“Thanks!” She took the drink with relief.
“My cousin is shameless,” he told her. “Unlike his brother and me, he’s not got a shy bone in his body. He hits on every woman he meets. Please don’t think less of him for it. He’s a punk ass kid, but he’s a nice guy.”
“Did he tell you what I told him?”
Jasper shook his head, curiosity in his eyes. Hana retold her conversation with his cousin and he nearly fell on the floor laughing, just as Aunt Enid had.
“Beautiful! I bet he’ll never use the line again!”
“I can’t imagine why he needs one. He’s gorgeous.”
A fleeting look of disappointment flitted across his face. Putting her hand on his, she looked deeply into his eyes.
“And there’s no reason for you to be shy either,” she told him. “You’re handsome and charming, a wonderful dancer, smart, funny! A girl could do a lot worse—” She trailed off lamely, realizing she was babbling again.
“Thank you,” he said quietly. “When you say it, I don’t sound half bad.” He grinned shyly. “Too many years of being teased and laughed at, it takes its toll. I’m not really used to the new me yet.”
“It’s been a few years since high school, Jasper.”
“I know, but I was a goof a lot longer than I’ve been—”
“Gorgeous,” she finished for him.
“If you think so,” he said with a slight smile.
“You have confidence in so many things about yourself, why not this?”
“I don’t know,” he admitted. He brushed a ringlet of her hair away from her cheek. “Forgive me?”
“Without ever being asked.”
Guitar music filled the empty space between them, winding slowly around their hearts. Jasper tugged Hana’s hand, gesturing with his head. He wanted to dance again. This time she stood up willingly, ready to dance as long as he wanted to. The alcohol had relaxed her, and his comforting presence gave her confidence.
Jasper took her in his arms again. She laid her head against his chest once more, inhaling his scent. His cologne was earthy, subtle and made her tingle in the pit of her stomach. Even when the music got faster, more syncopated, they danced close, hips lightly touching, following the slow beat under the melody. The music ended as the band took their second break. This time, they put in a CD so Jasper and Hana stayed on the dance floor. They enjoyed the soft mix of Eighties music.
As they danced, he rubbed her back. Slowly up and down her spine, he ran his strong, calloused hands. Despite their strength, they held her with a gentleness she had never experienced. Tiny thrills followed his fingers as they traveled along her back. Each one sent a spark to another part of her body, electrifying her with his touch.
With a subtle shift of his body, Jasper raised her head, exposing her throat. His lips brushed her skin, lingering on the curve of her shoulder. His hot breath tickled, his lips not quite touching her. His nose brushed her earlobe, making her shiver and pull him closer. Sighing, she tilted her head slightly, giving him full access to her throat.
Agonizingly slowly, he pressed his lips against her neck, gradually rising until he graced her jaw with his lips. His nose teased the dip below her left ear, inviting him to kiss and nibble—which he did. His teeth caught her earlobe, tugging slightly. His tongue flickered against her, followed by his teeth rasping against her throat. Hana shivered, her knees going weak.
Her mouth hungered for his touch. Taking his face in her hands, she turned slightly, so their noses wouldn’t collide. He kissed her slowly, deeply, sending thrills down her spine. His lips parted and his tongue flickered against hers. She opened her mouth to his.
The kiss was deep, lingering, fulfilling. She couldn’t put names to the feelings and emotions he woke in her with that kiss. She never wanted it to stop. She wanted his hands touching her everywhere, his body next to hers. She returned his kiss almost fiercely. Jasper pulled away slightly, gazing into her eyes. A question flickered across his face, unspoken. He led her slowly off the dance floor and out to the patio around the pool.
The door closed behind them as he led her to the far side. They took seats in the gazebo that overlooked the hot tub. Jasper caught his lower lip between his teeth.
“Hana,” he began, hardly knowing how to proceed. “I like you, a lot. I’ve heard your aunt talk about you all these years, seen your picture and watched you grow up. I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. I know that you don’t have that same advantage. But—” He paused again, turning away from her, head bowed. “I don’t want you to think that this is something I do all the time. I don’t want to trash a potential relationship. So please don’t take this wrong—”
“Whenever a sentence starts like that, I know something awful is going to follow. I think I know what you are going to say. You don’t want me to think this is just a vacation fling. Take the new girl to the barn for a roll in the hay, fresh meat! Am I close?”
He chuckled. “You are so like Enid, it’s almost spooky. That’s exactly what I was thinking. You are very special to your aunt, and that makes you special to me. She doesn’t love lightly, yet she loves you above everyone else in her family. That puts you in a very unique category.”
“As long as it’s not a category that means you’ll never touch me again,” she blurted. “I don’t want to be the statue worshiped from afar. If you like me, then do something about it. Don’t make me wait the way Marnie’s waited for Jeff all these years. Just tell me.”
© Dellani Oakes 2022