Here is the 7th part!
If the shower had felt like heaven, then watching Jared running on the treadmill was nirvana on Ecstasy. So very good, yet so very bad.
After opening the box left at the apartment from Ricky, she’d found all kinds of supplies to fix her feet. A couple Advil, several blister kits, and two beers later, she had been showered, fixed up, bored and willing to wager that Jared was in the apartment’s gym. Hot damn, she was right.
Shirt off and wearing gym shorts that hung off his hips, Jared Westin had a body that froze her in place, and that’d never happened before. Watching his biceps and triceps bulge as he pumped in time with a hard run…oh, hell. Her heart jumped in her throat, but her eyes followed the taper of his shoulders down to the curve of his—
“Sugar?” Jared nailed her in the mirror.
Shit. “Uh, yeah?”
He planted his feet on either side of the revolving ramp and punched a few buttons to lower the incline. He turned, chest heaving as he wiped his face with a towel, then drained a bottle of water. Fresh pink scars were healing on his shoulder. A clear as day GSW on his calf looked to be healing at the same rate of pink, too. He shouldn’t be running like that. Too soon.
“You need something?” He stretched arms overhead, and every muscles from chest to torso rippled.
Those damn shorts hung dangerously low. Did she need something? Um, yeah. I need…
Sugar shook her head. “I’m going to bed. Do I need to feed Thelma or something?”
He jumped off the treadmill, seared her with a glance, and meandered to the free standing weights. Taking two that weighed about as much as she did, he pulled them to his chest. Those bicep curls made her weakness in the knees.
“Nope.” Bicep curl. “She’s fine.” Bicep curl. “That’s why you’re here?”
“Should you being doing that? I thought your doc said—”
“Need anything else?”
Sore subject, got it. “Nope. Good night.”
“Sweet dreams, Sugar.” He turned from her, back to the mirror and let her go without another look.
She huffed in the elevator, then again at her apartment door. He hadn’t caught her spying. She went down there because she was bored and she left because she wasn’t bored. She was tired. Going to bed was a great idea. She walked in, petted Thelma, and stared at the bed. Queen size. Not big enough for them to split down the middle. Not that she’d sleep one minute in a REM cycle with him snoozing next to her.
“Surely, he’s sleeping on the couch. Right, Thelma?”
The dog chewed on a giant bone and ignored her.
“That’d be a hell no.”
Sugar shouted, startled, and spun. “Goddamn it, Jared. Stop sneaking in here.”
“I live here too, baby cakes. I’m not sneaking anywhere. Be more aware of your surroundings and that won’t happen.”
He still has his shirt off, and she couldn’t be any more aware of her surroundings. She took a deep breath. “I’m not sleeping next to you.”
“So sleep on the couch. More room for me.” He walked toward the bathroom, shrugging and threw his shirt over his shoulder.
“Like hell. My op, my bed.” She tried to put a blast of gusto in her voice.
Jared turned. “What? You’re scared you can’t keep your hands off me? That you want in on our deal after all? Too late, baby cakes. One time offer and that shit’s expired.”
“Go to hell, Jared.”
He ignored her, stood in the bathroom, but didn’t shut the door.
She planted her hands on her hips and glared. Plan B, take over the bed. “I’m spreading out and if you find room—”
“I’ll just scoot your cute ass over, I don’t care.”
Cute ass? Grr. “Don’t touch me, I bite.”
“Now that, I’d like.” He laughed.
The shower faucet turned on, and she slammed the bathroom door shut for him, since he had no damn modesty and because she would’ve sat there, staring if she didn’t.
The sounds of water splashing preoccupied her mind. She listened from under the covers, ignoring the images of what he might look like naked. She’d seen enough to have a good idea and her imagination was creative. And bold. And optimistic.
Not optimistic. Nor interested. How many times had she repeated that to herself? Enough that she didn’t hear the water turn off. The door opened, shedding light into the dark room. Thelma was in the main area, snoring on the couch. He shut the bedroom door and she’d never felt more alone with Jared than in the dark, right this minute.
At least he had the decency to—oh my God. “Are you getting—
“Nah. You’d like that too much. But I am sleeping in boxers. Don’t like it, Thelma will share the couch.”
She’d put on a protective barrier. Sweatpants, boy short panties, shirt, and cami. The most coverage she could possibly sleep in, if it were possible to sleep. The bed dipped down as he pulled back the covers and joined her. Fresh showered and smelling like soap, Jared burrowed into the covers next to her. It was one thing to tease him at the studio, and entirely different one to lay in bed with the man.
Every muscle tightened. She laid straight-pin straight, unmoving, unbreathing. Her hands were clapped to her side and she stared at the ceiling, eyes widen open in the darkness.
He moved under the covers, and she would’ve sucked in a breath if she had been breathing. Her will to stay away was slipping. It’d be so easy to move an inch. Breathe him in. Let her guard down. But not tonight.
“Sugar.” He sat upright, pulling the covers off his bare chest.
“Damn it, stop startling me.”
“I can’t sleep if you’re going to lay there, holding your breath.”
“I’m not holding my breath, ass,” she hissed, trying not to sound like she had been.
“Right. You gotta chill out. I was messing with you earlier. I’m a bastard, but not the kind you should worry about being in bed with. Okay? Christ.”
She laughed. Are you kidding me? He thinks I’m scared of him. Oh, this is a riot. “You have no idea, do you?”
“Enlighten me, Sugar.”
“I’m wearing armor to bed. Long sleeve shirt down to my socks. I thought this, you and me, would be harmless flirting, but here I am, stuck in a goddamn bed with you. You said screwing would mess everything up. No kidding, and nothing about how you look at me if harmless. Nothing is about this,” she flicked him in the chest, “easy to ignore. So this isn’t working out the way I planned. I fold; there are my cards. I lied again, J-dawg.” She took another breath. “You know what? I might’ve lied about not interested, but not about no dice. I don’t want your stupid deal. And that may bother me the most, because that’s my kind of deal. No strings. No emotions. No baggage.”
He didn’t respond. Shit, tomorrow was going to be awk-ward. “Forget it. I’ll be on the couch.” Pushing out of bed, she ripped off the shirt and sweatpants, finally able to rid the suffocating garb. A cami and boy shorts were fine for the couch and they didn’t make her feel like a mummy. “And I’m taking the covers.”
She snagged the edge of the comforter and pulled. He pulled back hard, snaking a hand over her wrist and pulling her off the floor and into his lap. Shadows covered his face. The smell of soap was that much stronger leaned against him. Warm wisps of his breath tickled her nose, and he held her wrist in his hand, pulled against his bare chest.
“What the hell do you want from me?” The timbre of his voice ground against her nerves, and all over again, she wasn’t breathing.
“Nothing. Haven’t you heard me?”
He released his hold on her, but she didn’t move. Slowly, she became aware of the heavy thump of her heart, beating a rhythmic song.
He traced her chin with the back of two fingers, starting at her cheekbone and sliding to her collarbone. “As soft as you look.”
“Stop with your lines.”
“Holy hell, woman.” His hands ran down her sides, skimming over that spot of skin between the cami and shorts, to plant on her hips. “The ways I can think of to shut you up.”
“Well, aren’t you Don Juan.”
“What does it matter?”
“You’re right. It doesn’t.” She moved off him to the bed, grabbing the covers again. “Night.”
He flipped her on the mattress, powered over her and pinning her down. His bare chest leaned against her body and heat flared. “What are ya gonna do, J-dawg? Cross the line? Fuck everything up?”
That was it for this part of the deleted files. I hope you loved this journey with Jared and Sugar. Maybe you feel like a re-read of Jared and Sugar’s happily ever after, WESTIN’S CHASE. Or if you own the Kindle copy, you can purchase the audio book at the WhisperSync price of $1.99.
What’s next? I have some deleted scenes for Parker that I plan to put up in a similar fashion. You know that LOCKE AND KEY will release soon and after that, the next Delta book! Also, if you’ve stayed in touch, you likely know that I’m participating in the 7 Brides for 7 Soldiers project with my book NOAH, though that doesn’t release until the end of the year. More book news to come soon. I have a lot of projects in the works!