much rather eat in.” Because that would mean they could spend more time alone together.

  “All right,” he said. “What are you cooking?”

  She chuckled. He had cooked for her several times over the weekend. “I have some chicken in my fridge that I need to cook before it spoils. Do you want to come over to my place and have dinner?”

  “Will it require me putting on pants?” he asked.

  She grinned, picturing him in her passenger seat buck naked. She wouldn’t mind that arrangement in the least, but her neighbors might find his nudity offensive. Or at the very least mind-bogglingly distracting. “Don’t bother with pants. I can bring it over here and cook it in your enormous kitchen. But I need to check on my cat anyway. She’s probably shredded the drapes by now.”

  “I didn’t know you had a cat,” Jacob said.

  “She hides from strangers. Not that you’ve ever been to my house.”

  “Next time I’m home, I’ll stay with you at your house.”

  “I don’t have much room. Or a pool.” She waggled her eyebrows at him. They did have a good time in that pool.

  “That doesn’t matter. As long as you’re there, I’m sure I’ll have plenty to keep me entertained.”

  “And what will we do with Julie? I don’t even have a spare bedroom.” She doubted Julie would appreciate being holed up on an air mattress with all the unfiled papers Amanda stacked all over the floor in her home office.

  “She’s small,” he said. “I’m sure she’ll fit in a closet or something.”

  Amanda slapped his belly playfully and squirmed out of his arms. She wasn’t sure if she could wait two weeks to see him again. At least they had tonight and a few hours the next morning to be together, even if it wouldn’t be enough. She doubted she’d ever get enough of him. “Would it be okay if I came to see you after a show sometime this week?”

  He watched her dress from the bed. “Women on tour are a distraction.”

  Her heart sank.

  “But having a lonely, cranky lead singer is far more dangerous.” He chuckled. “When should I expect you?”

  She pulled her T-shirt over her head, unable to suppress her joyful grin. “I’ll check the schedule and let you know.”

  He climbed from the bed—still gloriously naked—and pulled her into his arms for a deep, satisfying kiss. She eyed the bed, but her stomach rumbled again and he released her.

  “I’ll hurry back,” she said a few minutes later as she opened the front door. Jacob had followed her—still gloriously naked—and drew her near for one last kiss.

  “I’ll be counting the seconds until I get to see you again.”

  Sometimes he said the most wonderful things.

  “I’ll only be gone twenty minutes,” she reminded him. “Keep your pants on.”

  He glanced down at his current pants-less state. “A bit late for that.”

  She gave his bare ass an appreciative squeeze and then dashed across the driveway to her car before she wound up naked again. The man did have an uncanny skill for relieving her of her panties.

  She was still smiling when she pulled into her drive a few minutes later. She’d been so wrapped up in her musings about Jacob that she didn’t notice she’d been followed until a familiar SUV pulled up behind her car, blocking any hope for escape.

  “Shit,” she muttered under her breath. She sat in the car weighing her options. If Tina attacked her again, what would she do? A sharp knock on her window startled her out of her thoughts, and she looked up at her sister’s smiling face. Funny how she found that friendly grin far more terrifying than Tina’s face twisted in rage.

  “We need to talk,” Tina called through the glass.

  “I don’t want to fight with you, Tina.”

  “I don’t want to fight with you either.”

  Sure she didn’t. As soon as Amanda got out of the car, she was sure to get her eyes scratched out and her hair ripped from its roots.

  “I just want to talk,” Tina said.

  Amanda glanced in her rearview mirror, but the SUV was too close to her rear bumper for her to see inside the hulking vehicle. “Is Julie with you?”

  “No, she’s with Mom. Can we talk?”

  “I can hear you just fine,” Amanda said loudly. “We can talk like this.”

  Tina laughed. “Are you seriously scared of me, big sis?”

  Amanda narrowed her eyes and opened her car door. If Tina wanted a fight, she was going to get a fight. But Amanda wasn’t going to start it. She closed the door and leaned against the overwarm metal, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

  “Why did you come here?” Amanda asked.

  “You have to break up with Jacob.”

  Amanda rolled her eyes. “I’m not breaking up with him, Tina. I don’t care about your feelings on the matter.”

  “Do you care about Julie’s feelings?”

  Amanda scowled. “What do you mean?”

  “Don’t you think she’ll feel bad if the reason her mommy is always crying is because her backstabbing whore of a sister is fucking her father?”

  Amanda’s jaw hardened. “You wouldn’t do that to her.”

  “And won’t you feel terrible when Jacob doesn’t get to see Julie because—I don’t know—she’s too sick to get out of bed during his visitation weekends.”

  “You can’t keep them apart, Tina.”

  “I can’t? Are you sure about that?”

  “It would destroy him.” And Amanda obviously wasn’t the only one who realized that.

  Tina smiled coldly. “And won’t Jacob feel horrendous when he realizes the reason he’s not allowed any happiness is because he couldn’t keep his dick in his pants again.”

  Could anyone really be that cruel? What did Tina want from him? “He doesn’t love you, Tina. Just let him go.”

  “You’re going to break up with him,” Tina said. “You’re going to do it tonight in person at Jack’s Grill so I can make sure it’s done. And you’re not going to mention that I had anything to do with your decision.”

  “I’m not.”

  Tina shrugged. “I guess you don’t care if you destroy our entire family. Making your niece hate you will be easy. It might take a little more effort to get Mom and Dad to disown you, but I don’t doubt I can do it.” Tina tapped her jaw with one finger as her gaze focused upward. “So, should I tell Mom about your fling first? She’s always thought you were a good person. This slut move is sure to change her opinion of her darling daughter. Or maybe I should go crying to Daddy first and let him tell Mom. Daddy never really liked you anyway.”

  “Why would you do any of this? Why do you care so much that I’m with Jacob?”

  Tina didn’t answer her questions. Instead she said, “So are you going to do as I ask and break up with him?”

  “No!” Amanda said. “I’m not breaking up with him just because you can’t stand that he’s with me. Jacob is worth any shit you can throw at me, Tina. Do your worst.”

  Amanda shoved Tina aside and headed for her front door. Her hands were shaking so bad she dropped her keys twice on her way up the brick path.

  “Having him between your thighs is worth your parents hating you?”

  Amanda figured they’d get over it pretty quickly. They were the type of parents who forgave their children, though Amanda didn’t really think there was anything to forgive. She’d fallen in love with someone they didn’t particularly care for—they still believed he was a horrible man who’d done their youngest daughter wrong—but if they saw how good she
and Jacob were together, they’d eventually understand. Maybe.

  “Is he worth your niece turning against you?” Tina called after her. “I’ll find a new babysitter for her. You’ll never see her.”

  Amanda stopped in her tracks. Tina wouldn’t really manipulate her four-year-old daughter to get what she wanted, would she?

  “I wonder if Jacob thinks you’re worth losing his daughter’s devotion over. Maybe he’s willing to risk it. And by the time he realizes how much Julie despises him, it will be too late to fix their relationship.”

  Amanda pressed her lips together to stop their trembling. Her throat tightened, choking a sob from her. She tilted her head back and blinked up at the darkening sky to keep the tears in her eyes from streaming down her cheeks.

  Jacob was worth any adversity to her life, but to Julie’s? Amanda wasn’t cruel enough to hurt her Julie Bean in any capacity, but she knew Tina was. Tina wasn’t making veiled threats. She would keep Julie out of Amanda’s life. She would find a way to keep Jacob from seeing his own daughter. Make his little girl hate him. Tina would do anything in her power to destroy Amanda’s fledgling relationship with Jacob, even if she had to use Julie as a pawn.

  The fucking bitch.

  “If I break up with him tonight, you’ll leave Julie out of this.”

  Amanda could picture her sister’s smile of victory, even if she didn’t have the stomach to turn around and look at her.

  “Of course,” Tina said brightly.

  Rage boiled in Amanda’s gut. She wondered how much time she’d have to serve for murdering the cunt on her front lawn. Surely it would be deemed a crime of passion; that had to carry a lighter sentence than cold-blooded, premeditated murder, didn’t it?

  Or maybe there was a way to prove Tina was an unfit mother and have her lose custody of Julie. Was using a child’s happiness to manipulate your sister into breaking up with your ex-husband grounds for a custody battle? Amanda doubted it. She couldn’t see a way out of this. The only door open to her was the one Tina was holding wide.

  With Tina watching over her shoulder, Amanda fished her phone out of her purse and dialed Jacob.

  Chapter Fifteen

  Jacob was searching his fridge for items to round out a chicken dinner when his cellphone rang. He smiled indulgently when he saw who the caller was: Amanda. She missed him already? He knew the feeling.

  “Hey,” he answered. “Did you get lost?”

  “Um, not exactly,” she said. “Can you meet me at Jack’s Grill? The meat in my fridge is beyond saving.”

  “I can probably find something here to cook.” Would she mind having pancakes for dinner?

  “You just don’t want to be seen in public with me.” Her teasing laugh sounded breathless, but maybe it was just the phone connection.

  “Of course I do,” he said. “I want the whole world to know you’re mine.”

  “So you’ll come?”

  “I’ve already done that with you several times today, but I can probably go for another quickie.”

  “Jacob,” she chastised.

  He scowled, puzzling over her lack of reciprocal flirting. One of the traits that he loved most about her was that she always countered his teasing with a comeback.

  “I’ll meet you there in ten minutes,” he said. “I still need to put on pants.”

  She hung up without saying goodbye.

  The entire drive to Jack’s Grill, Jacob couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off. Not only was it odd that Amanda wanted to meet for dinner in a public place when she knew he was naked and waiting for her, but he’d sensed a tension in her that he’d never felt from her before.

  He spotted her car in the parking lot, but it was empty, so instead of dragging her into the back seat for that quickie he’d mentioned, he entered the noisy establishment and scanned the crowd for signs of her. He smiled when he spotted her, but she was staring into a bright green cocktail with a tight expression on her lovely face. Had her cat died while she’d been at his place or something?

  Jacob sat on the stool across from her and reached for her hand. She tugged it away and hid it between her knees.

  “I can’t see you anymore,” she said.

  His breath caught in his throat, threatening to choke him. “What?”

  “I’ve given it a lot of thought,” she said, her words hurried, almost practiced, as if she were reciting a speech. “The sex is great and all, Shade, but our little fling isn’t worth destroying my family over.” Her lips pressed together, and she looked down at her lap. “It’s best if you just stay away.”

  “Where is this coming from, Amanda? We both know this is more than a fling. I love you.”

  She flinched away from him as if he’d slapped her.

  “And I know you love me too.”

  She released a brittle laugh. “Yeah, well, I don’t or I would have said so. I always thought you were hot and all, but now that I’ve had what I was after, I’m moving on. You need to move on too.”

  She slipped off the stool, but he grabbed her arm.

  “What the hell?” he said. “An hour ago we were trying to figure out how to spend more time together and now you’re cutting me off entirely? What happened between then and now?”

  She tugged at her arm, refusing to meet his eyes. “Why are you being so stubborn? I said I don’t want to be with you anymore.”

  “But what you’re saying doesn’t make sense. You can’t just turn off your feelings like a switch.”

  She laughed. “You can if you never had feelings to begin with. Now let go of my arm.”

  “I’m not letting you go, Amanda. Tell me the truth. What’s going on?”

  “Don’t you get it?” she yelled. “Or are you too fucking stupid to grasp the simplest concepts?”

  The background noise went silent, or maybe his ears just stopped working. The confusion holding his hurt at bay shattered. Anguish clenched his gut, expanded within his chest, and clawed up his throat.

  “Do you really think someone like me would fall for an idiot like you?” she spat at him. “I just wanted to get laid by a rock star. That’s all this was.”

  The strength melted from his fingers, and her arm slipped from his grasp. She backed away several steps, but apparently felt the need to deliver another blow to the metal stake piercing his heart.

  “Thanks for the nice time, Shade, but I have better things to do than you.”

  He was too stunned to fight for her. For them. Who was this person? It wasn’t Amanda. Not the Amanda he knew. Not the Amanda he loved. But maybe she was just like her sister and kept her inner bitch at bay to get what she wanted and then unleashed all her darkness and cruelty when it served her purpose.

  “I’m going to the ladies room,” she said, “and when I get back, I want you to be gone. Don’t try to contact me. You’ll only make it harder for yourself. I’m through with you, Shade. Do you understand?”

  The only thing he understood was how it felt to have his heart ripped from his chest and kicked around a dusty wooden floor, but he nodded anyway.

  “Good,” she said. “Leave. Now. No one wants you here. Least of all me.”

  She turned—golden brown hair dancing around her shoulders with the motion—and stalked away. That was when Jacob noticed everyone in the bar was staring at him. More than one person was recording his misery on a cellphone. He was sure that within the hour, the entire world would be able to watch him—Shade “Rock Star” Silverton—get his heart broken on YouTube.

  Why had Amanda done it in public? Why had she done it at all?

  Jacob pulled the sunglasses from the neckband of his T-shirt, flicked them open, and crammed them onto his face. Jaw set, Shade made his exit through the bar’s front door, giving everyone watching a one-finger salute as he went back to the life he knew best.

  Thank God he could still rely on his fucking band.

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