“I look like a damn mercenary,” he complained. “Did I really have that expression on my face?”
“I think it’s wonderful!” Issy said. “You’d have to read the book to get a feel for Tack’s personality, but it’s perfect. The author already approved these. Still waiting for the publisher to pick his favorites, and we go from there. So, you like?”
“I love them!” Hana told her honestly. “Even if it wasn’t us, I’d buy a book with any of these as the cover. Especially one and five. Those are the sexiest.”
“Those are my favorites too! The author was pretty partial to the first one, so we’ll see what the publisher says.”
“I look like I’m about ready to rip her dress off with my teeth, and bite her on the neck.” Jasper cringed, his voice coming out sort of like a whimper. “I look like Tack, the vampire cowboy, ready to turn her with love’s first bite.”
“This isn’t a vampire story. But he does want to turn her, just not into a vampire.”
“Oooh, this is a soft porn romance?”
“You could say that,” Issy laughed. “I wouldn’t let my kids read it. It’s pretty steamy. Mitch appreciated it the whole time I was reading it.”
“No more information. I don’t think I could stand it,” Jasper complained.
“Pussy,” she fussed at him.
“Yeah, well I don’t want to hear about someone else’s sex life right now.”
“Point taken. You two might enjoy it. Later, when things change, progress— I’ll say goodnight now.”
They laughingly bid farewell. Jasper stared at the pictures, shocked that it was actually him.
“I hope no one ever finds out that’s me. I’ll never live a thing like this down.”
“You’ve posed for her before.”
“Yeah, chest shots, crotch shots, back of the head without a shirt, that sort of thing. That’s me, there’s no denying it.”
“Why deny it? You’re gorgeous!”
“Why, thank ye, ma’am.” He kissed her for a long time.
An overwhelming need filled him. He was afraid he would hurt her, forcing himself on her. Instead of letting his baser instincts get the better of him, he decided to leave. Pretending he was tired, he made the right excuses, so he could go.
Hana could tell that Jasper was fighting a battle within himself. It had been an emotional day for them both. At least she knew he was really going home to an empty bed, and wouldn’t worry about Milly Finch filling it.
Jasper walked home, breathing deeply of the chilly desert air. When he got home, he sat on porch swing, rocking gently in the dark. A few minutes later, Jimmy came out with two bottles of hard cider. Handing one to his cousin, he flopped on the other end of the swing.
“How’d you know I was out here?”
“Swing creaks. Besides, I was looking for you. Some day, huh?”
Jasper took a swig of his cider, nodding. Sighing heavily, he put the bottle against his forehead.
“I almost lost the most important thing in my life today. I don’t know what I would have done, if it hadn’t worked out.”
“Figured it out day by day,” Jimmy said. “That’s what I do, cuz.” He thumped Jasper on the shoulder.
“No problem. Advice is free. The cider’ll cost ya a buck.”
Jasper punched his cousin hard in the shoulder. Jimmy spilled part of his drink on his shirt. Laughing, they got in a tussle, spilling more cider until they decided they’d wasted enough and settled down.
“I hope I can find someone like you and Jeff have,” Jimmy said quietly. “I’m done being a player, Jas. This being alone shit, sucks ass.”
“Yeah. Don’t worry, you’ll find someone. I looked a long time trying to find the right person. Then the minute I quit looking, she found me.”
“I hope you’re right. I want what you’ve both got.”
They talked quietly while they finished their drinks. Around midnight, they went to bed, each deep in his own thoughts. Jasper had another hot shower, sore and aching from his sparing with his father. More bruises had appeared since then. He hoped his dad wasn’t as battered, but suspected he was probably worse. He hadn’t been in control of himself, reacting instinctively to the situation.
Feeling better, he pulled on a fresh pair of boxers and flopped in his bed. It smelled of Milly Finch’s perfume. He stripped the bed, throwing sheets and blankets in the washing machine. He made the bed with fresh sheets and got a spare blanket out of the closet. He couldn’t do anything about he pillows, but fresh cases helped. He didn’t want to smell the woman who nearly ruined his life. He wanted to smell Hana, touch her, taste her. With that on his mind, he fell into a turbulent sleep.
Hana got up the next morning with a thrill of anticipation. She was going to see Jasper and their life together wasn’t over. Dressing carefully, she put on a top she’d bought especially for this trip. It was a long sleeved crop top in several bright shades of pink and orange, swirled like it was tie dyed. Her jeans rode low on her slim hips, clinging in all the right places.
©2022 Dellani Oakes